Back in Business

The Juki arrived back the Friday before Thanksgiving week. My gardener (and general helper/builder/handyman) was able to come over and help me lift it back onto the table on Monday. He had helped me with the original set-up and so I was very grateful that he was able to come and help me get it back in place.

I was unreasonably nervous about working with it, and so  I planned to practice on a couple of small quilts before attempting the quilting on Hallelujah!

First, I finished the quilting on this little piece. This was made of some very small courthouse steps blocks I had made. I enjoyed making them, but after getting this far, I realized that I was never going to finish enough of these blocks (with 1/2″ finished logs) to make a whole quilt. I always loved this verse, and thought it was the perfect one to go with “courthouse steps” blocks.

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Next, I dug out a really old little quilt. A long-gone dog had chewed on the edges, and I didn’t know what to do with it. Then when I looked at it again, I realized I could just cut the borders smaller, and no one would ever know a dog gnawed on it 🙂 I had fun quilting it.

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So I was almost ready to start Hallelujah! But I decided I wanted some different thread for quilting. I decided to treat myself to a trip to the quilt shop after the last shot in my knee, the day before Thanksgiving. Because I was determined to start this quilting the day AFTER Thanksgiving.

Look at this wonderful fabric I found at the shop! I could not resist getting a piece of it.

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And right on time, Friday morning, I made myself go out into the studio, I practiced a feather or two on a practice sandwich, and then I just went to town. I alternated outlining the lettering with making feathers.

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Next I am going to fill in between the feathers with some crosshatching and some pebbles. I’m not sure what I am going to do around the lettering–thinking about some straight line quilting just to make them stand out.

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In Case You Were Wondering

I was supposed to give you a code so you would be able to watch my episode of The Quilt Show yesterday. There is a little delay in getting this code from The Quilt Show, but as soon as I get it, I will pass it along to you! In the meantime, you could do the puzzle they made out of my quilt “After The Wedding.” Choose the 100 piece NON-rotating–its fun!

I started the piece with the feathers. I have to admit, its more fun to think about feathers than to actually quilt them. With quilting the feathers comes the angst of what do I put in between them??

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Taking a Break and Returning to your Work

This is not the first time I have declared a moratorium on my quilting. In the past, it caused me some angst–would I ever return to my quilting? Would I lose my forward momentum? How would I ever get to all the ideas I had if I kept taking breaks? Now I think that it is an excellent idea. It really frees up a lot of time, and I usually get more done than I had even planned on. In this case, it was finishing my little oriental hooked rug, and I had the added bonus of having the time to clear out my bedroom and closet, as well as the unexpected (and time-consuming) project of choosing paint and carpet colors!

Here is a bit of the new bedroom colors, along with the quilt that is currently on my bed. Good grief, I did not even realize until I saw this picture that the color I was trying to get for the walls was the EXACT SAME COLOR as the inner border of this quilt!!

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I returned from my adventures at rug hooking camp refreshed and looking forward to resuming my quilting routine. I left a lot of quilt projects unfinished, and I had a lot of new ideas I wanted to try out. Being a little bit disciplined won out, and I started working one by one on the unfinished projects.

First up, I finished piecing together the dark blocks for the cross insert in this quilt.  I decided to cut the cross with a wavy edge, and then decided that it would be easiest to raw edge appliqué (zig zag) this on top of the background piece. I liked the way it looked with the cross way off center. I will add words, but I’m not sure how I want to do that yet. I’ve already made the quilt sandwich and have all of the cross quilted.

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Here’s a close-up of the cross “fabric.” It is fun to do this, but also slow going, so by the time I have enough for a project, all the fun has gone out of it and I am ready to move on to the next project : )

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Then I remembered that I had this quilt in the closet, almost completed. I got it out, marked the places where I had missed the quilting, and got that done. It just needs binding to be completely completed. This is a quilt that I started in an Alex Anderson workshop on stars. I had this background fabric (that obviously I love,) and wanted to use it as my focus fabric. Its big enough to use on my bed. Hmmm…seems I do have a coral and aqua obsession going on here.

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I quilted the stars “in the ditch” and then filled in the background with huge feathers surrounded by spirals and bubbles.

