Monday, June 28, 2010

You Can Quilt That Out

I had to chuckle loudly when I received this via email from one of my clients. She's a great applique quilter, and has probably heard me rant about quilt quality and the grand multitude of anomalies that we as longarm quilters get to see. Most of these issues are truly minor. But now and then there are ones that make me really wrinkle my upper lip with bewilderment, and think long and hard how I will make it actually lay flat. Please, do have a look - It is funny, I promise!!

Funnier too because I had JUST finished this top and felt that rolled lip of disgust when I couldn't get that left side border to lay flat. It was my own doing and I knew exactly what was the culprit: My old sewing machine (of course it was not ME!!). My good Singer was being serviced. It has an electronic stitch width setting, so I can get great repeatability with my .25" seam. I borrowed my old (25 yr) machine back from my mom while the other one was gone, and it has 3 mechanical foot settings, so I guessed where to set it. I knew that it was just shy of 1/4" and hence the stoned middle border came out nearly 1" long. Curses. I did my best to reduce seams a little and ease it together, but it still ended up a tad big, and had that awful lettuce edge. I am a better quilter that than and I was pretty mad.

What did I do?

What else? I loaded it on the longarm and quilted it. And to my surprised eyes, it quilted perfectly. I didn't have to float the top, or use excessive pins, or even have to shout obsceneties and spit. It just quilted fine. Shock. Now I hope that this is not perceived as an invitation from all you out there that have D-cup quilts - I never suspected it would do this and i don't love getting quilts that are not flat. But, if you have ones with small imperfections and a little fullness here and there, do not fret.

This is a Bento Box pattern which I have been working on writing up. It is strip pieced rather than stitched the traditional log cabin way which we usually make a Bento Box block. It requires many less seams and fewer cuts. On top of that, the blocks were done from a jelly roll and result in about only 1" waste per full 44" strip! Here's the link to my tutorial. I made this top in about 2-1/2 hours.
I told you earlier in the month how much I LOVE this Moda OZ line. The fabrics are graphic and cheerful. This 60" quilt took just half a jelly roll, which I found for under $20, and 2 yards of ivory Bella. The backing is a rose Bella solid, and it took 3 yards to back and bind the quilt.

Not being a fan of stippling, I chose a different and completely non-linear quilting design. I think that juxtiposing a linear quilt with a non-linear quilting creates visual interest.

If you find yourself in the mood to try a Bento Box quilt, consider trying this method. I am sure you will be surprised how fast the quilt makes up.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Strip-Pieced Bento Box Quilt Pattern

Please NOTE that this pattern is for the home quilter.  It is NOT to be taken and mass produced.  Not to be taken and used for you to teach the pattern.  This is my property and is under copyright.

This is a tutorial for making a Strip-Pieced Bento Box quilt. This tutorial saves both fabric and time over the typical "log cabin" piecing of this block. It results in nearly no waste when pieces are cut, and eliminates unnecessary time for pressing after every seam when using the log cabin method of piecing. I used Moda's OZ jelly roll strips for the printed fabrics and yardage for the Moda Bella solid. The material requirements given here assume that.

Here is the finished quilt (lap size).
Material Requirements:
A. Lap Quilt 60"x60"- half a jelly roll (20 strips print), 2 yards solid fabric (cut into 27-2.5" strips), 2.75 yards for backing, 1/2 yard for binding

B. Twin Quilt 63"x87" -28 print strips from jelly rolls, 3.25 yards solid fabric (cut into 35-2.5" strips, and 7-4" wide strips for outer border), 4.75 yards for backing, 5/8 yard for binding

C. Queen Quilt 87"x87" -41 print strips from jelly rolls, 4.5 yards solid fabric (cut into 49-2.5" strips, and 9-4" wide strips for outer border), 6 yards for backing, 2/3 yard for binding
Strip Piecing the Bento Box blocks (12"):

step 1
You may use 2.5" strips that you cut or strips from a jelly roll. Each block requires one full width strip of a print and one full width strip of a solid. step 2
Remove two 6-1/2" pieces from each of the strips.
step 3
Stitch the remaining amount of the 2 strips together (it is approximately 29"). Press towards the print.
step 4
Cut four pieces at 2.5" and four at 4.5". There will be a scant amount of waste, of only an inch or so!!
step 5
This is the layout for the pieces. Each of the four blocks made is 6.5" square.

