Monday, March 2, 2015

Owl finish

When I tried all-over freemotion designs on a practice quilt sandwich, I always had trouble keeping the scale consistent, and I would paint myself into a corner, or my design would morph into something else by the time I finished.  This made me a little wary of trying it out on an actual quilt.  What if I messed up?

This little baby quilt, however, was very vocal about how it wanted to be quilted. It wanted all-over swirls.  I thought up all sorts of straight line walking-foot options, but nothing stuck.  The quilt was very clear:  SWIRLS if you don’t mind.  Well, I do mind, but OK already.


I googled free-motion swirl tutorials, watched a few and finally got my a-ha! moment when I stumbled on this one from APQ, with Angela Walters explaining.  The reminder that it is OK to stop (with the needle down of course!) and think about where to go next and how to get there was just what I needed.  The swirl design she demonstrated isn’t all curves.  There are points where you finish one swirl and start on the next, so stopping doesn’t involve the risk of spoiling a smooth curve, which always happens to me when I stop mid-curve.

Deep breath. Feed dogs down.  Another deep breath.


This very first bit I quilted, in the pink, is the best on the whole quilt.  I never quite got it that pretty again, but overall it looks pretty good.  I stopped a lot.  And ranted about breaking thread.  And quilted myself into corners a few times despite my planning.  But it’s done and I’m really happy with how it turned out.


Ms. Owl was stitched in the ditch around all her parts with a triple frame in the background.
I used Invisafil thread. I really like the way it blends with all the fabrics so that what you notice is the quilted texture, not the thread.  When the thread kept breaking (well, shredding, actually) I switched to Aurifil but didn’t like the way the thread stood out on the colors, so I picked it out and went back to the Invisafil.

Here’s the back, in fun alphabet prints:


I even remembered to put the labels on when I put on the binding.  One label has the quilt info, and the other has signatures from all the folks pitching in to give this gift.  The quilt will be delivered tonight.  I hope baby Isabel enjoys it!

And now to go try and get better pictures of it before I don’t have access to it anymore!

Linking up with Linky Tuesday at Freemotion by the River

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Frosty border

Those of you who are buried under feet of snow probably aren’t very interested in snowflakes right now, but I’ve been thinking of how to pair my snowflake blocks with other pieced elements.

Lara over at Buzzin Bumble posted about some very pretty mini Delectable Mountain blocks a few weeks ago, and shared a free tutorial and paper foundations.  At first glance it doesn’t seem that this block could be paper pieced  but Lara uses a very clever technique to make it work.  The paper foundation can even be printed double-sided so that you have guide lines and sewing lines on both sides of your paper.  No more guessing where to place your fabric!

Here’s my sample block. It is 2 1/2” x 4 1/2” to finish at 2” x 4”.


Here’s one way I’m thinking of using more of them with snowflakes.

runner border idea

The problems begin when I try to figure out how to find the time to fit in another project…  Oh well, what’s one more project on the list of planned quilts?

Friday, February 13, 2015

Baby needs brights!

“Baby” would be the Scout leader’s new daughter, not me!  Though playing with some bright fabrics this week has lifted my spirits, so maybe I needed brights too.  There isn’t any big reason for the blahs I needed lifting out of, just assorted small annoyances and winter in general.  Oh, and shattering the plastic casing on the car’s tail light and finding out you can’t replace just the casing, you have to buy the whole assembly.  Sigh.

Let’s not dwell on that, shall we?  Back to the cheerful brights.  Here’s what I have on my design wall right now.


The owl is only fused on right now.  I need to go buy purple thread to stitch it down.  Still, I wanted to see if he worked with the blocks the way I hoped he would, so up on the wall he went.  I like it!

I didn’t like what I started out with.  I saw this quilt by SewCraftyJess on Moda Bake Shop and liked the blocks.  I made a test block to be sure I liked it before cutting into my stash.


It took only an hour to get all my cut pieces sewn into units. The large squares with the white strip get cut down the middle to make the rectangular units below in the lower left, so I was able to substitute two rectangles for the square when my scraps wouldn’t yield the 5” square the pattern called for.


Clearly, it’s not a good idea to be too excited about quick progress.  Progress slowed down to a crawl when I started putting pieces up on the design wall to decide which fabrics to put together in each block.


Ummmm.  Nope.  This wasn’t working for me! I stared at the wall. I moved things around. I stared some more.  Two hours’ worth of staring and shuffling pieces around yielded this.


Better.  Did I really need to unpick my sample block to match the block center to the block frame?  Maybe not.  I went to bed and let it simmer a bit.

