Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Finish That Quilt!

Finishing a stack of UFOs can serve many purposes, the best being that a quilt can finally go out into the world to be used! It's also fun to say, "I've finished 14 quilts since the beginning of July!"
How can that happen? Of course, they were all sewn together tops when I started....and I mostly did Utility Quilting. A new term for that is "quilting with the feed dogs up".

This is for any quilt that is meant to be used. Yes, you could do gobs of fancy free-motion quilting. Do you have to? No. Just decide what you want from your quilt, and then get to it.
Here's how I did mine:

Start in a corner and go all the way!
This quilt is has 4" squares, so it is easy to just "eyeball" from corner to corner all the way across the quilt with no marking. Diagonal stitching also looks pretty, since it goes along the bias of the fabric, creating a soft texture as the thread sinks into the weave .
As you see above, it is easy to drift off to one side as you go. DON'T JERK THE QUILT SIDEWAYS TO CORRECT! That will be your instinctive reaction.

You'll have one hand on each side of the needle, so just rotate the quilt very slightly so the corner ends up back in front of the needle. That means you push one hand slightly forward and pull the other back a bit....just a little shift.

This line is beginning to drift off center. Time to shift!

You can quilt the borders right along with the rest of the top, if you'd like...and I do, because this is not for show, and the borders actually equal about 1/3 of all the quilting needed! Yikes, just when you think you're done, the border can take a looooong time. This way everything is done at the same time. You end up with a nice criss-cross pattern all around.

A quick little chalk mark to set the correct angle.
Use your 6" square ruler (or whatever is at hand) and a chalk marker (it practically disappears by end!). Line up the 45 degree line with the seam, corner of ruler to corner of first square.
All you really need is where to start out at the raw edge. You may think you can eyeball this, but let's just say the lazy part of me agrees it is worth the time taken to make the mark!

Keep stitching across the squares until you get to the next part of the border. Then mark it the same way!
Ruler offset to show the seamline and mark.

The biggest problem in machine quilting is managing the bulk of the quilt.
I start in one corner of the quilt and work each line going towards the right, so the bulk of the quilt moves away from inside the machine. Each line starts at the top, so just pull the quilt back into your lap. If you sort of accordian fold it back and forth, it will feed into the machine a little smoother.

When you get to the corner, mark whatever lines you need to complete the grid you are sewing. These squares are about 4", but their diagonal measure is more...just use your ruler to check how far apart the lines should be .
Then turn the entire quilt around and go back to where you started. The half already quilted will now be to your left (outside the machine) and the part that needs quilting is on the right. Have at it!

When you have finished all that, there will be one diagonal line in each square. Now start at another corner and repeat the whole process. You'll end up with an X in each square, plus the border all done!

Serpentine stitching everywhere!
As you can see, this is a Bug Quilt, which I am assuming will end up with a little boy. Or maybe a tomboy, or whatever gender terms are OK...anyway, somebody who likes insects! I decided to go back over all the seam lines to make this quilt as sturdy as possible.
The seams are fine. But if they stick up a lot, that is the place the quilt will begin to wear out.
And what's with that wavy stitching?
It's the Serpentine Stitch, a favorite of mine for quilting. I have made it longer and less wide by adjusting the setting on my machine. Take a look at yours, and if you have this programmed stitch, tweak it a bit to create a great quilting line that adds soft texture and is much more interesting than a straight line. 
Also, if a wavy line is not 100% straight down the quilt, it is harder to notice!
"Fancy" stitches are OK for quilting, but the simpler ones are better. The ones with lots of detail tend to get distorted, especially as you will be tempted to go fast. Use the speed control to keep going at a steady pace.

Hey...what's on the back of this thing?
Who wants a home dec fabric with 3" bugs?
Beside trying to keep myself busy with all this UFO work, I'm attempting to use up stash fabric. Some of my fabric can now be rated "vintage", it has been waiting so long.
The side fabric is a great ethno-print from Hoffman (vintage by now!). The "panel" is a home dec fabric with 3" bugs on it! Very realistic ones! That came from a remnant bin, but what I wonder is, Who bought that fabric in the first place?!!?!? OK, there is also a frog on there, but I don't think he's going to be able to eat all those bugs.

That's about it for easy utility machine quilting. It gets the job done and still looks fine.
I have a few others to show you, and then I'll also show how I do a binding, all by machine. It's the perfect finish for a quilt-meant-to-be-used!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A UFO No More

My horoscope this morning said to finish old business, so I went right up to my seems to be the home for UnFinshed Objects (UFOs).
Grabbing the first ziplock bad at hand, I was surprised to realize it might not even be a UFO! It was a collection of 6" blocks from my Design Your Own Quilt With Easy Blocks class, and not actually a project that had been started and set aside.
I started by slapping all the blocks up on my design wall to see what was there:
Looks like at least a 5 x 7 arrangement is possible
A 5 x 7 arrangement is pretty good, and I had one extra block plus some plain 6" squares and a few smaller ones. Could I make some more blocks?
Not unless I got desperate for design ideas! My aim was to use what was already created.
I see 4 blocks that are the same but different than the rest, so those can immediately become corners. And there are two 4-patches that are also same-but-different, so they are likely candidates for a center top and center bottom placement. Anything can change, but letting the blocks set up some balance is a good way to start.
It all depends on what part you decide to see!
This is the final arrangement. It put a medium blue square in each corner, and the center top block came down towards the bottom. I was looking at the big colored squares in the pieced blocks, and set them all going the same diagonal...but those little light ones are all over the place!
I guess I could have used that one leftover Snowball on the bottom row to balance the top one.
And until I saw the picture in this blog, I didn't notice that there are 2 kinds of Snowball blocks!
Does any of that really matter? Not a bit! Because the first thing you want to know when you are making a quilt is: What quilt is this?
It is not an heirloom quilt, nor is it for competition in a show.  It is a use-up-what's-available quilt, and intended for my guild's Community Service project. 

