28 November, 2008

Océane's Quilt Finished

The final pictures of this quilt are long overdue. It was delivered to the precious girl a few weeks ago and the pictures have been sitting on the camera. I was quite relieved to find out that they painted her room a bright yellow. It's not often that I actually get a quilt to match well.

This is a close-up of the quilting on this one. I went along horizontally, creating a wave pattern. Once washed, it created a wonderful effect with the crinkles.

I loved making this quilt. The colours were bright and soft at the same time. It was also nice practice to hand applique.
Océane's quilt became Hippocampe pour Océane. Hippocampe means seahorse in French. Sure, it's not that creative of a title, but it fit.

25 November, 2008

Scroll Down

Hmm, I am having a blogger moment. I finished my binding tutorial, but it is publishing on the date I started it, not here. Scroll down to November 13 to see it.

20 November, 2008

Will I Make It?

I'm referring to more than getting the baby quilt done on time, although I am making progress on that.

The renovations have bathed the house in a fine layer of dust and a not so fine layer of mud. Hubby is working so hard to get the basics done so we can actually finish the basement. At some point in the future this space will be my sewing studio. At some point...

Back to the quilt. I went with triangles. And some circles, of course. Are you surprised? I'm trying to work on it in the midst of the mess. Not in the basement - the state of that space means I'm even afraid the laundry isn't getting clean - but in the dining room. That's the joy of a baby quilt, it doesn't take up much space when you are working on it.

13 November, 2008

A Break

Because this is what my house looks like right now. Because this picture hides the 8 foot moat surrounding the house. Because the mud is filling my house as we make our way in and out. Because our lives and house are topsy turvy at this moment. Because this week was filled with sleepless nights, sick kids, city hall, dog walks, and driving to and fro. Because of all this I have not been quilting and not able to get to my tutorials.

Hopefully next week...

Bindings - Attaching, Mitering, and Hand Sewing - A Tutorial

You've got your quilt squared up, you have your binding pieced and ironed, now is the time to attach the binding. First, by machine, and then by hand to finish.

To review, I use a double fold binding. Simply put, I iron a strip of fabric in half - wrong sides together - sew it down by machine on the raw edge, flip it over the edge of the sandwiched quilt, and stitch it down by hand through the fold. I do not do a continuous binding. Rather, I attach each side individually and mitre each corner once all the binding is attached.

In this tutorial I will show you how to attach the binding, especially at the corners, mitre the corners, handstitch the binding, and finish the corners and binding. Sit back and get a thimble, this one's picture heavy.

1. Sew down your binding, from corner to corner. Overhang the binding by at least an inch at the top and bottom - check your length before you start sewing. Line up the raw edge of the binding with the edge of the quilt top. Start sewing 1/4 inch from the top edge, thus leaving 1/4 not sewn down. Backstitch for a stitch or two. Using a walking foot or an even feed (like my Pfaff has) sew down with a straight stitch, using a scant quarter inch seam allowance. I don't pin the binding before I sew, preferring to hold it down and line it up as I go.

Stop your seam 1/4 inch from the bottom of the quilt top edge.
2. Go around the quilt, sewing all the bindings down. To attach a new piece, take the already attached piece and fold back the end at a 45 degree angle.

Pin the new piece to be attached, with overhang, on top of the folded back piece. I like to put the pin in at 1/4 inch from the edge so I know where to start sewing.

Start sewing 1/4 inch from the top and 1/4 inch from the edge. Sew down the binding as you did your first piece.

Finish the final seam the same way you started. Fold the underneath piece back at a 45 degree angle and sew to 1/4 of the edge.

3. Mitre the corners. Measure from the folded edge of the binding to the seam. This measure will change from quilt to quilt depending on the thickness of your fabric and how large you cut it. Divide that measurement in half and make a mark. Don't worry about what you mark it with because these marks won't show. Well, don't use black felt on a light coloured fabric, but otherwise don't worry about it.

