Sunday, December 28, 2014

Stella for Ella

The Holiday has been a great time to finish some things that have been languishing for lack of attention. For example, I started this little quilt (about 25" X 25") 2 years ago to celebrate the impending birth of my friend's second child, Ella I an ashamed to admit how long it has taken to finish. Ella hasn't started college, so I guess things could be worse.

The piecing got done pretty quickly, but "How to quilt???". While I angsted (is that a word?) over designs, life intervened, demanding attention for other things. After setting this aside many times, this weekend I finished the final stippling around the motifs next to the star, and put on the binding.
Stella for Ella, Front

Stella for Ella, Back
This is my first feathered star -- designed in EQ7, and paper-pieced.

This quilt includes two features that are becoming kind of a signature -- couched Perl cotton thread in the binding (see below) and a narrow inner border with small accent squares. This one was very challenging because the background fabric, despite being a wonderful color and pattern, was of lesser quality and was VERY hard to use in small precise piecing.

NEW DirectionS NEW DirectionS with Noa NEW DirectionS II
I made a lot of notes along the way in a sketch/notebook on which foundations I like best, doodles for quilting, and which quilting threads (and bobbin threads) I used for different parts. Thank goodness! Without the notes, I would probably not have remembered what I was using when I stopped, half-way through the stippling.
Pages from notebook
Detail, showing thread selections
I especially like the cable around the outer border, which was made like our fore-mothers did, by cutting a piece of paper the length of the border, angling the ends, and then folding and cutting like paper dolls. A little spray adhesive and pins held it in place long enough to mark the outline.
Detail of back

Detail of Binding, Front, showing couched Perl Cotton
Detail of binding, Back, showing small zigzag
As usual, I applied the binding entirely by machine. As a finishing touch, I couched down a strand of Perl cotton (probably #5) in the ditch on the front with a very narrow zigzag. This serves to add a nice accent to the front and catches and secures the binding on the back. Here are the steps:
  1. Prepare required length of double-fold binding cut to desired width. For this quilt I used 3 width of fabric strips, cut 2 1/2 in wide and joined with 45 degree seams to reduce bulk. 
  2. Before sewing binding to quilt, test your seam allowance. Different binding fabrics, batting, etc take up different amounts of folds in the binding. Make a small mock-up quilt sandwich of the same materials, stitch on a short length of binding just as you would on the real quilt and see if it folds to the back by the right amount (should come past the stitch line by about 1/8 inch. Use this setting to stitch on the real quilt.
  3. Stitch on the binding, using the seam allowance from above, and mitering corners in the usual way.
  4. Join the ends. This video shows a very easy and accurate method.
  5. Set your machine for a long, relatively wide zigzag, and zigzag over the raw edges of the quilt sandwich and binding, skipping over the mitered corners. This helps firm up the edge to make a sharp, neat edge when the binding folds to the back.
  6. From the back of the quilt, glue-baste the binding in place to cover the stitching line, using Roxanne Glue-Baste or Elmer's School Glue and a fine tip. 
  7. From the front of the quilt, stitch in the ditch (straight) OR couch down yarn or Perl cotton in the ditch with a very narrow zigzag and threads in the top and bobbin to coordinate with the top and back respectively.
Now I just need a label, and I can give this one to its new owner -- at least its done before she starts college.

Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for a Happy and Healthy New Year...


PS -- Just in time for the New Year, added hanging sleeve and a label. I always make sleeves that are just shy of the edges (for hanging from ends) and have a bound hole in the middle (for hanging from the center). Label is printed on treated fabric with an inkjet printer.

Now its done and can head to its new life.

Thanks for visiting ...


PS Am linking up with Amy

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Holiday Coasters or Ornaments

This was inspired by a recent posting on Quilting Daily (Dec 2, 2014: Painting on Fabric: Easy 'Let it Snow' Coasters) which described how to use small, coaster sized snow flake stencils and fabric paint or PaintStiks to make quilted coasters or ornaments (or could be cute little blocks in a larger quilt).

This seemed like a fun project to do with kids (or others that are not quilters). I made a mock-up and took pictures so I could show the kids on my iPad.

