Monday, June 16, 2014

Bits and Pieces

      Well, I finished the crazy quilt blocks finally. It is a fun project for the first week or so and then you just want to see the end of the last block. When I finished, I just had to count (I had no idea how many there were as I went along) and I made 75. That will make 3- 25 block quilts for charity or any new baby girls that may join my family.
      Speaking of new babies, we had 2 babies born less than 2 weeks apart in May--my great nephew Jackson, and great niece Natalie. I am in the process of finishing their quilts and thought of 3 things to share as I am putting on bindings.
      #!. Making the binding
When I make a crazy or scrappy quilt I like a pieced binding with lots of fabrics. The important thing about this is that the pieces MUST be sewn together diagonally on the bias. After making the strip, press all the seams open and fold the fabric in half with the seams inside. This spreads the extra fabric bulk over a couple inches and is really not noticeable. 
If making a one-color binding, you still piece diagonally for the same reason.
(Edited note: I cut my binding strips 2 1/2 inches wide)
       #2 Sewing down the binding. USE THE WALKING FOOT. This is something I wish someone had told me when I started quilting. I have several quilts with really bad ripply borders because I did not do this. It was really pointed out to me at a major quilt show when I saw a beautiful Baltimore Album Quilt with the worst border/binding I ever saw. If you do not use the walking foot, the border fabric slides and ripples and really looks BAD. 
        #3 BE THANKFUL FOR THE PEOPLE WHO TAUGHT AND MENTORED YOU!  Every time I sew by hand I say a thank you to the first lady who taught me quilting. I don't remember her name, the shop is no longer there, but she was a slave driver who taught hand piecing and quilting the right way. She taught how to choose the right needle for you, and how to use a thimble. I can not hand sew without a thimble to this day and really wish I had known this back in the Sandie's Specialties days! I had permanent callouses and pain in my fingers back then.  So thank you, quilting teacher in Waltham!


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Pressing Matters-I remember what I forgot the first time I posted this!

Crazy blocks in pastels
I have been working on these blocks for well over a week, at least an hour a day and at this point I have finished a whole 12 blocks. Many of them are getting close to finished and to be honest, as it gets warmer it gets harder to sit under the hot lights sewing and pressing. So I am getting ready to be finished!!
Basically this project is just cut, sew, press, repeat. Last week a non-quilter friend came over and offered to help so I had her press. I didn't realize how much there is involved in pressing because after all this time I just do it without thinking so I thought I would share the important points in case anyone needs to teach someone how to be a "sous-presser:"
1. Press seams to one side. For people who come to quilting from garment making, this is hard to get used to because with garments we press seams open. Place the fabric that will flip up on the top and press toward the seam.
2. Press in the direction the fabric wants to go. In this project I am sewing one piece of fabric onto a piece that might have 3 or 4 seams on it. The fabric wants to go to the new piece so that the seamed areas are flat.
3. A general rule is to press to the dark piece when sewing two pieces together. The seam is less likely to be seen through the fabric. When I am chain piecing half-square triangles together I always put all the lights on the bottom and the darks on the top so when I chain press they are all the same and I can do one after the other. (This rule really doesn't apply to this project.)
4. Always set the seam before flipping the fabric and pressing the seam down. This really makes a difference. Any ripples will disappear at this point and you help avoid any stretching. You get a nice clean press if you do this.
5. Magic Sizing is your best friend. I really wish I had learned this earlier in my quilting. When you are using lots of different fabrics with different weights and textures the sizing really helps to unify the fabrics. It also really makes a difference with any fabrics that are cut on a bias. It keeps them from stretching and keeps them staying smooth and perfect. It is very important with this project because the fabrics are cut on every possible angle of the fabrics and there would be a lot of stretched, ripply seams without it. It is also great at keeping the pressed seams staying where you pressed them. Nothing is more annoying than to have a seam flip the wrong way when sewing 2 blocks together, and the sizing sort of "glues" them down.
6. Use a dry iron. Steam will cause fabric to stretch. Use the steam to press fabrics before they are sewn together. (it is also safer for your fingers--no surprise steam burns as you manipulate the fabric on the ironing board!)
Hopefully this will be helpful. I feel like I left out something important and if I did, please let me know.
Oh, if anyone wants a little tutorial on making crazy quilt blocks by machine, let me know.

OOPS- I remember what I forgot the first time. This should be #1! Anyway, when quilting using the iron is called PRESSING. That is because you PRESS  the iron down on the fabric, do not move back and forth like when ironing. Moving the iron a lot can stretch the fabric or make the block misshapen. Duh.. Sandie!

Monday, June 2, 2014

"Color, Pattern, Texture, Shine"

"Color, Pattern, Texture, Shine"
     Anyone who watches "What Not to Wear" regularly knows the "rules" Stacy and Clinton go by in putting together an outfit. I am a huge fan, and watch the reruns while eating lunch every day that I am home. (I am also a bit happy they are no longer on because I would definitely be a candidate for nomination!)
     Anyway, what does this have to do with quilting, you may ask? I am working on one of my favorite techniques, which is crazy quilting on machine.        
Crazy Quilt for Kids
I love to do this because it is fun to mix and match so many fabrics, and it just feels good to use up scraps!
Right now I am making blocks using pastels for girls' quilts. I have certain rules for making each block and recently realized that these rules are pretty much the same as Stacy and Clinton's rules and now I can't get the mantra out of my head as I work on the blocks! So let me break it down-------
1. Color
My Great Grandma's quilt
It is important that each individual block blends in with the others,. You don't want a "galloping horse" anywhere. So I have a rule that each block must contain at least one piece of each of the main colors. It is especially important if using yellow or orange that a bit is in each block  In the pastels I am making now, I am  trying to include yellow, pink, white, lavender, blue and turquoise in each piece.
This one seems a little more difficult for quilting. We tend to use only 100% cotton fabrics and they are all the same texture--smooth and flat. One day I was snuggled under Great Grandma's quilt and I found myself doing what I did as a kid--rubbing the pieces of flannel that are scattered in there. I realized that the flannel has lasted over 50 years and as a kid I used to rub those pieces so why not use the flannel? I have lots of scraps of cute flannels that were used to make pajamas so now I put them in also so some other kid might find them and rub them too. My Grandma quilt also has corduroy but my corduroy is pretty thick and too heavy to use, but a soft corduroy would be good too. 
3. Pattern
After color, pattern is probably the next important thing quilters look at when choosing fabrics. In the crazy quilt blocks my basic rule is to have a variety of patterns in each block. I have solids, plaids, stripes, dots, florals, and the very important novelty prints to add fun,. They need to be balanced in each block so all the blocks will blend. I also have an obsession with fabrics with words on them that I can sneak in there and I look for them in every shop I visit. 
4. Shine
I am not really a "shiny" person but I do appreciate a bit of "special" in each quilt. I throw in fabrics with some gold or silver if I have them. Also I have a few pieces of chintz which adds a shine. 
I am throwing this one in because it applies to clothes and crazy quilt blocks too. When I am making these blocks I look at the shapes of pieces-squares,triangles, rectangles, trapezoids, and try to blend them in each block.

If anyone is interested in learning how to make these machine made crazy quilt blocks, let me know and I will do a tutorial.