Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Not for the Faint of Heart: Snip, Snip, Snip!

So last night, my Reality-Romance-Addicted husband was camped out on the sofa to see who got engaged from Bachelor in Paradise, and I was sitting next to him with my applique project.  

Trimming Away my Applique Backing with the Duck Billed Applique Scissors
I decided that I needed to trim the backing away from behind my Whig Roses PRIOR to stitching down those brown center circles that I glue basted in place on each block last week, because I didn't want to risk accidentally stitching through to the backing and not being able to remove it later.  These are large applique shapes with multiple layers of fabric, and I don't want to be quilting through all those layers later.  Yes, I know some people feel like applique is more durable if the backings are not trimmed away, but look at the size of my hand stitches -- anything smaller than that and it would be weaving the two fabrics together instead of stitching them.  My hand applique is more secure than my machine piecing, and it's not going anywhere.

Itsy Bitsy Stitches Aren't Going Anywhere
Of course, after investing months and months into these blocks already, it would be absolutely devastating to accidentally slice through the applique work while trimming away the backing behind it.  My poor husband was a nervous wreck just watching me, and kept saying things like "Don't you think you should SLOW DOWN?!!!"  Hah!  He thinks I'm reckless with my scissors; isn't that cute?  In reality, these special scissors make the task a lot less fraught with danger than it appears, as the wide, curved lower blade pushes the applique work down and out of the way of the slicing action.  Worth. Every. Penny.  I don't remember where I bought them.  They're probably either Gingher or Dovo.  The cutting action was stiff and was making my hand sore at first, but a drop of sewing machine oil on the scissor joint got them working smoothly again.

All Gone!
I got all eight of my blocks trimmed like this one, and one of the brown circles stitched down as well before the big Bachelor Proposal at the end of the finale.  I will have time to stitch a few more circles down during Anders' violin lesson this afternoon.  The prep time is a drag with prepared edge applique, but it sure makes the stitching go more smoothly to have those raw fabric edges already turned under smoothly and ready to go!

Meanwhile, I did NOT get my math quilt loaded onto my longarm frame yet.  I bought an assortment of longarm thread to get started with when I picked up my machine in March, but alas -- none of the sensible neutral thread colors I selected is going to look good on that black, lime green, purple and fuschia quilt top!  Bummer!  I think my Bernina shop probably carries longarm thread now that they sell the Q20 and Q24 machines, but they aren't going to have the size L magnetic prewound bobbins that I like...  And I'm still chicken to wind my own bobbin, since my machine has been stitching out with flawless tension using the prewounds!  Why mess with success?!  I'll probably pick out some more thread at my training class on Monday.

So the new plan is to load up a yard of cheater cloth onto my frame and practice with my rulers, stitching straight lines around the printed "piecing" lines and filling in with free motion fills.  We'll see if that actually happens or not by the end of the week.

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Slow Stitching Progress: Frankenwhiggish Rose Applique

Finishing Up the Last of the Layered Petals
Good morning and happy weekend to you!  I've reached a mini milestone in my hand applique project.  One block is completed in its entirety, and I have now stitched down stems and all three layers of petals on my eight remaining blocks.  Those petals took me a LONG time, all needle turned and secured with tiny hand stitches in silk thread.  I have certainly had some practice with inside and outside corners!

Here's a reminder of what the first block looks like, and where I'm headed with the remaining eight 16" blocks:


Block One of Nine, Completed in October of 2014
I finished that block in October of 2014, nearly three years ago.  I began planning the project in March of 2014, so the first block took me 7 months to complete.  Can you believe that?!

Of course, it's not like I've been working on this nonstop.  I take this hand stitching project with me when I know I'll be sitting around waiting somewhere for an extended period of time, and when I get tired of it, I put it away and do something else.

Although the layered petals are all needleturned, I am using a prepared edge, starch and press technique for the circles at the centers of my Whig roses to ensure that they are perfectly round and smooth with no wobbles or pleats at the edges.  I ran a gathering thread through the turning allowance of each circle, pulled it up taut around a heat proof plastic template, wetted the edges with Mary Ellen's Best Press starch alternative, and then set the crease around the edges of the template with a travel iron set on medium.  Once it's completely cooled off, I loosen the gathering thread to remove the template and press it flat again.
Prepared Edge Circle Ready with Drops of Glue
So instead of pinning the center circles in place on each block, the way I pinned all of my petals to the block background, I'm gluing them with tiny drops of Roxanne's Glue Baste-It.  Another nice thing about a preturned fabric edge is that I am able to position the circles more precisely.  I had already marked the petals with a chalk line showing where the circles should overlap.


Chalk Line on Petals Indicating Circle Placement
The biggest challenge was that the stitching of the petals makes the block want to pull in to the center slightly, so I weighted down the block on the horizontal and vertical grains as I was positioning and glue basting my circles in place.


Block Weighted to Keep it Flat and Square
...and then goes the circle:


Circle Positioned and Glued
...ready to stitch!

