Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Drumroll, Please: MORE New Projects! Feathered Star Baby Quilt Variations Designed in EQ8

Oh, SHHH!!!  I hear you all, clucking your tongues at me in disapproval!  Designing new projects in EQ8 is GOOD for me, and this little detour from my immediate projects only took me about 20 minutes, I swear.

44" x 44" Feathered Star Baby Quilt, Designed in EQ8
Okay, so designing the "bones" of this baby quilt only took 15-20 minutes.  Click, click, click, done!  Then I spent another 45 minutes playing with different color schemes and fabric possibilities.

Same Quilt, This Time With Novelty Prints
And This One in Kaffe Fassett Collective Prints
How fun is that, to see right on my computer screen what a quilt would look like made up in different fabrics?  Isn't it cool to see how the same exact quilt can look so very different depending on the fabrics you choose?  Plus and besides, I just "made" three quilts for free, without even buying ANY fabric...  

I was inspired to go wandering off on this tangent by my friend Julie's gorgeous Feathered Star baby quilt in progress over at Pink Doxies.  Julie designed her quilt in EQ7 and is struggling with the feathered triangle points, and when I suggested paper piecing them she said something like she'd "rather give birth to a rhinoceros without an epidural than paper piece," so I was curious about how EQ software would divide a quilt block like this for paper piecing, and whether or not paper piecing it really WOULD be worse than childbirth.

The borders I put on my feathered star quilt are easy to paper piece in one section, and since the software calculates the sizes there's zero chance that I would mess them up and have to redo anything.  So I'm selecting the center of the quilt, the feathered star block, and asking EQ8 to generate foundation paper piecing patterns for me to print.

EQ8 Has Divided My Block Into Foundation Piecing Sections
As you can see, paper piecing offers no advantage for the inset LeMoyne Star portion of this block.  I would most likely just cut those pieces with my rotary cutter and use traditional piecing for that bit.  Each blue line you see above represents a line between separate foundation paper piecing patterns that need to be sewn to one another the regular way after you've finished paper piecing.  But paper piecing is going to get all of my feathered star points to finish exactly the right size on the first try, with no risk of chopped off points, swearing, or seam ripping.  That's worth the extra bother of printing the foundation paper patterns, don't you think?

Fitting Foundation Pattern Sections to my Printer Pages
So the next step is to arrange those foundation pattern sections on the print layout so that each of the pieces I'm planning to use for paper piecing fit entirely within single pages.  Otherwise, I'd need to align and tape together, and not only is that extra work, but it also introduces an opportunity for slight inaccuracy of alignment.  EQ8 lets me rotate each pattern section individually and drag it to the page where I want it to print (which I started to do in the screen shot shown above, but didn't finish since I'm not actually making this quilt right now).  One innovation that I really appreciate with the newest version 8 is that I can print out my foundation papers in color, which is a big help in ensuring that I sew the correct fabrics down to cover each patch.

My friend Julie's quilt design doesn't have a LeMoyne Star in the center of the feathered star, though.  Hers is more similar to this design:

Yet Another Feathered Star Baby Quilt Variation
So, how does a feathered star block like this one work for paper piecing?

EQ8 Has Divided My Block Into Paper Piecing Sections
As you can see, this type of feathered star block is even more conducive to paper piecing.  After I cover those foundation paper piecing patterns, I trim them down to size with my ruler exactly 1/4" from the seam lines, so I know they will fit together much easier than if I tried to piece all of this the traditional way.  Accurate piecing with foundation paper patterns is so easy, I swear it feels like cheating!

EQ8 Automatic Print Layout
As you can see in the screen shot above, EQ software separates the block between the individual foundation sections and then just plops them onto sheets of paper.  Some of the pieces for this block, like the large white corner squares and the four white QSTs (quarter square triangles) I am going to rotary cut, so I just deleted those from my print layout and rearranged the others so as to conserve paper while having each foundation section fit completely onto a page so I don't have to tape anything together.  This is an easier task with smaller blocks, by the way -- since the center block of this quilt finishes at 36" square, I have selected a 13" x 19" paper size this time that I would print at a copy shop.

My Revised Print Layout, No Taping Necessary
Now that I've scrambled up all the pieces, can you see why it's helpful to have everything numbered and labeled and colored in while I'm piecing the block?

So now I'm curious.  How many of you out there have PaperPiecingPhobia?  Would anyone like me to actually MAKE this quilt and show you here on my blog how easy it is?  If so, let me know in the comments!  (We all know I'm just looking for someone to give me an excuse to chase another squirrel, right?)  Although this would be yet another new project, I did finish something last week...  And this would be a manageable, 44" square baby quilt that would be pieced and moved onto my longarm frame relatively quickly...  

Friday, January 26, 2018

Here We Go Again, Folks: Spinning My Wheels Between Projects, With Fits of Indecision Interspersed With Flu Hallucinations

Well, first off, I'm in a funk because I should be at choir rehearsal right now and I'm NOT.  All because of some obnoxious virus that decided to attack me at the back of my throat with what started out as a bothersome itchiness, progressed to feeling like I'd swallowed a mouthful of broken glass, and ended up as evil laryngitis teetering on the brink of bronchitis -- complete with that lovely barking cough.  I've been canceling everything all week, taking antibiotics and narcotic cough syrup that is supposedly potentially addictive but tastes like snot (WHO COULD POSSIBLY GET ADDICTED TO COUGH SYRUP THAT TASTES LIKE BOOGERS?!!!)...  Did I catch the flu from my son Lars, or is this some other wicked illness?  The doctor said I was too late for antiviral meds to do any good by the time I saw her, but she prescribed the Z-pack as a precaution due to my history of any and all upper respiratory ick turning into bronchitis and laryngitis.  Ugh, ugh, and ugh.  No fever, no vomiting -- THOSE I can deal with!  Instead, I'm like the poor Little Mermaid.  Ursula the Flu Virus has stolen my voice!  

Ursula the Flu Virus Has Stolen My Voice!
And yet, through the Theraflu and narcotic prescription cough syrup induced haze, I somehow managed to start another paper pieced pineapple block, just for YOU, COLLEEN!!  Colleen is one of my readers, and she recently wrote to tell me that she is "very, very old" and she's afraid she might die before she ever gets to see my finished pineapple log cabin quilt.  I have no idea how old "very old" is and whether or not Colleen has reason to believe her days on earth are numbered.  For all I know, Colleen just turned 40 and her friends threw her a mean "over the hill" birthday party.  And yet, I am so susceptible to her artful quilt guilt that I started another block.  You know, just in case.  ;-)

In One Hour, I Sewed 17 Pieces on This Block.  Only 80 More Pieces to Go!
Despite being close to finishing the blocks for this quilt, it's not a top priority for me right now because I want to work on my longarm quilting skills before I quilt this one.  So I decided to set a timer and spend just one hour working on it and see how far I got.  Not very impressive, is it?!  In one hour, I got 17 patches sewn onto this block.  Each block requires 97 strips of fabric sewn down, pressed and trimmed, so that means each one of these blocks takes something like 6 hours for me to make.  Seriously?!  That's discouraging!!  

Maybe I will die first, and Colleen will end up finishing this quilt FOR me!  When it's done, it will be California King size and it will look something like this:

Mockup of Pineapple Log Cabin Quilt Courtesy of EQ Software
Meanwhile, my longarm frame is empty and I need to get something easy on it before I forget everything I learned so far.  Which brings me back to those Tabby Mountain triangles.

Tabby Mountain On My Wall, Perplexing Me With Strange Piecing Instructions
This was supposed to be a "quick and easy" quilt top so I could focus on the longarm quilting, remember?  Then I had the delay when I decided I couldn't live with a couple of the fabric prints and had to swap them out, but once I finally got ready to start piecing the top I saw THIS in the directions, and what with the fog of illness and whatnot, it was just too much for my tired little brain to deal with:

What Kind Of Instruction Is "Jog the Ends Slightly?!"
"Jog the ends slightly" sounds ominous to me.  I had visions of sewing triangles together and ripping them apart to resew them over and over again, trying to ascertain the appropriate amount of edge-jogging required to get the straight edges aligned with a triangle point 1/4" away from the raw edges.  Ugh.  There MUST be a way to line these pieces up properly for the sewing machine so they come out right the first time!

Have I Jogged My Triangles Enough, Or Have I Jogged Them Too Much?
I tried drawing the seam line 1/4" in to try to visualize better how things will line up, but I still think that trial and error is going to be involved.  There is no "jogged edges" marking on any of my quilting rulers, and I am NOT going to be happy with jagged rows and chopped off triangle points!  Which brings me to the next item of concern: The Tabby Mountain pattern instructions tell me to press all of these seams OPEN.  Why???  Am I missing something?  It is so difficult to keep seam intersections from shifting out of alignment if you can't nest opposing seam allowances.  So I'm scrutinizing this pattern, wondering if my flu-addled brain is missing a real reason why these seams should be pressed open, or if I can just disregard that instruction and press all of the even rows to the right and all the odd rows to the left.  Those of you who are NOT sick and DO have your wits about you, please share your opinions in the comments!  

And also meanwhile, despite my resolve to prioritize my projects according to an overall goal of building up my longarm quilting skills -- a goal which DOES require starting new projects, since I don't have a stack of quilt tops waiting to be quilted, but it requires SIMPLE new projects that sew up quickly so I can focus on quilting them...  I committed to starting this applique BOM (Block of the Month) designed by Esther Aliu, and probably bit off more than I can chew.  

Queen's Garden BOM, Designed by Esther Aliu
Since this is a current BOM just beginning this month, I am going to see a lot of different versions of this popping up in the dark corners of the Internet that I frequent -- you know, the places where all the scary applique chicks hang out (hah!).  I'm sure mine won't be the prettiest or most masterfully stitched version of this quilt, but I do want mine to be DIFFERENT so I know it's mine, you know?  I spent a LOT of time perusing Pinterest and contemplating color schemes, brainstorming and browsing and boring my husband to tears with discussions about the elusive, magical background fabric my mind envisions for this quilt...

Behold, My Blueberry Applique Background Fabric!!
And, eureka!!  This is it, folks.  It's neither the typical white nor the common alternate, black.  It's not a print, which would be interesting, but also something that I've seen in a lot of other applique quilts.  I wanted a colored background, something tame enough not to upstage the bright, splashy prints I'm planning to use in my applique, but with its own personality and "something special."  So I ended up choosing Kaffe Fassett Shot Cotton in Blueberry, pictured above with a few KF fat quarters in bright colors that may or may not be chopped up into applique pieces.  See how they just glow against the muted purply background fabric?  LOVE!!!

Kaffe Fassett Shot Cotton in Blueberry
You can see the subtle iridescence of this fabric in the photo above, which is due to different yarn colors used for the warp and weft.  So it will be crucial to make sure that all of the blocks are oriented in the same direction on this quilt, or else they will appear to be different colors.  That's Challenge Number One, easily overcome by marking the Top of each block with a contrasting thread color tailor tack.

Next Challenge: This Stuff Is Pretty Flimsy!
Next challenge: The Kaffe Fassett Shot Cotton isn't like a regular quilting cotton.  It's almost like a cotton lawn.  It's semi-sheer, even in a dark color, when held up to the light, and it doesn't have much body at all.  It's kind of filmy and floaty. These are not ideal characteristics of an applique background fabric that has to support all of those stitches and other fabrics without distortion.  Yet the designer in me has her heart set on this background fabric, and she will not yield to reason.  So...  Can I starch or size this fabric into submission, or do I need to fuse each block background to a really lightweight fusible interfacing before I begin?  I do not want a stiff finished quilt.  

The other quandary is whether I am going to stitch this project by hand or by machine.  I'm definitely doing a turned edge technique rather than fusible, because the soft, dimensional quality is what I love most about applique.  My personal preference, that's all.  This is not a difficult project per se because they are 16" blocks and the applique shapes are huge.  It's the tiny shapes that are the most difficult to execute well with turned edge applique.  However, as I discovered with my 6-hour hand stitched binding marathon this week, hand stitching is a SLOW process.  It is the OPPOSITE of the "quick and easy, get it on the frame so I can quilt it" mantra that is supposed to be guiding my project selections right now. 

On the Facebook group for this BOM I've seen several quilters posting photos of beautifully done machine stitched applique for the center block, and I'm considering going that route.  And I can't make up my mind.

Hand Stitched Block On the Left vs. Machine Stitched Block On the Right

  • I am already up to my armpits with WIP projects that are unbelievably time consuming and take years to complete, including a needle-turned applique project that is languishing and not being worked on at all.  That hand stitched applique block on the left in the above photo is a UFO/WIP/Whatever that is 5 or 6 years old and still not finished...
  • Can I even keep up with the BOM schedule while also getting in adequate longarm quilting practice and keeping up with all my other commitments, such as work, family, staying on top of the music for my various choirs, etc.?
  • Jeanne Sullivan has instructions for machine stitched turned edge applique in her Simply Successful Applique book, as does Harriet Hargrave in her Mastering Machine Applique book.  I even took a class on this technique with Harriet, and she uses the exact same machine as me (Bernina 750QEE) and I wrote down her tried-and-true machine settings for invisible machine applique.  It CAN be done well, and there's no reason I can't do it...
  • These oversized applique shapes that would take an eternity to stitch by hand with neat little hand stitches spaced 1/16th of an inch apart would be a lot faster to stitch down by machine, and because the shapes are so big they would probably be a good first project for putting those machine applique lessons into practice.  


  • Oh, how I loathed machine applique when I took that class!  I have so much more control when I'm hand stitching.  Even going slowly, I still have stitches where the needle didn't land exactly where I wanted it to.  When a hand stitch looks bad, you can pull out just that one stitch for a do-over.  With machine stitches it's not so easy!  It was stressful.  There was profanity.  That one little tulip block in the photo above was the class sample that I made 5 years ago, and that is is the only thing I have ever done using this method.  You can read all about it here.
  • The flimsy background fabric may pose more of a problem with machine stitched applique, which requires stabilizer anyway.  I don't want a puckering, distorted mess.
  • I am bored with my Frankenwhiggish Rose hand applique project and feel like playing with different color schemes during my slow stitching spells. But wait, is that a reason to applique by hand, or a reason to applique by machine so I finish the project before I get bored with it???

Ever Have One Of Those Days?
And, needless to say, nothing is getting sewn while I agonize over these decisions.  Nothing, that is, except those 17 strips of fabric that got sewn to a pineapple log cabin block this morning, and that's all thanks to Colleen and her artfully executed quilt guilt.  So, THANK YOU, Colleen, because without you this day would be a total waste!

My fellow quilters, I think it's time for an intervention.  Don't wait for me to hit rock bottom and end up on 60 minutes, screeching like a hyena and chasing people around with my rotary cutter!!  If you've never commented before, TODAY IS YOUR DAY.  HELP ME!!!

  1. Any advice on how to piece those triangles quickly and accurately, or the best way to press those seam allowances in my Tabby Mountain quilt?
  2. Will starching my flimsy applique background be enough, or will it need to be interfaced as well?
  3. Should I applique by hand, by machine, or (gulp!), should I not start this project at all right now?
My Theraflu has worn off and my throat feels like sandpaper again.  I am now slinking out of the studio with my (invisible) tail between my legs and going downstairs to huddle in blankets on the sofa, in front of the TV.  Maybe tomorrow I will be healthy enough and brave enough to make something pretty.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

First Quilt Finish of 2018: "Math Is Beautiful"

It's time for the Big Reveal, y'all!  This is my first quilt finish of 2018, my first pantograph quilt, and the first real quilt that I've quilted on my APQS Millennium longarm quilting machine.  Behold, "Math Is Beautiful":

"Math Is Beautiful," 51 x 51, Designed by Lars
This quilt has been in the works since June of 2015, when I was going through my sons' notebooks to save unused filler paper for the following school year and discovered this design in Lars's 8th grade math notebook:

Lars's Design Inspiration
And I was like, "Dude, you designed a QUILT!"  I had recently purchased EQ7 quilting design software, so I used that program to play around with different fabric possibilities for a throw sized quilt that was going to be "quick and easy."  Then I fell madly in love with a discontinued, out of stock Kaffe Fassett floral print that I used in my virtual design and had to hunt it down online from eBay or etsy or something like that.  

Early Version of Math Quilt Design
When I found the black and white math printed fabric, I knew it was perfect for this quilt that derived from my son's daydreaming and doodling during class, and I decided to make the quilt as a gift for his teacher, Jen Thomas.  It's even the right kind of math -- Algebra!

What  Lars SHOULD Have Been Writing In His Notebook!
This isn't just any teacher, either -- Ms, Thomas taught Lars Math I in 7th grade when he was at the Metrolina Regional Scholars Academy charter school, and then she moved to Community House Middle School the same year we did, so she taught him Math II again in 8th grade.  Then last year she had my younger son, Anders, for Math II as an 8th grader.  Both of my kids are, um, HIGHER MAINTENANCE than your average student, and this teacher has been an amazing advocate for both of them.  What's more, once he got to high school and his freshman Math III class seemed easy, Lars realized that Ms. Thomas taught him well beyond the Math II curriculum so that the next year's math class was a breeze, and my son told me that he wanted to go back and thank Ms. Thomas.  So I'm going to try to bring him with me when I deliver this quilt.

The Vital Statistics:

This quilt finished at approximately 51" x 51" after washing.  It was quilted using Glide trilobal polyester thread in Cool Grey7 top and bottom, using the Popcorn LG pantograph pattern from Willow Leaf Studio.  The batting is black Quilter's Dream Poly.

My Quilting Looks Even Better After Washing
Happily, the slight shrinkage and crinkling that happened when I washed the quilt was just enough to smooth out and hide the wobblies of my beginner pantograph quilting, just as I'd hoped it would.  I like the way this pantograph design mimics the swirlies on the blue and fuschia fabric at the center of the quilt.

I kind of fell out of love with this quilt and lost interest in it for a long time while it was hanging on my design wall.  I felt like it was too busy AND too boring, but it was the perfect candidate for my first attempt at pantograph quilting.  Now that's it's finished, it's grown on me and I really like the finished quilt.  It's the black and white striped border that does it for me, tying in with the black and white math fabric and balancing those bold and colorful Kaffe Fassett print fabrics. It gives me kind of a MacKenzie-Childs vibe now.  

I Love My Stripey Binding!
The binding fabric was pure serendipity.  I didn't buy it specifically for this quilt, but I had a half yard of it in my stash and as soon as I saw it, I knew it would be perfect.  

More Stripey Binding Goodness!
The back of this quilt looks really good, too, which is of huge importance to me.  No matter how carefully I pin basted my projects before quilting them on my domestic Berninas, I ALWAYS ended up with a couple of pleats or puckers on the back side of my quilts.  Not only was it faster and more comfortable for me to quilt this standing up with a longarm machine, but those backing problems have been completely eliminated.  And my tension was consistent throughout the quilting process, giving me stitches that look beautiful on both sides of the quilt from start to finish.  I'm really pleased with my APQS Millenium machine.  I can't wait to get another quilt top loaded on my frame!

Look, Ma!  No Pleats, Tucks or Puckers!
I am really looking forward to delivering this quilt to the teacher, along with that original doodle from Lars's math notebook!  Here's one last look before I tuck the quilt into the gift bag:

Math Is Beautiful, 51 x 51
And now, what's next for this happy quilter?  

  1. The "Draw Me A Story" backing fabric needs to be pieced, pressed, starched, and set aside
  2. I need to cut out some reverse applique patches for my "Frankenwhiggish Rose" hand stitching project
  3. I'll start piecing the "Tabby Mountain" quilt
  4. Yes, Colleen -- it's time for me to make another pineapple log cabin block, too!  :-)

Today I'm linking up with:

Tutorial: A Reverie On Quilt Binding, With Reminders and Resolutions For Next Time

On those rare occasions when I have a quilt nearing completion, I always have to consult my quilting books and/or notes from my old blog posts to jog my memory as to how to do the binding.  I wasn't able to find a previous blog post documenting my binding process, and that's why I'm writing this one today -- for my own future reference.  If you know of other binding tips, tricks or tutorials, please share them with me in the comments!

Cut Width of Binding Strips Determines Seam Allowance
I generally remember that I like to cut my binding on the cross grain (although I'd cut it on the bias if my quilt had scalloped edges), but I can never remember how wide to cut the strips or how much binding I need to make.  For a finished quarter inch binding, my books recommend cutting your strips anywhere from 1 7/8" to 2 1/4" wide.  When I bound my last quilt I used a 2 1/4" cut width and made a note to myself to cut my strips 2 1/8" this time, but when I cut them 2 1/8" I decided I would rather have cut them 2 1/4" so I could use my seam guide with my walking foot to sew the binding to the front of the quilt.  So, what I would like to remind myself for next time is that it doesn't matter how wide I cut the strips as long as I check and adjust my seam allowance when I'm machine stitching the binding to the quilt. 

For my "Math Is Beautiful" quilt, I cut my binding strips 2 1/8" wide and started stitching them to the front of my quilt with my walking foot, using the little 1/4" mark on the inside of the walking foot toe as my guide.  After sewing about 6", I removed the quilt from the machine and wrapped the binding around to the wrong side of the quilt to check the seam allowance.  The binding completely covered the machine stitches on the back of the quilt, but in order to wrap it snugly around the edge of the quilt, the binding came down too far -- it would be noticeably wider finished width binding on the back of the quilt than on the front.  

With a 2 1/8 inch Cut Width, This Seam Allowance Was Too Narrow
Then I tried stitching the same 6" of binding using the outside edge of my walking foot as a guide, but then the seam allowance was too wide -- when I wrapped the folded edge of the binding around to the back of the quilt, there wasn't enough fabric to cover the machine stitches.  I ended up moving my needle position two clicks to the left and using the inside of the walking foot toe as my guide.  That resulted in a binding that just barely covers the machine stitches when pulled snugly to the back of the quilt, a binding that looks the same width on the front and back side of the quilt.  

If I was going to finish the binding by machine rather than by hand, I would want the binding to be slightly wider on the back side to ensure that, when I stitched in the ditch next to the binding on the front of the quilt, the binding on the back of the quilt was caught in the ditch stitching.  

Obviously, batting thickness will impact how wide binding strips and binding seam allowances need to be to wrap around the edge of the quilt and line up nicely, front to back, so this is my reminder to myself that I need to test the seam width and make adjustments before sewing my binding all the way around the perimeter of my quilt!

So, now that I know I'm going to cut my binding strips 2 1/4" wide, how do I know how many strips I need to cut?  Measure the perimeter of the quilt, add 12" working allowance, and divide by 42" fabric width.  Round up to the nearest whole number and that's how many strips I need to cut.  So for the math quilt that finished at 51 3/4" x 51 3/4" after quilting, the perimeter was 207" + 12" working allowance = 219" of binding needed, divided by the 42" usable fabric width = 5.21, rounded up to the nearest whole number gives me 6 strips to cut from my binding fabric.

I join my binding strips at 45 degree angles to reduce the bulk of the seam allowance, and I used to have a terrible time getting that 45 degree seam just right so my binding strips would be straight without a little offset where the seams joined one strip to the next.  I would routinely sew strips the wrong direction, or with the seam allowance on the wrong side, and have to waste time with my seam ripper before I got it right.  With my class sample quilt, I did a little prep work before sewing the seams to ensure that my striped pattern would be matched and that resulted in perfectly aligned, straight binding and no seam ripping, so I'm going to do all of my binding this way from now on regardless of whether there is a pattern to match.

I fold and press a 45 degree angle in the end of one binding strip and then lay that over the opposite end of another binding strip, matching the pattern from the RIGHT side:

Match the Stripes and Glue the Top Folded Strip to the Bottom Flat Strip
Then I swipe my fabric glue stick lightly along the seam allowance of my folded strip, right up next to the fold, and stick it in place to hold the matched pattern in place.

Seam Line Needs To Be Just to the RIGHT of the Fold
Next, open the folded strip so it's at a 90 degree angle to the flat strip.  In order for the strips to be lined up perfectly with matched stripes after sewing, the seamline needs to be just to the RIGHT of that fold line.  I won't be able to see the fold line at the sewing machine because of the bright LED lights, so I draw a line with a mechanical chalk pencil right next to the fold line:

Chalk Line Right Next To the Fold Line
I use 3 pins to ensure nothing slips out of place when I'm matching stripes.  With a solid color binding, I would probably use just two pins, or maybe not pin at all, depending on how reckless I'm feeling.

Sew Along the Chalk Line
...And then I just sew along the chalk line, with a stitch length of 2.0, the same as I use for piecing.

...Like So
When I do it this way, the pattern is perfectly matched at the diagonal seam line and the raw edges of the two strips meet up perfectly every time.  No more seam ripping!

Check the Pattern Match Before Trimming
I open up the seam to check that everything matched up correctly before trimming the excess seam allowance.  Success!  

Trim Seam Allowance to a Quarter Inch
...Like So
I want to press my binding seams open to minimize bulk, so I gently pull apart the glued seam allowances so I can press them open.  You want to use just enough glue to hold the pattern match in place for stitching, but not so much glue that you can't pull the seam allowances apart afterwards!

Seam Pressed Open
I use an old dish towel as a pressing cloth to save myself the fun of cleaning glue off my iron.  And then I just trim those little dog ears off with a straight edge ruler.

Trimming the Dog Ears
The next step is to fold and press the binding in half lengthwise WST (wrong sides together), being careful to keep the stripes straight, and then the binding is ready to be sewn to the front of the quilt.

I rediscovered a little binding tool while rooting around in the drawers of the cutting table.  It's amazing, all the cool gadgets I've got squirreled away in here!  I don't think I've ever used this tool before; someone must have recommended it to me and then I forgot about it.  There are plenty of tutorials on YouTube explaining how to use this tool, such as this one from Missouri Star Quilt Co.:

Anyway, to use this tool successfully, it's imperative that you start sewing the binding onto the quilt with a 10" loose end, and that you stop sewing when you are exactly 12" away from your starting point, leaving another 10" tail on that end.  No eyeballing; you have to mark that 12" before you start sewing.

Attaching Binding With Walking Foot
I generally use my walking foot to sew my binding, but I could probably get away with using my #97D quarter inch patchwork foot with Dual Feed engaged instead.  I'm sewing my binding on with the Aurifil 50/2 cotton thread that is my favorite for piecing, but I'm using a longer stitch length now of 2.5.  Now, when I wrap the folded edge of the binding around to the back of the quilt and pull it snug, it just covers the machine stitches, exactly how I wanted it.

Folded Edge Just Barely Covers Machine Stitches
One other point I'd like to remind myself of for next time -- be careful not to fold in too much binding fabric when mitering the corners!  I think I was deliberately generous with my folds, thinking that would give me more fabric to work with when forming the miter on the back side of the quilt, but what it really does is put too much fabric bulk in the corner itself.  That makes it MORE difficult to miter and finish the corner from the back side, and results in a slightly dog eared corner rather than a true right angle.  I think I'd like to practice that on a scrap sandwich prior to doing it on my next quilt.

See How That Corner Is Just Slightly Too Pointy?
Oh, and I also forget how long it takes me to hand stitch the folded fabric edge to the back side of a quilt.  This quilt finished at about 50" x 50", and it took me over SIX HOURS to hand stitch the binding while binging through eight episodes of Victoria on Amazon Prime.  It took me longer to hand stitch the binding than it took me to do the quilting!  I've never done a completely machine stitched binding on a quilt before, but I may need to learn how to do it that way in the future for these "quick and easy" quilt tops that just need to get done so I can move on to quilting the next one.  Good grief -- I could have paper pieced another pineapple log cabin block in six hours, or pieced the entire Tabby Mountain quilt top in six hours!

If anyone knows of a really good tutorial for accurately stitching quilt binding completely by machine, please let me know in the comments.  Thank you!

Today I'm linking up with:

Monday, January 22, 2018

A Slice of Elation, Topped With a Dollop of Misery: Design Wall Monday, With Machine Embroidery

Good morning!  I'm so close to finishing this quilt that I can almost TASTE it, which is the elation part of this post.  The misery part is that I am really, really sick and my throat feels like I swallowed broken glass or gargled with razor blades or something.  It hurts so much that it's making my eyes tear.  I don't know if it's the flu, strep, or what, but I'm going to the doctor at 10:30 to find out and hopefully get some kind of magic make-it-go-away medicine.  

Machine Embroidered Label Appliqued to Quilt Backing
But meanwhile, I got my math quilt labeled and ready for binding!  My favorite way to use machine embroidery is to personalize quilts, either with embroidered monograms, quotes, or just a label like the one for this quilt.

Designing the Label in Bernina Embroidery Software
This label took me only a few minutes to design and digitize in my Bernina Designer Plus embroidery software.  It's as easy as typing into a text box, picking one of the True Type fonts from the drop down menu, and resizing the block of text to fit into the hoop I want to use.  Save to USB drive, plug USB drive into Bernina 750QEE sewing machine, attach embroidery module, and press GO.  Yes, there are lettering stitches built into my sewing machine, but I use my embroidery software instead so that I can lay out all the text the way I want it and stitch it out with perfect spacing as a single embroidery design.  If you use the built-in lettering stitches to sew out a lot of text, you need to carefully mark every row of stitching and it's easy to mess up the alignment.  Plus I have many, many more lettering fonts to choose from in my embroidery software.

Label and Binding Fabrics Selected From My Stash
I am able to print out an actual size template of the label design from my software that I can use to check that it's going to be legible and look the way I want it to look.  I was able to find the perfect solid orchid fabric for the label and a black and white striped binding fabric in my stash, which was great.

Stitching Out the Label Design
I starched my label fabric twice on each side of the fabric, then sprayed it with 505 temporary spray adhesive and affixed it to a layer of tearaway embroidery stabilizer before hooping it.  I also floated an additional layer of tearaway stabilizer beneath my hoop and reduced my top tension to prevent bobbin thread from showing at the edges of my satin stitches.  It took about 20 minutes for my machine to stitch out the design, and then it took me another 30 minutes or so to carefully remove all of the excess stabilizer from the back of the label, using a tweezers to remove the bits of stabilizer that were trapped between rows of stitching.  I don't want my label to be bulky, stiff, or scratchy; I want it to be just as soft and snuggly as the rest of the quilt.

Tabby Mountain, Final Layout With Replacement Fabrics
Meanwhile, my replacement fabrics came for the Tabby Mountain quilt so I could swap out those Cat Eyes prints that I wasn't fond of.  And again, it's not that I don't like the Cat Eyes print at all -- I just didn't like it for these giant triangles.  It would be cute cut up into smaller patches for another project, and it would be cute binding fabric.  I replaced them in my quilt with three Kaffe Fassett Collective prints instead, and I like it much better now.  I have someone special in mind for this quilt and it "fits" her better with the fabric substitutions I made.

Original Layout With Busy Eyeball Fabrics
The scale of the Cat Eyes print was just too small for the big triangles, and the print didn't read well at a distance.  It looked muddy to me.

Kaffe Fassett Collective Print Substitutions
So, as soon as I get the math quilt bound, I'll be able to start piecing the Tabby Mountain quilt top.  That should come together fairly quickly, and then it's destined to be the SECOND real quilt for my longarm machine!

Because I have another goal for 2018, in addition to buying more fabric and drinking more wine.  My number one quilting goal for this year is to become proficient with my longarm quilting machine.  With that in mind, I'll be choosing more quick and easy piecing projects so I can focus on improving my quilting skills.  Then, once my quilting ability is on par with my piecing and applique skills, I can go back to more complex projects without fear of "ruining" them with shoddy beginner quilting!

Today I'm linking up with: