Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Marking a quilt - My Sister's quilt - Part Five

I can't remember if I've ever marked an entire quilt before basting it together and in readiness for the quilting phase.  Usually, I have some kind of idea of what I want to do, then I wait until the quilt is sandwiched before I do some marking on it.  This was how I learned when I was hand quilting.  When I started machine quilting on my domestic machine, I sometimes drew a pattern on thin paper and quilted right through the paper.  This time, though, I decided that I would mark the entire top with water soluble blue pen before the quilt got basted together.  I knew intuitively that it would be easier to mark while it was still only a top, and that I could use my light box to trace the intricate designs.

I played around a little bit with different quilting ideas.  I liked the feathered wreath for the center blocks the best.  And I liked that each hexie wheel could be slightly different.

I drew the feathered wreath onto freezer paper and traced it onto the quilt top.

Then I got out my drafting tools and spent a week drawing in different designs.  This was really fun.  And even more fun while I was catching up on all my podcasts.  Too bad I didn't have an audio book!

I wonder how you mark your quilts?  Do you, or would you, spend a fair amount of time marking your quilt top ahead of time?

Happy quilting!

Monday, January 28, 2019

Sister's Quilt - Part Four

This is a continuation of the posts about the making of a quilt for my sister, Colleen Wilson.

I had to take all the pieces off my design wall for a while so that I could catch up with my other projects.  Wouldn't it be nice to have a huge studio, maybe even a barn like Nancy Crow?  Then you could leave up all kinds of quilts in progress.  Anyway, I digress.  I got overwhelmed when I had piles of unfinished projects in my studio.  There were piles on my sewing machine table, on my cutting table, near my quilting machine, and the design wall was covered.   I realized that most of the mess was because my design wall was totally covered with this huge quilt I'm making for my sister.

Eureka!  I was able to quilt the lap quilt, get the binding done on it; quilt the anniversary quilt and get the binding done; quilt another little piece and get the binding done; cut out a lightweight jacket, clear off all the paperwork that was piling up in my to-do pile; and DUST OFF all the surfaces.  Whew.  So back to my sister's quilt, now that my studio and mind were cleared.

I've finished appliqueing and embroidering all of the paisley pieces - 49 in all.  I embroidered her name on one of them (I wonder if she will see it?).

With a hexagon quilt, it is always a little interesting how each quilter decides to finish off the edges.  Meaning, leave it as a hexagon shape, or fill in with fabric to get it squared up, or cut off the pieces to square it up.  I decided to fill in the spaces with off white fabric, then add a colorful border.

I found an interesting paisley fabric that was mostly blue, and one that was mostly off white.  So I used the mostly blue one to add borders and the mostly off white one for the backing.

Here is the completed quilt top.  It's off to my long arm machine quilter for basting.  Then it will come back to me for the quilting on my sit down long arm.  (It's so big, I couldn't get back far enough from my design wall to get a square shot).

I hope she likes it!

Friday, January 25, 2019

Border corners - mitering them

I don't miter the corners on my quilt borders very much anymore.  I have found that most quilt judges just don't pay that much attention to them - except that they like the corner to be SQUARE and the binding to be full.  And since the miters can lead to problems, it's been easier not to miter the corners.

Recently, I decided to miter the corners on a quilt border.  The motif in the material would look better than if it got chopped off at the edge.  I could have done a better job of matching up the pattern at the corners since I had lots of extra material to play with.   But I shouldn't be pointing out what I don't like, so pretend that you didn't just read this!

Here is one method that I think is tried and true.  It involves Elmer's school glue.  I think that I learned it first from Sharon Schamber.

When you sew the borders onto the quilt top, start and stop 1/4" from the edge, and do a couple of back-stitches.  Press the seam towards the border.  Lay the two borders on top of each other, and using a large ruler, square up how the two borders lay on top of each other.

Trace the edges of the ruler with a chalk pencil.  I used a white chalk on this dark fabric.  I moved the ruler so that you could see this thin chalk line below.

Then place the ruler on the diagonal, going from inside corner to outside corner, and trace that line with the chalk pencil.  Again, I moved the ruler so that you could see the line.

Fold the top fabric back on this penciled line and press it.  It helps to line up the border edges sticking out on the bottom.  The bottom right crease should fall exactly on the penciled line.

Using a very fine tip, place a light line of glue just underneath the fold line.  Press.  I purchased the fine tip from Sharon Schamber, but I don't know when you'll be reading this blog, so I can't say for sure she still sells them.  You may be able to get them from someone else.

