Tag Archives: Quilting

Longarm Quilting | My Turn

Melanie is a fabulous quilter. She understands color, fabrics, threads, design, is a great teacher, and so much more. I am impressed with her creativity and beautiful quilts. You can see her works here.

Quilting the finished front to the back with the batting sandwiched between is a study in patience and concentration. I wondered what it was like to actually run the machine. She set up a narrow strip of muslin and batting, gave me some instruction, and turned me loose.

I now have a much deeper appreciation for her skills. Some things are ‘easy’ like straight lines. She does curves, animals, flowers, leaves, and designs. Hers look realistic and artistic. Mine not so much. I need more practice.

My quilt could be made into a table runner or cut into placemats. It could even hang on the wall as a piece of modern art. I’ve heard quilters can sometimes sell their works. I would part with this one for a thousand or so. Let me know if you’re interested. 🙂


A little quilt for a little girl

by Melanie in IA

Earlier in the year I was working on several projects at the same time. While trying to quilt one of two projects for friends, I had a lot of trouble with the bobbin tension. Though I fixed it and the project was salvaged, I wanted to try quilting one more before I quilted a more important project.

I didn’t have anything else lined up, ready to quilt as a test project. So I made one. Today I’ll show you the quilt and the little throw pillow to go with it. In a couple of days I’ll show you how I made the quilt’s center block.

For this little quilt I used a center block made last fall. After turning the block on point, I framed it with small squares on point, using the last of the chartreuse fabric. A simple border with block corners finishes it.

No tension trouble slowed me down on this one. I used free-motion flowers and loops all over. A few days later I sorted through a bin and found the star block used on the pillow. It’s one a sister made but didn’t use for another project — an orphan block, as they’re called. A couple of days ago I finally framed the star and made a throw pillow case

I’ll send the quilt and the pillow to my great-niece, who just turned two. It’ll be a wonderful little quilt for a little girl to drag around.

My stash is NOT making me happy

by Melanie in IA

Quilters love fabric. Some quilters love fabric so much, they buy more of it than they will ever use. There is a great yahoo group called “Stashbusters,” devoted to helping quilters push through their stash and their projects. A local shop has a Sunday group called “SABLE,” or “stash acquired beyond lifetime expectancy.”

I don’t have too much stash. My stash problem is of a different sort. More about that in a minute.

Where or when did you develop your love of fabric?  My love comes from my mother. My mother could make anything. With a very limited budget and five young children, she sewed, built and refinished furniture, upholstered, painted rooms, rewired lamps, and generally did anything she could to create a comfortable home for us. When I was little, she made dresses for my sisters and me. When we were married, she made the bridesmaids’ dresses. She paid a lot of bills doing alterations and custom sewing, and for several years, she made costumes for community theatre productions.

Her creativity was well suited for costume-making. I remember shopping expeditions to find fabrics. How many little girls can identify moiré satins and taffetas and brocades, twills and crepes and organzas? We spent a lot of time feeling the fabrics, as that was part of how she could tell how well it would drape, how it would reflect the stage lights, and how rich or poor the character would look.

I still love fabric. I still go to the stores and fondle the bolts, unroll a yard or more to check the drape, stand back to “ooh” and “aah” over the beautiful colors and patterns. I sort through my own small stash before beginning each project, and I enjoy touching each piece.

Sewing From Stash

Some people account for yardage purchased and yardage used, letting them know just how much they have in “inventory.” I’ve never done that, but I do have ONE cabinet in which my fabric lives. (All of my quilting stash is in the top of it.) I can tell when the cabinet is getting fuller and emptier. Unlike Old Mother Hubbard, my cabinet is far from bare. But the bins are getting a little lighter.

One of the things I love about sewing from stash is the push to greater creativity. Figuring out how to make things go together, what blocks I have yardage to make, whether they’ll need to be scrappy or not, are all creative decisions that are different when sewing from stash than when buying new yardage. Scrappy quilts make great use of stash, with small amounts cut from many fabrics. Other projects, though, call for more cohesion in color or pattern, making it hard to quilt from stash.

Quilters love fabric. Some are fabric collectors, seeking out new treasures wherever they go and building a stash that would last several lifetimes. Others buy only enough for the project at hand. It’s likely there is a happy medium.

And when you keep your stash fairly small as I do, occasionally  you need some major stash replenishment.

Is your stash making you happy?
Recently I read an essay that suggested thinking about the kind of fabric you used when you started quilting, what you are using now, and what you would like to use as your art develops. Then over time, deliberately move your stash toward the art you want to make. What should you do with the “old” stash?  Use it, sell it, or give it away. Free yourself from caring for things you no longer need. Remove reminders of projects you know you will never make, and the guilt that goes with seeing them all the time. Reduce the time it takes to dig through stacks of fabric you don’t even like. Allow your creativity to expand when you are not weighed down sorting, folding, and storing the old stash. When you are no longer moving around the old, you will have time and space to try something new.

