Forest Galorest

I loved this pattern from Java House Quilts the first time I saw it.  If you love it as well, you can purchase it yourself here.  I started working on this quilt back in September.  The applique would be needle-turned, meaning by hand.  The edges would be turned under and stitched down by hand vs fusing down a raw edge applique onto the background and machine finishing the edges (a tedious, but much quicker method).  I figured it would take me about 2 years to finish; a nice project for me to work on in the evenings before bedtime.  My daughter was going to start “trying” to get pregnant soon.  Maybe this would make a nice baby quilt.  If she never conceived, I could keep this quilt for myself (trying not to get my hopes up).  Her older sister took several years of trying to conceive naturally and then several attempts of in vitro before getting pregnant.  So, 2 years… I would have plenty of time to casually work on this quilt.

Then, in October, she told me she was pregnant.  Or, was it late September?  She was due June 2nd.  I was shocked, floored.  Surely, it was too soon to know for sure… a false positive…  I admit it.  One of my first thoughts was about this quilt.  How on earth would I get it done in time?  It has plenty of big pieces but also LOTS of tiny pieces.  I figured I’d better get busy.  As I got farther and farther into this quilt, I was kicking myself for not machine appliqueing it.  It is what it is.  And, I am done now.  I’m late for the arrival, but I am done.  He’s about a week old now and a cutie patooty!

The question once I finished it was how to quilt it.  The more quilting you do on a quilt, the more thread you add to that quilt and the heavier and stiffer it gets.  This was for a baby, so I wanted it to be soft… or at least as soft as I could make it and still add details to it.  You will notice there are plenty of gaps in the quilting where it seems like there should be more quilting.  That was intentional to prevent the quilt from becoming too stiff and heavy.  I stitched down enough to give the effect of what I wanted and then let the rest go.  Sometimes you’ve just gotta “let it go.” 😉  My desired effect was playful, yet polished.

Simple swirls were stitched inside the appliqued blocks around the animals and flowers.  My instinct was to put something formal on the outside edges of the pieced blocks, but I ended up putting animal paws there instead.  They are not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s okay (Let it go!).  The way you make these animal paws is to stitch a curvy triangle with 2 ovals going up one side and 2 ovals going back down the other side, all as a continuous path with no starts and stops.

 

What should I do with those outside odd blocks along the border?  I could have added nature scenes, but that would involve intense stitching.  It needed to be open and flowing.  So, I opted for something formal and polished in those areas; feathers and curved cross-hatching.  Traditional feathers would be nice, but I chose bumpy ones to mimic butterfly wings.

I did sneak some playfulness into some of those areas.

 

As for the borders, I started at the bottom and stitched a very loose fern to mimic a grassy look.

Moving up the sides, I stitched pine trees on the left by the raccoons and bear.  My pine trees got worse as I stitched more and more of them (Let it go!) up towards the owl.

On the right, I transitioned the ferns into leafy vines to meet the squirrels at the top.

At the top I transitioned the leafy vines to meet the rays of whatever that circle thing is around the owl’s head.  It could be the moon.  Or, it could be the sun.  Whatever your imagination sees is what it is.

A couple of notes… as far as the binding goes, I had a hard time deciding which fabric to choose.  I finally decided that I wanted to see that darker blue repeated somewhere in the quilt.  It’s one of my funny idiosyncrasies; I believe you need to repeat fabrics in a quilt to make it look more polished or professional.  So, I chose that darker blue for the border and had intended to make a piping of the pale blue stripes that you see very little of in the quilt.  The pale blue stripes are around the little square blocks where I stitched curved cross-hatching and also in the corners of the border.  To get that effect, you create a faux piping within the binding.  Here’s a tutorial by Margo Clabo from “The Quilt Show” of how to create that.  For whatever reason, I decided I wanted to go with 1/4″ piping, so I cut my strips at 1 3/4 inch for the pale blue stripes and 1 1/4 inch for the solid blue – after stitching the strips together and then folding that wider pieced strip, I’d have a 1/4″ piping instead of 1/8″ inch piping.  That was a mistake.  It turned out to be a flange.  There’s nothing wrong with a flange, but I was worried about it flapping around.  So, I stitched it down.  I’m okay with that.  It still looks fine (Let it go!), and I still get to see both of those fabrics along the border.

