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On the Longarm Today–Minkee

I love quilting Minkee,  my machine likes it and the back shows off quilting stitches beautifully.  The picture above is the back of a traditional spools quilt.  The nap (the raised thread) of Minkee and it’s polyester thread reflects light and shadow.  It is also soft, cuddly and warm…as the temperatures continue to drop here in Wisconsin I will be pulling out everything that is warm!

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I used an edge to edge feather design in the center of the quilt and a feathered scroll design in the border by One Song Needle Arts.  The traditional look of the quilting fits well with the traditional quilt design.  The spool pattern has been used in quilts for over 100 years and can look traditional or modern depending on the choice of fabrics, or how the blocks are set into the quilt top.

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This quilt will make a lovely gift.

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On the Longarm today….Creating a Square and Flat Quilt Top

Builders use levels and plumb lines to keep houses ‘square’.  A house that is level and plumb is less likely to fall down.  Likewise a quilt which is flat and whose angles are intentional is more likely to survive washing, hanging on a wall or in a quilt show.  In every step of the quilt making process we introduce a chance of error.  I have learned through the years (by painful experience mostly) to reduce some of the errors.  My worst quilt ever was a lap quilt made from a brocade fabric, I pieced each block and then had to ease them to fit each other, then because I ‘knew’ that I pieced 12″ blocks, I calculated the ‘theoretical’ length of the borders and quilted it.  It had more waves than a surfer’s convention.

I took out the quilting, ripped off the borders, measured the quilt, reattached the borders, and quilted it.  It still was wavy–I took out the quilting, blocked the top, quilted it, blocked it and attached the binding.  It was as good as it was going to get.  My friends labeled it the ‘quilt from h***”.  I never wanted to see it again.

I have another quilt, a pleated log cabin with a heavily embellished border, hand appliqued with dimensional flowers.  It also does not lie flat, it hangs ‘pregnant’ (with the center bulging out).  I took out the quilting twice, measured and reattached the borders 3 times–it still does not hang straight.  I gave up, it is finished and resides in a very comfortable place in the closet.  Both of these quilts were finished several years ago and they inspired me to improve my technical skills so that I would not ever have to take out quilting stitches again.

Here are some techniques I learned to improve my accuracy:

  • Fabric matters:  The ‘gold’ standard for quilts is 100% Cotton fabric made for quilting.  Yes, you can quilt with fleece, silk, wool, fur, pleather, leather, satin, jersey, polyester, brocade….But if you choose another fabric choice you will have to change some of the techniques and perhaps add some steps in order to achieve accuracy.  For example, the brocade in the quilt above should have had a stabilizer, such as French Fuse or Shape Flex 101, fused onto it.  Then the fabric would not have stretched to create waves.  I also should have stay stitched with a walking foot around the quilt top before quilting it.  100% Quilting Cotton has  minimal stretch, creates a defined crease when pressed, and can be washed.
  • Double starch:  Before cutting cotton fabric I starch it, press it dry, starch it again, and press it dry again.  I use regular grocery store Niagara spray starch, if my grocery store gives me a choice, I purchase the heavy duty, professional, super-duper spray starch.  I don’t mind the smell, of the ordinary starch but I avoid any floral scented starches.  Most of my quilts are made to be used, washed and loved and the starch will be gone after the quilt gets it’s first ‘bath.’
  • Cut accurately:  Know where to place the lines of your ruler, use sharp blades in your rotary cutter, use accurate templates.  Make sure that the fabric is folded parallel to the selvages and only layer your fabric thick enough so that your rotary cutter will cut through it easily.
  • Use an accurate 1/4″ seam allowance:  Even if you have been using a machine ‘forever’ and you ‘know’ it has an accurate 1/4″ seam allowance, test it before starting a new project.  I sewed all day without realizing that somehow my needle position had been changed.  aargh!
  • Measure frequently:  Before putting on sashing or piecing blocks together, measure your blocks.  Fabric moves and small errors can add up quickly.  I measure and fix things as I go along.  It may slow me down, but I don’t have to ‘frog’ (rip it, rip it) as often.
    • Before putting on borders measure your quilt top 6 times in 6 different places.capture
      • Add the horizontal measurements together then divide by 3:  this is the horizontal measurement of the quilt (note:  If the measurements differ more than an inch, I would double check the measurements, then I would double check the construction of the top).
      • Add the vertical measurements together then divide by 3:  this is the vertical measurement of the quilt.  (see note above)
      • Use these measurements to determine the length of your border cuts of fabric.
  • Be a Quilt Engineer:  None of the above techniques would have helped my heavily embellished and appliqued pleated log cabin.  The combined weight of the pleated log cabin blocks sewn to a muslin foundation and the weight of the applique was too much for the borders.  I should have stabilized the borders with a heavy stabilizer.  I think that sometime in the future I might add a heavy stabilizer to the back of the quilt or frame it.

Every quilt has it’s own unique challenges, I problem solve through out each step of the process in order to get the results I want.  At the same time I leave myself open to creative opportunities.  Some times there are happy accidents along the way which require me to change my plan.  Lovelli Signature

 

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On my longarm today—Looking ahead to Christmas

One of the best times of the year for me is coming just a few short months from now–Christmas.  I love to give gifts, to make gifts and to decorate my house with special things which are made by ‘makers’ or ‘artisans’ such as the tree skirt above.  The tree skirt, which can also be made as a round table topper, was made on my longarm, then I assembled and bound it.  It is beautiful in this pure white Kona cotton, but it would also be beautiful in a variety of different fabrics.  I’m thinking of making another version in silk.

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In addition to tree skirts, I plan to quilt pillows, placemats and table runners for the Christmas season. . .  I need to get started today, to get everything done in time.  Last Christmas everyone received a UFO under the tree (not my finest moment).  We did have some laughs over that and I’m sure my family won’t let me forget it.  I plan to pace myself this year and manage my time time better.  My goal is to have everything done by Thanksgiving, so I will be posting ideas and finished projects until then.

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The History of the Olympics…and Quilts

I watched the Olympics this last week with interest–yes, there was some yelling going on at my house as we cheered our favorite athletes to victory.  My mind and the internet combine with, sometimes, curious results.  I originally thought that I would write about quilts and the Olympics.  For example, during the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, each athlete received a quilt, pictures of which are published in this book:  Olympic Quilts.  However, I thought I’d go a little further back in time to the 17th century.  Yes, there were Olympick Games in Cotswald, England starting in 1622, the games included sledgehammer throwing, horse racing, jumping, fencing, and, my personal favorite, shin-kicking.  I had no idea that shin-kicking was a sport, I thought it was just a game we played in school while waiting for the bus to pick us up.  Yes, it is real and it is still played today…they even have a Youtube video:

Padding the shins in ‘modern’ shin-kicking is seen as essential–the sport has set aside the more extreme elements of the rules such as steel toed boots and winning by breaking the leg of the opponent.  Likewise padding was seen as essential in many of the fashion trends of the 17th through 19th centuries.  Waistcoats and petticoats for women and doublet’s for men were quilted both for warmth and to show off the wealth and status of the wearer.  In fact, some of the earliest quilts in the Americas were items of clothing.

Men’s Doublet 1635-1640, Victoria and Albert Museum
Women’s Waistcoat, quilted silk satin, ca. 1700. Collection of Colonial Williamsburg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These quilted pieces were valued by their owners and were recorded in household inventories and wills.  I get inspiration from looking at many of these items.  Of course on cold winter days here in Wisconsin I often yearn to wear a silk quilted petticoat!!

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On the Longarm today….Fall is coming

Today I finished this beautiful fall quilt sampler with a wonderful oak leaf pattern by Kim Diamond.  Th!e autumn colors make me want to snuggle into this quilt with a warm cup of tea (at least for a minute or two–it’s in the 90s and humid).  I know that soon the trees will be losing their leaves and temperatures will drop.  This quilt is big!  120″x 122″!!  The quiltmaker did a beautiful job keeping the points in the quilt pointy and the seams matching where they were supposed to match.  IMG_2002

I chose an edge to edge design which reflected the season of the color palette, which would allow the piecing to be the ‘star’ of the show and which would give the quilt a soft and cuddly texture.

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You can see the oak leaves and meander on the back of the quilt.  On the front of the quilt the quilting only shows in the borders where it adds texture and movement to the piece.

