Quilt Projects

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Is It Christmas Yet?

The last couple of days I've been sneaking into my quilt studio to work for an hour here and there on quilting the autumnal colored shower curtain I started a year ago. Yes, I had intended to have it done to hang last fall to replace the old one that's very sun faded and sad looking, but . . .

. . . this is as far as it got. In this shot it was sandwiched and pinned, hanging on the design wall waiting for me to be struck by inspiration as how to quilt it. I didn't get it finished by the time our fall colors arrived so I mumbled and grumbled a bit and put up the old curtain but vowed I'd make time to have it finished before Christmas (last year). Yeah, right, as they say. Didn't happen . . . but it's happenin' now!

Last year I wrote in my personal blog, A Home Grown Journal, that I got the idea for making my quilted shower curtains from a friend that had made one for her bathroom. When I started making ones for our home, I decided not to put any batting between the layers as you would for a normal quilt. My friend had constructed hers with a batting, but let me tell you, you had to be sure to eat your Wheaties before taking your shower in the morning at her house because that shower curtain was so heavy, you needed all the muscle you could muster to move it back and forth on the rod!

Previous to the construction of this particular shower curtain of mine, I had always simply quilted the pieced front to a muslin backing and that made a nice, light curtain that seemed to work well. The only thing I haven't liked about doing my shower curtains this way is that without batting, any quilting I did doesn't really show up. Batting is what gives definition to the quilting.

Thermore is a very thin, light batting which is used primarily for table runners that you want to lie flat or for light quilts that you want to "drape" well, on a bed, for instance. What the heck, I thought. I'll use Thermore as batting on this shower curtain and see how I like it.

This is where the shower curtain is today. I've still got maybe a quarter of the quilting to do. Then I'll bind it and put button holes across the top for the rings on the shower curtain rod to go through. With luck, I hope to have it up by the first of September. (Gak, that's like in two days!)

I definitely missed my self-imposed deadline of Christmas last year, but I'll be way ahead of that this year.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

To Hand Quilt Or Machine Quilt

Someone recently asked me how I decide whether to hand quilt or machine quilt a quilt.

The smallest pieces I've done have been 3" x 3" to use as Christmas tree ornaments. Because I wanted these to look traditional and special, I hand quilted them. But truth to tell, I never thought of machine quilting them. I can certainly see where doing any machine free motion quilting on a piece that small would be awkward; hard to hold on to and move the piece without real fear of the needle inflicting serious pain upon your fingers.

My miniature quilts usually average somewhere around 20" x 24", some smaller, some larger. I can think of only one instance where I machine quilted one of them. (Maybe two?) For one thing, I love the look of hand quilting and enjoy doing it. The miniature size quilts are super-easy to handle when hand quilting. And let's face it, a piece this size can realistically be finished in a reasonable amount of time compared to how long it takes to hand quilt a full sized quilt.

Of the many full sized (twin, double, queen or king) quilts I've made, I've attempted hand quilting on only two. (The others all having been machine quilted.) I say attempted because neither one of them is done. (Hang your head, Mama Pea.) The second full sized quilt I ever made (the first was tied), I wanted to hand quilt it. I was determined to be a traditional quilter and do all my quilting by hand. Shortly (very shortly) after starting the hand quilting, I became aware of how long it was taking me. No wonder our quilting ancestors were able to turn out only one quilt a year!

The second one in the process of being hand quilted is a queen sized Double Wedding Ring I'm making for my daughter. It's a labor of love, albeit a slow one. Will I ever finish the hand quilting on that very first one? I don't know. But my daughter's quilt will get finished, I promise you . . . and her . . . and me . . . I do.

In a perfect world (that would be one where I had a maid, a cook, a gardener, etc.), I would hand quilt all my full sized quilts. Realistically, I've either machine quilted them myself or in some instances, had them machine quilted. The quilts I keep for myself get used. I hope the ones I give as gifts get used. This means they will be washed. Machine quilting simply holds up so, so much better than hand quilting.

All of my baby quilts, I machine quilt. If a baby quilt is to be hung on the wall in the nursery, it's a different story. That one can be hand quilted (and I have made a few of those) but when I make a baby quilt to sell or give as a gift, I'd like to assume it gets used. Therefore, I want it to be durable and capable of having a long life lasting through lots of napping, cuddling, playing and many, many washings.

Several years ago, I gave a baby quilt to the first-born of the gal who was my daughter's Matron of Honor. Months later, she e-mailed me saying she was upset. Her little son had . . . well, he pooped on the quilt and she couldn't get the stain out. I told her I was happy to hear that because that was what I made the quilt for; I wanted it to be used and remembered as part of his babyhood.

All of the potholders I make for myself or to give away are machine quilted. Unless you're a very, very neat (and unusual) cook, potholders need to be washed frequently . . . at least mine always do.

The decision to hand quilt or machine quilt a piece is entirely up to you . . . or me. I don't feel there's any "right" way or "wrong" way. I think each method offers its own advantages and disadvantages, pros and cons. So I just do what appeals to me . . . and I'm usually happy with the results.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Big Board - For Big Jobs

When I was working for the quilt store making shop samples and custom-ordered quilts, I did a lot of pressing of big quilt tops I made. As many of you know, doing so on a regular sized ironing board is not easy. The owner of the shop had a big board at the store which she rarely used. Since I worked mostly out of my home, she suggested I take the board home with me to use.

Wow, I could hardly believe what a difference it made having that larger surface to spread out and iron on. I decided pretty quickly that I should have a big board of my own. I couldn't think of any reason why my husband and I couldn't make one ourselves rather than ordering one from a quilt supply catalog. Besides, do you know how much they cost in the catalogs? (Think of your checking account being depleted by over a hundred bucks.) Golldang, more than my quilting budget would allow.

Roy dug around and found a scrap piece of plywood, I bought some of the gray, shiny heat-reflective material at a fabric store and used a couple layers of Warm 'N Natural for padding. Not much to it actually. Dimensions of the board are 22" wide by 62" long.

We put a set of raised rails on the backside to hold the top securely on my ironing board.

The rails run the full length of the board.

This shot makes me feel a little dizzy, but it does show how the rails keep the big board stationary.

Now you have a large, flat, secure surface on which to lay out your quilt top for pressing. Just another really handy quilting "tool" to have. And if you can make one yourself, very economical.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Good Observation!

This post is in response to the comment Chicken Mama (daughter and recipient of the potholders) made on my previous blog entry.

I make all my potholders 8" x 8" square. It's a size I just find very handy. They're big enough to fold double and still have something to hang on to. An 8" square is ample to protect the table if you want to set a hot dish or skillet on it. Ones I make for myself, I don't put a hanging loop on because in my present kitchen, I have to keep my potholders in a drawer next to the stove. No convenient hook(s) to hang them on. But for those I give away, I always put a loop on each one.

Chicken Mama commented that the Anvil and Road to Heaven blocks were the same, except for a little tweaking, as she said. My, how perceptive you are, m'dear! Except . . . they're really not.

This is the Anvil block.

And here is Road to Heaven.

The diagonals in the above pictures are going in opposite directions, but I think you can still see what I'm trying to explain.

In Anvil, the center square (labeled D) is one solid piece. The same center area in Road to Heaven is made up of six pieces; two squares plus two squares made up of two triangles put together. This allows you to get the different pattern or color configurations in Road to Heaven. But Chicken Mama was correct in observing that the blocks contain the same overall shape.

This is what makes quilting so interesting. Just look what a change that little tweaking and use of colors make in a block. I have seen three blocks made from an identical block pattern (EXACTLY the same pieces) but they appear visually so uniquely different, because of the particular use of fabrics and colors, you wouldn't think they could be the same block.

Even with the simple reversing of the white and colored pieces in the two blocks above, which are the identical block pattern, you have a different look to the block. (Dang, my mind has gone blank and I can't remember the name of this block. Anyone? Help?)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Can We Get These Finished, Please?

Well, picking, processing and freezing beans today almost kept me from this post, but (pant-pant) here I am. So back to my potholder project.