step 6
Stitch the four blocks together, pressing after each seam towards the print fabric. Careful pressing will ensure that the seams of the blocks lay properly when all blocks are assembled, as well as ensure that rogue colored threads do not show beneath the solid/lighter fabric. I have chosen not to sew my blocks in the traditional manner (as layed out below), but rather pairing 2 blocks with 2 blocks of different fabrics (see below).
step 7
The following picture shows how your block should appear from the backside. Please pay particular attention to the direction seams are pressed.
step 8
I have chosen to make blocks as shown below, with 2 different prints in each. Make all of the 6.5" blocks, then arrange the 12.5" blocks to your liking.
step 9
Make the number of Bento Box blocks as required for the size quilt you desire (16 for lap quilt, 24 for twin quilt or 36 for queen). Arrange as desired.Piecing the Border (quantities & dimensions given for lap quilt) :
Cut 11 full width strips at 2.5" of the solid fabric. Stitch together lengthwise. This will be used for the inner and outer solid borders.

Border 1 - solid fabricFrom the long strip of 2.5" solid, cut two pieces at 48.5" and two pieces at 52.5". Sew onto the assembled 16 Bento Box squares.

Border 2 - "stone" borderThis border requires two rows of 24- 2.5"x2.5" "stones" - alternating a print with a solid, and two rows of 28 2.5"x2.5" "stones" - alternating a print with a solid. I made it from strip piecing three print fabrics and three solid fabrics, plus 8 more 2.5" squares (4 of each print and solid).

step 1
Stitch together 3 prints and 3 solids, 2.5" wide.
step 2
Cut into sixteen 2.5" strips. If you prefer to use scraps or additional fabrics, you can randomly piece the "stone border" with 2.5" pieces rather than using strips.

Piece these into the proper row lengths given above, adding the 4 additional "stones" to two of the rows. Stitch onto the quilt's inner solid border.

Border 3 - solid fabric
From the remaining 2.5" solid strip, cut two pieces at 56.5" and two pieces at 60.5". Sew onto the "stone" border. Note that the twin and queen quilts require a 4" outer solid border rather than the 2.5" of the lap quilt in order to be large enough for the respective beds.

Here is the finished Strip-Pieced Bento Box lap quilt top (and assembled in only a couple of hours!).
Quilt and bind!

Fraternal Twins

I finished these two quilts recently. I finally dug into some of the green and browns that I bought in May as well as some fabrics bought last fall. Don't ask why they need to sit on a shelf for 6 months before I dare cut into them. I had quite a few Tina Givens prints that I really loved, and got for a mere $3 a yard in October that I had not touched until these quilts were done. The initial concept from the quilts came from Oh Franson's Mod Sampler, but I added a couple blocks of my own and yanked a couple of her's that just didn't play well, and viola! The designs are simple, but it takes a simpler design to showcase the larger modern fabrics well. I am also a bit of a rebel when it comes to sashings. I know that white is all the rage amongst so-called modern quilt makers. But I hate it. No, I HATE IT (did you hear me that time??!). It's stark. Cold. And just plain impractical for anything which will be used. Furthermore, if the fabrics contain off-white and ivory, why sash in white?? So, in keeping with my rebel ways, I sashed the green quilt in ivory Kona and the brown sister-quilt in a soft butter yellow. Yellow is unorthodox, but it coordinated better with the prints than the ivory did. Just call me Jesse James.

Initially, when I was making the blocks, I was very uncertain about the green quilt. I didn't like the blocks together much. But then I added about 6-8 new fabrics, pulled out 4 blocks, and it was love at first sight. The 5 Moda Bella solids I used with all of the bright, happy modern green prints are simply devine. I'm not really sure I can sell this one, but time will tell! And for those of you who do not or hae not used these solids, they are heavenly. I just love the Bellas - loads of colors, great weight, and a good price.

On the green quilt, I tried out a newly acquired panto called "Windblown" by Jodi Beamish, which again, I was not sure of initially. It is densely quilted, and took longer than I really wanted, but in the end, I like the texture. And you all know how I hate stippling, so I needed an alternative. And the brown twin quilt, has another new panto pattern called "Whirlygig", by the same designer. It quilted up quickly and looks nice too. This pattern will get used frequently.

