Sunday, February 27, 2011


My next project?  Finishing "Nadine" - a hand pieced, hand quilted leftovers improv project.

This summer, after attending a local quilt show where every quilt was machine pieced & quilted, I had a new 'need' to focus on making some quilts that were entirely hand-done (pieced, applique, quilting).

In August, I won some scraps from a give-away from Nadine at Quilted Bliss.   I fairly quickly cut that into 25 bits which I framed with yellow, red, green & blue   Kona solids.

By November, I'd moved on to adding a black borders.  From then through December, I made it through about 9 frames before I realized I didn't have as much black fabric as I though I had, since I'd used it all up on the black & white pinwheel.  The pieces I did use are random sizes and from at least 4 different batches of fabric.

I was working on this at Anna's house in December, where I appeared to have nicked that really long, thin needle.  It is 12mm longer than the applique needles that I buy (middle in the photo) and twice as long as the quilting needles that I use.

At least that's where I assume it came from since I know I didn't buy any that long.  Oooo, wait...maybe there are needle fairies that magically deliver to pincushions of good girls and boys....

I made an interesting observation as I was stitching today, that I normally load about 4 stitches at a time.  If I forced myself to pay attention (instead of auto-pilot) I could load 9 stitches at a time on the giant skinny needle.

It was a good day's work and I got 15 more blocks finished.  I was all excited to play with the layout...but discovered that I only have 24, not 25 blocks.  :(  I'll have to keep looking through all the project bags.

Oh...Anna...would you look in the cushions of the chair in your family room for the missing block?  If you find it, I'll trade you ... for a long applique needle perhaps.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


After many distractions, it is finally done.  Total hours?  Somewhere upward of 400 over 16 months.

I first washed the quilt in cold with 2 Shout brand Color Catchers (can you say paranoid?)  the result was the 2 slightly pink sheets.  Center is a new Color Catcher. Then, just to be sure, I washed it in hot w/ 2 new Color Catchers.  Interestingly, it was the blue that bled.  Hmmm.  Who knew?

And finally...a shot in situ
Happy Graduation Guitar Girl!

Friday, February 25, 2011


If you make a mistake and it isn't visible, do you still have to admit that you made it?

I was so excited about getting this finished!  And I was surfing the net for tricks on calculating  yardage for bias bindings.  I found a great one:  Inches needed x width of the strip.  Take the square root of that answer and add 2".  That gives you the size of square to start with for making the bias.

Lesson#1:  Do not do math when not feeling well and/or have multiple distractions.  Food Poisoning. House Guest. Girls Friends Hanging Out Here.
Lesson #2:  Do not try to combine multiple sets of directions for cutting continuous bias binding.  Particularly in light of Lesson #1.  Sure, it seems obvious now that it takes 4 -15" squares to equal 1 -30" square.
Lesson #3:  If the strip seems wider than it needs to be, it probably is.  I was so obsessed with getting the right length that I allowed 2.5" to get stuck in my head, when I know that I always cut 1.5-1.75 for a 1/4" binding.

So...the binding making process took twice as long as it should have.  My binding has more seams in it than necessary.  I only had to resew the seam that makes the continuous binding tube twice to get the cutting lines right. I tried sewing the binding so there was 1/4" showing on the front and 1/2" on the back, but that made the edge cup.  I pull out out 20" of hand-stitching and tucked under the extra 1/4".

With any luck, before the day is out I'll be to the next nail-biter step.  Time to wash it.  I am terrified that the batik is going to bleed all over the white since they weren't pre-washed.  My plan is a cold water wash with Color Catchers to see how it goes.  It's pretty grubby-dirty from being dragged around for 16 months.  And there's a few splashes of coffee...and some faint shadowing from where I had to use Wine Away after the Great Shiraz Debacle.   I'm hoping that all that will come out (even if I have to wash it twice) and that the hot drier will both set the color and give me that 3% shrinkage of the cotton batting that I've been counting on for great texture.   Next post will either be victory pictures or lots of tears.

