Sunday, November 30, 2008

First Day of Advent

I hope everyone had a wonderfully blessed Thanksgiving. Mine was fabulous, with good friends and much sewing. I believe this long weekend was a meaningful way to begin Advent, a season of preparation before Christmas.

Let's look at the list I wrote on Wednesday night:

1. Finish the lap quilt for my Prayer Sister, Maria - done! I'll post a photo later in the week; the weather today simply did not cooperate with picture-taking.
2. Finish a project I am secretly doing as a gift - done! But I can't post a photo until after the giving of the gift.
3. Begin sewing the blocks for Tammy's Asian Strip Gift Quilt - begun! I actually sewed 20 of the 30 blocks. This quilt goes together fast.
4. Make a wool skirt. I'm in dire need of winter clothes - done! And I am very pleased.

The wool skirt is my tried-and-true skirt pattern, McCalls # 3341:

I've made this skirt from cotton, rayon, and wool. I've made the above-the-knee version and below-the-knee. It has no waistband, and is simply faced. If I don't line it, it takes me three hours to make it, from the cutting out stage to the hem. As I was making the above-the-knee version from wool I got from Gorgeous Fabrics, I lined it in a luxurious silk charmuese I got from Fashion Fabrics Club.

I line all my wool skirts in silk - it feels luscious, and if you get the silk on sale, it really doesn't cost much more than quality lining. And I believe that is the real advantage of sewing your own clothes; you can make it in a way that you really can't find in ready-to-wear. How much would you have to pay for a skirt lined in real silk? Too much.

The wool is a black and tan check:

I know it doesn't look like much on the hanger, but I love the way it fits and the silk makes it a joy to wear - it is warm, but the fabric breathes. Here are shots of the lining inside:

The lining is free-hanging; I've done it both ways, but today I was in the mood for a free hanging hem. One thing I did differently on this skirt was to cut out the skirt and lining using a rotary cutter rather than scissors. I can't say the rotary cutter was superior in any respect, but I suspect that my lack of experience makes me unqualified to really say. I was mostly paranoid that I would accidentally cut into the pattern. So then I ended up with portions where I didn't cut closely enough. My verdict is that I need more experience with the rotary cutter.

I finished the skirt seam allowances with my Bernina overlock stitch (stitch number 3), but I finished the lining seam allowances with pinking shears, which I normally avoid like the plague because nothing screams home made more than pinked seam allowances, but given that this was a lining and which no one will see, I went ahead.

I hope everyone had a productive Thanksgiving and I look forward to seeing your projects.

Parting shot: My Prayer Group! Maria, Jamie, me, Donna, and Judy. We took this today after Mass in honor of Advent. Not pictured is the Other Donna, as we call her.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Kim's No Fail Centered Zipper Tutorial

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday. I am thrilled with how much I am getting done and I am on track to finish the projects I had planned which I will show you at the end of the weekend, including the wool skirt I wanted to make. I took photos today as I was putting the in zipper. My repetoire is not extensive when it comes to zippers, but I have a method that consistently works, so I stick with it. I guarantee you that this method will ensure that your zipper will not move as you sew it in.

First, sew your seam, switching to a basting stitch in the area where the zipper will open. In this photo, I put a pin with a red head where the zipper ends so I know where to switch from the basting stitch to a regular length stitch:

After you stitch your seam, finish your seam allowances and press the seam open:
Next, I use Light Steam a Seam to secure the seam allowances:

This Light Steam a Seam is one quarter inch wide. Just cut a strip the length of your zipper and slip it in between the seam allowance and your skirt fabric like so:

Take the paper layer off and iron the Steam A Seam so that your seam allowances firmly adhere to your skirt. This will keep them from moving around as you sew your zipper:

Next, you want to place your zipper right side down on the seam. To adhere the zipper to my skirt, I use a glue stick. Yep, rather than fancy basting techniques, I just use a regular old glue stick. I used to use a fabric glue stick, but I discovered any glue stick will work:

Apply the glue to the right side of your zipper and then position the zipper, right side down, over your seam like so:

Now, and this is the crucial part, go get yourself a Diet Coke and cookie. (You know you want to.)

Would I steer you wrong on this? I would not.
While you are eating your refreshments, the glue will dry on your zipper, thus making it secure for sewing purposes. But before you actually sew it in, you are going to need 1/2 inch Scotch tape:

You are going to use the Scotch tape as your sewing guide for the great zipper sew-in. Flip your skirt over to the right side, and apply the Scotch tape over the seam allowance for the length of your zipper, like so:

Using the Scotch tape as your sewing guide will give you a nice quarter inch guide on either side of your seam as you sew in the zipper. Start at the top left like so:

Continue until you reach the bottom of your Scotch tape, and thus, your zipper, pivot, and sew across the seam:

Then, pivot again, and sew up the other side of the Scotch tape, completing the sewing of the zipper:

Remove the tape and your basting stitches, and you are done!

I know this seems like a lot of steps, but once you learn it, it goes quickly, and you know your zipper will not move during the all so crucial sew-in.
Parting Shot: VickiW and I met at Joyce's today for her fat quarter frenzy sale (which is still going on tomorrow if you are interested!) and a lot of stuff was purchased. I actually bought more than she did, and that is unusual. So much so, we had to have lunch afterwards, just to re-energize ourselves! Here's a photo of my haul:

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Work In Progress Wednesday

Happy Thanksgiving Eve! Four days off to eat and sew - what a delicious way to spend the rest of the week. I will not be going home to Cotton Creek, Alabama; I will instead stay here in Virginia. But I will be spending Thanksgiving day with friends who love me, so that is just as good.

I have a plan for the extended weekend - to work on projects already in progress, plus one new one. The Thanksgiving list includes:

  • Finish the lap quilt for my prayer sister, Maria

  • Finish a project I am secretly doing as a gift

  • Begin sewing the blocks for Tammy's Asian Strip Gift Quilt

  • Make a wool skirt. I'm in dire need of winter clothes.

May everyone have a safe and love filled Thanksgiving! And happy sewing to all.

Parting shot: My brother and me not far from Cotton Creek. The house is the old farmhouse my great-grandmother Daisy lived and died in and where she made all her quilts. I have great memories of this house from my childhood.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Strip Gift Quilt

The Strip Gift Quilt is done! And I am very happy with the result. Here you can see the quilting Susan Caldwell did at Quilting Around the Block:

Here is a close up:

As I have reported before, the concept of the Gift Quilt came from VickiW and Anne, who created a pattern that could be made from 20 fat quarters easily and with very little waste. I devised this version, consisting of strips for the blocks to make it even easier.

These photos show the double sized quilt (68 in x 82.5 in) and it can be made with 20 fat quarters and 1/2 yard (or so) of sashing fabric. The queen sized version (82.5 in x 97 in) can be made with 30 fat quarters. This is so easy and fun; it is a particularly good pattern to show off a collection of fabrics by a particular designer (the above quilt was made using Piece O'Cake fabrics).
Instructions: Cut from each fat quarter strips that are 15 inches in length of the following widths: 5 inches, 4 inches, 3 inches, 3 inches, 2 inches, and 4 inches. Set one of the 4 inch strip aside. (This four inch fabric will be used in your border.) Your remaining strips will look like this:

Cut all 20 of your fat quarters like this except one. That one will be cut the same, except that you need to cut your 4 inch border strip to be 16 inches long instead of 15 inches long. You will then cut the 4 inch border strip into 4 four inch squares which will be used as your corner blocks like this:

As you cut your strips, stack them in the same order by size. Then arrange the stacks in the order that you will sew them. I like to sew my strips in the blocks from left to right as such: 3 inch strip, 2 inch, 5 inch, 3 inch, 4 inch. So my stacks look like this:

Add Image

Now you want to shuffle the fabrics in each stack so that each block you sew will be different. Leave the first stack (which is on the far left) alone. For the second stack, take the top 4 fabrics and move them to the bottom of the stack. Like this:

For the third stack, move the top 7 fabrics to the bottom. For the fourth stack, move the top 11 fabrics to the bottom. For the fifth stack, move the top 14 fabrics to the bottom. So my stacks look like this:

Now sew your blocks together. Just take the top fabric from each stack and sew the strips together. Each block will be different. And each block should be a 15 inch square. If not, trim it to 15 inches or trim all of them to a slightly smaller size - whatever you prefer. Make sure your four inch border strips are the same length as your blocks.

With 20 fat quarters, you will end up with 20 blocks. Sew the blocks in 5 rows of 4 blocks each, alternating the stripes vertically and horizontally, like this:

Now cut 2 inch strips from your sashing fabric and add the sashing to the two sides of your quilt. Then join 5 of your 4 inch border fabrics together and sew them to the sashing on each side of your quilt, like so:

Now sew your sashing fabric to the top and bottom of your quilt. Next sew four of your 4 inch border fabrics together. Add a four inch piece of sashing to a corner square and sew the corner square to each end of the border. Do this for both the top and bottom. Like this:

And you are done! Quick, with very little fabric waste! (You will end up with one 4 inch border strip leftover.) I enjoyed this so much that I am going to make the queen sized version for my friend Tammy from Asian themed fabrics we bought at The Quilt Man today. For the queen sized version, you make it the same way, except you will need 30 fat quarters and you shuffle your fabrics thusly: in the second stack move the top 5 fabrics to the bottom, in the third stack move the top 11 fabrics to the bottom, in the fourth stack move the top 16 fabrics to the bottom, in the fifth stack move the top 22 fabrics to the bottom.

Tammy was amazed at the fabric selection and had a great time picking the 30 fat quarters for her quilt! It is always fun to introduce a non-sewer to the joys of fabric. She was inspired enough to go with me to my other favorite LQS, Quilting Adventures, and buy fabric to make pillowcases herself to coordinate with her new quilt. Tammy is going to learn to sew! The quilting angels are singing!

Parting shot: our haul from our fabric shopping today. Much fun was had by all!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Work In Progress Wednesday

It's a really good thing I made that binding this weekend; on Tuesday, Susan Caldwell of Quilting Around the Block called me to tell me my quilt was done. I can't remember the name of the pantograph she used to quilt it, but it was perfect with the Piece O'Cake fabric I used. As soon as I got it home, I started sewing on the binding, which I oh so convienently had on hand. Tonight I will start handstitching it to the back.

This weekend I hope to post instructions for this very easy and fast quilt. My version is based on a quilt pattern VickiW and Anne designed a few years ago. They dubbed it the "Gift Quilt" because the concept was to take 20 fat quarters (for a twin) or 30 fat quarters (for a queen) and quickly make a quilt with no unused fabric. I've made a couple of the "Gift Quilts" as a result, and always enjoyed it. Not long ago, I had an idea on how to make it even more easy and I sketched it out on a piece of paper (I'm no artist, trust) and emailed it to VickiW. She saw no flaw in my plan, so the quilt pictured above is the prototype. I'm calling it the "Strip Gift Quilt".
I'll show you a photo this weekend when I get a chance to photograph the whole quilt and I'll begin to post the instructions. I can't wait to make more of these.

Parting shot: It has turned cold here this week. Yesterday we had snow flurries, first time I have ever seen such in November. So here's a photo to remind us of warmer weather which I took at Anne's river house back around Labor Day during the whole Craft Week extravaganza:

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Weekend Wrap-Up

The weekend was a fun and productive one; my first order of business was to go visit The Quilt Man in Ashland, Virginia. The Quilt Man a/k/a Chris is known for his array of Asian themed fabrics. I have promised to make my friend, Tammy, a quilt and my idea for it includes using many Asian fabrics in rich colors that will make a lavish, sophisticated quilt. I've asked Tammy to help me pick out the fabrics (we'll be needing 30 fat quarters) next Saturday, but I wanted to do some reconnaissance work before I took her into a fabric shop and had her OCD mind completely blown. I'm happy to report that Chris' selection is awesome and I believe Tammy and I will have a wonderful time next Saturday pawing through his fabulous fabrics.

Next up, I made some boxer shorts for a friend of mine (I think he is getting them for Christmas) from a watery dolphin fabric. It is from the Simplicity pattern line. There is only one pattern piece; you cut two. You would think this would be a really simple garment to make, but no matter how many times I've done it, I have to study the instructions real closely just to make sure I get the fly done right. My topstitching isn't the best here; the blue water fabric just didn't want to take any marking at all, but I remembered that I was making underwear here, and men's underwear at that. Like he'd notice. Several things that I do differently from the directions: as soon as I cut the two pieces out, I hem the legs of the boxers. Easier to do it flat than when they are already in the round. Also, instead of snaps for the fly, I always put it in a buttonhole and then a button - it looks nicer and in my mind, it is easier.

Next, I made binding for a quilt I have out being machine quilted. Not very exciting. Making bias binding ranks right up there with cutting out a pattern or ironing your fabric. Necessary, but not thrilling. But I have found that if I make the binding while I'm waiting to get the quilt back from the machine quilter, I'm much more excited about sewing it onto the new quilt as soon as I get it. If I don't, then making and applying the binding seems like a really big hassle. Also, I like striped fabric for bias bindings - the stripes wind around the quilt when sewed on and it gives the whole quilt a little pop.

And I was able to make a few blocks for this simple lap top size quilt I'm piecing for one of my Prayer Sisters. I got the pattern last February at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Show. Really easy, I thought, a good pattern for something I could make quickly for a gift. And it is easy, so easy to the point that I keep losing interest, so the "easy" pattern ends up not going so fast for me. I guess I need a challenge to keep me interested.
And I got to see the new James Bond movie!! I enjoyed it immensely, but then I like my violence gratuitous, no realism for me, thank you very much. I don't know what all the critics are complaining about; Daniel Craig is one cool cat as James Bond.

And finally, the housework report: no housework done this weekend except one load of laundry that is still in the dryer, needing to be folded. I call that a successful weekend!

Parting Shot: when I went out for my walk today (and discovered the wind was much more brisk that I thought; gloves would not have been amiss!) I saw the other white squirrel. Of the two, this is the whiter one, and my mother named him Al on one of her visits. Surely this is a sign of good things to come.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Great-Grandmother's Quilt

Of course, the key to successful blogging is having decent photos of what you are talking about and the key to decent photos are photos taken in natural daylight. Flash really doesn't get the job done. But between the whole earth tilting on its axis so that it gets dark before I get home from work, and the fact that we have had non-stop rain for days, my photo ops have been few and far between. I woke up this morning excited because it was, indeed, daylight, and no water was coming down from the sky. But I had discounted wind. Wind is a problem when you are trying to photograph a quilt like this one right before the whole thing came tumbling down:

But I finally got a photo of this, my great-grandmother's quilt.

My great-grandmother was Daisy Snell Payne. (I love the name Daisy, don't you? It sounds so sturdy and honest and old fashioned.) I don't have a photo to show you, but I can tell you that she looked like a proper great-grandmother, full-figured with an impressive bosom upon which her favorite brooch rested. She wore glasses and had grey hair. She died during WWII, in 1944, I believe, of cancer, according to my father. He remembers her as an enthusiastic quilter, with a quilting rack suspended from ropes from the ceiling of one of the bedrooms in the old farmhouse. The rack would be lowered when her sewing bee came over to help quilt the quilts she had handpieced together.

My family has dozens and dozens of quilts pieced by her and quilted by her quilting bee. There are no labels on them, of course, but she was the mother of five boys and no girls, so we are pretty sure she did them all. I have several of them and this quilt is one of them. I was inspired in 2005 to re-create this quilt. I'm not certain why, as I had only made one other quilt in my life. I had no pattern, no experience in dealing with triangles, and no clue how to do a 'Y' seam. I don't know what I was thinking. I think my great-grandmother, whom I never met, must have been giving me some quilting guidance as I made it.

Daisy's quilt is made from feedsack fabrics except for the pink borders and setting triangles. It is all handpieced. In addition, her feedsack strips and her muslin strips in her blocks are not uniform. The feedsack strips are slightly narrower, probably because she had more of the cheap muslin laying around and in her farmhouse even the feedsack fabric was a precious commodity. Also, on all of her quilts, she never made a separate binding, she simply folded over the muslin backing from back to front and created a straight grain "binding".

You can see from these photos that these quilts were meant to be used, to keep her family of five boys warm during cold Alabama nights. I know there was no central heating in the house - only fireplaces. My family didn't get gas heaters in the house until after the war. You can also see where mice must have "borrowed" from the quilt to make their own nests warm.

When I made my version, I decided to make my muslin strips and feedsack reproduction fabrics the same width. I actually just stripped pieced the fabrics (my fabric strips were cut 2 1/2 inches wide) and then cut 60 degree triangles. Doing it this way creates the triangles with the muslin centers, but it also creates "negative" triangles. I still have those left over and my plan was to make a throw-sized quilt out of them, but I still haven't managed to do anything with them yet.

I sewed three triangles together, starting one quarter inch from the large end of the triangles (so I could later sew the 'Y' seam when I joined the blocks together). Then I would sew three more together, and then join the two halves, again, starting and stopping one quarter inch from the large end of the triangles. When it came time to join the blocks together, I read up on 'Y' seams and then just plunged in. Some turned out great like this one. Some were not as good. But I decided not to worry over it; Daisy's quilts weren't perfect either.

Good 'Y' seam here:
Not so good here:

As you can see, Daisy quilted her version with mostly an outline quilting stitch. I had mine professionally quilted since my first quilt taught me that I do not like machine quilting (and I don't do much of anything by hand, much less quilting). Carol Lyon from the Lyon Den Quilting quilted this for me and she did a really great job, especially since I was a new quilter, and let's just say not everything was perfectly square. She is a good person.

My version did include a separate bias binding sewed on after the quilting was done, and I used the same fabric for both the borders and setting triangles. I was able to find a similar pink fabric to match the original Daisy had used.

I would have to say this was the most satisfying project I have ever done. (I still believe Daisy must have been helping me the whole way!) My version of Daisy's quilt is the one that drapes my bed, and the quilt I travel with. I'm unsure of the name of this block; the closest I have been able to identify is "Spider Web", but usually spider web blocks are scrappier, using both the positive and negative triangles. If anyone out there has any idea of what else this block might be called, please let me know.

Parting shot: a white squirrel. We have two white squirrels that live in my neighborhood. Any day I see one of them, I consider it to be a good omen and guarantee that I will have a good day: