Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Respect Your Quilt!

While I am usually the first person to say losen up and relax about your quilting, there is also another side of the coin.
Your quilt deserves some respect, especially if it does not fall into the quick-gift or utility category. Trying to do things too fast and skipping some steps will lead to heartbreak down the road. The worst part is that you know, at the very time you decide to skip or rush, that it is going to be a Big Mistake.
Any quilt with a white background is especially prone to problems with dark threads and seam allowances showing through. Here is my "Summer Garden" quilt, and you can see the threads on the left side of the photo (believe me, they show up even more than that!) and the dreaded "seam shadow" at the bottom.

This quilt has a ton of white space....but I love the scrappy reds instead of all one fabric!

It's always being in a hurry that gets me in trouble, and that's why I went ahead and basted this quilt without checking the seam shadows and threads. I fell prey to that thought: I will take care of it later. Of course, if I do not have time to do it now, why ever would I think I might have time later? (I have been making that error in thinking since I was born!)

And I figured I'd use spray basting, to get it done even faster....
Guess what? As tricky as it is to use a needle to fish out stray threads after basting or quilting, it is almost impossible if the top has been spray basted! DOH!

All the while, nagging in the back of my brain is the thought that this quilt would really like to have some nice trapunto in those big white squares....but it's already basted!
But also I am teaching the machine trapunto class in a few weeks, and wouldn't it be nice to have that as an example?
Then again, I really need to get this quilt done so it can be photographed for a pattern cover!

I decided to bite the bullet and take it apart. At least spray basting made that easier than if I'd pinned it all!
Look what I found inside...oh, yes, this would have been a sorry looking quilt with all those red threads shining through the white!

This batting is Warm & White, chosen so it would not interefer with the white fabric!

I was beginning to feel proud of myself. I was Doing The Right Thing! And once it was cleaned up, well, I already had the backing basted in place, so that did not need to be redone!
The backing was lying on my cutting table, minding its own business, when a person who owns his own mat & cutter decided to cut some black leather in my studio!
Cutting leather leaves a lot of fine little debris, like dust. It can easily be brushed away.
Unless it is sticking to a batting covered with spray basting!

Well, in the interest of saving my marriage, I just had to sleep on that one, and fortunately the morning brought a good idea: masking tape rolled around my hand, gently patting the batting, picked up the black dust. WHEW!
I think I will take a small risk and fold it batting side in (the basting spray is not that strong now, as it has been sitting for a few weeks already!) until it is time to re-baste.

So now I am trimming and nabbing all the threads I can on the wrong side, then I will go over the top from the right side and find the seams that are shadowing through.
HINT: folding the top in quarters makes this a bit easier. Just go over it one section at a time. I do the same thing when I am trimming threads from the back after quilting.

After that comes the trapunto, so "stay tuned" for more adventures with this two-color quilt!
But no matter what happens next, I know I will be glad I decided to respect this quilt and do the right thing.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Perky Old Men: getting ready for the show

The Perky Old Men are really getting a fan base!
Thanks to everyone who has seen the quilt and asked for the pattern. I am still planning to have it up on my website as a freebie, and now am only 3 months behind with that plan!
It may even end up here first!
The secret: it's all 3" blocks, no matter what you think you see.
The entry deadline for the big local show is coming up (QuiltFest, Sept. 25-7), and I needed a sleeve for POM. What could be better than a bright limey green with coffee beans?
Maybe now we know how the Old Men got perky...too much coffee!
I made the sleeve by cutting a 9" strip and sewed it RS out into a tube (the seam is hidden next to the quilt...why turn a long tube if the seam won't show?)
Then I basted a pleat (approx. 1/2") along the tube. That's the fold you see in the picture. Then I pressed the whole tube and hand-stitched it along the top, sides & bottom, took out the basting, and it's ready for whatever size hanging rod will go inside.
I think I still love the binding best on this quilt! Big red batik polka dots!
Of all the fabrics in "POM" (some going back to the beginning of my stash, 25+ years ago) there was one little square that "shattered" (brittle fabric that breaks apart). I had it marked with a safety pin so I could find it again and do something about it...but what?
While sewing on the sleeve, it came to me....this crazy quilt could use a little Yo-Yo!
So indeed I made one and sewing it on top of the square.
Can you find it?
No fabric was purchased for the completion of this top
Yes, it's right in the very center of this photo.
Don't bother to guess how many different fabrics there are...we will never know. Not if I have to count them, anyway!
But when the pattern is done, then we'll know how many blocks are in it!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Mystery Quilts: What are they?

I just got an email from a friend who says there are several new members in her guild who may not know what a Mystery Quilt is. I said I'd write a bit about them, and decided to share this with you, too.
Mystery Quilts are classes (or magazine instructions, etc.) that do not tell you what the final quilt will look like. Each step in making the quilt is called a "clue", and you must finish doing one clue before getting the next. You are solving a mystery by making the quilt top one step at a time.
When the original classes were being taught in this style, part of the fun was to have a prize for the person who first recognized the pattern and could name it.
Some Mystery Quilts had a murder or other mysteries to "solve" as you did each step.

Today's Mystery Quilts have evolved beyond using only simple traditional blocks, but they still must follow a few basic guidelines: not require too many fabrics, and be relatively easy to make.
SO: a Mystery Quilt is not a kind of a is a way of making a quilt.

This is from the very first Mystery Quilt class I taught:

Each unit in this quilt had a funny name, like The Gorilla or Bunch of Bananas.

I called it "Scrap-Fari" and each clue was about our journey through the jungle. Those rectangles at the edge are supposed to be the border. As you can see, this is still a top....many years later!

This is a Mystery Quilt I taught at a Big Box Store several years ago:

Can you imagine working on this during an all-night "lock-in"??? The event was never repeated!

This is the basic 3 fabric quilt...light background, 2 colors (or a dark/ medium/ light combo).
This is still a top because I'm not sure my eyesight would stand up to quilting all those little dotty flowers! This is an excellent example of why you need strong contrast to make a successful quilt...that yellow blends in the white, and the prints are all the same size.

Don't let this happen to you!

You don't get to see a sample before you sign up for a Mystery Quilt class, and that makes choosing fabrics more difficult. I try hard to write my classes for the 3 fabric method, and give a few hints if there's something interesting you can try. I often reccomend choosing holiday colors/ fabric, so you will end up with a useful decorative item or gift. Then, if you like the pattern, you can make it again with more carefully selected fabrics.

Sure you can make a scrappy Mystery Quilt! Ask the teacher first, though, as it's probably planned using strips and fast-pieced units.

These days I always have one of my wonderful Beta Testers try out the instructions before I teach the class. I also make the quilt top (at least once), so I have several versions to show. Seeing the quilt pattern done in different colors is good inspiration. I'll often bring my EQ6 on a laptop and run through a variety of other ideas that can be made with the same basic block.

I wish you could see the orange polka- dots on the black fabric!

I love the 3-D quality of this block, and did use it for a Mystery pattern. I am pleased to say that most students were quite happy with the way their top turned out.
Even if you aren't totally thrilled, it makes a great charity quilt, and you will no doubt have a better time when you select fabrics knowing what it looks like!

The Mystery Quilt I designed for the Central Florida Quilters Guild has been rescheduled for October, and I am soooo excited about it!
For years I have wanted to have a fabric exchange be part of a Mystery class....yet how do you assure people their fabric will work with somebody else's? We all want to make a quilt that is to our own taste (even though this is a quilt to celebrate friendship!).
Well, I did come up with a way to do it...and now we will just have to wait until October to see what it is! My "alpha" Beta Tester, the fabulous Cherry-Cherry, has made a version that is to die for!
And to me, the best part of any class is when somebody says, "Hey! I'm going to do this...." and just runs with a great idea!