Wednesday, August 27, 2014

WIP: Nautical Quilt Finish

This week I quilted and finished the nautical baby quilt. I quilted the central section diagonally with white thread as planned with my feed dogs engaged. I set the diagonal spacing and direction to match that of the wave blocks of half-square triangles. Turning was difficult at times as I changed the direction of the diagonals. But I wanted a zig-zag pattern like the sailboats make when they tack into the wind.

It was a bit trickier than I anticipated because on the diagonal there was more fabric to squeeze through the throat of my Pfaff.  I just eyeballed the lines and did not mark anything. I was lazy and leery – lazy about drawing all those lines and leery about getting the marking pen out of the white speckled background. I used safety pins along the striped inner border where there were no wave seams to act as a series of focus points. I aimed for where the designated stripe met the speckled background.

Having no markings on the fabric, I kept focused on an end point before turning. If I'd tried to keep on a drawn line I would have had a bunch of localized squiggles along the way as I corrected. With this long-range focus method, I just had a few bumps in places where I stalled because I had trouble cramming the quilt through. I was glad I did not try to free motion quilt the lines since the stitches would have been very uneven as I tried to stuff the quilt through the throat. The motion would not have been "free" at all!

The outer border I quilted with concentric rectangles with pale blue thread to match the background color of the sailboat print, again with feed dogs engaged. I spaced the quilting lines to create channels along the border that minimally crossed the sailboats.  I decided the channel spacing based on the side borders and kept the same spacing on the top and bottom borders. For straight lines in the borders I used one of my rulers as guidance. I just held it in place as I sewed. It actually worked well since I could have been tempted to follow the pattern of the sailboats which were not necessarily in non-drifting rows.

I sewed lines parallel to the stripes back and forth in the candy-striped inner border. I used white thread and stayed on the white pin-stripes. The quilting is not very visible, but I suspect it will puff up more once the quilt is washed. I did drop the feed dogs and free motion quilt this section. It was close enough to the edge and there were enough directional changes that I felt it was easier to propel the fabric myself than rely on the feed dogs.

Once I finished the last stitch in the binding I asked my husband to hold it up for me outside for a photo. Seeing it completed I am pleased that I went with a same fabric and not contrasting fabric for the binding. The quilted diagonal "tacking" lines are more visible in the sunlight, which is good. Not so good is that the sunshine also casts shadows that highlight horizontal wrinkles between the tacking lines, possibly due to sewing up diagonally on the bias one way and down on the bias back the other way. When I look more closely the fabric does not appear to be twisted or distorted within each channel though, and so I think a washing with soften these bumps. As the saying goes, "If you can't see it from a galloping horse, don't fret about it." I may just have to gallop very fast!

The channel stitching shows up nicely on the back. It is very odd how it is only alternate channels that display the horizontal ridges. And this was with feed dogs engaged - not FMQ - so I was going forward at all times. Perhaps one direction was the tight-squeeze- through-the-throat-of-the-machine direction and the other was the clear-sailing direction. Puzzling... In the lower left is my label, the last item I added.

Here is a close-up of the label showing my name and the year completed. All that is left is to pre-wash this quilt before gifting it. The front and back full quilt photos above appear to have a spot at the lower center on both sides. I was concerned that some liquid has seeped through since it was on both sides. I examined the quilt though, it is spot free, and the blur is an illusion. The brown smudge is an artifact from the camera lens. No need to worry if that will wash out. After laundering to set the dyes and soften the quilt,  I will snap a few more photos. Maybe I will even try some of those artsy shots where a quilt is draped over a bench or picket fence.

This week I also made a cloth book for my older granddaughter. You can see it in my August 26, 2014 post. At just over 21 months old she is slightly beyond the cloth book age but she is learning to count so I better give it to her now. I have a second one in the works for her cousin who is almost 5 months old now. Here are my stats for the week.

