Saturday, July 8, 2017

Do As I Say, Not As I Do: Why I Should Have STARTED With a Pressing Plan

Good morning and Happy Saturday!  Check out this lovely HOLE in the center of my bear paw block.  Nice, right?

There's A Hole In My Quilt Top, Dear Liza a Hole!
Up until yesterday, I had four of these holes at the center of every single one of my bear paw blocks, as well as holes at the four corners of most of my sashing star blocks.  When I started making this quilt several years ago, I just started sewing and "pressing to the dark side" rather than making a pressing plan. 

The goals of a pressing plan are:
  • to reduce bulk
  • keep points crisp and sharp, and
  • create the flattest possible quilt top sans thick, knobby bumps where too many seam allowances stacked up, and
  • most importantly, to create nesting seam allowances wherever possible for perfectly matching seam intersections.  
(If you're following a pattern that includes pressing instructions, the pattern designer has already done this for you).  I realized the error of my haphazard ways after sewing this quilt top together, and came up with a delusional plan to fix it (late one night when bad decisions are made and it's best to leave the studio!).  I just popped the seams at all of the offending intersections so I could press the seam allowances in different directions.  Now my quilt top was nice and flat, but there were a bazillion HOLES in it!

See?  I ripped out the stitching to free the seam allowance.
I couldn't leave it that way (although I was tempted to!), because those holes were hazards waiting to trip up my presser foot during the quilting process, and then RRIPPP!!  It was piddly, fiddly, annoying work, but I did restitch all of those blocks closed and repressed the quilt top yesterday and it's so much better now.

The Final pressing Solution
See how I ended up pressing those intersections where my sawtooth star, sashing and bear paw block comes together?  I split the difference and pressed them into little squares.  Who knows whether the mythical Quilt Police would approve, but it's nice and flat and looks good (to me, anyway) from the right side:

Same Sawtooth Star, from the Right Side
One More, 'Cause They're So Cute
After that, I added my inner white borders:

Pinning Borders, Easing Top Slightly to fit Border
Ever since I started thinking about teaching new quilters, I've had a different mindfulness to my quilting.  I typically would be thinking ahead to the next steps, or even to the next project, but now I'm more focused on what I'm doing in this step, this moment, thinking about how I'm going to teach it to someone else. 

A lot of quilters struggle with keeping their quilt edges flat and square, especially if they have multiple borders.  I deliberately included the sashing strips and border in my class project so I can teach them how to do those steps successfully. 

I did talk with my dealer and she agreed that I could teach this as a two-day class, which I feel much better about.  I'm going to continue to think about ways to streamline the process and divide things up, and will probably put together a couple more sample tops as I do that.  I'm also going to corral some family members as guinea pigs and attempt to teach them the project in the allotted class time. 

My stitching has lagged behind a bit this week due to an unfortunate illness afflicting my 2nd floor air conditioning, turning my studio into a sauna.  It's fixed now, but I'm headed out of town after church tomorrow and that's the perfect opportunity for my 'Nina 750QE sewbaby to go in for her annual wellbaby visit.  I think there's an update that I haven't downloaded, too.  Then, when I get back, she'll be in tip-top shape and ready to sew up a storm! 

Enjoy your summer, and happy stitching, everyone!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Moving Right Along: Backing Fabrics Selected for Math Quilt and Bear Paws Quilt!

Good morning, and a big thanks to all of you who responded to yesterday's post with feedback about teaching beginner quilters.  You guys are reinforcing my own gut feeling about this.  This opportunity may or may not be a good fit for me right now, what with everything else I'm trying to juggle and balance.  I'm not looking to reap dazzling financial rewards from teaching (hah!).  I'm only interested in doing it to reap those intangible rewards that come from motivating and empowering others.  I don't want to simplify the project any further because I think my current design incorporates the bare minimum amount of practice with 1/4" seams and intersecting seam allowances that students need to reinforce and master those skills.  I also don't want to just do something using precuts, because someone who only knows how to quilt with precuts and doesn't know how to cut her own fabric is very limited in what she or he can do.  Cutting, 1/4" seams, and matching seam intersections are the three basic skills that everything else builds on and I feel I would be doing a disservice to cut those out.  It would be like teaching beginner math, but skipping addition and subtraction to save time!  So I'll talk to the shop owner again and see what she says.

Meanwhile, I found and ordered backing fabrics for two of my own projects that are nearing completion.  First, for the Math Is Beautiful quilt:

Koi Garden Tiny Droplet in Chartreuse, available here from
...This quilt was based on a graph paper doodle that my son Lars made in his 8th grade Math II notebook:

Lars's Math Doodle
Lars is going to be a junior this fall, so that tells you a bit about how long this quilt has been languishing as a UFO... 

Math Is Beautiful Quilt On My Design Wall (Anders Watching TV)
Anyway, it's destined to be the first real quilt that gets loaded on my long arm frame once I've finished my giant practice quilt.  I was having a tough time picking backing fabric for this one because all of the fabrics in the quilt top are so busy, but I think the chartreuse and magenta dot fabric will complement this OOP Kaffe Fasset poppies and irises print really nicely and help to brighten up what ended up being a very dark quilt top:

OOP Kaffe Fasset Print, Can't Remember the Name
Backing Fabric for the Math Quilt
Better Shot of the Math Quilt, Taken Prior to Borders
I probably should have mixed in a solid somewhere, but ah, well!  This may very well be one of those quilts that grows on me once it is finished.

And the second backing fabric I ordered yesterday is this one, for my Butterflies and Bear Paws quilt:

Tula Pink Slow and Steady Orange Crush Pit Crew available here from Fat Quarter Shop
I am going to finish the borders on this quilt top TODAY, I PROMISE...  But here's what it looks like at the moment:

Butterflies and Bear Paws Quilt, Borders Not Yet Attached
I'm planning on solid white (Kona Snow) inner and outer borders on either side of my pieced batik stripe border, and I'm thinking the Tula Pink fabric would be a nice surprise on the other side of the quilt without risking color showing through the white sections of the quilt top.

