Thursday, September 29, 2011

Binding your Quilt: Across the Sea QAL

I can't believe we're at the finish line already! I've had so much fun doing this quiltalong and want to thank all you ladies who joined it. The quilts showing up in the Flickr group are really amazing and I love seeing how differently people have interpreted them.

Today we want to touch on how to bind your quilt. Binding is the last step and sometimes it can be a bit hard to get motivated to get it done, but it really finishes off your quilt so its important to think about what fabric you're using and make sure it works with your quilt top and back.

There are LOTS of really great binding tutorials out there and if you haven't bound a quilt before, I'm going to send you over to the Flickr group post on it to check out the links where you'll find lots of info on binding.

I pretty much always use straight grain binding, and I'm fairly sure that I learned how to bind a quilt using Elizabeth Hartman's tutorial. However, check through the other links till you find one that works for you!

I like my binding quite narrow, so I cut my strips 2.25" wide. For the baby size, I just about scraped by with 5 width of fabric strips. I used this pretty red and pink small scale print which I bought specifically for binding quilts as its perfect for that. Its also a lightweight cotton so it works really well.

Join your strips together to give you one long length, then iron wrong sides together along the length of it. I always iron my joining seams open too.

Pin to the edge of the front of your quilt, raw edges together, making provision for your corners. (You'll find detailed instructions on corners in the linked tutes). I usually lay out the binding around the quilt before starting to pin to make sure that none of the seams are too close to a corner, as they would make it too bulky to turn them. Nothing worse than pinning all the way around and getting caught on the last corner and having to repin the entire thing!

Join your ends, then sew all the way around your binding. I use a quarter inch seam. Then, its time to turn your binding over and sew to the back of the quilt. Lots of people like to handsew the binding on the back, and that certainly makes for a consistent and even finish. I handsew small stuff, but I've never handsewn a baby or bigger quilt. (Too lazy!) I always machine sew my binding on and it makes for a quick and durable finish.

Here's how I do it - it might not be the most technically correct way to do it but I like it!

I turn my binding around the edge to the back of the quilt and I adjust the width to make for even sewing, using my presser foot to guide me. See the picture below? Note how the inside edge of the binding lines up with the little metal bit (that marks 1/8") and the outside edge lines up with the edge of the foot.

Now, I'm not suggesting this will automatically work for your foot, I discovered this through trial and error over a number of attempts to machine bind, but I have it kind of perfected now for me and it really works, it gives me a nice even finish on the front too:

If you're interested in machine sewing your binding on, its certainly worth experimenting to find something that works for you. Red Pepper Quilts has a great tute on machine binding too which would probably give you a better finish than mine!

So there you have it, my quilt is done! I'm still waiting for a sunny day (I'll even settle for not totally grey and dreary. Even dry?) to take pictures of it finished!

Be sure to pop over to Jennifer's blog for more info on binding too.

A few things to remember - you need to get your finished quilt up in the Flickr group by Monday 3rd October to be in the running for the Quiltalong giveaway vouchers for Sew Fresh Fabrics! Myself and Jennifer will be picking the winners and announcing mid next week!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Summer Sewing Wrap Up

Summer Sewing mosaic

Is Autumn fast appearing in your neighbourhoods? Anyone got an Indian summer going on? Sadly, here in Cork the leaves have been dropping from the trees for quite a while now and after a truly dreadful summer (the coldest in a generation) it's quite sad to be facing into the winter without having had more than a week's sunshine in total for the whole summer. I've been meaning to post this wrap up for a few weeks but the Quiltalong, the swaps and my crazy work schedule have delayed me a little - I hope you don't mind.

FairyFace Designs

Ok, so despite (or maybe because of) the awful weather and poor light, I got quite a bit of sewing done this summer. Not everything that was on my list, mind you, but I'm getting a nice warm glow of achievement looking at all my project pics.

The early part of the summer was all about quilts - I finished these 4 babies by the start of July:

Some quilts of mine

Then it was on the rest of my list!

