Sunday, 21 May 2017

45 Country Quilting Projects

It's a holiday weekend and I had great plans for getting lots accomplished at home: yardwork, housework, etc. But then my back decided to go out without me, and my ability to get much done went out the window. I will be paying my daughter to mow my lawn, and that's about the extent of any physical labour that will be accomplished around here. I was able to finish stitching the binding on this pillow and that means it's done. 
My goal is to work my way through this book, completing every project. Or at least my version of it. Completed today is the Shamrock Pillow, from pp. 102 ff. I made some major changes, some of which were not the most intelligent choices. Let me tell you about it. 
The instructions say to stitch the strips of fabric together for the shamrock, but I opted instead to stitch them down onto a piece of muslin and then cut the shamrock shape out. After I had traced the shamrock onto the muslin, I realized that I was supposed to enlarge the shape first. I briefly debated on that, which would require copying it onto an enlarged grid. That was more time consuming than what I wanted. The other option was to make an enlarged photocopy of the pattern, but it would actually need two photocopies, as the shamrock was supposed to be 10-1/2" finished size, which wouldn't fit on one sheet of standard letter-size paper. No, I decided to keep the smaller shamrock and fill in the corners with more fabric strips. 
I machine appliqued the shamrock using blanket stitch, rather than needle turn applique, as instructed in the book. So far, so good. I have a pantograph called "Luck of the Irish," so I traced that onto gold quilting paper, and pinned the paper onto the pillow top after machine basting the quilt sandwich together. I'm not really a big fan of quilting on my domestic machine and haven't done it for quite a while, and the stitches came out uneven and "jerky."
Nevertheless, it wasn't horrible. The book does not say to quilt the pillowtop, but I decided to anyway. as I prefer the finished look of quilting. 
I debated on what to do for the pillow back, and remembered I had some extra pieces from the Celtic Ballad quilt (which may be given a different name by the time I've finished it).
So I appliqued those onto a square of green, gave it a purple border and quilted it as well. I suppose if I quilted more on my domestic machine, I might get better at it. But since I rarely make pillows, and anything much bigger than a pillow gets quilted on the longarm, it's not likely I'll ever get very good at it. 😉
Then came time to put the pillow together. The book says to put right sides together and sew a seam that would go on the inside of the pillow. I opted to do an outside seam with binding. I stitched around the pillow, leaving an opening in the bottom to insert the pillow form. I considered whether I would machine stitch the other side of the binding in place before stuffing the pillow. I was concerned that it might be difficult to do once the pillow form was in place, but I was also concerned that it might be difficult to apply the binding to the opening if most of the binding was already in place. And I reasoned that I had made the pillow cover bigger to allow for shrinkage should I need to wash the pillow in the future. So, I decided to stuff it and then finish the binding. I was to regret that decision. 
I had bought two pillow forms at a thrift store (washed before I used them). One was unpackaged, but I was "sure" the label on the other one had said 12". However, I had a real struggle getting that pillow form into that pillow cover. I tried the second one, thinking it looked marginally smaller, and ended up having to rip more stitches out to make the opening larger. Partway into this, I wondered if maybe I should use stuffing instead (I bought a LARGE bag, since I'm also working on a biscuit quilt) of the pillow form. I actually measured one of the pillow forms and edge-to-edge, it's about 16", not 12. Still I decided to stuff it in, another decision I was to come to regret. I now had to apply the binding to close the opening and turn and finish the binding on the whole now extremely overstuffed pillow. Try fitting THAT under your pressure foot. It didn't work very well and that's probably the worst binding job I have ever done. The opening was an even worse disaster - I just couldn't get the stitching close enough and through all the layers. It kept grabbing the very edge of the purple fabric on the back, leaving it frayed and loose. I tried zigzagging it, and still ended up with not all of the edges caught as firmly as I needed them to be. I ended up handstitching to at least hold it all in place until I could get the machine stitching done. I was finally able to get it done, with repeated problems catching the wrong parts of the fabric, resulting in puckers, and having to rip out stitches, and finally decided it was closed acceptably enough - albeit not really to my satisfaction. Meanwhile, I had run into continuous problems trying to machine stitch the binding in place. I tried different feet. I even considered wetting the pillow to squash the stuffing. I finally finished the remaining part (almost half) by hand. I wish I had done the whole binding by hand - it would have looked much nicer. However, I'm still pretty happy with my pillow, even if it is "morbidly obese." 
Here's the back.
Hoping my back will feel much better by Tuesday as I have booked time on the longarm after work to quilt the Celtic Ballad quilt.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Lakeshore Adventures Quilt

When I found out that Brad, the physiotherapist, is leaving the hospital where I work, I determined to make him a quilt. I asked the Rehab Assistant what Brad's favourite colour is, but he didn't know. So, one day I jokingly asked Brad, "Is blue your favourite colour? You seem to wear a lot of it." Yes. So, I at least had a colour to start with. I toyed around with different ideas of what pattern I was going to use, and finally settled on the Disappearing Hourglass 2. Here's the Jenny Doan/Missouri Star Quilt Company video tutorial. 
I ordered a Timeless Treasures Tonga Treats layer cake in Lakeshore from Sew Sisters for the patterned fabrics. But I decided that I didn't really want all one colour in the solid fabric. So I purchased the Boundless True Blue layer cake from Craftsy, which is in different shades of blue. 
Mystery, the Quilt Inspector, at work
I don't intend to ever use this pattern again. While the blocks worked up quite quickly, all of the edges ended up being on the bias. I don't know about the rest of you, but I have a hard enough time keeping my edges even without working with all bias edges. When you're working with stretchy edges and trying to keep your cuts even so that when you rotate the squares, the edges match up...

