Colorwash Bargello – Sewing & Pressing the Strip Sets

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

Once you have your strips cut (each pattern in Colorwash Bargello Quilts tells you how many strips to cut – Cascade requires 2 strips of each fabric, each strip 2″ x 20-21″), it’s time to sew them together.

Note: the original Cascade pattern calls for 19 fabrics.  I am using 20 for this new quilt.

Use 2 different colors for your top thread and bobbin thread. You’ll see why later!

First of all, I highly suggest using a noticeably different color thread in the top of your machine than what you are using in the bobbin.  This makes no difference when you sew the strip sets, but it will make a LOT of difference later…

I also have a few tricks I’d like to share that might help you avoid uneven strip sets, seam allowances that curl, or puckers or pleats in the seams:

  • A consistent seam allowance is a MUST. Quilters generally stick with 1/4″ seams. For this kind of project, an exact 1/4″ isn’t as important as a consistent seam allowance that measures the same width at any point along the seam.

    Two styles of quarter-inch presser feet. I prefer the one with the blade, but either one can help keep seams consistent.

  • I also recommend a straight stitch throat plate, if you have one. 

    A zigzag throat plate (left) vs. a straight stitch throat plate (right)

Continue Reading…

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Making a Bargello Quilt – Fabric Selection & Arrangement

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

Strip set for a Colorwash Bargello quilt

I spend two entire chapters discussing selecting a palette of fabrics and using color, value, and visual texture to help arrange them to maximum effect in my book Colorwash Bargello Quilts.  I won’t try to repeat all of that here, but I’ll boil it down to essentials.

Note: Since batik fabrics are generally more tightly woven (and therefore have a little less stretch) than other quilting-weight cottons, I highly recommend that you stick with either ALL batik fabrics or NO batik fabrics for your first bargello quilt. The slight differential in stretch can make matching intersections more of a pain than a pleasure when assembling the quilt. However, if you have lots of strip-piecing experience, press very carefully, and are accustomed to mixing these fabrics, than feel free to go ahead – I do it myself! I just want to warn you that it has the potential to make life a little more challenging…

  • I generally use 18 or more different fabrics in a Colorwash Bargello quilt. Don’t worry – it’s a lot easier to pick out that many fabrics than it sounds! It helps if you don’t overthink it at the beginning of the process. I recommend starting with either a focus fabric, a mental picture, or a theme.
    • The easiest type of focus fabric to work from is a medium-to-large scale, asymmetrical, multicolored print containing a range of values from dark to light. But don’t fall into the trap of overmatching the exact colors in your focus fabric! Variations in color, value, and/or intensity only add to the richness of your palette.
    • Once you have your focus fabric, mental image, or theme in mind, start gathering fabrics that share the same or similar colors, making sure to also grab fabrics that are lighter, darker, brighter or duller. It’s best to have lots to choose from!
  • I narrow down my choices by grouping fabrics into “runs” – 2 or more fabrics arranged from light to dark and “blenders” – fabrics that have 2 or more colors and/or values that can be used as transitions between runs.

Grouping my fabric into “runs” and identifying potential “blenders”

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Making a Bargello Quilt – Cascade

Cascade, designed and quilted by Beth Ann Williams, pieced by Pam Crans for Colorwash Bargello Quilts. 29″ x 34.5″

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

For a little more background information, you can check out my previous post, Colorwash Bargello.

For this series, I’ll be referring to the Cascade pattern from my book Colorwash Bargello Quilts.  If you don’t have the book or would rather design your own bargello quilt, you can still follow along and find a lot of (hopefully!) helpful information.

This has been one of my most popular bargello classes, as it can easily be completed in a day (or two days, if you are having lots of fun with your friends).

To help you start brainstorming a color palette for your own bargello quilt, I’d like to share some of the ways my students and friends have interpreted this pattern:

Cascade II, made by Eileen R. Clous from pattern in Colorwash Bargello Quilts. (gift from Eileen)

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Celtic Quilt to Celtic Pillow – Sewing Machine or Serger

Celtic True Lovers’ Knot from Celtic Quilts: A New Look for Ancient Designs

The Celtic True Lovers’ Knot has been appliquéd, quilted, and trimmed, and is now ready for the binding.

This would allow you to use the completed piece as a wallhanging. I did consider a wallhanging – I especially liked how it looked when I hung it on point –  but I already have several of this design, so I thought it would be fun to turn it into a pillow, instead.

This method works not only with this Celtic project, but with any orphan quilt block or cool fabric that you might have on hand. If you use fabric that hasn’t been quilted, I recommend fusing a layer of Pellon 987F to the back of the fabric before proceeding. I like the extra shape and softness it gives the pillow.

How to Turn a Quilted Block into a Decorator Pillow:

Note: This is actually a pillow cover, as it is easy to remove for laundering – an important factor with kids and pets! 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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Making a Celtic Quilt – Top Tips for (Invisible) Machine Appliqué

Working my way around the design, including  sewing down the folded edges formed when the points were created.

This is the ninth 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.

Here are some of my top tips for successfully appliquéing a Celtic-style design:

In 20+ years of teaching, this is the monofilament thread that seems to work the best in the greatest number of machines.

Choose the right thread.

I recommend a .004 polyester or nylon monofilament thread for your top thread. In teaching various appliqué classes for more than 20 years, I have found the single brand that seems to work best in the greatest number of machines is MonoPoly by Superior Threads.  That said, I have also had students use Wonder Thread, YLI, and even Sulky successfully – it all depends on what works best in each particular machine.

I never use monofilament in the bobbin. Instead, I prefer a high quality 50 or 60 weight, 2 ply cotton, or a high quality 60 weight poly such as Bottom Line by Superior Threads.  Using a relatively finer thread in the bobbin instead of an all-purpose 50 weight, 3 ply cotton thread makes it easier to avoid little dots of bobbin thread being visible on the right side of your work.

Note 1: monofilament can be a little tricky to work with, as it has an unfortunate tendency uncoil, get wrapped around the spool pin, and then break before you realize what has happened. Fortunately, you can minimize breakage by

(1) using a thread net over the spool,

(2) switching to a vertical spool pin instead of a horizontal one, and/or

(3) stitching slowly and steadily – avoiding abrupt stops or speed fluctuations that might cause the spool to spin.

Note 2: If you’d rather avoid monofilament, you could opt to use Bottom Line, or a 50-60 weight, 2 ply cotton thread in both the top AND the bobbin – just match the color of the thread as best you can to your appliqué fabric(s). Silk thread is also WONDERFUL, but can be pricy.

Choose the right tension settings.

Many machines now have automatic tension control, which generally does a very good job adjusting to whatever kind of thread you may be using. However, when it comes to monofilament thread, even high-end machines may need some minor adjusting. On my own machine, I find it helpful to lower the upper thread tension to between 1 and 2 when I’m using monofilament thread as the top thread in my machine (auto-tension for my machine is set at 4).

For more on thread tension and when and how to adjust it, see this machine quilting post: Machine Quilting FAQ & Top Tips.

Choose the right needle.

Continue Reading…

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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…

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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…

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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:

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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…

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