Saturday, April 28, 2012

Friday Finishes - Almost Saturday. . .

My Friday is almost over and I am just now able to get on the internet (too much rain for a signal).  I will finish my Friday by sharing with you a picture show of a few quilts from a quilt show I had the privilege to judge today.
This is the quilt that won "Judges' Choice."  It is a beautiful applique quilt.
All of the applique is hand appliqued.
I loved the way these leaves were fussy cut from the fabric.
The border blocks added additional interest as they were all rectangular, using the same flower design but all with different fabrics.  A visually interesting quilt.
This quilt is an example of beautiful hand workmanship.  The quilt is hand appliqued and quilted.  Really stunning in its simplicity.
The hand quilting showed up well in my photograph showing the great texture it creates.
All of the applique is of this same motif.  True simplicity.
This quilt center is a panel.  The quilter designed appropriate borders to compliment it.
This is a flannel quilt and the finished size of the squares is 1".  The quilter is an excellent piecer.  All points matched and the quilt lied perfectly flat.  Nice job!

The guild I judged for is small but puts out beautiful, interesting quilts every year (this is my 3rd year judging).  It always amazes me how well the bindings are done on the majority of quilts.  That might sound like a funny thing to be impressed with, but technique is important to me and binding technique says a lot about the quilter.  Be sure to check out your local upcoming quilt shows and see how someone else's work might inspire yours.

Happy Friday (I mean Saturday),

Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday Finishes - Finished Applique Edges - Part 2, Satin Stitch . . .

When I began quilting in 2000, I was immediately drawn to applique.  I began with turn under hand applique which I transitioned easily to from hand stitching which I had done all of my life.  But as I became acquainted with quilting styles, I was enamored with graphic applique designs, especially that of Jane Sassaman.  Purchasing her book "The Quilted Garden" forever changed how I looked at and did applique.
I was not happy with the raw edges of raw edge applique.  I liked the finished edges of turn under applique.  However, once I really got into quilting, hand work was too slow.  I wanted to do more projects faster.  The satin stitch finish demonstrated in Jane Sassaman's book did the trick.  The edge was finished and I was able to use beautiful threads.  I probably like buying thread just as much if not more than fabric. :)  Unlike raw edge applique, this applique technique is done prior to quilting as shown in this above flower.  This quilt has not yet been quilted, just appliqued.
As I became comfortable with thread colors, I learned to use the thread to manipulate the way my applique looked.  In this flower, I used a varigated thread with a small zigzag to outline the outer petals and used a light colored thread with a larger zigzag stitch to draw the eye to the interior of the flower.
This rooster has satin stitched edges for the most part as well.  The stitching adds an additional dimension to the piece.
On the rooster's foot, the satin stitch is very small.  However, the thinness of the leg caused me to choose a triple stitch to finish the edge, rather than a satin stitch.  The black thread is my quilting stitch giving it two functions:  1) quilting; and, 2) additional dimension and color.

Until recently, my satin stitch was done with the feed dogs up with an open-toe foot.  These flowers, however, were done with the feed dogs down and with a free-motion foot:  a free-motion zigzag stitch.  I know you have seen me mention before as it is currently my FAVORITE stitch.  The stitching is not as perfect as with feed dogs up but I enjoy doing it oh so much better.

Let me know what you're favorite applique method is, even if something I haven't mentioned.  I always like to learn new techniques.

Happy Friday,

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Sneak Peek of New Rooster Quilt Pattern. . .

I'm surprised to see I haven't written since last Friday.  Well, maybe not :) as I'm in the middle of a new business endeavor that I have been working towards for quite some time.  I am working on publishing my own patterns.  I developed my Quilt Whimsy name anbd logo for just this purpose and am finally getting to it.  Having said that, here is a sneak peek of my rooster pattern.
I developed an art quilt based on this several years ago and am now ready to make a pattern.  The tail feathers are dimensional and, therefore, two sided.  I will demonstrate that technique in the next few days.  I also have a hen and chicks to add to the pattern as well.  I have several patterns in the works and will be getting an Etsy site up sometime in May with patterns and kits available.

I'm excited about this new endeavor and will keep you updated.

Until next time,

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday Finishes - Finished Applique Edges - Part 1, Raw Edge. . .

There is no doubt that my VERY favorite quilting style is applique, all forms of applique:  raw edge, satin stitch, or turn-under.  So I've decided to spend the next few weeks of Friday Finishes on how to finish applique edges.
"Earth, Wind & Fire" by Toni Whitney - Raw Edge Applique
Let's begin with the applique edge finish that LOOKS the easiest:  raw edge applique.  While I, as an experienced free-motion stitcher, find this applique edge finish the simplest and fastest, once the feed dogs are dropped, many a student is intimidated by it.  So let's talk about it.

The reason this applique treatment is generally selected is because the stitching sews the applique edge and quilts the piece at the same time.  It is a 2-for-1 technique.
This technique does work well especially when using batik fabrics.  Looking at the detail here you can see how close to the edge I was able to sew without the fabric fraying.  This is mostly because it is a batik which has a tight thread weave.  I also help it along by using a 75/11 quilting needle, thereby keeping the needle hole small.
The photos do show some texture that is created by sewing through the three layers of the quilt.
Notice that my stitches are not perfectly spaced.  I simply do the best I can.  Some days are better than others because I believe it is all about rhythm, and some days I have it and some days I don't.  I do admit that although you may be tired of hearing what a teacher has to say, practice, practice, practice is truly the only way you will become comfortable with free-motion stitching.  I began free-motion stitching in 2009.  Once I got over my fear and quilted this way a LOT, I now say that it is my go-to stitch over any other type of quilting stitch with my feed dogs up.
Let's say you're not ready to drop those feed dogs yet.  What is your other option?  To begin with, select a project like my bunny here that has large applique pieces and not too many of them.  Leave the feed dogs up, use a walking foot or an open-toe embroidery foot, and straight stitch.  Be aware that with feed dogs up, you will be required to turn the quilt with every turn you come to.  When beginning quilting, I happily quilted this way and was quite satisfied with my results.  You simply have to allow for the time needed to continually turn the quilt.  No problem if you're not in a hurry.
I would like you to make note about the stitching on this piece.  See the fraying?  That is because I have used a printed cotton for the applique.  This fabric does not have as high a thread count and will fray much easier than batik fabrics.  Also notice that not all printed cottons fray the same.  I knew that but was willing to except those consequences when I selected my fabrics.  
You may also notice that I generally did not stitch as close to the edge as I did in the batik piece.  Again, because of fraying issues.

Let me finish by saying use whatever stitch you're comfortable with to get the edge finish you're looking for.  There is always more than one way to accomplish a goal in quilting. But let me also be the teacher I am and challenge you to consider (if you don't already) practicing free-motion stitching.  Find your rhythm of keeping you foot pedal speed up and your fabric movement consistent.  Learning this will open many creative doors that you don't generally see if raw edge stitching is a chore.

Happy Friday,

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Inspiration Right Outside My Door. . .

I know the hour's late but as I head to bed I felt inspired to share this view with you.  This photo was taken from the backdoor of my studio this evening.  Every day I feel blessed to live in this wonderful Montana country.  I am also enjoying that the sun is still out at 8:00 in the evening.  Another one of those things I love about living so far north.
 As I am not a photographer I am amazed at how quickly lighting and color changes.  This photo was taken within 10 minutes of the one above,
and this one within 5 minutes of that.  Beautiful, isn't it?  Enjoy these wonderful photos of what I have the opportunity to see every day and maybe you will feel as inspired by the joys of nature as I do.

Until next time,

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Spring Bunny Quilt has multiplied to include Summer and Fall Bunnies too. . .

If you've been following me for a while, you may remember that last year around this time I designed "Spring Bunny" as a birthday present for my sister.  I was so happy with the design (it made me smile every time I looked at it) that I decided to make one for each season.
Here is my "Summer Bunny" quilt.
And here is my current "Fall Bunny."  I am reworking this one a bit and will post it when I get it done.  I have the fabric for a "Winter Bunny" quilt but haven't completed my design just yet.  As it is once again that time of year for my sister's birthday, I am sending her these two new additions for her collection.  I hope she likes them.  Here are some details for both designs.
Rather than free-motion straight stitch the applique, I decided to use my favorite stitch - free-motion zigzag stitch.
The quilted flowers in the border were free-motion stitched as well.
I raw edge stitched the applique on "Fall Bunny" and free-motion stitched the leaves in the border.  Let me know which "Bunny" quilt is your favorite.

Until next time,

Sunday, April 8, 2012

A Pleasant Easter Dinner. . .

Happy Easter to all.  I hope you all enjoyed your day.  I spent the day working but took time out to cook a holiday meal.  I know I don't usually post about anything other than quilting (because I don't do anything but quilt) but I wanted to share this hint I picked up about cooking asparagus.

