Sunday, May 31, 2015

Single Wedding Ring Quilt

Somewhere I read that quilting is a 6 billion dollar per year business only 3 billion behind major league football.  I don’t know if this is true.  If so, maybe I should find a way to cash in.  Let me tell you, though, it isn’t going to be in piecing.

A long time friend is getting married.  I promised to make a   Single Wedding Ring Quilt . I saw it in a library book Quilting Makes the Quilt by Lee Cleland.  Check the book out, sometime.  It is an amazing feat, in and of itself.  The author made twelve  different quilts and quilted each of them five different ways. Holy shit.  That means that she made five of each quilt pattern.

 The design calls for twenty pieced blocks.  Each block is made with 16 HST (half square triangles) and nine  2.5 inch squares.  I am sure that the block has a name.  I don’t know.   
I read the directions “Cut twelve strips 2 7/8” by 42”   Cut these strips into a total of 160 squares, 2 7/8 by 2 7/8.  Cut once diagonally to make 320 half-square triangles.”

 Instead I followed the directions in my All-in-One Quilter’s Reference Tool    Betsy ordered two of them one night when she was drinking wine and shopping.  It is a useful reference.  There, I learned to cut 6 inch squares out of each color and place the  right sides together. Draw  diagonal lines, and sew  1/4 inch seam on each side of the center diagonal lines, Next ,  cut the square  in half both ways and on each diagonal line.

I forgot to read “Trim to size.” 

I put the first block together.  The pieced squares were larger than the plain ones. (see above) I stretched and sewed and the block came out very wonky.

I changed machines.  I paid careful attention to my seam allowance.  The second one was less wonky but still not acceptable.  I changed feet, better but I had to cut down the finished squares.  Something was wrong.  (Yes, Lizzy, you did not read the directions)

Then I remembered reading about the Magic Eight.  I made my squares five and three quarter inches.  Much better.

In hindsight, as I write this, I think I will go back to using 6 inch squares at the start and trim them.  I know it is more cutting, and likely will end up making as many cuts as if I had cut 160 squares, but I think the accuracy will improve making the end result much more precise.

I was very careful. I made one block at a time.  In truth,  I sewed four Magic 8 blocks and then cut two for the 16 HSTs.  Then I would construct the block.  The QRT recommended keeping the straight grain all the way around the outside edge of the block whenever possible.  Indeed.  I was fastidious about this  I discovered that if you positioned the 5 3/4 inch squares so that the straight grain went one way in one block, and the opposite way in the other block, your HST would have straight grain on opposite edges and I was able to keep the straight grain on the outside on all of the blocks.

Ninety minutes per block, start to finish.  Honest.  Despite my best efforts, I had some pretty wonky blocks.  I sorted through them and used the best for the center of the quilt, where matching seams is so critical.

I laid out the whole quilt top, sans borders, on my two six foot tables in the loft.  There is barely room to circumnavigate the tables so I won't keep them set up this way.  I like having all this room, though.

By Five Thirty PM I had all the strips pieced.   Before I went in for supper, I so wanted to get the two middle strips (and the longest) sewn together  I thought that by starting in the middle and working out to the edges I would get the best result.  Failure.  I had to rip the whole seam out.  It took about fifteen minutes.  Then I carefully pinned the seam and sewed it up.  I figured it would be best to match the dark colors and if the exact center is off it won't show as much since it is the light color.

I might make this quilt again.  I would like to get it right in the middle.  Before I do, though, I think I will get some advice from real quilters.  There must be a way to get these seams to match up and I think it has to do with the grain. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Instead of sewing...

Steven and I drove to Cambridge. MA yesterday. (not that Steven would have been sewing, but you get the idea).  At the Eleventh Hour, my son announced that he would walk at the Three Hundred and Seventy Fifth Commencement Exercises at a preeminent university in That Fair City. 

Somewhere in this sea of Crimson, sits my progeny.
The picture sucks because it is a photograph taken inside a dark hall of the live stream on a huge screen. (Could I get one more preposition into that sentence?)  Who cares?  He is out there somewhere and I knew it.  Now you do too.

It seems that there is meaning to the "Hood" that graduates where.  PhD candidates wear four feet long hoods.  Master's wear three footers and Baccalaureates wear two footers. 

