Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Halloween

I've had this wonderful pattern for a Halloween quilt for a couple of years and I decided that this year I would make it, just for me! It's different from my normal quilts: lots of applique and embroidery, but it's way cute. So off I go, I even started early enough - or so I thought August. It only had 5 major blocks, not so big so surely I could get those done. So I started on the first block. It turned out great, but it took a lot
longer than I thought to get it done. The cat on the roof is really cute though and was worth all the time and effort so off I went on to the next blocks sure that I would still make deadline. And maybe I would have if life hadn't intervened. Why does stuff like that have to happen? I forget that I don't have 4-5 hours a day to devout to quilting every single day. The other blocks have gotten done. See them below.
So you can see these blocks came out cuter than cute and I love all of them, but they took me gosh darn forever. You do not want to know how long it took to blanket stitch around each one of those fence posts.  However it's worth it. Now that the main blocks are done it's time to finish off the quilt. I thought that would be quick. That's what I get for thinking. It is now well past Halloween. I will finish this quilt. I happen to really like it. But it is driving me crazy. I discovered that there were 2 more blocks, plus corner blocks, not to mention the border. Oh yes the border -  I mean for crying out loud today alone I cut out 14 bats for the border. The person who designed this is just crackin' up. Easy quilt! Sure it's easy, but it will take them 2 years at least! Ha ha ha! 
 I guess Halloween and trick or treat can sa(y) quilts right?

My Helper

Every once in a while, or maybe quite a lot depending on the day, I require some help. In quilting that usually means that I'm scrambling to look something up in one of my many quilting books. Or, egads, trying to find that one article that I pulled out of the magazine that had an amazing tip that I knew I would use one day - TODAY IS THAT DAY - but of course I can't find the darn article in the array of articles that I have saved. Truly I thought I had a system that would help me find them again, but it obviously isn't working. Arghh!

Oh well, soldiering on I continue and mutter to myself as I sit at my sewing machine. Much to my surprise, I do wind up with a helper. He doesn't really solve the problem, but by getting right in my face and forcing me to slow down I'm able to figure out what I was doing wrong. Who's my hero? My cat, of course - Tigger.
Normally Tigger sits on the other side of the room. But that day he just came right up onto the machine. After he had my attention, he backed off and let me sew, but stayed where he could keep an eye on things.
 
Thanks Tigger. This piecing will be done very soon and I will be ready to quilt this quilt very soon. Seems even cats have a lot to sa(y) about quilts!
 



Friday, August 16, 2013

Time Flies

I really can't believe that so much time has gone by since I've last sat down to write. I'm so ashamed. Writing is not my forte, obviously, I've said that before, but gee whiz, for the very few of you who actually read this blog . . . well.  I can only say I'm like your old high school friend who pops up now and again. I think of you a lot, and I mean to get to you, but life gets in my way.

This time, old friends, life did get in the way. For part of the time I was I just wanted to be sewing, not writing, BUT I was doing neither. I will not go into details, just suffice it to say I was too sick to even think - well I was thinking about it - to sick to pick up a needle, so I was reduced to looking at magazines and such. Dreaming about doing things. Do you dream about what you want to do? I highly recommend it. The hard part is remembering to put it down on paper somewhere so you won't forget what you dreamed! Old School: if you see something in a magazine that you like, cut it out and put it in folder or tape/paste it your doodle book. New School: Use Pinterest! It's a great online bulletin board.

