Buzzings from a quilter who bumbles her way through life!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pressing Matters

When I first started quilting, I thought that after years of ironing my husband's shirts I knew all there was to know about "pressing". 
If ironed instead of pressed, this simple fabric square can become


The difference was "ironing" vs. "pressing. If you are new to quilting, you may not have been told about this. Ironing involves moving the iron across the fabric. It can push the fibers out of shape, leaving your fabric out of square. Pressing involves setting the iron down on the fabric, pressing down briefly, and lifting it without pushing it across the fabric grain. 

One great tool to help you press instead of iron is "The Steady Betty". The special foam surface grips your fabric to keep it from moving under the iron even if you make an ironing movement. (I'm not affiliated with this company and they are not compensating me in any way. I just happen to have one and love it!) You can find out more about it on their website, Your quilt shop may carry them. They come in different sizes.

I like to use spray starch on my quilt fabric to help stabilize it. Using starch also gives it a crisp feel that makes it easy to work with. If you want, you can make your own. You can mix liquid starch with water, 1 cup starch to 1 cup water. Mix it well and put it in a spritzer bottle. (You can also make a stiffer solution by increasing the amount of starch to water.) This is the formula I use when I make my own spray starch.

Another way to make spray starch is to mix 1/4 cup cornstarch with 1/2 cup water. Slowly add 4 cups boiling water to this and let it cool before putting it in a spritzer bottle. You will need to shake this well each time you use it. 
An easier version of this is to add 1 tablespoon of cornstarch to 2 cups of water. Stir it well and put in a spritzer bottle. Shake it well before using. (The uncooked cornstarch may tend to leave more residue. 
Each of the cornstarch recipes will last only about 2 weeks. You may get longer use out of the cornstarch mixtures if you keep them in the refrigerator. 

You will notice that there is a pillow case slipped over the end of my ironing board. I do this so that I can easily slip it off and wash it when needed. I put three large safety pins underneath to pinch the loose ends together and hold it in place. When one side gets dingy, I unpin it and rotate it so that the area that had been underneath is now on top. I use a pillow case that had been used to submit a quilt to a quilt show. We were to write our name and the name of the quilt on the pillowcase with marker. Since I wasn't keen on putting this on my bed, I use it for the ironing board.

If you knew all of this already, hopefully you don't mind a refresher, but if not, you will find that correct pressing will make a huge difference in the accuracy of your piecing.   Until next time, good luck in all pressing matters!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Gift Idea for Quilters

Don't laugh, but I have found that if I make my tools a little more feminine, I don't have to search for them in the garage!  They tend to stay put a little better. 
My orange handled scissors just screamed "construction zone" to my husband, so I bought a pair with pink handles. I haven't had a problem since then. No more cutting metal flashing with my good scissors!!! 

After a search for my tape measure and after finding it in the garage among dirty, oily stuff, I decided it needed a little feminizing too! (Just in case you think I have an inconsiderate husband, I need to tell you that he is the most generous, loving man around. We share everything, so in his mind it was "no big deal" to use my tools. When I explained their use and my objection to them being used in the garage, he stopped using them. Making them more feminine helps him see that they are MINE and not HIS.)

That said, I thought that maybe this little idea would make a good gift for quilting friends.

Start with a tape measure. I have two. One small one for the purse, and a larger one for blocking and measuring quilts.

Using a piece of paper, make a pattern of the circular or oval logo area. Just run your fingernail around the perimeter to emboss it to the right size and shape.  

Cut the pattern out and use it to cut a cardboard base. Check to be sure it fits in the logo area.
Cut a fabric scrap or pieced scrap about an inch larger all around than the cardboard. Sew a running stitch around the outer perimeter. 

Put a small wad of stuffing inside.

Place the cardboard inside.
Pull the gathering snug around the cardboard and tie it off.
Use a good glue and put some on the logo area of the tape.

Place the "button" you have just made over the glue in the logo area. Press down firmly all around. (NOTE: I used a bag of rice to weigh it down until the glue was set. It was able to go over the "puff" where other weights couldn't.)
                                                                        That's all there is to it! You could forgo the stuffed button and just cover it with a decorative paper or sticker. You could also glue a string of beads around the edge of the "puff". This could be fun! And I think it just might stay in the sewing room now!        

Friday, October 15, 2010

New Christmas Design, Peace on Earth

copyright 2010, Linda Winters

"Peace on Earth"
As I sit this morning drinking my coffee, I look out and see the sunrise over my back yard. The grass is still green, the chrysanthemums are brilliant gold, yellow, and orange and I can hear birds still singing. The air is cool (55 degrees, 7:00 a.m.) and there is a sense of calm all around me. I would love every morning to be like this, but I know that there will be mornings that are hectic, mornings I will wake up feeling bad, mornings where everything seems to go "wrong". For now, though, I will enjoy the peace of this moment. I will try today to offer small acts of kindness to the people I come in contact with - at the grocery store, in my family, and on the road.

The banner above is my latest pattern. It is not available at my webstore yet.  If you are interested in it, you can contact me about shipping one to you.

Until next time, enjoy those little moments of peace you find around you,  even if they are fleeting. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

My Favorite Work Surface and A Few New Projects!

This simple little Masonite board is my very favorite workspace. It is 18" x 19", 1/4" Masonite. I have had it since the time about 20 years ago when I ran in, found a scrap, and quickly cut a handle in it with my scroll saw. If I had known I would use it as much as I have, I would have taken more care in cutting the handle! I use it for preparing applique, tracing off patterns, writing out directions, and much, much more. I can put it in my lap while sitting on the couch. I can grab it up to take outside. I can also take it along in the motorhome and it slides against the wall and takes up almost no space at all. When I can't find it, I panic. It has become a trusted friend in all these years. It's funny how we come to depend on the simplest of tools.

This has been one of those roller coaster weeks. We have a cap on our internet "usage" and we had reached it by last Monday. It resets once a month, on the 13th. That meant no blog, no reading blogs, no sending emails, etc. unless we wanted to pay an astronomical price for any additional usage (I know because we had an additional $250 on our bill the last time that happened! I won't get into that, though. We're just waiting out our contract, which is up in February. Living outside a big city has some disadvantages.) The upside of curtailed computer usage is more quilting! I did finish some projects that I had going. 

I got the skeleton quilt quilted and the pattern is written up and ready to go except for having photos made of it. Too bad it is too late to market it. It will be ready for next time, though!

I used the two overdyed pumpkin blocks to make a table runner for the season. I used scraps from it to make a center, which doesn't show up very well in the photo. It is actually a Courthouse Steps block. The entire runner was made from recycled scraps and fabrics.

I drew out a new design and started working it out. It has a folksy look with little hens and nests with eggs. I have four blocks almost finished.
copyright 2010, Linda Winters

I've also been working on a Christmas banner, which is a new design.  ( I'll show more of it later.) Here's a peek.

Now that the weather is cooling down and it is looking as much like fall as south Texas allows (which is more like a cool summer), I am ready for the holidays. Bring on the old Christmas movies!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Overdying Scraps

This little pumpkin was made using leftover scraps from doll clothes that I was making. The scraps were not in colors that went well together, so I overdyed them. This just means I put a wash of dye over the previously dyed fabric. It can be done with colors or even with just a tan or beige, to give an antiqued look.

These little doll clothes were made from cheap fat quarters that I picked up for $1 each. If you've been reading my blog, you know that I am making a few doll clothes every week until time to send them as a Christmas present to my granddaughter. I am trying to use only scraps and fat quarters. (I'm not sure WHY, but I made that a challenge. I think I just couldn't stand cutting into yardages when I would only be using a little bit of fabric!)  

Here are the leftover scraps. I have washed all the sizing and starch out of them and I'm ready to put them in a solution of hot water and dye.

I used Rit dye from the grocery store, but there are other dyes out there in all colors. You are probably familiar with "tea dying", another form of overdying using strong tea as the dye. I use a disposable plastic container. Because I am just dying a few scraps, I don't measure my dye. I pour a little in the hot water, stir it, and put the wet scraps in. I leave them in for about 15 minutes. (The time the fabric is in the dye will determine how much dye is absorbed.)

I remove the scraps, rinse them off really well, and put them in the dryer with an old towel. (I used a red towel, just in case!)
After drying, I press each piece well.

I decided to use these scraps to make a Fall Pumpkin. I have actually made two of them and have enough scraps to make more. I'm not even sure yet what I will do with them. They could be placemats, squares in a table runner, or even part of a quilt. Each block is about 14" x 17".
Overdying is a great way to repurpose fabric from old clothing!  It's easy. It's fun. AND it's a good way to use up scraps. To your children and grandchildren, it's magical. Give it a try with some ugly fabric scraps. You might end up with something you would love to use.
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