1. Quilt for my son D - this is STILL on the missing list. I'm thinking maybe closer to Christmas now. I'm a bit frustrated by not getting to this one as I have it all in my head - its a simple strip design but I suppose better late than never.
2. Skittles Quilt - This is still a work in progress. I got the quilt top done, and LOVE it but its been sitting in my sewing basket for weeks now waiting to be backed and quilted. This is a little bit of a monster size wise, so I need to wait till I can go buy more batting before I can get any further.

3. My bedroom curtains - lalalalalalalala, fingers in my ears- not done yet! A little bit of progress but I need to get to these before the hubbie moves out into the spare room in protest at how horrible the current curtains are against his lovely paint and wallpaper job.
4. Baby quilt idea - this one is still in the pipeline and I'm hoping to use it for a quilt my friend A asked me to make for her in October.
5. Bottled Rainbows QAL - zilch. Its still there too.
6. Sew Simple Tutorials - these got put on the back burner but I'm hoping to get them up and running with the assistance of some fab guest posters in about a month's time!

Ok, the list is not going so well, is it? Right, I do have more progress to show though, now for the good stuff!

7. Quilt for my new niece/nephew. My gorgeous new niece R arrived in August and my Across the Sea quilt is the one I'm making for her. This is the quilt top but its now quilted, bound and looking gorgeous and waiting for a sunny afternoon so I can get some proper pics of it before I wrap it up for her.

Of course, the Across the Sea QAL was a completely massive project for me and Jennifer and I think probably the thing I am proudest of on this list - I want to say a big thanks to all my bloggy friends who have participated as we are coming to a close!

8. Kaleidoscope Quiltalong with Elizabeth: This one was one of my fave projects of the summer, and my friend loved it too! Elizabeth's design worked great with my little boy fabrics.

9. Sew Irish Flickr group - this has grown steadily in the last few months and I have gotten to "know" some really talented Irish ladies through it. Fi is also a moderator on this group. Irish peeps - watch out for a little ticket giveaway for the Knitting and Stitching show coming next week on mine and Fi's blogs and Fi is also trying to organise a quilting retreat in the new year, how cool would that be? There are still 4 places available so let me or Fi know if you're interested, we would love to have you! There's more info in the discussion threads in the Sew Irish group.

10. Sew Bee Blissful - I joined my first quilting Bee and have made my first set of blocks (after a lot of nail biting!) - I really loved these blocks, Jenna picked a great block for the first month!

11. Swaps. I kind of lost the run of myself and joined up a heap of swaps in August. I made some nice swapsies for the Scrappy Mug Rug Swap:

The For the Love of Solids swap:

And the Goodie Swap:

I also got lovely goodies in return - more about that in a later post! I have sworn off swaps till after Christmas now as I have a number of quilts to make between now and then. Well, except for Susan's Christmas runner swap. And Emily's Christmas fabric charm swap. I mean, how could I resist them? I love Christmas! Get over and check both of them out by the way, there's still time to sign up :-)

12. Random stuff: I made all sorts of random bits and pieces too that weren't on any plan - like my Bliss cushions:

So, all in all, a pretty productive summer, I'm really pleased with how much I got done! How about you? I'm dying to see your summer roundups. As promised, I have a little giveaway for those of you who have been participating. Once you've linked up your final posts I'll draw the winner next week. The prize? A charm pack of gorgeous Terrain and a little surprise from me!

Right so ladies, get linking!

Monday, September 26, 2011

A little more about quilting:

Today, I want to talk to you a little bit more about the process of quilting your quilt! I touched on it briefly last week but didn't go into a huge amount of detail so thought I would spend a little more time on it today. Don't forget to check out Jennifer's post too for her thoughts on quilting!

As I said, there are lots of ways of quilting. Personally, I was always going to use free motion quilting on this one. However, I think it would work really well with straight line quilting also - something like the quilting I did on my Picturebox quilt:

Straight line quilting is a straightforward method to use if you're learning how to quilt. I like to quilt quite densely with my lines close together, using an extra wide foot I have and moving my needle to the furthest point over on each row. I mark the first line, then use that to follow as a guide. I find it important to alternate the direction - so I quilt in one direction then turn around and do the next line in the opposite direction. This can be slow work, if you're using narrow lines. Your machine may also have a quilting guide which fits onto your walking foot and allows you to set the width of your quilting line. This would allow you to quilt wider lines. My straight line quilting is always a tiny bit wonky - I like it like this! The one tip I would give for straight line quilting is to let the machine do the work - use your walking foot and allow the feed dogs/walking foot to control the feed of the fabric through the machine. I just hold/support the quilt so as not to have any drag on the fabric and it will keep your stitch length nice and even.