One of the things I came across was snowball blocks. Not new, definitely old school, but they can be very fun and they are easy, peasy to do! I used them to showcase a fabric. Large trains, in this case, otherwise they would have been cut up. I didn't want to use them in the border of the quilt either.  So fussy cut the print you want to showcase and then cut out 4 smaller squares.
Draw a diagonal line on the wrong side of each of the small squares. Sew them on the corner of the big square. This shows just the first square.
Then you trim off everything with a 1/4" seam. It will look strange and feel stranger! Yes, you're cutting both squares at the outer edge. So this is what it looks like before you press it.
Now press the small squares out. It's a miracle! You get your square back.
I  had so much fun with this. I hope you will try it. Doesn't have to be something big. Mine wasn't.
Okay . . . it looks bigger. I love it when life sa(y)s quilts!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Lousy Blogger

It's official, in case you hadn't noticed it, I'm a lousy blogger. Lousy in that I never get to my blog! I'm supposed to be carrying on about quilty stuff and that's great, but I find that I like to "do" quilty stuff and sitting at the computer doesn't always satisfy that need. Maybe it's the fact that I like to give you guys pictures to go along with my terrible ramblings and if I don't have them I feel bad about writing? That's why I wasn't a journalism major in college.

Yet, I wasn't a quilting major either. I was an economics major. My son, though, bless his wonderful heart, all through high school thought that meant I was a "home economics major." Not in a bad way, but just because I did the quilty thing and lots of other crafty things. He was kind of embarrassed to discover later that - no - Mom was really a math kind of girl!

Well I've really turned that mostly toward my quilting. I do hope that the few of you that actually read this poor excuse of a blog enjoy it. Maybe it makes you smile and maybe it makes you think that one day you can try it, if you're not already dabbling in the fine fun of quilting. It is an art, but it is also fun and that's why I do it.

The last blog had the finale of making the Pathways quilt. Did you make yours?
Then like you, probably the holidays and regular life interrupted my ability, time, (and desire - my head is hanging in shame) to get to this venue. But here are a few of the quilts I've done.

My friends children are now having their own children so I have baby quilts to make. But I'm a superstitious old fool and won't start a baby quilt until after the child is born. Then I quilt like mad to get it done. Here is one that is finished.
I have another almost done and one more that isn't even started! Luckily babies understand. I also made a table runner and place mats as gifts for people we were visiting over the holidays. Did I think of this way in advance? Of course not!


And now we're in a brand new year! I've got quilting projects galore. I'd really like to share them with you. I'll try to be better about writing, but remember with me the problem is that so many things sa(y) quilts!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Quilt-a-Long Finale!

Well after letting a whole month go whizzing by I was feeling supremely guilty or is that "quilty"! I have lit into the quilt-a-long quilt like a crazy woman and it is done!

When I left you last time you had put your blocks together and were having the time of your lives quilting them to your hearts desires, which your are no doubts still doing. That's okay. These instructions will still be here when you're ready for them. Enjoy the quilting, Lord knows I do.

BINDING After all the quilting is done, trim your quilt so that the quilt sandwich layers are all lined up and the quilt is square. Since you squared it before you started to quilt this is not hard, it is just a matter of cleaning up edges. Then you need to cut binding strips. Most of the time I cut binding from straight of grain and that's what we'll do here. Another time maybe we'll tackle bias binding. Bias binding is very strong and can handle a lot of wear and tear and can go around a lot of corners. An example is the wedding ring quilt I made - all those corners needed a bias binding so I wouldn't be fighting with the binding all the time.  I'm also going to do a continuous binding with mitered corners. Yep, mitered corners. Please, don't go screaming from the room. They really aren't that hard. They only LOOK hard. I mean for crying out loud if guys can figure out how to miter corners in construction we can do it in quilting - no real offense intended guys!
1.  Measure through the middle of your quilt both ways and double it to get the length of binding you will need.
2.  Cut 2 1/2" strips of fabric in the color of your choice. Cut enough strips so that you have the length you measured in step 1. I used 2 different fabrics.
3.  Sew your strips together. It's best to use a diagonal sewing line and I wish to heaven I had taken pictures of how I did this, but I only took a picture of the finished product. I can't draw here either so I will try to write it out. You have 2 strips. 1 strip the end right side up (the rest of the strip should go off to your left) and take the 2nd strip right side down perpendicular to it (the rest of the strip should hang directly down). It will look like you have a little box of the 2 fabrics in front of you, wrong side up. Carefully pin to hold at the edge. With a pencil or marker, draw a diagonal line from the top left corner of the box to the bottom right corner. This is your sewing line. As long as the strips are perpendicular to each other, they don't have to be exactly lined up - it's ok if #2 strip is up a bit. You can check before you sew if you take out your pins and fold the fabric back on the sewing line. It should look like you have one long strip of fabric. Grit your teeth sew on that line! Viola! Trim and there you go.
 Do that again and again until you have the length you need. Press all the seams to one side. Then press the entire puppy in half.
Now you have this long fabric string that your cat is going bonkers over. What to do. Go rummage in the recycling bin. You do have a recycling bin? Tut - tut. Grab an empty paper towel holder or toilet tissue holder and start winding. The larger the quilt, the larger the holder you'd want.

