Thursday, October 19, 2017

...And the Plaid Flannel Fabric is Reassigned to Manly Pajamas!

Thanks so much to those of you who read through my long, boring blog post about my Christmas caroling costumes, and thanks even more to those of you who took the time to weigh in with advice and suggestions.  After reading through the comments and mulling it over a bit more, I have decided that the plaid cotton flannel fabric is FIRED from the costume project.  It will not, however, go to waste, because it will be perfect for matching Christmas pajamas for my menfolk:

Footsie Pajamas for Bernie, Lars and Anders!
Hah!  Can you imagine my teenaged sons and my 6'8" tall husband, wearing giant toddler pajamas like these?  I can see the Christmas card photo in my mind already...  This is from Kwik Sew pattern 3713.
Kwik Sew 3713 Men's Pajamas
As funny as that would be, none of them would actually WEAR footsie pajamas, and that's too much work for a practical joke.  So I'll probably just make my flannel plaid into a few pairs of pajama pants like these:

New Look 6858 Sleepwear
Pajama pants would sew up a lot faster than the union suits, and they would actually be worn regularly.  Waste not, want not!

When I went to JoAnn's looking for new caroling costume fabric, I had a polyester taffeta fabric in mind, but they just didn't have anything in the right weight or colors.  That's how I ended up settling on the cotton flannel.  I think I need to check out another fabric store, like Mary Jo's Cloth Store in Gastonia, to see if I can't find me some fun taffeta plaid with shimmer and sheen.  Wish me luck!

Nope!  This Fabric Will Become Pajama Pants, Not Caroling Skirt!
If I can't find a taffeta plaid for my costume, another idea would be to use one of the plaid Christmas cotton fabrics with metallic accents.  I'll see what I can find.  What I have in mind is the kind of plaid fabric that would make a great holiday table cloth.  If anyone has sources, please let me know.

Meanwhile, happy Fall, y'all!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

...Meanwhile, Longarm Quilting Practice Continues

Getting Better, But Not There Yet
So I've been working on that cheater cloth practice quilt some more.  It's definitely more challenging than just practicing different quilting motifs on solid fabric.  I've been experimenting with different thread types and colors, and changing up the way I quilt each printed 54-40 or Fight and Dresden Plate block.  The quilting really does change the way each one looks, so it's nice to be able to just try out different things from block to block without worrying about having to rip anything out so all the blocks can be the same in the finished quilt.  For instance, I was surprised by how much I liked those loopy squiggles in the blue star points of the block above.


Stitching In the Ditch, Without the Ditch
The first thing I did each time I advanced this practice quilt was to practice precision straight line quilting with the help of a ruler.  If this was a real pieced quilt top instead of a printed "cheater cloth" panel, I would be stitching right along the seamlines between patches.  As you can see in the photo above, this isn't as easy as you might imagine -- even with a ruler! -- but I am definitely getting better at it.  And stitching along those fake seamlines really makes the cheater cloth look more like a real pieced quilt, don't you think?


HandiQuilter Mini Ruler, 2 x 6
Here's why it's tricky.  You can't put your ruler right along the stitching line, because the presser foot is in the way.  The outside edge of the presser foot that rides alongside the edge of your ruler is 1/4" away from the needle, so the ruler needs to be lined up 1/4" away from where you want your line to stitch.  I quickly learned that I needed to stitch SLOWLY and keep my eye on the needle in order to stay on that printed seam line.  That's why it's so time consuming to do SID (Stitch In the Ditch) on a real quilt.

Once I had the "ditches" stitched down, I practiced some freehand fills, feathers, pebbles, and straight line fills using the ruler.  When I started this piece, I thought I was going to want a matte, all-white thread, and I did like the white on white for the stippling around the Dresden plate.  However, I was surprised to discover that I really preferred the light blue Glide thread over most of the fabrics, just a shade or two lighter than the solid blue patches.  

Feathers are still really challenging.  I'm getting better at backtracking, but still working on controlling the machine on diagonal curves.  That's why my quilted feathers aren't shaped as nicely as the ones I doodle on my iPad with my Apple Pencil.  But I think they're looking less and less like ogre toes every day.


Behold, Sub Par Feathers
More Feather Practice on a Dresden Plate
See the straight line quilting on the blue triangle, lower left corner of the above block?  Used the ruler for that.  Nice, straight lines, but again, had to go pretty slowly to keep the ruler from slipping.  I did ALL of the triangles in that "fabric" this way, even though it doesn't show up well, because practicing straight lines with the ruler was one of my primary objectives with this piece.  I tried spacing the quilting lines 1/4" apart using the lines on my 2" x 6" HandiQuilter Mini Ruler, but I think on a real quilt I would at least need little dots marking where each line ends and begins to get spacing that I was happy with.


Wretched Attempts at Pebbles
Yeah, those pebbles were intended to be ROUND...  Not!  But isn't it interesting the difference that the thread color makes?  Those quilted rocks I made in white thread caused the blue triangles to virtually disappear and blend into the adjacent blue and white print.  If you scroll back up to the picture where I was using light blue thread on the dark blue triangle, you'll see what I mean.  

Ah, well -- that's the whole point of practice, isn't it?  The only reason I'm posting these pictures is so I can look back on them at some point in the (hopefully not too far off) future and say:



I can tell you that I now understand why professional longarm quilters charge so much more for custom quilting.  All this fiddling around with outlining blocks and SID and special fills in each little patch is taking me forever!  But I'm very much looking forward to taking it off the frame and comparing the quilting at the top of the practice quilt to the quilting at the bottom.  Happy Stitching. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Christmas Caroling Season Approaching: Should I Make a New Costume, Yea or Nay?

Good morning and happy holidays, everyone!  I know it's only October 17th and y'all are probably festooning your front steps with pumpkins and "harvest decor" if you're thinking about holidays at all, but my professional caroling group just had our kickoff rehearsal/party last weekend so I'm already thinking ahead to Christmas.  Behold, me in the Giant Green Dress That Does Not Fit In My Car:

Final Christmas Caroling Job Last Year, Holiday Party at a Private Residence

That photo is from my last caroling job of last year's holiday season, a party at a private home in Charlotte.  The weather was perfect, the other members of the quartet were some of my favorite voices to sing with, and we really enjoyed singing together.  The homeowner who hired us had also hired a horse drawn carriage bringing guests up the their winding driveway past the beautifully lit trees to the house, where we met them at the front door with Christmas carols in four-part harmony.  (I am now BFF with Jake the Horse).
Imagine All Of This Dress Stuffed Behind My Steering Wheel...

So the dress...  You can read more about how I made it, which pattern I used, etc., here if you're interested.  I got carried away with the design, and wasn't thinking about the practical requirements of a costume that I need to put on at home and then wear while driving my little car to wherever the job happens to be.  Have you ever tried to drive in a hoop skirt with petticoats?  It's a hassle just getting in and out of the costume, it's restrictive and uncomfortable through the arms and shoulders, it's 100% silk so if I'm caroling outdoors and it rains on me, the dress will be ruined, and it's dry clean only...  Also the hoop skirt tends to knock things over, and when we were hired to go caroling door-to-door in a neighborhood the other night I kept tripping over the skirt and couldn't see where the steps began or ended.  There have been some close calls where, if someone hadn't been in the right place at the right time, I could have knocked over a Christmas tree or two.  This dress is ridiculously impractical, so even though our clients and their guests love it (especially the little old ladies at nursing homes), I am strongly considering making a new caroling costume for this year.  

Honestly, after two years, I am bored with wearing the same thing over and over again, struggling in and out of this dress 2-3 times a week for the whole month of December.  I feel like Charlie Brown!  I won't completely retire the green dress; I just need a different costume that I can alternate with it, something in a different color that is more suitable for outdoor events, with a warmer fabric and/or matching cape, something a bit later Victorian with a skirt that is not quite so full....  I want a costume that will be easier to get in and out of, more comfortable to wear and practical to drive in, and one that won't cost a fortune and take 50+ hours to sew.  So, without further ado, BEHOLD!  The Inspiration for my Next Caroling Costume!:

Inspiration: 1826 Fashion Plate from a French Ladies' Magazine
My costume is supposed to be "Victorian" or "Dickensian," and plaids were a huge fashion trend in the mid-19th century.  No, I'm not going to wear a dorky bonnet, but am thinking something like the red and green plaid skirt with ruffles with a frilly blouse, and maybe a little cloak to go over it.  

Because a LOT of work goes into shirtmaking, I ordered this blouse from a historical costume supplier:

Abbington Blouse from Historical Emporium
The blouse cost me $56, which sounds expensive until you consider that I would probably have spent that much on a pattern, fabric, lace trim, buttons, interfacing, and whatever other notions were needed to make it -- plus it would have taken HOURS of time that I don't have.  So I'm going to use this ready-made costume blouse as a starting point and just add more lace trim from my stash to make it more exciting.   In the Victorian fashion plate illustrations you'll notice that the shoulders and upper sleeves are very pouffy and frilly, and making the shoulders and upper arms bigger with ruffles and frills helps to make the waist look narrower for that hourglass silhouette:  
1826 and 1829

Also, just tucked into a skirt as in the Historical Emporium photo, my Abbington blouse looks more Little House On the Prairie than Elegant Caroling Fashionista.  It's not going to look Victorian if it's all blousy and loose at the waistline.  So I I'm going to make some kind of separate waist cincher/corset/belt thingy, similar to what this costumer Victorian Choice has done:


From other photos on their web site, I can see that Victorian Choice makes that waist cincher so that it ties with long sashes at the back -- which means it's totally adjustable in the event that a Caroling Fashionista eats a couple of extra slices of pumpkin pie...  

I haven't seen anything quite like the Victorian Choice waist cincher in my Victorian fashion research, at least not dating from my target era of 1840-1860.  The one below is an antique garment dating from the 1880s or so:



(At this point, you might be wondering why I don't just order my whole costume online and be done with it, especially if you're a sensible, practical person.  Unfortunately for me, I'm an impractical, ridiculous person who needs to have a one-of-a-kind costume entirely of my own making and incorporating all of my own design whimsies, so ordering a readymade costume online is simply out of the question). 

Back to the project at hand:

A Starting Point: Simplicity 8910
Let me assure you that there will be NO dorky bonnet on my head, but I DO like the View C cape from this Simplicity pattern shown above.  I've got a lightweight red microfiber that looks and drapes like velvet and won't need lining for the cape, and I bought some heavy black pom pom trim to use where red trim is shown in the pattern photo.  But I don't like the skirt in that pattern because there is too much bulky fullness at the waist, which would look frumpy-dumpy, and I think the skirt might even have an ELASTIC waist, God forbid.  I have a different pattern that I'm planning to use for my skirt, this OOP (Out of Print) Butterick:

OOP Butterick Pattern 3418
I like this pattern better than the Simplicity skirt pattern because of the princess seams, which keep fullness at the hem while reducing bulk at the waistline.  I may even gather and attach my skirt to the waistband by hand the way my original costume was made, because that historically accurate technique wasn't difficult and it really did allow a tremendous amount of fabric to gather up at the waist without any bulk.  That's key to creating the illusion of a corseted silhouette without actually having to wear a corset -- waist cincher with full, puffy blouse above and full, puffy skirt below.  

I'm thinking of a hybrid between View D with the three tiers of gathered ruffles and trim, and View B that has the flat skirt panel in the front with fullness concentrated to the sides and read of the skirt.  Look at my historic inspiration photo again:


See?  The skirt is gathered on the back and sides, but flat (not gathered) in the front.  With enough fullness in the back, that could even give a hint of a bustled effect (without having to tie a pillow to my derriere).  From a historical authenticity perspective (which absolutely NO ONE cares about besides me), notice the ruffles on the skirts -- three tiers of ruffles, even a contrasting plaid ruffle on the one on the left, and the ruffles are clearly cut on the bias due to the diagonal direction of the plaid.  Plaid was a very fashion-forward trend in the mid-19th century, as were the very full skirts supported by hoops and petticoats.  But what really stands out to me in researching women's fashion circa 1860 is the bold, graphic trim on the skirts:

Chevron!
Chevron With Plaid!
Ruffles, Plaid Banding, Bold Trim
Ruffles, Banding, BOLD!

Check Out the Coat Trim!
Interlocking Ring Applique
These are some wild getups, aren't they?!  Those super-full skirts were never plain; they were canvases waiting to be embellished with dramatic, showstopping trim.  That's why I went with the bold, black scalloped ruffling on my previous costume -- and I want to have that drama for my new costume, too.  

For my skirt fabric, I bought some green and red plaid cotton flannel from JoAnn and some red floral yarn trim:

For My Skirt?
So, what do you think?  At the moment, I'm feeling kind of "meh" about it.  Here are the pros:

  1. 100% cotton flannel can be preshrunk, so my finished skirt could be washable -- no more dry cleaning costs
  2. This is an outdoor-friendly fabric that won't be ruined by a sprinkling of rain or snow
  3. It's warmer than the silk I used for my last costume, which would be a plus on cold evening gigs
  4. Several yards of red yarn trim can jazz up that plaid fabric so it looks more interesting and more 1860s Fashion Forward
  5. The plaid will make it easy to cut the skirt panels straight, and I won't have to mark where the trim goes because I can just use lines in the plaid fabric itself
  6. I was originally thinking of skirt view D, with the three tiers of ruffles and the red yarn trim just above each ruffle, but I'm having second thoughts about that because of the bulk of flannel ruffles...

And of course the cons are that it's too "expected," too cliche, and not nearly exciting like a silky satiny outfit.  The biggest factor sabotaging my "sewjo" with this project is that everyone to whom I've mentioned my plan to make a new costume this year has reacted with DISAPPOINTMENT.  :-(

*sigh*

Anyway.  Here is the plan for the little cape thingy:

Simplicity 8910 Double Tiered Cape
The other thing I can do is disregard the skirt pattern instructions when it comes to gathering and attaching the skirt to the waistband, and use the hand stitched cartridge pleat technique I learned from making my previous costume:
Inside the Waistband of an Antique 1860s Dress
Doing the skirt that way is not hard at all, not using Tiger Tape to space my hand stitches and heavy duty upholstery thread that won't break when I pull up the pleats.  This method can't be done by machine, but it really does enable you to get an authentic bell-shaped skirt without thickening up the waistline.  Those pleats rotate outward when you put the skirt on with a petticoat, so there is no gathered seam allowance adding girth at the waistline itself.  It's genius.

Anyone who has managed to read all the way through this rambling stream-of-consciousness post without falling asleep deserves a prize, and here it is:  I will now listen to and consider YOUR opinions!  Please leave me a comment and let me know if you think this new costume idea would result in a crowd-pleaser or a disappointment.  If you don't like this idea, what would you suggest instead?  I have about 6 weeks before the caroling season starts in earnest.  Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Longarm Quilting Practice: Let's Play With Cheater Cloth!

Good morning!  I learned SO much at my APQS New Owner training last week, and I'm anxious to get some time in my studio now to put all that information into practice.  I came home with more thread, gadgets and gizmos, and a little less fear of routine maintenance.  

Rather than loading up a real quilt top just yet, I'm going to do a few more SMALLER practice quilts, to get more familiar and comfortable with the process of loading a quilt.  I have zipper leaders on order for my 12' frame but in the meantime, I'll still be pinning directly to my leaders.

My first practice quilt was a huge king sized monstrosity of different colored solid fabrics.  That was fine for experimenting with matching versus contrasting threads and doodling different fill patterns.  I halfheartedly quilted some straight lines with my ruler on that first practice quilt, but what I really want to do with those rulers is learn to quilt straight lines EXACTLY where I want them on my quilts, like SID (Stitch in the Ditch, along seam lines).  The big learning curve for me with ruler work in quilting is developing the ability to eyeball the distance from my needle to the outside edge of my presser foot, because that's how far away my ruler needs to be from where I'm trying to quilt my straight line.  So I'm going to be loading up a 45" x 45" Dresden plate cheater cloth that I bought on eBay for my next practice piece:


Dresden Plate Cheater Cloth from eBay
Although it resembles a pieced and appliqued quilt top at first glance, the Dresden Plate/Snowball blocks and the 54-40 Or Fight blocks are just printed onto the fabric.  My goal for this piece will be to use my ruler to quilt all the "seamlines" between the fake patches, and around and between the blades of the Dresden plates.  Then I can quilt some fills in the blocks and the plate backgrounds.  By the time I finish quilting this piece, I hope to have better control when quilting with the ruler so I can tackle a real quilt top more confidently.

The quality of this vintage cheater cloth is pretty lame, I must say.  The weave is not as tight as the quality quilting cottons I'm used to working with, and the piecing design is printed onto the fabric crooked so that it's off grain.  I tore opposite ends of the fabric along the grainline to ensure that it would load onto the frame nice and square, and look at how askew the printed design is from the straight grain edge of the fabric:


See How Off-Grain This Print Is?

Close Up
Since this is only for practice, I'm going with the straight grain even though that will make it look crooked.  The great thing about the cheater cloth is that it was super cheap and I have zero blood, sweat, or tears invested in it, so there is no fear or anxiety about "ruining it" like there would be with a pieced quilt top.


108" Wide Paisley Backing Fabric from JoAnn
I used my 50% off coupon at JoAnn's to purchase 9 yards on a bolt of the above 108" wide cotton backing fabric for this and other practice quilts.  I generally only buy fat quarters of fabric for my stash, and only purchase yardage when I specifically need it for borders or a backing for a current project.

I've gotta say, I'm surprised there isn't a greater variety of cheater cloth fabric available today, considering the sheer number of quilters interested in developing machine their machine quilting skills.  If this is something you're interested in, I've found a couple of options that are available as of today:


Available on eBay here
That's a 6-yard length of 34" wide vintage cheater cloth, available on ebay here.  The seller says it feels like a blend rather than 100% cotton.  This would be great for someone who has a real pieced lone star quilt that they aren't sure how to quilt.  You could try out different quilting ideas on each of the lone stars printed onto the cheater cloth to help you envision which one you want to do on your real quilt.


24" x 44" ColorWorks Mariner's Compass Panel, Available on eQuilter here
44" Sweet Tea Barn Star Delft Panel Available from Fabric.com here
The cheater cloth panel pictured above is a digital print from Hoffman, so it's going to be a much better quality than the one I'm about to load onto my frame today.  At 43.5" x 44", it's also a great size for a quick and easy baby quilt, and it's only $12.98 per panel -- and if you buy two or more panels, they are only $10.38 each.  You could slap borders on it if you wanted a larger throw size.  I might have to buy a couple of these panels for myself.


Meadow Dance Quilt Top to Go Panel, by Amanda Murphy for Benartex
Benartex is offering the above 24" x 44" panel, designed by Amanda Murphy, specifically for practicing machine quilting designs.  You can get this one from eQuilter here for $8.25.

By the way, I don't do affiliate links, so I'm NOT compensated from any purchases you make via links in my blog posts.  I have only included the links for the convenience of you AND me, so that I can find these cheater cloth options later, if I feel like I need more practice after quilting the Dresden plates, as well as for the purpose of photo credits.

My quilting goal for today is to straighten up the mess in my studio from the oven mitts project, find the right size batting for my cheater cloth in my box of batting scraps (I bought some fusible batting tape in case I need to piece it -- waste not, want not, especially when it's just for practice!), and just get this piece loaded onto the quilting frame, ready to go.

I have some design work to attend to and a VOX choral rehearsal tonight, so I'll be listening to the Brahms Ein Deutsches Requiem on my headphones all day while I'm working in my office and studio.  In case you want to listen to it, too:



It's another busy week full of meetings, rehearsals, doctor and dentist appointments for Bernie and the kids, but hopefully I can squeeze in some stitching, too.  Have a great week, everyone!

Friday, September 22, 2017

In Which My Husband Sets My Oven Mitts On Fire, and I Have to Make New Ones, and Then He LAUGHS at Me! A Tutorial

Okay, I didn't HAVE to make new ones.  Sensible people just go to the store and BUY oven mitts.  I checked Williams Sonoma and Sur la Table, though, and neither of them had any cute, kitschy oven mitts that I could get excited about.  And yes, I DO need to feel excited about oven mitts in order to buy them.

Laughing So Hard, His Face is as Red as the Oven Mitts
Apparently my oven mitts are hysterically funny, just because the thumbs are a bit too small for Bernie's giant hands.  This is because I took too wide of a seam allowance, and I COULD easily fix them by ripping out the seams and resewing them, but I don't particularly feel like it now that my efforts have been ridiculed.  They fit Anders' hands perfectly; maybe I should teach HIM to cook for us?

My old oven mitts were from Williams Sonoma, purchased way back when they were featuring the color "saffron" and they were selling pot holders, Le Creuset cookware, aprons, towels, and everything else in that color, which complements my kitchen nicely.  What happened to my oven mitts is that Bernie was cooking something where you brown meat on the stove, then put the pan in the oven to sear the meat, and then it comes back to the stove for the remainder of cooking -- with a searing hot metal handle that one tends to forget is hot.  So he stuck an oven mitt on the handle of the skillet, and then when he turned up the burner flame the oven mitt ignited.  And we've had these oven mitts for a LONG time anways, at least 10 years, so it's time for them to go.

Sad Little Saffron Oven Mitts, Soon to be Retired
I turned the damaged oven mitts inside out to inspect them, and discovered that they were 100% cotton (according to the care label), and consisted of an outer layer of cotton twill, a thin layer of cotton batting, and a layer of terry cloth, all quilted together.  

At the Seam Allowance, I Can See the Layers of the Old Oven Mitt
I decided to use the old pot holders as a pattern for my new ones.  

Inside Out Old Oven Mitt
Looking at the photo above, I can see why my oven mitts ended up too small at the top.  I cut my mitts out to match the raw edges of the old mitt and then sewed my mitt with a consistent seam allowance all the way around, but it looks like the Williams Sonoma elves trimmed the seam allowances at the fingertip and thumb curves to reduce bulk before turning them right side out.  So I COULD just rip out the seam and resew the pot holders with a narrower seam allowance and then they'd be fine, and maybe I will do that...  Later.  Someday.  When I get around to it.  (Not going to happen).  

And now, for the tutorial, in case you feel the urge to make your very own custom oven mitts!

My Fabrics After Prewashing
So I chose a Waverly cotton home dec print remnant from the clearance section at Jo-Ann's, cotton batting scraps, a lime green cotton terry cloth, and I added a layer of Insul-Brite between the cotton batting and the terry cloth, for added insulation.  I needed about 1/2 yard of each.  I also bought a package of extra wide double-fold bias tape and two spools of all-purpose polyester thread, one to match the paisley print and the other to matchin the binding.  Of course the Waverly home dec fabric was labeled Dry Clean Only, but I prewashed it along with the terry cloth anyway, in hot water so they would shrink.  Food gets on oven mitts, oven mitts need to get washed, and they need to shrink BEFORE I wash them.  Now, you can absolutely use quilting weight cotton for your oven mitts and pot holders, and if you do, you'll have a much better assortment of colors and prints to choose from.  I chose the home dec twill because I wanted a beefier, more rugged outer layer that would last longer, like the Williams Sonoma ones I had before.  

Cotton Twill Print, Thin Cotton Batting, Insul-Brite Batting, Terry Cloth
After laundering my fabrics, I layered my terry cloth, the Insul-Brite insulated batting, the thin cotton quilt batting, and the paisley print fabric right side up on top.  Four layers in this quilt sandwich, and there was no way I could get safety pins through all that thickness to secure the layers, so I spray basted them with 505 Spray and Fix temporary adhesive spray.  You do NOT want to skip this step -- even with a walking foot, the layers will scoot around under your presser foot and your terry cloth will end up all bunched and mangled if you don't glue baste all four layers together before quilting!  I know this because I was lazy, and tried it.  Fail!

505 Spray and Fix Temporary Fabric Adhesive
I suppose I could have quilted my oven mitt fabric on my longarm machine, but it was such a small quilt sandwich that I decided to just quilt it up on my domestic machine with my walking foot.  I really could have done any quilting design; the purpose is just to hold the layers together so they function as one fabric.  I decided the boring grid quilting would look best with my curvy paisley print, plus it was pretty fast to execute.

Walking Foot with Guide Bar for Evenly Spaced Lines
I quilted this on my Bernina 750 QE sewing machine with Walking Foot #50.  This foot has a little guide bar that I can attach for quilting evenly spaced rows without marking, so I just had to mark the first straight line with chalk and then spaced all of the others off of previous lines of quilting.