When I came back to it in the morning I decided that in the grand scheme of things, taking a few minutes to rip a few seams was not a  big deal.  The result was good enough to encourage me to assemble all the blocks.  Of course, assembled blocks were bound to look crisper and therefore better!  Once I had them assembled it was easier to play around with block orientation, too.  I decided I liked them better going in all one direction, instead of the varied directions in the original pattern, and that vertical pleased my eye more than horizontal.


I had intended to piece a butterfly block to insert in the blank place.  I found a good tutorial at Four Wise Monkeys for a pretty pieced block, but in the end I decided it wouldn’t pop.  Then I thought I could do a reverse image, with a white butterfly over a colored block background.  I tried it in EQ first, and it wasn’t looking quite as I hoped.  How about a heart?  I looked at pieced heart patterns, then decided I could applique a heart, since I learned to do that over Christmas.

Well, if I’m going to applique…I just had to make the owl from Five Sprouts Stitching again, because he’s so gosh darned cute.  It’s a baby quilt.  Cute is good!

I enlarged the pattern to fit the space and spent an hour dithering over what colors he should be.  I decided purple would work best and held my breath as I rooted through the small pile of purples in my stash, hoping to find a piece large enough for the owl’s body. Success!




I’m pleased with how it is working out!  The owl seems less lost in person, trust me.  Now I need to go add sashing and decide if this quilt needs borders.  I suppose I need to choose backing fabric too.  Time to step away from the computer!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Just a little push

My son’s bed quilt is wearing out.  When he told me there were new tears, I asked him to mark them with safety pins so I could find them to mend them.  I was taken aback at the number of pins.  He said he stopped counting at 15.  I looked the quilt over and added more.  I think I stopped counting at 40.  And I found more while I was fixing the marked ones. Sigh. 

Matthew's braid quilt shredding Feb 2015

To be clear, he has loved and used but not abused his quilt.  There were just a few questionable fabrics in there.  Also, as I was advised not to prewash precuts (these were from a jelly roll), fabrics shrank at different rates.  Batiks didn’t shrink at all, so they just folded over at the seams and those folds wore out and the fabric shredded.  Some of the batiks were more affected than others.

I spent the afternoon stitching decorative stitches over the shredded bits to try to extend the quilt’s life a little more.  Here’s what the back looks like now.  Those aren’t worms, but lines of stitching. 


That’s a lot of worn spots, and just a little push to start hand quilting a bit more diligently on the replacement quilt!

Here’s the progress on that:


I do have a tiny bit of border done on the left side too.  I tried to take a picture of what I’m trying in the border, but the lighting wasn’t very good to take a picture of quilting in black thread on black fabric.

Enough chatting! I need to go make more progress!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Once again in 1930s prints

When I started quilting I always intended to make a quilt in 1930’s reproduction prints.  It’s only taken me 15 years to get there!

I usually gravitate to bright colors, and working with these more subdued prints was a bit of a challenge because they don’t pop in the same way as the fabrics I usually work with.  That said, I love how this version of Sparkling Trail worked out!

Sparkling Trail in 1930s prints

The colors are better in person, and obviously this still needs to be quilted.

Initially I planned to make each star monochromatic.  Even taking into account the poor late-night lighting in the picture below you can tell it looked a bit bland. I tried centers in one fabric and points in a matching fabric.  I tried mixing points and centres.


In the end, I concluded that these 1930’s prints work best in truly scrappy mode.

Closeup of Sparkling Trail in 1930s prints

That’s why I opted to make the border from small squares rather than longer scrap chunks as I have for other versions of this quilt.

Reaction in the household was mixed.  Hubby loved it.  He said it made him think of front porch swings in the summer and picket fences (not that we have any such things, but I know what he means).  My son, on the other hand, commented on how these were not my usual fabrics and he wasn’t sure he’d like to look at them all the time.  He’s a teen boy, of course he wouldn’t!  His room is safe.  The quilting of the black and bright kaleidoscope quilt for his bed is coming along.

Linking up with

Main Crush Monday at Cooking Up Quilts

Let’s Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts

Friday, January 30, 2015

Prairie Point Part 4–Trimming and finishing the back


This is the fourth installment of the Prairie Point Tutorial series.


Here is my little sample quilt, all quilted and with prairie points sewn on.  I think it could be cute just like this, with the points pointing in, in which case I would just add binding to finish the edges.  However, I want my points to point outwards and be the finished edge so there’s more work to do.


Next I need to trim the backing and batting, but I can’t just wield the rotary cutter and trim everything flush with the edge of the quilt top.  I need the backing 1/4” larger than the top all around, and the batting 1/4” smaller than the top, all around.

1. Trimming the batting and backing


Step 1.  Fold the backing out of the way, well away from the edge of the quilt top so you can trim the batting without cutting the backing. You can pin to keep it out of the way if you wish. Carefully turn the quilt right side up, making sure to keep that backing folded back.


