Forest Galorest

I loved this pattern from Java House Quilts the first time I saw it.  If you love it as well, you can purchase it yourself here.  I started working on this quilt back in September.  The applique would be needle-turned, meaning by hand.  The edges would be turned under and stitched down by hand vs fusing down a raw edge applique onto the background and machine finishing the edges (a tedious, but much quicker method).  I figured it would take me about 2 years to finish; a nice project for me to work on in the evenings before bedtime.  My daughter was going to start “trying” to get pregnant soon.  Maybe this would make a nice baby quilt.  If she never conceived, I could keep this quilt for myself (trying not to get my hopes up).  Her older sister took several years of trying to conceive naturally and then several attempts of in vitro before getting pregnant.  So, 2 years… I would have plenty of time to casually work on this quilt.

Then, in October, she told me she was pregnant.  Or, was it late September?  She was due June 2nd.  I was shocked, floored.  Surely, it was too soon to know for sure… a false positive…  I admit it.  One of my first thoughts was about this quilt.  How on earth would I get it done in time?  It has plenty of big pieces but also LOTS of tiny pieces.  I figured I’d better get busy.  As I got farther and farther into this quilt, I was kicking myself for not machine appliqueing it.  It is what it is.  And, I am done now.  I’m late for the arrival, but I am done.  He’s about a week old now and a cutie patooty!

The question once I finished it was how to quilt it.  The more quilting you do on a quilt, the more thread you add to that quilt and the heavier and stiffer it gets.  This was for a baby, so I wanted it to be soft… or at least as soft as I could make it and still add details to it.  You will notice there are plenty of gaps in the quilting where it seems like there should be more quilting.  That was intentional to prevent the quilt from becoming too stiff and heavy.  I stitched down enough to give the effect of what I wanted and then let the rest go.  Sometimes you’ve just gotta “let it go.” 😉  My desired effect was playful, yet polished.

Simple swirls were stitched inside the appliqued blocks around the animals and flowers.  My instinct was to put something formal on the outside edges of the pieced blocks, but I ended up putting animal paws there instead.  They are not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s okay (Let it go!).  The way you make these animal paws is to stitch a curvy triangle with 2 ovals going up one side and 2 ovals going back down the other side, all as a continuous path with no starts and stops.

 

What should I do with those outside odd blocks along the border?  I could have added nature scenes, but that would involve intense stitching.  It needed to be open and flowing.  So, I opted for something formal and polished in those areas; feathers and curved cross-hatching.  Traditional feathers would be nice, but I chose bumpy ones to mimic butterfly wings.

I did sneak some playfulness into some of those areas.

 

As for the borders, I started at the bottom and stitched a very loose fern to mimic a grassy look.

Moving up the sides, I stitched pine trees on the left by the raccoons and bear.  My pine trees got worse as I stitched more and more of them (Let it go!) up towards the owl.

On the right, I transitioned the ferns into leafy vines to meet the squirrels at the top.

At the top I transitioned the leafy vines to meet the rays of whatever that circle thing is around the owl’s head.  It could be the moon.  Or, it could be the sun.  Whatever your imagination sees is what it is.

A couple of notes… as far as the binding goes, I had a hard time deciding which fabric to choose.  I finally decided that I wanted to see that darker blue repeated somewhere in the quilt.  It’s one of my funny idiosyncrasies; I believe you need to repeat fabrics in a quilt to make it look more polished or professional.  So, I chose that darker blue for the border and had intended to make a piping of the pale blue stripes that you see very little of in the quilt.  The pale blue stripes are around the little square blocks where I stitched curved cross-hatching and also in the corners of the border.  To get that effect, you create a faux piping within the binding.  Here’s a tutorial by Margo Clabo from “The Quilt Show” of how to create that.  For whatever reason, I decided I wanted to go with 1/4″ piping, so I cut my strips at 1 3/4 inch for the pale blue stripes and 1 1/4 inch for the solid blue – after stitching the strips together and then folding that wider pieced strip, I’d have a 1/4″ piping instead of 1/8″ inch piping.  That was a mistake.  It turned out to be a flange.  There’s nothing wrong with a flange, but I was worried about it flapping around.  So, I stitched it down.  I’m okay with that.  It still looks fine (Let it go!), and I still get to see both of those fabrics along the border.

