Some Favorite Tools

In the past year I’ve tried a number of new-to-me tools for my quilting, so I thought I’d share a few of my favorites. As always, these are not affiliate links; they are just for your convenience.

A New Table for My Sewing Machine

I’ve had in mind for years (literally) to get a table I can “drop” my machine into, but goodness! Have you looked at the prices of sewing furniture?!? Not in the budget!

However, I’ve seen a couple of people use the SewEzi portable table and both recommended it. It still isn’t cheap by any means, but it’s a lot less than “sewing furniture” and I’m very pleased with it. I got the portable version rather than the Grande because I have every intention of taking it to retreats with me. I positioned it perpendicular to my usual sewing table so I now have all the large table to the left to support the quilt when I’m attaching binding. The only drawback is that I had to wait several weeks for delivery, but of course we’ve come to expect that these days.

A New Seam Guide

I’ve had the Angler 2 seam guide so long it has turned yellow! I learned that it’s no longer made, so I’m trying Clearly Perfect Angles from New Leaf Stitches. It’s getting a good workout because my current project has about a zillion flying geese.This tool has, as advertised, eliminated the need to draw a diagonal line on the back of my squares. There’s even an auxiliary line that is used to sew the second seam needed to make those scrap HSTs that are a byproduct of the “waste triangle method”. So now I have 2 zillion HSTs….

New Non-Slip Stuff

I’ve tried multiple products, at multiple price points, to keep my rulers and templates from slipping while cutting. Most recently I found Grippy, and after trying it on one template I just lined up all the templates and rulers and sprayed the backs of all of them! On a per-use basis I think it’s the least expensive of the products, and it doesn’t leave a gummy mess on the back of the template like some of the stick-ons did. It’s my fave.

So tell me, what are your favorite tools? I’m always looking for something new to try 🙂

More Foundation Paper Piecing (Even Fewer Tears)!

There’s another alternative to real paper in addition to the dissolving paper I reviewed last week. Linda Hahn introduced me to a thin polyester sheet that works just like paper but can be left in the quilt! So here’s the scoop on it.

First, a view of the back of one of my blocks made with the polyester “paper”.

You probably can see that I’ve torn off a tiny bit of the non-paper in the upper right corner. I did that just to prove I could. So if you really, really want to, you can remove the foundation. (But why?)

I found a similar non-woven foundation sold by June Tailor. Linda’s are available through her website at 25 sheets for $10–considerably less expensive than the dissolving paper I reviewed last week. I found the June Tailor on Amazon at 50 sheets for about $17, an even better value.

Both these products are just a little stiff. It makes them run through the printer well and they are see-through enough to be easy to trace on.

I washed scraps of each. They didn’t appear to absorb water, and there was no change in texture, no loss of either ink from my printer or from the Pigma pen. The material came out exactly as it went in, with the exception that the washer wadded it up a bit, resulting in wrinkles.

I washed the pieces with the 1″ test squares on them so I could verify no shrinkage, and it’s good on that score as well.

I searched to see if I could find a similar product in larger sheets, but the only candidate, Pellon 911, seemed heavier and stiffer.

The only potential problem with these polyester sheets is that they do crackle a little if you crunch them. I don’t think they’ll do that when they’re sewn inside a quilt, but eventually I’ll find out. I’ll let you know.

And what of the original alternative, paper for paper piecing? There are lots of opinions out there. You can buy Carol Doak’s foundation paper, which seems to me to be the same as newsprint paper, which is cheaper by the ream.

Some people swear that ordinary printer paper tears off more cleanly.

And Elizabeth (OPQuilt.com) uses 17 lb Vellum. I didn’t know what Vellum is, so I asked Ms. Google. It’s “parchment” made from calf skin. I have seen it, and it’s lovely in texture and certainly transparent enough for tracing. I expect it tears out well, since Elizabeth goes to the trouble to find it. Her only complaint is that it’s difficult to find in quantity. Well, Elizabeth, I found I could order larger quantities from one of the big box office supply stores–for just under $100 a ream!!!

If you’re interested in the New York Beauty block, Elizabeth is continuing her series of free blocks, one each Wednesday in June. You can start at her blog or go directly to her Payhip store. But go now if you want the blocks, because I expect they’ll be combined into a paid pattern eventually.

