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Quilting a Sommer Quilt

As most of you know, Mike and I watch our granddaughter, Sommer, full time. She is a joy, and next year we’ll be doubly blessed because daddy and mommy are expecting her baby brother in February. During breakfast a few weeks ago, I asked her what we should name her baby brother and she responded “Minnie Mouse sticker”. We smile a lot around here  🙂 !

Sommer will be moving into a big girl bed after Christmas, so grandma Chris needed to make her a quilt – of course. Her bedroom colors are pink, gray, black, white and teal – and the decor is very modern. A “modern” quilt would be ideal, but Sommer really loved the I Spy quilts she helped me make for her cousins. What to do? Back the modern quilt with an I Spy quilt!

Once both sides were finished, the sandwich was layered and it was time to quilt. The modern side has one wide, vertical band of a pink gradation fabric, and 6 different, wide, horizontal bands. I quilted around each of these areas with a walking foot first, and then the fun began. I made a curved template from card-stock to mark lines in the vertical band.

curvy template

I originally thought I would keep the curves lined up, but after a bit of experimenting, an hourglass shape seemed best. I marked the lines with a sliver of soap and continued to use the walking foot:

marking curvy quilting lines

This design simply hollered for circles to be added. I cut a bunch out of freezer paper, keeping the circles and the holes they were cut from, and ironed them to the quilt top.

freezer paper templates

I free motion quilted around the outside of the paper circles, and filled the empty holes with posies.

quilted flowers fill the freezer paper holes

And here’s the quilted vertical band:

vertical quilting full

You may have noticed that I personalized the simple “modern quilt” pattern. The owl is from a canvas Sommer’s Mommy painted for her room.

Sommers owl

and her doggies, Nirshey and Mosely, just had to be a part of the fun!

Next, I’m quilting around a variety of freezer paper circles and filling in around them with spiral designs. Stay tuned for a photo of the finished quilt.

 


Free Motion Fun

I recently completed a challenge quilt I’d been working on since the beginning of the year and it was time to do something easy. Months ago I’d picked up a kit to make a charity kid’s quilt while at my quilt guild – Patched Lives. This is a very generous guild and I’m proud to be a part of it. Our wonderful charity quilt committee recently wrote in the newsletter that since they began working on the committee, the guild has donated 207 quilts! The fabric in the kits is donated, and the kit I picked up was especially cute. It contained a pre-printed panel, borders and backing. This proved to be the perfect simple project for my mood. I added the borders and safety pinned the layers together. As I began to think about the quilting, I thought it might be fun to share my process on the blog.

First, I like to do a bit of machine guided quilting to hold things together. Since I hate to stitch in the ditch, I chose to quilt 1/4″ from the seam using the walking foot and my “3 pin technique“. When quilting long straight lines it’s not uncommon to have the top layer shift a bit by the end of the line, resulting in puckers, even with a walking foot. To prevent this I sink the needle into the quilt at the beginning of the line, then place 3 straight pins, about 1 1/2” apart, in front of the needle.

walking foot quiltingI pull the pins out as I sew up to them, and when I reach the third pin, I re-pin once again. It may seem a bit tedious, but I get great results!

Next, it was time to free motion quilt. I moved to my Sweet 16 and positioned the quilt in my Quilt Float. When I was teaching Beyond Meandering at the FVTC Quilt Expo recently, I explained the quilt float to the students and told them I’d put a photo on the blog. Here it is:

free motion quilting made easy

If you’d like to know how to make your own (and it works great with a domestic machine too!), just click here.

I recently received a delightful email from Sheila about the Quilt Float. She gave me permission to share it here:

“A little late for starting to use a Christmas present.  A busy schedule and a knee replacement didn’t help me start using my Christmas gift from my husband.  I had shared with  him the description in one of your blogs showing a plan for hanging a quilt sandwich in a way that made the quilting easier to do on my “regular”  Viking machine (floating with the poles and clamps).  So he purchased the needed supplies for the project as my Christmas gift.  Was I ever surprised that he remembered my sharing your blog with him so long ago.
Today we set up the equipment and I started quilting a sandwich that I plan to give to his grand-nephew and bride at their June wedding.   I had a wonderful afternoon with the floating process.  The system made it so much easier to move the quilt sandwich through my machine.”

