Thanks for dropping by to take a look at some of my thoughts and ideals. Hope you will let me know if this has been helpful, useful, inspiring or whatever, and remember to come back soon.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Machine Quilting

I absolutely love my Longarm Quilting Machine.  Several years ago, right after my dear husband wanted and got a new bass boat, I told him I wanted a quilting machine and my search started.  I did my homework.  I visited numerous websites.  I talked to other quilters, at least I talked to the ones who were willing to talk with me, and I called manufacturers and requested information.  After all of this, then I wanted to get some hands on with these machines to see which one I preferred!  We, my husband and I, drove several hundred miles to Springfield, Illinois to the Machine Quilters Showcase in the spring of that year.  We went to the show and we walked around to every exhibit and I talked with so many people I couldn't remember who said what.  I was lucky I had my husband with me and his memory is better than mine most days.  He also has a long history of working in the carpet industry in maintainence.  The machines that make the carpet are in essence just large sewing machines.  A longarm quilting machine is in essence just a large sewing machine.  While I was judging the ease of use, the weight, the price and things of that nature, he was busy judging the quality of the machine and equipment.  I have to say that one company, and they make a fine machine, was tossed out of the running because the sales people just didn't seem to want to talk one on one to us and didn't seem to want to explain anything.  I figured if the sales people were acting like this, then how good would the service be if I had a problem.  If they didn't want to talk with me when I wanted to spend money, would they talk with me if I had a problem after I had given them my money?   I talked with each company about service, repair, and instructions.  I came  home after the show with all of my information, and the next week purchased my machine.  I advise everyone who is thinking about purchasing a longarm machine to follow this course.  Yes, I spent some money making the trip, but I think in the long run I saved money because I was very satisfied with my purchase after it was made.

Since purchasing my machine, which is a Gammill Classic Plus, I have learned so much.  I have never gotten tired of quilting.  I've never had to purchase another machine, and have had very few problems with the machine.  Now that I have written that I expect my machine to break down tomorrow.  My sales person has been helpful, but I have also had to call the main office and talk with the mechanic there on more than one occassion to get help with some minor problem that he was able to tell me, over the telephone, how to fix.  The people there have been very helpful.

I have been to Machine Quilters Showcases since then and taken many classes.  Yes this cost money, but each time I have received new and valuable information that has helped me to build my quilting business.  It has helped me to make my quilts much more meaningful, and helped me to be able to make my customers very happy with quilting that was meaningful to them making their quilt into a true "heirloom" piece that will be passed down in their family from generation to generation.  That is a feeling of satisfaction that not everyone experiences.

I recently took a quilt top to quilt for a lady who told me the finished quilt was for her niece who was in college.  She is working toward her degree in early childhood education.  The lady told me, I am so very proud of her, she's just the "apple of my eye" and I just can't even explain to you how much I love her and how proud I am of her.  We talked about the quilt pattern and using a meandering pattern to quilt down the background so the pattern would stand out and she said, "I'm going to leave it up to you, how to quilt.  You are the professional and I want it to look good, and I don't want to spend over _____ this amount of money."  I knew there was a reason I had immediately liked this lady.  I used the things she said to what we talked about to design my quilting.

I hope the apple that I have outlined in the center of each block
is visible in this picture.  It really turned out great.
Every block has a apple in the center, after all, this niece is the "apple of her eye."  When I decide to outline something, be it apple, feather, leaf, wagon, car or star, I frequently take a piece of chalk and draw the outline directly on the quilt.  After I sew the moffit, I take a brush and brush back and forth over the chalk and it will dust out.  I don't have to use any water or damp rags etc.  I do not use white chalk on black or very dark fabric, I'll use a darker blue or green chalk on those, and I don't use very dark color chalk on white.  Usually I will use white on white and can still see the pattern easily.

I used a simple quilt in the ditch method on the rest of the star and then meandering or stippling on the white background.  When I add special touches to a quilt, I've found I don't have to go overboard with special effects in every area of the quilt.  I just pick out particular areas and do the specials in those and then fill in the rest with standard quilting.  This is very helpful to the customer because it helps keep the price down.  When I do quilting like this I add a specific price to each of the special items.  It can be anywhere of an extra $2 on up to and extra $10 for each special item.  If I use metalic thread in a special item that increases the price.  If I change colors of thread for the special item that increases the cost of those items.  If it's the same color of thread that I am using on the rest of the quilt then the price can be very inexpensive for the customer depending on the difficulty factor.  The apple was a fairly simple item in the same color as the rest of the quilting so the price was very inexpensive.  The quilt had 9 blocks so the price multipled by 9 was added to the base price of the quilting.