Monday, February 21, 2011


The quilting is done!!!!!!!  *Happy Dance*  Still need to bind & wash, then lots and lots of photos.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Back Basting Applique - Part 2

I've had lots of questions about this technique.  Hopefully this post will answer all of them.
I am using the Be Still My Heart block from Esther's Heart's Desire BOM.  This pattern is free until March 15th, when she will offer block 2 of the Mystery Block of the Month free for a month.  It's a good block to practice this technique on since there are long, sweeping turns rather than a lot of fussy inside & outside points.

Once your shape is basted and cut out, you are going  to cut and remove the basting thread where you are going to do the needleturn.  I pull about 2" worth of thread on a straight section like this, or about 1" on a more complicated piece.

I like to start stitching in the middle of a straight section since it's sometimes hard to get started and do an inside or outside point at the same time.

Here's my technique for needle turn:
On a straight section like this, I like to turn under 1-1.5"  before I start to stitch.  Grab the seam allowance that you are going to turn under with the tip of your needle.

Fold that allowance under, using your thumb to hold it in place.  In this picture, you can see the little holes that were made by the basting stitch (click to enlarge if you need to).  This is your fold line.

Use the needle to tidy this edge. In this case, I'll use the tip of the needle to push that pointy section right of the needle under.  And I'll use the tip of the needle to pull some of the fabric  left of the needle out to be more rounded.  Once I like how it looks, I typically run the thumb of my needle hand over the fold to finger press it.
I then scoot my thumb over the section that I just turned to hold it in place, and to be closer to my stitching area for better control.

Then just stitch-away.  My stitches are typically 5mm apart on straight sections and as close as 3mm on inside and outside points.

The next piece in this pattern will be layered on top of this green piece.  Since I won't be able to see well through it, like I did with the first piece, it's time for a different technique.

I mark the outline of the piece with large pins.  In this case, I only need to mark 2 sides b/c the outside green petal marks the outside (left side in the picture.)

On the front side, I know that the chunk of fabric I'm going to use next needs to cover the petal and the pins.

I used the edge of my yardage to line up with the outer left petal.  I use short applique pins to hold the fabric in place.  The pins are placed outside the petal on the left and outside the location-marking pins on the right.

That way, when I flip it to the back to baste, I can see that the pins are outside the design area and I have enough fabric to cover the shape.  Also, with the pins on the opposite side from the basting, the thread doesn't get caught while you are stitching.

Baste in place using a contrasting thread.  I like longer stitches for straight edges and stitch closer together for smaller or more complicated pieces.

I make small corrections sometimes when basting too. The line I drew on the right, seemed to get narrow, so I moved the basting line to the inside of the drawn line.  I'll make corrections to my wonky stitching line when I trim the shape.

On the front side, cut out the shape.  In doing this tutorial, I realized that I leave a 5mm seam allowance.  (about half-way b/w 1/8 and 1/4").  That little extra wiggle room is good for fine-tuning the folds, but doesn't make for too much bulk.

Line up the next piece the same way.  I'm feeling for the pins that I used to mark the point of this petal.  And I can feel the outside of the green petal through the pink to make sure I have the design covered.  Pin on the front side, baste on the back.

Since these pieces won't overlap with each other, I'll baste all 6 of them down, then I'll do the stitching on all of them before I go through the same process for the center petals.

So, what do you think?  Are you ready to try?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Back Basting Applique - Getting Started

I was trying to explain back-basting to Lynne at Lily's Quilts and decided it might be easier to just get started on Esther's  Hearts Desire BOM and take pictures.

After taping together the parts of the pattern, secure it to your window (OK, you can use a light box if you have one) with the "right" side facing the neighbors.

 Press a centering seam into the fabric, then tape it to the window over the pattern, also right side to the neighbors.  Use a pencil to trace the design on the back side of the fabric.

If you have template plastic and an extra 6 minutes,  you could make templates for some of the repeating elements to make sure they are exactly the same shape if that kind of detail bothers you.

The first thing I'm going to applique is the large 6-petaled motif.  Place a chunk of the design fabric, bigger than the shape  that you want to use on the table, right side down. (You'll be trimming it to shape later)  Place the backing fabric over it, also face down. Make sure that the chunk of fabric completely covers the shape.  This background is thin enough that you can see the dark fabric through it.  Otherwise, I hold it up to the light & make sure that there is enough fabric for the motif with some extra around the edges.  Pin in place.  For a big piece like this, I used a dozen applique pins but would typically use 2 or 3.  After it's pinned, double check position by holding it up to the light.

With thread that contrasts with both the background and the design fabric, baste on the line.  This dotted line will be your fold line for the needle turn.

This is a good place for a tip about needles.  When I baste, I use a rather thick sewing needle - the kind that comes in a multi-pack from the dollar store.  It leaves bigger holes in the fabric when the thread is removed, helping to mark both the fold, and where it should attach to the background.

Once it is basted, flip it over and trim to 1/8" or whatever size seam you want to work with.  If your stitching line was a little wobbly (like mine was on this point) you can improve the shape of the piece with careful trimming.

Tracing the whole design, basting and trimming only took me 15 minutes (including pictures).  And TA-DA!  Not only am I ready to sew, but the piece is exactly the right shape and in exactly the right place.  No templates. No freezer paper. No glue. No mystery positioning.

These are my MUST HAVE applique tools. I love the YLI # 100 silk thread. The stitches are nearly invisible.  I like Thread Heaven thread conditioner for applique, but will use bees wax in a pinch.  My preference is an 11 or 12 applique needle.  You really need the silk thread to use a needle that small.

Then it's just basic needle turn technique for the stitching.  Fold on the dotted line, making sure it matches up to the dotted line on the background.

Super simple.  I love back-basting needle turn applique.  Before someone showed me how, I was an applique hater.  Now...I'm Applique Addict.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Stupid Ideas

On some blog recently I read about a technique for making half-square-triangles by sewing the outside edges of a square, then cutting into 4 pieces.  This seemed an incredibly stupid idea since it would make the  square's edges all on the bias.   So I decided to try it.

My conclusion is that it is, in fact, incredibly stupid to have piles of squares with bias edges.  I had to be extremely careful as I sewed them together.  I could just imagine a beginning piecer try would keep you from ever piecing again.

My tolerance for this approach is pretty low, so instead of a whole quilt of this, I'll alternate these 2 strips with something else.

And as long as I'm sharing my "what was I thinking?" moments....I'll share this progress photo.  I've literally Turned The Corner on the Joseph's Coat.  The hand quilting is finished on 3 sides with most of the center finished.  I've quit tracking petals completed, and have changed to a smaller hoop as it makes me feel like I'm making progress each time I move the hoop.  Just a guess...but I have the equivalent of about 7 "squares" to go.   This is why I haven't posted much lately...I've been focused on finishing this.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


I must finally be officially well and over the Crud as this is the first night in 2.5 weeks that I've been awake after 9pm.

I haven't been completely neglecting my quilt addictions.  The photo shows the first 2 9patch blocks of "$2.25 + Tax".  I have the first hundred-or-so HST blocks ready to go.  This afternoon I finally decided to group them 9 triangles together rather than any of the random or pinwheel patterns I'd been contemplating.  In case you weren't paying attention earlier...this is the $1.25 thrift store sheet plus 2 mens cotton shirts that I got in an all-you-can-fit-in-a-bag-for $1.   The funny thing about that is that this morning when I couldn't find anything to wear to work....I did wonder if the brown linen pants that I got in the $1 bag would actually fit me (after all they were my size...). Turns out they fit very well.  Finding something in my Jewel Tone Wardrobe to go with them was a whole different story.  In the back of the closet I found some pointy toed metalic bronze flats that I bought to go with a retro cream colored 50's dress.  I was able to dust off a 40's navy blue blazer...and decided that a lime green t-shirt would be fine...since lime is a neutral color.

Most of my quilting time in January has been spent in an all-out effort to finish the Joseph's Coat.  I won't post a photo since 20% done looks the same as 40 or 60% done in a photo.  I was feeling jubilant thinking I was about 60% finished by mid-month.  Then I made the foolish mistake of counting the ACTUAL amount of quilting left rather than the estimates I've been tracking since I was at the 20% point.  Bad news: I over-estimated by 3%.  Good news: I'm a tad over 72% finished.  If I can stay really focused...there's hope it will be ready before it's warm enough to work in the garden.