Monday, January 10, 2011

e-mail from a Princess to her Princess Grandma

Dear Grandma,

Today I went to "Quilt Camp" at Nana's. I did a LOT of the work, but I am quick to say I did not do "all" of the sewing. Nana did some, too. We made a dolly quilt.

I held the fabric as it went into the serger. I pulled pins out of the fabric and put them on Nana's big magnet pin holder. I chose the squares for the quilt from Nana's "stash" of squares. Of course I wanted to choose pink. Later she let me choose the backing material; I liked the green better than the pink for that part. I chose VERY pink thread for the quilting stitches.

A couple of times Nana let me push the pins through the fabric with a little bit of her help. I helped her smooth the top and the "stuffing" and the backing fabric before we quilted it. She pinned the big safety pins in it, but I helped steer it through her big sewing machine to put "squares" in it that I could see on the back.

Nana had to put LOTS of pins in to make the edge of my quilt. Then I helped steer it through the big sewing machine, and now I have a dolly quilt! I said, "Nana, it's a LOT of work making a quilt".

Today when I took it home, I decided it was a kitty bed. I was the kitty, and I curled up in a ball and snuggled on it. (I think I want my Nana to make ME a quilt pretty soon!)

I wanted to show you a picture of my quilt, because I am very proud. It's very tricky sewing in a straight line when I keep slipping off Nana's lap! It was fun pushing the "scissors" button so it would cut the thread. Then I pushed the button with a picture of a presser foot on it. That made the foot lift up so I could get my quilt off the machine. It's kind of noisy when it moves.

Nana's big machine did a pretty cool trick and put my name on my quilt so I could "sign it". (She told me her teacher said "real quilters" sign their quilts these days.) I told her I wanted my name RIGHT in the MIDDLE! Then it put the year on there, too, so I won't ever forget when I made it.

I liked the "squares" on the back, but Nana's picture is pretty fuzzy.

Nana has been practicing making quilts for little girls in South Korea. She is getting better at making them now, so we did a pretty good job on this one.

I hope you like my quilt Grandma!

[Someone asked:  It's 16" x 22"]

[And, yes, Nana see the mistake she made when laying out the squares....  oops]

Crazy Panes

I have just realized that I never posted my third quilt for Korea!

And here it is (with my usual crunchy-on-the-left photo taken in the breeze and rotated to the right)

The backing/binding are a very soft yellow fabric with a sweet little pattern which does not show up in the photos

While I was waiting for my daughter to cut the squares for the fourth quilt (long story on that one coming soon), I went to my box of 6-1/2-inch squares I am accumulating  and started playing around making 9-patch squares.  I had a bunch of fairly coordinated squares from projects I had worked on recently, so I just started putting them together to see what happened.  (In the end I bought two additional fabrics to finish my last two 9-patches.)  

After a while I had several squares and it started to become a serious quilt project.  In order to achieve the final size I wanted, I had to tie them all together with some strips.  In the end it looks rather like window panes--hence the name--crazy squares and window panes.

If I were setting out from scratch to make this quilt, I would have used more of the same squares to achieve a very unified look, but this was scraps so it became "crazy" 9-patches.

I laid it all out and believed I was sewing it together the way it was on my floor.  Then I layered it on the floor and pinned it in place for quilting.  Fortunately I did NOT begin the quilting stitching immediately.  Nor apparently, had I really LOOKED at my squares placement.

Later in the day I just happened to glance at it on the floor and a mistake in positioning two of the 9-patch squares fairly leaped out at me!  I couldn't believe I had missed it earlier!  (As my mom said when I told her, "It happens."   She has made 40-45 quilts--properly quilted by hand.)

So I had to un-pin the whole thing, remove the top, and disassemble a chunk from the middle.  (Remember it is all serged together--lots of fun when ripping stitches...)  Here is the hole it left

I took the two squares apart and reversed their positions.   I couldn't just reverse this section, because the one uniform thing I had done throughout was to make the diagonal from bottom left to top right in each 9-patch of the same fabric, as you see here.  So I had to take it apart to maintain the correct direction of my pattern.

