Improvised Table Runners

Several years ago I made this table runner by my own improvisational method.

modern table runner

Then I made this one, same method, using a lovely group of crossweave fabric.It was accepted for publication in a magazine, and I wrote the instructions, but the magazine ceased publication just before the issue in which my runner was to appear!

While developing the article for Crossweave Runner 1, I made Crossweave Runner 2 so I could take some process photos.

So, while cleaning the studio recently, I found two partially finished runners, the one above and the one below.

I finished these last two runners, and that’s about enough of those for now! It’s good to get even a little project finished and out of the way, especially right before the holidays when I’m thinking about gifts for folks!

My 2020 Workshops and Guild Talks

I have updated my list of workshops and guild talks, so I’m publishing it here.  Please pass along to anyone who may be looking for presenters.

Guild talks:

  1. “What is Modern Quilting?”  The Modern Quilt Guild has their own definition, but I find that there is not much new under the sun and illustrate this with slides of quilts by the Amish, Gees Bend, Gwen Marston, and others, as well as many quilts shown at QuiltCon, the Modern Quilt Guild’s annual conference.
  2.  “Improvisational Quilting”  I illustrate this with many quilts of my own and have a post on my blog that goes with the presentation for those who want to try improvising.  Here’s the link for the post:  https://zippyquilts.blog/2019/11/03/improvising/I also have three improvisation workshops, two beginner and one advanced.

Workshops:

YOW! Learn 3 Ways to Piece Curves  (6 hours)

In this class you will make lively quarter circle blocks that can be assembled in multiple ways depending on your preference.  Three different methods for piecing the curves will be taught, so you can try them all and decide what works best for you.  This quilt can be very traditional (think Drunkard’s Path) or very modern depending on your color choices and how you want to arrange the blocks.  There is no pattern for this class, but the supply list does include templates.

——————————————————————————————————————–Intro to Improvisational Quilt Blocks  (6 hours, but can be shortened to 3 hours)Bring your scraps and learn 3 ways to improvise quilt blocks, then consider ways to combine them into an original quilt.

——————————————————————————————————————-Improvisational Design: Table Runner (6 hours)

This is a challenging class in which you will design your own table runner using nontraditional methods.  You will learn about choosing fabrics, designing focal points, and changing your design when you don’t like the way it’s going.  Your runner will not look like mine; it will be your own!

——————————————————————————————————————–Wonky Stars (3 hours)This is an easy introduction to improvisational design.  Bring your scraps and learn to make wonky stars and choose colors that will go well together in a small quilt.

——————————————————————————————————————-Quilt-As-You-Go (QAYG) 3 Ways (6 hours)

QAYG has been around at least since the 1970s, when long arm quilting wasn’t really available.  Although we have many more options now, QAYG remains one way to quilt an entire top yourself without having to maneuver a large quilt on your domestic machine or quilt by hand.  We will learn 3 QAYG techniques in the morning, and you’ll get started with the technique you like best in the afternoon.  Make a quilt like my sample, or bring a pattern of your choice and I’ll help you figure out how to use QAYG with it.

——————————————————————————————————————–Alien Among the Stars (6 hours)

This is a fun class in which to learn how to make wonky stars and a couple of easy ways to applique the alien.  The stars can be made from bright scraps or from yardage.  The alien can be made from Kraft-Tex or from fabric.  I will discuss the pros and cons of using Kraft-Tex for applique and you can check it out on my sample before you decide what you want to do.

——————————————————————————————————————

Some of these workshops will be offered as classes at Studio Stitch in Greensboro (NC).

Any feedback on these offerings is appreciated.  Is there something I should add?  Something that’s been overworked that I should remove?

Have a good week!

Yikes! Prewashing Quilt Fabric!

You’ve probably heard all you care to about whether or not to prewash fabrics before including them in a quilt. I’ve gone both ways from time to time and settled on a middle ground: I treat batiks with Retayne and often do not wash regular printed fabric unless it is intensely colored.

But every once in a while there’s a shock…

I always put a Color Catcher in when I prewash fabric, and it does a great job of picking up any stray dye in the wash.  So I was very surprised to see the spots shown above on my sheets!  (At least I had the sense not to prewash that fabric with my husband’s dress shirts!)

Here’s the fabric:

It’s from a major manufacturer and came from a quilt shop.  I just decided to prewash because the color is so intense.

I washed this 3-yard cut 3 times, and here are the 3 color catchers:

Finally, I gave up on the prewash and treated it with Retayne.  (Retayne wash requires my tea kettle and a bucket, since water temp needs to be 140 and tap water is too far below that.)  I’m still going to rub this fabric hard with a wet cotton swab to test for colorfastness before I use it in a quilt!

So, do you prewash your fabrics?

Kraft-Tex Tray

The folks at C&T just sent me a package of the beautiful new hand-dyed, prewashed, Kraft-Tex. (Please note that they provide this to me with no obligation and I do not get a kickback if you buy it.  However, if your local quilt shop doesn’t carry it, you can get it directly from C&T here.)

The denim blue called to me first, and I needed a little tray to go beside my machine.  Unless my tools are “corralled” they tend to roll or bounce off the table when I sew.  The fabric tray I’ve been using was looking a little tired (the sides had sort of collapsed) and I thought Kraft-Tex would be a good material for making a sturdier tool tray.

I made a prototype from cardboard first to figure out the best size and shape for my tools.  Here are instructions for making the tray in case you want one, too:

Cut the Kraft-Tex 6-1/2″ x 8″ and mark (with a heat-erasable pen) 1″ in from each side.  Put a #70 needle in the sewing machine, lengthen the stitch a little, and remove the thread.  Stitch around the central rectangle without thread to mark the edges of the tray base and kind of score the Kraft-Tex so it will fold well on those lines.  Fold and press along these lines–it’s fine to fold all the way to the edge even though it wasn’t necessary to sew that far.

This picture was taken later in the process, but you can see where the material was pressed along the fold lines.  You can press either with or without steam; both work fine without distorting the Kraft-Tex.

Select your lining fabric and cut it 1″ bigger than the Kraft-Tex in both length and width; my lining fabric was cut 7-1/2″ x 9″.  Fuse the lining material to some stiff interfacing, then apply Heat’n’Bond or your favorite fusible web to the interfacing.

Once all of that is fused, cut the lining down to 7″ x 8-1/2″ using either a pinking blade in your rotary cutter or your pinking shears.  Or, if you don’t want a decorative edge, just cut the edge straight.  NOTE that if you use a pinking blade in your rotary cutter, you will want to cut on the back side of your cutting mat because the blade can kind of chew up the mat.  Also, the blade will chew up the edge of your ruler, so either use an old ruler or cut about 1/8″ away from the ruler.

Now lay the Kraft-Tex down on the fusible side of the trimmed lining.  Note that Kraft-Tex has a slightly different texture on each side, but there is no “right” side–use the one you like best.  Get everything centered, then turn the decorative edge to the outside and clip it in place with something heatproof. Fuse the edges, then the central part of the lining, to the Kraft-Tex.  Again, you can use steam if it helps.

Now put some thread in the machine!  Sew around the edges of the tray bottom where you previously pressed the sides up.  I marked the edges again with heat-erasable marker to make this easier.  This step will help hold the lining in place.  Edge stitch around the upper edge of the tray as well

Now don’t do what I did 😉  I mistakenly cut out all 4 corners on my first box.  Just cut one side of each corner to create a flap that can be used to hold the box together!

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s how the corner will look finished–see the flaps?

Fold and press the box along the stitching lines bordering the bottom.  Fold the flaps in and glue or sew them in place.  I glued them, then sewed a decorative X in each corner.  I used the awl shown in the picture to punch little holes for the needle to go through when I made the X stitches by hand.

And that’s it!  The resulting tray looks plenty sturdy to hold those little tools beside my machine.  And besides, it was fun to make something new!

What have you been up to?

Improvising

I’m doing a trunk show focused on improvisation for the Heart of the Triad Quilt Guild tomorrow–please come if you’re in the North Carolina Triad area. To help me update my talk, this post is focused on some of my favorite ways to improvise in quilting. .

