A Pressing Station!

If you are a quilter, or do anything with large hunks of fabric, you know what I am about to say – an ironing board is not a useful shape or size. It’s pointy and narrow; good for ironing clothing but not for pressing* fabrics or quilt tops. Since returning from the river cruise, I have been in a fit of organizing and I looked at my ironing board and its space with a critical eye. I have had it in several spots in the studio and nothing has been right. When I complained to Peter about it, he offered to help me find a solution.

Initially we thought about reworking an existing table, and looked at work benches. Though they are about the right size, they are way too big and sturdy. We then looked at tables and couch tables. I thought it would be easy to add a sturdy top. Though many were nice, they were expensive and often rickety. So – Peter said he would make me one from scratch! In the studio, I had to decide where to put it. This is a spot where it’s been…

And it was here another time. The closet door is one of two into the dormer area and I don’t use this one. The new station will work well here.

Many years ago, I got a certificate in fiber from the Worcester Center for Crafts. In the fiber studio, we had huge work tables, made using 4’x 8′ plywood sheets with a felted fabric underneath, covered with muslin that could be taken off to wash. We silk screened and did any number of projects on them. It turns out that a pressing surface really shouldn’t be as hard as an ironing board typically is, so we stapled an old wool blanket to the top (a wedding gift from my mother…) and now I must make a muslin cover with elastic so that I can easily take it off to wash.

Here is the wonderful top getting its legs attached. We measured where my arms should be for pressing, or any work that I do standing up, and the table is the correct height. You can see that it is very sturdy! It is made of a composite top we found that’s 2’x4′. All the hardware that Peter found is sized for 2″x 4″ wood, so the construction was fairly simple.

One of the reasons that I began dreaming about a pressing station was because my iron started leaking. I did some online research as well as asking quilting friends, and decided to buy an Oliso. They are funny things – I used one at a workshop and could not figure out how to use it, but once I did, I liked it a lot. (I call it “the hopper” because that is what it does when you touch it!) When not being used, it wants to be horizontal to the surface, which is perfect for the pressing table. Most irons, if you leave them that way, will leak. It is not an inexpensive iron, but it is an important tool that I constantly use when I am sewing.

Thanks so much Peter! I am already using it and it’s perfect! If you have a handy spouse, I suggest you persuade them to make you your very own pressing station…

Pressing* is what a quilter usually does. We iron fabrics, with a back and forth motion like you would a shirt, but after sewing seams, we press them down and flat. 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

HQAL – the dog ate my homework!

What follows is my December Hand Quilt Along report:

One afternoon I took the quilt up to the studio and fussed with it. Years ago I  pin basted it in order to machine quilt it and then decided to hand quilt it. When I decided to hand quilt the top, I should  have then thread basted it…but was lazy. The pins do not hold the three layers securely enough, so periodically  I have to smooth all the layers and re pin it. I put the whole bundle in my evening chair fully intending to quilt it that night. And here is what I found later that evening. It’s the cat equivalent of “the dog ate my homework”.

How could I possibly disturb the little man?!? The cats always love whatever I am working on, so now I put the quilt where they can’t reach it. However, last night Gizmo jumped in the middle of my lap, and the quilt….what can a cat loving quilter do?

That concludes my excuses for lack of progress…

Seriously, I have divided the quilt into quarters with pins so that I can keep track of what I have accomplished. I have gotten my rhythm back and am enjoying the work, even quilting around all the triangles. ( Kerry asked and here is the answer: There are 352 flying geese and 160 New York Beauty spikes.)

Here are links to the other talented quilters participating. Go check them out and give them some atta girls!

Kathy, Lori, Margaret, Kerry, Emma, Tracy, Deb, Connie, Deborah,  Susan , Jessisca  ,  SherryNanette, Sassy and Edith

 

SaveSave

Hand Quilt-Along Progress….

…very little! Has it been three weeks already???

I started hand quilting this top some time ago and then I put it in my “quilt top” cupboard. Often I wrap the threads I am using in the unfinished project, but I did not this time, so I had to take some time to match the thread. I am stitching in the ditch around all the flying geese {sigh}. In the more open spaces, I marked a little leafy pattern, which I will have to inspect to reproduce it. As I complained mentioned in the previous post, the fabrics are all batiks, so the quilting will be slow.

Today is a full day of football, so I will really get started on the quilt. I get a lot of handwork done on Sundays and Monday night. It’s one of my favorite times of the year.

I am relieved to see that we all have had other things to do. ;-D  Please click on the links below to see what the other ladies have been up to!

Kathy, Bella, Lori, Margaret, Kerry, Emma, Tracy, Deb, Connie, Deborah,  Susan , Jessisca  and Sherry

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Happy Thanksgiving from Tommy Lee (and me!)

