Saturday, December 7, 2019

Easy applique with the double finger press method

When trying to prepare pieces for applique for the border of my quilt, I have tried using various tools to help with this somewhat tedious task. But, I realize the old adage that the best tools are my own hands.

I’ve tried many different methods of preparing shapes for applique using a template, but I’ve finally settled on the one that works best for me. It is the simplest method I’ve found and is the one I am the most comfortable with. It is my own double finger press method.

I have been using an Elmer’s School Glue stick to glue the raw edges under and a portable iron to press the finished pieces. I then use my double finger press method to create nice shapes that resemble my template.

I’ve attempted to illustrate my favorite applique method below:


This small leaf shape was cut out of freezer paper and pressed to the right side of the fabric. Once adhered, I roughly cut out the piece with a small seam allowance. Precision isn’t important here as long as there is enough fabric for a turned under edge.

The next step is to simply finger pressed the fabric to the back of the shape, all around it. Firmly finger press the piece all around the edges along the shape. I used to have little respect for finger pressing, but in this instance, it paves the way for a nice rounded finished piece. This extra step only takes a moment and makes all the difference.

When the shape is pressed, apply glue to one side of the shape at a time, and again, finger press as was done earlier. Gently move around the shape to make a nice rounded edge. 

When all the edges are finger pressed, and the point is secured with the glue, just snip off the excess to create a perfect point.

Turn the shape over to make sure that all the parts are glued securely. If not, apply a bit of glue where needed. I generally use a manicure stick for this purpose, though it is rarely needed if enough glue is applied correctly at the onset.

Once completed, remove the paper and give the shape a quick press with a hot, dry iron. The leaf is now ready to be applied to the surface of the quilt, either by hand or by using a machine applique techniques. 

I’m pretty pleased with how these tuned out as shown below. 




Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Getting comfortable with applique

I’ve always been a little intimidated, yet intrigued by applique; you know, those beautiful quilts with hundreds of tiny pieces that make up scenes, patterns, and motifs on quilts.

I’ve dabbled in the art of applique, but was never really good at it. The first quilt I ever made used applique pieces. I’ve learned however, that in quilting, as in life, practice makes perfect. Thankfully, I’ve also learned that nothing is really perfect, and that is okay. I still love this quilt because it was my first, but it is certainly not my best work.

I have done a few more applique pieces since then, and my skills are improving, but I am still not comfortable with it. I need more practice.

One of the things I love about quilting is how much there is to learn. And with each endeavor, my skills continue to improve. This first quilt was just a jumping off point, and I haven’t stopped jumping yet. I doubt I ever will. The more I learn, the more I realize how much there is to learn. I knew when I sat at the edge of my bed, in the sunlight, quilting this quilt that I would be a quilter for the rest of my life.

I know I will get plenty of applique practice with the border of this, my latest quilt project. It is the block of the month for 2019 designed by Becky Goldsmith for The Quilt Show of which I am a proud member.

This quilt screams precision, so I want to make sure I get the appliqued borders just right.

My first attempts at perfect circles took some time, a little study, and a bit of practice, but I’m getting there. Perfecting those petal shapes with their sharp points is getting easier as I go too. By the time I finish gluing all the edges to prepare them for sewing onto fabric, I should be an old hand at this.

Hand or machine applique—on no—another decision. When the time comes, I’ll figure that out too. But for now, I have some work to do.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

This one's for you Dad

Sizzle quilt
I just finished sewing nine random quilt blocks into one cohesive piece. It is almost a quilt though it is still not yet finished. It will have a five-inch border around all four sides, with applique motifs. And of course, it will have to have a backing fabric and batting inside before I can quilt it. Perhaps it will be done by this time next year.

This project has been a joy to work on; offering just the right challenge to my skill level. I believe this project has enhanced my skills because I nailed it. Though it may not be my design, I have certainly made it my own by choosing some of my favorite colors using fabrics I have been collecting for years. I love the round blocks, the points, the shapes and overall symmetry of its elements.

This quilt, designed by Becky Goldsmith as the 2019 Block of the Month for The Quilt Show co-hosted by one of my favorite quilting instructors, Alex Anderson (and Ricky Timms who I have only recently become acquainted with), is called Sizzle.

The best part about this quilt is that it reminds me of my father. I was drawn to it the moment I saw it.

While sewing the seams together, I thought about that. My father died at age 79, in 2003. This is the time of year I’d always thought about him. His birthday would have been in two days.

My father was the smartest man I’d ever known. He was also the most tolerant, patient, and easy-going person with a delightful sense of humor. He loved a challenge; the harder the better. And he was a bit of a mathematical genius. There wasn’t anything my father couldn’t do, and I’m not the only one that says that. Everyone who knew him sang his praises. He taught himself everything he knew, and in my view, he knew just about everything. I remember one year at Christmas time, when I was just a little girl, maybe five or six-years old, he made a three-dimensional star for the top of our Christmas tree out of cardboard, meticulously gluing each piece together. I can’t recall how many points it had, but it was certainly more than the typical five, six, or even eight-point star. He meticulously glued red and green Christmas wrapping paper onto the points. It was beautiful, and it was perfect.

Another year, he decided to learn woodworking. As was his habit, he sat down with a few books and taught himself. He also did that with photography, computer programming, playing the organ, and so much more.

He was a machinist by trade, so mathematics and using tools was his thing.
For Christmas one year, he made family members an icosahedron, a 20-sided object constructed out of varied wood veneers by using equilateral triangles. I cannot imagine how to even begin to figure the dimensions mathematically, but that came easily to him. He figured it out, cut the pieces, and then glued them together. I’m heartsick that I no longer have the one he gave me, but it was damaged beyond repair some years ago.

So stars and points, intricate design, and challenges will always remind me of him. The moment I saw this quilt pattern, I was completely taken by it. I had to make it, even though I questioned whether or not I could. And I’m glad I did.

I think my father would have loved everything about this quilt as I do, so I am making it for him, to honor him. Happy Birthday Dad.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Quilting magic

Quilting is transformative, seemingly making something out of nothing. A finished project is beautiful and the steps to get these are numerous, with each one a mere contribution. But if you look at the very beginning and the very end and you aren’t sure how it happens, it looks like magic.

Quilters understand how to make it happen, but for those who have never thought about what goes into making a quilt, here is one example of one quilt block, one small part of an overall project, and why quilt making just amazes and delights me, every single time.

As I’ve stated in previous posts, my current project is a quilt from a pattern, a block of the month pattern made up of nine blocks.



I could have ordered a kit, which included not just the pattern, but would have provided all the fabric needed to complete the project as well. Instead, I decided to use my own fabric, from my stash, that which I’ve collected over the years. Either way, the magic is the same.

First, I chose the colors I wanted to use; I then selected the fabric. I decided on a finite array of fabrics and as I chose to create each block, I chose the colors I would use from that array. I aimed for a scrappy look. Since all the colors go together, I just picked the fabrics I would use for each block, treating them all as a separate project. The above is what I chose for one block.

It never ceases to amaze me, how the process begins with whole pieces of fabric.


Then those fabrics are cut into pieces, as the pattern dictates, as shown. All of the steps are reliant on precision. It is funny to imagine how these pieces when sewn together will amount to anything.

But they do! All of the steps are crucial. And if done correctly, the result is a beautiful quilt block. 



This is the result! Just like magic!


Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Simple hint makes a difference

I have long said that for me, quilting is a learning experience.

The range of learning never ceases to amaze me. From circles and Y-seams, to the very simplest of established habits, I remain amazed at the wonderful learning experience that is quilting.

For instance, I have been sewing on a Janome sewing machine since I started quilting, some 20 years ago. I wore out the first one and am now on my second machine, which is only a couple years old.

When I sew, sometimes I use scissors to cut the threads, but I often use the thread cutter attached to the machine, circled in red on the photo. Most domestic sewing machines have them, as far as I know, and what I am about to say is applicable to any machine.

When I am finished sewing a seam, I gather my sewn piece guiding the still attached threads from front to back across the blade, away from me. This procedure cuts both the top and bottom threads at the same time. Then, when I start to sew again, I push both threads under the presser foot.

I never realized that in all these years, I was doing it wrong.

I didn’t realize I was wrong until one day I observed someone on a quilting video cut the threads in the opposite direction, bringing the just sewn piece of fabric across the blade from back to front. I didn’t think too much about it, until one day, as I remembered it, I thought I’d try it, even though it looked really awkward to me.

Well, what a surprise! The direction of cutting threads makes all the difference. I never realized that by directing the threads up and over the thread cutter toward me rather than how I’d been doing it, the threads are cut closer to the piece, saving on thread. But the biggest benefit is that the threads stay under the presser foot, which alleviates the extra step of having to place them behind the needle in a separate motion.

This is silly, I know, but it illustrates 1) I’m still a newbie (sewer) quilter despite my 20 years’ experience; and 2) it is the simple things that make all the difference.

Friday, August 16, 2019

How cool is this?


Still a work in progress, these pieces need to be sewn together and a border around the circle will create a square, but I just can’t say enough about how much I am going to love this quilt. 

When I was a kid, my favorite toy was a Spirograph. I loved making shapes with that toy, and the more intricate the better. I used to make a shape, any random shape, and then move the pen just a few clicks to ‘echo’ that shape. I did it over and over again until I got the effect I wanted. I wish I still had some of the gorgeous designs I made. They would likely help me with quilting free motion designs. I used to play with my Spirograph for hours.

This quilt reminds me of that toy.

Now that I think about it, I should start playing with shapes and designs and come up with my own ideas for a quilt rather than use someone else’s design. That is one of my quilting goals—to design my own quilts. I’m just not there yet. I’m still in awe of what other people are doing. Perhaps I will never get there, who knows? The quilting world continues to evolve, and there are so many different things I’d still like to try.

But, I am really enjoying this paper-pieced design by Becky Goldsmith. This is really an enjoyable project.

By the way, this will be the third block I’m working on. The first two have been completed.






There are 9 different blocks in the quilt. I can’t wait to make all of them. These blocks are huge. That means I am 1/3 of the way to a completed quilt top.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Making time for quilting

CHQuilts: quilt block
My latest quilt block, in progress
I’ve had a sick husband, sick cats, and bouts of vertigo in the last several months, but I refuse to forego my quilting passion.

The way I figure it, enjoying quilting doesn’t mean I need a thimble on my finger or a foot on the sewing machine pedal. Sometimes my love of quilting is much less subtle. Oh, it is great to carve out some time to actually work on the pastime I love, but when that isn’t possible, I do the next best thing. 

I immerse myself in quilting videos on You Tube, visit a quilting blog or two, or thumb through a myriad of quilting magazines I’ve collected. Sometimes I even sit with pen to paper and doodle, hoping to create a new or practice an old quilting design. There is always so much that goes into quilting from concept to completed project that actually making a quilt is really only one small part of it.

Such has been my story of late. There just hasn’t been time for me to quilt, until today. I decided to bite the bullet, which in my case means leave the sink full of dirty dishes, hold off on folding the dryer contents, and even offer just fast food for supper.
I’m working on the paper-pieced project that is the 2019 Block of the Month designed exclusively for members of The Quilt Show, designed by Becky Goldsmith, as described in my previous blog post https://chquilts.ozarkattitude.com/2019/06/this-one-will-be-next_1.html

Becky is a stellar designer and the directions in her pattern are detailed and easy to follow. I’ve been quilting for about 20 years and have done paper-piecing numerous times, so you would think this would be a piece-o-cake for me. Nope.
It is difficult to jump back into a project after a long hiatus. Skills need practice. I had expected not to do stupid things, like trim the foundation on the sewing line instead of the cutting line or sew the fabric wrong side up, or cut the wrong number of pieces, even though cutting directions are clearly spelled out. I guess all isn’t lost though; I did get to hone my seam-ripping skills.

All I know is it was just good to sit in that chair today; my brain, in perfect harmony with my sewing machine while all the cares of the day just disappeared. I was even in sync with the dirty dishes and laundry—both cooperated by promising to wait for me.