Thursday, July 30, 2015


It's finally summer weather with temperatures in the upper 80'sF. Our daughter and son-in-law were staying at a cottage on Lake Michigan (water temp was in the 70sF!) and we went to see them earlier this week. This is what was happening:

And this:
New game--she throws, and Grampa pulls her over to fetch the ball. (That boat is probably about 25 years old. Her mommy and uncle used to play in it.)
And this: 

Elsa Blue and pink. (My manicurist is 3 1/2 years old). Aw, it's starting to chip off now, but I hate to change it.

Not much work done on the quilt, but there was a lot going on in my head, and by that, I mean indecision. I did finish my practice piece for quilting the Big Quilt.

Here's part of it:

And another view:

I decided that I like the wavy lines and the meanders the best. But now that I've quilted the flowers in a darker gray, I'm liking them better, too, although I need to make them a little simpler than I did on the coral fabric. I also like the straight lines when they are closer together. 

I used leftover all-purpose thread for my practice, and decided that I liked light and dark grays. But deciding which grays was daunting. I finally ordered variegated threads from Superior. They came today.(Love their fast service!)

Here's what I got:

I settled on King Tut Canaan (middle) and Pumice (right). The one on the left is Masterpiece in Granite for the bobbin. I haven't used a lighter weight thread in the bobbin before, but thought it might work well for this quilt. I like the colors quite well, although there is a tiny bit of gray in the Pumice that's lighter than I expected, so I might order a solid (Pewter) for the darkest fabrics. We'll see how it goes. I also bought a thread card so that (hopefully) I won't spend so much time trying to figure out colors for my next quilt. Picking colors on a computer screen is just no fun at all. 

Now I really need to get that backing pieced so I can baste the quilt.

I'm linking up with My Quilt Infatuation and with Lizzie Lenard Vintage Sewing (Free Motion Mavericks) this week. (Lizzie: my straight and wavy lines are walking foot, but my meanders and flowers are FMQ!).

Have a great weekend everyone!


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Playing with Ideas

Last week I mentioned that I would share a little technique I used with machine binding. If you're looking for it, I put it in a separate post here.

Now on to what I'm working on this week. It's time to get back to the Big Quilt. First, I cleaned up the basement shoved everything to one side. I need lots of room for basting. 

To my credit, I did take a big load of books to the recycling center. When I was working I had all my grad school textbooks in my office, and when I retired they all got carted to the basement. Now they're gone. Yippee!

I still need to clean up the floor a bit. It will be a little tight for basting, but it's the largest space I have. Hopefully, there will be a quilt on this floor soon. 

When I finished that top, I quickly whipped up a little piece with leftovers to use for practice and exploration of quilting motifs. It's about 30 by 32 inches and sandwiched with some old fabric I knew I'd never use in a quilt. 

So far I've tried some straight lines with my walking foot and my FMQ foot as well as some other quilting with my FMQ foot. I haven't figured out exactly what I'm going to do, but I am getting an idea of what I don't want to do. 

  • I don't want to do long straight lines with FMQ. I stink at it, and it would be really hard to do while wrestling the quilt. 
  • I also do not want to do walking foot lines that require me to turn the quilt a lot. That would leave out outlining the strips that make up the quilt. 
  • I don't think I want to do anything flowery. I did some wonky flowers, and they just don't look right to me. Maybe it's partly because I'm using a light thread right now and they jumped out too much on the dark fabric. (I also got myself trapped and did not do a good job of backing out.) 
  • I'm not crazy about the clamshells. I started out small then tried to make them a little bigger, but gradually went back to small. It seems like there is a comfortable size to some motifs that I just gravitate to. It might be hard to get a nice edge on the clamshells. 
  • And let's not even talk about my ribbons or whatever those are!
  • And this list is no longer in parallel construction. Please don't tell my English teachers.
I do like the straight lines in the light gray fabric (but maybe a little closer together), and I love the meandering on the light orange. (One of the recipients of the quilt really likes meandering, but I'm not sure I'm up for that for an entire quilt.) I think if I try some designs with a little more detail, I should chalk in some registration lines. 

Mostly I've been scouring the internet for inspiration. I love the idea of using a few different motifs among all the strips, and if I wanted a masterpiece style quilt, I'd quilt really small with tiny stipples around cool designs. But that's not going to happen with this. It's an everyday quilt with a bit of a self-imposed timeline for finishing. I really need to get going on a baby quilt for these parents-to-be and I want this to be a project that I can work on a bit each day while I'm working on that--and hopefully finish it before I need to quilt the baby quilt. 

One big decision still to make is the thread color. I kind of want the thread to be hefty, so I'll probably use my ever faithful King Tut. But I don't want it to stand out a lot. I've been using an off-white (Papyrus) for the practice stitching. I'm thinking maybe gray for the quilt. But the jury's still out about which one. Maybe variegated?  I'll try some regular gray on some of the darker practice strips and see what happens.

Okay, my head's spinning now. How about a few garden pictures? I finally figured out why I include these on my quilt blog (aside from learning to take photos). It keeps me somewhat accountable for keeping up the garden. I usually lose interest about this time every year. I did dress in thick denim to keep the mosquitoes away while I was taking pictures. 

Here's my newest plant, Liatris. I love it. My husband thinks Dr. Seuss would have liked this crazy looking flower. It blooms from the top down, so this one's about half in bloom. I don't know if the top flowers will still be good when the bottom ones open. 

Here's the first Calendula of the year. They volunteer all over the place. 

And one more of my geranium on the porch.

I'm linking up this week with Freshly Pieced and Sew Fresh Quilts for their linky parties. Buttons are on the right. 

I hope your quilty week is going well.

Binding Variation

Last week when I shared my completed quilt extension project, I mentioned that I used a new-to-me machine technique on the binding. I made a little sample to share this week to show how I did that. It's not an earthshaking new way, but is a little variation on how machine binding is often done.

I usually attach the binding to the back first and then flip it to the front, covering the original seam line where I sewed it to the back, and then I topstitch on the front, hoping that the stitching will be next to the binding on the back. There are two problems with that. I tend to cut off points of blocks if there are any near the edge on the front, and my stitching is usually wonky on the back, sometimes on the binding and sometimes off. This time, I started wondering why it is important to me to not have the stitching show on the binding on the back when it is obviously showing as topstitching on the front. So I made a little change.

In the following pictures, the front fabric is gray, the backing is black, and the binding is white. I'm using red thread so you can see it. Ordinarily I'd use a thread that matches the back for the first seam (attaching the binding to the quilt) and a thread that matches the binding for the remainder of the work.

This is what I did: On the quilt I just made, I wanted the binding to be about 5/8 inch wide, so I cut my binding 3 1/4 inches wide and pressed it in half. I trimmed my batting and backing so it extended 3/8 inch from the edge of the top. 

I stitched the binding on the FRONT of the quilt the usual way using thread that matched the back. (It's red here so you can see it.)

Here's how it looked on the back. (Red here, but it would be black to blend in with the back.)

I pressed the binding toward the edge of the quilt. Important step!!

Then I flipped the binding to the back, just up to the original stitching line, not over it. I'm showing this extra large so you can see the line. I pressed with my iron. Again, very important to the success of this method. Then I put clips about every 2 1/2 inches to hold it in place.

Finally, I topstitched a scant 1/8 inch away from the seam line on the FRONT of the quilt. Here's how it looked on the front...

...and on the back.

If this was an actual quilt, I would likely have used thread to match the binding for this part. 

So there you have it. The binding has stitching on both the front and the back, and the original stitching line shows up on the back as if it's in the ditch. If you use thread that matches the backing for the original seam you won't see it. 

I like this method because I can be careful about stitching that first seam to keep from cutting points off on the front and I don't have to worry about wonky stitching on the back. I also like the idea of having the binding look the same on the front and the back. I haven't tried this yet with narrower binding, but it seems like it would work fine. Pressing is key, though, I'm sure. 

I'm linking up this post with Late Night Quilter for Tips and Tutorials Tuesdays. (Yeah, I know it's Wednesday, but I did start writing this last night.) 

Friday, July 17, 2015


I am giddy! The project you've been reading far too many posts about is successfully DONE!! If you want the background, just click on "quilt extension project" at the bottom of this post and you'll see my previous posts. 

I'll show you the finish first and then go back to some details. Here's how the quilt looks on my bed. It's a king size (104.5 by 131.5 inches) and my bed is queen size, so it's a good thing you can't see it puddling on the other side (although a tiny bit of my bedskirt is peaking out on that left corner). I'm not taking a picture outside (mosquito plague).

I spent a good part of the day Wednesday attaching the binding. I used my walking foot on my treadle machine, and the binding went on perfectly. I attached it to the front first, pressed it toward the edge, then folded it back to the back just up to the seam line and pressed again. I used Wonderclips to hold it in place and topstitched just under 1/8 inch from the seam line on the front, which easily caught the same amount of binding on the back. The original seam line looked like I had sewn "in the ditch" next to the binding on the back. I haven't done a binding exactly this way before, but it was so easy that I think it will be my go-to way when I want a machine sewn binding. I much preferred it to sewing the binding on from the back and then topstitching on the front. 
Binding on the front (fabric below it is some of the backing fabric)
Binding on the back (you can see the fake "in the ditch" line on the backing)
Maybe I'll try to make a little picture tutorial for next week to show how I did it. I was too focused on getting this project done to take any pictures while I worked. 

Yesterday I very carefully laid out the bedspread on the floor and basted the border to it. I did not use any pins. After my problems with the polyester fabric in the border, I didn't want any more holes than necessary in the polyester bedpread. I am thrilled to say that the border fit just right. I marked a chalk line to help get the bedspread in just the right place. I used a very fine needle and some thin rayon thread for basting. Then I put the thinnest needle I could find in my machine and threaded the machine with thin blue thread to match the bedspread. I again used my walking foot to sew over the topstitching that was already on the binding of the bedspread to attach it to the border. Finally, I sewed a second line of stitching to the outer edge of the binding to strengthen the connection. Now the binding of the bedspread looks more like a ribbon. I'm just so happy with how it all turned out. Obviously, the bedspread is a higher quality polyester than that fabric that gave me so much trouble when I was making the border. It all feels really sturdy now, and I think it will hold up well in use. 

Before I attached the binding, I cut the corners of the borders on an angle to reduce bulk and get rid of the "bad" fabric that had been there. 

One more little detail. I used Hobbs 80/20 batting on this quilt. I gently soaked and dried it and prewashed the fabrics before using them so that they won't shrink up too much when the quilt gets washed.

This project was definitely one of the most challenging quilt related projects I've made. I have added a border to enlarge a quilt before to make it fit a bigger bed, but that project was entirely cotton (and based on my own quilt instead of a commercial one). Working with a polyester spread was really scary for me, and I doubt that I would take on such a task again. If I had had more experience with polyester, I probably would have known how to use a fusible interfacing (and been comfortable with it) to strengthen the polyester (and other gauzy fabrics) that I was first trying to use. But quality cotton is so sturdy and so much more satisfying to work with. So I'll stick to that in the future. 

I don't regret this project, though. It was a labor of love, and I did learn a lot about designing on the fly, fixing problems, and finding creative solutions. I also learned that I love using the walking foot with my treadle. The stitch is gorgeous and the machine absolutely purrs while I'm working. (That's why I named her Kitty.) I also learned how to let the walking foot move the fabric instead of trying to push the fabric through. I didn't even have to use my quilting gloves, which is nice in the summer. I also learned how to puddle a large quilt to maneuver it on a domestic machine, which will certainly be helpful on my next quilting project. (Remember the Big Quilt? Yup. Time to get back to that one.)

After all this, I'm taking off from quilting for the weekend. I'm going to catch up on blog reading instead. Next week, I'm going to fool around with some ideas for quilting the Big Quilt. I still need to order thread for that project, too. And clean part of the basement so I can use the floor to baste the Big Quilt. Oh, and I'll try to put together some pictures of my binding technique. 

I'm linking up with Crazy Mom Quilts, My Quilt Infatuation, Confessions of a Fabric Addict (Can I Get a Whoop Whoop), and Quilt Matters (TGIFF) to share my excitement about being done!! Buttons are on the right.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!! 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Getting there...

Another  quick update--and I sincerely hope to have a finish by Friday. I fixed all of the problem areas on the quilt extension in the last two days. It might have looked like I was working last week (I did put up a post), but I was really taking a little vacation from quilting. My husband and I were doing a week of grandkiddie daycare at our daughter and son-in-law. It was busy, busy, busy but so much fun. L learned to pedal her tricycle, so we spent a lot of time outside and riding to the park. C is only a catnapper, so there was no down time, but he is such a happy little guy and fun to play with. He thinks everything his sister does is hilarious (and she loves to entertain him with her songs and dances). He's rolling all over and almost sitting by himself. I had a little knitting project with me that I thought I would do in the evenings, but the time flew by and before I knew it, it was time for bed. I could go on and on about our time, but this is a quilt blog, right?

So on Monday and Tuesday this week I worked like crazy on the quilt border, and this morning I made the binding. It's all ready to attach. 

