It is always good to finish a project -- a sense of completion warms my heart! My Sarah's Revival quilt is finally finished -- the hand quilting extended across nine months -- if I hadn't had so many other fun projects to work on, it would have taken me about two months to hand quilt it. But even though "done" is good... so is working on tons of different projects! So here is Sarah... drum roll, please!
And here are some close-up views of Sarah; I love using two different quilting motifs in borders; in this case, I used both cross hatching (on the outer side of the vine) and slats (on the inner side of the vine). I also felt like I needed to quilt something in those dogtooth borders, so I quilted a little 5/8-inch circle in each one.
Here's a view of the corner of Sarah; I loved making those cornerstone circles as well as the feather fan between the swags.
Here are the four center blocks. My pattern says to use the same green fabric in each center block but who says you have to follow a pattern? Even if it's my own! I used four different green fabrics. I like scrappy quilts - what else can I say?
I used a red and off-white toile fabric on the back of the quilt. I love quilting with toile backings; they hide lots of things you don't want anyone to notice.
Someone asked, in the comments, what kind of thread I use for hand quilting. I'm not too persnickety -- but I love YLI ( it comes on a nifty fat wooden spool), Gutermann, Coats and Clark's Coats Cotton (the kind that is a Glace Finished), and Mettler. There are so many good choices -- and for the most part, I like them all as long as they are 100 percent cotton -- plus they have to be 40 weight, 3 ply threads so they can withstand any tugging and pulling.
I also got a LOT of emails asking me how I pre-shrink my battings. First, let me say that I don't care if the manufacturer says its batting does not shrink or does not have to be pre-shrunk. I have tested sixteen different battings and they ALL shrink -- cotton, cotton-poly blends, polyester (yes, it shrinks too!), things with scrim and things without scrim, wool, silk... and so on. I don't like my quilts to look all puckered (unless they are utility quilts, in which case, I don't care); I like them to stay just like they are before being washed (not that I have ever had to wash my quilts... but once in a great, great while... you have to). So on anything that is not a utility quilt, I preshrink the fabric AND the batting. Here's how I shrink the batting.
1. Take the batting out of the packaging.
2. Unfold the whole thing so that the water can get into all of it, once it goes in the washer.
3. Set the water temperature on hot. Or warm if your washer heats the water up right away. If I set mine on warm water, the last drop in the tub will finally be less than frigid... so I set it on HOT.
4. Fill the wash tub with water.
5. Shove the batting down in the water. You can do this while the tub is still filling if you want to get a head start....
6. The batting (no matter what kind) will want to rise to the top. Find something that will not poke a hole in the batting and push the batting down under the water. You can use your hand but it might get scalded if your water is as hot as mine. I use a wooden spatula just because it's handy. I'm sure there is something better but I like handy things.
7. Once the batting is submerged, let it just s--o--a--k-- ... for about 15 minutes. Do NOT let your washer advance to the point it starts agitating the batting. For me, that just means I leave the top of my washer open/up.
8. After the batting has soaked for a while, turn the dial to the SPIN cycle. I don't care if it's high spin or low spin -- just whatever will spin the water out of the batting. Let 'er spin!
9. Once the spin cycle is complete....
10. Take your batting and tuck it in the dryer.
11. I set the dial to time-dry for about 15 minutes. I know it won't be dry in 15 minutes... but I'll go back and check it in a while and if it's still pretty wet, I'll set it for another 5-10 minutes. I do that a few times until the batting is basically "nearly dry" -- which means not bone dry.
12. Take the batting out of the dryer -- mine is still a tad moist but not much.
13. I then throw it on the floor in my entryway... you could also use a big bed or flip it across a shower rod or lay it across the back of a sofa... you get the picture... and I let it air dry the rest of the way.
14. And then... magic! It's ready to load on your machine or quilt frame, or ready to be basted so you can start quilting! Here, you can see that I'm using this batting (100 percent wool) on my new quilt. I'll show that quilt to you next... right after I show you one more thing about shrinking things.
I get asked a lot about how you (or even should you) wash fabric you get in kits. My answer is YES, you should wash the fabric and here's how. You can just stick it under the faucet with warm/hot water running and then let the fabric dry atop some towels. Or you can dip it all in a sink full of warm/hot water and then let it dry on towels. I don't recommend putting it loose in the washing machine, as you're likely to end up with a shredded, tangled mess. Unless you have one of those nice zippered lingerie bags! You can pick them up in stores like Bed, Bath, & Beyond. Here, you can see I'm washing some scraps I got from my local quilt shop. They will come out untangled and ready to press.
Here is the quilt in my longarm machine -- I wanted to point out that I quilted around every single one of the 1,696 one-inch half-square triangles in this quilt! I am a firm believer that quilts should be quilted on machines just like they would be quilted by hand... so I outline quilt around every pieced piece and appliqued piece... and then I go back and quilt some more in the open areas.
Here's a close-up view of me quilting around all the applique -- I use a straight edge ruler to do this and drag the machine with my right hand. It is what works for me.
And here's a view of more blocks and pinwheel sashings... I just LOVED making this quilt - probably because I loved the cheddar in it - otherwise, I'm not sure I'd have been nearly as much in love with it. Brown quilts aren't often my idea of pretty quilts... but add a little gold and cheddar, and I'm happy as a clam!
And finally, here is the finished Twirly Balls and Pinwheels. I'm working on the pattern now -- writing patterns for block-of-the-month quilts can be tough... but this won't be a block of the month. Well, not quite! I'm writing a single pattern for the quilt. If shops want to kit the quilt as a block of the month, I'm writing kitting instructions for that (i.e., customers would buy the pattern in Month 1 and get the fabric in monthly installments with a mini-list of instructions... or they could buy the pattern and all of the fabric... or they could buy the pattern and just use their stash). This was a fun quilt -- hats off to Fanny Tod who inspired this quilt with her version, made in the mid-1800s; it can be seen in Quilts of Virginia - you'll recognize the quilt there, even though she used a different block, because she used those striking pinwheel sashings. Thank you, Fanny!
I used a cheddar fabric on the back. I loved that fabric when I bought it, but I could never figure out how to make it work in any blocks. I loved it so much that, fortunately, I bought enough for the backing!
I was also worried about getting this blog done on time... last week was the annual "Spring Retreat" on Galveston Island that I co-chair with a friend, and it ate up all my free time for a while. At our retreat, we set up on Wednesday morning... and sew, sew, sew until we take everything down on Sunday. I got tired of expensive retreats... who needs them? So when Patty D and I planned this retreat, we made it simple: 1) no block exchanges, signature strip swaps, mystery quilts, community service quilts, demos, workshops, or stuff that takes us away from our own projects; 2) plenty of space and great lighting; 3) lodging is not included - to keep costs down, people can commute (20-25 miles), otherwise, they can stay onsite in the hotel or rent a beach house on the island; 4) meals are on your own - there are plenty of restaurants on the Island, some within walking distance, and there's an affordable bistro onsite; and 5) the best part of all: it costs all of $45 for 4 days... and we give everyone a $20 gift card to our local quilt shops so it really only costs $25 for 4 days. How sweet is that? Have your guild retreats become expensive? Think about simplifying them. Sometimes I think we all tend to overthink and overplan events. Simple is good! The picture below was taken early in the morning before most of the quilters returned for the day. We had space for 96 quilters -- such fun!
The best part about a retreat (other than working on projects, eating out, and not thinking about laundry) is being with friends. Everyone had such fun - quilters can be such crazy ladies -- look at all the smiles!!!
Oh -- and the other best part about a retreat is seeing what everyone else is working on! Here's my friend Jerrianne's Mary Mannakee block... Jerrianne is an expert applique stitcher and I've always loved her fabric choices.
One of the gals at the retreat was working on my Friends of Baltimore blocks. Dottie has a penchant for doing tons of embellishment. I could learn a lot from her! Here's one of her blocks (yes, I know it's sideways... Blogspot is not cooperating tonight!). Look at the tendrils wrapping around the vine - and all of the stitching on the broderie perse flowers. Bravo!
This flower (the yellow one below, on a different block) intrigued me -- it's ruched, but not like I've ever seen ruching done before. Dottie - teach me!
And what did I work on? Well... several things. Let me back up a bit. Last October, I spotted a delightful alphabet quilt in Mary Koval's booth at the Houston IQA quilt show. I snapped a couple pictures (with permission, of course). Here's the top half of the quilt...
Isn't it just too cute? Below is the bottom half of the quilt. The quilt is from a Nancy Page pattern published in the 1930s.
I liked that quilt so much that I came home and drew up my own blocks, based on Nancy's patterns (which are not copyrighted any more). I started embroidering and appliqueing them at the retreat. Here are the first six letters.
And here's the last three letters that I managed to finish... I still have six letters left.
They blocks will be cut down to 7 inches -- and sashed with wide sashing, as the original was done. This is just such a sweet quilt!
I also worked on my new Baltimore blocks. As a refresher, here's a mockup of the blocks...
One is in a straight set and one is on point. Yes, I'm making two of each block. Yes, I know I have issues... there's probably a syndrome named for it... but I don't care; I'm in denial and not looking for a cure any time soon!
I'd show you my progress on the blocks (they're both way past half way finished) but I'm going to save the "reveal" for later this year when some other pieces fall in place. I have already designed two more blocks - I'm not sure you can see them as well because I didn't color them in yet.
I can't wait to start making these blocks; the one on the bottom just begs for a wonderful print reverse appliqued in the fluting of the vase - and I've got just the right one!
One of the things that happened at the retreat was that one of the gals brought a quilt with her that she had made in a workshop on precision piecing that I taught several years ago. I've long believed that you do not learn to precision piece by making 12" blocks; you have to give yourself a challenge that MAKES you learn precision. My workshop, therefore, involved making a quilt with 4-1/2 inch blocks that had half-inch squares in them. Yes, I said half-inch squares. It MAKES you sew with precision!!! So... when a bunch of gals saw Becky's quilt, they asked me to teach the workshop at our guild's next sew-in. Here's my quilt... it's been folded up for years, so it's pretty wrinkly, but you get the idea. It's just shoo-fly blocks and double nine-patch blocks set within borders.
So why am I telling you all this? Because I'm starting to venture out and do lectures and workshops for guilds. I had stopped doing them when family matters overrode life, but I've got more freedom now and I'll be offering workshops on precision piecing as well as applique and lots of other things! Here's another project that I worked on at the retreat: red and white twirly balls! You might think I'd get tired of making these blocks but I've actually already had a few request to teach them in workshops. They're mind-bendingly FUN to make (and no, you don't have to make 1,696 one-inch half-square triangles for the sashing)! Here's a draft design of red and white scrappy twirly balls set with three-strip sashing strips. Sweet! The workshop I'm putting together is for a smaller quilt with fewer twirly balls.
That's all for this month -- it was a month of finishing things. And now, I wish you all the most glorious Spring ever - full of retreats, fun projects, and things getting DONE!
Happy quilting -
(c)2013 Susan H. Garman