Thursday, November 21, 2013

Sometimes Quilts just have to "marinate"

       If you have been reading my blogs regularly you know that my least favorite thing to do is borders..I have 2 large totes of UFO's. One is pieces--ziploc bags of blocks and misc. pieces, tops with no borders. The other tote is tops and there was also the purple/green woven quilt that needed finishing. In the last week I finished quilting and put on the binding of the purple/green woven quilt, and pulled out 3 different tops that needed borders. Each of the 3 tops had pieces of the fabrics with them so I had something for the borders but no plan. I didn't finish them before because I just couldn't decide what to do with them or I didn't have the right fabrics.
I won these blocks in a class
1986 (or 87)
        These are the 3 tops I finished this week. They each have stories that go along with them and I enjoyed my trip down memory lane. The red/white/blue one is the oldest. I won these blocks in a class I took all the way back in 1986 or 87! I think I wrote about rules in quilting and mentioned a woman who thought all reds go together. Well, there were 2 more blocks and there was no way I could put them with these--they are just too orange! (They are now pockets on my quilting tote bag and look very nice!). As I was working on this one this week I could not decide which block was mine. I have several of the fabrics in my stash and I would guess it is the one with the same blue that I used for the border, but I am not positive. I was happy to see that I had a half yard of red print put aside for this because there is almost no real red in the stores. Has anyone else noticed this? Why isn't there a real red with a small white or black print on it? I love this red but it isn't available any more. I had this top put together with the stripey sash with the stars a few years ago and was stuck after that. The other day it just hit me to make the stars for the corners and now I love it.
Mystery Quilt
         The second one is one I made in a mystery quilt class. It was a disappointment. The blocks were boring and I am not really a 5 fabric kind of quilter. I only had about a 1/3 yard of the Hoffman ribbon fabric so making a border of that was out so I came up with the triangle border idea. I like it but wish I could put one more border after it but none of the fabrics is available any more so it will get a ribbon fabric binding and that is it.
My birthday quilt 1997
          The last one is the most special to me. For several years I was part of the Brown Baggers and we would do a block for birthdays. We could choose the color or style of fabrics and everyone would make a block. I love reproduction fabrics and back in 97 when this was done they were new and really big. And to top it off I had picked up a pack of Sturbridge Village fabrics on a visit to Sturbridge Village. They are the 9 patches in the sashing. I enjoyed reading everyone's messages and teared up a bit when I read Rochelle's. She was my best friend for a lot of years and she passed away a few years ago. This is the only thing with her writing on it that I have. This was unfinished for a long time because I didn't have anything to border it with so I took it to Emma's Quilt Cupboard here in Franklin and found these fabrics. I may finish this one soon because I really like it.
         Each of these projects sat around for a long time waiting for inspiration and after a long marination they are almost done!

Monday, November 18, 2013

"I Spy" fun quilts for kids

Parker's I Spy Quilt
   Every year I do what I call my "January Project". This year I decided it was a good opportunity to make a baby quilt for my first grand niece, Haylie. Her brother Parker got a crazy I-Spy quilt so I wanted hers to be an I Spy also but different and more "girlie".  I have enjoyed the X Marks the Spot block so decided to do it all pastels. So I dug into the novelty fabric box and pulled out all the pastels and pulled out all the strips of pastels and went to town.
     For Christmas I got a goodie box full of beautiful fabrics. One of them seemed perfect for this project so it will be the border. I decided it was kind of nice to have a border in mind before I started so I cut a couple strips of the border fabric and made it a "rule" to have one piece of this fabric in each block.
               If you look in the center of Parker's quilt you can see the I Spy poem to go with the quilt. I thought I would share how I do this. I use the same rhythm and style of the I Spy books and I often include a book with the quilt as a gift. After making several of these quilts I have finally come up with a pretty good way of doing this. As soon as I have finished all the blocks I go through them one at a time and make a list of everything I "spy". Just like in the books it is important to include fun adjectives and phrases to describe the objects so the list includes things like "pigs that fly" and a birdhouse might rhyme better as "a house for a bird". I match up words that rhyme that I can use at the end of the lines and then I go to work to make 4 or 5 verses listing everything. I love fabrics that have words on them so if there is a word it is included with quotes. Looking for fun fabrics with words has become my new quest lately.
       Here's an example of a verse from one of my I Spy quilts: You can see it is possible to squeeze in 13 objects in one verse!
I spy a puppy, pink elephant, and cats
A bowl of rice, pumpkins, and #1 fire hat
Paint spatters, birdhouse, 4 pigs, jelly beans
"Catch and release", apples, and M&M that's green.
     In case you are curious as to how I get the verse on the fabric, it is actually pretty easy. You can buy computer fabric or you can make your own. I make my own with white fabric which I press onto freezer paper and cut to 8 1/2" x 11". You can then just run it through the inkjet printer. After it is finished it is important to press again to heat set. Do not use steam or water in the iron because it takes a little time for the ink to set and you might ruin it. (been there done that). I have it on good authority that after it is set you can wash the quilt and it won't wash out.
      This post has been in the draft phase forever and this week I finally finished it except for the binding and the poem. I plan to finish it for Christmas.

I've been quilting, really I have!

       Wow it has been a while since I posted here. It is not because I haven't been sewing it is because I haven't finished anything worth mentioning. My daughter went off to college and I did the cliche thing--I turned her room into a sewing room! She has the big room so I set up my 6 foot table in the middle and dubbed it my "Command Center". At one end is the sewing machine, the middle is the cutting board, and the other end is my homework. I have to take the national PTCB exam and the class was a lot of work.(I better pass!). I slide back and forth on my wheelie chair and switch when I get tired of one or the other.
Some of my blocks
        I have been doing LOTS of square in a square in a square blocks. I saw a quilt of just this block on Facebook and decided it was a good scrap project. I really wish I had saved it to my Pinterest page but I never think of that.  Of course I set up my own set of rules as I do with all scrap projects. In this case my rule was there had to be at least 1 novelty print in each block. For 2 months I cut and sewed and pressed and cut and sewed and pressed until I just had to say stop. I haven't counted but I would guess there are between 200 and 300 blocks waiting to be put together. The one I saw and liked had the blocks as the center AND the border with just a solid border between. I liked it and will definitely do one that way. The rest will be put together either for a center or a border. I like having a box full of finished blocks to use to finish a scrap project.
Just a peek at the UFO
        After I put that mess to bed I pulled out a quilt that I made at least 15 years ago. It was mostly quilted but I still had to decide what to do on the last border. I did a free form quilting thing and today I went to put on the binding that I had made all those years ago. I got to the end of the 3rd side and was out of binding! HUH? What was I thinking back then? I have no more of that fabric and had to tear it off and find something else to use. I am looking forward to this one being done. I love the pattern and colors and can't wait to take a photo to share. In the process of looking for more fabric I opened the UFO boxes and wanted to cry. Holy moley there are a lot of ziploc bags and unfinished tops and unlayered tops in there! I guess I know my January projects! I need to keep my eye on the batting sales at JoAnn. Now that I have the big table I will be able to layer some of the stuff.
Hayley's quilt (almost done)
I also finished the baby quilt for my grand niece Hayley. She is already over a year old but doesn't every kid need a blankie? I just have to finish sewing down the binding. It is tough to get old. I have the hardest time seeing to hand sew. I can sorta see if I sit in front of the window on a sunny day but I don't have enough light any other time. It is very frustrating. I wear progressive lenses and the distance that I have to see to sew by hand is not one of the distances that my glasses are set for! I talked to my eye doctor and he actually made me a pair of glasses JUST for that distance which is wonderful if I am not also trying to watch tv!  As I say--it is tough getting old!
         Well, Emma is coming home Saturday for Thanksgiving week so the Command Center has to go. I have to move back into the sewing room (boo hoo). It's time to start thinking Christmas  I guess!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

T-Shirt Quilts--a great way to "scrapbook" with fabric!