Then, the last thing will be sewing the border to the bedspread. I'm a little scared about that part because I'll be sewing to polyester again. I think I'll use a really sharp, thin needle. 

I'll end this with a few shots from the garden. We are having a mosquito plague right now, so I don't have many pictures that weren't blurry. I was so busy swatting in just the couple of minutes I was out there that I couldn't hold still long enough to focus.

Not a great shot of the Astilbe, but I wanted to include it. They peaked while we were gone. 

I'm linking up today with Freemotion by the River, Freshly Pieced and Sew Fresh Quilts for their linky parties. Buttons are on the right. 

Hope to see you Friday with a finish. If you live in a mosquito prone area, I hope the rest of your week is bug free!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Quick Update

Last post was a bit of a downer, but here's just a quick update to say that I think all is well. I found some good cotton fabric to replace the shiny fabric that was giving me trouble, and I'm really pleased with the color. Here's how it compares with the shiny fabric.

I've taken out the seams of one section of the shiny fabric, leaving a space with just the batting and backing.

I sewed one side of a new strip of fabric by machine, but because of the quilting in other areas, I wasn't able to sew the other edge by machine, so I hand sewed it as well as the top edge. 

It's going to take some time to finish the remaining nine sections, but it isn't difficult. I have some other things to do this week, but I'm hoping to finish this sometime next week.

I'm linking up with Freshly Pieced for WIP Wednesday and Sew Fresh Quilts for Let's Bee Social. The buttons are on the right.

I hope you're having a quilty good week.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Seam Ripper Blues

I was making so much progress with quilting the border for the quilt extension I've been working on for the last couple of weeks. I had the walking foot attached to my treadle machine and was pedaling along and falling in LOVE with quilting with a walking foot. The weather was cool, and there was a pleasant breeze coming in my window. I could hear the birds singing. It was treadle heaven.

And then. The one fabric that a little voice in my head had been whispering against since I started the project suddenly started to split along a seam, and once it started, there was no stopping it. I was so rattled, I didn't even think to take a picture. I looked it over and saw that the split was caused by raveling along the seam. I carefully removed the piece of fabric, and cut another one, pinking the edge and leaving a larger seam allowance, then stitched everything back together again (a more complicated process than you might want to know). The little voice was talking a little louder now, but I ignored it and told myself that everything would be okay because the quilting would reinforce the seams and hold all the edges inside reducing the probability of more raveling. I had invested too much time into the quilt border to stop and take it all apart. I kept quilting, and everything went smoothly. It was all lying nice and flat without any puckers on the front or back. 

Here's a bit of what it looked like:

Well, you know where this is going. As I was burying some threads, I stuck a pin near a seam, and the fabric started to split along it. And you know that little voice was no longer little, but screaming I TOLD YOU SO. And, of course I had to listen. This quilt needs to be fixed because it needs to be usable and durable and cleanable. After all, it's going to be on a bed. 

So I spent most of this afternoon and evening singing the blues and working with my seam ripper, which has suddenly become my favorite sewing--ahem, unsewing--tool. I'm almost done removing 40 lines of quilting. Next, I'll take out the 20 seams where the shiny fabric joins the surrounding pieces. And then I'll have to try to find something to replace it. It's too bad, because that shiny fabric added the right amount of glitz to the design, and I know it was important to my niece, as it complements the copper accents in her bedroom. But it is just not meant to be. 

I used to quilt and repair old quilt tops as a professional hand quilter, so I have a lot of experience with splitting fabric. But those were very old fabrics, and even though I was skeptical about using a polyester fabric in this quilt, I really didn't think it would be so fragile. And I thought cutting it with pinking shears would eliminate raveling. But then, there was that little voice, so I should have known better. Anyway, I've learned a valuable lesson: a quilt is only as strong as its weakest fabric. I guess I knew that already, but there's nothing like an object lesson. 

Taking this quilt apart will take some time, but the backing fabric is a beautifully strong organic cotton, and I'm sure that it will help keep everything in line when I replace those 10 fabric strips. I know the extra effort will be worth it in the end. 

No garden pictures today. It's raining now.  (Perfect seam ripping weather.)

I'm linking up with Freemotion by the River, Freshly Pieced, Sew Fresh Quilts and My Quilt Infatuation for their weekly linky parties. Buttons are on the right. 

I hope your quilty week is going well. And to our friends to the north, Happy Canada Day!