The Sewing Room

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Countdown to the Kansas City Regional Quilt Festival

Yes, the official count down has begun…

and the preparatory jitters – making lists, ordering fabric, getting organized and making sure when the day arrives I have everything I need.

In just over 3 weeks the convention Center in Overland Park, KS will open its doors to thousands of “quilters” as well as quilting/sewing vendors and instructors making their third bi-annual pilgrimage to the Kansas City Regional Quilt Festival (KCQRF).

Last year, I feel I was probably too filled with wild eyed wonder and somewhat overwhelmed to fully appreciate all this festival had to offer. So many quilts to judge – so many fabrics – so many sponsors with their wares for sale and demonstration. Too much to take in on one day. You really need two – three if you plan to take a class or two.

However, this year I will approach it with an entirely new perspective and a mission – or two.

Mission #1 – Learn Something New

To accomplish my first mission, I’ve taken advantage of the class offerings from professional quilters and signed up for two classes.

Thursday Class

The first is a 6-hour class taught by Trisch Price where we will be making a variation of clam she’ll quilt entitled, “Fruit Stand”. A couple of the new techniques I hope to learn to include curved piecing and inserting a circle in a circle. This will also be a good opportunity for me to improve my paper piecing and applique skills.

Below is an example of Trisch’s quilt we will be making in the class:

Fruit Stand Quilt by Trisch Price

Friday Class

The second class is a 3-hour Machine Applique class taught by Mary Honas. I’m really looking forward to this. After discovering the versatility and design opportunities using applique to embellish a quilt I have wanted to learn and do more of it. Right now, the process is somewhat time-consuming for me but I feel that will change once I learn firsthand, from a professional, all the tips, tricks and techniques that make applique such an eye-catching embellishment to any fabric project.

Mission #2 – Research the Perfect Quilting Machine

One of the greatest aspects of a festival like this is the opportunity to “test drive” sewing and quilting machines. In a previous post I described my Dream Machine and this festival will be a perfect opportunity to help decide my next big sewing machine purchase.

Getting Prepared

So, here’s what I’ve accomplished so far:

1) Choose and Purchase Fabric for the “Fruit Stand Quilt class.

Right now I’m going with the solids shown below from Bella Solids Collection by Moda fabrics. However, anyone who knows me knows how often I can change my mind and “when” I do, you will find my updated choice(s) here!

The prints will be pulled from the Robert Kauffman (Studio RK) collection “On the Lighter Side”. I feel these low volume prints will coordinate nicely with the solids. The citrus colors will be used to depict the orange, lemon and lime shapes as well as the appliqued fruit slices.

Fruit Stand Quilt Fabrics

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate summer’s arrival the following week than with fresh and fun citrus inspired quilt! Stay tuned for the finished product – Can’t wait to show it off!

2) Getting Organized

Being obsessed with bags and totes and anything “organization” can only mean one thing – I may need another bag to hold-and-organize-everything. Currently, I have my eye on this, the Maker Bag by Noodlehead. Sure, I could use the Beetle Bag I wrote about a few months back but I made unnecessary and unflattering changes to the pattern and want to do a do-over before presenting it to the public.

The problem with this idea, as always, is time. The festival is only a month away and since there a few other things on my plate (housework, yard work, “work” work, finishing another quilt, sleep, etc.) it will be a challenge to fit this in but I do intend to give it a solid try.

Should I by some miracle finish this before the festival I will definitely post it so stay tuned!

All other listed tools and notions for each class I already have. For photographic purposes I have these items neatly organized in a clear tray from my large and bulky sewing basket – and this could work in a pinch. However, I need these easy-to-loose items in a bag or organizer that makes each item easy to access and the blade, snips (and anything else sharp) needs a safer storage option.

Quilting Notions

All Aboard!

Anyone else ready to climb aboard the quilt festival train?

At this time of year there are many festivals and markets in a variety of locations to choose from. If you do attend one these great events do tell us about your experience and post a picture or two if you like!

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The Braid Template Goes Above the Treeline

Braid Fabric Block

Finally, I can say I’m on the home stretch of Kate Colleran and Tammy Silver’s (aka KatenTammy) Adventure Quilt Along – A Road Trip. I’m beginning to see familiar landmarks and hopefully within the week I will be pulling into my driveway (finish piecing to top).

No doubt many others also on this same trip have already made it home (pieced the top), have unpacked their luggage ( quilted the top to a fabulous backing fabric) and are stretched out in their favorite recliner with a cup of tea in one hand and the TV remote in the other (finished the quilt with an eye-catching binding).

This particular quilt along provides its subscribers with a new block each week to be downloaded which equals 12 blocks over a 12-week period and block 12 was introduced a couple of weeks ago on April 17th.

Looking Back

When I first began this “Adventure” I knew I would learn a thing or two. What I did not know – or anticipate, that I would learn way more than just a thing or two. I now have a much better understanding of why so many of us become thoroughly addicted to quilting. I’ve been introduced to many new techniques as well as new quilting notions and rulers and each with a common purpose – to make the whole quilting process as easy, efficient and as mistake -proof as possible.

Although I still have a couple of blocks to go and after changing my color choices, a block re-do or two, I can honestly say over the course of these past 12+ weeks my quilting skills and confidence has significantly improved.

On the Road

The following list is just three (of at least a 100 things) I’m loving about this quilt along.

1) I no longer fly away from flying geese block units and I now know how to use a “Wing Clipper” ruler.

2) Thanks to the “Perfect Seams Product Combo” I have finally achieved a perfect 1/4″ seam allowance.

3) Paper piecing has become my new go-to technique. The “Add-A-Quarter-Inch-Plus” ruler made this possible.

Above the Treeline

From the wide variety of tools, tips and techniques made available in this quilt along, the Braid Template and techniques used to create the trees in the “Treeline” block is my absolute favorite. This technique alone put the entire project “above the treeline”! It’s a block that comes together fairly quick and easy.

Using the braid template makes cutting the fabric strips quick, easy and accurate. Where you will spend a majority of your time is choosing which seven shades of green fabric to use and in what order.