Here it is--reassembled, re-smoothed, and re-pinned!  (Oh my aching knees!)   NOW I'm ready to run the quilting stitches.  If I had not discovered my error before the stitching was in place I would have felt really ill.  I would have left it that way and been very upset about it.

I had some difficulty in running the stitches.  I think part of it was the extremely soft backing, but later they discovered my needle position was not absolutely at the right place.  But finally it was all stitched and ready to do the binding.  I am again wrapping the backing over the front to form the binding. 

I rather like the end result of this spur-of-the-moment project.  And my half-Japanese/American cousin said, "It's Asian looking!"   I'm happy.

Crazy Panes Update

My early quilts were far too large for the sleeping mats they use at the orphanage in S. Korea, so I had to separate the big ones.

Apparently I only took a photograph of one of them.

Except on the line

Look What a Few Scraps Will Make!

Before I took my first quilting class, I would have thrown these narrow strips left over from her "big-girl" quilt into the trash. Just look what they made for her dolly!

And every dolly needs her very own cosy quilt--made with batting, quilted like the big one, and backed and self-bound with the scraps.


Kids Around the World - Finished

Finished Quilt

There's that wind blowing the bottom (on the left side of photo) again...

You can see the effect of the variegated quilting thread in the detail post for this quilt (below).

I used a coordinating stripey fabric for the backing and self-binding.

Destination: Il San, for a precious little girl

Please see "detail" post for this quilt (below) for close-ups and other information.

Kids Around the World - Details

Before I did the actual quilting stitch on my "test quilt" top (previous post - "Pink and Sweet"), I wasn't too enamored of it's appearance, so I decided to select new pieces for the little girl in Korea. I went to the store for some other stuff, and I was completely unprepared for buying what I needed. I remembered some of the numbers from the pink one, so I selected my four prints and a solid, plus fabric for the backing.

The kind lady at the store drew it out and tried to help me calculate my yardage requirements. She did really well on the prints, but my solid was over 50% short and the backing was also 50% short. The moral is: Be prepared!

I am a "spreadsheet kind of girl", so in frustration I made a spreadsheet so I would only have to make ONE more trip to the store. (Often I just say, 'oh give me xxx' and I add in a lot of extra, but I was trying to be good because this stuff is NOT cheap, so I tried to purchase just what I needed plus a little for shrinkage and straightening.)

[Caveat emptor: Should you decide to follow these numbers, there are no guarantees as to their accuracy.]

With my spreadsheet, I hope I can make fewer trips to the store.

The spreadsheet is very useful in assembling the quilt top as well. I stacked my squares, Solid, then A-B-C-D in order on the table by my serger, with a Post-It note label for each stack. Then I worked my way through each row. As each row was finished, I used a Sharpie marker to put a line through that row--eliminating confusion.

At first I hung the rows up with blue tape on my desk so I could see them, but with the spreadsheet I just laid them over the ironing board in order.

The old adage, measure twice and cut once is SO true, and in this case, check your squares AS you assemble.


1. Count the number of squares in each row--then you won't have to pull out your stitches because you got carried away and added an extra one on the end!

2. READ the spreadsheet!

3. Don't forget to draw a line through the rows as you complete them.

The whole top was serged together. I know, I know!!! purists won't like this, but I'm really happy with it right now--especially since my serger can "take up" a little excess fabric and help me join my squares together better if a fabric is soft and stretches a little. The awkward part is that it all goes under the big serger foot and one can no longer see, nor control, what happens very well.

As I pinned the rows and seams together I ran the pin through the stitching on BOTH sides of the quilt top. I found that if I left the pin in until the last minute, then removed it, and held my left hand firmly on the seam, it worked pretty well--just DON'T run over a pin!

Once while attaching two rows I actually used a basting stitch to hold it in place, but it wasn't any better than I was doing without that step, so I didn't bother after that. I was just very careful as I approached each seam.

As I pressed my rows before stitching together I made sure each row's seams were going the opposite direction from the previous ones. Then I got the least seam effect on the top. When putting them through the serger, one must be careful to keep them going opposite directions. (Advice I have read says make them all go the SAME way.)

So, the top is together--nice and cheerful. more like I envisioned

Part of the quilt top

Close-ups of the pattern squares

Maybe some time I will remember to take photos of the elaborate process of placing the backing on the cleaned floor, then layering the batting--straightening it, then adding the top. Each step requires a great deal of crawling around on knees. Begin in the middlestraightening, smoothing, and flattening to the outside edges. My younger daughter helped me with those steps, which made it a great deal easier. In fact after a while she ran me OFF so she could flatten it by herself after we added each layer! (She's not bossy on anything like that !)

After it is as good as you can get it, use quilt safety pins starting in the center and pin every few squares.

When it is all layered and pinned, I placed it on my "sewing table" (which is my nice dining table, with four deepish plastic boxes to raise it and help my back, then a piece of 40 x 60 plywood, and lastly a thick plastic gridded mat--expensive, but SO worth it!). It doesn't look too swift, but it works!

In this case I wanted to use the backing as the binding on the front, with 1/2-in. of the batting sticking out past the top so as to create an edge around the whole of the top.

Here you see the raw assemblage before cutting

First I cut the batting to about 3/4-in. larger than the top. Then I cut the backing at least 1-1/2-in. larger than the batting, as above. The batting is a little larger than I actually want on purpose--I will trim it again after I do the quilting.

I chose a varigated thread with all of my colors in it. It is 100% polyester, which caused difficulties, but the colors are very rich.

I put diagonal lines through all the solid squares, like this

Than I ran a row across the square in the opposite direction. Close-up shows the quilting stitch I chose.

My machine said I should use foot "J" for this stitch--WRONG!!! My Warm and Natural batting is thicker and after removing TOO many stitches I called for advice. They said try the "walking foot"--problem mostly solved. (Perhaps with cotton thread "J" would have been ok; I don't know.)

My machine's thread-cutter also couldn't handle my thread--it kept getting stuck and between that and gunking up miles of loops on the underside of the quilt I was pretty frustrated. I finally started doing the "old way"--no automatic thread cutting--just lift the needle and the presser foot and drag out several inches of thread each time you stop. Cut with scissors. This eliminated the need for disassembling the entire thing every few minutes, removing threads, vacuuming, reassembling, then pulling stitches out and removing all the threads! (Gave myself a rotten headache the first night doing this for too long.)

Also, I made a bigger effort to NOT pull on the quilt from behind the presser foot as I stitched. I have a larger "table" that came with my machine--creating a much larger sewing area--it's AWESOME. I finally learned to just hold both sides of the sewing, line it up with the needle from corner to corner, and push lightly to raise it off the surface and let the walking foot do it's job. My rows were MUCH straighter than the pink quilt when I did this!

I'm pretty pleased with the straightness of the quilting stitch rows.

So all the quilting stitches are in place, and it's back on the table ready for the final trimming of the batting. I trimmed it down to 1/2" from the top.

Now it's time to fold the backing over the batting. Pin horizontally very near the edge of the batting so you can do the second fold more easily.

Pin the corners carefully

I wanted a 2-cm strip of the backing showing all around the quilt, so I folded the remainder under.

To eliminate bulk, I trimmed the corner horizontally

Then I pinned a neat corner

On the long ends and sides I first pinned it vertically

Then I pinned it horizontally and removed the vertical pins, which allows for adjusting it over the length. Make sure to pin the horizontal ones in the proper direction for removing them as you sew around the perimeter of the quilt!

After pinning across one end, about 2-feet of each side, and the corners, roll it carefully over so you can shift the quilt to do the next session.

As you go down each long side, continue to roll until you reach the other end.

After it is completely pinned, steam all around the edges (with pins in place). It will sew more tidily if you steam it down.

Make certain your bobbin won't run out (especially if you are using polyester thread) while stitching all the way around--leaving the beginning and ending threads long enough to capture and tuck.

Then make a knot with the two threads on the front side (or pull through to back). Insert into a needle and stitch down the row an inch or sew, then hide the needle, pull out and clip.

Repeat the process for any threads hanging onthe back side.

And here it is!

It is heavy and it will be very warm on a cold Korean winter night. (And I like it!)

I did the proper test run of my "signature" for the quilt on the exact batting and fabrics and it worked perfectly. Then I did it on the quilt and it messed up so badly I had to take every tiny stitch out and start over. I did a second "test run"--perfect. Then I started it on the quilt again and AGAIN--it screwed up!

I had not used any stabilizer for the tests, nor the finals--maybe that's my problem! I'm going to take it in and get some advice (and I'm going to feel really silly if it's all about the stabilizer--but then why didn't it screw up on my test strips????).


Later: the guy at the store suspects I may either have been too close to the binding edge and the pressure foot was distorted by this OR it may be the weight of the whole quilt causing my problem. Like me, he ran a perfect "test strip" of my signature and it was beautiful.

I think next time I will put it into a different part of the square as I did on the pink one, which would at least get rid of a possible binding/pressure foot problem.

I will add to this post when I've tried one more time to apply my signature to this quilt!

Pink and Sweet - Finished

Finished quilt

I used a satin-finish, soft, plain, really wide white fabric for the backing. The binding is from one of the fabrics in the quilt.

Destination: Holt Korea's Il San location, the Linda House. There are mostly "special needs" people there.

Please see "detail" post for this quilt (below) for close-ups and other information.

(And yes, they look all "wavy" on one side. That's because my husband resolved my difficulties in taking pictures of completed quilts by suggesting that I hang them from the eave. It works really well--only the wind was blowing and that's the bottom of the quilts! I rotated the photos to fit them in here.)

[Someone asked:  finished size of dolly quilt is  19-1/2" x 25-1/2".  This is very generous.  The one I made with my granddaughter (later post) is 16" x 22", which is fine.  It just happened that the squares determined the smaller one, and the scraps determined this one.]

Pink and Sweet - Details

Other than the class project all-in-one-step serged baby quilt [see Archive: Reversible Baby Quilt - Details] I have not made a quilt of any sort in many years. Back then, I helped with some quilts, made a baby comforter for my girls (not pieced) and pieced squares for a dolly quilt or two, so I'm really starting from scratch.

I decided to use as a solid the remains of an old pink sheet which have been haunting me for years. Then make alternate squares of stuff from my stash and new fabrics. I am not going to give the details, because following this I made another one of the same design. I am going to provide details in that posting so as not to be repetitious.

A couple close-ups of the fabrics I used

Most squares came together really well

A few didn't

Finished back of quilt top

Quilt top, ready for assembling with batting and backing (OH, my aching knees!)
Close-up of quilting stitch. I learned a lot about how to keep it straight that I applied to the next quilt, which came out really well. I also learned not to use the "default" setting--the stitches should have been much "longer". (impossible to tear out, and TRUST ME, I DID tear a bunch out! I did mention this was a 'learning process", right?)

Top, batting, and backing all quilted together. What a difference the stitching made! Previously the solid pink was pretty blah. It really made it all "come alive"!

Now all it's ready for the binding around the edges. (see post above)

I got the directions I misunderstood on the baby quilt now and it works quite well! I don't know if it works as well for wider bindings, but 2 cm seems to work pretty well.

My problem was that I did NOT stop sewing 1/4-inch BEFORE the seam allowance for the next size. When you do that, it works quite well.

Also, next time I will use the normal method of sewing together the strips by placing two at a 90 degree angle and sewing diagonally across to form a continuous strip. I don't like the thickness and/or lumpiness of using the method described in the baby quilt posting. One may have to use that for the last connection (where the strip joins itself), but I'm going to see if I can avoid even that one.