Friday, December 20, 2019

Vintage Double Wedding Ring Bed Runners Finished and Delivered!

Remember that Double Wedding Ring UFO that I told you about back in August?  A woman had contacted our Charlotte Quilters' Guild looking for someone who could finish an in-progress Double Wedding Ring quilt that she found in her mother's attic. She had a tub of assembled circular wedding ring blocks, a small section of a handful of blocks sewn together, and lots of tiny wedge pieces cut out.  Based on the client's recollection of when her grandmother had grown too ill to sew, as well as rough dating of the fabrics in the blocks and the techniques she was using (paper templates and scissor cutting), we think that her grandmother was working on this project in the late eighties or early nineties.

Vintage Double Wedding Ring Bed Runner
As is typical with vintage quilt tops, these blocks had lots of "personality" that made them difficult to assemble.  Each circular block had finished to a slightly different size, and there were signs of struggle in most of the deep Vs where the arcs join adjacent blocks.  I suspect the original maker set this project aside due to frustration and discouragement trying to fit the blocks together after she'd gone through all of that work to cut out every single patch with a scissor and then all of the curved piecing...  We've all had projects like that, haven't we, that we just need to put in "Time Out" until we're ready to deal with them again?

Vintage Double Wedding Ring with Curly Feathers Quilting Design
Instead of completing this project as a bed quilt as grandmother likely intended, we decided to select the blocks with the fewest piecing issues and use them to create two Queen bed runners, one for my client to keep, and one for her to give as a surprise Christmas gift to her cousin who shares fond memories of snuggling up under Grandma's quilts.

One Of the Two Bed Runners, Laid Out on Dining Room Table
I completed the piecing of the bed runners myself and starched them as flat and smooth as possible before passing them off to my friend Christa Smith for computerized longarm quilting.  (My machine is not yet computerized, and had been experiencing technical difficulties at the time I was making these arrangements for my client's project).  I knew Christa would do an amazing job, and she definitely came through!  We chose Jessica Schick's Curly Feathers allover design for the bed runners for a couple of reasons.  First, the labor involved in piecing the tops and doing the hand finished scalloped binding for two bed runners was significant, and an allover computerized pantograph design helped to keep this project affordable for the client.  Second, custom quilting the bed runners might have drawn attention to the imperfections of the piecing.  There also would not have been enough time to get the runners finished in time for Christmas if we'd gone with custom quilting.  But most importantly, the primary value of these bed runner quilts to the client is that it represents the last quilt her grandma made, and none of Grandma's older quilts that she remembers from her childhood have survived to be passed down.  Custom longarm quilting is definitely not the way that Grandma would have quilted this project back in 1990, and it would have made the bed runners more about the tastes and preferences of the quilters of today than about the taste and preferences of Grandma.  I think Grandma might have finished this herself with a hand quilted feather wreath of some kind in the middle of each wedding ring.  The way we quilted it gives a similar traditional look at first impression, does not upstage the piecing, and gave enough quilting to control areas of fullness in each runner so they lay nice and flat, without "overquilting" any area in a way that would look more "modern traditional" than truly vintage. 

So my amazing friend Christa of Cotton Berry Quilting quilted both bed runners and she also did the scalloped binding.  This is the friend who has the same model longarm machine as mine, who has gone out of her way to help me figure out what was wrong with my machine so I could get it up and running again -- one of the kindest, most generous and talented people I know.  (FYI, for those of you who might be looking for a longarmer -- although Christa is no longer doing custom quilting for clients, she still accepts customer quilts for computerized edge-to-edge quilting).  

Christa did the scalloped binding as well.  Then she returned the quilts to me and I personalized them with machine embroidered quilt labels.

Label Machine Embroidered on Bernina 750QEE with Mettler 60/2 Cotton Embroidery Thread
To maintain the vintage vibe, I embroidered the quilt labels with Mettler 60/2 cotton embroidery thread rather than using a shiny rayon or polyester embroidery thread.  

Digitizing the Labels On My Computer

I digitized the labels on the computer using my Bernina v8 Designer Plus embroidery software, utilizing the built-in settings for lightweight woven fabric and Run Liberty, one of the fonts included in the software.  

Digitizing the Label in v8 Bernina Designer Plus Embroidery Software

I increase the space between letters with this font to ensure the label is still legible with the font so small, and then I added a hand stitched French knot to the dot above each "i" after the machine embroidery was completed.  [Note to Self: skip the water soluble topping next time I'm embroidering quilt labels for a quilt that won't be washed immediately.  It was such a bear trying to remove all of those little stabilizer bits when I was finished embroidering!]

