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…

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 – 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…

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…

Finishing Spree!

My most recent sew-along top finish – the Granny Cabin from Then Came June. Now it needs to be quilted!

I’ve been neck-deep in sew-alongs this fall – I find myself really energized by having multiple projects going on at a time. What I like best is that no matter how little time, energy, or physical mobility I have on any given day, there is sure to be something productive I can do on at least one project, whether it is collecting fabrics, playing with relative values to explore interesting design variations, cutting, sewing, basting, auditioning thread colors for machine quilting, actual quilting, or binding. But every once in a while, there is a time of reckoning when there is a pile-up of projects in the last few stages of completion and it’s time to wrap things up!

Now I plan to start a series of posts about my finishing spree – or how I’m turning my pile of quilt tops into finished quilts.

I’ll share some of my favorite ways to machine quilt, resources to help make the process easier, a variety of approaches to quilt labels, and a selection of binding techniques that I find most helpful.

I’m sure there will be some bouncing back and forth between topics as I work on whittling down my UFO (AKA UnFinished Object) pile, but I’ll tag each post with “Finishing Spree” so that they will be easy to identify.

You might also find the tag cloud on my site helpful – it’s usually located in the sidebar on the righthand side of the page if you are on a laptop or PC OR near the bottom of the page if you are on your phone. Just click on the topic of your choice to bring up all of my posts with that tag.

Meanwhile, Happy Quilting!

 

Link Love – FREE Patterns for the Tiki Tote & the Persimmon Dumpling Pouch

I’ve gotten some requests for more information about two projects I posted on Instagram recently – the Tiki Tote pattern from Bluprint (featured on the Midnight Quilt Show with Angela Walters) and the Persimmon Dumpling Pouch from Sara Lawson of Sew Sweetness. Not only are both these patterns FREE, but they also have free video tutorials that show you exactly how to make them.

My Instagram post showing the Tiki Totes, Persimmon Dumpling Pouch, and a couple of basic zipped pouches.

I found these projects are a lot of fun – both to make and to use.

It all started with a jelly roll (collection of 2.5″ strips) that I picked up on clearance from Bluprint…

Jelly roll – coordinated collection of 2.5″ strips – a fun way to play with a wide selection of fabrics!

Continue Reading…

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…

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…