Monday, March 10, 2014

Walking in the Park

Michele Scaife's photo.

   When my babies were born, our first outings were usually walks. Long walks in the park calmed many a fussy baby and frazzled mother- we loved them so much, they were weekly events. Even when they started to grow, those walks remained.
   Staring at the fabric chosen for this baby quilt, a vision slowly came together. As a mom, my babies and I walked in the park; as a grandma, my grandbabies and I can walk in the park as well. Why not?

     Thus the idea grew. Lush green patches of branch and flower dot the landscape of a simple baby quilt. Puzzled pathways weave here and there offering a place to travel or a corner to stop and gaze. In the background and border, wild flowers dot the earth welcoming bees to buzz and butterflies to flutter. To accentuate the motif, quilting boarders the seems keeping the eye on the paths and plots.
   This weekend found me in a crazed quilting frenzy attempting to complete a baby quilt before the shower started. It came right down to the wire, but everything came together in the end! Handing it over to our mommy-to-be, I hand over the hopes of happy memories snuggled beneath a comfy quilt and long, lovely afternoons walking in the park.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Calculating the Bias

     Quilting this took me way longer that it should have! Being less familiar/confident with machine quilting and school starting definitely slowed me down. Despite the fact I would rather have hand quilted it, the stitching looks amazing and the pattern is beautiful. Time to trim the edges and set the binding in order. Over the years I read several books and blogs with tips and trends for determining binding length; taking bits and pieces here and there to make my own way.

   First let me say I generally use the continuous bias binding method; two inch cut. After piecing the fabric strips together the continuous binding strip is folded in half and pressed. Raw edges are sewn to the front edge of the quilt with mitered corners and a hidden overlap at the ends. The binding is now turned to the back and hand stitched in place. To find how much is needed a little math comes into play.

* add the measurements of all four sides of the quilt
* to that # add 15" for joining seams and finishing edges
   this # gives the length of binding needed for the quilt
* to this # multiply the width of your binding (mine is 3")
* find the square root of that # and you have the yardage needed

   Like I said, I have no idea where this formula came from but it works wonders! Also has excellent charts for yardage yields for bias cut bindings. I keep a copy in my binder for shopping trips; this makes remnant bin opportunities mindful purchases:)
   Now, I'm off to finish the bias binding on the spring picnic quilt because so many other projects are calling my name!!!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Practice Before You Start

    A quilt takes hours upon hours to piece together making it somewhat valuable and precious, to me anyway. After all that work I am in no hurry to quilt a design I am not fully comfortable with, especially if I am using my machine. Due to the possibility this quilt will receive wash and wear I decided to machine quilt it instead of hand quilting..meaning, I need to practice before I start. 
    Before quilting a design, I sketch it on paper several times running the pencil along the path my needle with take. This works with machine or hand quilting designs, helping me determine the most efficient path to follow for fewer thread breaks and stable quilting. I have hand quilted the Baptist fan design before, but this will be my first ever machine version. 

    Today's video gives you a glimpse over my shoulder at my machine set up and pattern of stitching. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Setting the Machine

     While it is true that I am primarily a hand quilter, machine quilting does cross my workstation from time to time. Early in my quilting days there was absolutely no place for machine work- I was quite biased in my stance against it. These days, modern convenience and consumer request have made it necessary to learn the skill.
      The first thing I learned early on it that any machine can be used for quilting any size project and I have quilted all kinds of sizes. True- smaller projects are easier, however, larger ones are just as successful. Let's look at a few items I have come to love in machine quilting and set up the home machine before we work.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