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And this next project I can hardly believe myself that I got this done. I do not like working on large quilts. I do not like making big quilt sandwiches. But once in a while I make a quilt that just insists on being big. That is the case with that double wedding ring that I was working on before the moratorium. I really do like this quilt, and so I decided that I must make the sandwich. And I have to tell you, I LOVE my big ironing surface!!! It was big enough that I could use my “steam iron method” to make this sandwich in four quarters.

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I took this picture to show the ruler that I slip between the ironing surface and the quilt sandwich so that I can put the pins in. When I steam the quilt top like this I do not need to put very many pins in place. I usually take the sandwich directly to the machine and either machine baste it together or stitch in the ditch between the blocks.

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Oh, and in the measure twice, cut once department…DON’T do the math in your head. Write all the numbers down, and probably don’t do it when you are already tired. I was VERY SURE that I had made everything plenty big. I started making the sandwich, and the backing was only an inch and a half larger than the top on two sides of the quilt. That is cutting it a little too close, even for me.

It feels good to be home, good to be back working in my studio on my quilts, and very good to be back blogging about my adventures!

 

Fixing the Middle and More Feathers

Thanks so much for the nice comments and positive response to my new blog!  To answer KC’s question–Yes, you can use the ironing board/steam method for handquilting.  After I steam the quilt sandwich, I just take it to the sewing machine  and machine baste it  in about an 8 inch grid.  I set my sewing machine on the slowest speed, and make big stitches–probably 3/4 of an inch, so its pretty easy to remove them as I go along.  I don’t use a hoop or a frame when I hand quilt, and this method keeps the layers very stable.  Most of the time I am hand quilting a larger quilt–like full or twin size.

So I thought I’d just share with you my thought process in changing something I didn’t like in a quilt.  That quilt with the concentric strips that I was quilting feathers on?  Well, my main reason for making that quilt was that I had seen a small picture of an antique quilt with concentric stripes that really intrigued me.  In the antique quilt I think the center square was probably just a four inch red block.  But I thought, why not put something more interesting in the center?  I didn’t want the center to be the focus, but I did think it would just make the quilt more interesting.  And of course I had grand ideas of making hundreds of these striped quilts, each with a different interesting center.   Ha!  Its a little monotonous making concentric stripes.  And also more and more difficult to keep squared up, as you will see in the first picture.  Anyway, I didn’t put much thought into what I chose for the center.  I like chickens, so I chose a chicken print.

When I showed it to my BFF, she said “I really like it except for the chicken center.”  Harumph.  I liked the chicken center just fine and that was all that mattered.  When I got it out almost a year later to start quilting it, I looked again, and thought the chicken center was just fine.  Then when I put the feathers around the center, and took some pictures I thought Ruh Roh.  That doesn’t look very good.  The feathers added some elegance to the concentric stripes, and that homey chicken picture didn’t fit anymore.

So I am going to replace it.  Thankfully, I didn’t quilt the chicken center.  So I will just carefully cut it out, and then applique a new center in its place.  I might use a little fusible around the edges if I think its necessary, but I don’t think I”ll have to do that.  I don’t like fusible that much.  Speaking of fusible, and this is totally off-topic, Melody Johnson is a quilter who has made a career out of making fantastic art quilts that are entirely fused, and she has a beautiful blog that I enjoy every day.  She is doing a ‘quilt along with Melody’ this month.  So far, I’ve just been watching, but I might jump in and fuse a few things.  Goodness knows, I’ve got more than my fair share of fusible web around this place.

Back to replacing my center.  I do this type of previewing quite often, as I am fond of large prints, and often try to place them in strategic places in my quilts.  I just fold the piece I am previewing to the approximate size I need it to be and place it on top of the quilt that I want to use it in.  Usually I do this on my design wall, but I was in a hurry this morning, so it is just placed on my unmade bed…

First I tried this understated oriental print.  Pretty.

My BFF liked this sunflower print because it was the most vibrant.

I am surprised at myself, but I kind of like this oriental print the best because it is understated, and the concentric stripes are still the ‘star’ of the quilt.

What do you all think?  You can tell me the truth.  As you can see from my interactions with my BFF, I still pretty much do what I want to do!

