This is a slightly expanded version of a post previously published on the Cotton Cuts blog in September 2021.
I’ll say one thing about the global pandemic: I think I’ve done more sewing and quilting in the past year and a half than in the previous 10 years! Seriously, my sewing machine has been a lifeline, and the connections I’ve made through sharing my work – and enjoying everyone else’s work – on Instagram has made this time of isolation also one of creative joy and inspiration.
But one of the things I’m finding is that finishing all these quilt tops I’m making is easier said than done! I love to free-motion quilt, but I find it very taxing on my body (I have a domestic sewing machine – not a mid-arm or long-arm quilting machine); so I like to switch it up with walking foot quilting – which for me, is usually faster, too.
I’ve spent some serious time experimenting with different ways to go beyond “stitch-in-the ditch” and simple straight-line grids and jazz up my machine quilting. (Not that they aren’t perfectly great ways to quilt – I was just ready to play with some new-to-me techniques.)
The serpentine stitch (one of the built-in decorative stitches in my sewing machine) has become one of my very favorite ways to quilt with a walking foot – simple, fast, and lots of lovely texture.
This is what the serpentine stitch setting looks like on my machine:
Since I like to work on multiple projects at a time, I occasionally experience a bottleneck of quilts that are all at the same stage. Such has been the case this month, when I ended up sewing bindings on 8 different quilts in a little over a week. Wow! My arms are ready for a break, but it’s so much fun to see each quilt finally completed. And it has given me chance to reflect on my favorite patterns of the summer.
But before I go any further, I’d like to elaborate on what I look for when I buy a commercial pattern rather than designing a quilt myself (which I also like to do).
What I Look for When I Buy a Pattern:
(listed in no particular order, recognizing that no pattern ticks ALL of the boxes – which is just fine!)
–A design that I haven’t seen before, or an clever twist on an old favorite
–A technique I haven’t tried before or don’t use very often
–Multiple size options (this isn’t a deal breaker if it’s only one size – as long as I feel confident that I can change the size if I wish to do so)
–Well-written (and tested) instructions with clear diagrams, cutting charts, and (bonus points) coloring sheets
–An opportunity to use a favorite fabric or collection of fabrics I’ve been saving for “just the right project”
I like to have lots of different projects going at different stages at the same time, so I always have something interesting to work on. But sometimes there’s a bottleneck, and I have a bunch of projects that are all at the same step. That’s what has been happening to me lately – a pile-up of quilts just waiting to be bound.
For years and years, I bound all of my quilts with a double-fold binding machine-sewn first to the front of the quilt, and then wrapped around and hand-sewn to the back of the quilt. I love the beautiful, clean finish this method provides, but it does take time! Over the past couple of years, I’ve been experimenting with alternatives. (I know I could always just straight-stitch the binding; but I find it can be tricky to keep absolutely perfectly lined up with the edge of the binding, and I’m not especially crazy about how it looks.)
But not every quilt needs a piped binding (faux or otherwise), and my collection of quilts waiting for bindings was piling up. So I returned to another technique I’ve experimented with before – sewing the double-fold binding first to the BACK of the quilt, and then wrapping the binding around the the front, and stitching it down with my favorite “invisible” machine applique technique.
Registration is through the Wyoming, Michigan Lakeshore Sewing store – 616-531-5561.
And now back to Facings. 🙂
My sewing machine has been getting a workout! I’ve been in full-on production mode with even more projects than usual in-progress at the same time. As I’ve been working, one of the techniques I’ve been exploring is different ways to finish the outer edges of my quilts.
I always finish my utility quilts (bed quilts, cuddle quilts, throws, etc.) with a sturdy French Fold Binding, as the binding is often the first area to start to show wear on a quilt that is getting lots of use.
But when it comes to art quilts, wall hangings, table runners, or other smaller items, there are other options. One of these is a facing. Facings are a great alternative when you don’t want to cut off or confine the design with a binding. There are lots of different ways to approach facings for a quilt; but after quite a bit of experimentation, I have found what works best for me. And even better – there’s a link to free printable instructions near the end of this post!