Step 2. With a rotary cutter and ruler, trim the batting even with the top.


Step 3. Still keeping the backing out of the way, fold the top out of the way.  Pin to keep it out of the way if necessary. Trim 1/4” off the batting (photo on left).  (If you fold unfold the top and flip the quilt over now, right side down, you’ll see that the batting is now a tidy 1/4” less than the quilt top (photo on right)).


Step 4.  With the quilt facing up, unfold the backing. Trim it 1/4” larger than the quilt top.  This will give you 1/2” of fabric to work with when you fold the backing edges under later, in section 4.

(Note: If you don’t mind fiddling with turning edges under just 1/4” in section 4, you can trim the backing even with the quilt top at the same time as you trim the batting even in step 2 above.  Just remember to fold the backing out of the way before you trim the batting that extra 1/4”.)


Step 5. Repeat steps 1 to 4 for each side of the quilt to trim all sides.


2.  Folding out the prairie points.


Step 1.  Trim the tails of the points (but not the backing!) on the corners, being careful not to snip the stitching (photo on left).  This will let the points tuck up nicely side by side at the corner when you flip the points out (photo on right).


Step 2.  Flip the points so they point away from the quilt.  The seam allowance should tuck over the trimmed edge of the batting, encasing it. 



I like to press the seam allowance to help it stay flat.

3. Fold backing edges


Step 3.  With the quilt facing up, fold the backing down 1/2” along an entire side. Press.  Fold the corner at a 45 degree angle, then fold the next side down 1/2” as well, forming a crisp mitered corner.  Press and pin if you need to.


Above you see what the corner looks like from the back of the quilt.  Continue folding the edge of the backing, mitering the corners, all around the quilt.


Here’s the back of my quilt with the backing all folded in properly.  You can pin it in place if you wish, though the quilting on most of the quilt and the pressing of the folded backing keep things pretty much where they need to be.

4. Stitching the backing to the prairie points


You can see in the picture above that the folded edge of the backing just covers the line of stitching attaching the points to the quilt top.  Hand stitch the backing to the prairie points using whatever stitch you usually use to sew binding to the back of a quilt.  I like to use the ladder stitch.


Step 1. Insert the needle into the fold, right in the crease. Bring the needle back out along the fold, about 1/8” – 1/4” away.  Pull the thread through.


Step 2. Insert the needle into the bottom layer (in this case the prairie points) right below where thread comes out of the fold.  Keeping the needle in line with the folded edge, bring it back out of the fabric 1/8” – 1/4” away.


Step 3. Insert the needle into the top layer again, in the fold, immediately above where the thread was last pulled through the bottom layer.  Bring the needle out along the fold 1/8” – 1/4” away. 

Keep stitching until you have stitched the backing down on all sides.  Take a few close stitches at the corners to keep them tidy.


And here’s the finished product, back and front!

I hope this series has inspired or encouraged you to add prairie points to a quilt!


For more information about planning, making and attaching prairie points, see the rest of the Prairie Point Tutorial series:

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Prairie Points Part 3 – Distributing them evenly

Prairie points 1

This is the third installment of the Prairie Point Tutorial series.


This part of the series will look at two ways to distribute your points evenly along the edge of your quilt.



1. Decide if you will sew them on before or after the quilt is quilted

You can sew the prairie points to the quilt top before sandwiching the quilt, or after you have sandwiched and quilted it. I usually do it before.  As you’ll see in part 4 of this tutorial series, you need to leave at least an inch of unquilted space on the outside of your quilt so you can finish the back properly.  I find that having the prairie points in the way in place first is a good reminder not to quilt there. I can go back and add quilting later if I want that space filled.  I just need to think ahead so I have a plan to make all the quilting, before and after, work well together.

Adding the points early also reduces the risk that I will accidentally sew the backing and batting to the quilt top along the edges when I’m attaching the points.  Yes, I will eventually want the back and batting sewn to the rest, just not until I’m good and ready, with those points tucked as they need to be! Part 4 of this series will cover that.

If you do attach the points after quilting (you might have to choose this option if you are sending your quilt to a longarm quilter – check with your quilter) you can still attach them just as I will show in this tutorial.  Just remember to leave some unquilted space (or ask your longarm quilter to do so), and remember to fold the batting and backing out of the way of the seam as you sew the points on.  Don’t trim the batting or backing yet!

OK, now that you have decided, either move along to distributing your points, or go quilt your quilt then come back to distribute your points

2. Lay out and distribute the points evenly


Whether you use method 1 or 2 below, you’ll lay your points on top of the quilt, with the points pointing towards the quilt.

Method 1:  Eyeball it. Really, just distribute your points along the edge, covering the entire edge of the quilt, so that they look about evenly spaced.  Done!


