Making a Celtic Quilt – Preparing the Quilt “Sandwich”

True Lover’s Knot (on point) from Celtic Quilts: A New Look for Ancient Designs – Now ready to layer with batting and backing!

This is the eighth in a series of posts that will take you step-by-step through the process of creating a Celtic Quilt.

The lines that form my Celtic and Celtic-style knotwork designs are formed by cutting bias strips of fabric and sewing them into tubes, which are then fuse-basted onto background fabric. You can choose to appliqué the design (sew everything down), add borders, layer the quilt top with batting and backing, and then quilt by either hand or machine. Or you can choose (as I usually do) to add the border(s), layer the quilt top with batting and backing, and then machine appliqué and quilt in one step.

What kind of batting do you prefer? 

This is one of the most common questions quilters ask each other.  My preference is for low-loft batting, usually cotton or cotton blend, although I’ve seen some really nice bamboo battings lately…

The batting I’m using for this project is Hobb’s Heirloom 80/20 Fusible Cotton Batting.  I like it because it is nice and flat, does not beard over time, and the dry (heat activated) adhesive allows me to fuse the quilt top, batting, and backing all in one go. It also gives the quilt sandwich a slight stiffness that helps stabilize the fabric – very helpful for Celtic-style appliqué, which involves lots of turning. (This slight stiffness washes out if you launder the quilt; the adhesive is water-soluble.)

It is also particularly helpful not to have to deal with pins (as in pin-basting) potentially getting caught on each other or on the presser foot as you quilt.

If you choose to use a temporary basting spray instead of a fusible batting, I recommend using 505 Spray and Fix, as I find it is much less likely to gum up your needles and/or cause thread breakage.

But as always, use what works best for you!

Is the layering process any different with fusible batting?

Slightly. Continue Reading…

Making a Celtic Quilt – Adding Borders

The True Lovers’ Knot (placed on point) from Celtic Quilts: A New Look for Ancient Designs – ready to add borders!

This is the seventh in a series of posts that will take you step-by-step through the process of creating a Celtic Quilt.

The lines that form my Celtic and Celtic-style knotwork designs are formed by cutting bias strips of fabric and sewing them into tubes, which are then fuse-basted onto background fabric. You can choose to appliqué the design (sew everything down), add borders, layer the quilt top with batting and backing, and then quilt by either hand or machine. Or you can choose (as I usually do) to add the border(s), layer the quilt top with batting and backing, and then machine appliqué and quilt in one step.

How do you decide whether or not to appliqué and quilt in one step? 

The main rule of thumb for me is the size of the quilt. For wall-hangings, table runners, pillows, etc., I always appliqué and quilt in one step. For larger projects such as bed quilts, it depends on if the design has lots of major changes in direction or not. There are definitely times when it is easier to appliqué first and then quilt later!

You can also use my methods to “baste” the design in place and then appliqué by hand. If you choose that route, I recommend matching your thread color to the fabric. Silk thread is my top choice – the stitches usually sink down into the fabric for a lovely “invisible” stitch – even if you don’t have a perfect color match. You can then layer the appliquéd design with batting and backing and quilt by hand or machine. Continue Reading…

Making a Celtic Quilt – “Basting” the Appliqué Design

True Lovers’ Knot design (on point) from Celtic Quilts: A New Look for Ancient Designs by Beth Ann Williams, traced onto my background fabric

This is the sixth in a series of posts that will take you step-by-step through the process of creating a Celtic Quilt.

The lines that form my Celtic and Celtic-style knotwork designs are formed by cutting bias strips of fabric and sewing them into tubes, which are then fuse-basted onto background fabric.

The fabric tubes have been trimmed and pressed, and are ready to go. How do you get them positioned smoothly on the fabric? 

First of all, I don’t recommend using pins – they will only poke you and get in the way (ask me how I know this!)

When I first started working with Celtic and Celtic-style designs, I preferred 1/4″ wide strips of Steam-a-Seam2, which is pressure-sensitive and holds the fabric temporarily in place until you press with an iron to fuse it permanently.

