Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tip Tuesday! - Swirling the Seams

Welcome to

"Tip Tuesday!" - Swirling the Seams

I love learning new things and then sharing that knowledge with my quilting friends. So, every Tuesday I'll provide some tips, hints, tricks, tutorials, shortcuts, etc. that I've learned over the years and share them here on the blog. 

"Tip Tuesday" will be a collection of information about a wide variety of subjects garnered from a large variety of sources.  I am not an expert by any means and do not take credit for being the great wizard behind all of these hints and tips. I will gladly give due credit whenever possible.

These tips will be archived and accessible to you just by clicking on the "Tip Tuesday" tab above. 

Read, enjoy, and be inspired! 

Have you ever noticed that when you are piecing blocks, sometimes your intersection are just too bulky for comfort? Well, in many cases you can take care of that simply by swirling or spinning the seams. Today I'm going to run through the steps of swirling the seams, and hopefully between the written words and the pictures, you'll be able to follow along.

I almost always do this when I am piecing four patch or nine patch blocks, but it can be done with other blocks as well. When I first started to do this, I think the most difficult thing for me was to simply remember to do it.  :-)

OK, so why do you want to spin or swirl the seams? This helps to reduce bulk at the point where all four seams come together. If you've ever tried to quilt through on of these intersections, you know exactly why we need to find ways to reduce that bulk. 

Most four patch blocks are pressed with the two-patch units going in the same direction, usually toward the dark fabric. (This assumes that you are not pressing you seams open.) The long, connecting seam is then usually pressed to one side. 

Below are two units of a four patch block sewn and ready to be pressed.

Here are the units from the front.

And now from the back. Notice how the seam allowance is making it's way to the green fabric. Go ahead and press to the green fabric. This will make it very easy for the seam allowances to "nest" and be more accurate.

Can you see what I mean by nesting in the picture below? The seam allowances are both press toward the green fabric, which means they are pressed away from each other. When they are put together, the seam allowances nestle nicely up against each other. I've head this referred to as "butting" the seams together.

I've pinned at the intersection and on either side of the intersection. You are free to pin as much or little as you'd like. I tend to be a pinner and almost always pin at least the intersection.

Here's the four patch block, ready to put in the machine and sew. I usually try to make it so that the seam allowance on top is facing up or towards the needle. This helps me control the seam allowance and make sure it nests nicely into the other piece. By doing this, I also can control the seam allowance and prevent it from getting folded over. (I know, some of this was covered on last week's Tip Tuesday!, but please bear with me.) 

And we are at the machine and ready to sew. Remember, even if you see pins in my pictures, I never sew over them.

Keeping an accurate 1/4" seam allowance, sew down the edge of the block, leaving the pins in place until you are very close to them. I pull out my pins when the needle hits the seam allowance. 

I make sure the needle is in the down position and then I remove the pin. By doing this, I have secured the seam allowance in to the position I want it to stay. If I take my pin out too early, the fabrics can shift and cause mismatched seams

Once that is done, I continue sewing until the entire seam is complete.

Here's the intersection from the front.

And here it is from the back.

If I just pressed this connecting seam, the result would be a nice looking intersection, but one that is quite bulky.

Instead, I get out my trusty seam ripper out and use it to remove a couple of stitches that are in the actual seam allowance. You should only be removing two or three stitches, and you definitely want to only remove stitches that are in the seam allowance. Do not un-stitch anything in below the horizontal seam, as this will cause you to have holes in your seams.

This is what it will look like when you have removed the stitches.

Flip the block over and do the same thing to the back side of the block.

When you lay the block out flat, you should be able to easily separate the seams so they go in opposite directions. That's the part that many people find tricky, but if you've pulled out the stitches properly, it should pull apart quite easily. You may have to practice a few times. 

Finger press this seam flat. You should end up with a little four patch at the intersection. (I love that!) 

And on the front side, the seam lays nice and flat.

I press from the back and then turn the block over and press from the front.

As I said before, this swirling technique is not just for use with four or nine patch blocks. It is especially nice to do when you are matching more than four seams at a single point, like in a kaleidoscope block or a eight pointed star block.

So get yourself swirling so you have flatter seam intersections. I think you'll be a very happy quilter if you do!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Design Wall Monday

One of the owners of one of the shops where I teach asked me to offer a lap size log cabin quilt class using the Eleanor Burns method and I thought, "Why not? I already have a sample made." 

Early last week while I was getting my class lists together, finalizing the information for the newsletter and pulling samples, I realized that I had sold the lap size log cabin quilt that I made. ARRGGHHHH!! 

How could I forget that? I had already sent the schedule and the supply list to the shop so I decided I would just have to make another one. It wouldn't take long, and I have a couple of weeks before my samples have to be in the shop anyway. 