Here are a couple of pics to illustrate that process:

Fabric Strips with Braid Template

This is how the block looks at the very beginning – a pile of green fabric strips, white squares and the braid template. Of course, you could use a ruler with 45° markings on the diagonal but the braid template is quicker, easier and there is no math involved! Just place the template to line up the dimensions needed (for example, 1/ 1/2″ width X 7″ length).

Complete instructions are included with the template.

After using the template to cut the ends diagonally, I began placing the pieces to determine the best mix of color and help stay organized while I added each strip to the set.

Fabric Strips Using a Braid Template

And another image giving a better idea of how the fabric pieces would look when arranged into a “tree” shape.

Fabric Strips for Tree Line Quilt Block

You will notice I did a little rearranging of the fabric strip – funny how a simple change in direction can change your perception. In fact, I actually rearranged the pieces during the sewing process as I deemed necessary to prevent placing too many common shades too close together.

Below is my first “Tree Line” block. I like the variety of green shades but I think the next time I do a block like this I will choose colors that are either all warm or all cool tones. I’m funny that way and maybe I’m making more of a deal about color coordinating that I should but generally speaking I feel it a bit tricky to successfully mix warm and cool tones.

Tree Line Quilt Block

Looking Ahead

It is with great hope that my next post about the Adventure Quilt Along – A Road Trip, I will at least have the top pieced and ready for quilting.

Once finished, should my quilt look anything like Kate’s (she used Bella Solids by Moda) – so fresh and playful!

Kate Colleran Adventure Quilt

Or Tammy’s quilt – isn’t her Island Batik fabric line fabulous?

Tamarinis Batik Adventure Quilt

I can say this quilt adventure was definitely a trip worth taking!

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Flying Geese – The End of Winter & A New Quilt Block

Here we are, mid- April and it appears (I say cautiously) that winter weather has finally come to an end. Predictions for snow for this past weekend veered north, I have tulips and daffodils in full bloom so there – I declare winter is officially over!

Another end-of-winter event is also occurring – the Canadian geese are in full flight headed North in search of food and shelter. Their V-shaped flocks are a classic sign of migration – a sight I find both majestic and mesmerizing.

Taking Flight

As I continue onward and upward with my Adventure Quilt, I am returning to block 8 which largely consist of a classic pattern aptly named Flying Geese. Like birds during migration I have seen many, many images of “Flying Geese” fabric units but until embarking on this quilt adventure, I had not attempted to piece this eye-catching pattern.

So, after spending a couple of hours learning how to make a Flying Geese unit, I can say my Adventure Quilt is “migrating” right along!

The image below shows a majority of the quilt blocks I’ve completed. I made an attempt to arrange them to look like the finished quilt on the right.

There is LOT going on here, in terms of color and shape so I’ve indicated the actual Flying Geese units with a black oval-shaped circle to allow you to better see where and how this block unit fits into the grand scheme of this quilt. And as a bonus, I’ve placed an image of the finished quilt so we can all see the end goal of this quilt project!

Adventure Quilt

While piecing these units, I became curious about other methods to create this block or pieced unit. A quick Google search query: “How to make a flying geese fabric unit for quilting” returned many results in various formats including written tutorials and videos. From the first page of results there were three or four methods shown most often – each with its own list of Pros and Cons. What follows is a short summary of my findings:

Traditional

This method is likely the oldest, but it is tricky. Each triangle is cut – on the bias – which means a great deal of care needs to be taken to prevent the pieces from stretching while stitching. I am assuming the sheer frustration among early quilters trying to keep all those triangles from stretching reached a boiling point resulting the methods listed below. It is easy to see how the evolution of this technique has made the Traditional method almost, if not entirely, obsolete.

Corner Triangle

To me, this method looks like the easiest. It consists of one rectangle, (the “goose”) and two squares, (the “sky”). The diagonal stitches are made and then the excess is cut away. No cutting or stitching on the bias = no stretching of any piece and the desired size and shape is maintained. There is more about this method in the second tutorial below.

Paper or Foundation Piecing

Of all the methods listed, this one has the greatest potential to create the most perfect flying geese units. The downside, if you are not familiar with paper or foundation piecing then you will need to learn this process first. This, is a good place to start.

If you are an absolute perfectionist, then this is the method for you!

No-Waste

This is the method I used as it was the method illustrated in the Adventure Quilt Along. And believe me, there is no waste!

Fabric Trimmings

See what I mean! What you see above is pretty much the only waste after piecing FOUR flying geese units which measured approx. 2 1/2″ x 4 1/2″.

The downside: no wiggle room for an inaccurate seam or cut. You need to start with accurate cuts and sew a consistent scant 1/4″ seam. The result is a unit that only requires a quick trim of the extending points so the “Wing Clipper” ruler is not needed.

I like the No-Waste process and appreciate the fact that such a minimal amount of fabric is wasted but I was curious about the Coner Triangle method and decided to give it a try. This way I could compare the two methods to determine the advantage of using one method over another.

No-Waste Method:

This method involves several steps so in an attempt to simplify the instructions I’ve compiled a few images into a quick tutorial:

Flying Geese No Waste Tutorial

Flying Geese No-Waste Tutorial

Finished Flying Geese Units

Corner Triangle Method:

Same as above except the unit is squared using the Wing Clipper Ruler. Cutting the fabric pieces a bit larger than instructed gives you the extra fabric needed to use the Wing Clipper ruler to get the flying geese unit the perfect size.

Flying Geese Corner Triangle Tutorial

Finished Flying Geese Unit

My Take-Away Comparing the No-Waste and Corner Triangle Methods

When you have a pattern calling for several flying geese units of the same size and at least four of those units are to be the same color, the no-waste method is the way to go. Once you are comfortable with the technique and develop a piecing rhythm the result are four units, pieced at once and in a relatively short period of time.

The corner triangle method is faster (from start to finish) however, you can generally only make one unit at a time. I haven’t attempted to time these two methods however, I am thinking you could churn out four flying geese units using the corner method in about the same amount of time as it takes to create four units using the no-waste method.

Challenge Anyone?

For fun, has anyone ever set a stop watch and timed to compare these two methods?

Although I am curious, I lack a sufficient level of curiosity to take on this challenge myself so for anyone who reads this and is also curious and has the motivation to do a timed comparison please feel free to post your result in the comments below.

Each one of us who spends a significant amount of time in “Quilt World” is always on the look out for a more efficient way to use our time, money and resources!

