Saturday, April 11, 2015

Tips For Quiltmaking That Will Make Your Longarmer Happy

I had the opportunity today to be a guest at the Nebo Modern Quilt Guild's meeting, sharing some ideas to help your longarm quilter. I thought it would be good to post some of that information here. I forgot to mention a couple of things in my presentation today that I have included below.

First: Keep your quilt flat
Basic stuff here: accurate cutting, accurate seam allowance, keeping things as square as you can will help keep your quilt flat and avoid puckers. If there is extra fullness in the quilt some of it can be "quilted out" but it's really, really nice if we don't have to try.
This part I cannot stress enough!!!! If you add borders, you MUST MEASURE and PIN the borders onto the quilt to make sure that they are the correct length. Make sure to cut the borders the exact length that you need them, pin both ends, and then pin the middle. If you just cut them extra long and go for it, the edges of the quilt will stretch, making your borders longer than the rest of your quilt which makes them wavy. This can be extremely difficult to quilt and sometimes even requires that extra fullness be folded out of the quilt.
Personally, nothing frustrates me more as a quilter than having a beautiful quilt that I can't keep flat. Please, please, please try to keep your quilt flat.

Second: Piecing your quilt back
For proper loading on the longarm machine your quilt back needs to be 6-8" longer and wider than your quilt top. Usually this means that you will need to piece a back.
Extra wide quilt backs are available and I love using them because they are so easy, but they are not necessary.
When you need to piece your quilt back the way the seams are oriented greatly affects how easy it is to load on the machine and the ease of quilting the entire quilt. For example, if there is one seam the entire length of the quilt back and it is loaded perpendicular to the roller, as it is rolled around the rail the seam will stack on top of itself, making a really tight area on the back, while the rest of the back will not roll tightly and will actually be floppy. If all of the seams on the back of your quilt run the same direction it can be loaded with the seams parallel to the rail and will work out just fine. The direction that the seam goes on your back, whether horizontal or vertical, generally doesn't matter. It will only matter if you are having your quilt quilted with a directional design. Please keep this in mind when piecing your back.
If you want to put a pieced strip across the middle of your back go for it. Because there are many seams it will still roll evenly around the rail.
The back of this quilt that I made in 2012 was not ideal to work with because of the horizontal and vertical seams. 
If your entire back is pieced with many seams going in all directions then it should be fine. Some quilters don't like working with pieced backs so check with your quilter first. Personally I don't mind them, as long as the above guidelines are met as closely as possible.
Note: if there is a short seam, say two feet or less, that is perpendicular to the rails it is manageable. Just not the whole length or width of the quilt.
Minky: Please try to avoid piecing minky if you possibly can. It's just a pain to work with if it's not one continuous piece. Shannon Fabrics now has 90" wide minky available in eight colors. Here in Utah I know for sure that the Bernina dealer in Logan carries it as well as Gracie Lou's in Salem and at least one other place in Salt Lake, but I don't know which shop.
If there is any question at all as to which side you want showing, PLEASE LABEL IT. My idea of the "right" side may be different than yours.

We love it when you buy our batting. We keep it in stock as a convenience for you and many of us sell it at a very reasonable price. It also gives us a little extra income which is always appreciated. If you want to bring your own batting that's fine too.

If you want your applique to "pop" trim out the underneath layer of fabric to allow the batting to fill the area better. If you want it quilted down this extra step may not make a difference.
If you machine applique and are having your quilt custom quilted, ask your quilter if she can top stitch around your applique for you. Not everyone will go for this but I certainly would. If I'm going to outline the appliques anyway I can save you the step of sewing them down... as long as they are really secure either with applique glue or fusible web or interfacing. If they aren't securely attached then please sew them down.

Quilt edges:
When you piece quilts you don't need to backstitch. However, the seams that end on the edges of the quilt may stretch and pop open on the ends as we are handling the top. There are a couple of ways to avoid this. First, when you sew on borders please backstitch those. If your quilt does not have borders but instead has many seams ending on the sides it is really helpful if you sew a scant 1/4" around the entire top.

As you piece your quilt, especially if you are having your quilt custom quilted, please do not press seams open. Open seams cannot be stitched in the ditch because the thread will break and the seams will pop open.
Please also bring your quilt top and back carefully pressed. One of my clients brings her quilt tops and backs neatly pressed and folded over a hanger and they stay nice and wrinkle-free, which I really appreciate.  If you are shipping your quilt fold it as carefully as you can!

Most quilters, if not all, will baste the edges of the quilt before quilting. Some will trim off the edges for you after the quilting is finished, some don't. If you are planning to add a ruffle, prairie points, or some other special treatment to the edge of your quilt after quilting, please let your quilter know ahead of time so that your planned finish is still possible.

I hope this all makes sense. Please feel free to ask any questions or post additional tips in the comments. I'll edit this post as needed. As a quilter one of my favorite things is seeing happy customers. Keeping the above tips in mind will help me make you happy, which makes me happy too.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Blocks From the Past Quilt Along, Blocks 27, 28, and 70

If you read my last post then you saw that I am doing my quilt differently than the book. I've changed my mind on the layout I posted previously but I think I'm really going to like it! And, as a bonus, it will even fit on my bed! I'm still doing larger blocks and all of these are 12 1/2" unfinished rather than 6 1/2". 

The block on page 27, Flock of Geese, was so straight forward, just half square triangles the whole way. 
 I like to make my HSTs a little bigger and trim them down, which isn't fun, but helps SO MUCH especially with small blocks. I recently discovered the Quilt in a Day HST square-up ruler, and it's pretty fantastic. I like to press my HSTs first, then re-fold and trim after to avoid distortion. It works great for me! It's SO MUCH FASTER than trimming all four sides.

Page 28, Birds in the Air, was also fairly easy. I don't love making the HST units with attached triangles, as it was a bit tricky to keep things straight. I lined mine up on my cutting mat and drew a diagonal line to mark the stitching line. It ended up okay. 

Now for page 70, Virginia Reel. I usually don't mind applique, but I'll admit that the ones I did from the book weren't my favorite! I had originally planned to use freezer paper to turn my edges, but decided it just wasn't practical. Even though I enlarged my pattern pieces to make a 12" block instead of 6", some areas are SO SKINNY that just thinking about turning the edges under made me kind of panic. In the end I used fusible web. I zig-zagged around the edges with clear monofilament thread and it made it MUCH less painful. The block will be a bit stiff from the fusible web, but it's done, right? I won't be using any applique blocks in my quilt so I made it in Marion's colors. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Teach Yourself Blocks From the Past QAL

My friends Marion and Natalie are hosting this fun Quilt Along! It uses this book, Teach Yourself Blocks From the Past. It's from 2001 and it's all about traditional blocks. The idea is that many of these blocks would look AWESOME in more modern fabrics. Check out Marion's blog for more details about how it all will work.

 I'll be hosting three stops on the QAL, but I wanted to do a quick post about how I'm doing things differently. In the book there are 72 blocks, and they all finish at 6". These are small blocks. Small. I decided that I did not want to put effort into making a bunch of blocks and only have a small quilt to show for it at the end. So I'm making my blocks larger and arranging them into a medallion. I'm so excited about it! I've wanted to make a medallion quilt for a long time, so it should be fun.
You can see my basic layout in the photo above. I'm putting a 36" block in the center. I think I will either do a traditional Labyrinth (but with only one "border," not two like it is in the picture) or possibly a Carpenter's Star (this pattern is by my amazingly talented friend Deonn!) in that area. The center will be surrounded by Twelve 12" blocks and four 8" x 12" flying geese units, with 2" sashing. That whole section will be turned on point and each corner will have a 24" block, two 12" blocks, and four 10" triangles, which I may or may not piece. I might just use one fabric for those. Still thinking about it. I spent a bunch of quality time with my graph paper a few days ago and I'm so pleased with how this is going to turn out! The only measurement I haven't figured out yet is how wide the border/sashing around the center section will be to get it to fit. It will be somewhere between 3" and 4", but I'll have to wait to check that one before assembling it.

I'm not sure how large the original quilt in the book ends up, but with these adjustments my quilt will finish up at around 104" square. Maybe 106" if I do a 3" border instead of 2".

Have I mentioned that I like big quilts? Because I totally do.

I will not be making all of the blocks in the book. I chose the 24 that I like the best and I will be making those, and then the center block I'll do isn't in the book, but still will be a traditional pattern. I love this concept, which really isn't new, of putting a modern spin on traditional blocks. It will be fun to see what people come up with!

So what do you think? Want to join us and make a sampler? I can post more detailed measurements as we go along if anyone is interested, so PLEASE let me know if you want them. Or you can just look at my lovely graph paper in the photo above. One square =2".

Follow the QAL on Instagram with the Hashtag #BFTPqal for Blocks From the Past. Be sure to check out Marion's post today for more details!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

"Woven" quilt by Kati Spencer in Scraps, Inc.

Do you follow Kati at From the Blue Chair? She's one of the first bloggers I started following when I discovered the online quilting community and have since gotten to know her through the Salt Lake Modern Quilt Guild. She has a great eye for design and is always creating beautiful quilts. A few months ago I had the pleasure of quilting this fantastic scrappy quilt, which she called "Woven," to be included in the new book Scraps, Inc. I didn't have time to get any photos of the full quilt before returning it to Kati but I got some more detailed shots of the quilting. I've been dying to share them for months, and I finally get to!

 The scrappy blocks are all made from strips in different widths and Kati wanted those highlighted with straight lines.

I quilted swirls in the vertical sashing and ribbon candy in the horizontal sashing. 

At the intersections I alternated which design was on "top," creating a woven effect. At the time I didn't know that was the name Kati had chosen, so it ended up perfect!

I divided the border into two sections and repeated the swirls and ribbon candy from the sashing on a slightly larger scale.

Like most of Kati's quilts the back was pieced and added a whole new level of interest. 

I really, really love this quilt. The color scheme and fabrics, the design and layout, and the visual interest from the scrappiness all add up to an amazing quilt. I'm so excited that I got to be part of it. If you would like your own copy of Scraps, Inc. you can get one here. If you use the code SCRAPS30 you can get a discount, at least for the next few days. All of the quilts in the book that I have seen are wonderful. If you love scrappy quilts you will not be disappointed.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Bacon Quilt-Along: Adding the NOM NOM and quilting

We're almost done! For this step you will be choosing how you want to applique your letters.

To view the main post and find links to all of the steps, click here.

First you need letters! Mine are 14" tall and you can find a PDF file on Dropbox HERE. There's a pale background pattern to help you line everything up. I'd personally like to thank my awesome sister for helping me create the file, because I don't know how to do that!

You'll need to place your letters where you want them. Mine are 3 1/4" above the seam between the large background piece and the background that is included in the bacon strip. There is 1 3/4" between each letter, and 7" between the words. There is about 9" between the edges of the quilt and the letters. You may need to adjust your letters a little so that they look good to you.

Now, to applique. You can choose any method that works best for you. Because of the tight angles in the letters, doing anything with turned edges would likely be very difficult, so I'd recommend doing a raw-edge or fusible method.

I chose to cut out my letters with pinking shears, and then I glue-basted them in place. See a photo in progress HERE. Basically I laid my quilt top out on a flat surface, placed my letters where I wanted them, and then folded back one portion of each letter at a time so I could glue it in place. I didn't actually sew them on until I quilted my quilt. You may or may not want to add some pins for stability if you use this method. Mine stayed on just fine. I used Roxanne's Glue Baste, but any washable glue or lapel stick would probably work. Just don't overdo it.

Once your letters are on you're ready to prepare your backing, baste, and quilt as desired. In the photo above you can see how I quilted all the areas of mine. I did a wood-grain pattern on the background that ended up looking quite a bit like flames. I did geometric patterns in the N and M, and pebbles in the O. I put wavy lines on the bacon. 

If you'll be quilting yours on a domestic machine with your walking foot, check out what my friend Marion did on hers. It had a nice wavy effect and was easy to do! See it on Instagram here and see more details on her finished quilt blog post.

If you want to do bias bacon binding on your quilt that will be in the next post. If you want to do regular binding, go ahead and you are DONE! Please remember to share on Instagram with the hash tag #baconalong so we can all see your progress. Tag me @thequiltingmill too!

Please leave any questions in the comments and I will clarify anything you need.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Bacon Quilt-along: Adding the Background

To view the main Bacon Quilt-along post and find links to all of the steps, click here.

 Once you have sewn together your bacon strips, you need to add background fabric to the ends.
Cut a width of your background fabric 14" wide. Trim off the selvages and barely trim off the fold, giving you two pieces about 14" by 21-ish" inches. Using your dresden ruler for the angle and your long straight ruler in the method described in the previous post, cut them into two pieces. The top of my smaller piece, pictured on the right, measured 6". If you want yours a little different go with it!

Next sew one short piece to one end of one bacon, and a long piece to the other. Make sure that when you lay it out the angles add up to make it "straight."

When you flip the background piece down to line up the edge, it will look like this. Be sure to pin as you've got bias edges. Stitch and press.

 Do the other end the same way. This is my short end.

Repeat on the other strip of bacon. Check to make sure you have the bacon strips facing the way you want them to go and so that the ends will be offset from each other as seen in the finished quilt.

Once you have sewn the background onto the ends you need to trim the long edges of your bacon strips. Line up your ruler with the innermost edges of your waves and cut off the extra. Go all the way down both sides of both pieces of bacon until both are straight.

