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Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Learning Experience

Brace yourselves - I've been humbled.

When I first took up quilting, I couldn't for the life of me understand why people didn't do more adventurous machine quilting. Why longarm quilters seemed obssessed with continuous line patterns. And why quilters everywhere seemed to love doing baby quilts and wall hangings.

Well, I can now say I finally understand.

There have been a number or births recently among my family and friends. I was bemoaning how many years I was behind in quilting, how I wanted to give baby quilts but I had such a backlog...

Well, this week I made three baby quilts. The first one went together easily - all 4-inch squares from a precut set. Add borders, quilt on the diagonal, and bind.

Then I discovered in my stash two Laurel Burch panels, each with 9 images of cats with kittens, including baby carriages.

Now, in quiltspeak, a panel is a "cheater." But I've just mostly finished the first panel, and boy, did I learn some lessons doing it!

Firstly, I thought I'd never get through it. Because of course, I wasn't quilting this one on the diagonal, I was outlining all the animals and flowers.

And, since I'm no longer a beginner, I left the beginning and ending threads nice and long so I could later bury them in the quilt.

Lesson one: machine quilters use continuous line patterns because then they don't end up with five million threads to knot and bury!

I sat down with my panel and began to clip threads at eight o'clock this evening. It is now midnight, and I've just finished.

Actual hand quilting is soothing. Tying off the ends of hundreds of threads is not. It is tedious, uncomfortable, and boring.

About half way through I wanted so badly to just clip all those thread ends, like I used to, before I knew what I was doing! Who am I kidding - this thing ain't gonna be around for a hundred years! Why didn't I just backtrack over the seam ends and cut the damned things?

Because (unfortunately) I now know better. So I threaded, tied, buried, and clipped. For four hours. And the sad part is, there is more quilting to do on it again tomorrow. But at least the worst is over for now.

I also gained a flash of insight into why people quilting on home machines don't do more adventurous quilting - lots of twisting and turning and creative stuff. Becuase the stupid basting threads keep getting snagged, that's why! Had I been quilting on the diagonal, this thing would have been finished in an hour! But it took four hours to quilt it, plus the four hours to clip the threads!

I even tried out the free motion foot - wisely testing it out on spare fabric. And I couldn't get the tension right for the bottom thread. And yes, I put the presser foot down to adjust the tension. I have no problem doing free motion sewing on my home machine - except the bobbin thread lies flat as a pancake on the reverse side. 

A few years ago, I would have just used the free motion foot, damn the tension!

But I know better now. Now I want the reverse side to look nice.

So I went back to the regular foot, with a renewed understanding of why most quilters who use home machines don't go in for fancy stuff. Lesson two.

And as to lesson three - why quilters prefer to make wall hangings and baby quilts? Because you can finish them on your home machine and they don't take half a year to make.

I don't know which of the seven babies born recently will be getting my three baby quilts. But I'm glad I made them. I'm glad I took a break from the other projects that have been weighing me down. Back to them next week.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Too Much Fabric

I got all worked up yesterday at Fabricville. I found some sheer cotton/silk fabric in the right colors for my kitchen/diningroom curtains. I've been hoping to find this kind of fabric for some time, sheer enough to see through but not made of organza, which in this country only comes in polyester, not silk.

The idea is to use my quilting skills and create a simple design: one white patch, one yellow patch, alternating. Checkerboard. In a soft fabric that lets in lots of light.

The first barrier to this notion was finding the right yellow. I hate scatological colors. (I.e., piss-yellow.) There is a plethora of scatological yellows out there, and I detest all of them. Finally yesterday, when I was browsing, I found exactly the right color of yellow and a matching texture of white. I had to act.

But how much to buy? I didn't have the window measurements with me.

I stood staring at the cutting table for about half an hour, picturing the windows. I estimated one window to be two meters wide and the other one meter. Remembering that French pleats take three times the width of the window in fabric, I estimated I needed nine meters of fabric - 4.5 in yellow and 4.5 in white. I bought ten meters in all.

On the way home I began to wonder if that was enough. I hadn't thought about how much fabric would be used up by the seam allowances, especially since I intended to do French seams, which take double the seam allowance.

When I got home the first thing I did was measure the windows. One was exactly two meters wide, and the other just under a meter. Yay! I had estimated correctly! I had enough fabric and the right amount of tape for French pleats.

The this morning it hit me - I wanted to tab curtains. Tab curtains, not French pleats, in the kitchen/diningroom!

So, anybody want six meters of yellow and white fabric?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

It ain't over yet...

I was so thrilled to hand over the quilt to my friend J. to be quilted. The "memories" project, formerly known as the "dead-guy" quilt. After lugging his clothes around for five years and finally cutting them into rectangles last winter, after picking a pattern where I could use quilting cotton to control the stretch and sewing my strips and putting 30 squares together at last, I had decided, since I had two more of these things to do, that I would let J do the quilting of it, that I had "done my time."

But alas, it was not to be.

Seems the stretch is bogging down her longarm quilting machine. Even though she's doing free-motion stippling on a Gammill, she says the foot is still stretching the fabric and pushing it along. She's tried every way she can think of.

She thinks I'll have to tie it.

I know there's a solution, a way to have it quilted, but I don't know if I'm prepared to go there, after all the time I've put in (for free) and have yet to put into this project.

It's called hand-quilting. Now mind you, hand-quilting this puppy would be hell on earth - the fabrics are all different thicknesses, but the range is mostly from exta-thick to fluffy.

It would be extremely difficult to needle.

What is this part of me that longs to pass thread through 3 layers, be they as thick as seven? Why is it that I don't feel that a tied quilt is good enough?

I don't know.

I only know it ain't over yet.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

First of Three (Borg Designation?)

And here it is, at last, the first of three quilts to be made from the clothing of a gentleman who passed away about five years ago.

This one is for his son, J, who at the time was a student in elementary school when I experimented with teaching quilting. When his father died, he told his mom to contact me about making them quilts from daddy's clothing.

I have a soft heart (and a shortage of common sense), plus I hadn't a clue as to how difficult this project was going to be, so I said yes.

I lugged that clothing with me through two moves before finally cutting it up into rectangles last spring. I knew stretch would be a problem, so I took my time finding a pattern that would help me control the stretch. As you can see, there are four 9-patches in each block. Those are the fabrics cut from clothing. Separating them, is sashing made from proper quilting cotton, and around that are two rows of sashing. The inner row varies in width because the 9-patches vary in size, but the outer row of sashing is a consistent size, which made sewing the rows together much easier than it could have been!

Naming these quilts is going to be a challenge in itself. Had there been only one, I could have called it "Memories of Dad" or something like that. But I've got three of these things to name. And believe me, it's been called every name under the sun already! And no, I'm not going to give them Borg designations, tempting as that might be for such an avid Trekkie!

I'll think of something.