Here I've got all four potholders sandwiched and pinned, ready for quilting. The pieced block is on top, two layers of Warm 'N Natural in the center, and chosen fabric for the backing on the bottom.

I quilted each according to the block design and my own inclination at the moment. That's another advantage of making potholders that I forgot to mention earlier. They give you a chance to try different quilting lines and designs. Much better to ruin one small potholder while learning free-motion quilting than a whole quilt. Sometime I'll show you the potholders I made years ago when I was trying to learn how to meander. Why I haven't thrown those away is a mystery. They are AWFUL!

Below are the four different potholders after quilting.


Brave World

Road to Heaven

Castles in Spain

The front view of all four potholders with binding sewn on and completed.

And the back view.

So what did I learn about these four (actually five . . . but we've already ruled out Southern Belle) new (to me) traditional block patterns I tried?

I like Road to Heaven so much that I know I'm going to use it to make a baby quilt soon. As I was working with Brave World, I found myself drawn to it more and more. Because the pinwheel design is always attractive for a wee one, I might give it a go for a baby quilt also. Anvil seems very plain, but I can visualize a quilt using a different colored fabric for each "anvil" and separating the blocks with sashing. The block was easy to construct so even a full-sized quilt would go together fast using this block. Castles in Spain has good eye appeal but I think I'd like to find a coordinating block to alternate with it. Out of the five blocks I worked with in making the potholders, I found four I'll probably use again . . . not a bad percentage!

Whew, finally done! If you think the blogging about the construction of these potholders took a long time, rest assured it seemed like it took me a REALLY long time to actually get the work on them done. Hope my daughter still wants 'em!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Little Detour

I'm going to take a short hop, skip and a jump away from the Potholder Saga today for a couple of reasons. First of all, I've been so busy with garden harvesting that I haven't been able to even get into my quilt studio to do any more work on the potholders.

Secondly, a blog reader asked me a couple of questions that I felt deserved to be answered in more space than I would have in the comments section.

To paraphrase her, she asked if most of my miniature projects were hand pieced. She said she finds it very difficult to machine piece small blocks, but has never tackled hand piecing a mini quilt.

I do very little hand piecing myself. As a quilter, my strongest skill is piecing . . . by machine. I love to piece and it seems to come easy for me even when working with very small pieces of fabric. Matter of fact, I enjoy it so much that I steer clear of foundation paper piecing and freezer paper piecing which are touted as an excellent way to get accuracy when working with small pieces. I personally find those two techniques difficult to work with.

My Tiny Bear Paws wall hanging is 17" x 22".

Each individual bear paw is 1-3/4" square.

To accurately machine piece small pieces, I feel you must (most importantly) sew with a constantly accurate 1/4" seam and not hesitate to use pins to hold pieces together. I don't pin as much as I did when I started quilting, but I still find the pinning I do saves a lot of time in obtaining accuracy the first time rather than not pinning and having to rip and do it over again. And again. And maybe again.

This wall hanging is 10" x 22-1/2" and is called Thanksgiving Flight Home.

Each of these Flying Geese blocks is 1-1/8" x 5/8".

I suppose the reason most of us piece with a sewing machine rather than hand piecing is plain and simply time. Hand piecing is slow. But having said that, I believe it is also easier to get accuracy by hand piecing.

I know a quilter who does nothing but hand piecing. She never sews with a machine. Big quilt, small quilt, all of her work is done by hand piecing. And I so admire her for that. That is true quilting. It's what our foremothers did and some of the work they turned out was amazing.

So if you have a desire to construct a quilt, be it full-sized or miniature by hand piecing, I say jump into it with no hesitation. I, for one, will be humbled by you.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Let's Get On With These Potholders

Here are the four blocks I chose for my daughter's new potholders. The pieces are cut out but not sewn together yet.

This is "Anvil." Used just two colors for this one and am happy with the way it looks. The red print was one of her favorite fabrics so I wanted to showcase it.

The "Brave World" block. There aren't too many blacks in 30s prints but I really like this black and white polka dot and the geometric print with black in it.

This block would make a great baby quilt! It's "Road to Heaven" and I stayed with all reds for it.

