Wednesday, September 30, 2020

My AQS QAL "Letter Home" Continues, Complicated With Some English Paper Piecing

I'm making some headway with my baby boy quilt NewFO!   I haven't cut out the four Wasabi (greenish yellow) QSTs yet, but I'm almost done piecing the rest of the blocks for this "quick and easy" project.

Piecing is in Progress!

I changed my mind about foundation paper piecing my center monogram block, too.  I just could not abide with those extra seams that I would have in the center of my "C" if I did FPP, so this block will be my second ever attempt at English paper piecing (EPP).  

FPP Version, with Extra Seams in the Middle of the "C"

Same Block, EPP Version, Cleaner Look with Fewer Seams

I really prefer the cleaner look of the second version with fewer seams, and I think it's worth fiddling around with hand stitching just this one block in order to get the look I want.  (Both of these blocks are in my EQ8 Block Library, by the way, under Alphabets.  I don't remember whether they were in the original Block Library that came with the software or if they were part of the BlockBase add on).  There's nothing in the software that says that the first block is supposed to be foundation paper pieced and the second block should be English paper pieced; that's just my own assessment of which method in my "quilter's tool box" would yield the best results for each version.

I should mention that my FIRST attempt at EPP was over four years ago, and it ended up not being successful for the block I was trying to make back then (Farmer's Wife "Prudence" block, blogged here).  It is so nice to be able to search my own blog with keywords and tags to find my notes about what worked and what didn't work the last time I tried something!  Hopefully I'll be more successful with the EPP method this second time around.  Fingers crossed!

I printed my entire block as an actual-size outline drawing from EQ8 onto green card stock and cut the block apart directly on the seam lines to create my templates.  I numbered the patches and gave each one a scribble of blue or green colored pencil before cutting them apart to help me differentiate between similarly shaped templates.  

My Diagram to Keep Track of Which Piece Goes Where

I'm not sure whether I'll EPP the entire 8" block or just the section of the block within that orange line I've drawn.  I tried to give myself a generous seam allowance on each of those orange-colored edges so that, after stitching the center of the block, I could open up those outer edges, trim the seam allowance 1/4" from my points, and then use the framing strips along the outside of the block for any adjustment I might need to make my EPP monogram block match up perfectly with the machine pieced blocks that make up the rest of the quilt.  I just like to build in options in case things go awry.  (One thing about EPP that makes me nervous for a block like this is that, by slicing through the block outline directly on the printed seam lines, there is no allowance made for the thickness of the two layers of fabric in each seam.  Wrapping fabric around the edges of each template and then putting them all back together like a jigsaw puzzle results in a slightly larger block than when the edges of the card stock templates were touching with no fabric in between.  If I was making a more typical one-patch quilt using all the same shape, like a Grandmother's Flower Garden, that wouldn't matter.  It's only a consideration with this project because I need my EPP monogram block to finish at exactly the same 8" as the adjacent machine pieced 8" blocks).

For basting my fabrics around the templates, I'm using pink 50 weight cotton thread and I think a size 10 Betweens needle.  A little dab from fabric glue stick helps to hold the card stock template to the fabric while I fold and baste the seam allowances over the edges of the templates.

Prepping Center Monogram Block for EPP

In case you missed my earlier post about this project, I'm making a 42" x 42" version of the September AQS Letter Home QAL.  I've scaled my blocks down to 8" and added a narrow border to get the baby quilt size I want, swapped out the plain square at the center of the quilt in the original version for a monogram block, and recolored my version using Kona Solid fabrics in Bone, Grasshopper, Indigo, and Wasabi.  I also eliminated some unnecessary seams in the original design (I'm making flying geese units rather than sewing two HSTs together).

My 42 x 42 Baby Version of the AQS "Letter Home" QAL

I'm following Diane Gilleland's EPP methods from her book All Points Patchwork.  I like that she gives lots of different options for template materials, needles, threads, etc., along with the pros and cons of each one so you can select the method that works best for your particular project.  

Based on Diane's recommendations, I chose card stock for my templates this time in order to maintain really crisp, sharp points on those Indigo triangles at the corners of my "C."  Another thing I learned from this book is that thread color and thread weight matter more with EPP than they do with other piecing methods.  When I tried EPP last time, I was using a 50/3 ivory colored thread that stood out like rope from the right side of my block.  Yuck!