He’s finally done and hanging up, though just in the nick of time. I see from the post where I announced that the quilt top was completed, that Tommy Lee has been waiting to be quilted since 2015… I pulled him out of the closet a month ago, and though I had plenty of time to get him quilted before Thanksgiving, it has come down to the wire. The quilting went fairly well, but I always rip out and curse over adjusting the thread tension. {And as you can see, he does not want to hang straight, so I will add a sleeve to insert dowels on the top and bottom of the quilt.}

An incredibly helpful template to outline and to quilt zig zaggy lines was this machine quilting ruler that I read about on Jenny’s Quilt Skipper blog. I have been practising, but I do not find it easy to use a ruler for straight line quilting; while trying to keep the foot tight against the ruler, the ruler can easily shift, and the next thing I know, the line isn’t going where I want it to go. With the line tamer, made by Four Paws Quilting, the foot fits in the slot and I can hold and guide the ruler with both hands  – it’s so much simpler! Add some sticky tape or Handi grip (which is a bit like sand paper) on the back of the template, and it’s a great tool.

I hope you all have a delicious and happy Thanksgiving!

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Hand Quilt-Along Group!

Kerry of Lovethosehandsathome  recently posted about a hand quilt-along group that she had joined. It sounded like a great idea to me, as I guiltily remembered a quilt stuffed in a cupboard waiting to be completed. The quilt along was started by Kathy of Sewingetc, and I contacted her to be added to the group. Here is the story of my project….

I was surprised to see the date on the post – I didn’t realize that it was so old. (The top was completed pre-move (2013) and it is still not done!) I did start quilting it at some point and it is perhaps halfway done. It is not an easy project to hand quilt. All of the fabrics are batiks, which are always printed on very finely woven cotton, which means that it is harder to pierce with a needle. The backing is also made up of batiks… To compensate for the difficult fabrics, the batting is a thin polyester. Sneer as you might, but polyester is very easy to quilt, it’s very light, it washes easily and many award-winning hand quilters use it for all of these reasons.

I noticed on the post I wrote celebrating the finish, that I was planning to machine quilt it. In those days I had the #%$& Bernina sewing machine and was having all sorts of trouble using it, which would explain why I decided to hand quilt it. I use the teeny, tiny quilting needles with my readers on and a bright light over my left shoulder. Now that the weather here has finally cooled off, I will surely attract a cat or two with this cozy project.

This quilt was made in what I call my Illinois colors. I have moved on to lighter, brighter colors in South Carolina. But I do still have the Indian rug that I used as an inspiration, and it will still be lovely in that room.

Let the quilting begin!

Here are the other quilters who are participating! Click on their names to see what wonderful quilts they will be finishing. Check up on us November 26th to see what we have accomplished.

Kathy, Kerry, Deb , Bella Lori , Margaret , Emma , Tracy

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Midwest Road Trip

Last week, Peter and I were on a road trip. It was wonderful to be away – we have had one of those Summers when everything has been going wrong. Since his retirement, it seems like Peter has done nothing but repair things and read online guides and talk to repairmen, when he can’t fix something. Some months ago I signed up for the Midwestern Handi Quilter Event in Highland, Illinois, and when I asked if he would like to come along, I got a resounding “yes!”.

Our first stop was in Franklin Tennessee, which was #2 on my Where To Live Next List. It is a charming town set in lovely, rolling countryside, not far from Nashville. The horse farms and large estates (I looked at a house across the street from Reba McEntire’s farm!) are breath-taking. We had some yummy meals downtown and Peter toured the area on his bike while I window shopped. Next trip we will explore Nashville.

Handi Quilter makes my Sweet 16 quilting machine and I thought I’d like to go and see what I could learn about the machine and how to get better at free motion quilting.The Handi Quilter Event was sponsored by Mike’s Machine Shop and they did a nice job, and Mike is so knowledgeable about the machines. The classes were held in this Masonic Temple in Highland…..it’s quite a beauty!

The Event was 5 days long, but only the first two were relevant to me. I have a Sweet 16, which is called a “sit down, mid arm machine”. I do not use the HQ version of a stitch regulator, nor do I use a computer. She’s a plain vanilla machine and I’m delighted with her. Over the years I have taken machine quilting classes from “big deal quilters”. They show you how to do their quilting; the way they like to do it. Mary Beth Kraptil gave an overview, with many, many ideas for designs and how to accomplish them. After going over the basics of the machine and how to get the quilting started, she talked about a variety of quilt patterns, including “ruler work” and there was even a bit of time to try out her ideas and play with the rulers. And the mantra always is, no matter who teaches the classes, practise for 15 minutes every day!  She had samples galore, which are so helpful to see up close.

This idea for a practise piece was one of my favorites. She started with a printed fabric in the middle and then “finished” the motifs that were cut off. You can see that she added more floral and leaf shapes in the background and then fill, fill, filled!

Highland is about 45 minutes from St. Louis, so we decided to go to a Beer Week Event at the Anheuser Busch Biergarten. As you can see, it was a lovely evening… and check out the arch appearing in the distance!

It is so incredible!

The trip home was not as fun as the getting-there – isn’t that often the case? We were listening to a book on tape and I was secretly tracing quilting designs on my leg. I have so many ideas and some new tools and toys to play with!