"Southern Belle." Uh-oh. It's not doin' it for me. Could be my choice of fabrics or placement of color. Nope, I don't think I like the block well enough to try it with different fabrics. I'll sew it together though just to make sure.

After I got all four blocks pieced, I knew "Southern Belle" had to go. I cut and pieced another block I had originally been considering.

Okay! This is "Castles in Spain" and I like it a lot. The black print with small flowers looks very homey, very kitchen-y to me.

Here are all five blocks I made, but I did jettison "Southern Belle." I'll continue on with the four; Anvil, Brave World, Road to Heaven, and Castles in Spain substituted for (blech) Southern Belle.

Back to the sewing machine.

To be continued . . .

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Not Just A Potholder!

I get a little bit of ribbing when people see the potholders I make.

"Why do you waste so much time intricately piecing a potholder?" I've been asked.

It's not that I'm so lacking in ideas of other things to quilt that I need to fill my time making potholders. There are actually several good reasons why (it might seem to others that) I go a little overboard on potholders.

First off, it's a great way to experience making a new block. Heaven knows, there are more interesting quilt blocks out there than I'll EVER find time to make into a quilt of any size!

Also, it's a great way to audition blocks for a new quilt. Somewhere buried down in the deep, dark recesses of my UFOs is a completely cut out full-sized quilt that I will in all probability never finish. Loved the fabric, loved the colors, loved the block pattern . . . I thought. I cut the pieces for all forty or so of the blocks and then sat down and started piecing them. After about the fourth block, I knew without a doubt that I hated (it was drudgery, it gave me a splitting headache, I didn't want to go back into my quilt studio ever again) making that block. Now if I had test flown that block BEFORE cutting all the fabric, I would have saved myself lots of cutting time and still had the intact fabrics to use.

Something else: Making single blocks to use as potholders enables me to practice new quilting techniques. Machine applique, raw edge applique, crazy quilting, string piecing, paper piecing . . . new techniques abound and I wanna try them all!

Quilted potholders make great hostess gifts or shower gifts or tucked in with a note to let someone know I'm thinking of them.

A little while ago (well, quite a while ago if the truth were to be told), my daughter asked me for a new set of potholders for her kitchen. She requested 30s print fabrics, the colors of red, black and white. A little yellow for accent would be okay, too.

So I pulled fabrics from my stash that I thought would be appropriate and the next time she stopped by, she sorted through them discarding those she didn't care for.

Then I picked out four old, traditional blocks to use for the potholders. Ones that I thought would lend themselves to 30s fabric.

I chose Anvil, Brave World, Road to Heaven and Southern Belle.

To be continued . . .

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

How I Started Quilting . . . Continued

Shortly after my first quilting class, I was told that there was a new quilting group forming, and I was asked if I would be interested in joining. You bet I was! The group was made up of gals who didn't even know how to sew sitting right alongside others who had been quilting for many years and could rightfully be called experts. As seems to be the case whenever quilters gather, everyone's efforts were genuinely praised and both beginners and the more experienced alike felt free to bring questions and problems to the group for help and suggestions. The support of those other 15-20 women was invaluable to my personal growth as a quilter.

Then I started working for a quilt store making shop samples and custom-ordered quilts. This was very interesting and certainly forced me to work "outside the box" using colors, fabrics and patterns that I would have never chosen myself. The downside was that I was always working under a deadline, and there was more work than I could keep up with and still find time to do any quilting for myself. It was a great job and I feel very grateful for the experience it gave me, but eventually I decided to let it go.

Now I'm to the point where I'm seriously interested in building an online market for my one-of-a-kind handmade baby quilts. I've been working with my web designer daughter in readying a website to showcase my baby quilts and offer them for sale. We're getting close to the debut of same, and in the meantime, I thought starting this quilting blog would go hand-in-hand with and be an introduction to marketing the baby quilts.