When I asked Sheila if I could quote her she said “I hope others enjoy the system like I do”.  Thanks so much Sheila, I’m really glad it’s worked so well for you!

As I had stated previously, the kit was made up of a panel, so how should I quilt it? Well, if I stitch on the lines of the design, I will need to stay on the lines – ugh! It would be much more fun to stitch 1/8″ away (or there abouts – notice how I used thread to match the background so it wasn’t obvious if my 1/8″ wasn’t consistant?).

free motion funIt was fun, and I had the center quilted in no time. Then I got to the plain, peach borders and, without much thought, decided to “spiral”. This is my “default”, because I love to “spiral”. I put in a matching thread and got the machine humming. After a while, Mike walked by and I stopped and said “have I thanked you recently for buying me this wonderful machine?” (that was a story from last year  called “Sweet 16” – click here to read about it :-))

He walked over, looked at my quilting and said: “how do you keep the spacing between your lines of stitching so even?”

free motion fun

I jumped up and gave him a big kiss! Sometimes he says just the right thing. And the answer is… practice! And aren’t charity quilts the perfect place to get that practicing done?

I have one more trick that came in handy on this quilt, but this has gone a bit long, so I think I’ll save it for next week. Stay tuned for a slick way to cut your bobbin thread from the top!

And just one more thing! I continue to be very busy traveling and teaching. I had the privilege of judging the Evergreen Quilters Show in Green Bay, WI this weekend. It’s a wonderful guild and the show was great. I’d like to share a picture of the Best of Show award winner, Toni Bergeon, and her quilt: “Reverie”. It was spectacular!

Green-Bay-winner


Wedding Quilt

First of all, I must begin with a huge thank you to everyone who responded with opinions concerning the cover for my new book. I was blown away by the number of responses and grateful for all of the thoughtful comments. I did not take that decision lightly and feel good arguments were presented for both covers. That being said, I’m not telling which way I went yet :-)! “Where Do I Start With Fiber Art?” is now at the printers and should be ready for my classes at Expo in Madison next month. It will be available on my website shortly after that.

Now for this week’s topic. My August 11th post began with a picture of me basting a quilt in the driveway. I was making it for my niece’s wedding and Brianne and Scott were married this past Friday. They are a very sweet and special couple and their day was beautiful! It was such a blessing to celebrate this joy filled time with family and friends.

Brianne and Scott

Quilting and finishing their quilt was an adventure for me and I’d like to share some of the things I tried and the results. It was actually made for a class sample last semester and as soon as I got the top together and decided on a border (click here for that story :-)) I knew it was the one I wanted to finish for Brianne and Scott. The colors are bright and modern, and I could just picture them cuddled up under it.

When it came time to layer and quilt it, I chose to use a washable wool batt to make it extra snuggly and, while basting it in the frame, I had a thought: I’m always telling my students that quilting the quilt should be as much fun as making the top. So, how should I quilt it?

Sparingly was the answer. No tight and tiny filler designs this time! I didn’t want to flatten the nice poofy wool. I also didn’t want to drive myself crazy with a lot of marking and planning. This quilt wasn’t going to competition, it was meant to keep 2 people I love warm. Here’s what I did:

1. Gridded the quilt on the diagonals, through the dark squares, with a walking foot.

grid quilting

2. Prepared to make fast and fun feathered wreaths by marking a circle around an embroidery hoop,  straight pinning up to the circle and removing any safety pins that were in the way.

quilting simple feathered wreath

3. I began by free motion quilting the marked circle and then “feathering” around the outside. I’ve found feathers to be much easier since I took a class with Diane Gaudynski and she taught that a feather is half of a heart. I doodled loads of hearts when I was a young girl, so I had the shape down. She also showed us how it was easier to “draw” a half heart from the indent at the top, around to the point at the bottom. Here is my first “outside the circle” feather. I’ve come back up from the point and am at the top of the bump which will be the second feather.

