Friday, October 31, 2008

We met M'Liss Rae Hawley!

When our local Joann reopened last month as a superstore (and what a needed upgrade that was!), M’Liss Rae Hawley came as part of the grand opening. If you do not know who she is, she is a quilter, designer, author, lecturer, and instructor. She has published a number of books, and she has her own line of fabric at Joann that she has designed. And my daughters and I got the chance to see her and meet her!

She spoke on some general quilting topics, and, the best part of all, she had brought a number of her quilts with her for “show-and-tell”! It was really something to see in person the quilts that have been featured in the pages and on the covers of her books! Afterwards, I got the opportunity to talk with her a bit, and to ask her some questions. It was an awesome experience.

She of course took an interest in the girls. I mean, how many 10- and 12-year-olds do you know that sew and quilt? She encouraged them to keep up the quilting, and she recommended her beginner’s level quilting book to them:

I decided to purchase this one (I'll let you know how it turns out, if I ever attempt it):

One thing I need to mention is that, when I heard she was coming, I decided to buy a couple of her fabrics and stitch up a quick tote. So, she told me later that, when I first walked up to hear her lecture, she noticed my tote right away. AND, the blouse she wore was made of the same materials as my tote!

Who knew??!!! So she wanted a picture, and so did I of course, but I didn’t want to ask, so I’m glad she volunteered. She gave the girls and I pins to wear–no one else got any–and she gave us her business card. I was honored!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sewing an easy quilt-as-you-go quilt: Part 2 of 2

You have completed your quilt, all except for binding it. Binding is the process by which you enclose the raw edges with a narrow double layer of fabric. You will make this binding strip yourself. Take your six remaining 2 inch strips and cut each strip into four pieces. Sew these smaller pieces together randomly; no two adjacent pieces should be the same fabric or the same color. This strip will go around the perimeter of your quilt, so it needs to be at least 220 inches in length. Press this strip in half lengthwise, right side out, matching raw edges.

Take one of the short edges of the strip and fold it in on itself. Starting near a corner of the quilt, but not ON a corner, lay the strip on top of the quilt, aligning the raw edge of the binding with the raw edge of the quilt, pinning as you go. When you reach a corner, you will stop one half inch from the corner. Fold the binding strip at a 45 degree angle to the right; it will look like an L. Fold the binding strip back down, so that its raw edge is now aligned with the next raw edge of the quilt. Do this every time you reach a corner. When you get to the beginning, tuck the end of the strip in the beginning of the strip, so there are no raw edges peeking out. Starting below the tucked end of the strip, sew by machine one quarter inch from the edge, ending where you started. Make sure you stop one quarter inch before a corner with the needle down, lift the presser foot, and pivot to start the next stitching line.

You will now need to sew the other edge of the binding strip to the back of the quilt. Thread a hand needle with the thread and take very small horizontal stitches to sew the binding to the backing. Pressing the binding to the back before you stitch it is not necessary, but it will help. Your nicely mitered corners will lay just right as you turn the binding strip to the back.

Presto! You have now created TWO quilts!!! Are you addicted yet?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sewing an easy quilt-as-you-go quilt: Part 1 of 2

This project will introduce you to machine quilting, specifically the quilt-as-you-go method. Therefore, the preparation process will be a little different than with the first quilt. The top fabric should be cut to be 2 inches smaller on all sides than the backing fabric. This means that if you were to lay the top fabric on top of the backing fabric, there would be 2 inches of backing fabric showing on the top, 2 inches of backing fabric showing on the bottom, 2 inches showing on the right, and 2 inches showing on the left. While this is not a crucial step for this quilt, it will be in future projects, so it will help if you begin to get used to it now.

Lay the backing fabric right side down on a large, flat surface. Following the directions on the can for the quilt basting spray, baste the backing to the batting. Now baste the top fabric to the batting, making sure that the top fabric is right side up. The batting should be in the middle of the two fabrics, and the wrong sides of the fabric should now be basted to the batting.