Another example of where you will line up your ruler:

Now it's time to cut the remainder of the background pieces. Lay out both of your bacon strips and measure how long they are. Hopefully they are the same. Mine measured 86.25", yours may be a little different.

You will need three more background pieces, and they can all be cut from one width of fabric the same length that you measured your bacon. Carefully fold the length of the fabric a few times so that it is shorter than your ruler. Cut one pieces 6.5"wide, one piece 4.5" wide, and the other piece 24" wide.

Arrange pieces as follows:
24" piece, bacon #1, 4.5" piece, bacon #2, 6.5" piece. The edges of the bacon are full of bias edges so carefully pin everything.

We're almost done! Next week we'll do letters, I'll talk about how I quilted mine, and I'll give you instructions for bias bacon binding if you're interested.

Anyone want to do a linky? Or just share on Instagram with the tag #baconalong? I'd really love to see yours!

Please let me know if you have any questions!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Bacon Quilt-along: Turning Your Bacon from Straight to Wavy

To view the main Bacon Quilt-along post and find links to all of the steps, click here.

I need to apologize for falling off the face of the earth over here. I had a couple of crazy weeks quilting for Quilt Market, and between that and not knowing if anyone was actually following along, I was considering cancelling. A couple of days ago I got a comment from someone letting me know she was awaiting the next post as she is making a bacon quilt for her husband, so here we go! I won't be following a specific schedule right now, but I'm just planning to post the next step every couple of days until it's all there, then you can follow along at your own pace.

At this point you should have sewn two pairs of identical strip sets for each strip of bacon, with the seams pressed in opposite directions as shown below. Each pair will be different, but each strip set in each pair will match. I hope that makes sense.

To prepare to cut, layer one pair of strip sets on top of each other, both FACE UP. This is important. Wiggle them around until the seams nest together for the full width of fabric. Make sure that the bottom left corners match up pretty closely, as this is where you will start cutting.

The first piece you will cut will be the shape of the EZ Dresden ruler. another 18 degree wedge ruler should work fine. Line up the narrowest end of the wedge on with the top of the fabric on the left side of your strip set. The EZ Dresden ruler is not nearly long enough to reach across the fabric so you will need to use another long ruler. Line up a long ruler even with the side of the dresden ruler. Make sure that the lower end of the long ruler is as close to the end as you can make it without hanging over.

Make sure the lines on the dresden ruler are parallel with the seams in your fabric.

Carefully remove the dresden ruler and cut.

Replace the dresden ruler in the same spot and align the long ruler with the right side of it to cut the other edge of the wedge. I found it easiest to walk around the table I was cutting on because I am not comfortable cutting left-handed. If you can use both hands well you will likely do just fine. After cutting the second side of the wedge, you will cut a parallelogram 3 1/4" wide. Next you will cut another wedge, this time lining up the narrow end on the bottom of the fabric. Use the long ruler to cut the full width of the fabric as previously described.
Continue cutting, alternating upward wedge, parallelogram, downward wedge, parallelogram across the full width of fabric. You should end up with three of each piece by the time you get to the end, for twelve total pieces cut.

Now the fun part. Although I've made five quilts now with this method, it's tricky to explain it, so I decided to make a video. I made one while I was making my bacon quilt, but unfortunately it was accidentally deleted and could not be recovered. So I've made another video using another set of strips in different colors. The concept and method is the same even.

View the video on YouTube HERE

 Once you have cut and rearranged your shapes, it is time to sew them together. When you look at all those waves next to each other, you may wonder, "HOW AM I GOING TO SEW THESE WEIRD SHAPES TOGETHER?!?" Have no fear! When you flip one piece on top of the one next to it, because of the opposing angles, the seams match up PERFECTLY. If you have pressed your seams in different directions they will also nest, so you can sew it all together without pinning! Remember the one seam in the middle that will not nest--I recommend pinning that one.

After sewing all of your pieces together, press all seams one direction, it doesn't matter what you choose. Repeat the whole process with your second bacon strip, and you've got two wavy strips of BACON!

Today's post goes over the most confusing part of this whole quilt. If I explained anything inadequately, PLEASE let me know so I can address the issue.

Remember if you're quilting along, please tag your Instagram photos with #baconalong so we can all follow along! You can also tag me @thequiltingmill.

I'll try to get the next post up tonight or tomorrow, which will involve straightening the sides of your bacon and adding your background fabric for the whole quilt. I'll be attending Sewtopia this weekend so the next post after that will likely be on Monday, November 10th.
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