You could also keep the quilting very simple and just quilt around each block. This would hold the quilt together, and if you wanted to, you could add some hand quilting around the crosses which would be really lovely!

For free motion quilting, I have to say I'm no expert. But I have learned a few things since I've started.

1. The first is practice - I practiced a lot on small squares of scrap batting / mug rugs/ mini quilts etc before tackling a big quilt.For me one of the biggest challenges of FMQing is managing the weight of the quilt and I find this harder when I'm FMQing for some reason.
2. The secret is the balance between the speed of the needle and the speed you move the fabric around. I usually put about 3/4 of full pressure on my foot pedal (if that makes sense) i.e. the needle is moving pretty fast, but I'm not flooring it either! I move the fabric around at a medium speed to give a nice stitch length. This is definitely something that comes with practice and my stitch length is becoming more and more consistent as time goes on.
3. Find where works best to place your hands. I put my left hand under the quilt and I use my right hand to keep the fabric taut and control the movement of the quilt. This works for me - find what works for you! Lots of people recommend gloves. I have yet to try them because I do not like stuff on my hands, but I suspect they would help!
4. Go with the flow. I try to cover areas reasonably logically but I do go where it takes me. I try to work moving the quilt towards me rather than away from me - its much easier to see what I'm doing!
5. Maybe this should be no 1? Prepare your supplies. Have a few bobbins wound up. Have your spools of thread ready. Have a little box to put your safety pins in as you take them out. Have your small scissors for clipping to hand. Try and have a child free, distraction free environment if you can - especially if you are starting out. Constant interruptions do not make for good flow, and flow is really important for FMQ.
6. Don't quilt too close together! The first few quilts I did using FMQ, I quilted very densely with small movements. I realised this was creating work and was unnecessary. Now I try to have a larger meandering pattern which covers more ground much more quickly and looks nice too!
7. Experiment with what you like - sometimes I do loops and swirls. Sometimes I like to not have the lines cross over each other - see what works!

Lastly - check out the links over on the Flickr group and do a bit of googling yourself - there is so much information and inspiration out there! I'll be looking forward to seeing what you come up with!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Last of the Goodie Swap Sewing


This morning I finished up the last items for Cindy's Goodie Swap. What a great swap this has been, so much fun! I just loved having 2 partners and had 2 great ones at that - both really active and easy to make for. I'll be putting all the lovely bits into the post tomorrow morning and crossing my fingers that the do not take as long as my last swap package to arrive!

So, partner no 2's items are all done now. I had a little debate with myself this morning as to whether to keep these as secret or whether to reveal all now. In the end, because I think there are 4 or 5 people who think that they are my partner no 2 (the colours seem very much in a lot of people's list) I decided I would reveal all and leave the prospective partners sweat it out to see whose it really is. Sorry girls!!

Last week you'll remember I started out with this little zip pouch for Partner no 2.

During the week I added this (ever so slightly wonky) mug rug to it - it has actually grown on me quite a bit the last few days and I think this is a mug rug for a serious tea or coffee drinker!


Then I decided to add a little something else to the mix - and covered some little buttons. Pretty, aren't they? (Please note that I know my floor looks dirty, its NOT, its just the way the light is hitting the scrapes from the kids toys. Seriously, lol!)

But then last night I was putting away the scraps and wanted a little hand sewing to do while I was watching a film, so I started messing around with them and this is what I ended up with! A little hand stitched hoop, along the lines of the circles mug rug I made for Felicity from Rachel's great tute. I used fusible woven interfacing on the back of the Kona Ash to give it a bit of stability and stitched away to my hearts content (while watching a film with my lovely hubbie after a lovely rosemantic dinner and a bottle of champagne to celebrate us meeting 12 years ago this weekend. Susan you would have been proud of me, I even managed to do potato gratin with the steak instead of chips!) Now, you might see a few wobbles in the stitching up close partner, but when you hang it on the wall, I think it will look quite pretty!

So partner no 2, here's your little package. I hope that you like it and I know you have suspicions but you'll just have to wait till the postman arrives to see if they are confirmed or not! Cindy, thanks for organising a great swap! After visiting the post office in the morning to see these off, I'll be watching every day to see what arrives for me!

PS. Ladies, I'll be posting the Summer Sewing wrap up post during the week (it got delayed due to all the QAL and swap stuff) so start getting your posts ready to link up!) I'm also linking this up to:

{Sew} Modern Monday at Canoe Ridge Creations                
Sew Happy Geek

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Basting & Quilting : Across the Sea QAL

I hope your quilts are coming along nicely at this stage. We're in the final stages now and I'm really looking forward to seeing your finished quilts appearing in the Flickr group. Today myself and Jennifer both are giving a little advice on basting and quilting. I don't have too many pics or a proper tutorial today - I baste in my playroom which is the only room I have enough floor space in to baste, so I can only do it in the evenings when the kids are in bed. Hence, no decent photos! Sorry :-)

First things first - you need to figure out how your quilts line up. The front and back are designed so that the crosses on the back mirror the cross blocks on the front and should line up pretty perfectly.  So before you do anything else, lay your back down on the floor, right side down, and then lay your quilt top on top of it, right side up. Figure out which of your blocks in the quilt front have blocks lined up on the back, and mark them with a pin.

Now you are ready to start basting your quilt. I learned to baste using Elizabeth Hartman's great basting tutorial over on Oh, Fransson! and I don't believe in reinventing the wheel, so if this is your first quilt, head over there, read up on it and get basting. This method works perfectly for lining up your crosses. (Links to other tutorials also available here)

Once you know which crosses you need to match, front and back, lay out your batting on the floor and smooth your quilt top over it. Place a pin in each corner of the blocks you are matching up.

When you are placing your pins, be as accurate as you can be, taking a tiny amount of fabric. 

Once you have each corner marked and your quilt top smoothed out on your batting, roll it up and then place your quilt back right side down on the floor. I use masking tape to hold it in place. This is the stage I hate - I don't have a huge amount of space, so I have to crawl around trying to get it all even and taut! Once you have that stage done, roll your quilt top and batting out over it. Starting with the top or bottom row (whichever you prefer) start matching the points you marked with your pins with the correct block corners in your quilt back.


They should match up easily. If not, unless you had been planning to do some outline handquilting of your crosses, don't worry about it! Sorry, is that quilting heresy? I'm not sure! I just know that for me, quilting is supposed to be fun so I try not to get bogged down in points being totally precise unless its absolutely necessary. There are lots of different reasons your back and front might not match completely accurately- I had some problems myself when basting, even though I checked the match when I made them and it was perfect. But I put down my problems to some over-enthusiastic steam ironing (bad me!) before basting which I think distorted some of my seams.

Once you have the blocks matched, proceed to baste the rest of your quilt sandwich. I use curved safety pins for this and pin every few inches - probably about every 3-4". I always start from the middle and work out. Curved safety pins are miles better than the regular sort and worth paying an extra little bit for.  Basting is pretty hard on the back and knees so don't hang around - get it done and finished asap! You can also spray baste your quilt - Jennifer has more info about this process over on her post today!

Now your quilt sandwich is basted, you're ready to quilt! How you quilt is obviously a personal choice. I am going to free motion quilt this baby quilt and can't wait to get started now! I think it would also lend itself to straightline quilting, or some simple lines outlining each block. If you haven't quilted before, check out the links to tutorials over on the Flickr group. You could also have a look at my post about my first attempt at free motion quilting if you want a giggle!

Ok, that's all for today folks. If you have questions just let me know!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

For the Love of Solids Swap Mini Quilt

Well, now that my package has (at last) arrived all the way over in Canda, I can finally reveal my swap items for the For the Love of Solids swap! Felicity was a really great partner to have - so active in the Flickr group and lots of hints about what she liked. But as someone whose blog I have admired for quite a long time now, I was pretty anxious that she would like what I made!

Felicity's swap info told me that she loved improv piecing and letters, as well as grey fabric. I checked out her blog and saw she had made a fabulous quilt from free pieced letters. It was so cool, I just had to give it a try and decided to go for something very modern using letters as a starting point. This was a pretty big departure for me. I've never done improv piecing, never done letters and never used a grey backing. I did a fair bit of scouring the blogosphere looking for instructions and inspiration, but didn't find a huge amount of instructions, it being improvisational (doh!). I did find one site which showed me how to make a letter A (can't remember it now!) - not much use to me for the word I wanted but it gave me a starting point and I had a surprising amount of fun making these letters. I love how wonky and irregular they look.

Then I started thinking about the rest of my quilt and how to pull it together. I found this quilt by The Girl Who Quilts  which gave me some inspiration re: improv blocks and how to utilise them. (It also gave me the inspiration for the quilting.) I decided that rather than trying to improv piece the whole quilt top (the thought of which had me petrified!) I would do improv blocks and piece them into the quilt top.

So I made up these little blocks, having a lot of fun doing them I might add!

I really wanted the blocks to be irregular in size and shape, and used some of the crazy piecing techniques I've learned lately to set them into the Kona Charcoal background fabric.  Then I began the process of laying out my top with these 3 blocks, but I just wasn't happy with how it was working. An hour or so of panic later and I realised I needed a teeny tiny 4th block. Once I did that, Iit all came together for me, and I fell in love with it. I moved onto thinking about the back then. I didn't want to go for a totally plain back, and some regular strips would not have fit with the front. So, I did a central block made of randomly cut strips, just for fun! I set this into a vibrant bright teal-ish blue colour (the name of which I can't remember!) backing and I think it works nicely against the front.

After doing a small bit of FMQ on it, which really didn't work, I decided to go back to my inspiration and quilt it in random, angular straight lines to reflect the angular nature of the piecing. It really worked, I was thrilled. Then I noticed that Felicity had used that same quilting technique on her FTLOS small swap item and that made me smile :-) I bound it in the same Kona Charcoal fabric that I used for the background.

Last but not least, I got a rare sunny hour for some photos! Here it is in all its glory! I was afraid to publish any pictures of the whole quilt top, because I thought that the letters might give the game away to Felicity! So its nice to finally be able to show the whole thing off, having only shown partial views in the Flickr group so far.

I then parcelled it up with the Circles Mug rug and sent off to Felicity.


The very best thing about swaps though is that you get something in return! And this is the package that arrived all the way from Australia for me last week. Kirsten is someone I have chatted to on email and I loved the look of her progress pics in the Flickr group. So when I saw her name on the return address on the envelope I did a little dance of anticipation in my kitchen before I opened it. And look what I got!! Amazing :-)

I asked for a sewing machine cover or a  mini quilt for my big item...and I got both! Kirsten was amazingly generous. My sewing machine sits on my kitchen table as a permanent fixture, in against the wall. And it has a big ugly white hard cover. But no longer - its now got this lovely double sided cover - with a rainbow on one side and gorgeous straight line quilting and colourful squares on the other.

Then there's the warm/cool HST mini quilt - I'm STILL debating where to put this one, its so pretty.

Lastly, there's a matching little fabric basket which was immediately put into use to keep my essentials beside the sewing machine. How lucky am I?? You should definitely go check out Kirsten's lovely blog - she has great projects! Thanks so much Kirsten, I'm still in love with my swap items!

I have said it before, but need to say it again. This was a GREAT swap. The challenge of working with solids only was really interesting and certainly made me push outside my comfort zone. So thanks Felicity for providing such great inspiration :-) I'm so glad she likes it! And thanks Kirsten for sending me such gorgeous goodies! I'm definitely keeping a close eye out for round 2!! I'm linking up to the mini quilt linky over at Fresh Lemons.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Kona Giveaway Winner

Thanks everyone who entered my giveaway and a HUGE thanks to Janette from River Fabrics for sponsoring it!

Ok so on to the best bit! The Random number generator has spoken and the winning entry is:

 who was:

Congratulations Isisjem, I'll be in contact with you shortly about your 5 lovely half metres of Kona solids! For the rest of you disappointed people, I suggest a little retail therapy might help ;-) You know where to go now!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Assembling your Quilt Back : Across the Sea QAL

Yay! So we're finishing up our quilt backs today! I know there has been a little extra work in doing this pieced back but I hope that you feel it is worth it!

So, this part is very straightforward. First we are going to piece the blocks into the horizontal rows, and then piece the rows together. One thing to note - I am most definitely not a pinner when it comes to piecing where I can get away with it, but you DO need to pin today - pin your blocks and strips when piecing your rows, and pin your rows when you are piecing them together. In particular you need to pin the bordered cross blocks quite frequently when you are piecing them into rows to stop your fabric stretching.

Lets get started! First job is to piece the cross blocks into the rows, so you need your strips of fabric which were cut 12.5" high by various widths. (You do not need the long strips cut to 9.5" high at this point, they are for the top and bottom of the backing so leave aside. So in the next part when I refer to 9.5" strips I mean the strips cut 9.5" x 12.5".) For people making the lap size backing, please read through the baby size directions so you understand how I am doing the layout instructions as I don't have pictures for you unfortunately.

Baby size:

Take 1 x 33.5" strip and 1 x 9.5" strip and your bordered cross block. Right sides together, create your first row by sewing the 3 pieces together so that the 33.5" piece is to the left of the cross block and the 9.5" piece is to the right. Remember to pin for accurate piecing here!

For the purposes of showing the layout for the rest of the rows in a simple format, the layout summary that I am going to use is as follows. Sew pieces left to right as written:

Row 1: 33.5 strip | bordered cross block | 9.5 strip

I hope this layout format makes sense in light of the pic above. Proceed now to piece the other 3 rows as follows:

Row 2:    9.5 strip | Block 3 | 33.5 strip
Row 3:  33.5 strip | Block 2 | 9.5 strip
Row 4:  21.5 strip | Block 1 | 21.5 strip

Easy peasy, right? Now all that's left is to piece your rows together. You have 6 rows - the 4 rows above plus the two 9.5" x 54.5" strips of background fabric you put aside earlier. I like to piece the top 3, then the bottom 3, then piece the two halves together in the middle but do it however works for you. You will need a flat, clean space to pin - luckily, my kitchen table is just long enough for the baby size. Piece together the 4 rows as indicated above, with a 9.5 x 54.5 strip at the very top (over Row 1, see the top pic for a visual idea), and the other 9.5 x 54.5 at the very bottom under Row 4. Remember to pin these long pieces together!

Lap Size:

As above, set aside your two 9.5" x 66.5" strips until you have finished piecing the rest of the rows.

Piece your cross blocks into the rows as follows:

Row 1:    9.5 strip | bordered cross block | 45.5 strip
Row 2:  33.5 strip | Block 1 | 21.5 strip
Row 3:  45.5 strip | Block 2 | 9.5 strip
Row 4:  21.5 strip | Block 3 | 33.5 strip
Row 5:    9.5 strip | Block 2 | 24.5 strip | bordered cross block | 9.5 strip

Again - as per the baby size, piece your rows together as you wish. You have 7 rows - the 5 rows as per the above instructions plus the two 9.5" x 66.5" strips of background fabric you put aside earlier. I would piece the top 3, then the bottom 4, then piece the two halves together in the middle but do it however works for you. You will need a flat, clean space to pin. Piece together the 5 rows as indicated above, with a 9.5 x 66.5 strip at the very top (over Row 1, see the top pic for a visual idea), and the other 9.5 x 66.5 at the very bottom under Row 5. Remember to pin these long pieces together!

Ok everyone, everyone still breathing? You're done! Yay! Now go make a nice cup of tea and relax :-) Oh, and don't forget to go enter my Kona Solids giveaway if you haven't already - its open until 9pm tonight! As always, let me know any questions.

See you back here on Thursday when we will talk about basting and quilting!