Start with a 4 1/2 inch square of freezer paper

Fold in quarters (in half vertically and then horizontally) and then in 3rds.

Draw shapes to cut from the folds. Shading helps remind you what to cut.

Cut away the shapes (could also be hearts, circles, etc)

Open the paper to reveal the 'snowflake'

Center and iron firmly onto a 5 inch square of fabric that will contrast with the paint you will use.

Dab on slightly thinned paint with foam brush or stencil brush (or PaintStiks).

After the paint dries, iron to set and peel off the paper.
We had friends over for a barbeque (we didn't eat the friends, we ate the fish and shrimp) and while the guys were cooking, my friend and I and the two kids made 'snowflakes' on fabric squares. As a Christmas present, I finished them  by cutting circles of backing fabric and batting and using the 'pillow-case' turn method to finish the edges. The original instructions used felt which I did not have handy. This was followed by quilting with walking foot and triple stitch (really stands out visually)  to produce tiny [4 1/2 diameter] coaster sized quilts with little ribbon loops so they could also be ornaments). They turned out so nicely (sorry -- did not get pictures before they were gifted), I decided to make more for myself and experiment with other folding and cutting, other finishing techniques and colors.

I reused my previous snowflake, plus a new one, as well as other stencils.
Christmas trees are easy to make by folding the paper in half and cutting a series of 'moustaches'. The holly leaves were cut folding the paper once, on different angles and cutting a scallopy three sided shape. Instead of white paint, I used Pewter, which has a metallic shine, and a light green.
Contrasting edging is backing fabric wrapped to the front.
Pieces were finished by marking and folding under a 1/4 inch on all sides. Backing was a 6 1/2 inch square of contrasting fabric. 'Batting' is a 5 inch square of a very stiff fusible interfacing like Fast2Fuse Medium, centered on the wrong side of the backing.
Blanket stitching secures edges of stenciled piece.
The oversize backing fabric was wrapped to the front, mitering the corners to create a finished back and 1/4 inch exposed border. The stenciled pieces were centered on the front and fused down, being careful to get the ironed under edges straight and even. A little Roxanne Glue-Baste was used to secure the edges until I could stitch down (blanket stitch). Free motion quilting was used to add a little extra zing.  The 'snowflakes' were done in one continuous line.
Snowflake front
Snowflake back.
This was really fun, and very easy. I like this method of finishing. When you don't have the right color felt, it is not as fiddly as the pillow-case turn with batting, and the result is very stable and really thin. The finished size of these (5 inches) is probably a little big, but other sizes would be easy to figure:

Desired finished size of coaster == X inches on a side
  • Front fabric == X x X inches
  • Fast2Fuse == X x X inches
  • Back fabric == X+1 1/2  x  X=1 1/2 inches

Hope your Holiday is happy and healthy, with time for yourself to relax and reflect on all the good things in your life.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Asilomar Robins -- The Final Chapter

Back in March, I shared my progress on finishing a piece that I started in a class with Ruth Powers at Empty Spools in Asilomar. I am very slow, but I make up for it by enjoying the process.

1 Original image, highly pixelated2 Reversed paper templates 3 Auditioning water and reflections
4 Pieced sections 5 Auditioning background 6 Background sections pieced
Its been a while, but I'm finally finished. I spent quite a while cogitating on the quilting, while working (gosh, it gets in the way), and working on other group quilts with my co-workers. Quilting is now done. I decided to finish the edge with a facing rather than binding -- edges are not perfectly straight, but I like the look. It is mounted using a method described by Judy Simmons.

Finished faced and mounted quilt

Detail of quilting, upper left

Detail of robins

Detail of reflection and water quilting

I love how this turned out. Are there things I could have done better? Absolutely! Live and learn. This is only the second quilt top of this type that I have made and the first that I have completely finished. Thank you Ruth for encouragement and guidance. I really love the process. The slow and meticulous nature of the process means that the initial jumping off image really has to speak to me. I'm on the look-out for the next one.

Thanks for reading,

PS I'm linking up to Amy's bloggers-quilt-festival-spring-2015

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Cardiac DNA Completed

In a previous post, I described making a small top using 3/4 inch hexagons to represent DNA. The DNA part was prepped and hand sewn together while looking after my brother during his heart surgery and short convalescence last summer. I appliqued the hand pieced part onto a background and then layered and quilted. The quilting in the background was designed using a big piece of tracing paper and transferred to the top using Transdoodle chalk paper.

Now I have finished the quilting.

Front of Cardiac DNA (21" X 21")
Back of Cardiac DNA. Back is pieced out of pieces of Marcia Derse fabrics
Back is pieced out of  Marcia Derse fabrics I've been collecting. I used Magnifico Thread from Superior, and experimented with using two colors to see how it would change the gray and add to the image. I was going for the impression of layers and I'm not sure that worked very well, but the quilting definitely has a lot of visual texture.

After auditioning a bunch of binding choices I ended up with the same stripe that I used for the 'nucleotides'. Note that the stripe is actually a zigzag, so to get things going around in the same direction, I had to cut strips of the 'zigs' and skip the 'zags'. Double fold binding was sewn on entirely by machine.

The method is as follows: I decide on the seam allowance using a test 'sandwich' to ensure that the fold comes the right distance to the back to cover the first stitching. Then I sew the binding to the front, mitering in the usual way. Then I stitch over the raw edge with an overcast stitch (straight stitch about 1/4 inch from edge + zigzag just over the edge). This firms up the edge and makes it really easy to pull the binding to the back and glue baste, just covering the stitching line. THEN, on the front, I use a really narrow zigzag to couch a coordinating #5 perle cotton thread down, in the ditch next to the binding. I use a regular, open toe foot -- no special foot required. This catches the binding in the back (see photo above and below to see how even this turns out) and secures everything, AND it adds a line of definition, setting off the binding.
Upper left front corner, showing couched thread
Lower right back, showing thin zigzag line and label
I love how this turned out, and after admiring it a bit on my design wall, I will be sending it off to my brother for a birthday present.

I enjoyed this so much, I have a new one in the works -- more complex, with a hint of DNA replication.

Thanks for looking in,


PS -- I'm entered in Amy Blogger's Quilt Festival for home machine quilted designs.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Cardiac DNA

Earlier this summer my brother had to have heart surgery and since he lives by himself, he needed someone to come help while he was in the hospital and to get him back on his feet. Quilters are always talking about taking along hand projects to do while at the doctor, or waiting for kids at soccer practice. I don't have kids and I don't have that many doctors appointments and even when I do, I don't spend much time waiting, so this never seemed like a very good way to get a project done.

However, the brother's impending heart surgery put a whole new slant on this, and I decided that having something to do with my hands while waiting for the surgery to be completed or in ICU or in cardiac care would be a good thing. Hexagons are certainly popular, so I thought I'd see what all the fuss is about. I didn't want to do anything too big -- I needed to be able to finish the hand work during the surgery and convalescence, and I wanted something a little different than the usual flower motif.
EQ7 Mock-up of a DNA Molecule
I used EQ7 to make a plan. This quilty representation of a short segment of DNA, complete with major and minor groove, seemed like a good size (13x24 inch). Hexagons are 3/4 inch on a side and thus nicely fit in a square cut from a 2 1/2 inch jelly roll strip.

I've been following Micky Depre and watched her Pieced Hexies Craftsy class. Even though I did not venture into more complex pieced hexagons, her introduction was very helpful for getting the basics of basting the little hexagons, and sewing the hexagons together. Using her 'hold things flat and sew from the back' assembly method, even my relatively poor hand work looks good.

The day of surgery we arrived at the hospital at 5:30 AM, I left him heading towards the OR at about 7:30AM, and I was allowed into ICU as my brother was waking up at about 3 PM. In between, I prepped all the pieces. In the evening, I laid everything out and took a picture on my iPad so I could refer to it later.
Individual pieces laid out -- top of mock-up is left in picture
Then I started assembling the 'molecule' in sections. It is amazing how perfectly everything fit together. This process definitely has potential for other irregular shaped piecing.
DNA partially assembled. Whipstitching is done from the back and does not show at all on the front.
During my Florence Nightingale stint, I got the entire molecule was assembled. Once home, I appliqued the DNA onto a background by machine using a very narrow zigzag and thin Invisifil thread. Finally, the papers were removed by clipping and pulling out the basting threads, and cutting away the background behind the motif, leaving about a 1/4 inch 'seam allowance', and then popping the papers out from the back.
Auditioning backgrounds and placement
Now, how to quilt? This is always a slow, step-wise decision process for me. I usually see how some parts should be done but not other parts. Quilting around the outside of the DNA and down the orange and blue backbones with twisting strands seemed appropriate but the rest took longer.
Tracing paper mock-up of quilting of the DNA