From that mark measure the same distance straight up. By up I mean perpendicular from that first mark towards the dangling ends of your binding strips. Mark this spot as well. For example, my overall length was 9/8 of an inch. I made the first mark at just over 1/2 inch. From that mark I measured and made a mark at just over 1/2 inch up.

Now, draw a line from the folded edge of the binding, in line with the seam, to the second mark you made and back to the seam. It should look like a right angle triangle.

This is now your sewing line. Stitch on this line, backstitching for a stitch or two on each end. When you get to the point of the triangle stop with your needle down, lift up your pressure foot, and pivot the quilt. Be sure to fold back the quilt itself so you don't sew through that.

This is what it looks like when you're done. Repeat with all four corners.

4. Handstitch the binding down. First, thread your needle. This is the best way to do it, leaving you with a single strand thread on your needle. The goal of your first stitch is to hide the knot underneath the binding. I make the stitch inside the seam line of my binding - the straight stitch in the picture below. (The zig zag stitch is from squaring up the quilt).

Pull the stitch through the fold of your binding. First stitch done!

It goes without saying that you should pin your binding down. Do not pin the whole way around, rather pin a few inches at a time. Move the pins as you go.

Here is where it might get confusing for some. I do my hand stitching (and hand applique) backwards from most. I sew right to left. I was taught left to right, but it never felt natural to me. If you are having troubles with handstitching try switching directions and see if that helps.

Put your needle in the backing fabric, at an angle, just catching a few batting fibres. Come out in the fold of the binding. I keep my stitches small, so they are about 3 millimetres apart. Start the next stitch directly below where your previous stitch ended. In other words, right below where the thread lies.

Continue around the quilt, moving the pins as you go. I like to have at least an inch pinned down in front of where I am.

5. Sew down the corners. First, trim the excess fabric. I tend to trim to about 1/8 of an inch seam allowance. You want to minimize bulk in the corner.

Now you need to turn the corner right side out. I take my small applique scissors, but anything with a blunt point will work, like a pencil or a stick. Place it in the point of the corner and push it through, turning the fabric right side out. Use your turning object to ensure all the fabric is flat and the corner is as sharp as you can make it.

Pin the corner down and sew down as you've done the rest of the binding. I put a few extra stitches right in the corner.

6. Last stitch. For the last stitch - and every time you finish a length of thread - this is what to do. It hides your knot yet is quite secure.

Start your stitch as normal. Before you pull it through wrap the thread around the tip three times.

Pull the needle through, holding the thread against the binding fold. The knot should end up snug against the fold. Clip the thread right next to the knot and it will end up being virtually invisible.

And you're done! Personally, I find putting to the binding quite satisfying. The quilt will still need a label, but it is effectively finished at this point. Beyond the relief of finishing a project, it is about realizing the vision I've had and the excitement of passing it on or snuggling under it that night.

06 November, 2008

Another Baby Quilt

Thanks Jacquie. I went to the store for you and came home with these. So much for stash busting with my current projects.

Yet another baby quilt to make. I've left this one a bit late, the baby is due any day and there might be a bris that I'll need to attend with a present in hand. Good thing I haven't actually decided what I want to do yet.

My friends are very vibrant people - an engineer and a speech pathologist who write music and play (he) on the side. Yet their home is subdued, letting art and music take center stage. It is a challenge for me to tone down and design a quilt that maybe isn't so bold. I thought I could do the no darker than sand concept, but it was too much (or too little) for me. But these fabrics, while bold in design, are softer in colour. They've become a perfect jumping off point.

Because Hubby is making me to get all my stuff out of the basement this weekend I braved the chill (he took out a window the other day) and went to pull fabric last night. Anything and everything that remotely went with the starting fabrics came upstairs. We'll see what makes it into the quilt. Some of these seem a little too bold.

Now, to just figure out what I want to do... Triangles are winning right now, but I've also thought of some interesting (and easy) linear designs. What to do, what to do?

