UFO Storage Tip

I used to do this:

But creating those labels on the computer was a pain. Plus, they were nearly impossible to get off again. Ugh. I found some chalk labels on sale at WalMart for less than $3 for 16 labels.

Used my chalk quilt marker to letter them…

Bingo! Easy to erase with a damp paper towel when I change out the UFO. And so cute. 

Now, if only I could actually find time to actually FINISH these UFO’s!

Another disaster!

The first disaster occurred last week.  I’m working on a wedding quilt, and I realized I’m fifteen inches short of the main fabric.  So, as I wait for the results of several inquiries and internet searches to show up on my doorstep, I decided to start a new project:

urban 9 patch progress

A shop sample for my LQS, as requested by the owner, Cheran.

I’m happily buzzing along on these blocks, and I’m about halfway done, and I’m congratulating myself because it’s turning out to be a bit easier and quicker to make than I had originally thought, what with them pesky curves and all.

But congratulating myself tempted Fate just a little too much, and she decided to have some fun with me by handing me another disaster to deal with.

My iron belched.

oh crap 1Dad GUMMIT!

I went to the sink and ran water over it, hoping it would simply rinse out.  Then I dabbed a little Dawn dish soap on and brushed gently with a toothbrush.  I sprayed some stain remover that, until now, has never let me down.  It’s even removed blood!  Nope. The stain – whatever it is – faded, but it’s still there.

oh crap 3Ugh.

So, does anyone have any idea what this stain could be, and how to get it out?

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How to fix mismatched seams

Last week, Sabrina left a comment on my “Night Sky” quilt post, asking if a beginning quilter should attempt it.  I say why not?  The only way a beginning quilter becomes an expert quilter is to try new things.  Sure, it has triangles, and therefore that dreaded four-letter word “bias”, but bias can actually work for you.  Here’s how:

Here is a block with a mismatched seam.

1 aFirst, unsew that part of the seam.

Side note – you don’t always have to unsew the entire seam, especially when you’re working with bias.  The pink and orange triangles match perfectly at the top of this block, so I’m going to leave that part of the seam alone.

2 aBut I will unsew all the way to the bottom, because A) there’s extra purple fabric on the left that I want to move up, and B), that part of the block doesn’t need matching seams yet.

3 aMy seam allowances had been pressed open on this block, so I put both halves right sides together, straightened out the seam allowances, and pressed them back into their original form.

On a padded, pin-able surface, take a straight pin and stick it in the seam allowance of the top layer of fabric, right between the two patches.  The pin should be 1/4″ away from the raw edge of the fabric.

4 aKeeping the pin in the seam, slide the top fabric up the shaft  of the pin to reveal the bottom piece of fabric.  Stick the pin in the seam allowance, 1/4″ away from the raw edge.

5 aMake sure your pin is standing straight up vertically.  Push both layers of fabric down flat, and using your fingernail, kind of scootch the fabric out in all directions from the pin.  Yes, “scootch” IS an official quilting term, thankyouverymuch.

6 aHere is the part where the bias actually works for you.  With your iron, hover above the fabric about 1/4″ inch and give it a shot of steam.  You don’t want to touch the fabric at this point.

7 aDo that on both sides of the pin.  The bias has a mind of its own, and will move and shrink a tiny bit with the steam, but because you have stuck a pin exactly where you want it to match, that part can’t move.

Lift the top layer of fabric and dab a tiny bit of glue in the seam allowance.  (More about glue and glue tips in a minute…)

9 aHold the seam together for about 10 seconds to give the glue a chance to be absorbed by the fabric.  Then give it a touch with the iron to set and dry the glue.  Make sure as you do this that the pin stays vertical.

Sew the seam.

11 aThe glue will not gum up your needle.  It’s way over in the seam allowance, remember?

Next, I ran a stiletto between the top and bottom layers and popped the glued bits apart.  This is why I only use 2 or 3 tiny dots of it.

12 aPress and there you have it – perfectly matched seams.

13 aA word about glue.  I use Elmer’s Washable School Glue because it’s available everywhere.  I have nothing against Roxanne’s Glue Baste-It or any of the other good quality sewing glues on the market, it’s simply a matter of availability.  I can get Elmer’s at ten o’clock at night on a Sunday, and it works just as well.  Just make sure it says “washable”, meaning it will wash out.

I bought 2 metal tips from Sharon Schamber’s website a few years ago, but apparently she doesn’t sell them anymore.  However, I believe you can get them at art and craft supply stores next to the glues.

Someone once said she didn’t like the metal tips because she didn’t like having to constantly take them off and clean them out every time she used the glue.  Well, I have never taken the tip off mine.  I simply stick an applique pin in the hole!

14 aIt fits perfectly, never sticks, and keeps the glue from drying out.  Just make sure you use a pin that is rust-proof.  I used one of those yellow flower-head pins once and it rusted.

15 aWhat is your favorite method for fixing those pesky mismatched seams?

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A binding “Eureka!” moment

I don’t know about you, but I’ve tried about every tip on ways to keep binding off the floor when adding binding to my quilts, without much success. I’ve tried winding it the toilet paper tube and stringing it around my neck. Not only do I look like I’m toilet-paper obsessed, but I’m forever losing the contraption. I’ve tried placing it on the counter next to my machine, draped like a fireman’s hose – only to have it all fall on the floor the first time I try to advance the quilt. I’ve even tried putting it in a bag with a slit. Just ended up with a tangled mess. AARGH!! Not anymore.

Well, today I made the binding for my latest quilt. I usually wrap it loosely around my hand in a neat circle, then place that nice circle on the desk so it can fall on the floor and become a rat’s nest under my feet. I was carrying across the room when I realized I had unconsciously put it around my wrist like a bracelet. I was holding the loose end in that same hand.

DSC02249HOLY CRAP! This could work! Grabbed my quilt, and started binding:

DSC02253Not a great pic, but it’s kinda hard taking a pic with your left hand when you’re right handed. But dangnabbit, it WORKS. I had the folded edge toward my hand, the raw edge toward my elbow. I thought for sure it would all unravel down my arm, but it never did. All I had to do was grab the binding with my left hand every so often to release it, and it unwound nicely. I never had to let go of the quilt with my left hand. Perfect. I’m sold. It’s free, doesn’t require any extra hardware, and stayed in place perfectly until I was done. Now, someone out there has probably already thought of this, but let me bask in my self-created delusional moment that nobody has ever thought of doing this before 🙂

Cindi 100

Using EQ7 to make scallops

The black floral stack-n-whack top is quilted and ready for binding. Yay!

6.

I’ve never been a fan of those large empty triangles that go along with on-point blocks.   They look awkward to me. I decided this quilt is the perfect candidate to play with a scalloped edge.

7.

I’ve never done a scalloped border, so I turned to The Googles for help.  Every single tutorial I found said to use a plate, bowl, or pizza pan to mark my curves.  Hmph.  None of my bowls or pizza pans were big enough.  Plus, I realized that I wanted my curves to be more oval-shaped than round.

So I decided to create my scallop curves in EQ7.  Here’s how I did it.

I measured the blocks corner to corner.

(Sidebar: I’m including the black sashing in this measurement.  I sashed each individual block instead of running long strips of fabric down each row.  This results in more accurate alignment of my blocks because all I have to do is match the corners and seams of the blocks.)

block border.

See the yellow arrows?  Those are the real corners of this block.

The blocks are 15 inches long (from yellow arrow to yellow arrow), and my quilt border is 5 inches wide (from the outermost point of the block to the outer edge of the quilt).

Next, I went to EQ and clicked on the Block worktable.  Currently, the block size is 6 inches by 6 inches.

eq size.

I changed it to 5 inches by 15 inches.

EQ 5.

Next, I clicked on the curve pencil (see toolbar on the left side) and drew from the bottom left corner to the top left corner.  I found that if I started at the top, the curve went the other way.

eq3.

To change the depth of the arc, click on the second arrow in the left toolbar, then click on the arc.  I made mine a little more pronounced.

eq4.

I then clicked File, Print, Block, and after double-checking that my block size was correct, printed my scallop.  Because it is 15 inches long, it printed on 2 sheets.  I taped them, cut on the curve, and voila!  My scallop template is ready.

making scallops.

I used bar soap to mark the curves.  I know it won’t leave marks, it washes out easily, and it won’t fade or disappear as I handle the quilt.

scallops.

When I got to the corner, the scallops were so close to meeting that I just winged it and connected the arcs freehand.

scallops2.

The next part is the most important part.  DO NOT CUT THE SCALLOPS AT THIS POINT!  You need to sew the binding on first.  If you cut the scallops first, you will have a nightmare mess of bias edges to deal with as you sew the binding.

attach.

And that’s how you design a scalloped border in Electric Quilt!

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What was I thinking, Part 2: a finish!

Ha! I have tamed the feathered star block!

Patricia's feathered starIn my last post, I was trying to figure out how to handle those Y seams.  They are not fun to sew, especially if you’re anal  um, detail-oriented like me and insist on seams matching perfectly.  In the end, I decided to fold under some seam allowances, glue-baste, and topstitch.  Can you see the stitches?

patricia 4It worked perfectly.  I could not be happier.

This feathered star was one of two blocks that I’m sending off to a Birthday Block Swap recipient.  Here’s the other block:

patricia 1This one was much easier to make.  It’s a pineapple variation.

patricia 3I have to be honest and say the feathered star is my favorite of the two.  I like it so much  I started playing around with it in EQ.

I don’t remember the name of this blue block, but I tried it because I like how the sides point out where the feathered star goes in.

Patricia's feathered star2

However, the scale is all wrong.  The blue blocks are way too large for the more delicate-looking FS blocks.  So I went back to browsing EQ’s block library.

Hmmm.  Pickle dish?

pickled star 3Wow!  I like it!  What if I swapped the blocks around….

pickled star 4I like that too!  I really like the juxtaposition of curves and spikes.

The blue is a little overwhelming, I think.  What if I shrunk the pickle dish blocks down a bit?

pickled star2

Okay I think this one is my favorite!

I just realized that I started out wanting to add a block that was complimentary to the shape of the feathered star, but I ended up with something totally different.  How cool is that.  Hopefully someday I’ll get around to making this as a wall hanging!

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Flange Binding

A few months ago, at a day-long sew-in, I sat next to a quilter who was sewing a flange binding on to her wall hanging.  I LOVED the look, it gives the quilt a special little pop and finish.  That day, she showed several of us fellow quilters how to do it, but I didn’t have the right quilt to try it out on until now.

This is my friend Brandy’s quilt; she hired me to do the binding work on it.  She graciously gave me permission to experiment and play with adding a flange.

After I measured the perimeter of the quilt and determined the length of the binding – 310 inches – I cut several strips of pink at 1″ wide, and several of yellow at 1.25″ wide.   I like a fairly narrow binding; you can cut yours wider if you wish.  The easiest thing to remember is to simply cut your flange fabric 1/4″ wider than your binding fabric.

After sewing all the strips together so I had one long pink strip and one long yellow strip, I sewed them, right sides together, lengthwise.

I pressed towards the binding (pink), then folded it lengthwise with raw edges even, and pressed again.  You can see the yellow flange peeking out at the bottom.

I sewed the binding on the quilt.  A flange binding is different from a regular binding in that you do not first sew it on the front  –  you sew it to the back.  I aligned the raw edges of the binding with the raw edges of the back of the quilt quilt, and sewed.

Notice how I sewed with with flange fabric facing up. If you sew it with the binding fabric facing up, call me, I’ll bring my seam ripper and a couple of bottles of wine.

When you get to the corners, you treat them exactly the same as you would with normal binding:

Stitch along the edge until you get 1/4″ away from the corner, turn and sew off the corner.

Fold the binding diagonally and up so the raw edge is even with the raw edge of the quilt.

See how my finger is holding the bottom left corner of the binding in place?  You want that corner to stay right there.  Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

Fold the binding back down, keeping the raw edges of the binding aligned with the raw edge of the quilt (on the right side).  The binding fold at the top should be even with the top edge of the quilt.

Starting from the top edge and keeping raw edges aligned, sew with a 1/4″ seam down to the next corner.

Lather, rinse, repeat.Here is how I join the ends of my bindings.  This method works perfectly no matter how wide your binding is or what kind you use – with or without flange.  First, measure how wide the binding is.  In my case, it’s 1 3/4″.

Then I overlap the ends by that measurement – see the green dotted line?  That’s where I cut the end off that strip.  Don’t cut the bottom strip, though, or you’ll need to start all over and I’ll have to bring more wine.

I stuck a pin through the seam where the pink and yellow fabrics met.  More green dotted lines to help you see exactly where…

Here’s the inside view.  You can see how the pin goes right through the center of those seams.

Then I stitched the two strips together diagonally, making sure I went right over the spot where the two seams met.  See the red dotted line?  That is where you sew.

Done!

Press that last section of binding together, raw edges even, and finish stitching it to the back of your quilt.

Now it’s time to flip the binding around to the front of the quilt and sew.

I used a color of thread that blended well with the yellow, and stitched in the ditch, right at the edge of the pink binding.

When I got to the corners, I folded the binding into a miter and held it in place with a stiletto.  I stitched as close to the corner as I could get before I turned the quilt.  I reduced my stitch length on a couple of corners because doing that enabled me to get right next to the pink binding without stitching into it.

And it’s done!  Here’s the front:

Front and back together:

I was very pleased at how quick and easy this binding was.  Brandy loved it and really liked the extra detail provided by the yellow flange.  I hope this inspires you to try a flange binding on your next quilt!

 

How to prepare a needle for hand sewing

By popular request!  Well, okay, maybe the requests only came from Cindi and my mom, but they still count, right?

Cindi wanted to know how I keep my needle from unthreading as I sew, and my mom wanted to know how I put the knot so close to the end of the thread.  Here’s a little video that shows how I accomplish both.

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, for posting this, Peggi! At the Houston International Quilt Festival you showed me how to do this. I thought “Holy crap! This sure makes it easier!!” And then I promptly forgot how to do it as soon as I got home. Now you’ll always be right next to me, showing me how to do it!

How to get a perfect 1/4″ seam

14'-seam-tutorial

This, to me, is the most important aspect of making a quilt. If you don’t have a perfect 1/4″ seam, all of your measurements will be off. If you’re making a quilt from a pattern, your pieces will not line up correctly. Not a good thing!! You need perfect seams for good quilting.

Correct-Seams

I have several friends and family who are just beginning to quilt. I want them to start out correctly, and help them avoid a few of the mistakes that ended up in my “learning curve”, so I will be doing a few beginner tutorials for them, and anyone else out there who may need some guidance! (Disclaimer: This is how I do these things. There are many ways out there to quilt. These worked for me.) I will try to spell it out completely – with some general quilting hints along the way – as best I can.

Many quilters now have the option of getting a 1/4″ seam foot for their sewing machines. It’s a great investment, and if you get hooked on quilting,  you may want to get one down the road. It really takes the frustration out of sewing those seams, prevents endless “frogging” (ripping out stitches – rip-it, rip-it….get it?), and many trips to the refrigerator for beer or martini’s to calm one’s frazzled nerves. This tutorial is for those of you just starting to see if you enjoy quilting before making bigger investments!

CLICK ON ANY PICTURE TO ENLARGE

First off, you’re going to need an index card, a stack of 6 Post-It© notes, and a few scraps of fabric, each cut exactly 2″ wide. Length doesn’t matter. I suggest 2 x 4″ pieces. Yep, that’s all you need. This isn’t rocket science and we don’t need no stinkin’ calculator or math teacher. An index card has nearly perfectly spaced 1/4″ lines!

index-card-14'

Start by counting in two lines up from the bottom of the index card, and cutting directly ON that line, about 2/3 of the way up from the bottom of the card. Cut across, and take out that piece. You’ll end up with a card that looks like this:

Index-cards

Place this card under the needle in your machine. Now here’s where you need to read before you continue. It would seem easy enough – wouldn’t it? – to place that needle right on that 1/4″ mark and be on your way. Nope, probably not gonna work.

Needle-on-line

Here’s what happens if we use that blue line. IT WON’T BE AN EXACT 1/4″ SEAMLINE. Why? Because there are variables. First off, remember that I said these index card lines were nearly perfect? It means just that. There will be a little tweaking. Second, quilters actually use what is called a “scant” 1/4-inch seamline. You see, when you sew your line and open your fabric to press it, the thread and the fold actually take fabric away from the total seamline measurement. So you have to adjust your machine for that missing amount.

Trust me, all of this information IS important. It will make a difference in your quilting. I learned the hard way that it’s much easier to do it right the first time!

So, what we’re going to do instead is put the needle just to the right of that blue line that runs along the cut on the index card. Barely to the right. Use the hash marks on the top of your sewing machine to make sure the card is straight. (You know, where the 1/2″, 5/8″ lines are that you normally follow):

Do this!

We’re going to place the Post-It© notes along the first line of 1/4″ marks, measuring all the way down to make sure it’s an even 1/4″ away from that cut line. Put the sticky side of the Post-It© straight down that first line. Measure the middle and bottom to make sure they’re exactly 1/4″ away from that cut line.

Measure

Remove the index card. Now we’re going check for accuracy. Take three of your 2-inch fabric strips. Sew two strips together, butting your fabric against that sticky note line. Do not backstitch at the beginning or the end. Backstitching is not done in quilting (although some do) as it adds to the bulk of the seam.

Sewing-seam

HELPFUL HINT:  To avoid “bird nests”, or that big, knotted lump of thread that seems to form on the underside of your fabric when you start stitching, do this: Simply hold the top and bottom threads off to side, holding them down with your finger as you begin to sew. This allows you to start sewing right at the edge of the fabric.

Holding-thread

Add the third strip to the second strip in the same manner, giving you a three-strip block (as shown in the very first picture).

Take your fabric to the ironing board. This next step is important for all the newbie quilters: PRESS THE SEAM FLAT BEFORE OPENING THE FABRIC. This “sets” the thread into the fabric. It imbeds the thread into the seamline and makes pressing it open much easier. This is also a step many quilters follow (including me) for perfectly flat seams.

Embed-stitches

Next, finger press the seams open, putting all the fabric to one side. This helps keep the fabric from stretching when you press it, as you’re “creasing” the seamline. The seam fabric is normally pressed towards the side with the darkest fabric.

Finger-Press1Finger-Press2

Press the seams with the iron. Notice I said “press” not “iron”. “Ironing” is moving back and forth in long strokes. “Pressing” is gently laying the iron over the seam, and gently moving it down the seam, lifting the iron up-and-down. If you “iron” that block it’ll warp like a CD in a hot car. Bad. Very bad.

Seams-pressed-to-one-side

Note to newbies: There are two schools of thought about pressing seams open. Some (like me) always press seams to one side. Others press seams open, as you do when sewing clothing. It is purely a preference thing. For me, seams pressed to one side make it much easier to butt rows of blocks together. It is believed that seams pressed to one side are stronger. Try both and see which you prefer.

Now, measure your block. It should be EXACTLY 5-inches across. The center block should be EXACTLY 1-1/2-inches across.

Correct-Seams

Perfect! Good job! If, for some reason, you’re off a bit, go back and adjust your line again. But you should be pretty darn close. Of course, “close” only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

You can also use three layers of painters tape to mark your sewing line. This is how I used to do it. This way I was able to easily able change my bobbin and access the storage case in the front of my machine. Plus, it stays put better than the sticky notes.

Painters-Tape-seam

I hope this helps you find your perfect seam line. If you have any questions, let me know!

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