Some detail looks... I did throw in a few aqua and brown blocks just for visual interest. They weren't quite right on the green quilt, but seemed OK for the brown.

See that delicious texture!

And the backs. Who could forget the back of the quilt?! Brown quilt... a Michael Miller brown and lime green check with a stripe of my favorite large flower by Tina Givens. I managed to get the brown check at a Linus quilt event in March, four yards for $4. What a steal! I almost never buy enough backing fabric to do an entire quilt back of the same material.

And the green sister quilt... It has the same Free Spirit Annabella flower and brown check, and I threw in some of another material from the Annabella line (green with yellow globs). I also bound this quilt with this fabric, perhaps a little risky move, but it turned out wonderfully.
So now, with little more than a week before I switch into beach vacation mode, I am busy wrapping up a couple more of my own selfish little projects. I am furociously designing several projects to stitch with newly purchased material, and scheming as to how I will utilize some older (AKA 2008-2009) fabrics. I have a few finishing touches to make on my Maine Quilt Show piece, which must be delivered the weekend after we return from vacation (so it has to be essentially complete when I leave). I have a great tutorial I will share next week. And I will put one more quilt to the LA before I take some much needed R&R.

Take some time on your porch swing this weekend and enjoy summer~ I know I will be.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Voile Quilt

This is a quilt that was made by Michelle and quilted by me last month. It's larger than the picture leads you to think it is - about 60" square. I was intrigued about the voile fabric right up until the point that it actually arrived in my mailbox. Then the fear set in. This was thin, almost sheer, and definitely silk-like. What on earth was I getting myself into?? The prints are from Anna Maria Horner, and are very pretty. The backing is fromn the blue floral print, which I really like. But the quilting was a scarry job.
I ordered a blue-gray thread to best match the background. I knew I had one chance to quilt it. There couldn't be any ripping out or else it would show. And if I wasn't already scared of how this fabric would tension, Michelle sent a super thin QD Select batting which is essentially like a layer of thick flannel. All the longarmers out there know that tensioning is easiest when the sandwich is thicker. No luck with that here! She wanted simple quilting that would not minimize the drape of the material. I really wanted to quilt the star differently from the background, but again, she requested a simple all-over pattern so my job really was just to get it right the first time.
If you read her post, you'll see that she finished the quilt for a wedding gift, and was happy with the quilting. I'm curious to see how the material washes, and how much it pulls up/puckers. I really dislike the solid blue fabric because it's too sheer, in my opinion for a quilt. The seams and batting are visible through it. The other materials are just lovely though. It might be prettiest done with a layer of super thin cotton muslin, died to match as a foundation layer. Then you get the softness of the voile, with more durability. JMHO~

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Birthday Dress

With 2 months to spare, her birthday dress is completed. She changed plans on me after I'd cut out the smocking section. Originally we were doing a ruffled skirt and shirt, but then she became very adamant about it being a dress, one-piece! SO...I had to get creative as how to put this thing together.
She's all about being fance (AKA Fancy Nancy), loving ruffles, trims, bows, etc. If it twirls out three feet, all the better. I am hoping to find or make her (or better, have someone else make her!) a play dress up wedding dress for her birthday! Initially I was going to do a peasant-style skirt out of 4 or 5 coordinating fabrics. When I got to putting this together, it seemed out of place. Consequently, I have several extra ruffles made! Luckily, we bought plenty of fabric to do this all in just one.
I kind of botched the smocked section. It was made a couple inches too narrow, so a patch was added at the ends. That is not too visible, but then I failed to gather it to the skirt so it didn't hang quite rigt. I added the ribbon ties in those area, and viola, it is not obvious (and it is more fancy!)
Very simple smocking since the fabric is busy.
And under the layers of ruffling is a ribbony fabric.
My happy model.
And she's twice as happy because I came home from Target with these new sandals for her - her first ever. They are still hard to walk in, but she loves them all the same. They'll be perfect on the beach.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Roasty Toasty

We are finally having a nice summer heat spell, even if it only lasts 2-3 days. It was hot back in late April, but not much above 65F for all of June so far. For me, this is most welcome. I love the sunshine and heat. And if it means you can go to the beach (because kids are now out of school), all the better. Mind you, the ocean is still a very brisk 52F, which is too cold for even my toes, but there were some crazy fools (my kids included ) that went into it.

