Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Time to Quilt Stairway

Time to Quilt Stairway

It's time to quilt my Stairway to Cat Heaven quilt.  I took a free motion quilting workshop in March put on by Wayne and Linda Kollinger of Tuxedo Park Designs, Calgary. I have been machine quilting for about 8 years, but I learned a few new things which I wanted to put to use, including some easy 9 patch quilting patterns.

The Stairway quilt is about two thirds 9 patch blocks so I started with quilting them first.
I used a black polyester thread in the bobbin, and a fine lilac coloured polyester thread as top thread. It is on a big spool which doesn't really fit horizontally in my machine, so I put the spool in a jar next to my sewing machine and then threaded it in as usual.  I used a "quilt sandwich" to treat the tension settings before I started sewing on the actual quilt. (One of the useful suggestions from the workshop. (Thanks, Linda.)

Motoring right along! 

"Auto" tension setting didn't work really well, "3" seems to be the best. (The workshop suggests that you try various settings first, changing them by half a setting each time.) I put my free motion foot on, then dropped the feed dogs.
I started out at 2, then, 2.5, then 3, then 3.5, sewing a short line of each on the practice sandwich. "3" looked like it had the best top and bottom tension, so that's what I went with.

Another thing to remember, which avoids the 'rats nest' of threads at the back of your work, is to pull both threads to the top of the quilt, make a stitch or two to secure them, then snip them off carefully so they don't get tangled in your sewing. Then away you go! 

I did the "flower petal/ circle" pattern (which I'd learned at the workshop) on the 44 nine patch blocks, then echo quilted around the appliquéd cats and appliquéd moon on the sky portion. After that I isolated some sky areas and did a "narrow cloud" meander pattern on the rest of the sky.

Echo quilting around the appliqués

Next question, how to do the three 2 inch borders.  The fastest approach would have been to do all three together as one larger pattern, but I decided against that. I used black thread on the black inner border and did my often used vine leaves all along the lengths of each side. It doesn't stand out at all, but that's OK. Then, looking at the next border, (the night sky/ dark grey colour,) I was thinking about doing moons, but a heart pattern jumped into my mind so I sewed some simple sideways hearts attached to each other at the bottoms. I also used the black thread, but after doing one side and seeing how well it went, I was wishing I had used the lilac thread. Oh, well, too late!

The scrappy 2 inch squares border is getting the same "flower petal/ circle" design as the 9 patch blocks using the lilac top thread.

The outer grey border is getting a simple scallop pattern. After that I'm cutting off the extra batting from the quilt edges, and trimming the Fishbones back fabric to 1 inch out from the edge.  Next step will be to press that 1 inch outer fabric in towards the raw edges of the quilt, then pin it over onto the quilt top, so it can be sewn on, creating the outer edging. (A mock edging).

Then it will be done after many weeks of work!  Always a proud, exciting moment!

I am getting really attached to this quilt after all these weeks of work. It is going to be auctioned online for the Animal Haven Rescue fund raiser in May. I might have to bid on it myself! ;)

Happy quilting!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Stairway to Cat Heaven

Stairway to Cat Heaven     71 X 63"

I have been working on a quilt top for Animal Haven Rescue's online silent auction fundraiser for May.  It is called Stairway To Cat Heaven; Designed by Barbara DubovskyThe pattern is from the October 1997 Issue of McCall's Quilting, which is no longer in print, but the directions can still be found online.

Arranging the blocks

It's a fairly simple pattern, made out of 36 nine patch blocks (6 1/2 inches unfinished) arranged in a stairway design.  Next some setting triangles are added to the end of the nine patch rows (to attach the block portion to the 'sky'. ) Then it is all sewn onto a triangle of fabric ( 42 inches long and wide) which becomes the sky.  

I added an extra row of nine patch blocks so the quilt would end up being rectangular instead of square.  And I decided to make my orientation the opposite way from what the pattern showed.

After rearranging the blocks numerous times, and taking photos of most of them, I was finally happy with the arrangement.  I numbered each block, photographed the arrangement again and then sewed the blocks together in rows.

I traced the cat templates onto the Heat Bond webbing and adhered that to the back of the black fabric to make the cat silhouettes. I had lots of the dark sky/grey fabric left so I made 2 cats from that as well.  (The pattern only called for 4 cats but I figured the more the merrier, so I made 2 extra.)

How many cats now?

I added the 2 1/2 inch black border around the outside and made the moon appliqué to sew on. These appliqués are all raw edge, so I machine appliquéd around the edges in black thread (cats) and yellow around the moon, of course.