Also, if you are wondering how I place appliques on their blocks, I draw out the original design onto a piece of plastic first.  This particular piece is one of those pieces of plastic that hold papers together with a strip of hard colored plastic, while the clear plastic acts like a folder for the papers.  I use a vis-a-vis marker which stays on there until I run water across it.  I don’t know whether or not a dry erase marker would work.  If you have tried that and it does, please speak up in the comments.

My goal is to teach you something new with my posts, if I can.  So, I hope you learned something today!

 

Square Peg in a Round Hole

Reposted from my other site.

Susan inherited this quilt top from her dad and step-mom. You can obviously see that the design flows into kind of a “sweep”.  But, to me, it looked like it could have been a Native American design.  The design is merely different colored squares sewn together into an interesting design.

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Susan already had the PERFECT thread for this quilt.  The colors matched perfectly. When I got it home and threaded the machine and put the first stitch into the quilt, I realized it was thicker than any thread I’ve used.  And, I was worried.  It took some coaxing to get the thread to go through the quilt layers, but once I got it going it worked like a charm…and didn’t break, not once!

I’m glad Susan decided on a Native American quilting design.  And, you know what?  That thick thread REALLY showed off the design in the light-colored border.  And, the batik border fabric is a wonderful companion to the quilting design and Susan’s thread.   Edge-to-Edge quilting used the wavy lines and the stepping stones under the sun in the border design.

I don’t remember ever getting the chance to quilt a Native American design into a quilt, so this was a lot of fun to do.  If you’re wondering where to find the border design, I took one of Meadowlyon Designs’ pantographs (named Modern Southwest) that you can find here.  Their pantograph is 10 1/2″ tall, but the border of Susan’s quilt was 7 inches, I think.  So, what I did was make a smaller copy of one repetition in the pantograph.  I then traced it onto Golden Threads Quilting Paper (you can buy it from their website and other stores) and pinned it to the quilt top.  I wanted a cornerstone, so I took the bird , enlarged it in different sizes to find the size that worked best and then traced it onto the quilting paper as well and then stitched through the quilting paper. In the past, I’ve used vellum, tracing paper, Press ‘n Seal, etc for marking quilts.  But, I had this on hand and it was just sitting on the shelf, so I thought I’d try it.  I actually really like it.  The paper is a soft yellow, which blends with lots of colors, believe it or not.  When you pull the paper off, it doesn’t leave as much paper behind, and the paper isn’t a bright white.  Judge for yourself if the end product (quilting shown in the pictures above) turned out okay.

I said earlier that Susan inherited this quilt top from her dad and step-mom.  Well, here’s something you don’t realize you need or would like to have until you get it.  They left their quilt tops in “kits” with batting, thread, and backing included on many of the quilts; ready to be quilted.  And, check out this batting!  I was floored.  How cool is that! The batting is marked so I know which way to load it (you need more from roller to roller than you do side to side, because the rollers will use more batting – you can read more about that in my blog post “Oops! Please Add More Batting!“).

I have a tip for loading quilt backing.  I like to load backing fabric so the selvages attach to the rollers. The reason I like to do that is because the width (weft) of the fabric has a little more stretch than the length (warp) of the fabric.  When I load the backing fabric to the canvas of the rollers, the fabric will stretch some.  It stretches even more if I load the quilt with the width going side to side rather than roller to roller – that produces a “waistline”, as I call it, on the backing fabric.  See how the top of the fabric in this picture is stretched more?  That’s because it is attached to the roller canvas.  The rest is not attached to anything yet.  I lay batting on top of the backing fabric and then stitch a straight line across the top of the batting so that I can get the edge of the quilt top straight.  I then baste the top down.  After that, I will check to make sure the sides of the quilt top are straight and will stitch it down.  AFTER it’s stitched down, I attach stretchy clamps to the sides of the backing fabric to hold it taut – that’s what helps keep wrinkles out of the backing fabric, where you can’t see it as you roll the quilt.  So, what will happen is the backing fabric will have more of an “hourglass figure” if I load the backing with the width (weft) of the fabric going side to side than it will if I load the backing with the length (warp) of the fabric going side to side.  And, the selvages have the extra thickness in its weave, so that adds to the strength where it’s attached to the roller canvas.  The difference it makes for the quilt maker is that if there’s a seam down the back, it might not end up straight.

 

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One of the best parts of my job is the variety of quilt tops and quilting designs that I get to work with each day.  I learn something new with each one.  I had a lot of fun with this one.

To the Moon and Back

Reposted from my other site

This is another quilt I should have put up on my design wall before quilting it, because the colors and the pattern are striking.

