Wednesday, July 31, 2013

WIP: Just Can't Resist While Cleaning Up...

One thing I like about quilting as much as the actual sewing is the grouping together of fabrics and imagining future projects. I pull fat quarters and half yard pieces out of my Ikea chest of drawers and combine them with focus fabric 1+ yd pieces I pull from my closet. Sometimes I combine them in little groupings and store these future kits or projects in scrapbook cases, perfect for the task.

While finishing a large project, this foray into fabric wonderland is a great diversion and break; and dabbling with my fabric is not starting new project, not really. After most recently finishing my 72"x72" Sunny Spring Frost (7/24/13 post), I had fabric combinations spread out everywhere. One particular combination was so cool that I had to preserve it. The fabrics were bought months, maybe even years, apart from each other. The fabrics were bought from varied places – local and distant shops and craft shows. There was never any plan in mind when these fabrics were purchased. Some were bought on a whim from a clearance bin. The coincidence that they came together before my eyes was Kismet.

I've had a classic car fabric for a while but only 1-7/8 yard, not enough for a shirt for my husband. This classic car focus fabric needed just the right colors to go with the cars' paint jobs. The red was not a true red, just a bit on the paprika side, and the blue was more periwinkle that sky blue. I just happened to have fat quarters in the perfect colors. The travel symbol print was a whim clearance fabric and it really carries out the transportation theme. Its beige background also hearkens back to the beige dots in the periwinkle.

So, with no intended recipient and no clear cut pattern in mind, I decided to whip up a large block and strip style quilt to use this grouping before I forgot I had formed it. Should take only an afternoon, right? (OK, now I have crossed the line and started a new project.) Well, I am on day two and still enjoying it, so I do not feel too guilty about my impulsively jumping this quilt to the front of the line, ahead of other projects I want to do. Since a strip quilt generally uses the full width of fabric and I only had fat quarters of the paprika and periwinkle I decided to stretch it by making some strips a checker board. They use checkered flags in racing, right? So the concept fits right in.

I had a white/red grid fabric and, believe it or not, it was also a good red – not too cherry and leaning a bit toward the orange. I found firetruck fabric that was leftover from a pillow case and it tickled me that it blended with the vehicle theme as well as blending in with the black/blue/red/beige color palette. I had a quarter yard and could have run a narrow full width strip of the leftover firetruck fabric but decided it would compete with the classics cars since it, too is a black background. Anyway I liked the way the disjointed firetrucks peek out at you.

I think I will use just two full-width strips of the car focus fabric. Each will be tall enough to showcase the vehicles but a bit less than the fabric repeat so the two strips look different. I will incorporate several narrow, 2 or 3 symbols tall, full-width strips of the symbol fabric. Maybe I will flank the classic cars above and below with the transportation symbols. Aha! There is that checkered theme repeated with the symbols...

Maybe somebody I know will have a baby boy that would like this. Or maybe my husband will want it instead of the shirt I could not make from the focus fabric. Maybe it will be a charity quilt. In any case, I will get to practice my FMQ... which I seem to keep putting off in case, you have not noticed from my ongoing project list. Anyway, I am having fun sewing and blogging about it.

I am off now to work on this quilt. Later I will check other folk's WIP progress this week at    Here are my stats:

Completed projects since 7/24/13 WIP post:
  1. Fire truck pillowcase (not yet posted)
Ongoing projects:  
  1. Grinch quilt (May 22,2013 post) - all borders added, need to back, quilt, and bind
  2. Jack O'Lantern Trio (February 2, 2013 post) - awaiting FMQ
  3. Chicken quilt - awaiting FMQ
  4. Overlapping square wall hanging - awaiting FMQ
  5. Mask quilt (October 19, 2011 post) - hidden away awaiting inspiration for arranging hexagons
New projects since 7/24/13 WIP post:  
  1. Christmas pillowcases - cut out awaiting stitching
  2. Classic Cars strip quilt
Stats since last WIP:
     Completed  projects - 1
     Currently in progress - 5 just in waiting
     New projects - 2 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

WIP: Lessons Learned for Better Binding

In my July 17th WIP post I estimated 5 hours to hand sew the binding onto the edges of my 72" x 72" Sunny Spring Frost. I decided to use those hours as a learning opportunity. I tried several hand-stitching approaches along this quilt edge, determined to find out what is the "right" way. I had always done the ladder stitch on my quilts, rather than a blind stitch, thinking the ladder stitch was the less visible.

The diagram below is excerpted from a binding basics tutorial posted by Connecting Threads and compares ladder and blind stitching.