I’m working on a bunch of new non-class-related info for the blog; but meanwhile, I do want to let those of you who may be interested that I’ve added another brand-new Zoom class. 🙂
Free-Motion Quilting Quick-Start – NEW
Are you interested in free-motion quilting, but need a boost to get going? Join Beth Ann for a brand-new hands-on introductory class designed to do just that. We’ll start with a few basic patterning styles that you can use right away, and then explore how you can build on them as your confidence grows. This Zoom class will feature video clips and up-close photography, along with live instruction and Q&A. Sat., March 13, 2021; 10 AM – 2 PM Confident Beginner $30 Download the supply list here. Please call the Wyoming, MI Lakeshore Sewing store at 616-531-5561 to register for this online Zoom class.
More classes are in the works – you can see the current list here. 🙂
The new January and February Zoom class schedule has finally been published! I’m excited about the mix of classes I have coming up – some brand-new offerings you’ve asked for, plus a few repeats of popular classes.
All my classes are being offered through Lakeshore Sewing in Wyoming, Michigan, so you’ll need to call the store at 616-531-5561 to register.
Please note that the usual store hours are Monday-Friday, 9 AM – 5:30 PM and Saturday, 9 AM – 4 pm; but with the holidays, there are some changes. The store will be closed from Dec. 31, 2020 – Jan. 3, 2021; normal hours will resume on Monday, Jan. 4, 2020.
The October Java Batiks box from Cotton Cuts and the Midnight Bite Sew Along (#MidnightBiteSAL) from Lillyella Stitchery offered me a fun opportunity to go outside my comfort zone this month.
The Midnight Bite pattern bundle has 3 sizes of each of two different patterns – a bat and a spider. I opted to make the Wicked Weaver, which is also available as an individual pattern. Admittedly, spiders aren’t usually my thing, but I thought it would be a interesting challenge.
When I made my fantasy butterfly this summer (from the Take Wing pattern also by Lillyella Stitchery), the only part of the process that I definitely did not enjoy was removing the paper foundations after the stitching was complete. What a pain! Trying to get all the little bits of paper out from underneath the small stitches – without putting too much strain on the stitches – is not my cup of tea. Which was frustrating, because after years of avoiding foundation piecing, I felt like I’d finally hit my groove and figured out a method for foundation piecing that I find straightforward and satisfying.
And now to the topic at hand – foundation piecing (also called foundation paper piecing) is a great technique for achieving precise piecing and sharp points even with tiny pieces and fabric edges that are not on-grain. For this method, the pattern is printed (or traced) onto foundation paper. This paper acts as both a stabilizer and a stitching guide while the block is being constructed. When all of the pieced sections of the design have been joined together, the paper is carefully torn away from the underside of the quilt top.
I purchased the pattern right away, but then had to set it aside for a bit because I already had too many irons in the fire. But when the August Java Batiks box from Cotton Cuts arrived, I knew immediately just what I wanted to make! Continue Reading…
I haven’t been posting much this summer, but I’ve certainly been sewing up a storm! I’m finding it good therapy. 🙂
Due to the pandemic, we weren’t able to enjoy our usual fireworks display downtown this year, but I was inspired by the July Java batiks box from Cotton Cuts to create some fireworks of my own (metaphorically speaking, of course). 😉
Goodies from the July Java Batiks box from Cotton Cuts.
I started by cutting out shapes with my Tri-Recs rulers, and created little four-patches for the corner of each block. (This was a design-as-I-go project – I didn’t have a pattern.)
I used the Tri-Recs rulers to cut out the star block, AKA my fireworks burst.
I turned my blocks on point, and added more four-patches to the setting triangles.
Building my design – I decided to extend the expanding “fireworks” by added four-patches to the areas where the setting triangles would be.