Saturday, November 24, 2018

Of Thanksgiving Travel, Needlework Memories, Embroidery, and Applique

Hand Embroidered Pillows Made By My MIL circa 1959
Hello, my lovelies, and happy belated Thanksgiving to all of you in the States who were celebrating this week!  We've just returned from spending the holiday in Florida with my husband's family.  L-O-N-G drive, but well worth it.

More Needle Turn Leaves...
I shoved my Frankenwhiggish Rose needleturn applique project into my suitcase before we left and managed to get some leaves cut, prepped, and stitched down while visiting with Bernie's family, and couldn't help but notice striking similarities between my mother-in-law's throw pillows on the sofa and the project in my lap:

My MIL's Needlework, circa 1959.  This One Is My Favorite.
How cool is that?  It's the same color palette, very similar style -- could be an alternate block in the same quilt.  My mother-in-law Marlies used to do the most amazing sewing and needlework years ago.  Not anymore, due to age-related memory decline, but I asked her about these pillows and she vividly remembered making them.  

She said that she and her sisters got needlework kits like this one from their father as Christmas gifts and these pillows were given to her on her last Christmas in Germany before she emigrated to the United States to marry my father-in-law.  (They were married in 1960, so I'm guessing this was the Christmas of 1959).  Marlies told me the kit came with the pattern, materials, and yarns, and they would start working on the stitching after Christmas.  She had these pillows partially or completely embroidered before she left Germany, and finished and stuffed them sometime after arriving in Philadelphia to begin her new life as a married woman.  So they're close to 60 years old, and I LOVE THEM!

Detail of Yarn Embroidery
Isn't that gorgeous?  I wish I knew more about the pattern designer and the materials.  I can tell you that I've seen these pillows on their family room sofa for the 20+ years that I've known them, and they've definitely seen regular use over the decades, yet there's no pilling of the embroidery threads.  I wonder if it's wool or something else?  I think most synthetic yarns would have gotten all fuzzy and worn-looking by now.

My MIL Marlies, My Sons Anders and Lars, and My FIL Fred
My sons, Lars and Anders, got to spend some quality time with their grandparents, their Tante Angela, and their cousins, too.  My MIL kept asking "Where are the little ones?" whenever the boys left the room, but at 5'10" and nearly 6' tall, they are not little anymore!  

I did manage to get some other sewing done before heading out of town for Thanksgiving.  I loaded and quilted the outreach cuddle quilt for the Charlotte Quilter's Guild:

Outreach Cuddle Quilt Is Quilted!
Someone else in the guild pieced this top and there were some minor fullness issues, so I floated the quilt top and just did a freehand meander from the front side of the machine rather than a pantograph from the backside, where I wouldn't have been able to keep an eye on the trouble spots.  I mounted the quilt sideways and was able to quilt the whole thing in just two advances, less than two bobbins.  Now it just needs to be trimmed and bound. 

Pretty Sure I Put the Horizontal Spool Holder In the Wrong Place
I used a spool of variegated California Poppy YLI 3-ply 40 weight cotton Machine Quilting thread in the needle, and used the horizontal spool holder accessory for the first time since the spool was stack wound.  I am pretty sure I put that thing in the wrong place on my machine, by the way, because in order to use the upper thread break sensor with my setup the thread needs to travel BACKWARDS to the thread break sensor wheel rather than straight down.  I think that spool holder attached with sticky adhesive foam or something; not sure I can get it off and reposition it??  Anyway, I had the 40 weight cotton thread in my size 4.0 needle and used white Super Bob 2-ply polyester prewounds in the bobbin, and was able to get decent tension without too much trouble.  Still seeing slight directional tension variation indicating needle flex, but since completing this quilt I've read that going up to a 4.5 needle with the cotton thread would have helped with that.

I Love How the White Bottom Line Thread Disappears On the Back Side
Look how well the Bottom Line thread disappears on the backing side of the quilt.  The 60 weight 2-ply thread is so fine and thin that it takes on whatever color it crosses, appearing yellow when it crosses yellow fabric and blue where it crosses over blue.

I'm planning to machine bind this quilt, but that will have to wait a few days because I dropped off my main squeeze machine, the 'Nina 750QE, at my Bernina dealer for her annual Well Baby visit.  While I wait for her to return to the studio, I can continue appliqueing leaves to my Frankenwhiggish Rose blocks, pin the last rows of pineapple log cabin blocks together, and get something else loaded on my longarm frame.  

Let's have a poll -- what should I quilt next?  

Should I whip up another charity quilt top for practice quilting and try to completely eliminate the needle flex tension issues, or should I put a REAL quilt on the frame (and risk "ruining it" if my quilting savvy is not yet up to snuff)?  The only "real" quilt top that is finished and ready to load is my Paint Me A Story bear paw quilt, by the way...  

"Paint Me A Story," 65 x 65.  Do I Dare to Quilt This Yet?
I started this quilt in 2014 and I will be HEARTBROKEN if I wreck it.  But I suspect that I need to quilt real quilts if I'm going to get better at the custom quilting I most want to do...  Charity quilts are best suited to simple allover designs, not fancy ruler work and freehand fills.  Hmmm...  Let me know your thoughts in the comments.  

Enjoy the remainder of your long holiday weekend!  I'm linking up with:

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Rebecca and the Magical, Magnetical Quilt Guild Name Tag: A Tutorial

Good morning, my lovelies!  I've been away from the blog for a couple of weeks, busy with a trip to Chicago to visit with my sister and nephew, a couple of interior design projects for clients, and keeping up with the reading for a class I'm taking.  But last night I finished my quilt guild name tag, and I can't wait to share it with you.  I even put together a little tutorial in case you'd like to make a magnetic name tag of your own.

Headless Helena Models My New Guild Name Tag
To recap, I finally joined my local quilt guild recently and needed a handmade fabric name tag to wear at meetings and workshops.  Since I have so many projects already in progress (and so little time to work on any of them), I rummaged around in my studio and came up with an orphan sawtooth star block to use rather than starting from scratch.  I machine embroidered my name as legibly as possible -- not sure whether the last name was necessary, but put it on there to be safe so I wouldn't need to make another one -- and did some basic SID and walking foot quilting around the star.  

Pretty Boring Quilting, But It Gets the Job Done
I had originally selected a black and white striped binding fabric, but after sewing it down and mitering all eight corners and then hand stitching it to the back, I was REALLY unhappy with my inability to get the stripes matched up where the binding ends joined.  With the corners of this tiny quilt so close together, I just didn't have enough room to finesse the stripes into a perfect pattern match and I ended up with one heavy black stripe on one side:

First Binding Attempted, Rejected and Removed
Blech!  See what I mean?  My eye just goes right to that awful double black stripe on the right side of the name tag.  The other thing is that, on a regular size quilt, the proportion of binding fabric to main body of the quilt is much smaller.  I felt like, on a small piece like this name tag, the striped binding was distracting and overwhelming, not the subtle pop I was looking for.  I put the project in Time Out for a few days to see if the binding would grow on me and whether I could get over the awkward join, but in the end I had to rip off the binding and do it over.  

The Magnet Magic!
None of this is terribly exciting.  What I AM excited about is that my name tag doesn't hang on strings around my neck or attach with pins that might snag my favorite sweater or blouse -- it's MAGNETIC!  The neodymium magnets are super strong and will even hold the name tag securely through a thick sweater; I tested it to be sure.  Here's how I did this.

First, you need the magnet hardware.  Many businesses use these magnetic name tags now (I first discovered the concept when my teenage son got a job at the grocery store).  I looked locally at Michael's, JoAnn's, and Staples and nobody had them, but Amazon came to my rescue once again:


The magnet bars aren't expensive -- at the time of this post, you can get a 10-pack for $7.99 with Prime shipping.  You can make yourself a different name tag for every season, or make some as gifts for your friends. 

As you see above, the magnetic hardware consists of two pieces.  There's a thin metal rectangle with smooth corners that has 3M adhesive foam on one side, and there's a thin rectangle plastic piece with smooth corners that has the two magnets attached.  They do sell versions with three magnets instead of two, but my experience is that two magnets is plenty strong enough to get the job done.  The metal bar is the part that gets permanently attached to the back side of your name tag, and the plastic bar with magnets attached is the piece that you snap in place on the underside of your clothing.

That 3M adhesive tape on the back of the metal bar is what you would use to adhere the metal bar to the back of a plastic or aluminum name tag, but I sliced it right off with an Exacto knife since I'm going to sew the metal bar into the back of my fabric name tag.  A razor blade would work, too.  You don't have to be fanatical about removing all of the foam, either, as long as you get rid of most of the bulk and all of the sticky glue.

I attached the metal bar to the back of the name tag with a tiny little sleeve, made the way you would make a hanging sleeve for a quilt show.  I cut a rectangle out of my name tag backing fabric, folded it in half WST, and sewed along the two long raw edges.  Then I centered that seam and pressed the little tube flat with my iron.  I didn't measure this piece, just eyeballed it so it would finish close to the width of the metal bar, but with enough loose fabric at the edges for me to hand stitch it to the back of my name tag.

Fabric Tube/Sleeve For Metal Bar
I knew I wanted to position that metal bar about a third of the way down from the top of my name tag -- high enough that it didn't flop down when I was wearing it, but with that metal bar far away from where I would be machine stitching the binding.  But I didn't want the metal bar to slide around inside the fabric casing, so I used my zipper foot to sew a triple straight stitch right up against both short ends of the magnet, trapping it in the center of the tube.

Trapping the Metal Bar In the Center of the Fabric Tube
Next, I positioned this little fabric tube horizontally across the back side of my name tag, trimmed the raw edges of the sleeve even with the edges of the name tag, and secured the short edges with machine stitching about 3/8" in from the raw edges, so the machine stitching would be concealed by my binding.

At this point, you could go ahead and stitch the long edges of the fabric tube down to the backing fabric by hand, but I chose to attach my binding to the front of my name tag first and then secure the long sides of my sleeve when I was hand stitching my binding to the back side of the name tag.  

Long Edges of Sleeve Secured by Hand Stitching
Easy-peasy, but oh-so-snazzy!  Now I have a name tag for the November guild meeting, which is tomorrow evening.  I haven't decided whether I need to jazz my name tag up with any embellishments or if I prefer it plain and simple, the way it is, but at least it's done!

To Bling Or Not To Bling, That Is the Question...
I mean, I could still add some beads, or sequins, or French knots, or additional "big stitch" quilting by hand in a decorative thread...  Heck, I could wire it up with a battery pack and blinking lights if I REALLY wanted to draw attention to myself (not!).

What's next on my sewing agenda?  Well, I still need to load up that outreach cuddle quilt on my longarm machine and get it quilted.  I'm running out the door for an appointment in a few minutes, but hopefully I'll get to that this evening.  Anyway, that's my To-Do for Tuesday weekly goal.

This Outreach Quilt Top is STILL Not Loaded for Quilting!
Happy Tuesday and happy stitching!  Today I'm linking up with: 

  ·       To-Do Tuesday at Stitch ALL the Things: