Sunday, 28 April 2013

BLOG 146

Question: What do you do with a pile of light and dark of scraps, a cutting board, iron and paper?

Answer: You make a quilt!


Potential quilt
 I am going to start refurbishing our bedroom … is it Spring that has brought this on I wonder? … and I want to make a different quilt than the one we have had on the bed for years. This one is a ‘Snowball’ design, with strips sewn straight onto the batting and backing, as in quilt-as-you-go.

                                Old quilt

Now, is decorating an excuse to make another quilt or is making another quilt an excuse to decorate? In my case, making another quilt is an excuse to use up the bits of fabric overflowing from my storage baskets. I don’t want to buy any new fabrics; I only want to shift some of my existing stock. And there is a load of stock I can tell you!







                                    Storage baskets



 And it will be a long journey so I have to ask myself why I do it, what makes me cut my first strip and sew my first seam? I know it is going to take up a lot of my time and yet I still can’t wait to get started. I suppose it’s because this quilt will be unique to me, no-one else will have an identical one. And it will be fulfilling a need in me to create with fabric, even at this most basic level.  I won’t have to think or design or solve problems; I will just be able to sit down and sew. It will be the equivalent of motorway driving on my sewing machine too: foot down on the carpet and no speed restrictions (!).

IN PREPARATION: I have set up my loft room for a concentrated sewing session. It will be left like this for the duration as no-one else needs this space and the door can be closed after me. I won’t have to clear up at all, just sew. I can spend an hour in there or fifteen minutes whilst the potatoes boil.  Here’s the set-up.

1 An iron and pad: positioned away from my machine so I have to get up from my chair each time I need to use it (stops me from sitting in one position all the time and makes me move every few minutes)
2 Cutting board, ruler and cutter: new blade so I don’t get frustrated when cutting.

3 Pad of A4 lined paper: the cheaper the better as the paper tears more easily after sewing.
4 Sewing machine: threaded with neutral cotton thread, stitch size reduced to 1.1 on my setting. (I tried with several qualities of paper and noticed that the better quality ones needed an even smaller stitch.)

5 Bags of strips hanging on the drawer: Light strips in the green bag and dark in the red bag. (They will be easy to swap over when I change from light to dark fabrics.)
6 Bag on the floor for discarded ends of strips that weren’t long enough to go across the page. (Need to offload them onto someone who uses smaller strips.)

7 Rubbish bin placed to the right of the machine.

ALSO IN PREPARATION: I have cut lots of strips from Hoffman-like fabrics (i.e. rich looking fabric with gold or silver in them. I have lots left over from box making days.) I spent an afternoon ironing fabrics first and cutting what I could from them. My thought was to cut strips of varying widths if I could get them from the left-overs of the fabrics: 2”, 1 ¾”, 1 ½” and 1 ¼” and I needed lots of variety to get started.
More next week.

BTW:  All the strips for my granddaughter’s quilt have been joined and now I need space to ponder on how I am going to proceed around the borders with what remains of the light fabric. More on this quilt in a couple of weeks.




Sunday, 21 April 2013

BLOG 145

I have taken my granddaughter’s scrap quilt onto the next stage this week. I believe … and hope … that I have constructed all the blocks that I need to cover the top of her bed. I need to make a decision on the arrangement of the blocks and I find that the best way to do this is to try different arrangements on a design wall and then to take a picture.  When seen through the lens of a camera, I can get a much better impression of the finished quilt because the picture lends distance to the overall effect of the design.

 Here are the 4 arrangements that I particularly liked. (Observation: there should be no colours at the same level throughout the design for ease of construction so this pic illustrates that there has been an error in construction in the centre of the 3rd row!)

                                     Arrangement 1


                             Arrangement 2

                                Arrangement 3

                             Arrangement 4

Visual choices are always very personal and all of these arrangements would work well. Personally, I like Arrangement 4 best of all because I like to see lines of pattern running down the length of a bed rather than across it. Choice made!
I now need to sew the blocks together to make lines. Again I must point out that I haven’t done any ironing on these blocks; I will do that when I start to join the vertical lines together, to make it easier for me to feed the blocks under the machine foot.

My main concern at this stage is not to put two of the same fabrics side by side as I join the vertical rows. Once they are joined together, I take them to my ironing board and steam press all the seams in the same direction (I’m a butter-upper of seams not an opener!). I work out which row will be underneath, lying on the plate of the sewing machine, and press those seams down from top to bottom. This will ensure that they lie with the direction that I am sewing. (I steam press by plonking my iron onto the seams rather than dragging. This way, the strips don’t stretch.)

                                       Steam pressing

I steam press the row that will go on top in the opposite direction. The raw edges of the seam will go towards the needle as I sew and I can adjust them. I pin about 4 times down the length of the strip just to hold the edges together; all the rest of the work is done as I sew. I butt up each seam as I go, feeling when it is lying flat with the forefinger of my left hand. With my right hand I hold a large pin and, after I have butted up each seam, I stick the point into the fabrics so that they won’t move as I sew. I remove the pin when the machine needle is over the top. I check a section from the right side as I go and the process works remarkably well!

                                        Sewing the strips

                              Butting the seams


                                                               Checking the joins

I then press the seams and decide in which direction the vertical seam will lie.

