Tybee Wave

Gratefully, my determination to work through the enormous stack of unfinished projects this year has not diminished, so I’m riding that wave as long as I can. It has meant very little fabric or yarn shopping. It has meant being realistic about projects I’ve started that I actually hate. It has meant revisiting skills I started to learn, but didn’t have time to refine. It has meant saying no, both to myself and to others. It has meant adding a real dose of self discipline to my creative life.

It has also meant a lot of reflection. Every unfinished project I put my hand to brings back a flood of memories. Why did I start this? What was I hoping to learn? What was I trying to say? And even what was I thinking?!?

I love this one so much, and it’s all mine. Yup. All mine.

I made these Wave Quilts using the Sizzix die by Victoria Findlay Wolfe at The Green Apricot Getaway at Tybee Island in February of 2017. I curated a bundle of beach solids to commemorate the retreat, and wanted to show the attendees a couple of different ways to assemble the Wave Quilt. At the last minute- as in waaaaay last- I got the great idea to swap or share squares with each other to put these quilts together. I have both good feelings and bad feelings about that. Good because I LOVE how those bits of fabric light up this quilt, just like those ladies lit up my week at Tybee. Bad because I allowed myself to be overwhelmed by hosting, and I’m pretty sure I never gave anyone a square of fabric from me. It’s a wave of humility.

This one reminds me of reflections on the water. I didn’t know what I was going to do with it at the time that I made it because it was meant to be a sample for the retreat. But when I laid it out to quilt it and contemplated different designs, I just kept thinking of the softness of the colors and the design and how it made me think of children at the beach. So this one is for our granddaughter Murphy to use when she comes to our house. She’s going to be a beach babe. I can feel it in my bones.

You’ll notice this Wave Quilt is put together a little differently. I feel that one could make each of the “squares” into a cat face. Or an owl. The other configuration makes me think of the ocean. This one makes me think of a lake. The other sand, this one boats. I decided that I couldn’t keep all of the Wave Quilts, so this one went to a local chapter of Project Linus. Hoping it brightens someone’s day.

The curves in the Wave Quilt are really very gentle, and it’s a lot easier to put together than one might imagine. But once it’s together, it has two curvy sides, and binding curves can sometimes be intimidating. Bias cut binding is the best way to go because the binding will bend with the curves rather than fight them. In the case of these two quilts, I chose to use single-fold continuous bias binding. Partly because it was appropriate with the curvy edges, and partly because I wanted to practice it more.

I talked about this kind of binding in a previous post, which you can read here. There really is more than one way to bind a quilt, and while one may lean more to one way than another, it really should depend on the quilt. I’m all about listening to the dictates of the quilt.

In the case of this configuration, the wavy sides of the quilt are not so gentle. The peaks are sharper than I like, and quite honestly, I didn’t want to deal with binding that.

So I cut them off. Simply done.

I’ve marked 21 projects off of my list thus far in 2018, and a couple of those were multiple small projects. I’ve begun 6 new projects, 3 of which are complete. I’m not even halfway to being caught up, but I’m a lot closer than I was a year ago, and more importantly I’m doing a pretty good job of not adding more to that list. I may have let it get away from me for a while, but I’m getting it back again.

Something old. Something new.

I love this little quilt. I love the colors. I love the fabric. I love the maker. And I love what I got to learn from it.

Several years ago- more than I can remember- I participated in a quilt guild’s brown bag challenge. If I remember correctly, each member of the guild put 5 fat quarters in a brown bag and turned them in to a coordinator. The coordinator then redistributed the brown bags, and each maker had a few mo this to make a quilt top from the contents of the bag.

My brown bag ended up in the hands of a sweet friend and meticulous quilter, and I was thrilled with what she did with my fabric selections. Her curved piecing was impeccable, and I thought it was great use of the prints.

Like so many of my own projects, it got packed away and added to a long list of UFOs. A few months ago I actually went through all of my “stuff” and took an inventory of all of my UnFinished Objects and was horrified and embarrassed, so I’ve been pretty committed to finishing things off. The added benefit is that one of my major motivations is a sense of accomplishment, and as I finish each project my spirits are lifted and creativity is free to flow.

