This year's Christmas gifts for family were all about quilts. I finally feel safe writing about them because they have all received their gifts and I no longer have to worry they might see them online. I consider myself an experienced seamstress in that I have "experienced" sewing a lot of different projects. That is how I keep my creative mojo, but I wouldn't call myself an expert in quilting just yet. It fascinates me to see complex quilt designs and try to figure out how they were put together but I have found the designing and following patterns to be a little out of my reach. I have several quilting books and I absolutely love to read quilting magazines so the desire is strong. I purchase beautiful pre cut fabrics and wait for inspiration. In fact that is what happened with the three quilts above. I had purchased several 2 1/2 inch fabric rolls and stashed them in my studio for the spark of creativity that I knew would happen. For me that is the key. I always have a selection of materials in my reach so I can immediately move toward working on a project. Getting in the car and driving to shop only causes me to quickly lose interest so if you have similar feelings, you might want to buy your beautiful fabrics long before you have a project in mind and just wait. It will come to you.
This was the beginning fabric roll. It contained 40 pieces of fabric. They were cut 2 1/2 inches by 42 inches or the width of the fabric. If you are an experienced quilter you know this already, but I'm going to aim toward those beginners like me because just holding this little roll and trying to figure out how big it would wind up becoming, how much batting I would need, and back fabric to finish it was a huge problem for me. Think "Word Problem" and feel the headache begin.
I did have yardage in my stash that I thought would be perfect for the back. I purchased this piece from a second hand store. I love finding those pieces of fabric that are hidden and creating something lovely. It makes me feel like a treasure hunter. I always bring them home and immediately wash and dry so they are ready for me. It was a light cotton and I thought there should be enough to make a lap quilt. By this time, I had done some research on pre cut fabric quilts and found several blogs on 1600 or Race Quilts. Quilt guilds or groups use the pre cut rolls as a competition to quickly and easily piece quilt tops. This is a great way to sew many quilts for donation. There is very little preparation or cutting and within a short time you can have your top pieced. That was exactly what I was looking for because I had three quilts in mind and about two weeks to get them ready. Yes you read that right. I pieced, quilted and bound all three quilts within a two week period.
Here is my set up. I had my sewing machine of course with a regular sewing foot. I also put my folding table to my right. This little table is one from the camping section of Academy Sports. I love it because it folds away flat and I keep it out of the way unless I need it. I also had my wool pressing mat and a small travel iron just because it is easier to work with while sitting..
The first thing I did was unroll my fabric strips. I did not prewash them. When I did my research on the 1600 quilts, every blog stated not to think too much on laying out your different fabric strips. It is very difficult to plan or determine any kind of placement due to the construction. The whole point of this type of quilt is ease and speed. By the way if you are wondering why they call it a 1600 quilt, it is because by the time you have sewn all of the fabric lengths together, you should have roughly a 1600 inch length. So I just placed my similar strips together and put them on top of my table so I could reach for them as I sewed.
Piecing the strips together can be done two different ways. On my first quilt I placed the ends of the pieces right sides together and sewed a diagonal line just like I would for binding. As I worked, I did not cut any of the stitching. I chain pieced. This will create a quilt top that has a diagonal look to the sewn pieces. On the subsequent two quilts, I laid the ends of the fabric right on top of each other and pieced straight across. If you will look at the finished picture below, you can see the lavender quilt has diagonal seam lines. The other two quilts have straight seam lines. I think it is personal preference and it didn't make sewing any harder on either option. I did however have an extra step of trimming the diagonal fabric ends. The straight ends were just sewn with a 1/4 inch seam allowance with no trimming needed after.
All of those little triangles are trimmed and expect a lot of fluff to come away from the precut strips as you sew. My lap was covered along with my studio floor from manipulating the strips. A good sweeping was necessary several times. I also had to pull out my vacuum wand to clean around my machine.
As you continue to sew the strip ends together you will begin to have quite a pile of fabric, so make sure you have room around your sewing space to keep all of it out of the way.
After my chain piecing, I used my small scissors to clip the threads
What was a neat row of strips becomes a long pile of fabric. There is no rhyme or reason to the placement of color. That is the fun part. You just grab piece after piece and sew them together. It can get hypnotic to sew like this and my best advice would be to make sure you are placing your right sides together before you sew the ends. Also VERY IMPORTANT, go through these strips before you move to the next step one more time and make sure the right sides are sewn together and you don't have any flipped or a right and wrong side sewn together. Make your corrections as it is easier to pick out a short seam now before you begin to sew the top together. Ask me how I know?