Next I needed a border to make the whole thing larger. 
Seems to be a polka dot theme going on...
I loved the dark blue, but it was only a fat quarter, and it also would have made this bit of cheer into a dark mess. But the yellow looked fine, and was exactly the right amount! If I were keeping score, I'd give myself some points for completely using up a piece of fabric!
Would the dark blue be enough for the binding? Stay tuned!

Getting the rows off the wall and sewn together in order can be tricky, though in this case, who would know if they got mixed up?
A pin points the way!
I take the blocks down one at a time, and put my in-the-way ironing board to good use as a place to pin the blocks together on the side they should be sewn. The entire row is pinned.
I put an extra pin on the end block (left or right, it doesn't matter as long as you are consistent!). That pin points in the direction I will press the seams when the row is done. With the seams alternating left and right, all the block corners will butt together when the rows are sewn  to make the top.

Tip Time: You know I love to use tape to help things straight at the machine. Recently it was suggested to tape that gap between the machine arm and whatever space is around it.
Bridging the gap!
Not everyone has this problem, but I am always getting my seams flipped over the wrong way so they end up twisted. This really helped! I added the 1/4" line. The part of the tape you can't see has the same line, plus another that marks where the needle lines up...handy for Sew & Flip triangles.

Let's get the border on this puppy...but, why are there so many seams in it?
I'm glad it's so hard to see that each side has 2 seams!
My innumeracy really came to the front here.
You know, I'm literate, because I can read , but I am innumerate because I can't deal with numbers!
The set being 5 x 7 suddenly got into my brain as the blocks were 5"...oops!
Not to mention I was done in by going against my OWN RULES (i.e. measure through the middles to find the border length!). I just merrily did a bunch of math (poorly) and cut the border fabric.
Oh, well...there was just enough to add on at the end!

Of course a fat quarter was NOT enough for the entire binding, so I just added on a couple strips of something sort of the same...if stars and hearts are the same polka dots!
Do you think anyone will notice?
I've tried to make the bindings as I finish the top. They may have to wait awhile before the top gets basted and quilted, but it's nice to have a little something extra done.
They get rolled up and pinned to the top before it goes on the (gasp) UFO Pile!
A nice even roll!
OK, so I created a new UFO. But it will (eventually) be a nice bright quilt for a child who needs something that will be their very own.
I  have some ideas for art quilts, but just can't seem to get them started yet. But often the best way to keep on going is to do what you know how to do, step by step, and the creative spirit will come again in time.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Return to the Studio

After teaching a class on Saturday, and then a different one on Monday, there were a lot of things to put away.
In other words, my studio was trashed!
Oh, my!
I had to root through almost everything just to get the supplies ready for the classes. That is bad enough, but the other consequence is I find a lot of interesting things and start thinking about new projects.
Can you say "distraction"?  (I knew you could!)

The Saturday class was for The Art Center. I had been thinking about artists using fabric, but not wanting to sew. "Fabric Art Without Needle & Thread" included lots of information, products, and playtime. Most of the students are painters, so the part they liked best was painting on Wonder Under (fusible web) and then ironing it to fabric.
I think I'll re-title this class to go along with another I'm thinking of. They will make a nice pair: "Your Iron as an Art Tool" and "Your Sewing Machine as an Art Tool".
As usual, I was too busy teaching to take any pictures.

Monday's class was for my quilt guild, in response to the need to finish Community Service quilts. I call it "Utility Quilting", which basically means using the walking foot and getting the work done! Quilts made to give away and be used do not need a fancy heirloom quilting job, but they do need their layers to be well quilted so they will last as long as possible.
While you can just do long lines of stitching in one direction, most of the people in the class decided a grid works better. I would agree...both for support of the layers and for a nice texture.
One of the main problems with a class in machine quilting comes from the set up . It's impossible to get ideal chair or table height, though we talked about it so changes can be made at home. Another problem is getting table support on the left side, without making everyone bring a card table...and I solved that problem at long last! It uses more tables, so the class has to be smaller, but staggering them in pairs length-wise provided just what was wanted.
And the third problem is most classes practice on a small sample. If you want to really learn machine quilting, you have to start figuring out how you are going to handle all the bulk of the quilt as it goes through your machine.
Perfect over-the-shoulder technique!
Everyone in class had to bring a basted quilt that was no smaller than 36" square. They did a great job learning to "Fluff & Stuff" among other techniques.

What was the most important thing we learned in each class?
To let go of that idea about Ideal Perfection and just do something!
And is it an old saying, or can it be attributed to Richard Bach or someone..."You best teach what you most need to learn!"

BTW: I did get everything put back in place, and am now ready to mess up my studio again with some new projects!