Saturday, February 26, 2011


I have now confirmed that no amount of practicing freemotion skills on a small practice sandwich can prepare me for quilting anything larger than a table runner.  I’ve started quilting my Christmas quilt and I am learning to wrestle the quilt into submission.
Surprisingly it was the straight line quilting with the walking foot, which I thought would give me an easy start, that gave me the most grief. Despite my best efforts at folding and rolling and supporting the bulk of the quilt it kept catching on the edge of my  extension table.  That resulted in tiny stitches when the feed dogs just couldn’t compete and the fabric didn’t advance much, or jogs and wiggles in my straight lines where I stopped to adjust the quilt.
At first I got discouraged and gritted my teeth and wondered why I was machine quilting in the first place when I could have so much more control hand quilting.  Then I remembered exactly how long it takes me to hand quilt a quilt.  I told myself it wouldn’t be perfect but at least it would be done.  I also reminded myself that I have to start somewhere!  It looks OK from a few steps away.  I’ll just practice not looking too closely :)
So, all the straight line quilting is done, and about one third of the freemotion motifs.  The stencil I have has options for much more detail.  I was getting pretty good at them on my practice sandwiches, but when I started wrestling with the whole quilt I opted to leave out the details.  I need more practice on large pieces before I can do a decent job with fiddly details.  It works out well though.  I think the size of the motif without the extra details gives me a pretty good match with the density of quilting on the rest of the quilt.
I’ll try to finish the centre of the quilt today.  The next question will be “What to do in the borders?”  I’m thinking about treating the inner border and the pieced outer border as a single border and doing a large feather all around.  That may be a little ambitious at this point.  We’ll see how I feel when I get to it!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Almost pillow cases


My nine  4th grade Girl Scouts made a start on these at camp this weekend.  They wanted to learn to sew and they wanted to do a service project.  Making pillow cases for pediatrics wards seemed like a good way to do both.  Each girl is making one, though there are only 4 in this picture. They got as far as sewing on the cuff and pressing it.  We used the “sausage pillowcase” method to hide that seam, and pinning three layers of fabric with edges more or less even turned out to be more challenging for them that I anticipated. They were troopers though, and kept at it.  Two of the girls admitted to being “scared” when they sat down at the sewing machine, but in the end I think they ended up with the straightest seams!  Using an iron was also a first for all of them, with lots of whispered comments like “Mom won’t let me do this at home!”.  We’ll sew the side and bottom seams at our next meeting and they can show their work off to their parents before we donate the pillow cases.

We would have finished these at camp but the weather was so unbelievably lovely that we opted for more time outdoors and less inside.  We played games to learn to use compasses, and laid trails for each other with part of supper hidden at the ends.  A lot of fun.  We even had time for a good long sing-a-long before bed.  I may regret introducing them to “The Quartermaster Store” song when they ask to sing all 26 silly verses in a row at some point (and they will!).

Now that camp planning and packing and the actual camp are over I’m treating myself to uninterrupted quilting time.  It seems like a long time since I’ve indulged properly. However the quilt shop in town finally held a freemotion quilting class last Thursday night and I came home inspired.  I have a new plan for quilting the Christmas quilt and I hope I will have progress to show on that by the end of the week. 

Have  great week!

Monday, February 7, 2011

How many pieces???

In looking through my bins of fabric for inspiration I was overwhelmed by the number of small bits of fabric I have.  At least half of each bin was filled with pieces of fabric less than an eighth of a yard (fat or otherwise), with many smaller than 6” square.  These have been adding up because I keep telling myself that I might use them someday but I never actually do.
Bonnie at Quiltville describes her “scrap user system” in great detail, and she makes amazing scrap quilts out of her scraps.  In fact I don’t know if she uses anything BUT scraps anymore.  Inspired, I pulled all the “scraps” out of my stash bins and started cutting everything into squares and rectangles of useful sizes (though I really have my doubts about whether I’ll ever use all those tiny 1.5 inch bits). 
IMG_4582 IMG_4583 IMG_4594
Is it just me or does the pile of untrimmed scraps seem to not shrink very much? To keep myself motivated I went and browsed Bonnie’s free scrap quilt patterns.  I picked out Oklahoma Backroads.  Yes indeed, these scraps are going to be put to use! 
Over lunch I did some math to figure out how many squares and bricks of darks and lights I will need.  HOW MANY pieces????  To make a throw size, 6 blocks by 9 blocks, I would need 252 dark squares, 252 dark rectangles and 504 light squares.  Right. I’m not even halfway there, and even the remaining pile of untrimmed scraps will not get me there.
I promptly pulled a few pieces to make a scrappy table runner and stopped obsessively trimming my scrap pile.  I’ll cut a few bits every time I’m at the cutting mat for something else, and I’ll make sure I cut down any new scraps I create.  It will at least keep my stash bins tidier and in a few years I’ll have enough for this quilt, by which time I’ll have changed my mind about what I want to make!