Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Learned a Lot from a Little

This week I finished my December Day Table Topper that I'd started in my previous post. Although it was small, only 26½" square, I learned a lot from it. An old kit, my main reason for its construction was to gain quilting skill on my new HandiQuilter Sweet Sixteen. I have named her Heidi for short and she is nestled right next to my Pfaff in my sewing room. I got her just before the holidays and have just now found the time and mustered up the courage to get to know her better. Up to now, all I had done with her had been some free form meandering and loops. These were on my Mitten Graphic Novel in November.

This tree table topper was a fairly traditional pattern and I used a ¼" thick specialty ruler to help with straight line stitching and stitch in the ditch work. My husband, watching me with the ruler, asked if using it slowed me down. I think the ruler is actually helpful. I could move faster with it because the placement of the ruler helps control my ability to stay in the ditch, so squiggling and jumping out occur less frequently. Even on the straight-aways, the markings on the the ruler help me keep the lines equally spaced and parallel. And I suspect I will get speedier as my comfort level increases.

The VersaTool Ruler, which is indeed a very well-designed handy gadget, is just the right size for the palm of my hand. Although I am right handed, I experimenting holding it with my right hand or with my left hand and found I could do either equally well regardless of not being ambidextrous. The ruler stays put relative to the fabric and moves along with it and, since both hands are guiding the fabric, which one holds the ruler is inconsequential. What mattered more to me than which hand I used, was which way the seam allowance for the "ditch" had been pressed. I opted for the most comfortable ruler position to always stitch on the "low" side of the seam, through fewer layers of fabric.

The corner of the VersaTool was great for the inner most square and the tips of the trees – the etched guidelines helped in placement of the quilt lines. As luck would have it, I ran out of bobbin thread with less than 2" of stitching left on that last dark green tree. Rather than fuss with winding a large M-class bobbin for Heidi, I finished that last stretch on my Pfaff with feed dogs engaged, eyeballing it without using a ruler.

My son and daughter-in-law gave me a circular ruler set for Christmas and I was going to try it out as a scalloped border but I changed my mind. I have just the perfect quilt top awaiting sandwiching and quilting where I will try my skill with these circular templates. I decided to keep the straight line theme going throughout in this little quilt. It would better compliment the piano key border, and I wanted to practice my newly learned straight line skill to solidify it a bit more.

I used my Pfaff for the quilt label on grosgrain ribbon. Fortunately I'd remembered to switch out the pressure foot to one that has a slightly recessed central region, so the raised embroidered lettering can pass under freely as it is stitched. Even so, after a few broken threads and aborted attempts, I had to place a piece of paper between the ribbon and the feed dogs; then the initials and year came off without a hitch. The ribbon was wide enough. I just think maybe the ribbed surface of the grosgrain ribbon hindered the feed dogs in gripping consistently. I sewed the label on at the outer edges before attaching the binding so the diagonally cut raw edges were enclosed.

The pattern called for  ¼" binding and I usually use  ⅜". I was about to stick with my norm but then told myself that this was a learning quilt so I should break out of my rut. The  ¼" binding is less forgiving and, at a few points, I'd sewn it too far in from the edge to reach around and cover the stitching line at the back. So I trimmed just a smidgeon off the perimeter of the quilt. Well, a smidgeon out of a ¼" is much more noticeable than a smidgeon out of  ⅜" and that smidgeon was a bit too much in a couple places. The binding had to wrap a bit more than I wanted in a few spots and I will even confess to stuffing a long sliver of batting along part of one edge to fill in the volume of what I'd trimmed away.

Overall though, I like the slim appearance of the binding. Being thin it is not dominant and does not distract from the piano key border. I will do a ¼" binding again. I was glad I'd given it a chance. Here is the front of the finished quilt.

Here is the back of the quilt. I generally prefer a back of all one fabric but I made this one from remaining fabric in a scrap usage effort.

But I still have scraps. Just look at them all! That is a 24" x 36" cutting mat. Sigh...

"Decide and implement a method for scrap management, storage, and usage."
That is one of my 2015 goals. I was trying to take an initial step in that direction by not generating more scraps. So far, not so good, when a  26½" x 26½" little quilt generates almost  ⅔ yard of scraps. Sigh...

Oh, well. At least my first quilt project of 2015 is complete and I can check completion of one quilt kit off my list. It is a small start but a lesson filled one.


  1. Well done, Diane! Good for you trying new things! Looks like you and Heidi are becoming fast friends. After stitching your binding onto the front of the quilt, do you use the iron to press it toward the back before stitching it down? This may help. It's a real cute table topper. So festive!

    1. Yes, pressing the binding back first definitely would have helped. Thanks for the tip. Yes I normally do press it to the back first but this time I foolishly skipped this step and did a cursory foldover falsely concluding I'd stitched in too far from the edge. My eye is used to judging ⅜" binding not ¼". Rather than struggle with stretching it over to the stitching line on the back when doing the hand work, I thought I would just remove a "smidgeon". I thought I'd be less likely to nick the binding if I trimmed before I pressed it outward. So two mistakes: 1) judging the foldover without the benefit of that extra bit I would have had by pressing first and 2) not pressing first - I could have easily folded the binding back and not nicked it during the trimming. Thanks for visiting and thanks for the suggestion. It is appreciated.

  2. Good Morning Diane, your topper is wonderful. My husband wanted me to make a quilt with a Christmas theme, but that was before we made the quick decision to sell our home and buy an old fixer-upper in the country. Now that we have been living here for eight months and have most of our projects finished, I am finally finding time to quilt again. About a year ago he went to the fabric shop with me (his first visit) they have a small back room that is nothing but Christmas fabric and ideas. You would have thought that he discovered gold. He hurry to find me in the store and guide me to his discovered treasure. I am so happy that I found your blog and when I'm finished typing I'm becoming your newest follower. Please come visit, I am celebrating my three year blogging birthday with a Give-A-Way.
    keep smiling,
    Connie :)

    1. Yes, Christmas quilts are fun, I had avoided making them because I lazily thought, "why go through all that work for something you can use only one month of the year?" But I'd made a Vintage Victorian one for my son and daughter-in-law, http://dianeloves2quilt.blogspot.com/2014/10/wip-vintage-ornaments-finish.html, and a Grinch one for my husband, http://dianeloves2quilt.blogspot.com/2014/07/wip-longarm-lessons-with-grinch.html, as well as that Thimbleberries one and realized they really do get used and there is such variety even with a Christmas theme. They can be the soft browned burgundy reds and spruce greens of an old fashion Christmas, the bright primary reds and greens like the Grinch, or soft muted tones of a vintage Victorian appeal. Now I am doing one in aquas, limes and red. You husband did find a treasure trove in that back room of the store. Thanks for sharing and I will visit your blog!