I also found that it was pretty much essential (at least for me) to have a rotating cutting mat. After mis-cutting two blocks, rendering them unusable, I finally ordered this one on Amazon 
 and set this quilt aside until the cutting mat arrived. 
Even using the cutting mat, I still managed to ruin one more block because I had cut on the wrong line. I finally did what Jenny suggested and added tape on the correct measurement on my ruler. 
Here's the hourglass: 
Another thing I found that worked better was to cut it the way Jenny does in the video, measuring 2-1/8" on either side of the centre lines. 
I have a hard enough time keeping my blocks square and even, but you add those bias edges, and it just wasn't working for me to measure from the outside edges. 
Here's the block after cutting and rotating the squares that needed to be rotated, but not sewn yet. 
If you look again at the picture with Mystery on the quilt, you will see that I neglected to rotate the centre square on the 4th block on the bottom row. I never even noticed it until I took that picture. It might not be the same as the other blocks, but it still looks good. 
After all those ruined blocks, it was a good thing that I wasn't planning on using the whole layer cakes in this quilt. 
Once it was finished, I took it to the local park for a photo shoot. I then used Google Photo Assistant to make this video. video

Tomorrow, I will give the quilt to Brad as this is his last week of work. We've worked well together and I'll miss him.

Floating Stars Quilt

When my nephew Bradley bought his first home, I offered him Stars Over Africa as his housewarming gift, or gave him the option of me making a different quilt with colours of his selection. He wanted one in red, blue and either black or white and I chose the Floating Stars quilt from this book: I reviewed it last summer and made the Fractured Pinwheels quilt from it. I really like this book because it has patterns for quilts that are both quick and attractive. 
I took the finished quilt top with me to my LQS when I quilted Stars All Around, as I intended using the same thread and pantograph for both. Well, first of all, I didn't end up using that thread for Stars All Around as it was polyester and I didn't know if I should mix it with cotton in the bobbin, and I didn't have a polyester for the bobbin. And after finishing Stars All Around and seeing how big the stitches were even though I had the quilt speed at the maximum (that's when I finally realized that machine was not stitch-regulated), I decided I didn't want to do Floating Stars on that machine as well. 
I ended up taking it in to Central Sewing Machines when I took in the "On Guard For Thee" table runner. The table runner went fine, but when I switched to this quilt, I had continuous problems with threat breakage. I had someone from the store check the machine numerous times and try different suggestions and adjustments. They finally concluded that it was the thread I had brought along with me. It's a spool of Aurilux from my thread stash. As far as I know Aurifil doesn't even make Aurilux any more, but it's still good quality thread and I couldn't figure out how that could be the problem. Nevertheless, it was too frustrating to continue as I was, and I bought a similar colour Affinity thread from the store.
Affinity on the left, Aurilux on the right

Unfortunately, it still didn't solve the problem. And I had to get someone from the store to help me out once more. He finally took the bobbin out and was able to determine that it was not feeding evenly. So he rewound it onto another bobbin, and I had much fewer problems after that and was able to finally finish the quilt.
Now I have two spools of red, white and blue thread. Fortunately, one of my nieces has informed me that she wants her quilt to be red, white and blue as well. So, I have at least one more quilt that I can use them on. 
Oh yes, I didn't mention that between my first disastrous attempt to quilt the Bluenose II at Central Sewing Machines and this time, they had decided to provide thread and prewound bobbins (none of the provided threads were variegated, so I opted to use my own) as part of the rental price. Of course they increased the rental price to $20/hour. The prewound bobbins are magnetic so you can't put them in the wrong way. However, it was these that seemed to be causing all the problems. Once rewound on a metal spool, it seemed to stitch more smoothly with less breakage. 
Left: Stars All Around; Right: Floating Stars
Moving on to the actual quilting, above is a picture of the quilting on Stars All Around and that on Floating Stars, both done on a Handiquilter, both using the Becker's Shooting Star pantograph. However, as I mentioned, the Stars All Around was done on a non-stitch regulated machine. And I don't think I'll be using that machine again - the stitching is just too big and sloppy. It's too bad because my LQS only charges $35 per quilt, whatever the quilt size. But this is the only machine set up to use pantographs. And I'm really not big on free motion. 
Tinker, one of my QI's (Quilt Inspectors) had to inspect the backing on the Floating Stars quilt.
Close up of the quilt (and my foot)
One more quilt done and sent to it's recipient.