The first time I recall improvising was about 20 years ago when I had scraps left from this quilt (made while we lived near Pennsylvania Amish country):

Amish design quilt

I combined the scraps with yellow and just sewed them together in strips, then blocks, to make a quilt for the friend who helped me choose colors for the Amish quilt.

improv quilt blocks

Improv quilt blocks I made about 10 years ago

Combining scraps from a single project, sometimes with the addition of another fabric for “spark”, remains one of my favorite ways to improvise.  I no longer cut the scraps into strips; I just start sewing.

modern art quilt

Whirlwind, my 2014 Quilt Alliance challenge quilt, finished 20″ x 20″

The quilt above won a judge’s choice award, possibly because some of the pieces in it finish as small as 1/4″.

Another favorite way to improvise a design is by modifying a traditional block.  Sometimes I cut off part of it, sometimes I stretch or distort it, sometimes I scatter the pieces around.  Here are a few examples.

Rising star art quilt

Rising Star, made for the Quilt Alliance TWENTY contest in 2013, finished 20″ x 20″

Zippy Star by Mary Puckett

Zippy Star I

I have done a number of things with those pesky orphan blocks (blocks left over from previous projects).  I swear they multiply when I’m not looking 😉  One option I like is to cut them into circles and applique them onto a different background:

This also works for quilt tops I don’t like once they are made:  This top

Became this:As a final example, I had a quilt that was quilted, and bound, and I STILL didn’t like it.

This one had to be cut up and made into placemats!

I cut it up into place mats, where it worked out just fine:

Of course, there are many more ways to improvise in quilting.  My plan is to try them ALL!

What are your favorite ways to improvise?

A Swap Block for Donation Quilts

One of my quilt groups makes donation quilts about 40″ square for various organizations. The size is easy to construct and quilt at home, and is appropriate for the children who receive the quilts.  Here are the recent group donations:

We often use swap blocks for our quilts and recently decided on a new swap and I want to tell you about it. One of your quilt groups may enjoy it, too!  Here’s how:

First make a big wonky log cabin block. Our blocks started with a 5″ square, which was modified to make a wonky center.  It was then surrounded by strips from my scrap bins, and occasional strips were trimmed so they were wonky, too.

These big blocks are 21″ square (unfinished).

We cut each block in quarters, so each quarter is 10.5″ unfinished, and started arranging them to make a quilt top that would finish at 40″ square.

This was how we eventually decided to arrange them in the finished top:

And then, of course, we made 4 more:

If you decide to do this, there are only 2 things to watch out for:

  1. As you add strips, keep measuring to be sure the center block remains centered enough so that there will be a piece of it in each quarter when you cut the block up.
  2. It’s easiest if the final round of strips is considerably wider than needed so the block can be trimmed to (unfinished) size easily without running into seams.

This is a really fun way to use scraps!  If you make one, or use this for a group swap, send me a picture!

A Tale of Many Dots

A couple of years ago I bought this fabric because I really liked it:

Since it was pre-printed fat quarters (FQs), I planned to use it in a pattern designed for FQs.  I added a couple of fabrics that I thought went well with it.  Until I saw it sewn together:

I didn’t like the quilt top once I got it made, so I took out every single seam and set the pieces aside to think about.

I took out the fabrics I had added, thinking perhaps they were the problem.  That helped a little.  However, I decided the dots needed some solid mixed with them.  I took them on a shopping trip with friends and we selected a nice red-orange to mix with them.  Then I re-made the quilt including some of the red-orange.

I still didn’t like it.  And call me lazy if you like, but I was not going to take those pieces apart again!  So, with a what-the-heck attitude, I cut the new top up into circles (big dots!) using my dinner and salad plates as templates.

I pinned various potential backgrounds on the design wall and tried them out.

I think some variation of this is going to be the final design.  Maybe not the greatest ever, but nobody died, so I’m moving on!

I Digress…To Leaf Pounding

One of the things I love about quilting is that there is an endless supply of things to learn.  That often means that I get sidetracked onto something different, but that’s OK.

Several years go I took a class in leaf pounding but I never did anything with the results (sound familiar to anyone out there?)  I recently found the prints, still looking pretty good, in my DO SOMETHING box and decided to get busy.