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The Best $14.95 I’ve Ever Spent

Spending Money Online

That’s Right – a Simple $14.95 Purchase Has Changed My Life!

It is not only a solid investment but one I should have made long, long, long ago and here’s why:

Achieving a consistent 1/4″ seam is THE foundation for accurately piecing most every quilt top you make.

The above statement is nothing new but what I have discovered – just today before beginning the strip piecing portion for Block 8 of my weekly Adventure Quilt Along – is that using my 1/4″ presser foot was NOT the ticket to achieving a consistent 1/4″ seam!

Wow…Really??? Really???

All this time…and yes, I did wonder now and then, if I am actually keeping my fabric against the metal “fence” of this presser foot, how and why were my seams ending up a smidgen wider than they should be. What was I doing wrong?

Turns out, the problem was not entirely me, but the presser foot I was using.

In my previous post I mentioned a potential purchase of the Perfect Piecing Seam Guide and the reusable vinyl Sewing Edge. At that time I wasn’t sure the benefits of such a purchase would outweigh the price since I already had that “wonderful” 1/4″ presser foot.

I also mentioned that I have a hard time walking past any quilting / sewing tool or notion that I feel I can’t live without and this was no exception! On a whim I made this purchase and let it sit on my sewing table for a few days. My thought: I’ll open it up and give it a try when I’m in the mood to try something new…someday.

Fast forward about a week – that day has arrived!

It was the following words on the label of the Perkins Perfect Piecing Seam Guide that caught my attention, “Check the accuracy of your 1/4″ piecing foot”.

Perkins Perfect Piecing Seam Guide

Hmmm…it never, ever occurred to me that my 1/4″ piecing foot was anything but accurate – after all, 1/4″ is in its name for gosh’s sake!

Now, I’m curious. I’ve got know if my 1/4″ piecing foot is accurate.

Following the instructions, (with the 1/4″ piecing foot in place) I placed the guide on the footplate and lowered the needle into the hole.

Whoa!!!

The edge of the seam guide doesn’t come anywhere near the fence on the 1/4: piecing foot!

OMG!

Perfect Piecing Seam Guide

In spite of poor lighting, the image above is my attempt to illustrate this distance between the ruler and the metal fence on the 1/4″ piecing foot. The purpose of the fence is to act as a guide, the idea being as long as your fabric ran against this fence you are assured of a perfect 1/4″ seam.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered what I consider a huge gap of empty space between the ruler’s edge and the fence!

I’ve placed the tip of one of my lint brushes to fill in this in the gap. If the 1/4″ presser foot was really 1/4″ from the needle there wouldn’t be any space whatsoever – nothing should be filling this gap between the right edge of the ruler and the metal fence.

The second half of this equation-

The vinyl strips.

I’ve tried painter’s tape, masking tape, etc., and I suppose they would do in a pinch but these sewing edge vinyl strips are WAY better! They are just the right amount of thickness and the adhesive is strong yet easy to lift off and re position as needed to get perfect alignment along the length of this strip.

Seam Guide and Vinyl Strips

Once the strip is in place, remove the ruler and begin sewing!

The images below illustrate how the vinyl strip is used to create the perfect 1/4″ seam

Perfect Quarter Inch Seam

The fabric strip set consisting of 1 red and 2 white strips when sewn together are to measure 6 1/2″ wide. I can’t remember the last time (if ever) that I was able to sew a consistent 1/4″ seam the full length of a 20″ or so strip set!

One More Lesson Learned

This purchase has also taught me what the term “scant” means – a word I’ve seen used here and there but I never really understood its meaning until now. Scant – as in just barely, almost 1/4″ – the width of the ink used to mark a line on a ruler. I have to admit I’ve never bothered too much about the “scant” thing as it has been my philosophy that whatever the seam allowance you choose just make sure it is consistent throughout your project and all should be fine. 🙂

Concluding Thoughts

1) Even if you feel sewing an accurate scant 1/4″ seam is no longer a problem or an issue of any kind, it may be beneficial to go ahead and at least use the Perfect Piecing Seam Guide to check and make sure the 1/4″ mark you are using is accurate. When you do check this, I hope you aren’t as surprised by the results as I was!

It’s much easier to create an accurate seam marking before you start a project than regret it later when seams don’t match up and you aren’t able to figure out why.

2) I’ll be tossing the 1/4″ piecing foot aside – way off to the side! From now on, I be using my walking or even feed foot (pretty much exclusively) and keeping that pretty purple strip in place!

As thankful as I am for these wonderful products, I can’t help but wonder why quilters have to bother with this in the first place. Every sewing machine I’ve ever used has a marking for pretty much every seam allowance imaginable but NONE have a marking indicating a 1/4″ seam – NOT ONE.

Is it fruitless to expect sewing machine manufacturers to wake up and realize the necessity of having a 1/4″ clearly indicated on the footplate? And let’s suppose they do wake up, is it unreasonable to expect them to take the next step and acknowledge this need by including this 1/4″ mark on all footplates? And why isn’t this marking there already?

So many unanswered questions however, one main question has been answered: Purchasing the Perfect Seam Guide and Sewing Edge Vinyl Strips is the best $14.95 I’ve ever spent!

What is the best purchase you’ve ever made?

What is the one quilting or sewing item you cannot live without?

To learn more about this product go here.

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Making Waves with Paper Piecing


Paper Pieced Quilt Blocks

The Adventure Quilt A Long …a Road Trip has become quite a learning experience and has proven to be every bit as educational as adventurous.

The Journey So Far

I’ve learned how to: 1) develop a system of organization, 2) discovered additional uses for a walking foot and 3) piece several blocks using new-to-me techniques – the most educational and adventurous being Paper Piecing!

For anyone even vaguely familiar with paper piecing I’ll, put your mind at ease…this is NOT a tutorial or even a hint of an attempt of any form or fashion to explain ANY aspect of paper piecing.

Why?

Because…and I’ll be 100% honest here…getting started with paper piecing is comparable to learning an entirely. new. language. And this post isn’t about learning a new language – quilt or otherwise. 🙂

When comparing this piecing technique to basic and straight forward stitching of two pieces of fabric together, paper piecing is like nothing you have ever done or seen before. It will cause your mind to bend and twist – maybe even turn inside out! The same effect that learning a new language has on my brain!

However, once you’ve overcome that one small hurdle, it becomes evident that paper piecing is actually easy. (To this moment I continue to be amazed at the genius that developed this technique!). Once you master the paper piecing you will not only experience a huge sense of accomplishment but you will also find that it is the absolute best way to make sure your points line up and the only way to piece irregular shapes to create a consistent block design.

For those of you interested in learning more about how exactly paper piecing is done there are WONDERFUL video tutorials out there in the blogosphere! A simple google search will have you connected in no time. Once you do, just try it! Simply go ahead, pull out some fabric scraps, print off or trace a pattern onto fairly thin paper and give it a try.

Don’t Fear the (Seam) Ripper

Seam Ripper on Quilt Block

The fear of making a make a mistake or two (or learning opportunities as I like to call them), should not hold you back from at least attempting paper piecing – mistakes at the beginning are inevitable and simply a part of the process. Everyone that has learned how to paper piece – especially those of us who are self-taught, learned the process by making mistakes. Learning what not to do is as educational as what to do.

To Buy or Not to Buy...

What I do want to discuss are justifications for purchasing a few specialty quilting items. This message is especially for those of you currently participating in the Quilt Along or for those who are contemplating making this quilt at a later date and are not sure whether to make additional purchases for this project.

I will admit, I’ve never met a quilting/sewing notion (or kitchen gadget) that I didn’t like! Before starting this journey I first read through the list of optional / specialty items suggested for this project and noticed a few I didn’t have.

Oh joy! I’m all about any reason to buy a new quilting-sewing-thingy!

The items below are only a partial list but include items I either have or have used so far with blocks 1-8:

  • Quarter Inch Marker also known as the “Quilter’s Wand”
  • The following rulers: Add a Quarter Inch, Tri-Recs and the BlocLoc HST;
  • Paper for paper piecing and the
  • Braid Template.

Two other specialty items listed include the Perfect Piecing Seam Guide and the reusable vinyl Sewing Edge. Both can be purchased together here

For those of us who still struggle with sewing perfect 1/4″ seams these items should be at or near the top of our list. Of all the specialty items listed in this quilt along materials list, the seam guide and vinyl edges are the only items I don’t have. And it’s not because I am perfect and sew a perfect 1/4″ seam every time…oh no…that’s not me! However, I have found that as long as I take my time, use my 1/4″ seam foot or correctly locate a “mark” on another presser foot, achieving a consistent 1/4″ seam isn’t as difficult as it used to be.

In any event, I am still intrigued by this product and may have to purchase it anyway – I’m always in the market for that game changing, live-saving, cannot-live-without quilting tool or notion and this could very well be it!

THE TOOLS YOU DO NEED!

Add-A-Quarter Ruler and Paper for Piecing

Paper for Piecing & Ruler

These two items go hand-in-hand with the paper piecing technique. Yes, can make do with a standard quilting ruler (for example, a 2.5″ x 12.5″ ruler). After all, it has markings all over the place for 1/4″ and I do use my 2.5″ x 12.5″ ruler ALL THE TIME but I have discovered the unique design of this handy ruler assures a consistent and accurate 1/4″ cut every time.

Again, I will not go into the specifics of paper piecing here but I feel only fair to share these images below to give you the idea of how the folded paper and Add-A-Quarter ruler are used to position and trim before each seam is sewn.

Add A Quarter Ruler

The image below will show you the appearance of a finished block with the paper attached.

Paper Pieced Quilt Block

The Letter/Number combinations printed on the paper tell you which fabric is used and in what order. And yes, the fabric is sewn directly onto the paper!

This technique is another reminder of the importance of developing a system of organization. It cannot be stressed enough the importance to be able to easily and accurately locate the exact fabric pieces as they are needed.

Below is the front side of this same block with the paper still attached to the backside.

Paper Pieced Quilt Block

My very first attempt at paper piecing actually began with the block shown below entitled, “RoundAbout”. I grabbed a few scraps from my stash and pieced this “practice” block and if this is your first time with paper piecing I would suggest you do the same. Removing the stress and fear of potentially ruining the fabric you want to include in the final quilt allows you to place more focus on learning the technique.

Paper PIeced Quilt Block

I can’t wait to make this block again using the colorful fabrics I’ve chosen for this quilt.

I would love to hear your stories about paper piecing – how you started and how often do you use this technique especially when other options for piecing are available.

.

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How Using a Walking Foot Saves Time, Money and Your Sanity

Quilt Block - The Great Divide

Who knew a big, bulky and (in my case, a clunky sounding) sewing machine attachment that goes by the name “Walking Foot” – also known as an “Even Feed Foot” could could do so much more than help you sew two pieces of fabric together!

St. Patrick’s Day has arrived and I continue to merrily plug along piecing together the multitude of multi-colored blocks from the Adventure Quilt Quilt A Long…a Road Trip I discussed in my previous post.  Piecing the blocks together is so much fun – addictive actually.  I have to force myself to put it away and tend to other necessary tasks of daily life – cooking, laundry, sleep, going to work…

As much fun as I’m having, I do still suffer a set back or two.  This is typically the result of the only real issue I have with my sewing machine – the problem of uneven fabric feed over the feed dogs.  No matter how many tips and tricks I try ( and short of simply gluing the pieces together along the entire seam), it “seems” for every 4 seams I stitch that line up, the next will be a good 1/4″ off.

I was beginning to think the only reasonable solution was to buy a whole new machine.

It was only a few short months ago that I researched quilting machines and at that time I was strongly leaning toward this machine .  The primary reason – the feed-dog design that pretty much guarantees an even fabric feed.

When Juki redesigned this aspect of the machine it did so to allow both layers of fabric to be fed evenly preventing the all-too-common-reason many quilters have become too frustrated to continue this craft.  After all, when one layer of fabric is continuously pulled forward while the other lags behind and the reason has nothing to do with your skill but the less-than-optimal design of the machine, it’s no wonder people are quick to give up piecing or quilting altogether.

Learning about this innovative feed-dog design, I was elated to realize that I was not alone – that there were enough of us quilters and sewists out there experiencing this same uneven-fabric-feed problem that an improved feed-dog design had to be developed.  However, my happy dance was quickly replaced with the reality that since I do not have that particular brand of machine, I will have to continue to “make-do” and resign myself to the fact that, at least for now, that achieving an even fabric feed on my machine will continue to be as much a fantasy as a source of frustration.

