Monday, November 30, 2015

Train of Thought

It's Link Up Day for the new Bonnie Hunter mystery, Allietare, with colors based on her trip to Italy.  My trusty RAF Singer and I did clue number 1 over the long weekend.
Here is the stash I pulled to start with.  I also have drawers of scrap strips.  I'm not sure about my mustard colored fabric--is it the right color?  Do I have enough?  As always, with these mysteries, I'm trying to just use what I have on hand.
I sewed these little half square triangles in batches of ten.  I'm not the type to cut all of them at once, and then sew all of them, and then press all of them.  I like a little variety.  So I cut two strips worth, and then sewed ten at a time, pressed them, and put a pin in each batch of ten so I wouldn't have to keep counting them over and over.  I tend to lose my train of thought, especially in the sewing room.
All done!
So here's my homework in its basket, ready for the next clue, which comes out on Friday.

While I was working on this mystery, I realized something awful.  I have never finished a Bonnie Hunter mystery quilt.  Celtic Solstice is still in two pieces, with no border, and not quilted.  Grand Illusion's top is done, but that's all.  I hope I can do better this time.
Thinking about Celtic Solstice led me to the basement, where I have stored these little pieces.  They were left overs, because I decided not to make the pieced border.  Hmm.  What could I do with them?
What about stars?  I loved the stars in Celtic Solstice, and these are similar.  I made hsts for the corners (a breeze after making all those little ones).
The block centers came from this little bin.  This is where I keep 3.5 in. squares, cut from scraps. There are all sorts of colors in here, but it's about evenly divided between bright colors and reproduction fabrics.  I had plenty of indigo blue 3.5 in. squares for the centers of the stars.
So how to put the stars together?  What about a snowball block between them?  Maybe I could do some fancy quilting in the middle of it.
I think I like it.  I might like it better if I had a darker color for the snowball corners, possibly orange.  There is not even the tiniest scrap of any of these orange prints left in my stash.  I even used the strings for string blocks.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we're decorating for Christmas.  Our oldest grandson was here on Saturday night, and he helped us trim the tree and put up the decorations.  He especially liked setting up the Nativity scene, although he put the donkey up high with the angel, because he said the angel was lonely.
The quilt on the couch is one I made for my son many years ago.  It's twin-sized, not really big enough for him now, so it's still at our house.  I'm using it here on the couch, to cover up the bad places in the upholstery made by the dog.
This got me thinking about my youngest daughter's Christmas quilt.  I made a quilt for each of my 3 children when they were little, and Connie really used hers.  The poor quilt is absolutely wrecked.  I would not let her take it with her when she moved out, as it is literally a rag.  I did promise to make her another one.
Hmm.  Christmas fabric is 60% off this week.  And the grandkids don't have Christmas quilts, either.

Gotta go.  I have a train to catch.

Have a lovely week of sewing!

Back to Allietare Part 1 Link Up

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Tape is Rolling

I've been on a quilting binge lately, finishing up some small tops that have been languishing in the closet.
Here's a bug quilt, made with the simple 4 patch pattern from Quilts for Kids.
A close-up, and
the back.  I love the fabrics, but I'm not too thrilled with the quilting.  I use a machine with a built-in walking foot, and usually everything is fine, but this one seems kind of distorted.  I'm not exactly sure what I was doing wrong.  For now, I'm blaming the cheap batting.

 Next is the flannel snowman quilt, in the same pattern.  Above is the top,
And here's the finished quilt.  All three of the snowmen fabrics were donated to our quilt group.  I had the red floral in my stash.
This one turned out better.  I pinned a little more, and I used a different batting.
I used up almost every last little bit of these flannels. 
This one is an Accuquilt cut kit.  I made the kit from my flannels years ago.  We sold a couple of them, but this one was left over.
As usual, my cat has to inspect the quilt.  Hope it passes!  (I'm a little worried about the quilting in the border.  I don't think he's going to give me a blue ribbon.)
You can see why I always wash the quilts before I give them away.
All three of these quilts are part of our charity work at Ties that Bind Quilt Group.

When I went to work on the last of these quilts yesterday, I decided to try something else.  I can't say it's anything new, because I used to do this when hand quilting, but I haven't really done this when machine quilting.

First I pinned the heck out of this little top, and  quilted in the ditch between the blocks.  That made a 6 in. grid.  So far, so good.  Then I got out the masking tape, and did this:
I quilted on one side of each of these taped lines, and carried the line out into the border.
Here's a close-up.  Part of each line was quilting in the ditch, and part was following the edge of the tape.
It worked!  I have straight lines, and no marks on the quilt.
The borders are nice and flat, and the corners are pretty square.
Here's the finished quilt.  The cat was worn out from doing inspections, so he missed this one.  It will go to Quilts for Kids, to be given to a child in a hospital.

There are advantages and disadvantages to marking quilts with masking tape, especially for machine quilting.  This is my list.

1.  No marks on the quilt.
2.  Nice straight line to quilt next to.
3.  Masking tape is cheap, available everywhere, and comes in all different sizes.
4.  If you accidentally put it in the wrong place, you can easily pull it up and re-position it.
5.  It is really fun to pull off the tape and see a nice straight quilted line.

1.  It takes a while to get the tape on the quilt. (Just like when you mask areas before you paint.)
2.  You have to be careful not to sew on the tape, not even the very edge.  If you accidentally do, it will be a pain to take the tape off.
3.  The tape shouldn't sit on the quilt for very long, so you need to tape it and quilt it right away.
4.  The presser foot makes kind of a weird scrunchy noise when part of it is resting on the tape.
5.  A quilt can use up a lot of masking tape!

This is the tape I used on this baby quilt:
Time to buy some more tape!

The absolute worst problem I had with this method was this:  a couple of times the edge of the tape flipped up after the presser foot had passed it, and stuck to the back of the presser foot.  Part of the problem was using small sections of tape, which made this more likely.  Fixing this was easy.  I just stopped the machine with the needle down, detached the tape, stuck it back down, and went on.

I think I like this method.  I want to try it for cross-hatching on a big quilt.

Thanksgiving is next week!  I'm sure we all have a lot to be thankful for.  I know I do.

Happy stitching!

I'm linking to Crazy Mom Quilts today.
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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

And To Top It All Off

This week, I'm making quilt tops.  It has been fun to see these come together.
This is the Falling Charms top I've been working on for a while.  The pattern is from a Missouri Star Quilt Company video.  For the pattern, click here:  Falling Charms Tutorial
This is so easy!  It's just 5 in. charms, bordered on two sides by 2.5 in. (cut) strips of white.  Most of the fabrics in this top came from the amazing rummage sale of donated fabric at the museum last summer.  I just chose light blues, yellows, and soft greens from the stash.
The best part is, I don't have to quilt it!  This is a quilt for charity.  Our wonderful long arm quilters will take care of the quilting, and I'll bind it when it's done.

On Veteran's Day last week, I started a star quilt.
This will be eventually presented to a veteran, as a thank you for serving our country.
There are 20 blocks, which finish at 12 in. square.  The sashes are cut 2.5 in. wide, and the borders are cut 3.5 in. wide.  When finished, the quilt should measure 60 in. x 74 in., which fits the guidelines for Quilts of Valor.
The pattern is similar to an Ohio Star.  I haven't found the exact pattern in any of my books (yet), but it is a simpler version of #1674 in Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Quilt Patterns, where it is called Crow's Nest.  I'm calling it Veteran's Star.
I don't have to quilt this one either!  A long arm quilter will take care of it, and again I'll get it back to bind.

I made this quilt using my Accuquilt cutter.  I used the Accuquilt to cut the triangles, and just rotary cut the squares.  Below is a tutorial if you'd like to make one, too.

You will need two Accuquilt dies:  the half square triangles that finish at 4 in., and the quarter square triangles that finish at 4 in.

1.  First, cut 80 half square triangles from red.  (You need 4 for each block.)  When I do this, I cut my fabric in strips as wide as the die (in this case, 6.5 in.), and then feed the strips through the cutter.
In most cases, you will want four of the same fabric for each block, but if you don't have enough you can mix and match.  I did that for some of the blocks, and I actually like them better.

2.  Next, pair up strips of red prints and background prints for the quarter square triangles.  You will need 4 of each for each block, which works out to 80 of each for 20 blocks.  This goes pretty fast because the die cuts 8 of each of these in each layer of fabric.

I only used the Accuquilt cutter for the triangles.  I cut everything else the "old-fashioned" way, with a rotary cutter.

3.  Cut 20 blue squares 4.5 in. for the star centers.

4.  Cut 80 background print squares 4.5 in. for the star corners.

If you're setting the blocks like I did:

5.  Cut 31 sashing strips, 12.5 in. x 2.5 in., from blue.
6.  Cut 12 cornerstone squares, 2.5 in. x 2.5 in., from red.
7.  Cut 8 strips 3.5 in. wide from blue for borders.

Okay, cutting all done!

Here's the block layout:
Nothing has been sewn yet in this picture.  I just wanted to get it straight before I started.  It is possible to mix this up, so keep your wits about you.  I sewed one block at a time, just because I like to do it that way.

1.  Sew the small triangles together to make a larger triangle.  I stacked them like this,
and put them through the machine like this.  Sew them all exactly the same way.  (If you don't, you will end up with some triangles that won't work for the pattern.)
When you press them, they will look like this.  Press toward the red.
Now add the larger red triangle.  I fed these into the machine with the pieced triangles on top and the white going first.  The Accuquilt-cut pieces are easy to line up, because the corners are blunted.
Here are the finished sections.  Press toward the large triangle.

The rest is just a nine patch.  Press seams either toward the red or toward the blue, just be consistent.
Make 20 blocks, and set them together as in the photo further up the page.

We owe a great debt of gratitude to our veterans.  I was really touched when I read that they often say, when receiving their quilt, that they didn't know anybody cared.

Lots of us care.  Some of us can say it with a quilt.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Tied Quilts

This blurry picture shows the tied quilt I just finished for my granddaughter.  The reason it's blurry?  My adorable four year old granddaughter is under it.  She is in constant motion.
You can almost see her fingers here, holding on to the edge.  She was in a silly mood, and didn't want to have her picture taken.

Here's what the quilt looks like on a queen sized bed.  It is huge.  Which is one of the reasons I decided to tie it instead of trying to machine quilt it.
I used baby yarn (pink of course) for the ties.  Each flannel "brick" is tied in the center.
The batting is Mountain Mist 100% polyester, and the backing is more flannel, white with tiny pink dots.  This will be WARM this winter.  The binding is a pink solid flannel.

In my volunteer work with the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts & Fiber Arts (click here to go to the museum's web page) I have seen a lot of tied quilts.  There have been several names for this kind of quilt in the past, including comfortables and slumber robes.  In our time period, we usually call them comforters.
In the Quilt Index (click here) comforters are considered finished quilts.  In the section on the quilting, we indicate that the quilt is tied or tufted, not quilted.  After doing data entry at the Quilt Index for years, the vocabulary they use is always in my head.

Here's a tied bricks quilt from the early 1900s.  It's very common to see scrap quilts from this time period finished by tying.

Some of the most commonly tied quilts are log cabins and crazies.  They are frequently foundation pieced on cloth (usually old clothes) and may not have any batting.  The backing is simply tied to the foundation.  Sometimes the ties only show on the back of the quilt.
This is a tied cotton crazy quilt made in the 1960s.
Just about any quilt top can be finished as a tied quilt, like this pretty star.

As with any other technique, there are advantages and disadvantages of tying your tops.  On the plus side, it's fast, and takes very little skill.  Tying can be done as a group, and even older kids can help.  You can use thicker battings than you might normally choose for machine or hand quilting, which can make for lovely warm covers.

On the negative side, tying is not as sturdy as quilting.  Tied quilts will not hold up as well to use and washing in the long run.  This is not a finish you want for your best quilts, and tied quilts are rarely included in judged shows and competitions.

When I tie a quilt, I work on my kitchen table.  My set up for tying is the same as my set up for pin basting; the backing is centered wrong side up on the table, and clamped with binders clamps.  Then the batting is laid over it, and the quilt top centered over all.

Some tips for tying a quilt:

1.  Choose your batting wisely.  The best choices are poly, cotton/poly blends, and needle-punched cotton.  Wool was often used in the past, but you may need to be careful when washing it.
2.  Check your batting label for how close together the ties need to be.  If the ties are too far apart, the batting will shift and/or lump.
3.  You can tie with yarn (which is used most often) or thicker threads like embroidery floss, or even string.  Choose something fairly thin.  Heavier threads and yarns will untie and pull out more easily.  They will also need a bigger needle, which will make a bigger hole.  Wool yarn will felt in the wash.
4.  Use a metal needle with a large eye and a sharp point.  I use the same needle for tying quilts as I use to weave in the loose ends in my knitting.
5.  Starting in the center, make the stitches in a line across or down the quilt, leaving yarn between the stitches.  Don't cut it until you've got a whole line done.  Then cut and tie.  You can even do this as a team, with one person stitching and another person tying.  This is where kids can be very helpful!
6.  Tie a very secure knot.  I wrap the yarn three times and then tie, and repeat.
7.  Trim the knots.  You don't want to leave long tails all over the quilt to catch in the wash.  Just make sure not to trim too closely, which will make it easier for the knots to come undone.

I want to end with something my grandmother once told me.  Gran was born in 1912, and lived in rural Indiana.  Every spring, her family took the tied quilts apart, washed the top and backing, aired the batting, and put them back together.  An amazing amount of work.  This way, they could use inexpensive cotton batting inside the quilts and not worry about how it would hold up in the wash.  But of course, this means the quilts were only washed once a year!  Thankfully, times have changed.

I wish you great comfort this week, and lots of stitching.

I'm linking up with Crazy Mom Quilts today.  She is so inspiring!
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