How I Determine a Quilt Motif

     Once a quilt top is pieced, basted, and ready for the quilting stitches we really need to have a plan for those anchoring stitches. I admit that planning the motif, or design for the quilting stitches, begins as soon as my fabric is chosen. While I cut and piece the pieces of a quilt I am also familiarizing myself with not only the piecing design, but the design of the fabric as well.
      The first spring picnic quilt was made as a prototype for simplicity. I wanted this quilt to be very basic and an example of how easy a quilt can be. With that purpose in mind, the quilting was done in the most basic pattern- stitch in the ditch. This motif can be done by hand or machine depending upon the purpose and usage the quilt might face. Quilts used by children or infants may face more wear and washing than a throw or decorative quilt. Large bed quilts are not generally washed on a regular basis and lend well to hand work. This orange quilt was machine quilted since it may face regular laundering.
      Let's take a look at the blue version of our spring picnic quilt. The fabric here has many circular elements; paisley, flowers, etc...yet, the actual piecing design is angular. Considering this, we could stay in the ditch accenting the piecing...or we could ignore the piecing lines accenting the fabric design. If we really wanted to go crazy and creative, we could ignore the whole thing and design quilting that creates a scene such as boats, a flower garden, picnic items with ants marching along.
      To keep it simple, I have decided to stitch this quilt with an all over, edge to edge, design known as 'Baptist fans'. This design offers a softness to the angular design, yet leaves the circular fabric designs in tact. This motif can easily be stitched by hand or machine and is rather quick to complete. Being round in nature, I would not hand quilt this design in a quilt frame, but use a hoop for ease and flexibility.

       I encourage you to take time deciding your quilt sure you are comfortable stitching the angles or curves, and feel free to practice the design before trying it on the actual quilt. Next week I will demo two methods of machine stitching and how I set my machine for those tasks.  

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Time for Basting!

     This weekend found me tearing out the dead parts of our vegetable garden and watching another one of my kids pack up and prepare to leave. Needless to say, I have been very distracted lately with little attention to the things I enjoy- like quilting. Time to set aside the crazy and get down to business. We have a quilt to prepare.
      First things first. One the quilt top is complete, batting and backing chosen, the task of ironing must be done. I dislike ironing with great disdain, yet, it is necessary here. Previously I mentioned never starching a quilt set for hand quilting. I tried it and it worked just fine, so starch if you feel the need; it won't hurt either way. Ironing aside, tumble the batting in your dryer a few minutes on a light or air setting to shake the creases out.
      After the video I realized there was a nasty crease in the back, so I had to take pins out and do it over again. It happens to all of us, so don't be discouraged if it happens to you. I will post the previous video on basting just in case anyone needs a review. I'm off to plan the quilt design...let's go baste!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Let's Talk Backing

    This week has already started with ridiculous heat and a very tired me. A good pick me up or any dreary mood is quilting, and today we need to wrap our mind around the subject of quilt backing. I always believed the back side of a quilt was the one nobody really cared about.
    My heirloom antique style quilts are backed in traditional muslin. This rather natural and neutral approach feels light and homey, lending well to the thousands of tiny hand stitches that span it's space. For years this was my only backing plan; colors or pieced back fabric was not even a consideration.
    Recently the back of my quilts sported print and pattern. Staying close to my comfort zone, the fabric was mild in tone and very lending to the stitch patterns. When planning our spring picnic quilt, I left the back rather open and unassuming, unsure where your tastes may lie.
    These days many quilts sport flirty fun prints all over their backsides. My orange version of spring picnic hosts a soft cream back with small circular patterns- just a faint hint of yellow and brown. So how do you plan for a back? Well, you have to look hard.
    First things first. What are the dominant colors of the quilt top? Above, orange seems to jump out at me on first glance, followed by the blue pieces. Generally, I don't use the dominant color from the front allowing that to be the entire quilt's focal color. Instead, I look for the lighter elements. Here yellow, green, and a hint of brown are present as well as spots of cream.
     The reality is- it is your quilt and how or what you place on the back of it is entirely up to you. Some quilters add an applique or even a pieced strip into their backing as a way of giving a new unique touch. Here is where you could use the left over scraps from cutting the squares. My blue version of spring picnic didn't have much excess to speak of, so that isn't an option for this back.
      A few key points others have shared:
     **when in doubt, yellow always pulls it together. It seems the soft hint of yellow goes well with any quilt top color pallet.
     **decide your desire. Do you want it to seem almost reversible? Or a blended complement? My thought is- stick to the color pallet.
     **confidence is key. How confident are you with your quilting. Patterned or figured backing fabric will forgive any error and hide awkward or uneven stitches.
     **there are no rules. If you like it..use it. The quilt police will not come to your door and charge you with poor fabric choice.

      Take time this week to play with the idea of backing your quilt; no need to rush. Consider the elements, the colors, even the motifs on the top and settle in good with the choice you make.