Here is the first, a sycamore leaf that was pounded onto Kona PFD (fabric prepared for dying).

After the fabric dried, I outlined the leaf with a brown Pigma pen.  When I took it out recently I used cotton batting and muslin backing, spray basted it, and quilted it freehand.  I used my Bernina Stitch Regulator (BSR) and found it worked quite well for this purpose.  (I haven’t been so happy with the BSR on larger projects–as a friend once told me, “It’s like training wheels”, meaning it’s just too slow on something big.) However, I was pleased with the way the BSR worked it on this little piece.

Here’s a detail, showing some of the unevenness created when part of the leaf “stuck” to the fabric more than the rest of it.  I figure nature isn’t perfect so I’m not worrying about it.

If you want to try leaf pounding, there’s a tutorial here.

And now the question:  How should I finish this?  I don’t think binding would look right.  I have seen leaf pounding pieces framed, so I guess I could mount and frame it.  Edge finish with brown satin rat-tail?  Face the piece?  Other ideas?  Thanks, as always, for your suggestions!

Two Quilts for the Price of Two…

Earlier in the year I ran across this pattern and was intrigued by how different it is from any quilt I’d ever made.

Photo courtesy of Shabby Fabrics and Krista Moser

I’ll try darn near anything, so I bought the pattern and made the quilt.  I almost never buy the fabric used in the original quilt, but I did this time, which is why I say two quilts for the price of two. There wasn’t much in stash that I could use since the design depends on a large number of different colors of ombre fabric.

I love the result!  The pattern was well written and the illustrations were clear.  My only complaint is that the pattern “requires” a particular ruler.  The ruler is expensive and specialized.  I didn’t foresee a lot of use for it, so I didn’t buy it.  I improvised a template, and that worked OK.  Likely the quilt would have been easier with the ruler, but I have my limits!

Here’s a closeup of the hexies quilted by Julia Madison (with gold thread, of course!).

If you go to Krista’s website you can see several other pictures of her quilt, but be warned that you, too, may want to make it!

Here are the quilt stats:

Ombre Blossoms

The finished quilt measures 57 “x 71”

Pattern by Krista Moser, available here

Machine Quilted by Julia Madison

Fabrics are Moda ombre confetti dot metallic

There was fabric left, so I made it all into half-square triangles (HSTs) with black. That allowed so many design possibilities that I dithered for a while a long time.  This was the final decision:

And here is a closeup of the fun quilting done by Julia Madison:

I love this quilt, too.  I used my Tucker Trimmer to make the HSTs, and it is one tool I consider worth the money.  I’ve used a wide variety of tools to make HSTs, and this is my favorite.  (And no, I do not have sponsorship from Tucker Tools!)

Here are the quilt stats:

HST Tumble

Finished size 54″ x 54″

Pattern by me

Machine quilted by Julia Madison

Fabric: Moda ombre confetti dot metallic, and black Cotton Couture by Michael Miller

 

 

Two Threads for Machine Quilting

Quite a while ago one of my blogging friends (was it you, Clare?) commented that gold quilting thread blends well on most any quilt top, so I tried it. Here’s one quilted for me by Julia Madison. It has gold in it, of course, but I thought the gold thread worked out quite well. It shows up on the solid fabric but blends with the prints.

Same here:

I didn’t realize I used gold in my quilts so often!

On this more recent quilt, I asked Julia to use a thread recommended by another blogging friend, Elizabeth.  It is 40 weight polyester but looks metallic.  If you’ve ever tried quilting with metallic thread, you know what a find this is!  Julia said she had no trouble quilting with it.  Here’s what it looks like on the quilt:

Meanwhile, I made a Christmas table runner for a class I’m going to teach.  I quilted it myself using another recent find, InvisaFil thread. This thread is very thin, intended to show the quilting but not necessarily the stitches.  I did some stitch in the ditch with it and found it much better for that purpose than regular thread I have used in the past.  I also did some quilting that was meant to show, and that worked out equally well.

I will continue to use many other threads for quilting, but I’m pleased with these two new ones.  What thread do you quilt with?