Thursday, July 31, 2014

Scrappy Quilt Part 2

I know you've made some scrappy blocks, right?


Good! Now you are ready to make a scrappy quilt top. Here’s Scrappy Quilt part 2 - we'll join our blocks and quilt the quilt!

You will need:

-Fabric for your quilt back – I cut mine approximately 1” larger all around than the size of the quilt top.

-Batting for your quilt – I used Quilter's Dream cotton batting as it has a smooth, low loft and works very nicely with my Baby Lock Sashiko which is what I wanted to use to quilt my new scrappy quilt with. You, of course, can use a regular sewing machine and the quilting method you love best but if you have a Sashiko machine, this is a great quilt to try it out with!

-Sewing thread

Press the seams open on all your blocks, if you haven’t already done so. I find that it’s easier to join nicely crisp, ironed blocks than it is to join floppy ones.

Lay them on your work surface as they will be joined together.

I join one horizontal row of blocks together at a time and then join each “row” of blocks to the other finished rows. That way I can keep my blocks going in the order I have laid them out without getting myself confused. (On my good days!)

Traditional quilting seam allowances are ¼”. Feel free to use whatever seam allowance makes you happy – just keep it consistent throughout the quilt.

I aligned each row at the block joining seams and pinned them together. (You'll notice that I have pressed my seam allowances open. I do this whenever I can for quilts I plan to Sashiko as it helps keep the bulk or the fabrics evenly distributed. I know that it's common practice to press the seams toward one side and "nest" them at the corners...but for Sashiko quilting I've had much more success with skipped stitches, thread breaks etc. when I press the seams open. Just so you know!)

When you begin to sew the rows together you may find that some blocks want to stretch more as you stitch which means some of the corners of the blocks may not align perfectly with each other. Our scrappy quilt blocks will not be truly on the straight grain due to the piecing method. This can really be an issue to some us. Use a walking foot for best results, or baste each aligned corner by machine or hand. For machine basting, stitch on the seam allowance and then sew the actual row of stitching over it so that the seam covers up the basting as you go.  For hand basting, stitch away (toward the selvage) from the seam allowance and pull out the basting threads when you have finished sewing the seam.

I can hear my mother saying “A man on a galloping horse would never notice!” Unfortunately that doesn't make me feel better. I just HAVE to make those corners meet! Argh! One nice thing about this scrappy quilt though, if you don’t make them meet perfectly you can claim “that’s part of the design” and get away with it – truly! Ha!

Okay, once you have joined the blocks together and have a finished quilt top then it’s time to cut a piece of quilt batting and quilt backing fabric. Everyone has their own method for this too, but I like to give myself plenty of room for error (or shifting) as I quilt. I cut my quilt backing and quilt batting 1” larger all around than my quilt top.

Stack the three layers together on a flat surface and make sure all three are nice and smooth. Quilt top on top, right side up, batting in the middle and quilt backing fabric on the bottom wrong side up. 

I chose to quilt my Scrappy quilt with rows of stitching spaced 1” apart in a grid, which meant I needed two perpendicular base lines to follow. (I had to use a few rulers placed end to end to reach across the whole quilt top.) I used a water soluble marker as I find that easier to see than a chalk pencil and less likely to rub out before I'm done with it.

Now it’s time to secure the layers together here and there so they will not shift around while you are quilting them. Some folks use quilting safety pins. Some folks like to hand tack the layers together with a stitch or two placed at regular intervals. I like to baste my layers together with rows of long running stitches spaced 6 to 8” apart. Whatever you find easiest will work just fine. Just remember that whatever you use needs to be removed as you quilt over it. That’s a moot point for pins – I mean, GA! You definitely don’t want to stitch over a pin. But what about thread, why does it need removed too? Well you can pick it out later, but it is ever so much easier to do it while you quilt. Stitched-on-top-of thread can really be a pain to get out. If you are using your Baby Lock Sashiko machine to quilt with you might not want to sew over basting thread. It probably will be just fine, but then again it might get caught between the latch wire and the needle and create havoc. I tend to be safe rather than aggravated and just clip and pull the threads as I get to them.

I love Wonder Clips! I use them instead of pins to keep my quilt sandwich rolled into a manageable bundle when I’m quilting. If you don’t have Wonder Clips you can also use binder clips. As I quilt I unroll, re-roll and then re-clip.

Do you have an extension table for your machine? You might have a nice big table or cabinet that gives you a large, flat space to drape your quilt over while you work. If you don’t have such a thing, consider getting an extension table for your machine. They are awesome. Baby Lock makes extension tables for their machines, including the Sashiko. Yay!

NoteSashiko users need to remember that for even stitches you must allow the feed dogs to do the work. Don’t push the fabric or hold back on the fabric as you sew. I find it helpful to use the biggest table I have with nothing behind or to the left of my machine.

Also, here are a couple of dial adjustments you need to make before beginning:

Set the presser foot PRESSURE dial to 3.5 or 4. This takes some of the tension off the presser foot allowing it to act more like a built-in walking foot.  (Aren't those BL machine inventors clever?) Depending on the thickness of your batting you may need to adjust that dial even lower. For best results, do a few test runs on scraps of batting and fabric to see what setting will work best for your choice of batting and fabric. I find that somewhere between 3.5 and 4 works great for most of my quilting projects.

Next adjust the presser foot height dial slightly up. A higher number allows the foot to “lift” off the fabric when the needle is engaged. I’m not sure why, but a setting of 1.5 or a little less seems to help keep the fabric from wrinkling and crawling when I’m quilting layers with batting. You might want to experiment with that too so that you can find what your quilt sandwich likes best. (This applies to straight stitching, not contour stitching for which you would need to swivel the fabric while the needle is engaged. For that method, you'd need a presser foot height setting high enough to allow you to swivel the fabric easily. I'll write about that method soon!)

Most sewing machines come with a quilting guide. They usually look like a weird hockey stick with a handle. These little attachments are really easy to use and make it possible to create even rows of quilting. Check your machine’s manual to find out how to attach this guide should you wish to use one for this project. Make sure it’s firmly attached. I set mine on my Sashiko machine so that I could quilt rows 1” apart.

The first row of stitching should be placed ON one marked line. Sew from one end to the other on top of the marked line. Then go back to the beginning and align the business end of the quilting guide with the line of quilting you just stitched. Allow the guide to “ride” along the stitching line. It should not press into the fabric, just rest on the fabric so that it can glide easily along. Now - this is the hard part for me – watch the QUILTING GUIDE and not your needle as you sew the next row of stitching. Yeah, I know. That can be a challenge because our eyes are automatically drawn to that needle! But keep your eye on the guide. That will allow you to keep your rows straight and even.

Notes for Sashiko users againIf you are a new Sashiko machine user you need to know that you should always BEGIN and END stitching on the fabric. Do not stitch on air. Don’t forget to catch, clip and hold the thread in the thread cutter at the end of each row of stitching.

Should you run out of thread or break the thread in the middle of a row, re-thread your bobbin and begin by aligning the needle hole in the presser foot with the exact spot the next stitch should begin. (You need to get your nose down there so you can see that!)

After you have finished that row, stop and secure the thread tails on the wrong side.  You can simply knot them together and clip the tails short. But for a nice neat, clean finish, thread them into a hand sewing needle, take a couple of tiny stitches in place, and then hide the tails between the layers. Do this every time you have to stop and start in the middle of a line of stitching and your quilt back will be pretty and neat when you are finished quilting! Plus you'll prevent stitching over those thread tails too. Don’t worry about the thread tails at the ends of the rows. You will be trimming those off when you even up the quilt edges and they will be secured and covered in the bias binding.

Once you have quilted the entire quilt one way, use the other marked line to begin quilting the other way, if that's your game plan.

So, let’s get quilting! Quilt your scrappy quilt using whatever quilting technique you like best. That might mean you stitch along the patch areas for each block, you stitch in the ditch between each block or you free-motion stipple stitch your quilt. Use the grid method I've described here or quilt to the beat of your own drummer!

Join me next week and we’ll put the bias binding on. I’ll show you how to make perfect mitered corners, front and back, painlessly – promise!

Thanks for reading!


Friday, July 25, 2014

Scrappy Quilt Part 1

Please note! The free design download for this blog post has expired. But the designs are now for sale (including all four block patterns) and can be found HERE!

Got scraps? Ha! Ask a silly question! This project is pretty cool because it let’s you use up some of those scraps I just know you are hording. You know the ones, a little too big to throw away and really too small to do anything else with. Or, if you’d rather of course, you can use fat quarters or skinny quarters or whatever yardage strikes your fancy.  

I was inspired by a blog post by one of my favorite bloggers, Heather Valentine, who posted something on her blog “The Sewing Loft” from another blog “Crazy Mom Quilts” about scrappy quilting. I just loved the idea of using up my scrap fabric and I really liked how all those pretty scraps looked stitched together in a basic simple shape. My problem? I'm just a dreadfully lazy quilter and allergic to anything that resembles paper piecing.

I seem to be directionally challenged - as in, even if I draw a straight line I can't always sew it and if a paper piecing pattern has more than two parts I manage to get lost. (Yeah, I'm terrible with driving directions too.) Besides, I have these really smart embroidery machines that I already know can make quilts in the hoop. Heh! So I knew I could talk my Ellisimo into making this piecing stuff easier for me. Usually I make blocks with batting and backing all in one and then just strip sash them together with a dust cover backing – this time I wanted to make a real old fashioned PAPER PIECED (without actually having to think too hard) quilt top that I could quilt with my Sashiko machine. 

All I can say is WOW. This was FUN! I am now totally hooked on paper piecing in the hoop! (Which is pretty awesome as I am also totally hooked on buying fabric and stashing it away and my stash is rounding out the corners of my studio.)

So – want to scrappy quilt with me?

You will need:

Fabric (I used nine different prints – approximately ¼ yard of each and made a quilt that is 31” x 36” – play mat sized – using the 6x6” block design. )

Tear-away Stabilizer (Use the cheapest and thinnest you have that tears easily and cleanly. You can also use pattern tracing paper.)

Sewing thread (For the top and bobbin of your embroidery machine in a color that coordinates with your fabrics.)

Choose your design size. (See note above.) Load the design file to your machine however you would normally do that.  Choose the hoop you will need according to the block size.

For my quilt top I chose to use the biggest hoop that came with my embroidery machine and the 6x6 block design.  My big hoop allowed me to stitch two scrappy blocks on one piece of stabilizer by adjusting it in the hoop slightly after I stitched the first one. This means I started out with a piece of stabilizer that had about 2” extra sticking out at the bottom. These instructions show the steps I took using this large hoop.  Even if you do not have a big hoop and are using a smaller (5x7 or 4x4) hoop, you can save stabilizer (or paper) by cutting strips that are just wide enough to fit across the hoop and long enough to move up in the hoop to accommodate more blocks. Start at the top of the stabilizer and keep moving it up in the hoop with each progressing block. Leave just enough space between the blocks so that you can easily cut them apart. Don’t cut the finished blocks apart until they are entirely exposed above the top of the hoop.

Next I moved the design up in the hoop as far as I could. I used my on-board design placement tool’s center UP arrow to do so. To be sure you don’t move the design further than your actual stitching field, attach the hoop to the machine before you do this. Most machines will automatically stop when you have reached the limit.

The quilt block design has three different “patches” or blocks of fabric within one big block. For the fastest quilt top experience, go ahead and chop up your fabric scraps into sizes that will fit those patch areas. To find out what sizes you will need, print or stitch out the first stitch sequence of the design. Measure the widest and tallest part of each patch area and add one inch to each measurement. For instance, if the widest part is 5", make that 6". If the tallest part is 3", make that 4". (The photo below showing the fabric block measurements is what you would need for the 6"x6" design.

Cut an assortment of fabrics into blocks using your measurements and place them on your work table in stacks labeled TOP, CENTER and BOTTOM according to their placement.

Thread your machine with regular sewing thread in the top and bobbin. (If you need to swap out bobbins – some embroidery machines have bobbin cases that accommodate regular sewing thread better than embroidery bobbin weight thread - do so before you begin.)

Sew the first stitch sequence which is the block pattern. This shows you the “patch” areas of the whole block – TOP, CENTER and BOTTOM. (I've stitched this using black thread so you can easily see it. It really doesn't matter what color you use, but to keep from having to change your thread color, just use the color you plan to use to stitch the block.)

Choose a center block piece of fabric.  Place it right side up over the center block area aligning the top long edge with the first line under the block top’s edge.