My T-shirt quilt circa 1992
      I can't believe it. My daughter Emma has graduated from high school and is headed off to college in less than a month! For her graduation gift I made her a quilt with every t-shirt she had worn for her whole life. I saved them all! I started making t-shirt quilts a long time ago when I made one for myself. As you can see from the picture I do not go with the traditional method. I had lots of different sizes of t-shirt pictures and wanted each one to have the same look as far as negative space around the picture so I ended up with a more "crazy quilt" thing going on which is very ME. I reached into my scraps and added leftover pieces from quilts along with different strips and squares. I didn't border it and instead of quilting traditionally I bar-tacked wherever it was a good place to do it.
    At the time I was a nanny for 3 kids, Rob, Sam, and Laura Rokoff in Wellesley Mass. Their mom, June, and I decided it would be fun to make one for Rob for his graduation gift so we dug out as many of his old shirts as we could find on short notice and I made his. Quillows were very popular at the time so his is a quillow. As you can see, most of his shirts were similar colors so it was easy to border with reds and blacks to tie it all together.

Rob's t-shirt quilt
    A couple years later it was time to do Sam's. June had saved up lots more shirts and threw in some boxer shorts I had made for him as a kid and even went out and found the "Sam I Am" shirt! This was a bigger challenge and I finally decided he needed a 2-sided quilt. When I looked at his from a distance I saw lots of green so his borders are a green/black print fabric.

      Well, a couple years later it was time for Laura's. June had had several years to save up shirts for her so this one was a BIG challenge. So once again I did 2-sided and used a  batik for borders.
Rob's t-shirt quilt

      So I knew I had to do a quilt for Emma when she graduated. I saved all her shirts and periodically would cut them up to save up space. Then a couple years ago I figured I had better start on them or I would never finish. People have asked me several times through the years how I did them so I will try to list the steps I use in order and will give any tips and hints I have come up with. If anyone wants more info just ask--no problem.
1. Wash shirts (duh!)
2. Cut out the design logos  leaving a couple inches on all sides. Save any interesting tags. They add a touch of whimsy.
Sam's T-shirt quilt
3. Save up your money cuz here is where you will need it--buy woven fusible interfacing to fuse to the backs. You will need a LOT of it so I suggest using those JoAnn coupons for this. Woven is the only way to go. The shirts are stretchy and a non-woven interfacing will rip if stretched at all and just doesn't do the job. (You can, however, get away with it if you have any sweatshirts as they are not as stretchy and don't need as much stabilizing.) The interfacing comes in black or white and is only about 18" wide so you don't get much in a yard which runs around $5-6 a yard! This is an investment!
4. Cut interfacing a little smaller than each shirt logo.
5. Press each shirt. I recommend covering the ironing board with a cloth as some of the designs may transfer off a little when pressed. Always press with the design against the board. Make sure the logos are pressed square and have not gotten lopsided.
6. Fuse the interfacing to the backs of each piece.
7. Another investment that is well worth it is a 12" square ruler. Use your ruler and rotary cutter to cut the logos about 1 1/2" to 2" bigger than the design.
8. Now is the fun part--designing the quilt. If you have a big design wall, just lay them out in a nice design leaving space between them for the connecting sashings and whatever fabrics you want to use. You can do all the sashing with the same fabric, giving a look like each logo is floating on the same background or you can go totally scrappy. Whatever you like...
9. Because everything is so many different sizes I put them together in "units". Each unit is 2-5 logos depending on their sizes. Then the units are sewn together using more sashings.
10. At this point it is your choice to add borders or not. A 2-sided quilt should have some sort of borders because it is hard to make the 2 sides exactly the same size.
11. Now it is time to decide how you want to put the layers together. I decided early on that I wanted to use polyester batting with a bit of a loft. I don't use the mid to high loft polyester as a general rule but for this I wanted a lightweight batting with some depth to it.
Sam's t-shirt quilt side 2
12. Do you want binding or not? That will determine the next step. I prefer no binding because the quilt is puffy and the binding makes the edge kind of "sharp" or stiff or something. But that is up to you.
13. Do you plan to tie, machine quilt, bar-tack? Your layering method will be different for each method and will be different if you use binding
14. From her on I will tell you how I do mine and if you want ideas for other methods I will be glad to help. If the quilt is 2 sided I think this is the only way to go. I use the old fashioned turn inside out method.
Pin the 2 sides together all around the quilt. I've found it works best to use a walking foot and stitch all around before adding the batting, leaving an opening about 18-25" long to turn the quilt. I found it is easier to do it this way than doing all 3 layers at once because the darn pins get tangled up in the batting and it is frustrating to keep it all together so I do it in 2 steps. After checking to be sure there are no puckers and it fits well I lay it on the batting, pin it down and sew on the same line again. When I get to the opening I sew the batting to just 1 layer because it makes it easier to keep the layers smooth. I came up with this with trial and error (lots of error) and you are always welcome to do whatever works for you.
15. Turn the quilt right side out through the opening. The easiest way is to reach into the opening, get a good hold on the opposite side and pull through--easy peasy.
Laura's t-shirt quilt
16. Now it is  time to put the layers together. I don't have a lot of space so I layer in section about 18-24" square.. I use straight pins and put the pin where I want to bar-tack.  After I pin and before I sew, I check the back to make sure no tacks will be going through somewhere it will look bad.
17. I use a stitch about medium width and 0 length with a neutral cream colored thread. I bar-tack where the pins are and after the section is done,I cut all trailing threads on both sides and check for any puckers or errors and correct as I go along.  Then I do another section. If you wait to do this checking/cutting step you will regret it. The trailing threads on the back get caught and cause puckering so it is best to keep up and do it as you go along.
18. Hand stitch the opening closed and you are done.

     On Emma's quilt I went a few steps beyond the t-shirts. Because this is like a scrapbook quilt I got the idea to add pictures of her wearing the shirts. So here are those additional instructions.
1. Scan each picture into the computer. Arrange as many pictures as you can onto a page leaving at least 3/4" between pictures for cutting and seam allowances.
Emma's t-shirt quilt
2. Print onto fabric. You can buy prepared fabrics for this purpose or can make your own. To make your own, take good quality washed muslin (can you believe I wash it?) The ink will last better on fabric with no sizing. Press fabric perfectly smooth and then iron on to freezer paper. The wax from the freezer paper will stick to the fabric. Cut the paper 8 1/2" x 13" which is the size of regular paper and print with your regular printer. (Make sure to do a test print with regular paper to see which side of the paper it prints on.) Experiment with your printer. I had one printer that had trouble catching the fabric sheet and it would jam which wasted the piece so I came up with a solution which I use all the time now. I use tape folded over the edge to stablize and strengthen and it almost never jams any more.
3. Let printed fabric sit for a day to set, then press with dry iron to help the ink set more before cutting apart. Do not remove freezer paper until ready to sew. After I had done half the quilt I realized that it might have been better to interface the photos before using because they are quite a bit lighter/thinner than the shirts, but since I used small pictures I think they will be ok.

Emma's t- shirt quilt side 2
I then got the idea to add patches. We had lots of Girl Scout patches that were not sewn to her vest ( I just couldn't bring myself to cut up her sash or vest) so I put a few on. Be careful if the patch has corners as these are kind of sharp so it is a good idea to sew down with a small zigzag stitch around the edge. I also had some archery patches so I put them next to her senior picture which is her holding her bow.

I used LOTS and LOTS of interesting novelty fabrics to represent things she enjoys doing and after a while it was obvious I had the makings of an "I Spy" Quilt. So I wrote up a poem and put it on one side. (The next blog is dedicated to the I Spy quilt so stay tuned!)

Emma's I Spy
When I started sewing the units together 2  1/2 years ago I used lots of black/whites for sashings and when it was time to sew the units together she informed me she wanted BLUE in her dorm so I dug up all my blues and used them wherever I could to get blue all over! Figures, doesn't it!

I've probably left out something important and if anyone notices please let me know and I will add it in!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Should there be "rules" for quilting? Lets bust myths!

