Wednesday, 27 March 2013

A finish! (And it only took a year...)

Last January - and here I'm talking about the one in 2012 - my sister asked me to make a challah cover for her. We avidly discussed design and fabric. It had to be soothing. Larger than average. Certain words would be stitched. The colour scheme was decided upon ("blue, but nothing green-blue, okay?"). She likes things Just Right, and we made sure to get all the details defined.

Over a year later, I have a finish.

In my defense:

Nope. No defense.

While 16" x 22" is rather large for a challah cover, it is basically one large block. No paper-piecing or quilting, even. When block was finished, I basted it to a very light piece of muslin, to help stabilise the stitching.
March 2012
I confess, the hand stitching in the central panel did take a long, looong time. Tens of hours. That would be on account of my desire to do it free-hand. I knew the look I was going for, and would stitch away; sometimes it was good enough, sometimes an hour's work would come right out again.

May 2012
July 2012
The words, also stitched free-hand - no penciled-in design, is what I mean - also took a while, as I used teeny tiny stitching.
October 2012

And then there was the matter of sourcing and selecting a silky backing.
February 2013
And then, it was sewn. Finished.
Blue silky back (hidden, but there). Four different "Jerusalem stone" fabrics, and two "Mediterranean sky" blues. Lots of stitching, in two shades of pale. Letters in blue.
The pattern is based on the "Children of Israel" block, which I love to use just because of its name.
A challah cover. A finish. Halleluyah.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Ta-Da! Announcing my Fastest Quilt Ever!

While it's true that I have been yearning to make a bear's paw quilt for over a decade, I didn't actually plan this one until a month ago.

A month! From concept to finish!

Let me tell you some of the fun I had along the way.

The goal of this quilt was to finish it pleasingly, but quickly. If there was a short cut, I took it.

For example, I wanted to use 3" squares for the whole quilt... but I didn't! (Can you hear my pride? In this new skill of not being a perfectionist?) I used a 6" square for the paw, and an 11" square for the white corners, and long strips of white anytime I could.

Because I used these large pieces of fabric, the top came together quickly, and then it was time to quilt the top to the batting, a truly enjoyable experience. I quilted across the long diagonals, and planned to measure out more diagonals where they passed through the corners of the blocks. But then I changed my mind. I stitched in the ditch. I saved time and effort. You are impressed, I can tell. True, my not-quite-in-the-ditch quilting isn't going to win any prizes. But it was finished in a few days, which is a very lovable value in a quilting pattern, don't you think?
Since working with minky is new to me, before working on The Quilt, I tried quilting on a small patch of fabric, with predictable results.

Spot the broken needle?

Ha ha.

I re-consulted with the Google Gods, and learned that size 70/10 needle was not the way to go. I switched it for a 90/14, and behold: a sewing machine that sewed.

Whilst in the midst of a brief - and very public - panic over quilting minky, I was amazed to receive so many responses to my plea for help - thank you all! Audrey from Quilty Folk said the words that I needed to hear: "Have you considered tying the rest of your quilt?" While I treasure each and every single suggestion I received, this was my short cut du jour. (Thank you, Audrey.)

Thank you, also, to blogland, for sending me to this tutorial when I decided to tie my quilt by machine (Short Cut #I've-Lost-Track). I pretty much followed the instructions, and learned the hard way what worked better for minky, namely: I couldn't just drag the quilt through my machine again and again, and expect the fabric to move together front and back. But I found my speed, tied that baby down, and then got to thinking about binding.

Can you make out the threads that need snipping between the machine tying? Just about?

But how would I bind to the front, and hand-sew to the minky? That seemed absurd. One quick quilt consult later (thank you, Michelle), I had my answer: machine sew to the back, and hand sew afterwards to the front. This induced yet another moment of panic in me, as I foresaw the binding being a tad too wide, and ruining all my lovely triangle points, whereupon I took a moment to actually look at my quilt, and noticed that, ahem, there were no triangles anywhere near the binding.

And then, bloggy friends, I had an Insight of Insights: I could sew the binding on by machine, back AND front.


Please do take a moment to recover.
It's not every day one comes across genius such as this, and I know it can be overwhelming.

Sadly, I do not have a single picture of this poetry in motion, as, naturellement, my camera died at the crucial moment. But take it from me, at 10:45pm last night, I started sewing my binding to the fluffier side of the quilt. It went smoothly, aided significantly (entirely?) by the stay stitching I did around the edge before the tying. At 11:30pm, my eyes were aching, and I KNEW I had to stop. Nothing good can come of binding by machine with stinging eyes. I knew this. We all know this.

But sometimes. You just can't help yourself.

So I pinned down the binding to the top, and got sewing, and on the dot of midnight, she was done, finished, perfect, complete. Happy sigh.

Today, this very morning, I took some portraits of my quilt, as modeled by the floor, the chair, and a small-ish daughter.

