Karen writes about life as a Quiltmaker in Austin, Texas; surviving in an empty nest, marriage, cooking, gardening and (did I say?) Quilting...

Friday, February 16, 2007

Finished at Last

Ce finis! I am done...

This is my first completely finished large HAND quilted project . The top is one I purchased at Quilt Festival in Houston quite a few years ago. I bought it because a. it was really lovely and bed sized, and b. because I wanted to learn hand quilting and thought that if I bought an "old top" I wouldn't be heartbroken if it didn't turn out well...

At the time, I had the urge to make a quilt for my mom's 50Th wedding anniversary - that was at that time, still several years away. I wisely (I use that term loosely) thought that I could learn hand quilting faster if I had something BIG to practice on.

There was a LOT to learn. One of the first things I learned was how difficult it is to quilt something that has been poorly pieced. From a distance, the quilt looks so very flat - doesn't it! But there wasn't a "straight" seam on the top! Hand pieced, it was all there, undamaged, and made of a very nice quilt able Nile green cotton - probably a 1930's - 1950's fabric. But the quilter either was a beginner at piecing, or perhaps visually challenged. The curved piecing was so poorly done that many of the circular "hearts" were what is commonly known as "b" cups... they were not put together properly and didn't lay flat... each one had a bit of a "cup" to it.

I would just "quilt it out" as I had read about that in some older quilting books. Seam allowances also did not lay flat or in similar positions from block to block. Since many were stitched down the wrong way, they could not be pressed to a good position either.
And, the worst decision on my part was to "stitch in the ditch" - much easier in my mind, since no marking would be required. THIS meant that I would be stitching (at least half the time or more) THROUGH the 6 layers of top//seam allowances/batting/and backing.
The process was also going to serve as my first use of my husband's family quilt frame - which his mother left me when she died several years earlier - as there were no quilters in her family.
So, Unfortunately I didn't keep a record of when I purchased this top, and started quilting on it probably in about 1999 or so... It stayed in the frame almost 7 or 8 months, and then I pulled it, with about 3/4 done, and worked on it intermittently over the years... learning very quickly how mistaken I was at many of my original assumptions. A look at the quilt quickly shows my improvement over time from rough and crooked stitches to fairly consistent ones - though the difficulty of stitching through so many layers will never make this an award winner.
But, it is done, and IS now a lovely old quilt in the "Hearts and Gizzards" pattern, one of my favorites. Also known as "Dutch Windmill"... probably because that is a much more polite term! And Nile Green, so popular in the 30's, is just such a calming color. I fell in love with this top the moment I saw it. It will go out on my bed for use in the spring, and will give me something really spectacular to show off at our guild's next show and tell.
Here's a closeup of the work, that shows a relatively flat area, check out the wrinkles round the top right "heart" and look at how inconsistent the curved pieces are!!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Ta Da!

Today I finished my FEBRUARY Charity Quilts, resulting in a SECOND month of quilts COMPLETED.

TA DA indeed!

My resolution for this year to do one small (45" x 45") quilt each month for the Austin Area Quilt Guild "Baby Bundle" project is 2 quilts closer to completion.

What great satisfaction is gained when one puts that last stitch into a quilt!

This quilt also came from the "Sew One and You're Done" book by Evelyn Sloppy. (Yes - that's her real name... the book does not elaborate!). The idea is to take classic single blocks, that normally would be done in a 12" inch size, and blow them up to a size that makes them a single quilt. It's a great way to try a quilt block design to see if you might like to do it in a small size. Though after working this large, it might seem to be a miniature.

These big quilts have few pieces, all of simple design (square, triangle, etc.), with no fancy work, so they go together well. This quilt used up a small amount of flannel that I had in pastels. The back is pieced of the remaining pieces, so it's almost two quilts in one...

I also was able to make use of the wonderful training in machine quilting I received from Sue Nickles at her workshop here on Saturday.

And finally, this was my first use of "Big Red" my 1927 vintage industrial Singer model 31-15 in her new table.
Last week we purchased an old 1944 Singer 143 - another large commercial machine - this one with table, motor and all the "fixins". I'll probably sell the 143, as it is a REALLY heavy duty machine - for canvas, leather, upholstery, etc.... a constant oiled machine! And the traditional clutched motor will also probably end up on eBay. The 31-15 is still powered in this picture by the old PFaff 130/Weber motor (not seen - but mounted behind the machine. NOTE that fabulous Hard Rock Maple Table! It's almost 1-1/2 inch thick... like butcher block. I wish I'd taken a picture of it in original condition - it was almost black with grease and wear. DH sanded it down and I will finish it to give me a nice slippery surface for quilting. Next, I'll be in the market for a new SERVO type motor - no clutch - unlink traditional commercial sewing machine motors which run constantly, the servo motor only runs when you need it. I'll try and get a picture of the complete set up when it's finished.
Yes, this is the same quilt with machine quilting underway... note how I safety pin baste for machine quilting. When I hand quilt, I use thread basting. The problem with thread basting a machine quilt is that the quilting foot get's caught up in the threads, and you don't want to sew over the threads anyway, as it will make it harder to remove them. Stopping to trim them away from the sewing path serves to interrupt my "rhythm" when quilting, especially when doing free motion work. With pin basting, I can pin "around" my quilt marking, limiting the amount of interruption to the work as I sew!
QUILTER's TIP of the DAY: You can use a size E or zero (0) crochet hook to open or close safety pins when pin basting your quilt. Saves your fingers which will get raw if you try pinning a large (or even a small) quilt. You can also buy a tool, called a "Quick Clip" - for a little more than what you'd pay for a Crochet hook! I have a very old crochet hook that has a wooden handle, that is REALLY comfortable. I can do a full sized quilt in just a couple of hours (ugh - this is one of quiltings most boring, un-wanted jobs!).