Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Butterflies and Bear Paws: Another New Project for Rebecca!

New Project!  Butterflies and Bear Paws
Greetings, Neglected Blog Readers!  Never mind that I have not yet finished the Jingle BOM project I started over a year ago, nor have I finished even the first block of the new hand applique project that I started a couple of months ago (and don't even ask me about that paper pieced Advent table runner project).  I recklessly launched myself into yet another new quilting project this week.  Now that I have multiple UFOs (Unfinished Objects) and WIPs (Works In Progress), I feel more like a REAL quilter!

Bear Paw Inspirations: Quilts! Quilts! Quilts! and QNM Back Issue, LouLouThi Clippings Fabric in Passion
I have wanted to make a Bear Paw quilt ever since I saw a vintage navy and white Bear Paw quilt in the 2nd Edition (the Bear Paw quilt is NOT in the newest 3rd Ed.) of Quilts! Quilts! Quilts! by Diana McClun and Laura Nownes.  That was back when I was planning my very first quilt in 2002.  I dog-eared the page and chose a simple Roman Square for that first project instead.  But in organizing back issues from Quilter's Newsletter Magazine recently I came across another bear paw quilt project, and somehow it popped into my head that the Anna Maria Horner LouLouThi Clippings fabric in Passion that I've been hoarding in my stash might make a fresh and interesting bear paw quilt, especially if I cut up the large scale print completely randomly.  Normally I use MANY different fabrics in a single quilt, primarily to amuse myself throughout the construction process, but this time I'm using just the LouLouThi print, Kona Solid in Snow for the background, and a complementary batik scrap for the center squares. 

Should Have Used WHITE Thread!
This is actually the first time I've used white fabric in a pieced quilt, believe it or not, and I discovered that although beige and gray threads work well for piecing multicolor quilts, I really need to use WHITE thread when one of my fabrics is a solid white.  See those visible dots of gray thread at the seam lines once I've pressed the seam open?  Yuck!  I switched thread colors as soon as I noticed that.  It's not noticeable for me to rip out all the stitches and start over, but I'll try to make a mental note to match my piecing thread to the lighter fabric from now on.

I really love how my first bear paw block came out.  I did NOT follow the patterns in the book or magazine projects, though.  The book project had instructions for 12" blocks (despite the fact that the vintage quilt in the photo could not possibly have had blocks that large) and the magazine article was for 8 3/4" blocks.  I knew I wanted to make a square quilt with 9 blocks set diagonally, and I could see that the bear paw has a 7x7 underlying grid structure.  I bored my children to tears by demonstrating how I can use the Pythagorean theorem to calculate the dimensions of a quilt with a diagonal setting (gotta LOVE math-in-the-real-world quilting lessons!) and decided that a 10 1/2" finished block size will give me a finished quilt in the size I want, with 9 diagonal bear paw blocks and four plain alternate blocks. 

So, going back to my 7 x 7 grid, I just need to make each unit finish at 1 1/2" to create a 10 1/2" finished block.  If I wanted a 7" block, I'd make each unit finish at 1", or for a 14" block, each unit would finish at 2", etc.  This is where those specialty rulers come in handy, too -- I was able to cut my small squares and HSTs (half square triangles) all from 2" strips of fabric instead of having to add weird fractional amounts to squares and then slice the squares apart on the diagonal as traditional rotary cutting instructions tell you to do. 

Anyway, I've been sitting here typing for longer than I had intended, and I still have lots to get done before it's time to pick up the kids so I'll just leave you with this:

I'm In Print!  June/July 2014 Issue of QNM
My "300 Words" essay about "My Dream Quilting Space" was published in the June/July issue of Quilter's Newsletter Magazine, which just showed up in my mailbox the other day.  My smiling face and opinions await you at your local news stand.  :-)

I'm linking up with Judy's Design Wall Monday at Patchwork TimesEsther's WOW: WIPs on Wednesday as well as with WIP Wednesday over at Freshly Pieced.  If you have a moment, stop by to see what everyone else is up to today.

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced
Have a wonderful day!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Finished On Friday: The 5th Grade Class Fundraiser Quilt

5th Grade Class Raffle Quilt is Finished!  51" x 59"
After quilting under pressure in every spare moment over the last month, I finally finished hand stitching the binding last night and was able to bring the 5th grade class fundraiser quilt to school this morning.  In case you missed my earlier posts about this project, I'll give you a brief recap: Four weeks ago, the PTO informed all class parents that they wanted us to create some kind of an original artwork with our students that could be auctioned off at our annual Night of the Arts performance as a PTO fundraiser.  Oh, and we didn't actually get to spend a meaningful amount of time with the students to do this, either -- I think the suggestion was to "work with a few students at a time during lunch or recess."  Since I am a crazy person and also a very poor judge of how long things actually take, I thought for sure we could whip up a class quilt in three weeks if I "kept it simple." 

I met with the school art teacher and discovered that our students had already made these fantastic abstract nature paintings earlier in the school year, so I borrowed the paintings, scanned them, and printed them onto specially treated 8 1/2" x 11" fabric sheets in my inkjet printer.  Then I added batik "frames" around each one, the borders, and free motion quilting that was originally supposed to be very basic but ended up taking over a week to complete.

Anyway, I'm glad it's done and off my plate now so I can focus on other things again.

In other news, Lars got braces this week:
Braces for Lars!
Isn't he a cutie?  Apparently he was one of three seventh graders at his school who all got braces put on this week.  He's very excited about them and has been much more meticulous about brushing since he got the braces put on. 

We have the boys' violin and piano recitals tomorrow afternoon, and it's our turn to teach Sunday school so it will be another busy weekend.  Happy Mother's Day to all of you mothers and grandmothers out there!

I'm linking up with TGIFF -- Thank God It's Finished Friday, because that's EXACTLY how I'm feeling about handing that quilt over to the PTO!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Wrapping Up Loose Edges: Binding the 5th Grade Raffle Quilt Today

Binding In Progress on 5th Grade Raffle Quilt
So, you know that 5th grade class raffle quilt that was due on May 1st?  I got an extension until this Friday, since the fundraiser isn't until May 15th at the school's annual Night of the Arts performances.  Why do I ALWAYS underestimate how long these projects will take?  Especially the Final Stretch steps that come after the quilting is complete: the quilt label, the hanging sleeve, and the binding. 

Embroidered Quilt Label, Created in Bernina Digitizing Software
For instance, I had in mind to do a "quick" embroidered quilt label.  I thought I would use the Auto Digitizing feature in my Bernina Designer Plus embroidery software (I'm using Version 6 since I have not yet upgraded to Version 7) in order to include the school's logo on my label, but unfortunately the image file of the logo that I was working with was not high enough resolution.  So I had to haul out my two-volume software owner's manual (I had a print shop print and spiral bind the online manual) and re-taught myself how to import the logo image into the digitizing software, how to redraw each of the shapes in the logo using left and right mouse clicks, how to adjust things like pull compensation and stitch density for my lightweight Kona cotton fabric, and how to select a nice fill stitch for the gray eagle and satin stitches for the colored shapes.  I adjusted the stitch angle for each of those colored shapes so they radiate outward from the center as well.  Digitizing software is SUPER cool, but it's not as simple as scanning or importing clip art and then hitting an "embroider" button the way you just click "print" to send something to a printer.  You're actually creating a program that tells your embroidery machine's internal computer a sequence of 5,000 or more movements to create your embroidery design one stitch at a time. 

As far as what to include on the quilt label: The students will each be signing their individual blocks with Sakura PIGMA Micron permanent extra fine point marking pens, right on the front of the quilt.  So on the label I put "Created by Ms. Hinkelman's 5th Grade Students" to identify which homeroom class made the quilt, and added "Under the Direction of Ms. Suzanne Tans" because all of the student art work was created in her art class under her supervision, and the concept of bringing the students outside to collect natural objects and then use them in an abstract painting was entirely her idea.  I put "Charlotte, North Carolina 2014" because the Quilt Police and Quilt Historians would definitely come after me if I left off the date or where the quilt was made, and, after hemming and hawing about whether I should put my own name on the quilt at all, I finally decided to include "Machine Quilted by" me. 

Throughout this project, I've tried to keep myself out of it as much as possible so the finished quilt would be all about the students rather than all about Rebecca.  That's why I didn't add any pieced blocks or borders or try to do anything fancy with the quilt construction.  I tried to quilt the blocks in a way that supported and accentuated each child's artwork, but as I look at the finished quilt, my far-from-perfect free-motion quilting skills look like they could have been the work of a child as well, especially considering that most of the people viewing the quilt are not quilters and will have no idea that quilting spirals and squiggles is any more difficult than drawing those motifs with a pen and pencil.  So I put the "quilted by me" disclosure primarily to ensure viewers would not be misled into thinking I taught the entire class how to stitch a quilt from start to finish in 3 weeks -- which would have been a MUCH more impressive feat than what I actually did! 

I decided to incorporate a permanent quilt sleeve because, for one thing, the quilt will need to be hung for display at school on May 15th and 16th for the art auction or raffle or whatever during the Nights of the Arts performances.  Whoever wins the quilt may want to display it in their home on a wall, and having a quilt sleeve pocket for a rod gives them that option without precluding more conventional use of the quilt for snuggling on the couch.  But in order for the quilt sleeve to be attached to the back of the finished quilt with stitches that don't come all the way through to the front, I machine stitched the top of the sleeve to the raw edges at the top of the quilt but had to stitch the bottom edge and sides to the quilt by hand.  Same thing with the quilt label, stitched by hand with an invisible applique stitch in the lower left corner of the quilt, with two edges of the label stitched into the binding. 

Attaching Binding with Walking Foot, Regular Sole
Once the label and sleeve had been hand stitched to the back of the quilt and I'd basted 1/8" from the raw edges with my walking foot, I was FINALLY ready to get started on the binding yesterday.  I cut 2" wide cross grain strips for my binding and I'm stitching them to the quilt with my walking foot.  I switched the sole of the walking foot to this one that has markings indicating 1/4" to the left, right, and in front of the needle, which helps with mitered corners because I don't have to mark or guess where to stop and fold the binding strip back at the corners.  Even though my Bernina 750 QE sewing machine has built in Dual Feed that helps two fabric layers feed more evenly, the walking foot is recommended for best results in situations where you are sewing through three or more layers.  When attaching French fold binding to my quilt, I have the quilt backing, batting, quilt top, plus two layers of binding fabric to stitch through, so that's five layers in all -- it's definitely worth taking 30 seconds to swap out my presser foot and attach the walking foot.

The quilt is still under the machine at the moment with just that first side and corner of the binding stitched on.  But of course, once the binding has been machine stitched to the front of the quilt, it needs to wrap around to the back side and be stitched down by hand all the way around the perimeter of the quilt.  That hand sewing could take me several days, but at least it's PORTABLE -- I can carry the quilt around with me and work on it all day long if I have to. 

Finally, I think I want to wash the quilt before I hand it over to the PTO.  I use glycerin and/or Neutrogena hand lotion on my hands to grip the quilt throughout the quilting process rather than wearing yucky rubber gloves, and I used a lot of starch throughout the construction process to help me straighten the blocks and to get things lining up properly.  I also used water soluble stabilizer when I embroidered the quilt label and wasn't able to remove every little speck of that, but it will dissolve and wash away when I launder the quilt.  I'd like to get all of the dust, grime, starch, stabilizer, and lotion residue washed out of the quilt before I send it off to its permanent home.  I feel like a quilt isn't really, REALLY finished until I pull it out of the clothes dryer and it's all soft, snuggly, and crinkly-textured.

Wish me luck!