Monday, February 27, 2012

Eager Anticipation

I'm all itchy and twitchy today. Want to know why? Today my new sewing machine arrives!! I've been dying for a new sewing machine for some time - specifically one with a larger harp for machine quilting anything larger than a small throw. Then last week my husband said, "I think you should order that machine." He was probably sick of seeing a photo of it every time he opened up the laptop. Ha! So what am I getting?

Drum roll please....

Oh, I might collapse in excitement when the UPS truck pull up to the house this evening!

In the meantime, my Viking is in the shop getting a tune up so it'll be in tip top shape for it's next owner (hopefully to be found quickly via word of mouth or Craigslist).

We're supposed to get a big snow storm tomorrow (I've really missed the white stuff this year). No better time to hunker down in the sewing room and learn about my new machine. Thanks, Mother Nature, and thanks to my dear hubby.

What's your dream sewing machine and why? I'd love to hear all about it.


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Four's a Charm - Let's make the sandwich

We've finished our Four's a Charm quilt top. Now what? Make a sandwich, of course! No, not a grilled cheese, I'm talking about a quilt sandwich. This is where we layer the quilt backing, batting, and top. And not only do we need to layer these sandwich ingredients, but we need to figure out a way to keep them all together so they won't slip and slide around as we machine quilt.

You've essentially got four options:

1. The standard method is to use quilting safety pin to hold the layers together. This isn't the method that I'm going to use so here's a link to a tutorial for you.

2. You can also spray baste your quilt components together. I love spray baste. It's easy to use and you don't have to pull out pins as you machine quilt. If you're planning to spray baste, here's a tutorial for you. I also suggest using 505 Spray and Fix. I've heard bad things about other brands. And do your lungs a favor - spray outside or in a well ventilated area. I use an old sheet as a drop cloth to prevent getting gluey icky stuff all over my floor.

3. Similar to the spray baste method is fusible batting. Instead of spraying the batting with glue, it's already impregnated (!?!) with a glue that's activated when ironed. Simply put your layers together and iron. While I've never used this product myself, I think it sounds awesome. Hobbs makes an 80% cotton/20% polyester version that comes in a crib size that would work great for the Four's a Charm quilt. Another option is Fusi-Boo fusible bamboo batting by Fairfield. The crib size is too small for our project so you would need to purchase the 60" square package if you're planning to use this product. Here's an online video tutorial if you're planning to use fusible batting. If you do, I'd love to hear what you think and which brand you chose.

4. The fourth possible basting choice is a new product called Pinmoor. I'll be using these to baste my Four's a Charm quilt. I love these little small silicone cylinders. Instead of using safety pins to baste your quilt, you just use regular pins and then top the sharp end off with a Pinmoor.

    You can also hand baste your quilt with thread. This is super old school but way to go if you choose this route!

    Before we start basting and layering our sandwich, we need to deal with any wrinkles. Grab your quilt batting and a damp (clean) kitchen towel and throw them in the dryer for about 20  minutes, which remove any wrinkles. While your batting is in the dryer, take a couple minutes to iron out any major wrinkles in you quilt backing and quilt top.

    If you're pin basting this quilt like I am, you're going to need one more thing - tape. As far as I'm concerned, every sewist should have a roll of 3M blue painter's tape in their sewing and quilting tool kit. I personally prefer the 3M brand because the generic versions tend to be less tacky (in my humble opinion).

    Okay, let's start basting.

    Place your quilt top on top of your quilt batting and cut the batting so that it's approximately 1 1/2" to 2" beyond the edge of the quilt top on all four sides. Set the batting and top aside.

    Lay your quilt backing face down on the (clean!) floor and use the painter's tape to secure the edges.

    Place the batting on top of the taped-down backing.

    Now layer the quilt top on top of the batting.

    Starting in the center, place pins through all three layers and then back up. Top with a Pinmoor (if that's what you're using).

    Continue working from the center, radiating out, placing a pin every 3" - 4". Pin all the way out to the outer edges.

