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Comfortable Quilting Tips

This past week our son had a few well deserved days off of work – which meant grandpa and I had some time off from child care. Mike decided to make good use of the time, and beautiful weather, making fuel for our wood-burner.

lumberjack-mike-2016

And I was able to finish my current competition quilt! The deadline is this week, so the timing was perfect! I had previously machine quilted about 1/3 of the project, and the time had come to do the free-motion background fillers. I placed the quilt under my HQ Sweet 16 and hooked it up to my “Quilt Float” system (for details on the Quilt Float, click here and then here). That’s my #1 suggestion for making quilting more comfortable!

comfortable-quilt-float

The clamps hold the bulk of my quilt and carry the weight, so everything moves easily under the needle. This works for domestic sewing machines as well as mid-arms, and it makes the entire process so much less strenuous!

You may have noticed the magnifier arched in front of the machine. It is one of my favorite new tools and my #2 recommendation for making quilting more comfortable. It has a “goose-neck” arm attached to a heavy duty clamp for easy positioning, and it increases my visibility so much now that my eyes are over 60  :-). I purchased mine in Paducah a few years ago, but I did find it on-line at jabetc.com

comfortable-quilt-mag2

Don’t you just love my quilting gloves? I got them in the gift shop at the International Rose Gardens in Portland, Oregon last year when Wendy and I took a group of quilters to the Sisters Quilt Show (click here for information on our next adventure). Quilting gloves make moving the quilt so much easier, and are #3 on my list of recommendations for making quilting more comfortable.

So, I began to quilt, but I still couldn’t seem to get comfortable. I tried adjusting my chair height (elbows should be even with the table top), but that didn’t help. I scooted the foot pedal around, but that too wasn’t working. What was wrong??? I finally stopped long enough to analyze the situation and realized the chair was cutting into the back of my legs. I’m not sure why I hadn’t had this problem before (could it have something to do with that age thing again?), but it was bugging me now – and I needed to do something about it – fast!

It occurred to me that I needed to raise my feet off the floor. I found a sturdy, 3″ tall cardboard box in the attic and it did the trick! It was especially nice to have both of my feet on the platform. I felt much more balanced and a whole lot more comfortable. Thus, “raising the floor” is tip #4.

comfortable-quilting

You might have noticed there are small blocks of wood under the feet of my sewing machine table. This is my husband’s method for protecting the carpet, and it did raise the table about 1″, exacerbating my problem. Since I’m 5′ 6″ tall and this worked for me, I bet “raising the floor” could really be helpful for quilters with shorter legs.

Do you have any additional quilting comfort ideas to share?

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Last week Marla responded to my post about Slow Stitching with a picture. This is what she said:

“I love this slow stitching movement.  I started slowing down the process almost a year ago.  Sometimes life gets in the way of our quilting, and we become frustrated by not producing all the quilts we’ve designed in our minds.  I have started doing more handwork and improvisational piecing with minimal planning.  It’s very satisfying and quite beautiful.  I’ve attached a piece of embroidery on felted wool, all improvisational except for the leaf shape.”

Marla Morris-Kennedy slow stitching

It’s lovely, Marla. Thanks for sharing.

I’m hoping to try my hand at “slow stitching”, but it may need to wait until I’m past my “fast chasing after grandchildren” phase of life.


October 30, 2016, free motion
Slow Stitching

Oops! Technical error! Sorry!  To view this week’s post on Scarecrow Faces go to http://chrisquilts.net/blog/?p=8058!

 

This past Summer I had lunch with a dear friend whom I hadn’t seen for years. Dagmar Plenk is an amazing fiber artist, and many of my award winning quilts contain her beautiful hand-dyed fabrics.

She had taken a break from quilting and dyeing, and is now getting back into it, but from a different angle. She’d spent a lot of time knitting over the past few years and handwork is a joy for her.

During our conversation she spoke about “slow stitching” and I had to say “wait, back-up, what in the world it slow stitching?”.

She explained it as a very organic experience in which she takes fabric, tears it into strips, and hand couches it to a background fabric with no real pattern or plan. I was intrigued. Then she showed me some pictures:

Dagmar Plenk slow stitching

 

Dagmar-slow-stitching-1

Here’s a picture of her work in progress:

Dagmar Plenk slow stitching

She said she’s tried to start with a plan, but it never turns out as well 🙂 .

Since  September I’ve watched her participate in a “hundred day challenge” on Facebook. Here is her first post:Dagmar Slow Stitching

And days 2 and 3:

dagmar slow stitching

She is now up to day 30 and the journey has been very interesting:

dagmar-recent

I’m fascinated by her process and the beautiful pieces she’s created. Thanks Dagmar, for sharing this intriguing fiber art with us.

If you’re interested in the “Slow Stitching” movement, Dagmar recommended typing it into a search engine. I also found oodles of info on Pinterest.

Have you done any slow stitching? Any pictures or thoughts you’d care to share? Please send them to me at chris@chrisquilts.net.


October 23, 2016, Design
A Consistent Seam Allowance

turkey-blog

Happy Autumn! As I was about to post to this week’s blog, Mike hollered for me to come quickly to the kitchen window. This is what I saw – a large Tom turkey and 9 hens running through the leaves. I must admit – this has nothing to do with the topic of the week, but it’s Autumn, so I couldn’t resist! Now on to the topic at hand  🙂 !