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Are you ready for fall?  I’m sending my youngest son off to college in the next couple of weeks–I’m not sure I’m old enough for that to happen yet! (lol.)  Enjoy your quilting adventure!!

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Quilts with Rounded Corners

I sometimes see quilts with rounded corners come across my appraisal table.  The gently curved bound corner is as tricky to sew as a mitered corner.  I tried curved corners on my ‘We Support You’ quilt which you can read about here.IMG_1278020415_1

The curve is easy to accomplish with the aid of a binding cut on the bias.  The bias tape should lay flat with no puckers and the corner shouldn’t pull the corner of the quilt toward the front or back.  I also would recommend curving your corners if you want to use the binding attachment on your sewing machine.

According to Barbara Brackman there are not many quilts made prior to the 20th century with bias binding, yet there are many examples of curved corners.  I wondered if the number of curved corners in the 20th century increased as a result of the use of bias binding, so I went to the Quilt Index to find out.  The Quilt Index has a huge database of many quilts from all time periods.  We can thank the many volunteers who have collected pictures and information through state documentation projects, museums, and collections.  In addition the many organizations who have funded this massive project.  It is a wonderful resource for both information and inspiration; and a great place to browse through on a lazy summer afternoon!

19th century quilts from online auctions with rounded corners.

I started my quest by doing a search on ’rounded corners’.  The results came back with close to 900 quilts!  Since I wanted to compare the trends between 10 year periods of time, I removed those quilts with no dates, no images, and duplicates from the search results.  I also deleted from the search the quilts with shaped edges, i.e. scalloped, jagged, zig-zags, notched; and the quilts which were not shaped like a rectangle or square, i.e. octagons and circles.  Removing those quilts from my search results brought the number of quilts with rounded corners down to approximately 500.  I was very surprised by the small proportion of quilts in the index which have rounded corners. I guess I’m in the minority who think that rounded corners are easier to sew!!!  20160812

Next, I compared the percentage of quilts with rounded corners across the decades to the total number of quilts from those decades.  I expected the percentage of quilts with rounded corners to increase in the 20th century because using bias binding became more common.  I know that I’ve seen more quilts from the 1930’s with rounded corners, but I think that is because I’ve seen more quilts from that period of time.

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In the chart above, notice how the number of quilts entered into the Quilt Index varies a great deal by decade.  You can see the peaks of the 1880/90, 1920/30, and the 1970/80 quilt revivals.  According to the chart above, the percentage of quilts with rounded corners entered into the Quilt Index has not changed over time.  We may think that rounded corners increase in the twentieth century simply because we see more quilts from that period of time.  I did find that there were more scalloped, zig zag, and jagged quilts from the 20th century.

20th century quilts from online auctions with rounded corners.

I’ve run across certain blogs that say that rounded corners in an antique quilt are an indication that the quilt is from the southern United States.  I did a ‘quick and dirty’ look through the Quilt Index and found that there did not appear to be a relationship between rounded corners and region where the quilt was made.  However, the search form does not allow a specific search for ‘location made’ and ’rounded corners’, so I searched through the entire index using ’rounded corners state’.  This method appeared to be working until I got to Michigan…a great number of quilts have ‘Michigan’ in their records because that is where the Quilt Index is housed–University of Michigan.  My curiosity was frustrated!  I would be interested to know if anyone has further insight and evidence into regional differences and rounded corners.

In the meantime, I’m thinking up future searches of the Quilt Index and many more hours looking at beautiful quilts.

Have fun on your quilting adventure!

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On my longarm today….(a blast from the past)

I have a quilting bucket list and this log cabin quilt checked off one of the items on that bucket list.  Looking back helps gives me (re)inspiration for some of the quilts I’m making today.  In this log cabin, made entirely from scraps, I used a central red square, scrappy white/off white shirting, and darker scrappy logs.

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I loved quilting this on my longarm because I was able to use different quilting designs in each of the diagonal sections of the triangles.  I used a design by Kathy “Beany” Balmart at Quilty Pleasures from her Cascade bundle.

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I loved trying it out on my log cabin.  Designs like this would work really well on many pieced blocks which have strong diagonal lines across the quilt top.  Do you have one in your bucket list?

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