Wicked Weaver & My New Favorite Product

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.

Ronan posing with the contents of the October Java Batiks Box from Cotton Cuts.

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.

Wicked Weaver (pattern from Lillyella Stitchery) in progress.

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.

Which brings me to my discovery – June Tailor Perfect Piecing Foundation Sheets. As far as I’m concerned, this product is the best thing for foundation paper piecing since sliced bread!

Just like other foundation papers I have used in the past, these sheets ran though my printer with no problems. But that’s where the similarities ended.

First of all these sheets are translucent, which makes it so much easier to line up the seam allowances perfectly on the underside of the paper while sewing on top of the paper.

It was easy to see through the paper and keep my pieces lined up properly.

(Side note – I don’t precut exact shapes when I foundation piece, but I do measure the average width of the shapes – plus seam allowances – and cut strips of fabric accordingly. This minimizes waste, but still saves lots of time over precutting exact shapes.)

Secondly, it was also easy for me to fold the paper back before sewing each seam and see through to the fabric, making sure that the fabric would completely cover the appropriate shape after the seam was sewn.

Before sewing, I folded the paper back on itself (the stitching line being the fold line) to make sure that the fabric would completely cover the shape it needed to cover.
After sewing and pressing – but before trimming.
After trimming – view from the back.
After trimming – view from the front.

I once again used 60 wt. Bottom Line thread in both the top and bobbin of my machine, but didn’t need to shorten my stitch length – which made it much easier to “sew in reverse” when I wasn’t paying close enough attention and sewed a piece out of order.

And best of all, the “paper” is actually a non-woven stabilizer than can be either torn away cleanly or (HURRAH!!!) left in the quilt.

Backside of my spider, showing the foundations. I pressed the seams between each section open to reduce bulk.
Completed Wicked Weaver – pattern by Lillyella Stitchery, made by Beth Ann Williams.

The pattern was just for the spider itself. I improvised a quilt-as-you-go setting and added some decorative stitching to up the “ick” factor and make my spider “hairy”. I finished it off with a flanged binding.

Wicked Weaver spider (pattern by Lillyella Stitchery) with setting pieces designed by Beth Ann Williams and flanged binding.
And here is the pic with the funky background that I posted on my Instagram.
Wicked Weaver spider (pattern by Lillyella Stitchery) with setting pieces designed by Beth Ann Williams and flanged binding.

Happy Halloween!

Finishing Spree – Take Wing, Foundation Piecing, & Mixing Quilting Methods

A quick note: my fall online teaching schedule is up! In addition to repeating a couple of my most-requested classes, I’ve got some brand-new classes to share with you all. 🙂

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.

New to foundation piecing? We All Sew has a great FREE foundation pieced block tutorial that provides a good starting point. Don’t worry if you don’t have the same kind of machine used in the tutorial – most any machine with a basic straight stitch should do just fine

LINK LOVE – FREE Foundation Pieced block pattern & tutorial from We All Sew

Although I generally don’t do a lot of foundation paper piecing, I fell in love with the Take Wing pattern by Lillyella Stitchery when I came across it on Instagram. Just beautiful!

Take Wing foundation paper pieced pattern – available in the Lillyella Stitchery shop on Etsy

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…

Finishing Spree! Fireworks, Curvy Quilting & “Disappearing” Binding

A quick note: my new fall online teaching schedule is up! In addition to repeating a couple of my most-requested classes, I’ve got some brand-new classes to share with you all.

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.

Continue Reading…

NEW Online Class

Some exciting news – I’m teaching my first online class next week! 🙂

I’m a little nervous, but also very excited about engaging “live” with fellow quilters again – I’ve missed everyone so much while keeping safe at home during this pandemic.

Here is the info from the Lakeshore Sewing website:

Creative Machine Quilting with a Walking Foot
Learn from the comfort of your own home! Join this beginner-friendly hands-on zoom class with author and designer Beth Ann Williams, featuring a mix of live instruction and Q&A, up-close photography, and video clips showing the techniques in action. Together we’ll make a set of swatches that you’ll be able to refer to for inspiration whenever you wonder “How can I quilt this?” Go beyond quilting in-the-ditch and discover fast, fun, and deceptively easy ways to complement piecing, enhance a focal area, and create a variety of textures, all while machine quilting with a walking foot.

Confident Beginner – Intermediate $35; Tues., 7/14 & 7/21/2020, 1:30 – 4 PM.

 

We’ll be quilting on sample swatches in class, but here is a selection of finished projects by Beth Ann Williams using some of the techniques we’ll cover in class.

