Monday, March 9, 2015

It Should NOT Snow on Retreat Weekends!

I was blessed to be able to attend the annual Kamp Kutti Uppi at Lake Eufala, Oklahoma, last week for the second time. One of my high school buddies from back in the day in California is now a fellow quilter who lives in Oklahoma, just 5 hours away! Sweet Linda is the director of KKU and since we reconnected (thanks to Facebook!) we have begun scheduling time together at quilt retreats twice a year. No better way to spend time with an old friend than across our respective sewing machines while quilting! This year a quilting buddy from my local guild went along with me to join the fun and to be company for the drive.
Liz, Linda, and Sherry--Kampers at Kamp Kutti Uppi!
There were, I believe, 23 quilters, plus two excellent cooks! We all stayed in the bunk houses at the Pickens Family Campground at Lake Eufala, took our showers in the bath house (yep, that also means running across the property between buildings for night-time potty calls!), and stitched & ate in the lodge. One family brings three generations of quilters with them--mother, daughter and granddaughter! We all had so much fun!

One of the fun activities at KKU is a round-robin quilt that gets made during the weekend. All those who add to and work on the round-robin get their names put in a drawing and are eligible to win it! Whoever wins is supposed to finish the quilt (quilt & bind) and bring it back the next year to show off. This is last year's KKU round-robin, the first one I took part in. The starter blockswas the two-star section in the center and throughout the weekend more borders were added. Paula (in the pink) won and brought it back finished, and was happy to use it this year with the cold temps and snow! My contribution were the two black & red checkerboard rows on either end of the center section.

Paula brought the 2015 round-robin starter block, the yellow-black-green wonky sashed center that had a hilarious cartoon of a fabric avalanche. The first camper put it on-point and away we went from there! Our only "instructions" were that this year's quilt would be bright! Sherry and I worked together and added the bright rainbow piano key borders to each side to help widen it out some. This awesome top grew as campers added borders and accents during the weekend. Some campers brought bright scraps or fat quarters from their stashes, while others dug through the tubs of scraps that are always there for whoever needs them to find just the right touch for their projects. Rita won the drawing for this 2015 quilt and will complete it to bring back to the 2016 KKU, as well as bring the starter block for the next round-robin.

This year I only brought 4 projects with me, instead of the 10 that I schlepped down to OK and back last year, leaving most untouched. My major goal was to finish a new sampler top for a Quilting 101 class I'm teaching and to make a sample for a Cathedral Window class coming up soon. The first time I taught Q101, I used the shop owner's sample, which was fine, but I wanted to tweak it to include some of the techniques I know I use most. The blocks are fairly simple, and do include some curved piecing and a Dresden plate among the six blocks. That project went very well and was done on the first full day of stitching.

Next I was on to the Cathedral Window sample. I had seen them, had fallen in love with them, but had never tried them. So, I found a great tutorial on the Moda Bake Shop Recipes blog for a Charming Window Pillow Cover, printed it out, and took it and the required materials with me. On day two I dove in before breakfast and ten hours later, I had this beautiful little ~14" square of 9 cathedral window blocks sewn together and ready to show my students. Wow! Can you say Origami for quilts?!? I loved doing it, but I can definitely say I won't be making a whole Cathedral Windows quilt! Blessings on those who have and those who will--I will admire you from afar.
The four day retreat, again this year, got caught in some late season snow & ice. Last year I left on Saturday by noon (the retreat goes from Thursday at 9am through 11am Sunday) because of an ice storm heading towards northeast Kansas where I was headed. Indeed I drove home in sleet and freezing rain and just a few miles from home hit a point where my windshield was on the verge of being frozen over with no clear spot to look through. I did make it home safely, put my car in the garage to be unloaded later, and hunkered down. The next morning I had several inches of snow covering said ice and was surely grateful to have made the decision to leave early. Once again, snow interfered with our stitching fun by moving into OK during the retreat time.
Not the weather we had hoped for on retreat weekend...

The lodge where we quilted. It was safer to walk in the snow than on the walkways that kept freezing over!
This year Sherry (my travel/quilter buddy) and I made a similar decision because it had already started snowing where we were, had been snowing at home some 4+ hours away, and the next day the forecast for where we were in Oklahoma was for freezing rain and ice! So, we packed up Saturday morning and headed for home.
It sure felt like a long way from those bunkhouses to the bathhouse at 2am in the snow!