OOP Lou Lou Thi Fabric by Anna Maria Horner
Of course, there are drawbacks to online fabric shopping.  Colors can look very different in real life than they do on the computer monitor, based on monitor settings, camera or scanner settings of the photo you're looking at, etc.  There's always a chance that what comes in the mail doesn't look just right with your quilt top, after all.  If that happens, it goes in the stash and I have to start looking all over again.

I would much prefer to shop for my fabrics locally, but I don't have a shop near me that carries fabric that I like: solids, text prints, Kaffe Fassett, Tula Pink, etc.  

Do any of you shop for fabric online?  If so, what are your favorite online quilt shops?  I shop with Fat Quarter Shop and with eQuilter a lot, mostly because they both have a huge selection and their sites are well organized so it's easy to browse and come up with enough fabric in my shopping cart to qualify for free shipping.

The other thing that happens to me in this online quilting community is that I fall in love with fabric someone else is using on their blog, fabric they have had in their stash for a few years that is now OOP (Out Of Print).  That happened to me this week with this fabric, which I just found 5 yards of on eBay:

OOP Tula Pink Royal Elizabeth
How did I miss that loveliness when it was first introduced?!  I snatched it up, of course!  When I'm buying fabric for my stash, without a specific purpose in mind, I typically only buy a fat quarter or half yard, so this is the first time I'm stashing a backing.  It might coordinate with the Tula Pink clam shell quilt...

Alright, I'm off to my studio to get those borders attached to my bear paw quilt!  Have a great day, and happy stitching!

Today I'm linking up with:

·       Let’s Bee Social at

·       Midweek Makers at

·       WOW WIP on Wednesday at

Monday, July 3, 2017

Hey, Anyone Ever Taken, Or Taught, a Beginner Quilting Class?

Happy Holiday Weekend to all my American friends, and Miserable Monday to the rest of you!  I need to pick some quilters' brains today.  I'd like to hear from anyone who has either taken or taught a quilting class for beginners.

My local Bernina dealer, (whom I adore because their customer service is awesome and they are always there for me to keep my sewbabies purring smoothly), has approached me about teaching a class at their shop for true beginners who have never quilted before.  I've never taught a sewing or quilting class before and I taught myself to quilt from books, so I'm trying to find out how much can be covered in a single all-day Saturday class.

This is the project I came up with:

Beginner Class Sample Top, 37" x 37"
It's 37" x 37", and my goal was to create a project that was simple enough for beginners to complete fairly quickly, before getting discouraged and giving up.  I also wanted to cover all of the basics:
  • Choosing fabrics, thread, and needles; pros and cons of prewashing, benefits of quilt shop cottons vs "bargain" fabric from chain stores
  • Basic equipment and supplies
  • Rotary cutting: straightening and folding the fabric, cutting strips and squares, using rulers correctly
  • 1/4" seam, relationship between cutting habits and seam allowance, why this matters, and different feet and methods for achieving accuracy
  • Matching seam intersections
  • Sashing that doesn't ripple
  • Borders that lay flat and square
  • Choosing backing fabric and batting
  • Layering and pin basting
  • Machine quilting with a walking foot
  • straight grain binding with mitered corners, machine stitched to front of quilt and slip stitched to the back
  • Basic quilt label
Sewing On Sashing with 97D foot
The 37" x 37" size is perfect for a small stroller or car seat baby blanket, or for a wall hanging using seasonal novelty prints for Halloween, Christmas, etc. 

Cars and Buses Version
Holiday Favorites Version
Tula Pink Tabby Road Version
The large 9" blocks are great for showing off large scale novelty prints.  Once the newbie quilters have completed this project, they will be ready to move on to other projects with confidence -- from other classes, books and magazines, Block of the Month, etc.  And that's what intrigues me about this teaching opportunity -- the chance to share something I love with other people, to equip new quilters with the basic skills they need to be successful.  When someone emails me and comments on my blog that something I wrote about helped them to be successful with their own projects or encouraged them to try something new, that absolutely makes my day.  

SO...  Here's my question for all of you, especially for any of you who have previously taken beginner classes or who have taught beginner students:  Is it unrealistic to try to teach this entire project in a single day?  I was able to put the quilt top together in two evenings, but it's still not quilted and I didn't have to stop and explain anything along the way.  I did have to stop and dance around when my favorite songs came on the radio, though...

But seriously -- after finishing the sample quilt top, I'm thinking the class should end with the addition of the borders and completion of the quilt top.  Newbie students are going to ask questions.  They are going to make mistakes, and that's great -- I want to have time to stop and show them how to FIX those mistakes.  I don't want to overwhelm the students by dumping too much information on them at once and rushing through the class, and if I DO teach the quilting and binding, I want to do it in a follow up class so that anyone who falls behind has a chance to finish their top and participate in the quilting part.  It's really important to me that every student is able to be successful and feel good about their project.

What do you all think?  Does anyone have any tips or suggestions about teaching quilting classes in general?  My dealer suggested a maximum of six students for the beginner class, by the way.  I deliberately avoided triangles because there are so many different ways to cut and sew them, the bias edges can be tricky, and I wanted the students to be able to make an actual quilt (albeit a small one!) rather than just a placemat or something.  Anyway, as always, any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Have a great week, everyone, and Happy Stitching!  I'm linking up with:

·       Design Wall Monday at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts  
·       Main Crush Monday at Cooking Up Quilts
·       Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt
·       Moving it Forward at Em’s Scrap Bag:

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