Weekend Plans

First up, some Inklingo Cheat Sheets filled out so I can sort out what sizes of freezer paper I need to cut. Then I can print more of the New York Beauty shapes on the fabrics I’m using for these. I had some pieces of fabric that were already cut so they’re behind the cheat sheets but there is more to come. It’s the weekend, so this is my play time for the NYB blocks and who knows what else. Maybe a log cabin block, maybe some more of the tiny Drunkard’s Trail, or perhaps the 2″ Drunkard’s Path. The shapes for those last three are already printed on the fabrics I’m using, so it will be easy to pick up some of them.

I’m saving the strips from grading the seams of the NYB blocks in this little glass jar. It’s getting very colourful and will be even more so by the time I’m done, although I have a feeling I’ll need to use a larger jar.

The big book box has lots of shapes already printed and cut out, ready to stitch.

The laptop is charging now as I want to play with a couple of design ideas in EQ, but hopefully out on the roof garden. The battery on my old laptop doesn’t hold a charge as long as it used to, but I think it’s good for about an hour of play. So those are my quilting plans for the weekend. What are yours?

While we were taking the pictures, Baxter was determined to get the jar lid.

A cartoon drawing of Baxter, drawn by Mr. Q.O.

Taking Out Quilting

A while ago I started quilting Ferris Wheel by machine. Then I got back into hand quilting and am now thinking about taking out the machine quilting and replacing it with hand quilting. The reason I want to replace it with hand quilting is that there’s a quilting design I want to use that will be easier for me to do by hand than by machine.

What I’m wondering is if there is a quick way to do this or if it’s just going to be a painstakingly slow process of taking it out stitch by stitch. Thankfully, only 3 of the blocks have been quilted so far. Has anyone done this? Any tips?

Baxter was lounging on the windowsill shortly after having had a drink of water. The wet fur on one side of his neck is a sure giveaway that he has been at the water bowl.

Back-Basting Tutorial — Lots of Photos

Lester is intently watching as we go through the steps I take when doing applique using the back basting process.

For back basting I use both a larger needle and larger thread.

When I do any applique, my method of choice is back basting.  I’ve found a few tricks that really help me.  First of all, I use a larger needle.  In the above picture, the top needle is a #8 straw and the bottom one is a #12 sharp.  I use the #8 straw for back basting with a thicker thread, as shown below.  And I always wear a thimble when doing this as getting that needle through some fabrics, particularly a batik, requires some protection for the finger!

The thread on the left is the normal heirloom 80 weight thread I use for piecing and applique.  The thread on the right is 30 weight DMC thread I use for backbasting.

With the applique design printed on the back of my background fabric, I pin a piece of fabric that’s large enough to cover the shape to be appliqued on to the right side of the background, with the right side of the fabric to be appliqued facing up.  Then, from the wrong side of the background and following the lines, I baste the pieces on to the background fabric using the large needle and large thread and taking relatively small stitches.  Here you can see all the pieces on the quarter block basted down.  If you click on the picture to enlarge it, you’ll see the basting stitches quite clearly on the pieces to be appliqued.

This is the back and it shows the basting following along the lines of the shapes that are printed on the wrong side of the background.

What this picture doesn’t show, and I wish I had taken one after this next step, is how flat it sits after I run my nail along the lines of basting to relax any gathers that have occurred as a result of pulling the basting thread a bit too tight.  Running a nail along the stitching line is all that’s needed to ease out those little gathers.

I’ve found that leaving a piece that’s basted overnight before starting to applique it makes the next step a lot easier.  The next day I pick up the piece and clip the basting  thread at about every 5th or 6th stitch as seen in this picture.

This next step is where the magic of this technique appears. After clipping the threads, I pull out the first one or two sections. Take a look at this picture and you’ll see the perforations in the fabric to be appliqued where the basting line was.

The fabric folds along that perforation line so easily it’s always amazing to me. With my needle, I fold it under and start to applique. I don’t look at the back again where the lines are until I finish all the applique. And every time my applique stitches are close to being perfectly on the line. The reason I leave the basting stitches in overnight is that I’ve found that it makes that little perforated line really do its job. Think of it like a piece of paper that has some perforations to make it easier to remove. I think the basting line does the same thing but, in the case of fabric, makes the fabric easier to turn under.

I begin to applique, pulling out a section or two of the basting thread as I go along.  The basting thread also serves to hold the fabric being appliqued in place.  So no fighting with pins, no freezer paper to remove, no overlay to try to keep out-of-the-way and no lines that might show on the front if the applique isn’t right on the lines of the design.  Just needle, thread and fabric.

In this picture you can see how closely my applique stitches are right on the line of the design.  It also shows the lines of another shape, which I chose not to add to this part of my applique block.

Again, another picture showing how closely the applique stitches follow the line of the design.