Please call the Wyoming Lakeshore Sewing store at 616-531-5561 to register.

The class supply list is available here, in the store, or on the Lakeshore Sewing website. Continue Reading…

Cotton Cuts and the Value of Value

“Color gets all the credit, but value does all the work.”

I don’t know who first came up with that quote; but I’ve seen many, many versions of it – because it’s so true!

Most quilt books have a section on how to choose colors for a quilt. Color theory can be very helpful, but what often gets lost in the discussion is the importance of value – how light or dark a given color (or piece of fabric) may be, and how differences in value and value placement can be used as a primary design element.

Today I’d like to briefly share some of my recent exploration in using value to define individual shapes within an overall pattern, establish focal areas, and create depth and lumiosity.

But first I’d like to back up for a second and talk about a different kind of value…

Cotton Cuts is one of those special companies that you not only feel good about supporting because of the quality of their products, but you can also feel good about supporting their mission.They offer a variety of monthly subscription options for top-quality quilting-weight fabric and Aurifil thread. They also have a 10-month mystery quilt; an online shop with additional thread, fabric, and patterns; and host the #CCColorChallenge on Instragram.

From the Cotton Cuts website:
“Cotton Cuts is on a mission to create jobs. We have partnered with a local workshop that provides dignified employment opportunities to the intellectually challenged and to those with other disabilities. Every Cotton Cuts membership that you purchase contributes toward enriching the lives of these very talented individuals.”

“Build your stash while feeling good about it!”

As a newly minted Cotton Cuts Brand Ambassador, I received my first box of goodies back in March.  What fun! Each box I’ve received so far has had different color theme.

Here’s my March Java Batiks unboxing video:

And here’s a video I posted of my April Java Batiks box:

Continue Reading…

Link Love – Sewing Face Masks to Help Fight the Coronavirus

When life seems particularly unpredictable and scary, I find it tremendously helpful when I can identify something productive to do – and doubly so when it will potentially benefit not only me and my family, but our community as well. Anyone watching the news lately will be aware of the shortage of face masks for health care providers on the frontlines of this pandemic, as well as for everyday people who are at risk of either spreading or contracting the Coronavirus/Covid-19. 

Graphic from Instagram – I don’t know who created it originally, but we are encouraged to use it to promote home sewing of face masks. 🙂

While the face masks we sew at home may not meet the CDC guidelines for medical professionals, it is my understanding that depending on the design, cloth masks can be used in conjuntion with the N95 medical grade masks, acting as a removable cover that can extend the usable lifespan of the medical grade mask underneath. When the medical grade masks are not available, they can be used by themselves to offer at least some protection.

Cloth masks may also be in high demand from local hospitals, nursing homes, cancer-related organizations, or other health care facilities.

Please note that I am not a medical professional. But as I understand it, by themselves, fabric masks will not completely prevent the spread of the Coronavirus or Covid-19. However, they can help us keep our germs to ourselves; and hopefully, slow the spread of the disease.  A mask can also help remind the wearer to avoid touching their face. 🙂

I’m including a link to the guidelines from the World Health Organization for when and how to properly use face masks. They suggest masks for those who as sick and for those who are caring for the sick.

UPDATE from the CDC: “CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and gas stations. Cloth face coverings may slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others…. While people who are sick or know that they have COVID-19 should isolate at home, COVID-19 can be spread by people who do not have symptoms and do not know that they are infected. That’s why it’s important for everyone to practice social distancing (staying at least 6 feet away from other people) and wear cloth face coverings in public settings. Cloth face coverings provide an extra layer to help prevent the respiratory droplets from traveling in the air and onto other people.”

And here some of the free patterns and tutorials I’ve collected from around the web that I feel are particularly helpful: Continue Reading…

Finishing Spree – Flange Binding by Machine

What is a flange binding? It’s a great no-hand-sewing option for finishing quilts with a sturdy double fold binding while adding a fun design element to the outer edges of your quilt.

Church Window quilt by Beth Ann Williams (pattern by Lo & Behold Stitchery), finished with a flange binding.

With only a few exceptions, I’ve always bound my quilts by sewing the binding to the front of the quilt by machine, and then wrapping the binding around to the back of the quilt and sewing it down by hand. I expect that I will always finish my show and “heirloom” quilts this way, but I have been thinking for quite a while about how I can speed up the process for utility quilts. Especially now that I’ve become enthralled with sew-alongs, the number of  quilts in the to-be-finished pile is growing, and I’m finding it challenging to keep up with myself!

I’d done some experimenting, but had not settled on a method I was entirely happy with, when a couple of the ladies at the Muskegon Lakeshore Sewing store told me about the flange binding method demonstrated by Jenny Doan of the Missouri Star Quilt Company.

I was so impressed! The finished binding looks like it has been accented with fine piping – adding a fun design element at the same time as offering a relatively quick machine-sewing finish.

Since then, I’ve done quite a bit of research and found a number of different ways to achieve this effect.  I’m going to share what works for me – but please remember, this is only 1 of the many ways to do this. 🙂

There is quite a bit of preparation for this method, but I find that each step is an important factor in ensuring a hassle-free result at the end.

Ronan “assisting” me with binding prep – he was escorted upstairs shortly after this and remained banished for the rest of the process. 

Continue Reading…

Finishing Spree – Quilting with Decorative Stitches

Now that I’m participating in at least four new sew-alongs over the next few months, my finishing-spree is more important that ever!

This time, I’d like to share yet another machine quilting option – quilting with the decorative stitches that are built into your sewing machine.

Hold Tight Petite quilt, made by Beth Ann Williams, pattern by Sharon Holland.

My observations & recommendations: Continue Reading…

Finishing Spree – Hoops vs. Gloves for Free-Motion Quilting

I hope all of my US friends had a wonderful Thanksgiving! My husband and son couldn’t get away, but my daughter Connor and I had a fabulous road trip together to visit my family in Pennsylvania and New York. We had a wonderful time staying with my parents and then with my sister – including cherished opportunities to connect with many of my cousins and other extended family members. What a treat that was!

But now I’m home and back in finishing mode.

I’ve switched gears from machine-guided quilting with my walking foot to free-motion quilting with my darning or free-motion foot. This allows me to stitch in any direction I please – but also means that I am solely responsible for moving the quilt. The feed dogs of the sewing machine are disengaged so that the needle goes up and down, but doesn’t move the fabric. This means I need to have a careful balance between the speed at which I am running my sewing machine and the speed at which I am moving the fabric – run the machine too fast, and the stitches are too small; move the quilt too quickly, and the stitches are too long.  The goal is to create beautiful patterning (“drawing” with the sewing machine) while still keeping the stitches all approximately the same length.

Batting choice, needle choice, thread choice and tension settings can each make a significant difference in the appearance and quality of the stitching.

I often reach for 40 wt. variegated thread (with 60 wt. poly in the bobbin) when free-motion quilting. I love how the color changes add a subtle sparkle to the quilt.

But one of the main challenges of free-motion quilting is the physicality of moving the quilt. Fabric can get very heavy, and it’s all too easy for one’s hands to slip and lose control. Having a large stable, flat surface to work on really helps; this could be an extension table, a Sew Steady Table, or a cabinet with a surface flush with the surface of your machine. A Supreme Slider can also be a big plus – but you must first make sure it is anchored securely so that it doesn’t slide right into your stitches. Ask me how I know that…

In the past, I have steered away from the various hoops designed to assist with free-motion quilting, feeling that the downsides outweighed the potential pay-off. But I’ve been rethinking that.

I’m currently working on my Snowflake quilt from the sew-along with Nicole from Modern Handcraft

Snowflake quilt made & quilted by Beth Ann Williams, pattern by Nicole from Modern Handcraft.

As I quilt this, I’m considering what I learned from the previous two quilts in my Finishing Spree – my Church Window quilt (pattern by Brittany of Lo & Behold Stitchery) and the Enchanted Carpet bargello quilt made by my friend Ruth DeJager (original design from my book Colorwash Bargello Quilts).  Continue Reading…

Finishing Spree – Quilt-As-You-Go

Ronan contemplating my Talk of the Town quilt (pattern by Amy Ellis) turned Quilt-As-You-Go

Sometimes projects take a turn or two (or more!) along the way and don’t turn out as originally envisioned. I like to reframe these as opportunities for new “design decisions”.   😉

Earlier this fall, I signed up to participate in the Modern Patchwork Quilt Along – Talk of the Town Quilt with Amy Ellis. Little did I know that this was going to turn into quite the series of such decisions…

I read through the pattern carefully and selected the appropriate number of fat quarters specified for the size quilt I wanted to make.

My initial fabric pull for my Talk of the Town Quilt

The pattern was well-written and the diagrams looked very clear. But as soon as I started cutting my fabric, I realized I had a significant problem… the cutting diagrams assumed perfect 18″ x 22″ usable fabric from each fat quarter, and my prewashed fat quarters of fabric didn’t even come close. Most were around 21″, and that’s counting the selvage along one end.  So I didn’t have enough fabric!

I had to improvise.  Continue Reading…