Second Machine Embroidered Quilt Label
Each of the two bed runners has a different backing fabric, but I went with the same fabric and thread colors for both labels.  After pre-turning the edges and pressing the creases with my iron, I glue-basted the labels in place before hand appliquéing them to the back of the bed runners.  And no, I did not put either my name or Christa's name on the quilt labels.  I know that quilt historians want to know the names, birth places, and blood types of every single person who worked on a quilt, but these are not museum pieces.  I feel like these small quilts are between a grandma and her granddaughters, and it felt wrong to put anyone else's names on the labels besides theirs.

I could not be more pleased with how these came out, and my client is thrilled with them.  As a quilter myself, I know how much it would have meant to the original quilt maker to know that her granddaughters still cherish her memory, and the memory of being wrapped in her quilts at the holidays.  These last two quilts from Grandma will surely be treasured.  But I'm also glad they are done and out of my house!  Now the only thing between me and the Jingle quilt needing to be quilted is a mountain of Christmas packages waiting to be wrapped...

I'm linking today's post with:
·       Whoop Whoop Fridays at Confessions of a Fabric Addict
·       Beauty Pageant at From Bolt to Beauty
·       Finished Or Not Friday at Busy Hands Quilts
·       TGIFF Thank Goodness It’s Finished Friday, hosted this week at Home Sewn By Us  

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Jingle Status Update: Designing, Planning, and Online Shopping

This needs to be short and sweet today, as I have about a bazillion errands to run before choir rehearsal tonight and if I even stop to blink, my clock will spin from 10 AM to 5 PM while I'm not looking!

Current Favorite Quilting Plan for Jingle, iPad Sketch Detail
I haven't had a chance to get this quilt loaded yet, or even spent any time at all in my studio since I last posted about it, but my iPad is with me everywhere I go so I've continued to experiment with sketching different quilting ideas on top of a photo of the quilt top in my Notes Plus app.  I'm currently leaning towards doing the feathery thing on the red and green inner setting triangles, along with the two different geometric ruler work designs on the outer setting triangles, all of the red triangles in one style and all of the green ones in the other style.  Then each of the pieced blocks will get some kind of custom quilting and the applique blocks will be quilted in the ditch and then the backgrounds will be quilted down with different fill designs, cross hatching, etc.

iPad Sketch & Notes, Zoomed Out

At first I was drawing the feathers in ALL of the setting triangles, and I decided that was boring so then I started changing up the outer setting triangles.  I'm liking the idea of alternating between the two designs for the outer setting triangles but keeping those feathery things on all of the inner triangles at the moment -- provided I can actually QUILT those feather designs.  Just because I can draw something on my iPad does NOT automatically mean I can quilt it with my longarm machine!  I think I'm going to have to mark them somehow and/or use a template for that center pointy petal shape in the middle of each feather.  I'm remembering how Judi Madsen uses tagboard templates for curvy shapes that she uses in her quilting; need to find her Quilting Wide Open Spaces book and review her method.

Threads for this quilt will be Superior's invisible monofilament Monopoly for all stitching in the ditch, both pieced blocks and appliqué, because it's so forgiving of the oopses and wobbles, paired with Bottom Line 60 weight polyester in the bobbin.

Then I've got some lovely Antique Gold Metallic from Superior planned for the feathers and ruler work in my red and green setting triangles.  Yippee!!  I ordered a Medium Brown Bottom Line thread to use in the bobbin with my Antique Gold Metallic thread.  If the metallic thread behaves nicely, I might use it in the pieced blocks as well.  

Detail of Irish Lass by Judi Madsen, photographed at APQS Quilt Week in April 2019
As some of you remember, I traveled to Paducah, Kentucky to take LOTS of longarm quilting workshops with Judi Madsen and Lisa Calle back in April.  There was a special exhibit of Judi Madsen's quilts at the show and it was wonderful to be able to go and look at them between classes, with all of that fresh, front-of-mind information about how and why she quilted them the way she did.  I was surprised to discover that Madsen's Irish Lass quilt, from her Quilting Wide Open Spaces book (detail pictured above) used Superior's Antique Gold thread over all of the non-white fabrics, with white thread against the white backgrounds.  That's what inspired me to buy a giant cone of the Antique Gold Metallic thread from Superior's booth in the vendor mall.  This is also the quilt that Judi refers to in her book when she talks about making templates to mark shapes on her quilt, such as the dragonflies and some of the larger swirly hook shapes.

Finally, my off white appliqué backgrounds will get quilted with an off-white thread, probably So Fine since I have the right color on hand already, and then I'll likely add some details to the larger appliqué shapes in matching threads.

In addition to the bobbin thread that I'm waiting on, I also ordered LOTS of Quilter's Groove longarm quilting rulers from Lisa Calle's web site.  I purchased a 5" Pro Circle template and a Pro Echo 11 arc template from her when I took her Rulers for Rookies class and I really like all of the markings on her rulers that some of the others don't have.  So I've ordered all of the remaining sizes of Pro Circles and Pro Echo arcs to have a complete set of options for curved crosshatching and all sorts of block designs.  When they get here I'll be able to pick out a few options to use on Jingle and then I'll let Santa wrap up the rest for Christmas.


One more goodie on the way is this adjustable height saddle stool so I can sit at the longarm when I'm working on the detail quilting around all of that appliqué.  I'm looking forward to seeing whether I have better control for detail work when I'm seated at the machine as well as whether I can quilt comfortably for longer if I can switch between sitting and standing.  This particular stool had quite a few positive reviews from customers who mentioned using it with their longarm quilting machines, so I'm hopeful that it will work well for me.

Meanwhile, the "quick blog post" has taken nearly an hour to write, as usual.  Gotta get out the door and get busy on those errands!  Have a wonderful week, everyone.

I'm linking up today's post with:


·       Midweek Makers at Quilt Fabrication
·       “WOW” WIPs on Wednesday at Esther's Blog


·       Needle and Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation  


·       Whoop Whoop Fridays at Confessions of a Fabric Addict
·       Beauty Pageant at From Bolt to Beauty
·       Finished Or Not Friday at Busy Hands Quilts

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Tentative Quilting Plan for Jingle and More Spirit Song Birds In the Air

Alright, you guys -- my #1 priority quilting goal for the month of December is to get as much of this Christmas themed Jingle project quilted as I can.  It's not loaded on my frame yet, but here's what I've accomplished since I posted about it a few days ago:

  • Located a package of Hobbs 80/20 Cotton/Poly batting in my stash that can be cut down for this quilt
  • Ordered and received a package of Quilter's Dream Wool batting to layer over the 80/20
  • Located the 108" wide backing fabric and prewashed it in HOT water to shrink it as much as possible (all of the blocks in this quilt had to be soaked repeatedly in boiling hot water with Dawn dish detergent due to a dye bleed, so I'm certain that most of their shrinkage has already taken place)
  • Reviewed my notes from the longarm quilting workshops I took with both Lisa Calle and Judi Madsen during Spring Quilt Week in Paducah earlier this year
  • Ordered and received a new ruler gadget from Lisa Calle's online shop to assist with stitching in the ditch around all of this applique
  • Started a tentative custom quilting plan on my iPad in the Notes Plus app -- I just import the photo to the app from my iCloud photos, stretch it to fill the page, and then I can sketch quilting designs directly on the photo as you see below:

Tentative Quilting Plan for Jingle Quilt
Cool, huh?  I know quilters have a lot of different ways they try out quilting motifs on a quilt, like dry erase markers on vinyl, etc., but doing it on my iPad means I can doodle through a gazillion options whenever I have some down time.  What do you think so far?  I like those ruler work designs that I put on the inner setting triangles and I know that if I mark them carefully, I should have no trouble executing them on the longarm.  The feathers in the outer setting triangles I'm not so sure of.  I think I'd have to mark them all ahead of time and follow the marked lines to avoid the dreaded String of Ogre Toes look, but if I can do that successfully on a practice piece, I might give it a go on the real quilt.  Otherwise/instead, I'll do one of those piano key things where every other stripe is filled in (I tested that idea out on some of the red setting triangles near the top).  I don't know how well the yellow "ink" shows up on your screen, but all I did for the center medallion is come up with reference points to make a giant X behind the applique, so I can break that area up and do one fill inside the X and a different fill design in the V-shaped areas outside of the X.  Not sure what either of those fills might be, but I'll definitely have to mark the big X prior to loading the quilt.

I picked the doodling "inks" based on what would show up on the photo, but I'm actually planning to use Superior's Antique Gold Metallic thread on those red and green setting triangles if all goes well.  I'll use monofilament for all of the stitch in the ditch between borders, blocks, and around the applique, and an off-white shade of So Fine for the background fills behind the applique.  I think I want to get some lighter weight Bottom Line thread to put in the bobbin with my metallic and monofilament threads, and I don't have any of that on hand, so that's on my To Do list for this week:

  1. Locate my Superior Bottom Line thread color chart and select bobbin colors to coordinate with quilt backing (for monofilament), metallic threads, and possibly for background fills as well.  Order cones of thread from Superior.
  2. See whether I already have an arc template for the spine of those triangle feathers.  If not, figure out what size I need and order it.
  3. Test out feather design on sample quilt
  4. Mark medallion X and feather spines on quilt top
  5. Load the Jingle quilt on the frame!

Meanwhile, I spent some time sewing up some more Birds In the Air blocks for my Spirit Song Dress Code quilt today:

121 Blocks Complete out of 192 Needed; 71 Blocks to Go

This one is also reminding me of pink lemonade.  I know it's obnoxiously bright, and I don't care.  If I can just finish the blocks, I can clean up the giant fabric mess and refocus my attention on the longarm machine.  I keep telling myself that, and then I say I'll just sew a couple more of these HSTs and then I'll stop...

Well, I've got church in the morning and then we'll spend the entirety of Sunday afternoon returning Son the Elder to his college campus.  It was a very low-key but restful Thanksgiving holiday at our house -- just what the doctor ordered!

I'm linking today's post with:

SATURDAY·       UFO Busting at Tish in Wonderland


       One Monthly Goal at Elm Street Quilts:  

·       Oh Scrap! at Quilting Is More Fun Than Housework


·       Design Wall Monday at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts  
·       Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt
·       Moving it Forward at Em's Scrap Bag
·       BOMs Away Katie Mae Quilts  


·       Colour and Inspiration Tuesday at Clever Chameleon
·       To-Do Tuesday at Home Sewn By Us

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Name Your Goliath: My Giant Is Named JINGLE, So I'm Quilting It Anyway

Oh my gosh, you guys -- I'm so glad I went to church last Sunday!  The sermon at Christ Lutheran was PERFECT for helping me get over my fear of "messing up" my Jingle quilt by quilting it poorly!  

If you have ever felt intimidated by something (sewing related or otherwise) that seems too big, too complicated, or too difficult for you, then today's post is for you.

Center Appliqué Medallion for my Big, Scary Jingle Quilt, Erin Russek's Pattern Available here
The text for the sermon was I Samuel 17, the story of the young shepherd boy, David, who defeated the mighty warrior giant Goliath despite being completely outmatched and out of his league by all outward appearances.  Pastor Scott talked about fear, courage, loss, bravery, and faith, and about the difference between how we tend to judge people (by outward appearances) versus how God judges people (by their hearts).  He asked us to visualize and silently name the "giants" in our own lives that may be holding us back, holding us captive: a divorce that makes us feel we will never know love again?  The death of a loved one that has taken all of our joy?  A financial failure, job loss, a terrifying medical diagnosis, or feeling that we can never measure up to the impossible standards of this world?  Seriously, this was a great sermon and if you're interested, you can listen to it online here.  The sermon begins about 23 minutes into the worship service.

David With the Head of Goliath by Caravaggio, Ca. 1600 (Photo Courtesy Museo Nacional del Prado)
So, what does this have to do with my Jingle quilt top?  Well, I have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving  -- and on Sunday, as my pastor was ticking off the different kinds of giants we have to face throughout our lives, I realized that I'm currently "between major giants," so to speak.  Right this minute, I'm not dealing with any life catastrophes, and the first "giant" that popped into my mind that has been paralyzing me with fear and robbing me of joy is this Jingle quilt top that has been languishing in my closet, unfinished, because I'm so afraid to "ruin" by quilting it poorly.  

Behold, the Vicious Giant From Whom I've Cowered In Fear!
SERIOUSLY?!!  When other people have REAL problems?!  I sang at all three services last weekend, so I got to listen to this sermon three times.  What makes it a really great sermon in my opinion, is its universality -- its ability to speak to men, women, and children of all ages, from all walks of life, empowering each of us to apply the power of Scripture to whatever we may be struggling with in that moment in time.  That's why I spend my Sunday mornings at church instead of sleeping in, going out for brunch or reading the Sunday papers in my pajamas.  There is no better antidote to the negative messages we're all bombarded with in the modern world than communal worship and music coupled with a really good sermon.

