Thursday, April 26, 2018

Squealing Over Scalloped Borders for My $10,000 Pineapple Log Cabin Quilt!

First of all, thank you so much, all of you who have been weighing in with advice and opinions about my pineapple log cabin quilt.  I got a good night's sleep last night for a change, and woke up with some fresh new ideas buzzing around in my brain.  I think this is my final, FINAL design plan for this quilt, and I couldn't wait to share it with you because I'm SO STINKIN' EXCITED about it!


5 x 6 Layout Plus Half Block Border and Scalloped Edges.  LOVE!!
I'm so giddy; it's like I've just down a gallon of high-test espresso (I swear I've only had one latte today).

(I apologize for the poor quality of that picture, by the way.  There is probably a way to add half blocks and scallop the borders in EQ8, but I don't have time to learn how to do it right now so here's what I did instead.  I added an additional row and an additional column of pineapple log cabin blocks in EQ8 for an 8 x 7 layout.  Then I printed a photo of that design directly from EQ8 with my inkjet printer, cut the outer blocks down the middle with scalloped edges with a scissors, and drew my coral binding onto the edges with a red Sharpie marker.  I lost a lot of resolution when I scanned the printed photo back into my computer so I could share it with you).

Here's why I love this design:

  • It's a really clean and simple layout visually, keeping all of the attention on the impactful pineapple log cabin blocks.  And what I loved about this 19th century quilt, what made me want to create my own version of it in the first place, is how utterly MODERN this design looks when I update the color palette.  I mean, do you look at that design and think, "Oh, it's another 19th century reproduction quilt?"
  • Adding the half blocks further emphasizes the secondary pattern that emerges when multiple pineapple blocks are combined.  Now it looks like the blue and green "stars" are the blocks -- no more "half stars" all the way around the edges of the quilt like I had when I only had full pineapple blocks.
  • What I most love about the pineapple log cabin block, especially when it's pieced with skinny little 3/4" finished strips like mine, is the strong illusion of curved lines.  I'm able to bring that out even more by scalloping the borders of the quilt.
  • This design gets me to the size I need to fit my bed properly even if I have 10% shrinkage.
  • The partial block, scalloped edge border is my own idea, not something I got from anyone else.  There's absolutely nothing wrong with following quilt patterns exactly, but I personally get a much bigger thrill out of seeing my own ideas come to life in fabric.  So this design also gets bonus points (yes, I am giving myself bonus points now) for being more original than just adding another row of blocks or slapping on some kind of border.
  • I've never made a quilt with scalloped borders before and I'm looking forward to giving it a try!  I like to learn new things with every project.

So, here's the nitty-gritty about the sizing:


Doing My Quilt Math
The partial blocks in my border are a bit larger than half blocks, more like 5/8 blocks, because I wanted to grab all of the red center square from each block and then curve it out even more to get the neutrals in my scallops.  Each full block finishes at about 17 3/4", but my partial blocks will add 10" to each side at the SP (short point -- the edge of the red square) and 13" at the DP (deepest part of the scallop).  So my 5 x 6 layout with partial blocks added to all four sides should result in a quilt top of approximately: 


126.5"SP/132.5"DP wide x 108.75"SP/114.75"DP long BEFORE QUILTING


When I factor in 10% shrinkage from moderate to severe longarm quilting plus laundering, I estimate a finished quilt of approximately:


113.75"SP/119.25"DP wide x 97.75"SP/103.25"DP long AFTER QUILTING

In yesterday's post, I calculated my personal minimum dimensions for a finished quilt that would completely cover my extra deep pillow top mattress on all three sides.  Those dimensions were 104" wide x 100" long.  At first glance, you might be thinking that I'm cutting it too close with the lengthwise dimension, since my new plan would result in a quilt that ends up to be 2.25" shorter than my calculated minimum length.  However, when I put the quilt on the bed I'm going to be aligning the deep point of the scallops with the top edge of the mattress -- I'm not going to pull the red squares all the way up to the top mattress edge and then have the scallops extending off the cliff, so to speak.  (If you need a visual on that, scroll back up to my math photo and check out my little diagram in the lower left corner of my scrap paper).  The difference between the SP and the DP on each partial block is 3", so if I align the DP with the top edge of the mattress, I actually exceed my minimum length to cover my mattress by 3/4" at the short point, even factoring in 10% shrinkage.  The perfectionist interior design tyrant within me is adequately satisfied that this design will result in a beautiful custom fit for my bed.


...And Now What, You Ask?

Well, I've already spent approximately 216 hours piecing 36 blocks for this quilt so far (that does not count any of the time prewashing or cutting cutting up fabric into strips, shopping for fabrics, or any of the considerable design time that I've invested in this project).  And now I have a design that calls for only 30 complete quilt blocks plus 4 quarter blocks and 22 half blocks.  Unfortunately, that means that 6 of my finished blocks are going to get cut apart and 3/8 of each of those blocks will be wasted.  Ah, the curse of mathematics -- naturally I had to calculate how much time I spent on the portion of the blocks that will now be cut off and scrapped.  I will be removing and discarding 3/8 of each block.  I spent 6 hours piecing each of these blocks, and 3/8 of 6 hours is 2 hours and 15 minutes wasted per block.  Multiplied by 6 blocks getting amputated into partial blocks, that means I have wasted a whopping 13 1/2 hours.  Please join me in a moment of silence while I mourn 13 1/2 hours of my life that I can never get back again.

