Friday, May 29, 2009

String Block Tops

   Since I started working on making string blocks, they have completely taken over my sewing room. I think they are breeding at night! I am still not out of shirt strings, and I am determined to get all of those sewn up. I will not start on the other strings I have because this is just taking much longer than I thought it would. If I get finished with the shirt strings I'll be happy.

  This is my first ever string quilt top. ^ I am amazed how far strings go. I used to throw all of these pieces away. When I trim up the blocks, I could save the trimmings to use in crumb blocks, but I decided I needed to draw a line somewhere. I am throwing all of the trimmings away. I feel OK about that, after all, I'm already making blocks out of what I used to consider trash. Lately the only yardage I've been using is for borders and backs. I have been scrap crazy.

    Here is the second top I finished. I don't know if you can tell, but the solid lights are a mixture of white and cream. I thought it made it a little more interesting. I have enough blocks for another one of these tops, which I will hopefully get together tomorrow. The next top will only have dark strings, no lights. It will still have the white and cream solids.
    I am also working on another string quilt, a little different than these two. Add to that I'm  sewing up the leftovers from my mystery quilt into another quilt top. Oh, and I trying to figure out a pattern for my bonus HST's from my flying geese quilt. Perhaps the reason this is taking so long is because I am working on so many projects at once? hmmmmm. I kind of consider all the string blocks one project. I'll end up with multiple lap quilts but my goal was singular- sew up all my shirt strings. Now the mystery quilt, the bonus quilt from the leftovers of that, and the bonus HST quilt, OK, they are separate projects from the strings.
    At least I got enough blocks sewed up that I had room on the cutting table to cut the borders. That is an improvement! If I get a couple more of these lap quilts sewn up, I might actually have enough room to start cutting the quilts I owe my kids.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Big Busted Mystery quilt top

    Here is my Big Busted Mystery quilt top completed. I doubt it will get quilted for at least a couple of weeks. Normally I really prefer scrappy, but I think this one would have been better if I had stayed with just a couple fabrics. I did have fun doing it though, and it has given me short breaks from all of my other projects.
    My main project for almost the last two weeks has been making string blocks. I have enough blocks made to sew into a couple of lap sized quilts. I'm hoping to get at least two if not three string quilt tops completed this week. I am still just working on the strings I have from shirts, and since I have more strings from regular fabrics than I have from shirts I'm in trouble! When you start working with strings and crumbs you'll just never run out of fabric. I think they multiply at night when I'm not looking!
     My goal is to get these shirt strings down to a manageable pile, then I will start cutting my next quilts, and the extra blocks for my Double Delight Mystery. Two of my kids moved out on Friday, so things have been crazy around here.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Pinwheel Ornament Tutorial

    I've had some interest in my pinwheel Christmas ornaments. I had no pattern, I just made them. If you'd like to make some, here is how I did it.
     For each ornament you need one 3.5 inch square of fabric, one 2.5 inch square of batting, and since I used Thangles to make my HST's, I needed dark and light 1.5 inch strips, and the Thangles of course. You may use any method of making HST's you choose, but for the other measurements to work, your HST's must measure 1.5 inches UNfinished. For more info on Thangles, you can read my earlier post
I am not affiliated with the company or anything. I just heard about them, and wanted to try them. Since I still have some left, that's what I'm using again. 

    If you are using Thangles, put a light strip and dark strip, right sides together, with the light strip on top. Pin the Thangles paper onto the strips. Sew on the dotted lines.

These strips are already sewn. I flipped one strip set over, so hopefully you can see the stitching lines. Cut the strips apart on the solid lines. You need to press the HST's open and remove the paper at this point. The link I put at the beginning of this tutorial goes into using Thangles in more detail.

   No matter which method you used, you should have 1.5 inch HST's now, pressed open. You'll need four for each ornament.

    I like to put my HST's into groups of four. I usually chain sew the top two together, followed by the bottom two. I will do this for as many sets as I have ready to go. When that is done, I cut them apart, press seam to the dark, and sew the top to the bottom.

    Here is where the other pieces come into play. For this particular ornament I fussy cut a Christmas print into a 3.5 inch square. Last year I just used solid fabrics and used a fabric marker to write the date on the ornament. You can do whichever you prefer.
    Place the 3.5 inch square of fabric wrong side up on the ironing board. Place the 2.5 inch square of batting on top of that, centering it on the backing square. Place the pinwheel, right side up over the batting.

   Working on opposite sides, I always do top and bottom, makes no difference though, fold the backing fabric 1/4 inch in towards the center. Press.

   Fold the same sides in 1/4 inch again. We are making the backing into a self binding. Press.

Stitch the top and bottom. Turn the ornament 90 degrees and repeat the last two steps.

    All of the sides of the ornament should be stitched down now. Our backing made an easy binding. By folding twice, we have no raw edges showing, and the binding is just 1/4 of an inch, just the size we wanted to make the pinwheel look correct.

   I hand sew a loop onto the back of the ornament. In this case I used baby rickrack, but anything will do.

    Here is the ornament, all finished and ready for giving. I made several dozen last Christmas. They were a big hit!

    My original idea for these, was to make them double sided pinwheels. I tried sewing them wrong sides  together then turning them, but I was having problems with that because they are so small. My second idea was to still make them double sided, and use a normal binding method. I was having a very hard time getting my binding to stay just where I wanted it, and the corners were just not working for me.  This is the method that worked best for me. I was making a lot of them, and I wanted/needed something fast.  Feel free to adjust this to whatever works best for you, and has the look you're going for.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Three finishes

   I finished three quilts today. I used up some of that scrappy binding I just made too. These are all quilted with the same curlicue pattern.

  This snail trail quilt is 39x45 inches. ^

   This quilt made from orphan blocks is 43x49 inches. ^

   My grandbaby's cat quilt is 50x60 inches. ^  DD wanted satin binding so that's what it has. She always liked silky feeling blanket edges. 

    Here is the back of the cat quilt.  ^  I thought I had enough backing fabric, but noooooo. It couldn't be that easy. I used the rest of the border fabric and the single leftover cat body block to piece the back. It worked out well that the leftover block was purple like the binding. It almost looks like I did it that way on purpose.
     I tried to start quilting another quilt, but my tension is way off, so I had to rip it all out. I'll adjust the tension tomorrow, and try again. I didn't do enough adjusting when I changed to new thread. Hey, I used my frustration to bind three quilts, so it worked out. It's actually a good thing I did rip it out.  As was was ripping, I found a tiny hole in the backing fabric. The backing is long enough that I can move the quilt down and avoid that spot, so it was to my advantage that things worked out that way.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

What's this?

     Here is what I've been working on this weekend. I got the rest of the scrappy binding I was making done. I ended up with 13 yards of the wide binding, and 13 yards of the polka dotted. Add to that the 30 yards I already had done, and I've got enough to do several quilts.
     The other thing in the picture is one of my neck/shoulder cherry pit pads. I finally got one filled. It's slow going on that project, because I actually have to sit down long enough to work on it.
      I tried quilting the cat quilt yesterday, but it was an unsuccessful attempt. I spent a total of about 10 minutes quilting and 4 hours ripping it out. My top thread keeps breaking. I switched to a new size 18 denim needle, I loosened the top tension, I rethreaded the machine multiple times (top and bottom), I switched thread to a different brand. I was so frustrated I decided to call it quits for the weekend, and I'll try again tomorrow. Right now, my dampened thread is in a baggie in the freezer. I've heard that sometimes helps. The last quilt I did went perfectly, with no issues, and this one is giving me fits! The only thing that is different is the batting. I am using polyester batting by request, but I don't know if that is causing my problems or not. I'm going to loosen the top tension even more and try that. The top is not tight in the frame, but I might try loosening it more too. I've been scouring the internet looking for troubleshooting tips. I'm going to oil my machine before I start too. That shouldn't be the problem, but I'm trying to cover all my bases. I found the troubleshooting guide at Nolting the most helpful, in case any of the rest of you are having any issues. I don't have a Nolting machine, but the tips seemed pretty universal.
     I had a nice Mother's Day. I got to see four of my kids. DH is still in Ecuador, but he tried to call. The connection was terrible, sounded like he was calling from the jungle or something ;) I figured out 'Happy Mother's Day' and 'I love you', but I was only hearing about a third of what he said. I heard the important stuff, so that's what counts.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Quite a week!

   It has been quite a week! I've quilted 3 quilts on my frame now, with a fourth quilt loaded for tomorrow. Only the first one is bound. The picture below is my first batch of scrappy binding. It may not look impressive, but it took a long time for me to do. I still want to get my polka dotted binding sewn up as scrappy binding, as well as some wider binding I have. In this batch, I started with multiple colors, the longest piece was maybe two yards, the smallest less than a foot. After several hours of joining, I have 30 yards of scrappy binding. All of that too small to use binding, turned into usable binding for multiple quilts! It was worth all the time I spent on it. Tomorrow I might start on some of my other bindings, but Sunday I am taking off and not sewing at all.

    My quilting is getting better with each quilt. I am learning a lot. I have had to deal with starting new threads, thread breakage, adjusting tension, offsetting the pantograph, ripping out stitches while it's on the frame, lots of fun stuff. I learned valuable lessons with each glitch. I finished quilting the quilt today in just over an hour, and had no problems whatsoever. I chose directional backs for two of these quilts, and I really had to think about how to load those on the frame. One of those was the one I quilted today, and it looks good. I'm still using the simple curlicue pattern. My quilting is getting smoother looking, and I am slowly gaining confidence.
     The quilt that is loaded on the frame now, is my grandbaby's cat quilt. I was just sure I bought three yards of the backing fabric, but when I got it out, there was only two yards. I had just enough of the border fabric left, to add a strip of it down the center, and I had one cat body block left, which I put in the very center of the back. My guess is I could have gotten more of the backing fabric, but now that the back is pieced, it looks so cute I wouldn't change a thing. I'll post pictures when it is all finished, with the binding and everything. DD wants purple satin binding on it.

    Remember the flying geese quilt top I made a few days ago? These are the bonus HST's I got from it. I want to square them up, so they are not quite ready to use, but I have 96 HST's that are big enough to square to 4 1/2 inches. I am thinking that will amount to another charity top, once I add a couple of borders. I want to make my next flying geese a little smaller, but to get some ideas, I looked up flying geese quilts online the other night. I found this site
which gives links to several different ways of making flying geese. I found it all very interesting, and a couple of the ways I had not seen before. One of the no waste methods seemed very easy, and possibly worth trying for me. Well, it seemed like worth trying until I realized, if I use the no-waste method, I get no bonus HST's! : (  I love playing with the extra HST's from flying geese and snowball blocks. I use them in quilts on a regular basis. For me, there is no waste, there is just the start of another quilt. I decided not to try the other methods, LONG LIVE THE WASTE!
    Besides quilting, I had fun this week with a swarm of bees, dead fish, pool repairs, a tow truck, and two attempts at seeing the new Star Trek movie (theater lost power the first try). It's all good!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

My first quilt from the frame!

     I did it! I quilted this little quilt on my frame today. I got it bound too, so it was a good day. I had an issue with the binding, but it ended up being a good thing. This picture was taken right after I got it out of the dryer, all wrinkly and quilty.