This works well along a short length, with not too many prairie points.  Right now I’m contemplating adding points to a quilt that measures about 100” on each side.  That’s going to be harder to “eyeball” without a lot of redistributing and fussing.  If I space them too close when I start at one end, I’ll fall short at the other end and have to go back and nudge everything over a little.  If I nudge everything over too much, there will be more crowding at the other end…


So, I’ll be using Method 2, which involves more deliberate planning.

Method 2:  You can measure the spacing as you lay down your points.  There will still be a little bit of nudging happening, but it will be planned nudging with much less guesswork.

Remember X, that you measured in part 1 to help you figure out how many prairie points you would need?  That’s the amount of space each point except the very last one will take up along the edge of the quilt.  The very last one takes up as much space as the length of its long side. 


You can lay out your points by measuring the distance X as you lay them down. Continuing with my example from part 1, you can see I’ve measured X=2 1/4” in the pictures below. I keep moving the ruler over to measure where to place the next point.

distribute 1distribute 3distribute 4

Well, how awkward.  I fell short at the end. Why? Remember that I rounded the number of points to a whole number, because I won’t be using just a fraction of a point.  That’s why things aren’t fitting exactly now.


If I had rounded up to 6 points instead, it still wouldn’t fit exactly.  The last point would have stuck out past the end of the quilt edge, like you see above.

Don’t panic!  I’ll just spread the points out just a little, by nudging a few points by about 1/8” to spread them just a bit more and eat up the extra space, making up the difference.  That small shift won’t be obvious to the eye.  If the last point extended too far I’d nudge the points closer together to squeeze them into the available space.

As I said about method 1, it’s easy to nudge here and there by eye when you’re working with a small number of points.  If you’re dealing with larger numbers, you can figure out ahead of time how many points you’ll need to nudge, and just add the nudge when you’re measuring and laying down points from the start.

If you want the math explained, scroll to the bottom of this post.  Otherwise just plug numbers in. (To review from part 1, S = long side of finished point, L = unfinished length of quilt edge, n = total number of points)

length to make up = L – 1/2”– S –[(n-1) x X]

Dividing that extra length by 1/8” tells us how many points you have to nudge over 1/8” more than the rest to collectively fill that space.

Number of nudges = length to make up / 0.125

Going back to my earlier example (S=3, L=13, X = 2.25, n=5) this is what the math looks like, again remembering to use the proper math order of operations:

length to make up = 13 – 1/2 – 3 – [(5-1) x 2.25]

length to make up = 9.5 – (4 x 2.25)

length to make up = 9.5 – 9

length to make up = 0.5

Number of nudges = 0.5/0.125 = 4

This means that for 4 of the points, I’ll add a 1/8” nudge while measuring X to place my points.  In this case that will be 2 1/4” plus 1/8” which is 2 3/8”.

distribute 5distribute 6

Ta da!  Now everything ends up just where it should be.  Again, I could have done this by eyeballing, since my example used just 5 points.  If I were trying to distribute 39 points along a 90”-long side of a queen size quilt, doing the math and measuring would save a lot of fiddling! I’d know to space most 2.25”, but increase that space by 1/8” for 8 of the points.

One last little math bit:  if you get a negative number for the length to make up, that means you have to squeeze your points closer instead of spreading them out.  In that case you should subtract 1/8” from X as many times as necessary instead of adding it on.


Pin and sew points in place

Now that the points are beautifully laid out, don’t forget to pin them securely in place so nothing slips out of place when you take everything to the sewing machine.

Sewing points on

Sew everything in place with a 1/4” seam allowance.  Backstitch about 1/2” at the beginning and end of the seam to secure the seam. Backstitching is shown in red in the diagram above.

Now repeat all that for the next side.  The points will butt up at the corners:


Once points are sewn to all sides and the quilt is quilted you’ll need to trim the batting and backing. Things will be easier in part 4 if you don’t trim things flush with the quilt top.  Part 4 of this Prairie Point Series will explain how to trim and how to sew the backing to the prairie points to finish the edge.


For more information about prairie points,check out the rest of the Prairie Point tutorial series:


For those of you who care, here’s where the formula came from.

length to make up = L – 1/2” – S –[(n-1) x X]

That 1/2” you’re subtracting has to do with seam allowances. Since we are working with the finished point size S, we want to be calculating with the finished length (L – 1/2”) of the quilt edge as well.

n is the number of prairie points you need to distribute. X is the amount of space you have to allot for each prairie point except the last. You can see in the diagram below that for the very last triangle added we have to account for the whole length S of the triangle base.

spacing calculation 2

So the formula takes the finished length of the side (L – 1/2) and takes away the space S covered by the last, whole prairie point as well as all the spaces X taken up by the remaining (n-1) prairie points. What remains is the extra length that is left without prairie points.