Sunday, October 30, 2016

Ditching the Quilt

Well, I missed blogging last week by visiting my granddaughter in Pullman, WA, and had a wonderful time with her and her mom.  When I got home I got smacked with numerous things that had to be done:  get another load washed before winter forces me to the laundromat, clean house (urghhhhh), complete repairing my mother's beautifully painted but damaged trays, sort out my sewing shed before the snow flies, etc...and thus no time to write.  Yes, my sewing shed is where I keep my stash and it is outdoors.  Not terribly convenient in cold weather, but protected and out of my way when I don't need it.

In spite of all that, I maintained my sewing routine of 2-3 hours a day driving the Baby Lock and got started on the quilting of my quilt.  I used two layers of batting:  Quilter's Dream cotton "Request" (low loft) and Quilter's Dream Wool.  The wool is wonderful to quilt as it gives beautiful puff to the quilting, but where you want to smash it down as filler it squashes tight to accentuate the main designs.

I ran into an interesting problem that was new to me.  I first stitched-in-the-ditch (SID-ed) the lengthwise and crosswise seams, then the diagonals, each from the center out.  When I looked at the back I discovered that the backing fabric was puckered along only one direction of stitching.

No photo.  You know what a puckered stitch line looks like!

TIP:  Sewing the initial lines from from the center to the outside keeps the quilt from getting pulled unevenly.  This applies to both the grain lines and the bias lines.  The goal is to keep the quilt as square (or rectangular or circular) as possible.  Blocking the finished quilt can straighten it to a point, but being careful at this early juncture makes it easier.

 I suspect that the puckered line may have been on the lengthwise grain as it has the least give.  Solution:  I ripped out that line, and since it went through the middle of a long point, I stitched in the outer seams of the point (dark turquoise in the photo below) to anchor that part of the quilt.  This worked because there was more give on the slightly bias angle.  As I quilted the filler of that point (to make sure my design idea was going to work) I discovered that I liked that the seam in the middle of the point was not stitched down, so I ripped out all the lengthwise and crosswise SID and stitched in the ditches of the outer seams of those four points.  Mission accomplished.  Pucker gone, ready to roll!

Center line (straight grain) of point not SID-ed.  Outer edges of darker fabric stitched down.
Filler on one side of dark fabric not done yet. Note that the corner remains at 90º angle.

TIP:  Sewing garments taught me the importance of fabric grain.  Remember that it is just as important in quilts.  I don't worry about it in paper piecing because the paper holds everything firmly as you work.  However, once the quilt is layered you might have to work around the strength of the grain line and the fluff of the batting while still maintaining its integrity.  By all means keep the straight grain of the top and the backing aligned and un-puckered.  Your quilt will not hang straight if the grain lines are not straight lengthwise and crosswise.  Puckers may ultimately become unsightly tucks as your quilting proceeds.

A spiral quilt has many paper pieced seams to create the gradations that make it so unique.  I have found by trial, error and lots of reverse sewing that it is best to SID along every single seam.  This keeps the straight lines of the spiral straight.  I have tried in the past to stitch a design across un-ditched seams and found that the seams pull, and ultimately my design gets interrupted by those seams popping up so the whole thing is a scruffy mess.  Somehow, if those seams are nailed down first, a subtle design across them works nicely.  Don't ask me why!

Right side not SID-ed.  Left side stitched down.  In this photo the visible
difference is subtle, but significant.

Once the SID is done I can work fancy quilting designs, and that gives the added bonus of getting rid of those pesky safety pins.  I can also work anywhere on the quilt, as opposed to working only from the center out, because the whole quilt is stabilized.

Tester SID-ed then quilted with feathers.
I find the back different and intriguing.

By the time I post this I will be finished with the SID.  I am glad as I find it tedious and tiresome.  However, it is a great way to learn to free-motion-quilt lines, either straight or curved.  It also makes the rest of the quilting much more fun.

Sew a happy seam this week.  I wish you straight, un-puckered seams.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Pondering Problems

You have to recognize you have a problem before you can solve it, right?  Right!  I often have to stop and figure out the source of the problem when I am clanging sour notes on the piano.  With quilting I usually recognize the problem right away so the only problem is how to fix it.

I got lots of feedback last week and I thank everyone who took time to respond.  I too like the feather border, but I also like the idea that a diamond border would repeat the design that will be in the internal border of the quilt.  The inner border can't be feathers because there is a narrow feather along the edge of that inner border (see below).  I planned to quilt this inner border with diamonds, because it would echo the sharp points of the colorful paper-pieced parts of the quilt.

Then I pondered some more and decided to create the diamond border digitally and overlay it on the photo as below:

Digital diamond border and backing folded over the outer border.
It  just doesn't speak to me.  Back to free motion thinking.  My readers like the feather and so do I. is my solution:  I will carry the internal grid all the way to the internal border, eliminating the feathers there.  Then I will do small feathers in all the borders.  I KNOW that will look nice and will integrate better with the rest of the quilting design.

TIP:  When a problem gets resolved and you feel good about it, it is probably right.  I'm feelin' good!

My quilt is all pinned and the sewing room cleaned up:  card table folded up, containers pulled out to retrieve items dropped down behind...and vacuumed, thread organized, ironing board cover clean, tools picked up and organized, etc.  Tomorrow I will start quilting.

TIP:  I don't know about you, but I find a clean, organized space is easier to work in.  It won't stay that way long, but mine was cleaned up within 30 minutes and this was a deeper cleaning than I had planned.  I just got inspired and it was quickly done.

I can't say I enjoy the pinning process, but it is necessary to secure the quilt sandwich until I have done all the stitching in the ditch.  So, here I go......

TIP:  Keep the excess bits of batting from depositing fibers all over the quilt by turning the backing edges to the front and pinning them down so that that all excess batting is enclosed.  This takes more time to pin, but it is nice not to have bits of fluff sticking to the front of the quilt and getting caught in the stitching.  (see photo above)

Sew a happy seam this week.  I wish you successful solutions this week.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Decisions and Thought Processes

No matter what kind of quilt you make, at some point you must figure out how you will quilt it.  Maybe you like stencils.  Maybe you trace someone else's design. Maybe you draw your own designs.  No matter the origin you have to figure out placement, marking methods, thread choice and factor in your own capabilities.

I'm almost ready to quilt.  I have the thread except for the order that should arrive today.  I have the batting and backing.  I have 2/3 of the quilt sandwhich pinned together.  I wanted to try using Misty Fuse, but with blue marker designs all over I cannot use the back to the old faithful safety pins and a bandaid on one finger to prevent abrasion.  I tried a thimble, but it was too annoying.

One more problem to solve.  I have a one-inch, dark blue border on the outside of my quilt.  I have tried a wider border on the digital version of the quilt, but one-inch is what speaks to me.  How am I going to quilt it, considering that I need to have room to put a binding on it too?  More problematic is that the quilting design must not get caught in the binding unless I do something like stippling or straight lines.  The dark blue abuts a medium blue and I tried dense, straight line quilting across the seam.  No go.  I don't like it, and trying to use two thread colors was mind-bending, and my mind refused to bend.

I could do diamonds as I will be doing on a one-inch border within the quilt, but I was afraid I would have trouble lining up the points and not catching them in the binding.  Perfection might be hard to achieve.  On the other hand, it would echo the quilting on an internal border.

Diamonds on the tester do not sing for me.
Now I am contemplating a tiny feather line, but I will have only 5/8 - 3/4 inch, and I can't let it get caught in the binding, but it is more flexible than the diamonds.

Should I do it after I sew the binding on the front, leaving it open to be hand-sewn to the back later?  It works nicely on a tester, but I don't know about the corners.  Time for another tester.

I like the feathers and they echo the rest of the quilting designs.  Click to see large
and you will see the binding seam at the top sewed before doing the feathers.
What about blocking?  Block it after the binding is stitched to the front and quilt when dry?  Will the after-the-blocking stitching alter the shape?  I know the quilt can be blocked after the binding is on.  I can also block it before sewing the binding down on the back.

I could mark the border with a ceramic pencil and keep the feathers on the inner side of the line  Block and bind after stitching.

This is what I will be contemplating as I sit down to stitch every seam in the ditch, before doing the fun, decorative quilting.  It will be awhile before I have to make a decision about that border.

TIP:  Take the time with thought processes such as these.  Do the testers.  You will be more likely to end up with a product that you like.

Sew a happy seam this week.  I wish you lots of ideas from which to choose.


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Sewing? When?

Sewing?  What's that?  That is a summary of the past week.  Nothing accomplished in the sewing room except a big, neglected mess.  Instead we have been moving furniture from a storage unit one hour distant to a different unit 7 minutes from home.  That will be much more convenient and considerably cheaper.  Why do we have so much stuff?  That comes from raising a large family in big homes and then moving into a tiny, mountain cabin.  Don't get me wrong....we love our cozy, high country home, but what do we do with all the lovely antiques and other things that bring back such beautiful memories?  Slowly items are disappearing as we transport goods during visits to family in different parts of the country, but it is going at a car-capacity pace.

After that (and we're not quite done yet) we spent a day hiking among the colorful, golden aspen, came home and served dinner for seven people.  We had a whale of a good time, and that is always good.  We all need a break now and then, some good companionship and lots of laughs.

That came on top of the exciting news that my quilt, "Bigtop'" won Best of Show in the Domestic Sewing Machine category at the 2016 Quilt and Fiber Arts Festival in La Conner, WA.  They will be displaying the Best of Show entries for all categories until Nov 20 so if you live near, be sure to drop in.  This quilt is in my blog gallery, but I will showcase it here for you to see in context.

"Bigtop" front.

"Bigtop" back.
That's the extent of my blogging time this week.  More planned activities ahead so I doubt the sewing machine will see much action for a few more days.  I miss it, but life gets in the way sometimes and I plan to enjoy whatever I end up doing...even moving furniture!

Sew a happy seam this week and sew a couple for me.  I wish you laughter this week.