Completed projects (1):
  1. Nautical themed baby quilt (July 9, 2014 post, July 16, 2014 post, August 13, 2014 post, August 20, 2014)
Ongoing projects (4):
  1. Mask quilt (October 19, 2011 post) - after being hidden away for years awaiting inspiration for arranging hexagons, I got it out this week, laid some hexagons out on the bed, and ... contemplated them. (Hey, it's a start!)
  2. Chicken quilt - spray basted, awaiting embellishment (April 24, 2014 post)
  3. Overlapping square wall hanging - awaiting FMQ, I picked thread this week
  4. Classic Cars strip quilt (August 3, 2013 post) - need to back, quilt, and bind
New projects (1):
  1. Counting Monkey cloth book (August 26, 2014 post)
I am hooking up to today's Freshly Pieced post for WIP Wednesday.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Counting Monkey Cloth Book

I made this book last night for my granddaughter in Oklahoma. At nearly two years old, she is a getting a bit beyond the age for cloth books but she is learning to count so it is a conundrum if it is still appropriate for her. The animals in it are cute and she can still have fun with a "Find Waldo" type activity locating and counting them. It was either sew it up now or forever let it sit in my stash and, since I am about to visit soon, I can give it to her in person. 

The book is titled Monkey Mischief by Henry Glass Fabrics. Sixteen different dye colors went into this little book. Wow! No wonder it is so cheerful!

Here are the inner pages and back cover.

I also have a second one of these for my now nearly five month old granddaughter in Southern California - a bit more age appropriate I think. It is in the works and will be sent off to her shortly. It won't be a surprise :-o since I blogged about it, but it can be something to look forward to :•) . Besides she is still too young to read this post!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

WIP: Nautical Quilt Spray Basting

With my nautical quilt top complete and my backing all pieced, I forged ahead to layer top, batting, and backing in order to quilt this on my domestic Pfaff. In preparation I first gave my sewing room floor a quick swipe with a soft dry mop pad to get up strings, scraps, and dust. In the following photo I have pulled my cutting table out from the corner to the middle of the room, pulled up both leaves to full length, and laid the backing, batting, and top on it. Even though the quilt overhangs the edges, I find it a lot easier to smooth out all the bumps and wrinkles at table height while standing rather than crawling about on the quilt on the hard floor. I slide the three layer stack back and forth so different parts are overhanging and I can smooth out the parts supported by the cutting table. The batting cutting, layer aligning, and wrinkle smoothing seems to take forever. Maybe I fuss too much. In reality I did it the other night in less than an hour. I need to remember that I generally spend more time dreading than doing.

Once satisfied that the three layers were centered and wrinkle free, I loosely folded the combination and set it on the floor. Folding did not disturb the smoothing process nor introduce bumps or wrinkles. Yesterday, I collapsed one leaf of my cutting table and moved it back into the far corner, out of the way. That way I could tape my backing to the hardwood floor, using the seams between planks to double check that the layers were aligned parallel.

I taped down the backing on two corners using a low tack blue painters' masking tape. Next I unfurled the fabric sandwich roll and taped the other two corners and mid-length and mid-width edges. Next came the application of the temporary fabric adhesive.

First I flipped the top and batting layer as a two layer unit from the upper half downward as in the following photo. I did this just by picking up an edge and walking it forward, laying it down on the opposite half. The manufacturer's recommendation is to always apply the basting spray to the batting and not the fabric so I sprayed the exposed batting. Then I flipped the two layers up against the backing again by picking up the edge and walking it back upward. I smoothed the layers together from center to outer edges. I repeated for the lower half (no photo) by flipping the top and batting layer from the lower half upward, spraying the batting, and flipping batting and the top back down onto the backing.  That completed the backing/batting interface.

Now for the top/batting interface. I flipped the lower half of the top upward, spray basted the batting, then flipped the quilt top down onto it (photo). I repeated by flipping the upper half of the top downward, spray basting the batting, then flipping the lower half of the quilt top down onto the batting. (no photo).

I have found a batting that I am really pleased with, and located a basting spray that is effective, odorless, and washes out. I use 100% bamboo batting because the quilts I use it in drape so nicely and softly. The 505 basting spray does not gum up the needle on the sewing machine. The taping and spray basting takes less than fifteen minutes. There need be no fear of messing up. Things can be peeled apart and corrected. I really need to remember this next time I drag my feet at this step.