My stash is NOT making me happy.
I have the wrong stuff.

I’ve especially noticed the problem with my reds and greens, the two colors I use most. Over the last couple of years, my reds have devolved  to the point that they are all the same — there is little variety. They are RED, some red with fine designs, some red on red, some just red. But they are RED. Not enough variety.

The same problem exists in a somewhat different way with my greens. I actually have two bins of green, one of light greens and one of dark greens. Even so, there is not enough variety.

When I want to choose from my color palette, I don’t have enough to choose from, and it’s hard to make my quilts feel fresh and interesting. I want to continue to evolve in how I used color and shape, but my limited stash is making that harder to do.

Shopping for stash.
Though I do buy fabric just for stash, most of my purchases are for specific projects. Usually when I am buying, I don’t have a fully developed project plan, so I buy what I assume is “too much,” and pieces I might not use, knowing anything left will help fill out my bins.

But now I need to shop for stash. Yesterday I went with three other women on a little road trip to LeClaire, Iowa. There is a quilt shop there with yardage different from what closer shops carry, making it worth the trip. I bought four fat quarters to add to my “lights,” a yard of red-on-red that is different (REALLY!), and two yards of a blue print that is neither childish nor masculine. Besides those, I added a couple of other cuts, including a panel print for quilting practice.

These will help, but I’ll need to budget more time and money to move my stash forward. Fresh colors evoke new combinations of shape, also, allowing me to evolve as a quilter.

Tutorial: Finishing a quilt with straight-grain binding

by Melanie in IA

When I started quilting in 2003, I had no idea what I was doing! All I knew was that a quilt was a couple of layers of fabric with some soft stuffing between.  Over the next couple of years I made a few more quilts, and I figured out some things like how to use a rotary cutter, how to make a 1/4″ seam, and some design principles.

But for a long time I found the last step mysterious: how to finish a quilt by making and applying binding. The binding is the finishing edge of the quilt. A beautiful quilt deserves a well-made binding.

There are many ways to edge your quilt, but I will focus on the double-fold, straight-grain binding that is used on most quilts with straight edges.

Cutting the Binding

The first task, after choosing your fabric, is to decide how much binding you need. To get all the way around, start with the (width + length) x 2. For example, if you have a lap quilt that is 45″ x 60″, you need (45 + 60) x 2 = 210″. Now add 12″ for the corners and the joint. That makes 210 + 12 = 222″.

How much yardage do you need for that? It depends on how WIDE you want your binding. Most references will recommend cutting 2.5″ strips selvage to selvage.

If I need 222″, and I assume I have 40″ selvage to selvage (width of fabric), I need 6 cut strips to make the binding. (222/40 = 5.55. I need to round up to 6.) This is 6 x 40″ = 240″. If I only cut 5 strips, I would only have 200″, not enough. And really, it’s better to have too much than not enough.

(If you’re not cutting selvage to selvage, use the length of strips you’ll actually have. So if my strips will be 53″, I would use 222/53 = 4.19, and round up to cutting 5 strips. Due to yardage available to me, I often cut my binding along the selvage instead of edge to edge. I’ve never had a problem because of that.)

If I cut my strips 2.5″ wide, I need 6 x 2.5″, or 15″ of fabric. If I am buying new fabric for the binding, I would buy a half yard (18″). Again, better to have a little too much. But even a king-sized quilt won’t need more than a yard!

My personal preference is a narrow, tight binding, so I cut mine at 2.25″. You get to decide your own binding width, which may depend on how you finish it.

As always, press the fabric before cutting. When cutting edge to edge, unless the selvage puckers and distorts the fabric, there is NO need to cut it off now. It will be cut off after you’ve sewn strips together.

Square up the fabric and fold edge to edge. Depending on the ruler you use, you may need to fold a second time. Cut into strips.

When I cut strips for this and many other things, I like to use my June Tailor Shape Cut Ruler. I am not big on gadgets, but this is one I’ve found tremendously useful in getting accurate cuts. Here is a video demonstrating the product. (I have no affiliation with the company!)

Making the Binding

Once you have your strips cut, press them in half lengthwise, wrong sides together.

The first 4:15 of this video gives an excellent demo of how to prep the strips and make the binding. Just note, she uses the term “bias binding” a couple of times when what she really means is “bias seam.” Also note, once the full binding strip is made, you should press the short seams open, and then re-press at the joints in half, wrong sides together. (Likely there is an ad before the video.)

Applying the Binding

Cut a 45 degree angle on one end, as shown here. Lay the prepared binding all around the perimeter of the quilt before stitching it on. Check that the seams do not fall on the corners. It isn’t a fatal flaw if it does, but it is easier to finish nicely if you avoid them. Once you’ve decided a good starting point, pin it with a pin or two just to keep the whole thing from shifting.