I often have students who struggle with keeping their 1/4″ seam allowance consistent, or their blocks always end up too small, or they are using 2 different sewing machines on the same project and the distance between the needle and the edge of the foot differs between the machines. If your seam allowance isn’t accurate or consistent, your frustration level can really skyrocket.

I have a trick to help with all of these issues. I don’t remember where I learned it, but I’ve used it for years and shared it with many quilters.

To begin with, I prefer to sew with a scant 1/4″ seam allowance, because I like to press my seams to the side and this always takes up an extra thread or two, thus shrinking the blocks. By using the scant 1/4″, my blocks remain the correct size. So… here’s the trick:

  • Take an index card, marked with 1/4″ lines, and cut off the bottom of the card on the lowest blue line.
  • Place the card under the needle of the machine and lower the needle by hand so that it pierces the card just to the right of the next blue line. When the needle is at the lowest level, it should be “kissing” the line.
  • sa-index-card-hole-1Place masking/painters tape along the right side of the card, making sure you don’t cover the feed dogs.sa-index-card-tape
  • If you struggle with keeping your seam allowance consistent, it’s helpful to stack a number of layers of tape on top of one another, to make a thicker edge to run the fabric along (sort of like the bumpers in bumper bowling  🙂 ). I’ve really appreciated knowing this technique when teaching children to quilt.
  • Remove the card and piece to your heart’s content.
  • Keep this card. sa-index-card-holeIf/when the need arises to sew on a different machine, put the needle down in the hole on the card, tape along the right side, and be assured you will be stitching with the same seam allowance on both machines!

This can be especially helpful when a group of quilters is working on the same quilt, for charity or competition purposes. If one person tapes each machine using the same card (or if the card is passed around), everyone will be making blocks the same size!

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Birthday Block Update

Thanks again to everyone who gifted me with a 4-patch birthday block. So far I have 42 beautiful squares! This was Wendy’s comment to last week’s post (click here to read that post):

“Anyone is welcome to send a four patch to Chris. I am sure she would love to have a block from any of her blog friends!”

I will gladly keep you posted on what these blocks will become – as soon as I figure it out!


October 16, 2016, Piecing
Birthday Quilt Block Surprise

This past week I celebrated a rather “landmark” birthday. I was overjoyed to discover the thoughtful, and sneaky, plan of my dear friend and co-travel leader, Wendy Rieves. She invited quilting friends to send me black and white 4-patch signature blocks (she sent me a copy of this after the fact).

60-birthday-surprise

Woo Hoo! Sommer and I have had a lot of fun getting the mail each day!

sommer-mailbox-2

You may remember I recently posted about a new lecture I’m putting together called “Friendship Quilts: Then and Now” (click here for that post). How clever of Wendy to think of combining that idea with birthday blocks. It was so thoughtful of her to organize this, and I especially appreciated her requesting a favorite prayer, Scripture or note of encouragement to be written on each block.

This past Thursday my Open Lab class held a lovely surprise birthday party, complete with cupcakes, singing, and more blocks. What a blessing! Then, last night, my dear husband threw me a lovely surprise party – family, friends, food, fun and another block!birthday-blocks

I have received this beautiful pile of blocks so far – and Wendy was kind enough to suggest the “block party” last all month! It is a joy to read each one and think about the dear quilter/friend who took the time to make it for me. I can’t wait to see the friendship quilt they will become.

I want to send a BIG THANK YOU to everyone who sent a block and made this birthday a very special one for me. And my BIGGEST THANK YOU to Wendy. We’ve had so many wonderful times together and I look forward to many more. I thank the Lord for you!

Just a reminder!

norwegian-dawn

Wendy and I will be taking a group of quilters on a cruise from Quebec to Boston in September of next year aboard the Norwegian Dawn! We’ll not only explore these 2 beautiful cities, but we have stops in Bar Harbor, Maine; Halifax, Nova Scotia; and the Bay of Fundy. We’re planning many special events and projects to thrill quilters of every level, plus – non-quilters are also welcome!

quilt cruise Quebec Boston

The sign up is going great! We still have a few cabins available. To read all about it click here!

PS We have a few travelers who are looking for a roommate. If you are interested please contact Kristi at (262)786-6763  or kristi@journeysandgatherings.com


October 9, 2016, Friendship Quilts
Umbrellas as Fiber Art

My friend, Kathy, had a Saturday Quilt Camp in her home a few months ago. She invited a bunch of quilting friends and we sat around her living room stitching, eating, and having a wonderful day! Kathy’s show and tell was her trapunto’d umbrella.

umbrella-entire

She entered a contest from a group called “Women’s Journey’s in Fiber”, in which they were to create an umbrella as a piece of fiber art. She decided to make her panels using Derwent Inktense pencils™. Once she’d colored her design on the fabric, she trapunto’d areas from behind by stuffing them with fiber fill.

umbrella-detail-2 Kathy Downie fiber art umbrella

She lined the umbrella with a piece of her own hand-dyed fabric:

Kathy Downie fiber art umbrella

And it was featured in a book about the contest pieces:

Kathy Downie fiber art umbrella

Kathy Downie fiber art umbrella

Lovely work Kathy. Thanks for letting me share – and for a fun day!

Kathy Downie fiber art umbrella

To learn more about Kathy Downie, please visit her blog at: https://kathysquiltingjourney.wordpress.com/.


October 2, 2016, Design