Thank you.  Moving on!

So my corner quarter blocks are actually 3/8 blocks, and my half blocks are really 5/8 blocks.  If each full block took 6 hours to piece, then each 5/8 block should take me 3 hours and 45 minutes and each 3/8 corner block should take me 2 hours and 15 minutes to piece.  I have 6 full blocks that I am going to dismember into 5/8 blocks so that means I only need to make 16 more of those, plus 4 of the 3/8 corner blocks...

Okay, Math, I'm ready to be friends again.  Let's have some fun!


My estimated remaining piecing time for this quilt top is 69 hours for the partial blocks plus however long it takes me to lay out the blocks the way I want them and piece them together into a quilt top, carefully pinning and matching all of those seams along the edges of each block -- easily another 10 hours there. When all is said and done, I will have spent well over 300 hours piecing this quilt top, plus at least 5 hours cutting fabric and a good 10 hours or more (VERY conservative estimate) in design time.  Now, my hourly rate interior design services ranges from $95-150/hr depending on the project, but I know the commission quilt market doesn't support those rates.  The average Money Center Clerk at Walmart -- kind of like a Head Cashier, with additional responsibilities beyond a regular sales associate, is making $25 per hour here in Charlotte, North Carolina, and they even get benefits on top of that.  So I'm going to be generous and quote my labor at just $25/hr for this example, as if designing and creating a quilt like this was something any cashier at Walmart could do.  If I was making this quilt for hire and I charged $25 per hour for my skilled design and piecing labor, this quilt would cost $7,8750 in labor alone, not including any cost for materials.  But a pieced quilt top still has a long way to go before it's a finished quilt, doesn't it?  Once the blocks have all been made and pieced into a quilt top, there would be a labor charge for layering the quilt top with batting and backing fabric, quilting through all three layers, and for making and attaching the scalloped, hand stitched binding.  This quilt will be custom quilted for sure, and the going rate for custom quilting is around five cents per square inch and up.  My California King quilt top will be 13,680.625 square inches before quilting, so that works out to a minimum custom quilting labor charge of $684.  Most professional longarm quilters would probably have a surcharge for the scalloped borders as well, since they will require special handling throughout the loading and quilting process, but I'm not factoring that in right now.  A professional longarm quilter is also going to charge a flat fee of about $35 to cut and join enough bias binding strips for this enormous quilt, and the scalloped edge will increase the required amount of binding by about 50% (I know this from calculating material requirements for a bazillion window treatments with scalloped edges over the years -- just trust me).  So this quilt will require approximately 668" of binding.  Again, looking at published current rates charged by professional longarm quilters, a typical labor charge for machine stitching regular straight binding to the front of a quilt is 11 cents per inch, but binding a curved edge without puckers and pleats is MUCH more involved, so I'm going to double that and go with 22 cents per inch.  That would make it $147 to machine stitch bias binding to the front of this enormous quilt -- but the binding will need to be stitched down to the BACK of the quilt completely by hand, with tiny invisible applique stitches spaced about 1/16" apart.  As I discovered when I timed myself stitching the binding by hand on my Math Is Beautiful quilt, hand stitched binding takes a REALLY LONG TIME!  There is a reason why my professional drapery workroom charged in the neighborhood of $40 per yard or $40/hr for hand stitching trim!  Since it took me 6 hours to hand stitch 200" of binding on my Math Quilt, I can confidently estimate that the scalloped binding on THIS quilt will take me about 20 hours to hand stitch.  So that's another $760 in labor to finish the binding by hand.  Are you keeping track of these numbers as we go along?  We're up to $9,501 in labor alone for this quilt.

And yet, not being Rumplestiltskin, I cannot spin gold out of straw or make a quilt without materials.  Based on the yardage requirements in the Fons & Porter pattern, this quilt uses approximately one yard of fabric per block for the top, binding, and backing.  My whole and partial blocks for this quilt design add up to 45 total complete blocks, so that would equate to roughly 45 yards of fabric required to make this quilt.  Although I did use some fabulous individually marbled hand dyed fabric that go for $42/yd, most of my fabrics were commercially dyed prints priced around $11.75/yd, so that's the number I'll use in my calculations.  45 Yards x $11.75/yd = $528.75 for fabric.  It cost me $118 to to print all fifty-six 18" x 18" foundation paper piecing patterns on the large format printer at the FedEx Office shop.  I'll need 5 yards of Quilter's Dream 120" wide batting for this quilt at $20 per yard plus shipping, so that's $120, and I may use a layer of Hobbs 80/20 Cotton/Polyester batting as well for additional warms as well as to ensure that I get a nice "puff" between my quilting stitches.  At 5 yards of 120" wide 80/20 batting x $13/yd plus shipping, that would add another $75 to the cost of this quilt.  Finally, throughout the entire process of piecing, quilting, and binding, I'm going to add in $50 worth of needles and thread.  That's probably a very conservative figure, considering that there are 97 seams in every single block and I need different colors and weights of thread for piecing, quilting, and binding.  So my materials for this quilt come out to $773.75 plus 7.25% North Carolina Sales Tax -- and my grand total for materials for this quilt comes out to $829.85.  

$9,501 Labor + $829.85 Materials = $10,330.85

Wow.  Outlandish, you say?  Before doing all the math, if someone had asked me to make them a quilt just like this one I might have thought $5,000 was a fair price, and I would have felt uncomfortable asking for even that much compensation.  But with $829.85 of that eaten up by the cost of materials, that $5,000 figure means I would be working on someone else's project for 380 hours, and giving up 380 hours of MY precious free time -- nine and a half full, forty-hour work weeks -- for less than the $11/hr a fast food worker gets for taking your order at McDonald's.  And forget about making this quilt for someone else for free, just passing along the cost of materials.  Would you have the nerve to ask anyone, even one of your closest friends, to spend that much time working on something for you "as a favor," just because they know how to do it and you don't?  I wouldn't ask an accountant friend to do my taxes for free, and I wouldn't ask a plastic surgeon friend for a free tummy tuck, even though that would be only asking for a few hours of their time -- not 380 hours!  ;-)  Yes, $10,000 is the minimum commission I would accept to make this quilt as a commission for someone else.  When I finish making it, I think I'll get it appraised.  It will be interesting to see how close my estimate is to what an appraiser would come up with.  


But even if someone offered me $10,000 to make this quilt for them, I would still probably turn them down. 


That's right.  By accepting a commission at all, even one that pays me fairly for my time, I would still be giving up my stress-relieving hobby that keeps me sane, trading those restorative hours in my studio for endless boring and stressful hours spent making something for someone else, worrying over every little imperfection...  With a commission quilt, all of the design work would need to be completed and agreed upon up front, too.  I would lose creative control.  I couldn't completely change the setting midway through the project or do a completely different quilting plan on a whim.  I'd probably be working with colors and fabrics I didn't really love, either, and that's going to affect how much I enjoy or despise the time I spend on the project.  


So, how DOES anyone get Rebecca to make a quilt for them if she won't even do it for $10,000?

Remember Jeff Burmbeau and Gail De Marcken's wonderful 1999 picture book, The Quiltmaker's Gift?



That king wanted the quiltmaker to make him a quilt more than anything.  He was rich, so he offered her all kinds of money, and he was all-powerful, so he even threatened her with imprisonment and drowning, but she still said no.


I Love This Book.  :-)
Like the quiltmaker in the story, I'm am probably not going to make you a quilt for any amount of money.  BUT -- If you love me, if you are one of those special people who shine light into my darkness, who care for me when I need to be cared for, or who look out for my children when I can't be there to watch over them myself -- if you are one of those truly amazing people, I might just sneak up behind you one day and wrap one of my quilts around your shoulders for free.  

And now I'm off to Ardrey Kell High School to see my son perform in the first evening's competitions of the Improv Olympics!  Yippee!

I'm linking up with:


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Pineapple Log Cabin Block 36 FINISHED! Tweaking My Design in EQ8 For a Custom Fit to My Bed

You guys, I am ON FIRE!  Not only did I venture out in a monsoon to restock my home with groceries yesterday, but I also got caught up with all of the laundry, reviewed a couple of tricky passages in the Brahms, and stayed up past midnight to finish one more pineapple log cabin block.  BEHOLD:

Pineapple Log Cabin Block 36 (out of 42?)
Here are the answers to the most common questions I've been getting about this project:
  1. I am paper piecing the blocks using a free foundation pattern that I downloaded from Fons & Porter here, but after taping just one block together I took it to my local FedEx shop and printed single page copies on their large format printer.
  2. The blocks finish at approximately 17 3/4".
  3. The fabric strips are cut at 1 1/2" wide since I'm paper piecing, but the finished width of the strips is 3/4"
  4. Each block contains 97 pieces, and each block is taking me roughly SIX hours to piece.
  5. I'm making this for my California King bed that measures 72" wide by 84" long.  
If you google something like "standard quilt sizes" or "Cal King quilt dimensions," you can find a whole slew of handy little charts telling you exactly what size to make your quilt.  But as an interior designer who specializes in high end custom work, I am begging you to never, ever decide what size to make your quilt based on somebody else's chart or pattern instructions.  Whenever I design custom bedding for my clients, I always measure the client's actual bed to determine sizes.  Mattresses come in such a variety of depths these days, and if you're going to all of the trouble to pay for -- or spending all of the TIME to make -- why would you want to pay for custom without getting a custom fit?  

So the Fons & Porter pattern calls for 16 blocks in a 4 x 4 layout to recreate this antique quilt in the collection of the International Quilt Study Center  which measures approximately 74" x 76" (Imagine that -- antique quiltmakers weren't perfect, either!):  

Original Antique Quilt, 74" x 76", Sixteen Blocks Measuring 17 3/4"
Ah, sixteen blocks -- I could have been finished with this quilt SO LONG AGO!  But I want to put this on the California King bed in my master bedroom, so I knew I needed a lot more blocks than 16.

My original plan was to make 36 blocks for a 6 x 6 layout that would give me a quilt top measuring 106.5" x 106.5", and that would be perfect, right?  No sashing or borders required, and it would look pretty much like this EQ7 rendition that I made after completing the first block:

EQ7 Rendition of 36 Blocks, Set 6 x 6, with Coral 1/4" Binding
By the way, I made that rendition by importing a cropped photo of my first finished pineapple block into my EQ7 software, setting up a new quilt with a 6 x 6 horizontal layout, and just pasting copies of that same block into every square.  It only took me a few minutes, and it was a great way to make sure I liked what I was doing with my color and value placement early on in the piecing process.  Since this quilt is super scrappy and every block is unique, there will be a lot more variation in the finished quilt.  You can see that in this photo from the last time I had some of my actual completed quilt blocks up on my design wall:

Actual Completed Pineapple Blocks On My Design Wall
I love using EQ this way, as a "Virtual Design Wall."  See how well my computer rendering "predicted" what a bunch of these blocks would look like together?  I love, love, LOVE my EQ8 software (I updated to the newest version while this project was in progress) and it was worth every penny.  Seriously -- I have spent more on fabric to make one quilt than the cost of this design software, and has paid for itself many times over by preventing me from making a whole quilt and not realizing that it isn't working out the way I want until ALL of the blocks have been made.  The newest version, EQ8, is even more user friendly than previous versions, and my "sneak peak" technique is just the tip of the iceberg for what you can do with it.


