Preparing for our Weekend Away

Our quilting retreat weekend at The Mount Hotel in Wolverhampton is at the end of this week, and we’ve been preparing the projects we want to work on.  Tracy has cut out all of her pieces ready for sewing (so organised) while I’ve been pulling together a collection of fabrics to make a start on a sampler quilt.  I have Barbara Brackman’s ‘Civil War Sampler’ on Kindle, but I decided there’s nothing like a hard copy for ease of use, so I bought the book as well.

Angie has taken a laid back approach to it all and had decided to wait until the weekend arrives to be inspired.  At our last sewing group she did narrow her choices down to just a few, but In the meantime she’s been having a big push to finish all her UFO’s.  She bought a fabulous ladder display unit to hang her quilts from, and I think that’s been part of her motivation to get going.

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I’ve taken out the Medallion quilt, President’s Pride, which I began while on our last retreat in November, to try to get that up and running again.  All it needs is the last border of 4½” shoo fly blocks sewn on all the way around and then it’s ready for batting and backing. I seem to have the attention span of a firefly at the moment with so many UFO’s at all stages of development it’s time I set my shoulder to the wheel too.

We’ve been having a bit of fun making some bags to hold our equipment.  One of them is from a pattern I found on Craftsy called the Bionic Gear Bag.  It’s as eccentric as it sounds, but it really is a clever thing with loads of zip pockets, a fold down ‘tray’ at the front and some nifty little accessories to go with it.  One of them is called a Dumpling Dish but it reminds me more of a Cornish pasty when it’s zipped up.

Not long to go now….  I can’t wait.  (Tracy’s had her suitcase packed and ready for days!)

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Westering Women IV

I backed and quilted the four sections of my Westering Women quilt and now came the task of joining those sections together using my chosen method.  There are loads of ‘quilt-as-you-go’ tutorials on the internet, and they tend to differ depending upon the project they’re being applied to.  The tutorials that most closely matched my needs were….   Lily’s Quilts,  Lawson and Lotti  and  RocknQuilts  ….and I am grateful to the authors for their inspiration.  By the way, this is nowise a tutorial.  It’s simply an account of how I got on the first time I attempted a ‘quilt-as-you-go’ method and the problems I encountered along the way.

My goal was to quilt each section of patchwork as much as I could before joining them, but leaving at least one inch unquilted all round the edges.  (Since my quilt has 1” sashing strips it was easy to gauge this distance for some of them.)  I used a combination of ditch quilting and an overall wavy design on each block.  If the ‘quilt-as-you-go’ technique worked for me, I hoped to gain the confidence to maybe try more complicated designs on my domestic sewing machine in the future.

At the edges where my first two sections were to be joined I trimmed the batting and backing to ½” wider than the front fabric.  (The first time I did this I trimmed to 1″ wider but I found it to be way too big a margin and just got in the way, so I reduced it.)

Next, I pinned back the backing and batting out of the way, matched my points, and sewed the two sections together.  Because I left at least an inch unquilted I found I could easily overlap the excess batting and backing so the sections lay flat and I could press my new seam properly.

I laid out the joined sections face down, folded back the backing fabric only and pinned it out of the way.  I soon realised I had nothing to tell me if my front fabric was laid out okay underneath so I made sure to keep on gently pulling and spreading the two sections to keep the quilt top fabric properly taut.

I found the next step a bit tricky.  The tutorials say to overlap the batting and then cut through them so that the two sides butt up against each other.  Putting a metal ruler between the batting and the back of the fabric gave me the peace of mind so I wouldn’t accidentally slice through my quilt top.  All the same my heart was in my mouth when I picked up my scissors for the first time.  Try as I might, I couldn’t get this to work for me properly.  There always seemed to be a bit more overlap than I wanted, so I had to use my small scissors to trim tiny adjustments so the batting edges would butt up and lie flat.  As I periodically slid the ruler up along the seam line, I kept on making sure the fabric underneath was properly spread out each time.

I wanted to make sure that the edges of the batting would stay flat so I took my work to the ironing board and applied some joining tape.  I used ‘Heat Press Batting Together’ ¾” wide tape, and it does just what it says.  I tested it out on a sample of the batting fabric first to make sure it gave a strong enough join and that I’d got the iron at the correct temperature.  The weave of the tape itself is quite fine so I don’t think it adds much in the way of bulk to the quilt sandwich.