At some point during the stitching of my first block, I did carefully cut away the layers of fabric behind these stacked petals and flower centers, but I don't remember when i did that.  I started stitching the first flower center down but accidentally caught the background fabric in one of my stitches, so I'm thinking that I might trim all of that away before attempting to stitch the remaining circles down.

Meanwhile, I want to get another quilt up on my longarm frame this weekend so I can get some more quilting practice under my belt in advance of my APQS new owner class a week from Monday.  Can't wait!

Today I'm linking up with:

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Beginner Quilting Class Sample Finished and Delivered!

Good morning!  I hope you all enjoyed a restful, relaxing holiday weekend (Labor Day weekend here in the United States).  My teenage sons were both away on a Christian retreat all weekend, so my husband and I got a sneak peak at what that empty nest thing feels like.  

I finally finished up my beginner quilting class sample over the weekend:


Beginner Quilting Class Sample, 36" x 36"
Although it's a simple project, it was interesting how my thought process evolved throughout construction as I imagined teaching each step to someone who had never done it before, wanting to set those beginners up for success -- but with the time constraint of two full-day classes.

So we'll learn rotary cutting and piecing in the first class, and if they don't get their tops completely assembled by the end of the first class they can catch up for homework in between classes.  Then in the second class we'll learn to layer, baste, quilt, and bind.  It's a lot, I know.  What I decided to do for basting is to spray baste the quilt layers together with 505 (temporary spray adhesive that I had on hand because I use it to adhere stabilizer for machine embroidery projects) and to supplement that with sparser than usual pin basting, so students will be exposed to both methods, quilt layers will be secure through all the tugging and bunching and twisting under the machine, yet we won't eat up too much class time pinning.


Basted With 505 Adhesive Spray Plus 4 Safety Pins Per Block
The quilting design itself is pretty basic, all done with a walking foot.  

I wanted SO BADLY to add some free motion swirlies in the sashing and something fancy in the border, but free motion quilting is an entire journey of its own.  Way too much too much for beginners, especially since they will all have different sewing machines, they may not know how to lower their feed dogs, and they will not all have stitch regulators.  I don't want to discourage brand new quilters!


Walking Foot Quilting with Guide Bar Attached
Stitch in the ditch plus a few additional lines of quilting in each block (done with the guide bar attached to the walking foot), so no marking required.  Even so, I think I'll teach the binding FIRST on the second day, with a small layer cake sized sample quilt, so everyone's brain is fresh for the corner miters.  Then they can just focus on their quilting, knowing they have their binding samples to take home and remind them how to finish up.  Students can add additional lines of quilting if they feel like it and they have time.

When I bound the class sample with this cheerful cherry red stripe, I couldn't resist the challenge of pattern-matching the stripes at all of the diagonal seams.


Stripes Matched at Diagonal Binding Joins
Nice and invisible!  (I am not going to have beginners try to do that!).  I machine stitched the binding to the front of the quilt, briefly considered finishing it by machine, but ultimately decided to slipstitch the binding to the back of the quilt by hand.  


Binding Invisibly Hand Stitched to the Quilt Backing
Yes, it took several hours to do it that way, but that's the way I always do it, I like how it comes out, and I'm not interested in learning a new technique just so I can teach it.  I was able to stitch the binding down outside on the deck with Bernie, listening to the birds and classical music from the screen porch speakers.   Very relaxing!


Finished and Freshly Washed
I also decided to toss the finished quilt in the wash before handing it over to the shop, for a couple of reasons.  First, I wanted to remove the glue basting spray and fabric glue stick that I used when I pattern-matched my binding joins, as well as all of the starch I used throughout my construction process and any hand lotion, dust, or pet fur that may have accumulated on it.  Second, since this is a baby-sized quilt, I wanted it to be soft and snuggly, not stiff.  If we were really giving this to a baby, we would want to wash it to remove all the chemicals first.  Also, with very minimal quilting, it needed to go through the wash and shrink up slightly to get some texture and to accentuate the quilting lines.  And for beginners, when they wash their finished projects and they crinkle up like this, any wobbly quilt lines or tiny oopses will be obscured.  To me, a quilt is never REALLY finished until it comes out of the wash all soft and krinkled.

Now that the class sample is finished and delivered to the Bernina shop, I just need to compile my notes into a lesson plan while the details are still fresh in my mind, and write up a class description and supply list.  

Meanwhile, my longarm frame has been sitting empty and looking lonely.  Next time I escape to my studio, I'll be piecing the backing fabric for my Math is Beautiful quilt so I can load it onto my frame and start quilting it.  My APQS new owner class is coming up in two weeks, and I'd like to quilt an actual quilt on my longarm machine before I go.  


The Long-Neglected Math Quilt, Next On My Frame
And of course my sewing time is limited, now that the kids have gone back to school, all their activities are starting up again, church choir rehearsals have resumed.  My design business also tends to ramp up once summer vacations are over, school starts, and clients turn their focus from outdoors back to their interiors, planning projects to refresh their homes for holiday entertaining.

Happy stitching, and happy (almost!) Fall, y'all!  ;-)  Today I'm linking up with:




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