We drove snow-packed roads most of the way home. No problems getting back to northeast Kansas; although, we did go a longer route just to stay on a more major highway and drove slower than usual which lengthened our drive home to just over six hours. The snow wasn't bad at home, but we heard later that the ice and sleet hit hard back at Lake Eufala! The walkways between buildings were sheets of ice, so the campers walked in the snow to keep from slipping down the hill to the bunkhouses. The state park rangers helped clear the road out to the highway, so the campers who stayed through Sunday could get home. It was a challenge, but all made it home safe and sound. Though we would have loved the extra day of stitching with friends, we were grateful to have made the decision to cut our retreat weekend a day short and get home safely before the ice.
Snow-packed roads on our drive home.
A snowy stop to get gas on our way home.
I'm already on the list to go back next year to KKU! I'm meeting up with Linda again in August when our friend Marsha plans to fly to Kansas from California for our own private mini-retreat at my place! It's such fun being able to share our passion for quilting at mini-reunions together!

More snippets from the sewing room soon!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Paper Piecing Step-by-Step

My duties as teacher at Quilters' Paradise in Baldwin City, Kansas, are pushing me to look at my skills in various quilting techniques from a new angle. I'm learning how to explain what I do rather than just do it without thinking about it. It's great to be able to break a technique down into steps to share with others! With our monthly table runner class, I'm trying to introduce new techniques each month and January featured paper piecing. While we didn't complete a table runner in class this time, those who attended did leave with one of four paper pieced hearts complete and time to make the others for a cute Valentine's Day runner.
When I posted the picture of my pieced hearts on my Facebook page, I had requests for a how-to, so here goes. Paper Piecing Step-by-Step as done by me in preparation for my class.

There are a variety of patterns and books out that cover paper piecing. I have learned from both Carol Doak's website of free quilt patterns and her blog, and from Michele Foster at Quilting Gallery while doing her Delightful Stars online quilt-along (now available on her website as a booklet). Both have excellent information and patterns available at their websites.

For this class, I chose three paper pieced hearts from Carol Doak's free downloads, and drafted a Swedish Heart myself in EQ7 to make the four hearts to be sashed and bordered for either a table runner or a small wall hanging. I printed the full size patterns onto foundation paper. While you can print on regular computer paper, it is heavier and will be more difficult to remove after your blocks are made. Using the lighter weight newsprint or foundation paper makes the process much easier. Be sure when printing PDF patterns that you select "actual size" rather than "shrink" or "fit" option from the print screen. This will assure all of your patterns will print full size and won't cause any problems with blocks fitting together down the road. I then pulled my fabrics and began the process.
Separate the various sections that will be paper pieced and later assembled into the block, keeping the instructions nearby. In this case, the instructions were printed on the same page as the block sections. The woven heart block uses five fabrics, each used in specific places on different sections to achieve the woven look. I laid out the fabrics on sticky-notes with numbers and marked the four sections of the paper patterns with numbers matching the fabrics so placement would be correct. The numbers that are printed on the paper patterns indicate the order the fabrics are to be sewn on, not the number of the color assigned to that position. If I had been using multiple colors, I would have written "red", "white", "yellow" etc., into those spots instead of the handwritten #1-5 that I used here. I then followed the pattern guide and cut the indicated pieces out of each fabric and laid them on the stick-notes.
For position 1, take the indicated fabric and place it wrong side to the paper on the back and pin it in place. From the paper side, hold it up to be sure the fabric covers the entire area of position 1 with at least 1/4" allowance beyond the solid stitch line. Fold the paper back on the line between positions 1 and 2 and, with the paper folded back, trim fabric to 1/4". Place the piece of fabric for position 2 right-sides together with the fabric in position 1 and pin, aligning them with 1/4" allowance beyond the stitch-line between their sections. Be sure your fabric in position 2, when stitched and flipped back to its spot, completely covers position 2. For straight pieces like illustrated here, it is pretty easy. For angled pieces, you may or may not have straight edges lined up, which is perfectly okay (more on this below with detail from the Star Heart).
Fold the pattern back out and sew along the solid line between sections 1 and 2. I recommend a stitch length no longer than 2mm and smaller is probably better. Closer stitching will perforate your paper better and make it much easier to remove when your block is complete. When a section goes only part way across the block, start or stop at the center intersection with 2-3 reinforced stitches, and sew off the outside edge of the pattern & fabric.