Some years later, I discovered Roxanne’s Glue Baste-It. I love that it only takes small droplets of glue to hold the fabric in place, dries very quickly – especially when you run a hot iron over the fabric – and is water soluble, so it is easy to dampen and reposition something if necessary. I have never had any issues with it discoloring my fabric over time when I haven’t washed my samples, but I love that it does wash out.

The needle-nosed applicator is terrific for applying just the wee bit that is needed, but always remember to remove the applicator tip, clean it out thoroughly, and replace the original bottle cap on the glue bottle for storage. (Again, ask me how I know this is so important…)

Here is a link on Amazon if you can’t find it in your local sewing or quilt store:

:

Now let’s get started:

Continue Reading…

Making a Celtic Quilt – Pressing the Bias Tubes

This is the fifth in a series of posts that will take you step-by-step through the process of creating a Celtic Quilt.

The lines that form my Celtic and Celtic-style knotwork designs are formed by cutting bias strips of fabric and sewing them into tubes, which are then fuse-basted and machine appliquéd onto background fabric.

The strips have been sewn into tubes, but how do you hide the seam allowance along the side? 

There are two main ways to deal with this:

Either way, you’ll need a 3/8″ wide press bar. 

I like these plastic bars the best, as they are economical, do not get as hot as metal press bars, and are more stable than nylon bars.

You’ll need a firm pressing surface.

My ironing board is slightly padded, so I don’t like using it for this step – I find it harder to get firm creases. My favorite pressing surface is shown below, my omnigrid portable cutting & pressing station; but in a pinch, I’ve even used an empty cardboard fabric bolt!

You’ll also need an iron.

Avoid steam, as it tends to relax the cotton fibers and may cause the tubes to stretch as you are pressing them – which means they won’t have the stretch you’ll need later. You can use your regular iron, but I prefer to use my Clover Wedge Iron, as it is lightweight and does the job beautifully while being more maneuverable and less tiring for me to use.

Continue Reading…

Making a Celtic Quilt – Sewing the Bias Strips

This is the fourth in a series of posts that will take you step-by-step through the process of creating a Celtic Quilt.

Choosing the right presser foot can make this step a lot easier!

The lines that form my Celtic and Celtic-style knotwork designs are formed by cutting bias strips of fabric and sewing them into tubes, which are then machine appliquéd onto background fabric.

Your strips are all cut – what next? Now to sew them into tubes…

If you cut your strips 1 1/4″ wide, you’ll need to sew them with a SCANT 1/4″ seam.

You can use your standard presser foot for this step, a quarter-inch foot, or an adjustable blind hem presser foot, but my preference is to use my blind hem foot, as I can adjust the guide to give me a perfectly consistent seam allowance that is just under 1/4″ wide.

Standard (zigzag) presser foot, quarter-inch foot with guide, and adjustable blind hem foot (my favorite for this step) 

A slightly different blind hem foot, this one from Baby Lock. You might also find this same or similar design with a plastic adjustable guide instead of metal one. 

Continue Reading…

Making a Celtic Quilt – Cutting the Bias Strips

True Lovers' Knot from Celtic Quilts: A New Look for Ancient Designs by Beth Ann Williams

True Lovers’ Knot from Celtic Quilts: A New Look for Ancient Designs by Beth Ann Williams

This is the third of a series of posts that will take you step-by-step through the process of creating a Celtic Quilt.

The lines that form my Celtic and Celtic-style knotwork designs are formed by cutting strips of fabric and sewing them into tubes.

The first thing to decide is how wide you want your finished tubes of fabric to be.  I’ve seen many beautiful Celtic-style designs created with 1/4″ wide (finished) tubes, but I prefer to use 3/8″ wide (finished) tubes for a couple of reasons: (1) they are easier to handle, and (2) that little bit of extra width makes it easier to see the color and print of the fabric when you stand away from the design.

The next thing is to decide how wide you want to cut your fabric strips. Continue Reading…

Making a Celtic Quilt – Fine-Tuning the Design & Preparing the Background

This is the second of a series of posts that will take you step-by-step through the process of creating a Celtic Quilt.

One of the first things you need to do is finalize your design choice and fine-tune it, if necessary. If you are using an original design or using a design from a source other than my book, you need to be sure it will be easily adaptable for sewing.

