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I'm a retired attorney, mother of three, Grandma, Samoyed mom, beekeeper, swarm catcher, quilter and lover of all things Oklahoma.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Can't Screw It Up Baby Quilt Part 2

I'd hoped to quickly quilt the CSIUBQ on Tuesday but life intervened in the form of getting the oil changed, the car winterized and various other errands. The perks of being your own boss.  I also spent part of the day working on the binding and after I'd made enough for the quilt, decided I didn't like it.  I liked the "concept" of that particular fabric for this particular quilt, but experience has convinced me that, when the concept and the colors are having a fistfight, go with the colors.   No one really wants to get all intellectual and conceptual about a baby quilt, anyway.  It's about love, not a discussion of social mores and conventions or other high brow stuff.  Save that for a Tee-shirt quilt.

Long story short, it was late Tuesday afternoon before I came up for air and got out to the studio.

The good news is that I quickly found some fabric I liked for the backing.  Looks like cascading water, to me.
Maybe it will make the baby feel sleepy, eh?

Or wet the bed, dunno.

To make life easier, I use zippers on the quilts.
When you have a small quilt like this (it is 39 by 48 inches square, unfinished), a yard and 5/8ths of backing can do it without piecing - under perfect circumstances.  It only left me with 2.5 inches per side on the narrow length and normally I need four per side if it is someone else's quilt.  You just have to be sure there is enough, especially if the quilt isn't completely square.  The last thing you want to happen is to get to the end of the quilt and run out of backing and if the quilt isn't square, you've got a big problem on your hands.  You'd be looking at about 50 hours of frog stitching for a full sized quilt just to start over from scratch.  Ask me how I know.  Ugh.

But for this one, since I knew it was square and because it is so small (and it is mine so if I screw it up, I haven't harmed anyone), I believe I can just use about two inches along the top and that gives me 3.0 inches along the bottom.  I wouldn't do this for someone who hired me - too risky.  And I sure wouldn't risk it on a quilt that was much larger.  I'm not crazy or masochistic, either.

I currently have three types of batting out in the studio - a light polyester,  an 80% cotton and the tail end of some warm and natural I bought years ago.  I ended up going with the warm and natural because I personally like the feel - and I was using up the roll.

Note to self:  If you are making a quilt with a particular block that is going to draw attention - you might want to take special care to make it perfect.

I would have worked into the night and finished quilting it except 1) my husband is out of town and I didn't want to be out in the studio that late; and 2) the outside barn lights both went out for some reason just hours before he left town (and had been doing some electrical work).  I didn't want to have to walk in the dark from the studio to the house.   At any rate, I'd cleaned off the stray threads; cut the batting and backing; and just reached the point of getting the quilt loaded and the thread selected when I ran out of daylight.  At that point, I called it a day.

Wednesday and today have been too hectic to get back out to the studio for any length of time, and tomorrow is the same.  Hopefully, I will be able to get this quilted sometime early next week.

Happy Quilting,


Monday, December 10, 2012

Can't Screw It Up Baby Quilt

Okay, so I've been working on a couple of baby quilts and decided I would share the pattern I've been using.  The reason I'm doing this is because it is so easy, it would be like stealing to sell it.  The catch to this pattern is that you've got to be willing to risk wasting some fabric in exchange for not stressing out over whether you are going to clip a corner.  And if you clip a corner while doing this quilt, you have simply got to set down the wine and walk away until you sober up.

The good news is that this pattern lends itself to using the beautiful scraps you have laying around  around making your children worry about your mental health.  I so hope you aren't hiding that stash to try to keep up the facade that you are in your right mind because, eventually, someone is going to go through your stuff and they'll learn the truth.  It may be after you're dead and how unpleasant a surprise would THAT be for your family?  Hmm?   And you won't even be there to explain the situation.  Just be honest about it, baby.

So here is a photo of the Can't Screw It Up Baby Quilt before it is quilted (with any luck, I'll get to it in the morning - stay posted for photos):
How big is it?  Well, that sort of goes to the part about not being able to screw it up.  The blocks are 9 inches, finished, and with this pattern, it is just a question of stitching together as many as you want to get the size you want.  In other words - just make as many of the darn blocks as you want and stitch them together.  The one in the above photo is a 3 X 4 baby quilt.   Here are some sizes, based on a small inner border and a 4.75 inch outer border:

Nine blocks (3 X 3):  Baby Quilt
Twelve blocks (3 X 4): Big Baby Quilt
Sixteen blocks (4 X 4): Great Big Baby Quilt or a Lap Quilt for someone you just owe a quilt to.
Thirty six blocks (6 X 6): Lap Quilt if you really like them.
Fifty-four blocks (6 X 9): Twin size - nice for that new graduate going off to college.  Be sure to check with her on the colors she wants, first.
Sixty-three blocks (9 X 7): Double
Eighty blocks (8 X 10): Queen
One Hundred blocks (10 X 10): King

I'm tell you, flat out, I personally would give up quilting before I would make 100 of these blocks for a king size bed.  I am just not that dedicated and get bored way too easily.  IMO, this pattern is better suited for a smaller quilt and if you want to make a larger one, I suggest you make the block bigger.  You do what you want, though.  It is a very fun, low stress, no stress quilt to make, just the thing if you want something easy, quick and happy - and as colorful or muted as you want.
So here is the fabric you need, per block (since I don't know how many blocks you are going to use, I can't tell you how much you need, overall):

Light background fabric (in the above photo, this is the cream background with grey polka dots):

(1) 4 X 4 square
(2) 4 inch wide by 11.75 inches
(2) 4 inch wide by 4.25 inches

Note - you can get 1 block from a 4 inch wide LOF strip of background fabric with about 8 - 10 inches left over.

If you are making several blocks, those 8 - 10 inch leftover background strips are good to use for the short sides of the blocks so there is less waste.  If it were me, I'd just cut several 4 inch wide LOF strips of the background fabric and then cut three "almost" 12 inch strips and use the remainder for the short sides.  After you've done a few, you'll have a better idea of how long the strips need to be.

Oh who am I kidding?  I'd just cut a few 4 inch wide LOF strips after figuring out how many blocks I wanted to make, then I'd cut off the lengths I needed, when I needed them.  If I needed to cut more strips, I'd do it when I was sure.  If I was worried about having enough fabric, I'd be more cautious but I generally get extra, just in case.  Know thyself.
Color fabric (in the above photo, that is the colors of the pinwheels - blue, dark grey and a more muted grey).

(1) 4 X 4 inch square.

1.  Making the center of the pinwheel block:

Okay, so here we go.  First, slap the 4 X 4 background fabric to the color 4 X 4 piece, right sides together, like this:

Stitch all the way around it with a standard 1/4 inch seam allowance.  When you are done, you will have a square with stitches all the way around it that probably looks much tidier than this one:
Cut it diagonally from both sides - like an X.  You'll end up with four pieces:    
Press open all four pieces with the seam allowance towards the color piece.  Yes - you will end up with four half square triangles! Be still my beating heart.
Clip the dog ears/legs/whatever and set them to look like a pinwheel so you know which one hugs the other.

No, don't tell me this proves there really is a way to screw it up.  It blows the whole theme and I don't want to hear about it.

Stitch two adjacent half squares together, then stitch the other two together.
You end up with two halves.  Press them flat.  Pay attention to the direction the seam was laying and make sure it goes in the same direction.

The tricky part about pinwheels is getting the middle right.  Be careful to line up your seams when you stitch the two halves together.  If you need to do a little trimming to get the edge straight, so long as you leave room for a quarter inch seam allowance, no one cares.  Just do it, baby.
After the whole thing is stitched together, press flat with the seams continuing in the same direction.
 If you do it right, there should be a little four patch looking spot in the center of the back.
Don't look too close - when I took this photo, my beloved Janome had just gotten all uplike and created a rat's nest.  I didn't redo it because, frankly, I didn't need the block except that I wanted one to demonstrate.  That's how easy these blocks are - takes no time at all.

I usually set the pinwheels under a heavy board while they are hot and that really smushes them flat.
In the following photo example, you'll notice that there are three different colors of the pinwheels - one is blue, the rest are either grey or a muted grey.
Now, I am sure you are sitting there thinking that I did a pretty cool thing with the grey and muted grey.  Very stylish, very hip, very modern.  That's me, of course.  I will let you in on a little secret.  I accidentally sewed the dark grey fabric to the background fabric wrong.  The muted color is actually the back of the dark grey.  No worries.  I told you, you simply can't screw up this quilt.
Finally, sort of clean up your pinwheel.  Make it nice and straight with the diagonal lines hitting the corners.  You can use a 4 inch square ruler - which I did for the most part - but this is one of those places where YOU CAN'T SCREW THIS QUILT UP, BABY!  If your pin wheel is a little larger or a little smaller, no worries.  In fact, that might make it a little more interesting.  The block pattern is intended to absorb small mistakes and you won't even notice they happened.  Even if it is a little wonky, it doesn't really matter.  This is a confidence builder, ladies.  BE FREE!!

2: Adding the outside of the pinwheel block:

After you clean up the pinwheels, stitch the 4 X 4.25 inch background strips to a side.  Doesn't matter which side.  Press it with the seam allowance against the background fabric.

Then, stitch a 4 X 4.25 inch strip of background fabric to the opposite side.  Don't try to make it fit - if it is too long (and it will be), just let it creep past the edge and trim it off, later.  Press it with the seam against the background fabric.  At this point, you've got about a 11.5 inch by about 4 inch shaggy looking block.  Doesn't have to be perfect.

Once you get opposite sides on, trim and add the other two sides (the 4 X 11.75 inch background strips).  Press with the seam allowances towards the background fabric.

If you are at all worried that things might come up short, cut the long sides to about 12 inches. That length is generous - Don't try to force them to fit.  There is NO forcing in this quilt.  If they are too long (and they will be) just let them hang over the edge of the side.  Chances are you won't need that much and if that is the case, adjust in cutting for subsequent blocks.  I am writing this for the folks who are nervous that they are going to mess up and giving them lots of room.

3.  Squaring up the blocks:

The trick is that you use a 9.5 inch square ruler on these large, floppy blocks.  And the second trick is to find the center of the ruler and place it on the center of the pinwheel.  If you are using a 9.5 inch square, it will try to trick you because of the half inch measurement on two sides.  Don't be fooled.  It won't be the end of the world if you get a pinwheel a little off center but better to take the time before you start cutting and find the center spot.  See what I mean?
You really want it at the 4.75 inch mark to get it in the center.
For each block, center the square ruler, then slightly twist it so that the pinwheel is off center.  Before you cut, make sure that the ruler is still on the fabric! Don't turn every block the same way - twist some to the right, some to the left, some don't twist at all, twist a lot, twist just slightly.  The point is to make each pinwheel slightly off kilter from its neighbors.  That give the quilt energy AND it masks any small problems with the size.
A note on fabric:

First - I didn't want to confuse you, earlier, but I'll risk it now - if you have a few pinwheels you don't want to twist, i.e., you want them to be just straight up, you don't need to add 4 inch wide strips to the center pinwheel.  Just use 3.5 inch wide strips and it will be wide enough.  The pink pinwheel in the photo just above isn't twisted, for example.   Keep this in mind when it comes to cutting out the background fabric LOF if you are running short.  I personally think adding a few "straight" blocks makes the quilt look better.

Next - If you wanted to use charm packs for your colors, you can do that.  Charm packs are 5 inches square so just cut out a 5 X 5 inch background fabric square (instead of a 4 X 4 inch square) to make the center of the pinwheel blocks.  Then, change the background strips from 4 inches wide to 3.5 inches wide.  You end up with center pinwheel that is about an inch larger but that might actually be an improvement for a larger quilt.  You'd still end up with a 9 inch finished block.

