Monday, October 28, 2013

UFOs: Unfinished Objects

I don’t often leave a quilt undone. I’m not bragging, I just like to be able to see a project from start to finish and typically it’s a gift for an event so there’s a timeline to adhere to. I have two projects that have been living as UFOs (or Un-Finished Objects). One is a  baby quilt that I started for a little girl who was born four months after mine, and the other is a quilt I started one summer home from college (there’s actually a completion date of 2001 stitched on it. EEK!). And while I understand it, I am horrified that these projects have gone so long without completion.

Recently, I got very excited about a quilt designer and was digging through my fabric to start working on a new project when I came across the unfinished baby quilt. I’ve dug past it a number of times in the throes of creativity, but this time was different. I stopped and I looked at it - with three of the four borders on it was so close to being done that it was almost sad. So I stopped my new quilt digging and pulled out the unfinished quilt with it’s accompanying fabric and sewed the final border on it. I added a second border after some thought, and found some polyester batting, tacked the layers together and started quilting it. It is still in the works as I’m teaching myself how to trace-quilt in the process, but my goal is to have it complete and shipped to the little girl by her 18 month birthday.

The 2001 quilt is an interesting story (I’m not going to say it’s an odyssey). My parents discovered it this past April when they were cleaning out their house to move covered in a plastic Gottchalk’s  bag in the back of one of their closets. Since then it’s relocated to my craft closet, layered and quilted, and the binding just needs to be stitched on. I have looked at it so many times perched on top of the plastic bins that hold my fabric that it’s become part of the scenery. I’ve ignored it for the simple reason that I don’t like it. What’s the sense in finishing a quilt that I don’t like? Really, to just clear space in the closet if nothing else. This past weekend we went on a family trip with my in-laws and I promised myself to make major progress on sewing the binding on or not start a new project until I had.

I’m happy to report that the 2001 is nearing completion I’d say about an eighth of the binding is left to stitch. I have decided that once it’s done I’m going to gift it to a good friend. The baby quilt is another story. While I’m making progress I’ve found that trace quilting is not as easy as I thought it would be. I will post pictures once the quilts have gone to their intended recipients.  

Monday, October 14, 2013

Vintage Inspiration

As much as I love modern patterns and design, I’m also really drawn to vintage reproduction fabrics. There’s something about them that attracts me and makes me wonder what they would have been used for in the era they were designed. I admit I have a reluctance to buy them as they typically don’t “go with” many of the quilt patterns that I like to make or the fabric store will not have enough variety for on project.

A week or so ago I was digging through my stash looking for a fabric for another project and discovered a scrap bag of vintage 1930’s era reproduction fabric. I pulled out the bag to look at after I was done with what I was working on. The bag had 9 different fabrics that looked they were end of bolt cuts (on edge was uneven) , ranging from 6” by 22” to 17” by 22”. At the time I was enjoying looking at the fabrics  but I was a bit stymied as what to do with them.
Some of the reproduction fabrics.

I remembered a quilting book that I had just acquired called Three Times the Charm by Me and My Sister Designs. The patterns are primarily geared toward charm packs, but nothing says I couldn’t just cut the fabric strips to size. So I did just that, I cut down the fabric to 5” squares - enough to produce two more rows than the pattern called for (the pattern makes a 30” by 30” quilt finished, and to me that’s too small for anything other than a wall hanging). I could have likely finished the quilt top in one day given the opportunity, but life with a toddler doesn’t allow for such graces. I was able to finish it in about 4 two hour stretches. It turned out to be a quick, sweet little pattern.

The finished quilt top is 36" by 36"

It’s nice to have a project finished fast - it reassures me that my projects don’t always have to be a huge and time consuming undertaking.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Small Scale

Often as I cruise around the internet I find quilt blocks I love, or techniques I would love to try. I often find a reason to not try or to take a while to get around to it mainly that I don’t want to make a full scale quilt to try one block pattern or ruin a quilt that I’ve spent a lot of time and energy on with a new technique that went horribly wrong. So, recently I had a light bulb moment: No one said I HAD to do these things on a larger scale, I was just imposing that imperative on myself.

I've been wanting to make place mats for our dining table for a long time. Something to dress it up a bit without taking a lot of time. So after picking out two one yard cuts of coordinating fabric I tried two new things: designing my own pattern, and machine binding.

On a small scale, such as a place mat, designing my own pattern isn't nearly as terrifying as say, a queen size quilt. It was a lot easier for me to look at the fabric, play around with it without cutting into it and deciding what I wanted it to be, and voila, I created my own beautiful, one of a kind, reversible place mats. Would I do it again? In a heart beat.

Machine binding is one of those things that I've found amazingly divisive among other quilters. You have people in one camp that swear by finishing a quilt binding by hand with a blind stitch. It’s time consuming, but the end result is a very tidy, completed quilt. Those in the machine binding camp swear by saving themselves a ton of time with the end result still being a very tidy, completed quilt. I’ve always finished the quilts by hand because that’s how I was taught.

When I was looking at these lovely little place mats that I had designed and the raw edges with the cotton batting protruding I thought to myself, there couldn't be a more perfect time to try our machine binding. This way I can finish four tiny quilts in this fashion and get enough experience with the technique to know if I really like it or not. Would I do it again? For small projects, probably. But not likely for a larger quilt, especially one that’s a gift.