Saturday, February 27, 2016

Design Digress

I've sewed the squares together on the diagonal as I described in an earlier post.  Yes, it looks great, however I forgot all about the fact that sewing these together on the diagonal will reduce the overall size considerably.  I would say, around 30% or better.

The problem now is to try and increase the size of this baby quilt.  This being the center now only measures around 23" X 29".  I will need to increase by about 6" to 8" all around.  I thought about a pieced border and auditioned a few different blocks....didn't like it.  It became distracting from the center.  So ultimately, I just added 3 simple borders and will do some decorative quilting stitches. 
Here, I've got it pinned and ready to start quilting.  These borders increased the size to 33" X 38", which is a good size for a baby.  Not too large or too small and can be hung on the wall.  The backing fabric is the solid blue used in the middle border and I will work on a label to add later.  ;o)

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Back to the Design Board

Some of my first thought ideas get nixed almost immediately.  This is one of them.  I talked about making a "No Y seam Tumbling Block" baby quilt in my last post.  I've changed my mind to a "Scrappy X's" baby quilt so I can use up some charm squares I have on hand which are already cut into 2.5" squares.   I am not doing this up to the instructions as I am not a fan of sewing triangles for the background squares and having too many seams.  The background will be white and cut into squares of 2.5" but sewn on the diagonal so that the X's are on point like they should be. 

Today I am just planning, cutting the background squares, and laying it out on my design board.  The only picture I can share with you so far is this...
I'll share more later when I start to sew the diagonal rows together.  Have a good sewing day!  ;o)

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Mid-Winter Rambling

Wow, we're looking at a lot of snow this morning, 2+ feet!  Best thing to do today is just stay in and do some sewing.  Shovel a little later.

My DH's nephew and his wife are expecting baby #2 sometime in June.  There is a way to do "tumbling block" without "Y" seams, so I may give that a go for a baby quilt.  I still have plenty of scraps to use up.   

I love to do quick projects that are both pretty and functional like this pear pin cushion I made.  It is made from 6 different scraps of decorator fabric samples my friend gave me and scraps of leather for the stem and leaf.  It's stuffed with scraps of batting that would have been thrown away after trimming a quilt.   It's stationed on top of my moveable design wall board, which by the way, is made from a piece of rescued thick rigid foam core and covered with white flannel-like batting.  It was "rescued" from being trashed from a local business and measures 36" X 65".   It's one of my most important tools in the studio. 

Time to do a little clean-up in the studio and get to work on the next project.  ;o)

Monday, February 1, 2016

Threads and Such

Anyone can sew.  I've taught classes where students utter the words, "I can't sew", before they even try it.  It takes a little practice and some know how, but once you have some basics down, you'll be machine sewing with professional results.  

In my experience, threads make all the difference.  I learned to sew when I was young, around 9 years old, making doll clothes, then my own clothes, later my son's clothes and quilts.  I've used all kinds of threads like cheap polyester, rayons, metallics, viscose, nylon and cotton, and expensive polyester, cotton and silk, glitter, metallic, Charlotte's web thread, and neon light sensitive threads.  If you're going to spend the money and time making expensive quilts, textiles, or clothing, why cheap out on the thread?  The thread is what holds everything together and gives a finished look either in top stitching, decorative embroidery, embellishing and quilting, or just holding seams together.  I started out using very cheap thread and the results were clear.  My seams came apart after a few washes and the stitches didn't look neat.  I had spent hours and hours, sometimes extending into years working on a quilt and in the end, I was extremely disappointed in it.  I hate to admit that I have thrown away a couple quilts I've made, one being a twin bed size. 

Another aspect to consider is your stitch quality.  Make sure your stitching on the front and back are the perfect tension, length and quality. Do a practice swatch before sending your quilt through the machine.  Adjust the tension knob to get the stitch to look the same on the top and bottom, either tighter or looser.   One way to check if your thread is a good quality is to pull on it until it breaks.  How easily does it break?  Does it curl up at the break?  Look on the inside of your bobbin case, is the thread breaking or shredding and leaving a lot of lint?  I've thrown out spools of thread due to this problem.  For years I sewed with Mettler silk finish cotton thread, but now I mainly sew with Superior thread's line; Masterpiece, King Tut, and Bottom Line threads.  I also like YLI threads.  The Mettler brand, Coats and Clark, and Gutterman brand thread shreds lint more than the Superior Thread brand.   If you've inherited fabric or threads from your Nanna or Mum, be cautious and check them out before you use them.   Old threads can rot, fade, bleed or just break easily.  If in doubt throw it out. 

Your stitch quality may also be affected by the needle you use.  Change your needle out with a new one every 4-6 hours of sewing.  A poor needle can cause skipped stitches, broken needles and broken thread, and thread nests from the bobbin case.  The needle makes thousands of passes through the hook and can become dull or a burr may develop.  If you're very frugal, you could use emery or pumice to smooth out the burr, but I find this very time consuming and tedious, so I just opt for a brand new needle.   Be sure to clean the lint away from the feed dogs, bobbin case and surrounding area with a dry swab every 4 hours of sewing.  Use just a drop or two of machine oil on the racer and near the hook after you have swabbed the lint away.   Bobbins should be wound with even tension and consistently around until filled.  A big no no, is sewing over pins.  It's the worst habit you can get into.  It will destroy your machine and break needles and pins.  These broken pieces can get lodged in the machine and move around into the works completely ruining your machine.  I'm lecturing here, but this is a cardinal sin of any sewer that has this bad practice. 

Buying fabric on sale is my mantra.  If you're stash building, this is the way to go.  Wait until fabric goes on sale and buy a yard or two.   Stick with brands you know will be of good quality.  I love to sew with Moda, Robert Kauffman and others.  If you can see through the cloth, you may not want to use it for quilting.  If it feels rough to the touch, wrinkles easily, or the print looks cheap or bleeds when it's blotted with a moistened swab, again probably not a good choice for a quilt or clothing. 

I hope you will go away with confidence and a curiosity to learn more about your machine and perfecting your sewing.   Happy sewing....;o)