quilt simple feathers4. As you can see – my feathers are big. Once I made all of the feathers around the outside, I stitched a second circle inside the first to create a “spine” and then I feathered the inside.

quilt simple feathers

5. They were a joy to make and the wreath was done so quickly I couldn’t wait to start the next one. Here’s a view of a wreath from the top:

quilt simple feathers

and from the back:

5-gridding-and-feathers-back

Notice how the feathers are not consistent in size or shape and yet they look good when all were done? Don’t agonize over each little stitch – revel in the finished effect!

quilting a large quilt

I did the free motion quilting on my HQ Sweet 16 and I used my “Quilt Float” system to lift the quilt and keep the weight of it from dragging me down. Quilts can be floated with a domestic machine also. For info on the “Quilt Float” from 2 previous posts, click here and then here :-).

heart

When all the wreaths were made it was time to fill in the open areas. I did this with free motion hearts.

The adventure didn’t stop there, but the post is getting a bit long. Next week I’ll share my thoughts on border quilting and working with a wool batt.

Oh – just one more thing. I’ll be presenting a program at the library in McHenry, IL in September and I wanted to share their flyer in case you can make it!

Screen Shot 2013-08-24 at 8.59.56 AM

 


Feel Good Quilting

It’s Tuesday and I’m adding a short extra bit of information before you read about Feel Good Quilting. I have the great honor to be this month’s Featured Quilter on the National Quilting Association website. The NQA is a wonderful quilting organization. They put on a great quilt show each year and do much charitable and educational work in the quilt world. Please go to: http://nqaquilts.org/ to read all about it, then return here for the rest of the post :-)!

So now for “Feel Good Quilting”

Last summer I was very excited about purchasing my new HQ Sweet Sixteen mid-arm machine. I’ve since found that watching an infant 5 days a week really decreases time for quilting. This weekend I decided I just needed to make time …. and I did! Prior to our trip to Italy Wendy and I held a class for making a “Tuscan Sun” block and everyone was given instructions for autograph blocks to be exchanged on the trip. Well, I bordered my sun with the blocks, pinned the layers together and was ready to go. I really was in the mood for free motion fun, so I looked at the top and asked myself “what do I feel like stitching today?”

My first urge was to stitch some feathers, which I chose to place in the rays of the sun.

Then I was in the mood to “bubble” the sun’s interior.

So now how to quilt the background behind the sun? Add more rays! I took a ruler and a sliver of soap (my favorite marking tool) and I drew lines on the background that radiated from the center of the sun and then I used those lines as a guide to keep the rays shining. It was even more of a good time than I imagined it would be and because I was enjoying the process it was done almost too soon.

For the first border I decided to play with a design I hadn’t tried before. Laura Wasilowski refers to it as ME ME quilting (because it sort of looks like M’s and E’s) and it was a blast! Once again I marked some boundaries with the soap and I was off and running.

The MEME’s went through the center of the inside border, so what to do around it? I decided straight lines in yellow would work (remember I don’t need a good reason, it’s all about what feels like fun at the moment :-)). Now my Babylok with a  walking foot does a much better job of straight lines then I do in free motion, so I changed the feet and jumped in using my “3 pin technique” to prevent puckers. I’ve covered this in a past post. Click here to read about it.

All that’s left now is the outer border. How would you quilt it?

I’m not sure what I’ll do and the Packer game is about to begin, so this post will remain a cliff hanger until next week. Go Pack Go!!!



Fancy Threads

Wendy and I made it home last night with loads of great memories of a great show. I still haven’t unpacked the purchases and sewing stuff. Posting to my blog seemed a bit less challenging.

I enjoy using fancy threads while machine or handquilting, and metallics are among my favorites. The problem is they can be difficult to work with. I recently watched an an excellant video on working with flat, hologram threads. To see it for yourself go to: http://www.superiorthreads.com/videos/thread-education-videos/glitter-hologram-flat-metallic-thread/

Superior Threads has an excellent email newsletter that you can sign up for at the above link. They share a lot of helpful information about thread and are more than willing to answer questions.

One more suggestion I’ve found very helpful: if you do everything from the video and you still have some breakage (it happens), try threading a thin polyester thread in a matching color through your machine with the fancy thread. Run them all the way through as if they were one and thread the needle with both together. The poly won’t show, but will lend strength to the more fragile thread.

What are your favorite fancy threads? Do you have any suggestions for dealing with fussy fibers?


Loose Ends

Before we get to the “topic of the week” I’d like to share a smile. In Thursday’s class Jean shared a new quilting acronym: SABLE. It stands for “stash accumulated beyond life expectancy” (I definately fit this one)!

Moving along :-)………..this week’s topic is about stops and starts when machine quilting. Coming from a garment background, my first inclination was to backstitch. This meant that each time I began I’d go a few stitches and then reverse over them. Then I would stitch forward over them one more time and an ugly blob would always result. I decided to stop doing that quite quickly.

Then I decided to try the lock stitch on my sewing machine and discovered in a hurry that it didn’t “lock” as well as I wanted it to.

My next impulse was to begin with a very short stitch length for the first 1/4″ and then to slowly lengthen the stitches until I reached the length I desired. I would end this way too and I still use this technique in most of my quilts. It works well for both machine guided and free motion quilting. The short stitches anchor quite well and are not too visable, but there are times I don’t want to be able to detect the starts and stops at all.

In these cases I use a tip from Sue Nickels for knotting off and burying the tails. The trick is to use “Easy Threading” needles.

When the thread is pressed into the “v” at the top of these needles it will pop into the upper hole. Thus no threading! When you’re doing a lot of tails, this is an incredible help that reduces eye strain

 

Leave 2″ tails on the top, pop both threads  into the needle, insert needle in end of last stitch and pull through to the back.

 

 

 

Tie a square knot on the back tight against the quilt.

Pop tails into needle once again, enter at end of stitching, run the needle between layers for about 1″ and bring tails back out to the  back.

 

 

Clip threads close to the back and repeat for remaining tails.

 ENJOY!

 

PS Cheryl Anderson sent me a great link for quilters who want to do something to help the people of Japan during this difficult time. The project is entitled: “Hearts and Hands for Sendai” and it involves making just one block. Please visit this blog for all the information: http://pinyoncreek.blogspot.com/2011/03/hearts-and-hands-for-sendai.html


Test Drive II

I received a comment to Monday’s post from Pat concerning what I had planned to share in today’s update on “Test Drive”. She sent it to me via email and I couldn’t have said it better – so I wanted to share it here:

Chris I use Glad Press-n-Seal™  for auditions. I place it over the area/block that I am interested in. I draw with a washable crayola marker over the block–you get a better idea of whether it will work or not. If it is something  that you want to reproduce accurately just take the Press-n-seal™ off the quilt top and put it over computer paper or card stock and cut the shape out. Now you have your own stencil“.

Thanks Pat. I would like to add, if the design works and it is simple, you can quilt right through the Press-n-Seal™ and then tear it away along the stitching line!

Thanks also to Sarah for commenting about the plexiglas sheet she uses to audition designs. Another great idea!

On another topic……the Milwaukee Art Quilters have just hung an exhibit of our “Common Objects” challenge at the fine art gallery of UW Waukesha (University Drive, next to the Field House). It’s a fascinating collection of fiber art pieces with each one being inspired by a common object. Our opening reception will be this Monday, March 14th at 8:30pm. My common object was a votive candle and I call my quilt “Let You Light So Shine”:

This small piece is part of my “Crossings” series where the beads cross the gap and hold the broken pieces of my quilt together as my faith in Christ holds the broken pieces of my life together. The “candles” are beaded onto the “flames”. One of the rules of the challenge was that the quilt had to have some non-fabric portion, so I used mylar for some of the flames and dripped wax all down the candles. Great fun!

I’m leaving tomorrow to visit my daughter in Washington, so I’ll be taking a week off from posting. Thanks for being part of my blog! Chris


Test Drive

Thanks for all the encouraging words about my “Willy” quilt. It’s good for us to try new things. Who knows where they could lead :-).

While I contemplate that I need to move on to a new topic of the week: trying out quilting designs. This isn’t about the designs themselves (this time), but I’d like to share some of the ways I audition designs.

I believe the big question of “what design will work in this quilt?” keeps many quilters from quilting their tops themselves, and keeps the long armers in business. If they could just preview a few options to see which one looks best, doing the quilting might not seem so intimidating.

Here’s one simple idea: take a picture of the quilt top and print out 3 or 4 copies. This should be done in color, but the lowest quality print setting will use less ink and work just fine. If you are computer savvy enough to put 4 pictures on one page before printing – all the better:

Then you take a pencil and begin to imagine. My basic direction at this point is to ponder what would be fun to quilt at that moment: straight lines, free motion swirls, or ???

Once an idea pops into my brain I begin to draw it on the first print out. For this one I thought I might like to do simple straight lines with the walking foot. Let’s zoom in to see it:

That was a bit boring. How about a mix of straight lines with a template heart?

I don’t really care to do template designs. Would free motion swirls with repeats in the borders be interesting?

Not bad, but maybe it’s a good day for spirals:

I’m not sure if any of these will be the one I’m in the mood for on the day I do the quilting because this is not that day (it’s actually 11pm). I hope you noticed that I didn’t have to draw on the entire quilt to get the feel for how well the design was working. On Thursday I’ll share another way I use to make these often challenging decisions. Do you have any favorites?


Simple Cable

Nancy was right. I’ve practiced to the point where I really enjoy free motion quilting and so I’d rather do some fancy quilting in a border than fancy piecing:

But, as I’ve been told, not everyone feels about free mo as I do. So, what do you do if you want to add a little more zip than straight line quilting? Years ago I learned a slick way to do simple cable borders. The marking is easy. The machine guided stitching is easy. The cables will fit your border. And, since you’re along the outside edge, it can easily be done on a large, bed quilt!

1. Cut out a piece of freezer paper the size of the border area you want to fill along one side and without including the corners. This strip will work for all 4 sides on a square quilt. For a rectangular quilt you’ll need to cut 2 freezer paper strips, one for the width and one for the length.

2. Fold a strip in half, quarters, etc. until you get to a size that would make a nice single cable (my sample was folded quite a few times and will make a chubby cable). If you’re doing a length and a width, try to get both to about the same folded up size (close is good enough). You may need to do thirds instead of halves when folding one of the strips to get them even.

3. Make a mark 1/2″ from the bottom on the left of the front fold and 1/2″ from the top on the right. Draw an “S” to attach them.

4. Cut along the line through all the folded layers.

5. Open and press the shiny side of one of the strips onto one border along the inside edge (set the matching strip aside).

6. Stitch along the curved edge of the paper, being careful not to stitch through it. Remove the paper.

7. Press the same freezer paper strip over the stitched border, but along the raw edge this time (be sure to leave space for the binding).

8. Stitch once again, remove the paper, repeat for remaining borders and then use your imagination to connect the lines in the corners.

Please give it a try and let me know what you think :).


Border Quilting

Often after piecing/appliquéing the blocks of a quilt I lose steam and want to get the border on simply and quickly. Then, while  layering and quilting I’m so busy dreaming about the next PIMM (“project in my mind”) that I miss the “fun” of borders! Actually, I’m trying to talk myself into thinking of this as fun because I often fizzle out at this point.

Sometimes I can get excited about doing a bit of appliqué out there on the edge, and maybe a prairie point or 2, but seldom do I do a lot of border piecing. I once read that it takes about as many blocks to border a bed sized quilt as there are in the center. Whoa! Once I realized that was true it made the task even more daunting.

We all need to know ourselves and go from there. I enjoy piecing, but must admit I’m a bit odd in that I reallllllllly enjoy machine quilting. So……….. I’ve discovered I’d rather add simple borders which are plain enough to be able to be made extra special with stitching. We’ll get to more of that on Thursday :-).

When students reach the point of just wanting to get some borders on, my simplest advice is to add 1, 2 or 3 borders of different widths, making sure the widest is made from one of the interesting fabrics from the inside of the quilt. Typically it looks best if the widest border is the last one (these are generalities and don’t always work on every quilt).

Here’s a simple little Christmas quilt with 3 borders:

Now for the quilting. I still contend stitching in the ditch is the most difficult way to quilt because if you don’t stay in the ditch it looks lousy and if you stitch a set distance from the ditch, and parallel to it,  it’s easier to do and adds interest to the overall design. 

But I have a warning. If your outside edge is the least bit wobbly, quilting straight lines, parallel to the borders, can cause stretching and more wobble. By quilting “piano key” style lines perpendicular to the border some wobbles can actually be calmed down. These lines can be evenly spaced, but uneven spacing can add some interest too. They don’t need to be rigid either (please ignore the spiral quilting in the corner):

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

I have a few ideas for adding some extra punch to simple border quilting and plan to share them on Thursday. Until then: do you love to piece intricate borders? Is there anyone out there who likes creating borders as much as making the center? Do you have a favorite plan of attack for quilting borders?


Pucker Less

I hope the puckers in my last post made you smile. But, I must admit, puckers in my quilts never make me smile.

Even if you safety pin baste your quilt sandwich together well (every 3 or 4 inches) and use a walking foot, those pesky puckers still tend to sneak in. So what’s my favorite tip for avoiding this frustration? I call it my “3 Pin Technique” and it’s actually quite simple.

1.  Put the needle down at the beginning of the line you wish to quilt (I plan to quilt between the light and dark purple areas on my fabric).

2. Place a straight quilting pin (mine have yellow heads in the picture) perpendicular to the quilting line and about 1  1/2″ from the needle. Place the second straight pin 1 1/2″ further down the line and repeat for the third pin.

 

3.  Stitch along the line to the first pin, and then remove it. Continue this way to the second and third pins.

4.  Repin ahead of the needle as in step 2 and continue along the entire line.

Although this may seem a bit tedious, you can really get into a rhythm and the “easing” action of the pins will make pucker problems a thing of the past. The feedback from my students has been great!

 


Puckerless

Happy New Year! The tradition of kissing your sweetie at midnight on New Years gave me the idea for my topic of the week :-).

A kiss involves puckering and that can be a good thing:

But sometimes its better to pucker less:

This is especially true when machine quilting! Even if you use a walking foot those pesky puckers have a way of sneaking in on the top and on the back too.

Puckers appear when the 3 layers of the quilt sandwich shift under the pressure of the presser foot. Free motion quilting is one way to avoid some of the problem as the foot is not pressing down and thus things aren’t as apt to shift. But free motion quilting is not the answer for everone. So what can be done?

I’ve come up with a number of ways to minimize this problem. The first comes in on the pinning step. When layering your quilt, be sure the back is taut but not stretched. I’ve found the best way to do this on a small quilt is to use masking tape to secure the back to the table or floor (clamps along the edge of a table work well too). Once the back is taut, the batting and top may be smoothed on top and the pinning may begin. I’ve found this very helpful, but be careful not to stretch the back since this can cause the quilt to shrink up when the tape is removed and will lead to puckers on the front.

When pinning a larger quilt I prefer to use a simple frame made of 2 x 2’s, 4 chairs and 4 clamps. The frame is a great back saver. I may have to share pictures and directions for that in a future post, but if you’ve been in my open lab classes you already know how well this works :-).

Using a walking foot (sometimes called an even feed foot) for machine guided quilting is a must. This foot moves the top of the quilt along while the feed dogs move the bottom and this prevents a lot of the shifting, but it’s not always the complete cure.

I’ll share my favorite pucker prevention technique in my Thursday post. Until then do you have any suggestions to share?

PS Thanks to my family for humoring me in my pucker contest. I’m not telling whose pictured above, but it did provide a few giggles on Christmas Eve.