Seriously, if you buy EQ8 and you can't figure out how to use it, please reach out to me and I would love to help you.  I'd consider it my way to "pay it forward" for all of the times that more experienced quilters have reached out to me when I needed help.   You can take all the design classes in the world and read every book out there about color theory, but the easiest and most foolproof way to ensure you're making a quilt that YOU will love is to try out different color combinations on your computer screen ahead of time and make sure what you see on your computer monitor matches the beautiful vision you have in your mind.

Okay, so back to my pineapple log cabin quilt.  Yes, I love how 36 blocks looks laid out in a straight 6 x 6 setting with no borders, but will it be big enough for my bed?


I found this chart at TheSewingLoft.com, and it's a great reference for anytime you're making a quilt that is NOT for one specific bed -- like a quilt for a raffle, a quilt for a show or craft fair, or a surprise gift for a faraway friend whose mattress cannot be measured ahead of time.  According to this chart, my quilt only needs to be 102" x 106" to fit a California King mattress.  36 blocks that finish at 17 3/4" in a 6 x 6 layout would give me a quilt top that measures 106.5" x 106.5", and that would be perfect, right?  


Measuring Mattress Depth is Crucial to a Good Fit
--But, no.  My mattress is 72" wide by 84" long, and those dimensions are pretty standard for a California King.  However, "standard" mattress depth is around 9-10", but I have an extra-deep pillow top mattress on my bed that is 16" thick.  I want the finished quilt to completely cover the mattress on all three sides of the bed, so I have to take my extra deep mattress into consideration.  

What's more, as anyone who has ever made a quilt knows, the quilt top is going to draw up and get smaller during the quilting process (by about 5-10%, depending on how densely I quilt it), and then I may get a little more shrinkage in the final wash as well, depending on what kind of batting I end up using.  Remember I told you that it takes me 6 hours to make just one of these blocks.  Imagine going to all of this work only to put the finished quilt on my bed and discover that it is too small?!

So, how DO I know how big to make my quilt?  Here's my Magic Math:
  • Mattress Width = 72".  Mattress Length = 84".  Mattress DEPTH = 16".
  • Mattress Width 72" + 2(Mattress Depth 16") = Minimum Finished Width 104"
  • Mattress Length 84" + Mattress Depth 16" = Minimum Finished Length 100"
At this point, it seems like my original plan of 36 blocks will work just fine, right?  That would result in a quilt top measuring 106.5" x 106.5".  But I haven't factored in ANY shrinkage from quilting and laundering.  Even if I was using all prewashed fabrics, a polyester batting with minimal or no shrinkage, and I was planning to do minimal quilting such as a very loose all over meander, I'd still want to factor in at least 5% shrinkage.  Here's how to determine what size the quilt top needs to be PRIOR to quilting in order for the finished quilt to come out the desired size AFTER quilting if we estimate 5% shrinkage:
  • Minimum Finished Width 104" ÷ .95 = 109.5" Minimum Width Before Quilting
  • Minimum Finished Length 100" ÷ .95 = 105.25" Minimum Length Before Quilting
However, I am NOT planning to use an all polyester batting with zero shrinkage, and I am probably going to do a moderately heavy amount of quilting rather than a loose, open meander.  I consulted with veteran longarm quilters in a couple of quilters' groups that I belong to, and the consensus seems to be that 10% shrinkage is the safest margin to allow for most longarm quilted quilts.  So now, let's do that math again to see how big my quilt top should be before quilting in order to finish the size I want it to be on my bed:
  • Minimum Finished Width 104" ÷ .90 = 115.5" Minimum Width Before Quilting
  • Minimum Finished Length 100" ÷ .90 = 111" Minimum Length Before Quilting
With 10% shrinkage factored in, my 36 block quilt top can be expected to finish up at just 95 3/4" x 95 3/4" when all is said and done.  That means I have about 4 1/2" of mattress exposed beyond the edges of my quilt on all three sides of my bed.  Boo, hiss!

So then I thought I'd make another row of blocks to cover the width, and just scoot the quilt down a few inches at the top.  But that doesn't sit right with me, either, because why am I bothering to make a custom quilt that isn't a custom fit to my bed?  This is where the large size of the blocks complicates design options.  Really, adding another row of 17 3/4" blocks is adding too much width to the sides, and it does nothing to give me the few extra inches I'd like at the foot of the bed.  Back to EQ8 to explore my options!  


Playing With Borders In EQ8 Software
My first idea was to add three 3/4" borders and a 3/4" pieced sashing between the blocks that would blend into the adjacent neutral, blue, or green fabrics, but when I previewed that in my software I didn't love my quilt as much anymore.


First Idea: Pieced Sashing and Plain, Skinny Borders.  Yuck.  Rejected!
There are advantages to this setting.  For one thing, it eliminates the need burning, passionate desire I have to try to match up all of those seams where my blocks come together.  But I am a glutton for punishment, and I want to pin all those little seams and make myself crazy matching them up.  That's just who I am.  Also, the plain, skinny borders would be a quick and easy fix, but they just look so juvenile and plain, no matter which fabrics I "painted" them.  So I scrapped the sashing (so much easier to do in the computer by clicking "no sashing" rather than ripping out all of those stitches in real life!) and tried some other options.  I have not reached a firm decision, but here are the top contenders at this point:


OPTION ONE: 6" of Piano Key Border for a Quilt Top Measuring 119" x 119"
OPTION TWO: Same as Option One, But Without the Coral Inner Border
OPTION THREE: Same as One and Two, But More Light Neutrals in the Outer Border, Plus Corner Blocks
OPTION FOUR: Same Cute Corner Blocks, But Now With Flying Geese Border
When I started writing this post, I thought I had this narrowed down to either Option Three or Option Four.  I can print foundation paper piecing patterns for the flying geese border right from EQ8 so although it will take a lot of TIME to piece the geese, I won't have any problem piecing them accurately, even if they work out to crazy sizes that are not rotary-cutting-friendly.  I think the scale might be too large, though, and I'm not sure I want to introduce a new element (geese) in the border.  For Option Three, I'd just be piecing together a border from my leftover strips and they'd be the same size as the strips in the pineapple blocks.  But is that too boring? 

Now, though, looking at the design renderings again, I find myself drawn to Option Two again, for its simplicity.  Does that one do the best job of preserving the fresh, modern graphic appeal the blocks had without borders?  My brain hurts, and it's time to walk away from the computer!! 

Yeah, so much for another "quick" blog post after breakfast.  Hah!  If you have ideas or opinions about the borders for my pineapple log cabin quilt, please share in the comments.  Thanks!

I'm linking up with:

       Let’s Bee Social at www.sewfreshquilts.blogspot.ca/


·       Midweek Makers at www.quiltfabrication.com/

·       WOW WIP on Wednesday at www.estheraliu.blogspot.com

·       WIPs With Friends at www.mamaspark.blogspot.com



Tuesday, April 24, 2018

To Do On Tuesday: Pineapples, Feathers -- Oh, Yeah, and GROCERIES!

OH MY GOSH -- today is my 16-year quilting anniversary!  I finished my very first quilt sixteen years ago today, a Roman Square I Spy quilt for my oldest son's first "big boy bed."  

My First Kid and My First Quilt!  April 24th, 2002
And here he is today, nearing the end of his junior year in high school:

Same Kid, Sixteen Years Later
Good happy Tuesday morning!  I've decided that I like this Tuesday weekly goals linky.  I like it because it gives me all of Monday to recover from a busy weekend before I have to make plans for the new week!  As far as being held accountable for the goals I posted last week...  Well, that part isn't my favorite, but here goes:

My big accomplishment from last week was Battling the Bloody Quilt-Wrecking Fabric in my Jingle BOM.  I started a new pineapple log cabin block, but it isn't finished yet.  I got majorly sidetracked on a Princess-and-the-Pea style audiophile odyssey that I may tell you all about later this week, if I get around to it.  My next two weeks are really busy; I'm singing the Brahms Ein Deutsches Requiem this Sunday afternoon with the VOX chorus and I have a few shaky passages that I need to tighten up on my own in before the dress rehearsals.  One of my sons has three improv performances this week that I'm looking forward to attending, and I also have a bar mitzvah and a friend's birthday this weekend.  My husband is out of town on business this week so I'm holding down the fort solo and handling all the chauffeuring duties (Bernie doesn't like me to tell the Internet when he's out of town, but I'm protected by two hundred pounds of Rottweiler with a combined bite force of 1400 pounds.  Anyone planning a home invasion should be sure to set their affairs in order first).    

Rottweilers Are For Snuggling, and For Eating Intruders
Meanwhile I need to learn the alto line in two a cappella pieces that I'm singing at the wedding of other friends who are getting married next Saturday, I've barely even looked at that music, and I have no idea what I'm wearing to the wedding...  So those are my excuses -- just letting you know up-front not to expect too much from me this week!

In fact, these are my goals for the next TWO weeks:

  1. Finish Pineapple Log Cabin block #36 and reevaluate whether I really need the additional row of blocks for this quilt in order to fit my California King bed.  If I just go with 36 blocks I would be DONE and my quilt would finish approximately 106.5" x 106.5".  But that's before quilting and before laundering..
    Must. Finish. This. Block!
  2. Finish quilting AND binding Tabby Mountain.  My ailurophile friend's birthday is coming up in a few weeks, so that's my soft deadline for finishing this Disco Kitty quilt.  I don't want to rush it, though, because I'm using this project to work on skills acquisition.  And NO, I'm not going to just freehand the feathers for two reasons: First, because there is such a thing as muscle memory.  Remember learning to write in cursive in first or second grade, how they had us trace over beautifully formed penmanship first and THEN practice writing it on our own?  My theory is that tracing over nice feathers over and over again will build the muscle memory for freehanding nice feathers faster, as opposed to spending 40 hours teaching my muscles how to draw lumpy ogre toe feathers!  And I have an idea for marking those lovely feathers on all 96 triangles in a blink of an eye...  I'll tell you all about it once I've tested it out!
    Maybe Feathers!

And that's about it, folks.  Except OH, YEAH -- Hopefully at some point this week I'll manage a trip to the grocery store, because otherwise we will be having some really weird meals consisting of raisins, rice, and olives from that jar in the back of my fridge.  Have a great week, everyone!

Oh, and if you're local to the Charlotte area and you are into that sort of thing, I'd love to see you at the VOX Brahms concert on Sunday afternoon.  You can get your tickets here:

I'm linking up with: 
·       To-Do Tuesday at Stitch ALL the Things: http://stitchallthethings.com

Monday, April 23, 2018

Jingle Update: The Bloody Quilt Wrecker Has Been Apprehended and Disarmed!

Good happy morning to you, stitchy friends!  Look who survived the bloodbath of Friday the 13th and is back on my design wall, ready to become a quilt top again!  It's the Jingle BOM (Block Of the Month) designed by Erin Russek, my first-ever applique project, which I started back in 2012.  In Quilters' Terminology, that makes it my oldest UFO (UnFinished Object) or WIP (Work In Progress).


YESSS!!!!  My Jingle Blocks Aren't Bleeding Anymore!
fabric haemophilia. /ˌhiːməʊˈfɪlɪə; ˌhɛm-/ noun. 1. an unpredictable disease, usually affecting only dark fabrics but lethal to any light colored fabrics sewn adjacent to them in a quilt, characterized by loss or impairment of the normal clotting ability of commercially dyed or hand dyed fabric such that a minor splash of water or the gentlest of laundering may result in fatal bleeding of loose fabric dye all over the white and light colored fabrics in your quilt.  Can be fatal if not treated immediately.

I just realized I never followed up with my scary nightmare post about the quilting bloodbath.  I am happy to report that there were NO casualties!  It turned out that my favorite Hoffman poinsettia fabric was the bleeder after all.  These are seriously haemophiliac flowers, you guys, but ordinary Dawn Ultra dishwashing liquid was the Rasputin who saved my bleeding quilt.


The Villainous Bleeder: Hoffman "Winter Magic" Style G8562
So, when I wrapped up my last post about this I had successfully eliminated all of the loose, shedding dye from my pieced and appliqued blocks as well as from the appliqued center medallion of this languishing UFO, but I still didn't know which of my red fabrics was the bleeder.  

I had already cut all of my setting triangles out of this red poinsettia fabric (also used in some of my pieced blocks that bled) but was reluctant to soak and agitate the triangles for fear of fraying and distorting the bias edges.  Yet all the work I did to eliminate the dye bleed in the blocks would be for nothing if I sewed the non-bleeding blocks to red fabric that was still bleeding.  

I confirmed that the poinsettia fabric was definitely the bleeder by soaking a small scrap of this prewashed fabric in a bowl of hot, soapy water.  The water turned dark red almost immediately.  


Just a Scrap Of Poinsettia Fabric Turned the Soapy Water Red
No way could I use those setting triangles with that much loose red dye in them, so I proceeded to soak all of them in the dishpan the same way I had done with my blocks.  I have to show you how much dye released from the setting triangles into the dishpan in the first soak:


Yikes!!  My Fabric Bleeds Chicken Blood!
Isn't that gross?  My husband said it looked like sudsy Kool-Aid, but I think it looks like chicken blood!  I just kept dumping the water and refilling the dishpan with fresh hot, soapy water, squeezing the suds through my blocks or cut triangles or yardage or whatever I was dealing with, until the water remained clear after several hours of soaking.  Then I rinsed them under cool running water, gently squeezing to remove the suds, and laid them flat to dry on white bath towels.


The Setting Triangles Survived Their Bloodbath!
But the main takeaway is that Vicki Welsh's method of prolonged soaking in hot, soapy Dawn dishwater was really easy, and it successfully removed all excess dye from the bleeding fabrics in my blocks, and now even if the finished quilt gets thrown into a boiling lake full of angry demons, I am confident that the dye won't run.  Yippee!  

I had to use the blue Original Dawn Ultra dish soap for my first go at this, because that was the "plainest" Dawn dish soap that my local grocery store carried.  I wasn't thrilled about that, though, because blue Dawn tints my soapy water blue and that makes it harder to tell whether blue or green fabrics are bleeding.  Also, the manufacturer of Dawn is only intending for customers to use their product on dishes, so they won't have tested whether their blue dye would transfer to or interact negatively with fabric in any way.  So I was delighted to discover that Dawn makes a Free and Gentle version of their Ultra dish soap that is completely dye free, and that's what I'm using from now on.  I found it on Amazon here, two 21.6 oz bottles for $12 with free Prime shipping, and I stocked up so I can test and treat every new fabric that comes home with me.  



Yes, there are plenty of other chemicals and soaps that quilters swear by for dealing with bleeding dyes in commercial fabrics, but they are all much more expensive harder to find.  

So, back to the Jingle quilt.  Here is designer Erin Russek's original setting for these blocks:


Designer Erin Russek's Setting for Jingle, Finished Size 76" x 76"
I want to do mine differently, with the center medallion set straight rather than on point.  


Tweaking the Setting On My Design Wall.
This would eliminate the giant green setting triangles around the medallion, and give me the opportunity to add a border or multiple borders between the center medallion and the on point pieced and appliqued blocks.  I may also eliminate or reduce the size of that outer green border, since I'm intending this quilt for seasonal wall display and don't need it to be quite as big as Erin's 76" x 76" design. 

I'm currently considering replacing the inner red poinsettia setting triangles with green ones to accentuate the zigzag effect of the on point block border, as well as ensuring that I have  a nice Christmasy balance of red and green in the finished quilt.  I found a mottled tonal green fabric nearly identical to one of the fabrics I used for some of my appliqued leaves, and I prewashed it AND checked it for color fastness, so it's ready to go.


New Emerald Green Fabric for Inner Setting Triangles
I LOVE IT!!  I am going to have SO MUCH FUN quilting this on my longarm machine, and I can't wait to enjoy it as part of my Christmas decor in 2018.  That's right, you heard me -- I am setting another goal.  Jingle is going to be finished by Thanksgiving of this year so I can hang it up when I decorate for Advent!

But meanwhile, I'm nearly finished with Pineapple Log Cabin Block #36 of 42:


Block 36 of 42 Currently In Progress
...and I've got a fantastic idea ready to test out for quilting some fancy feather designs on my Tabby Mountain quilt:


Auditioning Feathers for Felines
This quilt is intended for a dear friend whose birthday is coming up soon, so once I wrap up Pineapple Block #36 I'll be focusing on Tabby Mountain again in order to get it done on time.

Have a wonderful, productive, and beautiful day!  I'm linking up with:

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Nightmare On Quilter's Corner: "There's SO MUCH BLOOD!!!!!"

That sounds like something out of a horror movie, doesn't it?  And it should, because what I'm about to share with you is a quilter's most gruesome nightmare.  This blog post might not be appropriate for young quilters, or for squeamish quilters, or for quilters who faint at the sight of bleeding fabric dye threatening to destroy hours and hours AND HOURS of painstaking hand stitching.  But I think it's gonna have a happy ending, so bear with me!


My Freshly Bathed Jingle Applique Blocks This Morning.  So Far, So Good!
Quick recap: You are looking at my very first applique project, a BOM (Block of the Month) project designed by Erin Russek of One Piece At a Time back in 2012.  I spent hours studying Erin's awesome tutorials for preturned, hand stitched applique, more hours carefully selecting the fabrics for every block, and it took me an unbelievable amount of time to stitch these blocks because I was paranoid about having my stitches too far apart and made them very, very tiny instead.  I was so excited about being able to make three-dimensional PICTURES out of fabric!  I was so proud of my nice little points and smooth curves!  

I struggled with many of the pieced blocks for this project, too.  My seam ripper and I became besties, but I persevered and ended up with an assortment of blocks that I was really happy with.  Seriously, I must have had at least a hundred hours of time invested in these blocks by this point.  You can read through the trials and tribulations of this project in my older posts about it by clicking here.


My Jingle BOM WIP, Last On the Design Wall in June of 2014
But alas! -- As my final blocks neared completion and I got ready to cut out my setting triangles so I could join those blocks into an honest-to-goodness quilt top, this lighthearted romantic film took a turn for the worse.  I happened to set my red poinsettia setting triangle yardage down on top of the edge of a piece of white paper, and noticed that my selvages were PINK instead of white.  


Pink Selvages?!  NOOOOOO!!!!!  MURDER, She Wrote!!!
Like the good little beginner quilter that I am, I had followed the directions and prewashed all of my fabrics for this quilt before cutting out a single piece, thinking that would take care of shrinkage as well as rinsing away any excess fabric dyes.  I prewashed all of my reds in the same warm water laundry load, and apparently at least one of those fabrics was a bleeder.  The thought of spending additional time setting the blocks into a quilt top, and then even MORE time quilting the whole thing, only to have it come out of the first wash with all of my off-white backgrounds turned pink, was just too much for me to bear.  So I put all of my finished blocks, setting triangles, and the finishing directions in a lovely wire drawer bin and stashed it away under my cutting table for...  FOUR YEARS.  


Hidden Away For Four Long Years
However, enough time has passed now that I feel like I have more to gain than I have to lose by getting Jingle out again.  I mean, blocks in a drawer are worth nothing, but if I take them out, I can use them for educational purposes, to experiment with bleeding dye issues.  Even if the ivory background fabric all turns pink and I can't stop the bleed, I can still get good practice with all kinds of custom longarm quilting, including stitching around all the applique shapes.  My overall quilting objective for 2018 is to become proficient with my longarm machine so my husband doesn't make me sell it (Yes, Lover Ducky -- I know what's going through your mind!).  And so, my Jingle blocks were ready for their blood bath!

There are quite a few methods out there on the Internet for addressing the problem of excess dye leaching out of quilting cottons when wet, everything from Color Catcher laundry sheets to Synthrapol and other chemical fixatives.  My blogging buddy Karen at Quilts... etc. recommended Vicki Welsh's Save My Bleeding Quilt method using ordinary Dawn liquid dish soap, and that's the method I'm using on my Jingle blocks right now.


Can Vicki's Method Save My Bleeding Quilt Blocks?
I used the blue Dawn Ultra, Original Scent, this time because that was the most "plain" Dawn that my local grocery store stocked.  However, because I'm using more more dish soap than I would use for washing dishes, the blue dish soap annoyed me by tinting the soapy water blue.  That would make it a lot more difficult to tell if blues, purples, or deep greens were shedding dye into the sudsy water.  Plus, the whole reason we're doing this is to get RID of extra dye, not add MORE dye!  So I was very excited to find this colorless version of Dawn Ultra called Free & Gentle, with no added dyes or perfumes, on Amazon.  I got a nice, big bottle of it and I'll be using this clear Dawn Ultra next time:



Notice that's TWO bottles of Dawn, each of them 21.6 oz, for just $12 and free shipping with Amazon Prime.  And that's ALL I needed for this method - no Synthrapol, no vinegar, no Retayne, no Color Catchers.  It's cheap and it does the job, leaving more money in my pocket for fabric shopping.  

