Saturday, October 14, 2017

To Laugh or To Cry

Are you a person who tends to laugh or do you cry when things go wrong?  Believe me, it pays to be a laugher.  Laughing is good for the soul, the brain, and the body.  Wouldn't you rather have laugh lines on your face as you age instead of frown lines?  You will get lines on your face someday.  Ask me how I know!

I finished the major portion of my quilt top.  It is 42" square with a very complex design, which will sit on point as the major attraction.  I can't remember how big it will be when finished...about 50-60 inches I think.  We'll see as it develops.  I am not hung up on size, but it will be a wall hanging.

Day of finish:  I put it up on my design wall to admire.

Day 1 post finish:  Look at that fussy cut triangle: it 's backwards!  Oh, good grief.  Thank goodness it is a small isosceles triangle cut from batik. One hour to remove, press, turn over and stitch back in.  Ah good.

Day 2 post finish:  What is that brownish mark on the pale turquoise piece?  I tried to wash it out, but finally decided it was a scorch mark.  How on earth did that get there?  There wasn't any glue or starch in that spot.  It was just on the fabric.  This must be repaired, so I ripped out the offending piece and put in a fresh piece of fabric.  One hour.  Ah good!

Isn't that just sickening?
Day 3 post finish:  Oh my gosh...there are two more scorch marks in a different place.  What is going on?  This time I figured it out.  My Clover mini-iron is on the end of my ironing table.  While I was fixing yesterday's scorch, the quilt top must have landed on the tiny iron and gotten re-scorched.  Two more pieces to rip out and replace.  Ninety minutes down the drain.  All irons have been moved to a tiny wooden table near the ironing surface, but out of the way.  I think this will be permanent as I am always scorching me as well as my quilt.  I am so thankful that the little iron didn't cause the quilt top to burst into flame.  That's better.

New setup for my irons.  Cords reach the ironing table and plug
into a power bar on the table leg to the right in the photo.
Day 4 post finish:  I can't believe it:  the upper left corner block is turned 180º.  Check the other corners.  They are all in the correct orientation.  How long have I had this quilt on the design wall?  How many times have I checked it out critically?  How could I have missed this glaring error?  I told DH and we both had a good belly laugh.  That's the problem with complex designs.  It has been a challenge to make the blocks properly as well as to orient them in the right direction.  Thirty minutes to rip, turn and re-stitch.  Looking good.

It is done!  It had better be done! Tired and silly.  Thank heavens for glue basting.  It really saved the day and allowed me to insert the new pieces gracefully.   I am ready to move on.  There is a little more piecing to do beyond this center part, but it will be easier and quicker.

TIP:  You have to laugh when your quilt plays tricks on you.  Life is too short to cry.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you time for fun and laughter.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Evaluation Time

Now, I have completed 36 blocks using paperless paper piecing.  I absolutely loved doing it!  However, I find it has a couple of downsides.

1.  I had to stand at my ironing board the whole time I was gluing.  Two or three hours on my feet standing pretty still is very tiring.  I could have worked sitting down, but my room is so small and I would have been jumping up and down for fabric in a very cramped space.  The iron (in my situation) would be awkward.  I am sure you could do this sitting down, but it didn't work well for me.

2.  After stitching the seams each block shrunk up a tiny bit because I had 14 pieces and therefore 14 seams.  You don't usually think about this, but when it came time to square up the blocks, the shrinkage was visible.  The end result is that I am having a dickens of a time matching the millions of points in my design.

TIP:  If I had to do it over I would make a squaring block (guide) that is a little smaller.  I could do this on my computer and transfer it to template plastic, but it is too late now.  I will work with what I have and do the best I can.  It is looking fine, but I am being very critical.

Squaring triangle.
 When doing the usual paper piecing I always print my pattern with the seam allowance showing.  When I am done sewing I just place a ruler on the line and use the rotary cutter.  Any shrinkage is incorporated in the paper pattern at the same time.  I believe it would all fit together better.

TIP:  In the future and for your interest, the paperless method is great for simple blocks, but next time I will use traditional paper piecing for complex blocks with lots of seams.

Short blog today.  I make birthday cards for the grandchildren from the many photos I have taken of them.  We have five birthdays in November, and I have to spend time getting those all made well ahead of Thanksgiving.  My creative energies are going in a different direction at the moment.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you happy, creative moments.

Monday, October 2, 2017

How Long is Forever?

While I was gluing and sewing all those small pieces I had moments of thinking that it would take FOREVER to finish them all.  Lo and behold, by sticking with it and doing a few each day I actually got them all done.  That is the way with quilts.   There are a lot of tedious tasks and sometimes you might wonder why you do it.  On the other hand, I find that doing boring jobs takes my mind to a dreaming place.  Sometimes you need full concentration and that takes your mind off some of the other tedious tasks of life.  That's why it is called therapy by some.  I also enjoy listening to music or books on tape that I don't have time to do any other time.  I love watching my progress on the design wall.

My 36 blocks have now been sewn together in fours and thus reduced to 9 large blocks.  There are many, many points to match and some have been difficult.  Here is what I do when I find an offensive point that needs to be brought into line:

---I rip about 1 inch each side of it and pull the glued edges apart.

---Sometimes I need to readjust one of the side seams slightly.

---Then I turn it over to work from the right side and manipulate the seam fold until the points match perfectly.

---Glue and press.

---Turn to the wrong side and stitch a new seam along the fold line.

Usually it works like magic without any major distortion affecting the size of the block.

TIP:  Elmer's clear glue is a wonderful tool.  It holds the fabric together so you can sew accurately, but washes completely out when you soak your quilt later.

It is always fun and exciting to start the next part of a quilt.  I still have those nine big blocks to stitch together, but I have a spiral to appliqué in the middle and it will be easiest to stitch it in place before the final assembly.  The spiral is paper pieced in the usual manner.  I tried doing it with paperless paper piecing awhile ago, but when it came time to sew the seams, I got lost in the center trying to stitch those tiny pieces together.

I printed the pattern on plain paper, cut it out and found that it was too small for its allotted place.  I'm glad I didn't waste my Sulky Paper Solvey, time or fabric on the wrong size!  I enlarged it on the computer, re-printed, and cut it out to verify the fit.  Perfect!  I was ready for the final print so I could sew.
Center spiral (hexagon in a circle)
The graphic above shows the way I printed my spiral.  I reduced the opacity of the colors to about 25% but left the sewing lines at 100%.  Seeing the colors helps prevent mistakes, but I also labeled each piece with the row number and a letter designating the color.  Double check!  When sewing you stitch alternate pieces (1K, 1B, 1G), then fill in with the other three colors (1T, 1R, 1Y).  Continue row after row in this manner.

Here is the finished spiral pinned to the center of the quilt top.  The paper on the back will dissolve so I am not going to pull it out at this point although I may do so later.  It will help to have that bit of stiffness to keep it from bubbling as I appliqué it in place.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you bright colors and joy in your endeavors.

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Error of My Ways

I would dearly love to have a quilt go together with no problems.  Is it possible?  I guess it would be if I did a really simple one without complicated piecing and color arranging, but I am not drawn to simplicity.  You get to listen to me vent as I try to solve the problems.  Sorry!  It does help to clarify the difficulties by writing about them.

I am making 36 square blocks with the same pattern. Each block is made of two half-square triangles, but each of those triangles is made with 14 pieces.  The finished blocks will each be 7 inches square (not counting seam allowance).  Three of the 14 pieces that make up a triangle vary in color in order to produce a complex design.  Below is the part of the design that threw me a curve this week and forced a bit of ripping and redoing.

Graphic of four blocks on point.
Note the four triangles with check marks.  They have to go the right way to create a bit of structure to the center of the quilt.   The checked black triangles must all be north and south, while the red ones must be in the east and west positions.  Those checked triangles are each a corner of a different block.  It really makes a difference when you look at the total design.  The graphic above shows one of four exact groupings that occur symmetrically in the quilt.  I am sorry, but I am not going to divulge the complete design so you just have to take my word for it.

Two of those four checked triangles were going the right way and two were oriented the wrong way - grrrrrrr!  I  had switched black for red and red for black.  A secondary design had vanished.  Some required the rip-and-redo treatment.  The others hadn't been sewn yet, and were only glued so they were really quick and easy.

I am so glad I discovered the goof before I went any further, and it only took about an hour to re-establish order.

TIP:  This is where a design wall is helpful.  I walk into my sewing room frequently and look at my work on the wall, analyze design and color choices, and find mistakes.  My wall is cheap.  I hung a flannel-backed tablecloth flannel side out, and it works great.

Off topic TIP:
I found a website with a solution that might help some of you.  It tells you a simple way to clean a cutting mat if it begins to hug fuzz in the cuts.  Here is a great fix.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you easy fixes if you run afoul of perfection.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Signing In

Signing in to say I am still alive, but not writing this week.  Last week was very busy with guests, hiking, and way too much food.  We had a wonderful time with people we love.  This week the night time temperatures are dropping into the low 30s so that means getting caught up with laundry while I still have water to the washing machine.  I am getting all my houseplants back into the house before they freeze.  I got the garage (aka Guest Cottage) sorted out with towels and bedding put away, and made it ready for storing the outdoor furniture cushions.  It has been a great summer, but we must look forward to winter now and be prepared.  Too tired to sew!

TIP:  Don't sew when you are too tired, if you can possibly avoid it.  It is way too easy to make mistakes when your brain and body are crying for rest.

Photos are from a lovely hike...short, but steep up to tree line with our visitors.  We were lucky in missing the downpour that drenched the mountains an hour later.

Poudre Lake straddling the Continental Divide (Rocky Mountain NP).
10,758 ft. elevation.  That's where we started hiking!

This beautiful mule deer buck posed for us in the sunlight.

Lovely alpine flower called Arnica.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you fatigue-free stitching and will catch up with you next week.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Know Thyself

I discovered something about myself.  After I finished my last quilt and decided that thread painted portraiture was not my strong suit, I was in limbo as to what my next project would be.  I sat down, pulled up Illustrator and tried some ideas using some paper pieced stars I had made awhile back.  The idea was to turn them into a small quilt, but no go.  It just didn't work for me until I messed around with a graphic version of those stars and arrived at an appealing design that doesn't look anything like stars.

I thought I wanted elegant quilts, Victorian looking, with lots of stunning quilting like Margaret Solomon Gunn.  I thought I would like to draw pictures with the quilting needle like Bethanne Nemish.  I do love their quilts, but their way of quilting doesn't manage to magically appear on my screen from my own brain.  However, as I fiddled around with my stars,  playing with ideas, moving and manipulating shapes and colors,  I made a remarkable discovery.  I LOVE intricate designs!  I think I have always loved them.

When I go to my Idea file I find all kinds of geometric designs.

Mosaics are all over the Mediterranean.
Don't remember which country this is from.

Mathematical designs.

Fountain at Hassan II mosque in Casablanca
Pretty designs.

Sconce.  University of TX in Austin.

Doorway/gate in Paris

Colorful designs
Hassan II mosque in Casablanca
All of these designs are non-representational.  Just interesting stuff.  Fascinating eye candy.  When I got to amusing myself with those silly stars I had so much fun creating, coloring, and crafting my next quilt.  Intense.  Who is going to cook dinner?  Oh, I forgot to get meat out of the freezer.  Oops!

Once I recognized that I love designs, I realized that I am also drawn to them everywhere I go.  I take photos of them, I scratch them onto my grocery list.  I love to create kaleidoscopes and spiral quilts.  Designs are in my DNA I guess, and actually DNA is a pretty cool design itself.

TIP:  It helps to know yourself.  Be honest about what you like, but step out and try new things.  That will help you grow, and you will learn new techniques to apply to your work.  Trying something new is refreshing and keeps your quilts from becoming tedious, but be true to yourself.  You will make happy quilts this way.

My four paper-pieced stars remain pending, currently unloved, waiting for inspiration.  I am working on my new quilt, which is a complicated, interesting design.  It is exciting watching it evolve as I think about how to quilt it.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you insight into your inner design wall.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Quilt Creases

Creases are annoying when quilts are on display.  I had one do that when I showed it, and had several knowledgeable individuals look at it and make suggestions.  They shook their heads and ended up telling me that they don't really know why it happened.  What I have learned since is that some battings will crease more than others.  Some have a "memory" of the fold creases.  Currently, I hear that some of the big name quilters have gone to wool batting to prevent creases.

I do know that packing a quilt to mail is one way to get unwanted creases.  If your box is too big the quilt will move around and it is impossible to figure out what it will do when it is active.  Sort of like a toddler.  If your box is too small, the quilt gets crushed into the shape of the box and folds get pressed in.  Likewise if you pack too many quilts tightly into one container.  I put a little crushed packing paper in the folds and that seems to work for mailing.

Quilts can be rolled on swimming noodles and I did that for awhile, but again, the all-knowing experts are saying that some parts of the quilt are subjected to more stress than others when rolled tightly that way.  I guess the best way is to store quilts flat on a bed.  Do you have an extra bed for that purpose?  I don't.

One way to avoid creases is to fold your quilts on the bias.  See Alex Anderson's video.  After looking at it I am tempted to go back to all my stored quilts and refold them!!!  You can see another slightly different method using bias folds here.

I have no photos appropriate for the content this week so I will share these cute mule deer fawns that have been enjoying the unusually green grass (for this time of year) and munching on my wildflower garden.  They've been tasting the petunia blooms too!

Three fawns but not triplets.

Care to guess why they are called mule deer?
Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you time to enjoy the outdoors and some wildlife.

Monday, August 28, 2017

To Shrink or not to Shrink.....

Quilt Show is over and now it is back to sewing and the ironing board.  It has been two weeks since the last ironing-related post, but life has been crazy.  We have had two black bears killed in our neighborhood very close to my house.  They both died miserable deaths from gunshot wounds, which is tragic and very illegal.  Some gun nut running around here is scary, and I am out walking the dog every morning.

This is the closest I'll ever get to a bear.  They can be a nuisance, but they
are fun to see wandering the neighborhood.  It was a tragic end to two of "our" animals.

When anxious, return to quilting.  Quilting and sewing keep a person on their toes.  They say that using the brain and solving problems keeps it functioning well, and forestalls age-related deterioration.  At this rate I think my brain should last at least 150 years!

My cork board ironing board is fantastic.

See how nicely the pins hold  in the cork board?  You can see the glue on
the back side of block, but it will wash out later when I block the quilt.

I wrote about my shrunken ironing board cover.  Apparently I didn't shrink the canvas when I made it a couple of years ago.  When it got looking grungy I just turned it over.  When I renovated the table top with cork board I washed the cover and it shrunk up irretrievably, so I had to make a new one.  This time I washed the new piece of canvas first and made the cover.  It fits the table top, but is a bit looser that I really want.  If I had not washed it, I could have spritzed it with water so it would shrink down to the table top.  The downside, of course, is that I would have to make a new cover every couple of years, whenever the cover got too grungy.  I guess the upshot is that you have to choose your own poison.

TIP:  Pre-shrink the canvas for your ironing board cover and you can wash it in the future.

TIP:  Don't pre-shrink the canvas for your ironing board and it will shrink to fit with a little spritzing.

I hated taking time out from my quilt to do this mundane sort of sewing, but I learned something about my sewing machine.  Do you read your sewing machine manual from cover to cover (eye roll here)?  Neither do I because I could never remember it all, and there is much that I will never use.  However, I needed to secure the edges of the canvas so I read about all the options for overcasting.  I don't use overcasting in quilting, but was in the mood to investigate.  I discovered that I have a lovely presser foot that does beautiful overcasting even on heavy, fraying canvas.  I never even noticed that foot in the box of tools or if I did, I had no idea what it was for.  I wanted to sew, not play with the toys.

I also decided something else.  I used pretty heavy canvas for my cover and since I had just enough left to make the new cover I used the same stuff.  I also had on hand a little bit of lighter weight canvas, which I used to make a small, portable pressing board.  Time will tell, but I believe the lighter fabric works just as well, and it is so much easier to work with.  Good grief, I used to cover my ironing boards with old sheets!

Small pressing board front (above) and back (below).

For my paperless paper piecing I laid an old sheet down to protect the ironing board cover - yes I did!!!  I use a lot of starch pressing each and every seam allowance.  I also press every glued seam.  I can throw the old sheet into the wash more easily than the ironing board cover.  I also use my teflon iron cover to protect my iron from scorched starch and glue stains.

Icky looking scorched starch stains on the old sheet.

Teflon cover on my iron.
TIP:  Save yourself some time and effort whenever possible.  You will have extra time for sewing!

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you no brain shrinkage.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Quilt Show and Hoffman Challenge

Rocky Mountain Quilt Festival was last week and of course I attended.  It is the only major show left in our area, which is surprising because we have so many great quilters here.  Several quilt magazines are published this area and we have a wonderful Quilt Museum.   I went on the first day (Thurs), but even so was surprised to find so few attendees.  Maybe the other two days were better.  Unfortunately the show seems to get smaller every year; fewer vendors, fewer quilts, fewer people.  The complete Hoffman Challenge was on display, but several of those quilts were badly creased.  There were a lot of clever, creative designs with the chosen fabrics stitched within.  The winners can be seen here.  Following are a few that struck my fancy.  Some may have been winners, but they didn't provide ribbons this year.  Instead they put a small ribbon-shaped sticker on the ID card and I didn't notice those until I was ready to go home.  The winners were scattered among all the rest and hard to find.

If any of you made one the quilts below I am sorry that I cannot identify you.  The cards were so small that they didn't show up with my camera.  Let me know and I will place your name with your quilt on this blog.

Unique - Black and White

I liked the way the color and black and white were united.

Nice spikes.

Loved the explosion of color.

Nicely done clown.

There were several nice jackets.  I liked this one best.

Appealing.  Fun detail on the lower right.

Novel with the unusual shape.

Fussy cut star.

Out of an old English novel.

This face was sculpted like a bas relief.  Very nice!
It won a First Place.

Sew some  happy seams this week.  I wish you a chance to look at the quilts of others.

Sunday, August 13, 2017


On numerous occasions I have needed to pin some fabric to my ironing board, but the pins tend to have a mind of their own and topple from the upright position.  Recently I put two pieces of foam core board under the padding and cover.  It was fantastic...for awhile.  I could stick pins in there and they'd stay put.  Well, that worked for the short term, but foam core board is affected by the heat and soon began to look like a roller coaster.  Now I have three pieces of foam core board that are basically useless.

Why do I need to stick pins in my ironing board?  I use them to secure the first piece of fabric to the pattern when I am doing paperless paper piecing.  I also find pins invaluable for aligning seams and points when I am sewing a main seam together.  I stick pins through matching points straight up and down into the ironing board, and I stick pins here and there to match seamlines.  Then I glue baste the main seam allowances together, press and sew.  I generally get great results with only the occasional need to rip and redo.  I know, I am very fussy, but I like to be able to show my quilts and these details are important in that venue.

Sharon Schamber has a great video on making your own pressing board.  I have watched it a couple of times, but the board she uses is not meant for sticking pins into.  I got the brilliant idea of placing cork board on top of my DH-built ironing table (22" x 60"), and placing the covering over that. I did some research and found that it is heat resistant, absorbing heat without emitting fumes.  It is slightly rough, which grips the covering fabric enough to keep it in place.

Corkboard on top of plywood table surface (to the left is a small platform
for setting stuff on - not part of the ironing surface)

TIP:  In my research I found that you should not use particle board.  It does not hold up when exposed to moisture.  I do not use a steam iron, but do occasionally use water in a spray bottle and/or starch.  I didn't find anything about cork and moisture so I am keeping my fingers crossed, but I don't think it is an issue.  DH says it will be fine.

I am covering the cork board with cotton batting and canvas.  I am using Quilters Dream Request  (low loft), which I have on hand so I am using two layers.  If I were using Quilters Dream Select I would use only one layer.

Batting on of cork board.
Ironing board is ready to go.  Canvas cover washed and clean.  Canvas cover no longer fits!  It REALLY shrunk!  Quilting time on hold as I make a new cover.  New canvas is in the washing machine in hot water as I write.

TIP:  Pre-shrink your canvas if you are using it for an ironing board cover.  Duh!

Waiting for the canvas to dry (my dryer is the mountain wind).

Sew some happy seams today.  I wish you no shrinkage this week.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Mistake Madness

Do you think that all I do is make mistakes?  I prefer to state that I correct mistakes and solve problems, but then I am a glass-half-full sort of person.  That is what this blog is all about and what better to write about than my own foibles.  I hope my solutions will be helpful to others as they read.  When you design your own quilts you have to iron out your own problems, and it is unrealistic to imagine that there won't be some along the way.

How's the paperless paper piecing (PPP) going?  Fantastic.  I am cutting out three or four of each piece, which takes about 30 minutes.  From there I can breeze through three or four blocks in nothing flat.  Well....compared to my first attempts.  I save up several glued blocks, and sit down to stitch them all at once, chain stitching.  That's called efficiency!  I have decided that this process  doesn't take any longer than paper piecing.  Both methods require a learning curve during which you have to be patient with yourself.  Now I have another plus to share about PPP.  Read on.

Mistakes?  Yes!  I printed out the overall design to use as a guide for the colors in each block.  All the blocks are the same basic pattern, but the colors are arranged differently in various blocks.  After printing the guide I went back to the computer and changed the color of one piece in each half-block.  Then I forgot to print out the new version.  Now one black piece in each half-block has to be switched out for turquoise.  Six square blocks done, so 12 triangles to rip back to that piece to change it.  It is an important element and must be done.

Black vs turquoise triangle.  Center seam not stitched.

Inner bulldog, get moving!  It sort of takes the joy out of quilting, but not the satisfaction of doing the job right and completing my design correctly.  Sigh......ripper in hand I plucked out the necessary stitches.  Fortunately, there really aren't too many because the offending piece was one of the last in the sequence of sewing.  By the time I replaced one, I had figured out how to do it without distorting the block.  First, I folded, ironed and starched the seam allowance on the new piece so I had a nice, sharp crease.

The fold is pressed over a strip of heat resistant template plastic.
You can use double freezer paper, but it gets soggy soon.

Then, working from the right side of the block I glued the seam allowance in place with the sharp crease exactly on the old seam line of the embedded piece, where I could see the line of little holes.  Press.

Glued down in place, with other pieces pinned back out of the way.
(except for that one little tail on the right - it was too stiff to stay folded back, but easy to work around.

Open out the new piece and stitch exactly on the crease line.

Crease line is a perfect guide.

The remaining two pieces were corner pieces needing only partial dismantling so they were really easy to manage.  They were the ones that were pinned back.  I laid those corners carefully back in place and glued them down making sure that the dimensions of the block were not compromised.  Then stitched.  Done....and it didn't even take too long to do.

Measuring before stitching.  Love glue basting!

If I had done this with paper piecing I would have unstitched the same three pieces, which would have messed up the paper, and I might have had to replace more than the one piece of fabric because the trimming would be tight.  There might have been more distortion from the messed up paper.  Paper piecing requires a bit of guesswork to position the fabrics correctly, then trim after sewing.  PPP is clearly the way to go!  However, I am glad the error was on the outer area of the block and not in the center.  Smile!

That turquoise piece is important as it part of the basic framework for the whole design.  It will set me back a day, but it will be soooooo worth it.  I'm not in a hurry and am already thinking about how I will quilt it.  Slow takes time to do those blocks correctly.

Oops!  I found a few seams that I hadn't sewn.  Good grief, I am glad I discovered and could fix them.  I had to hand stitch one because it was too deep in the stitching sequence.  It was a good lesson and warning to carefully check the seams as I go along.  The only downside of PPP is getting the seams sewn in order without missing any.  Working on that!

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you no mistakes, but if necessary, easy fixes.