A Comfy & Easy-to-Make Pillow Lounger

 

My pillow lounger – ready to use! Next time I might buy enough fabric to match up the print properly; but I don’t think the kiddos will mind this time.   

I love to sit on the floor with William (age 3) and Emilia (age 1) and play, but I sure don’t love trying to get up again. Nor am I impressed with how hard the floor feels after a while.  Given that and also knowing how much fun the little ones have falling/jumping/snuggling into pillows, I figured we could come up with something that would work for all of us. 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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Piecing on the Jazz

Continuing my evaluation of the Baby Lock Jazz – It’s time to piece a quilt! 

One of the first things I looked for is a straight stitch throat plate, as I have found that very helpful for sewing perfectly accurate, consistently straight seams on other machines, especially when strip piecing. I was initially disappointed to find that there is no straight stitch throat plate available for the Baby Lock Jazz. But I decided to give it a go before making up my mind as to whether or not this poses a significant problem.

Here is how it went:

Since the last stitching I had done was a zigzag stitch, the first thing was to switch the machine back to a straight stitch. No problem.  However, when I adjusted the stitch length to 0 (stitch width is not applicable for a straight stitch, right?) I immediately realized I had a problem:

I initially assumed I should set the stitch width to 0 for a straight stitch

Notice the problem – the needle hits the presser foot!

So I consulted the manual – which is terrific, by the way; very clear and well-illustrated.

Following the manual, I reset the stitch width to the dot marked on the dial.

This is the correct stitch width setting for a straight stitch

Perfectly lined up! Continue Reading…

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How Does the Jazz Do with Invisible Machine Appliqué?

So far the Jazz is performing superbly. 🙂 

But an important test for me is how well it will do with invisible machine appliqué, as that is one of my specialties. Of course, my other machines are just great for this, but I’m excited about having much more workspace on the Jazz.  

Here is how I set up the machine:

A regular zigzag presser foot works perfectly well, but I prefer an open-toe appliqué foot as it allows better visibility.

I like to use a very small zigzag stitch for this. Depending on the machine I am using, the width and length settings are usually somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.5, 1.5 or 2.0, 2.0. Here is how I set the stitch length and width on the Jazz:

Stitch settings on the Baby Lock Jazz for invisible machine appliqué – about 1.9 and 1.8. 

After doing some test stitching on scrap fabric, I determined (to my surprise and delight!) that no tension adjustments were necessary. The stitches were perfectly balanced – no bobbin thread visible on the top of the fabric and no monofilament visible on the back.

However, I did find that the monofilament thread had a tendency to coil off and wrap around the spool pin, causing it to break; but I quickly solved that issue with a thread net placed over the spool.

Sliding a thread net over the spool keeps the thread feeding smoothly into the machine

I prepared my appliqué pieces by ironing the edges over freezer paper templates, which I removed later.

One side of the zigzag goes into the appliqué piece, while the other side goes only into the background fabric, just off the edge of the appliqué 

Continue Reading…

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How to Sew a Decorative Pillow Cover with an Invisible Zipper

I’m planning to put my new Baby Lock Jazz through its paces by testing how it performs while making a series of different projects. I’m starting with decorative pillow covers with invisible zippers.

Spoiler Alert – this is how my pillows look with their new covers 🙂

If you’d like to make a pillow cover of your own, here is what you’ll need:

  • square pillow form to cover (or existing pillow that needs a facelift)
  • invisible zipper, preferably at least 2″ longer than your pillow or pillow form
  • home decor fabric (if using quilting-weight cotton, I recommend fusing interfacing such as Shape-Flex to the fabric before making the pillow – this will bring the fabric closer to decorator-weight)
  • zipper foot and/or invisible zipper foot 

Since I had 10 pillows to make new covers for, I purchased my invisible zippers in bulk  – saving quite a bit of money in the process.

The zippers I purchased for my pillows

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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Experiments in Binding – Bringing the Binding From the Back to the Front

In my last post, I started a sewing/quilting experiment by doing things a little differently than I normally would. 

(1) I sewed the binding first to the back of the quilt (in the past, I’ve always sewed the binding to the front first)

(2) I purposely planned to have the binding finish at 1/4″ wide on the back and approximately 1/2″ wide on the front so I would stay clear of the binding on the back when sewing the binding down on the front of the quilt (in the past, I’ve always made sure my bindings were the same width on the front as on the back)

Now I’m ready for the next twist!

(3) Sewing the free edge of the binding down by machine instead of by hand.

And to take it even further,

(4) Appliquéing the free edge down with a small zigzag stitch!

The first step is to start wrapping the binding around to the front.

Bringing the binding around to the front

Continue Reading…

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Experiments in Binding – Sewing the Binding to the Back of the Quilt First

After taking some time away from my sewing machine to focus on getting the Lakeshore Sewing Creative Quarterly ready for the printer, I’m back in business. 🙂

I’m ready to bind my newest incarnation of Cascade from Colorwash Bargello Quilts.

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 my hand.  I love the look; but unfortunately, it is very hard on my hands. So I’ve been thinking for a while about how to eliminate the handwork without sacrificing quality.

I’ve seen many examples of machine-sewn bindings that were first sewn on the front of the quilt, wrapped to the back, and then machine stitched “in the ditch” from the front of the quilt, (hopefully) catching the binding in the stitching on the back of the quilt. Sometimes it looks great, but I’ve also seen it end up pretty messy. I’m concerned that it can be tricky to get a nice consistently clean result on the back of the quilt, since you can’t see the binding underneath when you are stitching from the front.

So today I am trying something a little different.  

The preparatory steps are exactly the same as if I were attaching my binding in the traditional manner.

I cut my binding strips 2 1/2″ wide. For this quilt, I need about 4 1/2 strips cut the full width of the fabric. I’m joining the strips with a diagonal seam, as that helps prevent the seam allowances where are strips are joined together from forming lumps or bumps in the finished binding. I trim the excess triangle of fabric on the other side of the seam and press the seam open.

 

Joining the binding strips with a diagonal seam (strips are right sides together and stitched at a 90 degree angle; the excess triangles of fabric on the other side of the seam are trimmed away)

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 – Measuring & Sewing the Borders

This is the eighth 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 picked out my border and am ready to sew it on.

When I first started quilting many, many years ago, I would just lay my border strip across the end of the quilt, sew it on, and then cut off any extra border fabric that extended past the edge of the quilt.

Sometimes this method seemed to work just fine; but other times, I would find myself grappling with quilt edges that were bowed instead of straight, wavy edges, or even little “volcanoes” or bulging areas within the quilt.

The problem was that the outer edges of a pieced quilt sometimes seem to “grow” or stretch a little more (from handling?) than the interior of the quilt. This tendency could be exacerbated if the pieced quilt had a lot of small pieces, strip-piecing, bias edges, or even just a lot of cross-grain pieces – especially if the fabrics in the quilts varied even a little in weave. (High-quality batik fabrics usually stretch a little less than high-quality quilting-weight cottons, which usually stretch a little less than chain-store quilting cottons, etc.)

What I eventually learned is that perfectly flat quilts with perfectly square corners are much easier to achieve if you follow these tips:

  • Always measure through the center of the quilt to determine border lengths
  • Always cut parallel borders together, so that they are exactly the same in length
  • Pin, pin, pin! 

BUT if the discrepancy between the center of the quilt and the outer edge of the quilt is more than 1/4″, I recommend strategically trimming the quilt top or “squaring it up” before proceeding with the borders!  

Here is how this method looks in practice:

I like to add the side borders first, so I begin my measuring through the center of the quilt vertically

Continue Reading…

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