Sew Karen-ly Created...

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Monday 31 October 2011

The Quantum Mechanics of Basting

Basting is by far my least favourite part of the quilting process. Over the years I've tried a myriad of different ways to approach basting but honestly...I dislike all of them. I hear from many quilters that they are unsure about the basting process as many send their tops out to the long-armer, or for hand quilting, and are lacking experience in this area.
An area where I am lacking is an understanding of physics and although that hasn't held me back so far in life, I find it an intriguing subject and one I wish I had studied in school. That and Latin. Reading recently an article on quantum mechanics, I found my mind drifting to apply the words to quilting. "... quantum mechanics theory ordains that the more closely one pins down one measure , the less precise another measurement pertaining to the same particle must become." (Clearly this means if you put too many safety pins in one area, another area becomes unstable). It's also true about quilting: the density of the stitches must be evenly distributed over the surface of the quilt or the sides will ripple. Physics aside, there is another easy way to prevent some of that ripple. After the quilt top is pieced and before it is layered, it's important to stitch around the outside perimeter about an 1/8" of an inch from the edge. It serves a dual purpose: in this case, it secures the ends of the patchwork seams from coming apart but also stay-stitches the edge of the quilt to prevent distortion. I stitch around all of my quilt edges before layering, even if there is a plain border in place. It helps your quilt stay true.
Starch is another key aspect of successful quilt basting, and I mixed a fresh batch before beginning.
I spray it liberally on the back of the fabric and press dry. Not only does it smooth out any wrinkles on your fabric, it creates more surface tension to allow the quilt to glide smoothly over your machine bed.
Because I don't have a table large enough to spread out the quilt, I use the floor. Two cardboard cutting tables are placed side by side. You can see they've been in use for many years. The pressed backing fabric is folded in half and placed at the junction of the boards. This is an easy way to mark the centre of the fabric.Then it's folded out and strips of masking tape secure one end to the floor. Working from the opposite end, I begin at the centre and work to the outside, pulling the fabric smooth and taut.
After both ends are done, I move on to one side, and then the next.
The batting is rolled out on top of the backing, smoothed out, but not taped. This is a polyester batting I am using; it was taken out of the package the night before and spread flat on a spare bed to let any folds and wrinkles relax. Had there been any remaining, a few minutes in the dryer on "fluff" (no heat) would remove the rest.
The pieced top goes over the batting, with the centre seam of the patchwork lined up with the centre of the cardboard. The sides are masking-taped in the same fashion as the backing fabric. "...a measurement which pins down one property of one of the particles will instantaneously pin down the same or another property of its entangled twin, regardless of the distance separating them..." Obviously this means since the layers are well-taped, we don't have to begin the pinning in the middle - we can start anywhere. Pins are placed 4-6" apart, and left open at this point.
I should mention that the moment I lined up the backing fabric on the cardboard to find the centre, Polly made a flying leap into the middle of it all. "... the act of measuring the first property necessarily introduces additional energy into the micro-system being studied, thereby perturbing that system. " The introduction of Polly's additional energy definitely perturbed the system and she was shut out of the room. (I'm really making good use of this physics stuff, huh? :)
Once the pins are all in, I remove the tape and turn the quilt over to survey the back. If I am satisfied that there are no puckers in the fabric, I turn it back over and close the pins. Then the fun of quilting starts!

Sunday 30 October 2011

Next In The String Of Events

Last evening it was time to start thinking about the quilting design for this string top. For those who have attended my Free Motion For The Absolutely Terrified class, you will see I do practice what I preach. With the pieced top on my design wall in full view, I printed a sketch of the layout. I began to think what it is I want this piece to say. Since I know the recipient, I will try to incorporate motifs which will have personal significance.
I begin with my sketch board.
With the board over the quilt sketch, I doodled and doodled until I hit upon a design which I think will work.
Next it's on to the soon as I get that big lump out from underneath the backing fabric. It keeps moving from one end of the fabric to the other. You aren't fooling any of us, Polly.

Saturday 29 October 2011

The Next Step In The String

After settling on this Streak of Lightning layout for the string quilt, the next step was to ensure I sewed the blocks together in the correct order. Normally I pin the blocks together in rows and then stick a label on each row indicating top, and row #.
This time I simply marked on the first block in each row with a FriXXion marker; it worked great.
In past quilts, I have always removed the paper from the back of the blocks as each block was completed. For no particular reason this time, I left the paper in place and decided to tear it off all at once at the end. Either way works. For Martha who is reading this from Winnipeg, I thought of you when I picked up the first blocks to join and saw I had the phone pages from Great Village. Recognize any names?
When I sewed the blocks, I moved the red ones down a row from my original placement. I like them better there.
From the back it looks like a paper quilt. It was very crinkly.
To cut down on mess, I put the quilt inside a large, clear recycling bag to remove the paper while working inside the bag. When it's all off, I will take the top outside for a good shake in the wind.
I put the camera down and came back to find something else inside the bag.
Polly. When she's got that look in her eyes, there is no way my hand is going inside that bag!

Friday 28 October 2011

Polly-wog the Scalliwag Does Strings

Polly and I are working on another string quilt. She insists on regular naps during work hours - it's in her contract, I believe. It's the feline version of a coffee break.
Our colour scheme is mostly blue and white, with a little touch of red accent. We started with this setting, having the red blocks in the corners...
...but Polly didn't like it, so she took a flying leap and rearranged the blocks. This is the part of her job where she excels.
This framed setting looks interesting.
In the end, we decided to go with this lightning set. I think I will move the red blocks down a row so they are off-centre.
Today we will work at joining the blocks and make a quick trip to Dayle's for a quilt batt.

Thursday 27 October 2011

You Never Know...

...who you might meet at a quilt show! :)
My "With Glowing Hearts" quilt will be on display in the "O Canada" exhibit at the upcoming International Quilt Festival/ Houston November 3-6, 2011 at the George R. Brown Convention Center. If you happen to be one of the lucky thousands who attend this show, perhaps you will have a minute to stop for a peek.

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Plan Bee

Fall in the beeyard is not a particularly interesting time so there hasn't been much to post on this front. Mostly the plan is to make sure that the bees will have enough food to last them the winter...since we stole most of their hard earned honey last month. In the kitchen, Hubby cooks up big drums (which are REALLY heavy, I might add!) of sugar syrup.
The colonies are all fitted out with hive-top feeders and we check regularly to make sure these are topped up with syrup. The bees can quickly convert the sugar syrup into honey to last them the winter.
Already we can notice a marked change in beehaviour, echoing the change to colder weather. The hum of the hive is a deeper pitch, slower and quieter, and the bees are not flying around as quickly. Some are almost moving like zombees. (sorry...these bee puns just write themselves *-)

Friday 21 October 2011

Phree Motion Phenoms

The first pictures of projects completed from last week's free motion quilting workshop are in and they look fabulous. This first one is Glenda's, who wrote a keeper of a note, including this bit: "Here it is...definitely a "first effort" but finished, and I am pleased as punch with my little quilt. If all I had learned at the workshop was how to mitre corners or how to do the binding, I would have been happy. Instead I learned how to do something I thought was totally beyond me. Thanks for giving me the confidence to do free motion."
The next two pictures are from Sheila, who really put the pedal to the metal during class. This is her first one.
Then she stitched it again, this time using a different background filler and even adding some micro stippling to the centre cross hatching.
Sheila says, "I really enjoyed your class, and I'm more relaxed at machine quilting now." Thank you Glenda and Sheila for sharing your pictures, and congrats for sticking to it and finishing your pieces.

Thursday 20 October 2011

Hooking and Quilting: The Twain Does Meet

Awhile back, rug hooker Kate Seely from Ontario contacted me to ask permission to translate my New York Roundabout quilt into a hooked mat. It sounded rather intriguing and I was pleased to say yes. Here's the New York Roundabout quilt:
...and here is the beginning of Kate's mat.
She drew it out full sized on the burlap base.
Her palette of wool is similar to mine.
This gorgeous rainbow is being used for the spikes in the New York Beauty block.
Kate assures me she is a slow hooker and that it will be some time before her project is complete. I can't wait to see it!

Wednesday 19 October 2011

More Workshop Shots

The (in)famous Mrs. Pugsley (aka Beth Munroe) dropped into the Saturday class and has shared some photos she took of the works in progress. For the whole cloth sampler project, the students marked one motif on the fabric and then free handed the rest. Look at that tiny micro-stippling between the points.
I had stitched several samples, each using different filler stitches and batting types so we could compare the look. This one uses two layers of my favourite wool batting.
I brought my Farrago which was a semi-finalist at Paducah this year, not to show off but so that that I could share the judge's remarks while we examined the quilting. It sparked a good discussion and I felt so pleased to be able to bring the opinion of a world-class show to our class. It encourages me to enter more shows to share the critique of the experts.
Here's Debbie from Oxford showing off her new skills.
These hands belong to Heather from Keswick Ridge, N.B.. Heather found she preferred using squares of gripper fabric on top of the quilt rather than wearing gloves.
Thanks for all the pictures, Beth. Will we also see some of the piece you are working on?

Free Motion Friday: Home Coming

It's a wonderful thing when someone trusts you enough to take a class from you, but it's a humbling experience when folks return year after year after year. Such is the case with many of the workshops presented during the Nova Scotia Fibre Arts Festival and the week now has the feel of "homecoming". This group of quilters from the Municipality of Clare, N.S. have been coming for several years.
For sisters Joan and Simone who live at opposite ends of our province, it's a special time for them to reconnect in a creative setting. They love this time together.
I met Heather several years' back in a workshop I did in Keswick Ridge, N.B. It was great to have her join us; she brought a lot to the class with her insightful comments and questions.
As in Friday's class, no one showed great terror at their machines, but rather eagerness to get started and stitch the day away.
Local quilter Sheila was a house on fire. She has already completed two of these wall hangings, so watch the blog for pictures of those in a day or so.
Joyce looks very intent with her stitching!
It was a successful day.

Here's Alisha with hers.

I have no doubt that I got as much out of doing these workshops as the participants did. If you'd like to read more check out Joan's post here.