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….

Westering Women BoM 2016 II

I think it’s fair to say that Barbara Brackman’s Westering Women BoM Block 3 has been the cause of major headaches for our little sewing group! The block is called Sweet Gum Leaf and, oh joy, it calls for a whole lot of inset, or ‘Y’ seams.

I tried and tried to get good matching points, but I guess this is where my inexperience shows as I couldn’t come up with a block that really satisfied me. Practice is supposed to make perfect I know, but my best effort remained my first try, the others were all downhill from there.

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Sandra – WW Block 3

At our Friday night get-together I was relieved to find it wasn’t just me that was having problems. So, we put our heads together and came up with an alternate design using only HSTs. It’s not quite as elegant as the original but it’s manageable, achievable and it gets the job done.

Button was being her adorable self and insisted on getting in on the act too – she’s a stern supervisor. (You might notice that Angie and Tracy haven’t quite got round to appliquéing the stems onto their blocks yet, so I had to use a piece of stand-in fabric for the photos!)

A few days later I felt in a more relaxed frame of mind to tackle those dreaded inset seams, so I chose a whole new colour scheme and spent an afternoon carefully cutting, marking and sewing pieces to make the original Sweet Gum Leaf block. I was so pleased with the outcome, until…..

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Sandra – WW Block 3 Version 3

…..I compared it with my previous blocks and discovered that I’d cut my six leaf pieces without the addition of the quarter inch seam allowance. So although the block worked, it was a miniature version of what it should be. Talk about frustration!

It was another week before I could bring myself to have yet another crack at it. Thankfully, this time everything went well and I have a passable block, but it’s going to be a long time before I approach inset seams without thinking about sweet gum leaves.

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Sandra – WW Block 3 Version 4

In the meantime, Blocks 4 and 5 in the Westering Women series have been published so there’s quite a bit of catching up to do.

…link to previous Westering Women BoM 2016 post.

 

Westering Women BoM 2016

In February I discovered the Civil War Quilts blog.  It’s a fascinating website focused on the fabrics and quilts made and inspired by America’s recent history.

Angie adores the soft muted tones of the fabric collections Barbara Brackman designs for Moda, and a few of us at our Friday night sewing circle decided to do her Westering Women BoM for 2016.

Block 1 is Independence Square and Block 2 is Indian Territory.

March’s Block 3 is Sweet Gum Leaf.  It’s a little more challenging and I may redo mine.  The fabrics I chose for the leaves could be better arranged, and I don’t think I have the centre points quite right.

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…link to Westering Women BoM 2016 II