Using a 1/4″ seam allowance, sew the binding to your quilt sandwich. Some people find a walking foot helpful with this. My machine’s feed dogs work fine and I don’t use the walking foot.

Starting at the end you cut at 45 degrees, leave a tail of about 10″ unstitched. Start sewing onto the right side of quilt with raw edges of binding to raw edges of quilt.

Continue all the way around, mitering the corners as you go, and stopping with a tail of about 10″ or more.

The link for Jaybird Quilts also shows how to make the final joint. This method works great.

Here are a couple of pictures to show it in more detail. First, I open up the fold on both sides to flatten it completely. That’s why about 10″ of tail on each side works well. With less than that, it’s hard to open it flat. With pinning, the two ends won’t shift and you can mark your line. Use a pencil with a faint line on light-colored fabric. With darker fabrics you can use a faint line of pigma or other permanent pen. Test it first, if you’re concerned the color will show through.

Attach the binding, leaving about 10″ unstitched from each end.

After pinning the binding smoothly and open along the quilt edge, draw a line on the finishing end, using the beginning angle as your template.

Once you have the first line drawn, measure a half inch from it and draw another line. This is your cut line.

Now unpin both ends so you can sew the angled ends together with a 1/4″ seam.

Note: my sister sent me this link from McCalls Quilting, showing a video of the same basic method.

Finishing the Binding

The nicest finish, if you are able, is to turn the binding to the back of the quilt and stitch by hand, using a blind or hemming stitch. Julie at Jaybirds.com has a video to give tips on this.

Here is a photo below of me working on binding by hand. You can see the needle travels underneath, so there is only a small stitch on the top. The thread should match the binding color to disappear most completely.

If you prefer to do a machine finish, refer to the Missouri Quilts video above for tips. She uses a decorative stitch to finish, with the binding first applied to the back of the quilt rather than the front. An alternative, which I’ve used many times, is that shown by Judy Laquidara at Patchwork Times.

The photo below shows me finishing the binding by machine. The TOP of the checkerboard is showing. I stitched in the ditch using a top thread to disappear as much as possible (in this case, I used green since it snugged up against the green binding and matched half of the squares.) The bobbin thread should match the binding, as you will stitch directly on it.

Save leftover binding strips in one place. You can piece mismatched binding together to finish scrap quilts with a playful edge, or finish utility quilts and mats without regard to coloring.

Old Dogs, New Tricks

Today (April 9) as I looked around, I saw this link for a different method of machine-finishing. Looks great, and well worth trying!

Round robin with my small group

by Melanie in IA

My local quilt guild is fairly large, with about 150 paid members. Over time, smaller groups have naturally broken off to meet for friendship and learning and support. About five years ago, the guild began actively encouraging and helping to organize small groups. And about two years ago, I joined one.

My small group includes nine women, ranging in age from early 50s to early 70s. We meet once a month, at a different member’s home each time. Some small groups take their meetings very seriously, arranging lessons and work sessions, planning group projects and outings. Others, like mine, are primarily social groups. Some of us bring hand work to stitch while there, and some of us don’t. We just enjoy each other’s company.

Until recently, we haven’t done any group projects. In December we agreed to try something new to most members: a Round Robin.

A round robin is a form of group project. There are a number of ways to do it, but a typical way is to have someone create a center block for a medallion quilt. The block is passed to another member, who adds a border. That piece is passed again, with another border added. It continues until the rounds are completed or until the quilt top is “done.”

I’ve done round robins before. One of my first volunteer efforts with the guild was to add a border to a round robin. The project ultimately became an auction quilt for a local organization. In the photo below, I added the pieced squares on point and outside border. I wish I had a photo of the finished work, as it was spectacular.

About three years ago I joined a group of four other guild members to do round robins. We each started a quilt and passed the work until four borders were added. One member of the group had to drop out, but four us have beautiful wall-hangings because of the project. Here is mine. The center Ohio star was my original block.

And last year, my sister and I decided to do a “round” robin. It wasn’t very round because it was just two of us. But we had a great time working together.

For my small group, we agreed we would each do a center block. To keep the size of the finished top manageable, we decided to add only four borders to each center. In this way, each finished top will have five people working on it — the owner, who began it with a center, and the four people who add borders. The top will be returned to the owner to finish as she wishes. We agreed to always pass to the same person, so I will always pass to Janet, and always take from Robin. This way, each quilt will have a different set of five working on it.

On Monday my group will meet, and we’ll share our work with the second borders added. We’ll pass the pieces on to the next person, and start wondering how to make the next border work!

This is the center block of the top I worked on and will pass Monday:

And with one border:

And with the border I added:

In other posts I’ll share the very loose “rules” we are using, photos of some of our small group’s work, and some pix of other round robins I’ve been in.