I'm using a size 90/14 Jeans needle for every step of this project, and that's important.  You can go up to a 90/14 Jeans needle or even a 100/16 or 110/18 Jeans needle, but please don't try to sew through all these layers with a dull 80/12 Universal needle that has been in your machine for a year.  Even if it's a brand new Universal needle, those are made with a slight ballpoint to the tip so they can be used for either wovens or for knits. For this project, you really need a strong needle with a SHARP point to penetrate this thick quilt sandwich made of home dec twill, terry, and two layers of batting, and still produce nice stitches -- and that's exactly what a Jeans needle is designed to do.

Schmetz 90/14 Jeans Needles
I quilted my potholder fabric with a 40 weight variegated King Tut cotton machine quilting thread that I had in my stash, using a coordinating solid 50/3 weight cotton thread in my bobbin.  

King Tut Variegated Machine Quilting Thread
Another important tip is that you want to reduce your presser foot pressure, if your machine allows you to do so (the Activa and 3 Series Bernina machines do NOT have adjustable presser foot pressure, but the rest of the models in the current lineup do, and so do my vintage Singer Featherweight machines).  I had to reduce the presser foot pressure drastically on my machine to get this ridiculously thick quilt sandwich to feed through the machine properly.  When I started trying to quilt with the presser foot pressure at the default setting of 50, the presser foot was smashing down so hard on the quilt sandwich that the feed dogs couldn't move the quilt sandwich through the machine properly, and I got itty bitty stitches no matter what stitch length I'd set the machine to sew.  I ended up lowering my presser foot pressure all the way down to 20 -- where the presser foot doesn't touch the bed of the machine in the down position without the quilt sandwich in between -- and that setting worked perfectly for this project.  I used a stitch length of 3.0 for quilting as well as for construction.

Quilting In Progress
As you can see, I quilted the first straight line down the lengthwise center of the quilt sandwich first.  Then I quilted all of the lines to the right of that line until I reached the edge, turned the sandwich around, and quilted all the lines from the center out to the opposite edge.

Diamond Cross Hatched Quilting Completed
Because I was working quickly and not aiming for perfection, I decided to quilt the crosshatching lines on a 45 degree angle rather than perpendicular to the vertical quilting lines.  If I had tried to quilt a grid of squares my imperfections would be more obvious, because some of my squares would be more rectangular.  A diamond grid camouflages those inconsistencies better.  After marking the first 45 degree angle line through the center of the quilt sandwich, I quilted out to the edges the same way I did with the vertical lines.

Quilting Completed!
...and voila!  Doesn't the diamond quilting look cool on the terry cloth side of the quilt sandwich?  Now my four disparate layers function as one thick, sturdy fabric, and I'm ready to cut out my oven mitts!

Terry Lining Side Up
Here's a view of the edge of the quilt sandwich, showing how ridiculously thick this is:

Edge View of Quilted Layers
See why I needed to reduce my presser foot pressure?  

Ready to Cut Out My Oven Mitts!
Since I was making two oven mitts, I needed to cut out two pairs of opposite mittens.  I folded my quilt sandwich in half, right sides together, and used my old oven mitts as templates to trace around and then cut out with my heavy duty Gingher tailor's shears.  My regular dressmaker's shears were not strong enough to cut through this easily.  Having gone to the trouble of quilting all of this together, I decided to cut out a small square potholder and a long, skinny pot handle cover from my scraps.  These would also be good for practicing the binding application later.

Mitts Cut Out
Ta da!

New Oven Mitt, Cut Out Right Sides Together
Notice the deep clip at the inside of the thumb.  The original oven mitts were clipped almost to the stitching line there.  Now, studying the old oven mitts again, I see that the bottom edges of the Williams Sonoma mitts were bound prior to stitching the mitt together along the sides, so the binding would not have to be wrapped around the huge log that is the seam allowance:

Binding Sewn First, Prior to Stitching the Side Seam
(The fancy Williams Sonoma elves must have sewn their binding continuously from one half of the mitt to the other, like chain piecing, to have that nice finished edge on the inside, but I didn't feel like exerting myself that degree, so I bound the edge of each half of my oven mitt separately).  So I sewed my binding on next:

Attaching the Extra Wide Double Fold Bias Binding
Packaged bias binding is folded so that one half of the bias tape is slightly narrower than the other.  You want the narrower edge on the TOP of your project.  I opened up that narrower edge of the binding and lined the raw binding edge up with the raw edge of my oven mitt.  I'm using presser foot 1D now, with Dual Feed engaged on my sewing machine.  If you don't have dual feed on your machine, you may want to use your walking foot again.  Presser foot pressure is still reduced to 20, and my stitch length is 3.0.  I'm stitching right along that first fold line on my bias binding.