Quilting around the DNA and on top done
I often use a large sheet of tracing paper to sketch and audition different quilting plans.
Tracing paper used to sketch in swooping lines to delineate sections of quilting

Once the plan is decided, I need a few 'guidelines' to delineate the segments. I use a domestic machine and it is very hard (well, for me, impossible) to see the 'big picture' well enough to get smooth sweeping lines that go where I want without having drawn lines to follow. Once the major sections are defined, then free motion designs within a section are easier.
Lines transferred to quilt top
I used big sheets of Transdoodle Chalk paper layered under the drawing and a tracing wheel to transfer the design.
Lines were transferred using Transdoodle Chalk paper
Now I'm working on laying in the section lines and quilting up each section.

Will keep you posted.


PS Surgery went fine. It was done minimal invasively, and it was amazing. It was still major surgery, but no big chest incision, less than 2 days in ICU and only 4 days in the hospital. A week after the surgery he was driving, walking several miles, and well on the way to better than new.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

We Love Pam

One of my colleagues of many years is retiring. She will be sorely missed, and OF COURSE, whenever my group wants to express its concern, shared joy or any other emotion -- what do we do? We make a quilt. Pam loves cross-stitch so that was the theme. We also wanted to express our feeling. The design also had to let lots of people participate, allow some individual self-expression, and not require much skill. With a little quilt cross-stitch inspiration (see ), I 'googled' and looked at a lot of cross-stitched hearts.

Using EQ7, I came up with this design. Each unit in the grid is 2 1/2" finished and the whole quilt is about 40" x 45".
We <3 Pam
Originally, the center was filled in, but that would have required too many cross-stitch blocks. Pam's favorite colors are purple and teal so we assemble a pallette of choices. Final fabric choices and layout of completed components was a team effort. We gave contributors a choice of making cross-stitch blocks, or making fuse-on flowers that would be arranged 'artistically' in bunches on the background.

The cross-stitch blocks are also fused, not sewn. We held several group 'craft' opportunities in a conference room at work. Cross-stitchers got pre-cut background squares, and strips of fusible. They selected colors from a stash of fabrics, cut, fused, and layered and trimmed the squares. If I were going to do this again, I would recommend cutting the color strips on the bias to reduce fraying.
Components for 1 square
Alignment was easiest from be back

Finished product

To assemble the top without chopping up the background into itty-bitty squares and sewing it all back together, I made a layout of larger pieces and a map, precut all the pieces, and sewed everything together.
Finished quilt -- picture is intentionally dark to show quilting texture.
Finally, the quilting -- each 'cross-stitch' was edged-stitched down with a Rainbow polyester. Flowers were edge stitched with a pale Invisifil. Leaves and stems were free-motion stitched with a dark green 30wt rayon, and the background was quilted with a pale off white Invisifil (wavy lines about 1/2" apart leaving words outlined but unquilted in the middle, and a free form feather inside the heart (spine was marked)). My collaborators are split on whether the lettering should stay subtle or be outlined in a darker thread to stand out more.

The binding is a really lovely batik/hand-dye-like railroaded stripe, sewn on the front, pulled to the back and tacked with Roxanne's GlueBaste, and then machine finished by couching down a variegated light-weight cotton yarn 'in the ditch' right next to the fold on the front. This is my new absolute favorite method for binding. Strips are cut 2 1/2". The folded strip is sewn on with a 5/16's" seam allowance (adjusted based on the thickness of the fabric to be able to fold to the back and cover the stitching line). I highly recommend a test run. I love how the couched yarn adds a defining line of color, like a very thin piping (but SO much easier), and sews down the binding on the back in one go.

Love hear what you think,