That is, until I made this discovery – or rather, the re-discovery of the “Walking Foot“.

Walking or Even Feed Foot

I say re-discovery as I m quite familiar with this accessory however, I have also been under the mis-guided impression that the walking foot is used only for “quilting”.  It’s design will allow several thicknesses of fabric to be smoothly evenly fed through the feed dogs.  Using an attachment like this would seem like overkill if used for ordinary sewing.

Well, it turns out this big, bulky-doesn’t-look-like-it-belongs-on-a-domestic-sewing-machine accessory is THE solution for an even fabric feed for ALL sewing projects – regardless of the number of fabric layers!

I think it is now high time that the word gets out – the Walking Foot should no longer be reserved for “quilting” or sewing together several layers of thickness such as a quilt sandwich.

In fact, it  may become the only foot I’ll ever use.  I say may – I still have a great love for both my satin stitch foot and 1/4″ seam foot  shown below.

For me, the satin stitch foot works best when sewing fabric together to make half-square triangles (HST’s).  I typically cut my fabric pieces a bit larger than required.  This gives me some “wiggle room” so if one fabric layer shifts in front of the other and the two layers are not evenly matched at the end of a seam it doesn’t matter.  The square will be cut in half and later “squared” to the correct size anyway, so all I have to lose is a little bit of fabric.

Blocks #2, #3 and #4 of this Quilt A-Long (shown below) require piecing MANY squares and rectangles which also means nesting and matching up MANY seams.

The many trials and errors piecing Block #4 – The Great Divide resulted in the great union between my sewing machine and this miraculous accessory.   I would not be as far along in this project as I am were it not for the Walking / Even Feed Foot.

Adventure Quilt Block #2 - #4

BWF – AWF

Before using my Walking Foot to piece these blocks,  my seam ripper was used as much as the sewing machine.

After using my Walking Foot, my seam ripper was used ONLY to help stabilize the fabric as it went through the feed dogs.

In Summary:

Using a Walking Foot Saves Time:  Eliminating the need to rip out seams faster then you can put them in and having to re-do multiple seams is a huge time saver.  There is nothing to be gained by doing the same task multiple times.  Quilting is a slow but steady progression from one step to the next – it is not a hamster wheel!

Using a Walking Foot Saves Money:  In my case, it has prevented me from making an expensive purchase that could be postponed until I have more information.

Using a Walking Foot Saves Your Sanity: When you  no longer sit and scratch your head wondering, “What?  How did that happen”, while asking yourself “have I lost my mind?”  I know those pieces of fabric were lined up exactly before I began sewing…

The Result:

Time spent engaging in a thought process and dialogue that affirms your sanity and sense of well-being and allows you to persevere, block by block, until the last block is pieced!

Let me hear from you about your experiences using a Walking or Even-Feed Foot for your projects!  I’d also love to hear your solutions for achieving an even fabric feed on your machine if you don’t use an even feed or walking foot.

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Can We All Just Quilt Along?

The short answer is a resounding YES! Of course, we can!

Stacks of Quilt Fabric

Each one of us can easily “Quilt-A-Long” however, to be successful there are a couple of things you really need to do first.

FIRST: Choose a QAL that aligns with your schedule and skill level and make a general assessment of the overall pattern and block requirements. This comes in handy for the second step:

SECOND: Develop a system of organization. I’m not sure this should be item #2 – maybe item #1.2 or something.

Organization is as important as cutting accurately and sewing consistent 1/4″ seams!

Below is a quick show and tell of the basics I use at the beginning of every project – plastic bin, printed color chart and peel and stick address labels.

Color Chart, Bin and Labels

I am finding this system to be very useful with this particular collection of patterns. There are many squares and rectangles of every dimension imaginable. Some vary by only 1/4″ but here is the good news: I developed a few strategies to reduce – maybe even eliminate – the stress and frustration of managing so many small pieces of fabric.

Before I go any further, I’d like to discuss my first item –

FIRST THINGS FIRST – MAKING THE CHOICE

So far, winter in the mid-west has been brutal. Snow on top of snow, icy streets and cold temperatures ranging from Arctic to obscene left little convincing that the best way to weather this outdoor insanity Was to stay inside.

When it comes to fabric, sewing and quilting I need very little encouragement to spend the day sitting at my sewing machine but I was beginning to feel a little uninspired. Sure, I was finishing this bag project and a few charity quilts but once those are done what would I do next?

During my daily internet wanderings I did stumble upon a few QAL’s and BOM’s but there was always some element of the program that I couldn’t work around: A pattern or fabric I didn’t like, the monthly or yearly subscription price tag or the discovery that I was too late to register or so near the end of the program that I would never be able to catch up.

THE SILVER LINING

Did I mention how winter and I aren’t getting along? 🙂

No, nothing has changed however, I was able to appreciate at least one (actually, two) silver linings in this past winter’s Polar vortex. Something more inspiring than just staying indoors and online for longer periods of time.

The silver lining? The discovery a fun and informative blog – Seams Like A Dream – owned by Kate Colleran, which led me to yet another, (companion?) blog – Tamarinis – owned by Tammy Silvers.

As luck would have it, both of these ladies teamed up to create a QAL that I was able to join during WEEK 1 entitled, ” Adventure Quilt Along…a Road Trip Quilt”.

A quick read through the requirements and general instructions had me doing a happy dance!!! This is it and it looks like it will be so much fun!

Finally, I discovered a QAL that checked off a whole slew of boxes at once:

Quilting

Road trips

Learning new techniques

Using new tools

Choosing colorful quilt fabric, and

Sharing my completed blocks on social media and my website!

There were two other important details that helped me make the decision to join this QAL:

1) Signing up when I did allow me to receive every pattern and accompanying instructions for free and

2) Showing an image of the finished quilt revealed one of the most beautiful and colorful quilts ever! I still consider myself a “rookie” quilter but I knew right away I needed to make this!

Each of these talented ladies constructed a quilt using fabrics from two different collections. Kate used fabrics in solid colors and Tammy used batik printed fabrics.

QUICK NOTE ABOUT COLOR

Viewing each quilt I couldn’t decide which I like best – both are outstanding. However, history has taught me a valuable lesson when it comes to choosing multiple coordinating fabric colors (or colors of anything for matter) from a computer. Your best bet is to go with an established or curated collection. Color seen on a monitor is very different from what we see in real life. Colors generated for digital use are created using a CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and blacK) combination. The colors we see in nature are the result of combining the primary colors Red, Yellow and Blue. This is why matching or coordinating colors online is tricky.

I wanted to maintain a color palette similar to the one used by Kate and Tammy. Not only do I love each color scheme but I felt it would make it easier for me to actually follow the instructions! In the interest of time but mostly convenience I felt my best bet was to purchase fabric online for this project. So, in order to get the right number of each color I had to chose two separate fat quarter bundles that at least appear, digitally, to coordinate. You can view my choices here and here.

Quilt Fabric - Summer Hues

Quilt Fabric - Lakeshore Hues

ORGANIZATION

I realize this is not a new subject. I also recognize that anyone that has quilted or sewn anything has reached this same conclusion and developed a strategy or system for being able to store and locate the multitude of items needed to complete a particular project. So I don’t feel as though I have deciphered a secret code or located the Rosetta Stone of organization but in the early stages of this project I realized I haven’t read about anyone else system of organization and felt someone else out there could benefit from the fruits of my labor!

BOXES, BAGS AND TAGS

That pretty well sums it up.

1. A plastic box or bin with a lid. I like the see-through kind so I can see what is inside. These are my favorite – I have about a dozen. (See image above)

2. Adhesive tags or labels – I’ll use several sheets of address labels for this project. Once you begin to use them you will begin to discover many other uses as well. Generally, they are fairly cheap so no worries if you feel you bought too many.

With so many colors to choose from and with so little variation in colors between the green, blue and red/coral I found it very helpful to first label each fat quarter.

Labeled Fat Quarters

And label again once each quarter had been cut into the individual pieces:

Labeled Fabric Pieces for Quilt Top

3. Zip-lock bags. Four or five will do. They can easily be reused as you progress to the next block. At first, I began with only 2 bags.

Fabric Pieces in Zip-Lock Bags

For better organization I again sub-divided the “North” and “South” into the different sizes and placed those pieces into separate bags.

Labeled Fabric Pieces in Zip Lock Bgs

I may have been able to construct Block 1 of this project – Log Cabin blocks – without going to the extra trouble of separating and labeling each group but I’m also aware that I could not have gone from this:

Fat Quarters

to this:

Log Cabin Quilt Blocks

without having a meltdown (or two) along the way!

As for me, I can easily “Quilt-A-Long” as long as I’m organized and take my time and I’m not bringing out the seam ripper too often!

I’d love to hear your strategies for getting and staying organized with any quilt project. This is only my first quilt along but I feel organization is key to success. It prevents feeling too overwhelmed to begin the project and allow you to successfully continue with the project to it’s end.

Blog

Want a Good Bag to Hold Everything?

And by that I mean you can put just about everything your heart desires…

Maybe even the kitchen sink…

INTO THIS BAG

The Beatle Bag from Abbey Lane Quilts

The designer/author’s intent was to create a bag large enough to hold and organize a wide range of sewing notions yet be easy to carry. This combination of genius design and fun fabrics was just too much for me to resist.

A feew weeks ago I attended a quilt show hosted by one of our local quilt guilds. My initial intent was to look at all the beautiful quilts on display and vote for my favorites in each category, purchase raffle tickets ( to win a feather weight Singer sewing machine – never got a call so I’m assuming by now I didn’t win…) and sample a few goodies at the bake sale table.

I did all of that and, (because aside from being an obsessive fabriholic I am an obsessive to the 10th power bag lady as well), purchased the pattern, vinyl inserts and pin cushion filling to be used to construct  this super cute Beatle Bag:

The pattern/kit was second-hand – I’m thinking a left over or unused kit from a previous class/workshop sponsored by this quilting guild sponsoring the show. It was in perfect condition and at half-price!

Sadly, I wasn’t able to find any fabric at the quilt show that I couldn’t live without (something that almost never happens!)

What I was able to do however, was rummage through my sewing closet and gathered the items and place in a storage bin as seen in the image below:

As with any project, organization is key. I would suggest obtaining a shallow plastic bin with a lid before you decide on what fabrics and other tools you will need. If you are having trouble locating what you need when you need it, a project like this is likely to become a UFOUnFinished prOject.

Also, for many of us, this will not be a quick, get-it-done-in-an-hour or even “in-a-weekend” project. You will no doubt do – as I did many, many times, get it out, work on it a while and “life” will happen that requires you to put your project aside to come back to later. Being able to throw everything into a box and put a lid on it makes it much, much easier to return to and finish.

Now, with that out of the way let’s take a quick look at my “Finished-Is-Better-Than-Perfect Beatle Bag”!

FABRIC SELECTION:

Beatle Bag Fabrics

A multi colored cotton print for the outer bag, a cream colored cotton for the inner bag and a linen look cotton for the straps, handles and accents.

GENERAL MATERIALS LIST:

Outside Bag – 1 Fat Quarter 1/4″                           Double Sided fusible Webbing

Inside Bag – 1 Fat Quarter 1 –                                 2 1/8″ Metal Ring

Accent Fabric – 5/8 Yard                                         Coordinating Threads

5/8″ Sew-On Velcro – 1/2 Yard                                Filling for Pin cushion

Soft & Stable Foam Stabilizer – 1/2 Yard              4 Beatle Bag Inserts

WORDS OF CAUTION

If / when you purchase the pattern you will notice I made more than a couple of substitutions in the materials list. This was done primarily to try to use what I had on hand without making a special trip to a fabric or craft store.

You will also notice I made a few modifications to the instructions. The reason? I have an uncontrollable unwillingness to follow instructions. period. It’s one of my main weaknesses and it interferes and prevents me from getting anything finished in a reasonable amount of time.

When I see just about anything, the wheels in my brain begin turning trying to figure out a way to: a) make the item easier to construct, b) make it more functional, c) visualize it in another color or d) just because I have to do things my way.