After this cools and is clearly glued in place, open up the fabric so that you can see the crease line.  Trace the line with another pencil line if you can't clearly see the crease mark.  The glue will hold the pieces together in just the right spot.

Pin in place, so that the layers don't shift.

Sew right on the line, back-stitching at the start and at the end.

Trim the seam to 1/4" and press.

I hope you try to miter the corners of your borders this way too.  The glue really does help you get a nice result.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Sewing Hexie blocks together and pressing the seams

Hexagon quilts are still quite the rage, as they were when I first started quilting, and as they probably were 40 or 50 years before that.  There's something about sewing all those pieces together to get another pattern.  For my sister's quilt, I opted to make huge hexies - 10" - so that I could get them sewn together without taking 10 years to do it.   I know that my first hexie quilt, a Grandmother's flower garden, took me 17 years to make.  Don't want to go there again.

In order to machine sew a hexie quilt together, you have to be able to tackle "Y" seams.  This really aren't hard, but you have to start and stop your seams 1/4" from the edges.  (If you use the English paper piecing method, this doesn't apply).  I suggest sewing your blocks into long rows, then tackling sewing the rows together, starting at one end and working your way through to the other end.  Red Pepper Quilts has an excellent tutorial for Sewing a hexagon quilt by machine.  Their diagrams for what I just described are way better than anything I could invent.

Here is a picture showing how I marked the start and stop points.  I used a water erasable fine blue marker from Adger in Japan.  These pens have proved themselves invaluable on several other quilting projects.

This picture shows that the sewing started and stopped on the markings, and not on the edges.

When the rows are sewn together, you just line up the corners and pin the marks together.  There is a little bit of fussing to get it lined up so that you don't inadvertently sew into the next piece, but after a couple, you'll have the hang of it.

The tutorial from Red Pepper Quilts also has an excellent photo of how to press the seams of a hexagon quilt.  Again, way better than anything I could describe or show.  Here's my photo attempting to show the pressing.  Press all of the horizontal seams in one direction.  Press the right verticals up and the left verticals down.

This will give you a nice spiral where the seams meet so that you can press these flat, as seen below.

I hope you have fun making some of the modern hexagon quilts, whether the blocks are small or large.  

Monday, January 14, 2019

Design Wall

My sister has caught the quilting bug!   She recently visited for a few days and fell in love with a couple of quilts at my show, as well as taking a few of them home!  Within a week, she called for advice on putting up a design wall, asked about a couple of quilt designs, texted me from the quilt store about selecting fabric, and went to work.  Her can do attitude and prompt action towards her goals is quite amazing.

Back to the design wall.  If you've been reading my blogs, you know that I mention design walls a lot and can't even imagine trying to make a quilt without stepping back to look at the progress.  Yes, you can use your bed to lay out your quilt, but then you have to somehow mark and remove all the pieces before you go to bed.  Just try to sew them together without making a mistake! And then ask me how I know.  You can also lay them out on the floor.  Then step on them?  Or let the cat roll around on them?  Nah, not so good either.  So, if you haven't already, please, please, please give yourself permission to put up a design wall.

Mine covers an entire wall in my studio.  Its 12' x 8'.

I used 2' x 8' pieces of pink foam insulation.  These were screwed into the wall with washers to keep the screws from sinking through the foam.  There are 6 screws on each panel;  Two at the top, two in the middle, and two at the bottom.

These panels are removable, but they do leave a large screw hole in the wall that must be puttied and painted.  (I've moved them from house to house and honestly, the walls looks totally fine for the next owner.)  Then the pink insulation got covered with a layer of white batting.  The final and top layer is lightweight cotton fleece.  That layer was just pinned in place around the edges.  It's not that pretty at the edges, so if you want, you can cover the edges with some type of molding, or you take more time than me and make the edges a little straighter.

My sister didn't want to put holes into her wall, so she designed a support of lumber on the back and attached her panels into the lumber.  She can remove the panels from the lumber, and store it all underneath a bed.  She then covered her foam with batting and cotton fleece.  Here is a picture of her design wall before she added her fleece cover.  Can you see the lumber sticking out on the left side?

I hope you have a design wall, whether it is portable or not.  And if you don't, I hope you have found inspiration to get one in place in your studio too!

Friday, January 11, 2019

Facing for art quilts - straight edges

I've referred to facing several times in my previous blogs.  And I've given credit to Jean Wells, who wrote an excellent article in her book, "Intuitive Color and Design", on how to do it.

Since one of my small quilt groups asked me to teach them how to do facings, I thought that it was high time to show you the pictures and steps.  Be prepared...this is a really long blog posting!

Allow extra on the edges
Facings take up more than 1/4" inch off the edges of your quilt top.  You have to sew the 1/4" seam, then you have to turn the edges to the back.  This takes up at least another 1/4" inch.  To allow for this, I really try hard to oversize my art quilts, then trim them to at least 1/2" from the finished edge.
Here is a picture of a quilt with the extra 1/2" all around.  (This quilt will have straight edges.  For a wavy edge, the directions are a little different).

Stabilize the edges
I use 1/8" grosgrain ribbon and stitch this down to all the edges that will be encased.  Since I like to zig zag this down, the extra 1/2" lets me do this without having problems on the edges.  Have you ever tried to zig zag right on the very edge of something?  If you have, you know that not only does the fabric try to sink into the feed dogs, but it gives you a "lettuce" edge.  That's OK if you're wanting a lettuce edge (like on a slinky skirt hem), but it's not so good on quilts that are supposed to have straight edges.   I order my ribbon from the Hairbow Center.  They carry all kinds of colors in the 1/8" size.

Here is a picture of the grosgrain ribbon pinned and stitched down.  It's pinned 1/2" in from the edge because that's how much extra I left on the quilt.

I use a 2.5 width and 2.5 length on the settings for the machine.  If you have a walking foot, I highly recommend using it for sewing down the ribbon, and for sewing down your facing.  I have found that an even feed foot isn't quite strong enough to keep all the layers moving smoothly.

Cut facings 2-1/2" wide
I always cut my facings 2-1/2" wide; the same as I would for regular binding.  Cut it on the straight of grain, unless you're trying to go around curved corner.  Press 1/4" on one long edge of the facing.

Pin it to the quilt, right sides together.  Pin the opposite side on, then lay the 3rd and 4th sides down, trimming the ends so that they're not caught in the seams.

Sew 1/4" seam all around.

Sew a diagonal line at all 4 corners and back-stitch it a couple of times.

Trim the corners.   Then trim off the extra 1/2" on all sides.

Top stitch
Smooth out the binding from the top and, sewing through the facing and the seam, top stitch close to the seam.

Leave long tails of thread so that you can pull them to the back and tie a knot.  You will find that you can't get as close to the corners on a couple of the sides.  That's OK.  Just top-stitch as far as you can.

Turn the binding to the back and push out the corners.  Make sure that the facing doesn't show on the front of the quilt.

Hand Stitch
Then press with steam and pin the binding in place.

Hand slip-stitch the facing to the back of the quilt.

Final Pressing
Give it a good steam press again and hit it with a clapper if you have one.

And there you go.

I hope this helps you sew facings onto your art quilts too.

Monday, January 7, 2019

How to search my blog

I am so glad that so many people are reading my blogs!

Some people don't know that you can search for a particular subject so that you don't have to read through them all to find that one little hint.  So here's how you do it:

Go into the blog at

Look on the upper right side for the search box.  Type your search word and hit enter.  The search mechanism will search for and find all the blogs with that key word and show them to you in the resulting screen.  Then you can go into any of those blogs to read up on the subject.

And, while you're at it, please subscribe to my blog by entering your email in the subscribe box on the upper right hand side.

I hope this helps.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Nick's portrait

I have wanted to make a portrait quilt of my grandson, Nick, for quite a few years.  I finally got a picture of him with shadows on one side of his face.  His favorite color is orange, and his college colors are purple and gold.  I know that the combination of these 3 colors are not a traditional color pallet, but that was OK with me.

Here is the picture that was sent to me by his Dad (my son).

I used the technique taught to me by Lynn Czaban several years ago.  It is a process that she still teaches today, and that I've blogged about before as well.  She taught me how to get the picture into Photoshop, change it into gray scale, then play with the levels of both the gray scale and the posterization to get the final image.  I like 7 levels of color change.   Here is the picture from which I worked:

I did the eyes first, and since Nick has gorgeous green eyes, I decided to make them green instead of orange for this portrait.  I did the teeth next and worked my way through the face in the orange color scheme.  It was onto the clothing next which was done in shades of purple and gold.  I tried a few background fabrics and, after consulting with several people, landed on the green.

But.... before I stitched down the face to the background, I cut out the left eye and the teeth because they did not look right at all.  Then I remade the left eye and the teeth and did a lot of colorization with both ink pencils and permanent markers. (Can you see the difference in the eye and teeth?)

I used several colors of both orange and purple to do the quilting.  Then I did a little more inking and shading.

Here is the final quilt:

Nick's Portrait by Joanne Adams Roth 2018

I hope he likes it, and I hope you like it too!

And thanks so much for reading my blog.