Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Machine Quilting 101:Pre-basting Prep

Welcome to week 2 of Machine Quilting 101! Thank you so much for your excitement about this series and your great response last week. I certainly have my work cut out for me, huh?

Today we will be talking about how to prepare your quilt pieces before you baste.

First off, when you finish a quilt top, I highly recommend sewing a straight stitch or a small zig zag around the perimeter of the quilt. This will prevent the seams from splitting before/while you quilt it. It only takes a few minutes at the most and it prevents a lot of problems down the line. If you've ever quilted something where the seams have started coming apart on the edges, you know what I'm talking about and why this is so important!
Next, give the quilt top a good press. Make sure the quilt top is as flat as possible.
Do not do what I did....start trimming threads on the back side and THEN decide you need to press the quilt top. You will have to start the de-threading process all over. It's a big waste of time! :)
Also, when pressing, take the time to trim any threads off that are peeking through the top.
Flip the quilt top over (on a clean surface) and de-thread. This quilt is a good example why this step is so important. It has dark colored blocks on a white background. Any stray threads can/will show through the white. It's frustrating to finish a quilt and see stray threads in the white areas. This is a slow and tedious process, but I have found that having a thread catcher, a sharp thread snips and a bit of duct tape help a lot. 
Eventually, your quilt should be de-threaded and lint free. Doesn't that look so much better?  
De-thread the backing as well, especially in cases like this, where the bright pink and white are adjacent to each other.  
And even more your batting. I was working on a jelly roll project about the time I was basting the Picadilly quilt. Those little bits of fuzz from the jelly roll ended up EVERYWHERE!
Once everything is de-threaded and the lint is removed, set the pieces somewhere very carefully so they don't pick up anymore threads or lint. I usually hang the pieces on a railing until I start the basting process.

I had a question about how to piece a quilt back, so I thought I would cover that briefly this week, as well. When I am piecing a quilt back, I usually start by placing my quilt top on the floor, face up. It acts as a guide or template, if you will. My goal is to make the quilt back about 1"-2" larger on all sides. I rummage through my stash and layer/arrange any fabric I think may be suitable on top of it, designing as I go. Once I am pleased with the arrangement, I sew it up. I love a pieced back because I tend to let go of the "rules" and make do with what I have. It is a fun process because the results are always a surprise!
This is the back of my Picadilly quilt. I liked the arrangement when I had all the pieces laid out, but once it was sewn up, it wasn't quite right. The top horizontal strip of pink was a little too chunky for my liking and the middle and bottom strips were blending together too much.
So, I trimmed off the seam allowances on the top horizontal strip (as opposed to stitch ripping!) and sewed it together again. It's only slightly smaller now, but to me it made a big difference. I also inserted another horizontal strip of bright pink toward the bottom. I like it much better after a few edits! It looks even better on the back of the quilt now that it is finished.
Next week we will talk about everyone's favorite....basting! Ha! Actually, after de-threading a white and navy quilt, basting is a piece of cake!
If you have any questions, I will try to answer them in the comments.

If you missed last week's post, you can find it here:
Machine Quilting 101:Introduction

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

eight is great

These past few days have been completely crazy, but I managed to finish another sew together bag! This one is for my daughter, who turns (turned?) 8 today. (Kids' birthdays=a whole lot of work for the parents! Phew!) I made this one without breaking OR bending a needle. I'm pretty happy about that! It's the year of the sew together bag for my kiddos. Two down, one to go. I kind of think I should make the 3rd one now while I'm still in the groove! If you aren't familiar with the sew together bag, it's a handy zippered bag that was designed for carrying all your sewing gear. My kids each want one to store their treasures (of any kind) inside. I can't say that I blame them!

(The pattern is available for purchase here, if you are interested.)
My daughter loves color as much (or perhaps even more?) than I do, so I used as many fabrics as possible. I counted 11 in all! She's gonna love it!
Actually, I was inspired by this piece of artwork that she drew a few weeks ago. I found this list next to it, which are the rules for her drawing class.  
Tip #1: use as many colors as you can.
Tip #2: take your time.
Tip #3 always take a good look at what you're going to draw.
Tip #4: try your best.
Tip #5: Have Fun!