You will cut 18 inches from one of the ends. This will ensure that your seams do not line up throughout the quilt.
Now that you have your long strip of fabric, you are going to find both ends. Take one end and place it on top of the other end right sides together. Then using a 1/4 inch seam, you will sew the sides of those strips until you can't sew any more. I changed from my regular sewing foot to a piecing foot here. Once you get to the end, you will cut the u shaped fabric piece straight across. I have to tell you that even though I had my pressing station all set up, I didn't make use of it much while piecing. I did once complete with the top, press all of the seams
The first length of sewing will seem like forever until you get to the end. Once you do you will see that you can't go any further and you have to use your scissors to release the ends and make them lay flat. It is difficult to do it exactly straight and you don't need to stress about that. There will be some fabric trimming and squaring before you do your quilting.
Now that you have finished your first long seam, you will find the two ends again and do another long seam the same way. This process will be done FIVE times in total. As you find the ends each time, the piece will get wider and wider and your seam will get shorter and shorter. I did read blogs that stated not to worry about un winding the long lengths of fabric between each long seam as this saves time. I will tell you that on my first quilt, I must have been doing something right because each time I got to the end of the seam and did my trimming and then picked up the two ends to begin sewing, I did not come to much of a fabric twist at the end of my seam. It was fairly easy to cut the U shape of the fabric. When I did my second quilt. I had some confidence and I just sewed really fast to see how long it would take to finish. I didn't even bother to make sure my long length of fabric wasn't twisted and I did have some repercussions from that. When I had the final seam to sew and I was ready to cut that final U shape at the end, the fabric was twisted so much, that I couldn't get a very straight cut. So my top was wider on one end when I squared it off. I lost about six inches of fabric. I had to piece the two ends with additional fabric to keep the size I wanted. So my second piece of advice to you is unless you are doing a race and you don't mind how big the finished quilt will be, make sure to unwind the long fabric piece and make sure there is no twist in it before you place the right sides together to begin sewing.
Here is the top on one of the final seams and you can see it is getting wider and wider and look at the bottom of the fabric where it forms a U Shape. This is what needs to be cut across to release the fabric so it will lay flat. As you can see if the fabric is twisted, cutting would be difficult. Again ask me how I know? I feel confident, I could have gotten these three quilts done sooner if that event had not happened. I lost about two days because I was so mad at myself for rushing through the second quilt and then knowing I was going to have to do some Quilt Math to figure out a solution.
Oh the beauty of a finished quilt top. Is there any site more beautiful to behold? Except a quilted and bound quilt top of course. Which by the time you get to this point you will begin to think about. Now you get to trim up any edges that are not straight and decide what kind of batting you want to use, what kind of quilting designs and how you want to finish the edges.
So I don't think there is an easy way to prepare one of these for quilting except dive right in and know that you will need to flip it a couple of times to make sure there are no areas that will cause puckers. Aggravating I know but worth it. The batting was larger than the top to ensure I would have enough for shrinkage while quilting. I used some adhesive spray and safety pins to layer my back fabric, batting and top. The batting I used is 100 % cotton which I chose because my recipients all live in climates with humidity. I envisioned them using their lap quilts to snuggle on the couch watching tv. Even in summer you can use a 100% cotton quilt and not get too hot. Polyester batting is wonderful for extra warmth in very cold climates. I have several different quilts that I swap on my bed each season and in the summer months, cotton is my favorite.
I did install my walking foot on my machine to help keep all of those layers together as I quilted along.
Once I had everything pinned and ready to go I rolled up one end and you can see that it went to the right side so I could begin my quilting in the center. I decided to keep it simple and just sewed in the ditch along each seam line. I worked from the center to the right side then rotated the quilt and did the same from the center to the left side.
I made my own binding for the quilt by cutting 2 1/2 inch strips on the bias. I only did bias binding on the first quilt. I did make my binding for the other two quilts but the binding was made with straight ends. If you are making a quilt with straight edges, there is no need to go around curves which is the purpose of bias binding. Try straight edge binding for your next quilt and you will see that it works great on those right edges. You will have less trimming of fabric on the straight seams. Once everything was sewn together I pressed the seams open and then I did press the binding in half with the wrong sides together. Some people do not press their binding but my finish seam worked better with a very crisp edge.
I sewed my binding to all three quilts along the back with a 1/4 inch seam allowance and then pulled the binding to the front of the quilt and held it in place with clips.
My finish stitch of choice was a serpentine. If you look online, you will see an infinity of ways to attach binding. I wanted something very quick and with a utilitarian quality. I wanted my recipients to use these quilts. The finish size makes that extremely likely because they are large enough to give lap coverage and small enough to clean in a standard washer and dryer. I wash my quilts regularly so very firm stitching is in order. This serpentine stitch also is VERY forgiving. If you go off a little, it is hard to detect but the coverage and grip of your binding width is a great choice for an everyday quilt.
I think it looks extra pretty. This is what you see from the front. I like to sew it from the front so I can see exactly where those stiches are landing.
Here is the back. Everything is attached with sound stitching and I know if they wash and dry their quilts, there will be no broken stitches or sad surprises. I also love this stitch to give myself a break from trying to get perfectly straight stitches in the ditch from one side and ensuring I have "captured" the binding from the other side that you don't see while sewing.
Pretty isn't it? Also notice the strips that touch may be the same due to the construction. Even though I picked up each color individually as I connected the fabric pieces, the long seams will cause similar strip colors to be side by side on your top.
Here are some roundabout measurements in case you are wondering how large it is. This will vary depending on your end cuts of course.
Here is the second quilt. Remember the difficult one? Look at the two sides and you will see a navy border. That is what I had to add to keep the finished size I wanted due to the fabric twisting. So if you do have a smaller finished top than you planned, you can add fabric to it. Not sure why I couldn't think of that when I lost those two days, but when you get deep into a project with a deadline in mind, tunnel vision can occur. Take a break and breath, It's ok.
By the time I got to my third one, I was very sure of myself which usually happens when you practice something. For this top, I wasn't sure what color to use for the back and I did have to make a shopping trip to purchase fabric. I bought a 4 yard fabric cut from Wal-Mart in this bright sunny yellow.
This is how I pieced that back from that fabric cut. It shows my top final measurement. The fabric is 44 inches wide so I cut two lengths 55 inches long and pieced them together with a 1/2 inch seam allowance for strength. The width needed to be cut off on either side at 10 inches. This gave me a extra fabric when creating my quilt sandwich. After everything was quilted, I did some squaring up. I had extra fabric left over for my binding and even some more for future projects. These fabric cuts from Walmart are usually a great price also. They are a polyester blend so if you want 100% cotton just make sure you look for that on the label. Or visit your local quilt shop for your fabric where you will have a great selection that is wide enough for quilt backs and 100% cotton.
Just a few more pictures of that serpentine stitch for you to see. Nice work on that binding corner don't you think? Very crisp. Using your iron to press that binding edge makes that happen.
I love that bright sunny back. I enjoyed making each one of these quilts because they were all straight seams and I was able to finish them within a short timeframe. If you are not in a rush, this project would be very easy to lay down and come back to at a later date without having to think too much on where you left off.
Here is the best part. A picture from my family member underneath his quilt with the caption "MY BLANKET IS PERFECT". Now THIS is the goal accomplished. Exactly what I envisioned coming to fruition. I hope you have enjoyed this post, share what you learn and are generous with what you create. Someone will appreciate your hard work!
Embroidery Placement is one of those subjects that most people have questions about. I recently had a comment on one of my You tube videos that pointed to that subject. So I decided to look at some of the various tools I currently use or have in the past.
I think this might be the most important thing to learn when you are machine embroidering and I really struggled with it in the beginning. Knowing your machine capabilities with the hoop sizes available to you is the first step. If your machine came with one hoop, say a 4x4, you will be able to stitch embroidery designs no larger than 3.93 x3.93 inches. That 4x4 hoop is also known as a 100mm x 100mm hoop in metric conversion. Sometimes you may purchase designs that are denoted in inches but many will also have those metric numbers. I like to keep this chart handy near my machine so I can quickly glance at it before I begin any project. The size of your design will be constrained by not only your hoop size but the area you want to place it on your project. I have found exceptions to this chart with some designs. My Mighty Hoops have a "suggested" maximum that can vary between two measurements. Depending on the design shape, the rounded corners of the hoop will sometimes cause issues where I need to reduce the size. So always do a trace of your design on your machine before you begin to make sure it will fit inside the hoop and not strike the sides.