Vicki's Save My Bleeding Quilt tutorial walks you through her process for dealing with dye that's bleeding on a finished quilt, and she recommends a 12-hour soak in a bathtub full of hot, soapy Dawn dish water.  Since my quilt blocks haven't been assembled into a top yet, much less quilted, I was able to use a dishpan instead.  First I soaked my 8 applique blocks together.  I put them in their hot bath first thing in the morning, and left them there until after dinner time:


Applique Blocks After a 12-Hour Soak
An hour or two after I put the blocks in the hot, sudsy water, I dumped out all the water and refilled the pan with more hot sudsy water, to get rid of the excess dye that had leached out fairly quickly.  I was surprised to see that one or more of my emerald green leaf fabrics was leaching out more excess dye than any of the red fabrics in these blocks.  


First Bloodbath Finished!
Just as Vicki promised, the Dawn detergent prevented any of the excess dye from readhering to my off-white background fabric.  Interestingly, you can see that the hot soak in soapy water did NOT wash away the little dots of Roxanne's Glue Baste-It that I used to position my applique leaves and petals when stitching them down.  I didn't agitate much, though, because I'd already trimmed these blocks to size and I was afraid of fraying the raw edges of the fabric.  I just stirred them around gently with a wooden spoon.  I'm sure the glue will wash away when I wash the finished quilt (and if it doesn't, I don't care).  I laid the sopping wet blocks out on a fluffy white towel and pressed down from above with another towel, then allowed them to air dry overnight.  When I picked them up this morning, there were no pink or green marks on the white towel, so it looks like the blood bath was a success.  HOORAY!!!


These Blocks Survived Their Bloodbath!
I am sure that I did not get all of the Dawn soap out.  I rinsed them as best as I could without overhandling them, draping each one over the back of my hand while I sprayed it with water.  Again, the quilt will be washed as soon as it's finished and any dish soap left in the quilt will be removed at that point, when there are no more raw fabric edges in danger of unravelling!

So, feeling greatly encouraged, I set up another boiling, soapy bloodbath for the nine pieced blocks after dinner.  This time, the red dye started to leach out into the bathwater right away.


AHA!  Pink Bathwater!!
I dunked a clear plastic beverage cup into my sudsy water after about an hour of soaking, and it looked like pink zinfandel with foam on top!  I dumped out that tub of water and refilled the bloodbath with fresh, hot, sudsy water, stirred it up for a few minutes with my wooden spoon, and then headed up to bed, hoping for the best.


Good Morning, Blood Bath!
Happily, this is what I discovered in my sink this morning.  That water looks pretty clear to me, so I must have gotten all the excess dye out in that first couple of hours, before I refilled my tub of water.  


Post Blood Bath, Drying On the Towel
I was more worried about the applique blocks, but actually the pieced blocks are more of a pain in the butt because all of my nicely pressed seam allowances have unpressed themselves and I'm going to have to fiddle a bit to figure out which way they're supposed to go when the blocks are dry and I have to press them back into shape.  But the main thing is that NOTHING IS BLEEDING ANYMORE.  My third and hopefully final blood bath for this quilt is the large center applique medallion, which is soaking in the dishpan right now.  

The thing is, I thought for SURE that one of my red batik fabrics was the bloody culprit, either the fabric I used for my stuffed berries or one of the batiks that I used for my red cardinals.  But if that was true, I should have seen red dye running in the applique blocks' bath water.  I only saw green dye in that bath.  It was the pieced blocks' bathwater that turned pink from loose red dye.  I am such a sleuth, you guys.  I feel like Nancy Drew!


Nancy Drew and the Case of the Bleeding Quilt Fabric
I have five or six different red fabrics in my pieced blocks besides the applique batiks, so perhaps I have already solved the problem for this quilt...  Unless the bleeder was that poinsettia fabric with the pink selvage that first clued me in.  
Hoffman Winter Magic, How Could You Betray Me?
This is my favorite fabric in this whole quilt.  It's in several of my pieced blocks, but not in any of my applique blocks.  And it's the fabric for my setting triangles, which are all cut out and ready to go.  I hope it's not the bleeder!!  I need to go find a scrap of it to test.  If it bleeds, there's no way around it -- I'm going to have to soak all of my setting triangles, too.  I'm using those setting triangles, come hell or high (hot, soapy) water, because that's how much I love it.

By the way, I sat down at the computer to write this "quick" blog post update at 8 AM, and have only stepped away from the computer to make tea, throw the tennis ball for my dogs for a bit, and to check on my soaking quilt blocks.  It's NOON already...  Ah, the SHAME!!!  Just think how much sewing I could get done if I didn't feel compelled to chronicle every single step on this blog!

Today I'm linking up with: 
·       Needle and Thread Thursday at http://www.myquiltinfatuation.blogspot.com/ 

Amazon Associates Disclosure

Cheeky Cognoscenti is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Like What You've Read? Follow by Email and Never Miss a Cheeky Post!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...