Wednesday, 28 March 2012

WIP Wednesday

Just a few quilting projects on the go this week. My yellow and gray quilt came back from being quilted, so I am adding the binding today.
Sunshine & Clouds - FOR SALE

These two quilted table runners are also at the binding stage. The cherry runner is free-motion machine quilted with a leaf motif that I wanted to practice. It's not perfect, but I think that leaves in nature are not always perfectly formed either, so it just adds to the character of the finished piece. I added a little folded accent strip just inside the quilt binding and think it really pops!
Fresh Cherries - FOR SALE

Chevrons & Roses - FOR SALE

The lovely zig zag chevron quilt was made from a beautiful floral fabric I've had for quite some time. When I bought it, I was reminded of my Oma (grandmother) who passed away when I was quite young, but she wore dresses with these big floral prints. I found 2 fat quarters of it in my fabric stash, so this quilted table runner is a bit larger than some of the others I've made recently.

Do you buy fabric or decor items because of pleasant memories they bring back?


Monday, 26 March 2012

How To Buy A Quilt - Part Four: Finishes

Finishing touches are the little details that will determine is your quilt is made to last through many washings or if it is made to be a delicate treasured keepsake. Some quilts are finished with a scalloped edge, but most are finished with a straight edge. Corners should be square and edges should lay flat, not wavy.
Scalloped edge sampler quilt by Magpie Quilts
 Quilts can be finished pillow-top style which gives the least durable edge, but is relatively easy to do and works just fine for quilted table runners or potholders or items that won't get a lot of wear along the edges or for an odd-shaped quilt that would be difficult to finish another way. This technique is done before quilting by layering the batting with the backing on top, right side up, and the quilt top right side down on top of the backing. These layers are stitched all the way around the outside of the quilt, leaving an opening to turn the quilt right side out. After the quilt is turned, the opening is stitched closed, either by hand or by machine.
Pillow turned table topper by Magpie Quilts
 The most common way of finishing the edge of the quilt is with binding. Some quilts are finished with just a single fold binding, but double fold binding is more durable. There are 2 methods of applying binding. The first is to sew the binding to the front and to hand-sew the binding to the back, leaving no visible stitching to see how the binding was attached.
Hand-stitching binding by Whip Up
 The second is to sew the binding to the back of the quilt, turn it over to the front and machine stitch it down with either a straight stitch or a decorative stitch. This is definitely less time intensive than the first method, but both are equally durable.
Machine stitched binding by Red Pepper Quilts
 And finally, your quilt should come with a label that has, at minimum, the quiltmaker's name, the date the quilt was made and where it was made.

 I hope that this little series is helpful as you look for and purchase quilts. If you have any questions that I didn't answer, please leave a comment!


Wednesday, 21 March 2012

WIP Wednesday

This is what's on my sewing table this week:
Dr. Seuss fabrics
 One of the most viewed items on my blog and in my Etsy shop has been my Dr. Seuss quilt. I made two late last fall and both were sold quickly. I love piecing these baby quilts as I think about the Dr. Seuss stories that I read to my kids when they were little. Some of my favourite times with them were reading stories and now I get to read to my grandkids!
Cutting up Thing One and Thing Two!
I've cut up enough fabric to make two more along with a couple other projects. This is what the finished baby quilt will look like:
2011 version of Dr. Seuss baby quilt
 After cutting up Dr. Seuss, I took a quick trip to the mail box at the end of the road and found all kinds of quilting goodies!  I've been waiting since the beginning of February for this special fabric to make my mini quilt for my swap partner. The theme for Feb/Mar swap of the MiniQT group on Flickr was movies. Sneak peeks are just beginning to be posted. The popcorn fabric was bought locally. Can you guess what movie my swap partner loves? I would love to show you the whole quilt, but that will have to wait until this mini-quilt makes it to its new owner!

Movie Themed Mini Quilt
Quiltsy WiP What are you working on today? Do you participate in swaps? Challenges?


Monday, 19 March 2012

How To Buy a Quilt - Part Three: Quilting the Quilt

What separates a quilt from a blanket is the process of quilting. Quilts are generally 3 layers: a top layer, a layer of batting (or wadding), and a backing. Quilting is the process that holds the layers together. Some quilts will only have two layers if the quilter decides to combine the backing & batting by a single layer of fleece or other material.
Hand-tied blanket by Little Bug Crochet
Quilters have for years done most of their quilting by hand. Utility quilts and simple primitive quilts were and are often just tied. Spaced evenly or randomly over the quilt, tying is simply done by taking a single stitch through all the layers of a quilt, bringing the ends up to one side and then tying with a square knot or a surgeon's knot.
Hand-quilted log cabin by Uniquely Nancy
Hand-quilting is an art form in itself and many traditional quilters believe that this is the only way a quilt should be finished. It is a time-consuming task and expect to pay for that time! Many modern quilters are returning to the hand-quilting roots of the past by using crochet cotton or embroidery thread to embellish their modern linear designs. You will see so called "hand-quilted" quilts in box stores and if you look closely at the stitching, the stitches will be around 4-8 stitches per inch and may or may not be even throughout the entire quilt. A good hand quilter will stitch 8-14 stitches per inch (or better) and the stitches will be even through the whole quilt as well as from the front to the back. If you are buying a quilt on-line, be sure to ask for a detail photograph of any hand-quilting, preferably with a ruler in the picture so you can see the quality and fineness of the stitching. That, along with the complexity of the quilting design will determine the value of a hand-quilted quilt.
New York Beauty by Quiltlover
Machine quilting can either be done on a regular sewing machine (sometimes called a "domestic" machine) or on some type of a long-arm quilting machine. On a regular domestic machine, a quilt will be quilted with straight lines, using a walking foot, or free-motion, using a free-motion or darning foot. A walking foot will ensure that all layers of a quilt are fed through the sewing machine at an even rate and you will be able to see this on the finished quilt as all quilting seams will be straight, with no puckers at the intersections of quilting lines.
Pretty Pink Mini Quilt by Magpie Quilts
Free-motion quilting may follow a pattern or may be all-over meandering patterns. Again, the sign of good free-motion quilting is no puckers in the front or back of the quilt. Smaller quilts are easily handled within the confines of a regular domestic machine and larger quilts are considerably more difficult to maneuver because of their bulk. For any machine quilting, be it straight stitching or free-motion stitching, good quilting involves even, regular stitches and no puckers in the quilt layers.

Long-arm quilting machines are becoming more commonplace as time goes on. Many quilters enjoy the design and piecing together of quilts, but for a variety of reasons will have their quilt tops quilted on a long-arm machine. These machines look like a cross between the large quilting frames of the past and a sewing machine with a deep throat. Quilts with an all-over pattern done via computer aided sewing are the least time intensive, followed by computer aided custom quilting. This is done by chosing a computerized design and limiting it to certain areas on a quilt, requiring set-up for each area before stitching.
Heirloom Whole cloth Quilt by Quiltlover
Custom long-arm quilting can also be done with an all-over pattern or it can be done custom. This type of long-arm quilting is done with the operator actually guiding the machine in the patterns used to quilt the layers together, resulting in some beautiful, artistic quilts.

Next time - Quilt Finishes
I hope you are enjoying this series! Please add a comment if I've missed anything or if you're liking this little blog mini-series!


Friday, 16 March 2012

Luggage Tags gone bad

Always on the look out for small projects that can be made up quickly for gifts, I found this pattern for luggage tags from Linda Hubbard and Gail Mitchell from Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. I picked out fabrics from what I had on hand, found some heavy duty interfacing and sat down to sew one for a friend.

Disclaimer - the pattern linked to is perfectly fine. The problems that occurred are because of my own stupidity!

I thought I read all the instructions carefully and cut out the pieces I needed. I pressed and stitched and stitched and pressed and here's my first tag I made:

Something was not quite right! The tag looked too narrow! I re-read the instructions and realized I had the wrong seam allowances. Then I had a brilliant idea that I could sew the plastic on BEFORE sewing everything together, thinking that the stitching wouldn't show on the backside if I did that.

The stitching didn't show, but it was extremely difficult to turn right side out, and when I did get it turned, the plastic was all crinkled and messy. It was then I realized that I couldn't even press the tag flat properly without melting the plastic and making a mess of my iron and ironing board. So, attempt #2 - FAIL! Even with all that, it looked like it could be a usable luggage tag for my own luggage, so I finished as best I could.

And then, as I put my business card into the plastic sleeve, I realized I messed up AGAIN! The sleeve is sewn around 3 sides with an opening to slide an info card in. When my luggage tag is on my luggage, the card will just fall out as the opening is on the wrong end of the tag!

I was all out of my chosen fabric and still didn't have a usable luggage tag! This project will need a do-over at another time when I am in a better frame of mind!

Have you ever made a project that just wouldn't turn out? Did you make it work? Or just start over?


Monday, 12 March 2012

How To Buy a Quilt - Part Two: Applique & Embellishment

When looking at quilts, there are a few variations and combinations of techniques that will make a quilt more or less labour intensive. A whole cloth quilt will be made up of one fabric, usually a solid white and the only design detail will be the quilting that is done to make up the pattern. Whole cloth quilts may be quilted by hand or by machine. A pieced quilt will be sewn by machine, or occasionally by hand with the pattern coming through with the fabrics chosen.
Wholecloth quilt by Lashonne Abel Designs
Another technique often used on quilts is applique. This is how Wikipedia describes applique:

In its broadest sense, an appliqué is a smaller ornament or device applied to another surface. An appliqué is usually one piece. In the context of ceramics, for example, an appliqué is a separate piece of clay added to the primary work, generally for the purpose of decoration. The term is borrowed from French and, in this context, means "applied" or "thing that has been applied."

 Applique can be very simple, as seen in primitive style quilts, or very elaborate as seen in Baltimore Album quilts.
Apple Tree Folk Art by Blueberry Hill Farm
Baltimore Album by nhquiltarts
And if that isn't enough, there are many ways to apply the applique shape onto the surface of a quilt. There is hand-applique, where each piece is stitched by hand, piece by piece to the quilt top. There is machine applique, where a decorative sewing machine stitch (or even just a straight stitch) holds the applique piece to the quilt surface. And then there is fused applique, where the fabric is backed with a special fusible product and is ironed to the quilt surface. Fused applique can be left as is for a quilted wall-hanging or piece that is not going to be washed often, or it can be made more durable by the addition of machine stitching or hand stitching.
Fused applique with embroidered details
 Some quilts will also feature different embellishments such as adding beads, embroidery or other surface decoration. Depending on the size of the quilt and the type and detail of such embellishments, cost of such decorated quilts can go up substantially from a plain, simple quilt.

Next time: Quilting the Quilt

(Note: quilts from others are credited as shown, photos without credit are my own.)

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Quilted Table Runners

I love this patchwork pattern for quilted table runners. It works up quickly, goes great with almost every fabric and fits all kinds of home decors! I will be introducing some new colour schemes in the next few weeks - think bright turquoise and gray; orange and green; yellow and gray! What colours do you have in your house that you would like to see in a table runner?

Let me know which one is your fav! (Check out all quilted table runners for sale at Magpie Quilts!)

Thursday, 8 March 2012

What's on my Design Wall?

Just a quick update on the custom wedding quilt. I love, love, love how this is going together!

And this lovely table runner is in Singapore! I love how Etsy makes it easy to sell online all over the world!


Monday, 5 March 2012

How To Buy A Quilt - Part One: Design

Selling quilts online has been an education for me. Quilts are such a tactile item, that's it's difficult to describe design details or to convey the texture and feel of the quilt. In discussions on how to effectively sell quilts and what price to list them at, it becomes readily apparent that unless you are a quilter, it is difficult to know why one quilt is listed at a much lower price compared to another quilt that is listed at a higher price point.

The first consideration when looking at a quilt is the design. Generally, more pieces = more expensive. As the pieces of fabric in a quilt get smaller, there is more sewing involved, therefore more labour intensive. The first quilt below would be an easier quilt to piece and the second involves more piecing because the four star blocks have many pieces of fabric to be sewn together.
less fabric pieces
more fabric pieces
In designing and making a quilt, there are also different shapes that range from easy to very difficult to piece. The simplest quilt would be one made from a pre-printed panel that involves no piecing, just quilting and finishing. Moving up the difficulty scale is patterns consisting mainly of squares and rectangles. Then add a few triangles to increase the difficulty and finally, curved seams.
Simple squares
Triangles and diamonds
Curved pattern
Some quilts will be made from traditional patterns and blocks, while others will be original designs and feature complex piecing. If you are having a hard time picking out shapes and forms, you are probably looking at something original and can expect it to be priced accordingly. Art quilts are as individual to the artist as any art form and many of these quilts are one of or limited editions.

So, without getting long-winded, that's the basics on quilt design and level of difficulty. There are many variations within each category and always the quilts that don't fall into any category, so look carefully at the quilts you are thinking of purchasing and learn to recognize and compare levels of difficulty.

Next time - applique quilts


Friday, 2 March 2012

Small Packages!

I've been published! A few months ago, I submitted an article to the Canadian Quilter magazine for consideration for their spring issue. Small packages was the theme for this issue and with the online swaps I've been doing, I thought I had plenty of material for an article.

Canadian Quilter is sent out to members of the Canadian Quilters Association/Association canadienne de la courtepointe, but if you're not a member, you can order an issue here on their website. It's the Spring 2012 issue!