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Kathy called this her Universe quilt.  It has the 4 quadrants in colors.  Do you see the circles of color in the blues down in the lower left?  Those look like planets, too, and all the mottled batiks in the borders look, to me, like an Aurora Borealis.  So, how would you quilt this?

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The colors are so magnificent, that it’s hard to see the quilting, but I decided to stitch a stun into the upper right hand (yellow) corner with the 9 planets circling around it.  The orbiting circles are anything but perfect.  I hand drew them on with chalk and then stitched following the chalk lines.

In the purple down in the lower right is where I put Earth and its circling moon.  Can you see it?  The moon’s orbit is elliptical, so maybe if you find that semi-sideways oval, you’ll see the big circle inside, which is Earth.  I also drew the Big and Little Dipper with the North Star to the lower left of Earth.  Of course, my ADD brain struggled with which way to put those stars (they’re not in correct proportion anyway)…as I am looking at them on the quilt?  Or as I would look at them if I were on Earth?  I also put shooting stars and meteors in the quilt, but you can’t see them here.  The backing on the quilt did a good job of hiding them, too, which I’m always glad for, because my pea brain talks smack to me about my quilting abilities.

This particular quilt was a good example of some of the strategies I used for getting a quilt squared up as it rolls on the frame for the quilting machine.  And, since you can’t see the quilting too much, I thought I’d add some tips here.

First off, this quilt has lots of straight lines.  I use those lines to guide me to getting the quilt straight.  I’ll explain the tape measure in a bit, but for now, take a look at the lower edge of the picture.  That’s where the lower roller bar lies.  I use the lines in the quilt to help me gauge whether or not the quilt is straight going across.

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I’m sure I’ve showed you before the laser level I use to make sure the lines are straight as well.

I used to use these white clips on the rear roller bar to help me with placement of blocks and borders as I quilted, but, unless you find a way to make them stay put, they roll and move.  By the way, if you look closely at the edges of the quilt top, you will see a line of basting on the batting.  There are 3 roller bars on my machine’s frame.  The backing fabric is attached to 2 rollers; one at the bottom and one above this black roller you see in the picture below.  That roller is used to keep the fabric in place at it rolls. So, first, I attach the backing fabric to the canvases that are attached to those 2 rollers.  Then, I lay the batting on top of the backing fabric.  I use my channel locks to stitch a straight line across the top of the batting – it helps to have a dark thread for this so you can see it better.  That is my guide for where to butt the quilt top fabric up against.  I then pin the quilt top fabric in place and then stitch it down about 1/4 inch along the edge.  I’d like to make it 1/8 inch, but I’m just not that good.

As for the tape measure, I use that as a guide for where to stitch the sides in place.  When I get the top stitched down, I use my laser level to tell me where to butt the sides up to and then stitch the sides down to about 12 inches from the top.  Then I see where the sides hit the tape measure and write those numbers down.  I use those numbers for placement of the rest of the quilt along the sides.

A machine quilter’s job involves a lot more than just quilting.  The above tips are just a sampling of the many things we do when we work on your quilt.

Rotary Ruler Cutter Review

You may or may not remember that I will be vending at the Kansas City Regional Quilt Festival in June over Father’s Day weekend.  I had planned for a year now to get things made for the quilt festival but haven’t had much luck at all in finding time to do that.  Plus, my daughter is pregnant and due June 2nd.  The doctors have decided that they will not let her go past her due date.  She has Gestational Diabetes and they figure the baby’s size if 1 week ahead of schedule.  So, the baby may come early.  In any case, I have that coming up to worry think about as well.  I haven’t had time to make any baby quilts or anything else for the baby or my daughter, let alone make anything for the quilt festival.

Well… I guess I could just hand out business cards and flyers about my quilting business…  What I finally figured out, though, is that I don’t have to MAKE stuff to sell.  I could sell retail stuff, so that is mainly what I will be doing.  I’m still going to try to get some home decor made (wall decorations that look like buttons – in case you didn’t know, I also dabble in woodworking), but we will see how that goes with everything else going on this next month.  Oh, I almost forgot!  I created a couple of ruler templates for use with a longarm quilting machine.  I imagine it could also be used with sit-down machines, but I haven’t tried that yet.  The rulers should be ready sometime this next week.  I plan on selling those at the quilt festival as well.

For now, I’d like to share with you 2 of the products I will be selling.  They are both Rotary Ruler Cutters, but they are made by different companies.  The one on the left is made by Fiskars (note the orange handle), and the one on the right is made by Havel’s.  They look like paper cutters for scrap booking, don’t they?  But, these are for fabric… unless someone in your household mistakenly uses them for paper.  The good news is that you can swap the blade out for a new one.

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At first I was drawn to the one made by Havel’s because of the color of the handle.  I figured they were both the same, so why not go for purple?  Well, if you look closely at the rulers, you will see the markings for measurements are a little different.  Which one do you like better so far?  They both have good qualities.

Then there are the way the blades go on and come off.  The Fiskars has a screw nut on it like most of my other rotary rulers; I don’t know if you have that or not.  But, for me, it is familiar.

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Havel’s has a white cover that has a turn dial for you to remove to get to the blade.  This is a nice safety feature, but it took me awhile to figure out how to work it, even after reading the instructions.

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Fiskar’s safety feature comes in the form of a separate blade changer, which costs extra.  I’m guessing it is optional,  but it’s a nice feature to have.  The picture on the left is the blade changer.  You can see how to use it on the back of the package and also on the back of the box of the rotary ruler combo.

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Another nice feature of the Fiskar’s is that it has a carrying handle – I like that.

 

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Let’s go back to the original picture and look at the one on the right made by Havel’s in the picture below.  If you notice, Fiskars ruler is all plastic, while Havel’s has a metal strip along the short end where you can hang it up.  They both have holes for hanging, but the metal strip under the hanging hole of Havel’s cutter is kind of nice, and it has smooth, safe edges.  Let’s talk about length.  Havel’s says their ruler is 6″ wide x 27 1/2″ in length to cover an entire width of a fabric bolt – it’s nice that the ruler runs over the ends of the fabric you are cutting.  Fiskar’s says their ruler is 6″ x 24″, but I think that is for the actual measuring part.  If you look closely you will see that the Fiskar’s ruler is almost the same length of the Havel’s and Havel’s ruler is 24″ long.

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Both rulers are good for either right-handed folks or for left-handed folks with numbers going both ways, and they both use 45 mm rotary blades.

I think the best part of both of these rulers is the no-slip grip strip along the side of ruler that the blade runs along.  Look along the bottom of the metal edge of the Fiskar’s rotary ruler combo, just above the plastic ruler.  Do you see that dark strip?  Both rulers have this, and I LOVE it, because as you are pushing down on the handle above the rotary blade, it runs right along that strip, making it hug to the fabric.

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And, as you can see from the before and after pictures below, you get a nice, smooth cut.

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Now for prices… Havel’s rotary ruler combo sells for $71.43.  Fiskar’s sells for $59.99.  Fiskar’s also has one of these in a square size (12 in. x 12 in.) that sells for $54.99.  It cuts on one side just like the longer ruler.  I haven’t seen it in use yet, so I don’t know what to make of the benefit of the square other than it is wider, which is nice.  Fiskar’s separate Blade Changer comes with 5 new blades and has the ability to store up to 6 dull blades.  It costs $29.99.

I have 2 Fiskar’s rotary ruler combos and 2 Havel’s rotary ruler combos for a total of 4 rotary ruler combos, and I have one Fiskar’s blade changer; all of which I will have for sale in my booth (#436) at Kansas City Regional Quilt Festival.   Whatever I don’t sell will be on my website after the quilt festival.  I will also have a rotary mat and some fabric there so customers can try each of these rotary rulers out for themselves.  I think it’s a great tool for those of us with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Arthritis and other wrist, arm, and hand issues.  You don’t have to buy one; you are welcome to just try them out.

I will have a lot of other goodies for sale in my booth.  I will try to get a picture of some of the items soon and post a picture for you.  Most of the stuff will be gift items and hard-to-find notions such as Rebecca Barker Quiltscapes and Sister Quilter greeting cards, wall stickers for quilters, car decals for quilters, Laurel Burch bags, pins with numbers (to put on your stacks of pieces to help you keep track of what order to sew – I’ll have to get a good picture of that to share with you later), a few Creative Grids rulers, woolies curlers, walnut shells for making pincushions, etc.

I hope you’ll be in the neighborhood Father’s Day weekend.  I’d love for you to stop by so I can meet you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marian’s Spring Bouquet

If you’ve ever heard of Edyta Sitar from Laundry Basket Quilts, you know she creates masterpieces from scraps.  Marian recently made a quilt from Edyta’s pattern “Spring Bouquet.”  If you like what you see in this post, you can find the pattern at Laundry Basket Quilts here.

Let’s start out with a full shot, so you can really start drooling.

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As you can see, there are what looks to me like a gazillion pieces, many of them tiny.  I know this must have taken some time for Marian to complete.

Before I get on to the close-ups of Marian’s quilt, I want to show you a trick I use when quilting.  I have a couple of laser lights for making sure I get things square.  I have a laser square that I use for blocking quilts.  You can see how I use that here. Yes, it’s a tool you can find at your local hardware store; a place I get several other tools for my quilting work.  But, for when I don’t have the room for the laser square such as when I’m working on my quilting machine’s frame, I use another laser tool like this in the lower right of the picture below.  These can also be used for making sure you hang pictures straight across a wall.  I use it to line up seams and borders as I am moving along the quilt.  I can run my fingers along that laser line and nudge the top this way or that if it needs it.

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So, let’s take a look at some quilting I did along the borders so you can see what I did with Marian’s quilt.

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And, then we’ll move a little inside the borders.

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I know Marian didn’t want any stitching inside the applique (some people do, some people don’t), but see those daisy looking flowers on the right in the picture below?  I couldn’t control myself and had to tack that center down.  It was trying to fly off the quilt.  Honestly, I usually try very hard to give the customer what he or she wants, but, since she was putting this in a show, I thought it might detract from the beauty of Marian’s work.  So, I stitched it down. <big breath>

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Until we get to the middle…

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If you would like to drool on see this quilt in person, Marian has entered it into the Kansas City Regional Quilt Festival held at the Overland Park Convention Center next month…June 19 – 21.  For more information on the quilt festival, check them out here.

 

 

Flaming Guitars

My latest customer quilt is for Mary’s grandson.  Mary has done a wonderful job of combining colors to match her black fabric with musical notes.  I think she is using up her scraps; smart lady!  Anyhow, she paired the musical notes fabric with another black fabric that has guitars on it.  Here’s a shot of the whole quilt and a couple of close-ups.  Mary was very open to whatever I wanted to quilt on this, but this time we were looking at quilting something other than musical notes.  This is for her 10-year-old grandson.  What kind of stitching would you quilt on this?  The backing is a fire red, so I thought flames would work alright on this quilt.

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I snuck in a surprise down towards the bottom in the middle.  I put it in a place where it wouldn’t be obvious – you’d have to search to find it.  I wasn’t sure if her grandson would be frightened by it or think it was cool.  I’ll turn it over to the back so you can see what it is before I show you the front.  The orangey-red (flame red) is the actual color of the backing, but you can see the picture better in the second picture.

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I needed a template for adding this to the stitching, so I drew the flaming skull out onto vellum paper and then pinned it down before stitching it.  I avoid marking on my customers quilts unless I can find no alternative.  It’s just too risky.

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As you can see (or maybe you can’t – that’s the idea), after pulling the paper off, you have to really look to find the skull.

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If you are interested in seeing this process in action, I have a video of me doing this on my YouTube Channel.  You can find that video here.  I hope this helps you learn some strategies for marking (without marking ON) your quilt top for quilting.

Hearts and Flowers Stitched with Love

Jane brought me this to me at our last guild meeting.  Her sister had embroidered the blocks and it was (is) her sister’s first quilt.  We could have done a lot of different quilting on this quilt, but I think perhaps Jane didn’t want to overwhelm her sister with too much fluff (smart thinking!), so we kept it simple.

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You can see that Jane’s sister embroidered cross-stitched hearts along with Lazy Daisy flowers in the blocks.  We figured cross-hatch quilting would pick up the cross-stitching and some fun flowers would pick up the embroidered flowers.  So, Jane opted for quilted flowers in the background of the blocks and cross-hatching in the sashing (strips of different fabric in the areas between the blocks) that also extend out into the borders. She is planning on cutting a curved border – you can see the markings for that in this close-up.  I also repeated the cross-hatching in the center of the embroidered hearts.  Simple, but fun!

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While I was working on this quilt, I made sure I had everything lined up so the quilt would be “square” (actually, a rectangle, but for quilter’s wanting straight edges along all borders… “square”) by using a laser square.  You can see how as I rolled the quilt on the quilt frame, I used the laser square to make sure the quilt is rolled how I would want it to end up square, with the rows and columns all straight.  I used the seams as my guide.  It seams were a little off, I would gently nudge them into straight lines with my fingers.

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If you haven’t borrowed (forever borrowed) the laser square from the toolbox in your garage, put it on your wish list, because I have found it to come in handy for a lot of quilting strategies.