Quilts on the Grand 2018

So I’ve been offline for a bit, for both good and not-so-good reasons. First, the good – John and I took a WONDERFUL trip to the Finger Lakes region of New York to stay with my sister and brother-in-law. While we were there, we were also able to get together with my parents and with my brother and sister-in-law and their amazing kiddos. So lots and lots of fun all around!

But what a different story when we got home… we first found the dryer broken (unfortunate, but not so bad), then drips in the basement (somewhat alarming), then standing water in the basement (red alert!).  The hot water heater had sprung several leaks, couldn’t be repaired and had to be replaced; and then the technician let us know that our furnace also needs to be replaced asap, as well as the chimney (fire hazard). Whew!

Since my studio is downstairs (along with the dryer, water heater, furnace and chimney), and everything had to be packed up and/or pushed to one side in each of the large rooms downstairs in order to mop up water and create space for the repair crews to work, my creative activities will be a bit curtailed for the immediate future.

But a very bright spot in the midst of all this – the biennial Quilts on the Grand show put on by the West Michigan Quilters’ Guild at the Delta Plex in Grand Rapids, MI. Continue Reading…

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The Good, The Bad, and the Unfortunate…

I should have known, first thing in the morning when my 30 ounce environmentally friendly metal tumbler full of organic pu-erh tea and coconut cream completely upended all over a four foot radius of bedding, pillows, books, magazines, bedside rug and slippers that it wasn’t going to be an auspicious day for precision work.

But I’m an essentially optimistic person, so I decided to proceed with my plans to machine quilt my invisible machine appliqué teaching sample anyway.

Before quilting…

What followed what a series of unfortunate events punctuated by the occasional expression of shock and consternation.

It wasn’t just the tea that should have tipped me off that the stars were not in alignment that day.

The first step was to assemble my quilt “sandwich” of quilt top, batting, and backing.  I soon discovered that the supposedly fusible batting I had specifically purchased for this project wasn’t fusible after all.  So no biggie, I thought, we can improvise. Continue Reading…

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Straight Line Machine Quilting with the Jazz

I was perplexed when I realized that the Baby Lock Jazz, which is marketed as a quilting and sewing machine, doesn’t come with a walking foot among the 9 included presser feet. It seems like a counter-intuitive omission. Not that big a deal for me, since I already have a deluxe Baby Lock low-shank walking foot for another machine that will also fit the Jazz, but definitely a first add-on purchase if you don’t have one on hand.

I truly enjoy free-motion machine quilting, so I tend not to do a lot of straight-line work. But I was intrigued with the number of quilts – particularly in the Modern Quilt exhibit – in the recent AQS show that featured simple straight-line channel quilting. The trend in show quilts of very dense, elaborate free-motion quilting seems to be still going strong, but the pendulum also seems to be swinging in the other direction – simple, but very graphic and effective, straight line quilting.

Since most of the fabrics I’ve designed for sale in my shop at Spoonflower.com (more on this another time) feature fairly complex designs, I’m thinking that straight line quilting might be an effective way to complement an overall quilt design without adding another layer of elaborate patterning.

Here is how I set up my machine:

    • Aurifil 50 wt. cotton thread in the top and 60 wt. Bottom Line in the bobbin
    • Schmetz Quilting Needle, size 75
    • Walking foot with guide bar set 3/4″ from the needle (this width is purely personal preference)
    • straight stitch
    • stitch width: 3.5 (straight stitch setting on the Jazz, as discussed in my previous post)
    • stitch length: about 2.25  (this is slightly longer than the stitch I used for piecing the quilt)

Stitch width and length settings I used for machine quilting with the walking foot

I started by using my white Clover Chaco Liner to mark one vertical line through the center of the quilt.  This is the only marking I’ll need, since I’ve attached the guide bar to my walking foot. Since I don’t want to have any more than half the quilt going through my machine at a time, I will work from the center of the quilt to the right-hand side of the quilt, and then rotate the entire quilt and quilt from the center to the (new) right-hand side of the quilt again.

Side view of Baby Lock walking foot with adjustable guide bar attached

Continue Reading…

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A New Machine!

I love my Baby Lock Symphony, and plan to keep it; but I’ve had my eye on the Baby Lock Jazz for a while. This month, Brian from Lakeshore Sewing offered a deal too good to pass up and I finally took the plunge.