I was shopping for my groceries and looking at the fresh asparagus, something I have never cooked before.  A woman was standing there looking at it as well and I mentioned that I didn't know how to cook it.  This is how she suggested that I cook it:
 Begin with a can (I used the can from the pineapple that I put on the ham).
 Poke holes in the bottom, just large enough to let water in.
 It's now ready to use.
Place the can in a pan to be covered that is tall enough for the asparagus to stand in.  Stand the asparagus in the can, add a small amount of water in the pan's bottom, cover, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and cook 5 to 7 minutes, or until tender.  The asparagus is firm without the tops being mushy.  Very good.  
Along with the asparagus, I cooked au gratin potatoes, a great tasting recipe I picked up from The Pioneer Woman,
a ham with a brown sugar and pinapple glaze,
and for dessert, chocolate covered strawberries.  A very traditional Easter meal that tasted great and was fun (yes, I said fun) to make.  I hope your meals went over well and that your day was pleasant with your loved ones.

Until next time,

Friday, April 6, 2012

Friday Finishes - Quilt Borders 101

This is the status of my Mom's quilt when last I wrote.  It's now time to put the borders on. How do you put borders on a quilt?  Let's go over how I put borders on.  While I explain my border technique, keep in mind that there is more than one way to do all things in quilting.  My technique works for my quilts and it is the one I recommend to my longarm quilting customers to keep quilts square.
For this quilt, begin by cutting six 2 1/2" x WOF strips with the inner border fabric.  As the quilt is longer than WOF, the strips need to be joined together.  Begin by laying one strip end (selvages cut off), right side up, toward the needle from the left.  Lay the second strip, wrong side up, on the first strip at a 90 degree angle.  Draw a 45 degree line on the wrong side from the upper left corner where the strips meet to the lower right corner.
 Sew on line.
 Trim 1/4" from the seam line.
Press strip with seam to one side.  Border strips are generally sewn in this way, on the diagonal.  A diagonal seam line helps to hide the seam by allowing the eye to look past it.  The eye finds a straight seam easier to see because of its hard line.  There are a few exceptions where a straight seam is preferred, such as when using a striped fabric.  A striped fabric naturally hides a straight seam when you make the effort to line the stripes up.
With the strips together, it's time to cut them and sew them to the quilt top.  I NEVER cut the border strips to the size a pattern calls for.  More times than not, my piecing will cause the finished quilt size to be different than the pattern states.  Therefore, I want my strips to equal what my quilt size is.  For this quilt, I begin by determining the border length for the vertical sides.  To do that, I measure vertically in 3 places:  toward the left side, the middle, and toward the right side.  For this quilt, my measurements were 48 1/4", 48", and 48."  Add the three and divide by 3 which is a little over 48".  In this case, I rounded down to 48" and decided to work in the extra length, if needed.  This keeps all sides equal in length.  I cut 2 strips 48" and sewed them to each side.
This quilt's top and bottom inner borders are a little different than the usual straight forward border as it extends into the quilt blocks.  I arranged the quilt blocks on each side of the inner border, sewed the blocks together, and then sewed them to the inner border.
Because the border extends into the quilt blocks, 4 - 2 1/2" x 6 1/2" strips were cut from the inner border fabric.  Quilt blocks were arranged and the strips were sewn to the corner blocks.  The interior blocks were sewn together and the corner block sets were then sewn to the interior block set.
I then measured the quilt top horizontally in three places as before.  My measurement came to 51 1/2."  Two inner border strips were cut to that measurement.  Because I like to keep the amount of fabric I am handling at the sewing machine to a minimum, I sewed the inner border strips to the block sets before sewing them to the quilt top.
The top and bottom borders were now sewn to the quilt top.  Time to add the outer borders.
Seven outer border strips were cut at 6 1/2" x WOF and joined together on the diagonal as above.  The vertical sides measured 63 3/4" after measuring in three places and were cut accordingly.  I would say I pin when quilting minimally.  This is how I pin borders to the quilt top.  The cut border strip is folded into fourths.  Press the folds on each end.  Fold the quilt top into fourths and place a pin at each of the folds.  Match each of the pressed folds to the appropriate pinned quilt top spots, right sides together.  This minimal amount of pinning allows the quilt top and borders to be worked in if needed.  Once sewn on, I measured and cut the top and bottom outer borders to 62 1/2."
These borders were then sewn on and, whala, I'm done.  The quilt is finished.  At least the top is finished.  I now need to get it quilted.  I will work on getting that done next week.  It may arrive late, but I know my Mom will love it and not care that it's late.  She is not aware that I am making it so it will be a complete surprise.  I am excited to get it to her.
As I finish with this quilt, let me say that I have enjoyed this quilt pattern from this book "Simplify."  The directions were well written and the photography is great.  There are a few other of the book's patterns I would like to make and I recommend it if you like graphic, simple quilt patterns.  Thank you, Camille Roskelley, for this lovely book.

Happy Friday,