I used a small travel iron to apply heat to the tape, but next time I think I’ll dig out my clover iron.  It might save me a trip to the ironing board and from having to rearrange and spread everything out again when I get there.

My last step was to turn under and press one of the backing fabric edges by ½” then hand stitch the seam closed.  Again, I thought it important to keep making sure the quilt top and batting layers were properly spread out beneath.  I found that when I slid the top piece of my old darning mushroom under the quilt it was much easier to push my needle through and it kept the fabric layers taut at the same time. (My mushroom actually looks more like a toadstool.)

It was back to my sewing machine to finish off the quilting across my new seam.  I could still get to it easily enough, albeit with a little pushing and pulling.  Then it was onwards and upwards to join sections three and four in the same way.  Because I’d got plenty of batting and backing still all around the sides I was able to add a narrow border and finish off my Westering Women quilt with a flange binding.

It’s fiddly, it’s time consuming, but it works for me.  I know that I can complete just about any size quilt on my domestic sewing machine from start to finish. Right now, I’ve got a smile on my face to rival the Cheshire Cat.

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Link to previous Westering Women post
Link to first Westering Women post

Westering Women III

It’s been a while since I posted anything about the Westering Women BoM series I’ve been following.  I’d like to say an insane fear of ‘Y’ seams is the reason for my lack of progress, but the truth is more prosaic. (Although ‘Y’ seams are still a bane to me.)

Summer holidays and Christmas derailed my timetable plus I became taken with other projects.  Before I knew it I was already three blocks behind with the last block due at the end of December.  So, after all the festivities were over, I turned a new leaf and made a determined effort to catch up.

Some of the blocks needed Y seams if they were to be made in the way the instructions said. But I cast about and found alternative methods that served the purpose and I’m really pleased with the outcome.  (Block 8: Chimney Rock and Block 9: Sagebud for Fort Laramie were the headache). By the time the December block was published I’d caught up (Block 12: Road to California) and I’ve completed the full set, so right now I’m feeling a little smug.

I’ve made a start on the sashing and found some nice silver grey fabric for the backing.  Once the blocks are all sewn into rows, I’m going to put this quilt together in the same quilt-as-you-go fashion as my Jackleberries quilt.

Barbara Brackman has already announced her new Block of the Month series.  It’s called Yankee Diary, and she’s already put up a post about it’s design along with fabric recommendations.  I’m looking forward to the first block being posted.  One of my many new year resolutions for 2017 is to keep up with making them as they are published at the end of each month… (we’ll see how that works out!)

Link to previous Westering Women post….

Jackleberries II

I’ve completed all the blocks that make up the original Jackleberries quilt now. It’s been awhile since I started this project because I’ve put it to one side in favour of other stuff so often.

Since I only want to make a tablecloth for my dining room, and the Jackleberries pattern is for  a double bed quilt size, I don’t need all the blocks I’ve done, so I auditioned them to see which ones I wanted to keep by laying them out on the table top. I’ll use the leftovers for something else, maybe a cover for my sewing desk. I haven’t decided yet.

I’ve always known that I wouldn’t be able to get even a tablecloth-sized quilt under the arm of my sewing machine. It’s just not large enough, so I’ve been doing some research on the net about ‘quilt-as-you-go’. But there are so many different techniques that come under the umbrella of that name it’s really quite bewildering.

After a lot of thought I decided to use a method where I sew together my blocks into manageable ‘panel’ sizes, so I can quilt each of them individually and then join them into a whole afterwards. For me it’s a bit of an experiment, but at least I’ll be able to manipulate the panels under my machine. I’m not doing free motion quilting, just lines and patterns using my walking foot, and each panel won’t be quilted to the edges where they have to join to the next. I’m hoping I can manage to merge the quilting lines so these joins won’t be noticeable once sewn together.

So that’s where I’m at for now. I’ve added lightweight bamboo batting and a busy patterned backing fabric to each panel, and I’m working my way through quilting them -although I’ve got a feeling that Christmas makes might mean I put my Jackleberries quilt to one side again soon.