I’m excited about using this machine for home dec (particularly large projects), machine appliqué on large projects, and for machine quilting (both machine-guided and free-motion quilting). The fabulous 12″ of space to the right of the needle, heavy-duty casting and 1,000 SPT was what sealed the deal for me. Continue Reading…

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AQS Quilt Week Grand Rapids 2018

From the American Quilter’s Society website:

“AQS QuiltWeek events are held in multiple cities across the country. These events make an indelible mark on the fiber art community by offering the largest cash prizes for quilters in the country, thanks to our generous sponsors! In additional to displaying the contest quilts at each event, attendees can enjoy a variety of special quilt exhibits from around the world. Each event also features workshops and lectures with top quilting instructors, and a huge Merchant Mall with vendors offering the latest machines, fabrics, and other tools used in quiltmaking.”

I had the pleasure of attending the last day of the Grand Rapids QuiltWeek, which ran Aug. 22-25, 2018.
I’ve been to many, many regional & national/international quilt shows over the past few decades, in a wide variety of roles, including contestant, exhibitor, speaker, teacher, and/or guest, and I have to say that this one was one of my favorites. 

I renewed my AQS membership, too!

Sadly, my schedule only permitted me to spend a few hours at the show this year, which is not nearly enough time to take in everything. John (my husband) and I had to breeze through the show at a pretty fast clip to try to see as much as we could in the time we had, and I know there was much we missed. 

That said, I thought it was a fabulous show! One of the things I liked the most was the wide variety of color palettes, techniques, and styles. In addition to all the competitive categories, the show included a number of wonderful special exhibits.

Here are some of my favorites – although quite of few of my photos didn’t turn out well enough to share, so this list is very incomplete!

Continue Reading…

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A No Hand-Sewing Method for Adding a Hanging Sleeve to a Quilt

The quilting on my newest Colorwash Bargello quilt is finished!

Cascade II from Colorwash Bargello Quilts by Beth Ann Williams, quilted and pinned to the design wall, ready for a sleeve and binding

It actually only took me about 2 1/2 hours cumulatively to complete the all-over free-motion quilting, but I had to break the time up into smaller increments so as to not overtax my body  –  taking into account MS, spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, chronic pain & peripheral neuropathy (among other things). Whew!

I’ve squared up the quilt and cut off the excess batting and backing fabric. Before I add the binding, I’m going to add a hanging sleeve. Typically, hanging sleeves are at least partially, if not completely, hand-sewn, but I developed my own methods so as to spare some of the wear and tear on my hands. It’s also super quick to do. 🙂

Note: I included this method in my book, Colorwash Bargello Quilts, as well as the more traditional way to add a formal sleeve. I use this easy sleeve on almost all of my quilts, whether they are teaching samples, personal quilts, or art quilts.

Easy (No Hand-Sewing) Sleeve:

  • Measure the width of the longest border at the upper end of the quilt (or longest horizontal seam near the top of the quilt). Double this measurement, and add 3/8″ to determine the width of your sleeve. In this case, the border measures 4″ wide, so I’ll cut the sleeve 8 3/8″ wide.

Measuring the width of the upper border (I’m working with the quilt upside-down)

Continue Reading…

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Colorwash Bargello – Free-Motion Quilting!

This is the eleventh in a series of sew/quilt-along posts about making a bargello quilt.

I am following the pattern for Cascade, the most beginner-friendly pattern from Colorwash Bargello Quilts.

I’ve layered my quilt top, Hobb’s Heirloom Fusible Batting, and backing fabric, and fused the layers together.  It’s a little unusual, but when I use fusible batting, I like to rough cut my batting about 2″ bigger all around than the quilt top and the backing fabric about 4″ bigger all around than the quilt top. This allows me to wrap the extra backing fabric around to the front and cover up the exposed batting – which helps keep the heat-activated adhesive in the batting from getting on my iron when I press around the outer edges of the quilt.  (This extra fabric and batting gives me something to hold onto when stitching close to the edges of the quilt.)

When I use fusible batting, I like to wrap extra backing fabric around to the front to cover up the exposed batting. No worries if it looks messy – it will all get cut off when I’m finished quilting.

I’ve decided to go with the variegated pastel Rainbows thread as my top thread and pale yellow Bottom Line in my bobbin. I’m using a Schmetz Embroidery needle, size 80, as this particular spool is one of the very early batches of this thread, and is a little more delicate than later versions. The Embroidery needle has a groove on the shaft that will help reduce friction on the thread, and therefore reduce the possibility of fraying or breakage.

On a quilt like this, I usually start on one corner and work my way across the quilt.

Working my way across the quilt

Continue Reading…

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Colorwash Bargello – Choosing Thread for Free-Motion Quilting

This is the tenth in a series of sew/quilt-along posts about making a bargello quilt.

I am following the pattern for Cascade, the most beginner-friendly pattern from Colorwash Bargello Quilts.

The quilt top is complete, and as I discussed in my previous post, I’ve decided to free-motion quilt this project.  I’m raring to get started!  I’m leaning towards a variegated thread that has a nice sheen. Although you don’t usually notice the color of the thread used for the quilting until you are right up close, it can have significant impact on the finished quilt.

A quick refresher for a few of my readers who aren’t quilters:

  • A “quilt” is traditionally composed of 3 layers: quilt top (which may be pieced together, appliquéd, or whole-cloth), the batting (I’ll be using 80/20 Hobbs Heirloom Cotton batting), and the backing fabric.
  • “Quilting” refers to the stitching (by hand or machine) that is done to hold the 3 layers together.
  • “Free-motion” quilting refers to dropping the feed dogs (the feed dogs are what normally moves the fabric through the sewing machine as you sew) and creating a design by moving the fabric manually (kind of like drawing on paper, except in this case, the pencil/machine is stationary and the paper/fabric is what moves).

A few of my personal observations about my thread choices:

  • I like thread with a bit of shine! In my early days, I often used rayon thread, but I switched to high-quality trilobal polyester threads such as Isacord, Rainbows, and Fantastico (the latter 2 are from Superior Threads) as they became available. These newer threads have beautiful sheen, are reliably colorfast, virtually lint-free, and are much less likely to shred or break while you are stitching. (Note: you may still get lint build-up in your machine from your batting and backing, as well as from your bobbin thread, if you are using cotton.)

    I like the subtle sheen this thread adds to the quilt. The pastel color changes show up a little better in person than they do on camera.

  • I especially enjoy variegated thread – especially brands such as Rainbows or Fantastico, both of which change color every inch.  

    Fantastico thread from Superior Threads

Continue Reading…

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Colorwash Bargello – Machine Quilting Options

This is the ninth in a series of sew/quilt-along posts about making a bargello quilt.

I am following the pattern for Cascade, the most beginner-friendly pattern from Colorwash Bargello Quilts.

The quilt top is complete, and I’m considering my options for machine quilting the quilt top, batting, and backing together.

There are no rules about how best to quilt a bargello quilt, only preferences.

Sometimes I feel that adding a lot of free-motion quilting might distract from the power and clarity of the design.

In those cases, I usually opt for clear MonoPoly thread in my needle and a walking foot (or even-feed foot) on my machine and hide the stitching “in the ditch” between the vertical rows. Fire on the Savannah from Colorwash Bargello Quilts is a good example of this – you can’t see the quilting on the front of the quilt unless you examine it extremely closely.

Close-up of the quilting on Fire on the Savannah from Colorwash Bargello Quilts by Beth Ann Williams

Another “in the ditch” alternative is to stair-step the quilting, following the design line.

Close-up of the backside of a version of Cascade from Colorwash Bargello Quilts made by Sandy Harvey. Note the “stair-step” quilting along every third fabric in the vertical rows. This stitching is hidden “in the ditch” on the front of the quilt.

At other times, I deliberately use lots of free-motion quilting with highly visible thread (and a free-motion foot) to add an additional design element to the quilt. You may not notice the quilting from a distance, but it can be a fun surprise when you get up close! I also like to use the color of the thread as an additional unifying element in the quilt – the subtle sheen or veil of color it creates across the surface of the quilt can help reinforce a cohesive impression of the design as a unified whole rather than emphasizing individual colors or pieces of fabric.

Here are some close-ups of the free-motion machine quilting on some of my bargello quilts:

Close-up of the quilting on Cascade from Colorwash Bargello Quilts by Beth Ann Williams

Continue Reading…

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Making a Celtic Quilt – Adding Additional Texture with Machine Quilting

The True Lovers’ Knot from Celtic Quilts: A New Look for Ancient Designs – appliquéd and ready for more quilting!

This is the tenth 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 fused onto background fabric. For this project, I added the borders, layered the quilt top with batting and backing, and machine appliquéd and quilted the design in one step.

Now I’m ready to add a little more texture!

Since the design itself has already been appliquéd and quilted in one step, I’m going to start this stage by stitching in the ditch between my borders. This will  further stabilize the quilt and help keep my borders straight. I usually recommend a walking foot for this step, but my layers are flat and stable enough that I am going to continue on with my standard presser foot.

Stitching in the ditch in the seam between the borders.

I could stop here, but I’m having too much fun. 🙂 Continue Reading…

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