Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Bobby's Quilt is FINISHED!

Bobby's Quilt, 73" x 96"
Bobby's quilt is FINISHED!  I delivered it to church this morning just in time for it to be blessed by the pastors at their staff meeting.  The Quillow Ceremony will take place this coming Sunday during worship service at Christ Lutheran Church.  All in all, my husband estimates that I spent over 80 hours working on this project, from the initial design to the last stitch. It feels REALLY GOOD that it's finally finished and off my shoulders!

All of the straight line quilting on this quilt was done with a walking foot on my domestic sewing machine.  First I stabilized the quilt by quilting in the ditch with YLI Wonder Invisible monofilament in the needle and Aurifil 50/2 cotton in the bobbin.  That's the discouraging stage where you spend hours putting in quilting stitches that hold everything together and prevent shifting of the layers, and then you look at the quilt and it looks like you haven't started quilting it at all.  Invisible thread in the ditch really IS invisible!

Ditch Stitch Quilting with Walking Foot
Then I switched to a 40 weight YLI variegated machine quilting thread in the needle, Mettler 50/3 cotton in the bobbin, and started quilting the lines of stitching that you actually see.  I used my Bernina #50 three-soled walking foot for both of these quilting stages, with the special ditch sole that rides along the seam allowance for the first part, and then I switched to the open toe sole and attached a guide bar to the foot so I could space the vertical and horizontal lines through the center blocks that form the cross at 1 1/2" from the seam lines, and then another row 1 1/2" in from each of those lines of quilting stitches.  I channel quilted the wide top and bottom borders the same way, echoing the inside corners to make it a little more interesting.  I used my long metal workroom ruler to mark the diagonal lines in all four corners of the quilt. 

I still hate marking quilts; I had to use three different marking utensils (the white marker on the black fabric, the yellow Sewline chalk pencil on the dark gray fabric and the red fabrics, and the purple disappearing pen on the white, gray, and orange fabrics).  The chalk smudges and rubs off while I'm handling the quilt during marking, the white pen starts to run out after I've marked two lines, and the purple pen is a race against time because even though I only marked one quadrant of the quilt at a time and raced right back to the machine to start stitching, the purple pen -- as usual -- had already begun disappearing by the time I was trying to stitch on those lines.  It must be the humidity or something.  I was so tempted to draw the lines with Frixxion pens instead but I didn't have any scraps of the fabrics to test them on and I would have to just lay down and die if the pen marks didn't come out of the quilt after all this work.  So I continued with my purple pen and just swore at it a lot.  That made me feel better.

I had to do more diagonal quilting lines than what I had originally planned.  The batting, Hobbs Heirloom 80/20 cotton/poly, is supposed to be quilted at least 3 1/2" apart.  I didn't want the batting to clump up and cause problems when the quilt is washed, and my stitching lines were farther apart than 3 1/2" at the outside corners.  I went back and added an additional line of quilting stitched between each of the first lines. 

This is where my quilting lines are still too far apart
Of course I had other ideas of decorative quilting that I would have loved to add between the diagonal rays and between the straight stitching lines of the cross, but I'm tried to be REALISTIC and SENSIBLE and KEEP IT SIMPLE since I was racing against time to finish this on time.  Even "simple quilting" took a tremendous amount of time to complete.  Anyway, I really think that the straight lines complement the piecing design and help to give the effect that light is radiating from the center of the cross.

At this point, I'd like to take a moment to credit Amy Friend, whose Ombre Vibes quilt I adapted for this quilt. 

Ombre Vibes by Amy Friend, 54" x 54", photo courtesy Amy Friend

Amy's Ombre Vibes quilt was designed to use the 6 1/2" Square and 6 1/2" Half Square Triangle dies for the Sizzix Die Cutting System, and her pattern is available for free on the Sizzix web site here.  Karen had asked for a quilt design that was Christian themed without being "too obvious" -- she didn't want it to look like a church banner thrown across his bed.  When I saw Amy's quilt on Pinterest, I knew it would be perfect for this project!  I enlarged the blocks to finish at 7 1/2" and added wide borders at the top and bottom of the quilt so it would fit an XL Twin dorm bed.  Karent wanted to incorporate a shield with a cross in the center of the quilt, and she requested red and gray Ohio State colors since that's where Bobby will be going to college in the fall.  The backing fabric is a gray and white camouflage print, a nod to his ROTC service.

Bobby's Quilt, 73" x 96"
Well, now that it's finished, I hope they like it!  I'm linking up with Sew Cute Tuesday at Blossom Heart Quilts, Fabric Tuesday at Quilt Story, Finish It Up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts, TGIFF at Devoted Quilter, and Can I Get a Whoop Whoop at Confessions of a Fabric Addict.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Bobby's Quilt Is Basted, Ready for Quilting

Six Hundred Safety Pins Later...
Happy Tuesday Morning!  I'm headed to the dentist in a little bit, but wanted to share that I've got Bobby's Quilt basted and ready for quilting! 

I had quite the time with this.  As it turns out, I haven't finished a big quilt in several years, and the last time I had to baste something bigger than a baby quilt I used this standing height, temporary island cutting table made from a 1" thick melamine top balanced on top of four small book cases:

Basting Lars's Drunken Dragons Quilt Back in 2012
I no longer have that table -- we took it apart and recycled the materials back when we redid my studio.  My new cutting table is much bigger, has one long side up against the wall to save space, and has a very thick maple butcher block countertop.  It doesn't work for quilt basting because even the largest binder clips are too small to fit around the butcher block for securing the backing fabric.  I also really need to be able to hang the quilt off all four sides of the table for basting so I can start in the middle. 

I knew the new cutting table wouldn't work for basting when I designed it, but since basting is an infrequent task, I thought I'd just bring in a folding utility table when the need arose.  Well, I looked at Staples, Lowes, Walmart, Home Depot, everywhere I could think of, and I could not find a normal table ANYWHERE.  You know what I was looking for -- one of those dark brown rectangular tables like they use at church bazaars or in quilt show classes.  The top of the table is only about an inch thick and it has an overhang that ordinary office supply binder clips will fit, and the surface of the table is smooth so it is easy to stick safety pins through all three layers of the quilt, slide the point against the table top beneath, and poke the pin back up through to the top of the quilt so you can close it.

Well, the table I had to use for this has a 2 1/4" thick gray PLASTIC top with a textured surface: 

30" x 72" Table That Is TERRIBLE for Quilt Basting!
We raised it up to a comfortable standing height by sticking the legs into lengths of PVC pipe, but the only thing I could find to clamp fabric over that thick edge were these awful (and expensive!) Handi-Clamps from Home Depot.  I could not use as many of them as I wanted to because of the cost.  Also, these clamps do not lay flush on the surface of the table like binder clips do -- they create big hills of batting and quilt top, and since the batting and quilt top do not get clamped with this method, they are draped over those hills for several hours at a time while I am pinning in spurts and taking breaks from sore fingers, the previously starched and flat quilt top and batting tended to want to KEEP those hills when I unclamped and shifted the next section for pinning onto the center of the table. 

Drunken Dragons Quilt, All 3 Layers Flat and Smooth Over Binder Clips
This Quilt, Giant Clamp Hills All Around the Table

My Terrible Clamps
The textured surface of the table made it really difficult to pin the quilt as well, because the tip of the pin would get stuck in the dimpled surface of the table instead of gliding across a smooth surface.  So, just what I need when I'm up against a deadline -- additional challenges caused by makeshift equipment, right?  Anyway, I did the best I could with what I had to work with.  I do not think I got everything aligned as well as I did on my past quilts, and in fact, I felt some worrisome ripples in places when I ran my hand across the top and bottom surfaces of the quilt, but I don't have time to take out all those pins and redo it.  What's more, even if I did try to redo it, I'm afraid the results wouldn't be any better because I'd be hampered by the same issues.  I can't find a better table locally, if I ordered something to have shipped it wouldn't get here in time...

My batting is Hobbs Heirloom 80/20 Cotton/Poly.  It can be quilted up to 3 1/2" apart.  I'm hoping that if I keep the quilting fairly minimal, I can avoid serious tucks/pleats/disasters.  WISH ME LUCK!  The Quillow Ceremony is June 5th!

For basting future quilt projects, I've ordered the Sew Essentials Home Hobby Table from JoAnn's, which is currently on sale for 50% off:

Reviews on this table are mixed.  It is the right height and size for quilt basting and it will fold up and roll out of the way when it's not needed, but some reviewers complained that it wasn't very sturdy and/or was difficult to assemble.  I am counting on my dear husband to address those issues if necessary.  Anyway, I'm headed for a quick shower and then off to the dentist for a cleaning.  Happy Tuesday, everyone!

I'm linking up with WIPs on Wednesday at Esther's blog.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Rebecca versus the Alice Block: Farmer's Wife 1930s, Block 3

Farmer's Wife 1930s Block 3, "Alice"
I've been away from the blog for awhile, frantically trying to get caught up with everything now that the Mary Poppins show has wrapped up. Work, laundry, housekeeping, scheduling the boys' summer activities...  I still have a lot on my to-do list, but I decided that today, Sunday, would be a day of rest.  No work -- I went straight up to my studio after church and set about paper piecing Block #3 Alice from the 1930s Farmer's Wife book.  Because I like to punish myself when I relax.

Alice Block In Progress
There are a LOT of itty bitty patches in this block, which finishes at 6".  I know you can't tell from the pictures how small the individual patches are, so here's one of the segments under the presser foot to give you some perspective :

Foundation Paper Piecing on my Bernina 750QE with Patchwork Foot #97D
I'm using my straight stitch plate and the #97D Patchwork foot, Dual Feed engaged, on my Bernina 750QE.  Size 16 quilting needle, 50/3 cotton thread, and stitch length 1.5.  I precut all of my patches about 1/2" larger on all sides than the finished units, and tried to just focus on one seam at a time.

Even with foundation paper piecing, this one was a beast.  I was cranking happily along, doing pretty well, until I got all of the foundation segments finished:

All Segments Covered, Ready to Join Sections
Lovely, right?  But then I had to sew the adjacent sections together, which is like sewing a sandwich where the foundation papers on the top and bottom are the bread, and then you have layers of slippery fabric deli meat in between the bread, sliding around and getting out of alignment where you can't see them or control them.  After sewing and ripping and sewing and ripping again... and again... I finally tore the rest of the foundation papers away, pinned my seam intersections like I was Old School piecing, and sewed the meat together without the bread.  That worked much better for me.

So now I have three blocks finished from this book:

Design Wall: Farmer's Wife 1930s Blocks 1-3
You can find my posts about my other Farmer's Wife blocks here.  They're not perfect, but I'm not going to point out the areas where I see room for improvement!  I'm just glad I got a chance to sew something for myself today, and it feels good to take on a challenge and come out victorious (albeit a bit bloodied from the seam ripper). Tomorrow morning, it's back to the grindstone! 

This block used scraps of the leftover Amish black fabric from my Sugar Shack quilt, a leftover jelly roll strip of Kaffe Fassett, and a scrap of green fabric left over from my paper pieced pineapple log cabin quilt.  So I'm linking up with Oh Scrap! at Quilting Is More Fun Than Housework!  I'm also linking up with Design Wall Monday at Patchwork Times, Main Crush Monday at Cooking Up Quilts, Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt, Moving it Forward at Em's Scrap Bag, Podunk Pretties, and Design Board Monday at Bits and Bobs.  I'm also linking up with Can I Get a Whoop Whoop at Confessions of a Fabric Attic, because I totally need a whoop whoop today.  And now I'm going to brew up another latte and enjoy visiting everyone else's quilty projects in the linkups.  And THEN, back to the grindstone!