After watching a U-tube tutorial by TheCraftyGemini on how to hand sew binding to back of quilt, I learned that the blind stitch holds the binding better without gapping. I confirmed this on my quilt.

I started out with the ladder stitch as was my norm before watching the tutorial. Piercing my batik binding in two places, in and out, about 1/4" apart along the fold was problematic. Along the first edge of my quilt I snapped two needles in half because of the pressure I was putting on each to weave in and out along that stiff fold line. I switched to the blind stitch and snapped a third needle. At this rate, I did not want to risk snapping my last needle when the quilt shop was closed and I could not get more. Also, at $7 for 6 Clover black plated armor piercing needles, I had to make some adjustments.

What wound up working best was to tweak my approach on that blind stitch a bit. I took that little tuck stitch in the binding at right angles to the fold instead of along it. By rolling the binding back a bit, I biased that tuck a tad so that the entry point was offset to the underside of the binding fold and the exit point on the fold. I did wind up making two motions, one stitch traveling parallel to the quilt/binding edge into the backing and one at right angles to it into the fold of the binding, drawing the eye of the needle completely through on each.  Although I used two finger motions of the needle to take the stitches, I used only one long arm motion to draw the thread taut. I do not understand why the direction rotation worked when piercing the binding.  Could it possibly be the difference between cross-grain and along-the-grain of my tightly woven batik binding? My stitches are not invisible but I realized it is not so much the thread I was noticing, but rather dents in the stiff batik fabric where the stitches were. I have expectations that as the quilt is washed and the fabric softens, these dents will ease out. The upper portion of the photo shows the binding from the right side of the quilt and the lower portion of the photo shows the binding from the back side of the quilt.

Here is one block of Sunny Spring Frost.

And here is the complete quilt, draped over my upstairs railing. Usually I have my husband hold up my finished quilt for an outdoor picture in our backyard where the lighting is better. Even though he is tall enough at 6'3" to hold it high, he could not manage the 6' width while synchronizing my picture taking with the breeze. Since I did not get a ladder out for the following photo, there is a bit of parallax in the picture. Oh, well.  It really is square. And it is finished!

After a long project I like to sneak in a short, quick one to do. Here are some fireman fabrics for a pillowcase for my son-in-law. I auditioned a navy and an amber-orange  for the accent stripe. The navy is safer and more sedate. 

But, even though it does not contrast as much with the red fire hose fabric, I think I am going to go with the amber-orange dots. It is more fun and picks up the color in the roof lights of the fire trucks.

Completed projects since 7/17/13 WIP post:
  1. Completion photos for Color Play of the Day posted (see July 19, 2013)
  2. Sunny Spring Frost - completed this morning
Ongoing projects:  
  1. Grinch quilt (May 22,2013 post) - all borders added, need to back, quilt, and bind
  2. Jack O'Lantern Trio (February 2, 2013 post) - awaiting FMQ
  3. Chicken quilt - awaiting FMQ
  4. Overlapping square wall hanging - awaiting FMQ
  5. Mask quilt (October 19, 2011 post) - hidden away awaiting inspiration for arranging hexagons
New projects since 7/17/13 WIP post:  
  1. Fire truck pillowcase
Stats since last WIP:
     Completed  projects - 2
     Currently in progress - 5 just in waiting
     New projects - 1 

I am off to check other folk's progress this week at:

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Corner When She Comes

Yesterday I rounded my second corner of attaching the binding onto Sunny Spring Frost. Mornings have been beautiful so I am taking a bit of time each day to work my way around the binding. Before the heat of the day I sit by the open window in my second floor sewing room. I feel like I am in the tree tops listening to the twittering birds.

Here are my favored choices for needles, threader, clips, and thread conditioner – tools of the trade for binding. Those Clover Black plated needles were ones I finally found that would pierce that bullet proof batik backing. My needle threader has become indispensable since my need for reading glasses has inevitably grown with age. Those clips that look like hair barrettes really hold the binding well. I iron the binding all outward from the front of the quilt first. Then I sit down away from the ironing board and drape the quilt on my lap. With the back of the quilt facing me, I pull the binding over from the front to the back and put the clips on about 6" apart all around. I found this method easier that alternating between picking up the iron and fiddling with the clips. I bought this tiny notion, called Thread Heaven, at a craft festival. It is a thread conditioner and it really does reduce the tangles and knots you get in thread while hand-sewing and allows gliding through the fabric much better. It is a little cube of wax-like substance that I draw the thread over while holding it in place with my thumb. I had to pull out all the stops to hand stitch this water color frosty appearing batik backing.