This is the 80 Weight Thread I've Chosen for Hand Piecing

I'll be using a fine, strong thread in green, and hopefully the stitches will be completely invisible from the right side of the block.  Fingers crossed!  It's a new thread for me, 80 weight Para-Cotton Poly from Alex Anderson's Quilter's Select line of product offerings.  I must have gotten this sample spool at a show or something, because I don't remember ever purchasing it.  The name "Para-Cotton Poly" is supposed to convey that this polyester thread is LIKE cotton, but I did confirm that it's actually 100% polyester.  From the reviews on her web site, it looks like other quilters are using it successfully as a bobbin thread, for sewing binding, and for EPP and applique.  The color is a much better match than anything else I had in my stash that was both fine AND strong, so we'll give it a go and see how it does.

Embroidery Perfection Tape, Recommended for EPP by Kim and Nisha

In reviewing Diane's All Points Patchwork book, I rediscovered an EPP Tips page I'd torn out of the September 2019 issue of American Quilter Magazine.  So glad I had the foresight to not only save that page, but also to tuck it inside the only EPP book on my shelf so I'd stumble across it again at the right time!  The EPP tips from the magazine were from Kim and Nisha of Brimfield Awakening, and they recommended using this Embroidery Perfection Tape rather than pins or clips for a back stitching EPP method that is especially well suited to curved shapes like clam shells or apple cores.  I had ordered some of this tape when I first read the magazine tips and stashed it away in my notions drawer, labeling the package to remind myself what I bought it for. Unfortunately, I did NOT make a note of where I purchased this tape!  

UPDATE 10/1/20: HUGE THANKS to Susan for locating the pink embroidery tape for me!  It can be found on Brimfield Awakening's site here.

Once again, my "quick little update" post has grown way beyond what I'd intended to write.  Such is life!

I'm linking up today's post with the following linky parties:


·       Midweek Makers at Quilt Fabrication

·       Wednesday Wait Loss at The Inquiring Quilter


·       Needle and Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation  


·       UFO Busting at Tish in Wonderland


·       Frédérique at Quilting Patchwork Appliqué

·       Oh Scrap! at Quilting Is More Fun Than Housework

·       Slow Stitching Sunday at Kathy's Quilts

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

LAL#9: The One About Computer Assisted Long Arm Quilting

 Hello, my lovelies, and welcome to yet another Long Arm Learning!  My feature from last week is Julie of Pink Doxies, who linked up a post about the challenges of computer assisted custom quilting and if you missed it you should definitely check it out here.

I just spent at least 45 minutes ransacking the Internet in a fruitless effort to locate a ridiculous magazine ad that I remember from a few years ago.  I couldn't find it, and I don't remember which brand long arm machine or what quilting system it was, but the ad showed a young mom wrangling at least two or three small children, and in the photo you could see a computerized quilting machine behind her in the other room, stitching away.  The headline said something like "Mommy is working now!"  The idea being that this amazing computerized long arm machine would be stitching away, quilting a customer quilt while the stay-home-quilter-mom was free to give her undivided attention to caring for her children.  You know, like putting a quilt in a crock pot all day and then when you pull it out at dinner time, it's perfect!

Julie's Computer Assisted Custom Quilting Layout

Of course this is a fantasy land depiction of what computer assisted long arm quilting is REALLY like.  You can't just walk out of the room and let the computer do its thing unsupervised, as all sorts of things could go disastrously wrong if you weren't there to stop the machine.  Especially with custom quilting, the quilter needs to be there to tell the computer where the boundaries of every block are, since real piecing varies from one block to the next, and to tell the computer which design goes where.  But the perception persists among many quilters that computerized machines are just totally automatic, that the quilter just presses a button and walks away.

In real life, computer robotics adds a whole new dimension to long arm learning.  There is still creativity involved, as the quilter selects combinations of designs to complement the quilt top, and because the quilter isn't limited to only the designs she or he has practiced to perfection, there are vastly more design possibilities to choose from.  There is time spent planning the entire quilt, and often there are challenges in programming border and sashing designs that are very similar to the challenges hand quilters and hand guided machine quilters face in adjusting stencil designs to fit borders and turn corners nicely.  

Anne-Marie's Computer Assisted Edge-to-Edge Quilting

Anne-Marie of Stories From the Sewing Room also linked up some terrific computer assisted long arm quilting. With the edge-to-edge type designs shown above, the challenge is ensuring that the rows of interlocking patterns match up precisely with each advance of the quilt on the frame.

Does this mean I've fallen out of love with hand guided quilting?  Definitely not!  My absolute favorite quilts are the ones that combine a variety of techniques, with some elaborate computerized designs that would be impossible for most quilters to execute freehand, combined with ruler work and free motion fills.  The more tools in your tool box, the better!  In fact, instead of quilting anything this past week, I've been piecing a baby quilt top for which I have grand ruler work plans...

What quilting have YOU been up to this week?  Remember that any and all machine quilting is welcome here.  This linky party is like one of our local radio stations whose tag line is "We Play Anything!"

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Sunday, September 27, 2020

A NewFO: Welcome Home, Baby

You guys, I started a new project yesterday!  I'm so excited!

42 x 42 Welcome Home, Baby, based on AQS Letter Home QAL

A few weeks ago, I shared in this post how I was playing around with resizing and recoloring the AQS Letter Home quilt along.  The original quilt from AQS finishes at 60" x 60" and you can find the free pattern and instructions for that here.  

AQS Coloring and Block Construction

Although I love the AQS design, unnecessary seams in blocks are a huge pet peeve of mine.  Why would they add a seam down the middle of a flying geese unit to turn it into two half square triangle units?!  I removed those seams, scaled the blocks down so my quilt would end up baby quilt sized, and customized the color palette.  Then, because I like to personalize quilts for little ones, I swapped out the plain square at the center of my quilt and will be replacing it with this 8" paper pieced "C" monogram block:

So far, I've prewashed and preshrunk all of my Kona Solid fabrics in HOT water, ironed them, and cut out all the pieces.  I even started piecing some of the 8" HST units (although I cut one of them twice and it's still too small, so I think I'm going to have to do that one over...)

This morning I printed out my foundation paper piecing patterns from EQ8 for the center monogram block.  This quilt is intended for the baby brother of my butterfly clam shell quilt recipient, and the new baby's due date is October 1st.  I need to get a move on!  

I'm linking up today's post with the following favorite linky parties:


·       UFO Busting at Tish in Wonderland


·       Frédérique at Quilting Patchwork Appliqué

·       Oh Scrap! at Quilting Is More Fun Than Housework

·       Slow Stitching Sunday at Kathy's Quilts


·       Design Wall Monday at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts  

·       Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Tuesday's To-Do List: Quilt a UFO + Start Cutting Out a NEWFO!

Good morning and Happy Tuesday!  If you're looking for my Long Arm Linky party, that's in a separate post here, where I've written about my favorite method of joining batting scraps together.  This post is my wrap-up/reckoning regarding what I accomplished last week and what I'm hoping to get done in this last full week of September.

Looking at goals from last week, I hear the band Meatloaf singing in my head: "Now don't be sad, 'cause two out of three ain't bad!"  

Recap of Last Week's Goals:

The veteran's quilt for my guild's outreach donations came out great, using a new-to-me pantograph design called Flirty Bubbles.  I know, it doesn't sound like it would be appropriate for a soldier's quilt, but when I quilted this pattern onto a top full of red, white and blue patriotic fabrics, it came out looking like confetti and streamers at a military parade welcoming soldiers home.  I love it!  You can see that finish and read about how I use my channel locks to ensure that a fully floated quilt top comes out square here.  

I didn't get around to piecing another block from my MMBB sampler, but I did get my 42" x 42" Baby Clam Shells quilt loaded on the frame, finally!  I was slowed down first by my backing being too small and needing to find a coordinating fabric in my stash to splice into it, and then by my backing being too small...  The motto for this week seems to have been "I Cut It Twice and It's Still Too Short!"