Stitching the Appliqué By Hand, Thousands of Tiny Stitches, One Piece At a Time
Machine quilting is scarier to me than hand quilting -- or any kind of hand stitching -- because a needle in my hand always lands exactly where I want it to pierce the fabric (provided I'm wearing my glasses, that is!).  If I make an ugly stitch, I can pull just that one stitch out and keep going with a hand needle.  Sewing machines, whether domestic sit-down or longarm machine on a frame like mine, are less forgiving, more difficult to control with precision, and stitches that take 30 seconds to make can take an hour and a half to rip out!  However, the look that I want for this quilt is custom machine quilting over a double batting, with fairly dense background quilting behind the appliqué to give it a three-dimensional "pop."  And I've never attempted a quilt like that before.

One of My Favorite Appliqué Blocks From My Jingle Quilt

Today, in this moment, my giants are Crippling Perfectionism and Fear-of-Failure.  My giant taunts me by holding up the masterpieces of nationally-renowned quilters who have decades of experience behind them -- as though this was a reasonable standard of comparison for a beginner like me.

Yes, I love this quilt top; yes, I spent a very long time making it, and no, I really don't want to mess it up.  -- BUT --

  • This was my first appliqué project.  I love it, but it's not perfect -- despite the hundreds of hours that went into making it, this is likely the WORST hand appliqué quilt I will ever make.
  • If I can't practice custom quilting on my own worst, first appliquéd quilt top, whose quilt am I ever going to practice on?  
  • I wanted to try hand appliqué for at least 10 years before pattern designer Erin Russek's Jingle Block of the Month (as well as her inspirational blog posts and tutorials at One Piece At a Time) encouraged me to give it a try -- not worrying about the whole quilt all at once, just taking it one piece at a time.  Think of what I could have created in the last 10 years if I hadn't been so afraid to try!
  • If I put it back in the closet and wait until I'm "good enough" to quilt it, it will probably NEVER get quilted at all.

Now, I'm not going to go so far as to say that the Almighty Creator of the Universe is up there on His throne, organizing a host of angels specifically to help me defeat this quilt as part of His plan for eternal salvation...  However, I DO believe that our human capacity for creativity is part of what it means to be Imago Dei, created in God's image.  Compared to the awesome complexity and breathtaking beauty of every plant and creature in an ecosystem, the majesty of a crashing waterfall or a mountain skyline, ALL of our human artwork must look like preschool macaroni projects to God Almighty, even the works of a master like Michelangelo.  Yet I don't see dogs, frogs or potatoes out there making art; do you?  Human beings are unique in our capacity to create.  It's a gift from our Creator that we're meant to use and enjoy, and the fear of messing up or not being good enough is just a lie that gets in the way.

Creation of Adam (Detail) by Michelangelo, 1508-1512, Sistine Chapel of the Vatican in Rome
Another interesting point Pastor Scott made in his sermon was that God had already started preparing to help David defeat that giant long before David was even born -- in the creation of the Jordan river alongside the battlefield, putting those rocks in place and washing them smooth through thousands of years of abrasion from the silt, sand, and other rocks in the flowing water.  God always shows up, God is never taken by surprise, and God is always ready to help us by giving us the tools we need and putting people in our lives who can help us defeat our giants.  If we can just strip away the fear that blinds us with lies of inadequacy and weakness, we will find that we have had the strength to move mountains all along. 

One of the Pieced Blocks in my Jingle Quilt
That got me thinking.  I absolutely have the resources, the time, and the equipment I need for this.  I have taken classes with nationally renowned longarm quilters to learn 
the techniques for this project, and I am blessed to have one of the best quilting machines on the market sitting up in my studio, ready to go.  I have the right needles, the right threads, the right battings, all the best marking utensils, quilting rulers and templates.  I have people in my life who can help me if I run into trouble and get stuck, and the skills I lack can only be developed through practice.  If a little shepherd boy named David can take on a nine foot, heavily armored, full-grown warrior with nothing but a slingshot, then I should be able to tackle the quilting of my own appliqué quilt!

Embroidering the Dates on the Birdie Block
I'm planning to load my Jingle quilt on my frame and start quilting it as soon as the Thanksgiving festivities are behind us, and then I'll take it one step at a time, without rushing to meet a December 31st deadline.  I am looking forward to blasting Christmas music in my studio while I'm working on it, too!  

Thanks to all of you who weighed in on this one on both sides.  To those in the United States who are celebrating, have a Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm linking up today's post with:

·       Midweek Makers at Quilt Fabrication

·       Needle and Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation  
·       Whoop Whoop Fridays at Confessions of a Fabric Addict
·       Beauty Pageant at From Bolt to Beauty

·       Finished Or Not Friday at Busy Hands Quilts