So, because I was able to get all of the prep work done for Saturday's sewing event by Friday afternoon, I pulled fabric from my stash and got my book out of the bookcase and figured I'd get working on the quilt this coming week. I had a little free time Friday evening so I cut the fabric and made a couple of blocks. I wanted to audition the fabric placements and make changes as needed. I liked the two of blocks I made but when I put the top together last night, I decided that I don't love it. 

First of all, the picture is not great so that plays a role here. But even considering that, I am not totally sold on the greens that I used or their placements. They aren't terrible, but they don't flow for me. I originally had the greens switched, but the dark green didn't look good next to the leaf fabric and the light green washed out against the red centers. I didn't have other greens in my stash that worked so I decided to go ahead and use these. Mmmmmm, maybe I should have waited. 

I still have to add the borders, which I will do later today so hopefully that will help. And I'll wait and see what the quilting does to it. Again, it isn't terrible, but I think I'll probably make another one for the class. It's small, only 12 blocks and it doesn't take long. Like I said, two of these blocks were done Friday night and the other ten were pieced yesterday afternoon and evening.

I did finish the triangle quilt I was making last week and I do like that! I don't have a picture so I'll have to add it later. I also finished a couple of projects I'll be showing during the two blog hops in which I'll be participating during the month of September. Be sure to stop back to see those.  :-)

Hopefully later today I'll be able to post pictures from Saturday's Old Bags' Day Sew-In. There was a lot of sewing accomplished and some wonderful fellowship. I love those days!

Check out what other quilters have on their design walls today.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tip Tuesday! To Pin or Not to Pin?

Welcome to

"Tip Tuesday!" - To Pin or Not to Pin?

I love learning new things and then sharing that knowledge with my quilting friends. So, every Tuesday I'll provide some tips, hints, tricks, tutorials, shortcuts, etc. that I've learned over the years and share them here on the blog. 

"Tip Tuesday" will be a collection of information about a wide variety of subjects garnered from a large variety of sources.  I am not an expert by any means and do not take credit for being the great wizard behind all of these hints and tips. I will gladly give due credit whenever possible.

These tips will be archived and accessible to you just by clicking on the "Tip Tuesday" tab above. 

Read, enjoy, and be inspired! 

To paraphrase Shakespeare... 

To Pin or Not to Pin?
That is the question...often asked by quilters.

There are many ways in which to answer this question. 

First of all, have you ever had any blocks that have intersecting points that look like this? There is no mistaking it. The center just isn't right.

What about this? This isn't as bad as the first picture, but it is still noticeable and it would bother me.

If you do not have intersections that look like this, then keep doing whatever it is that allows you to be "spot on" with your piecing. Congratulations! Please share your secrets with us.  :-)

But, if you are like many of us, intersections like those pictured above happen. And sometimes they happen much more frequently than we'd like to admit. 

So, how can you avoid these mismatched seams? 

Accurate and strategically placed pins may be just the thing you need. I will note here that I do not advocate sewing over pins! 

Never, never, never do I suggest sewing over pins! Not only can it bend or break your pins, but it can potentially break them and cause injury from a flying piece of metal. 

You can also do damage to your sewing machine needle and machine in general. Just think about this a minute. If you sew over pins and hit them, little shards of metal can be chipped off and make their way into your sewing machine. This could cause a real problem down the road, especially if you have a computerized machine. 

So, just to reiterate, I do NOT sew over my pins, no matter how many I've used and have to stop to remove them from the fabric.

Ok, the public service announcement is over and we'll head back to our regularly scheduled program. 

Below are a few pictures of my favorite ways to pin to avoid problem intersections like those pictured above.

First of all, it is important to stabilize the seam allowances so they don't get caught and flipped over, causing potentially weakened seams and bumpy or bulky intersections. Can you see that issue in this picture? What a pain! I almost always rip this out and resew if this happens to me. (My seam ripper and I are on very friendly terms.)  :-)

So, as I was saying, the way you pin is important. Notice in the picture below that the seam allowances are going in opposite directions. That is good! That will allow them to nest against each other and result in less bulky seams and more accuracy. The pin in this picture is on the left side, holding down the seam allowance that is facing to the left (on the bottom). 

I generally try to arrange it so that my seam allowance on the top is the one that would be facing left in this picture, so that it is easier to control the bottom seam allowance. Unfortunately, sometimes that is just not possible as was the case when I was sewing this block. In other words, I want to try to have the top seam allowance pointing toward the needle and the one that the presser foot/needle will hit first, thus "pushing" the seams together nicely.

If that is not possible, I pin the intersection like this. This will hold the bottom seam allowance in place and stop it from being flipped over or separated from the nesting spot.

Here is another way to achieve the same result. Pin at an angle to stabilize the bottom seam allowance and to hold the nesting points secure.

Pinning either of these two ways usually solves any issues I have with mismatched intersections. But there could be other problems that pinning may help resolve.

If you have the issue, as I sometimes do, that by the time I get to the end of a large block or a row, the top fabric has shifted and the ends do not match up properly. I've tried making sure there is a pin very close to the end of the fabrics, along the sewing line, but that didn't always take care of the problem. 

So now I add an additional pin along the bottom or end of the block/row. Notice in the picture that I've weaved the pin in order to allow it to stabilize and secure a larger section of the fabrics. 

This has been very helpful and I don't have the problem any more!

And look. A beautifully sewn intersection!

Do you have any special pinning tricks you like to use? I'd love to hear about them.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Design Wall Monday

I know a lot of people don't care for Mondays and I totally get that, but I really like Mondays because I get to check out what other quilters are creating. Thanks Judy L. at Patchwork Times for hosting Design Wall Monday 

Even if I don't have anything to post, I still go to her site and take a gander at what's being posted. And quite honestly, I can't think of a Design Wall Monday that at least one post didn't amaze and inspire me. I sure hope some of my posts do that for people. 

Here's what's on the wall right now.  Equal Rights by Swirly Girls Designs. The two columns on the left are all sewn together and the third column is sewn but needs attached to the first two. 

This is what it will look like when it's sewn together. 

I'm considering adding a border to this. The pattern provides instructions for making this in various sizes and for the queen, they add a border. 

Here is the quilt from the original pattern cover (the one I used).

Equal Rights (398x600)

Here's the new cover. I love this and think I need to make another quilt! Doesn't this look so fresh and clean?

Equal Rights Cover

I'm using the Creative Grids 12 1/2" - 60 Degree Triangle Ruler. See the picture below. (You can use the 8 1/2" version if you have it.) I've used this ruler for a number of table runner projects and decided I needed to use it for a quilt. I've had this pattern for a while - 2010 I think (notice that there is an updated pattern cover), and am just now using it. Oh my! Better late than never... 

12 1/2" Creative Grids 60 degree Triangle 
Cut 30 degree and 60 degree angles up to a height of 12in. Instructions included. Easy-to-read black markings every 1/4in. Embedded Gripper Dots hold fabric while cutting. Exclusive line. Independents only. Made in the USA. Minimum Advertised Pricing Policy Enforc 

Hopefully this quilt top will be put together by week's end and I can get busy quilting it, but we'll see. It's shaping up to be a very busy week here.

Check out what other quilters have on their design walls today. 

Check out Judy L's Patchwork Times and sit back and be prepared to be amazed and inspired! 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Happy Birthday Mom!

Today is Mom's birthday and I miss her! 

I decided to spend a little time checking out some of my favorite pictures of Mom and I thought I'd share them.

Enjoy. I sure did.

Always smiling, even while braving freezing cold temperatures and rain waiting for Nikki's rowing race to begin. (The race never did start because it was postponed due to the bad weather.)

We are a game-playing family and Mom, Sadie and Lynn had fun with the pumpkin face placemats I made. 

The trip we took to Baton Rouge to visit the USS Kidd was tremendous fun. It was hot and sticky, but the kids really didn't mind as they had fun listening to Dad tell his stories and Mom trying to censor him. 

Mom's last "sisters' weekend" was very special and even though she had a really difficult time seeing most things, she had no trouble beating the pants off of us playing cards. I can only imagine what she's thinking here, trying to figure out what these bird clips are.  

Having Mom at Lynn's wedding and putting the family necklace on her was so special. Words cannot express how I felt about her being there. 

And she even joined the bride and groom (and the rest of the family) on the dance floor for a little while.  

I love and miss you Mom!

Carolyn Schwab
August 12, 1926 - December 1, 2012

Tip Tuesday! Thread Color Choices

Welcome to

"Tip Tuesday!" - Thread Color Choices

I love learning new things and then sharing that knowledge with my quilting friends. So, every Tuesday I'll provide some tips, hints, tricks, tutorials, shortcuts, etc. that I've learned over the years and share them here on the blog. 

"Tip Tuesday" will be a collection of information about a wide variety of subjects garnered from a large variety of sources.  I am not an expert by any means and do not take credit for being the great wizard behind all of these hints and tips. I will gladly give due credit whenever possible.

These tips will be archived and accessible to you just by clicking on the "Tip Tuesday" tab above. 

Read, enjoy, and be inspired! 

Whenever we start a new sewing project, be it a quilt, pillow, table runner, purse, etc., we are faced with a number of choices we have to make. What fabrics do I use? How big do I make it? Do I follow the pattern exactly? You know how it is, right?

Well, one choice that I don't often think about is my thread color choice. I tend to piece most of my projects using "neutral" threads like various shades of beige or grey. Every once in a while, if I have a matching thread, I piece with that, but not usually. I save the matching thread for any quilting or topstitching I may do and of course for when I apply binding. So it's not like I don't buy different thread colors. A quilter can never have too much thread or fabric!