I'd love to have input from all of you and am eager to meet new quilting friends through this blog. Please feel free to share my blog address with anyone you think might be interested. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

How I Started Quilting (And Where That's Led Me Today)

I don't come from a family of quilters. Matter of fact, I don't ever recall seeing a handmade quilt until I was seventeen years old. At the time I was a senior in high school and dating a really nice guy. One night he was asked by his mother to deliver something to his grandmother who lived on the other side of town. I rode along with him and when we arrived, we were invited in for a little visit. His grandmother had been sitting in her living room doing some hand quilting. Since I'd been sewing all of my own clothes for a few years, I was very interested in the construction of her quilt. She asked if I'd like to see some of her other completed quilts, and I was blown away by the beauty of them.

I remember little about the details of the five or six she showed me but one two-color quilt has stuck in my mind all these years. At the time I knew nothing about the different quilt patterns so I don't even recall the pattern the green and white quilt was done in. But the contrast between the rich, dark green and the white was gorgeous. She told me that she presented each of her grandchildren with a quilt when he or she married. Okay, I gotta admit, the thought did flash through my mind wondering if there might be the remote possibility I would one day have that stunning green and white quilt as my own!

Of course, 'twas not to be . . . her grandson and I parted ways a few months later, but I've always remembered her lovely quilts.

In college, I took up knitting and for the next thirty years, that was my handwork of choice. Then about fifteen years ago, our local yarn shop began offering a series of classes on different types of handwork: hardanger, knitting, needlepoint, quilting . . . I took them all because I love using my hands to create something. As soon as I took the quilting class, I knew I had discovered something that really (and I mean REALLY) appealed to me on many levels.

It incorporated my love of fabric, my sewing skill, my creative design ideas, my need to do something that produced a useful, tangible product.

To be continued . . .

P.S. Many more images of my quilting pieces have been added to the Slideshow in the last couple of days. Check them out when you have time.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Something New

Yup, that's what this is for me. I'm starting a new blog . . . a quilting blog. It's been a while in coming, but I can no longer drag my feed dogs. The time has come to throw caution to the wind and jump in.

For a couple of years I've wanted to create an online market for selling my one-of-a-kind, hand made baby quilts. Over the last several months it's become apparent that a good way of advertising would be to start a quilting blog.

I couldn't have gotten this far in this enterprise without the skill of my web designer/computer guru daughter. As we speak (well, practically) she's working on getting the website to showcase my baby quilts up and going. We're not quite there yet, but that, too, is coming soon. I'll let you know just as soon as it's viewable.

In the meantime, I'll start posting regularly to this blog hoping we all can get to know each other better. I'm planning on eventually having one day a week that will feature one of the baby quilts I have listed for sale. The other days I'll blog about what's currently being created in my quilt studio, and it won't always be a baby quilt.

Since you aren't familiar with my work, I'll probably post pictures of quilted pieces I've done in the past along with current projects. I really hope you like what you see (and read) and will come back frequently to check out what's going on.

Following are three of the quilted wall hangings I have up in my house right now that I've snatched off the walls to show you.

This is one of my favorite small wall hangings. The center is the old, traditional Churn Dash block. For the outside border I used a delightful fabric showing green leaves and an assortment of colorful garden bugs. It's 17 x 21", and I call it "Dashing Churns & Crawling Bugs." I love the colors, and it's part of my annual summer decorations.

Oh, how I agonized over the fabrics to use in this piece. And I'm still not happy with it. (See, I'll even show you my goofs and flub-a-dubs!) The center three by four rows are Goose Track blocks and the fabrics I used are summer fruits and vegetables. The border shows colorful seed packets. It's 28 x 35" and I labeled it "Goose Tracks in the Garden." Because I love the design of it, I keep thinking I'm going to do it over in fabrics I like better.

"The Color of Summer" is 15 x 17". When I started making the small album signature blocks (they're each 3 x 3") I was having so much fun I actually contemplated making a full-sized quilt out of them. Well, let me tell you, after about nine blocks (accck!), I seriously considered doing only twelve of them, instead of the required thirteen, and not putting them on point but rather in rows of three by four! But I persevered (I'm nothing if not stubborn), and I'm glad I did. I'm very happy with this little piece.

That's it for this first post. Next time, I'll tell you a bit about how I started quilting.