Finishing a quilt!

After a couple of marathon quilting days, I’ve just finished my latest quilt. It’s always an interesting combination of feelings when you put those last stitches in: first you heave the big sigh of relief because you’re done, and then you take a big breath and hold it while you dump the quilt in the washing machine! Then you have to wait awhile to see if it lives through it’s first bath, and I have to wait even longer, since my German washer takes way longer to run a cycle than an American one does.

No matter how many quilts I’ve made, I still worry about that first bath; will the dyes in the fabrics run? Will all my machine quilting unravel? None of these things usually happen, and I don’t really expect them to this time, but it’s still scary! Anyway, I still have some things to do before the quilt is completely done, like add crystals and some other embellishments. I’ll post some pics as soon as I get them done!

Speaking of appliqué…

If I were to do appliqué by hand (and I don’t think I’ll be doing much more of it, ever, but I’ve done my fair share), here are a few things I try to keep in mind to make the task easier:

  • Good lighting! Yes, you’ve heard this from me before, but I just can’t say it enough. Use a bright task light, and aim it toward your work opposite the hand you’re stitching with. In other words, if you’re stitching with your right hand sit the light a bit to the left side of your work to eliminate shadows from your working hand falling on the fabric.
  • Prepare your fabrics properly. Fabrics that have been pre-washed are easier to work with, especially for something fussy like needle-turn appliqué. The seam allowances will turn under easier if the fabrics have been pre-washed to remove the sizing and finishing chemicals.
  • Use a good brand of very fine needles. Try hand appliqué needles and straw or milliners needles to see which you like best. Hand appliqué needles are shorter, and straw or milliners needles are longer but both kinds are very fine and have small eyes. I use the straw needles, since I have monster long nails that I refuse to be without, and the shorter needles tend to disappear.
  • Those small eyes on the needles mean using a needle threader. I don’t always need one, since if I cut the thread end at an angle I can usually thread the needle with no problem, but I keep one handy just in case. I’m sure that someday soon, my eyes won’t handle it anymore, and I’ll need that needle threader all the time! 🙂
  • Use silk thread. The one thing that improved my hand appliqué beyond measure was switching to silk thread. What a difference! The silk thread is so fine that it glides through the fabric, you have fewer knots and tangles, and your stitches sink down into the weave of the fabric so they are nearly invisible. Yes, it’s more expensive, but when I think of all the different colors of thread you need to buy to match fabrics when you are using cotton threads to appliqué, and then remember that you only need about five or six different colors of silk (because of how well it blends and those disappearing stitches!) I think we can just not worry about how much the silk thread costs.

So there you have it, my top tips for hand appliqué success. If I’ve missed anything you think is critical, do leave a comment to add to the list!

It’s done!

The king size quilt I’ve been working on is finally done, and I’ve washed it and blocked it to dry. It’s always a bit scary, putting a quilt in the washer; no matter that I’ve done everything right to prevent mishaps, I still wonder, will the dyes run, will all my machine quilting unravel at the ends, will it be square when it comes out? So far, so good though, and now I just have to put the label and hanging sleeves on, and pretty soon I’ll have a picture to share. Then the quilt is on its way to the National Quilting Association show in Columbus, Ohio, June 8-10, 2006. Stay tuned….