WORDS OF WISDOM

Hindsight really is 20/20 and after constructing this cute little bag “my way” I encourage you to read and follow the instructions as they are written. Janice and Marcea at Abbey Lane Quilts have been doing this sort of thing way longer than I have – they know what they are doing and are very good at what they do! Just read and follow their instructions and you should have no trouble whatsoever creating your very own Beatle Bag!

HOW AND WHY

I had maybe one quarter yard of “Soft and Stable” foam stabilizer but oodles of quilt batting so the batting was used in place of the foam stabilizer. I intend to make another Beatle Bag and when I do I am considering using one-sided fusible quilt batting. That would be perfect for a small project like this. The basting is accomplished by ironing the batting to the wrong side of the outer layer. It’s a real time saver – basting takes much less time and as a bonus, you get to start the “quilting” aspect very quickly!

My original intent was to use a 2 1/2″ unfinished wood ring (in place of the 2 1/8″ metal ring) however, as the construction of the bag progressed I elected to follow that particular instruction and went with the metal ring.

I would have much preferred to use sew on Velcro – and I know there is a roll of it somewhere in my sewing closet but every attempt to locate it ended in complete failure. Miraculously I was able to find a small scrap that would work for the “pin cushion”, but I needed quite a bit more than that.

This is all it took to get the wheels in my mind turning once again – “what can I use to substitute”. And in my search I was able to locate a few magnetic snaps left over from a previous tote bag project. Not the best solution – I’ll get into that later, but offers an alternative when the primary object is to get this bag finished in a reasonable amount of time.

I also considered using ready-made quilt binding however, after much deliberation I decided the straps, handles and binding should all be the same.

In the image directly below is a quick look at the outer bag – notice the thread and grid quilt pattern used:

I seemed to me a geometric grid quilt pattern would serve to “tame” the busy movement of the print pattern. A variegated medium gray thread appeared to be the best solution to blend in when using so many colors and high contrast hues.

Grid Quilt Pattern

Once the inner and outer pieces were quilted, the straps were sewn in and the binding attached to the edge, the inner accessories (pin cushion, scissors pocket and vinyl inserts) could be added. I’ve included a few of my own tools for demonstration purpose but believe me, this little bag will hold a lot more!

I can see this as a perfect way to carry and store a quilt-as-you-go project. Small items can be easily tucked away in a pocket and a partial lap or baby quilt can easily be folded and tucked inside. Once the bag is rolled up and the outer strap is fastened everything inside stays secure and in place.

Inside the Beatle Bag

Below is a close up of the magnets I used and how they were placed at each end of the webbing used to attach the zipped vinyl inserts: I sewed a button over the magnet to hide the ugly metal clips and give the appearance of a true button.

I alluded to this earlier, these magnets are not a perfect solution.  I’m not crazy about Velcro however, these magnetic snaps are just a bit too large and too heavy for this project.  Their fixed position doesn’t allow you to adjust the tension of this inner strap – something that would be useful to keep the insert taught to accommodate to changes in size and weight of the contents within the vinyl pouches.

Magnetic Straps w/ Button Cover

You will notice this same technique – using a magnet covered with a button – was used in place of Velcro on the outer strap:

Close up Magnetic Button Cover

And finally,

my

“FINISHED-IS-BETTER-THAN-PERFECT”

BEATLE BAG!

Finished Is Better Than Perfect Beatle Bag

It is obvious binding is not my strong point but in all fairness, I’m not sure the fabric I used was entirely suitable for binding – it stretched SO easily and was prone to fraying. Taking a closer look at this I think the best option for me is to choose a fabric that allows me to use a ready-made seam or quilt binding tape.

IN SUMMARY,

Making this Beatle Bag was the most fun I’ve had in a long time! The instructions were clear, easy to read and easy to follow. And not only was this a fun project it is one that allows you expand you skill set or enhance skills you already possess.

WHAT I LEARNED:

1. More about the characteristics of different fabrics.

2. The importance of following the instructions and make as few substitutions and modifications as possible.

3. How to make a pocket that is even on both THE bottom and top corners.

4. I need more practice cutting and sewing binding and straps.

5. That I CAN’T WAIT to make another Beatle Bag as soon as I have the chance!

If anyone else has made this or a similar  bag designed to hold EVERYTHING I’d love to hear your comments and experiences. Is this the type of bag you often use?  On a scale measuring degree of difficulty, where would you place construction of this bag?

And as always, feel free to post an image of any type of organization bag you have made!

Blog

When Does Housework Come Before Needlework?

                                      

                              

                               ONLY in the Dictionary!

 

 

 

 

 

Lately, at least at my house, just about everything else in the alphabet has come before housework as well!

Organized Chaos - Stacks of Clothing

The image above is NOT my house but for the past two months it may as well be. The best way to describe my home – especially my sewing room, is organized chaos. Stacks of books, baskets of fabric, bins of unfinished projects, bags of more fabric… However, I’ll save my “Sewing Room Blues” for another post.


HOUSEWORK

I read a quote earlier today that stated the best way to keep dust off your furniture is to top everything with stacks of fabric.

Here are mine 🙂

 

 

Dust will to have work pretty hard to find it’s way onto this table-top! And here is a bonus tip – keeping fabric that is shipped to you in its original clear plastic wrap makes it a little easier to dust the “furniture” when that mood hits!


NEEDLE WORK

So…since I’m admitting I haven’t done much housework lately, what exactly have I been doing?

Quite a lot, actually. However, my focus has been making these cute lap quilts.

 

 

It has been just over 2 years since I joined a volunteer quilt group at the hospital where I work. We typically choose a Saturday each month (or every other month or as a majority of us are available) to spend the day piecing, cutting, seam ripping, re-sewing, talking, sharing, eating, more quilting, ironing, sweating, more eating, more talking…

The small lap quilts we make are given to our patients and their families when they transition to palliative or hospice care.

However, – between the busy holidays, the ridiculous weather (thank you Polar Vortex) and a couple of bouts of some sort of flu / stomach virus / crud, our quilt group hasn’t had a chance to meet since November.

As a result, almost every minute I’m not at work (or doing something that loosely resembles housework), has been spent making a few lap quilts – four are completely finished. I’m taking a break from piecing the fifth to write this short post!

