Sewing accurate quarter inch seams is the name of the game in quilting. I always figure, if you allow for some, uh, issues with your cutting, some with the straightness of your seams, and some with your pressing, you have a lot of room for error. Even if you are pretty darn sure you cut straight and sewed straight, if you don't have true quarter inch seams, the battle is lost for the want of a horse shoe nail. Okay, that's poetic license, but still. And when directions call for a scant quarter inch, and you go full-bodied quarter inch, you can definitely have some, uh, issues with your seams matching up in your quilt. Ask me how I know.
I know I'm not the only one to struggle with this. I always avoided block swaps because I wasn't sure I could turn out accurate blocks, and the stress was just too much for me. Once I hosted a project where everybody made some blocks for a quilt. I supplied the background material, so I know it was all cut right (or at least consistently wrong – kidding, my cutting skills are actually pretty good). One woman's blocks were all too small. In keeping with the generous nature of a quilter, I went to her house to help her figure out the problem. She showed me her whole set up. I showed her how her quarter inch seam was actually wider than a quarter inch, which resulted in her blocks turning out too small. She just looked at me blankly and finally said she'd just keep her blocks and make more because her blocks all fit together just fine. Okaaaay.
Then a very generous quilter sent me some paper and plastic measurement thingies to help me measure an accurate quarter inch seam. I was very grateful to her, but because at that point I was still not clear on adjusting the needle placement (that came later), I couldn't get it to work consistently and so I was too stressed to join in her block swaps. But not for long!
I've pondered and played with the foot issue on my sewing machine from the start. My machine came with a handful of feet, and I've purchased a handful more, all in the quest of the perfect quarter inch seam. I have finally achieved it, and this is my story...
So this is the basic, default foot that with my sewing machine. Naturally, that's what I used. What I never realized was that it was for 3/8". Nice, huh? You don't even want to know for how long I quilted without knowing that this wasn't a quarter inch. No wonder quilting was frustrating.
At some point I learned about the specifically designed quarter inch foot and thought all my problems would be solved. Hah! I used this one, with a guide, but it was surprisingly enough not helpful. You see, there are times when my pieces don't *quite* match up, and maybe one piece has to stick out further than a quarter inch. This foot makes it very difficult to cheat. Also, sometimes when I'm sewing a top to batting and backing for birthing purposes, I like to have a wider seam. This means changing the foot to allow that, of which I am not too fond of doing.
I think this was my metal quarter inch foot that let me use the lines on my sewing machine as a guide, which did not work real well. Hard to stay in the lines. Or maybe this is the zipper foot, it wouldn't surprise me...
Finally I got this plastic foot, which was great. It was still not an accurate quarter inch, but that was because I had not yet learned (ahem) how to adjust the needle placement on my machine. I had sorta figured out it could be adjusted, but I never could adjust it in such a way that it gave me a consistent quarter inch seam.
Then, just to keep life interesting, every so often I'd feel the need to do a zig zag stitch and wouldn't change the foot. Problem! This made the needle hit the edge of the foot. It gradually chipped away the plastic on the right edge until I *could* do a zig zag with this foot. But then one day the right edge broke off, and there I was, with no good quarter inch foot.
I do have a walking foot, and wouldn't life be easier if it gave me a true quarter inch seam? I mean, you'd think it would. If it did, I would never change it. Ever! But alas, even though it allows for the occasional zig zag, it does not help me achieve a true quarter inch, so I don't like using this foot.
I went ahead and bought this clear plastic quarter inch foot. But it doesn't allow for a zig zag, and I'm too impatient to let the needle accidentally chip off enough plastic to fix that problem. Plus, that just leads to a completely broken foot, eventually. And this foot didn't offer any coverage over the far right feed dog on my machine, giving me less traction and control. This foot, sadly, is never used.
Finally, I found this bad boy. It's actually an applique foot. The wide hole would allow zig zag, the clear plastic would ensure visibility. However, the right edge was not a quarter inch away from where the needle hit, even with adjusting (and this was after I learned how to adjust the needle's placement). Still, I was sure this foot would solve all my problems, so I emailed the seller on Amazon and asked if there wasn't some way it could be used as a quarter inch foot. They said not to their knowledge. Well, that was just the challenge i needed. I bought it, installed it, adjusted the needle, measured over to a SCANT quarter inch, and drew a line with a black Sharpie. I use that line as my guide, and the wide foot is almost as good as a walking foot. If I have to sew a hair over to the right, it's not a problem. Success at last!