Borrowed, or not, the robes are impressive.  Probably, if he had planned better, his robe would have been longer.  But check out that hood.  (He is conferring with the name checker, here.) 
His name made the list and I took a lousy, out of focus shot, of my son walking across the stage at Sanders Hall, Harvard University, to receive his PhD in American Religious History.


Saturday, May 23, 2015

ANXIETY relieved. Replaced by F U N

I admit it. The new Nolting intimidates me.  Today, after spending HOURs trying to figure out how to efficiently make HSTs (more about that later)  I fired up the Nolting and practiced. 

The leader/ender scrappy quilt is ready.  Tomorrow is the big day.  I feel pretty good.  I don't know how I will quilt it.  Perhaps I will just simply stipple.  That would probably be wise.  I just need some hours on the machine.  I won't need to use the stitch regulator so I can just relax and have some 
F U N .

Thursday, May 21, 2015


I have used up most of the scraps.  I have some left but the color selection does not please me.  I must wait for more.

I looked up how to make crumb blocks on Bonnie Hunter's blog and tried that method.  I prefer using long strips and making more uniform looking blocks.  Linda may get the short crumbs after all.

I made a mistake when I went back to the project.  Instead of cutting 6 inch foundation pieces, I cut 5 inch squares and ,happily, made many 5 inch blocks.    Bummer.  I have 20 6 inch blocks now.  I guess they will await companions.  I need many more to make a quilt. BUT.  I could make small quilts and use them for something else.  Perhaps a tote bag?

I doubt that putting a pile of cotton scraps into the landfill has much of an environmental impact. It is cotton and will decompose readily.  But it is so much better to use up stuff.    My mother  loves to quote:   Make it do, Do without, Use it up, wear it out."  She grew up in the Great Depression.  This is the same mother who thought I should throw away all these scraps.  HAH  I showed HER!

I thoroughly enjoyed the process.  I can use my right hand now for the rotary cutter.  I must wear a brace and cannot flex my wrist.  I will start on a real quilt today.  Oh good,  more scraps.

 Sometimes I would use a narrow, one inch  strip.  I hate to lose it to seam allowance.  I would then use the 1/8 inch side of my piecing foot.

Even though I have a gizmo to hold my nippers, I would often lose them amidst all the scraps.

The squares look veritably ugly before trimming.
Before I remembered that I had a "Square 'em Up" ruler, I used the foundation pieces for the guide

 I just love how they "clean up."

I have some five inch squares stashed away, all set to use.  I will add these blocks to that stash. Perhaps there will be a way to use them in a quilt.
I have been sewing for a while now.  I love it.  Just the same, I miss messing with machines.  I can't get back to the shop yet.  I have been instructed to avoid vibratory stimulus.  That means no chain saws, no weed whackers and no dog clippers.  I am not allowed to flex my right wrist as that will risk ulnar nerve scarring.  I am comfortable with the brace on.  I can't yet lift heavy objects.  Once all healed, I will be back in the shop.  I want to dig into that Singer 101.  Mostly to see how that wicking system works.

Monday, May 18, 2015


When I was cutting up my 2.5 inch blocks I stashed the smaller stuff in a bag intending to send it to my friend Linda.  She likes the small stuff for crumb quilting.   I don't know how she uses them.  I don't like working with small pieces and was feeling pretty darn magnanimous as I stashed the small stuff to send off.

But then I learned about cutting squares out of those slick ads stuffed in the Sunday paper to use   as foundation for blocks.  It is paper piecing but with no design.  I cut several 6 inch paper squares and just started sewing scraps on to the paper.  I followed no pattern.  Then, I decided to try to use the long strips and start in the middle and work out.  I like that effect.

Sorry, Linda.  I might not be sending you the crumbs, after all.  I am having too much fun. 
6 inch squares
I don't know how I will put them together.  It might be possible to arrange them in blocks of four. 

You can see it too.  I need to put the white strips all together in one four block.  Might be interesting.

When I am working on a quilt, I am all about getting it done.  PRODUCTION.  I read the instructions and follow the pattern.  I time how long each step takes and focus on that, rather than the creative process.  Oh, the creative process.  It has undoubtedly been good for me to just sit at the machine and sew  with no regard to a real pattern.   I definitely have not fretted about how long it is taking.  I made these ten squares this afternoon, along with about six strips of leaders and enders for the 2.5 inch LE quilt.  The Necchi is quieter since I put some felt between it and the cabinet.  I also oiled it.  I could hear the sigh of relief with each drop of Tri-flow on her ports.  Poor thing. 

I have three quilt tops ready for Fancesca, the Nolting.  All of them will require ruler work.  I have no rulers.  I have one hand.  I guess those tops will wait.

Friday, May 15, 2015


I really can't use the treadle right now.  My right hand is encased in a huge bulky dressing.  I have limited use of my fingers.  In planning for this surgery, I thought that I would use the 301 if I could sew at all. 

The Necchi Super Nova, though, was all set up. I have a high shank, quarter inch foot for it and so......

I do understand the irony of the water mark.  As soon as I am able I will go back to the 201-1 but for now I am loving this machine  It makes a very consist, straight stitch.  I like the three different needle positions.  It is not quiet but I can live with that.  It is very, very fast.

Of course I don't need speed for piecing.  I don't need speed for much of anything that I sew.  Just the same sometimes it is just plain fun to go very, very, very fast

I had a quilt to bind. I could have serged the edges because it is a dog quilt.  I used the Necchi instead.  Honestly, this machine is as fast as the Singer Industrial over at Betsy's.   If I had two working hands I would have taken a video. 

Before my surgery I had cut scraps into 2.5 inch squares.  I wasn't all that accurate with the cutting.  It shows in the final product.  I didn't pay attention to color comnbo much either.  The idea is to sew these small pieces together at the end or beginning of your chain stitching when working on another quilt.  Eventually you have many of these pieces sewn together and can piece them into a quilt too.  I had never used leaders and enders before but I decided to when I was piecing the arrowhead quilt.  Since I can't really trim up that quilt yet, I went to my little squares and just sewed away to keep from getting more cranky. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Life is good

I had wrist surgery on Friday.  My right hand is wrapped in a bulky, cumbersome dressing.  I have no pain, which is a mixed blessing.  I don't need drugs but I risk over using my right hand.  No lifting or weight bearing allowed.  I can, however, pin pieces together and run a sewing machine.  

Including the Nolting because it is glides effortlessly over the frame and carriage.

 Joyce and Ron arrived today to set up the new machine.  It has a stitch regulator and speed control.  I prefer to run it in non regulated mode.  I need the practice in SR mode and I am forcing myself to stay away at least until I have the dressing off my wrist next week.   But I couldn't resist a little run at it today.  I have seen some quilters guide the machine one handed.  I wonder......

I am happy.  Nolting customer service is outstanding.  Joyce and Ron ( hung in there with me through all the drama of the dropped machine and came out today on their own dollar to set up the new machine.   Remember the clamp from the previous post?  It actually is designed to hold the ruler base in place.  We had a good laugh about that. 

I have two quilt tops ready to go.  I also have volunteered to stipple quilt some charity quilts for a local quilt guild.  Of course, not until I have two functioning hands.

I had started this arrow head quilt  a couple of weeks ago. (go here for the pattern) I used only fabric I had on hand.  Unfortunately I had only enough fabric for four blocks of one color but enough for five of two others and six of a fourth. I came up with my design and added the setting squares and the sashing.   I am spatially challenged.  The design wall helped.  I had almost all of the strips pieced by Friday morning but had to leave before I could finish.  Sunday I put them all together and put it on the bed.

Turns out it will be a queen size quilt

I prefer the design on point.  The white sashing minimizes the blue dominance.  I have borders yet to add.  Steven cut the first ones for me.  What a guy.  I do, however, have to square the quilt first and that will require two good hands.  So this is tucked away for a month or so. 

I have two other quilt tops ready for the frame.  My goal is to quilt 100 quilts.  Some how will that justify the expense?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


The new Nolting long arm arrived today via UPS.  Steven helped me switch the arms and rails out on  the frame.  He had to go off the the Fire House for a meeting, else I would have had him help me figure out the encoders for the stitch regulator. 

It is a beautiful thing. 
I found this
in the box.  I think I get the hint. 

However,  I plan to  drill a hole in the carriage at each end and slip a bolt through and fasten with a nut.  It will be less bulky. 
Actually, I think I will ask Steven to drill a hole.  He has the good tools,  remember?