Then I had to think about the outer border. I had 5 nine patch blocks left ( having made a few extra to facilitate the block arranging) so I decided to use these 4 extra blocks as corner blocks for the border. I had been making extra 2 1/2 inch squares to use as a border, (as the directions called for), but now I had to figure out what to do to make the borders 6 inches wide  (to accommodate the 6 inch corner blocks.)

I measured my leftover fabrics, and did some math to figure out how many 2 1/2 inch strips I could make out of them. Yes! The quilting angels were with me that day! It worked out that I could make enough light grey and dark grey fabric strips to add onto all 4 sides; so along with the one scrappy row, my borders worked out. :)  
(Thank you, Quilting Angels!) 

Now to figure out which border order I liked best….

After much debate, and with Lexy's help,  I decided to put the darkest strip next to the black inner border, then, add the scrappy coloured one and last add the light grey on the very outside. The total quill top is 71 by 63 inches.

I'm quite happy with the way it all turned out!   :D

Stairway to Cat Heaven quilt top is done!  (Nahla likes it! )

Now to find some suitable back fabric and start the whole quilting process. 

Here is Lexy, our own cat on the stairway who recently made her own climb to cat heaven. :)

Happy quilting!


Monday, January 30, 2017

Steppingstones- Judy Niemeyer Pattern

Steppingstones Quilt

Steppingstones- 63" X 70"
This quilt is a Judy Niemeyer Pattern. It is a difficult paper pieced design which took many hours of work to complete. It is called "Steppingstones", and is actually one of the easier ones to do!
I took a course in Stettler almost 2 years ago, on the Judy Niemeyer paper piecing technique from the owner of "Quilting from the Heart,  a Camrose quilt shop. ( Feb 2015)

After approximately  80 (plus) hours of work (and rework) I am pleased to be done the whole entire quilt including the free motion (unframed) quilting and binding.

Matching up the bali strip for the blocks

I used 3 packages of Bali strips for this quilt and which luckily included some extra strips, more than the project had called for.  The paper pieced blocks called for each strip to be used twice, but if the seams were not cut "bang on" to a quarter inch, or if you used too much of the strip to make one of the points, then there wasn't enough left to cover the other point. I had to use my seam ripper more than a few times to take a strip off, or finesse the next ones.

Arranging the blocks, numbering the rows

I also learned that not all the sections in the patterns were the exact same size. When the directions said "use strip 2 for section 2 and 4",  you had to keep track and not use that piece of fabric for another section or it didn't cover it.   The blocks all look the same in the photo, but there are 3 different ones (called block J, K and L)  I wrote a list to have it handy:

I also learned to cut each strip a little longer that the directions said to make it easier to use one strip for 2 points. I cut each 2 1/2" X 42" strip into 3 pieces and that worked well. (About 14 " lengths.)

Another tip I would suggest for anyone doing this pattern is to write yourself a brief note of the piecing directions. Because I worked on it many times off and on over the course of 22 months, each time I took it out to continue working on the blocks, I had to remember the exact steps again.
Here's my note:

1. Glue strip 1 to underside of paper (just a dab to hold it)
2. Put strip 2 under the paper, on top of strip 1 and pin at both ends.
3. Sew line 1, back stitch at each end.
4. Press open strip 2 to cover section 2 (Section 1 is also covered now and needs to be trimmed when you are done the block to use that strip for section 11- but only on block J)
5. Fold line 2/  Trim seam to 1/4"(save for sec #4)
6. Put strip 3 on top, edge to edge (A new strip!)
7. Sew line2/ press open
8. Fold line 3/ Trim seam to 1/4" (save for section#5) etc etc

Once I got onto the pattern it went well, but it's the type of project where you have to concentrate.

I also found it helpful to trace all the lines and section numbers on the back of each pattern piece in pencil. (I put the paper up against a window and traced,; then its marked on both sides. Just makes the folding step easier.)

I finally completed all the blocks in December 2016. I spent far too much time arranging and rearranging the blocks on the floor of my sewing room to get a pleasing "perfect" pattern.
After much delay, and indecision,  I realized that I disliked one of the blocks and wanted to remove it entirely, so I opened up a few seams and removed it.   Then I printed up a new copy of the pattern for that ugly K block (the kit only came with a certain number of paper patterns) and luckily had some unused strips to choose from to make a new block to use, which I was much happier with.

Arranging and rearranging the blocks

Another thing to be aware of, if you do draw the pencil lines on the backs of the patterns, make sure you sew the strips on that side every time or you will get a block that is backwards/ reversed.
Yes, I accidentally did that, too, but luckily I was able to add an extra strip on the side and could still use it.  You would be hard pressed to find which one it is in the quilt now, but at first it was noticeable to me that it was a bit different.

Black sashing and border added

Next step was to sew all the black sashing strips between each set of 3 blocks.  Then sew the block rows together and last, to sew the black inner border around the outside.

Whew! Motoring right along!
After a brief sense of accomplishment,  I realized that I was still far from done. I had to make the piano key outer border.
The directions called for the coloured strips to be paper pieced as well, but I thought it would be easier just to piece them together ,so I cut the fabric strips to 6 1/4 inches in length then started playing with colour placements for the borders. I decided to go with the colours of the rainbow as much as possible,  red, orange, speckled orange, light yellow, dark yellow, speckled green, lime green swirl, light blue marble, medium blue, dark blue (indigo), then light violet, dark violet and repeat.

After sewing rows of the rainbow strips together I laid them out next to the quilt top to see if they worked well with the colours in the adjacent blocks. Had to do some rearranging, but I finally got a running pattern that I liked for all the sides.

But wait a minute! I still had to make the corner blocks!

Corner blocks
Now things were getting tight. I had a few fabric strips left to choose from but each block was made up of 6 pieces of fabric so I wanted a combination that looked good together, plus would work with the border and not compete with the blocks nearby. Oh boy!
The red was too dominating, the light gold was too pale, and I didn't have enough of  either blue or grey to make all 4 corners.
In the end I made 2 corners with a blue end and 2 corners with a grey end.

Next step was to decide on the back fabric. I ended up ordering some black bali with small dark blue dots and streaks, called Yukon which I though it would compliment the very colourful quilt top. 

Next step, machine quilt the whole thing. 
Which quilting pattern should I use??  I looked online for ideas but still wasn't sure.  Then saw a pattern on an ad for long arm quilting which gave me an idea.  I thought because of the sharp angles on the points, I would go with a more circular quilting pattern, so I practiced a bit on scrap fabric what I call "ind swirls and waves". 

Next question, what colour of thread should I use? There were so many different colours on the quilt top.  I decided to do each block in one of the two colours showing, which meant I had to keep changing my bobbins and thread, but I liked how it was looking as I went along. I mostly used pale gold, light green, light blue, medium blue, and light mauve.  

Wind swirls and waves quilting pattern

I was having a problem with my thread tension and after doing 4 or 5 blocks, I was unhappy with one or two so I spent an hour gently picking out hundreds of stitch with my seam ripper., and resewing the blocks. 
Mostly I started out using black in the bobbin (thinking it would match the back but really! What should that matter!)  Then I switched to dark blue as that thread seemed to have better tension, and even did one in the middle in gold because the dark colour kept showing up in the block whenever I changed sewing direction (free motion sewing on my beautiful Janome.)

I love this sewing machine, the Janome Horizon 7700!  I have had it for 3 years and I wouldn't trade it for another.  It is such a user friendly, forgiving machine. The only tiny bad spot is that the needle threader broke off last year, but I haven't really missed it.  I also wish that it had a warning when the bobbin thread was low.  Other than that, it's great!

I quilted the outer piano key border in my favourite design, swirling butterflies. (which also look a bit like leaves.)

Almost done! 
Next step was the binding. I decided to go with a mock binding where you use the back fabric turned to the front as the edge binding.  I trimmed the batting carefully, even with the edge on the quilt top, then trimmed the back fabric to 1 inch wide all around.  After that I pressed it in towards the quilt so it is only 1/2 inch wide, pinned it onto the front side of the quilt, mitering each corner. 

Last, I sewed the edging on all the way around from the top side.

Yay! After months and months of work, my Steppingstones quilt was done! And I think it is beautiful! :D

Kitty approved

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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Getting Caught Up- Echoes Placemats and Bows and Boughs Mats

Lots of quilting and sewing and (even knitting) has been going on in the last few months, but not much blogging. :)

Echoes Table Runners

I loved this pattern in the magazine (Quilter's World- May 2016) and decided to make one as a wedding gift last summer. Then I made 2 more, one to keep and one more as a gift. (The one on the right has only a thin inner layer of webbing material. It was meant for my cousin in Germany. There they don't usually use batting on their table toppers.

After finishing 3 table runners to take with me to Germany as hostess gifts (2 Lantern toppers and one Echo topper), I had lots of echo blocks left.  In November (2016) I worked on making myself a set of 6 placemats.
They were sandwiched together which eliminated the need for edge binding.
Seen below:

Some of the combinations work better than others, but the actual placemats look much nicer and than the photo.  I loved the uniqueness of this design. There was no use of rulers and cutting wheels for these mats. They were all made from tracing 2 different template pieces on different bali fabrics, then mixing and matching to get the circular pattern.

pinning curves to sew. Start with a pin at each and and one in the centre.

Then add more pins in between so that the edges on both pieces of fabric always meet.