Lay 15 of the strips on the top fabric (do not baste them just yet) to find the arrangement most pleasing to you. Do not spend a lot of time on this step; the randomness of the strips is what makes the quilt attractive. Once you have determined the arrangement that you like, pin them to the top. It may help to use a ruler to help you keep the fabrics straight. The strips will overlap the edges of the top, but that is ok. You can go back and trim them off later.

Now you will sew each strip down. Notice that you are quilting as you create the quilt top. This quilt as you go method makes for a very quick and easy quilt. Sew the fabrics one quarter inch from the raw edge of the fabric strip. Each fabric strip will therefore have two stitching lines. You will leave the edges raw and unfinished. If you haven’t guessed, each time you wash the quilt, the raw edges will fray, which creates a fabulous rag effect. If you are using jumbo rickrack, you will sew one stitching line straight through the middle.

Once you have completed sewing all of the strips, lay the quilt on a rotary cutting mat and trim the edges. The top, batting and backing should now be even. By making the backing fabric slightly larger, you have kept it from being smaller than your quilt top. When you quilt thick layers, some layers will bunch up more than others.

In Day 2 of this second quilt, we will discuss the binding process.

Try a second quilt: Gather your supplies

Now that you are officially a quilter (yea!!!) you can move on to another very simple project. As with the first one, this quilt will also be lap-quilt size, just to keep it simple one more time. You will need 1.5 yards of a light-colored fabric, either solid or print, for the top. We chose a multi-colored dot print on a plain white background. For the backing fabric, you will need 1.5 yards of a coordinating print. It goes without saying that you will select 100% cotton fabrics that are ideal for quilting. You will also need 44/45 inch strips of fabric, 2 inches wide. You will need approximately 21 of these strips, and they can be in varying colors to coordinate with the top fabric. You can also choose jumbo rickrack for some of your 45 inch strips.

Make sure to purchase 1.5 yards (or a 45×60 package) of bonded polyester batting in low or medium loft. Select thread which coordinates with your fabrics. The tools that you purchased for your first quilt will come in handy here; refer to Day 1 for the first quilt, if you forgot what these tools are. Another tool that you will need is quilt basting spray. If you have not already done so, wash and iron all fabrics.

Once you are ready, proceed to the next set of instructions.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

How to sew a very easy quilt: Part 2 of 2

Find a large, flat surface on which you can lay out your fabrics and batting, in preparation for pinning and sewing. If your fabrics are two different widths, then you will first work with the smaller piece. Cut off the selvages, and this will determine the size to which you need to cut your larger piece. Cut off one selvage of your larger piece, then lay it out with the smaller piece, matching all sides of the larger piece to the smaller piece except for the selvage edge. Cut this edge down so that both pieces now match. If your fabrics are the same size, you will still follow the same basic procedure.

Pick up your fabric pieces, and now lay your batting down. Lay your fabric pieces on top of the batting right sides together, and cut the batting down to match the fabric. You should now have three layers—two fabric layers and one batting layer. Carefully pin around the edges of the three layers to hold them together. Don’t be afraid to use a lot of pins; too many pins are far better than too few. Leave a 12 inch gap between pins in the middle of one of the short sides.

Take your pinned layers to the sewing machine. Make sure you have attached the walking foot. Starting to the left, or below, the gap (when you put the fabric under the presser foot, the gap should be behind the foot, and the pinned part should be in front of the foot, nearest you), put the presser foot on the fabric and lower the pressing foot. The batting should be facing down, and the fabric side should be facing up; otherwise, the batting will get caught in the presser foot. Take a few stitches, backstitch a few stitches, and then sew around the perimeter of the layered fabrics. When you get to a corner, stop with the needle down in the fabric, lift the presser foot, turn the fabric 90 degrees, lower the presser foot, and continue to sew. You should remove the pins as you sew; do not sew over the pins.

When you reach the side where you began sewing, sew up to the gap, backstitch a few stitches, then stitch going forward a few stitches. Cut the thread and remove the piece from the sewing machine. Cut the four corners at a 45 degree angle; this will make it easier to turn. Do not cut through the stitch line. Now go ahead and turn the quilt inside out, making sure to poke the corners out as you smooth the quilt out. When you have done this, you can turn the edges of the fabric at the gap to the inside, and sew the opening closed. Sewing the gap by hand will make for a more invisible stitch line. If you must sew by machine, match the top thread to the top fabric and the bottom or bobbin thread to the bottom fabric, and sew as close to the edge as you can.

For this quilt, you will merely tie it down by hand. You will not worry about actually quilting it. Thread the curved needle with the coordinating embroidery floss. Every 6 inches or so (or follow the batting manufacturer’s recommendations for spacing between stitching), insert the curved needle into the fabric and bring it back up within a quarter of an inch of the entry point. Do this until the entire quilt has been tied. This will keep the batting from migrating.

You have now completed your first quilt ever! Was it fun?

How to sew a very easy quilt: Part 1 of 2

Let us begin the quilting odyssey by gathering only the most essential of supplies in order to embark on our quilting journey. After all, before you invest hundreds or even thousands of dollars in supplies and tools, you will want to know that you actually enjoy quilting before you spend a lot of money.

First of all, you will need a sewing machine. If you do not already have one, acquiring one may seem like an intimidating task. Do not feel as if you must purchase a new, top-of-the-line sewing machine. Do not even feel as if you much purchase a new one. There are perfectly good used ones that are waiting for new owners. A friend of ours recently bought a 60s-era sewing machine for $5 at a yard sale; it works absolutely wonderfully. Generally speaking, sewing machines that have all metal working parts and gears are among the more reliable machines. Also, these types of machines can be fixed, should something go wrong. (The cheaper machines are not always fixable.) If purchased new, these types of machines, on the low end, typically start at $200-$300. I will not even begin to discuss with you the various brands, models, etc. That is a blog topic all its own.

Second, you will need various smaller tools. Make sure you have a good pair of scissors, a rotary cutter, a rotary cutting mat, and a rotary cutting ruler. Some sewing or quilting stores sell these items (minus the scissors) as a package. These items, once you acquire them, should only be used for sewing and quilting. (Hide them from your family; they will think that they can use them for cutting paper, hair, food, foam, etc.)

Miscellaneous tools that will help are straight pins and a curved hand needle.

Now you will need to select some fabric and bonded batting. For your first project, we will keep this VERY easy. Select two–yes, just two–100% cotton fabrics that you like. For example, we chose an embroidered denim and a pre-quilted fabric in a coordinating color.

You may even consider choosing a solid and a print that coordinate with your home decor. When you choose your fabric, make sure that you have coordinating thread and a coordinating embroidery floss as well. For this first quilt, you will only need 1.5 yards of each. For the batting, you will also need only 1.5 yards, and it must be bonded. You can either buy it by-the-yard, or there is packaged batting that is 45 inches x 60 inches. This size will work if you do not have two pieces of fabric wider than 45 inches. If even one of your pieces of fabric is the standard 44/45 inches, this prepackaged batting will work for you. I’d recommend 100% polyester, or a polyester/cotton blend. As you become more accomplished, you will develop a feel for what you prefer in batting.

Before you start, make sure you wash your fabric. You need to know before you begin to sew if your fabric will shrink or bleed. (Hint: If you cut the edges with pinking shears, your fabric will not fray in the wash. Don’t worry about the selvage edge; it will not fray.) Remove the fabric from the dryer as soon as possible and iron it. Lay your fabric flat, one piece at a time, and square up your fabric. There is a tutorial here which will give you some assistance with this procedure. Admittedly, it is not of the utmost importance for this project that you square up your fabric, but it is a process which you will definitely be using as you become a more accomplished quilter.

You are all set! The next post will get you started on your quilt!

A decision to blog

It’s about time.

I have been contemplating an entry into the world of blogging–specifically in regards to our quilting adventures. I do not do this alone; I cannot do this alone. I have enlisted my trusty apprentices, or my daughters Lana and Sydney, in this undertaking. Yes, they are fairly young. However, do not dismiss them because they are young; they are every bit as accomplished as adults several times their age. They have handled themselves admirably on computerized sewing machines. Hence, our journey. We invite you to take this journey with us.


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