 

Link to previous Jackleberries post…

Barbara’s Cushion

Barbara joined our group as a complete rookie.  She cheerfully admitted she’d never done any serious sewing but was fascinated by some of the projects the rest of us were working on and wanted to have a go herself. Her first ever piece was a hand sewn snowman she completed from scratch, learning to do blanket stitch along the way and getting a feel for working with fabric. (She’ll hate me for showing a picture of it, but by the time she sees it it’ll be too late.)

When Barbara purchased her sewing machine from DC Nutt in Bloxwich it was a leap of faith for her, as she’d only had a little practice on some of ours.  We all pitched in and taught her the basics of how to operate it, and it wasn’t long before she was sewing a passable quarter inch seam. I taught her how to sew a small change purse, and the result turned out pretty good, although I do wish I’d planned it better. (I’m not really much of a teacher.) Luckily, Angie was on hand to keep the train on the tracks.

On our day out at Malvern, Barbara picked out some lovely Rose & Hubble fabric and Angie helped her choose some more in different designs and shade of blue to complement her purchase. It was Liz who steered Barbara in the direction of a disappearing nine patch project and taught her how to properly rotary cut.  By the time I went on holiday she’d sewn her nine  patches together.  While I was away she cut, rearranged and sewed her blocks then Tracy helped her make the ‘envelope’ closure for the back of her project.

I received an email from Barbara telling me she’d finished her cushion, and she attached a picture.  Unfortunately, due to some international gremlin in the works, I was only able to see a tantalising top inch of it because the picture wouldn’t open properly.

What makes me proud is how our little sewing group pulled together to help Barbara develop her skills, and I’m very pleased to reveal her first proper sewing project.  A  delightful blue cushion that I’m told now resides on the back seat of her car for all the world to admire.  I can’t wait to see what she makes next.

A Memory Quilt for Len

Irene and Len are longtime friends of Angie’s mom, and Angie herself knows them well. Sadly, Irene passed away at the beginning of this year.

It’s a special time in the grieving process when a surviving partner can bring themselves to part with their spouse’s much loved possessions, but now Len has begun to quietly rehome some of her chattels where he thinks they may do most good. Irene was a seamstress of the old school and, knowing she is also a sewist, Len has given a bewildering collection of fabrics and notions to Angie along with an impressive old sewing machine.

Angie told us all about this at one of our regular sewing group get togethers. She then showed us a lap quilt she has made from the plaids and tweeds she unearthed in the donated fabric stash. She plans to give it to Len soon to keep him cosy this coming winter. I cannot think of a more wonderful way to commemorate Irene than the thought that has gone into the making of this beautiful memory quilt.

Summer Progress

While Angie’s been relaxing at her Welsh hideaway she’s been catching up on her hand sewing. She really is a wiz with English paper piecing and uses up all her offcuts making hexagons and such, so it’s economical too. I think it’s a great way to make the most out of every scrap of leftover fabric and the results are just beautiful.

Not to be outdone, Tracy has completed a pretty quilt top. It’s just two colour ways in shades of white and turquoise and looks really effective. I can’t wait to see her finished quilt.

Over the last few weeks we’ve been busy making lots of small work, like bookmarks, pouches and little baskets, which we hope to sell at upcoming fundraising events in aid of Cancer Care and MacMillan Nurses. This little project is ongoing so I’ll post more about it as we progress

I’ve finally finished the binding around my vanity sewing case. I’m not all that happy with the result as the top and bottom tend to bow inwards. Again, I think it’s all to do with the foam batting which seems to have a life of it’s own.

I’m in the process of making some fabric bins so I can conceal the piles of batting and interfacing I’ve amassed. I decided to use a different technique with the remainder of my foam stuff. I cut the batting half an inch smaller all round than the size of the fabric, so that when I brought the sides of the bin together I just had to stitch through only the fabric to secure them. To add strength and definition I rolled the seam allowance in on itself at each side and covered it with a binding. The bin still bows out a bit, but I think it kinda works.

Currently my waddings are jammed in plastic carrier bags and stuffed under the sideboard. It’s not a pretty sight. I intend to make some floppy lids to top off the bins later, but for now I’ve just covered my first one with a piece of fabric. I have to say it already looks much better, so I best crack on with a couple more.


…link to All is Vanity