Monday, August 28, 2017

To Shrink or not to Shrink.....

Quilt Show is over and now it is back to sewing and the ironing board.  It has been two weeks since the last ironing-related post, but life has been crazy.  We have had two black bears killed in our neighborhood very close to my house.  They both died miserable deaths from gunshot wounds, which is tragic and very illegal.  Some gun nut running around here is scary, and I am out walking the dog every morning.

This is the closest I'll ever get to a bear.  They can be a nuisance, but they
are fun to see wandering the neighborhood.  It was a tragic end to two of "our" animals.

When anxious, return to quilting.  Quilting and sewing keep a person on their toes.  They say that using the brain and solving problems keeps it functioning well, and forestalls age-related deterioration.  At this rate I think my brain should last at least 150 years!

My cork board ironing board is fantastic.

See how nicely the pins hold  in the cork board?  You can see the glue on
the back side of block, but it will wash out later when I block the quilt.

I wrote about my shrunken ironing board cover.  Apparently I didn't shrink the canvas when I made it a couple of years ago.  When it got looking grungy I just turned it over.  When I renovated the table top with cork board I washed the cover and it shrunk up irretrievably, so I had to make a new one.  This time I washed the new piece of canvas first and made the cover.  It fits the table top, but is a bit looser that I really want.  If I had not washed it, I could have spritzed it with water so it would shrink down to the table top.  The downside, of course, is that I would have to make a new cover every couple of years, whenever the cover got too grungy.  I guess the upshot is that you have to choose your own poison.

TIP:  Pre-shrink the canvas for your ironing board cover and you can wash it in the future.

TIP:  Don't pre-shrink the canvas for your ironing board and it will shrink to fit with a little spritzing.

I hated taking time out from my quilt to do this mundane sort of sewing, but I learned something about my sewing machine.  Do you read your sewing machine manual from cover to cover (eye roll here)?  Neither do I because I could never remember it all, and there is much that I will never use.  However, I needed to secure the edges of the canvas so I read about all the options for overcasting.  I don't use overcasting in quilting, but was in the mood to investigate.  I discovered that I have a lovely presser foot that does beautiful overcasting even on heavy, fraying canvas.  I never even noticed that foot in the box of tools or if I did, I had no idea what it was for.  I wanted to sew, not play with the toys.

I also decided something else.  I used pretty heavy canvas for my cover and since I had just enough left to make the new cover I used the same stuff.  I also had on hand a little bit of lighter weight canvas, which I used to make a small, portable pressing board.  Time will tell, but I believe the lighter fabric works just as well, and it is so much easier to work with.  Good grief, I used to cover my ironing boards with old sheets!

Small pressing board front (above) and back (below).

For my paperless paper piecing I laid an old sheet down to protect the ironing board cover - yes I did!!!  I use a lot of starch pressing each and every seam allowance.  I also press every glued seam.  I can throw the old sheet into the wash more easily than the ironing board cover.  I also use my teflon iron cover to protect my iron from scorched starch and glue stains.

Icky looking scorched starch stains on the old sheet.

Teflon cover on my iron.
TIP:  Save yourself some time and effort whenever possible.  You will have extra time for sewing!

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you no brain shrinkage.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Quilt Show and Hoffman Challenge

Rocky Mountain Quilt Festival was last week and of course I attended.  It is the only major show left in our area, which is surprising because we have so many great quilters here.  Several quilt magazines are published this area and we have a wonderful Quilt Museum.   I went on the first day (Thurs), but even so was surprised to find so few attendees.  Maybe the other two days were better.  Unfortunately the show seems to get smaller every year; fewer vendors, fewer quilts, fewer people.  The complete Hoffman Challenge was on display, but several of those quilts were badly creased.  There were a lot of clever, creative designs with the chosen fabrics stitched within.  The winners can be seen here.  Following are a few that struck my fancy.  Some may have been winners, but they didn't provide ribbons this year.  Instead they put a small ribbon-shaped sticker on the ID card and I didn't notice those until I was ready to go home.  The winners were scattered among all the rest and hard to find.

If any of you made one the quilts below I am sorry that I cannot identify you.  The cards were so small that they didn't show up with my camera.  Let me know and I will place your name with your quilt on this blog.

Unique - Black and White

I liked the way the color and black and white were united.

Nice spikes.

Loved the explosion of color.

Nicely done clown.

There were several nice jackets.  I liked this one best.

Appealing.  Fun detail on the lower right.

Novel with the unusual shape.

Fussy cut star.

Out of an old English novel.

This face was sculpted like a bas relief.  Very nice!
It won a First Place.

Sew some  happy seams this week.  I wish you a chance to look at the quilts of others.

Sunday, August 13, 2017


On numerous occasions I have needed to pin some fabric to my ironing board, but the pins tend to have a mind of their own and topple from the upright position.  Recently I put two pieces of foam core board under the padding and cover.  It was fantastic...for awhile.  I could stick pins in there and they'd stay put.  Well, that worked for the short term, but foam core board is affected by the heat and soon began to look like a roller coaster.  Now I have three pieces of foam core board that are basically useless.

Why do I need to stick pins in my ironing board?  I use them to secure the first piece of fabric to the pattern when I am doing paperless paper piecing.  I also find pins invaluable for aligning seams and points when I am sewing a main seam together.  I stick pins through matching points straight up and down into the ironing board, and I stick pins here and there to match seamlines.  Then I glue baste the main seam allowances together, press and sew.  I generally get great results with only the occasional need to rip and redo.  I know, I am very fussy, but I like to be able to show my quilts and these details are important in that venue.

Sharon Schamber has a great video on making your own pressing board.  I have watched it a couple of times, but the board she uses is not meant for sticking pins into.  I got the brilliant idea of placing cork board on top of my DH-built ironing table (22" x 60"), and placing the covering over that. I did some research and found that it is heat resistant, absorbing heat without emitting fumes.  It is slightly rough, which grips the covering fabric enough to keep it in place.

Corkboard on top of plywood table surface (to the left is a small platform
for setting stuff on - not part of the ironing surface)

TIP:  In my research I found that you should not use particle board.  It does not hold up when exposed to moisture.  I do not use a steam iron, but do occasionally use water in a spray bottle and/or starch.  I didn't find anything about cork and moisture so I am keeping my fingers crossed, but I don't think it is an issue.  DH says it will be fine.

I am covering the cork board with cotton batting and canvas.  I am using Quilters Dream Request  (low loft), which I have on hand so I am using two layers.  If I were using Quilters Dream Select I would use only one layer.

Batting on of cork board.
Ironing board is ready to go.  Canvas cover washed and clean.  Canvas cover no longer fits!  It REALLY shrunk!  Quilting time on hold as I make a new cover.  New canvas is in the washing machine in hot water as I write.

TIP:  Pre-shrink your canvas if you are using it for an ironing board cover.  Duh!

Waiting for the canvas to dry (my dryer is the mountain wind).

Sew some happy seams today.  I wish you no shrinkage this week.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Mistake Madness

Do you think that all I do is make mistakes?  I prefer to state that I correct mistakes and solve problems, but then I am a glass-half-full sort of person.  That is what this blog is all about and what better to write about than my own foibles.  I hope my solutions will be helpful to others as they read.  When you design your own quilts you have to iron out your own problems, and it is unrealistic to imagine that there won't be some along the way.

How's the paperless paper piecing (PPP) going?  Fantastic.  I am cutting out three or four of each piece, which takes about 30 minutes.  From there I can breeze through three or four blocks in nothing flat.  Well....compared to my first attempts.  I save up several glued blocks, and sit down to stitch them all at once, chain stitching.  That's called efficiency!  I have decided that this process  doesn't take any longer than paper piecing.  Both methods require a learning curve during which you have to be patient with yourself.  Now I have another plus to share about PPP.  Read on.

Mistakes?  Yes!  I printed out the overall design to use as a guide for the colors in each block.  All the blocks are the same basic pattern, but the colors are arranged differently in various blocks.  After printing the guide I went back to the computer and changed the color of one piece in each half-block.  Then I forgot to print out the new version.  Now one black piece in each half-block has to be switched out for turquoise.  Six square blocks done, so 12 triangles to rip back to that piece to change it.  It is an important element and must be done.

Black vs turquoise triangle.  Center seam not stitched.

Inner bulldog, get moving!  It sort of takes the joy out of quilting, but not the satisfaction of doing the job right and completing my design correctly.  Sigh......ripper in hand I plucked out the necessary stitches.  Fortunately, there really aren't too many because the offending piece was one of the last in the sequence of sewing.  By the time I replaced one, I had figured out how to do it without distorting the block.  First, I folded, ironed and starched the seam allowance on the new piece so I had a nice, sharp crease.

The fold is pressed over a strip of heat resistant template plastic.
You can use double freezer paper, but it gets soggy soon.

Then, working from the right side of the block I glued the seam allowance in place with the sharp crease exactly on the old seam line of the embedded piece, where I could see the line of little holes.  Press.

Glued down in place, with other pieces pinned back out of the way.
(except for that one little tail on the right - it was too stiff to stay folded back, but easy to work around.

Open out the new piece and stitch exactly on the crease line.

Crease line is a perfect guide.

The remaining two pieces were corner pieces needing only partial dismantling so they were really easy to manage.  They were the ones that were pinned back.  I laid those corners carefully back in place and glued them down making sure that the dimensions of the block were not compromised.  Then stitched.  Done....and it didn't even take too long to do.

Measuring before stitching.  Love glue basting!

If I had done this with paper piecing I would have unstitched the same three pieces, which would have messed up the paper, and I might have had to replace more than the one piece of fabric because the trimming would be tight.  There might have been more distortion from the messed up paper.  Paper piecing requires a bit of guesswork to position the fabrics correctly, then trim after sewing.  PPP is clearly the way to go!  However, I am glad the error was on the outer area of the block and not in the center.  Smile!

That turquoise piece is important as it part of the basic framework for the whole design.  It will set me back a day, but it will be soooooo worth it.  I'm not in a hurry and am already thinking about how I will quilt it.  Slow takes time to do those blocks correctly.

Oops!  I found a few seams that I hadn't sewn.  Good grief, I am glad I discovered and could fix them.  I had to hand stitch one because it was too deep in the stitching sequence.  It was a good lesson and warning to carefully check the seams as I go along.  The only downside of PPP is getting the seams sewn in order without missing any.  Working on that!

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you no mistakes, but if necessary, easy fixes.