I modified her latest block, but here’s my version:

Paper Piecing Without Tears

That is, without tearing out the paper! Here’s the story:

My friend Elizabeth recently started a series of free FPP (Foundation Paper Pieced) New York Beauty blocks. She’s releasing one free block every Wednesday for the month of June, so if you’re interested, head over there: OPQuilt.com

Here’s my first block from her series:

Foundation Paper Pieced block designed by Elizabeth Eastman

Now back to the issue of what to use for foundation!

I recently saw water-soluble foundation paper at Studio Stitch and had to try it.

This paper is meant to dissolve in water and is intended for many uses, including foundation piecing. The 12 sheets were about $11. Like many Pellon products, it is also available by the yard if you can find a place to buy it from the bolt. The price on Amazon makes it look like it may cost less that way BUT will it run through my printer? I don’t know. At the very least I’d have to cut it into 8.5″ x 11″ sheets first.

The Pellon sheets did run through my printer without difficulty and the image quality was good.

I happily stitched the block and then turned to the issue of removing the paper.

I dampened the seams only, thinking to dissolve the paper there and then remove the pieces as I would if I were tearing it off traditional-style.

The paper turned into a soggy mess along the seams. The pieces did lift off pretty well, but paper pieces remained in the seams.

That said, the amount of paper left in the seams was small and it was very soft, not stiff like the usual FPP paper. I don’t think it will be a problem.

One final test for this paper! I stitched a scrap of the Pellon wash-away paper to a scrap of fabric. Then I put the fabric in a net bag, to simulate having it inside a quilt, and ran it through a gentle cycle wash as I would a finished quilt. Here’s how the back looked:

Back, after washing

This looks acceptable to me. I think the Pellon wash-away paper would work just fine.

Pellon Water Soluble Stabilizer

Pros: It works well in the printer, it does dissolve almost completely in water, it is transparent enough to use for tracing, I was able to glue it with water-soluble glue without problems.

Cons: A bit pricey (almost $1 a sheet). It is water soluble so don’t plan on using a steam iron! And the claim that it “dissolves completely” wasn’t entirely true, though I don’t think the small amount left in the stitching will matter.

However, this wash-away paper isn’t the only alternative to traditional newsprint-type FPP paper. More next week–please stay tuned!

Interview: Sherry of Powered by Quilting

I recently ran across this quilt by Sherry Shish, of Powered By Quilting, and I’m very impressed with it. It’s a great mix of traditional and modern looks

Simply Cornered, as shown on Sherry’s website

I contacted Sherry and asked a few questions, which she graciously answered. Here’s The interview:

Q:  How did you get into quilting, how long have you been doing it, and when did you decide to make it professional?

A: I had been hand sewing and doing other crafts for many years before I learned how to sew on a machine.  I’ve been quilting for just over 5 years now and I fell in love with all the different aspects of quilting.  I started pretty early designing patterns since I really love seeing my ideas and my style of quilts.

Q: Where do you get your design ideas?

A: Everywhere… but I find it easier to put self constraints on what I’m designing to help narrow the focus.  I really love secondary designs (like really love them) so a ton of my patterns have a secondary design.  I create, iterate, rotate, recolor, and repeat several times before I land on a design that I love and want to make.

Q: You’ve got a lot going on with social media. How much time does it take?

A: Social media is hard… It’s necessary, but sometimes I’d rather just be me and pretty pictures are not reality.  I should spend more time on social media, but I find I give what I can and that has to be good enough.

Q: What are your goals for your quilting business? What are your goals for your quilting art?

A: I would love to make it my main source of income, but I have a good day job that makes it very difficult to balance time and commitments.  There are things that I would love to be able to do such as kit more of my patterns, teach, lecture, etc. but time is precious and there are things that I’m still prioritizing over adding to the business side to make sure I keep my sanity and don’t burnout in life in general.

Back to the quilt that impressed me: It certainly does have a great secondary design. I drew it in EQ8 and re-colored it because I think it would be striking if done all in one color.

My EQ8 drawing based on Sherry Shish’s pattern “Simply Cornered”

It appears Sherry has made the pattern available already to her Patreon subscribers, and she also sewed it on her Twitch channel in January. It will be available through her PayHip store in March, and you can pre-order here.