Isn't that awesome? I especially love tips #1 and 5. I'm going to have my husband laminate this and keep it forever and ever. I think I could apply these rules to my quilting, too!

Friday, April 25, 2014

elsa's quilt

Welcome to finish it up Friday!

I've had this little quilt nearly finished for several weeks, but I wanted to give it as a gift before I blogged about it. I just put the label on it and gave it away this week, so now it's really done.
I love the simplicity of this quilt! The pattern is called "View" and it's from Cheryl's beautiful book A Month of Sundays. This photo inadvertently matches the name of the quilt. That was purely accidental! (I may be a little excited about that....)
I used a very pale pink Kona cotton for the background.
The patchwork is made of mostly scraps, but I cut into a little bit of my (hoarded) briar rose fabric. It matched too perfectly, I just HAD to. There are SO many happy fabrics jammed into one yummy square.
I used a lovely garden green polka dot for the backing. More polka dots for the binding--no surprise there!
I love how all the elements of the quilt work together!
I stippled it with white thread and machine bound it.
As you can tell, it's been washed & dried and it crinkled up in the best way!

It measures about 39" x 41". It is scrap project #62/101.

Now it's your turn! Please link up your finishes for the week. Thanks for joining me for finish it up Friday!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Machine Quilting 101:Introduction

I've been thinking of doing a machine quilting series on my blog for a few years (!!!) and I think it's finally time. (I know...I. am. speedy.)

The purpose of this series is to help YOU become confident in quilting your own quilts....on your own home sewing machine. Not to sound too much like a commercial, but it CAN be done! Over the next several weeks we will talk about prepping your quilt top, thread, needles, batting, basting, quilting, choosing a quilting design, choosing a thread color, and so much more. I plan to post once a week (or sometimes every other week, depending on how busy things get over here) and cover one subject at a time. Even if you are already quilting your own quilts, I hope I can offer you a few tips/tricks to help you become an even better quilter. I must state-and I can not stress this point enough-I'm still a work in progress myself.

Today, as an introduction, I want to share with you my machine quilting journey.

When I made my first quilt back in the summer of 2000, I finished it by tying it with perle cotton. I made several more quilts and tied them as well. In early 2003 I ventured into the land of machine quilting. The first several I quilted with a walking foot because I knew I could get fairly good results sewing a (somewhat) straight line. It wasn't long before I felt very limited only quilting straight lines- I wanted to do more.

I took a machine quilting class at my LQS (perhaps in 2003 or 2004) and ventured into the world of free motion quilting. I still have the very first quilt that I free motion quilted and let me tell you, it's special! (I'll have to work up the nerve to show you photos of's really bad!) For a few more years I machine quilted my quilts. I got better at free motion quilting and I even became fairly proficient at stippling, but I was getting so discouraged because no matter what, I would end up with huge puckers in the backs of my quilts. These weren't little puckers or bubbles that would shrink up in the wash. Some of the puckers could have doubled as pockets! I don't have any of those quilts in my possession as evidence....I gave them all as gifts. (Cringe, cringe!) Well, my husband, who is always so helpful, told me that if I kept using the same methods (I was spray basting my quilts at that time), I couldn't expect different results. I told him that I couldn't argue with him if he was going to be reasonable and then I proceeded to huff out of the room. The more I thought about it, though, the more it made sense. That didn't help my pride (AT ALL) but eventually I settled down and came to terms with it.

In 2007, right before I moved from Michigan to Wisconsin, I met Michelle. She owned a little quilt shop out in the country and she machine quilted for other people on her domestic machine. That totally blew me away. I bluntly asked her when she was going to buy a long arm. (At this point I just assumed that anyone who was going to finish a quilt respectably needed a long arm to do so. I hadn't experienced anything different.) She told me that she had no aspirations of buying a long arm...she liked/preferred quilting on her domestic. I was in complete shock....I could hardly believe it! But, it gave me hope that maybe, just maybe, I could quilt my own quilts without spending $20,000 on a machine that would take up an entire room of my home.

The final turning point was when Michelle helped me pin baste a KING size quilt. We clamped half of it down on her work table, pin basted that first half, moved it, clamp it down again and then pin basted the other half. I was quite certain that it would result in one gigantic pucker right down the middle of the quilt back. Do you know what? I quilted it on my JUKI without a single pucker! A KING SIZE quilt!!! (It was this one.) I can not express to you how excited I was. Needless to say, I was sold on pin basting. I have been pin basting my quilts ever since and puckers are a rarity now. I certainly haven't had any pocket-sized ones since. Hurray!!!!

So, my husband was right. You can't expect different results if you don't change your methods. I am so very thankful that Michelle helped me get down to the bottom of my basting issues. If it wasn't for her, my guess is that I would have given up on quilting altogether.

That's my story. I feel a little bit exposed now, but I hope that if you are frustrated with machine quilting (I still remember that feeling very well) that it gives you hope that it CAN get better!

To wrap things up today, I would like to ask you where your sticking point is in machine quilting (if you have one). Or, if you have had an "ah-ha" moment like I did, I'd love to hear about that, too.

Monday, April 21, 2014

how to crochet a rag rug with fabric yarn

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you probably already know that I LOVE to make rugs for my home. I have KNIT several of them over the past several years and they are some of my favorite things that I make! I always get questions about crocheting rag rugs and I am happy to say I have worked out the kinks and figured out a way to do so. Here's a tutorial on how to make one of your own!

First, you need to make fabric yarn. This is a good way to use up a lot of scraps fairly fast. I'm always a proponent of that! It's also a good way to use up fabric that you don't care for anymore. Not that that would happen to any of us.....ahem!
Gather or cut strings of any length that are about 3/4" to 1" wide. Use quilting cotton, selvages, vintage sheets, or any other random fabric of the same weight. I would stay away from anything thicker than quilting cotton such as linen blends, canvas, etc. They are difficult to crochet with because they are just too bulky. Try to keep the yarn approximately the same width/thickness throughout. If your yarn is significantly skinnier in places you will have thin spots in your rug.
Overlap two pieces of fabric and stitch together. Back stitch if you like. (I'd recommend it, based on working experience, but it's your choice.)
Loop the fabric to the side, overlap another string to the end and sew in place.
No need to cut your threads, just keep joining the strings in this manner until you have a bunch.
Remove the whole thing from your sewing machine and cut the threads between the strips. I enlist my kids to do this task if they are around. They love it. (Sometimes.)
Roll it up into a big ball. Now you have fabric yarn! A lot of times my kids will swipe it because they like to play with it before I crochet it. Thankfully it rolls back up pretty easily. :)

The most important thing to remember when making this is to crochet LOOSELY.

Use a P hook (11.5 mm) to chain 40 stitches plus one for turning. Single crochet into each stitch (I stitch into the front loop) all the way across.
When you get to the end of the row, chain one.
Turn the work. Continue to single crochet in to the front loop of each stitch all the way across the row. Again, chain one, turn the work, repeat. If you run out of fabric yarn, simply make another ball and attach it with a quick pass through the sewing machine.
Keep crocheting in the same manner until the piece is the desired length. Knot and weave in the end. I wish you could reach through the screen and touch it because the texture is wonderful!
This rug measures about 23" x 31". It is scrap project #61/101!

I really enjoyed crocheting this rag rug. It seemed to go quicker than knitting did, it was easier to manage the bulk and I liked working with one stitch on a hook rather than 50 stitches on a set of needles. There was a lot less wrestling! I'm already crocheting a second rug and I'm dreaming about making a gigantic one for my front entryway. That would be a little bit crazy, but I just might do it anyway.

If you make a rug using this tutorial, I'd love to see it!

And, as always....Happy Monday to you!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Picadilly quilt

Welcome to finish it up Friday!

