Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I'm Back!

Well, sort of... Thank you to those of you who have written to me in the last month inquiring how I’m doing. I appreciate your concern and value your friendship.

Just before Thanksgiving I came down with bronchitis induced by an allergy. Bummer! And not the best time to be sick either. I was sick for about 3 weeks and hadn’t been in my sewing studio during that time… Resulting in missing my Round Robin Challenge deadline of December 5th. As if this wasn’t enough to deal with, a very close friend of ours had a heart attack on December 8th and has not regained consciousness. We’ve been traveling about 150 miles, roundtrip, several times a week to provide support for his wife. He’s been moved to a long-term acute care hospital and we still don’t know what his prognosis is, but we’re praying and hoping he will recover.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas spent with family and friends. I will be continuing my posts after the first of January.

I wish all of you a belated Merry Christmas and a New Year filled with the love of family and friends, enough happiness to fill each day with a warmth and glow in your heart, and many hours of enjoyment sharing your quilting, sewing, needlework, or whatever you enjoy doing to express your creativity.

BTW, if you're interested, Alex Anderson is offering twelve free redwork designs until January 5th. Each design features a different flower. Go to her site and download your twelve designs before they are removed. See you next year!

Monday, November 16, 2009

November's Challenge Block

This month's challenge block was selected by my friend Daisy. I was able to assemble it last week after I discovered I didn't have any solid-like red fabric for my Round Robin Challenge.

The block is called Puss In The Corner 2 and it went together very quickly. I modified the block by reversing the light and dark print and although I had planned to use my white-on-white fabric for the corners, I wasn't paying attention as I was sewing and skipped over the substitution. The center square would make a great home for an applique or embroidery design.

Here are my monthly challenge blocks to date. I can't wait to see what December's challenge block is.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ever Have One of Those Days...

When you’ve built up the momentum while you’re working on a project only to discover you don’t have everything you need? And this one thing you don’t have prevents you from progressing? Total frustration!

I was working on my Round Robin Challenge. I’ve completed my drawing. I’ve traced all my appliqué and cut the shapes out. I even started to pull out my fabric selection! STOP! How can it be? I know I have some somewhere! I don’t have any RED! Not one little piece of a solid like red…

So here I sit, On Hold. Waiting… I’ll have to go into town on Friday to pick up some red fabric.

This little break has provided an opportunity for me to work on a few other things. I’ve taken pictures but I’m not going to show all of them to you today because I need something to show you while I’m working on my Round Robin Challenge… After I buy some red fabric, of course.

Last Saturday I was in Anacortes for our November sew-in. Although I had several things I planned to work on, I only accomplished one.

Some of the members of an online group I participate in were at a weekend retreat and one of our members challenged the remaining members to make as many Jake’s Heart blocks as possible. I thought I did quite well by assembling four blocks, until it was announced on Monday another member completed fifteen. Boy was I lazy!

Above is a picture of my four. I used 30’s reproduction fabrics because these will be used in a comfort quilt for one of our members who likes 30’s prints. I think the fabrics go quite well together.

I’ll have another picture to share with you next time. Hope everyone is sewing up a storm.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I haven't been very good about keeping up with my blog posts the last couple of weeks and I apologize for that. I haven't forgotten you... I've been working on my Round Robin Challenge and since I can't post pictures, I haven't posted much about it. Hopefully I'll have more to share with you later in the week. Hope the you're busy sewing!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Working in Secret

I’ve been busy in my sewing studio, spending a couple of hours a day on a project I can’t share. Oh, I can tell you a bit about it, but I can’t show any pictures. Bummer…

One of the quilting groups I meet with each month has started an annual Round Robin Challenge project. Traditionally, Round Robin challenges require member’s projects to make its rounds among a group of participants and each participant adds an additional ‘round’ or part of each member’s quilt based on the challenge instructions before it finally arrives back to the originator. For our challenge, the quilts are not passed around. Instead, each participant completes each round on their own quilt. Sounds like fun, huh?

My friend Susannah is leading our challenge and we received our first set of instructions at our October sew-in. Our challenge is to complete a 22 ½” block using a Christmas carol as the theme. Since most Christmas carols are full of visual imagery, it was quite the challenge to pick just one.

If you close your eyes as you’re naming Christmas carols, an image appears for each one. For instance, the carol Winter Wonderland might conjure up visions of trees covered in freshly fallen snow, a bluebird flying away, some bells, a snowman, and maybe even a fire. All seen as people are walking along a path littered with footprints. Another example is the carol It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas. The lyrics talk about looking for all the signs Christmas is here; candy canes at the five and dime, toys in every store, holly hanging on your door, very visual. I could see a small town, maybe something out of the 50’s. Snow covered walkway, store windows dressed for the season, and neighbors greeting each other as they walk among the shops.

My theme is based on the Christmas carol I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus. Of course, seeing an image in my mind is easier than putting it on a 22 ½” block. I think this is one of those times when I have to keep reminding myself it doesn’t have to be perfect.

I can’t wait until December 5th so I can see what everyone else has done.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bias Binding Tutorial

I've received several inquiries on how to make bias binding and although there are several ways to make bias binding, some easier than others, I thought I'd develop a tutorial on my favorite method.

I always use binding made on the bias because it provides a stronger finish than binding cut on the crosswise or lengthwise grain. In addition, it easily follows curved edges while giving a professional looking finish and it isn’t any more difficult to make once you have found a technique that works for you.

I purchase fabric specifically for binding in one yard pieces. After I have several prints, I spend the day making binding for use on future projects. By making my binding ahead of time, it allows me to keep my momentum instead of having to stop working on my project to make binding. I probably have at least 20 different prints of binding at any given time in my resources.

After ironing and starching the fabric, lay your fabric on a flat surface with the selvage edges on the side. Take one upper corner and bring it even with the lower edge of your fabric. The folded edge is your bias. To double-check you have a true bias, gently pull on the folded edge. A bias edge will stretch.
Cut off the excess fabric.

The next steps involve folding your bias fold. To do this correctly, you will need to ensure your bias edge remains perpendicular with itself. This will maintain the 45 degree angle of your fabric piece.

Taking the upper point of your folded bias edge and bring it down to match with the lower point.

Taking those two points of the folded bias edge, bring them perpendicular to the fold to the opposite side.

Your piece will look like this, with the original bias edge fold perpendicular to itself, giving you four layers.

Turn your fabric, with the bias fold to your left.

Using a Shape Cut ruler, I line-up the lower edge with the bottom fold and the left edge about 1/8" from the fold so I can trim the fold off and straighten my fabric edge before cutting my strips. If you don't have the Shape Cut ruler, you can use an acrylic ruler to cut your strips. I like the Shape Cut ruler because it allows me to straighten my fabric edge and to cut several strips without having to reposition my ruler.

Cut your strips at 2 1/2" widths.

I reposition my strips as shown in the above photo before repositioning my Shape Cut ruler to straighten the edge of my strips.

After I've straightened my edges.

Lay one strip on top of the other, as shown. By overlapping the edges instead of lining the edges up, you ensure you will achieve a true 45 degree seam.

Placing a pin in the inside corner, line the edge of your ruler from corner to corner. (Corner to corner is actually the edge where the strips meet.) Using your favorite marking tool, draw a seam line at the 45 degree angle.

Stitch your seam line.

Open your seam to verify it has been stitched correctly.

Trim to a 1/4" seam line.

Press your seam open and trim the 'ears'.

Matching the long edges together, press your bias binding being careful not to stretch it. For this demonstration, I cut four 2 1/2" strips which made approximately 280" of binding, enough for a couple of projects.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Another One Bites The Dust...

Thank you to everyone who has left a comment and words of encouragement. I've finished quilting my second quilt. This one was a little more challenging because it is considerably larger than my first one.

I pieced the Nursery Rhyme quilt about ten years ago and its been sitting in my sewing studio waiting to be quilted. It was my first attempt at the Attic Window block and although I struggled with it at first, I think I did pretty good with it. Sorry I wasn't able to get a picture of the entire quilt... I'm going to square it up and sew the binding on before giving it to one of my grandkids.

Here is a close-up of my quilting stitches. I'm finding the more I quilt, the better my technique is. My next challenge is my Musical Angels Quilt. I've purchased a couple different quilting threads to audition before I actually start quilting it. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Quilting I Will Go...

I fear I've been neglectful on my blog posts. I'm sorry. I've been quite busy and haven't had the time to sit down and write my posts. In fact, I haven't had time to visit blogs either. But, I have been sewing/quilting...

Last Saturday I spent the day at a sew-in. We had so much fun and it was a full-house with approximately fourteen women sewing, talking, laughing, and snacking. I always look forward to these events.

One of the comfort quilts assembled by one of the groups I participate on was presented during our sew-in. My friend Sheila did a spectacular job on the quilting. To see the beautiful quilting just click on the picture to enlargen it.

The other project I've been working on is my machine quilting skills. I'm proud to say I have successfully machine quilted an entire project. I decided this was the only way I am going to build up my skills and confidence. It's just a whole cloth quilt for my granddaughter to use as a lap quilt or for her baby dolls.

Initially I was going to do some sort of oversized spiral designs, but as you can see from this picture I wasn't very good at it so I changed to an overall meandering/stippling design.

By the time I was finishing the quilt my technique had improved tremendously and most of the meandering/stippling design was well shaped and evenly distributed.

I even achieved pretty even stitches... How great is that? I'm almost finished with my second free motion machine quilt too. I'm on a roll! LOL

Friday, October 16, 2009

Receiving Blanket Tutorial

These receiving blankets go together very quickly and make excellent baby gifts. Although I'm using flannel in this tutorial, you can use also use a cotton batiste or knit. To get started you'll need two coordinating prints, each 1 1/4 yards each. I always prewash my fabrics before I begin cutting them to size.

The finished blanket will be approximately 43" x 43", depending on the amount of shrinkage you experienced with your fabrics. After washing and ironing my fabric, I then need to straighten my fabric pieces. With right-sides-together, I layer my fabric pieces and to keep them from shifting, I place pins around all four sides. Be sure to give yourself enough allowance so you can trim your sides without hitting your pins with the rotary cutter.

After folding my fabric in half, matching my selvege edges, I place my ruler using the fold to ensure I have a straight edge. I always verify all four edges of the fabric pieces will be trimmed.

Cut with your rotary cutter.

To round my corners I use this ruler manufactured by Katie Lane Quilts.

The ruler is called Corners Radial Rule and is very easy to use. You simply line the two straight sides with the sides of the piece and trim along the curved edge.

See how nicely it trims the corner? These rulers come in two sizes and each size has two sizes of corner.

Before stitching the seamline, I always mark my beginning and ending with two pins perpindicular to the seam. If I had to guess, I'd say I allow about a 3 1/2" to 4" opening to turn the fabric to the right side.

I prefer to move my needle position to 6.5 and line the edge of my fabric to the edge of my regular foot. This give me about a 3/8" seam. Instead of backstitching, I prefer to shorten my stitch to .5 at the beginning and ending of the seam line. I think it gives a stronger seam preventing the stitches from coming out as I'm turning the fabrics to the right side.

A word of caution, flannel produces a lot of lint in the bobbin case so be sure to clean your bobbin case out after stitching your seams together. I also add a drop of sewing machine oil on the race of the bobbin case. I do not recommend using canned air because it can add moisture onto your machine parts causing damage. Also, you don't want to risk forcing small pieces of lint or thread into areas you can't see or reach resulting in stitching problems.

After I've stitched my seams, I clip each corner so the seam will lie flat after I've turned it to the right side.

I then press my seam. Where my opening is, I press the seam allowance on both sides before I turn the piece to the right side.

After turning to the right side, I press all sides of the blanket and using glass head pins, I pin the opening, matching the edges.

Moving my needle position to 8.5 and my stitch length to 3.0, I edgestitched the blanket being careful not to stitch over the pins.
As an alternative finish, you could apply a bias binding or serge your edges. I've even used a cotton batting and quilted the layers before attaching a binding. Any method would work nicely.

Here's a completed receiving blanket with a burp cloth. They make a great set. If you want a pdf file of this tutorial just make a request in your comment. Make sure you leave me your email address so I can email it to you.