    Ack! I ran out of Pinmoors. You'll put your pins closer together.
    When you're done, remove the tape strips. You're ready to start quilting.

     We'll cover machine quilting in my next post. In the meantime, consider how you plan to quilt your Four's a Charm. If you plan to do easy, straight line quilting, you'll need a walking/even feed foot.

    If you plan to do free motion (also known as stippling), you're going to need some type of darning foot.

    You'll also need quilting gloves - I have Atlas gloves, although I prefer Machingers.

    No matter which method  you use, you will be very happy indeed to have an extension table for your sewing machine. Sorry, but nobody ever said quilting was a cheap hobby.

    In the next post I'll walk you through free motion quilting. Stay tuned. And please leave me a comment if you have any questions.

    Happy sewing!

    Link to Four's a Charm Page

    Monday, February 13, 2012

    Four's a Charm - Let's put the quilt top together

    Ready to piece piece your quilt top? Let's get to it!

    We left off with a stack of 9 four square blocks.

    Before we start sewing, I just need to warn you that some of my methods are unconventional. If you are a seasoned quilter and don't agree with my techniques, please use your own wisdom. There are three things in particular I would like to point out that may seem odd:
    1. I like to leave the selvedges on my sashing and border strips. Why, you ask? Because they make it easy to determine the right and wrong side of the fabric - no easy feat with dark solids. If the little hole are smooth, you're on the right side of the fabric. If they stick out a bit, you're on the wrong side of the fabric. As you line up your sashing to start sewing, make sure you start your sewing past the selvedge. Those little holes don't usually disappear upon washing :(
    2. I'm the world's laziest pinner. I prefer to press seams flat with my finger tips as I feed the fabric under the needle. I urge you to take the time to pin your seams if you're not comfortable with this method.
    3. Finally, are you wondering why I tell you to press your seams before trimming off any excess sashing or border fabric? I've found through trial and error that even when I take extra care and caution when trimming extra fabric before I've pressed, I rarely get a square/even cut. Try it out yourself and see what you find.
    Okay, let's jump right in. Our first step is to square up our blocks. Squaring up your blocks is exactly what it sounds like - measuring blocks and trimming them accordingly to make them both perfectly square and all the same size.  I must admit that this is my very least favorite part of quilting and so I'm going to link you up to another tutorial. Your blocks should be somewhere in the 9.5" square range. Mine are about 1/8" under that measurement.

    Dreaded squaring up. Maybe you love it?
    Once your blocks are all square, lay them out on a design wall or on the floor in their original order (this is when that photo you took comes in handy - again!).

    All the blocks in order
     Have your sewing machine threaded and ready to sew 1/4" seams.
    Grab the 2 1/2" x WOF sashing strip. Now grab the left and center blocks from the first two rows.

    Four blocks off to get sashed
    We're going to sew the sashing to the right side of each of these blocks, one after the next. I put the sashing right side down, facing the blocks and sew a 1/4" seam along the right edge, avoiding the selvedge.
    Mind the selvedge
     Now technically you should pin the seam in the center of the block, but I just use my fingers to hold the seam flat as I feed it under the needle and take my time sewing. If you don't feel comfortable with this method then by all means pin.

    Pressing the center seam flat while sewing - the lazy girl way!
    As you reach the end of the block continue sewing about 1/2" and then line up the next block. Continue in this manner until all four blocks are stitched to the long sashing strip.

    Notice the gap between the blocks
    Find your two 2 1/2' x 10" strips. Sew these to the right sides of the bottom row's left and center blocks, leaving you with the right column of three blocks with no sashing. Watch the selvedges.

    Head over to your ironing board. Set the seams, then press all seams open - even the four blocks sewn to the long strip.

    Using your acrylic ruler, line trim off the excess sashing on both sides of all six blocks.

    Put your blocks back in order. Now we're going to sew the rows together. Working from left to right, pin the left side of the center block to the right side of the left block (right sides facing). Do this for all three rows.

    Center block is on the top facing the left most block. Sew seam on the right side
    Chain stitch the three seams. Snip threads.

    Repeat with the center block and the right blocks. Pin, chain piece, snip. Press the sashing seams, setting first then pressing them open.


    Hooray! The rows are done. Now we'll join the three rows together with the remaining two 2 1/2" sashing strips.

    Sew a sashing strip to the top and the bottom of the center row.

    One side sewn, one to go
    Press seams open.

    Pin the top row to the top of the sashed center row. Double check that the shashing between the blocks lines up.

    Pin the bottom row to the bottom of the sashed center row, again making sure that the vertical sashing strips all line up.

    Why yes, those are pins!
    Sew a 1/4" seam down one edge, then flip the piece over and sew down the other edge.

    Set seams with your iron and then press them open. It's starting to look like a quilt, don't you think? Hang in there because we only have four more seams to go.

    Once all seams are pressed, use your clear ruler to cut off the excess sashing along the left and right sides of the quilt top.

    Aack! Where did the sun go? Sorry for the blurry pic.
    Find your four 5" wide  border pieces. Right sides facing, stitch one border piece to the right side of the quilt top, then sew a border strip to the left side. Mind the selvedges again.

    Stitching the right border strip
    Press open, then trim excess border fabric from each end.

    Repeat the steps above with the border strips on the top and bottom of the quilt top. Press and trim.

    Phew! We did it! The top is done. Come back for the next installment where we'll start machine quilting.

    Thanks for following along. Please leave a comment if you have any questions.


    Related posts:
    Fabric Requirements
    Constructing the Blocks
    Link to Four's a Charm Page

    Saturday, February 4, 2012

    Four's a Charm - Let's start sewing

    Are you ready for the next installment in the Four's a Charm baby quilt?

    The first thing we're going to do is lay out our blocks. Select 36 charm squares/5" squares and lay them out in groups of four, for a total of nine blocks.

    Take a step back from your blocks and take a good look. Are the prints and colors evenly spread out? Does any block or group of saqures catch your eye? Adjust the squares as necessary until the blocks look right to you. Now do yourself a huge favor and snap a photo of the layout. You can use it later as a guide if you get your blocks out of order.

    Wow, this photo is quite out of focus. I'm blaming it on a very dark, cloudy day.
    Time to get ready to sew these babies together. Starting on the top left block, I take the right square and flip it over so it's facing the left square. I start with the top two and then do the bottom two. I continue along left to right, one row after the next, until all the squares are stacked in sets of two.

    flipping the right square over onto the left square
    Take the stack to your sewing machine, keeping everything in it's original order.


    Thread your machine/bobbin with the cotton thread. Attach your 1/4" piecing foot if you have one, or make any necessary adjustments or markings to sew a 1/4" seam.

    Start chain piecing the square pairs. Make sure the squares are in perfect alignment before you sew a seam down the right edge. Once you've reached the end of the first square pair, sew a few more stitches without any fabric underneath the needle and then feed in your next square pair. Continue until all the pairs are sewn along the right edge. The last two squares pairs you sew make up the first block on the upper right side of the quilt (if you followed my directions).

    Head over to your ironing board with the long chain of squares, a pair of scissors, and pins. Snip off the last two square pairs from the chain.

    Set the seams by pressing them flat just as they are.

    Next, press one seam over to one side (typically towards the darker fabric). Press the other seam in the opposite direction.

    Determine which pair is the top of the block and which is bottom half. Place them right sides together, nesting the center seams. Pin at the center and put another pin on each end.

    Repeat with the remaining pairs until all nine blocks have been pressed and pinned.

    Chain stitch the center seams using the same method as above.

    Head back to the ironing board. Set all the seams by ironing them flat, just as they are, then press the center seams open.

    Congrats! Your nine blocks are done. In the next installment we will square up our blocks and sew the sashing and the borders.

    Any questions?


    Link to Four's a Charm Page