Monday, January 30, 2012

please follow the directions

Did you ever take one of those tests in elementary school that is designed to measure your ability to follow directions? You know, the one that has about 30 numbered directions starting with:

"1. Read items 2-30 before you write anything."

The next 28 items are commands like "draw a circle in the upper left corner of this page" and "draw a smiley face at the end of this sentence".

And then the last line says:

"30. Write your first and last name in the upper right corner and make no other marks on this paper. Put your pencil down on your desk when you have finished."

Yeah, so my paper was filled with smudged eraser marks indicating that I had, in fact, NOT read all the directions, but just dove right in doing what items 2-29 directed, but not what the very first direction indicated.

I remember that test vividly, and most acutely on days like last week when (once again) I didn't read all the directions carefully.

This is my corrected version of the first Dotty Stars block. It has quite a few more dark pieces than the original. The first time I just dove in and madly started cutting 3" half-square triangles in lights and darks without reading that I needed 3 times as many darks as lights. Nor did I read that once I composed a sub-unit of 4 triangles (1 dark and 3 light) I only needed to repeat that 3 times, not 15 - the other 12 sub-units should be made of 1 light and 3 darks. So the resulting finished block didn't have enough darks and none of the seams were pressed correctly. It looked okay from the front, but I knew it could be better, so I took it apart and did it as directed.

Lesson learned. Again. Maybe it will stick this time :)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Dotty Stars

Have you noticed all the varied and beautiful projects all over blog-land and flickr lately using scraps? Me too. And I've been growing my own overflowing pile of scraps here with no earthly idea what to do with them until last week.

When I remembered this magazine...

Yep, had this pattern for quite awhile now just waiting to amass the scrap quantity needed to start in on it. Well folks, the scrap quantity required has been surpassed, so I dove in one day last week!

Three hours later - no joke, three hours - I finished this spectacular star block!

I gotta be truthful here, the first two hours and forty-five minutes of those three hours I was thinking to myself:

"Hey, maybe this whole scrap usage thing just isn't for me."
"I've got plenty of other projects using NEW fabrics that I could be working on right now."
"This is absolutely the first and LAST one of these blocks I'm making."
"This is so not worth my time!"

But then I finished it, and I noticed that most of the points actually matched and the whole thing was 18.5" square just as it should be. And I loved it. LOVED IT!

I love it so much that I even took it apart today to re-make it correctly. More on that next time (I have issues with actually reading directions - I much prefer illustrations.)

So yes, I'll be making more with the intention of actually finishing the project.  This year.


Well, probably...

Monday, January 23, 2012

finished Taffy quilt

My dear SIL, Rita, pointed out to me last week that I didn't include any photos of the finished quilt with my post about machine binding. I did take a few close-up shots of the quilting, but neglected to take an overall shot of it before it was hung at the LQS (whoops!)

I know you've seen it before, but here's the whole thing before quilting and binding...

In each of the four focus fabric blocks, I combined some outline quilting of the main features (birds and flowers) with a meandering scroll throughout the open areas...

The off-white diamond areas are quilted in a "ribbon candy" type loop to fill the space, while the outer dark blue rings are quilted echoing the seam lines at 3/4" intervals. So easy with that guide bar that comes with most machines - what is the technical name for that thing anyway?

The backing fabric is a 2010 Autumn Glory by Jason Yenter print that I thought coordinated nicely with the dark blue/teal binding, and it was on the sale wall! Win-win!

If you'd like to join me to make your own Taffy quilt, click here for information about my class coming up in February and March :)

Monday, January 16, 2012

machine binding explained

Several times on this blog I have talked about attaching quilt binding entirely by machine. Last week I finished another quilt binding like this and actually took some photos to show you how I do it.

Disclaimer here: this method is nothing revolutionary (and I didn't invent it); it's just a mixture of different techniques that I've read about or seen demonstrated, and the method that works best for me :)

I always cut my binding strips at 2.25", and sew them to the front of the quilt using a 1/4" seam. I usually leave a little bit (1/8 to 1/4") of the quilt backing and batting to wrap in the binding for extra fullness around the edges when hand-finishing only. When I machine finish, I trim all the excess backing and batting away so all the layers are flush with the binding raw edge.

From the front of the quilt, I iron the binding away from the quilt top around all four sides. Make sure to remove any markings from your quilt top that may become permanent from the iron heat! Use lots of steam with a very hot iron.

Then flip the quilt over so the backing is face-up and press the binding finished edge down so that it overlaps your stitching line. Again - lots of steam.

Make sure to press nice mitered corners, so your sewing machine catches all the edges with your stitching.

Pin from the front at 3" to 4" intervals.

Check to be sure your pins have caught the finished edge of the binding on the back.

Now you are ready to sew! I have a "quilt in the ditch" foot attachment for my machine that I like to use since I'm not very accomplished at stitching in the ditch. If you have one too, give it a try. If not, just use any foot that will allow you to see your needle clearly so you can place your stitches directly in the ditch between the quilt front and the binding.

Stitch all the way around your quilt, removing the pins as you come to them. Now check it out - you can barely see that stitching line from the front!

And on the back, the corners and all edges are securely stitched down!

Check all around the back of your quilt to see if you skipped over any edges. Sometimes I don't get my stitching quite close enough to the ditch in places, and on the back there is a small section where I haven't caught the binding. Now worries, just put it back under the needle and stitch closer to the ditch and you'll probably catch it on the second try.

The pressing is really the key here. If you've got your binding pressed around to the quilt back slightly overlapping your initial stitching line, you'll have great success and be a pro at this in no time. Practice on something small for your first attempt - a place-mat, pot holder, mug rug, or something of that sort.

If you give this a go, please drop me a note or comment. I'd love to hear about how you fared. Have questions or need more clarification? Let me know about that, too.

Good luck and Happy Binding!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

sneak peek

MY LQS is starting a new series of monthly classes in January called "Breakfast Club II". It's a series of patterns and recipes put together by the FabShopHop folks, and yours truly is teaching the January and February sessions. Each month a new, exclusive pattern utilizes jelly roll strips to make a fun quilt project in sizes ranging from place-mats to king sized quilt.

Here's a little preview of the January project...

And because a quilting get-together is sooo much better with food, I'll also be cooking the corresponding breakfast recipe for the class! January is gonna be a good one - one of my most favorite breakfast foods. HINT: strawberries are one of the main ingredients. Any guesses?

If you're in the northwest suburban Chicago area, and you'd like to join me for this class, click here to be directed to the Quilt in Joy website for all the details :)  Just click on the "Classes" tab at the page top when you get there.

Friday, January 6, 2012

one last finish from 2011

Presenting "It's the Hap-happiest Season of All" - designed and named by Thing 2, machine pieced by yours truly, and machine quilted by a wonderful lady named Carol Linder. Finished on December 30!

Thing 2 and I followed the pattern "Sweet Pea" by Heather Mulder Peterson; it was very simple to cut, piece, and also fat-quarter friendly! I think we used 15 fat quarters and 1.5 yards of dots on white from the 2010 Riley Blake Christmas collection (the name escapes me, but it was definitely 2010).

The pattern calls for appliques of large, daisy-like flowers, but obviously snowflakes are more appropriate here. We found some clip art of snowflakes online and enlarged two different ones for the appliques on this quilt.

I tried (again) to use Steam-a-Seam Lite for this project, but I just seem to have the worst luck with that stuff. It didn't adhere to the fabric very well, so when I tried to pull the final backing off, most of the adhesive on the snowflake edges came right off with it. Grrrrr. But I just edge-stitched all around each snowflake to secure them, so it's all good now :)

Another shot of the fun fabrics. Thing 2 fell really hard for these prints!

The red and white stripe was cut on the bias to make the binding, which was attached front and back by machine. So easy and quick! And check out that cozy flannel backing :)

Next time I make a bias binding I'm going to show you the wonderful ruler I use to cut it. Maybe you all already know about it, but I think it's the greatest little ruler ever. And while I'm at that, I'll also show you how I attach the binding by machine. It's nothing revolutionary, but I think it makes for a very nice finish when you don't want to take the time to hand-sew or you need more durability for machine washing.

Just a couple more shots of the amazing snowflake pantograph quilting.

I chose a light teal/turquoise thread, and I'm so happy with it. That little bit of color adds so much more depth than white thread.

This quilt finished off my sewing year. I went back through my goal list for 2011, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that I accomplished quite a lot of my goals. Here's a list of finishes. Gosh that word "finish" sounds so good to me (extreme procrastinator and easily-distracted-by-new-projects-quilter that I am!)

7 Pillows
7 Wall or Lap Quilts
4 Baby quilts
4 placemats sets/table runners
2 Bags
1 Tuffet
1 Memo Board
1 Tree Skirt

27 finishes!! I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't made that goal list. Kinda puts the pressure on for this year though, huh?

I know it's quite belated, but Happy New Year 2012 to all of you friends out there!


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