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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

How I Make a Quilt All By Myself


This blog can be for my fiber buddies..... about quilting this time.

When most folks made a quilt in the old days, they hand pieced it all, then stretched it on a frame in a quilting bee...  many hands would help quilt it together.  I don't know that many quilters with that much time to help me do that. 

In more modern times, a quilter will sew together blocks into a big panel called a "top" and then ship it off to a "longarmer" person to sandwich it with batting and backing, loading it onto a huge machine, and do some computerized or freehand designs on it through all three layers.  Then it is shipped back to the owner to add a binding around the edges.  I did it... once... and it's easy, but expensive. Usually $200-400 depending on size.  This is a longarm machine, which can cost upwards of $30,000 for a good computerized one----

Sooooo I have found ways to make my own quilts, of my own blocks created with batting and backing, made in sections. Then I found ways to join them up into large king size quilts!  It's known as "Quilt As You Go" and there are a couple ways to do it.  I have tried several ways now and enjoy each one. 

Here is one I chose to do with "sashing" strips 
spanning between the quilted blocks to join them together.

I am calling it my Front Porch Cuddle Quilt.
(I started this quilt in March while down in Florida visiting Mom) 

I started out with these little bundles of fabrics I found on sale.  You know me, always looking for a bargain!  I had a couple gift cards to use up, and got enough of these to start to make a quilt.  They are bundles of "fat quarters" which means each piece is a quarter of a yard of fabric.  18" x 22" 

I like starting with bundles like this because the fabrics are coordinated to blend and harmonize and are all in the same color scheme.  I took apart the bundles and separated a few prints that I didn't care for. 

I looked through scads of pattern books, magazines and YouTube videos for a pattern I wanted to make into a quilt.  I chose this one:

Next step is to unfold each piece and iron it flat with a little bit of starch. 
That makes is easier to cut and sew with less fraying.

While down in Florida, I had a few days to do some sewing.  Mom said she would like to help! I started cutting out each 9" inch square to sew into the half square triangles. 

(take note... I said NINE inch square.... 
 which will result later in a big BOO BOO)

Once I had the main seams sewn and cut into parts, then Mom took over with the tiny little iron to make the seams flat.  The little iron was a gift from my friend who taught me how to quilt, Paula Stuplich.  It is so handy for tiny seams, and you are not messing with a big huge iron and burning your fingertips trying to get these tiny seams pressed open.  Mom had so much fun doing them!

I set up my sewing machine in the livingroom and started piecing those smaller squares into the bigger blocks.  Each one was 14 inches across.  (take note of that --14 inches!) 

 I finished up about half of the total blocks needed for a king sized quilt.  
(21 out of 42 blocks) 

That was all the time I had to complete while down in Florida.  When I got home, I started to work on the second half of the blocks.  But..... this time I only started with an EIGHT inch square!  (remember that NINE I told you about before?) ACK!!! I forgot for some dumb reason and started with 8" squares to cut up.   The second half of the finished blocks came out to only TWELVE inches across, not FOURTEEN like the first half of the blocks.  DANGNABBIT!!

Lesson Learned:  Always cut out ALL of your pieces at once, and then you never forget or run into this problem. (or write it down !!!)

Well, I thought I could add a once inch strip all around the smaller blocks to bring them from 12 up to 14 inches.  But when I put them side by side, it looked "dumb" to me... kinda uneven, whonky and irritating to my eyes.  Probably nobody else would have cared, but I did.  And it was for me.

I laid out all of the smaller pieces with the one inch borders on them out on the bed.  Now I have only 21 of these. Hmmmmm  I laid them 4 wide by 5 down. Tossed the one I liked the least to the side. Then I stretched them out a bit and added coordinating leafy printed "sashing" to lay out between the rows to make spacing to add to the width and length of the quilt.  Yes, I liked that!  

**and I set aside the other 21 larger blocks to make another quilt next**

This part takes a bit of planning.  I cut backing fabric squares of 16 inches wide and also 15.5 inches squares of batting. I use good cotton batting called Warm and Natural, not poly fiberfill. Costs more but worth it in quality, longer lasting, and nicer to work with. 

I temporarily laid them out on the bed to arrange them and mark each block with row number and letter to know their exact spot on the finished quilt.   I won't show you that, so you can be WOW'd by the finished quilt instead! LOL 

Now I take my "sandwich" of block, batting and backing and do some fancy 
free motion quilting stitches through all three layers. This is the FUN part! 

On my sewing machine, I drop the feed dogs, add a teflon slider sheet 
and use a big open toe hopping foot to do the fancy stitching.  
It's all from my own mind and hands--- nothing is computerized. 

Once all the blocks have been quilt stitched through the three sandwiched layers, now I get to start joining them up into the final quilt!  I sew a piece of the leafy printed sashing to one side of the front block edge, and then butt up the blocks together and sew the backing fabric seam.

I smooth it out flat and then fold over the piece of sashing.
Carefully pinning the folded edge of sashing into place.
 I do a fine row of careful stitching along the edge
to keep it all in place. Then I do some fancy stitching on the sashing too. 

Adding block by block, I make four vertical rows of five of each of the quilt pieces.  Once I have four strips of five blocks each, now it's time to start joining the vertical strips together.

It gets a bit awkward to maneuver the big sections of quilt around, so I use cheap plastic shower curtain clips to roll up the excess quilt out of the way.  What a great way to get the section of the quilt needing stitching into the machine, without having the rest of it dragging along.  I saw that hint on a PBS show called Fons and Porter's Love of Quilting.  I watch it along with Sewing With Nancy every morning at 9 am on channel 38-2.  It's my "quilting time" !

