Monday, July 30, 2012

Quilting in the Melon Patch

I got an email from my friend Andrea from the Salt Lake Modern Quilt Guild last week asking if I could fit in a rush order for her friend Savannah.  I've got plenty on my to-do list, but the real deadlines are a ways out, so I said yes.  Isn't this melon patch quilt so cute?

I had a couple of challenges deciding how to quilt this one.  She wanted something to kind of follow the pattern of the quilt, and she didn't want it really dense.  Once I had it loaded on my frame I sat down with my consultant (aka Mr. Mills) and my handy-dandy white board and we started drawing.  My main problem with this one is that the blocks were 8 inches wide, but my quilting space is only about 6 inches.  The designs I kept coming up with all went across the entire block and I would have had to roll the quilt back and forth MULTIPLE times on each row.  Wow, I really can't wait until I get a real longarm.

My husband came up with this design, and I loved it.  We both decided that the little flowers in the middle of the diamond shapes wasn't necessary, so I skipped that part.

I stitched in the ditch between the diamonds and the petals so I didn't have to start and stop, so the pattern went really fast.  I was able to get the entire thing quilted on Saturday, despite having two different extended family activities that day!

I failed to take any other pictures of this one.  Oops.  Savannah came and picked it up yesterday, which hopefully gave her plenty of time to do the binding before her daughter's birthday party tonight.  She loved it, and I did too.  I will probably do this or a similar pattern again if I get more melon patch quilts in the future.  Thanks, consultant for your great idea!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Quilt for Mary

I was contacted by Mary not long ago, asking if I could do some quilting for her.  Mary does BEAUTIFUL hand work, but is the first to admit that she and sewing machines don't get along well.  She's pretty funny.  She custom embroiders pillows.  You can see some of her work here, and she is usually at the Ogden Farmer's Market on Saturdays if you are in northern Utah.  I actually haven't been to that one yet, I should check it out.

She brought me two quilts, and this is the first one.  The blocks are alternating girls in sunbonnets and hearts, with floral squares in between.

She gave me free reign on the quilting, but didn't expect dense quilting, so I kept it pretty simple.  I really wanted to highlight her work and not detract from it.  Her corners didn't all match up, so rather than stitching in the ditch, I did a 1/4" outline on each embroidered block, then I treated the embroidery like appliques and just did a close outline.  You really can't tell in the pictures, but it gives it just a little bit of texture.

 With my limited hand embroidery experience, I can appreciate how even her stitches are.  Isn't her work gorgeous?

In the floral squares my quilting completely disappears on the front.  The fabric is so busy that you can't tell I did anything.  I should have realized that before I got started!  I drew from the hearts and the little flowers next to the girls, and decided to quilt alternating rows of hearts with little swirls in them and flowers.

Here's the back side of a girl with a watering can:

The back of a flower.

I know it looks like I just posted pictures of solid light blue fabric....

This was fun to machine quilt and I'm pleased with how it turned out!  I'm working on a rush order right now, and I'll finish Mary's other quilt early next week.  I hope she likes it!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Work In Progress Wednesday: A Not-Quite Finish, Organizing and Decluttering

This week has been just a little slower than last week, but I've been making good progress.  Progress always feels good.

See this cute dress?  I'm loving it.  I had it almost finished Monday night (just had to hand-sew the bodice lining in place) and held it up to see how it looked as a whole dress rather than pieces of one.  Then I realized something was missing.  No ties!  I totally forgot to make ties and sew them into the side seams of the bodice.  Argh!  I've decided to try something different than I had originally planned, but I haven't made a final decision yet.  

Two options I'm considering are a) making a long tie that goes all the way around, with loops on the sides to hold it in place, and possibly with some buttons on the front to keep it at the waistline, or b) sewing the ties directly onto the back, about 1/4 of the way in from the sides.  This dress definitely needs ties for some shape.  I'd appreciate feedback on what you would do for ties, other than sewing them into the side seams.  I went ahead and sewed the lining in, and I'd rather not undo it.