Templates are one of my favorite tools when doing machine embroidery. This picture shows a 4x4 hoop and the template that came with it. If you will look closely, you will see the template has a small purple square with a grid. This is the actual sewing field available in the hoop. Most of the time, these will be roughly 1/2 inches inside the hoop edge. That is a default determined by the machine manufacturer to make sure you will not damage anything. On my commercial machine, there are ways to extend this a little in the settings, but I would not suggest doing so without the assistance of your technical support. This template is helpful for placement because it has a cross hair in the center that lines up with the four markings on the hoop itself. The small circle in the top of the template allows you to remove it once you have your item hooped.
Although I like to use the templates that came with my hoops, I do have some that did not have any when I purchased them. So I make my own using these chopping mats purchased from Dollar Tree.
Here is one I made for my 5x5 Mighty Hoop. I used a permanent marker, hole punch and scissors to customize it exactly how I wanted.
You may not realize it, but you probably have a template in most of your embroidery designs that is easy to use. This is a printout of one of my free designs and as you can see there is a cross hair in the center. I like to use these to mark placement and also see how a design will look on my projects. I usually will cut the center cross and use a chalk marker to show me where I need to place my hoop.
Here is a closeup of my chalk marker. These can be purchased at most sewing and quilting stores. You can buy replacement cartridges or loose chalk to fill it. The chalk comes out when the small rolling teeth go across the fabric surface. I like chalk because in most cases it brushes off fabrics and won't leave any marks. Now I will warn you that if you mix that chalk with another marking pen like a disappearing one and then iron or place heat on it, you may set the color. So always test the fabric before you make your marks.
I also like to keep many different rulers and tape measures close by when I am placing my embroidery. Working with fabric can be tricky because it moves and distorts. This small six inch ruler is great to work in smaller areas.
Placement rulers can be a helpful way to get a measurement for apparel. I have a couple of different ones and I will say that they sometimes differ in their suggestions. Most commercial placement rulers have a disclaimer that the final area is determined by the person doing the embroidery. So just be aware that these are meant to assist but they are not always the final or perfect tool. If I am doing many shirts or garments, I will usually make my own templates so placement can be done quickly without guesswork.
Here you can see one that I use for shirts. This was made using one of the chopping mats. I usually make one for each size that I will be working with. I make notes on the template telling me where the design should go. I will draw buttons, collars, seams or any defining placement areas so I can lay it on top of the garment quickly. Then I have a cross hair cut out that I can mark with my chalk marker. This one has two cross hairs because depending on the design shape or customer preference, I may need to move it 1/2 inch on this particular shirt. There is not a perfect location. Each project may need to be tweaked a bit.
I do like to use my Echidna hooping station to assist in lining up the hoop. The magnets hold the stabilizer in place so it does not slide around. Then I can confidently place the garment or fabric and quickly secure the top hoop.
Before I purchased my hooping station, I did primarily use temporary adhesive spray. This holds your stabilizer in place until you can hoop the fabric. I have in the past had some shirts Pill when the stabilizer is removed after stitching so always do a test with a garment that I don't mind damaging. I try to have extras for this purpose. It saves some stress in the event you have a machine malfunction or if it's "Just One Of Those Days"
I find that the hardest part of hooping any project is knowing where the bottom hoop is located. You can't see it once you put your fabric on top. That is where the templates come in handy. Here you see I have a towel on top of my hoop and I am using my template to "feel" the bottom hoop location. If I have marked my placement with my chalk marker, I can also Line up that chalk inside of the cross hair of the template.
Then I can place the top hoop on and decide if that placement will be good. I will tell you that this doesn't always go as planned. No worries, just take it out and try again. Some fabrics are harder than others. The location of the embroidery can be tricky also if you are embellishing a ready made product. Don't get frustrated and sew it because you are tired. Take a break and come back to it later.
So templates are a great way to line up projects. They are also an inexpensive tool that you can print off or make yourself. I found that once I started getting the hang of using them, I enjoyed creating my own as it helped me understand the hooping process more. This blog post is just the tip of embroidery placement. I have more detailed information in my video below. I show you how I use all of these tools. If you are interested, scroll down and watch it. I bet you will pick up some new tricks of your own.
I hope you have enjoyed this post, share what you learn and are generous with what you create. Someone will appreciate your hard work!
Lagniappe Peddler believes that the process of working with our hands can be one of the best forms of healing the hurts in our lives and welcomes all who visit this safe little corner of the world.
What is a Lagniappe Peddler?
ˌlanˈyap,ˈlanˌyap - something given as a bonus or extra gift
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