Remember, all of this is done on my little home sewing machine.  I am not sending it out to a fancy longarmer to do it for me.  I feel creative and happy that I am doing the quilt totally by myself. After each sashing piece is in place, I also do some fancy swirling long stitches up and down each section.

I still wanted it large enough to fit on a king sized bed.  I added a border around all four sides of about 12 inches wide. That added an extra two feet to the length and width of the finished quilt. Here is it just laid out to see how it will look.  I like it! 

 I attached that in the same way, and did some fancy mitered corners too. 
The final step was to add the binding around all the edges, 
and my personal tag to one corner.

A mere 2 months later, 
 here is the FINISHED QUILT! 

 It fits well on our king sized bed...
but we have a nice handmade quilt that I normally keep on it. 

I decided to use it as a Front Porch Cuddle Quilt! 

 The dogs approve too! 

Now... Please, before you suddenly start emailing me and asking me to "whip you up a quilt" please please know I am only making quilts as gifts for family at this time. The costs of quilt fabric alone, not to mention the batting, thread, tools and sewing machine costs is VERY high.  Quality fabrics and batting and good thread can run in the $200-300 range for a quilt, not even accounting for my time and effort. 

Here is a great blog post about the REAL cost of making quilts 
if you are interested: 
(link posted with permission of author Jennifer Moore) 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Visit to Vavning Weaving Studio

I know this visit to Vavning is a week later, but with all of the recent motorhome repairs I wanted to devote those blogs to one subject at a time....  

I have a lot of RV readers who don't want to wade through a bunch of family and fiber stuff to get to the "meat" of the RV repairs.  It's amazing how many people come back time and time again to read about RV repairs when they need help or information.  I am told that my blog becomes a source of reference, no matter how long ago I wrote each post.

For example, just this last week alone, 73 people came back to read my blog posts from SEVEN YEARS AGO about coating our roof with elastomeric paint, and 37 came to read about taking a tour of our motorhome.  Also the recent waterpump, alternator and isolator repairs brought in a bunch of readers.

Now to get back to the visit to Vavning Studio... 

It's a great place owned by my good friend, Juanita Hofstrom.  Her studio is located in an old Methodist church in a tiny village called Shopiere, WI, It's just a tad bit east of Beloit, WI along the banks of the Turtle Creek. 

Juanita's website is www.vavningstudio.com  and she is also on Facebook.  I met darling Juanita about 15 years ago or more....  via an online Yahoo discussion group called Rugtalk.  We connected and shared emails and stories and ideas and became fast friends. I have helped her through the years host for her annual 3 day classes at the studio by Jason Collingwood, a weaving teacher from England. Jason is the son of famous rug weaver Peter Collingwood.  http://www.rugweaver.co.uk/   Juanita put on these workshops for 10 years and I was there for each and every one.  I would help with the cooking and cleanup, while Steve helped with background tasks of unloading and reloading looms from students' cars. Then I would also attend  the workshops on shaft switching, block weaves and twill weaving rugs. She also gives classes on other types of weaving, painting and is a retired art teacher who can help with just about any project. 

Her studio is always a place of wonderful fiber adventures...  and Steve has helped her through the years with projects and upkeep as needed.  As her husband Norm aged, Steve would help him with the tall ladder type repairs and things that needed assistance.  Sadly, Norm passed away last year.  We miss his quiet companionship and dry wit and zingers he could throw in from time to time!  

This year our visit was started by arriving on Friday evening. We were in time to take Juanita out for a fish fry at her little cafe in the tiny hometown of Clinton, Wi.  Called the Sundown Cafe.  We enjoyed home cooking, friendly atmosphere and good company.  

Parking in the studio lot with our motorhome makes it easy to visit.  We are not taking up a guest room in her home, we have a place for our dogs, and we can bring along our own things for comfort. 

We rarely need a "hookup" for power, but this particular time our inverter was acting up so we did run a power cord into the rig to just operate our tv's and Steve's laptop (I forgot his DC cord to plug into the cigarette lighter) 

I love spending gentle quiet time with Juanita, working on fiber projects side by side... so peaceful. I cherish our time together. Steve busied himself with repairs and ran for parts a few times. Once Steve retires, we can go down and spend more than just a weekend, working on things and perhaps sitting by side and weaving together on projects. I would love that. 

We enjoyed our relaxing spring evening out in the parkinglot, sitting in lawn chairs and laughing away the time till we all turned in for bed.  What a great gal! 

I wandered around Juanita's studio and took pics of this and that....  

Now you can see why it's such a special place! 

And THIS is the lady is who makes it so great-----

Sunday was our time to head on over to our good weaving friends Jim and Norma Burkett of Pa and Ma's Rugs, Beloit, WI. They invited us over early for coffee and a breakfast bake of a french toast brulee.  They were celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary at a banquet hall in South Beloit, Illinois that afternoon.

We got gussied up and I snapped a selfie of me and then a pic of Steve that I thought came out pretty good!  

The party was so nice with seeing them celebrate with family, friends and fellow crafters. They made the rounds with everyone to chat and laugh.  The party had their maid of honor and best man present.  40 years, what an accomplishment.

Happy Anniversary Jim and Norma! 

Their cake was wonderful as was the food buffet. It was so good to see them both doing so well, after facing a few health challenges.  They are going strong and have a number of rug shows and events scheduled throughout the state this summer.

I will end this blog with a pic of a Happy Little Colorado Spruce Tree!  It's my mother's day present and we planted it in a spot to be able to decorate it with lights each year at Christmas.

  Grow tall
little tree

may we smile each time 
we look at you