I blew it all off today. No house cleaning (ha, like that really happens regularly!). I sewed for an hour before the kids got up, but payed no attention to getting home by Sophie's normal naptime. I'm fried today. I have quilted the past 2 days with a malfunctioning thread break sensor. It beeps continuously, and is just about enough to drive me mad. A techie is coming some day next week to investigate the issue. In the process of bringing my LA to have the tensioner discs reinstalled on Wednesday, something was moved out of whack (or busted) in the disgnosing we were doing on the machine the day before. They checked the machine out w/o the computer on Wednesday so they didn't hear the continuous beep. I have done 2 quilts with it beeping and it's enough to make me crazy! So, today is all about playing.
We are heading to the white sandy beaches of western Florida in just a few weeks. I am so looking forward to soft, white sand and not the dark and dirty, rocky beaches that we have here. It was low tide much of the time we were at the beach, so this is about as long as the beach gets. And it's always wet, so I couldn'y lay on my towel. To have been on dry sand would have meant allowing these two not-so-trusting cherrubs free reign to do whatever because I'd be too far away to do anything about it! Furthermore, with three on one, I cannot take a snooze or daydream. They are a full-time job. Or these two are anyways (AKA Trouble One and Trouble Two). Miss Sophie reassures me every day that I am her favorite Mama. Watching her is easy peasy.
After several hours on the sand, we took a walk on the rockier area of this state park, exploring some of the tidal pools. They found several of these little guys! In retrospect, we should have done it first, when Sophie's feet were fresher, but then. It was fun. I'm so concentrated with getting her feet & legs strong enough to visit Disney, any exercise whenever in the day is a good thing.
And with each passing year, the cooperation to get all three in a nice beachy picture together gets progressively harder! Two out of three not gawking at something else is not that bad :-)
By the time we were leaving, the beach was packed. It's your usual Maine beach: loads of kids and lots of white (not racially white, but pale, pastey, paper white skinned) folk. Much of the time, Sophie sat and played in and near a small tidal pool (4'x2' puddle!). Before we left she needed to go to the bathroom and I was NOT taking her into the surf, and the bathroom facility was clearly too far away. So I told her to just quickly sit down in her puddle and do it. I was busy packing our stuff up. A minute or so later I glance over and she's stripped off her swimsuit bottoms, has her top hiked to her armpits, and is examining what she's peeing into the puddle as it fountain sprays out of her. Oh good Lord, raising kids will kill me! They really do not have any discretion or inhibitions, do they?! I pity the next folk to sit near our puddle...
And I'll leave you with my favorite shot of the day. Sometimes the best picture is taken from behind .

Coming soon...
1. Fraternal twins - the story of two similar, but different quilts
2. A finished Birthday dress
3. several other customer goodies

Have a good weekend and Father's day~

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Seriously frustrated.

As my last post mentioned, my piecing machine crapped out last Sunday. I had it ready to take into the shop yestterday, but decided at the last minute I'd bring it in today. That gave me this week to do longarm quilting I had been accumulating, as well as a couple of my own quilts that have been lying around.

It all seemed to be going according to plan. I finished 1 customer quilt Monday afternoon. On Tuesday morning, I put on one of my own quilts, as I knew it'd be a 1-day job, and then I could get back to business. I finished that in the afternoon yesterday and proceeded to put on another customer quilt. Not a large one, but one I could finish in a few hours. Basic E2E quilting. Threads on, quilt top basted on, and I started checking tension when the entire tensioning assembly fell off! I nearly sh^&!! I spent the next couple hours ignoring my kids, on the phone with the company and my local rep's technician only to get nowhere. I needed to take it into the shop. Sigh... At least I had postponed taking the Singer in so I only had to make one one hour trip (each way!). It was a simple fix, only took a few minutes, but now my baby is in the back of my car and I cannot sew this afternoon because I cannot safely carry it to my studio. There'sno point in risking it, so I wait unpatiently until my husband gets home. More realistically, I sit very impatiently.
So what's a gal to do when she goes to Sanford, ME ?? (Besides laugh at being in one of Maine's "holes")...Go to one of my favorite and cheapest fabric haunts: Mardens. You are looking at 18 yards of fabric, purchased for $52. It is all good, namebrand fabric. I am uncertain who made the solids, but they are nice materials. They had about 12 different shades of orange - I had to slap my hands after grabbing 5 since I didn't have a plan for any of them (and it was apparent I had exceeded my self-imposed 10 yard limit). I have already started designing a quilt for the pinks above. I just LOVE the polka dots. The stuff above is Maywood Studios (Back Porck Bouquet).
These are not enough alone to make a quilt, but they were very appealing to me. A small print modern!
Before the Sewing Machine Crisis week started, I finished quilting this commission quilt for a customer. I'd done a similar quilt last year using swap blocks, and she wanted a similar one. I had to be crazy to take this project on - It has about 350 different cut fabrics. It is a fun I-spy type quilt though, and is almost like a memory quilt for me to see all of the different materials I have used in things over recent years.
I did a mini-round robin over the course of the last year or so. My quilt came home yesterday. I started with the pieced star in the middle-left. I'd honestly hoped for a summer-y quilt, with flowers, watermellon, ants and other motifs of summer, but you don't really get to pick these things with swaps, and not everyone reads your preferences. I'm not completely sure that they were sent along with the quilt at all. I mean, I sent them, but whether they went with it the entire 16 months is unknown.
Admittedly, it's not bad to have a July 4th quilt, but I'm really on the fence about "Old Glory" and the eagle. Like I have already said, I am a bit of a bitchy mood, looking for things to fuss about. Hey, let's start with the fact that school got out today and now I have 3 kids at home all day. I have already had whiney, hitting and bad attitudes from my 8 year old - the one who CAN really behave, but chooses not to sometimes. But really, this swap left a really rotten taste in my mouth. The person I sent to each month bitched publically on the forum about me if I sent my piece out more than 1-2 days early. She bitched at me when I sent a label separately (it was sent to me separately and late!). And then at the end, she went around me and had the person who would have sent her quilt to me for binding, just send her quilt to her directly. What the hey, did she think I couldn't put on a binding?? So annoying. Yes, I know some people in the swap will read this and I don't give a frig! I don't intend to do this swap again. The quality of the quilt is good; it's the one person that made it a bad experience.
Sigh...on to happier typing.
Late last week I finished a quilt for Lisa's son. She's such a marvelous piecer. I know when she sends things that they will be neat and square. And these fabrics are to die for. Gorgeous! I couldn't tell if they were batiks or a hand-dye she did. They are Hoffman "Mckenna Ryan's Silent Inspirations" - and the purple is all one fabric which has gradations from deep burgundy all the way to the soft pink. The blue and green are one also. Her son has wicked grand taste in fabric and in colors. I'm so glad I wasn't quilting some sports fabrics :-) Golly, quilting for boys and men can be SO challenging sometimes!
Not this time. She gave me free reign to quilt however. Her son likes the detailed quilting and feathering. It was hard fabric to quilt on because the feathering backtracking stitches show on so much of the purple (if not done carefully) because the fabric changes color. Normally I select a thread that nearly perfectly matches the material when I am to feather an area, but that was impossible here.
I chose the rippling water quilting for the blue/green areas to counter the swirling that I did in the purple. To me, this is like "sea and sky" where the purple is the sky or wind. The centers of the plum areas have circular feathered wreaths. On the sides they are only semi-circles.
The back has amazing texture. I can only imagine what it'll look like when its washed.

It has already arrived to it's new home and is appreciated. Lisa and I have been blogging and swapping together for a couple years. She's done some of the swaps I have hosted, and we have been in others together too. Besides being a really good piecer, she's got a fantastic heart - often sending pieces of fabrics along to me just because. I really wanted to quilt this quilt nicely for her. A couple months ago, before Sophie had her surgery, she emailed to say she was having a dress made for her. We got it about a month ago, right when Sophie got her casts removed. It is SO her color - that coral-ish pink. Or maybe I should say, it's the color I think Sophie looks really good in. Personally, she'd rather be in 16 shades of garrish hot pink herself, but that's my girly-girl for you! Anyhow, the dress she sent was crocheted for us, and it is darling. We will definitely take it to Florida next month, and are waiting for another roasty-toasty hot day to wear it again.
Tell me this little angel couldn't sell patterns for this dress?!
Now stop wasting time reading my daily ranting and GO SEW~~