Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Oops! Found another one!

I almost forgot about this one.  It was in the box with the others to go to the post office tomorrow.  I'm mailing another batch to Quilts for Kids.  The yellow and green squares are from the bags.  This time, I made the 4 patches and then cut them down to 6.5 in.  The alternate blocks are cut 6.5 in. square, of course.  They came from the leftovers my daughter had after making Henry's curtains.  There are 15 four patches and 15 baby animals blocks.  This is just like the free pattern on the Quilts for Kids site, except I didn't do a narrow inner border.  I'm not all that happy with the quilting in the border, but (sigh) it's done, and it will go to a child who needs it.
Today I'm going shopping!  I'm out of good quality batting, plus I need unbleached muslin for Heartstrings blocks and some sewing machine oil for the upstairs treadle.  Who knows what else I might find?  And, I have a COUPON.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Making Quilts from Bags of Squares

I am a scavenger, I admit it.  I make a lot of quilts, and I don't like paying full price for fabric.  Especially when full price is $12.00 a yard!  (I actually bought 2 yards at that price once.  It still makes me feel sick.)
So I look for deals.  I use coupons.  I root through stacks of sale fabrics.  I search online.  I buy vintage fabrics at flea markets and in antique stores and at rummage sales.  "Pre-owned" fabric doesn't bother me at all.
Last year at a local quilt show I scored an amazing, if slightly odd, deal.  The It's A Stitch show always features a booth they call Granny's Attic, which is like a quilter's rummage sale.  They sell fabrics, books, patterns, etc. donated mostly by their members.  I of course went to their booth first (before even glancing at the quilt show.  Shopping is important!).
On the table with the fabrics were several bags of quilt squares.  These were gallon sized bags, stuffed with squares cut from all sorts of print fabrics.  They were priced at $5.00 each.  I snagged 4 of them, for a grand total of $20.00. (I bought a lot of other stuff there, too, of course, but I'm talking about the squares here.)  I especially selected bags with kid fabrics, since I love to make quilts for kids.
When I got them home and went through them, I found them to be mostly rotary cut to 4 in. square.  A few were blends, but most were good cottons.  There were hundreds of these squares.
These were so easy to use for leaders and enders.  Here are some of the quilts I have made from them so far.
Remember this one?  All these squares came from the sale, except for the purple with dots.

The pink and the hearts print in this quilt came from the sale.  I added the light blues.

All the squares in this quilt came from the sale.  I added the solid green from my stash.  It came from a flea market.  This will be a lap robe for a nursing home patient when I get it quilted.

I finished quilting this one last night.  The frogs and the green dot came from the bags I bought.  I added in a second blue and a second green.  It will have a blue binding, maybe later today.
I had to take these Monsters Inc. squares with me to the fabric store to find something to go with them.  I'm making four patches as leaders and enders.

And here's what I still have left!  I divided them into two groups, based mostly on color and print.  The ones in the lunch box are more subdued colors, suitable for nursing homes, etc.  The kid fabrics (including Dora!) are in the pile with the baby fabrics.  I was really not sure where to put the spring fabrics, but I want to use them soon.  We need some flowers around here.
I just have to wonder about the person who used to have these fabrics.  Why did she (probably a she) cut them all into 4 in. squares?  This must have been yards and yards.  It must have taken a long time.  They don't look die cut, like they would if they were sold commercially.
I wonder how many more quilts I can get out of this pile?  Anybody got any good ideas for using squares?  I'm getting a little tired of 4 patch and 9 patch.  Leave me a comment with suggestions, please!
By the way, this is my basement piecing treadle.  The decals say Domestic, but it is definitely the same as a White Rotary, "T-shirt" slide plate and all.  She is a lovely brown color, and a very reliable machine.  I have some trouble with her bobbin winder, so I use a Side Winder gadget and just wind as many bobbins as I can before I start a big job.  No cabinet, but the base was made from a board with a cut out and the White irons.  She's the most portable treadle I have.  Oops, I need to dust!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Quilt Documentation Day!

Last Saturday was amazing!  We held a Quilt Documentation Day at the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts & Fiber Arts, in Cedarburg, Wisconsin.  We do this four times per year now, twice at the museum and twice at other venues around the state.  I'm the Documentation Chair (fancy title, just a volunteer).
Quilt owners bring in their quilts, new and old, and we record their stories, which eventually go on the Quilt Index online (see below for link).  It's an exacting process, but one I thoroughly enjoy.
Here are some photos from quilts we saw.
 This is a detail from the quilt above.  At the time this quilt was made, the Swastika was a symbol of good luck and the Nazis had never been heard of.
 This quilt (above) was made last year by a wife to honor her husband's work as a pilot.
 Beautiful crewel embroidery on felt is the center of this amazing quilt above, circa 1910.
 This is an antique UFO, done in the English piecing style around papers.
Here's a picture of the back, with a paper showing typewriting.  Details like this help us date the quilts.

 This is a red and green applique quilt from around 1890.  We can tell its date because of the way the green fabric faded.  It's a summer spread, with no batting in it.
 We always see great 1930s-1940s quilts.  This one is called Many Trips Around the World.  The maker is unknown.
 Here's a detail of the quilt above.
 This is one I want to make!  A wonderful scrap quilt called Bricks and Bars.
 These "squares" are actually rectangles.

I love Red Work!  And check out these dancing squirrels!

We only saw one kit quilt this time.  It's Progress Kit #1355, Gladiola.  Beautifully done.  It dates to the early 1950s.
This scrap quilt had us all searching our pattern books.  We think it's a variation of Brackman's 275.8a. 
This is a detail.  The block is a hexagon, with a six pointed star in the center and five circles appliqued on the white hexagons.  There is a seam in the center of the light blue diamonds.  If you know a better name for it, could you let me know?  I've searched my sources and come up empty.

These are just some of the highlights of our day.  We have the best volunteers ever.  I forgot to take any pictures of us in action this time!  Here's a photo of the volunteers at our last documentation day, in Waukesha in October.
If you missed this one, don't worry.  We'll be documenting quilts again at the museum during Strawberry Fest, on June 22 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and on June 23 from 12:00 noon to 3:00 p.m.  You can contact me for an appointment.  All quilts are welcome, new or old.  All volunteers are welcome, too!

If you'd like to check out the museum, click below:
If you'd like to check out the Quilt Index, here's the link:

Monday, March 11, 2013

Cranking Out A Flannel Quilt

At our last quilt guild meeting, our fearless leader handed out a couple of flannel quilt kits that were donated to a local charity.  The charity hoped we could make them up.  The kits were home-cut from cotton flannel.
The one I got was mostly pink.  The squares were cut 4.5 in.  There were also some red squares, that didn't really go with the pinks.
I laid them out on the kitchen table to figure out what to do with them.  Trip around the world just started happening. 
I added in the flowered fabric from my not-to-be-believed flannel stash.  I also added in the pink with small dots.  The hearts with the chocolate background were part of the original kit, and I think they really make the quilt.  (Good job, anonymous donor!)
My treadle sewing machines are all over the house (of course!) but my main sewing areas are upstairs in the extra bedroom and in the basement where I do my machine quilting.  So I really goofed laying this out in the kitchen.  Now I was going to have to move it to sew it, if I wanted to treadle.  This was a job for a hand crank!  I got my trusty Jones and got to work.
It was easy to keep the squares and rows in the right order with them right in front of me.  This is such a nice machine.  The bobbin is small, but it holds a lot.
A word or two about sewing with flannel: 
I have made flannel quilts for my three children, my husband, and my oldest grandson.  It's not hard to sew with flannel, but it's not a great fabric for precision cutting and piecing.  I use a 1/4 in. seam allowance, as usual, but I use a shorter stitch length, since flannel wants to ravel out.  Simple shapes are best.  I also wash my flannel before using it, because it shrinks quite a lot, more than regular cotton.
So what did I do with the extra red squares?
These are such fun prints.  I love the ladybugs and the dolphins.
Trip Around the World
About the pattern:  These quilts finish 36 in. square.  There are 9 rows of 9 squares each, for a total of 81 squares.  I didn't add a border on either, but it would look nice.
Here's the breakdown on the number of squares:
1 center square (solid red)
4 next round (ladybugs)
8 next round (solid red)
12 next round (daisies)
16 next round (dolphins)
16 next round (yellow bugs and butterflies)
12 next round (ladybugs again)
8 next round (solid red)
4 outside corners (daisies again)

If you wanted to make it bigger, you could keep adding rows.  Or just add a border, of course.
I quilted both of these on my Davis VF (no problems, knock on wood!).  The quilting is just a 4 in. grid in the ditch of the seams.  Both are soft and cuddly after washing.

The red quilt is finished with a red flannel binding, sewn by machine.  The pink flannel quilt was sewn to the backing like a pillow case and flipped right sides out with the batting inside.  I top stitched around the edge after I finished the quilting.
Here it is, finished.
What are you cranking out today?

Tumbler Finished!

Another one bites the dust!  The binding went well, no problems.  My cat seems to have claimed this quilt, although I think he enjoys whatever I put on this bed, where he takes his morning, mid-morning, early afternoon, and late afternoon naps.  His name is technically Ozzy, but we call him Biddy.  When we got him he was a feral kitten, found by the side of the road.  He weighed 1/4 of a pound at his first vet visit.  So of course he was an itty bitty kitty, which eventually turned in to Biddy.  Only the vet calls him Ozzy.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


This has been my life lately.  Two steps forward, two (or three!) steps back. 
It started a couple of weeks ago.  I was having tension troubles with my machine (Davis Vertical Feed).  It's not that unusual to have a couple of problems with a machine made long before my mother was born, and I had fixed things before, but I just wasn't expecting it.
This was supposed to be an easy-peasy project.  The pieces were ones I had cut a couple of years ago when I first got my Accuquilt cutter.  Sewing them together was a piece of cake.  I used them for leaders and enders as I put my Basket of Chips top together.
I had 3 tops on my list of 6, and I decided to quilt this one first.  Again, easy-peasy, right?  The quilting was long lines from top to bottom of the quilt, following the edge of the patches, with the edge of the presser foot as my guide.  Everything was fine, quick and easy.  Then I started on the horizontal lines.
That's when the tension nightmare happened.  I was sewing merrily along, thinking about something else (probably dinner.  Or maybe chocolate).  I got to the end of the line, and saw the problem--puckering-- horrible, horrible, puckering.  I could tug the fabric and break the stitches.
So I started problem solving.  I changed just about every variable--upper tension, bobbin, bobbin thread.  I oiled like crazy.  I cleaned out lint.  And each time, IT WOULD SEEM LIKE IT WORKED.  I would say to myself, "Oh, I fixed it.  Thank goodness," and I would sew another line.  About halfway through, the puckering would start again.
This was enough to make me curse like a sailor (specifically, Captain Haddock from Tintin.  Billions of blue blistering barnacles!)
After a while, I tried a radical solution.  I decided the problem was the shuttle itself, that it was scratched or dented or something and was snagging the bobbin thread.  So I rooted around in my sewing machine stuff, and found another shuttle.  I couldn't believe it would fit, but it did.  And it sewed!  Problem solved?  Well, almost, stay tuned.  I adjusted the upper tension again, and was back in business.
I do value the seam ripper as a tool.  Back when I was first sewing, I didn't have one, and I had to pick out stitches with a heavy needle (don't try this at home).  And I will use the seam ripper for piecing mistakes without really thinking much about it.  But I hate to rip out machine quilting!  Even bad machine quilting.  I had to do this in small doses.  It might be a good thing I don't drink.
Once things were fixed, I set aside the tumbler quilt long enough to quilt a flannel charity quilt (I'll write about this soon).  The quilting was as usual with the Davis, quick and easy.  I began to relax again.
Bad idea.  I went back to working on the tumbler again, and started having problems with breaking thread.  This time, I was mad enough to say enough is enough.  The bobbin tension was too tight?  Then I would ADJUST THE BOBBIN TENSION.
Manuals warn against this.  Old Sewing Machine guys will give you a Look.  I was past the point of caring.  Plus, I had two working shuttles.  If I messed one up, I could use the other one.  I took a screw driver, and turned the screw at the point of the shuttle a half turn. (Oh, yes I did!)
IT WORKED!!!  I finished the quilting last night.  Everything is still okay.  I think.
But I have decided this quilt hates me.  No marking tool I own could make a mark I could see on the border.  Not chalk, not pencil, nothing.  It's like a black hole.  This is it, below:
I finally had to use Golden Threads paper (now who has too much stuff they might never use, oh husband dear?)  I traced the quilting stencil on to the paper with a permanent ink fabric pen.  (If you use anything else, the marks just transfer to the quilt, ask me how I know.)  Then I pinned the paper on the borders and quilted through it.  If you look closely you can see tiny bits of the paper still on the lines.  I need to get to work with my fingernail again.
So now I'm wondering what kind of problem I'm going to have sewing the binding on.  Easy peasy?  I do not #$%^ing think so.  Arrgh!

Cutting Day!

Some of us from Ties that Bind Quilt Club in Slinger, WI, got together on Monday morning to cut fabric for charity quilts.  We were working from donated fabrics, squares, and orphan blocks.  Our fearless leaders are Colleen and Joan, who organize the dates and haul around the fabric among other duties.  Mary M. is working hard cutting squares for I Spy quilts, and Helen is figuring out what on earth to do with some printed geese squares (no worries, she came up with a good plan).  We wondered when we got done if we had even made a dent in the fabric, but we'll probably have several kits made in time for our regular March meeting.  Our group is small (about 35 members more or less) but very interested in helping the community and making quilts for others.  In addition to our regular charity work, several of our members sew for Ronald McDonald house, and make quilts for families of service members who have made the ultimate sacrifice.  Last year we donated at least 45 quilts to charity.  Quilters are known for sharing their gifts with others, but I think this group goes above and beyond.  Great job, ladies!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Some Random Four Patch--A Charity Quilt Pattern

 A few years ago, when I was still working as a school librarian, there was a kid in one of my classes who seemed to always wear the same shirt on Library Day.  His shirt was brown, with white letters that read "Some Random Dude".
I thought that was funny.  So when I started making these quilts for charity I named them Some Random Four Patch.  I don't really know where this pattern came from.  It's easy and fast to make, especially with bright novelty prints.
All the pieces are pulled from my box of 2.5 in. strips.  I make 3 piles as I cut them:  2.5 in. squares, 2.5 in. x 4.5 in. rectangles, and 2.5 in. x 8.5 in. rectangles.  Then I pile them up next to the sewing machine (this is my Singer RAF upstairs treadle).
I pull squares randomly from the pile on the left to make a four patch.  If two of the squares go together especially well (like the green and the butterflies below) I put them across from each other diagonally.  Just my own little system.  (I did have a few regular four patches from another project that I put into the quilt above.)
Then I add 2.5 x 4.5 in. rectangles to two parallel sides.  I try not to repeat any of the fabrics.
And lastly I add the long strips to the remaining sides.
You can see that these would make up very quickly.  It's all straight seams, with nothing to match.
When the blocks are done I usually set them side by side, alternating their orientation (long strips vertical, then long strips horizontal, etc.) which you can see in the unquilted top below.  Again, nothing to match but the edges of the blocks.

The blocks measure 8.5 in. unfinished, 8 in. finished.  I make 20 blocks for crib-sized quilts, and set them 4 across and 5 down.  I usually add a border made from 2.5 in. wide strips (2 in. finished).  The quilt measures 36 in. wide and 44 in. long before quilting.
Recently I tried out using red sashing strips for the blocks.
It was okay, but I think I like the all over look of the blocks without sashing or cornerstones.  This did increase the size of the quilt, also.
For quilting, I started by doing quilt in the ditch to stabilize everything.  I did a 2 in. grid on the quilt with the blue border, and diagonal lines spaced 2 in. apart on the one with red sashings.  Of course I used my Davis Vertical Feed treadle for the quilting.
The two quilts in this pattern that are already finished will go to Quilts for Kids (  They are collecting lots of quilts for the victims of Hurricane Sandy.   The one that isn't quilted yet will go to a local charity through our wonderful Ties That Bind quilt group in Slinger, WI.
If you make one of these, please comment below!