   This past week I have spent a lot of hours working on the quilt that I am stippling. Machine quilting a king-size quilt is WORK! A couple times I had to take a break so I layered a baby quilt for my grand niece Hailey and have finished all the straight line quilting and I put borders on 2 charity quilts (and anyone who reads this knows how I  HATE to sew on borders).  Anyway, I had a lot of time to think about quilting and all the people I have learned from through the years and all the "rules" that I have heard. So I thought I would play Mythbuster (one of my favorite shows, by the way) and address some of the "rules" people are teaching out there and tell you the rules I always teach when I do a class.
    My first and foremost rule is Safety First. The rotary cutter is dangerous--not only is it sharp but can cause repetitive stress injury which I addressed in an earlier blog.
    One of my first "teachers" was the great Eleanor Burns. I never met her but watched her show religiously and bought several of her books and made several of her patterns. After making several of her quilts I realized that she should have had as a rule: Measure your borders and make sure tops and bottoms are equal and the 2 sides are equal. If you look at her older books she just has you cut borders and sew them on without any measuring. I don't know about other people but I ended up with waffling borders and one side an inch longer than another. From an earlier blog I told how I "measure" with the actual borders, not a measuring tape, and now I end up with flat, even borders.
    My only other hard and fast rule is to cut all loose threads as you go. I used to be less obsessive about this and I ended up having to go over the finished quilt to cut all threads that snuck out to the top and the worst was when I had pieced dark fabrics with dark thread (you have to or it shows) but they were attached to a white background. Those loose dark threads showed through the light fabric and I had to fish them out and cut them off. So please, cut as you go!
    So lets address some of those "rules" that are floating around out there that I do not consider "rules" but I do put into the "myth" category. I actually knew a teacher who said it was a rule to never use yellow in a quilt! Really! Now it is true that yellow does pop out in a scrap quilt so it is important to balance it. Too much yellow in one area can be a "galloping horse" so it is important to step back and balance the bright colors but NO YELLOW=MYTH.
    This same teacher also believed that all reds matched. Sorry, but I just can not put tomato red and burgundy red in the same red,white,and blue quilt. I can mix them all in together in a scrap quilt but in a red and white quilt they just clash to me so in my opinion  ALL REDS MATCH=MYTH. (This one goes back 25 years and still bugs me!)
This is my very first quilt wallhanging-all hand pieced
and quilted. If you look closely you can see how one
side is badly faded from sunlight. 
   A controversial idea is that quilts should be all cotton. I have a little issue with this one and can see both sides. It is important for a quilt that is being used daily to have fabrics that are going to wear and wash the same. You probably don't want one fabric to wear out before the rest, or stay shiny if everything else is dull. You just want a quilt that will outlast you! Polyester and Poly cottons are made to not shrink or fade and are usually shinier than all cottons. I never used them before because this was a "rule" so I had to bypass so many cute novelty fabrics. But then I looked at my much loved and much used quilt that my great grandma made me 50 years ago. It has flannels, corduroy, taffeta and cottons all mixed in together. It has been washed and used a lot and still looks good. As a kid I loved the flannels and corduroys because they were scraps from my clothes and I loved to rub them. On the other hand, I have made quilts of all cottons that have not fared so well. There is good fabric and cheap fabric and you get what you pay for, I guess. One quilt I made had one black print cotton fabric in it that faded and wore through just by having it on the bed.  I used this fabric in my quilted jacket and there are holes and faded stripes now! Another quilt was made from all fabrics from the same line and the same store and one of them bled and wore badly. Another one had one fabric that bled all over and when I tried to use the color remover the take care of the bleed that one fabric "bleached" out and nothing else did.  So what about quilted wall hangings? Why would you need all the fabrics to be cotton? You probably will never wash it so you don't need to worry about fabrics shrinking differently. In fact, an all cotton wallhanging is almost definitely going to fade from sunlight. So in my opinion the rule of   ALL COTTON=MYTH.
     All right, now I have to address the biggest myth of all out there and I really don't want to have to spend a  lot of time on this one because I am tired of arguing this point. That is the issue of prewashing fabrics. How many of you have spent hours washing and pressing fabrics before using them? Did you even question this "rule"?  I never really had until I took a class from the master quilter Harriet Hargrave. She discussed the reasons to wash and not to wash and I am enclosing this link from her book.
From my own experience I never achieved anything from prewashing unless the fabric was obviously dirty and needed washing. The quilts mentioned in the previous section were made with prewashed fabrics and prewashing sure didn't help there. It has been liberating to not have to wash everything and now that I have to use a laundromat to wash clothes it is very welcome! So in my opinion PREWASHING FABRIC=MYTH.
     I am sure that before I finish quilting these large quilts I will come up with a few more myths to bust but for now "I reject your reality and substitute my own" (thanks Adam Savage for those words of wisdom).

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Stippling--Not for the Faint of Heart!

    I thought it was a good idea to check in here. Lately I have been working on my daughter's t-shirt quilt for her graduation gift but decided that was a story for another day since today's stippling about stopped my heart! I have made 3 floral "watercolor" style quilts which I hope to sell. I have started stipple quilting the first one which is king size. It is HARD pushing that thing into the machine. So today I came back to the stippling and my back and shoulders are definitely feeling it! There is something definitely wrong with my foot pedal and it only works fast for stippling if my foot is in the perfect position and when I hit that sweet spot I go as fast and as far as I can! So today I was zooming along when CLUNK the extension table fell off and scared me to death. Last time I worked on it the darning foot actually fell off mid-stipple and shattered the needle. I would say this is the only design flaw I have ever seen with a Bernina. Scary. Not for the faint of heart!
    I love to stipple and it is my favorite quilting technique. Sometimes I do a traditional round style and decide what size based on the quilt. I have also done what I call the "heart" where I do heart motifs as I go along, or the "flower" where I squiggle around and make flowers. I also do the "loop" where I loop over and under and another favorite is the square stipple like the block on the left. I love to use variegated threads and in this quilt I used the primary colored thread which really looked great on the black.
     While I am stippling I invariable crack myself up with the shapes I accidentally come up with. Most common is the heart but I can't believe how often I make Florida or Idaho and today I made a very cute ducky and a bunny but my personal "favorite" is when I accidentally make a penis! Always cracks me up and I have to just leave it there and hope no one else sees it! So Happy and Safe Stippling everyone!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Let there be light-in Super Bowls as well as quilting!

     Just sitting here watching the Super Bowl and quilting during boring parts and had the same thing happen to me that happened in the Super Bowl--the light went out! In the last couple weeks I started to notice that it wasn't as bright when I was sewing and at first just thought my old eyes weren't seeing so well. Then I realized that 1 out of 2 bulbs of the pole light that lights the area were out. The sewing room doesn't have a ceiling light (what's the deal with that!?!) so I have a 3 light lamp in one corner. One light exploded a few months ago, and now it is down to 2. Then I realized that I wasn't crazy as far as the sewing machine light went because as I was sewing it suddenly got bright again and then would get dim again. Finally today the light went out and I panicked. I've had my Bernina 25 years and have never replaced the bulb, don't know how to replace it, can't find the manual,  and don't know where to get another one. So of course I went online to order a bulb and research how to change it and discovered a tool for replacing the bulb. Turns out I have one of those in my tool box so I played with it and at the moment I have light. Yay!
    If anyone has any ideas how to get more light in a room with no window and no ceiling light I would love to hear them. I have a small Ott Light on the sewing desk, a clamp light over the cutting table, another really crappy clamp light over the ironing board and the 3 (now 2) light pole lamp in the corner. It is a mess of shadows and extension cords.  Please...let there be light!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Christmas sewing--wouldn't be Christmas without it!

     My goodness, I have not written much lately. I have been sewing a lot but with Christmas gifts and all I didn't get much quilting done. I did sew this year's Christmas ornaments for the kids and thought it would be fun to show them here. I have been making ornaments each year for the kids in the family. It started back in 1970-something with my younger cousins and has continued ever since as nephews and nieces have come along. They get cut off the list when they graduate from high school and you would think there would have been an off year but it seems like I have had to do a dozen each year!  My rule for myself is that I don't ever repeat and I try to do a different type each year. I have done everything from bread dough to shells to crafts to embroidery and this year I decided to try not to spend any money so I found a very old pattern, dug out some fabrics, and got by with only having to buy stuffing, a piece of felt, and embroidery thread so that was pretty good. Lambs? you ask. Well, they are wearing a tag I made that says "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world". This was one of my few "religious" ones. I like to think of the kids sorting out "their" ornaments when they grow up and get move out on their own. I'm sure I take a little verbal abuse about the occasional weird ones but hopefully they have good memories to go along with them.

    The only other Christmas sewing I did this year was to make two Doctor Who themed pillows for Emma. I came across a great site for fabric designed by "real people" and found these fabrics. The site is and I hit a fat quarter sale and couldn't resist. I love to go into the site and drool over the creative fabrics there!
      Now that Christmas is over I have started quilting again-January projects are coming along.