Also, if you are wondering how I place appliques on their blocks, I draw out the original design onto a piece of plastic first.  This particular piece is one of those pieces of plastic that hold papers together with a strip of hard colored plastic, while the clear plastic acts like a folder for the papers.  I use a vis-a-vis marker which stays on there until I run water across it.  I don’t know whether or not a dry erase marker would work.  If you have tried that and it does, please speak up in the comments.

My goal is to teach you something new with my posts, if I can.  So, I hope you learned something today!

 

Welcome Back!

I am giving up my website and coming back to this blog site.  I have no idea how this will work with the new Net Neutrality rules, but I’m okay with that.  I no longer quilt for others, but you will be seeing posts whenever I get a chance to quilt for myself.  This particular post will be full of tips, because I haven’t been quilting on a regular basis and just got back into the game – I’ve realized how many tips I’d taken for granted.  So, I will share them with you today.  Please forgive me if they seem to basic to you!

I just put this quilt on the frame and the first thing I did was make a straight stitching line to butt my quilt top up against so that my quilt will be straight and hopefully square – I don’t know if you can see that or not.  I also use a laser square to check as I go along, making sure any stitch lines going across or down are straight as well.

As I go along, I use a “centering” measuring tape across the quilt to make sure each side matches the original measurements.  At this point, I am near the bottom of the quilt and have decided to go ahead and stitch my straight line across the bottom of the batting and backing sandwich.  I’ll butt the bottom of the quilt up to that stitching line.

To make sure the sides are where they need to be, I put a pin where the measuring tape has hit along the sides to keep it square.

 

Then, I’ll pin it and baste it down along that straight stitching line.

I’m not the best quilt top maker in the world, which is why I prefer the quilting part of the process.  I can fix some of my problem areas.

Before

After… I just took the bulk and spread it along the side before basting it down.

I am not done with this quilt yet.  I’ll save finished pictures for another post.  But, I wanted to throw a couple more tips in here.  I have trouble with glare… a LOT of trouble with glare, which is why I created the quilting rulers in my shop.  Take a look at this picture.  I need to thread the needle.  Can you see the eye of the needle?  I can’t.

But, if I move the needle over onto some fabric, I’ve removed the glare from the bottom of the machine and, voila!  I can see the eye of the needle.

One final tip before I go.  For those of you who send your quilts to a quilter… if your quilter asks for 8 inches of extra backing fabric on each side of your quilt, this is the reason why.  That plastic thing is the base that fits on the bottom of my machine.  I thought I had the measuring tape showing in this picture so you could see for sure that I have 8 extra inches of backing fabric.  My needle sits in the middle of that square hole in the plastic base.  Do you see where it is on the quilt top?  It’s not even reaching the edge of the quilt top.  If I’m using that base, which I do on custom quilting (and for this quilt; quilting around the applique pieces), the base is going to hit those clamps and cause me to make mistakes along the edges.  So, PLEASE, if your quilter asks for 8 extra inches of backing fabric on all sides, make sure your backing has that much or more. You will be doing yourself and your quilter a huge favor!

P.S. If you’re wondering about this quilt, you can find the pattern, “Forest Galorest,” by Java House Quilts here.

 

Square Peg in a Round Hole

Reposted from my other site.

Susan inherited this quilt top from her dad and step-mom. You can obviously see that the design flows into kind of a “sweep”.  But, to me, it looked like it could have been a Native American design.  The design is merely different colored squares sewn together into an interesting design.

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Susan already had the PERFECT thread for this quilt.  The colors matched perfectly. When I got it home and threaded the machine and put the first stitch into the quilt, I realized it was thicker than any thread I’ve used.  And, I was worried.  It took some coaxing to get the thread to go through the quilt layers, but once I got it going it worked like a charm…and didn’t break, not once!

I’m glad Susan decided on a Native American quilting design.  And, you know what?  That thick thread REALLY showed off the design in the light-colored border.  And, the batik border fabric is a wonderful companion to the quilting design and Susan’s thread.   Edge-to-Edge quilting used the wavy lines and the stepping stones under the sun in the border design.

I don’t remember ever getting the chance to quilt a Native American design into a quilt, so this was a lot of fun to do.  If you’re wondering where to find the border design, I took one of Meadowlyon Designs’ pantographs (named Modern Southwest) that you can find here.  Their pantograph is 10 1/2″ tall, but the border of Susan’s quilt was 7 inches, I think.  So, what I did was make a smaller copy of one repetition in the pantograph.  I then traced it onto Golden Threads Quilting Paper (you can buy it from their website and other stores) and pinned it to the quilt top.  I wanted a cornerstone, so I took the bird , enlarged it in different sizes to find the size that worked best and then traced it onto the quilting paper as well and then stitched through the quilting paper. In the past, I’ve used vellum, tracing paper, Press ‘n Seal, etc for marking quilts.  But, I had this on hand and it was just sitting on the shelf, so I thought I’d try it.  I actually really like it.  The paper is a soft yellow, which blends with lots of colors, believe it or not.  When you pull the paper off, it doesn’t leave as much paper behind, and the paper isn’t a bright white.  Judge for yourself if the end product (quilting shown in the pictures above) turned out okay.

I said earlier that Susan inherited this quilt top from her dad and step-mom.  Well, here’s something you don’t realize you need or would like to have until you get it.  They left their quilt tops in “kits” with batting, thread, and backing included on many of the quilts; ready to be quilted.  And, check out this batting!  I was floored.  How cool is that! The batting is marked so I know which way to load it (you need more from roller to roller than you do side to side, because the rollers will use more batting – you can read more about that in my blog post “Oops! Please Add More Batting!“).

I have a tip for loading quilt backing.  I like to load backing fabric so the selvages attach to the rollers. The reason I like to do that is because the width (weft) of the fabric has a little more stretch than the length (warp) of the fabric.  When I load the backing fabric to the canvas of the rollers, the fabric will stretch some.  It stretches even more if I load the quilt with the width going side to side rather than roller to roller – that produces a “waistline”, as I call it, on the backing fabric.  See how the top of the fabric in this picture is stretched more?  That’s because it is attached to the roller canvas.  The rest is not attached to anything yet.  I lay batting on top of the backing fabric and then stitch a straight line across the top of the batting so that I can get the edge of the quilt top straight.  I then baste the top down.  After that, I will check to make sure the sides of the quilt top are straight and will stitch it down.  AFTER it’s stitched down, I attach stretchy clamps to the sides of the backing fabric to hold it taut – that’s what helps keep wrinkles out of the backing fabric, where you can’t see it as you roll the quilt.  So, what will happen is the backing fabric will have more of an “hourglass figure” if I load the backing with the width (weft) of the fabric going side to side than it will if I load the backing with the length (warp) of the fabric going side to side.  And, the selvages have the extra thickness in its weave, so that adds to the strength where it’s attached to the roller canvas.  The difference it makes for the quilt maker is that if there’s a seam down the back, it might not end up straight.

 

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One of the best parts of my job is the variety of quilt tops and quilting designs that I get to work with each day.  I learn something new with each one.  I had a lot of fun with this one.

To the Moon and Back

Reposted from my other site

This is another quilt I should have put up on my design wall before quilting it, because the colors and the pattern are striking.

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Kathy called this her Universe quilt.  It has the 4 quadrants in colors.  Do you see the circles of color in the blues down in the lower left?  Those look like planets, too, and all the mottled batiks in the borders look, to me, like an Aurora Borealis.  So, how would you quilt this?

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The colors are so magnificent, that it’s hard to see the quilting, but I decided to stitch a stun into the upper right hand (yellow) corner with the 9 planets circling around it.  The orbiting circles are anything but perfect.  I hand drew them on with chalk and then stitched following the chalk lines.

In the purple down in the lower right is where I put Earth and its circling moon.  Can you see it?  The moon’s orbit is elliptical, so maybe if you find that semi-sideways oval, you’ll see the big circle inside, which is Earth.  I also drew the Big and Little Dipper with the North Star to the lower left of Earth.  Of course, my ADD brain struggled with which way to put those stars (they’re not in correct proportion anyway)…as I am looking at them on the quilt?  Or as I would look at them if I were on Earth?  I also put shooting stars and meteors in the quilt, but you can’t see them here.  The backing on the quilt did a good job of hiding them, too, which I’m always glad for, because my pea brain talks smack to me about my quilting abilities.

This particular quilt was a good example of some of the strategies I used for getting a quilt squared up as it rolls on the frame for the quilting machine.  And, since you can’t see the quilting too much, I thought I’d add some tips here.

First off, this quilt has lots of straight lines.  I use those lines to guide me to getting the quilt straight.  I’ll explain the tape measure in a bit, but for now, take a look at the lower edge of the picture.  That’s where the lower roller bar lies.  I use the lines in the quilt to help me gauge whether or not the quilt is straight going across.

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I’m sure I’ve showed you before the laser level I use to make sure the lines are straight as well.

I used to use these white clips on the rear roller bar to help me with placement of blocks and borders as I quilted, but, unless you find a way to make them stay put, they roll and move.  By the way, if you look closely at the edges of the quilt top, you will see a line of basting on the batting.  There are 3 roller bars on my machine’s frame.  The backing fabric is attached to 2 rollers; one at the bottom and one above this black roller you see in the picture below.  That roller is used to keep the fabric in place at it rolls. So, first, I attach the backing fabric to the canvases that are attached to those 2 rollers.  Then, I lay the batting on top of the backing fabric.  I use my channel locks to stitch a straight line across the top of the batting – it helps to have a dark thread for this so you can see it better.  That is my guide for where to butt the quilt top fabric up against.  I then pin the quilt top fabric in place and then stitch it down about 1/4 inch along the edge.  I’d like to make it 1/8 inch, but I’m just not that good.

As for the tape measure, I use that as a guide for where to stitch the sides in place.  When I get the top stitched down, I use my laser level to tell me where to butt the sides up to and then stitch the sides down to about 12 inches from the top.  Then I see where the sides hit the tape measure and write those numbers down.  I use those numbers for placement of the rest of the quilt along the sides.

A machine quilter’s job involves a lot more than just quilting.  The above tips are just a sampling of the many things we do when we work on your quilt.

A Woodland Christmas… by Joan

I figured I’d better get this on here while I’ve got the chance.  I’ve been busy lately working on things for my booth at the Kansas City Regional Quilt Festival, which starts next Friday, by the way.  And, I will continue being busy working on more stuff for the next week.  This was the last customer quilt I was able to work on before the quilt show.  Joan always lets me play and put whatever I want on her quilts.  It’s a very dangerous tactic, you know.

So, let’s show you a full shot of the quilt first before I get into the details of the quilting.

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Now, how on earth would YOU quilt this?  My first concern was the border, because that’s where I start.  The cornerstones were easy – Joan had an applique star in the upper right hand corner, so I just copied that into the other corners.

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As for the borders, I couldn’t come up with something creative enough (for me) that would go with this quilt, so I ended up doing something simple with holly leaves.  It would need to be able to work play well with the applique in the borders.  Just now, looking at these pictures, I wish I had added piano keys on the outside of the swags.

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Along the lower border were 2 bears, but they needed a mama bear so I added her in the back of them.

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Joan asked how I got the bear to look just like the others.  Well, I cheated, and here is a tutorial showing you how I did it.  But… it shows what I did with the trees at the top of the quilt instead of the bear; I did the same technique.  I found myself going back and forth on this quilt, adding a bit here and a bit there.  It seemed to me that I was doing a lot of the same things, so in that big open space in the tree farm, I decided to add more trees.  I have a roll of vellum or onion skin (I can’t remember which I’d bought) for tracing designs. So, to add more trees, I simply traced the applique trees already there and added more trees around them.  This would be my quilting design.  If you look closely at the corners of the paper, you will see where I have straight pins holding the paper in place.  I just stick them straight down without trying to weave them into the fabric.  When I do that, it just turns out worse.

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After I had the trees drawn out, I then hold my left hand on the paper and move the machine around with my right hand (if you are left handed, hold the paper with your right hand and move the machine with your left hand).  If you don’t already know this, a longarm quilting machine floats or hovers above the fabric and has no feed dogs (those gritty teeth things on the bottom/bobbin plate of a domestic sewing machine) to keep it steady and in place.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  Unless someone shows you what I just did, you will never know if “I meant to do that” or not.

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And, here is the result after I tore the paper off.

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I tried to give each of the houses a different roof top, but some of them are repeated. If you go back and take a second look at the border pictures, you can see more houses in those shots.

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Most of the houses in this quilt reminded me of the Victorian houses in the Colorado mountains.  This trio, however, could have been cabins, if I had thought about it long enough.  But, they turned out okay as Victorian houses as well.

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The final picture is of the star on top of the “town tree” shining down for its audience to “ooh” and “ahh”.

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All in all, this was a fun quilt to “quilt.”  I hope you enjoyed the show and learned something, too!  Merry Christmas in June!