I got a new kind of thread to try today–trilobal polyester.  BFF has been using it (she is a professional long arm quilter) and she really likes the elegant sheen it adds to a quilt.  I thought it might work good on the New York Beauty quilt.  Most of that quilting I am doing in the ‘ditch’ so it doesn’t show much.  But in the arcs and wedges I will do a little quilting that shows.  On paper, I’ve drawn several possibilities for filling in the space.  One of the things I tried was filling in the space with feathers.  So I had to try out the new thread as soon as I got home.  I really like the way it looks, although these pictures don’t show the sheen of it too much.  Once you get the hang of these feathers, it is amazingly easy to fit them in almost anywhere!

 

 

So I’ll say so long for now.  There’s still a little time to take a few stitches  before going to bed!

 

How I Make a Quilt Sandwich

Since I blog about food quite a bit on my other blog, some of the readers are quite intrigued with the ‘quilt sandwich’ that I keep referring to.  I don’t actually like making quilt sandwiches.  I think its the most boring, labor intensive part of quilting.  But it must be done in order to get to the next stage of fun!  I make my quilt sandwich differently than most of my friends, who look at me skeptically when I describe what I do.  But it works for me, so I thought I’d share it with anyone who might be interested.

Originally I learned this in a workshop from Judy Dains, who uses it to make small (like 36″ square or less) wall quilts.  But due to lack of space, or maybe laziness, I have been successful making my large (70″ x 80″) quilt sandwiches this same way.

I make them on the ironing board.

So you need to have good quality cotton batting.  My most favorite batting is Quilter’s Dream Request.  This is not available locally, so once in a while I will order it from Hancock’s of Paducah, especially when they are having a sale and free shipping.  Otherwise, I like Warm and White, which is usually available at Joanne’s and I wait until it is on sale there too.  You can use an 80/20 blend, like Hobbs, but it doesn’t work quite as well.  And basically you steam the three layers together.

The best way is to start from the center, steam the back, lay the batting on top and steam it, and then put the quilt top in place and steam it.  (BTW, this is the New York Beauty quilt from Karen K. Stone.  I got tired of paper piecing by the time I got to the border, and made my own border.)

Then I take my long plastic ruler and slide it underneath the sandwich, between the quilt backing and the ironing board,  so I can put some pins in place.  But I only put the pins about every 15 inches or so.  The steam does most of the work making the three layers stick together.

The hardest part is carefully moving the sandwich to the next portion that needs to be steamed.  If the quilt is smaller than your ironing board, it is no big deal.  But if it is larger, as both quilts were that I did recently, you have to be careful that none of the layers wrinkle as you move them.  If the quilt is large, I just do one half and then carefully flip and do the other half.  The sandwich is quite stable this way.  I like to take it to the machine and either machine baste it or if possible, stabilize it by quilting along the blocks.  I use either the walking foot or sometimes the darning foot (free motion) for this part.

Here I am just free motion quilting along the setting ‘stars’ in the design–to stabilize the quilt.  (BTW, you might be able to see that I pin using a straight pin and ‘pinmoors,’  something I picked up at the last quilt show I went to.  I like them pretty well.)

That stabilized the whole center of the quilt, so I just machine basted the edge.  I turn my machine speed down to the slowest speed for machine basting.

And now all the pins are removed, and you have a completely stable quilt sandwich ready to go any time the mood strikes. My backs are just as smooth as any other quilt backs, and there is no bending over or crawling around on the ground.  And no pesky pins getting in the way either.   I made this quilt for machine quilting because of all the pointy spikes, and I made myself another one for hand quilting in the evening.  BTW, that little star is Gwen Marston’s liberated star.

I just took this picture to show that when you are machine quilting, it is best to have as much of the quilt top supported on the table, and to keep the area that you are working on nice and flat and smooth.  I love having this ‘industrial’ table that my machine sets into.

I am pretty new at making feathers, but I am enjoying putting them here, there, and everywhere.

I took this really close-up shot so you can see this method of making feathers.  My BFF showed me how to do this.  Basically you make one loop, and then backtrack along it PARTWAY, and then do the next loop.  Make another loop, backtrack along it partway and make the next loop.  This probably isn’t clear.  But try drawing it with a pen.  It is a nice little rhythm, and I think its a little easier than traditional feathers.

Well, this is the first entry on my quilting blog.  Don’t know if there’s a need for another quilting blog out there.  But I’ve got a lot  to say, and I like taking pictures, and I love quilting, so I’ll probably be back!  Don’t know how much technical advice I’ll be offering though.  Its kind of hard to figure out how to describe how to do something technical!