Here's some back detail.  I love the peek-a-boo ruffles.  If you're thinking about trying some ruffles for the first time, I recently posted a tutorial on two ways to do gathers, as well as another on how to finish the edge.  Click on my "Tutorials" button above for links.

I've got several deadlines in the next two weeks, some of which are self-imposed.  For instance, I would really like to get my larger throw-sized Dresden Wave done in time to enter it in my county fair on August 6th.  I've barely even started it (hence no pictures).  If that doesn't happen, I definitely want to get it done in time for the link-up party Sept. 1-6 at the Salt Lake Modern Quilt Guild.

I've really been wanting to get everything done but realized I desperately needed take a break from sewing to do some organizing.  I started by pulling out all of my batting, pillowforms, and polyfil stuffing and throwing it out in the hall outside my studio.  Yikes.  I didn't realize how much poly batting I have.  I really prefer thinner batting these days, but I think I'll use some of the poly in some of the quilts I'll be quilting for Phoenix Quilts for a little extra loft.

I'm glad that my studio is now a little easier to navigate, but the organizing is still a work in progress too.  I really need to get that done and move on with my sewing!

I'm linking up to Work In Progress Wednesday at Freshly Pieced today.  Go see what everyone is up to this week!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Professional Seam Finishes Series #2: Finishing Gathers

Once you've sewn gathers, the edge can be wide and messy.  You've worked with this fabric so much that it often starts to fray before you're done gathering it up.  It will only get worse over time.  

One of the more traditional ways to finish gathers is to trim the seam allowance to 3/8" and do a zig-zag stitch over the edge.  This is fine, but it will look a little fuzzy over time.  You can also use a serger if you have one and like to use it.  I have one, and I actually almost never use it.
This is the ruffle on a dress that I finished with this method about two years ago.  It has been washed quite a few times, but not tons.  I don't expect it to fray any more than this, but I don't love the fuzzy look.  Yes it is on the inside, but if you really love making things look fabulous on the inside, keep reading.  

Step 1:  Gather fabric and sew it onto whatever it will be sewn onto using a 5/8" seam allowance.  You could do 1/2", but that may be a little trickier later on.  See a tutorial on two methods of sewing gathers here

Step 2:  Trim the gathered seam allowance only to 1/4".  Leave the ungathered fabric intact, creating a flap.

Step 3:  Using your fingers, fold the flap over to meet the trimmed edge of the gathers, shown here with a  mechanical pencil so you can see what's going on....

...then fold it over again.  Sorry this pic is a little fuzzy, I didn't realize it when I took it.  I do this just a little at a time as I go, it would be extremely difficult and tedious to pin.

Step 4:  Sew in place.  I use a zig-zag stitch because I don't have to think as hard about where the stitches are hitting, and it really flattens the bulk well.  A straight stitch would probably well too, I just don't do it that way.  Be careful that your zig-zag doesn't go over your straight stitching line--keep that to the left of the needle.
 As you continue around your gathers, use your fingers to tuck under the seam allowance flap as you go.  With a little practice you can train your hands to convince the fabric to do what you want it to.  Be careful that you don't allow the fabric underneath to creep up and get caught in your zig-zag.  It happens sometimes. If it does, take a deep breath and get your seam ripper.  Zig-zag stitches are longer than standard straight stitches, and actually pretty easy to remove if you need to.  You can also feel with a finger underneath as you sew to keep track of what is going on down there so hopefully it won't happen, but if it does you'll catch it quickly.

Here's the finished gathers.  Pretty slick, I think.

Just FYI, the judges at my county fair really liked this method on a dress I made last year.

Here's what they look like from the outside.

Much better than this, don't you agree?

Another option:  If you have a hard time folding the seam allowance over twice, or if you used a 1/2" seam allowance and don't have enough fabric, you can fold it over once and zig-zag in place.  It will fray a little, as shown here, but still looks very nice and encloses the gathered seam really well.

Good luck sewing and finishing gathers!

Monday, July 23, 2012

An Amazing Weekend and a Big Huge Thank You

When I first read about Operation Wood Hollow, I thought, wow, that's a neat project, I hope she gets the help she needs.  A few days later I realized that I had a good friend in Colorado Springs, who was safe from the fire there, but still affected by it.  The more I thought about it I wanted to help.  Julie changed the name of Operation Wood Hollow to Phoenix Quilts, and has been receiving so much support it is amazing.  I'm not sure how many finished quilts she has received, but she also got many unfinished quilt tops.  I had two thoughts about this: what is she going to do for fabric for backs for these quilts, and who is going to quilt them?  Ideas I had were Riley Blake, which is here in Utah, and The Salt Lake/Ogden Longarm Guild, that I've been planning to join.  I emailed Julie and suggested these, and she asked if I'd contact them to see if they could help.  

I was able to contact the Longarm Guild, and they said that Julie could come to the meeting and talk to the members to see if they could help finish the quilts.  The webmaster I talked with said to bring "half a dozen or so" quilts to the meeting, which was scheduled for July 21st.

I had a hard time connecting with Riley Blake at first, but it turned out that they have been in the middle of doing inventory.  Go figure, I can't imagine having to inventory a huge warehouse! Well, it started getting close to the deadline of the Guild Meeting, and I still hadn't heard anything, so I tried again.  Friday afternoon I was told that while Riley Blake would love to donate, they didn't have time to pull anything together in time for the meeting, but that I could pick it up next week.  Even though it would be later than the  meeting, I was still really grateful for their willingness to help.

A couple of hours later at about 5:10  I was on my way to go camping for the evening, and my phone rang.  It was Brian from Riley Blake.  He told me that they had some fabric that wasn't being included in the inventory, and someone would be in the warehouse until 6:00 if I could come pick it up.  I was in Ogden, and no where near Sandy, where the warehouse is, and knew I couldn't make it.  I called my husband's sisters who were down that direction, and they went to pick it up.  Yay!!!!

I got a text an hour later from one of them: "Picked it all up.  Its so much.  There is tons. Make sure there is a lot of room in your car you will definitely need it!"  Needless to say I was thrilled.  Then I got a follow-up text: "Like take the car seats out."  

She wasn't kidding.  The next morning I drove to my sister-in-law's house to pick it all up.  It filled my back seat and my trunk.  

There was a roll of Winline Batting (also donated, by Winline Batting) in the trunk, but HOLY COW that is a lot of fabric.  Some of it was some of the older fabric (which is still really cute!) but there were two bolts of chevrons, and 6 15 yard bolts of Peak Hour.  So adorable.  There was even a fat quarter bundle of Apple of My Eye and a box with 6 or 8 rolls of jumbo rick rack.

I don't know exactly how much there was, but it was several hundred yards.  It's more than what was needed for the backings and bindings, but it will be put to good use!

Next I drove up to North Salt Lake where the Longarm Guild meeting was, and finally got to meet Julie in person.  I was so excited to share all of this wonderful fabric with her!  Here she is after we moved all of the fabric into her car.  We were both kind of stunned and very excited about all of this.

At the guild meeting, Julie was very well received.  She had several boxes filled with quilt tops, some with backs, some not.  Every. single. quilt. was taken by a guild member to finish.  Much more than the "half dozen" we'd been told she could bring.  

I'm still kind of in shock/awe about the all of this.  No matter what bad things may happen in the world, there is so much generosity to go around.  

I'd like to publicly thank Riley Blake Designs for their generous fabric donation.  So many quilts will be made and given to families who have lost everything.  I've been told before that Riley Blake is great and donates fabric all the time.  I had NO IDEA how amazing they really are.  If you wouldn't mind, maybe you could take a minute and write on their Facebook page to give them an extra thank-you.  I feel like I can't possibly thank them enough.

Thanks also to LuAnn Farr of Winline Batting for your generous batting donation.  

And thanks to the members of the Salt Lake/Ogden Longarm Guild who will be putting so much time into finishing so many quilts.  You totally rock.  

I'm so glad I was in the right place at the right time to help make all of this happen.  If you'd like to help, please check out Phoenix Quilts.  

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Tutorial: Gathers Two Ways

Knowing how to do gathers can really increase your ability to create beautiful things.  There are several methods to them, and I'm going to show you two of them today.

This first method is the way that I've done my gathers for years and I get really good results.  However, after doing the other method for the second half, I think I might switch to that way after all.  There are only slight differences.

For this example, I am gathering up a ruffle and sewing it onto the bottom edge of a skirt, so I'm sewing a tube onto a tube.  If you are doing something with raw edges that will be sewn onto something else later, there is a slightly different way to handle it, which I will talk about in the second half.

Step 1:  Sorry, no picture for this, but it is ESSENTIAL.  Mark matching points on your piece to be gathered and your piece that you will be sewing it onto.  If you are using a pattern there will often  be notches.  If you aren't using a pattern, at least mark the centers and sides, and if it is very large, fold each half in half again to mark the points 1/4 of the way from each end.  I make my marks for this by making small snips in the edge of my fabric, just over 1/8" deep.  Do not cut your snips larger than 1/4".

Step 2:  Using a long stitch length (basting stitch), about 5 or 6, start near the side seam of your fabric or on the end, and sew all the way around at 5/8".  Do not backstitch, and be sure to leave thread tails at least 3" long on each end.  You may find it helpful to  hold your thread tails out of the way for the first few stitches so you don't accidentally sew over them.  Then sew around again a second time, this time at 1/4".  Start and stop sewing in about the same place you did your first row, and try not to sew over your tails.  If you are sewing around a tube, like I am here, when you get back around to where you started, sew over your first 3-4 stitches, being careful not to tangle your thread tails.  Holding them out to the side is usually enough.  This will help to camouflage where you started your gathers and avoid flat spots.

Step 3:  Match and pin all points that require matching: centers, side seams, notches, etc.  You can see a tiny spot where I clipped my fabric right under the pin.

Step 4: Locate your thread tails and organize them.  Figure out which ones go which direction.  Make sure that the thread tails are on the same side of the fabric as the stitches they have formed.  You should have a top thread tail on the top of the fabric, and a bobbin thread tail on the bottom side of the fabric.  If one got pulled to the other side, pull it back through.  This is also what your extra 3-4 overlapping stitches are for.

Step 5:  Grab both thread tails on one side and pull them to start gathering up your fabric.  Try to pull them at the same rate to help things stay even.  In a pattern it says to pull the bobbin threads.  I've found that it doesn't matter which threads you pull as long as you are consistent.  Either pull all bobbin threads, or pull all top threads.
 Keep pulling and use your other hand to work the gathers around your fabric.

 After you've pulled that side for a while, switch to the other set of thread tails and pull those.  IMPORTANT: Make sure that if you were pulling the bobbin threads, you are still pulling those.  If you switch at this point and pull the top thread instead, your stitches will get very tight and you won't be able to do anything.  It will take you forever to unpick and you will want to cry.  Don't ask me how I know.

Step 6:  I usually work on making my gathers even in quarters.  If you are doing something really large and you marked it into eighths, work on those sections.  I start with one of the sections farthest away from where I started and stopped my basting stitches.  Push your gathers around in that section until they look even, and pin like crazy.  I usually pin gathers about every 1 1/2 inches.  Sometimes even more often.  Be sure to match your edges.  You want your gathered fabric to lie smoothly compared to your ungathered fabric.  This may take a while to get just right!  That's okay!  Try really hard to avoid tucks, flat spots, or areas that are super tightly gathered.  Take your time to make it as even as you can.  Having your centers and sides marked will really help you evenly distribute the fullness across the full width of your gathers.

Tip: When you are working on the sections closest to where you started and stopped your basting, you're going to have really long threads sticking out, and the gathers tend to fall off the ends.  When you have your tails pulled up just right so your gathered fabric is just the right length, wind your thread tails around a pin a couple of times to hold them in place.  In this picture I secured the threads to keep them in the right spot, then I went back afterwards and evened out the gathers.  You can see on the left side a very flat spot next to a very gathered spot.  It didn't look like that when I was done.

Here's another flat spot.  Move your fullness around, even through pinned spots if you have to.  You should be able to push or pull the fullness right past a pin.

