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…

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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…

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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…

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Finishing Spree – Matchstick Quilting

Colorblock Love quilt made by Beth Ann Williams using the pattern by Sam Hunter of Hunter’s Design Studio.

Do you know what Matchstitck Quilting is? I didn’t until a few months ago when my friends Ruth and Michele told me about it. Yes, apparently I’ve been hiding under a rock… LOL

I had difficulty wrapping my brain around it at first; quilting lines only the width of a matchstick apart? Why on earth would you quilt so densely? But the more I thought about it, the more intrigued I became. So I did a little research and then let the idea simmer a while.

Meanwhile, my son Jack almost never asks me to make anything for him; so on the rare occasion that he does, I tend to drop everything else and make it.  That was the case for this project. I fell in love with the Colorblock Love pattern by Sam Hunter of Hunter’s Design Studio when Mr. Domestic adapted it to make a Pride Pillow and featured it on his Instagram page to promote his fundraiser for the Trevor Project. When I told my family I was planning to make the rainbow version, Jack asked me why I didn’t make a Trans Pride wall hanging instead. So I did!

Although I usually love the extra patterning free-motion quilting brings to a quilt, I felt that it would be more distracting than complementary to the graphic nature of this quilt. Then I remembered Matchstick Quilting!

There are many different approaches to matchstick quilting. Here is what I did for this particular quilt: Continue Reading…

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What I Did This Summer… Fun with Sew Alongs on Instagram

First block in my Moroccan Tiles quilt

First, for those who enjoy a little backstory:

(if you don’t care about backstory, skip on down to the Sew Alongs – I won’t be offended!)

One of the challenges of pursuing your passion (or something related to your passion) as your vocation is the risk of adding so many financial and/or performance related pressures that what once gave you joy becomes another source of stress instead. Back when I was showing and selling my work in galleries, I found myself in the very odd position of not being able to afford my own work. The amount of money I could make by selling my art quilts was too high for me to justify making anything for myself when I had a family to help support! Later, when I was designing quilts and writing quilting books for Martingale & Co. and teaching both locally and all around the country, I found my sewing and quilting time so limited that I felt I couldn’t justify taking the time to sew or quilt anything just for fun – everything had to be something I could either sell, show, include in a book, or use as a teaching sample. I love to experiment and play the “what if” game, but I felt very constrained in my experimentation – I had to be pretty confident in the outcome in order to justify the expense of time and resources. I couldn’t allow myself to take the kinds of creative risks I yearned to take. 

Another of my Moroccan Tiles blocks

This phenomenon was exacerbated for me when an apparent mini-stroke almost 10 years ago (combined with long term symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis) left me not only reliant on aids like wheelchairs, walkers, and canes to get around, but left me with impaired fine motor control and strength – and mostly unable to cut fabric, sew (by either hand or machine), and especially quilt.  As the severity of my symptoms fluctuated, I was able to do a little sewing, but it was mostly (of necessity) related to my role as Creative Director for Lakeshore Sewing. 

I coped with this by turning my creative focus to writing, drawing and designing fabric – things I could do even when confined to bed, and sewing small items when able.

But something changed this spring. As my mobility, dexterity, and energy gradually improved, I started sewing again. Small stuff at first, like bags and purses; but eventually even quilts. While I am still very much affected by MS, I am physically doing the best I have since 2009/2010. And I am so happy!

But I also know that I want to approach my sewing and quilting differently than I have in the past – I want to keep more of the joy. As I was discussing this with my sister, she mentioned to me that I was reminding her a lot of a book she had recently read by Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. As soon as I could, I bought a copy for myself and started reading. I devoured it!

I won’t get into a full book review here, except to say that I heartily recommend it for anyone and everyone who is interested in living a creative life – not necessarily as a vocation (although it’s applicable for that, too), but as a way of living. One of the most important take-aways for me personally was not to get caught up again in always creating “original” or marketable work, but to allow myself to freely and without the pressure of expectation pursue any rabbit trails that might catch my eye and capture my interest.  Allowing myself to play and to participate more fully in the creativity around me has become a new goal for me.

Which brings me back to what I did this summer… Continue Reading…

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Shimmer Quilt – Part 3

My clamshell “Shimmer” quilt has been a labor of love and persistence – for such a relatively small piece, it sure has been labor intensive! But I’ve enjoyed each step of the process as it stretched my creative muscles to experiment with new-to-me products, techniques and approaches.

Below is my completed quilt top. It’s a little wrinkly, as there was an unfortunate incident overnight with a leaky pipe right above my worktable that left my quilt top not only soaked but stained when I found it in the morning, and I had to wash the unquilted top. Not usually recommended! 

I also had some bleeding from the dark purple fabrics. I’ve always prewashed everything in the past; but in this case, I had followed the recommendations from Bluprint (formerly Craftsy) and I did not do so. I will never skip that step again!

The fabric shrank a little when I washed it, creating the appearance of small tucks and wrinkles in the quilt top. At this point, I was hoping they would disappear when I quilted the top.

I was very discouraged by these developments, but decided to press on.

Shimmer clamshell quilt top designed and made by Beth Ann Williams

I considered an all-over free-motion quilting design, as that has been my go-to approach in the past. But in the spirit of trying something new, I opted to treat each individual patch as an opportunity to play with a different motif or style of patterning. But first I stabilized the quilt top by quilting on either side of each patch to create an all-over latticework which I also extended into the white negative space around the outer edges of the quilt.

This left me with very tiny spaces to fill with free-motion quilting, but it was also fun. 😀

Shimmer clamshell quilt by Beth Ann Williams – free-motion quilting in progress.

Continue Reading…

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Shimmer Quilt – Part 2

Wow! I really need to catch up! There’s been a lot going on our lives – both good and bad (or at least very challenging and saddening); most notably the passing of my beloved Aunt Peg, aka Margaret Hochberg. She was one of those very special souls who exuded love and comfort to all those around her and worked tirelessly (often behind the scenes) to help everyone she could. She was a woman of deep and abiding faith who genuinely practiced what she preached in the most positive sense of the word. She welcomed and mothered us all.

One of my favorite sewing-related memories of Aunt Peg was the way she always came through when one of us (siblings, children, nieces, grandchildren, etc.) needed a special garment, whether it be for a wedding, performance choir, holiday photos, or just because.  She had an amazing ability to look at the collection of pattern books with us in the store, listen to all of the changes we wanted (which by the end, could render the purchased pattern all but useless), and somehow produce a garment that not only fit, but was just what was wanted. With her example, she taught me to create freely – modifying, adapting, or skipping commercial patterns altogether.

I think it’s especially appropriate to think about Aunt Peg today, as my approach to this quilt was definitely inspired by that freedom. 🙂

In my last post, I showed how I fused the 3″ clamshell templates cut from ink-jet printable, iron-on Wash Away Applique Sheets to the back of my fabric.

Sorting my fabrics into groupings – starting to get an idea of how I might arrange them…

The next step was to use a wash-away fabric glue pen along the seam allowance of the upper edge of each clamshell and then fold the seam allowance over just a little bit at a time, easing in any extra fullness. (I found this the quickest way to get a nice stable turned edge along the top of each clamshell.)

I laid out my clamshells into groupings of 4, overlapping the clamshells so that no raw edges of fabric would show when all the pieces were sewn together. In some cases (particularly with the darkest blues and purples), I used a light box to help me see exactly where the edges of the wash-away applique paper were underneath the fabric.

After playing with various arrangements, I settled on a final design. washing the color from left to right and values from bottom to top. But I needed to cut some more clamshells…

“Shimmer” clamshell quilt by Beth Ann Williams, pondering the layout…

Continue Reading…

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Shimmer Quilt – Part 1

This next series of posts will explore the process of creating a new quilt inspired by shimmering sunlight and shadows reflecting off the rippling surface of Lake Michigan.

My initial starting point was this selection of ombre fabric. I’d never worked with fabrics like this before, so I thought it would be a fun challenge to come up with a design that would take advantage of the gradated colors. 

Ombre fabric from shop.mybluprint.com

The next step was to think about what kind of shape or shapes I wanted to work with. I’ve never worked with clamshells before, but I’ve always loved them. It seemed to me that clamshells would lend themselves to the kind of organic movement I had in mind.   Continue Reading…

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Fun with Cathedral Windows

Cathedral windows has been a favorite pattern of mine since I first saw this traditional quilt style many years ago, but I’ve never made more than a few blocks at a time because the handwork proved too frustrating for me to manage wth my peripheral neuropathy. So I was immediately intrigued when I heard about the Cathedral Window Pillow episode from Angela Walters on her Midnight Quilt Show. I checked out Angela’s demonstration on YouTube and was excited to see how the process had been reimagined and reengineered to make it relatively quick and easy to create by machine.

You can also download the (currently) free pattern from Bluprint 🙂

The cutting instructions are for two 20″ pillows, but I opted to make just one this time. Angela was using a charm pack (precut 5″ squares), but I raided my scrap bin and leftover bits and pieces from other projects and cut my own squares and triangles.

I decided to make my pillow with a mix of scraps of my custom fabrics from Spoonflower and of my carefully hoarded Kaffe Fassett fabric. The white fabric I’m using is Lily & Loom Brilliant White from Bluprint (formerly Craftsy).

Continue Reading…

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Experiments in Binding – Changing the Width

In a previous post, I started experimenting with sewing quilt binding on the back of the quilt and then bringing it around to the front and appliquéing it down by machine (instead of sewing it to the front of the quilt, wrapping it around, and hand-stitching it on the back of the quilt).

I felt the experiment was successful, but the process needed refining. I’m going to give it another go. 🙂

This time I cut the binding strips 2 1/4″ wide. I still want the binding to be wider on the front of the quilt than the back (so that I don’t catch the binding in the appliqué stitching), but not as wide as in my first experiment.

I started by sewing the folded binding to the back of the quilt with a 1/4″ seam.

Then I wrapped the binding around to the front of the quilt, using Wonder Clips to hold it in place, and removed the clips as I worked my way around the quilt.

Continue Reading…

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