Monday, June 6, 2016

For Little-What's-His-Name and answers to a reader's questions

On Saturday evening I took the last stitches in the baby quilt I made for a friend and her baby who is expected on June 21.  I call the quilt "Counting on Little-What's-His-Name". When the baby is born and they've settled on a name I'll finish the label and replace "Little-What's-His-Name" with the actual name! The quilt was delivered to the Mom-to-be yesterday and she was delighted with it!

I don't normally work from patterns but this quilt was just so darned cute and so much fun to make that I've now made it twice (19 years apart)! The pattern comes from a book by Chuck Nohara. It is an old book that is out-of-print. It is loaded with great ideas and designs. If you come across a copy snap it up. There are many quilts in the book as well as lovely gift items for everyone in the family!

I hand quilted Little-What's-His-Name's quilt; I've got the sore finger joints to prove it! In a previous post I wrote about a couple of nifty tools, one of which I used to help with the marking of the quilt. The tool was a Hera Marker. It scores (or creases) the fabric thereby creating a quilting line. It worked like a charm and was perfect for all the straight line quilting in the sashing. A reader asked what quilting thread I used, how I keep the stitches even and any other tips that might help so here I go!

Thread Used - I used YLI hand quilting thread. I like it because it doesn't twist and tangle so I can work with a longer length. 

Needle Used - As for the needle I used a Roxanne applique needle which is longer and thicker than a between which I find very hard on my fingers. The needles are in the little pouch in the upper left corner of this picture.

For me a bigger, thicker needle tends not to flex as much and I find it easier to get consistent stitches. Don't feel that you have to use a particular needle for a particular task. Experiment with different needles until you find the one that is comfortable in your hand and that allows you to achieve the desired result.

Even Stitches - For this quilt I am did a bigger stitch. To keep the stitches as even as possible I took only two or three stitches at a time. I'm not sure how people count stitches but what I count are those that show on top so if I'm taking two stitches that means two stitches show on the front of the quilt but some quilters would consider that four stitches since there are two on top and two on the back. I find it is easier to gauge the size of the stitches if there are fewer on the needle; I can compare what I have on the needle to what I've already done.

Hoop or Frame? - I use neither! I've tried a frame and didn't like being tied to it plus in my little house I have no space for a frame. I've tried working with a hoop and it is just plain uncomfortable plus it is hard to use a hoop when you pin baste. So I dispensed with the hoop. I pin baste my quilt so that everything is tight, smooth and flat. If it isn't basted tight, smooth and flat it won't quilt tight, smooth and flat. I start from the middle out and anchor all the major seam lines, just as I would if I were machine quilting. Once this is done I can quilt the border, trim the excess fabric and bind the quilt. In doing it this way the excess fabric is removed making the quilt lighter, smaller and easier to manage. Once the quilt is bound I go back and fill in the quilting. It works for me and I get excellent results.

I hope this was helpful. Until I post again happy sewing!

Karen H

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Nifty tools for quilting

I'm busy hand quilting the baby quilt for my friend. I'm using the same method I use when machine quilting which is that I first quilt the major seam lines where the blocks abut. Once the centre is stabilized in this way I can quilt the border and bind the quilt. This reduces the bulk of the excess batting and backing and makes quilting the centre of the quilt much easier. You can read a more detailed description of my method here.

In the process of hand quilting there are two tools which I've been using and I thought I would write about them today. The first is the Clover Soft Touch Thread Pick and the second is a Hera Marker.

I've had a Hera Marker in my tool box for more than twenty years and have used it for pin tucks and such but never thought about using it to mark a quilt until I read about it in Hilda's blog, Every Stitch. She has written about using a Hera Marker to mark straight lines on light coloured fabrics. The beauty of the Hera Marker is that it scores the fabric to create a visible line on the fabric but there is nothing to wash out.

Hera Marker

It is simple to use.

I had quilted the triangles in the border along the edge of the seam allowance so I didn't need to mark but I wanted to echo those lines of quilting with straight lines.

I used my Hera Marker and a small Omnigrid ruler. I lined 1/4" mark on the ruler on the quilted lines and then scored the fabric with my Hera Marker. I made sure that I had my quilt on a hard surface and that it was smooth and flat. I scored the lines slowly and carefully. I find that if you go too fast it can create little pleats in the fabric which will skew the line.

I did this on each triangle along the length of the border and then hand quilted. It is the perfect tool for marking straight quilt lines. 

The second tool that has come in handy is the Clover Soft Touch Thread Pick.  I was working away on the baby quilt and discovered a dark thread trapped between the top and batting. I stuck out like a sore thumb so I used my Soft Touch Thread Pick to remove it.This tool comes with a protective sheath which you remove in order to use it.

Clover Soft Touch Thread Pick

At the tip is a very tiny crochet hook.

Here you can see a trapped dark thread.

Slide the tip of the hook through the quilt top and hook the offending thread.

Carefully draw out the hook through the point of entry and the thread will come along with the hook.

Time for me to get back to work on this little quilt!

Until I post again, happy sewing!
Karen H

Saturday, May 28, 2016

It's baby time

A friend is expecting her first baby in a few weeks. Although I've know the baby is coming for many months, I've postponed making the quilt until it was crunch time. I'm not really a baby quilt kind of person so I've been casting about for an idea. In the mid-1990s I found a patchwork book in a clearance bin. It was jam packed with ideas and so I bought the book. The projects inside the book are the designs of Chuck Nohara and the instructions were translated from Japanese.

I used one of the patterns in the book to make a quilt for a friend who was expecting her first child in 1997 and really enjoyed making the quilt although I modified the pattern by eliminating the pieced border and instead used a solid subtle neutral plaid for the border. This time I decided I would piece the border (more about that in a moment).

The instructions for making the quilt are "scant". In fact they fit on a single page! They are accurate but you need to be an experience quilt maker to understand them,

The quilt is made up of 20 blocks twelve of which are numbers 0 to 9 (some of the numbers are duplicated) and eight of the blocks are stylized birds. I decided to make the number blocks without repeats so there were ten of them and I made ten bird blocks.

I embroidered the plumes on top of the bird's head and topped each one with a colonial knot. The eyes were cut from a dotted fabric and appliqued to the face. I used a marker to make the dark pupil in the eye.

The feet were outlined with a stem stitch. I though they were dull and didn't stand out enough so I used a Sakura Pigma pen to add some shading to the legs.

The blocks were sewn together with sashing and cornerstones in a soft grey-green print. I made the pieced triangle borders and added the side borders to the quilt. I stepped back to have a look and realized that the border on the right was attached the wrong way! Argh. I little reverse sewing (i.e. ripping out) and it was ready to be reattached.

Much better, don't you agree?

The last step was to make the corner patchwork units and attach them to the top and bottom borders. TA DUM! The finished quilt top. It measures 44" x 54".

I wasted no tine in making the quilt sandwich and pin basting it. This one will be hand quilted with a larger stitch. I think it will make for a nice soft baby quilt. There is a baby shower next weekend and my goal is to have it finished in time for the party. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Meanwhile Jinx has found himself an nice place to sleep out in the solarium ..... he is curled up in a flower pot with a Mandevilla vine! Silly little boy!

Time to get back to hand quilting. Until I post again, happy sewing!

Karen H

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Empire Quilt - top and bottom rows

Today I have the top and bottom rows of The Empire Quilt to share with you. As you can see the four applique bird blocks are used in the corners. They were reverse appliqued to a white background to set them off. I chose to use the owl and the kingfishers for the top row because they are my favourite bird blocks.

I used the remaining two bird blocks in the bottom corners. When I have a block that I really like I either place it closer to the centre or at the top of the quilt because I find that these are the places where my eyes are naturally drawn.

These rows will be added to the centre panel. I just love all of these hexagon blocks and can't wait to get started on another quilt that is a variation on this hexagon quilt. It will allow me to use up the leftover solid green and green print.,

The quilt will have a border of the solid green fabric to frame the whole thing and to pull it all together. I had hoped to have the border on it by now but the sewing room is still partially packed up from the kitchen and bathroom renovations.

Until I post again, happy sewing!

Karen H

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The final three blocks for The Empire Quilt

Today I'm sharing the final three blocks that will make up my hexagon quilt that I call The Empire Quilt. There will of course be some filler bits to fill the gabs but they don't involve much in the way of sewing. Without further ado here is the first block.

The star in the centre is English paper pieced and then simply appliqued to a background. I like to repeat some fabrics in blocks to give a quilt a more unified look. The fabric in the centre of the star was used for the broderie perse in some of the bird blocks.

The leafy fabric was used in the kingfisher block below. I added the leaf at the top, the leaf below the branch and the blue flowers at the left end of the branch. They all come from the same piece of fabric.

They were also used in this bird block. I tried to select background fabrics that were similar to the background in the floral print so that the broderie perse applique would blend in.

Here's a close-up of the broderie perse. For a more detailed explanation of what I did you can read this post.

Right, back to the blocks I am sharing today. I also made this eight point star block. I English paper pieced the eight point star made of diamonds and then appliqued it to the background. The print I used is quite large and I've struggled with what to do with it. It has been in my stash for many years. I finally decided to turn it into what I call a sacrificial yard of fabric. I cut into it to make this star and have decided that the entire yard will be used for fussy cutting. It will eventually look like a slice of Swiss cheese but that's okay because it will be used to make beautiful things. The first cut is always the hardest but now that it has been done it will be much easier to cut it up! I really love the look and feel of this block.

The last block is an applique block that features an owl and again I used my floral print to do some broderie perse applique. I chose a background that worked relatively well with the background on the floral print so that the broderie perse just blends in nicely. The pieces for the owl and branch are relatively large and very easy to applique. The talons were embroidered with a chain stitch. I figure if something is too small for my fingers to applique I'll just embroider it!

This is one of my favourite blocks in the quilt. I like it so much that it is inspiration for another quilt that I plan to make. It will be a variation on The Empire Quilt. I've sketched it up and will eventually start working on it. For now it is just on the drawing board but when I get started you know I will share it with you!

That's it for today. Until I post again, happy sewing!
Karen H

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Small quilts at the auction

I'm back and thank you to everyone for the lovely emails I received. All is well but with the upheaval of renovations I kind of lost my blogging mojo. The renovations are for the most part complete. There are a few small jobs left but they won't require rearranging or packing up. The big job now is removing all the dust from the renovations. I clean it up and the next day it reappears! Oh well, I have a lovely new kitchen and bathroom.

My Guild has does a fundraiser every two or three years. Members make small quilts which are then auctioned off and the proceeds are donated to a local organization. This time we chose 416 Community Support for Women.  416 is a warm and welcoming place located in downtown Toronto. The staff provide a wide variety of programs and services to women who are dealing with mental health issues, addictions and social isolation. Several years ago I visited the centre; the place radiated warmth, caring and respect for all who entered through the doors. This organization gets no government funding and so relies on events such as our Silent Quilt Auction and donations from the general public to fund activities and services.

My Mom (Anne H) made three pieces for the auction. The first she called "Spring 2016". She dug into her stash of hexagons to make the small quilt. She tells me that the tall stalks are hollyhocks and you can see that she added a variety of embroidery stitches to "jazz them up". I don't know what the hexagon rosettes on the fence are supposed to be other than pretty! The centre of each is embellished with French knots. I machine quilted it for her and then she bound it with a facing.

The second piece was an orphan block made by a guild member in 2005. It was hand appliqued and machine pieced.  It was machine quilted and bound with a facing. Mom called this one "My Little Chickadees".

The third piece is an African themed quilt. Mom called this one "I hope I'm not late!". I love the little baby in the sling. This small quilt is machine quilted and once again finished with a facing. She really likes the effect of a facing because it she thinks it makes the quilt look like a page torn from a magazine.

There are lots of tutorials on finishing quilts with a facing but a really good one is available at Terry Aske Art Quilt Studio. If you are interested you will find it here. It included an updated method of reducing the bulk of the quilt at the corners.

I know you are all itching to see more of The Empire Quilt which will be my next Quilt Along design so I am sharing the middle section with the sides attached. I sure hope you like where I'm going with this quilt! I repeated the green fabrics from the centre panel in the outer borders of the quilt. My plan is to attach an narrow solid green border to the quilt once the other two sides are attached. Although it is a scrap quilt with lots of different colours it reads as a green quilt because I've repeated the fabrics in the centre and the borders.

I'll get back to work on the pattern shortly so that you can start sewing up your own Empire Quilt! Until I post again, happy sewing!

Karen H

Friday, April 1, 2016

Hexagon blocks of a different variety for The Empire Quilt

So why the silence? I was to have a bathroom renovation done. The work should have been done in four days but once the walls were opened there were problems with the plumbing. Major, costly problems. The result? Part of my kitchen had to be demolished to do the repairs so in addition to the total renovation of the bathroom, the kitchen must also be done. I had already packed up my bathroom and then had to pack up the kitchen AND worst of all I also had to pack up my sewing/computer room so that the workers could access the attic for the electrical work. The work is still not done. For the next couple of weeks I will be living out of boxes. I can't wait for this to be over with.

I've managed to tunnel my way to my computer in order to do a quick post about The Empire Quilt. I had said that there would be some different hexagon blocks for The Empire Quilt. Today I'll share two of them. Both are made with simple pieced blocks and hexagons. I dug into my stash of basted leftover hexagons. I never throw them out because they might just come in handy one day. The pink and green print in the pieced block is not at all in keeping with the scale and style of other prints used in the quit thus far but it works. Don't be afraid to combine your fabrics. If it doesn't work just do a little reverse sewing and try something different!

I think there are lots of possibilities for creating dimension with colour and value in this one but I decided to keep it simple. For example, I could have swapped out some of the grey fabrics for darker greys to create shading.

You be surprised at how fast and easy it was to make these blocks which combine traditional piecing with English paper piecing. It would be fun to make an entire quilt with blocks like this! Hey, I just gave myself a new idea. Maybe there's another quilt in the making!

There are two more hexagon blocks to share with you and they are bobby-dazzlers for sure! For now I have to work my way out of my sewing room because the contractors will be back shortly. There is white drywall dust and construction mess everywhere. I'm so done with it and eager to be done so life can get back to normal.

Until I post again, happy sewing!
Karen H