You're now ready to sew the binding to the quilt!

Bring your quilt to your machine quilt top up. That's right. We start with right side up. Unroll some of your gorgeous binding and match the raw edge to the raw edge of the quilt. Try to start about 3/4 of the way down one of the sides. Not right at a corner! Not right at the top or the bottom. Leave yourself about 6 - 10 inches of unsewn binding. Sew with your normal 1/4" seam.

Now I do not sew with my binding sitting next to me like the picture. I tried to keep it in my lap, but it jumps around and drives me crazy. Instead I just let it go to the floor. It's fine down there; I just kicked it to the side. The cat looked at it once or twice and decided that it wasn't worth the trouble.

Continue sewing until you come to your first corner. 1/4" away stop, back stitch, and pull the quilt out. Carefully turn the entire quilt so that you can continue sewing down the next side. Turn the binding up so that it is above the edge of the quilt. You'll see that nice diagonal line in the corner.


Now flip the binding down, over your finger so the top fold is even with top edge of the quilt.
Hold that down, and slide the whole thing under your needle and start sewing again. Make sure your secure your stitches. Ta-da! You've mitered your first corner! Easy peasy! Continue sewing until the next corner. Stop 1/4" from the edge, secure the stitching and miter another one. Do this until you come back to where you have the binding tail that you left behind.

Fold back 1/4" and finger press on the binding tail. If you have lots of binding left over, measure so that you can nestle 3 or 4 inches of binding into the tail and cut off the rest. Fold over 1/4" of the end here too. Carefully nestle the binding into the tail, making sure there are no lumps. Then continue sewing until you meet up with your starting point. Secure the end.

Your almost done! Press the binding to the back. Wiggle the corners into a pleasing shape. You may need to cut out bulk from the corners so they will turn well.


 Pin the binding into place, making sure that it covers your machine stitching (of the binding). Hand stitch the binding to the backing. Add a label - if you desire - and you are done!
The Front
and the back!
Hope you had fun. Enjoy the process and remember to look for those things that SA(y) Quilt!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Quilt-a-Long, Part 3

Well, I was an optimist wasn't I? Thinking it would only take me a week to put a whole quilt top together, even if it's only a lap quilt. What in the world was I thinking? Did you do better than that? I'm sorry I let you down if you did and you should have left me a "get a move on" comment! Actually, I have been moving on. With the quilt and lots of other things.  But first where are we on the quilt? Put the blocks together! This is getting to the part I really like. Piecing is fun, but the quilting is where my heart is. For me, that's where it all comes together. Hey, it's what makes a quilt a Quilt!

You'll need a space large enough to spread your quilt out on. A lot of times this means the floor, though it can be a bed, a table, or even the wall with some flannel or something to hold your blocks up on the wall. Lay the blocks out in a pattern that pleases YOU! That's right, it's all about you. Put them out in even rows alternating the wavy block. You can see part of my quilt, the blocks already sewn together below.  I just looked at the colors of the fabrics and moved them around until I like how they looked.


After you're happy with the arrangement sew the rows together using the usual 1/4 inch seam allowance. Your quilt top is done! Now it's ready to make into a quilt sandwich - do you understand why quilter's are a hungry bunch?

Make sure that your quilt top is square, measuring through the middle and the ends both ways. You'll probably need to trim a little, don't worry that's ok. Cut backing fabric same size as the quilt top. Sometimes I cut mine a little bit larger and trim it back later. It's okay to piece fabrics together to get enough for the back. I didn't take a picture of it yet, but mine has two different fabrics for the back - a lavendar print and a solid since I didn't have enough of either, but I loved them (and this little lap quilt will be going to a cute little 9 year old). Cut batting an inch or two wider and longer than the quilt top. I use a cotton batting that is thin. If you like a thick batting, you may need to adjust sizes. As you quilt, batting gets scrunched up.

SANDWICH MAKING
SUPPLIES: Firm surface - large table or floor
                    blue painter's tape
                    safety pins or needle and thread  (For whatever reason machine quilter's tend to use pins and hand quilter's tend to baste)

 Making a quilt sandwich is tedious, but it is extremely important. When done right it will make quilting so much easier. I usually wind up crawling around on the floor and looking like some kind of sick crab in heat. My cat thinks this is great. He comes in and and helps hold down every quilt sandwich, making sure it will never blow away. I'm sure there is some terribly funny SNLive skit hiding there somewhere! Anyway, first lay your backing fabric right side DOWN on a firm surface and smooth it out. Tape it down on the corners and at least once on each side. You do not want it to move around. Carefully lay batting down on top of backing fabric and smooth out. Next lay down quilt top right side UP. Make sure edges line up! Now for the crawling around part - starting near the CENTER of your quilt pin all through all the layers. Check the batting package to see how close you'll need to quilt to determine how far apart the pins can go. Generally I put them about 5 - 6 inches apart. OR I thread a needle with contrasting thread and baste straight lines radiating out from the center of the quilt. When basting lines I do the cross hatch lines first and then radiate the lines out to the corners. REMEMBER: You need to remove pins as you get to them if you are machine quilting!

QUILTING
Now you're ready to quilt as desired! The way these blocks were constructed makes it super easy to follow the facing and quilt a wavy line down each block. You can do that by machine or by hand or both! Your choice. I tried it both ways. I settled on machine. Since I usually hand quilt this was a good project for me. You can mark the lines if you like, but remember no one will SEE the marks. So if you miss them it's ok. Keep going. Varying the width of the lines is good. It adds interest.

Hopefully next time we'll finish up this puppy. That should be putting on the binding! In the meantime I'll try not to get too distracted by things that SA(y) Quilts!


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Quilt-a-Long, Part 2

Are you ready to start playing with all the fabric you've been cutting up? Me too! Today I'm going to tell/show you how to make 1 complete Pathway block. It's the only block you need for this quilt, so once you make one you'll know how to make them all.

The first step is actually to play with paper. We're going to draw a template on a piece of paper. Tape 2 pieces of paper together on the short end so you'll have one piece of paper that's nice and long.

1.  Draw a simple, gentle wave across the length of the paper with a pencil or marker. Use the picture below as a guide. The most important thing is to keep the curves gentle. Other than that there is no right or wrong for this; whatever you draw is correct. It does not have to match mine.

2.  Now cut along the wavy drawn line and also make another straight cut about 3" or so below your line. Easy peasy!


 This will give you a template that's about 3" x 16". Don't worry about the length; as long as it is at least 16" long or longer that's okay.
 















Now it's time to play with fabric! Remember those 16 x 10" rectangles of cream fabric you cut earlier? We're going to call these the B rectangles, that way I don't have to keep typing out those dimensions.

3. Fold a B rectangle 2" in along one 16" side with right sides together. If you wish you may pin this down. I did that at first, but then I just started taking them to the ironing board and pressed down a 2" fold.

4. Place your paper template onto the folded area and trace the wavy line onto the fabric using a water soluble or erasable fabric marking pencil/pen/chalk. I found this much easier to do if I didn't have the pins in the way holding the fold in place - that's why I started pressing the fold. NOTE: Make sure the curve is at least 1/4" from the folded edge to allow for the seam allowance.

A note on the marking pen you use. I am going to give a shameless plug to Pilot. They make a pen called the Frixon erasable gel pen. They may not have been intended for fabric use, but they work for marking fabric like nothing else I have ever tried. The best part is the marks stay as long as I need them and then a swipe of a warm iron and, viola, the marks are completely gone! Some fabric stores carry them, but a better (and probably cheaper, sorry to my local shop!) bet is an office supply store. I ordered a pack of 8 directly from Pilot with 6 different colors - 2 black pens - for a better price than I could find them singly here in Northern Virginia. (They didn't even charge shipping and that's all I ordered!)

5.  Now off we go to the sewing machine! Using a straight stitch, sew along the marked curvy line on the B rectangle. It does not matter if you don't follow it exactly. No one will ever know if you stayed on the line or not (especially if you use those nifty Frixon pens!)


If you wish you may press this stitching. I did it to remove my pen markings now, though pressing later would have done the job too.









6. Cut away the folded edge 1/4" from the stitching line. Remove those pesky pins if you still have them in. Using sharp scissors, clip and notch in the curved areas along the stitched seam allowance being careful not to snip your stitches. (clip in the dips and notch -cut a small vee - in the humps)












7. Carefully turn the stitched stitched facing edge to the wrong side to create a smooth edge. Use something with a blunt end, like a chopstick, to help and press the edge well. Check to make sure that none of your pen/pencil marks show through. Follow your product guidelines to remove the marks now if you have not already done so. Press the facing well so it is nice and flat.
8. Repeat for another B rectangle giving you two faced pieces. Your halfway to the finished block!

Now remember all those beautiful colored strips you cut from the fat quarters? I'm going to call them A strips - for the same lazy reason I call the other fabric B rectangles. Hey, if you know of a shortcut you should USE it.

9. Select one of your beautiful A strips and two faced B rectangles. Any A strip will work. Position and pin an A strip between the two Bs as shown in the photo below. Move the Bs to reveal as much of the A strip as you wish as long as you maintain at least 15 1/2" width (it can be wider not shorter). Pin in place.

10. Now at the sewing machine, edge stitch along the curved edges through all layers. The easiest way to do this is to use an edge stitch foot. It rides along the edge of the fabric and makes it super simple to keep the spacing even throughout. The one for my sewing machine, an Elna, looks like the one in the picture below.  The next picture is a closeup of the finished edges. If you don't own an edge foot, just straight stitch about 1/4" away from the folded edge as evenly as possible.
Here is what your Pathway block will look like from the right side.

Now there's only some trimming to do!

11. On the wrong side of your block, trim the excess A and B piece close to the seam allowance. Any sharp pair of scissors will work, just be careful not cut all the way through your block or you may wind up crying as you have to redo your wonderful block. I use applique scissors also called duckbilled scissors that have a very wide side that helps prevent mistakes like that.


12. Final trimming: Trim the entire block to 15 1/2" x 15 1/2". You may center the A strip or trim the block so it is off-center the choice is up to you, just make sure not to cut the block smaller than the given size. Ta-da! you have your first Pathway block done.


13. Repeat the steps to make a total of 30 blocks. Vary your A strips so you have as many different looking blocks as possible. Or ignore that completely and make them all the same A strips. Also if 30 blocks sound way too much, make yours smaller. It's your quilt, make it the way you want to!

Have fun! I'll have the next part (probably the last part!) in about a week. I want to give us all a chance to get enough blocks done so that you have a feel for the finished product. Happy quilting and keep looking for those things that sa(y) quilt to you!