Thursday, April 23, 2015

Yay! I Finally Finished a Quilt! Can I Get a Parade, Please?

Drumroll, please...
Amish Baby 54-40 Or Fight, 50" x 50", with Minky Backing and Satin Blanket Binding

IT IS FINISHED!!!  Arm slings, thumb splints, frozen shoulder, surgery, and uncooperative satin blanket binding could not defeat me.  My Amish Baby 54-40 Or Fight quilt is finished, and I like it!  I even ended up loving the double row of zigzagging on the satin binding (a functional necessity since I did not manage to perfectly align the inner edge of the binding in a couple of places on the first pass).  I think it looks decorative, almost like another skinny border coming off the edge of the quilt.  Yeah, on second thought, I MEANT to do that.

Detail of Free-Motion Quilting and Double Zigzagged Satin Binding
Freshly washed upon completion to remove quilt markings, water soluble basting thread, starch etc., the quilt is everything I hoped it would be.  With 80/20 cotton/poly batting and Minky plush backing, it has a terrific weight, body and drape that are perfect for a comforting baby blanket to drag around, hide under, and love.  The cotton fabrics of the quilt top have a pleasing soft, bumpy texture from extensive quilting that shrunk up slightly in the wash.  The back of the quilt is unbelievably soft, furry Minky fleece.  And the satin binding is silky smooth, ready to rub a brand-new little nose with.

Snuggly, Cuddly, Baby Friendly Textures Ready for Gifting
This is why, even though I grumble and gripe about it every time, I keep coming back to the Minky and the satin binding when I make baby quilts.

So, to recap:  This is the first quilt I've made that I designed in my EQ7 software from start to finish, and I absolutely love it.  Here's the computer design I created back in late December of last year:

My EQ7 Design for Amish Baby 54-40 Or Fight
From conception to completion, this baby quilt took me four months to complete.  The intended recipient waited so long past his due date, it was almost like he was refusing to be born until his quilt was finished!  (He was expected near the end of March, but was finally born on April 19th).  It's not like I worked on the quilt nonstop on a daily basis, but still -- this is why, when my husband asks whether I'm going to make a baby quilt for some work colleague's wife whose wedding we went to several years ago, the answer is NO

I'm especially pleased with how I did the quilting on this one, pushing myself beyond my comfort zone and trying out some new things for the first time on a "real quilt."  And you know what?  I didn't ruin it!  I'll have to remember that the next time I'm afraid to "ruin" a quilt top by trying a new quilting design!

And now, back to my paper pieced pineapple log cabin blocks.  I'm linking up with Needle and Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation, Link a Finish Friday at Richard and Tanya Quilts, Finish It Up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts, Can I Get a Whoop Whoop at Confessions of a Fabric Addict, and TGIFF (Thank Goodness It's Finished Friday).

Monday, April 20, 2015

Satin Blanket Binding Is Evil, and Pineapple Log Cabin Blocks Are Lonely

I think we are all sick and tired of looking at my Amish Baby 54-40 or Fight quilt, which I have been working on v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y due to my temporary (but thoroughly annoying) disabilities.  So let's look at the pineapple log cabin blocks that are waiting patiently for me on my design wall instead:

I'm Coming Back, Pineapple Log Cabin Blocks!
If I knew ahead of time that I was going to have a bike accident that put my right arm in a sling and a splint on my left thumb, I could have planned all of this much better.  I would have finished quilting and binding the Amish Baby quilt PRIOR to injury, and I would have cut out lots of pieces of fabric ahead of time so I could piece them together by machine while I recovered instead of painfully wrestling with quilting and binding a heavy Minky-backed quilt with slippery, sadistic satin blanket binding.  But then again, had I known I was going to fall on the bike that day, I would have stayed home and spent the day quilting instead!

I have had it with this satin blanket binding, in case anyone is wondering.  Oh, it probably looks fine to other people, just like my other satin binding quilts looked fine, but it annoys me that I can't make it look BETTER than fine.  From the front of the quilt, it looks fantastic:

Satin Binding, Front of Quilt
And from the back, it looks great in some places:

Satin Binding, Back of Quilt
...But in other spots I have barely caught the edge of the satin binding in the stitching and I worry that it might come loose after the first or second time it's washed if I leave it that way.  Exasperating!!

Satin Binding from Back, Problem Spots
See what I mean?  I have scoured the web for tutorials in hopes that someone has figured out a more accurate way to sew this premade 2" blanket binding to a quilt, and most of the tutorials picture photos of binding that looks just like mine or even worse.  The best looking ones are where someone is using this satin binding on a much thinner and less bulky project than mine, like two layers of flannel or two layers of fleece.  Mine is a pieced quilt top, 80/20 polyester batting, and then the Minky fleece backing.  No matter what I try, I cannot get the inside edge of the satin binding to align precisely on the front and back side of the quilt so that the zigzag stitching line falls exactly where I want it on the front and back.  So, here's what I'm thinking.  Who says I have to use the single fold prepackaged satin binding in the first place?  If I want a 2" wide finished satin binding on a baby quilt. why can't I just buy yardage of a polyester satin fabric in the color I want, starch the snot out of it to make it behave like a cotton, and then cut and join strips that are 4x the finished width plus extra to wrap around the edge?  Why can't I sew a satin binding to the quilt using exactly the same method I would use to sew a regular cotton binding to a quilt?  I could fold the satin strips in half, serge the raw edges to the raw edges of the quilt from the back, then straight stitch 2" from the raw edge on the back, fold over to the front and pin along the stitching line, and THEN zigzag along the fold line from the front side.  It would be at least as durable a finish as the prepackaged satin binding, and would have the added advantage of giving me more options for finding the perfect color fabric.

Meanwhile, for the current project, I'm planning to stitch a second row of the triple zigzag just inside the first row of stitching.  That way I know the binding is securely attached on both sides, and it will look like I planned it to be two rows of stitching for decorative reasons from the front.  It looks okay on my sample:

Sample with Double Row of Zigzag Stitching
I'm linking up with Design Wall Monday at Patchwork Times, Main Crush Monday at Cooking Up Quilts,  Sew Cute Tuesday at Blossom Heart Quilts, WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced, and WIPs On Wednesdays at Esther's Quilt Blog.  Happy stitching!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

New Titanium Shoulder Jewelry and The Saga of the Satin Binding

Satin Binding In Progress!
Hello, Internet!  I'm three days post-surgery and my arm is out of the sling for the first time today.  I did take the prescription pain meds this morning but they should have worn off by now, and so far I'm doing okay.  Let's hope it's onwards and upwards from here on out!

14 Screws Later: My New Titanium Shoulder Jewelry
I started binding my Amish Baby 54-40 or Fight baby quilt yesterday.  You'll remember that I stitched a placement line for the inside edge of the satin binding with water soluble basting thread.  That turned out to be a great idea.  The idea of how I was going to use temporary fabric glue stick to position the satin binding on the front and back side of the quilt didn't work out. 

The glue stick adhered okay to the cotton fabric of the quilt top, but did not want to stick to the plush Minky backing fabric at all.  Also I am cramming a little more quilt into the binding to give it sort of a padded effect, and the glue stick just doesn't hold strong enough for that.  So instead, I'm using extra-fine, long silk pins in a three step process, one side of the quilt at a time.  First I pin the satin binding just barely covering my placement line on the front of the quilt:

Pinning the Top Edge Only to Basted Placement Line
Then I pin the opposite edge of the satin binding on the back side of the quilt, again just covering the line of basting stitches:

Pinning the Back Edge of Satin Binding to Basted Placement Line
Finally, I place pins on the front of the quilt going through all three layers, perpendicular to the edge of the satin binding.  I remove the parallel lines of pins from the top and bottom of the satin binding as I'm going along:

Perpendicular Pins Added Through All Three Layers
Only the Perpendicular Pins Remain for Stitching
I actually missed a few pins from the underside of the quilt when I stitched the first side of the satin binding down, and they caused my presser foot to get stuck.  I also had to be careful to slide the pin heads out of the way just before my presser foot came to them (as you see me doing in the above photo).  I'm using my walking foot on my Bernina 750QE with Triple Zigzag Stitch #7.  I'm using a size 80/12 Microtex needle and Mettler Poly Sheen 50 weight thread, and I did not need to make any adjustments to the default settings of stitch #7 in order to get good results.

First Corner Miter, Back Side
In the past when I've bound baby quilts with satin binding, I think I pinned it in place all the way around the quilt, miters and all, but this time I'm doing it one side at a time.  Since I've got so much quilt crammed tightly into my satin binding for that padded edge effect, I just couldn't control the miter until I had one side of the binding stitched all the way to the edge.  So I started the binding in the middle of one of the sides, went all the way to the corner, folded in the miter and pinned the next side of the quilt binding.  Then I was able to start stitching from the outer point of the mitered corner and continue down the entire side of the quilt in one pass.  Another benefit of stitching it this way is that I won't have any hand stitching to do to secure the mitered corners, and I can't do any hand stitching with a broken left thumb!

Rounding the First Corner
I'm trying to take it easy, but so far nothing is hurting my arm or shoulder so I'm going to see if I can't get another side of my satin binding pinned and stitched down today.  Enjoy your weekend and happy stitching!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Of Fractured Bones and Other Annoying Quilting Delays... And PROGRESS!!

Greetings from the Land of Humpty-Dumpty, in which Rebecca goes for a bike ride, has a great fall, and is still waiting for all the King's horses and all the King's men to put her bones back together again.    This happened exactly three weeks ago today, and in addition to the broken and displaced right clavicle bone that has disabled my right arm, I also broke my left thumb and smacked my head hard enough to crack my bike helmet and give myself a mild concussion.  So I have not been sewing for the past couple of weeks.  Or brushing my own teeth, dressing or showering myself...  But not sewing stinks the most, especially when my cousin's baby is coming any day and the quilt is SO CLOSE TO BEING FINISHED!  (Also, it is a surprise, so if you know my cousin, DON'T SPOIL IT).
The Unhappiness That Is My Collar Bone
I'm getting my collar bone screwed back together again surgically on Wednesday, but over the past week I've been sneaking up to my sewing room to work on my Amish Baby 54-40 or Fight quilt.  With one arm in a sling and a thumb splint on the other hand, I'm not making great strides or anything -- I can get in about 15-20 minutes before the shoulder pain is unbearable, but every little bit gets me closer to the finish line!  A little bit of sewing is better than NO sewing.

In this post, I wanted to document some of the things that have worked for me in the final stages of this project so I can refer back to it in the future and save myself some trial-and-error:

Marking Stars for Free Motion Quilting
To mark the stars for free-motion quilting on the blue fabric squares, Don Linn's hooped tulle and Sharpie method wouldn't work because I couldn't see the faint black line against the blue fabric.  So I cut out an exact template of the star shape from a junk mail postcard, cutting just INSIDE the marked line, and used a Clover white marking pen to carefully trace the stars onto the blue squares.  The white pen works great on dark fabrics.

"Wave Stitch" Controls Fullness in Unquilted Border Perimeter
Once I had completed that last bit of quilting, I still had 2" of my teal border unquilted because that's the width of the satin binding that I'm planning to use.  I saw that the quilting stitches had drawn up the body of the quilt so that there was a faint ripple to the unquilted outer edge, and I did NOT want a ripply-edged quilt looking like I don't know how to measure for borders properly.  I considered stippling the border to flatten it out, but decided that I wanted to retain some of the loft and puffiness inside the satin binding.  So I scrolled through the decorative stitches programmed into my Bernina 750QE sewing machine and selected one that looks kind of like a wave stitch, and stitched that around the perimeter of the quilt just inside the raw edge using my walking foot.  It did the trick of shrinking the outer edge just enough without flattening out the loft that I wanted to keep.  Also, I think it makes kind of a fun quilting stitch, don't you?  I'll have to remember that one for another quilt -- it would be a great alternative to just straight line quilting.
My next trick when I am doing a Minky-backed quilt with satin binding is to enlist my serger to trim and clean up the edges of the quilt before binding.  That wave stitch also enabled me to remove the remaining safety pins from the quilt before they went anywhere near the serger blades... 

Two Thread, Left Needle Serger Overlock Before Binding
Why didn't I just trim the excess batting and backing fabric and get on with binding my quilt?  Well, Minky is an unruly pain in the butt whose edges like to curl up and shed all over the place.  I didn't want to deal with that when I was trying to attach the slippery satin binding.  A serged edge is much, MUCH more stable and easier to work with.  Moreover, when you see a well-loved tattered blanket, the satin binding usually shreds and disintegrates long before the rest of the blanket, and it is easy enough to give new life to a cherished blankie by replacing the satin binding.  My overcast quilt edges will be protected from fraying when the satin binding wears out, and will make it easier for whoever gets the job of replacing the satin binding.

One big, HUGE thing to remember as you're setting up your serger is that MINKY STRETCHES, but ONLY IN ONE DIRECTION.  It's important to test your stitch settings across both the lengthwise AND the crosswise grains before you start in on your quilt.  Otherwise the stitch that looked great on your sample might get wavy on the two sides of the quilt where the Minky wants to stretch on you. 
Test Your Stitch Settings on the Lengthwise AND Crosswise Grains!
On my Bernina 1300MDC serger I got a nice, wave free edge with differential feed set to 1.5, stitch length 3.5, cutting width 2.0, and the tension settings recommended in my user manual.  I used a size 80/12 Universal needle and YLI Elite serger thread.
Here's one more serger trick that I always forget when I'm trimming away the excess batting and backing fabrics as I overcast the edge of the quilt.  Just before reaching the corner, I cut away a couple of inched of the excess fabrics on the side I'm about to stitch with a scissor.  Then I can serge right to the edge of the corner, sink my needle just off the edge and raise it to the highest position, pull the work backwards to clear the stitch finger, and then turn the quilt to begin stitching the next side of the quilt right at the corner where I left off.  I always mess up the first corner before I remember the scissor trick.  If you forget, you try to turn the corner but the bulk of the untrimmed batting and backing is in your way so you can't get the quilt back under the presser foot far enough.
Approaching the Corner, Next Side Scissor Cut 2-3"
So the whole time I'm quilting my blue stars, stabilizing and overcasting these quilt borders, I'm stewing about the satin binding.  I have made a number of these Minky backed, satin binding baby quilts in the past, and the only reason I subject myself to the hassle of it all is that babies LOVE satin binding.  If you give a baby a blanket with satin binding, he will reward you by rubbing the satin binding on his nose while sucking his thumb and making sweet little baby gurgling noises.  So it has to be satin binding.  But it is nearly impossible to get the inside edge of that satin binding lined up perfectly on the front AND back side of the quilt.  Anywhere the edges are NOT perfectly aligned when you stitch the zigzag from the front of the quilt, you will get something that looks like this:
Stitched Right Side Up, so the Front Looks Good...

...But the Back Is Not So Hot!
Very annoying!!  So I had an idea of what I could do to get better results this time.  I decided to stitch a placement line for the inside edge of the satin binding using YLI Water Soluble Basting Thread in both the needle and the bobbin.  I'm going to use that stitching line to either glue baste or pin (haven't decided which) the satin binding in place prior to stitching.  In hindsight, I should have stitched that line before I quilted my curlique olives in the border, since I drew a chalk line there anyway to make sure my quilting design remained outside of the area to be covered by satin binding.

Water Soluble Thread Placement Line for Satin Binding
Water soluble thread is very cool because it just dissolves and washes away when your project is rinsed or laundered, but it is more fragile than ordinary sewing thread and it requires special care.  It is very important to store water soluble thread in the airtight ziplock bags it comes in, and handle it with very dry hands so you don't get it sticky.  It's probably also a good idea to store your bobbin thread right in the baggie with the spool of water soluble thread, clearly labeled.  It would be very sad to get caught in the rain in a dress you accidentally constructed using water soluble thread... 

Settings for Water Soluble Thread
I sew successfully with YLI Wash-Away Water Soluble Thread on my Bernina 750QE sewing machine using Straight Stitch #1, but I increased the stitch length to 3.50 and reduced the tension all the way down to 1.0.  I also reduced the speed considerably when winding the bobbin, and because I'm working on a 3-layer quilt, I used my walking foot.

I've decided on a triple-stitched zigzag stitch to secure the satin binding to my quilt.  I'll be using Mettler Poly Sheen thread for that, for reasons of strength, matching the color and the sheen of the satin binding, and because both the satin binding and the Minky backing fabrics are polyester.  I'm using a brand new size 80/12 Microtex Sharp needle to stitch the satin binding without any snagging or pulls (which are also possible pitfalls of pinning, which is why I'm considering gluing the binding in place).

Broken Thumb with Splint
But none of this is happening right now, because my thumb is sore and my shoulder hurts from all of this typing!  Enjoy the rest of your weekend.  I'm linking up with Esther's WIPs on Wednesday linky and Whoop Whoop Friday at Confessions of a Fabric Addict.