To be a bit cliché, this shoemaker is a professional Web Developer and her child is this blog, but it was past time to launch what I have of a new design. All the content is still here, everything else is a work in progress (kind of like most of my sewing projects)!
At our last guild sew-in, it seemed that half the attendees brought binding to hand finish (saving them having to lug their machines around). As we ooh-ed and ahh-ed over each other’s projects, I noticed that our president’s corners were so much cleaner than mine ever turn out—I always seem to end up with a gap in stitching on one or more corner, no matter how exact I think I am. So, I thought I’d share her corner trick, and my two finishing tricks to help ease your binding work. I use these tricks for both hand and machine-finished binding.
1. Perfect corners
These first few photos show the method I’ve always used—the only way hers differs is the very last step (photo 4), but it makes all the difference.
In words: mark the width of your seam allowance in from the edge of the quilt (photo 1). Once you stitch to that point, turn, and stitch out to the corner at a 45° angle (photo 2). Fold your binding up on the diagonal, and then even with the edge (diagonal shown in photo 3). The magic step: instead of starting part-way in, which often leaves a gap if you aren’t exact, start stitching from the very edge (photo 4). As long as you stopped at the seam allowance point from the first direction, doing this won’t screw up your corner. Once you’re finished, turn your binding to the other side, and admire your gap-free corner.
2. Measuring the overlap to close the loop
This one’s quick—to measure the amount needed for perfect-length binding (before cutting off the extra and sewing the final seam), simply overlap the ends by the width of the binding strip.
In my example, I’m using 2.5″ strips, meaning I need an overlap of 2.5″. I’ll cut on the purple line prior to sewing the seam.
3. Seam it the right way the first time
Until I came across this tip, I had to sew the seam to close my binding at least twice every time. I’d always sew the wrong direction or have it twisted. It’s just a quick memory trick to help keep everything straight.
With the edge of the quilt away from you, the left strip goes in back and the right goes in the front, because back/left have four letters each and right/front both have five.
Then, just make sure you have right-sides together (the peak of the folds should touch), align the strips for a bias seam, and sew from corner to corner as shown in the photo (a.k.a. the standard binding finishing).
Once you’ve sewn it, it should snap into place and be the perfect length (make sure to trim the seam allowance down, and press). So very satisfying!
Do you have any other handy binding tricks you love?
There are days I’m incredibly grateful that my first attempts at quilting didn’t scare me off forever. Case in point, my very first ever quilt project. I decided to make up my own bed-sized pattern using two different versions of the Altar Steps block that are both pretty fiddly (one had set-in seams, people. I don’t even like those now!), using fabric purchased from a box-store that shifted all over the place. It was a recipe for disaster.
Somehow, I managed to complete 10 blocks (nine of one, one of the other), although there’s about a 1″ difference in size between them all. I clearly hadn’t read about chain piecing, judging by thread tails. I cut things incorrectly but still used them. I really have no idea what I was thinking. At some point, I came to my senses and moved on to a different project.
In my effort to clear out old works in progress (for fear of being that quilter who has 20-year-old unfinished projects hoarded away in corners of their home—not that there’s anything wrong with that if you’re so inclined, it’s just not a good thing for me, personally—, I pulled out the blocks and decided to do something with it all. My self-imposed restraints: use up as much of the uncut yardage as possible, use all ten blocks, and don’t purchase any new supplies (no quilting thread, no batting, no backing—all stash).
I knew from the start that there was no way I’d actually make the originally planned quilt—not with these cheap, poorly cut, questionably coordinating fabrics. I also knew that I wanted to do something fast so that I could move on to a project I was in love with, not just in love with the idea of getting out of my sewing and head space.
With wide sashing and overly large borders, I managed to use up most of the yardage, a small chunk of pieces that had been cut out (mostly the flowered 5″ squares and yellow strips), and nine of the blocks. The remaining yardage, block, and a few additional scraps made it onto the back and into the binding. The quilt finished at 54″ x 68″—a very respectable throw size, considering what I was working with.
I backed it with the second sheet of the set I used when making the Bird’s Nest quilt, plus a strip of piecing. I used 80/20 batting, since that’s what would work from my stash (I only had to piece it once). This is the first time I’ve gone directly from quilting 100% cotton to 80/20 the next day, and I did notice a pretty clear difference in loft while quilting: the 80/20 is not nearly as flat. I think I would have preferred 100% cotton for this particular quilt, but it washed up beautifully in the end.
It’s quilted using a blown-up, much less well-controlled version of the “Flourish” design from the book Step-by-Step Free Motion Quilting by Christina Cameli (thanks Mom). The center is quilted using two similar light yellow cotton threads (because I didn’t have enough of one for the whole thing), while the borders (roughly) are quilted using a light blue (I had about 18″ left on the spool when I finished—talk about cutting it close). The bobbins are a mix of yellow and whatever light beige I had on hand in quantity. I used up the last of the yellow blender and a few more cut pieces as binding, finished by machine.
Five years and 36 other quilts later, it feels great to have a finished project made from those very first blocks along with a stash that is three yards of fabric (that aren’t my style) and a sheet lighter. A part of me looks at this and asks “could I have done something more edgy, more modern, more creative, more my style,” but another part is happy to have something that went from boxed in pieces to pieced and basted in under a week. There will always be another project to be more innovative with.
Now to decide if the quilt needs a home or should stay at mine.
Wide borders and large sashing are easy ways to eat up fabric and make a larger quilt out of just a few blocks. Sashing can also help even out slightly different block sizes, such as was the case with my Altar Step blocks.
I like how this is turning out much more than I expected to.
More importantly than how the project is turning out, I want to take a minute to provide sponsor-free praise of Mary Ellen’s Best Press. I avoided buying it for many years, thinking cheaper box-store spray starch or sizing was perfectly fine. Curiosity got the best of me recently, and I’m convinced I’ll never buy anything else again.
Piecing these slightly wonky, flimsy fabric-made blocks has been amazingly painless after using Best Press. It really does make an incredible amount of difference. I don’t want to say it will magically solve all problems—such as the poor technique of a beginning quilter—but let’s just say it’s well on its way to being a scientific theory from this data set of one.
Once upon a time (circa 2010), a young woman decided that she should start quilting. Rather than design a simple project—or better yet, follow a simple pattern—she went a little crazy and pronounced that she would make a huge quilt in the span of a few months as a wedding present to a cousin. It was a dismal plan all around, and needless to say, that first project is still unfinished.
In the present time, a slightly less young woman has grown wiser with age and is tired of half-finished (or less) projects cluttering up her studio-cum-master-closet (and asking “what on Earth were you thinking, younger self!?!?”).
That wiser woman knows finishing it to the original vision is never going to happen, nor does she want to even try.
So, while she ponders what to do with ten blocks, a million little cut-out pieces, and three uncut yards of coordinating fabric, you’re left reading a blog post written about herself in the third person, all for the purpose of describing one photo that should have just gone on Instagram.
It’s dangerous work, delving into the dark recesses of the unfinished object pile.
Anyone want a bunch of tiny squares and trapezoids of questionable-quality fabric, possibly pre-washed?
For a time in 2011, I took Flamenco lessons. I’m mostly uncoordinated and soon decided to devote more time to my other fledgling hobby (quilting!), but was inspired to design this quilt. The design and fabric went hand-in-hand: I found the border print and designed the quilt around it. After building it out in Illustrator, I decided it needed ruffles—a decision that stymied immediate progress as I debated buying a ruffling foot or doing it all by hand.
Fast forward to 2015: the fabrics were tucked away in a box, I’d since bought a ruffling foot for other projects, and my quilting aesthetic has shifted away from the quilt design and the style of the fabrics. I decided to make the quilt anyway, mostly to play with ruffles and to mark one more unfinished project off the list (and reduce my stash at the same time).
The center medallion piecing is all straightforward pinwheels and flying geese, with a bit of machine applique added to the sashing (raw-edge via Steam-a-Seam 2 Lite, sewn with a ‘hand look’ applique stitch on my machine) . Instead of a plain inner border, however, there’s a ruffle—because what is a Flamenco-inspired anything without ruffles?
To make the 3″ ruffled inner border, I cut 3.75″ x width-of-fabric strips, sewed two strips together with a flat-felled seam, used a rolled-hem foot to finish one side, then gathered it all with the ruffling foot using a standard stitch length (2.5 on my machine) and a tuck every 6 stitches. Once ruffled, I pressed it all to keep the pleats in place, then sewed the ruffle and a 3.5″ strip of background fabric to the medallion. Because ruffles are a bit hard to predict length for, I made sure mine were longer than I needed and used the exactly-cut background fabric (35.5″ long) to measure and gauge length as I sewed the seam. I mitered the corners of the inner border, trapping the ruffles there, mostly because it was an easy solution to handling the corners and I liked how it looked.
The outer border uses strips of a border print, finished with mitered corners. I planned on adding another ruffle after the printed border just like the inner one with a background strip below, and then a final binding ruffle. But, when I attached the first side of this outer riffle, I found that the cheap border print fabric bunched and pulled far too much, so modified my plan to just use a ruffle on the binding. It worked out fine, and saved me having to purchase another 1.5yds of black for the second ruffle (they sure do eat up fabric!).
The back is pieced together from leftover border print. I must have purchased what I did with that plan in mind, as I had the perfect amount. The quilting is a mix of Gutermann 100% Cotton thread in black and white, with Pellon Eco 70/30 as batting. I free motion quilted a mix of pebbles, stitches in ditches, vines and leaves based off the center square motif, little loops, and echoed the printed design in the outer border. It’s bound in the leftovers of the fabric I used to fussy cut the center square, and has a 6″ ruffle attached.
At 47″ square (+ 12″ of ruffle), this can either be a large wall-hanging or a kid quilt. I don’t know where it’ll end up, yet, but it feels great to cross another unfinished project off the list.
Known fabric list: Michael Miller Fairy Frost and Rouge et Noir Petals; Windham Toni Floral Toss; Springs Creative Saroya Lace Stripe and Saroya Abstract; Free Spirit Black Solid.
Like many quilters, my scrap bin (boxes, cubes, bags…) is out of hand—unorganized, jumbled, and overflowing. This year, I’ve tried to be mindful of what is leftover from my projects and keep it organized in some way so that I don’t add to the existing problem. One solution has been offering up the leftover fabric to guild members—particularly when I’m “over” working with that line and there’s a substantial amount leftover. This especially made sense for my #mqgfabricchallenge scraps, since it meant another member may be able to enter. I already have more scraps than I think I’ll use in my life—particularly since I don’t make many scrappy things.
But, after packaging up my challenge scraps, I still had a few left that were already pieced together in various ways (cut-offs from piecing the bag). One thing I always appreciate having around are zip pouches—they’re handy for packaging up projects, carting things around, and organizing. So, I threw together a quick zip pouch from scraps, the ribbon from the fabric challenge bundle, another embroidery, and a recycled zipper from one of those free-gift-with-cosmetic-purchase vinyl pouches that always seem to clutter up my bathroom cabinets.
I didn’t spend much time on it, nor is the scrappy piecing the most aesthetically pleasing, but it’ll serve its purpose just fine.
“This Art Student visited the Cottage Garden, and what happened next was a real challenge!” I really couldn’t restrain myself from click-bait copywriting there. Sorrynotsorry.
The MQG paired up with Riley Blake fabrics for a challenge this year. Those of us who were quick enough on the draw to score free fabric ended up with a pack of six fat eighths from the Cottage Garden line by Amanda Herring of the Quilted Fish.
The challenge rules:
Make something fantastic that is quilted.
Make something you’ve never done before.
Challenge yourself to learn something new.
Use only Riley Blake Cottage Garden fabrics and coordinating Riley Blake basics and solids.
While I was pondering what to make, bags my fellow guild members brought to our sew-in in May inspired a bit of an obsession with Anna Maria Horner patterns, including her Art Student Tote.
“…Quilted”? Well, I can quilt part of it, sure. “…Never done before”? I usually just make bags without a pattern to varying degrees of success. “…Learn something new”? Well, the VT guild challenged us to learn paper piecing too, and I missed the demo while I was on vacation, and I can add quilted piecing to the bag, right?
That was the long way of saying I decided to make the Art Student Tote for my challenge project and incorporate quilted panels.
I may have forgotten and/or misread the whole “use only Riley Blake…solids” part of the instructions while shopping, so Kaufman Essex Yarn Dyed in black ended up being a substantial part of the bag. C’est la vie. So, I might not qualify for the challenge (although I’m not the only one who used other things, from what I can tell), but I do have a usable product that I’m excited about, and Riley Blake sold a few extra yards of their fabric.
Choosing what design to use for the pieced section of the bag was difficult until I came across an Urban Threads embroidery that greatly amused me. Stitches need thread, so paper-pieced spools made complete sense. Ironically, my needle thread broke eight times while stitching out the embroidery.
Although the pattern only calls for pockets on one side of the bag, I made a non-zippered one for the back. That way, I had an excuse for a center stripe of pewter on both sides of the bag and more opportunity to use the challenge prints. After making spools for one front pocket, I decided that I’d rather return to traditional piecing for the rest and made the back panel inspired by a quilt by Patty Sloniger of Beck and Lundy. Whether piecing 1″ half-square triangles was less painful than additional paper-piecing is still up for debate. I quilted all of the pocket fronts to flannel to keep them lightweight but structured (and quilted).
I made the version that includes an extension panel. Because I originally purchased the flower yardage for the lining only, I was about 3″ short when it came time to cut out the extensions. I saw it as one more opportunity to use the challenge fabrics, and pieced in a stripe of small nine-patches.
Not everything was rosy. I don’t know if it’s me or the directions, but I had a very hard time following along with the pattern. I had to re-read things a million times, and it still didn’t make a ton of sense in certain cases. The pattern also seems to be missing markings for start/stop stitching on the extension panel. It all turned out okay in the end, but was disappointing for a paid pattern.
If I make it again (likely with less piecing!), I’ll leave off the extension panel. It may provide more room when you need it, but is a bit awkward when folded down inside the bag. Not to mention, the bag itself is already pretty large! I also need to find a way to hide the raw edges from my center stripe at the very top edge (my fault for lack of foresight when I modified the pattern that way).
Regardless, it seems perfect for toting around projects and quilts that need to be photographed. I’m looking forward to using it to carry stuff for a sew-in next weekend!
It’s been three years since I finished the War of 1812 challenge quilt, and it’s still traveling around as part of the Great Lakes Seaway Trail 1812 Quilt Challenge traveling show! This winter, it spent time in Baton Rouge, and is now on display in the Classroom Gallery at the New England Quilt Museum through June 28.
I never would have guessed I’d be saying “one of my quilts is hanging at NEQM!” when I first started working on this one in 2011.
It’s been a while since we’ve been in Lowell, but if we make it back there to see the 1812 quilts hanging, I hope to stop at the American Textile History Museum as well. I visited Shelburne Museum multiple times when it was hosting the ATHM’s traveling Homefront & Battlefield exhibit. I don’t buy a lot of quilting books, because I rarely want to make the patterns they contain (although inspiration is nice), but Homefront & Battlefield: Quilts & Context in the Civil War made it into my library because of the history.
The book is dense but interesting, and has highlighted a few other museums I’d like to visit due to objects from their collection being involved in the show, including the Rokeby Museum that is just down the road from home. While the quilts in the show were wonderful to see, I was facinated by a shaker-style dress that belonged to Rachel Rokeby. The construction details were very interesting, including the obvious use of selvage along the skirt side seams (and pocket openings), and a very-tightly blanket-stitched hem.
We spent 10 days in April traveling from VT down to SC and back, with a chunk of time in Virginia. Between stops at Ashlawn-Highland, Montecello, and Colonial Williamsburg, I think I’m inspired to make another more traditional quilt in the coming months. I was focused more on experiences than photographs, but even floor-coverings were inspiring.
For now, though, I have a few more modern projects to muddle through. I haven’t sewn much this year, but I managed to put a dent in my current work in progress at the guild’s sew-in this weekend!
The embellished fabric bin I made two years ago has been taunting me to use the remaining fabric from Thomas Knauer’s Savannah Bop line that was sitting inside of it. Even after using strips to make the 1 + 1 = 4 charity quilts and the bin, I had about 1/3 yd. of each print in the line in my stash. Finally, the need for another baby quilt gave me reason to pull it out.
I settled on the idea of a puzzle—because what is quilt pattern design if not a giant puzzle to solve? As tempted as I was to throw in solids and a yarn-dyed once again, I decided to use up most of the prints in the line and only added in the Michael Miller Kryptonite solid for a bit of contrast. (Here’s my tutorial on how to make the puzzle block.)
Then, because the design needed a little something more, I appliqued on a few extra puzzle pieces to fill in the negative space. I especially like the one on the top corner that wraps to the back of the quilt over the binding. (I posted a description of my process back in February.)
I free motion quilted this all over in a loose meandering pattern, using a Gutterman green that matches the Kryptonite. The back is Minky Cuddle Pine Ridge in Olive. I tried out Pellon’s Eco Batting this time, a 70/30 cotton/poly blend. It’s bound in Kona Sunflower.
This has been a slow year for me, quilting wise (at least considering I don’t have wedding planning to blame). I finished the quilt in February, but just now got around to photographing it and dropping it in the mail. It’s my only finish yet this year, but that should change soon.
I did a demo for VTMQG last week comparing different types of batting I’ve used. I volunteered for purely selfish reasons—I needed to clean out and organize my scraps, and also take stock of which ones I like, and which I might not care to buy again in the future.
The demo was very hands on and doesn’t translate well to the web, but here’s what I found.
I created three quilt sandwiches of each batting (large enough to cut down to 9″). I used fabric from the same manufacturer to try to keep things consistent, but used a different design for each for ease of visual comparison. The back is a solid. I quilted one of each set with a rough 1.5″-2″ grid, another with feathers and pebbles, and and the third with both.
I trimmed them all down, then overcast stitched the edges of the gridded and feathered squares to keep them from fraying in the wash.
Then, I washed the two overcasted blocks from each set (basic cotton wash, normal dry) to see how they ended up compared to the unwashed third block.
Batting choices can be very dependent on the project type, and this is certainly not an exhaustive list. I imagine different brands react differently even with the same fiber content. But, knowing how the batting will react to quilting and washing is helpful in making that choice.
Batting Comparison Chart
*according to the manufacturer
Hobbs Tuscany Collection
Soft n’ Crafty Extra Loft
Pellon Eco Cotton
Soft n’ Crafty 80/20
Warm & Natural
The least affected by washing and drying was the 100% poly. However, it was not much fun to quilt, and the loft is higher than I personally like.
The most affected by washing and drying was the 50/50 Bamboo/Cotton. There was an extreme amount of shrinkage. A different wash type might reduce that, but be forewarned. It is gorgeous before washing, though.
I’ve used all of these for various projects, but the two I use most often are 100% Cotton and an 80/20 Cotton/Poly blend. The former is great for all-cotton projects that I want to wash up all crinkly and soft, while the blend is perfect for baby quilts that I back with Minky, as the slight poly content reduces the shrinkage a bit.