4.  Piecing the top:

Lay out the blocks in the order you want.  I'd alternate the short sides with the long sides.  See the seams in this photo?
That way, you don't have as many seams to match.  Life doesn't have to be so hard unless we just let it.

5.  Inner Border:

I think adding an inner border is nice but you don't have to do it.  I just added a 1.5 inch wide strip in a complementary color.

6. Outer Border:

The edges of the pinwheel blocks have enough space that you really don't need a border unless you just want one for looks or you want to make the quilt bigger.  If you wanted to frame it, you could do that with a colorful binding and not even worry about a border.  Up to you.

However, for the purposes of this pattern, I used a 5 inch wide strip to make a mitered border.
I can't say as I am particularly proud of the way the edges of the fabric met.  I could have used an easier fabric that blended better but I liked the colors in this one.  I could have just put on a horizontal/vertical border but I wanted to practice mitering edges.  It doesn't really matter because it is going to look nice, regardless. The corners where the miters meet aren't perfect but I will stabilize and smooth them out when I longarm it by choosing the right batting and by stitching in the ditch around that corner.

This quilt went together super fast and, as I said, you really can't screw it up.  If you decide you want to do one, please send me a photo - I'd love to post it to show it off!

Thanks for visiting,


Friday, December 7, 2012

Preparing Your Quiltop for Longarm Quilting.

Make sure the thread ends are trimmed Stray threads can show through the finished quilt and after all the expense, love and effort you’ve put into making your creation, you just don’t want that to happen.  It will drive you absolutely nuts every time you look at it.

Ask me how I know...

Press your quilt top seams flat.  This is really important and can make a big difference in the final look of the quilt.  It doesn’t have to be perfect (believe me, we’ve all had twisted seams) but you really want to iron them as flat as you can.  Work on the seams from the back, then iron from the top (front) so it quilts easier and doesn’t wreck havoc on the tension. 

Do your best to get the sides square/avoid waves in the borders.  Speaking from experience from when I was a new quilter, ahem, there is only so much a longarm quilter can do if the quilt is running wild!    My best advice is to fold the quilt in half lengthwise and measure the center of the quilt and make the side borders the same length as the center measurement, NOT the edge measurement.  After you attach the side borders, fold the quilt in half the other way and measure the crosswise center (including the borders you just put on) and make the other borders the same length as that center measurement, not the edge measurement.  Good luck!

Make sure the quilt is clean.  Most of the time this is no problem but if you smoke and the quilt has absorbed the aroma, it can affect other quilts or the canvas on my machine.  Because of that, I wouldn’t be able to accept it before it had a bath.  J

Your quilt backing must be a MINIMUM of 4" bigger than your quilt top on each side.  That means a total of 8" longer and 8" wider. 

If you are piecing the backing, trim off the selvages, first, because they don’t shrink at the same rate as the rest of the quilt.  You won’t like the result after it is washed if you leave those selvages in. 

Although we quilters typically use a quarter inch seam on the top, remember to use a 1/2- 5/8" seam on the backing and press the seam open. 

Square up your quilt backing.  This is important because if it isn’t square, it won’t work with the longarm.  You can do this by folding it in quarters and using your rotary cutter and rulers to trim it even.  Just make sure the back ends up at least 8" longer and wider than the quilt top.

Press the backing. 

You need batting the same size as the backing.  

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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Quilt Doodling

 I've been out in the studio, practicing freehand quilt stitches. 

I was pleased with how the flower turned out and will probably use it, again.  The scribble to the right was mainly just playing with the difference in texture.  The raised squiggles were just there for relief. 

 This is not the best picture but I really enjoy this particular design:

 Another raised squiggle that doesn't look too hot - just used it to practice the background around it:

A nonsensical block that I did when I should have been eating lunch and getting my blood sugar back up!

 I love bubbles but the raised part is absurd:
These are all freehand scribbles - next week, I'll probably spend some practice time using templates.