The sashing around the blocks gave me a perfect place to
demonstrate the "apple of her eye" was surrounded by
love from the quilt maker.  What better shows that love
than a heart.
 I felt the sashing around the block would demonstrate the love with a simple pattern of what I call meandering hearts.  This sashing happens to be narrow so the hearts are just linked together and they are facing in different directions.  This really makes for easy and quick quilting and something of this nature really adds very little to the price of the quilt, but really adds a lot to the meaning.  One of my friends who I quilt for occassionally can always be pleased by adding meandering hearts somewhere in the quilt.  She just loves the love.  Another lady I know in advance will be extremely happy if I use pink thread.  Everyone has their favorite things and if you can pick up on those or get them to share what they really love it is easy to please your customers, and as you get to know them with repeat business you will become much more adept at pleasing your customers.

My last special on this quilt was the fairly narrow outside border.

The last narrow border is the ocean waves.
I'm a fan of old songs and old sayings that have great meaning.  "My love is deeper than the deepest ocean" is the real inspiration for this last border that surrounds the entire quilt.  I know that will have to be explained to the maker of this quilt, but I felt it just added a little extra and is so simple.  All of the quilting was done freehand with the machine.  I don't have a computer on my machine that sews the patterns.  No the hearts are not all exactly alike, and neither are the apples or the ocean waves, and those things are all part of the uniqueness of each quilt.  There are no two exactly alike.  Each is special in it's own way, just as each of my customers and quilting friends are special in their own way.  No two alike, but all uniquely special individuals.

If you ever want to discuss what quilting patterns you may want to use, or other ways to decide what quilting pattern to use, drop me a note.  I'll be happy to give you my thoughts, for what they are worth.  Hope you all have a great day, and remember, you are loved!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Picture Transfers

A few years ago the place where I work my regular job had outgrown their space so they decided it was time to step out and build a new building.  In our old space some previous person had hung a tapestry in one of the back hallways.  After she had moved to greener pastures those that remained decided they did not want that particular piece of art to remain and I had a quilt that I brought in and hung in that space.  I would bring different quilts and change them and we had one for Christmas and a different one I made in the spring and so forth.  We had an enormous number of comments on the new and changing art work.  I was asked if I would do a quilt for the new building.  Of course I said yes and I began planning. 

Since they wanted this quilt to be permanent it would need to be something that would be appropriate for any season.  I finally hit on the ideal of making a quilt with baby pictures of all the employees.  Since this is a fairly small office it was a really doable project.  Then I decided that I would make the quilt so it would depict a bookcase with pictures in frames.  I had no pattern.  In addition the decor in the new place would be modern. 

I collected pictures from the staff and was amazed at how quickly people shared their photos.  I did not tell them only baby pictures, but stated pictures when they were very young.  Now for this part I had to know a little about computers because I did scan the pictures in and then changed them all to black and white and also changed the size so they would all be the same size.  (I have made a lot of memory quilts using pictures since that time and they do not all have to be the same size and it is fine to use a mixture of colored pictures and black and white photos.)  Then I printed the pictures onto paper backed fabric.  You can purchase packs of the paper backed fabric, one brand is Printed Treasures and it works very well, or you can make your own.  Directions for making your own will be at the bottom of this post.  Follow directions on whichever brand of printable fabric you  purchase.

Remember, once your pictures are printed onto the fabric you will need to have a seam allowance around each picture.  Make allowances for this before you print!!  I've made the mistake of forgetting to leave enough around the edges of the pictures more than once and had to go back and reprint pictures which can be expensive if you are purchasing the printable fabric.

I agonized over my fabric choices for months.  It is a really good thing that it takes so long for a building to be built in this area, or at least it did at that time.  I finally picked my fabric and got to work on the actual quilt.  I can't begin to tell you how many comments have been made about that quilt since it was hung.  I am always amazed.  I also get a few giggles when someone comes in and says, "Oh, what a pretty blanket!"  I am very proud of my picture quilt that hangs in the office.

The quilt hanging on the wall at our office.  As you can
see I did fix the pictures so it would appear they
were matted and framed. 

This is a close up of one of a couple of the pictures. 
I'm the cutie on the right.  I used to be a pretty girl.
Oh well, times change.
 Of course, I have made other memory quilts since that time using pictures.  This particular quilt was made as a graduation gift and many of the pictures were pictures of the sports she participated in, as well as prom, and baby pictures.  In this quilt I actually would sew pictures side by side and use them as the center block and I even used 3 pictures together in a couple of the blocks.  I did not change the size of the pictures or make them all black and white.  One of the blocks has a picture of her and her graduation from kindergarten and then her graduation from high school.  Made a really nice comparison. 

This snowball pattern really gave this memory quilt a special look.
I also made a memory quilt with pictures using a star pattern and the picture was the center of the stars.  That particular quilt was all about the lady's father and he was a very special star in her life.

Memory quilts using pictures are typically meant to be wall hangings or display pieces.  They will not stand up to frequent laundering.  While they can be washed on gentle cycle in cold water, they are not made to be washed every month.  Quilts can hang as wall hanging for several years before they have to be washed.  You may want to take them down and vacumn the dust off a few times, or just toss them into the dryer with a fabric softener sheet,  if you wait two or three years to launder.

If you have decided to embark on your own journey into a memory quilt and have any questions, please feel free to ask.  I don't have all the answers, but since I've made quite a few I have worked out some of the bugs.   I hope you have a great day.  

To make your own paper backed fabric purchase freezer paper and fabric.  Wash the fabric to remove all sizing that may cause your ink not to adhere to the fabric.  After fabric is dry, press the fabric smooth.  It will need to be very smooth to prevent problems with the printing.  Cut your freezer paper and fabric to 8 1/2" x 11", or whatever size your printer will accomidate.  Place the freezer paper, waxey side up on your ironing board and place your fabric over the freezer paper with wrong side of fabric against the waxey side of the freezer paper.  Using a hot iron press the freezer paper and fabric together.  Do not rub the iron back and forth over the surface of the fabric since this will cause shifting and the fabric will not adhere well.  Make sure all strings are cut so they will not pull or come off in your printer.  Once the fabric is adhered and trimmed it is ready for your printer.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

New Stuff

Just wanted to let you know I have added a couple of things to my blog.  I added popular post which gives a little of what the topic is about and I also added labels to each entry which should make it easier if you are hunting for one particular item.  I am the worlds worst to read something and then later I will need that information and trying to find it is like hunting for a needle in a haystack!!  I'm sure most of you are much more organized than I, but thought you may find this useful! 

Okay, now let's go can some cake!!  Hope you all have  a great day.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

My Retirement Collection

For years now I have been telling my husband that I am collecting all my fabric and patterns for my retirement.  Since I will not be bringing home a weekly pay check, I decided that I would have to squirrel away for those days when I would have lots of time to sit around and quilt and I very patiently explained this to my husband.  This has given me a handy excuse to purchase much more than I should at any given time.  It has also provided fabric to donate to worthy charities over the years.  I have also been able to share my abundance with friends and family.  The only problem is finding places to store the fabric and making sure the fabric is cared for so it does not become unuseable.

A few years ago, my stash had grown to such proportions that I was forced to find a new way to store the fabric.  My stash had grown from having a few pieces put back in a drawer with assorted patterns and thread and other sewing "tools" to taking over the drawer and then my fabric alone filled a drawer.  Next I tried stacking it on a very deep shelf.  That shelf would hold the contents of 3 drawers and the stash kept growing!!  I kept reading articles in magazines about the perfect sewing room and seeing pictures of rooms that had lots of room for enormous amounts of fabric.  I didn't have as much fabric as they had, yet, but I really did want one of those rooms.

Then my dream came true and I actually got a wonderful room 16' x 24' for my sewing.  I had lots of room, and was even able to store some other things in my room.  I loved piecing quilt tops and I was a purist and felt every top should be hand quilted.  I just didn't have the time.  It was taking me about a year to quilt each bed sized quilt.  That is when I started thinking about a longarm quilting machine.  I started checking on prices.  This was about the same time my husband decided he wanted a bass boat.  Well I was behind him 100%.  I mean he worked hard and he deserved to have some relaxation time.  So we bought his bass boat and just a few weeks later I pitched my ideal for a quilting machine.  How could the man say no after we had just spent all that money on his hobby and I could actually make a little extra money with my hobby?  I got my machine which took up almost half of my wonderful sewing room.

My sewing room became an ocean of fabric.  It didn't all stay in the sewing room either.  There was fabric in the guest room, fabric in the living room, fabric in my bedroom, fabric in the storage room, and I don't mean just one or two pieces in each place.  I could never seem to find what I was hunting.  I would know that I had some beige fabric that I had used for another project and now when I wanted to use the rest of that fabric and not have to buy more, I simply could not find it no matter how hard I looked.  I had to have a better way to store my fabric so I could find what I wanted without spending a week and still not finding the particular piece I was hunting.

Finally at Christmas I decided, no more.  I have been deligent for years about packing away my Christmas ornaments and decorations in large plastic tubs so they would not get damaged from year to year.  Now was the time to organize my fabric just like I did my Christmas.  I took my Christmas gift cards and headed to the local Walmart and purchased plastic containers with lids.  I think I actually purchased 6 on my first trip thinking I would not have enough fabric to fill all the containers but could use the extra ones to store some of our out of season clothing.  I actually had a plan.  I love 40's fabric, Aunt Grace especially and I had purchased fabric of every different pattern I found.  I purchased a minimum of 1 yard of fabric, unless I really loved it and then I purchased 3 yards just in case I wanted to use it for a border.  Well I could fold the 1 yard pieces much like a fat quarter and they fit perfectly in those lovely containers.  Each container would hold about 40-50  1 yard pieces all nice and neat.  I arranged them in order of colors, I had blue, yellow, red, green, orange, brown, pink and right on down the line.  I believe I made about 4 trips back to the Walmart for more containers before I finished, but the end product was my fabric, gathered from the four corners of the house, was now all in one place.  And I had neatly labeled the ends of the containers with what color fabric so I now could find that elusive piece of fabric that I knew I had somewhere. 

Nothing fancy, just labels and writing with a felt tip pen. 
As you can see it has changed some over time.

The really great thing is how well they fit and I can actually
tell what the fabric is without pulling out the piece and unfolding.
Makes it easier to take the piece of cloth I am trying match and just
hover over the different color to see what goes best!

Since that first sorting many new pieces of fabric have been added and many of the old pieces are now in quilts somewhere, but I have continued using my lovely containers, with labels on the ends.  At times I have many pieces of fabric pulled from those containers as I audition them for their place in the current project, but the ones who don't make the cut are eventually put back into the containers to await their turn in a new project.

I would like to encourage each of you to decide on a way to store your extra bits and pieces of fabric unless you are one of those wonderful people who are able to have only 1 project at a time and dispose of any leftovers immediately.  If you are more like me and save and keep your scraps in hopes of one day putting all those pieces together into a wonderful quilt, then try to pick a system for storage that works for you.  At least that way if you want a particular piece of fabric that you know you have, you will be able to find that fabric without the frustration I used to experience.

Another thing that you will really need to watch out for in leaving your fabric folded or creased for very long periods of time.  These creases can become permanent and cause you to lose some of your fabric or have to cut around areas.  If you have fabric that you have stored, take it out of the drawer or container and refold in a different manner so your creased don't become permanent.  Sometimes I will actually take a container and shake out each piece and toss it in the washer on a rinse cycle and then dry and refold and put back in the container.  This keeps the fabric fresh, prevents permanent creases and your fabric won't dry rot. 

Really the same thing goes for your quilts.  They must be taken out and shaken and refolded to prevent those permanent fold marks.  When storing your quilts, please don't store them in plastic bags as this will damage your quilts causing dark brown spots and streaks through the quilt.  Storing your quilt in a pillow case works wonderfully well.  It keeps your quilt clean and neat and you won't have brown spots.  If you have fabric left over from making your quilt you may want to sew up a couple of pillow cases to match the quilt and then an extra for storage.  Putting your Christmas quilt in a Christmas pillow case makes it easy to find without pulling so many things out of the linen closet in your search. 

However you decide to store you fabric and your finished projects, make it as easy as possible for you, and pick a design created to decrease wasted time looking for a particular item.  These are just small steps to make your life easier and decrease stress and give you more time for quilting.  If you have a special way you have stored your fabric or sewing supplies, please let me know and I will pass your tips on to others to help make their lives easier.  Over half the fun comes with sharing.    I hope you have a wonderful day.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

T-Shirt Travels

Notice these tees have been aligned in long rows
(Quilt made by Kay for her daughter, Heather)

T-shirt quilts are wonderful things that hold personal memories galore.  They are loved and appreciated by all who receive them.  They are totally unique.  Usually they usually will evenutally wind up as a display item.  Many are made for young people as they graduate from high school and they get a quilt to take with them to college so it has to be the size of the college dorm bed, which is twin long in most colleges.  After college they will get tossed around some but as time moves on they will become a display piece, either in a bedroom, a guest room, or a home office or even a den or play room.  Now anyone can go online and find a multitude of places that make the quilts for a variety of prices, but being quilters, why should we pay for something we can do ourselves?  Obviously there is no reason if you can get some good instructions on how to accomplish your goal.  Me, I'm really an individual and like unique items, so I'm going for a really cool one of a kind quilt that no one else will have.  I've used many different views in creating some of these "masterpieces" and learned a lot along the way.  Here are some of my ideals and some of the things I've experienced in my t-shirt travels.

Cutting is important.  They must be cut using straight lines and the shirt should be laid out on the cutting board being careful not to stretch the fabric in any direction.  If the shirt has a print on only one side you are good to go, if you plan to use the prints from both sides then first you must carefully cut up both sides of the tee and right on around the bottom seam of the sleeve.  If there is an emblem on the sleeve you want to save then carefully cut around the seam in the sleeve leaving as much fabric as possible to be trimmed away.  I say this for a reason!!!  You want to be able to have pieces that are squares or rectangles.  While you can use triangles it is more difficult and you may not want to do this on your first t-shirt quilt.  After your shirt with the print is positioned on the cutting board, using a square up ruler of some type, cut out the design leaving, if at all possible 2-3" on all sides of the imprint.  This becomes very important later on in the process.  Many quilt makers will decide they are going to use 12 blocks that are 12 1/2" square with sashing between.  If that is your choice then cut your design out of your tee in a 14-15" square trying to center the logo or design as much as possible.  Others may want to make vertical or horizontal rows with sashing between the tees and between the rows.  If you have opted for that course then you will need to carefully watch the length or the width of the pieces you are cutting out.  If you have left some margin for error on your first cut then you will be okay.

After you have cut your tees up then you want to apply either a woven or nonwoven interface to the back to prevent stretching of the fabric as you sew or quilt.  I typically like the woven, iron-on the best for this step.  Be very careful here or you will wind up with some tees that the emblems are smeared or an iron that is no longer useable.  Use a pressing cloth.  Clean white and cheap fits the bill.  If you opt to lay the tee with the emblem facing down on your ironing board and try putting the interfacing on like that you will wind up with ink on your ironing board that will come off on everything you iron unless it wouldn't hurt that item and then miracle of miracles the ink won't transfer!!  I personally prefer to lay my interface with the beaded glue facing up on the ironing board and then lay the section of tee face up on the fusable, place my pressing cloth over that and press the tee only getting as close to the edge as possible without adhereing my pressing cloth to the fusable.    I then line up the next tee as close to the first as possible and sometimes even overlap about 1/4" to have no portion of the fusable uncovered.  I attempt to use as much of the width of the interfacing as possible moving and adjusting pieces to have the smallest amount left to trim away.  Again cover with pressing cloth and adhere to fusable. 

After I have all the tees with fusable I then start trimming.  I attempt to do rows either vertically or horizonally.  I will trim away as little of the excess as possible and start laying out the sizes.  I attempt to cut all widths on the even inch, like 13", 8", 10", 11" and the same with the lengths and then start putting my puzzle together.  If you have only 12 or 16 shirts to work with you are going to have a lot of space without logo's typically.  If you have a larger number of shirts then you will be able to use all the smaller logos to fill in gaps.  Maybe I have one tee with a logo that is 12" x 16" and I want to leave plenty for seams so it is cut at 15" x 20" and then I have a tee with a logo that is 10 1/2" x 3 " and a third tee with a logo  11" x 8".  I can use all of these logos in one row by placing the logo with 11" x 8" and leaving a little extra on each side of the logo to make up the difference or by sewing a strip of sashing and adding an extra 3" on one side.

With the shorter logos you can use 2 or 3 in the space of 1 longer logo.

Next I use the 12" x 16" logo with the extra inch on each side and next in that column would be the 10 1/2" x 3" logo that I have either cut to proper width or added sashing to maybe each side to make it 14" in width.  Now I have the 3 tees that are the proper width I can join them with sashing between and I frequently use different widths on my sashing.  Maybe I'll use 2" between the 1st shirt in the column and 1" between the 2nd and third shirts.  Maybe I have a couple of shirts with very small logos and then I may sew 2 side by side in order to get the width I need and I may even need to use a strip of sashing between them to get the proper width.

Kay did a great job of putting the small logos in the quilt.

I may even need to add a little sashing at the top or bottom of one of those logos.  Does this sound like a puzzle being pieced together?  That is really what it is like.  I really like to lay out all my shirts in a pattern, usually on my bed to get some ideal of how everything will fit and then I go from there with my adding of sashing.  I also use those pictures to refer to as I am sewing the top together.

After the top is sewn together and you start quilting be aware that very few machines will have the capacity to quilt over the thick heavy plastic type ink such as that used in numbers on jerseys, or the very thick ink, and you will wear holes in your fingers trying to hand quilt that particular type tee.  It is much easier to quilt around those areas.

Hope these hints help you as you begin a journey toward making your own tee shirt quilt, or one for your son or daughter.  Just remember to save those tees so you will have lots of choices.  If you have any questions about techniques I have written about, please feel free to ask.  I really don't have a problem sharing the few things I have learned along my travels.  Have a great day and remember, you are a very special person.