Once the seam is stitched, remove the pin and press the fabric over towards section 2. Then fold the paper pattern back along the solid line for section 3 and trim the fabric from sections 1 and 2 to 1/4". Align the fabric for section 3 right-sides together with sections 1 and 2, and stitch on the solid line. For this particular piece, section three extends all the way across the block, so stitch on and off the paper at both ends. You always stitch with the paper side UP, following the lines. Again, when finished stitching, press the fabric back over the paper, opening up each piece as you go.
Now it is time to sew on the corner pieces. Fold the paper pattern back along the line between section 2 and 4, and trim the block to 1/4" beyond the fold. Place the triangle for corner position 4, right sides together, behind the block. Unfold the paper pattern and sew along the solid line between section 2 and 4. 
After stitching, press the triangle out to cover the corner section. Repeat for section 5. Your block should now look like this before trimming. There may be times when you stitch off the edge of your paper pattern and then have another section that crosses nearby. You can gently tear your paper away from seams in order to get the pattern free to fold for the next stitch line. Just be sure to keep it intact enough to keep the pattern straight and square throughout the process.
As you build each section, remember to follow the printed numbers as the order to add fabrics. Be sure to keep track of which fabrics you want where and write on your pattern so you keep your fabric placement the way you had planned. Also remember that the blocks are in reverse when the paper side is up. When all four sections are laid out paper side up, it is a mirror image of the finished block from the right side.
Trim all blocks when complete to 1/4" from the solid line (a dotted line was printed on these patterns which indicated the final 1/4" seam allowance around the section). Sew the block sections together into rows and then rows together to complete the block. I pressed the seams in opposing directions for the sections and then pressed the final seam open to reduce bulk. I was careful to pin the intersections where points come together between sections so they would stay properly aligned on the finished block.
Once the block is complete, then you can remove the papers. If a fine stitch has been used, the paper should be perforated and remove easily. Be careful not to pull at your stitches too much as you remove the paper. A pair of tweezers can be very helpful in removing small bits from corners or in seam allowances. If you are assembling multiple paper pieced blocks together into rows, you  might want to leave the paper in until they are all assembled, which will help reduce any distortion of the blocks. Also be aware if outside edges are bias edges, leaving the paper in might serve you well until additional blocks or sashings are attached.
For blocks like the Bow Heart and the Star Heart, there were several pieces that needed to be sewn on that did not line up straight. In this case, I placed the fabric over the indicated section right side out, then folded the seam allowance under to meet the adjoining block to check its placement before pinning, trimming, and sewing. The pieces on angled sections get sewn on at what seems like a funny angle, so lining the fabric up with the previous block will not necessarily cover the next section correctly. As shown here, to get the section of the Star Heart aligned, I had to lay it out at an angle, trimmed to 1/4", and then sewed. When pressed out, it correctly covered the star point. Always test and, if necessary (which I did several times), carefully rip out from the fabric side (picking one stitch at a time helps from tearing the paper you will need to stitch over again), then realign, and resew.

That's it! That is my step-by-step procedure of making paper pieced hearts. It was great fun and, as you can see, when you paper piece and follow the stitching lines, you get absolutely perfect points! And, your points on the outside will match perfectly as a 1/4" seam allowance is built into the patterns.

Good luck in your paper piecing! I hope this tutorial was helpful.

More snippets from the sewing room soon,

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Rediscovering my stash!

What a marvelous Christmas celebration this year! My younger daughter hosted and it was so low-key and relaxed with everyone getting along. It's always interesting when the blended family comes back together with the in-laws, out-laws and ex-laws. Spending time with the grandkids is always a welcome bonus!

With this most recent move I have found that I'm missing several projects that I was working on before I moved in October. So, my post-Christmas project has been to find and organize my stash in the new place. I had no idea what a huge undertaking this would be. On day 3, I'm still finding fabric and am still missing some projects. Sheesh!