Everyone has their favourite method, but I hope this little tutorial gives you the information you need if you’d like to try the back-basting method.

Smudge is hoping you found this relaxing and informative.

A Little Knitting

Carrying on from yesterday’s post, knitting was the craft on which I focused most of my attention after giving up crocheting.  Fortunately, I was able to make us both a number of sweaters before I had to give that up.  The cable sweater above is one of my favourites that I made for Mr. Q.O.  I think it was the last one I completed before having to give up.  There’s one other sweater that needs only to be sewn together and its neckband done.  I may try to tackle that this summer as it’s a fabulous deep pink cotton sweater which I made for myself.

In a way I’m grateful the issue with my hands forced me to give up knitting as that was the beginning of my fascination with quilting, although at the time I didn’t accept it very gracefully.  I kept trying to push my limits and keep knitting, to my detriment.  When I finally really got into quilting, I was thrilled to find that playing with fabric colours and patterns was endlessly fascinating.

On a quilting note, two more blocks are all that are left to piece for my aunt’s quilt.  I’m finding I can piece two in an evening so, with any luck, I’ll have them done tonight, put them together into a row on Friday and then stitch the row on to the top.  I’ll get the batting out of the package tomorrow to let it relax and will wash and iron the backing.  Now I have to decide whether to hand quilt it, which might be really pushing it as far as time goes, or do some simple machine quilting.  If I’m hand quilting it, no basting will be necessary but if I’m machine quilting I’ll be heading to a neighbour’s on the weekend to borrow her living room floor to pin baste.  Pin basting on the floor here becomes an adventure with my kitty helpers.

We had really odd weather on Wednesday.  Very windy but also quite warm.  Rain would pour down for a while, then the sun would come out, clouds would then start to reappear and then, a few hours later, the same would repeat.  By Friday we’re supposed to be in the beginning of a protracted heat wave.  I can’t wait!

The cats took advantage of a mostly cloudy, rainy day and snoozed.

A Small Quilt Top

The teddy bear quilt top for is now finished! I’m thrilled with how it turned out. The 9-patch blocks are 3″ each. It’s hand pieced, other than adding the borders, and will finish at 23 x 26 inches.

Edited to add: Thanks to this tutorial on Peg’s Happy in Quilting blog, adding the peeper was a piece of cake!

Now to quilt it. Given all the little seams in it, this will be machine quilted. Only simple quilting, mind you, as my machine quilting skills do not include free motion quilting. I’d love to be able to, but just cannot get the hang of it. My plan is to get the quilting done sometime during the weekend and hopefully I’ll have the binding on by the end of the weekend.

I had to fight myself not to keep adding more 9-patch blocks and making the little quilt grow. My goal is to try to make small quilts for a while. That way I’ll be able to try patterns, design elements, colour combinations that are dancing around in my head without committing to a large project. I’m reassessing some of the larger projects I have started and deciding how to cut them back to small quilts.

The New York Beauty and Square in a Square blocks and, of course, Insanity are the only large projects on my list. I’m still undecided on Insanity — whether to do it in shabby chic or Orientals. I think the effect in Orientals could be stunning but also love the softness of the shabby chic prints.

This is another of the flowering trees on the roof garden. The blooms don’t last long, but they are SO pretty!

The close-up shows the colour of the blooms a bit better.

Now if it would only warm up!! This is miserable weather for late May. We’re going to be lucky to see 65 over the weekend and it gets so cool at night that one needs heat on! After the winter we had, I want the hot humid weather for a few months!!

Fabric Panel

A friend and I exchanged some fabrics a while ago This panel is one of the fabrics she gave me. I love it — and am tempted to just use it as is. There’s about a yard of it, but I keep thinking I’ll just sandwich it and quilt it. Might do something fun in the little HST squares — perhaps a tiny feather or a small tear shape quilting. Not sure.

This is a close-up of some of the little dark blue squares. I just can’t seem to bring myself to cut this at all!

Any thoughts out there on the quiltling of this?

It’s suddenly become very busy, as far as work is concerned, and I think it may well cut into my quilting time over the next couple of weeks.

Today was wonderful — I saw birds out on the roof garden for the first time this year. A sure sign winter may well and truly be gone. Now to see that first robin and then I’ll know it’s spring for sure!

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Another Winter Storm and Tessellating Pinwheels

This was our view out the living room window around mid-afternoon. It began snowing around 5:00 a.m. on Friday morning and didn’t stop all day or evening. The picture seems a little blurry because it was still snowing. Thankfully we didn’t get the freezing rain or ice pellets that the forecast suggested we might — just snow and more snow. I think we have in excess of 10″ of it!