Another benefit is that I find that I’ve learned a lot since the project before me was first made, and I love applying new skills to those older projects. This time it just so happened that I had just learned a new-to-me binding technique, and this quilt was small enough that I was willing to try it without it being a huge commitment.

For years I thought that continuous double-fold binding was the only way to bind a quilt without folding the backing to the front. I’ve learned that is not at all true, and there are several more options. It really just depends on the end goal on which one works best, although most people pick one way of doing it and just stick to it. Me? Not so much. I like variety, and understand that I may not want the same finish on every quilt.

I recently attended the Southern Belle retreat for owners of Statler machines and hosted by Joan Knight and Anita Shackelford. We learned tons about our machine software, but there were also demos and discussions on other aspects of quilting. One of those was a lecture and demonstration of binding presented by Anita. During this, I learned about continuous single-fold binding, which I’ve never seen done before.

Two of the major differences from the continuous double- fold binding in familiar with are that continuous single-fold is cut at just 1 1/4″, and the length of the binding is not pressed in half. The binding is machine seamed on the diagonal, and machine attached (right sides together) to the front of the quilt.

The binding is then flipped to the back, and the raw edge is folded halfway down with a hard finger press as it is hand stitched to the back of the quilt. I found that it worked best to work about 2-3″ out from my needle and press towards where I was working. Otherwise the binding can start to warp.

Stitching is standard 1/4″ blind stitch with a single thread. Corners are also standard 90 degree with flaps sewn down both on front and back.

What I loved about it is that the binding, and especially the corners, are remarkably flat and tight. It was a relaxing process to me, but I happen to LOVE binding quilts. The negative was that quite honestly, it took me twice as long to do because of having to stop to finger press every couple of inches. I may see if I can tweak that process next time.

And so, there it is. Something old- a marinated UFO, and something new- a fabulous technique!

Quilt Local: Finding Inspiration in the Everyday by Heather Jones

During QuiltCon 2015 I was doing my usual social media thing when a local friend of mine who has nothing to do with quilting sent me a message and wondered if I might run into a friend of hers while I was at QuiltCon.  I said, “Sure, who is it?”, all the while thinking that there was no way in the world I would know her friend.  “Heather Jones.”  Really?  Like really?  How on earth does this friend of mine in Georgia have any connection with a sewlebrity from Ohio?!?  Turns out they were online Mommy buddies back in the day when their kiddos were smaller.  I jokingly told my friend that she ought to get that burp cloth Heather made autographed!  haha!

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I’ve been very fortunate to have brushes with creative greatness over the years, and Heather is no exception.  I follow her work often, and was really excited to see her book Quilt Local come out last year.  Words like fresh, clean and crisp are what come to mind when I see her quilts.  Like early morning before the day is muddled with all of it’s business.  You can see examples of her work at her website, heatherjonesstudio.com.

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Let’s talk about the inspiration in this book first.  I mean really.  It is as much a book that I would have on my coffee table as it is a book I’d have splayed out in my studio.  The book itself is beautifully published, and the photography is fantastic.  From the quilts themselves to the placement of the quilts to the places that inspired the quilts- the colors are crisp, the contrast is right, the composition interesting.

Heather’s background in fine arts is evident with every turn of a page.  I loved the section on color theory, and was reminded once again that I really want to take some classes on color theory.  I honestly don’t really care about a degree at this point in my life, but there are a lot of things I want to learn, and she hit on some of that in this section.

There are 40 projects in Quilt Local, all based on inspiration Heather gained from her immediate, everyday surroundings.  Some from buildings, some from pavement.  She gives amazing, yet simple, tips on how to find inspiration, or maybe better said, allow inspiration to find you.

I wanted to follow Heather’s advice for inspiration, and I will make the quilt that I thought of one day, but it turns out that my inspiration has a tendency to come from busy things.  Like events.  And people.  For this project, I wanted to practice a little self discipline, and try to keep with the feel and vibe of Heather’s book.  So, I looked through the projects.  Then I looked through my fabrics.  Eureka.  Or more appropriately, Lebanon.

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Lebanon is a quilt from Quilt Local inspired by the exterior windows of a bank in Lebanon, Ohio.  I liked the quilt when I first looked through the book, and it was one that I was particularly interested in.  So, when I came across this fabric in my stash, light bulbs flashed and I was onto something.

I’ve had this fabric for a while- several years really.  It’s a line by Basic Grey through Moda, and I remember when I first saw it that it evoked feelings from my gut, but I couldn’t think of why.  Then I remembered.  These colors, this mix of greens and yellows and browns and greys, are what fall looks like in the Atlanta, Georgia area.  Not up in the trees, but down on the ground.  Along the side of the road, and in the occasional open field.  This fabric reminds me so much of riding in the car when I was small, and watching the landscape go by.

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So, while Heather’s version of Lebanon is a street view of windows in a building, but my version is from the inside out.  I planned the quilting when I was planning the quilt- grey walls with paint brush strokes.  White window frames.  A slightly different view in each window, but a consistent palette.

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I really love this quilt, and was glad to have had the inspiration from Quilt Local.  I don’t keep very many quilts for myself, but I am keeping this one.  Makes me feel like I am a skinny little grey-eyed girl in the back seat of the car with the wind in my long, stringy brown hair.  Much happier to be looking out that window than you could ever know.

For tips on an easy accurate way to join binding, click here, but you can also add this tidbit to your toolbox.  Finishing corners off full, flat, and straight can be tricky.  Binding needs to be full to to last longer, and to be correct for competition.  I let my batting and backing extend just a bit past the edge of my quilt top all the way around.  This little bit allows the thickness that batting needs to have when I turn the binding to the back and stitch it down by hand.  When I get to the corners, I trim the extra batting and backing right up to the edge of the quilt, because while bulk is good around the quilt, it is not so good in the corners.  Ask me how I know.  Also, I like to use finger cots or needle pullers to help get a good grip on the needle while I am hand sewing.  It actually helps me to sew a little faster, except that I have a tendency to take them off and text for a few minutes here and there.

 

Magic binding. Okay, maybe not magic. But close.

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So, binding has been a thing for me for years.  I can’t say that I feel like I make perfect binding, or that I don’t have any more room to learn, but I’d say that I’ve come a long way from the slightly rounded, thinly filled and seriously scary stuff I used to do.  Binding is a skill that is important to master, for a number of reasons.  First, it is the first part of a quilt that wears out, so it needs to be done in such a way that it can be replaced as needed.  Second, it is like the frame around a masterpiece, and it can either add to or detract from the overall work.  Thirdly, it’s important to understand that binding is one of the number one things that will cost a quilter competition points.  Not interested in competition?  I get it.  However, there are a number of modernists that would like to see their work get more respect and attention in the traditional shows.  In order for that to happen, there need to be more submissions of modern work that is also a showcase of mastered skills.  As I have often said, there is nothing wrong with breaking the rules of quilting, but you have to know what the rules are in order to know which ones should be broken when, and for what purpose.  I’m not going to go into detail about those rules this time, but I would like to show what I know about joining binding properly.  And without wanting to hurt somebody in the process.

There is great discussion and variance in the width that binding should be cut, and whether or not it should be cut on the bias.  Those are thoughts for another day.  So, just for today, I have cut this binding at 2″ WOF on the straight of grain.  I pressed my seams open at the joins, and pressed the binding lengthwise, wrong sides together.  I have sewn the binding to the front of the quilt, lining up the raw edges of the binding with the raw edges of the quilt top.  I left a generously long tail at both the beginning and the end of sewing the binding to the front of the quilt.

First, line one of the unsewn tails to the edge of the quilt.  It’s easiest to use the shorter of the two, but it really doesn’t matter which one.

Next, using the second tail, cut a small piece off of the end.  It does not matter how big this piece is, but about an inch works perfectly.  Open this small piece out.  The measurement you are interested in is the width of the piece, not the length.  In other words, my binding was cut at 2″, so I am interested in the 2″ measurement of the cut.  If you had 2 1/2″ binding, the piece would need to be 2 1/2″.

Layer the two binding tails on top of one another, aligned with the edge of the quilt.  Using the width of the little piece cut from the tail as a guide, cut the top tail so that the overlap of the two tails is the same as the width of the binding.  (In this case 2″, but just to be extra clear, if you have 2 1/2″ binding, the overlap needs to be 2 1/2″.  If you have 3/4″ binding, the overlap needs to be 3/4″.)  Discard the little piece cut from one of the tails.

Draw both tails out and away from the edge of the quilt and onto a cutting mat.  Open the tails and lay them both face up.

Without changing the orientation of either tail, use the Folded Corner Clipper to cut each tail at a 45 degree angle, with the 1/4″ seam allowance also trimmed off.  (It is possible to do this with a straight ruler with a 45 degree mark, or with other 45 degree tools, but for me, this is by far the easiest one to handle while cutting binding tails for joining.)

Lay the two tails along the quilt edge and notice that they match properly for joining.

Pin the short edges together, right sides together, and sew together with a 1/4″ seam.

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Press seam allowance open.

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Align raw edges of joined binding with the edge of the quilt and stitch loose binding to the edge of the quilt.  Complete binding as desired.

Told ya it was magic.  #boombaby

Strip Tips- Selvages and Masking Tape

In days gone by, quilters actually took scissors and templates and cut each piece of fabric that they put into a quilt by hand.  Which makes every expertly pieced antique quilt I see blow my mind.  It’s not so much the piecing that is amazing to me as it is the cutting.  As my mother taught me, if you don’t cut it out correctly, you may as well thrown it out.  There were no rotary cutters and mats and specialty rulers and short cuts.  Just scissors and templates.

Fast forward through the quilting revolution and things have changed a bit over the years.  Tiny squares that used to be cut and pieced one at a time are often cut into strips vertically, pieced together, then cut again horizontally.  Once the late Mr. Yoshio Okada of Olfa introduced the rotary cutter to the quilting world, quilters everywhere began to explode with creativity, and the applications are proving to be close to endless.  The rotary cutter seems to be to the quilting world what the airplane was to the world at large.  It gave us wings.

Throughout my quilting career, I’ve had plenty of failures and successes.  And I have learned that what works for one does not always work for another.  And that’s okay.

So, here’s just a few tips I have learned over the years about cutting strips.  They might work for you, they might not.  But I have found it is always worthwhile to see how someone else does something, and that I often learn something totally unexpected.

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Want to know more about the history of the rotary cutter? Click the pic above for more information about Mr. Okada.

I don’t normally cut a large number of strips from a fat quarter, but I do from time to time, and this size was easier to photograph for the blog.  The pic above shows all the usual accouterments, and I assume that you already have a basic knowledge of the tools at hand.  My personal favorite rotary cutter is an Olfa, although I honestly use a wide range of cutters.  I also am pretty loyal to Creative Grids rulers because of their versatility, clear markings, wide range of products, and of course, the nonslip aspect of each tool.  I also prefer the Clover Cutting Mat.  I originally bought it because I liked the color, but then the more I have used it, the more I prefer it.  It is as if the blade sinks into the self-healing mat just the right amount, leaving a smooth, but not too hard surface.  The markings are also easy to read, although it is best not to use a mat for measuring.

The first thing I do is straighten one of the cut sides of the fabric.  There are several ways of doing this, but in this case, I used the selvage edge as a reference, looking carefully at the weave of the threads to get it as close to the straight of grain as I possibly could.  I am right handed, so I lined up the first ruler with the selvage threads on the right side.  I then butted a second ruler up to the first ruler on the left side, so as to prepare to cut the crooked edge off of the fat quarter.  After I move the first ruler away, I can use the cutter to cut a straight edge on the left side of the fabric.

I’ve had a lot of people ask why I cut off the selvage of the fabric.  The reason is that the fabric is woven tighter on the edges, or along the selvage, and as strips are cut from the fabric, it kind of recoils on the selvage and becomes misshapen, which results in oddly shaped strips after several cuts.  Cutting off the selvage releases the fibers and allows the fabric to lay flat.

When cutting many strips of the same length, I have found that it saves me a bit of time to build a sort of dam on the backside of my ruler.  I just take a pair of regular scissors and score the tape several layers deep.  I peel that strip of tape off of the roll, then carefully apply it to the backside of my ruler along the measurement that I am going to be cutting repeatedly.

Are there other ways of cutting a multitude of strips quickly?  Absolutely.  I don’t believe that there is any one perfect way of doing it, but this way works best for me.  Maybe it will work for you.  Let me know what you think…

Don’t fall to pieces- we’re almost done!

All laid out and ready to roll- don't forget not to turn on the ceiling fan!  This is the version of Houndstooth by V & Co that I am making for a set of twins.  This is the one for baby girl.  Baby boy's quilt has the greys switched around, making his a darker quilt, and mint green in place of the peach.  I've already pieced baby boy's quilt, and now it is time for baby girl's!

All laid out and ready to roll- don’t forget not to turn on the ceiling fan! This is the version of Houndstooth by V & Co that I am making for a set of twins. This is the one for baby girl. Baby boy’s quilt has the greys switched around, making his a darker quilt, and mint green in place of the peach. I’ve already pieced baby boy’s quilt, and now it is time for baby girl’s!

Unless I am working on a project that required row piecing, I actually really prefer to piece my quilts in sections.  I find that I am better able to maintain accuracy this way.  You can see here how I have pieced this top in sections, starting with smaller units and building up to larger ones.

Unless I am working on a project that required row piecing, I actually really prefer to piece my quilts in sections. I find that I am better able to maintain accuracy this way. You can see here how I have pieced this top in sections, starting with smaller units and building up to larger ones.

Using this method means I only have one especially large seam (usually right down the middle, or thereabout) to deal with, which makes me happy!

Using this method means I only have one especially large seam (usually right down the middle, or thereabout) to deal with, which makes me happy!

Finally- my tops are both pieced!  Amazing how much smaller quilts are from when you lay them out on the design wall to when they are all put together!

Finally- my tops are both pieced! Amazing how much smaller quilts are from when you lay them out on the design wall to when they are all put together!

Firstly, I cannot turn this pic to the correct position no matter what I do.  You'll just have to turn your head or your screen or whatever.  Loving technology at this moment. Secondly, I love rulers.  I can't even tell you how much I love rulers.  I love this ruler, the Folded Corner Clipper by Prairie Sky Quilting.  I don't actually know for sure what particular project it was created for, if there even is one, but it cuts a perfect 45 degree angle.  I use it most often for piecing binding, like in this photo.  I also love The Binding Tool by The Quilters Mercantile Inc.  It takes a minute to get the hang of it, but once you do, it's fabulous.

Firstly, I cannot turn this pic to the correct position no matter what I do. You’ll just have to turn your head or your screen or whatever. Loving technology at this moment.
Secondly, I love rulers. I can’t even tell you how much I love rulers. I love this ruler, the Folded Corner Clipper by Prairie Sky Quilting. I don’t actually know for sure what particular project it was created for, if there even is one, but it cuts a perfect 45 degree angle. I use it most often for piecing binding, like in this photo. I also love The Binding Tool by The Quilters Mercantile Inc. It takes a minute to get the hang of it, but once you do, it’s fabulous.

You are probably going to get sick of hand binding pictures.  I can't help it.  I really enjoy doing it, so I have to show it.

You are probably going to get sick of hand binding pictures. I can’t help it. I really enjoy doing it, so I have to show it.

Here's an interesting problem that comes up from time to time- especially on white or black fabrics.  When the fabric is being manufactured, occasionally a stray thread from a previous run flies around the room and ends up getting woven into the new run.  It's not a flaw- it's just something that happens.  Kind of like finding a little piece of stem in a can of green beans.  Anyway, this little blue guy doesn't belong, so I just carefully pick it out using the same needle I am sewing the binding on with.

Here’s an interesting problem that comes up from time to time- especially on white or black fabrics. When the fabric is being manufactured, occasionally a stray thread from a previous run flies around the room and ends up getting woven into the new run. It’s not a flaw- it’s just something that happens. Kind of like finding a little piece of stem in a can of green beans. Anyway, this little blue guy doesn’t belong, so I just carefully pick it out using the same needle I am sewing the binding on with.

You can see where I have pulled the stray thread, however, it will just about disappear after the quilt is washed.  No matter how you look at it, this little spot is way less noticeable than the blue thread that I removed.

You can see where I have pulled the stray thread, however, it will just about disappear after the quilt is washed. No matter how you look at it, this little spot is way less noticeable than the blue thread that I removed.