Meanwhile, as I was piecing my backing and my batting, and as I was lying in bed trying to fall asleep, my brain was working through how I want to quilt this one.  This is a baby/toddler quilt that is destined for heavy use, and it's also EXCEPTIONALLY late (the "baby" is almost two!).  So although I can see all kinds of possibilities in my mind for how I could custom quilt this, I need to keep it simple.

I really like the sweet simplicity of the Daisies Galore pantograph from Timeless Quilting, pictured above, but I cannot bring myself to just trample those broderie perse butterfly appliqués with an E2E (Edge-to-Edge).  If I had computer robotics on my long arm machine, I could designate each applique as a No Sew Zone and program the computer to stitch the E2E design across the entire quilt EXCEPT for the butterflies.  But I'll be doing this by hand, guiding the machine along a paper pattern from the back of the frame where I don't have good visibility of where I am on the actual quilt surface while I'm operating the machine.

Here's what I've come up with as a workaround: I'm going to get out that leftover butterfly print fabric and use my light box to trace each of my butterflies onto a piece of paper that I can cut out and use as a template.  Alternatively, I could sacrifice more fabric and just cut out the actual butterflies from the fabric to use as my templates.  When quilting a pantograph row that will encounter a butterfly, I'll position and tape down the butterfly on the clear plastic covering my pantograph pattern at the back of the table to mark a "manual no sew zone" for myself.  Then, when I'm quilting the pantograph row, I can stop when I get close to the butterfly, move to the front of the machine to work my way around the applique, and then complete the rest of that row of quilting from the back of the machine.  Wish me luck!

My Baby Clam Shell quilt was my one and only One Monthly Goal for September, and I really want to have it quilted, labeled and bound before October first rolls around.  With that in mind, here's my To-Do list for the upcoming week:

This Week's Goal(s):

  • Quilt Modern Baby Clam Shells

That's IT, y'all!  If I get just that ONE thing done this week, I will be doing the happy dance of success!  But, just for kicks, here are a few "bonus goals" to which I'll turn my attention in the even that quilting goes quickly and without incident, and I find myself able to accomplish a bit more:

  • Design & embroider Baby Clam Shells label
  • Trim Clam Shells, applique label, & bind
  • Begin cutting and piecing the quilt for Miss Clam Shell's baby brother, whose arrival is expected on or about October 1st (fabrics for his quilt are going into the machine for prewashing as soon as I finish typing this post)
  • Cut and piece one more block for Anders' Moda Modern Building Blocks sampler
That should be PLENTY!  I'm linking up today's post with the following favorite linky parties:


·       Design Wall Monday at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts  

·       Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt


·       To-Do Tuesday at Home Sewn By Us


·       Midweek Makers at Quilt Fabrication

·       Wednesday Wait Loss at The Inquiring Quilter

LAL#8: Fast & Frugal Method for Joining Batting Scraps by Machine

After loading the backing of my Modern Baby Clam Shells quilt on my frame a few days ago, I discovered that the package of crib sized batting I was planning to use was going to be too small for my 42" x 42" baby quilt.  Why do the batting manufacturers assume that everyone is making rectangular baby quilts, anyway?

With no nearby quilt shops open on a Sunday evening, I was determined to come up with a solution that didn't require shopping.  I briefly considered hacking a piece out of one of the batts I'm saving for larger projects, but then I started noticing all of the nooks, corners and cubbies throughout my studio where I had odd-shaped batting scraps squirreled away.

What you see pictured above is only what was left after I tossed the really skinny strips, the bits of batting that I couldn't identify, as well as remnants from battings that I tried but didn't enjoy using.  This left me with the remnants of Quilter's Dream Wool, Quilter's Dream Cotton Select in Natural and in White, Hobbs Heirloom 80/20 blend in natural, Hobbs Heirloom 80/20 in Black, and Hobbs Tuscany Wool.

I've been hoarding saving these batting scraps for about 20 years.  The smallest batting scraps are useful for cleaning the rails of my long arm machine, and I do use the bigger pieces sometimes for samples or for checking and fine-tuning tension, but I have not been using them up at a rate that keeps up with new batting scraps being trimmed away from finished quilts!  Desperate times (no batting for the baby quilt + batting scraps taking up WAY too much space in the studio) called for desperate measures.

How to Join Leftover Batting Scraps by Machine

First things first, I had to do my best to identify and sort the batting scraps.  If I cobbled together a Frankenstein batting that was part wool, part 100% cotton, part polyester, and part 80/20 blend, then the loft and feel of the quilt would be totally different from one section to another.  Even worse, those battings would shrink at different rates the first time the quilt was washed -- disaster!  So do as I say, not as I did, and try to get into the habit of bagging and LABELING your batting scraps as soon as possible after trimming them from a finished quilt, while you still remember what kind of batting they are!

Pictured below are two fairly large remnants of Quilter's Dream Cotton Select batting in Natural, perfect for my baby quilt once they're joined together.  I laid both pieces on my cutting table, side by side, both with the right side up (dimples up, pimples down for needle punched batting) and overlapped the two rough-cut edges slightly in the center.  Then, I used my longest acrylic ruler and my rotary cutter to cut a clean, straight line through both layers of batting to create edges that abut perfectly.

The bits I'd just trimmed from each batting remnant were perfect for testing stitch settings, to see which stitch would hold the batting edges together securely without puckering or creating a ridge along the join.

I tried a few different stitches, but I was happiest with the 3-step zigzag (stitch #16 on my Bernina 750QE), once I'd maxed out the width at 9 mm and stretched out the length to a bit beyond 3 mm.  I'm using 50/2 Aurifil thread in a creamy Ivory to match the batting.

This is one of those tasks where I really appreciate the extra throat space in a 7 Series Bernina. You can't join batting with right sides together because you don't want any seam allowance at all, just raw edges butted together with a light stitch holding them together.  Once the batting is quilted into a quilt, the quilt stitches will be what keeps the batting where it belongs inside the qult.

I started out using my Open Toe foot #20D for this with my Dual Feed engaged, and that did work, but I quickly realized that the walking foot would be better because the walking foot helps feed the fabric from either side of the needle, whereas Dual Feed rides along in dead center position behind my needle -- right on top of the gap between the two batting pieces that I'm trying to make disappear!

It was a lot easier to keep the two batting edges right up against one another with the walking foot, so that was worth the minute it took me to dig it out of the drawer and pop it on my machine!

Ta-da!  Can YOU see the vertical seam going down the middle of that batting?  I'm not necessarily going to do this on a show quilt, but this is going to be just perfect for my baby quilt!

There it is on the frame, ready for the quilt top to go on next.  I'll spritz the batting with some water first and let those wrinkles hang out overnight.

But Rebecca, Aren't There Other Ways to Join Batting Scraps?

OF COURSE there are other ways to do this!  I'm writing this post so I can remember how I did it the next time I need to do it again, not because this is the only right way to do it.  Some quilters like to whipstitch the edges together by hand.  Some quilters prefer to use a regular zigzag or some other utility stitch built into their sewing machines.  There is a fusible batting tape that some quilters love using -- BUT -- you must be 100% certain that you have correctly identified your batting fiber before you go anywhere near it with an iron!  Wool batting should not be ironed, and neither should any of the polyester fibers, as they would melt.  If you know it's 100% cotton because that's the only kind of batting you have ever used, then go ahead and try the fusible tape method.

Speaking of wool, I haven't tried my machine stitched joining method on a lofty wool batting.  I am definitely going to have to join batting for my monster-sized 120" x 120" pineapple log cabin quilt when I get around to quilting that one, because I need at least 128" x 128" of batting and backing and batting doesn't come that wide.  I think I'll whipstitch the extra length I need by hand to ensure my stitching doesn't flatten the loft along the join.

PSST!!  I'd Love to Quilt for YOU!

By the way, if you or any of your quilty friends has a quilt top or two that needs quilting, I'd be delighted to quilt for you!  My turnaround for edge-to-edge quilting is currently running about 2 weeks, and you can click here to find out how to book your quilt with me.

What do YOU do with Your Batting Scraps?

I'd love to know what you all do with YOUR batting scraps.  Do you save them at all or throw them out?  Do you use them in small projects or join them together?  Do you have a good system for keeping your batting scraps organized so you know what kind they are, what sizes they are, and so you can find the right piece when you need it?  Let me know in the comments!  Meanwhile, it's Tuesday again...  And that means it's time for the Long Arm Learning linky party!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter