Buzzings from a quilter who bumbles her way through life!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Easy Tip for Folding Your Fabric

If you have been quilting for a while, you may already know this little tip, but if not, you might really benefit from it. Your fabric stash will look neater and will be easier to use if you will fold each piece uniformly.

Use your quilt ruler as a folding guide. Mine is 5" wide, but wider is fine. If your ruler is not long enough to span the folded width of the fabric, fold the fabric again lengthwise.
Lay the ruler along one edge of the fabric. 
Leaving the ruler in place, start rolling the fabric around the ruler. 
Pull the ruler out some, leaving it in to the length you want the finished fold to be. I leave 12" in because of  the depth of my shelves.
Fold the "tail" over and pull the remainder of the ruler out. If you place the folded end where it is the end showing when placed on the shelf, it will look neater.
Smaller pieces can be wound on the cardboard inserts from fat quarters and stored with other fat quarters. I store my fat quarters in plastic shoe boxes by color and "texture". Fabrics that I will use for applique to suggest fur, hair, brick, etc. are stored in boxes labeled "Textures for Applique".
Here you see the pile of fabrics in the first photo reduced to small, neatly folded stacks.

As you can see, I have used two different sized rulers here and the fabric is not quite as neat as it will be when I go through and make them all uniform, but even now it is manageable and neat. (Next time I will put a label on the ruler I use for folding so that I can easily recognize it.) 

This is such a simple little tip, but I know that it was really helpful to me as a new quilter. I'm hoping maybe it will help some of you, too! I find it inspiring to see my fabrics all lined up on the shelves by color.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Fall is Not Too Far Off!

"Halloweensy Spider"
I heard someone comment once on my spider quilt, "Oh, I hate spiders!"
What a shame!  Spiders are such hard workers in our gardens I think we should be thanking them! When I see the big garden spiders stretching their webs from tree to tree, I think of fall. We lived in north Georgia and North Carolina for many years, and when the spiders started stretching those webs from the side of the house to a tree, or from one shrub to another, it was always getting closer to the cooler months. I'm ready for cool now! The temperatures here in south Texas have been hovering over 100 degrees for a couple of weeks now and has been as high as 110! It is hard to think about quilts when it is so hot outside, but I have been needing to make another sample quilt from my patterns. I am thinking of another Halloweensy Spider. (It is a quick and easy quilt!) I can think of the coming cooler days while I make it. Or maybe I'll start on Little Miss Muffet who sat on a tuffet and was frightened away by a spider. That has been on my drawing board for several years now.
I have a garden spider on my front porch. She is about 3" long and has been there for most of the summer now, quietly catching the flying insects that would have been bothering me. She is a beautiful creature. I wouldn't want her crawling on my arm, but I can respect and admire her while she's several feet away in her web!
Nature is so inspiring. I need to get busy!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Designing with Bleach

Here's another method of designing your own fabric. This is another of those "magical" processes that children love! Try this with your kids or grandkids, but be sure to put old clothing on them first!

Some of the leaves in this applique have been enhanced with bleach to make them look more like pathos ivy.

This photo shows just a small example of what you can do with bleach, something to apply it with and a fabric that will react to the bleach. (Years ago, a teacher I worked with gave each child a square of denim and let them make a design with bleach. She later had a mother sew the squares together. It made a great little quilt designed by her students!)

First, you will need regular bleach, vinegar, a disposable container, and a protected surface. I used aluminum foil and paper towels. You will also need something to use in applying the bleach and, of course, you need a fabric. Test the fabric to be sure it will bleach. There are a few that won't. You may also be surprised by the color you get. If you are doing this with children, put disposable gloves on them to keep the bleach off their tender skin and be sure the area is well ventilated.
Second, apply the undiluted bleach to the fabric using the method you choose. You can write words and names using the paint brush......
   or stamp images using a potato that you have "carved" or a rubber stamp.
              Let the design sit until it is bleached out as much as you want, then immediately wash it off under running water and plunge it into the vinegar to stop the bleaching process.
To make the leaves shown at the top of this post, I simply made brush strokes on either side of an imaginary center line down strips of green batik. When I positioned my applique pattern, I used the design to best advantage.

 After experimenting a little, you will find that there is a LOT more you can do . Some cleaning gels contain bleach and will also work. You can also change the color of a fabric that is too bright for your project by bleaching it out. Children love seeing their name magically appear on a dark fabric. Give it a try! There are no rules keeping you from changing a fabric to fit your use. This is a great day to have some fun!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Quilter's Hot Chocolate Pudding in Less than 2 Minutes!!!

If you are among the many quilters who love chocolate, you may be interested in this recipe. It is one I have been making for 40 years. I am allergic to eggs, so this recipe is one I can safely eat. Through the years, I have gotten it down to a science. I can have it ready to eat in only 1 minute and 30 seconds!!! When my family needed a quick dessert, this was the one we made. Here is the recipe:

Hot Chocolate Pudding to Go
In each of 4 Zip-Loc bags, put 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup instant non-fat dry milk, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, 2 tablespoons cocoa powder (the non-sweetened type for baking), and a dash of salt.  Set aside until you need a chocolate fix!
When you're ready for some hot pudding, just dump the contents of one bag in a microwave safe pan or other container (large enough for a little expansion) and add 3/4 cup water. Stir it well and microwave for 1 minute and 30 seconds. (My microwave is newer and more powerful than the older ones. If your microwave is old, you may need to go a little longer.) Take it out and stir it well. I add in about 1/2 tablespoon of butter and some almond extract, but you don't have to do this. You can also put a dollop of Cool Whip or whipped cream on top.

This will be enough to get you quilting again!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

School Glue Resist

A finished square, surrounded by borders

I can't believe it's time for school to start again! I've seen children in the stores buying their school supplies. They are so excited. Did you know that you can help your child "design his own fabric" using that washable, gel school glue?
1.Draw design on white paper
First, have your child draw a simple picture or design on white paper or the dull side of freezer paper. If the lines are not dark enough, go over them with Sharpie. Do not use a water based ink!!!
2. Trace onto muslin.
Second, place muslin over the design and tape it down so it won't shift. Trace it off using a pencil or a pen with heat sensitive ink, such as FriXion by Pilot.

3. Trace over lines with school glue.
Third,using the tip of the glue bottle, trace over the lines of the design with the school glue. If you want areas to remain white, fill them in with the glue. Let the glue dry completely. If you live in a warm, sunny place like I do, you can set it outside. (Be sure to anchor the edges so the wind doesn't blow it. In fact, you might tape it down to a surface first.)

4. Fill in the areas inside the lines with watered down acrylic paint.
Fourth, give your child some watered down acrylic paint in the colors needed and instruct him/her to fill in the areas between the lines of dried glue. If you want a more permanent color, use a liquid dye or fabric paint such as Dye-na-flo or Setacolor. (There may be other brands intended for this use also.) Sometimes it might be helpful to wet the areas first so that the paint will blend better. The design will fade when you wash the glue out, so it should be darker than you want the final color. Let the paint completely dry. This can also be done out in the sun.

5. Iron the dried fabric on the back to heat set the colors.
Fifth line your ironing surface with paper towels and iron the back of the fabric to heat set the color.

Sixth, wash the fabric to remove all traces of glue. You can wash it in the washing machine along with an old towel if you have difficulty removing the glue. Press it well and add borders or use as you would any other fabric.

Your child will be so proud of the fabric he/she created! Let him make enough for a gift quilt or pillow. Make a set of table napkins out of them. Make a tote bag for school. How about a nap quilt for your preschooler. Don't worry if the design doesn't turn out to be a masterpiece. The important part was the process. If your child is proud, that is what counts.

Let your child experiment with designing with the glue. Show him how to make swirls, letters, names, numbers. Try designing on a light colored fabric instead of muslin to see what that will look like.

You may have to buy another jar of school glue to send to school! 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Doll Clothes

I have been out of town visiting my grandmother, and came back  Sunday night in time to realize that time was running out to get some doll clothes made for my granddaughter's birthday. I had a doll sent- a new American Girl doll - and wanted to send some clothes to go with her. The doll is already safely tucked away in her parent's closet for the party this weekend, but I need to send the clothes today or they won't get there in time. (My granddaughter lives halfway across the country from me.)

Doll clothes can be a lot of fun to make, but time consuming. I went through my scraps and picked some bright colors that I thought would make cute doll clothes. Some day, when I'm not rushed for time, I would like to design some NEW patterns for doll clothes. I am using the same patterns over and over. The last time I sent doll clothes, I sent about 2 dozen outfits. I just don't have time to do that now. They are a fun way to use up scraps, though.

I think making doll clothes goes back to the same memories that led me to quilting. I learned to sew using scraps. I remember getting a little plastic doll along with a sewing kit containing thread, needles, etc. This doll was sold for the sole purpose of teaching little girls to sew. This doll was before Barbie's time and was proportioned a little more realistically. She wasn't much to look at, but we didn't care because she wasn't really a play doll. This would have been in the late 50's. I wonder how many of us today learned to sew by sewing doll clothes. We made up our own patterns and just experimented. It was great fun for a quiet evening!

Friday, August 13, 2010

My Block Has Been Chosen!

The block I submitted

     I had the honor yesterday of learning that my block will be one of 24 chosen by the Texas Department of Agriculture for their "Texas Wildlife: Adventure Awaits" quilt. This quilt will first be displayed at the State Fair in the fall and then will be made a part of their traveling display. I am so anxious to see what the finished quilt will look like. When the contest was announced, I sent in an application along with $12 and received a packet of fabric to use, including the background fabric. There were guidelines such as size, how much of the prechosen fabrics should be used or must be used, etc.  We also had a square of wool and one of leather that had to be incorporated. I used those in the cattails. If designing it again, I would give the bass more fluid lines and make him twist a little, but at the time I was happy to get my block made and submitted before the deadline. I guess there will always be "I wish I had done this like this......." moments. That's part of striving to do better. In the meantime, I'm thrilled to have been chosen in this great state!
Now I'm going to go celebrate the 102 birthday of the lady who inspired me to quilt - my grandmother! I know she will be proud!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My Charm Pack Quilt

Most of my quilts are applique, but when I saw one of Moda's colorful charm packs, I couldn't resist piecing it together. This set had bright, colorful squares that really called out to me. I loved its reds and greens as well as its golds and blacks. I found a green in my stash that would work for sashing and I replaced all the blues with more red. I also used a red in the border as well as a tiny black print with little red flowers.

I pieced the back by adding some leftover strips of red and black. This quilt was so easy and was fun to make.

I ended up with a quilt big enough to wrap up in while curled on the couch. Perfect for watching an old black and white movie. (I wonder why someone like me, who loves color so much, loves old black and white movies?)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Green Backs or "Expanding" Your Backing Fabric

No, I'm not referring to dollars, but to using the fabric left over from your quilt top as a backing for the quilt.
Not enough fabric to use as a backing?
Often, you will not have enough left to use  unless you have planned really well, but you can still use up what you do have to give interest to the backing. I do this regularly. Unfortunately, most of my quilts are in shops and I don't have them available for photographing these pieced backs. I will demonstrate one method of "expanding" your fabric to fit the size of your quilt by using scraps.

In the photo, imagine the yellow as the leftover fabric from the front of the quilt. The red is a piece I have leftover from a different project or a piece from my stash that is compatible, but too small.
Cut the main fabric at a point somewhere above or below the middle. (You don't want it perfectly centered as this is not good design.) Cut a strip of the leftover fabric to insert. This is a good place to use leftover strips.

Prepare to add to length
Piece with added length
Prepare to add width
Piece with added width

If this is not enough to give you the length you want, add another strip. Now make a lengthwise cut down the side of the backing and insert another strip to give the width you want.

You can add more than one accent color depending on how many scraps you have left and how much expanding you want to do.  You can add as many fabrics as you want to give interest to your backings.
If you hand quilt, this may make the backing too bulky for you, but if you machine quilt, these extra seams should not cause you any problems.

 So, have fun using up your leftovers on your backings. Now your quilts can be reversible!

Adding extra interest or width

Friday, August 6, 2010

Name Tags, Business Cards, and Quilts

I was in a guild in Raleigh, North Carolina during the time we lived there, which was only about 2 years. The guild required that you make a name tag and wear it to every meeting. Most guilds have a similar bylaw. There were no rules, no restrictions and you could be as creative as you wanted. I loved that! Of course, I ended up waiting until the last minute to make my name tag. I had to really scramble to put one together. I found an orphan block and pieced it into some background fabric. I wrote my name with a fabric pen and added a few purchased embroidered flowers and a dragonfly (that I had in a drawer). (I'm not in the habit of keeping dragonflies in a drawer. It was also a purchased embroidered item!)  I hand embroidered a couple of stems and added appliqued leaves. I also attached a ribbon hanger so I could just hang it over my neck.
close up of name tag
It was, perhaps, a little large (about 8" x 10"), but I saw many large name tags at the guild meeting and many were larger than mine! Besides, it could double as a bib! I quilted it and put on a binding and had a name tag that could double as a decorative item in my sewing room. I just hung it on the wall.
I mention this because you may need a name tag also. Look through your orphan blocks (If you're not familiar with that term, orphan blocks are one of a kind, trial blocks, leftover blocks, blocks you made in class and never repeated, etc.). See if you can add your name somewhere with a fabric pen (you can print it off the computer and trace it onto white fabric or muslin if you don't want to machine embroider or embroider by hand.) Treat it like a tiny quilt.

When I started my business, I needed a business card. I something that truly represented ME. I made a little quilt in the same proportions as a business card and photographed it to use as the front of my cards. My little quilt finished off at 22" x 13 1/2".
(The photo is not great. In "real life" the sides are straight and it is a perfect rectangle!) It was so much fun making something to represent what I do. Again, I was pressed for time. That seems to be a recurring theme in my life. I am anxious to make another one for new business cards. In fact, it would be fun to have several different designs on my cards.
You might enjoy using a photo of one of your quilts on business cards, even if you don't have a business. What a great way to let friends know just what you do. Next time a friend asks for your address, phone number, or email just hand them a card! They'll say, "Oh, what a lovely quilt!" You'll say, "I made that!"
Hey, it's better than pulling out a brag book. You can do that after they ask about your quilting.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

"Going Green" with Quilting

My grandmother used quilting as a way to "go green". She reused old clothing and other items made of cloth to make new, functional quilts to keep her family warm. During this hot, Texas summer it is hard to imagine needing to keep warm, but we do have some cold days in the winter. During the 1930's and 1940's,when my grandmother was a young woman, times were hard. She had to save money and resources wherever she could. Quilting became not only a necessity, but a recreation. (By the way, she will have her 102 birthday on August 16, 2010!)

I remember sitting with my husband's aunt while she hand pieced colorful diamond patches. She must have been in her early 80's at the time. She would pick up a piece and look at it carefully before sewing it in. "Oh, I remember this piece. It was in Janice's baby dress. She looked so cute in that dress!" (Janice was her daughter, who was by now old enough to be a grandmother herself.) She would pick up another piece. "And this was from Jim's shirt. He wore this shirt out so much, I had a hard time finding a good piece of cloth in it!" The quilt she made became not only a source of warmth, but an album of memories for her and anyone willing to listen.

grits sack
We lived in Georgia for 18 years. One of my wonderful friends  gave up quilting because of her age and physical limitations. She gave me a box of fabric scraps, among other things, that are treasures to me. In it are scraps of fabrics from years and years of sewing and quilting. There are pieces of colorful feed sack fabrics, Depression era greens and pinks, nursery prints from 65 years ago, and even a muslin sack that had held grits (a Southern breakfast staple) along with a note "I bought this so I could make an apron out of the sack."
Below are 2" scraps cut from some of these old fabrics. They will go in a Cathedral Windows quilt. 

close up of some of the fabrics
A few pieces had seams still attached to an edge, so I know they had been part of a garment. Others had areas with pattern pieces cut out. They were scraps from sewing. I can sit for long periods of time and just look through these old fabrics.

This causes me to want to start of "stash" of recycled fabrics. I already have more fabric than I can use in a long, long time, but wouldn't it be nice to have a box full of neatly pressed and cut squares taken from old shirts and dresses? I have some fabric left from when my boys were young and I made their swim trunks out of wild, bright colors. I also have fabric left from making curtains for their rooms. Maybe I could throw in a few notes about special pieces. I may not ever get around to making anything from it, but who knows, maybe my granddaughter will!
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