04 November, 2008

Squaring Up a Quilt - Tutorial

Okay, time to 'fess up. How many of you go through the process of squaring up your quilts? I'll admit that I didn't think about it for the longest time. All the methods I had seen seemed like they required a ridiculous amount of floor space and the ability to block the quilt, like you would a new knit.

Squaring up a quilt really isn't that hard, but it is a step that slows you down when all you want to do is get that binding on and see what you quilt is going to be. It always helps to stay as square as possible along the way. Check each block as you go, and fudge seams if necessary when putting tops together. If you are using borders there is also a way to help bring a skewed quilt into square or ensure it stays square, but that's another tutorial!

I've always done my best to stay as square as possible during construction, but the evolution of my design aesthetic now sees the majority of my quilts finished without borders and not necessarily square blocks. That same evolution has led me to the following technique. See if it works for you.

You don't need any special tools to do this. Your sewing machine, thread, a large table top, self-healing cutting mat, rotary cutter, and a ruler at least 12 inches square.

Before you get started decide on how much extra batting, if at all, you want your binding to contain. I cut a quarter inch from the edge of my quilt top. My binding is then attached flush with the quilt top's edge with a quarter inch seam allowance. Folded over I can then hand sew the binding and it perfectly covers the seam from attaching the binding. If you want a less substantial binding then you could cut closer to the top's edge and use a smaller binding.

Here's how I do it.

1. Set your machine to a zig zag stitch that is small in width but long in stitch length. Stitch around the entire perimeter of your quilt, through all three layers. This essentially turns your quilt a solid piece of fabric, reducing the potential for movement when you attach your binding.
Ensure you stay as close to the edge as possible. If you have a walking foot, use it. I have an even feed foot on my machine and that's what I use. Oh, and take it from me, ensure that you have a throat plate in your machine that can accommodate a zig zag stitch! I nearly lost an eye when my needle broke. This stitch will be entirely hidden by your binding.

2. With your quilt supported on the table (if it hangs over the weight may pull you out of square as you cut) get ready to cut. The whole quilt doesn't have to lay flat, so don't worry about having a giant table. As long as your cutting edge and about 12-20 inches to the side of that edge stays flat.
3. Start in one corner. Line up the corner of the quilt top with the corner of the ruler, a quarter inch in from the edge. This is where the actual process of squaring begins. From the corner you will want to keep the quarter inch markings in line with your quilt top's edge. To do this you may need to pull the quilt into square. Hold the ruler down firmly but not so hard that you can't pull the fabric with your cutting hand. I find that my thumb holds the ruler more firmly, and thus holds the quilt in place, and that I can move the fabric near the top of my ruler. (see picture below). Pull the quilt, holding on to the batting and backing fabric until it is in line with the quarter in marks. You may have to pull the inside of the quilt in, rather than the edge out. Just go slow and pull as necessary. When you have it lined up with your ruler, cut it for the length of the ruler only.
This is what it looks like.
From the first cut, move your ruler up. Overlap up the cut edge by a few inches with the ruler, keeping the cut edge and the ruler's edge in line together. Then line-up your quilt top's edge with the quarter inch mark.

As you finish one cut, move the ruler up the edge of the quilt (keeping the quilt on your cutting mat). Constantly realign the quilt top's edge with that quarter inch mark. Pull the fabric as necessary to bring the quilt top's edge into alignment. Always hold the ruler firmly as you cut.
Continue around the edge of the quilt until you get to the next corner.
4. When you get to the corners ensure your quilt top edge lines up in the same way as the edge you are currently cutting. In other words, you should be cutting your vertical edge, As you approach the corner - at least 8 inches out - line up your ruler on the current corner as you did the first one. Square your top, or horizontal, edge by pulling into alignment prior to finishing the vertical cuts. Cut both sides of the corner at the same time.
Turn the quilt and continue around all edges and corners.

This technique has worked very well for me. And when all is said and done, it doesn't take more than a half hour to do a large quilt.
Once you have it all squared away attach your preferred binding. I'll show you that in my next tutorial.