Sunday, October 13, 2013

Make Those Borders Lie Flat

I have said that it is a longarm quilters dream to quilt on a top where the borders lay flat and square while on the quilting frame.  Ask any longarm quilter.  What's a longarm quilters dream? Having all the borders lie flat is what she will tell you.  Believe me.  Accomplishing a flat border is one of the easiest things to do.  So, Let's get our learning goggles on and learn how to make those borders lie flat.  

Junes beautiful quilt with all five borders laying flat and square.  Nice!!

This is where I’m going to become the quilt police and get a little bit mean.  Picture yourself with a long strip of border that you are about to put on your quilt top. You've spent hours, days, years to get all the blocks just right.  You’re ready to get that sucker done, right?  Let's save some time by slapping on those borders, right?.  Wrong!!!!  Your borders lying flat and straight are just as important as making sure your points don’t get lost and your seams match.  

RULE NUMBER 1:  Don’t ever, ever, ever, ever, ever (and I mean ever) take a long strip of border, start sewing down one side of the quilt top with no pins to put it on and then when you get to the bottom slash off the excess that was left hanging.  This is my mean Longarmer face (picture me making a mean face).  When you put your borders on this way, especially wide borders, those things are going to flap around just like a waving flag.  They will not lay down flat when you spread out your quilt top, they will not hang well when that beautiful quilt is hanging at a show and your quilter will be very displeased with you.  She will say really mean things as she is trying to quilt down all that excess fabric.  You can't fool her, she can tell when someone does this.  So, the best and easiest way to make sure that you don’t get talked meanly about by your quilter is to follow these steps.  

1.  Take three measurements from the quilt top in the direction you are placing your first borders.  I always do the long sides first.  When you take your three measurement, take one at the top of the quilt, one in the center and one at the bottom.  

Do not take a measurement at the very edge of the top of the quilt because that edge could have been stretched with use.  Now that you have three measurements, average these three to come up with the measurement you will be cutting. 

Do not measure the very top edge as it may be stretched a bit.  Measure a few inches in.

Top of quilt measured 70.25
Middle of quilt measured 70.5
Bottom of quilt measured 70
The average will be 70.25
70.25 + 70.5 + 70 = 210.75 divided by 3 = 70.25

70.25 will be the measurement you will cut for both sides of your first border.  Lay the two strips of border on top of each other and measure and cut them together.  This will ensure that you have the same measurement for both sides of the quilt. 
RULE NUMBER 2 and CRAZY HELPFUL HINT:  It is much better to cut your border pieces the length of the fabric instead of the width (from selvage to selvage).  The selvage to selvage strip is stretchy. This is a big factor in your borders becoming full when you sew them onto the quilt top.  If you cut your strips from selvage to selvage, that edge you're sewing on will stretch while your sewing it.  Cutting along the length of the fabric will ensure that there will be no stretch on your border when you sew it onto your quilt top.   You're on your way to a flat border.

Cut your border strips the length of the fabric instead of the width.  This avoids stretch.

2.  Find the center of your quilt top and the center of your border piece.  Pin the centers together first.  
Find the center of the quilt top and the border.

Next, pin each end of the border onto each end of the top.
Pen the end of the border to the edge of the quilt.

Working your way from the center to the edges, pin in between each section halving the length between pins until you are comfortable with the amount of pins and that your fabric will not shift as you are sewing.  
Add pins halving the distance between each pin as you go.
Add pins halving the distance between each pin as you go.
Add pins halving the distance between each pin as you go.

You may need to do some easing in along the way.  When easing in, the biggest thing to help is to pin, pin, pin.  RULE NUMBER 3: Do not stretch the shorter piece to fit the larger piece.  Pin the larger piece closely together to create no pleats.

If you need to ease in fullness to fit, never stretch the shorter fabric, always pin, pin, pin the fullness out.

3.  Sew along the edge knowing that you're borders will not make your quilter make mean faces.

4.  Repeat for all borders.

So, what did we learn today?  Lots of pins, a little extra time, a beautifully set border and a happy quilter.  OKay?  What are you supposed to do with each of your borders....even when you have five of them?  Measure, measure, measure, average, cut together, center, pin.  Repeat after me!!!  Measure, measure, measure, average, cut together, center, pin.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Riding the Quilt Show Roller Coaster

It's been over a week and I am still heaving a relaxing sigh, all the hectic preparations getting eight quilts to completion and ready for competition are over now until the next show my mom and I decide to enter.  We have been told we make a great team and I truly believe that.  Moms design, color, balance, piecing skills and my quilting seem to go hand in hand and I'm always so pleased with what we create together.   One thing that I have to tell myself is that what we do and love is an art.  With any art form, there will be those that have their opinion on what is good art or just so so art.  Each stitch we put into our art pieces is like a brush stroke on canvas.  We can try to get each brush stroke technically perfect just to please the judge.   In the end, isn't it what we think of our work what matters the most?  Entering into quilt shows is a little new for both me and Mom.  I believe that entering makes us try to become more technically perfect.  I know I learn something each time I enter, but again, I go back to whether or not that work of art has made me and my mom happy.  Everything we entered has made us happy, ribbons or no ribbons.

The roller coaster ride began when we decided we were going to enter quilts.  Mom and I came up with the ones we wanted to get finished for the show.  Unfortunately, I'm always too busy quilting on my client quilts that I don't have a lot of time to finish up Mom's tops unless we are entering them into a show.  So, the countdown started in early summer.  Each time I finished a quilt it was like swooshing down a roller coaster hill.  We both worked furiously to finish each step.  It got a little stressful, then when one was finished, we would sigh in relief.  Then the next hill would arrive and we were working furiously again.  We had planned on entering 7 of Mom's quilts and 3 of my own.

When the day came, work was only accomplished on 6 of Mom's and 2 of mine.  Here are some pictures of what was entered.

 This one was entered into Pieced Large.  Mom worked so very hard on these stars.  They are not paper pieced and meticulously sewn together perfectly.  This pattern is from Winnie Flemming's Split Lone Star class.  What a great quilt and I was so happy with how the quilting turned out.  I just want to say I see a ton of quilts and Mom's piecing abilities astound me.  She is my hero! 

 Mom left the center of this quilt open for me to play with.  Oh how fun it was to get this center quilting down.  I was very happy with the result and would like to brag that I feel as if this is my best quilting to date. 

 I recreated the fractured star block in the center with teal thread.  I adore how it turned out.

 The arches seem to give some flow to the quilt. 

 I wanted to emphasize the block itself by shadowing around it.  Also, I didn't to create a ton of bulk in the center of the stars so I started my stitching a quarter of an inch in, following the diamond shape of each star point.  The loops soften all the hard points.

 I liked the idea of have a pattern flow across borders so I came up with this cute little diamond with the feathers in it.  Kind of a positive - negative effect. 

 Here is the back.  I only used three thread colors and changing the bobbin thread to match the top thread made for a beautiful whole cloth look on the back. 

 I would like to enter this one in a Machine Quilting Show (or MQX) somewhere.  I will see about getting that done since I am very proud mine and my mom's work on it.

Charley's Birds
This quilt is a tribute to the art work of Charley Harper.  Mom loves his artwork and created this piece inspired by his art.  The detail is amazing.

Mom created the tree and placed the birds where she saw were they needed balance.  She is so good at this.

The next was so much fun.  I just zipped around with my quilting machine

The worm cracks me up.

Every bird and leave were raw edge cut and placed onto the quilt.  I had the daunting task of going around each piece of fabric used in all the birds and tree leaves to sew them down.  So, this was quilted and sewn down at the same time.  Lots of thread changes.

I really enjoyed quilting the owl.  He looks very wise.
I was at a stressful point when I noticed that all of the sunflower seeds were needing to be attached to the quilt.  I ended up putting bird tracks on them all which is how Charley Harper's art piece has in it.  Thank goodness I didn't need to sew around each and every little seed in this quilt.  There were so many of them.  Mom loves detail.
I was able to do a little thread painting on the back of this lovely bird.  It was a lot of fun.  I know that means a lot of thread build up....but hey, this is an art quilt.
Mom's favorites, the hummingbird.
I quilted in a barn in the background.  A little crocked but I thought it was cute.
Creepy spider.

This quilt was made from a challenge that my Mom, me and my Aunt Lynn all made with each other.  We all got a fat quarter bundle from Sample Spree at the Houston Quilt Market a few years ago and we were to create a quilt out of the bundle.  Mom is the only one who has finished hers and wow did she ever.  She only had a few small scraps left of the entire bundle.  Way to go Mom.  I guess that means she won the challenge. 
Something a little different to do with stars. 
Doesn't this block look like a flower?
I had a great time coming up with different background fills.  I wanted them all to be geometric in nature.  This one is my favorite with the diamonds.  But the little blue bird made me sad.  He looked so very lonely.
I tried to keep the same feather concept through out the pieced blocks.  I enjoyed doing them.
Another favorite.  Lots of marking and starts and stops on this background but it was well worth it.
Bird Houses in the background. 
I love how the pieced border turned out.  Drawing the quilting design into the inside of the quilt is something I love to do.  It worked so well here.

So up and down, we rode the emotional roller coaster.  It was a fun, fun ride.  Next time, I'll be riding with my hands up in the air.