Quilter's Academy - Volume 2 - Sophomore Year

Vol 3 - Junior Year

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Project 4 - Triple Rail Fence Quilt - Mitered Borders

Oh Boy.  My first attempt at mitered border corners was not a success.  I don't understand where I went wrong - I followed the instructions, but must have mis-understood somewhere - either that or my sewing skills are just not up to it.

After cutting, pinning and sewing the borders to the top, the next step is to fold, press and glue the corner into place - yep, no problems there. Then over to the sewing machine.

For my first corner I ended up with a hole.

a nasty opps!

I think I know where I got it wrong here.  The instructions for the side borders say to stop sewing 1/4" from the end of the seam.  I did this, but I also started 1/4 from the end of the seams on both the side and top/bottom corners - this is what makes a hole!

Ok, so I repaired the hole and stitched up to the seamlines on the other borders, so it didn't happen again. 

It's not pretty is it.  What a mess!  And why are the seam stitches showing on the top like that?

The second & third corners weren't much better

Again, the seams have pulled and the stitching is showing.

So the seams are stretching as I sew, or at the ironing board, I don't know.  None of the corners sit flat, they all have little peaks, like tents.

As you can see, I'm also having trouble pressing the seams correctly.

So I'm kinda embarrassed to show these pathetic corners, but I'm hoping someone can help explain what is going wrong here. 

Before putting on the borders, I measured up all the corners, making sure they were perfectly square and flat.  Once the borders were on, the corners are distorted with little tents on each one.  My top is now all wavy around the edges, even after trimming back to size.

So now what do I do?  I considered pulling the whole lot apart and starting again.  Now that the fabric has stretched in the corners, I don't know if I can repair the damage nor do I have enough fabric to re-cut new ones.  I think I'm going to have to live with it - it's a practice quilt after all.  Besides, I'm way behind schedule as it is - I'm not going to get all these tops made into quilts before book 2 is released at this rate!

For now I'll put it aside until I can get some hands-on advice.  I think I need someone to physically show me how this is done, so I can understand what I did wrong, before I try again.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Batting Sample Update

I've finished both Matilda's Own batting samples and washed them.  Here's the results.

This one is covered in pre-washed fabric - it has free-motion, hand quilting, grid and applique, same as the unwashed sample

I had some interesting results with these.  I should point out though, that the covering fabrics are not the same (silly mistake on my part). The unwashed sample fabric is a rather heavy and stiff calico, while the washed sample is covered in a thinner, softer calico.  This will have a large effect on the results, and in fact I'll have to do it again to get a proper comparison.  But for now, this is what I ended up with.

On the right is the one covered in pre-washed fabric.

You can see instantly that the pre-washed sample is a lot less wrinkled and puckered and the stitches are clearer.

After washing the unwashed sample shrunk 1/2 inch

The pre-washed sample shrunk 1/4 inch

Of most concern is the effect on the hand quilting.  The unwashed sample wrinkled and puckered so much, that the design for the handquilting is completely gone - it just looks like a mess.
That is supposed to be 4 heart shapes!??
Here's what it looked like before washing

The pre-washed hand quilting fared better.............

This was quilted with grey thread

Another thing to point out - the Clover blue water soluable pencil didn't wash out!  Doing batting samples is also a good way to test out marking techniques.  I suspect another wash or two will get rid of the blue, but I'm not really happy with this - it's supposed to disappear when washed!

The samples were hand-washed in hand hot water, then line dried.  Harriet suggests washing the samples up to 15 times, re-measuring and comparing after each wash.  I would expect more shrinkage with each wash, which means more wrinkling and puckering.

I've started a folder, in which I'll keep the 3rd sample batting, along with my notes.

Ok, I have about 40 more samples to do - it's a lovely distraction and although I'd be happy to spend the next month making samples, I still have quite a few projects to finish!  I'll be busy with other things for a few days, but then it's back to borders!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Going Batty

I've been totally distracted from my work since a box of goodies arrived last week, generously sent by Harriet.  Inside the box were some lovely threads, some nifty tools, some stencils and a load of batting samples.

What's in the box?

The batting samples are 14" x 14" and there are 3 of each type.  From these, I need to make up a collection of quilting samples.  Here is a list of the samples Harriet sent:

Hobbs Heirloom Bleached Cotton -  100% cotton
Hobbs Heirloom Natural Craft Cotton - unbleached - 100% organic cotton
Hobbs Heirloom Natural Cotton - 100% cotton
Hobbs Heirloom Premuim Cotton - 80% cotton/20% polyester
Hobbs Tuscany Silk - 90% silk / 10% polyester
Hobbs Heirloom Premium Wool - 100% wool
Fairfield Natural - 100% cotton
Fairfield Soft Touch - 100% cotton
Mountain Mist Blue Ribbin - 100% cotton
Moutain Mist Natural Cotton - 100% cotton
Mountain Mist Gold - 50% cotton / 50% polyester
Mountain Mist Cotton Blossom - 95% cotton / 5% silk
Mountain Mist Cotton Blossom - 95% cotton / 5% wool
Mountain Mist Echo Friendly Batting Blend - 50% cotton /50% PLA (corn fibre)

I've also added a few local ones, and will add more as I find them

Matilida's Own Premium Cotton - 100% cotton
Matilda's Own Wool - 80% wool / 20% polyester
Hobbs Heirloom Tuscany Wool - 100% wool (not local but I managed to find some here)
Warm and Natural Cotton - 100% cotton

The idea behind all the samples is to quilt them up and compare the look and feel of them after repeated washings. I expect to find out that all cotton battings are not the same!

I've made up a spreadsheet sorting out as much information as I can find on each batting. - scrim or no scrim, needlepunched, bonding, quilting distances, expected appearance and recommended uses.

There are 3 of each sample - one to be sandwiched in pre-washed fabric, one to be sandwiched in unwashed fabric and one to be kept un-quilted with a results sheet attached for future reference.  In the centre of each sandwich is a 6" square - to be re-measured after quilting, then again after washing.  The backings are pieced from both white and black calico (quilter's muslin), so I can check for bearding and shadowing.

I spent a long time making up the sandwiches, which now have to be marked for quilting.  On each one I want a sample of free-motion quilting, grid quilting, hand quilting, and applique.  So far I've completed 1. This is going to take a while!!!

Matilda's Own Cotton batting - front of sandwich - back of sandwich - this sample is unwashed fabric

Testing, testing...1..2..3

Free motion border and centre motif, some gridding, blanket stitch applique (yes I know this needs work) and some hand quilting.  I wonder what it will look like after 15 washes!

As well as excellent batting references - I'm going to get a lot of quilting practice!

From the back - oh dear - black really shows up all the dodgy bits!

I'll continue to work on these between projects - I really must stop playing around and get back to my borders.  Honestly though, this is such a worthwhile exercise - after I'm done I'll be able to select the best batting for the job, not only in function, but with the look and feel I want in my finished quilt. 

If you want to give this a go, batting samples are available through Harriet's website, or alternately just pick up a selection of battings from your local area and quilt 'em up!


Monday, March 15, 2010

Project 12 - Finishing

Hello again.  The quilting is done.  The binding is done.  Now I get to throw in a movie and hand sew for a bit.

 Using the light box to re-draw the border design worked ok, but it's not as straight as before.  This one was a lot easier to sew but just as I was getting the hang of it, I ran out of border - this is just a small crib size quilt.

I managed to stay within the lines a bit better than before but I'm getting little jerks each time I stop to re-position my hands.  I can't seem to co-ordinate my foot action with my hand action yet.  More practice required!

You can see a little jerk on top of the heart shape on the left

There it is again - top left

I was just getting the hang of it when I ran out of quilt!

Next it needed trimming so I could make the binding.  If you don't look too closely, it came up ok, despite the dramas :)

I really like Harriet's method of making the borders bigger, then trimming them back.  The quilt measured up exactly to size.

I actually wanted to use the blue again for the binding, but didn't have enough fabric left.  Instead I chose a yellow print from the same Circus collection.  This turned out to be a mistake, as it's another busy print and doesn't really improve the quilt at all - the blue would have been much better.

I am proud to say that I did all the binding without having to refer back to the book.  This is a bit of a milestone for me - retention of information not being one of my strong points.

Using Harriet's trick, I didn't cut the strips on the bias, but just used off-grain fabric.  It was still pretty stretchy even so, and should be plenty strong enough.  My calculations told me I needed 4.3 strips to make the binding.  I cut 4 strips thinking I could make it fit, then had second thoughts and cut another one.  I hate to waste fabric, but I would also hate to run short.

The joining part had me bamboozled the first few times I did it, I kept getting the angles wrong, but now I have it sorted.  I still can't quite get an exact fit, but am getting better.

I used this pressing gadget a friend made for me to press the seams open - thanks Ros, it works well!

Harriet's method for starting the binding

The corners are no problem - except I keep forgetting to take the machine off reverse!

That's the last join right there - could I have made it with just 4 strips?

That's about 1/4 inch between the first & last strips - bummer!

Nearly there - just hand sewing of the binding and into the wash

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Project 12 - Quilting - A comedy of errors

Tip of the day - don't mark your quilt tops with chalk.

Yes, by the time I came to quilt the hearts, they had disappeared.  This put me in a bit of a quandry, as I use a light box to transfer the designs - well that isn't going to work with a quilt sandwich!  I had a go at making a stencil - LOL - I think I need more practice (or a better craft knife).  I ended up with a template of sorts, which I needed to trace onto my quilt.

The only colour which shows up well on this fabric is white.  I have white chalk pencils and I have a white Clover quilters pencil.  The Clover pencil marks really well, nice and clear, but the thing breaks constantly.  To get a nice line, you need a nice point, but when I sharpened this pencil, the slightest pressure snapped the point off, right back inside the wood.  I had 17 designs to transfer and by the time I got to the last one, a tiny stub of a marker.  Now, usually Clover products are really good and can be expected to work as they are supposed to .... but this pencil!!!??? What's the story Clover?

Needless to say, with a sad pencil and a rough template, the markings on the quilt top ended up being thick and dodgy looking - but that's ok - it gives me a better excuse for dodgy quilting!

Not much of that pencil left!

I've been working on the grid quilting and stitch in the ditch over the last couple of days.  I didn't bother to mark it, simply eyeballing across the inch sized squares.  It turned out rather nicely. 

Grid quilting from the back

It's interesting to compare the last quilt to this one, as both have a large amount of smallish grid quilting right across the top, both done with mono poly thread on top and embroidery thread in the bobbin.  The last one is quite stiff, while this one is really drapey and soft.  I imagine it's the different battings I've used.  The Fairfield, as Harriet promised, is really lovely, cuddly soft and drapey - perfect for a kiddies cuddle quilt.

I trundled myself down to the local sewing store, a copy of Heirloom Machine Quilting in hand and showed the picture of the foot Harriet recommended I use on my Pfaff.  The sales girl was doubtful about it as it's actually an embroidery foot, not a quilting foot and she didn't think it suitable for the job.

Let me tell you, if you have a Pfaff which takes a Fantasy Embroidery Foot go get one right now!  It's fantastic, as close as you can get to not having a foot at all.  I can see the markings, forward, backward and sideways, no problems.

Creative Fantasy Embroidery Foot

So, onto the Free Motion.  I was really getting the knack of this, when I got into all sorts of tension problems.  Inexplicably, between the practice samples and the actual quilt, a gremlin got into the machine and I got loopy bottoms, snapping thread and tangled bobbins.  Sigh.  It took a while to get it all sorted but I got there and got on with the job.  It's a pity the markings were not very good, as I ended up having to double back over previously sewn lines, and I had trouble staying on them.  I was so busy 'looking where I wanted to go' that I didn't notice that back at the needle I wasn't sewing straight.

I'm disappointed in the result, but not disheartened.  Every time I do this I get a little better and learn a lot more about what NOT to do.  :)

The quilting is hard to see in the picture, but that's the whole idea of using a busy print and invisible thread!

I still need to free motion the borders.  Again the chalk markings are gone, but because the quilt edges are loose, I should be able to put them back on using the light box.  And I need a new pencil!


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Project 12 - Practice quilting (warning - lots of pictures)

Ever had one of those days where the harder you try, the worse the result?  Yep, I practiced the chosen quilt designs today, and oh boy, what a mess! 

Ewwww - even for a raw beginner that's bad!

Border practice

Then, remembering how shrinkage and puckering go a long way to disguising dodgy quilting, I decided to play with different threads.

Dodgy quilted feather wreath is well disguised after shrinkage!

I tried clear poly nylon in the needle and grey cotton in the bobbin.  I also tried golden yellow machine embroidery thread in the needle and a purple/grey embroidery thread in the bobbin. 

clear poly nylon in the bobbin (purple marker used)

grey cotton in the bobbin

I then washed the samples (more than are shown here) and tossed them in the dryer, trying for maximum shrinkage.  The results are pleasing.

Gold thread on washed yellow cotton.

Purple cotton on multi coloured backing.

Clear nylon thread after washing

Grey cotton after washing

I think I will probably settle for clear nylon in the needle and purple embroidery thread in the bobbin. 

I also experimented on both the Pfaff and the vintage Singer, to see which worked better, and I'm going for the Singer.  The darning foot on the Pfaff is fine for forward sewing, but when working backwards, I can't see a thing!  The open round darning foot on the Singer allows for a much clearer view in all directions. 

I am a fan of not pre-washing fabrics, but I do get concerned about colours running in the wash. I've discovered a nifty product called Colour Catcher, and so far they've worked really well.  The last 2 quilts  had red fabrics in them which makes me nervous, but simply throwing a couple of these cloths into the machine with the quilt and there is no worries at all!  They even stop dark colours from dulling up the brighter ones.

Those 2 grey pieces are the colour catcher's after washing the quilt.  They started off white!  The red fabric is hand dyed but there is no sign of colour running anywhere on the quilt.

Like the last one, this quilt will also have some grid quilting.  I'm not sure if it's the batting I used (Warm & Natural Cotton) or the 1/2 inch grid quilting, but after 2 washes, the quilt is still rather stiff and heavy.  I want this next one to be really soft, so the grid quilting won't be so close together (and a different batting).

A little while back, I made some grid quilting samples, as recommeded by Harriet in Heirloom Machine Quilting.  I still have some more to make, but they are great practice and a handy reference to have on hand.

Grid quilting samples

I think I'm going to be boring though, and do a square diagional grid as on the previous quilt, but this time it'll be at least a 1 inch grid.

After a lot of playing around with samples, I finally got down to work and transferred the designs onto the quilt top.  I chose a circle of hearts from Harriets HMQ book and I also found the hearts border in the same book!  I had to adapt it a bit, but it's the one I was looking for.

Leaving out the tulips in the centre of the hearts, gave me the border pattern I wanted

I used my light box to tranfer the design onto the top.  To keep the design straight, I put a piece of 1/4 inch masking tape along the border seam line, making sure I lined bottom of the design with the tape.

Quilters tape along the bottom seam line

Eventually I got around to making up the quilt ready for the machine.  I had to piece the backing first, settling for a horizontal layout, so as to make a nice 'picture' on the back of the quilt. 

Lost amongst the rolls of Warm & Natural, I managed to find a crib size bag of Fairfied Cotton Classic Batting from a dusty corner in Spotlight Hobart.  It was the one and only bag I could find and I'm not sure they are still stocking it, so don't know if I can get any more.  It's very different from other battings I've seen.  It feels quite rough but is a lot lighter and 'airy' compared to others.  It's bonded and doesn't have a scrim.  Check out the photo for a comparison

Left Warm & Natural - Middle Fairfield - Right Matilda's Own

The Fairfield is the thickest and Matilda's Own the thinnest. In my samples I used Matilda's Own and Warm & Natural and they both shrank up well.  As I don't have any of the Fairfield to spare, I will have to wait and see, the packaging says it will shrink 2 - 3 %

I used a chalk pencil to mark the designs on the quilt top, and I worry about wiping them off while smoothing out the quilt top over the sandwich.  They are still there, but harder to see now - I think I need to find a better marker than chalk.

Laying and pinning are all done and tomorrow I quilt!