Saturday, June 28, 2014

Pressing Matters

Guess what this is?  It's quilted, made from some of my favorite sewing print fabrics, and I use it every day.
You guessed it--it's an ironing board cover.
I hate ironing clothes.  When I was a young teenager we had to iron everything, even my Dad's pajamas and handkerchiefs.  After I was married, my husband had a couple of cotton shirts that needed to be ironed, and I have to admit they spent more time in the ironing basket than they did in the closet.  I hardly ever iron anything any more--unless it has to do with quilting.
Somehow, I actually like pressing quilt blocks.  It's the finishing touch.  I finger press at the machine, and then press with the iron when the whole block is done.  The blocks look crisp and neat after pressing.
But I have never had an ironing board cover I really liked.  Even when I spent decent money on them, they were just so cheap--thin fabric, thin insulation, no lining, and the last one I had even used a cheap see-through nylon for a casing for the cheap string that held it on the board.  Which I did not know until I got it out of the package.  Yuck.
We're making over a bedroom for a sewing room, and I wanted to have a nicer ironing board cover, especially since the old one was falling apart.
I used some of these wonderful sewing themed fabrics to make it.  I've been hoarding these for years, especially the ones with the lovely black sewing machines on them.
This one came from Ebay.  There are treadles and electrics on it.
This one is more recent.
Here's one with notions, and a large trade card for Clark's thread.
I think I've been saving this one a long time.  1993?
I added some red fabrics, because it seemed like I needed them.  I cut the fabrics into 4.5 in. squares, and sewed them into a long narrow quilt top 6 squares wide and 15 rows long.  (I didn't take pictures of the process, because I wasn't sure it was going to work.)  I pieced it on my Singer 15 treadle.

I took some ideas from this web page:
Moda Bake Shop: Quilted Ironing Board Cover
although I didn't follow the pattern.  I wanted elastic in a casing instead of a ribbon.

Mine is more like this one, although still not quite the same:
Desiloop Quilted Ironing Board Cover

After I made the long narrow quilt top, I layered it with cotton batting and backing, and quilted it in the ditch on my new Pfaff.
Then I trimmed it into an ironing board shape.  I used what was left of the old cover as a kind of pattern, but I cut mine about 2 inches wider on each side.
I made my casing from some wide cotton bias tape I had in my collection, adding it like a binding on the front, and stitching it to the back by machine.

Once I had that sewn, with an opening in the end, I inserted 1/4 in. wide elastic, just like I would with a pair of pants.  It took a while.
When I had it nice and tight, I tried it on the ironing board, and was amazed that it fit PERFECTLY.
This is what it looks like underneath.  The elastic really grips the board, and the cover is not going anywhere (unlike my last one that kept sliding off [sound of teeth grinding]).
I've been using it, can you tell?  There's some thread from a current project lying there.

Pretty and functional, used only stuff I had on hand, and didn't take long to make.
Now that's my kind of project!

Happy treadling!

Thursday, June 19, 2014


I love Wisconsin, but I'm not from here.  I grew up in Indiana, and my family and I lived in Ohio, before moving here 24 years ago, in the summer of 1991.  All that summer, we kept seeing signs around the neighborhood for rummage sales.
We thought it was funny.  Rummage to us foreigners was a verb, as in, "She rummaged through her closet, looking for something she could still fit into."  On the signs, and in the newspaper, it was used as an adjective, and even as a noun, as in, "They really have some great rummage."  My favorite new word (after bubbler) was Rummage-o-rama, which was a big event held every so often at the fairgrounds.
Of course we had similar sales in Ohio and Indiana.  We called them yard sales, which makes perfect sense because they were held out in the yard.  A friend and I used to go "yard sailing" with our young kids.  (Where else can you buy a kid a toy for 25 cents?)  There were also garage sales, which were the same thing as yard sales, except that the sellers had an actual garage and so were snootier.
Whatever you call it, I love it.  It really appeals to my bargain hunting/recycling side.  But it can take all day to hit all the rummage sales in the area, and sometimes you don't find anything beyond baby clothes, bar stools, and VHS tapes.
Unless you go to a special fiber arts rummage!  Which is where I got the loot pictured above.  And below.

The picture at the top of today's blog is of most of the things I bought at the annual rummage sale at the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts & Fiber Arts last Friday.  The items for the sale were donated, and then sold to raise money for the museum.  The immediately above picture is just the fabric.  Yards and yards of cotton fabric, from small scraps to several yards long.  Some items were priced separately.  Most of this fabric I stuffed into a bag for a low, low price.
There was also yarn!  This is 100% wool, destined to make hats, mittens, socks and sweaters this fall.
My eyes glazed over after a while, but I did manage to find 3 books.  They had hundreds.
The basket blocks are OLD.  There are 30 of them.  Three of them are basted, ready to applique.  The other 27 are finished.  An amazing deal for $10. (Of course this adds to my project list.  But it was such a deal!  And the blocks are an unusual pattern.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)
I overheard this exchange at the table of fabric, while we shoppers were stuffing our bags.
Shopper One:  "You know, we women are gatherers.."
Shopper Two:  "Really?  I just thought we were hoarders."
All Shoppers:  (laughing)
In my opinion, we're not hoarders if we USE what we buy.  Or at least pet it once in a while.
I've already used a small piece of my amazing loot, as the binding for this little lap quilt:
The center of the quilt is made of squares I bought at a quilt show rummage table a couple of years ago.
Can you see the seams in the big purple floral print?  I had to use one other square to make this one big enough.  This is how our foremothers coped.  Works for me.
Here's the purple binding.  It was a Fons and Porter print from several years ago.  Now it's washed, cut, and put to good use.  Plus the scraps are trimmed and in the bins.
This little quilt will probably go to a nursing home patient, where I hope its colors cheer her day.
Most of the fabric pieces and scraps I bought at the rummage sale will go into my charity quilts.  Some pieces are even big enough for backing.  I also made sure to get some bright colors for the quilts I make for kids.
There is nothing like new (old?)  fabric to stir up new ideas. 
Many thanks to the museum volunteers who run the sale, and the generous people who donated the items.
Happy shopping, and happy quilting!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

It's Electrifying!

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you may have noticed my many posts complaining/worrying about my Davis Vertical Feed treadle.  It is a wonderful machine, and we have made many quilts together.  However, it has just been impossible to quilt on lately.  With a big backlog of quilts both for charity and just for fun, I finally did the unthinkable--I bought an electric machine.
This was a big step for me, and I didn't take it lightly.  I've been using people-powered machines exclusively for over twelve years, and I love them.  There's just something about the combination of history and function, the beautiful iron ladies, the wood cabinets, and that tick-tick-tick sound when they're sewing.  I'm not giving that up!  My piecing will still be done on my treadles.  And I'm confident I'll get the Davis going again eventually.  But I've got a lot of quilting to do, and this new machine will help me do it.
As you can see, I bought a Pfaff.  This machine is a Select 4.2, which is a mechanical machine, not an electronic machine.  The main reason I chose it was the built in walking foot.
My first projects while learning this machine were some baby quilts for charity that I had already pieced, layered, and basted.
Here's what I've got done so far.
This is the first quilt I worked on with the new machine.  I came home, set it up, and went right to it.  Unfortunately I didn't read the directions first.  Even though I had worked with the machine at the shop, I didn't realize that you had to engage the automatic dual feed.  The quilting was a nightmare of tucks and pleats.  I'm not even going to show you how bad it is.   I don't think I can donate it, it's just that awful.

The next quilt was better.  Most of this one was quilted already.  I had unearthed it from my seriously old UFO pile.  You might be able to tell from the fabrics that I started it more than 20 years ago.
I did the quilting on the heart blocks with invisible thread using a different electric machine, back in the day.  I was almost done with the quilt when for some reason I lost interest in it.  Maybe it was when we were moving?
Sadly, this is another fail.  I'm not sure if you can see the reddish discolorations in the blue border.  Those are rust stains.  Yep, I left the pins in it for all those years!  I've tried a couple of rust stain treatments, with no luck.  So I can't donate this one either.  Sigh.
Finally, success!  Well, mostly.  There are a few little pleats in this one, but nothing truly terrible.  I saw a picture of a quilt like this somewhere in the vastness of the internet, and figured I could make one like it.  I think I made it a lot harder than it needed to be. 

I used 3.5 in. squares (cut) to make 4 patches, and made the square in a square blocks with white squares cut 6.5 in. and more 3.5 in. squares on the corners, sewn on the diagonal.  I had to make half blocks for the sides and top and bottom.  If I was doing this again, I'd just make stars.
The back is a dinosaur print.
As I was quilting these quilts, I found that the new machine is really not as good at quilting as the Davis.  I almost never had any pleats or tucks with the Davis, no matter how I basted.  I think this is because the Davis is sort of unique, with not having any feed dogs and just the foot advancing the fabric.  Some things were definitely better in the old days.
I bound this one day before yesterday.  The pattern is one I call Evelyn's Quilt (named after my granddaughter), and you can find my tutorial for the pattern at this link:  Evelyn's Quilt

I quilted a 2 in. grid on it, about half with a decorative stitch.
Who knew decorative stitches were so much fun?

Here's a little rail fence, to finish up the pile.  I'll be squaring it up and binding it later today. 
The blue print is the binding.

Overall, I'm satisfied with the new machine, at least so far.  On the plus side, it's really fast.  It takes me about an hour to quilt one of these little quilts.  And you should see how many bobbins came with the machine!  (I only have 4 for my Davis.)  It's fun to have a few decorative stitches, too.  One of the best things is the foot--it's the same size on either side of the needle, which is great when you're using the presser foot as a guide.
On the other hand, it's loud!  I had forgotten what sewing with a motor sounded like.  I'm learning to have more control with the foot pedal, but it's not like the control you have with a treadle.  I was warned at the shop to plug the machine into a serge protector like a computer so lightning strikes can't fry the pedal, which is something you never have to worry about with people powered machines.  If anything goes wrong with the machine, I am going to have to take it to the shop.  With the treadles, I can solve many problems myself.  There's just less to go wrong.
I hope all my friends in the treadling world won't think I'm a traitor.  I'm considering myself more of a hybrid.  A blend of old and new, to get the job done.
Happy Quilting!