The first is made from a 6″ Jelly Roll featuring reproduction civil war prints by Boundless fabrics. These are left over from the jelly roll I bought over 2 years ago and this particular fabric is forever sold out. However, Craftsy (now called Bluprint) carries this exclusive fabric line and many other fabric choices are always available.

For this specific project I chose shades of red and blue fabric strips paired with an ivory background.

 

 

Since the strips were 6″ x 42″ I cut the strips into 6″ squares and the ivory background into 6″ strips as well. Then I paired the print with a solid or a red with a blue and made into HST’s (Half Square Triangles).

Using my portable design wall I arranged and rearranged the solid squares and HST’s until I found the configuration I liked. I’m calling this one Star Squared. (No doubt there is a block or quilt already made with this pattern that goes by another name – I welcome anyone willing to correct me on this!).

Once I created the star consisting of the 16 inner squares it became apparent this original size, even with a typical 3″ border, would not be large enough. Being a design consisting of HST’s and squares it seemed reasonable to sew a few more HST’s and simply add them (and few more solid squares) to the perimeter.

Now I was having fun! Arranging and re-arranging these squares to find the right configuration is actually quite fun and it is amazing just how many designs and configurations you can create with these little HST gems!

 

 


This next quilt is made from 2 charm packs – the print is “Voysey” from the V&A Archives for Moda. The solid is from the “Caramel Macchiato” fabric line from Wilmington Fabrics. Both were “Daily Deal” bargains I purchased from the Missouri Star Quilt Co. and the “On-Point” pattern is an adaptation from one of Jenny Doan’s YouTube videos.

The colors are wonderful and the print is a folksy print that reminds me of William Morris’ craftsman style design motifs from the late 1800s. I wish I had better lighting for this image. I’ve chosen to take these images in my front room – even a quick ray of sunshine would make a huge difference!

 

On Point Lap Quilt


These next two quilts are made from fabric donated to our quilt group. I took the liberty to create a basic pinwheel design for the top quilt and the pattern for the second top is from a sketch hand-drawn on a piece of scrap paper. I don’t recall if it has a specific name but the pattern kind of reminds me of a baseball field so I’m naming this one “Home Run”.

 

 

 

 

 


There you have it – how I survived (and continue to survive) the Polar Vortex and why a dictionary is the only place where housework should come before needlework!

Leave a comment and share how you are surviving this insanely cold weather and please feel free to include an image showing us what you put before housework!

It doesn’t have to be sewing/needlework – it can be anything!

I can’t be the only one who puts just about everything before housework!

Blog

What is Better Than a Four Patch Quilt Block?

Disappearing Four Patch Quilt Block

Answer: A DISAPPEARING Four Patch Quilt Block!

What?

Why?

How?

So, what exactly is a Disappearing Four Patch quilt block? Simply put, it is a basic four patch block with four additional cuts, and a turn of four (or five) fabric pieces. Eight additional stitch lines later and the result is a block that looks more complicated and time-consuming to make than it actually is.

And why make the four patches disappear?

As a beginning quilter, I was quite content piecing 5” squares however, after I mastered the skill of nesting seams, I wanted to try something a little more complicated but not as complicated as points and triangles. The disappearing four patch seemed to fit the bill.

This pattern is also a fun way to improve your basic quilting skills and help you bust through a stash of fabric scraps and the design is simple enough to allow you to create a small quilt from start to finish in one weekend.

Now on to the how!

The design that offers the greatest impact is one that uses high contrast – contrast between print and solid as well as contrast between color as well as contrast between high and low volume.

For my project I’m using four 5” squares of fabric.

Charm Square Quilt Fabric


Step 1 : Place right sides of one solid and one print square together and sew a 1/4″ seam.

Sewing Fabric Squares w/ Right Sides Together

Repeat for the next set of squares. Press the seams toward the print side.

Step 2 : Position the top and bottom rows with right sides together and sew a 1/4″ seam .

Sewing Top & Bottom Rows Together

When ready to press I chose to press these seams open. This reduces the bulk of fabric and eliminates the need to remember to alternate the direction each is seam is pressed later on when I have additional rows to sew together.

Seams Pressed Open

Now you see a Four Patch Block:

Four Patch Quilt Block

Step 3 : This is where a rotating cutting mat comes in very handy. Place the block on the mat and a ruler positioned on top to measure 1 1/4″ from the center seam. Along the right-hand edge is where you will make your first cut.

Using a rotating mat prevents you from having to move the fabric around – instead it is the board that moves – the best way to ensure accuracy and consistency with each cut.

Cutting the Disappearing Four Patch Block

Then turn the board 45°, position the ruler again so the right outside edge is 1 1/4″ from the middle seam and make another cut through the top and bottom squares. Repeat this step twice again making a total of four cuts. The block will appear as shown in the image below:

Cutting the Disappearing Four Patch

Step 4 : Once all four cuts are made it is now time to make the four patch disappear.

Simply take each middle strip set and turn around and turn the center square the same way. What you want to see now is an alternating pattern of print with solid.

Turning the Four Patch Pieces

Step 5 : Sew each piece to create a row – there will be three.

Then sew the bottom to the middle row then add the top row to this set. Press the seams open – again this reduces bulk, especially in the seams that join in the middle of the block.

Disappearing Four Patch

                                                      The result:

Disappearing Four Patch Block

                             The Disappearing Four Patch block.

Using 5″ squares sewn together in this fashion results in a block can easily be trimmed to a 7.5″ or 8″ square – a nice number to use as part of a larger quilt.


More Great Reasons to Piece a Disappearing Four Patch Block!

The above example is just one variation of the disappearing four patch block design. Grab a few fabric scraps, sew four patches together and cut into (9) individual pieces. Then, take these pieces to your design wall and see how many configurations you can come up with! Create a design you like and sew it all together.

If making a quilt is not on your agenda, this block could easily standalone and be used for a number of other useful items. Add a back, banding and batting and this block is quickly transformed into a hot pad, pot holder or mug rug.

That’s the beauty of this pattern – there is no right or wrong way to piece these fabrics together. The appearance of the finished product is up to you!

What will you make? Leave a comment and post an image of your outstanding creation here!


Want more Disappearing Patch blocks? Stay tuned! My next post will illustrate many unique variations as well as interesting free motion and long arm quilt patterns that will make these Disappearing Blocks pop!