That plastic container labeled LOCK-UPS is holding my binding clips. It is the 6 oz size. LOCK-UPS come in four sizes, 12 oz, 8 oz, and 6 oz that are 3.5" diameter and varying heights and a 1.5 oz mini-size of smaller diameter. I find the these containers are great. Since the lids screw off, you do not dump the contents all over the place as often happens when you pop off a plastic lid that is slip fit only. The base of one container interlocks by screwing into the lid of the one stacked beneath it so you get these little columns of convenient storage. I bought these containers to try out from Jo-Anns fabrics, even though initially I thought that they were a bit over priced. I found them to be worth it.  When I returned for more of them, I did not see them there any more.

You can get them through Amazon, but you pay more than the item for shipping. I found them, of all places, on the Crate and Barrel website. From pictures on the C&B website I convinced myself that the sides are fully clear and that the misty white area with the emblazoned word LOCK-UPS is really a paper strip inside and not etched on the container itself. This is unclear from pictures on the Amazon web site. They are also available from the Container Store. All three sources are within pennies of each other in price. I plan to pick up some more next time I am in Crate and Barrel or the Container Store to avoid shipping costs. I use mine to hold binding clips, specialty pins, safety pins, pushpins, beads, labels, buttons, etc.

I am of the "Gotta see it to remember I've got it" type.  You know those design pictures where everything is neatly labeled in color coordinated baskets that artfully camouflage your clutter?  Not for me.  I like to have "on display" the color and variety of the "clutter" I need to quilt with!

Well my finger pads got a rest from stitching on that binding while I was typing this blog so I am going to head back to binding Sunny Spring Frost.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Color Play of the Day Completed

Color Play of the Day is complete and I have given it to my friend Vickie for her birthday.

She is a huge football fanatic and loves sports in general so I hope the abstract grid-iron references that I made in previous posts will resonate with her and make this quilt more meaningful to her. Churn dashes are the X's and the concentric rectangles are the O's just like the following chalkboard diagram.

The meandering quilting lines represent the running patterns.

The backing is a batik in a strong pink and a gold-toned yellow. The colors are close, but not quite a match, to the color palette of her beloved 49er's and meant to be symbolic of the team's colors. Also, polka dots are my signature in the quilts I make. These mini-hearts are my form of those dots, sprinkled with a touch of whimsy intended to be a quirky reference to our friendship.

The choice of purple for the side bars and binding is my tongue in cheek allusion to the 1961 poem by Jenny Joseph about women who start to wear purple when they grow old.  After all, Vickie's quilt is for a significant birthday!

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple. 

Vickie loves color just as I do. In Christmas 2004 she went to great efforts and to track down, special order, and drive 52 round trip miles (twice) to buy a wool throw from Crate and Barrel for me. I had raved over the colors in it but was reluctant to splurge on buying it for myself and she remembered!

Here she is with her own quilt.

Vickie also takes a real fancy to hoops&yoyo

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

WIP: Battling Batik Binding

Not much progress to report this week.  Last week I trimmed the batting and attached the binding to my Sunny Spring Frost quilt. Now I am S-L-O-W-L-Y hand-stitching the binding to the back.

This watercolored batik backing has been a real challenge for me since it is so stiff to sew through.  It is as stiff as a pair of Dickie's brand work pants that my husband bought. We joke that they will sand the skin off his legs if he wears them too long. I should have been clued in to how tough this batik was when I attached the binding.  My faithful Pfaff was laboring with a resounding ker-chunk with each stitch through the layers of batik-backing, batting, non-batik top fabric, and double-layer folded-over batik French binding.

I have sewed with batiks before and know they have a stiffer hand to them but this one is incredible. I googled info on what type of needle to use and made a special trip out to my local quilt shop to consult with them on their opinion.  I knew I needed an extra sharp needle to pierce through the extra tight weave of the batik but this one was almost like anti-ballistic fabric. They recommended that I buy these needles that have a sharp tip and also a coating to help slide through the fabric.  Sliding through was not as much an issue as getting the initial piercing started but these needles by Clover do work after a fashion.

If memory serves me right, I did pre-wash this batik, although I normally do not pre-wash my fabrics.  Maybe I'm remembering wrong. Whatever, I opted not to wash the partially completed quilt in hope of further softening the backing. Regardless of the effort involved, the binding is looking quite nice on the right side and does go very well with the pale portion of the block.

On the back side of the quilt, the binding has periodic dents at the sewn edge and is not as invisible as I would like, but I am sure it will not be noticed in use. It will only matter if I want the quilt to be judged in a show.

The quilt is 72" by 72" so I will persevere.  By my calculation, with an total length around the outer quilt edge of 288", at an estimated hand sew speed of 1"/min, it will take me just under 5 hours to complete the hand stitching. That is a manageable amount of time to invest and, if I break it up into small periods, I am capable of doing this. I plan to devote a half hour per day and be done in less than two weeks.

So far I am 3/4 of the way down one side and have snapped one of those back Clover needles in half. I am glad I bought a package full. I am also glad I will reward myself with other quilting diversions in the mean time.

Completed projects since 7/10/13 WIP post:
  1. Color Play of the Day (last post was July 4, 2013) - labeled and gifted, still need to write follow-on post with completion photos
Ongoing projects:  
  1. Sunny Spring Frost - hand-sewing the challenging binding
  2. Grinch quilt (May 22,2013 post) - all borders added, need to back, quilt, and bind
  3. Jack O'Lantern Trio (February 2, 2013 post) - awaiting FMQ
  4. Chicken quilt - awaiting FMQ
  5. Overlapping square wall hanging - awaiting FMQ
  6. Mask quilt (October 19, 2011 post) - hidden away awaiting inspiration for arranging hexagons
New projects since 7/10/13 WIP post:  
  1. Bought Jungle Bungle Fat quarter bundle from Fat Quarter Shop
Stats since last WIP:
     Completed  projects - 1
     Currently in progress - only 1, others just in waiting
     New projects - 0 - buying fabric only sort of counts as starting a new project
I am off to check other folk's progress this week at:

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

WIP: Sunny Spring Frost in the Home Stretch

The weather here has been HOT! What better time than now to finish off my quilt I titled Sunny Spring Frost. At the same time I got Color Play of the Day back from my long arm quilter, I also got this quilt back that was made from the Linda Ballard pattern, Earth, Wind, and Fire. I last referenced it in my March 20, 2013 post and was shocked when I looked back at how long it had been since I'd worked on it. Blogging gives you an awareness that way. I have not made up my mind if that awareness is good or bad... accountability vs. guilt, so to speak. For this quilt, instead of an overall pattern, I chose a block format quilting pattern consisting of four butterflies and four daisies. My quilter called and said the centers looked kind of empty so we added a couple of peanut-shaped forms in the center. After having fussy-cut those roses for the center of each star, I did not want multiple intersecting quilt lines to cover them up.


You can see the quilting pattern a bit better on the back. I used Power Point to highlight in blue where the quilting stitches are on half the block. You can see, by how crooked my free-hand highlights are, why I send my quilts out to be quilted.

After being rolled/folded up for four months I guess I can expect some wrinkles but I was surprised how poorly the back photographed.  Maybe part of it is my lighting. Maybe it is because my backing is more of a solid and I am used to using a printed busier backing. Whatever the reason, it is a bit ugly and disappointing. After all my angst about my backing choice (see my February 2, 2013 post where I like this fabric) my pendulum has swung back the other way to not liking it.

I have made the binding out of this fabric and am reconsidering making a different binding. On the other hand I want to be DONE with this quilt so I will most likely just forge ahead.  I am stressing too much about 3/8" around the edge of a 72" x 72" quilt. Four of the sixteen blocks are shown below.

The backing really does look like I threw the lighter colored fabrics from the blocks in a blender and pushed the pulse button a couple of times. And really, after all, it is the back for goodness sake!

My goal is to attach and complete the hand-stitching on the binding in the next week. It is time to say, "Enough is enough," and finish the @#$%^&* thing!

Completed projects since 5/22/13 WIP post:
  1. Karate Kid Kwilt (June 18, 2013 post)
  2. Winning Moore Love Tornado Quilt (June 29, 2013 post)
Ongoing projects:  
  1. Grinch quilt (May 22,2013 post) - all borders added, need to back, quilt, and bind
  2. Color Play of the Day (July 4, 2013 post) - bound, needs label and blog post
  3. Sunny Spring Frost - awaiting binding
  4. Jack O'Lantern Trio (see 2013/02) - awaiting FMQ
  5. Chicken quilt - awaiting FMQ
  6. Overlapping square wall hanging - awaiting FMQ
  7. Mask quilt (see 2011/10) - hidden away awaiting inspiration for arranging hexagons
New projects since 5/22/13 WIP post:  
  1. Karate Kid Kwilt (June 18, 2013 post)
Stats since last WIP:
     Completed  projects - 1
     New projects - 1
     Currently in progress - 7

I am off to check other folk's progress this week at: