Monday, April 28, 2014

Zentangle Quilt

I am taking a break from history today because I just did something out of the box for me, totally fun!  I got interested in Zentangles awhile back and bought myself a small sketch book to play around with.  I mentioned this to my daughter and she said, "My kids did that in school."  Boy, am I behind the times!  I did a few small ones with varying degrees of satisfaction.  Then I bought Tsukineko inks at a Sew Expo, got them home and had too many questions about how to manage them so I signed up for a class.  The upshot is that I had an idea and would like to use ink to color a small whole, cloth quilt.  I sat down with my 5 x 7 inch Zentangle sketch book and here is what I turned out:
Doodles on paper 5x7 inches
I enlarged it to 11"x14" and printed it out on 4 pieces of paper, which I then taped together.  I grabbed some white fabric and traced the design with blue marker, sandwiched the thing with two layers of Quilter's Dream cotton Select to make the feathers puffy.  I didn't want to spend time doing trapunto, even though I love it. I spent about 7 hours quilting and I love how the two layers of batting puff.  I didn't try very hard, I just had fun.  If this turns into anything worthwhile, that will be nice.  If not, then I will make do or throw it out, and make another one using my new-found knowledge about the inks.

Here is the quilted version.  It is all white with black, ecru and white thread.  The colors in the photo are due to lighting and are indicative of the photographer's rush to just get the picture taken.
Doodles in fabric.
If I do it again there are a couple of minor things I will change in the design, but right now I just want to play with it.  The black thread looks harsh, but my intent is to fill it with color so the black outlines will be nice...maybe.

Stay tuned to see what happens with the inks.  Class is May 3, but I may still have to do the painting at home after class.  I don't know yet.

Addendum:  So much for that idea.  A family funeral has taken priority and I have had to cancel out of the class.  Maybe I will play with the inks the see what happens on my own, or wait until the next opportunity.

TIP:  As I have said before, keep an open mind and be flexible.  Sometimes that is all you can do.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Freezer Paper Piecing

This is a short post today with no photos.  I hope it is helpful.

I  have been asked a question about Freezer Paper Piecing and since I am not set up for video photography, I found a U-tube demonstration, which shows it well with lots of detail.  One link is for Part I, but be sure to continue to Part II.  I use this for simple and/or large patterns.  If you are doing a complex pattern with tiny pieces I think you are better off using a foundation paper that you sew through.  With Sulky Paper Solvy, the paper will dissolve when the quilt is washed or soaked.  The problem I had with freezer paper on a complex pattern is that it tends to peel away if you are not careful and that is why I use a pin or two judiciously.  The beauty of using freezer paper is that you don't have to pull paper out when you are done, and you can reuse your freezer paper pattern on the next block if it is the same.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Bella Bella Blue

I saw a fascinating quilt hanging in a local quilt store and loved the color and design.  I asked about it and quickly bought "Bella Bella Quilts" by Norah McKeeting, which I read through carefully.  I had to make one of those quilts and I settled on the one she calls "Venice Rose."  I call mine "Bella Bella Blue."
Bella Bella Blue 72" x 72"
It is made in an interesting way with excellent instructions in the book.  No sense going through the whole process here.  The design is constructed with two spokes, one the reverse of the other, and they are quite long.
The two spokes of the wheel.
The pattern comes with the book with paper piecing directions.  Instead of using the usual foundation material I used freezer paper.  I did it the usual way, but instead of sewing through the paper I ironed it down, folded it back, added the next piece of fabric, and sewed alongside the fold, catching only fabric.  I found I needed to put a pin in the last piece sewed just to be sure the pattern didn't slip.  This thing gets to be a snake by the time it is finished.  The freezer paper foundation can be used over and over and there is no paper to pull out later.  Putting the spokes together requires great care in matching the angled seams.  I did and redid many of these intersections.

TIP:  Matching seams is critical for a top notch result and a good method is shown on this website.  She talks about getting points right, but the same method works for matching seams.

TIP:  You have tried twice and still the seams don't come together with precision?  Carefully pin again as directed in that website, then turn your quilt over and sew it together from the other direction.  This almost always solves the problem

As to adding the circular border, I direct you to the book.  I designed my own appliqué, but I didn't want to needle turn the edges, and I am not crazy about satin stitch (probably because I don't do it well).  I discovered Ricky Tims' "Rhapsody Quilts" and was interested in his method of using machine blanket stitch for appliqué.  I used it on my motifs and was very happy even with this first attempt.

The quilting is all feathers with one in every piece of every spoke.  In the diagonal joins I did a wiggly grid.  It is hard to see on the front in these photos, but here is what the back looks like.
Backside shows the quilting.
My problem #1:  I ran out of the dark blue.  I had that fabric in my stash for years and loved it, but it never quite went with anything else.  Finally, here is the place for it.  Then I ran out!  Fortunately, I had a piece of selvedge, which showed that it was a Jinny Beyer fabric and I was able to buy an expensive one yard online.  I finished the quilt with a small handful of very small scraps.  Too close for comfort.

TIP:  Figure your fabric before you sew!  You might not be as lucky as I was to still be able to find an almost outdated fabric.

My problem #2:  I carefully marked the quilting design with blue marker on the white and a Clover iron-away white marker on the dark.  By the time I finished quilting the first two spokes the white marker rubbed off all the rest of the quilt.  The blue marker stayed the duration.

TIP:  Test your marker by rubbing it with your hands and scrap fabric.  If it doesn't stay you may have to mark as you go along, which is what I did.  Remember, practicing the quilting design with a marker will help you do a better job with the quilting.  I love the "SewLine" ceramic marker, and it has different color refills.  It rubs off and if there is any residue, it washes out.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Then Finally the Label

The first task that is left to do is the critical task of binding the quilt.  To me this is the least enjoyable part of making a quilt as it is tedious and boring, but it is one of the necessities of life in the sewing room.  There is an excellent tutorial on binding by the Missouri Quilt Company that you can watch so I am not going through all the details here.  She is doing a 1/4 inch binding.  I prefer 3/8 inch so I have to cut my binding fabric about 2 5/8 inch.  When I come to a corner I stop at 3/8 inch from edge instead of 1/4 inch.  Personnal preference!  Judges view the binding as a critical part in assessing the quality of a quilt.

TIP:  Make sure that the corner fold on the back is going the opposite way of the fold on the front.  This keeps the corner bulk equalized.

TIP:  Sew down the front and back corner folds by hand as you stitch the binding on the back.

The label is the other final piece of the quilt.  Why bother?  It may be required for identification if this quilt is being shown.  At the very least it lets others know its history and maker.  There are many beautiful, antique quilts that have no indication of who made them, why, or where.  I have some old quilts that have been handed down in my family, and I have heard that my g-g-grandmother was a renowned quilter, but I have no idea if any of these quilts were her work.  Your label can simply be your signature and date, or you can choose to put more elaborate information such as who you are making it for, where the inspiration came from, whose pattern you used, or how to care for it.

You can use a plain piece of fabric,  purchase a label, or write on the quilt with a permanent marker.  I choose to design and print my own labels using Bubble Jet.  I think there are other products available, but this is the only one I have tried. It works great and the solution lasts forever.  You soak the fabric in the solution for 5 minutes, let it dry, iron it onto freezer paper and print your label.  Since I design my quilts on the computer I usually use a piece of the design to enhance the look of the label.  I make them in Photoshop and print them out with highly saturated color.  Once the ink has dried for 30 minutes the label is gently washed in mild detergent.

In the case of Lifetime I made a very elaborate 8x10 inch label to explain the significance of this quilt.
Label for "Lifetime"
To attach a label you turn the edges under 1/4 inch and hand stitch onto one corner of the quilt back.  You can also machine stitch the side and bottom to the quilt's seam allowance before putting on the binding, and then hand stitch the other two sides.  This label was so large that I fused it to the quilt as well.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Lifetime Quilt Sandwich

The top is done and it is easy to consider the final steps as mundane and tedious.  But are they really any more tedious than sewing all those log cabin blocks?  Not really, just different.  This is what I love about quilting:  there are so many steps requiring different thinking processes and skills.

 First of all you need to purchase batting, after you decide what kind to buy.  Batting comes in cotton, polyester, cotton/poly, bamboo, and wool, in high, medium and low lofts.  This is not specifically a post batting because there are numerous websites that go deeply into the qualities of each.  An individual's choice is very personal based on their own research and experience, and what they envision will show off their quilt to best advantage.  Way too many variables!  For my Lifetime quilt I chose medium loft cotton batting as a supremely safe choice for a relatively new free motion quilter.  It was a good choice.

Next, you need backing.  You spent a lot of time and money planning and working on the front of your quilt so choose a good quality fabric for the backing.  It can be plain or busy, but should coordinate with the color and quality of the quilt top.  My quilt is made of cotton fabric and I didn't want to spend a lot of money on the back.  I also had a substantial stash of blue fabric so I pieced the back with a huge log cabin block using strips 5 1/2 inches wide.

Log cabin backing for "Lifetime."
Pardon the fluff in the lower left.  That is the tail of my canine supervisor.

TIP:  If you are new to free motion quilting you may want a busy fabric for the back so any imperfections in your quilting are less visible.

Now you are ready to assemble the "sandwich."  You can watch a series of online videos on preparing your quilt for quilting.  I have a special top for my ironing board made of a rectangular piece of plywood (60x22 in).  This limited space is all I have for assembling my quilts so I will share my process for those of you who are also space challenged or want to save your knees and back:

1.  Remove the ironing cover so you are working on the plywood (or suitable table).

2.  Center the backing on the plywood.
TIP:  I have marked the center of my plywood on all four sides and in the center.  This makes it easier to be sure the layers are all centered correctly before I start.
TIP:  Tape two pins perpendicular to each other at the center of the plywood or table.  You will be able to feel through the fabric and batting to center them over the pins.

3.  Smooth the backing and clamp it to the plywood on all four sides with clamps (I use large office clamps).  Clamp the fabric snugly, but do not stretch tight.
TIP:  If your quilt is small and doesn't reach to the ends of the board or table, you can tape the ends down with masking tape.

4.  Center the batting on the backing, making very sure that it is straight, and gently smooth any rumples without stretching.

5.  Make sure there are no loose threads on the back of your quilt top, center it on the batting keeping the edges straight, and gently smooth it onto the batting.
TIP:  Batting is a magnet for loose threads so you can clean up the back of your quilt top with a piece of scrap batting or use a lint roller.

6.  Baste.  You can use safety pins, thread or straight pins with Pinmoor point covers.

7.  Baste from the center out and when the visible quilt is done, release the clamps.  Fold back the batting and top, carefully move the quilt toward you, and reclamp the backing onto the back side (away from you) of the table, making sure it is snug and smooth.  The weight of the pins at the front will hold the front part of the quilt and keep it all snug.  Smooth the batting and top over the backing and return to pinning.  Repeat as needed for the rest of your quilt.

At last, ready to quilt.  This was the biggest quilt I had done so I approached the quilting with trepidation.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Final Border Blocks

The last, pieced borders for my Lifetime quilt go only on the top and the bottom.  These blocks at 7 1/2 inches square are larger than the side blocks and sit side by side with a 1/2 inch sashing to separate and frame them.  At the ends of the border strips are star blocks anchoring each corner of the quilt and reflecting the star idea of the center motif.  In the Illustrator drawing the stars are all the same, but in actuality, each star is different.  All these blocks were paper pieced if I remember right.

Top Border in Illustrator
As you can see, the center presented a problem as it is not quite long enough to accommodate two more square blocks.  This is where some creative fun comes in.  The first design was supposed to go with the floral border idea that was long defunct.  I love the cardinal, but he is better off in a tree than in my quilt.

Open star with bird (Ick!) in Illustrator

It seemed like a good idea once, but I tossed it and began to play with other ideas.  Here is the final, paper pieced open, tilted star:

Final open star in Illustrator

In the Illustrator version above the background opacity is reduced so I could see to plan the background pieces.  Now to put it all together. I didn't have quite enough fabric for the 2 1/2 inch framing border so I stitched a 1/2 inch border first in a different fabric and then added the wider one.  I still came up short so used a different fabric (same as the 1/2" border) in the corners so it blends as though it were part of the original design.

"Lifetime" top is done!

All Done!  Doesn't that make you feel all squeaky clean?  Ah, really not done yet as it still has to be backed, batted and quilted.  Stay tuned for what I did for a backing.

TIP:  Misfit spaces are a great opportunity to turn your creativity loose.

TIP:  There are loads of ways to solve fabric problems in borders and there are books available full of inspiration.  Piecing them is cheaper than buying yardage if you have something suitable on hand, or piecing may allow you a smaller purchase if you have to buy more fabric.