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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Quilting is simply magic!

I have been sewing Christmas table runners to give away as gifts for the last several weeks. This one will go to my daughter, Jenny.

I made two that were identical, using Christmas candy fabrics I had collected. I thought it might be easier to 'double my recipe.' It turned out that it probably wasn't any easier. In fact it was a bit more confusing to do two projects all at one time, since each table runner consisted of three identical blocks plus sashing. That meant cutting and sewing 6 blocks at a time, which translated into 6, 12, or 24 of each piece. I figured that with two projects, I could illustrate and share my thoughts about what I refer to as 'quilting magic.'

Consider this my version of a study in magic.

chquilts: quilting magic 1
This first photo, is what the item looks like when it is merely pieced and pressed, and pin basted. It is waiting to be quilted.

chquilts: quilting magic 2At this stage it is hard to imagine the finished item. The piecing and joining of each block is the dominant feature here, which really accentuates the precision of the cutting and sewing of each piece. 

Imperfect points are obvious. If there are any puckers or less-than-perfect seams, this is where they are most evident.  

It is almost finished. The quilting is done and the piece is quilted, and the binding is meticulously added to finish the edges. 

chquilts: quilting magic 3Now, the quilting is the dominant feature. Any imperfections in piecing are far less obvious. It is the quilting that stands out. This happens to be machine quilting, but hand-quilting offers the same magic. 

So, even if the stitching isn't perfect, and it rarely is, the eye seems to take in the overall look of the project. 

But, it isn't finished yet.

I never consider a piece finished until after it takes its first bath, both washer in warm water and dryer at the regular setting. To me, this is where the real magic takes place.

I tend to stress out at this phase, because I've heard horror stories. Thankfully I've never experienced one. But because after all the work that has been put into a piece, the last thing you want to see is a color that bleeds into another or seams letting go, or whatever other calamity might be possible. 

Whenever I wash a newly-completed quilt, I always use a Shout color-catcher. This product has never failed me. I highly recommend it. I've never been disappointed, even when washing browns, reds, blues, and black fabrics. The color-catcher has always done its job.  

Each time I take a piece out of the dryer, I marvel at how it looks. The quilting causes some shrinkage in the fabric that makes it look like it has relaxed and nestled in around the stitches. I liken it to putting your head onto a soft pillow at night. Your head sinks down into the pillow resulting in the kind of absolute comfort that allows you to fall asleep. 

I think washing a quilt enhances the beautiful texture that quilting creates. 

Gone are any imperfections. There is no more thought about imperfect cutting, sewing, or less-than perfect points. Even slightly wobbly seams just no longer matter. What results from all the processes that make up quiltmaking--each one that I love--is to me, just simply magic.




Friday, December 12, 2014

New quilting project; tweak it until it speaks to you


When I first saw Leah's latest quilt along project, I was drawn to it. Her Dancing Butterfly quilt was done in pinks and purples, my all-time favorites. Though I liked it, there was just something I couldn't put my finger on. When she offered a discount on the price, for Black Friday, I jumped at the chance.

chquilts: Black and white and pink all over quilt
I so enjoyed the last quilt along project with Leah Day, the one that resulted in my "Black and white and pink all over" quilt, at right, under the watchful paws of my girl, Kasey.

I love #quilting. Leah Day is a wonderful teacher who has perfected her skills in free-motion quilting and probably any other thing she endeavors. The beauty though, is that she shares her knowledge with anyone else who is interested. This makes her an excellent quilting teacher, who has already taught me so much. In addition, I like her attitude and demeanor. Who wouldn't love a woman who has the patience to teach her own husband to quilt? Josh was a big part of the Building Blocks Quilt Along, as he learned the skills right along with the rest of Leah's students; students all around the globe. I cannot imagine my husband having the patience to learn to quilt, or me having the patience to teach him. But these two are obviously special people and wonderful partners. It is a pleasure to support their efforts wherever I can.

Since this quilt along was such a positive experience, I really wanted to participate in her next project, which was also a quilt along, but with applique added. That is a skill I have yet to master, so I thought it might be beneficial to join in.

Dancing Butterfly Applique Sampler QuiltI loved the beautiful batiks and the colors she used. I am not normally someone who does exactly as I'm told, but I wanted to make this quilt just like she did. If she would have offered a fabric kit for sale, I would have bought it hands down, even though that isn't something I would normally do.

But since that wasn't an option, I found some fat quarter batiks on sale for a ridiculously reasonable price from Connecting Threads. I would have bought them anyway because they were beautiful, but I figured on using this delicious fabric for the butterfly project. Then I read the materials list. It called for 2/3 of a yard of several fabrics. I only had fat quarters. I didn't know if it would work, so I decided to rethink all my options.

I downloaded the pattern and examined several of Leah's videos. This looked like loads of fun, but something was bothering me. I attributed it to the hard decision to pick out just the right fabrics and thread colors.

In the meantime, I had ordered new quilting software Electric Quilt 7. I had EQ5, but it was so old and obsolete. I am a frugal quilter, so I really balked at the price of this software, at $189. That was too steep for my blood. Then, I found it on sale for $30 less on Amazon, as another Black Friday deal. I knew it would never be any cheaper. So I reasoned that it would be a nice early birthday present. Well my birthday is tomorrow and I got it two days ago. Not bad!

I started playing with the program. One of the best ways to learn new software is to just start using it. I decided I would try to mimic Leah's butterfly quilt design. I figured it out. Learning new software isn't much fun if you can't tweak it, so I changed the butterflies to pink flamingos.

Hallelujah! That was it! That was what was bothering me. It wasn't the decision about fabrics. it was that I wanted to make a quilt that spoke to me. Every quilt I've ever made has spoken to me.

What I really wanted; what I thought I really needed was to make a quilt that fit into our newly-decorated enclosed back porch.

Just this year, we installed a laminate floor and painted it turquoise using a pink flamingos theme. That's what I wanted! It was easy to use EQ7 to turn Leah's butterflies into my pink flamingos.

I can still do Leah's quilt along in every other way except for the animal depicted.

CHQuilts: pink flamingo designI still have decisions to make, such as applique or paper-piecing, as well as fabric and thread color choices. And there may still be some tweaks to the design, but it should be easier now though, since I have a great idea where I'm going and where I want to end up. I love everything about the quilting process, so to pick fabric shouldn't have been a hang up.

This is like a lightbulb went on. I believe this quilt really did speak to me.