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Orphan Block Quilt – – – Finally Finished

I certainly do not win awards for finishing projects in a timely fashion! After starting to quilt The Orphan Block Mash Up quilt, I quickly lost interest and it sat under my Sweet Sixteen machine for months. Languishing… it was started over a year ago. Fast forward to the present : I have a growing stack of quilt tops waiting to be quilted, so I have spent the last two weeks getting it done.

I am not thrilled with it. My quilting is not great so I will not be showing you a close-up. But as I have told students in the past, you can quilt samples or practise on “the real thing” and I chose to do the latter. Most people viewing the quilt in my hallway are not quilters, so they will not scrutinize my work. And if I can keep my tongue in my head and not say “Gee, the quilting is not very good”, I am sure they will admire it. (Sorry for the poor photo – I have no walls big enough to hang a quilt and get away from it to photograph, so it was on the floor and I was on a ladder!)

I must say that I am always amazed when I wash a quilt. It looks so much better and you really have to look closely to see the quilting at all; there’s just a nice texture.

Now that it is done, I can get on with the next project and learn some more.

Finally A Finished Quilt Top!

@#%*?&#! And whew! Piecing the Jack’s Chain quilt took way longer than I planned. I certainly let other projects get in the way of finishing this top, but happily it is mostly done.

One thing slowing me down, was that the thread on my sewing machine began breaking again. I threaded and re-threaded and re-threaded the machine. I wound a new bobbin, or two! I tried different threads. I changed the needles several times. And finally, I went out and bought Dual Duty thread!!!!!! I am a bit of a purist and I like to sew with cotton thread on cotton fabrics, but I have run out of patience. The threads are breaking in between the chain sewing I am doing. I would say it was the quality of the thread, but as I said, I did try several brands. The bottom thread still seems to be breaking between the chaining, but the Dual Duty on the top is holding. Any ideas on why that might be happening?

I have declared that the top is done. I cannot make myself sew one more nine patch square at this point, so the nice pattern will only be on the center on the bed. (I cropped the picture above so that it looks like the pattern covers the whole bed.) I have had it on and off of the guest room bed the last few days and it just looks stupid – like a project half done. So instead of a bed quilt, I will finish it as a lap quilt. Now I just need to decide on borders.

And here is a close-up of some of the squares. The nine patches are mostly bright hand dyed fabrics, though I did add some of my batik stash. I’m relieved to have made the decision to down-size it and it certainly will be easier and faster to quilt. I will add it to the big stack of tops to be quilted!

 

Upcoming Fun at Island Quilters!

I have been asked by my friend Beth to lead hexie make and take sessions at her Hilton Head Island store, Island Quilters next weekend. We will be doing English Paper Piecing; a technique where fabric is basted around a paper template. It’s quick and accurate and addictive. Her description made me laugh – Debbie will tell you about her favorite subject – hexagons! It’s true, I do love them, and I am looking forward to sharing this passion with other quilters. Island Quilters is under new ownership and I wrote about it here.

I have been making a lot of hexie units in preparation for the make and take. We’re hoping for a big turnout and I need to keep ahead of the students, like cooking shows and their swap outs. Each participant will get a little sample pack with EPP pieces and bits of fabrics and learn how to sew them. (Big thanks to Paper Pieces for sending us these packs!) Instead of just making random hexies, I do want to make something, so I chose this medallion pattern, which will take shape as the weekend progresses.

Medallion hexie pattern

There are so many ways to be creative with hexagons! You can play with the patterns of the fabric, like the swirling flower on the right. You can make fun shapes, like the (purple) frog’s foot. You can layer the different sizes. You can cut the hexie in half and use two fabrics on each hexagon. And stars and diamonds, oh my! All of this is just Beginning Hexie. Check out Pinterest and Google for a zillion ideas.

Hexie ideas

But the best fun is getting out your colored pencils and drawing a design to make…

Star hexie pattern

In case you are in the area, or know someone who will be, here’s the information:

Island Quilters store, located on Hilton Head island, January 27 and 28

The sessions will start at 10 AM and will be about 45 minutes long.

If you would like to reserve a time, call the store at 843.842.4500.

Next Steps on Rock Around the Block – Jack’s Chain Quilt

Now that December has come and gone, I am trying to spend more time in the studio – and it’s back to the Jack’s Chain quilt. Knowing that I did not have enough of the background blue hand dyed fabric, I had to fiddle around with a final layout for the top. I finally decided that a center 3 square by 5 square strip, with a strip on either side using the new fabric would work for me.  I shopped around a few quilt stores and found a darker, but similar hand dyed blue.The center strip of the quilt top is completed and I am working on the rows with the new fabric. This pattern is not as circular as the original, more difficult pattern; it is more wavy.

Working on strips

A new addition is little hexies that I have hand appliqued in the middle of every other block. {Looking at the photograph, I am now wondering if I should make one for every middle, but will wait until I have finished with all the blocks…}

Hexie middles

It has been hard to find time to work on it, but I am back to making one square a day.