She found the minky too perfectly soft, and had to wrap herself entirely in it. And I don't blame her.

Linking up with Quilt Story and Live a Colorful Life and Confessions of a Fabric Addict!

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Need Minky Advice! Urgent!

I am losing my mind, a little.

I am experiencing the joy of making a quilt in the space of approximately 5 minutes.
Fine, a month. But that's like 5 minutes to me.

So I made my top. Yay!

Then I make a sandwich. Just the top and the batting.
(Diagonals taped for quilting guidelines.)


I put the whole thing in my machine and quilted it.
I started on the diagonals, because that's what Quilt Dude did on his, and it is beautiful.
Then the measuring thing got me down, and I decided to stick with the friendly seam lines I already know and love.
By the way, if anyone asks, quilting without a back is waaaay easier! This was fun.

Then I pinned it down to the minky backing fabric.
The minky is so soft and so yummy. (Squeal!)
And shed-dy. Did I mention that?
Our home has been well and truly, erm, made softer, by the sudden appearance of little brown fluff, pretty much everywhere.

I safety-pinned this sandwich a reasonable amount, which is not what the going advice is online. With minky, you are supposed to pin this thing to death. Until the weight of the pins leaves you staggering to the sewing machine. At least that many. But I threw caution to the wind, because that's the kind of gal I am.

Also, I ran out of safety pins.

But, I pinned the hell out of the borders. So I'm hoping the Quilt Police will be forgiving.

Pin every inch and then stay-stitch the edges to control the minky, is what the word on the street is. I stitched. (I can be obedient on occasion.)

Then I got into a bit of a frenzy over how to quilt this.
I am afraid of bunched-up minky.
Of ugly brown stitching on my lovely quilt top.
Of catastrophe striking, specifically on my beloved bear's paw quilt.

So, I was wondering.
Can I just throw the binding on this and forget the quilting?
Can I allow the minky to cling to the batting beside it, and sometimes not cling so much?
Just let it be the way nature intended?

Your answers, suggestions and insights are gratefully received. Be adamant! Be bold! Be courageous! Be decisive!

In other words, be everything that I am not, and in alphabetical order, too.

Linking up with Quilt Story and Live a Colorful Life!

Wednesday, 6 March 2013


Little half square triangles? I love 'em, it's true.

But what I am love-love-loving about this top is the pattern. And how it comes together exactly like a puzzle. I haven't made a top like this, either in forever, or actually EVER. I tend towards swathes of half-square-triangles, or meticulously arranged 9-patches. I lay out symmetrical blocks on a spare bed and arrange and re-arrange them, until I achieve some level of peace in my heart, and then I sew them all together.

For this simple lap quilt, it wasn't enough to write out cutting instructions. I made a plan. Maybe it's new to me because every aspect of the bear's paw block contains crucial directional design? In any event, I loved creating the pattern, the design, the math, and now, the sewing.

After a few frantic days of sewing, pressing and trimming, into the late night hours, and more often, early in the morning before the sun had risen (we insomniacs have some advantages), I have pieced most of the top.

Here she is, around 45" square, lacking a border, but complete in her paw-i-ness. (Yes, it's a word. Or it is now.) Not a feat of fine construction, nor a feast for tired eyes, but handsome and clean and pleasing. I am pleased.

Linking up with Quilt Story and Live a Colorful Life.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Bear's Paw

You may not know this about me - for example, if you've never read any of my posts - but I am a slooooow quilter.

I believe in waiting, if necessary, years for the right fabric to show up. I hate pinning so much that the finished top, the pieced back and the batting can all hang out and become firm friends before I make an honest sandwich out of them. You get the picture?

So. About 2 weeks ago I decided to make a lap quilt. It took me about 2 days to go from this design, which I have had my eye on since I saw it in a magazine... over 10 years ago...

to this beauty (teeny tiny visual courtesy of QuiltDude; thanks, dude!)

and come up with this:

And please. A moment of awed silence in honour of Microsoft Visio.
Thank you, folks.
About one moment after I planned the quilt, I got online and bought myself some smooth brown minky, because THAT, my friends, is the only kind of quilt back you can throw on a bear's paw lap quilt. No-one debates this. 
Then I scoured some fabric-obsessed friends' homes for brown fabric, brought home a bunch and then changed my mind; I took myself shopping. I bought the brown and red marble, and pulled the Kona Snow from the stash, and I got to washing it all.
 And then I cut it up.

And now I am in the heavenly throws of turning strips of fabric into 48 perfect little half square triangles. I haven't made these in so long I forgot how much I love them. Which is a lot. Soon, I plan to rave incoherently about the joys of perfect HST's, and hope to have some actual paws to share.
Because, did I mention? This baby needs to be finished and ready to gift in 3 weeks or less.
What the hey?! Let's get sewin'!
Linking up with Quilt Story!