The quilting was pretty simple. I started sewing with a simple walking foot at the circle ( produced by the 4 wedges) and I sewed concentric circles about a quarter inch apart smaller and smaller and smaller towards the centre. Then I free motion machine stitched the outer part in a simple meander style. each Echo place mat measures 14" X 16"  (inches).

I was happy with the outcome and was thrilled to start using them at the table.

Bows and Boughs Christmas Placemats

I was pretty "done" with tracing and sewing curves by then so I decided that I would work on some straight edges and finish up the 'Bows and Boughs" Christmas placemats that I had started last year (to match the table runner that I finished almost a year ago. Never too late to work on a UFO, right?

I realized that the Christmas placemat tops were a bit too long and narrow, so I chopped off a half inch from each side and added a red border on top and bottom (to add to the width) and a narrow white /gold star border around the 4 sides.   I quilted them mainly with ditch quilting except the spruce trees which I echo quilted towards the centre. (hard to see from the photos.)

The completed Bows and Boughs mats are 14 inches wide by 18 inches long.  I completed them on January first (in time to use for Ukrainian Christmas, LOL! )  :)

Sometimes you get lucky! That small 3 inch piece of dark green binding on the ruler is all that I have left of that fabric after putting the edge binding on all 6 placemats! :D

In between these 2 sets of mats, I worked on another UFO, my Judy Niemeyer paper pieced quilt top, Steppingstones pattern. What a HUGE amount of work that was! That's another story coming up soon. Happy quilting!

Georgie kitty, testing out the mittens that I knitted for my grandsons aged 3 and nearly 5

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Saturday, October 29, 2016

Lantern Table Topper

Lantern Blocks

Lantern blocks are simple to make but look quite pretty. Time was running out to make more table toppers to take along as gifts so I decided to make something that I was familiar with, the lantern blocks.
I first saw this pattern a year or so ago  in the Quilter's World Magazine July 2015. The quilt pattern was called Beach Calypso on page 52.  It uses  2 1/2 inch fabric strips cut to 8 1/2 inch length, and 2 1/2 inch squares at the corners.

The blocks are 8" by 8" inches finished. Instead of making a quilt out of them, I made them into a simple table topper last summer for my friend B's birthday.

B's birthday table topper- July 2015

That table topper was made up of eight 8 inch blocks plus borders, but in Germany most of my relatives have smaller tables so I decided to make them from six blocks each.

These easy blocks just zipped along so I ended up making 3 of these, 2 fro give away and one to keep for myself. I finished the last one the day before we left on vacation.

The inner border was made from a 1 1/2 inch strip of fabric and the outer border was 2 1/2 inches wide. 
The completed table toppers are 22" By 30" inches in size.
The recipients were quite pleased to get them, I'm happy to say.

Happy quilting! :D

The Magic of Quilting: Lone Star-Done At Last!

The Magic of Quilting: Lone Star-Done At Last!

Echo Table Runners

Echo Table Runners
14" X 42" finished table runner

Echo blocks are made entirely from traced fabric pieces using 2 different templates that fit together to make the blocks.
It consists of 2 curved pieces of fabric sewn together, then 4 of those are sewn to each other to make the 18 1/2 inch blocks.

I had seen the pattern in a quilt magazine a few months before and decided to give it a whirl because it was quite different from anything I had tried before (except maybe the tessellating butterfly blocks that I am staying away from ! :)     (Quilter's World - Time Friendly Quilting May 2016 issue pg. 19)

We were going to a wedding in July and I thought it would make a unique gift.

We were also going on vacation in the fall to Italy and Germany and I wanted to make some table toppers to take along as thank you gifts for our hostesses, my German relatives.

 I liked the idea of using Bali Batik fabrics so I went hunting for some at the quilt store in Camrose, Quilting From the Heart, where they have a huge selection.

First pin the pieces together at both ends, then in the middle.

Can't have too many pins! :)

I cut the 2 template pieces out of template plastic, then began tracing on my fabrics and cutting them all out. then I began to mix and match the various pieces. When sewing the curved pieces together I found that it helped to pin them well, starting at both ends and then the middle. My best tool at that point was my tweezers which helped me make sure the fabrics were lined up properly to sew them perfectly. 

The one on the left has batting in the centre so I quilted a circular pattern on the blocks and meander pattern around the edge.
The one on the left just has thin webbing inside. That one is ditch quilted. (Made for Rosel)

My first runner, which was the wedding gift, I left in a rectangular shape. The next two, I cut the corners curved.

I traced the back fabric and batting, cut them out, then sandwiched them together with the runner, wrong sides facing, then sewed a 1/4 inch seam, leaving an opening to turn it right side out. Press it, then sew a generous 1.4 inch seam around the outside ( after hand stitching the opening closed.) 
Then last I machine quilted them.

I liked these blocks and table toppers so much that I made the place mats, too! :)