Friday, January 16, 2015

My 2015 Finish-Along Q1 Goals

2015 FAL at On the Windy Side
My main goal this quarter is to get comfortable with my new quilting frame, so all my finish-along projects relate to that goal.

1) Jelly Roll Jam (Pattern) - Quilted, ready for binding. I am counting these two as one project. These were great practice quilts. They were really quick to make and small in size (36" square). The gray thread blended into the fabric so well that it easy not to obsess over the mistakes!

You've all seen these three quilts on many of my previous finish-along lists. As you can see, they haven't really progressed much! :D I am starting to enjoy the quilting part of quilting more, so I think I can finish these this time around!

2) Charley Harper Equilateral Triangle Quilt - Quilt top finished. Need to make backing. I am going to try woodgrain quilting on this one.

3) Quilty Fun - Quilt top finished. Need to make backing. Practicing stippling.

4) FQS Designer Block of the Month 2012 - Quilt top finished. Need to make backing. Will be stippling this one and maybe something in the borders if I feel comfortable. This quilt will be going to our Aunt Mary, so I really want to do a good job on it!

I am linking up with the 2015 Finish Along hosted by Adrianne @ On the Windy Side. Good luck to everyone who linked up!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Lickety Split: The Sequel and My New Machine!

Hello, friends! It has been a long time! So what have I been up to? I've been focused on my health and fitness (one more pant size to go before I can fit into my pre-moving to Houston jeans!), I have started reading again after a long reading drought and I finished a couple quilt tops and a baby quilt.

The baby quilt looks similar to my last quilt, but I promise it is new! One of my pregnant friends really loved the pattern and colors of the last quilt, so I made her one as a gift. I used Lella Boutique's Lickety Split pattern, Kona Navy and Sweetwater's The Boat House fabric for this quilt top.

I won't elaborate on every step of this quilt, since I've already written about the process in the previous Lickety Split post. However, one of my favorite things about quilting is that there is always something new to learn. Even though the quilt is the same pattern and similar colors, it did present a few unique challenges:

1. I couldn't find a matching chevron fabric, so I had to paper-piece my own chevrons.
2. The light blue was a little weird to work with! Depending on the light, it looks really blue-gray or really blue. You can see this effect in the marketing materials. The yardage wasn't out yet and I had a difficult time finding a coordinating light blue fabric for the backing. Fly Aweigh Flags in Gray ended up being a good match. It is another fabric that is hard to order online, because it looks gray or blue-gray depending on the picture. (Exhibit A | Exhibit B)
3. Both the nautical flag fabric and the anchor fabric were directional, so I had to piece the back. I used the Elmer's Glue method from this Invisible Seams on Quilt Backing tutorial, so that the piecing wouldn't be distracting.
5. I always wash the quilts before giving them away. When I pulled this quilt out of the dryer (at 10pm on the night before gifting, of course), I discovered a tiny tear in the fabric at one of the seams. I probably snagged the fabric with the sewing machine needle, while I was quilting or attaching the binding. My heart stopped and my stomach dropped! I really felt like I was going to be sick! I was about to rip it apart and start over. After the shock wore off and rational thought prevailed, I realized that it would be a fairly easy fix since it was near the edge of the quilt and the quilting wasn't dense.
  • I removed the binding in the area and secured the threads in the seam around the tear. I was hoping that I could possibly "trap" the hole in the seam by making the seam a little larger, but that didn't end up being a viable option.
  • The tear was in the middle of the long side of one of the 3"x1" red striped pieces. I cut a piece of red striped fabric that would end up the same width, but I added some extra height to cover the tear and additional fabric on all sides for the seam allowance.
  • I folded and pressed the seam allowance under and adhered the piece to the quilt with a bit of lightweight interfacing, which also helped stabilize the tear.
  • I used hand quilting thread to blind stitch the applique piece on to the quilt top.
  • I reattached the binding and washed the quilt one more time, just to make sure nothing came loose! Because of the interfacing, a portion of the 3"x1" area is slightly stiffer than the rest of the quilt and I probably could have used a smaller piece of interfacing, but it hard to notice unless you know it is there. It is also not visibly noticeable. I may have went slightly overboard with the repair, but I feel confident that the area is secure!
One more thing: I have some new toys in my sewing room!