Last night about 11:30 I finished hand binding my Picadilly quilt. I just LOVE it!
Fabric is Picadilly by Denyse Schmidt from JoAnn's with a few stash additions. The block measurements can be found here.
Pieced backing influenced by the quilts of Gee's Bend. (I have the book out of the library and have been pouring over it every few days. It's so good!)
I quilted it with a simple stipple in white Aurifil thread.
 A shock of pink and red polka dot binding finishes things off nicely.
 A few more polka dots on the back....of course!
I sure love the mix of prints and the white. A lovely balance, I think.
My daughter did some quilt testing this morning and she gave it her seal of approval. It's nice and cozy. I'm going to have to keep my eye on it or else it will end up in her room with her umpteen other quilts! It measures 65" x 80" or so.

Now it's YOUR turn. Please link up your finishes for the week. Thanks for joining me for finish it up Friday!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

WIP Wednesday

I've been trying to make it a point to work on a WIP...any ol' WIP...for a few hours each day. I figure that if I keep at it, eventually I will finish something! The problem is for every one I work on, I think of two more projects I want to start. Hmmm. I think we are getting to the root of the problem!
I pulled out my mini nines again. While I was working on them I wavered between "oh-my-goodness, I can't believe how cute these are!" to "what on earth was I thinking?" That was all in just a few short hours. This quilt is definitely not a sprint but a marathon. I made 19 more blocks in the past I feel a bit cross-eyed! I considered turning it into a pillow (it would be super cute) but for some reason I can't give up quite yet. I guess I shouldn't wait to work on these for 29 weeks like I did the last time. Yeah, that would probably help!
Just to give you a sense of the scale of the are the blocks from yesterday and today on my design wall. Makes me feel like an extremist! Scrap play on the bottom right compliments of my daughter. I love her....and I love her style. :)
Also, Dee asked how I make the scrappy HST blocks (from yesterday's post). I use my nifty little easy angle ruler. Works like a charm! It has a notch on the end so the dog ears from the HSTs get chopped off before you even sew. Saves trimming afterwards and improves accuracy while sewing. It's a win-win!

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

WIP Tuesday

I started making this quilt a few months ago. The original plan was to make it with solids and have the blocks interlocking. One day I was flipping through a book and found this quilt. It had already been done! I guess I wasn't really surprised, but I was a little disappointed. It happens...and I'm so glad that I found that before I started working on a pattern for it!

I still wanted to use the idea to make a quilt, but I wanted to change it up from the quilt in the book. So, I'm going scrappy. No shock there! Each small block will finish at 6", so the larger blocks will finish at 18". I'm absolutely loving it!
Yesterday I made a few more blocks. It's fun to be working with larger goes so fast! :P The other good thing is that I'm using up some of my endless supply of strings. Of all my scrap categories, those are the hardest ones to keep up on.
It's fun to see how the dynamic changes so much with each color addition! A shock of bright pink/magenta is next. I'm choosing my fabrics carefully, gravitating toward darker, more saturated colors. I might mix in some low volume blocks? or I may keep going in this vein. That's the fun of making it up as you never quite know where the quilt is going to take you! I do know that I have plenty of scraps to use....and that's a good thing!

Friday, April 11, 2014

rockets and robots quilt

Welcome to finish it up Friday!

Sometimes you have to make a quilt just because you have the fabric, right?
I've had this fabric stack pulled and set aside for quite some time. Once in awhile things get added to or subtracted from the stack, but the same color story remains the same. A few weeks ago my friend Mary and I had a sew day and I needed a simple project to work on. So, I grabbed this pile and I started cutting strips without doing any math. Just cut and sew. It's fun to do once in awhile!
I ended up making a simple rail fence quilt. From start to finish it took me about a week. It went so quick that it didn't even end up on my WIP list....which is fine with me!
I love taking leftover pieces and parts from the front and combining them with whatever I can scrounge from my stash to make a quilt back. It's like a big puzzle and the results are unexpected. (And usually very GOOD!) I love the back more than the front! Since that is the case 9 times out of 10...why am I always so surprised?
I stippled the whole thing using light peach colored thread because I had a few extra spools on hand. I attached the binding by machine for a quick and durable finish. I love how the striped binding finishes things off. You know, because there isn't quite enough going on in the quilt top itself. :)

It finishes at 53" x 65".

Now it's your turn! Please link up your finishes for the week. Thank you for joining me for finish it up Friday!