                                 Vertical seam

                                                 Accurate joins

 At this stage it measures 48” across and 70” down. And this is the story so far. Hope you like it, I certainly do.

                      Vertical Panels

Vertical panels

Sunday, 14 April 2013

BLOG 144

I eventually found a picture of the quilt that has inspired me to embark on my latest colourful quilt. It appears to be on a wall behind someone’s sewing machine and I have still no idea of where it originated. Reminiscent of the ‘piano key’ borders that appear on quilts, this is more random. Cutting colourful strips at differing heights removes the angst of lining up seams every time you sew them together.


This is the pattern I drafted and I placed it beside the sewing machine for reference. I sorted out the first full set of strips and I start to sew.


After attempting to sew one single pattern section of 10 strip, I decided to try a strip piecing method and this was much better. I took strips #1 and #2 from the tray and fed them through, repeating this 3 more times. Then I went back to the first one I had sewn and added strip #3, and repeated it. I continued until I had sewn every strip onto all 4 blocks. 

Strip piecing is much more economical on thread and gives a satisfying rhythm to sewing because you are repeating number sequences.

                 Machine and strips

I used a ¼” foot for accuracy and I always sewed from top to bottom or from light to bright. If you recall, the individual seam allowances were pressed from light to bright, so all the seams are pressed away from the foot and go under it easily.

                                   Light to bright

I didn’t do any pinning; I just place the top corner of the block under the foot and sew for ½”. Then I positioned the lower corners together and let the machine feed the fabric under the foot, keeping the edges level.

                                           Edges level

I eventually got into a rhythm of sewing 5 blocks at a time, and I used a thread saver (a strip of fabric the width of the sewing foot) to go under the foot so I could release all the fabric sets and separate them for the addition of the next strip in the sequence.

                              Thread saver

 And before I knew it I had 5 blocks, then 20 blocks and now 56 blocks. I need to decide how I am going to use the blocks now.

                                         5 blocks

                                                  20 blocks


                                      56 blocks

Notice that at this stage they have not been pressed. I want to wait until I know how I am going to position the blocks and therefore iron them so they are sympathetic to my sewing system.

Another modest achievement this week was the making of a quilt for the Alzheimer’s project. It is 1 metre squares as requested and it will be one of many for the Hampden Park Quilt Project. The idea of the project, run by Ann Hill, is to try and cover the football pitch at Hampden Park in Glasgow with quilts.

                                        1 metre quilt


If anyone is interested in participating by donating a quilt(s), here is the info from Ann:

5,000 quilts of 40” square (or close) are needed to cover Scotland’s international football pitch at Hampden Park in Glasgow. Aerial photographs will be taken and sold. The quilts will be auctioned off and those left will be adopted by care homes throughout Scotland. The aim of the project is to raise awareness of dementia and how it affects not only the person affected but their families and friends.




Sunday, 7 April 2013

BLOG 143

This week, on a whim and just for the sheer joy of it, I decided to make a scrap quilt and nothing makes me happier. A precious little girl I know has moved into a single bed and whether she likes it or not, she is getting a quilt! This is how I went about it.

I started off by drafting a pattern. I had seen a lovely quilt when trawling quilting websites but, when I tried, I couldn’t find it again. I don’t know the originator but one glance told me that I would like to try and make something similar in scrap fabrics. Here’s my own version of the pattern. No seams are level to speed up construction.


 I chose a 3 metre length of a light fabric that would be constant throughout the quilt and I cut it into 5 different widths: 1½”, 2½”, 3½”, 4½” and 5½”

                                              Light fabric

Then I went to my mound of coloured fabrics and started to iron and cut the same widths in as many different bright fabrics as possible. I cut sorter lengths so that I could get more variety.

                                         Bright fabrics

All the strips, when joined, will measure 6½” so, beside my sewing machine, I matched up the strips in sequence: Light 1½” + Bright 5 ½”, Light 2½” + Bright 4½” and so on…..

                                       Matched strips

I chose a grey neutral thread and wound up 3 bobbins so I didn’t have to stop when I got going. I put ¼” foot on my machine and just started to sew.

                                ¼” seam allowance

When I had sewn 2 strips of each combination, I took the strips to the ironing board. Placing the dark fabric uppermost, I ironed along the line of stitches to settle them into the seam.

                                   Settle the stitches

 Then I lifted the dark fabric and ironed the seam open. That ensured that the light fabric seam is always ironed towards the dark fabric seam.

                                            Lift the dark fabric

Keeping them in sequence, I laid the pressed strips next to my cutting board.

                                         Pressed strips

To trim the raw edges of the strips, I lined up a vertical mark on my ruler with the edge of the strip. This assures me that I will have a perfect right angle when I trim away the excess fabric to straighten up the edges.

                        Straighten up the cutting edge

All the cut strips need to be kept in sequence, ready for sewing into a block, so I transferred them onto a tray to carry them to my machine ready for constructing the block.

                                                  Cut strips

Patchwork is best done accurately, logically and methodically for smooth execution and peace of mind!!
More next week when I will have made significant progress and you will be able to see what I am trying to make. And perhaps I will come across the quilt I am trying to replicate.