Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Turn the Dial - Stealth Hanging Tube
detail of the back side of Turn the Dial with the matching hanging tube
To hang a quilt for an exhibit, or quilt show, or even on the wall at home, it needs to have a fabric sleeve or hanging tube sewn securely to the back.  For two-sided quilts, I like to make the hanging tube look like it is part of the design of the back side of the quilt.  For some quilts, this is super easy, especially if the top of the quilt is one piece of solid fabric all the way across.  For my yellow quilt, this was not the case.

note: This post is not meant to be a exact tutorial, but just a few tips to help you along the way if you ever desire to do something quite as crazy as this.  My experiences have taught me that just when I think that I have learned how to do this on an easier piece, I make a new mistake on the next one, and have to start over.  It has definitely been a learning curve for me.

My first idea was to get the paper template pattern out and use the top 8 or so inches of it to make a matching tube.  Sadly, this would not work because I inserted those random strips of color which changed the real sizes of my little arc pieces.  So, I needed a new template, one that matched the actual quilt.  Here's what I came up with:

I cut and ironed a long piece of freezer paper directly to the top of my quilt.

You can see the fabric through the paper.  So I took a pencil and traced the shapes underneath.  And, I started finding all the fabrics I used in this section of the quilt.  It is a crazy amount of different fabrics!

After tracing the shapes, I peeled the freezer paper up and then labeled the pieces and started cutting them apart.

Once I had the individual pieces cut, I ironed them to the front side of the corresponding fabrics.  Remember to cut a 1/4" seam allowance around each piece.

I think it gets a bit more complicated because the hanging tube is not sewn in a flat shape to the quilt back, it has a tuck in it so that it bellows out a bit.  This gives room for the rod to be inserted in the hanging tube and not distort the front of the quilt. The first tip is to try to match the bottom edge of your tube to the place where it will be sewn onto the quilt.  Here's a photo of all the pieces sewn together like a quilt top and placed on top of the actual quilt to check for placement and if it matches or not.

Also, when I pieced this section, I did not make it wide enough for the entire tube.  So, I cut another long white piece for the back of the tube and sewed along one of the long edges (right sides together) to make it wide enough.  Then finish the ends by turning under 1/4", twice and topstitching.  Then sew the remaining two long sides of the tube and turn it inside out.  Use a basting stitch to make a pleat for that extra ease on the front side of the tube.  Then it was ready to sew to my quilt.  After hand stitching in place, the basting stitches are removed.

As a little extra touch, I added my label to the inside of the tube before hand sewing the tube on the quilt.  This way, when you look at the back side of the quilt, the label is not visible and it adds to the illusion of "which side is the front?"

I love it!

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Diverging Distractions
back side of Turn the Dial
71" x 71"

For this side, I wanted to repeat a similar pattern, but instead of having just yellow, with a hint of black and white, I wanted to open up the color palette a little bit.
These cheerful and bright pops of color really compliment the pairing with the yellow. And, I really like how this side is contrasted with the front.  On the front, there is one obvious path.  On this side there are so many bright and beautiful paths.  It would be hard to choose just one way to go, but whatever choice, it will be a good one! It puts a lovely spin on the idea of distractions, which I believe has too many negative connotations in our world. I think we need both!
I love the opportunity to play with these lovely yellow-greens! It seems really interesting to me that these are at the center, but the quilt still reads as a yellow quilt.
Here are a few shots of the next couple of rings.  It was interesting to improvise the choice of bright colors to add and where to put them.

And, from the previous post, I did remember to put any pencil markings on the BACK of the fabric. Whew!  Here's a shot of sewing the arcs together.  One of the things I really like about sewing arcs, or curves, is that the bigger these circles get, the easier the curve is to sew.
After finishing the construction of all the pieces, I carefully layered the back, the batting, and the front and then pin basted.  I ran into some trouble while quilting, which you may have seen on this post about my new yellow Oliso iron. As a follow up, I can tell you that alternating quilting from the front side and then the back side really worked to complete the quilt and eliminate the tucks that were forming.
I love how the light shows the quilting lines.  The texture created with these concentric circles is wonderful!!
I was also marking the lines with 1/4" masking tape.  It was easy to apply while the work fit on my table.  As you can see the quilt is hanging off the edges.  So when it got too big, I moved to the floor.  It would have been fine to keep working on the table, and just move the quilt around, but it was not my process.  The floor worked better for me.  I used it as an excuse to bend and stretch! :)

I was also quite amazed that the front side and the back side lined up together so well!  This was especially noticeable when I trimmed the excess off the quilt from the front side, flipped it over, and found that the back was also centered!  Amazing! This is not typically my luck with two sided quilts.

After blocking, and trimming, I just needed to bind the quilt.  Fortunately, since both sides are yellow, it was not hard to pick a fabric!

The last task was to add a hanging tube.  I will post separately about the hanging tube, as it was quite the chore to make one that blended in with the quilt back.  If you look carefully, you can see it in the first photo of the entire quilt.  It is there! Really!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Turn the Dial
71" x 71"

I have been working on a new quilt since the beginning of the year, and it's finally finished!

I loved working with the yellow color palette, it was fun and inspired me daily.  This side of the quilt is about applying effort over time to reach a goal. I love how this definition for an Archimedes' Spiral is such a perfect metaphor for life.
I started with a minimal number of pieces for the center.  This is the beginning of one of the biggest mistakes I made while working on this quilt.  I drafted a pattern, and then in an effort to stitch accurately, I decided to mark the seam allowances with pencil.  Great idea, but I should have marked them on the BACK of the fabric, not the front.  Still not that big of a problem, if I had caught it early. But, I did not.  I was not sure how to build this quilt, I just wanted it to be yellow.  So, I cut every single piece and pinned it to the design wall before I started stitching.
That's when I discovered the problem.  I did use an eraser, which helped, but ultimately, I had to scrub the top, in some places, with dilute detergent and toothbrush, and then wash it.  Let's hope I remember this the next time, and do it the right way!
Here's an early shot of building the arcs by stitching one piece at a time.  I also discovered that small errors, multiplied over many pieces, lead to an arc that is not quite the right shape.  It helped to compare what I had stitched to the actual paper pattern I drafted, and making minor corrections as I went along.
Here's a shot of stitching the arcs together.  This I know how to do.  No surprises! Thankful! So thankful!

I decided to quilt this in concentric circles, because it is so perfect for this design (and the one on the back).  Here's a view of the beginning, and a few of the threads that will need to be tucked in.
 I love the way it looks while working on it.
Here's a shot while it is under the needle.  I have just made it around a complete circle here.  I use the quarter inch masking tape to help mark my stitching path.
A problem with quilting in concentric circles is that the quilt can become quite distorted by the time you finish.  The center can hump up like a bell.  The edges can be fluted instead of flat.  It is all about keeping perfect and balanced tension.  And, though I have gotten better, this quilt will still need to be blocked.  This requires getting it wet and pinning it on a flat surface until it dries. I used to block my quilts on the living room floor; it was carpeted with a closed loop carpet.  That floor is now concrete, and it is in cat territory.  My design walls are mobile, so that could have been an option, but after a number of years, they have warped, and do not lie flat anymore.  They are not meant for walking around on either.

Thankfully I have discovered a new foam floor (thanks to a tip from a friend).  I got mine from Home Depot, and it comes in lots of colors. (Yes, I got yellow!) The foam floor is perfect, and I can put it away when not in use! And, it can be built in a number of different sizes, depending on how many squares you buy.
Here's a close up of all the pins I used:

And, just for fun, I thought it would be interesting to show an animation of a few of the steps of the quilt 'growing' on the design wall.  I wish I had taken a few more pictures, but sometimes I get so engaged in my work, I forget to take a photo!

I have now learned how to make a gif file!!  Enjoy!

Monday, March 02, 2020

Plenty to Go Around
80" x 80"
Marking Concentric Circles for Quilting

I decided early in the planning stages that I wanted to quilt this with concentric circles.  And, though I love the loose and organic and uneven concentric circles, that is not what I wanted for this quilt.  As part of WHO this quilt is, the lines need to be exact, or look exact.  It's part of the story.   

I wanted to avoid drawing on the quilt all together, I thought that 1/4" masking tape would be perfect.  It is easy to apply, and easy to pull up if you don't like how it is applied.  It stays stuck pretty well, but does not leave a residue on the fabric.  It is so narrow, that it bends easily around gentle curves.  It does not do that for tight curves, like the first couple of small circles in the center of the quilt.  So, I started with this:

I drew circles with a compass and pencil on the freezer paper, and then cut out the circles with scissors. Next, I ironed the freezer paper circles and hand stitched around the edge.  These are super easy to peel up too! However, once the circle size gets too big, it becomes too stiff and cumbersome, especially if using a hoop.  And, you will know that size when you get to it!! Ha!

For the bigger (and getting increasingly bigger) circles, I decided to measure from the center, using the concept of the circle's mighty radius! Cha ching! I measured, and marked with pins, marking several lines at a time.  It looks like this:

Then I started applying the masking tape, gently curving it as I went around the circle.  I started with the innermost circle, using the pins as suggestions of where the tape should land once it gets there.  It is really good as a suggestion, but more important is the shape of the line as it curves around. Even if not perfect, it needs to resemble the shape of a circle.  Sometimes it will get off the line just a bit, but that inaccuracy can be averaged out with the next rounds of circles. 

After applying the tape, I remove the pins. And then I apply the next round of tape.

Here's an overall view of the pins.  I use a lot of pins, spaced closely.  I suspect that with more experience, I could rely on less pins that are placed further apart.

This pinning and marking takes time, but for me, it makes a significant difference.  If you just follow the previous quilting line with a similar spacing, you can easily get through the entire quilt.  However, if there is a small error in spacing, that error will be compounded and multiplied as you work outwards.  A skilled and experienced quilter will see those errors and gently correct them with each line.  There is also the option of removing lines of quilting to get back to the section where the error starts.  That is frustrating and can be a significant delay to progress.  I am hoping that by marking the circles, I can avoid that.

One further note: when quilting my machine, instead of by hand, it is entirely possible to avoid marking the circles at all because you can use the machine's foot as a guide while you sew.  Disclaimer: I struggle getting those circles even too!

Here's an overall view of my progress so far.  The circles are getting bigger and starting to "outgrow" my rotary cutting rulers.  I have moved up to yardsticks now! And I am pleased that as the circles get larger, they still look like circles! I foresee a point in my near future where my table will be too small and this work will move to the floor.  Perhaps I can get some quilt yoga in as I stretch, bend, and squat to mark these lovely circles!

Friday, February 21, 2020

My New Oliso Smart Iron!

Hey, where is my new Oliso iron?  Has anyone seen it? Ha!
Oliso with a new quilt and an old one (Development)
Yes, I am at QuiltCon!  However, I am also working like crazy to finish up some quilts for another exhibit.  It is hard doing both at the same time, and sleep is scarce.  Which is why I did not notice, as I was quilting late into the night, that the back side of my quilt was getting folds, lots of folds.  And once the fold starts, it continues and gets worse as the quilting continues.  So it had to be fixed.  I was tired and very frustrated because it was the first time I tried to do a lot of quilting lines without checking the back.  Mistake!

If it had only been this one fold, I probably would have just repaired this section (on multiple lines of quilting).  But there were LOTS of sections that had folds like this.

This is the back side of the quilt.  It is another two sided quilt. So BOTH sides have to look good! The seam ripper is holding up the fold so that you can see where the actual seam is.  It is eating about 1/16 of an inch now, but if left un-repaired, that amount grows.

I am quilting in concentric circles, so I had about 10 lines to rip out.

And, I am not a fast ripper.  It was almost good for me though, because I was already doing my best (or at least I thought I was), and I had no idea how to keep this from happening again. And I am really good at basting, but when sewing in concentric circles, crazy things happen, and I have experienced a few of those disasters as well.  I had a new idea to pin baste, and then on my machine with BIG stitches, quilt some randomly spaced radial lines, taking those out as I go, along with the rest of the safety pins.  You can see below, the brown line of thread and the backs of the safety pins (yes, this is the back side of the quilt).

Unfortunately, all the folds were happening right along the edges of those brown basting threads because I forgot about the rip it out before sewing, and I was sewing over them.  Lesson learned. sigh....

I finished ripping and went to the first day of QuiltCon and found this fabulous new Oliso iron! It is so smart!  You can iron with it, and without lifting it, take your hand off, and it automatically pops out these retractable thingies that lift the iron off the work surface! Magic!! I used it to solve my problem.  I have never ironed a quilt during the quilting, but it worked to ease the fullness in during this giant mess of a problem, and allowed me to continue working.

Now watch as I take my hands off temporarily, and use both hands to smooth out the fullness of this large project. The iron pops up! (I will try to take an actual video of the magic, once my 'assistant' wakes up. I will post it on Instagram). You can also google this and find videos of it happening!

A close up of the magic:
Last, I was careful to press both sides of the quilted sandwich before proceeding with the quilting. And, with the 10 foot long cord, it was easy to get around this big quilt! Here is the front side:
Works like a charm!! So far I love this new Oliso iron!  And, it's yellow!!! (comes in other colors too!). And, if you buy it at QuiltCon, there is a discount. Check it out if you are in the market for a new iron.  I am looking forward to using it on many projects to come! And, because it rests in this position, I can be assured that it won't tip over and crash to an early death.  True confession: I have done that to two irons already.

PS. I do not work for Oliso.  If you have a problem with yours, you should contact the company directly.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Plenty to Go Around
80" x 80"
Hand Quilting

I love the way hand quilting looks.  I love the process of hand quilting.  It is meditative, slow, and calming to the soul. It also gives the quilt a very nice softness of texture.  And, I love that it looks somewhat organic compared to the perfect computer drawn quilting lines of newer technology.

I have been quilting since 1980.  The first quilt took about 15-20 years to complete.  It was all hand quilted, before I knew how to hand quilt.  Basically, stick the needle in from the top, grab in on the bottom side with the other hand, turn the needle around and stick it back up to the surface.  This is called stab and grab.  It works, so that's what I did.  It is not the reason the first quilt took so long to complete!

One year, I was at the International Quilt Festival, winding my way through the vendor booths, and I ran across someone selling these little gadgets for hand quilting.  In five minutes, I had a thorough lesson in how to hand quilt.  It was fabulous!  The tool was good too, but I don't use it anymore.  I prefer using my hands and a few other tools.
Above is a self portrait of my hands.  I can now quilt for hours on end, but afterwards, my hands feel kind of dead! Ha!  (Also, my back and shoulders for sitting too long!).  Meanwhile, what you see here is the wonderful Clover leather thimble with a metal coin.  The coin part is dimpled and allows me to set the needle without it slipping.  The leather part is super comfortable and soft.  I had worn out two of these fantastic little thimbles and so started this project with a normal full metal thimble.  Sadly it didn't fit and gave me a cut and giant blister on my finger. Nuts! It was totally worth driving to a nearby city for a new leather thimble that was in stock on the only night it snowed in Austin! Yes, I am dedicated to my craft!

You may have noticed the blue spots on my fingers? It is blue painter's tape.  Quilting without them leaves my fingers feeling like they have been needle felted, or tattooed without ink.  A bit painful and unnecessary.  I cut new little pieces of tape for each quilting session.  If you press on them for about 20 seconds, they will stick pretty well.  They also work to build up layers if one isn't thick enough.

Which brings me to the needles.  I use a LOT of needles, because I tend to bend and break them.  I have yet to find the perfect needles, but these Bohin needles come pretty close.  I used to think it was the needle (and inferior needles are problematic), but I have come to find out that there is a minor flaw in my quilting technique, and if I am not paying attention, I will bend the needle, making it pretty useless, and I am on to another one. I have tried lots of styles, but the Betweens and Sharps seem to be the best for me.

The quilting technique.
I like to load the needle with a lot of stitches at one time. I think this one has about 6 stitches.  I am never sure how to count those?? Meanwhile, really excellent hand quilters can get 10 stitches per inch.  I am not there, but also, I find that I prefer to see the little stitches, so I will aim for the size that is visually appealing.  The bending of needles comes when I push too hard on a needle that has lots of stitches.  It works better to use the thimble to push and load the needle with stitches, and then use some locking forceps to pull the needle through.

Last, I use a hoop.  It helps get the tension right and seems to work for me.  I have seen other quilters NOT use a hoop.  I don't know how they do it.  Magic!

And for this quilt, the Plenty to Go Around quilt, hand quilting is the perfect compliment for a quilt that has been hand appliqued, and all hand batiked elements. I love the way it looks in the concentric circles, which is also paired rather nicely with the symmetry on the front. The same lines add a different element to the story on the back.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

i Quilt at Texas Quilt Museum

It is an honor to have my quilt included in this exhibit of prize winning quilts from the Modern Quilt Guild at the Texas Quilt Museum! I am hoping to go see this one because La Grange is just a short drive from Austin.  I also know that they will be having day tours during QuiltCon, so that's pretty exciting!  The exhibit is up from January 9 to March 15, 2020.

"These 15 quilts, including Kathy York’s witty iQuilt awarded Best of Show in 2015, cover a wide range of categories and showcase the Modern Quilt aesthetic. Among the artists represented are Maria Shell, Stephanie Skardal, Kim Soper, Corinne Sovey, and Colleen Wooten. This exhibit was also curated by Dr. Sandra Sider."

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Let Your Hair Down
32" x 53"

Continuing with my series of whole cloth batik line art is this one, Let Your Hair Down. This is probably no surprise to anyone here, but when I work, I can get....well...a little obsessive. It is hard to take a break. One of my personal goals the last couple of years has been to balance work and play.  So, this quilt is dedicated to the idea of letting my hair down and playing more! It reminds me of my hair loose in the water, a peaceful and relaxing moment. Mood.

I used the same process as my previous work.  This one was a bit more difficult because it required more layers to boil out, free hand drawing of the lines, and dense straight line quilting around all these curves. (Yes, I see the irony in the work to make this piece, and the actual theme of the work!)

This is layer 1 of the wax.  The smooth edged lines will get dye.
Next, layer 1 of the dye:
These will be pale when washed out.  Then, I will boil out the wax, draw the new lines and re-pin to the frame. Now, I have to decide where to put the next round of lines.  I feel a bit confused about how to draw them and have them interact in a flowing organic way with the lines that are already there.  To practice, I attempt on a full scale paper version first.  If I like them, I trace with Sharpie, if I don't like them....well, there's a big eraser, ready to go!
I taped the paper to the floor, and then taped the dried fabric on top.  I will try to follow the shape of the lines, but the best lines are drawn kind of in a giant arc and quick motion.  The lines on the paper will be more of a hint, "try to go this direction". The lines on the quilt fabric will not be identical to these, but they will be close.
Wax layer 2, then dye layer 2:
Perhaps, not surprisingly, it requires a certain level of concentration to put the correct dye in the correct place, and not spill any.  This time, I got lucky, all went to plan!

I repeated the process of boiling out the wax again, and then drawing layer 3 of the last round of lines, re-pin to the frame again.  Here is the wax for layer 3:
Layer 3 only has 2 new lines, but it looks even more complicated while working. One more wax boil out and the quilt top is complete.  Next up, the quilting.  I decided to outline each dyed line in a matching thread color, and then add vertical lines from top to bottom of the quilt.  The actual color part of the quilt will not be quilted at all, so will become a bit puffy in texture.  Here is the beginning of the work of tucking in the starting and stopping points of every line of thread that I sewed.  This level of detail makes a big difference in the overall look of the quilt; and though it takes a LOT more time and effort, it is worth it!
Long shadows at the end of the day, here is a close up of the back.
And though it may look difficult to quilt so many straight and evenly spaced lines, there are tools to help! My favorite is 1/4 inch masking tape.
A few more closeups of the front after the quilting is completed and all the threads have been tucked in:

I sincerely hope you like this one! And that it speaks to you.  Play is important. Play more! Yes!