Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Ways and Means

As a last post about this project, I wanted to talk about ways and means. There are several ways to go about creating this sashiko design. I'll describe the way that worked for me.

Many of us are familiar with the marvelous machine quilting of Diane Gaudinski. She creates this look with a continuous line which undulates above and below the intersection going in one direction and then fills the gaps going back the other way.

Diane uses this pattern to great effect as a background filler on unpieced fabric. She creates the intersections by drawing a grid. I find her continuous line method works for me on smaller scale grids but I struggle to maintain a continuous line when the scale gets bigger.
So for this project I tried a hopping scallop instead. At each intersection I would hop up, catching the intersection of the X and curve back down. Then comes the best part, I pause. This gives me time to catch my breath, steady my nerves and take aim for the next leap. My progress across the top would look something like this.

No matter how small the neck on my machine, I'm always going to have room for this maneuver. I began going in the direction on the diagram; left to right. But because I'm working from the back of the machine, I had trouble seeing what I was doing. So I swapped sides and came right to left, this gave me much better visibility. It took my kids ages to make this diagram so I'm just going to let you imagine the change of direction.

On the way back, I did a quarter hop, paused and then continued the half circle hop to the end of the row. The blue line in the diagram below shows this process. This staggered scallop reminds me of cake decorating.

I worked my way through the top; scalloping over, coming back under. Then scalloping under and coming back over. Ironically, it's taken much longer to write about the quilting than to do it. By clicking on any of the photos, you'll get a good close up view of the stitching.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Binding Issues

I have a love-hate relationship with binding. I do love the process of holding the fabrics together as I hand sew the binding to the backing, turning the fabric over to peek, inch by inch at the progress on the front. I just hate how long it takes. I quilted the thing in 20 minutes, once it was loaded on the frame. But it took me over two hours to hand sew the last bit of the binding down after it had been machine stitched to the front.

I usually use a double-folded strip for binding. Also called French Binding, the 2 inch strips are cut on the diagonal - it uses lots of fabric but for a special project, I think it's worth it. For this quilt, I cut 2 inch strips from various batiks that I used in the quilt and pieced them together. This carried on the scrappy feel of the project.
I used MasterPiece #117 Smart Alex to hand sew the binding. This thread is so fine that it disappears into the fabric. The people at Superior Threads have taken the trouble to give it a good twist which means that it doesn't knot the way some threads do when you're hand sewing the binding.

In the past I've struggled with a satisfying width for binding. In the early days I tended to go rather wide. But a few years ago I hosted a strippy quilt challenge with British Patchwork & Quilting Magazine - the prize was one of my quilting frames. There were nearly 100 participants who created strippy quilts to donate to Project Linus. When we met with the editors to choose the winning quilts, I was struck with the big difference the binding made. The narrow bindings looked better. So here's a question for any readers. I'd love to know what you think is the ideal binding width. Any comments would be most appreciated.

Friday, 12 June 2009

On the Frame

Here's the Ruby Wedding table runner on the New English Quilter frame catching a bit of afternoon sunlight. I stopped half way through to take some photos. I wanted to highlight the big difference the quilting makes. Click on the photos for a better look at the fabrics, threads and quilting.

This is my first try with this quilting pattern. It has lots of names, some call it Sashiko. I think it looks like Cathedral Window or Double Wedding Ring so it compliments the theme beautifully. I'd been worried about the needle getting stuck in the bulky centre seams, but the JUKI and the new 100/16 Topstitch needle rose to the challenge. I've created the design using a series of half circles with a pause between. Now there's just the binding left to go.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Ruby Wedding

What do you do when your friend names her new baby girl Ruby? Start collecting red fabric, of course. That was over two years ago and now I have a great collection. That's good because I found out a week ago that another friend is going to celebrate her Ruby Wedding this week. I'll easily get a drag-around-the-house-quilt AND a table runner out of the red stash.

To fit in with the ruby theme I've collected intense gem like reds that go from hot orangy tones all the way to the cool purply. I speed pieced quarter square triangles for a cut gem look. I love how the colours look together such a rich plummy wine. Now I needed just the right threads. I wanted the threads to shimmer so I went for the Rainbow range from Superior Threads. I narrowed my options down to these two gorgeous spools. On the spool I couldn't decide - I loved them both.

So I took my pieced table runner top outside in the sunlight and took the spools of thread out of their wrappers. The I unwound a bit of thread and laid it against the fabric. This made the choice easy. Rose Garden, though lovely, disappeared but Gypsy shimmered and shone.

Today I needed to decide on a machine quilting pattern. I've been wanting to try a free-motion pattern that circles round the squares. But as the blocks came together I was worried about the multiple layers of fabric in the centres. This quilting pattern would have me go right through these bulky centers. I was afraid that the needle might get stuck.

So I did something that I almost never do. I made a practice block from my wonky squares. I loaded it on the frame with some wadding and backing, threaded Gypsy in my JUKI and had a trial run. It worked! I'm thrilled and I can't wait to start quilting in earnest tomorrow.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Teacher Quilts

With yet another end of the school year approaching, I thought it would be fun to do a post on teacher quilts. I've made lots of teacher quilts over the years. The end of a school year is a right of passage and the bond between child and teacher is often close enough to warrant a special thank you.

Ironically, this quilt marked the year that my husband and I decided to pull our kids out of school and try home schooling. At the time our eldest was 7 and our twins were 5. I'd been a primary school teacher in my other life and it seemed that all my friends back home were beginning to homeschool. My husband and I were inspired by a book about the English educational philosopher Charlotte Mason. The book was For the Children's Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay. It's one of the books that inspired the American homeschooling movement.

Anyway, I wanted a graceful leaving and I wanted the teachers to know that I did appreciate them. So I made this quilt as a goodbye. The black centre with the 'wood' border was meant to look like an old Victorian slate board. We used fabric paint like chalk to write the message. Most English schools have gingham summer uniforms often in blue. This is the reason behind the blue and white checkerboard border. The hearts and apples in the corners just seemed fitting.
We did spend the next 5 years homeschooling. It was rewarding and challenging. I'm glad we did it. Katie has graduated and Emily and Ben are now in Sixth Form at local High Schools but they do have happy memories from those homeschool years.