These are three recent finishes that make me happy. I used fabric from my stash, fabric I'd been plotting to use for ages and am happy to have move along to a new home, specifically, to Project Linus and to some child in need.
For this quilt, I used some charm packs I got for a supergooddeal from Connecting Threads. Like so good, I had to buy them. I bought five packs in this color way, and five in another. The possibilities were endless, so much so that it's taken me YEARS to decide on a plan, which was most definitely not the plan.
Anyway, the fabric in between was from a garage sale score. I made one other quilt with this fabric. It's beautiful, all purples and blues and greens. Interestingly enough, it came on rolls of 3". It went perfectly with the charms, which were made into four patches with a snowball corner. The last charm pack I used to make the quilt longer. Not exactly a work of art here, but a finished quilt nonetheless.
Now this one is utilizing my Kaffe Fassett fabric. I used a solid piece of each, then cut little strips and made the scrappy bars. I ended up liking the scrappy bars best – they're so colorful up close! I used some blah fabric from Joann's that came in a three-yard package – called cream, it's actually pale yellow, which worked for this. The backing is turquoise blue fleece.
I used the Elmer's washable glue method of basting to attach the top to the backing, and then I stitched in turquoise around the scrappy bars. Confession: this is the most ambitious quilting I've ever done. I then did the birthing method and tied the top/batting to the backing with turquoise embroidery thread. Again, not a work of art, but done.
The sunrise baby quilt – isn't that so darn cute? I found the pattern here: http://weallsew.com/2013/02/26/sunrise-baby-quilt-ready-set-go-get-your-fabric/
One thing I learned the hard way – trimming the sides and lining them up to reattach was a little more tricky than I expected. If I had noticed that *some* of the seams match up and used that fact as a guide, it would have gone much better. But I like it, I think it's very cheery. Kudos to the pattern designer on this!
So I've been working on some quilts for a few of my daughter's teachers. My daughter is a senior this year, and there are a few people I really wanted to thank for the support they've given my girl. These people have helped her, and they've helped me as well. It's been hard to let go of her, but knowing I was releasing her into the hands of people who would take good care of her has eased the way. I am grateful for the support they've given us.
The first one is my Neutrals quilt. It's for a lady I always think of in shades of brown. Normally, I don't think of brown as pretty, but somehow she and these fabrics make brown wonderfully warm and inviting. She's kind of an unsung hero, so this quilt seems appropriate. I think it's gorgeous!
The second is called "Outside the Box," and it's a quarter log cabin block. It looks a lot harder than it is. In fact, I was pretty intimidated by the pattern, but it went together surprisingly well. The colors are bold and dramatic, which is appropriate since the recipient and I have frequently bumped heads, but still in the long run I am grateful that she continued to give her best to my daughter even when she and I were at odds.
On the Neutrals quilt, I sewed little abalone/mother of pearl buttons at strategic places, and on the Black and Burgundy, I actually applied a binding the traditional way, something I try to avoid at all costs. It was partly a triumph of fabric; there was one fabric I had intended to use but didn't have enough. This was totally my fault; I didn't measure anything in advance, I just jumped in and started sewing. In fact, in a previous post I detailed how I had to shop to find just the right fabric for the outer log because of my, uh, miscalculation. All's well that ends well, though, because I used the original fabric for the binding. It's black with red berries on it, so the red just shows up and ties it all together. Good times.
It's always sort of bittersweet to part with quilts I've made. I tell myself, though, it's better to put them in the hands of people who will use them, love them, and feel good every time they see them rather than letting the quilts take up space in my sewing room. I tell myself that multiple times when necessary!
Oh, and the pillow – no picture of that, I guess. I had actually made that teacher a quilt a few years ago and didn't want to make her another one, so my daughter suggested making her a pillow in the same fabrics. That was a pleasure, because it's my favorite fabric of all time (see it in the bar at the top of the blog) and she's one of my favorite teachers of all time. Win-win!
Every Saturday morning, I read through all my favorite blogs. I have a folder of links specifically for Blocks of the Month or any site that regularly offers free patterns, be it quilting or embroidery.
One of my favorites is called Hudson Holidays by Shirley Hudson (http://hudsonsholidays.blogspot.com/). She offers her Friday freebies, and she has patterns for sale as well. I've saved a lot of her drawings for future quilts (I have plans using the cat drawings, among others).