Tips Needed for Cutting Batting
So why, for something that takes just over an hour to accomplish, do I usually procrastinate when it comes to the quilt layering step? Perhaps because I find batting so awkward to measure and cut, struggling with laying out and cutting multiple layers of batting at once since the size is larger than my cutting mat and, unlike fabric, it puffs up as I cut. I resort to a large size 60 mm rotary cutter, or even, horror of horrors, scissors! I get an approximate size, because I am chicken about making it too small, and then wind up trimming a bit more several times. If anyone has suggestions for simplifying this process please clue me in.

A Case for Batting on a Roll
I generally buy my batting packaged in predetermined sizes, king, twin, etc. and then try to get several projects out of a package. Although I label each package with the dimensions of what is left in it, the remaining sizes seem to rarely be suitable.  Perhaps I need to learn how to piece batting with a zig zag stitch. Is this really feasible? I am considering changing my practice of buying pre-packaged batting. Instead, I'm considering buying my batting on a roll and cutting off the just the length or width I need. This would solve the issue of folds and wrinkles in the batting. I thought storage for a large roll would be an issue but storing these random odds and ends, even when folded neatly in bins, is not ideal either and probably is proving to be an inefficient use of the batting. Cloth books take relatively small scraps of batting I know I have a lot of cloths books on my to do list... but nonetheless...

I have no new nor completed quilting projects this week. I did start a new knitting project, though. I am knitting a sweater for a tree. If you are curious, you can check it out at my previous post dated August 19, 2014. To see other folks' progress, I am linking up to this week's Freshly Pieced's WIP.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Knitted Tree Sweater

My home town is sponsoring a fun event, decorating trees in the downtown area with knitted or crocheted sweaters. It will decorate the sidewalks in fall colors for the autumn months, heighten awareness of fiber arts, and be a fundraiser via tree sponsorships. After the event is over, tree sweaters will be removed and donated to pets in shelters to use as comfort blankets. I was lucky to be selected as one of thirty "tree artists". Trees with an inherent sense of fashion will wear these sweaters as their seasonal garb from the end of September until just before Thanksgiving.


There was an orientation meeting on July 30th at which I was assigned Tree #9. My husband, daughter-in-law, granddaughter and neighbor accompanied me downtown to measure my tree. Its height to the vee was 70". Each sweater must start at least 24" from the ground and cannot extend into the branching region. So the length of my tree's sweater length will be 46".

Trunk circumferences were as follows:
     32.5 "   just below the vee
     29"       at mid trunk
     30"       up from base 24"
I joked that my tree has a figure like Twiggy.

Here I am entering these measurements into my cell phone for future design considerations.

I spent over a week mulling over what I wanted to do and just started knitting about a week ago. For something eye catching I decided on colorful, graphic stripes. I'd inherited the beige flecked yarn and the red flecked yarn from my mom over thirty years ago and thought it would be a pleasure to work with. The beige would look like the bark of the trunk peeking through the "tree rings". I bought orange yarn because I had nothing that bright in my own personal yarn inventory. Zigzags would make it look like a Charlie Brown sweater. After all, if there can be a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree, why not a Charlie Brown Autumn tree? I am using a size 15 circular needle and two strands of worsted weight yarn so it is going pretty quickly. Since it is at mid-height I switched to size 13 needles to make the sweater a bit narrower in the mid-section. I have eight stripes completed and estimate I will need 15 stripes in all. Since the sweaters are required to fit the trees snugly, the free length of the sweater may vary a bit to adjust the width tighter or looser on the trunk of the tree.

Tree sweater installation will be on September 27th. My plan is to crochet the long seam closed once the sweater is wrapped around the tree. Tree artists are requested to give a progress report to the city on August 20th. This blog post declares the status of my tree sweater project as on time and on budget and still having fun in the process!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

WIP: Nautical Borders, Backing, and Binding

WIP Wednesdays went on hiatus. The timing was great because it coincided with the week and a half my husband and I spent in Seattle with college friends. Before I'd left for vacation, I'd finish piecing the majority of the top of my nautical baby quilt. All that was left, was to add the narrow inner border and the wide outer border. My last post on this quilt was five weeks ago on July 16th. When I returned from Seattle, my daughter-in-law and four-month-old granddaughter were visiting for a week. Much as I love quilting, the presence of a granddaughter trumps being in my sewing room. Adding the borders to the nautical quilt waited a bit longer.

This week I ventured back into my forlorn and abandoned sewing room, which is more accustomed to nearly daily companionship. I added the two borders this week after mom and baby returned home. Here you can see the red and white candy striped inner border and the sailboat print outer border from the fabric line Seaworthy by Jack and Lulu for Dear Stella Fabrics. I was auditioning bindings in the far left side of this photo. At first I thought I wanted more of the candy stripe. I had a similar fabric but only in other stripe widths and they were a bit too graphic, even in the small dose of only a binding width. See the top-left and bottom-left fabrics. Perhaps something more subtle would fit better such as a binding of the zig-zag wave fabrics, also from the Seaworthy fabric line. I considered using one, the other, or possibly alternating both. Neither seemed right and seemed to distract from the feature boats, even though they were color matched and intended to coordinate. See two middle-left fabrics and the half-square-triangles of waves near mid-photo.

I then tried the same sailboat fabric from the wide outer border as the binding fabric. I usually contrast my binding but in this case I liked that it blended in and did not draw the eye outward. It is all the way on the right in the next photo. I made up my binding for the quilt, also, this week. I cut the binding strips from half widths of fabric rather than whole widths because that is what I had left. I actually think that approach will work out better because the pattern print changes more often within the binding itself. I am curious to see how it turns out when sewed on. I did not have enough fabric to cut each strip along the same horizontal line of sailboats and, even if I could have tailored the binding to the repeat of the fabric, it would have been very wasteful. Whoops! I just noticed in the photo a pucker by the lower rightmost wave and the candy stripe. Gotta fix that... Glad I spotted it before quilting...

I was determined not to buy backing material since I have  a lots of fabrics in my stash that I bought on sale for backing fabrics. I probably have more "backing fabrics" than I will ever make quilts in my lifetime! But let's not go there. That is true of my entire stash as well. I decided to piece this backing with an assortment of nautical prints I had from the Sail Away fabric line by Northcott Studio. I had one yard of each of these three prints, two with anchors and one with sailboats. None was long enough nor wide enough for the 58.6" wide x 61.5" tall quilt top.

The Sail Away red is a bit subdued and not as bright as the red in the Seaworthy line on the quilt top and the navy is a bit darker, but I felt it kept the theme alive and was fine as backing. I needed to make my three one yard cuts fit. All three prints were directional. I split the anchor ones in half crosswise and the sailboat one in half lengthwise and sewed them in somewhat of a checkerboard pattern for the back.

The block-like pattern remind me of nautical flags. Although there is no yellow, the back  is kind of bold with the same sort of rectangular elements. 

Alas, I am now at my pausing/stall point in my quilting process. I just need to forge ahead and layer that backing, batting, and top. But I can delay as I ponder my quilting pattern. The original pattern had swirls among the ships but I would like to deviate from that and use my feed dogs for control rather than free motion quilt.

At this point I am leaning toward parallel channel stitching the quilt on the diagonal to reinforce the slant direction of the sails and waves. I would like to just echo the stripes in the red and white candy stripe border, perhaps carrying the stitching out to the binding. This will work in the top and bottom borders. Since the sailboat heights may not be integral number of wave blocks, there might need to be some uneven spacing in the side borders. Here is my Power Point doodling as I figure this out.

I might wind up just straight stitching between the boats. Here are those options.

It has also been a long time since I have posted my project status list. Here it is updated from my post of July 2, 2014 without many changes. I've decided to post the status updates less often so that some ongoing projects – those I do not want to abandon yet am unwilling to tackle just yet – do not keep staring me in the face.

Completed projects (0):
  1. But I had a great vacation with college friends and a terrific visit with my granddaughter and daughter-in-law.
Ongoing projects (5):
  1. Nautical themed baby quilt ( July 9, 2014 post and July 16, 2014 post)
  2. Mask quilt (October 19, 2011 post) - hidden away awaiting inspiration for arranging hexagons
  3. Chicken quilt - spray basted, awaiting embellishment (April 24, 2014 post)
  4. Classic Cars strip quilt (August 3, 2013 post) - need to back, quilt, and bind
  5. Overlapping square wall hanging - awaiting FMQ
New projects (0):
  1. ... other than buying more fabric ...

Now that WIP Wednesdays are back, I am hooking up to today's Freshly Pieced post.