My new additions are the Gracie Queen and a Juki TL2010Q. In my first Sew Mama Sew Giveaway Day post in 2012, I asked advice about sewing machines and I received so much great input! I ended up getting a basic machine (Janome HD1000) and decided to do some more researching and saving before I made any major purchases. I had my heart set on the Janome Horizon 7700 for a longest time, but in the end I decided on the Juki/Grace combo.

I have not had the opportunity to test out the Gracie Queen yet (leader fabric will be in today), but I love, love, love my new Juki! I initially thought I was just going to keep it on the frame and do piecing on my little machine, but I don't think that is going to be possible! I used it on the Jamieson quilt and here are some of my initial thoughts:

  • It took me two hours to thread it properly! It wasn't until I found this lovely video by DarlingMushroom that I realized that I had missed not one, but TWO tension guides!
  • I do not know how I lived without the "needle down" feature for so long! No more wobbles. 
  • It sews so straight and so fast. The speed scares me a little bit! Currently, I am slowing closer to the turtle than the rabbit!
  • I was suspicious of the automatic thread cutter at first, because it cuts the thread so short. If I had cut the thread that short on my HD1000, I would be spending a few minutes unjamming my machine. But it works and I like it!
  • I have had no issue with it eating my fabric. I have also had issues in the past with my seams flipping the wrong way while sewing and it hasn't been happening with this machine. I am not sure why and it may just be a fluke.
  • I love the bobbin access from the extension table.
  • It's taken me some time to get coordinated enough to use the knee lift and the foot pedal thread cutter, but it is really nice. Those features really save time, which I would have never guessed.
  • I didn't think the jump from 7" of throat space to 9" of throat space would seem that much different, but it definitely feels much roomier!
  • Easy access holes for oiling. I really love not having to open the whole machine up to oil it!
I am not going to make any long term goals this year, because I always forget about them by January 15! My 2015 finish-along projects will be focused on learning to use the Gracie Queen and emptying my quilt top bin, which just had two more quilt tops added to it!

Quilty Fun Sampler  & Deep in the Heart of Texas Quilt

A quilter's work is never done!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Personalized Quilt Backs: My Process

Personalizing a quilt with a baby name is such a fun and easy way to make a special gift even more unique! I get asked about my quilt backs from time to time, so I decided to write a little about my general process and why I make certain choices. I'll mostly be writing in reference to the Asher quilt today, but the same principles apply to most of the personalized quilt backs I have made.

The largest piece is approximately 60% of the quilt back and the name/bottom portion is 40%. Every quilt is different though; the Asher quilt is more of a 57%/43% split. A composition with the name at the exact center would not be as visually interesting.

I generally let the measurements of the front dictate the measurements for the back. For instance, the Asher quilt has seven 7.5" rows. So the main portion on the finished quilt back is a 30" height (corresponding to rows 1-4), the name portion is 7.5" height (row 5) and the bottom portion is a 15" height (row 6-7). Having the measurements of the back line up with the measurements of the front really helps me keep everything straight when basting!

My favorite quilt backs follow this formula:
  • Top portion - A large scale print
  • Center Strip - A bright solid that contrasts with the fabric used for the name. It helps if I can find a chevron fabric to match, but that is not always possible. I made my own chevron quilt block for the Addilyn quilt (shown above).
  • Bottom portion - A small scale, muted print
As always, pre-planning can save you money. On the Ryan Quilt, I was able to use exactly 1.5 yards of fabric for the top portion and half yard of the polka dot print. There have been way too many times where I didn't think about the back while I was making the front and ended up having to buy more fabric than I needed because my quilt top was just an inch or two bigger than standard fabric sizes!