She had a series of words she did awhile back that inspired me. This project really came together for me (although not completely – it's not finished or anything, snort).
Anyway, not this last Christmas but the one before I had asked for perle cotton from Anna Maria Horner. I had dreams of all the beautiful things I would make with it, but of course I was hesitant to actually use it because I didn't want to use it up.
So I used this thread to embroider the words, and then I found the most perfect fabric, ON SALE, at Joann's. It coordinates perfectly with the thread on the words. I made each word into a little pillow, and then I stuffed them into a bag because I never got around to hand stitching up the little holes where I had turned them. Well, at least I'm admitting it!
Yesterday I got off my rear and did it, though. My ultimate plan is to make a mobile with them. I bought a huge (like 24" or more) wood embroidery frame at a yard sale and realized I'll never use it, it's just too big. I'm going to wrap some of the fabric around it to hide the wood, then somehow rig two sticks across it, and then I'll hang the pillows. I think it will be beautiful. It WILL be beautiful. Once it's done. Which will hopefully be soon...
I realized that it's going to be an awfully big mobile...not one just anyone can hang up. I'm thinking about giving it to my daughter's speech therapist to hang in her office (or maybe a teacher that I have in mind). I thought it would be inspirational there, plus there would be enough room. For sure it won't fit in my sewing room, and even if it would, there would only be me to see it. I think these words need to be shared with the world, and I thank Shirley Hudson for doing just that!
I came across a blog that was promoting "NEW"FO's, meaning you had the blogger's permission to start as many new projects in 2013 as you want without stressing about finishing them. I thought, this is the club for me, as I'm off to a good start with a number of projects I've started but not finished in just the last two months alone.
So there I was basking in the freedom of knowing I was free to abandon and start anew when I came across another blog celebrating the end of the "100 Day Hustle," where followers spent the last 100 days finishing as many quilt projects as they could and posted the results. Well, that inspired me enough to finish two projects and part of a third that same day!
So I guess I'm out of the first club, but I don't know how long I'll last in the second one, lol. I do like the feeling of being productive, but I like dreaming about fabric and new patterns, too. Sigh...
I'll post some pics of the things I've finished in the next day or so.
But I am working on one just like it. I was inspired, I truly was. I decided to make quilts for two teachers. Granted, I have till the end of the school year, which just started, mind you, so no stress, right?
But then I threw on two more quilts on my list of things to make, one for my nephew and one for his new wife, and I think they should be delivered by Christmas since they are wedding gifts and the wedding was early September...
Now, I have the fabric and the patterns in mind for their blankets, so that should be no problem. But I feel compelled to finish this one for the teacher, first. And I have all the blocks done, even. Took some time, I miscalculated greatly by not realizing a few things with this pattern. First, I decided to use a bunch of fabrics I had pulled together over time from my stash -- blacks, grays, creams, reds. What I didn't consider is how much of each fabric you need, and that you need more of the fabric as you work your way out on the block, because the strips are longer. So I had some fat quarters I wanted to use, and for one set I had *just enough* fabric, and for the others -- not enough. Quick change of fabric mid-way through piecing 36 blocks -- never a good thing.
One important consideration with this block is that the inner most fabric in the square and the outer most fabric should have a lot of contrast, because they are going to be touching. Duh. Didn't see this coming, and I had two reds against each other and that did not work. I had to go fabric shopping (something I normally love) to find just the right fabric to make this work (can't you just feel the other three quilts on my list of things to do drifting further and further into the background?). It took four stores to find the right fabric, and I even went to the local (very expensive and not friendly) quilt shop. Finding the right fabric was tough because the other fabrics had some white, some cream/gold, some gray -- and it had to be predominantly black but not too dark. Impossible task or what? But I found it -- a sort of viney-with-little-leaves black fabric that's kind of mottled in the background with gray and hints of cream. Perfect.
So the blocks are all done, and now? I'm afraid to sew them together. Matching the seams up is crucial in this pattern, and I -- I admit this with total honesty -- am not the most accurate quilter. I am afraid to think how these seams may NOT match up. I don't know how to even start. My instinct is to start with the middle square and make sure those four blocks go together evenly, but then what? My quilt will be six blocks wide by six deep (smaller than the picture). So do I work in quarters of the quilt, or in thirds? What has the least potential for disaster, I keep pondering.
Which brings me back to the three quilts on the back burner. I find that thinking about patterns for those quilts helps me not think about how to tackle this quilt. But I feel too guilty to start one of the others with these 36 blocks staring me in the face.
End result? No quilting getting done.
But...I have been tackling some projects for our upcoming Project Linus craft fair. I've been embroidering for pillows, and I tackled baby booties using up fleece scraps. I've done this before -- I try every pattern I can find, most don't turn out, I settle on one pattern, make a few pair, then swear I'm done with baby booties forever. Till the next craft fair. The booties are so darn cute. Even if they don't stay on a baby's feet, they are still cute for decoration, don't you think?
I just looked at the to-do list on the side bar. Geez, those three projects aren't even on my horizon anymore. I have a boatload of projects in front of them.
Here's a quick quilt I threw together for Project Linus. It was simple, using a cute print that had been donated and a nice coordinating solid. I used batting and some donated white material for the background. I did the birthing method instead of binding.
And...I wasn't paying attention, and I sandwiched them in the wrong order. Now, I've done this more than once, so it was all the more aggravating. I don't even notice until yes, after I've stitched all the way around, and yes, after I've trimmed all the excess fabric.
Then I go to turn the blanket inside out and think, "Hey...this doesn't look right."
And the only options left are to cry, to cut off the seam I've just sewn, or apply another backing through the birthing method. I chose the latter, so this is a good, heavy blanket. Ha.
I tied the corners of touching blue squares and stitched along the bottom blue rows. Nothing fancy, but sweet, warm, and cuddly. Perfect for Project Linus! And even better, no longer to
I got all ambitious and decided to make two PL quilts out of a set of eight fat quarters that I've been hanging onto for a couple of years now. One pattern is a Carpenter's Star (four blocks) and the other is a pattern whose name I don't know but that I puzzled out how to make. I figured out how to cut the fat quarters to make the best possible use of the fabric and to use it up if at all possible. Half way through this process, one of my kids interrupted me, and I had to put the whole project aside because all the information left my brain. Sigh.
I came back to it, though, got it all cut, and sewed a BUNCH of half-square triangles (and remembered why I don't like them, since each one will need trimming and there is a boatload of them). So there is a stack that needs trimming, and I am so not in the mood to trim.
I also started the other blanket and got one fourth of it done only to find I made some mathematical error so the seams don't jive quite right. And I can't even figure out what I did wrong, so it's likely I will repeat that mistake in the other three blocks, which understandably has dimmed my enthusiasm for tackling those blocks.
So instead I have decided to organize my sewing room. This consists of sitting on the spare bed and thinking of all the places where certain things could go (but not actually moving them) and going through boxes and folders of paper to throw away all the patterns that no longer interest me so I'll have room for all the new patterns I've printed out.
I did finally move some things to make more room, but I'm afraid I will find other stuff to fill the gaps. I'm good like that.
One thing I did that was proactive was to go through my stash AGAIN and pull out more fabric that I know I will probably never use. Some of it I love, but still...someone else will love it more, and I can't stand the weight of the unfinished dreams. This has all been prompted by a donation of fabric our chapter is receiving on Tuesday. I can't turn down fabric donations, I simply can't. The potential for discovering wonderful fabric is so great, and I love it. What I don't love is having too much fabric to love. So I've started selling it on the Quilting Board. It makes me feel good to get the fabric into the hands of people who really want it. I also donate anything I can to spread the wealth and encourage quilting, especially charity quilting.
I made this for the friend of a friend who is about to undergo chemo. I was told she loves purple (as do I), so I used up an assortment of purple fat quarters I had as well as a darling little print that had wreaths of purple flowers. It has the softest minkee-like fabric on the back in deep plum. The quilt kind of reminds me of grape Kool-Aid!
I started an embroidery stitchalong from this site:
I've made two princesses so far (that's what's been released). I've already cut the material for the six that I'll make. The artist figured people could make two of each pattern for a total of 12 blocks, but I'm going to stick with six.
This is the first one. When I saw it, I thought she needed to be embroidered in purple and black, but then that seemed too Halloweenish. So I forced myself to choose totally different colors and embroidered her in greens. I like her this way!
This is princess number two. When I saw her, It thought for sure she had to be embroidered in pink. But that said "ballerina" to me, not princess. So I went with blue. I'm thinking I'll do that from here on out, use colors that aren't what I'd expect myself to use.