Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Rackm' - Stackm' - Sew

Many quilters have their own method of power sewing. I am no different. We all need a way to complete projects faster and efficiently. Most of us have this little "anal" voice deep inside, we just need to concentrate and draw "it" out. Bonnie Hunter, with Quiltville fame, has to be the Queen of power sewing. She shares her methods in patterns, books and of course her website.

Here is my favorite power sewing method, Rackm' - Stackm' - Sew.

From the design wall, I label each column with a number (sometimes I label rows). Junk mail is my favorite source of making labels -- and a stick pin.

Starting from the top, stack them -- all of them, first by columns, then combine them into one or two stacks.
Above is my Blue blocks all stacked and ready for power sewing. Because this top is on-point, I pin the inset triangles to the first and last block -- I have learned, those little boogers are the first to get sewn on wrong if you are not concentrating. (Sorry, I have no idea why the picture loads upside down!)

I leave the stacks in the box as I pull them out to join. They won't get out of order or easily knocked over. This is the perfect time to use them as "Leaders and Enders" (source: Bonnie Hunter, Quiltville). They store nicely in case you have to set the project aside. I have also collected plastic boxes for the larger blocks.

Above are a few columns all sewn from my red top. Next step is to sew the columns together. Now here is my secret to the "snuggle" joining. We are taught to press the seams in one direction, which helps the joining seams "snuggle" and match nicely. Because I have this little anal voice telling me to "snuggle" -- this is important --- I PRESS ODD NUMBERED COLUMNS TOWARDS THE TOP, AND PRESS EVEN NUMBERED COLUMNS TOWARDS THE BOTTOM! If you make up these little rules (your own little rules) and consistently use them, they become habit.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Indigo - Finished!

The Monochromatic Challenge, hosted by Judy at Patchwork Times is moving along. The Indigo is now finished. I loved quilting this one! There are all these open spaces to go crazy with feathers. For the medium floral sections, kept the feathers simple since they would not show.

Although looking at this, there seems to be only three fabrics used, indigo, medium floral and white -- actually, there are five. The real reason was that I did not have enough of one indigo. However as a scrappy quilter, it logically needed more variety.

And the back -- a simple floral.

For more Friday progress, visit Sarah at Confessions of a Fabric Addict.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

"GO TO" Pattern - Part 2

Here is my Short Stack System -- the plastic drawers are around 13 x 13.

I stash the Short Stack pieces, by Black Cat Creations, in each of the drawers, then when I have enough of one theme (or color like this one) they are arranged on the design wall, labeled by rows and each block is stored between paper towels until I need them (open drawer on the left) -- even the borders are cut.

The one above was cut out last year and stored for later assembly -- almost done.

Phyllis and her granddaughter Alexis started working on this one last week.

And lastly -- here is another one I made for my husband, Christmas 2009. I guess it is obvious this is one of my favorite "GO TO" Patterns -- so what is yours?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My "GO TO" Pattern!

Asking around .... I believe several quilters have a "GO TO" pattern. You know, the pattern which can be made into a striking top when you need a gift. I have a few favorites, however my all time favorite is "Short Stacks", by Black Cat Creations. Between my sister Phyllis and I, we have made over 20.

The pink/black/green variation has been made four times -- above are my two great nieces modeling their matching bed covers. This color style works for older girls also -- the other two were made for teenage nieces.

The one above is a favorite, now owned by my niece Missy -- all Black and Whites. We have made 2 in these colors.

This one was made by sister Phyllis for her husband using a variety of sailing fabrics. The outside border came from our grandmother's stash and was dated 1987 -- perfect.

The oriental is on Phyllis's KING SIZE BED! This one was a whopper. Again, we have made several using the oriental fabrics.

Although I can't show all of the Scrappy Short Stacks, the one above is ready for gifting. We have a system of cutting larger scraps into the Short Stack sizes and storing them away for later. Tomorrow I will show you the system and two more "SS" Phyllis is working on.

Now ... the cool part ..... in case you are wondering why I have decided to share my favorite "GO TO" pattern. On Saturday, while volunteering at the Quilting Niche for their annual Shop Hop, I met one of the owners of Black Cat Creations -- Amy Cotham!!!!!! It is a small world! Amy has also started a blog -- be sure to hop over and sign up to follow her. She also shared one of the Short Stacks hanging at the Quilting Niche made by Janelle -- one of the talented ladies from the Niche'.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Quilt Surgery - My Way

A friend brought me this quilt for help. Susan had purchased it several years ago on a vacation to the East Coast....lots of piecing and hand quilted. The hand quilting was done about 10" apart using large quick stitching. Lovingly used and washed, all of the 2" patches shriveled, several seams separated and some patches even shredded.

I counted no less than 25 areas the sewing had come undone and much more weakened seams. I had two options, hand mend each 2" block and patch over those shredded. OR ... undo all of the hand quilting and work with just the top.

As you can see, I started from scratch and undid all of the hand quilting -- that was a several months ago. I washed, dried and pressed the backing to remove the creases from stitching. Next, pressed the top being very careful not to stretch the bias pieced border. WHEW! --- that was a few months ago. Since then, I have pulled from my stash and tried to match the shredded 2" blocks, replacing several -- a few at a time. Next, I have started resewing all of the open and weak seams.

Almost done, now comes the decision to hand quilt or machine quilt. If I choose to hand quilt, she may not see this quilt for another year. The quilt is not an antique, so the choice will be to machine quilt .... something close together to bind the small patches and give Susan many more years of use .... keeping in tack the memories of one of her special vacations.

Is this truly quilt surgery? a little nip-tuck? or a major plastic surgery makeover? Don't look for the answers too soon, I still have a long way to go.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Quilting with Home Machine - My Way

Above is my Indigo Monochromatic top being quilted. For this design, I doodled on scrap paper, cut a template for a curve and used a medicine bottle cap for tracing a circle. I only traced the circle, the square in the middle and the curve -- all the feathers are free-hand.
  • First, I use x-large garden gloves with the little rubber bumps. They grip great and they go on/off real easy. Mine came from a local dollar store.
  • I also made my own sewing machine "drop-in" about 12 years ago and it is the greatest thing for home machine quilting. You need a flat space to work with -- larger than the small sewing machine area. This is a link to the "drop-in" -- if you check it out, notice how worn out it is!
  • Next, I use lots of safety pins -- all sizes (I am not a pin snob). I have a utility table (30 x 72 -- the top is about 3/4" thick) that stays at the end of my king size bed. I sandwich on the bed then my DH helps me slide the quilt over to the table.
  • I clip the quilt on the table with big paper binding clips. Big enough to get around the table. I am careful to stretch the backing and always start in the middle. After pinning all around the table, I shift the pin the sides, constantly making sure the backing is very tight.
  • To make the table taller (I am 5'7"), I added plumbers 10" PVC pipe on the legs.
  • A BIG step ... always pass your batting through the dryer with a small wet towel and NO BOUNCE -- you WANT the static cling!!! As you sandwich on the bed, additional static will build up while you are smoothing the layers. One of my friends uses a little wisk broom to smooth the layers.
  • Never roll your quilt -- always make sure it is loose on the table and able to slide around. I have also waxed the table top using spray starch. Go figure!
  • I practice a LOT of doodling with pen and paper. Junk mail has a purpose in my house.
  • Start small -- we have 2 cats, so I have made several 30 x 30 quilts for them to sleep on. I change them out constantly and throw them in the washer/dryer often. As your confidence builds, so will the size of your quilts.
  • Don't worry if you have a few tucks in the beginning. Keep a ripper close by and check the back often to catch the tucks as soon as possible. If you need to, re-position the safety pins after smoothing. When I first started, I also stitched in the ditch to hold everything together about 10 - 12" apart -- for example, around the big blocks, then went back and doodled all over the place.
  • Try and keep your stitches even. In the beginning, it will be hard -- but try this: Keep the "pace" in your head with counting techniques. 1-2-3, 1-2-3 -- like learning to dance. The rhythmic counting helps to stay focused. Also watch out for those curves. When you are driving a car and coming around a curve, you tend to slow down on the approach, then speed up going around (especially when you are familiar with the road -- admit it -- you do!).
  • Keep a sketch book of favorite doodles. I have also taken pictures of beautiful wall paper for inspiration. My I-phone is full.
  • My way is not the only way. Different does not mean wrong -- just different.
  • Can I do anything a long-armer can do? Probably not, but I like to try.
  • Do I want a mid or long-arm -- you betcha! One Day!
  • Now go have Fun!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Update on the Blue Borders

Playing around with the border on the Blue Monochromatic -- I think this will do. I would like to make another one with this setting using bright batiks (not anytime soon). Trying to stay organized, I am writing the instructions along the way, documenting the steps with pictures. Later this year, I should have a few patterns to share. On the other side of the room, I am still quilting the Indigo Monochromatic with hopes of finishing soon so I can start the binding.

Next project -- using a sticky roller to clean off the threads on the design wall!!!!!!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Monday Design Wall - Pieced Border

The August color is pink for Judy's Monochromatic Challenge, so I need to hurry and finish the blocks for the blue --- I need an empty design wall. Here is the top coming together with a pieced border. All the blocks are 5 1/2" and if you notice, I am using 5 1/2" white squares for the corner quarter units (they are blending in to the design wall). This will come in handy when I start quilting.

It's Monday and you know what day this is ..... Judy is hosting her "link-up" at Patchwork Times.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Quilting the "Indigo" Monochromatic

Woke up early this morning and started quilting the Indigo Top for Judy's Monochromatic Challenge (Patchwork Times) -- of course, it was the color for June. I am working on the white areas in the middle and will change the thread for the dark indigo. If I can finish quilting this top, I will start piecing again -- it has been awhile and I am missing it. I have one more deadline quilt for a Church Fair that I cannot wait to start on. The fabric is beautiful and the pattern in my head will be perfect.

Coffee is done -- back to quilting!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Another "Saintly" Finish

The Black and Gold Quilt is done! And .... just in time for football season. This "Saintly" Finish will be gifted to a retiring employee in our department at work. The colors are very rich and the quilting is done in gold thread.

Now I am heading over to Sarah's at Confessions of a Fabric Addict to link up and see what others are doing. Have a great Friday!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Monday Design Wall -- Blue Monochromatic

The Monochromatic Challenge for July was blue over at Patchwork Times -- but I have been busy quilting tops and have not done too much on the design wall. I started playing with 5" squares, however nothing is sewn. I thought about keeping July SMALL -- maybe a pillow or two. But I just could not help myself. Looks like this will be another big one. The fabric has snowflakes so I am hoping to finish by Christmas!

Added a few corner pieces -- then I remembered tessellating blocks I made several years ago. I don't have the pattern, so there is lots of playing until things started working.

Then I tried on point -- not really, just turned the camera! I need to quit playing because I REALLY need to finish quilting the top below.

Can you keep a secret??? This Saintly Creation is for a retiring employee, which will be just in time for football season. She already knows a quilt is coming, because I make quilts for those who retire in our department. I will show the whole thing after it is done and gifted.

Although late, I am heading to Judy's Patchwork Times and linking up to her Monday Design Walls. Well -- back to quilting tops.