In the past I've had my stash sorted in plastic totes that were stacked in the closet. The problem with this is they kept getting mixed up, partially emptied and refilled with mismatched stuff, and pieces I would be looking for were seemingly lost in the black hole of totes. The other problem is what I wanted was usually in the bottom tote, which meant emptying the closet (which is remarkably clean in this picture!) in order to get to the lower levels. Definitely a frustrating system.
I've been watching some of the Facebook quilting groups to see how others sort and organize their stashes and decided I'd switch things up for this place. I'm using the cube-storage units that I purchased at Target. I already had a 3x4 cube unit which I put in the closet next to the stacked drawers that hold fat quarters, kits, and old patterns. I figured if I could get two stacks of fabric in each 12x12" cube, I could get a lot of fabric in that unit! Well, after 1-1/2 days of folding and sorting, the unit was beyond capacity and I still had a ways to go with more fabric in boxes and bags under the sewing table. Notice the stacks on top waiting to be sorted into cubes! 
I took myself on an outing yesterday and picked up an additional 2x3 cube unit, which I assembled and placed on top of the first unit, filling the space completely from the floor to the shelf. Yep, I had to remove the rod to hang clothes in this closet, but I wasn't using it anyway. I discovered one more tote in the other closet (yep, there's two in this room!!!) and it's FULL, but the fabrics are bundled in ziploc project bags for specific quilts, so I'm leaving them alone for now.

So, how did I do it? Here's the system I used. First I measured the cubes and found them to be almost exactly 12x12" square. I knew the fabric being rolled up would take up some space, so I cut a piece of foam poster board 5-1/2" x 18" (the length of the available piece) and tried a few pieces out. When stacked up, they were too wide to fit next to each other, so I shaved an extra 1/4" off of the board and found the 5-1/4" width worked just right.

I opened up the fabric on my sewing table, putting the fold on my right and the selvage edges on my left, placing the board near the end nearest me. 
Next step was to fold the fabric over the edge of the board and begin folding/rolling the yardage onto the board, tucking and pulling gently to keep it snug around the board.
I continued rolling the fabric until it was all wrapped neatly around the board. I did my best to have several inches of fabric on the last wrap so it would stay wrapped when I folded the finished piece.
At the end I would slip the board out of the folded fabric to use again with the next piece. 
 The finished piece is then folded in half and ready to be stacked in the cubes.
The stack of cubes is now as full as I'm going to get it today. There are more pieces to add that will get folded in a similar fashion as I come across them in various bags and boxes. I know there's more (besides what's in that full tote of projects) because I know I haven't seen several pieces I purchased recently. The search continues until I have all of my stash out where I can see it.

What I love about this system, in this house anyway, is that it is inside a closet that I can close the doors on and keep everything reasonably dust free. Also, the sewing room has one window that faces east, so it only gets morning sun and because of the way the house next door is located, the sun doesn't reach the closet.

The next major project will be to tame the bags and totes of scraps that have been collecting over the past year. After making Bonnie Hunter's Celtic Solstice mystery quilt last year, I got hooked on scrap quilting, too. My quilting buddies have been very helpful providing me with more scraps than I know what to do with! For now UFOs and projects I had already planned are at the top of my list for 2015. After that? Well, I'm guessing I don't need to buy fabric for a very, VERY long time! LOL!

More snippets from the sewing room soon,

Monday, December 1, 2014

Life keeps getting in the way of my keeping up with my blog. I had great plans, but those were dashed by school assignments, another move, and many projects. I'm grateful for all that has been going on and hope to continue sharing here those changes.

First off, I've gained yet another grandchild! My oldest daughter and her husband have adopted a baby girl who missed sharing my daughter's birthday by just a few hours. Little Joslyn is just adorable and a true redhead! She's such a blessing to our family. With my son-in-law's older two girls, this makes six grands for me now. Big brother and sister, Joe (14) and Jordyn (11) are enjoying having Joslyn in the family, and little cousin Jacob (2-1/2) thinks she's pretty cute too!

Back to my quilting... Well, there have been too many projects to list as I attempt to play catch-up. One that I'm quite proud of is a set of wall hangings made for a friend to present as gifts earlier this year. I have been a member of Eastern Star for closing in on 40 years. I was asked to turn our Worthy Grand Matron's ideas into a quilted wall hanging for each of her officers. What began as a simple drawing came into reality and was duplicated 20 times! Everyone was so happy with them!

The design, made entirely of dupioni silk and shantung included a paper-pieced star with the points made in the five colors of the Eastern Star emblem, surrounded with ivory shantung which was machine embroidered and bordered in fuchsia and teal, the Worthy Grand Matron's colors for the year.

I was able to set up an assembly line for myself, making parts for each and assembling in what I think of as progressive chain piecing. Once they were all made, then I used 1/4" Steam-a-Seam 2 tape to seal the binding to the back before machine stitching from the front in the ditch of the binding seam.

Working with the silk was a challenge at times. I ended up adding a light weight fusible stabilizer to the shantung to make it more manageable. I also worked with a pinking blade in one of my rotary cutters to reduce fraying. It worked, but it sure did leave a lot of short little teal threads everywhere! My ironing board cover is still in need of some serious cleaning!

I have plans to write up instructions for these beautiful wall hangings, a task I probably should get to before I forget the details of how I went about it!
I made 20 total, 6 having already been presented when I took this picture. They measure 14" x 18" and were thank-you gifts for the Kansas Easter Star Grand Officers for 2014-2015. What a fun project to take a rough concept from my friend Donna and turn it into reality for her to present to each of her officers at their respective receptions!

My current project is another for this group--a special Christmas gift to the Worthy Grand Matron and Worthy Grand Patron (only two this time!) from their grand officers. They are nearly done, but can't be shown until after they receive their gifts next weekend. What fun being asked to create unique quilted items for my Star sisters and brothers. 

More snippets from the sewing room soon,

Monday, August 4, 2014

Repairing an Old Quilt

At a recent flea market I was asked by one of the vendors if I could repair her old quilt for her. In my typical fashion I immediately said, "Sure!" Well, then I took a closer look and wondered what I had gotten myself into. I brought the quilt home with me knowing I had at least a few weeks to work on it as the vendor was going on vacation soon for two weeks. Turns out I got buried with school work and then left for my own two week vacation, so today was the day to bring it out and just do it!

I'm certainly not an expert at repairing old quilts as this was only my second one. I'm also not sure whether this the correct way to repair one, but it worked and so I'm happy with it.

It's an old, well-loved quilt that had a gaping hole/tear in it that was close to 8" across at the widest. I pulled some muslin out of my stash that was about the same color as the backing and cut two 8" squares and pressed the edges under 1/4" all the way around to use as patches on the front and back. 
I retrieved the quilting hoop from the closet where is has sat untouched until today and hooped up the area to be repaired. Then I placed the first patch onto the front and blind stitched all the way around, doing my best to keep it square while also pulling the torn area back into shape where it had been stretched. 
 Once the first patch was on, I marked the back at the four corners of the front patch with pins so I could place the second patch as close as possible to the back so they would be closely aligned.
 Then I placed the piece of batting over the actual hole and pinned it from the front so the pins wouldn't get caught inside the quilt as I stitched the second patch on. (I've been known to sew pins into things before--hems on dresses, forgotten pins in skirt gathers, etc. You get the idea. LOL!)
 Second patch lined up with the 4 corner points from the other side and I began stitching once again.
 Little blind stitches with a betweens #10 needle and Aurifil #50 did a great job of blending right in and not showing once the stitching was all done.
 The next challenge was to do hand quilting that matched what was already there. The main body was quilted with Baptist fans and the border with simple diagonal lines. I used a water soluble blue pen to mark the lines. Luckily the fans were still there around the hole so I was able to follow those lines and complete what had been torn apart. I used the same needle, but a waxed hand-quilting thread that had been recommended to me by a shop owner several years ago (nope, never did hand quilt that project). For my very first hand quilting, I'd say it's not bad! Because of the lumpy nature of the hole, despite trimming away some of the torn fabric & old batting, I ended up going up and down for each stitch, but luckily it was a small area. And here it is!
 All ready to go back to its owner who can love on it some more.
And now it's my turn to have some quilty fun. Getting ready to start a Row by Row pattern in hopes of getting 8 rows made into a quilt to turn in to one of the shops soon. Oh yeah, I had quite the adventure with my grandkids touring the country for two weeks and collecting rows from five states! More on that in the next post.

More snippets from the sewing room soon,