To add some colour to the day, I worked on this:

I’m not sure how large this will end up — but I’m having a lot of fun making these ’30s pinwheels and putting them together. They are composed of 1″ half hexagons from Inklingo collection 1. I have a little box full of the half hexagons already printed so there is no rhyme or reason to fabric placement on this at all — I just add another as it’s pieced. I love designs like this — so easy to work with and so amazingly simple.

Why did I start quilting?

Over on Krisp-Quilt , the question is being asked. It really made me think.

From childhood, I was a knitter. I loved to knit and rarely was without a project on the go. I made lace tablecloths, lace scarves, big fishermen’s knit sweaters and everything in between. Then about 12 years ago, aggressive arthritis struck and I had to give it up. I was lost without a craft.

My cousin is a quilter and I had always been intrigued but figured there wasn’t a chance I could do that. After all, when I needed to sew on a button it became a very big deal! I had never used a sewing machine. It all seemed too foreign. The funny thing is I remember being in a big bookstore here, looking at one of the Elly Sienkiewicz Baltimore Album applique books and being absolutely enthralled. That was years before I even began to contemplate quilting. Little did I know!

However, desperation took hold and I took the plunge. One rainy Saturday afternoon DH and I were out doing errands on the same street as the LQS and we stopped there. I bought some supplies; a book, a rotary cutter, a mat, needles and thread and, of course, fabric. That evening I went through the exercise of washing and ironing my fabric, making templates, tracing them on to my fabric, cutting it out and started to stitch. My first block? Oh, it was dreadful. But I was hooked.

The following week saw me haunting bookstores and another LQS. I read and read and read some more. Then I started on a star quilt. It is truly dreadful — but I still love the fabrics I used in it. It never got quilted. Even as a total novice I could see it was dreadfully constructed! If nothing else, I’m sure the kitties will love it. LOL

I can’t even imagine what I was thinking now. When I look at this and see the great gaping holes in the middle of those stars, I shudder. I actually tried to fix a couple of them last night — unsuccessfully.

Since then? Well, since then I’ve learned tons and tons. I tend to learn best from books and at my own pace. I have some wonderful books in my quilt library but must say that my most treasured book and the one from which I think I learned the most is Linda Franz’ Quilted Diamonds 2. The DVD lesson that comes with that book is worth its weight in gold, in my opinion.

I have never been comfortable with machine piecing although I am fortunate enough to have two great sewing machines; my mother’s Featherweight and an older Pfaff Creative that is wonderful. Perhaps because I sit at a computer all day for work I find sitting at any type of machine for anything else seems altogether too much like work. But I found my niche! Hand piecing and, when I can, hand applique and hand quilting. And this past year I even started to do some hybrid blocks — utilizing both machine and hand piecing. I don’t know if I’ll ever be completely comfortable with machine stitching, but this is a step I never thought I’d take.

While my wrists are certainly not better, I count my blessings — I can hand piece even at the worst of times. During good times, I can applique and hand quilt (using the Thimblelady technique and thimble). I am very fortunate and know it. Tracing templates and rotary cutting were both things that I knew were going to be problems for me a few years ago. So when Inklingo came on the market, I was thrilled. Thanks to it, I can keep on quilting and have been able to make a wonderful king-sized quilt for us — I had seen the pattern for the quilt in an older issue of Australian Patchwork & Quilting and had always wanted to do it but knew there was no way I could trace the templates on to fabric or paper for English paper piecing. The day I got my copy of Inklingo Collection 1 I started printing the hexagons and elongated hexagons for that quilt. And that is the reason I talk about Inklingo so much — it has meant I didn’t have to give up quilting as it was becoming apparent, the summer before it came out, that my quilting days were numbered.

I am amazed at and thrilled by the creativity of quilters and their beautiful creations. Wandering about quilting blogs is almost sensory overload some days. There are so many gorgeous quilts being made with so many techniques and so many wonderful fabrics that I’m constantly wanting to try something else.

A Star of Stars

These stars are all from one of the Inklingo swaps last year. I got this far but now I’m stuck. Do I just finish it off with large pieces to square it up and then add borders or … It has been done for a while and I seem to be totally uninspired as to how to finish it. Any thoughts?

It has been a really busy week with work and I’m hostessing another Inklingo swap, this time of equilateral triangles, so have been fielding e-mails with questions. This weekend I will get my triangles printed and ready.

I’d really like to figure out how to finish off this star. I have one idea, but am not sure how it will work. May try my idea on the weekend and, if it works, will post a photo.

First Finish for 2008

The signature quilt is done.

I really like this pattern. It’s a quick and easy to do pattern but next time? Next time I make this I hand quilt it! No more fabric wrestling for me.

Now I’m playing with ideas for my next project. Not sure quite what it will be, but I have a feeling it’s going to involve a lot of 1″ squares — other than those 1″ squares in the striped star series. 😉