Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Quilting 101: Franken-batting

Quilting 101: I'm starting my own series of quilting tips here on the blog. I learned so much about sewing and quilting online and hope to catalog and organize my methods for others to learn as well. I considered hosting a full QAL series for new quilters, but found that a bit daunting for me at this moment. Instead, as I find the time, I will post various tips I wish I had known before I started quilting. Some I learned the hard way, and some of my techniques have evolved after learning from others then developing my own method. These posts will not be in a specific order, but will be logically ordered when I organize them into a page and link list in the near future. 


I buy my batting on 40 yd rolls when possible. I use Warm and White, Warm and Natural, and Pellon cotton batting. I buy each in a 90" width which means I usually have at least a 10" - 20" scrap strip after basting a quilt. I finally sorted all of these the other day. This pictures shows one of my two scrap piles. I first measured each piece and pinned a post-it with the size to each. Then I sorted and paired pieces to match up. Most of my Franken-bats were made by sewing at least 3-4 scrap strips together.

After selecting the strips to sew together, I trimmed both edges straight, even if one edge was the selvage of the batting. The using my edge joining foot, I place the pieces side-by-side and use a zig-zag stitch to join them. They do not overlap at all and are only held together by the zig-zag. I use a stitch width of 7 (the full width on my machine) and a length of 2.

After completing each bat, I pinned a tag to it with the completed measurements. Note how the completed zig-zag looks. It should lay flat with no puckering or ripples on either side. 

After sorting through two large bins and additional bags of scraps, I have 10 ready-to-use bats rather than the useless scraps. Plus, they take up much less space now that they are folded nicely. Each bat is a random size based on the scraps I had, but each is a usable size. Most are around 60" x 75" or baby quilt size as well as a few 22" squares for pieced pillows.

Just a couple more tips:

  • Handling this much batting bothered my eyes and made my nose itch like crazy. Keep that in mind and even consider wearing a dust mask to minimize the lint you breathe if this is a problem for you.
  • Remember to clean your machine after the fact. 
  • I used Sew Fine polyester thread.
  • The edge joining foot I used for this method is my second favorite sewing foot after my 1/4" foot with a guide. I use it for edge-stitching and sewing my binding to the back of my quilt (tutorial coming on my binding technique). The link provided is for the Brother foot as that is the machine I have, but I'm assuming there is a similar foot for all machine models. 
  • Sew pieces together such that the grain is going the same direction. 
  • Feed pieces slowly as to not stretch them.
  • In the future I intend to measure and mark my batting scraps before putting them away to make this process easier in the future. 
  • Because I quilt my quilts fairly densely I haven't had any problems using Franken-bats in the past, although I'm not sure I would recommend it for hand quilting. I would be afraid of shifting and wear on the zig-zag seam without the added reinforcement of dense machine quilting.

As I'm considering topics for this tips series, I'm curious if there are specific posts you'd like to see. If so, leave me a comment. Thanks!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

WIP Wednesday--Defining my style.

I've been thinking a lot recently about my style as a quilter. I've been considering what I truly love about quilting and which quilt styles are "me". This thought process started in relation to time. I don't seem to have enough of it, but there are so many things I want to create. I am tempted by patterns, swaps, quilt-alongs, new fabrics, etc. I want to do them all, but I've been wondering do I really love them all? Do I honestly want to spend my available time making all of the amazing things there are out there? It's become very evident to me that I need to start focusing more on those projects I really love.

Take for example my WIP's this week:

The App Quilt is on the blue chair as I type waiting for a binding. I finished piecing and quilting it this past week. I was so motivated to create this project because I loved the little drawing from my daughter on which it is based. I would consider this particular quilt my style, but I still can't verbalize exactly why. 

The Vintage Quilt Revival Sew-Along sucked me in despite the fact that I'm aware I don't enjoy samplers. I tried the Farmer's Wife a couple of years and was done after about 12 blocks. I pushed through and made enough for a baby quilt which I finished and eventually sold. Over the weekend I hit that same point with these blocks. I wasn't loving it. I completed 10 of the 20 blocks and pieced nine of them into a baby quilt again. This quilt is now basted and ready for quilting. I love the backing so much. It's one of my favorite fabrics with colors that dictated the fabrics I used for the blocks. I've realized that sometimes it's just not worth pushing through on a project when I don't love it. I will finish it up into a baby quilt and move on.

This final project is up on the design wall currently. I used a May Chappell pattern from our Sew South swag bag to create this star. I'm making this into a baby quilt for a friend. I simply adored the fabric when I purchased it and convinced myself that I'd find the right project for it. This fabric certainly isn't my normal style, but I broke down anyway. I love the star design, but am still undecided on the overall project. I think I'll love it more as it progresses, and I sew it all together. I am reminded with this project that I also don't enjoy HST projects. All that trimming kills me and takes the fun away.

I tried last night to explain my quilting style to a few people who didn't know I am a quilter. I struggled finding the right way to describe some of the craziness I create. I keep thinking that after all the quilts I've made I should know how to actually define my style. What do I truly enjoy? What are my favorite fabrics? What are my favorite types of designs? The problem is I still feel way too mixed up. I was reading the Mixed Up Chameleon to my kids the other day and realized I felt a bit like that little chameleon. Several of my favorite quilters have amazing and distinctive styles. I, on the other hand, keep trying new things to rule out the ones I don't love. Maybe by the time I'm 85 I will decide and accurately articulate what my quilting style is. Until then, I suppose it's more trial and error. 

How do you define your quilting style?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Sew South Recap

Time for a recap on The Sew South Retreat put on by Jennifer Mathis from Ellison Lane! It was simply fantastic. I enjoyed the classes. I had a great time teaching my Improv Piecing class and enjoyed the process of preparing for that. It was especially exciting to see participants try something new. I think that is the aspect of teaching that I love the most-- seeing others learn and try something they've never done before.

Jennifer did such a great job putting on this event. I can't praise her enough for all her work. Everything came off without a hitch. I would go again in a heartbeat if I could.

The classes:

Embroidery with Alison Glass: I really enjoyed this class which surprised me a bit. I don't usually spend time hand stitching, but had a lot of fun learning the new stitches. I also won three additional embroidery books from Lark Publishing in one of the giveaways during the weekend. I'm thinking of ideas to use them on future projects!

I even took my partially finished project to a work conference last week and finished it up. I was the crazy lady in the corner stitching away, but at least I stayed awake in the conference!

Boxy Pouch by Kelly Bowser from kelbysews: Love this one! It came together easily, and the finished project is such a perfect size. Kelly has posted a tutorial on her blog!.

The Scrap Bucket by Heather Valentine at the Sewing Loft: This project is fun and functional. I used it to store Sew South loot until I could put everything away. I made mine a bit stiffer with three total layers of Pellon Home Decor Bond interfacing. I'm considering making one for my girls' room as a laundry bucket.

I taught Improv Piecing. Our finished project was a throw pillow cover. I was so excited to see the finished and in-process projects all together on the last morning! I love how different everyone's project is.

Secret Sisters: 
We swapped secret sister names and gave little gifts throughout the weekend. Lisa had my name and spoiled me all weekend! She even delivered a cold Diet Coke each afternoon which I was very grateful for!

The Swag:
Jennifer lined up many sponsors including: JoAnn, Pellon, Dritz, Michael Miller, Schmetz Needles, Button Lovers, Lark Crafts, Aurifil, StashBooks, Robert Kaufman, Dear Stella, Oliso, Coats and Clark, & Free Spirit Fabric. Our swag bags were stuffed!

 Plus there were many great giveaways throughout the weekend!

Here I am with Jennifer on the last morning. It was hard to say goodbye to everyone.

When I arrived at the airport, I found I was 10lbs over on my bag weight with all the extra loot I was bringing home. I stuffed as much as possible into my carry on (which I think weighed 60lbs itself once I was done). I was so grateful to have arrived early and had plenty of time at the airport. My carry on bag was searched on the way through security. I had so much fabric stuffed around my sewing machine that the fabric alone filled one bin as the guard unloaded my bag to send it through x-ray again. I'll write another post soon on flying with a sewing machine. I had many questions as I was attempting this. Luckily it all worked out.

Overall it was a fantastic weekend and well worth the effort. Coming back to real like was hard, but I have some great memories of all the wonderful people I met. The absolute best part about retreats is the people. I'm grateful for good people who are as crazy about sewing and fabric as I am.

Thanks Jen for a great weekend!

Jennifer is offering a generous giveaway on her blog. Head on over there to win some swag from the Sew South Retreat!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

WIP Wednesday

It's spring break around here which means three children in need of constant entertainment. I have decided spring break is simply a trial run for summer. How am I going to keep these kiddos busy all summer?! At least it will be warmer than 40 degrees and won't be snowing (I hope)!

After Sew South my sewing room was a disaster. I just unloaded my bags and dumped stuff everywhere. There was no room to sew. I decided before I could jump into a new project, I had to clean up around here.



I should have taken some wider shots during the actual cleaning process. It was pretty amazing how deep it was in here. I unloaded each drawer and sorted everything. I ended up throwing out a whole garbage bag of stuff. My little sewing area is small, and I have to stay on top of it, or pretty soon it becomes almost unusable. In addition to a clean and organized sewing room, my machine is back from a trip to the spa and works so much better. She gets really grumpy when it's been too long. Now she's good as new! Finally, I need to make new labels for my bins as I have changed up my system a bit. That will be a project for next week when the kids are back in school. 

Finally, on the design wall this week! Here is a peak at my App Quilt. 

This quilt was inspired by a drawing my daughter made of a pretend cell phone. Each colorful square was for an app on her "phone". I loved how it looked and almost immediately started turning it into a quilt. I actually intend to write this one up into a pattern. It's a simple design and beginner friendly. I have realized I miss writing patterns. I hope to get two completed before summer hits (when nothing will be accomplished for three months). More on the App Quilt soon!

Linking up to WIP Wednesday over at Freshly Pieced!

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Whirlpool Quilt--An Improv Project

I'm home and recovering from Sew South! That is a post for another day, but today I wanted to share with you my absolute favorite piece I created for my Improv Quilting class at Sew South. It's been so hard not sharing this one. I'm in love with it. What began simply as an experiment has become one of my favorite projects ever!

It all started while walking around the mall one day. I snapped a picture of this Anthropologie window display thinking it would make a great quilt.

After sketching and experimenting, that idea turned into this! Meet The Whirlpool!

This is completely machine pieced. I quilted it using a flame-like design with matching threads. As per my usual, I used Art Gallery Pure Elements. I think it's about time I get a wholesale account and just buy a bolt of each color...

The stitching from the back.

This guy actually replaced the Pixelated Color Wheel in my living room and now hangs above our piano. 

I had so much fun piecing this. I was absolutely thrilled when my idea came out better than I ever imagined. If you missed out on Sew South, join me at The Small Town Quilt Show in Midway, Utah this June. I'll be teaching another Improv Quilting class! As part of the class, I'll be discussing the method I used to create this piece!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Truck Jams

The boy is always asking me to make him things, but boys are just harder to sew for. Enter Laurie Wisbrun's Trucks and Tractors fabric. It was perfect for my little guy who is fairly obsessed with anything with wheels right now. Laurie sent me a couple prints from her line and I sewed some new jams for the boy. I made him one new pair of pj pants and a couple new shirts.

I simply bought plain, inexpensive t-shirts and appliqued a fussy-cut image of different trucks onto the shirts.

This one is headed out to a little boy who LOVES the color orange as well as garbage trucks. I think it will be perfect for him!

Well, that wraps up my projects with my Laurie Wisbrun fabric for now. I still have two other small projects in mind with the last yard of fabric from the package she sent me. It's fun to mix up my sewing a bit and make different things, but I'm always ready to get back to quilting. I have a new quilt on the wall right now that I'm loving and can't wait to share!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Some New Jane Market Bags

For my first project from the extra fabric Laurie sent me, I made three new Jane Market Bags. I love this bag design and have made it many times in the past. My one complaint about the pattern is the lack of interfacing suggestions. I don't think quilting weight cotton is appropriate for this pattern without interfacing, yet the pattern doesn't include this info even as a suggestion. I've tried multiple types of interfacing when making these bags. This time I chose to use cotton duck as an interlining rather than using any interfacing. I simply stitched the interlining to the exterior fabric in a couple places and used it as is. I like the added stability without the stiffness you sometimes get with interfacing. I will definitely use this method again. 

I used Laurie's Sew Pretty line that came out last year. The fabrics are very fun together.

They are each lined with the seam ripper print. I added one pocket inside.

Since I was on a bag making kick, I also put together a few extras. These bags are made with the same dimensions as the original Jane Market Bag, but I chose not to add the accent pocket on each side. I found a great deal on some Heather Bailey Garden District Home Dec fabric and purchased it with the intent of making multiple bags. I want to build up my stash of bags again to give as gifts. This version is much easier and faster, but still very functional. I used cotton webbing for the handles to cut that step as well. I have several more bags cut and ready to put together when I find more time.