Here are the elements common to historic Celtic knotwork and interlace – rules that I follow when developing my own original Celtic-style patterns as well as when adapting ancient designs.

  • All lines are continuous, having neither beginning nor end.
  • All lines cross each other in an alternating under-over-under pattern.
  • No more than two lines cross at any given point.

When it comes to creating or adapting Celtic-style design for appliqué, I add a few more considerations:

  • The lines creating the designs measure no more than 1/4″ wide.
  • The lines are spaced sufficiently far apart that when covered with 3/8″ wide bias-cut tubes, the design still looks clean.
  • Curves are gentle enough that they can be sewn without having the fabric bunch or buckle.
  • Points are not so sharp or skinny that the fabric becomes too bulky.

If you are using a design such as the True Lover’s Knot from my book Celtic Quilts: A New Look for Ancient Designs, all these considerations have already been met.

How do you get the pattern from the book or sketchbook to the background fabric? Continue Reading…

Making a Celtic Quilt – Selecting Fabrics

True Lovers' Knot from Celtic Quilts: A New Look for Ancient Designs by Beth Ann Williams

True Lovers’ Knot from Celtic Quilts: A New Look for Ancient Designs by Beth Ann Williams

This is the first of a series of posts that will take you step-by-step through the process of creating a Celtic Quilt.

We’ll be creating the True Lover’s Knot, one of the beginner-friendly patterns from my book, Celtic Quilts: A New Look for Ancient Designs (pp. 36-29).

Along the way, we’ll explore how to make a 16″  x 16″ machine appliquéd and quilted wall-hanging (start to finish), a quilted pillow, or a quilt block that can be incorporated into a larger quilt.

What will you need?

Understandably, I highly recommend my own book, since it contains complete instructions as well as patterns; but if you have a Celtic design from another source, you may still find my methods helpful.

Fabric

  • Good quality, colorfast, 100% cotton fabric will be the easiest to work with, particularly since adheres well with various fusibles and adhesives, and holds its shape when pressed.
  • For the knotwork design, I recommend choosing fabrics that have  some visual texture, rather than choosing solid color fabrics. Not only is a subtle print more interesting than a solid fabric, the print will tend to help hide any machine stitching that is supposed to be “invisible”.
  • Quilting-weight cottons are more forgiving when it comes to camouflaging your stitches. Batik cottons are less forgiving, since they are more tightly woven and the stitches don’t sink down into the fabric as easily. The tighter weave also makes it a little more challenging to go around tight curves without creating tiny pleats in the fabric, but I still use batiks if the colors are right.
  • For the background, I recommend something that contrasts significantly with the knotwork fabric. I usually select either very light fabric or a very dark fabric for this.

Below are some close-ups of a some of the projects from my book. You can see that I don’t shy away from prints – although I do generally look for prints with low internal contrast. Continue Reading…

Celtic Quilts – True Lover’s Knot

True Lovers' Knot by Beth Ann Williams, (C) 2000

True Lovers’ Knot by Beth Ann Williams, (C) 2000

Starting in with my next post, I’m planning a series of “Sew-Along” and “Quilt-Along” posts for creating the Celtic True Lover’s Knot design from my book, Celtic Quilts: A New Look for Ancient Designs.

This block can be finished as a 16″ x 16″ wall-hanging, made into a decorator pillow, or joined with additional blocks to make a larger quilt.

Continue Reading…

Infinity Scarves – Sewn with a Serger or a Sewing Machine

Finished!

Infinity Scarf – looped 3 times

Infinity scarves are one of my favorite sewn gifts to give or to receive – easy to make and easy to wear! The continuous loop means no worrying about the scarf sliding out of position or the scarf ends being blown right off your body in a passing breeze.

There are many Infinity Scarf tutorials online and the majority get the job done just fine, but most of them end with a very wide opening that straddles the intersection where the ends of the scarf are joined. This can be a bit of a pain to hand stitch. I think this method, which I learned from Nancy Zieman, is a little easier and leaves a smaller, easier-to-sew invisibly, opening.

Since I’m working here with Telio Reflection knit fabric, I’m going to use the serger, but it could also be sewn on a regular sewing machine. As we go along, I’ll include photos showing how the stitching would look on a sewing machine. Continue Reading…