I will be making this pattern and following Sherry’s blog. Please join me in wishing her luck!

 

Let the Holiday Hints Begin!

It’s never too soon to start your holiday shopping, or holiday hinting! Here are a few of my favorite ideas.

Postcards: The Barack Obama Mini-Quilt Portrait Series. I was so happy to see this collection! I keep postcards on hand to write notes to friends and neighbors, and before I retired I used them to leave notes for colleagues as well. Available here. And I’m a big Obama fan, so these postcards hit the spot.

Photo courtesy of C&T

I didn’t know about the Social Justice Sewing Academy, so I’ll be following up on that.

Glue pen! This is a glue stick but of smaller diameter and therefore easier to use for holding seams in place.

A regular glue stick and a glue pen

I got an Avery glue pen for a class with Ann Holmes ages ago and still use it. If you don’t need something this small, the back-to-school sales always have glue sticks at a good price. Buy early for stocking stuffers!

Tote bag made from recycled water bottles. There are a lot of these available, and C&T has some printed with beautiful quilt motifs.

Photo courtesy of C&T

I use these for shopping and for transporting “stuff” to workshops and retreats. A friend recently started using them as wrapping when she gives a quilt as a gift. Available here.

4. IBC Silk Pins. These are the best. They are very thin and smooth, but strong enough to spring back when they bend a little going through fabric.

Photo courtesy of Hancocks-paducah.com

I used to buy them from Clotilde before that catalog disappeared. (IBC stood for “Imported by Clotilde”). They are now available from Hancock’s of Paducah (among other places), and since I buy my batting from Hancock’s it all works out!  Another good stocking stuffer for quilting friends, available here.

5. Spray mist bottle. I have two of these, one for water and one for Best Press. Although Best Press comes in an excellent spray bottle, the mist bottle is better at spreading the liquid evenly across the fabric when ironing. I love it! Available here.

6. Rolling storage. I’ve had a little rolling storage cart for years. It doesn’t seem very well made, but with the reinforcement my husband did it has held up quite well. Very convenient for storing notions and thread. The drawers are just the right size. Here’s a link to one like mine, but there are many variations. And be warned, the price varies a lot for identical products, so shop around.

7. Ergonomic rotary cutter.  I bought one of these for better control after cutting off a piece of my finger.

Photo courtesy of Connecting Threads

It’s also great for easing wrist and hand pain. Just be aware that changing the blade is different from what you’re used to. I love this rotary cutter! It comes in both left or right handed versions, available here.

8. Electric Quilt. This is not a small item price-wise, so all the more reason to request it as a special gift! I have used EQ to design quilts on my computer for years.

I used EQ to draw several possible layouts for my Tula Pink blocks

It’s easy to use and has many more features than I’ve ever learned. If you want to draw your own blocks, design your own quilts, or draw out quilts you see pictures of, this is an excellent program. Available here.

9. Gorgeous jigsaw puzzles. C&T recently put out a couple of 1000-piece jigsaw puzzles of Kaffe quilts. Beautiful! Available here.

10. Grippy. This is one of my favorite new products. At least, new to me. I’ve tried many different non-slip strategies for rulers and templates, and this is the best and most economical so far. After I tried it on one ruler, I just lined the others up on the porch and sprayed them all at once. It’s clear, it prevents slipping, and I still haven’t used up a whole can.

As always, the links above are for your convenience; I do not get paid if you buy from them. C&T provides products for me to review, but I put only my favorites in my blog.

 

 

Woo! The Book I’ve Been Waiting For!

I’m a fan of Cindy Grisdela’s work and have gone through the exercises in her previous book, so I was thrilled when C&T sent me Cindy’s new book for review. Adventures in Improv Quilts covers the basics of design and color, but includes some more complex quilts than her previous book. Some of them remind me of Maria Shell, whose book I also love.

Photo courtesy of C&T

Cindy’s colors are bright and interesting. She often combines colors I wouldn’t have thought to use together, which causes me to look twice at the design. That’s a plus!

Photo courtesy of C&T

The book includes plenty of detail on technique. I was especially amused (and gratified) to learn that part of Cindy’s design process is to outline the size for the quilt with blue tape on her design wall. I’ve done that for years and find it a very effective way to think about filling the space as I design. Validation is always nice!

Photo courtesy of C&T

The book includes a chapter on color choices, which will be welcomed by numerous quilters who worry endlessly about the “right” colors. I choose my palettes intuitively, with better results some times than others, so maybe I should pay more attention? I love the color examples in the book, starting with basic palettes and progressing to the addition of other colors or values to give the project variety.

Photo courtesy of C&T

Cindy then goes on to cover the basic principles of design. These won’t be news to most quilters, but her examples shine. I think I will go back to the “bits” left from working through her previous book and see if I can enhance them by using some of her examples from this book.

Photo courtesy of C&T

My favorite advice in the book: “Don’t fear wasting fabric”! That’s a liberating thought!

My second favorite is one of her tips for free-motion quilting, but I think it could apply to most any part of the process: “If you feel like you’ve made a mistake, keep going. Either ignore it or do it again so it becomes a design element.” I love that! I love this book!

The book is available here, but this is not an affiliate link. C&T sends me books for review, and I tell you about my very favorites among them.

 

Two Lovely Beginner Books

I am charmed by a couple of new little books for beginners in sewing or quilting.

Jump Into Patchwork and Quilting is an approachable introduction to quilting. It is not completely basic, as it assumes you have a sewing machine and know how to use it. However, it covers basic information about quilting, including fabric selection, batting, basting, and so forth.

I found the level of detail exactly right. For example, there is a well-illustrated explanation of how to use a rotary cutter safely, without getting into the eternal debate about whether it’s OK to use the lines on your mat for measuring.

The book begins with easy projects and proceeds to a final sampler quilt. This seems to me an encouraging way to teach a beginner to quilt, as these earlier projects can be completed fairly quickly. Here’s part of the Table of Contents showing some of the projects:

Photo courtesy of C&T

The final project is a typical beginner sampler quilt. It is done in cheerful colors and has a modern look while using some traditional prints. I like the combination, which should allow those drawn to both traditional and modern type quilts to enjoy the project.

Phot courtesy of C&T

The one additional thing I would have liked to see in this book is encouragement to allow for mistakes. There is the usual explanation of the importance of a consistent 1/4″ seam, but it would be nice to see acknowledgment that even “imperfect” blocks can be beautiful.

This would be a great book for a series of classes, or for teaching a friend to make quilts. It is available here.

Jump Into Sewing is bright and cheerful without being childish. There are many useful illustrations.  It starts with “Anatomy of a Sewing Machine”, which will be especially useful for those who may have inherited a sewing machine without knowing anything about it. There is a section of clear explanations on troubleshooting common machine sewing problems such as thread snarled on the top or bottom of the fabric.

Photo courtesy of C&T

The first project is an easy pillow. It gave me the idea of helping my 5-year-old make a pillow. He enjoyed decorating a tote bag and the pillow would be a fast project.

Photo courtesy of C&T

More advanced projects include making a buttonhole and putting in a zipper. The final project is a substantial-looking tote bag, which, like the other projects in the book, could be gender neutral.

Photo Courtesy of C&T

Jump Into Sewing is available here.

The book does not offer any information about garment construction, though of course the techniques would transfer. I hope this new series will progress to “Jump Into Garment Sewing” in the future.

These are fun books that make me think of the non-sewers on my holiday list 😉

P.S.: The links above are for your convenience; they are not affiliate links from which I make money.

A Terrific Resource for Quilt Finishing

The Ultimate Quilt Finishing Guide is not exaggerating in its name. I was not immediately enthusiastic because it isn’t a “modern” quilt book, but it really is “ultimate” in being very comprehensive. Pretty much everything you’ve ever learned or wanted to know about borders, batting, backing, and binding is in this book, whether you’re a modern or traditional quilter.

Photo courtesy of C&T

It’s a single resource for all the stuff I keep forgetting, like how to make bias binding from a square of fabric.

I also like the book because the authors often agree with me 😀  For example, they suggest choosing border fabric after completing the center of the quilt. This has been my method for years unless I have a specific reason for buying the border fabric at the same time as the fabrics for the center.