Step 7:  When your gathers are evenly spaced and pinned all around, you are ready to sew.  If you aren't sure your gathers are just how you want them, sew them first using a basting stitch, 5 or 6.  If you are pretty confident with them, just go ahead and use a regular stitch length.  Sew around at 5/8", being sure to backstitch when you start and stop.

Do what works for you, but I find it MUCH easier to do this step with my gathered fabric on top.  Even though I've pinned it all over, I like to see how things are going, and the gathers tend to shift.  If you do them with the gathers on the bottom side the feed dogs may help feed it through, but you lose a bit of control.  See what works best for you.

Tip:  If you are sewing along and part of your fabric tried to fold itself underneath, like this, STOP!  Keep the needle down, raise your presser foot, and pull your gathered fabric out to the side to readjust it.
 The picture above and below are in the exact same spot, before and after adjusting the fabric.  If I had kept sewing I would have gotten a small tuck in my ruffle.  Not the end of the world, but not what I wanted either.

Step 8:  After you've sewn all the way around, check the other side to see how you did.  If you have an little tucks, probably let those slide.  If you have any really big ones, you might want to fix them.  I always have threads from my fraying edges poking through, so this is a good time to go back and remove those as well.  You will probably have some of your basting stitching showing.  If there are any spots that it is noticeable, remove them as well.  If this bugs you, see the next method to be able to skip this part.

That is the way I've always done it, and it looks good.  I'm thinking I actually like my second method better now, so keep reading.

For my second method, most of the steps are the same, so I'll try to not be as wordy here.  Note: This method is NOT recommended for fabrics that show pin marks very badly.
Step 1: Same as above.
Step 2:  Same as above, except you will sew 3 lines of basting stitches, at 1/4", 1/2" and 3/4".

Step 3:  Same as above.  Pin ends and/or centers.

Steps 4 and 5: Same as above.  Pull all bobbin threads (or top, whatever you choose) to gather up your fabric.
 Step 6: Work your gathers across to get out flat spots, such as this one.  Get them as even as you can.

Tip:  If you have raw edges the ends like I do in this example, do not gather in the seam allowances.  Pin 5/8" away from your ends (or 1/2" or whatever your seam allowance is) and stop your gathers there.  Wind your thread tails around the pin to secure when you are ready for that.

All of the gathers are shown here evenly spaced across the fabric.  Three rows of stitches really make it easier to manage and get your gathers even.  Trust me.  If you're ever tempted to try just one line of stitches, it will be much harder to get it even!  Another advantage of three rows of stitches?  If one of your threads happens to break, which does happen sometimes, you've got two backups.

Step 7:  Baste if desired, or sew with a regular stitch length at 5/8".  You should be sewing between the 1/2" basting line and the 3/4" basting line.  Because you are doing this it makes things lie flatter, and you're much less likely to get tucks as you sew along.

Here it is stitched in place.

Step 8:  A little different for this method.  If you look at the right side, you've got a whole row of stitches showing.  In the other method I sewed right on top of the basting stitches, which made just a few of them show, and made them hard to remove.  Here, all of them are showing, but they are EASY to remove.  I like that.  This is the edge of my gathered fabric, so you can see my flat, ungathered seam allowance.
 To remove these stitches, go back to whichever thread tail you were pulling on to gather up the fabric.  Instead of pulling all three, just pull the one on the 3/4" line.  Pull it all the way out.

Go back to the other side, and the other thread, now that the first thread has been removed, should come right off.  Easy peasy.

It seems like extra work to put in the third row of stitching when you're just going to remove it anyway, which is probably why I always used the first method for so long.  However, I always found myself having to pick out stray stitches here and there with my seam ripper, and it actually took much longer to do that than to remove the third row of stitches.  I think I've actually converted myself back to doing it this way.

In the next few days I'll be adding a way to do a really nice seam finish specifically for gathers so the edges won't fray either.  Please come back and check it out!

Here's a finished ruffled panel on the back of a dress I'm working on for my daughter.  I'm excited for this one!  I just love ruffles.  So girly and fabulous.

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