Sunday, February 3, 2019

Puzzling Pleats

I got a pleat in my backing.  I haven't done that in years.  The stitching in the ditch must take the blame, and it is just dumb luck that I discovered it before it was too late.

How does it happen?  It begins with the laying out of the backing when preparing the sandwich.  The backing is laid down first and must be secured snuggly.  Not too loose.  Not too tight.  Just right.  If you work on a carpet you can pin the edges down.  I work on my uncovered ironing board, on plywood.  I tape the edges with blue painter's tape.  It works like a charm...mostly.

I don't know how I blew it this time, but fortunately it was a very tiny pleat about 1 mm deep.  It was the result of a little too much backing fabric in that area.  When I stitched in the ditch it got doubled over and pulled some other bias-wise wrinkles in as well although they didn't pleat.  I was lucky it happened along the straight line of a border strip.  I hadn't done any fancy quilting there yet.

My fix required un-stitching about 3-4 inches along two seams, tying off the threads and straightening the fabric.  Then I carefully pinned the fabric in place, attached the duel feed foot, changed the thread and replaced the ditch stitching.

Specifically, I held the sandwich together, easing out the backing fabric with my fingers.  Then I pinned the sandwich together from the back with 1/2 inch of pin showing on the front across the seam. They were about 3/4 inch apart.

Pins in the back smoothed the backing

Pins as seen on the front of the quilt
I managed sewing this by doing something you must NEVER do. I sewed across the pins.   I stitched in the ditch very, very SLOWLY, and when I came to a pin I moved the needle by turning the hand control across the pin making sure that needle and pin did not tangle with each other.

WARNING:  Never sew over pins.  You can throw your machine out of timing and cause a great deal of expensive damage as well.  I could have basted with needle and thread, but I didn't.  Instead I used extreme care and was using the dual feed foot.  I did not attempt this with FMQ.  That would have spelled disaster and would have looked a mess (at least for me).

Success!  The pleat is gone although there was a fair amount of puffiness in the area that looked more like easing than anything else.  The affected border was quilted with piano keys and the stitching took up a lot of fabric.  It looks perfect after all is done, and I don't anticipate any more problems, but I will be watching.

The piano keys ate up all excess fabric with no pleating
Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you a life without wrinkles.

Monday, January 28, 2019

What is a Well-planned Quilt?

A well-planned quilt is not mine.  It started off with definite direction and even the quilting designs made it to paper.  They didn't all make it onto the quilt.  Instead, improvisation and a bit of ripping rearranged the designs and even more were created.  Every quilt throws up a few challenges and they say that is good for your brain to keep it from dissolving into old age.  Today is my birthday and I am thankful that I can still write, sew, and research with gladness and joy.  Cleaning house is another story!

Have you ever had the creative side of  your brain get stuck in a rut?  Mine did this week.  My brain was stuck on creating a single quilting motif that would encompass a split triangle.  None of my ideas felt right.  They were too heavy.  They competed with the main motif in a larger, center triangle.  It made me restless.  Bad sign.  I have mostly learned to listen, ponder and wait for the light bulb to blink on.  I did and it did...finally.

The part of the quilt I am working on.
The problem child here is outlined with a white stroke.   I was trying to create one motif for the split triangle.  It finally dawned on me that I designed them to be separate (see the color difference?).  So now I will be doing one motif in the dark half and some background, texture quilting on the red half.  Don't worry about the big red triangle in the center (outside of the white stroke).  It has its own design that mirrors one on the other side of the red border.  I just needed to change my perspective.

What does this do for my quilt?  There is now a line of quilted triangles that are in the same orientation along the border and will have similar (not exact) quilting designs with the same color threads.  Visualize the main quilt below this border.  They line up and look nice.  The red half triangle will slip into the background with nothing but texture to define it. It will not compete with the colored piecing.  It will also make that colored piecing stand out.  Happy days.  Now to see how it works.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you good planning with space for creativity.

Sunday, January 20, 2019


Have you ever felt completely overloaded with the things that you MUST get done?  Sometime outside commitments impinge on life and other times you place the pressure on yourself.  I got home from our holiday travels and had so much to accomplish that I felt like I had bricks on my head.  We also had an unusual number of household breakdowns to deal with and really frigid weather.  And, of course, I broke my big toe.  That limited my exercise to the detriment of my general well being.  I had one photography related project that I figured I wouldn't finish for months, but found a better, faster way to accomplish the tedious task in a couple of hours.  I was so excited and wired over this success that I ran to my sewing room, sat down and worked on my quilt.  What joy!  I had been unable to go in there with my self-inflicted pressure weighing me down.  Stagnation has been banished!

Not only did I sew, I think I solved a problem on one quilt that has been nagging at me for weeks.  I am doing a quilt of my sweet Lady dog (deceased).  The bow on top of her head has been a thorn in my side.  I have tried several ways of doing it and finally got fabric pieces to look like ribbon, but it has no life.  I have tried painting and Inktense pencils to put in highlights, but neither look right.  I toyed with the idea of using real ribbon, but it wouldn't look right if/when it got crushed.  Back at the sewing machine my first task was to try thread painting and I see potential in this method.  More experimentation is needed, and some shiny or metallic thread may be the way, but it is gratifying to finally be on a positive track.

The photo below shows all the pieces pinned to a board.  The upper part shows the values of the ribbon (black and white).  There is also an isolated piece on which I tried the thread painting.  It is not quite right, but I didn't have quite the right thread and was kind of sloppy in my technique.  I didn't have any stabilizer under it either.

Pieces of fabric simulating the bow on Lady's head.
So much for that quilt for the moment.  I am back to quilting the quilt that has been my companion for over a year.  I WILL finish it!!  The big center part is done!  Now I am doing a 1 inch border with diamonds and filler.  To mark...or not to mark?  I decided to mark the diamonds because it is important that they look straight.  Wonky diamonds would spoil the effect.  I am doing closely stitched lines with slightly darker thread as filler in between the diamonds.  This should make them pop without overpowering the main quilt design.  I'm not too good with the filler.  Need a bit of practice, which I will get as I move around the quilt.

Diamond border
Sew some happy seams this week.  Depressurize and have fun stitching.

Monday, January 7, 2019

On My Way to the Sewing Room..........

On the way to the sewing room.....I tangled with a space heater, landed hard and now I think my big toe may be broken.  I'll see the doc tomorrow, but right now it is colorful, swollen and exquisitely painful.  I was planning to get the mess cleaned up.  Oh, you say, "What mess?"  When we went off for 6 weeks of holiday visiting I packed my machine into a big Tutto bag and stuffed fleece all around it.  Then I added a tool kit so I could spend my spare time making the teddy bear quilt featured in last week's post.  The rest of the room was left in hurricane status as I stepped out to pack suitcases.

But why was a space heater in the way?  When we got home we had very cold weather down to minus 10 degrees.  Our radiant floor heating was out due to an electrical short so we had five space heaters and the electric oven going to keep us warm.  The space heater that attacked me was in shadow at the doorway and I forgot it was there as I went scurrying into the room to get to work.

All I can offer today is a photo of the disaster called "My Sewing Room."  Does yours ever get this way?  I am generally an orderly person, but there are times when things simply get out of hand. The sewing machine is on the floor until I clear off the table.  However, with this mess in the way it was a good time to send my Gingher scissors off to the company for sharpening.  That takes two or three weeks, but I will have my shears and embroidery scissors in pristine condition.  They have cut a lot of fleece lately and that is deadly to the sharp edges.

 Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you peace and order.

PS.  Monday pm.
I have a fractured big toe, but it is just taped to the next toe.  It only hurts if I bump it or bend it.  I should be able to sew.  Today I am off to get a haircut instead of sewing.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Teddy Bear Trials

The Teddy Bear quilt turned out great, but it had a hard time getting there.  I started with research on the Internet because the pattern directions were so lame, so I planned two layers of fleece with one layer of flannel in between.  I had fun fussy cutting the fleece to include some animals.  I got all three layers cut.  Then each piece was quilted as needed before stitching together.  The animals were outline stitched.

Then....time to stitch it all together.  Four layers of fleece and two layers of flannel wouldn't even go under the presser foot!!   Sad lesson learned.  Back to the Internet for more research.  Back to the fabric store for more flannel.  Finally rip out the quilting to get rid of the back layer of fleece.  I trimmed around the quilted animals, leaving the back layer of fleece under them for a trapunto effect.

Pre-wash all flannel, which I had forgotten to do before.  That would have been a disaster because flannel is a dependable shrinker.

Then...cut all the pieces out of both lengths of flannel.  Now I had a sandwich of two layers of flannel and one layer of fleece.  Quilt the pieces as needed.  Success.  It went together well and quickly.  Even cutting the rag edges went quickly.  After washing and throwing it in the dryer it looked so cute.  I was happy.

Next time it will take me half the time to make the same pattern.  It is soft, textured and colorful on the front (fleece), but soft and quiet on the back (flannel).

Teddy Bear quilt, my grandson and his lovely wife.

I wish you a Safe and  Happy New Year.  I'll chat with you in 2019!

Monday, December 17, 2018

Merry, Merry

Just a note to wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.  Below is my Christmas card this year.  It is a collage of several of my photos put together in Photoshop.

Enjoy your family and friends.  Stitch a few seams if you have time.  It is a joyous time of year.  I'll be back in January.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Baby Bear

I need something to do during the holidays when I will be visiting family so I am taking my freshly repaired sewing machine to make a baby quilt for my first great-grandchild, a boy.  He is arriving in March so I have plenty of time.  It will be a fleece, rag quilt that looks like a bear.

Teddy bear baby blanket.
I ordered a pattern from an Etsy site and am so disappointed.  The pattern isn't exactly like this photo, but close enough.  The directions are sketchy and there is no photo.  It was advertised as a book (I thought), but came as two typewritten pages of "directions" and a big sheet with the the pattern pieces drawn out.  Fortunately, I have been sewing since the beginning of time and will make adjustments as I go along.  I have figured out how to make a rag quilt from U-tube tutorials.  I picked up a bunch of fleece that will give this baby lots to look at, and the rag seam edging will give texture for his little fingers to feel.  The backing is a soft, green...quiet and peaceful for those times when he needs quiet and less stimulation.  I can pack all my stuff into my Tuto bag with my machine, and my knitting needs will fit in there too.

Lots of fleece.
Until I looked at the above photo I didn't realize I had gotten two fabrics with dog paws.  I was mostly looking for bright colors.  It will fit right in though because the family has three dogs!  I should be able to give this to them for Christmas.

What are you thankful for this week?  I am thankful, among other things, for my large family.  They are so much fun, so caring and so loving.

Eat lots of turkey, trimmings and pie, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Pressing Sheets

I promised a reader a recap of my experiences with ironing sheets so here goes.

1.  Flannel cloth
Early in my sewing life I had a piece of flannel that I stored on the crossed legs of the ironing board (I still have it!!).  That was my pressing cloth and it was great for laying on top of the "good" fabric to press out wrinkles or adhere a repair patch to my jeans.  It works well, but cannot do some things that I now require of a pressing sheet.

2. Pressing sheet of undetermined content.
Joann's sells several brands of heat resistant pressing cloths.  They look like some that I purchased and I don't like.  Looking at the packaging pictured on the Internet I can't figure out the content.  They look like some sort of plastic, but of course don't melt.  However, with use they rumple up and I don't like them for creating something like a big flower or animal like Lady dog (scroll down to last week's post).  I want my sheet to lay and stay perfectly flat.  The rumply ones have their uses, like the flannel cloth, but mostly they stay in the drawer.

Undetermined content.
3.  Silicone sheet
My silicone sheet is 18 x 20 inches.  It lays flat and I can adhere fabrics (with fusible on the back) to it.  Then I can peel the fused fabric off without damage, ready to iron onto a background.  I was looking to buy a new one and cannot find it.  So onward.

Silicone.  Can only show a peek because Lady dog is lounging on it.
4.  Teflon coated fiberglass.
These are the ones that I find most available on the Internet.  I have two pieces about 5 x 7 inches that came with Bo-Nash fusing repair powder.  They are very useful for small pieces, but are too small for a major project.  They are brown in color, but you can see through them easily, and really well on a lightbox.  I see that Amazon is selling large sheets of this material 16 x 20 inches in packs of at least 3 sheets.  I am sold and will be putting in my order.

Teflon sheets
A good ironing sheet is a must if you plan to create a large project of fused pieces.  It is well worth the money and will last for years...unless you accidently cut it with your scissors.  Don't laugh.  I have done it, but so far not with my good silicone one.  I've only cut the ones I don't like.  Good way to get rid of them I guess.

Sew or fuse some happy seams this week.  I wish you lots of fun ironing little pieces if you are so inclined.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Onward Dog

My Lady dog is progressing.  You can't see the plexiglass extension table set-up very well, but it holds it all together.  A freezer paper pattern sits on the clear table.  A silicone ironing sheet sits on top of the pattern and they are held on with office clamps.  Tape will do the job as well.  I can put a flattened Ott light under the table if I need to see the lines more clearly.

Set-up for fusing.
Here is sweet Lady dog so far.  The sharp edges of fabric will eventually be softened by quilting.

I lightly tack the fusible-backed fabric to the see-through ironing sheet, which lies over the paper pattern.  When all the pieces are in place I will move the ironing sheet to the ironing board for a good, solid pressing.  Then the dog will peel off the silicone in one big piece ready to iron onto a background.  I might just incorporate background fabric while it is still on the ironing sheet.  That works too.

Today I will explain how to get all those different pieces of fabric fused and cut with very little waste.  I have a big stash, but still hate throwing anything into the wastebasket.

1.  Cut the piece carefully from the freezer paper pattern.  Set it aside.

TIP:  These pieces are easy to lose.  I often pin them to my pincushion so they can't fly away while I am fussing with fabric and fusable.

2.  Cut a piece of fusible a bit bigger (1/4 inch or so) than the freezer paper pattern piece you just cut out.  I usually cut a rectangle or circle...something quick and easy to cut.  Both fusible (paper side up) and pattern piece are right side up.

3.  Choose the area of fabric you want for this piece and fuse the fusible to the back.  Leave the paper on for now.

TIP:  I use Soft Fuse, which has paper on only one side.  If you use fusible with paper on both front and back, you will have to take the bottom piece of paper off to fuse to the fabric.

4.  Cut from the back closely around the edges of the fusible.  You leave the back paper on so you can see where to cut.  This way you don't have any fabric with unseen fusible left on it.

TIP:  Those clippers are fabulous.  I got them in the gardening department of Home Depot.  Not expensive. Super sharp.  Super points.

5.  With fusing side down lay the freezer paper pattern shiny side down on the fabric.  Press to adhere and cut a about 1/16 inch larger than the paper pattern.

TIP:  Do all the ironing on a silicone ironing sheet.  That fusible stuff has a way a getting out and messing up your ironing cover.

6.  Now you can pull the fusible paper and the pattern piece off.  Your fabric piece is ready to tack to the silicone sheet in its proper place on the dog (or whatever creature you choose to make).

I end up with holes in fabric, but very little lands in the wastebasket and only a few small pieces are left with fusible on the back, which I use as I go along for the the tiny pieces that I need.

TIP:  Save all your freezer paper pattern pieces in a container.  Sometimes the fabric I choose doesn't look right and I need to pull it off and cut it again out of a different fabric.  It is a three ring circus finding the right piece, but it is in there somewhere!

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you a week of fabric immersion and contained fusible.

Monday, October 29, 2018

New Start

With my sewing machine out of town, I cleared off my sewing table and ironing board and set it up for fusing dog fur.  Not literally, but I am going to make a dog quilt.  Scroll down to last week to see the photo of Lady.  I dragged my feet a bit as it was a heavy week and my body was too tired to stand at the ironing board to do the work.  However, I spent the time thinking about the process and the materials needed.  I don't need to buy any fabric and that is always nice as I am a long way from the good quilt stores.  This is a stop-gap project and I will probably not finish it for awhile because I want to focus on the quilt that I am quilting...when my machine gets home from the repair shop.

I think I figured out how to do the bow.  Those tiny pieces look daunting to do in fabric so I decided to paint them.  I love to paint and have ordered a starter set of Textil paints from Marabu.  They are acrylic and reportedly bright and mixable.  The ad I saw says that they are slightly thinner that other acrylic fabric paint, go on fabric smoothly, and leave the fabric with a nice hand.  It sounds too good to be true, but it isn't expensive so I am giving it a try.  I got a starter kit with six basic colors.  I can do anything with that!  I might try to make the ribbon look shiny with a light coat of Mod Podge after the paint dries, but it will be awhile before I get to that.

Now to the dog:
1.  Turn the photo into black and white, then separate the photo into 5 black and white values (posterize in Photoshop).

2.  Draw lines around each value and label each value from 1 to 5, on mylar with a fine, black Sharpie.

3.  On a light box, trace the lines on freezer paper to put under a silicone ironing sheet to guide placement of fabric.

TIP:  I use a plexiglass sewing machine table extension for my light box.  The light is my Ott light, which opens out flat to lay under the table extension.

4.  Repeat step 3.  This copy will be cut to pieces on the lines as patterns for cutting fabric.

TIP:  Cut out one piece of the second freezer paper pattern at a time, using it to cut the fabric piece with fusible attached.  If you cut out all the pieces at once you will never find where anything belongs.

In the photo below you can see where I left out the ribbon.  I will do it separately.  The dark places (eyes and one piece of fur) have already been cut out so you see the dark floor through the holes.  I started with the eyes because they are critical and need to be exactly right.

Lady in outline
Next week I will show my progress in placing fabrics.  It looks daunting, but is really quite simple  I enjoy cutting out the pieces and seeing it all come together.  Each piece is cut 1/16 inch larger around the edges so it will lay under the next piece.  I am starting with the lightest value so I won't have dark edges showing through the white fabric.  I will progress to the next darker value and so on until I come to the black, which will go on last.  The final touch will be the bow, which I will make separately and attach all in one piece.

Sew some happy seams this week, or have fun fusing fabrics.