Binding Wraps Around to the Back
Next, the binding gets wrapped around to the back side of the piece, and because the wider half of the binding is on the back side, the folded edge reaches just past the stitching line from sewing the binding down on the right side.   I used Wonder Clips to secure the binding prior to stitching, easing the curves and coaxing out any wrinkles as I went along.  I would not have been able to get regular sewing pins bent through these thick layers without distortion.  (If you decide to make your own binding rather than using the prepackaged kind, make sure you cut it on the bias.  If you cut it on the straight of grain, it won't be able to bend smoothly around the curved edges of your oven mitt!)

See the Little "Valley" of the Stitches Along the Edge?
As long as your binding covers that previous stitching line when you wrap it around to the back, you can be assured that it will be caught in the stitching when you sew along that same stitching line from the right side.  Like so:

Secure the Binding from the Wrong Side, Making Sure You Cover the Stitching Line

...Then Flip It Over to Stitch In the Ditch
How cute is that?!  Now I stitch in the ditch right next to the fold of my binding, and these stitches secure the back side of the binding pretty invisibly from the right side.  My needle is sewing into the red print fabric, but the needle is rubbing against the edge of the yellow binding.  I forgot to take a picture of this step, but I did switch to an open toed presser foot (#20D) that gave me better visibility of exactly where my needle was landing.  And here is what the finished binding looks like, front and back:

Right Side.  See Those Stitches Right Up Next to the Binding?

Wrong Side Secured
This is why I used yellow thread to sew down the binding instead of red thread that would have camouflaged with the print fabric.  The yellow thread is barely noticeable on the right side, so close to the yellow fabric, but the read thread would have looked really ugly on the backing side of the binding!  It's not perfect, but it's good enough for a utilitarian project like this one.  

Sewing the Seams: Now We Have EIGHT Layers!

...So I've Reduced Presser Foot Pressure All the Way Down to 10!
I sewed my pot handle sleeve together first, to experiment with machine settings.  Now there were EIGHT layers to deal with, and I was stuffing twice as much under my presser foot as I was during the quilting and binding steps.  So I reduced my presser foot pressure all the way down to 10 -- remember that 50 is the default setting for regular sewing!  I'm using Straight Stitch #1 on my Bernina, with the default tension of 5.0 which is perfect for my polyester all purpose thread.  I did increase my stitch length to 3.0 after snapping this picture.  (Oh, and the exclamation mark is outlined in yellow because I have told my machine that I have a straight stitch plate on my machine -- that prevents me from forgetting, selecting a zigzag stitch, and breaking my needle).

With these machine settings, it was really easy to sew around the edges of the pot handle sleeve and oven mitts (although I wish I'd taken a smaller seam allowance so they would have finished a little bigger!).  I clipped the thumb and finger curves (whoops -- I guess I CAN'T resew them with a narrower seam allowance, since I snipped all through there already).  I turned them inside out, and voila!

Finished Potholder, Oven Mitts, and Pot Handle Sleeve in the Morning Sun
They may be a little small for Chef Bernie's liking, but I think they are pretty darned cute.  Much more cheerful than anything Williams Sonoma is selling this season!

Small Potholder is Just the Right Size for the Tea Kettle Handle
The little square potholder that I cut from my scraps is just the right size for grabbing the whistling tea kettle when the water boils.  It will get used a lot, and it will look super cute on my counter top.

Chef Bernie, Cute But Dangerous!
As for my husband, the Arsonist Chef, he's forgiven.  I'm very lucky that he enjoys cooking for us -- that translates into more quilting time for me!

If you end up making your own pot holders or oven mitts from my tutorial, please send me a picture.  I'd love to see them!

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