The name can be appliquéd (Joseph & Jon Quilt) or pieced. Appliqué is faster and requires less pieces, but I prefer to paper-piece mine. I don't enjoy appliqué and paper-piecing patterns are easy to scale to the needed size.

I have used the My First Alphabet pattern by from blank pages... for many of my quilts. The block letters go well with most designs and they are easy to read. There are a ton of great alphabet patterns out there. I also love Just My Type by Quiet Play and Refrigerator Magnets by Oh, Fransson!.

A: I make the name 1.5" smaller in height than the finished height of the name strip. This is so that I can add spacing between the name and the top and bottom prints.

Be mindful of the letter spacing and take the time to view the name from a distance. You can skip the spacing fabric on some letters. I once in the middle of quilting when I realized that ADDILYN looked more like ADDIL YN. The effect was greatly reduced when I removed the spacer fabric between L & Y!

B&C: To separate the name from the print patterns, I add a 1" strip of solid fabric to both the top and the bottom of the name for .5" spacing on the finished piece. Since working with thin strips can be frustrating, I usually make the strips a little wider and trim it down to the appropriate size after A. B and C are sewn together.

D: I like 3" of space on both sides of the name, so I add a 3.5"(unfinished) + extra inches for the backing to the left of the name.

E: I like 3" of space on both sides of the name, so I add  a 3.5"(unfinished) wide piece to the right of the name

F: Don't forget to add the width you need for extra backing to this piece! I choose chevron fabric for this part, because I like how it draws attention to the name. It also adds a little bit of movement. I try to cut the chevron fabric so that the exact "points" of the chevrons are touching the solid fabric.

On the Texas A&M quilt, I was asked to include a year. In order to keep the quilt back from being overwhelmed with text, I made the year half the size of the name to create a hierarchy of information. I also set the year between star blocks to separate it from the name a bit more. Villarreal is a long last name, so made it extra large and centered it on this quilt. For sanity reasons I piece the most complicated letters first, when my mind is still fresh! ('R', in this case). :D

I baste on tile floor and use the 1/4" grout lines to line up my backing and quilt top. The black lines on the diagram to the left represent my tile lines. The vertical line runs 3ish inches to the right of the edge of the name and the horizontal line runs across the bottom seam of the name strip.

When I lay the quilt top down, the right edge lines up against the vertical grout line and the bottom seam of the corresponding row (in this case row 5) lines up with the horizontal grout line. I can make sure the seams are lined up by sight on the edges, but I can also push down the seam and make sure it lines up with the grout underneath.

So far I have avoided my great fears of accidentally cutting the edge of the name off or accidentally putting the whole back at a slight angle (or misspelling the name)!

I prefer using a thread that does not contrast too much with the name, because I want the name to be the main feature of the back. I do not recommend doing any quilting that runs parallel with the name strip. If you are even a degree off, horizontal straight line quilting really calls attention to it. I speak from experience!

One of my favorite parts of the Asher quilt is the rounded corners.  It was a much simpler process than expected.

You do need to use bias binding when binding rounded corners. If you haven't made bias binding before, this tutorial from Connecting Threads really helped me out. I lightly starch my fabric before cutting, because I can be a inadvertently rough with my fabric! The starch did not affect the stretchiness of the bias binding as I feared it would.

After I squared up the quilt sandwich, I took a 9" salad plate and traced the outer edge on to the corner of the quilt sandwich (see diagram on left). After I repeated the process on the remainder of the corners, I cut along the drawn lines.

Now that you have a quilt sandwich with rounded corners, you bind as usual! No mitering necessary. Go slow around the rounded corners and be careful not to stretch the binding.

My favorite part of these quilts are the thank you pictures I get in return! Many of the moms use them to take monthly pictures of their baby. It is so rewarding to know a quilt is being loved and used!

I hope this answers any questions you might have regarding personalized quilt backs! I'll update this page as needed. Thank you for visiting!
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