Whenever students ask me what thread they should use, I ask a couple of questions before I answer them. I ask if they want to, or like to use matching thread. If they are definite about matching threads, we then discuss the choices they have with them or the choices that are available at the shop. 

I lay out a sampling of the fabrics that are going to be used and then open up some thread and see how all of my choices are going to look. By a process of elimination, I make my choice. 

Usually, the concern is the fact that there are lots of different fabrics used in project and many of them are contrasting. Which color do they try to match? Which thread should go on top and which in the bobbin? Or what about when you are making a quilt that is two very contrasting fabrics like white and red?

If that is the situation, I simply try to find the thread that works best with all of the fabrics and be careful when I'm pressing seams. I do know a few people who change thread quite often while they are piecing quilts. I'm impressed and say more power to them! I just don't have the patience to change my thread multiple times in a single project. 

I am definitely not the Quilt Police when it comes to quilting or thread choices.

panel available at...

But I kind of have a "rule of thumb" for myself when it comes to thread choices, and it involves pressing and using a correct stitch length. When a student is really struggling with their thread choices, I try to explain my process and reasoning for using a "neutral" thread.        

No matter what thread I use to piece, I should not see it when I press my seams. The thread should only be visible from the back of the two pieces sewn. If the stitch length is too long, there will be gaps or open parts to the seam. Not only will you see the thread, but more importantly the seam will most likely not be as strong as it should be in order to prevent seams from coming apart.

When it comes to pressing, if you are pressing accurately there will be no folds or pockets from the fabric not being pressed thoroughly. If this occurs, the "fix" is easy. Simply press again and make sure that you press from the front and press out the folds. Easy peasy!

Another issue is when seams are pressed too hard and stretching occurs. With proper pressing, there should be no stretched seams that allow the thread to be visible on the right side. Remember, we quilters press. We don't iron.  :-)

The sample below is from a quilt onto which I added the binding. I noticed some thread popping through seams and snapped a few pictures. (I did ask and was granted permission to use these pictures here.) Can you see the white thread that was used?) 

Another issue of over-pressing or stretching while pressing is that the fabrics are often pushed to their limits and are close to ripping apart. Notice the threads peeking through and the stretching that has caused some seams to compromised. 

Unfortunately this quilt had already been quilted when I saw the issues and fixing them was not as simple as just sewing the seams again. For the compromised seams, I suggested she hand stitch over the seams to secure them, just as I would do if I was repairing a quilt that had a hole in it. Regarding the white thread showing on the red fabric, she decided to wash the quilt and see if the "puffing" took care of it. If not, she was going to color the seams with a red fabric marker. 

We discussed how to avoid this in the future, and this quilter has since taken a couple of classes from me. She is much more careful with her pressing now and is amazed at how much more accurate her overall piecing has become. She has also made a change in that she no longer pieces with white thread only. She loves the thread rainbow on her wall and says it makes her smile. I love that!!

Do you use a different method to choice your threads? If so, I'd love to hear it.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Design Wall Monday

I've missed a few design wall Monday's, but that doesn't mean that I haven't been busy. I just can't show a few of my recent quilting adventures yet because they are for upcoming blog hops and I don't want to show them until then. I've also been working on a few gifts and other items that I don't want to show, just in case the recipients would happen upon the blog.

And truth be told, I have been crazy busy with other stuff and I was even "unplugged" for a while. That was really nice, quiet and relaxing, but eventually I began to think about all the stuff I needed to do and it wasn't so wonderful anymore. 

Summer is quickly coming to an end and that means I have to get my Fall classes in order. I plan to substitute teach again this year and even have a few dates already scheduled. In terms of quilting classes, I want to concentrate on some new and fun things, like this ruler (and a few patterns) that I bought a year or so ago and had never used.

They sell the Quick Curve Ruler by Sew Kind of Wonderful at M & E Quilt Shoppe  and that was a sign to me that I needed to get mine out and play a little. I pulled a couple of fabrics from my "practice with me" bin and started cutting and sewing. I just used two fabrics for the tests and even though I'm still playing, I'm ready to pull fabric for a real project. Now to decide which pattern to use....

Here's my practice blocks. There are two different blocks here - the oval one that is in the center and the other partial rings. I'll make a few more of each of the blocks so I can continue to practice and also so I can make a small quilt, table runner, etc. I had a bit of a brain freeze when I started reading how to use the ruler, but once I watched Jenny's tutorials, it all made sense and the really good pictures in all of her patterns made perfect sense. 

If you are interested in our guild 2014 quilt raffle click HERE!

Check out what other quilters have on their design walls today.

Go to Judy L's Patchwork Times