Sunday, April 22, 2012

Marking a Quilt to Trim It Square

I bought a new toy called Quilter's Chalk Line recently.  I always have a hard time when it comes time to square up my quilts for trimming them at the end.  I'm happy to say that this little gizmo helps me a lot. It consists of a plumb line, basically, which you fill with iron-off chalk powder (included), a T-pin, and instructions.

T-pin holding chalk line at corner.

I use my carpenter's square to locate my first corner of the quilt.  A large square quilter's ruler could be used, too.  The carpenter's square is just so much longer, so I like it.  (More things to love at the hardware store!  See previous post here.) Then I put a T-pin into the quilt, and through to the carpet, at that corner point.

I loop the hook on the end of the chalk line over the T-pin, then stretch it down the length of my quilt, using the carpenter's square as a guideline.  Holding the blue part firmly in place, I move the square ruler aside a little bit, then snap the line in the middle to make a chalk line on my quilt.

Faint chalk mark on quilt.

Here I've removed the chalk string, so you can see the faint line drawn.  After this step I simply move to the end of the "drawn" chalk line, position my square, and make another chalk line, till I'm finished with all four sides.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

"Placemats" or "Practice Quilting"

I completed a set of four placemats for our table.  These were practice quilting pieces.  I started them in a machine quilting class I took from a great teacher in our guild.  (See earlier post here.)

I chose a wild, multi-colored fabric, which should be good for not showing stains!  I was hoping it would be forgiving with my free motion stitching, too.

I tried out lots of different quilting designs on these placemats and had a lot of fun with them.

Then I decided to try binding them completely by machine.  I've read of a couple different ways to do this.  I sewed the binding to the back, then folded it around to the front of the placemat.

Select stitch #4.
I used a wavy stitch, which is number four on my Bernina.

Here is what it looked like on the back.  I sewed very, very close to the edge of the binding.

And here it is on the front.  I assumed it was going to overlap my binding edge like that, and I'm ok with that.  The only problem I had was with some uneven stitching.  When the machine was taking the stitches on the binding itself it was fine.  But some of the stitches off of the binding, onto the other fabric, had large stitches, which means some were being skipped.  Maybe it was the unevenness of the levels of fabric.  But it seems to me like it should have been more consistent.  

I'll try machine binding again some day.  But I have a few issues to work out with it first!

But for now I have a new set of great placemats!  And some worthwhile practicing.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Nature Redesigns Highway One

Here is a photo of a portion of Highway One just north of where I live. Notice the jog in the road? That hasn't always been there. A few years ago that portion of the highway washed away. Which often happens on this coastal highway. After years of erosion, the soil just washes away, and without that support, the highway crumbles.

I've always been fascinated by this jog in the road. It makes this portion of the road just a little bit quirky, like some of us! And it demonstrates that nature is stronger than humans.

I've often thought of making a quilt of this scene. So I decided to do that for my guild's challenge this year, the title of which is West Coast Splendor. It's supposed to be about what we love about the west coast. Given that photo, I started out.

I made a line drawing by tracing parts of the photo, then took it to my local copy shop and had it blown up quite big. Not sure of the exact size, but this paper is maybe 4 feet by 2 1/2 feet.

Then I started choosing fabrics, and putting them in place. I decided to fuse this quilt, something I haven't done very much. But it sure goes quickly! Below you can see where I am deliberating over which fabrics to use.

And here is the finished quilt. The title is "Nature Redesigns Hwy 1."

Following are some detail shots. For part of the greenery I draped the fabric over the fusible and ironed it down leaving some wrinkles and pleats of fabric. I did cut all those little grass "zig-zags." When they refused to stay fused down (I guess it was just too little glue left on those tiny pieces of fabric), I decided that they would make a nice three-dimensional element to my quilt!

I wanted to put some flowers by the side of the road. So I got out my embellishing attachment for my Bernina. It does needle-felting on the machine, and is a lot of fun to play with.
Here I've needle felted down some pink gauzy fabrics, and then some green silk ribbons for leaves/stems.

The clouds were another area where I used my needle-felting attachment to add some three-dimensional interest. Wide, swoopy quilting added movement lines to the sky, too.

Monday, April 2, 2012

California Poppies! Quilt

Remember these little orange and yellow hexies I told you about previously? They were for a quilt for my guild's annual challenge show. This year's theme was West Coast Splendor. The challenge was to choose something we love about living on the coast, and represent that with fabric. The show will be at Gualala Arts Center from April 6 through April 29. Now I'll show you how I got from a pile of hexies to a finished wall hanging.

I made 94 small 1 1/4" hexagons. A lot of these were sewn in the car on our trip down to Phoenix. The next photo shows how I laid all the hexagons out on the desk in our hotel room to get the arrangement just right. After I was pleased with the arrangement, I turned each hexie over and wrote a row and column number on the paper. That way I knew I could keep them in
the correct order.

By keeping these small pieces in order via hotel stationary envelopes, I got all 94 of them hand pieced together.

That job done, my next step was to buy some backing fabric. I thought about going with a green, but Melody at Britex Fabrics helped me to look at a lot of different fabrics. A green background actually made the few green hexagons really stand out, and that drew in the eye too much. So we found a nice batik that blended well with my other colors.

I pinned the hexagon grouping to the batik, then appliqu├ęd it down all around the edges. That done, the next step was to cut away the batik that was directly behind the hexagons. Which is what I'm doing in the next photo.

That was actually a little nerve-wracking, as I had to be very careful not to make a snip into the hexagons. But I wanted to trim very close to the edges of the hexies.

Now we come to the sandwiching part. I have this nice little bandaid box, courtesy of one of my dear friends, in which I keep some of my safety pins. So, out they came and I got the quilt sandwiched. This one is not very big, about 24" by 26", just slightly longer than it is wide.

I chose to do some straight-line quilting, following the lines of the hexagons. This made a large pattern of X's all over the quilt. You can see it in the photo below.

And here is the final product. I've named it "California Poppies!," with an exclamation point at the end.

Did I mention that I really love California poppies? Their bright yellow and orange colors, the fact that they are a nice sign of spring, seeing them growing beside the highways here in northern California, just their brightness! Can a flower really be optimistic?!? That's how I feel about poppies.