Place a top block piece of fabric wrong side up over the center block fabric. Align one long edge of this new block piece with the center block’s top edge as shown below.

Sew the first seam (stitch sequence #2).

Flip the top patch fabric up and out of the way. Sew the center fabric piece trimming line (stitch sequence #3).

Trim away the excess fabric below the stitching line. You may be able to do this without removing the hoop all the way out of the machine. If you can’t, remove the hoop and place it on a hard flat surface to do so. (That hard flat surface is not your lap, ahem!)

Place a bottom block piece of fabric wrong side up over the center block fabric. Align one long edge of this new block piece with the center block’s bottom edge as shown below.

Sew the second seam (stitch sequence #4).

Now you are ready to sew the last stitch sequence. This is the block outline which is the line you will use to trim away the excess fabric to make a perfectly square quilt block. Smooth the block patch pieces up/down and away from the machine’s foot as it stitches around the block.

Watch out for the places where two fabric pieces meet. Don’t let the machine’s foot catch in them.

If you are planning to stitch another block on the same piece of stabilizer (and you've allowed for this) trim away the excess block fabric at the bottom of the block.

Then move the stabilizer up in the hoop just enough to have room to sew another block.

Attach the hoop to the machine. Use your machine’s on-board design perimeter tool to locate the top center position of the design. (#1 and #2 in the photo below.) Close out that screen so you can use the down arrow to move the design down in the hoop as far as necessary. (#3 and #4 below.) 

Note - Your machine’s screen may not look like these photos. Check your machine’s manual to see if you have a design placement/perimeter tool and how to use it. Most machines at least have a design perimeter tool that will cause the foot to trace around the stitching area of the design. Make sure the next block’s stitching area is placed slightly lower than the block you have already stitched. (If you are not trying to sew more than one block on a piece of stabilizer/paper at a time skip this part, re-hoop another piece of stabilizer/paper and repeat the above directions to continue making blocks. Be sure to read the rest of the directions for trimming instructions etc. If you are planning on sewing more blocks on the same strip of stabilizer/paper carry on.)

The top of the next block should be approximately ½” below the bottom of the previously stitched block.

Sew the block outline for the second block. Choose your fabric pieces.

Follow the same steps to create another block.

Remove the stabilizer/paper from the hoop. (Or keep on going if you have chosen to use a longer piece of stabilizer and remove it when you can’t stitch any more blocks.)

Cut along the block outline. As in – cut ON the block stitching outline. You will be actually cutting the stitches away. If you have trouble cutting straight, by all means please feel free to use your rotary cutter and a ruler. I did after the 5th block!

Tear away the stabilizer/paper on the back of the block. You’ll notice that one of the block pattern stitching lines tears away with the paper and one remains. Trim away the one that remains.

Trim all seam allowances to ¼” (or don’t – whatever floats your boat) and press all seams open.

Make more blocks! Come visit me next week and we’ll put the blocks together, finish and bind the quilt. Yay! More fun to come!

Happy Stitching!

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Fancy meeting you here! I know, right?! Does the world really need another blog? And who named blogs “blog”? (Why does that word make me think of swamps or really slow moving scary beasties?)

Okay, maybe the world doesn’t need another blog. What about glob? I’ed that and discovered that besides being a undetermined lump of stuff one might wish to poke with a stick it also has to do with computers. These words were in the definition - “wildcard” and “pattern matching.” I don’t know what the rest of the definition was talking about since I really don’t speak geek but those words were all I needed to decide this was the right term for me. I can promise you that this place will contain undetermined lumps of stuff as it falls out of my brain (and you may wish to poke them with a stick – I think that’s what the comments section is for) and it will also be a wildcard (never know what might show up when) and we will definitely be pattern matching. (This goes with this, and this fits with this just lovely and voila! Look what we have made!)

So dear ones, welcome to my glob! I hope you join me! I can promise that thread, fabric and needles of all types will be thoroughly applied. My goal is to inspire you to use up some of your stash (yeah, I know you have one, don’t bother denying that) so that I can give you a free and clear conscience to go buy some more. That’s what friends are for!

Tag the hashes! Up and @ ‘em! Be tweet, scram your ‘gram and face the booking!

Join me here next week for my very first glob of fun stuff – Scrappy Quilting in the hoop!

Make this with me!
Till then,