Monday, April 24, 2017

Folding it all Up

Does your fabric turn into a bird's nest by the end of a project?  I thrive on being neat and organized, but something happens when I get into creating.  The fabric seems to fly all over the place or is hurriedly squashed into an already overcrowded storage space.  I have to do something about this now that I am starting on a new project.  My stash was at least organized to the point that it was stored by color.

Before I could get started on my new quilt project I needed to assess my fabrics to see what I could use.  I came up a bit short so have to make a run to the fabric store, but in the meantime I went through 4 stash drawers and refolded every piece.  You think that's nuts?  I had those thoughts kicking around in my head too until I managed to condense two drawers into one because the fabrics are all folded the same way (more or less) and take up less space.

I got this idea from a You Tube video and adapted the process to my needs.  I store my fabric in an outdoor storage shed in stacking towers with drawers.  I label them with the appropriate color name.  It is a nuisance to go out there especially in the cold and fuss through a drawer to find the right fabric.  Using my new method I can easily see every piece of fabric in the drawer. I have decided that every time I tromp out to the shed I will bring a couple of drawers into the house and refold the fabric.  It is also a great project for getting reacquainted with my fabrics, and I have been able to weed out a few fabrics for discard.  What on earth compelled me to buy those in the first place?

So, how do I do it?  I fold the fabric so its width is almost the length of the drawer and roll it all up over my 6" wide ruler, pull the ruler out and it is ready to put away.  If there are any loose pieces of a particular fabric I lay them on the bigger piece and roll them up inside....all nice and tidy.  Anything too small to go around the ruler (very few) I fold into squares that slip down in the front of the drawer.  I draw the line at ironing out the wrinkles.  That would really be nuts!  I am not obsessive-compulsive.

Folded.  It is a bit uneven but is a cut, used piece.  Unlike a show quilt it can be
somewhat imperfect, but close.
The only trouble I have encountered is that if the drawer is not reasonably full, the fabric tends to wilt and fall down.

Not quite full.
I can add another color or category to that drawer, or I can lay the fabric down neatly and lift the folded edges of the stack to see what I have.  I could also buy more fabric!  Lots of options.  Since some of my drawers are above my head and I have to stand on a stool to see in them I find that positioning my fabric lengthwise allows me to see them all.  If I set them width-wise, it is hard to see what is in the back without pulling the drawer out of the tower.

Width-wise vs lengthwise plus a yellow anomaly.  Will I redo the white/yellow box?
Probably.  It was the first on my folding spree.
So now  you can see what I do to amuse myself between projects.

Sew a happy seam this week.  I wish you an organizing opportunity.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Complete, Finished, Done!

Two quilts completed this week.  I know you have seen my dog ad nauseum, but it is now trimmed and sports a border.  Those two tasks really made her worth looking at.  As I have said before, much of the quilting is under par, because there were so many problems with the fusible.  I have to call this project a real learning experience.  I still love this little quilt and am now able to look at it with joy instead of disappointment.

No hanging sleeve on this one.  Pardon the safety pins!
The larger, spiral quilt is also done.  I can't let you see the completed quilt until it has been accepted into a show, but as soon as that happens I will post it.  The binding went on beautifully and as I write this there are only a few more stitches to complete the hanging sleeve, which will be completed by the time I post this.

Hanging sleeve with a few more stitches to do.
Note the basting stitch in the lengthwise center of the sleeve.  It will be removed when the hand stitching is done.   It will provide 1" of excess fabric to create a tube that will accommodate a pole from which the the quilt will hang.  The quilt will hang straight and won't bend over the pole.  It is a pain in the neck to have to put this on when you are all done, but just smile and do a nice job.

What does it take to enter a show?

1.  Make a quilt with great care and precision.  Do your very best from the beginning.  The binding and back must also be excellent.  Keep track of the time you spend constructing your quilt.

2. When it is completed block the quilt carefully and accurately so it is perfectly square or rectangular, measuring the diagonals as well and the sides.

3.  Sew a hanging sleeve on the back.  This allows your quilt to hang straight if you have blocked it carefully.  Do this before photographing it because you want it to hang perfectly straight in the photo.  You don't want to try to skew it digitally.

4.  Photograph your quilt or have it done by a professional.  Many show sites today give you directions for doing your own photography.  They usually want an un-retouched photo of the whole quilt and a second one showing detail.

4.  Will you  have it appraised?  You might be very surprised at its value.  Now is the time to assemble the details.  That is a subject for another blog!

5.  Find a show you want to enter.  Most (but not all) shows today are entered via the computer, but either way they give you specific directions, which may differ from show to show.  You MUST follow these directions so read them carefully.  Fill out the forms.  Pay the entry fee (not refundable).

6.  Wait to hear whether your quilt made it into the show and then follow more directions for getting it there.

For the first time in a year I am off and running on a new project.  Well, not exactly new.  I have started this one twice and failed because I was having trouble with a shadow.  This is a portrait of my grandson and he has a shadow on one side of his face.  He has dark skin and I have consistently thread painted that shadow too dark, and I don't like that.  So off to try it again using a different technique, which I will share as it moves along.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you the joy of a finished project.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Probing Problems

My daughter asked me, "Mom, do you ever make a quilt that doesn't have problems?"  When I answered, "No," she just had a good laugh.  I guess it comes from designing my own quilts and encountering the unexpected along the way.  I am always trying new things and some don't work out as well as others.  So, how do you go about solving problems?

1.  First you have to get past denial and admit that you have a problem.  I finished the binding completely before I discarded the denial, but it still looked horrible.  Discouraging.

2.  Identify the problem.  That was easy.  The binding looked like it had heavy, lumpy cording inside.  In all the quilts I have done I have never had anything like this happen.

3.  Decide what to do.  Do I leave it and forget showing it?  Do I throw it away and forget it?  Do I take off the binding and do it over again?  I have put a lot of time and work into this quilt so I chose to redo the binding.  As I ripped I moved on to #4.

4. Analyze the problem.  Have you ever thought about what happens when you take layers of fabric and batting and then stitch through them?  Bear with me.  Every line you stitch compresses the fabric and batting, and ultimately shrinks the quilt as shown below (exaggerated).  The line representing the quilted fabric began the same length as that representing the unquilted fabric.

When you have a lot of quilting it causes the outer edges of the quilt's fabric and batting to ruffle.  The more quilting there is, the greater the amount of ruffling.
That edge ruffle includes fabric and batting.
I have a narrow border on which I quilted feathers.  I stitched the binding on before I did the feathers so I would be sure not to catch the feathers under the binding.  I had never done that before and was quite pleased at the the time because it had no puckers and seemed perfect.  Then I stitched the feathers.  Now I realize that I sewed the binding onto all that ruffley stuff and probably had inadvertently incorporated too much binding length.  I also have two layers of batting (wool and low loft cotton) plus the fabric for top and bottom.  All in all that was a lot to squash into the binding, resulting in a heavy, lumpy binding.

Ruffled edge of my quilt.
5.  Devise a solution and do it!.  First of all I removed the binding.  I needed to flatten the outer edges of the quilt to remove the ruffling so I quilted lines very close together around the edge of the quilt.  The thread is the same color as the fabric.  These little lines are not perfect, but most of the stitching will be inside the binding.  It was tedious, but the edges squashed down flat.

With all that manipulating I decided to re-soak and re-block the quilt to be sure it is perfectly square.  I washed the binding fabric and was able to re-use it.  I have applied it now and am in the process of hand-stitching it to the back of the quilt.  That was a lot of work, but I channelled my inner bulldog and will be done in a couple of days.  It is looking excellent so I have been vindicated.  It may be the best binding I have ever done!

I must say that I have never encountered a problem like this, nor have I heard or read about it.  I hope my experience will help some other quilters.

TIP:  If your edges are ruffled, quilt them flat before binding.

"If  you fear the unknown and don't pursue adventure, you're missing out on such amazing opportunities and experiences." [Discover Magazine, "Athlete, Interrupted", May 2017, p 22].  This can be applied roughly to quilting.

TIP:  Get out there and have a new quilting adventure.  How many times have I said that?  Oh well, so true!  Sometimes you get a fabulous result.  Other times you have a learning experience.  Both are valuable.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you productive adventures this week.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Looking at Labels

Do you make labels for your quilts?  They are required if you enter shows, but even a baby quilt meant to be loved and dragged should have a label.  My gr-gr-grandmother was said to be a renown quilter.  I have some antique quilts that have been in the family, but I have no idea who made them and it makes me sad.  I would like to know if one of them was stitched by her.  I have read in magazines about lovely, old quilts without labels.  Appraisers can tell you a lot about these precious quilts, but they often haven't even a guess as to who made them.  A label with name and place and/or something about the quilt builds a beautiful connection between the quilt and its users or admirers.

There are many ways to label your quilt.  Jenny Lyons of "Quilt Skipper" blog just signs her quilts with permanent marker...on the front!  Most people make a label and stitch it to the back of their quilt.  A friend of mine makes her labels with her signature and the name of the quilt written by hand with permanent marker and sews it on.  My daughter just discovered that her embroidery machine makes unique and beautiful labels for her quilts. A label may be plain or personalized.  As a photoshop freak I like to make labels that relate to the quilt using a photo of the quilt or a fabric that I used in the quilt.

Using the photo from which I made the quilt:
Sometimes I use the graphic version from Illustrator as the basis for my label:

The hole under my name contained my address, often required for a show.
It is fun to photograph a fabric in the quilt and use it as background on the label:


The largest label I have made is about 8 x 10 inches for a very special, meaningful quilt that resides on my bed:


The basic method of making a plain label is to use a piece of fabric that you can write on.  Any fabric will do as long as you can see the writing or printing.    You can buy treated fabric in quilt stores and Joann's.  I don't like these as they are very stiff and a nuisance to sew onto the quilt.  They do hold the color beautifully.

If you want to prepare your own label fabric this is what I do:

1.  Prepare the cut (see #2) fabric with a solution for setting the ink.  I use Bubble Jet.  Using this product I soak the fabric for 5 minutes then let it dry flat on a towel.  Excess solution can be re-used.  A bottle lasts forever!

2.  Cut a piece of freezer paper letter size, and cut the fabric slightly smaller than the paper.  Make sure to remove any stray threads so they don't muck up your printer.   Iron the freezer paper to the treated piece of fabric.

3.  Now you are ready to print.  I find that Bubble Jet doesn't give me quite as much color as I like so I prepare my images with heavy saturation.

4.  Let the ink dry for 30 minutes and wash gently in cold water with a mild detergent for 2 minutes.  Voila!  You have a nice label that you can let dry flat or iron dry.

[5]  I am experimenting with painting the label with diluted "Fabric" Modpodge to see if it will protect it and enhance the color.  You know I have plenty of that stuff around!  It stiffens it a bit, but nothing like the prepared fabric sheets you buy.  If not, it is fine without.

TIP:  You cannot save the treated fabric.  You only prepare as much as you need at that moment.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you the fun of dreaming up creative labels.