      I've been trying to use up some old binding, instead of always making new. I had enough  of some navy dotted binding to do this quilt, but when I took it out and looked at it, something had ruined part of it as it was wrapped around the card it was on. Only one end was ruined, but that meant every few inches there was a ruined spot. I had polka dotted binding in other colors, but not enough of any one color to do even this baby quilt. In the Yahoo group Stashbusters, there has been a lot of discussion lately on scrappy binding. I've never done that before, but as I was looking at what I had, I figured it was time to try it. I cut the ruined parts out of the navy binding, and added in lengths from the other colors. I only made enough of the scrappy binding to do this quilt, because I wanted to get it done and washed. I like the look of the scrappy binding much better than I thought I would. 
     Tonight, I dug out all the binding I only had a small amounts of, and I'm working on making solid scrappy binding. I will try to get all of it sewn together in the next few days, as well as working with the rest of the dotted binding I have. I think there is enough dotted to do at least one more quilt, maybe two if they are small. When I'm done with my solid binding, I should have enough for three or four quilts. I am making sure I don't use any lengths longer than about 18 inches. I don't want one side of a baby quilt all one color and multiple colors on the other sides. It's a lot of joining, but if I get the small pieces I have now done, I can add a little along as I do other quilts with one color binding. Lots of work to make it usable, but I figure once it's together I will use it, instead of having it sit in a drawer because it's too small to do a whole quilt with. Now that there is binding all over my sewing room, I'll have to finish it up before I go back to working on my other piecing projects.

     Here is a close-up on one corner. You can see my wobbly quilting, and get a better look at my scrappy binding. I picked a simple curlicue pattern to practice. I think this is a good overall pattern, and I can use it on my grandbaby's cat quilt. I want to practice on a couple more quilts before I do that one. I loaded another scrap quilt on the frame, for me to work on in the morning. I am getting a little faster each time I load a quilt, and I didn't have to think so much about which way to load the fabrics.  I did have a few issues on the frame today. I had the thread break a couple of times, and I forgot to put the presser foot down once, so I had a mess to unpick, not to mention the nest in the bobbin area. I am using a different brand of thread on tomorrow's quilt, so I'm looking forward to seeing if I notice a difference. I already had to adjust the tension for the new thread because it is a different weight.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Starting on a dream

     I am really fond of these plaid flying geese units. I want to make some more, a little smaller, and use some of the ideas people gave me. I sewed up the ones I had cut a while back, and made this top. I am usually a multiple border kind of girl, but I think I'm leaving this one as is.

     I also finished step 2 of the Stashbuster mystery. Well, at least I think I'm finished step 2. The way I'm understanding the directions, the numbers aren't adding up right, so I made extras. This is only the second mystery quilt I've ever attempted, so I'm sure it's just me. I figure when the next step comes out I'll see if I did it right or not! If not, I have lots of 2 1/2 inch strips pre-cut and I thought of a good pattern to do with what I have done so far if I'm way off.

    The block above is the first block I've completed for Perkiomen Daydream. I decided to grab some 1 1/2 inch strips and get started on that while I was sewing 2 1/2 inch strips for the mystery quilt. This is going to be a VERY long term project. The finished quilt has 10,000 pieces, and the above square is only 25 of those. I only have 399 more of these blocks to go! Until I get a couple more projects done, I just don't have enough room to cut much, so this was a quick thing to use as leaders and enders until I do a lot more cutting. When I finally get that quilt done, I'm going to pay to have it quilted. It will be too big to fit on my frame, and there is no way I'm going to fight with a quilt that large on my DSM.
     I played with my quilting machine today, and got a "real" quilt loaded onto it. The plan is to quilt that tomorrow. In the last couple of days, I've actually done quite a bit with the quilting machine. I figured out how to use the Pattern Perfect Templates, and fasten those to the table and such. I printed out a couple of pantographs with the QuiltCAD program. I'm still trying to figure out that program. The quilting looks better with the templates, but I have more fun when I follow the pantograph. I am going for the pantograph tomorrow. 
    I am hoping that someday I will know how to do all these things well enough that it doesn't seem like so much WORK. Right now, I'm having to learn so much at once, that I'm overwhelmed, and that is not fun. Just loading the quilt today was a challenge. I've been quilting on plain muslin, so it didn't matter which side was up. I had to figure out which way to pin the fabric on the leaders to have the correct sides in the right place. It didn't take me that long to do it, once I figured out which way it went. Why do they use solid fabrics in the instructional video? That didn't help me at all. The quilt I loaded is just baby sized, so hopefully, all will go well, and I can bind it tomorrow night. Wouldn't that be great? If I can get a quilt quilted and bound in a day, I will really start to like this frame quilting thing.