There is a section on squaring up the quilt top when it’s finished, and another section on squaring the quilt up after it has been quilted. This is a major hassle for many quilters, so it’s nice to have it all clearly explained and well illustrated.

There is a discussion of how to measure for borders and then attach them without distorting the edges of the quilt. I should have read that years ago, before I learned the hard way!

Other helpful topics include:

  • Choosing batting
  • Joining batting pieces
  • Binding for both plain and fancy edges

The only thing I disagreed with in the entire book is the method for joining binding ends. I’m sure the way described in the book works just fine, but I love Susan Cleveland’s “Kiss, Twist, and Wiggle” method.

An extensive section covers just about every type of border imaginable, which I particularly like. I certainly could draft any of these using EQ (Electric Quilt design software), but here they are with an explanation of how to do the math to make them fit! That last is the most important, and there are practical work-arounds when needed. For example, when a border is one that makes turning corners difficult, the authors suggest using corner squares. I like it.

This is a comprehensive guide that I’m happy to add to my quilt library. Although most of the samples in the book are more traditional looking, the authors do include many borders that would work for modern quilts, especially as the modern quilt movement seems to be diversifying a bit.

Here’s one last picture from the book:

Photo courtesy of C&T

If you’ve read this far, leave me a comment and I’ll draw a name to receive a free copy of this book. Sorry to say I can only ship to U.S. addresses. I’ll draw the winner on Sunday, July 4, a week after this post goes up. I think I can find your email if you’re a subscriber to these posts, but if you want to be sure please leave an email in your comment. And thanks for reading!

Please note: C&T provides books and products for me to review. I choose those that I like the very best to tell about in my blog.

Landscape Quilting Books

I’ve been making landscape quilts for years and have collected several books on the subject. Since I’m going to be teaching landscape quilting again soon, I thought I’d list the books I am familiar with as a resource for anyone interested in the subject. This absolutely is not an exhaustive list of all the books available; it’s just brief reviews of the books in my own collection.

Create Landscape Quilts by Meri Henriques Vahl, C&T, 2021. This is by far the best of the bunch if you want to put people in your quilts. She covers all the basics but particularly excels at detailed directions for including realistic people. Since I have a “hang-up” about drawing people, this was especially helpful for me. Of course, she has a number of examples of art quilts that do not include people, as well. Her technique is basically collage with a tulle layer on top. Look at the amazing detail in this sample of her work!  Book available here.

Photo courtesy of C&T

Happy Villages by Karen Eckmeier, 2nd Edition, The Quilted Lizard, 2014. This book presents step-by-step instructions for making a number of landscape quilts. It is easier to jump right in here because of the specific instructions, but some of the pieces she uses are tiny. I used tweezers. This is another collage technique with a tulle layer on top. Connecting Threads had it here for less than the used book site I generally go to.

I made this little landscape based on the ideas in Happy Villages

Mickey Lawler’s Skyquilts by Mickey Lawler, C&T, 2011This is a fabric painting book, entirely different from the previous two. It does address some basic principles, and if you enjoy fabric painting this is a good place to start. The author uses several different dyes and paints, which are explained in the book. I did not invest in most of them, but did enjoy using my Setacolor dyes and her ideas. I particularly like her suggestion to use tracing paper over your finished quilt to decide where/how to quilt it, since quilting lines can make all the difference in any type of quilt. It is available from C&T as an e-book here, or I found a good price on a used copy at Abe Books (use their search feature to find what is available).

This pine tree has green flannel for foliage and lots of free motion quilting for texture

I “painted” the sunset here with markers, and attached a little charm I found in my stash

Easy Batik Landscape Quilts by Patricia L. Brown, AQS Publishing, 2011. The technique here takes advantage of the natural variability in batik fabrics to make more realistic looking landscape quilts without having to apply paint or other media. Ms. Brown makes paper patterns and uses piecing and applique to assemble her quilts, so a tulle layer is not necessary. There are examples of both realistic and abstract designs with specific instructions for making a number of them. I have found that batiks are, indeed, excellent for landscape quilts, but I don’t have the patience to make paper patterns the way she does. (I made one landscape quilt using patterns I designed in a workshop with Georgia Bonesteel years ago, so I did try!) At the time of this writing, Connecting threads had a good price on it here.

The mountain in the background is made from a batik so did not need to be painted to have the right appearance. The commercial prints in the foreground were altered with markers.

Accidental Landscapes by Karen Eckmeier, The Quilted LIzard, 2008.This book has an excellent discussion of the elements and techniques that make a successful landscape quilt without resorting to technical language or going into too much detail. The sample projects she uses to teach techniques are easy and helpful. Her examples are much less elaborate than those in most of the other books, which is especially nice if you’re just getting started. The publisher sells it through Amazon.

Batiks and markers were used in this little quilt, and I put a UFO in the sky 🙂

Points of View by Valerie Hearder, Martingale, 2007. This book covers a variety of media that can be used in landscape quilts, from commercial prints to fabric crayons, paint sticks, and embroidery. She constructs the quilt on a muslin base, which I have found helpful. She shows how to use tulle and batiks as well. If you want just one book that covers a variety of techniques, this is a good one. I particularly like the way she plays with scale to add interest to some of her designs. This was available through Thrift Books at the time of this writing–use the search feature to find available copies.

This one was made with fused fabric, using techniques I learned several years ago from Laura Wasilowski

The Art of Landscape Quilting by Nancy Zieman and Natalie Sewell, Krause, 2007. I love Nancy Zieman’s practical approach to sewing and quilting, and this book starts with how to generate ideas and goes right through to finishing the quilt. There are no instructions for making specific quilts. Instead, the authors use many pictures of landscape quilts they have made to explain a variety of techniques for making your own designs. At the time of this writing, the book was unavailable through Thrift Books and available but not cheap at Abe Books. It was $71 on Amazon, so better check your library!

I think I made this one so I could use those round red buttons!

Landscape Quilts for Kids by Nancy Zieman and Natalie Sewell, Krause, 2004. This is a fun book that covers all the basics. I especially enjoyed her idea of cutting out people and animals and applying them broderie perse style to the quilts. She gives tips on how to print pictures of your own kids on fabric for use in landscape quilts. Amazon had one left at a reasonable price as of this writing, but Abe Books had a better price for a used copy; use the search boxes to see what they have available.

I found pre-printed fabrics for everything I needed to build my husband his ideal woodshop 🙂

There are many more landscape quilts waiting to be made from the pictures I’ve taken at beautiful places we have visited.

One of these days I’ll use this as inspiration for a landscape quilt

Please note: the links are for your convenience; they are not affiliate links for which I get paid. I do receive books from C&T for review, but I only review the ones I like!

 

A Fun Fabric Bowl

Recently C&T sent the book shown below for my review, and included a package of Fast2Fuse in the same shipment. What’s a girl to do? I made a bowl!

Photo courtesy of C&T

Here’s how it went, in case you’d like to do the same.

The first thing I did was read the book, and this was important because the organization of the chapters is unique.  Each step in the process of bowl making has its own chapter; e.g., one chapter tells how to make the outer shell, another chapter gives instruction for the inside of the bowl.  There are multiple options for several types of bowls, which adds another layer of complexity and many more options.  

The instructions are clear, but it’s important to have a handle on where the various types of instructions are before starting.  Of course, with any project it’s important to read the instructions through first, so this is nothing new.

The author discusses options for various materials to stiffen the bowl.  She discusses different fabric options as well, including special instructions so you can use directional fabric successfully. 

I thought I’d better do the first one with non-directional fabric!  Fast2Fuse worked great as the base for the fabrics.  I hadn’t tried it before, and it made a significant improvement on my previous bowl making attempts.

The whole thing went together without difficulty in about half a day.  This is the 9″ size, but the book has options for multiple sizes including an 18 inch bowl!

I enjoyed this project and, as noted above, it was easier to get right than my previous bowl-making attempts.  

Here are links to information on the book and on Fast2Fuse:

Modern Fabric Art Bowls

Fast2Fuse heavy double-sided fusible.  This comes in several sizes and in light, medium, or heavy weight.  I used the heavy weight and it worked well for this project. I would choose it for structured bags in the future.

Note: The links in this post do not provide income for me; they are for your convenience only.  C&T provides books and products for me to review, and I choose the ones I like best to present here.