Thursday, August 12, 2010

You can "Rip" with a Rotary Cutter

Okay, before you get nervous, we don't mean your extra large version...think about the smaller one-inch blade version instead. The technique is certainly not for the faint of heart, but many quilters swear it greatly reduces their "unsewing time" after making a piecing mistake. (Obviously, this is not for removing a quilting mistake.)

Skilled rippers have learned to hold the two fabric pieces in their hands so that the rotary cutter is held like a pencil or pen. One piece of fabric is held taut between the thumb and forefinger of your non-dominant hand, and the other fabric piece is held by the three remaining fingers of your dominant hand, pressing the fabric against your palm.

With both hands separating the seam that must be ripped, use the cutting blade (you can expose just the very end if you like) to "slice" the threads holding the pieces together. Continue to keep the fabric taut between your hands to expose the piecing thread.

If this isn't for you, then make sure the seam ripper you ARE using is sharp. Quilters tend to hold on to utensils way past their useful lifespan. Treat yourself to a new seam ripper if you have to work hard slice your threads...after all, you're worth it!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Marking your Quilt Tops?

To Mark, or Not to Mark

Of course that is the question, but only you (and your client) can decide the answer! Whenever you choose to mark a quilt with any method, test your marks on the back of the quilt in the seam allowances to be sure you can successfully remove them. Test any fabric which you intend to mark-especially lighter fabrics or those with special coatings that may affect how much pressure you apply with your tool.

For water-soluble marking tools, testing is imperative. These tools need a large number of water molecules in relation to the chemical molecules in the ink so that they will lift completely from the fabric. This usually means completely soaking the quilt in cool water (sometimes several times) to make the ink vanish. Lightly spraying or misting the fabric with water will push the ink into the batting, only to come back and haunt you later. Many water-soluble inks can become permanent if exposed to heat (such as an iron, sunlight, or even a hot car). Take necessary precautions and remove the ink as soon as you are finished quilting. You can even use special pens designed to immediately remove the marks from your fabric. Clover is one brand that carries such a tool...visit your local quilt shop to find out more.

To keep your water soluble marking pens in top working condition, quiltmaker Debra Wagner advises that you store the markers in self-sealing plastic bags to prevent evaporation. Debra also places her markers in a tall tin container in the vertical position with the tip facing down, so that the ink will flow easily whenever she wants to use the marker.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Rotary Cutting Mats

Rotary cutting mats are not created equally.

Most modern-day quilters cannot fathom cutting out quilts by tracing around cardboard templates and wielding a scissors. Despite the fabulous quilts early piecers created with these simple tools, rotary cutters and mats have dramatically reduced the time investment in each project while increasing piecing accuracy.

Don't sacrifice the benefits of this cutting-edge technology (pun intended) by allowing your cutting mat to distort your accuracy. Soft plastic mats are typically made of white translucent plastic and often have a smooth side and a textured side. These soft mats are the only ones that will roll easily for storage. Their softness allows the surface to accept pins to help manage difficult fabric. However, the soft surface can also scar from rotary cutter blades, and repeated cuts in the same area could affect the accuracy of your cuts.

Hard plastic mats are thinner than soft mats, and don't scar as easily. Some brands are guaranteed not to warp, crack or peel. However, generic mats made of green plastic will not hold up to lots of handling, such as toting back and forth to quilting class. These mats can chip and crack with changes in temperature.

Self-healing mats are great for quilters because their three layers help cushion and protect the rotary blade without leaving permanent grooves in the mat. These mats often have a different color on each side to help you see your fabrics more clearly. Self-healing mats are the most expensive mats, but also add some big benefits. Each type of mat has a place in quilting studios; choose a mat based on your quilting style and space.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Interesting Quilts

Your quilt will be much more interesting and lively if you try to vary fabric proportion and value in addition to color.

The more closely your fabrics resemble each other in these areas, the faster the viewer will scan over your quilt and dismiss it as "average". Start with the fabric's scale. Mix large prints with small-blend florals, geometrics, plaids and stripes. Modern designer Kaffe Fassett is a prime example of someone who has mastered varying fabric scale to create vibrant patterns.

Fabric value introduces another dimension to creating a lively, exciting quilt. Think about walking through a forest filled with beautiful trees. If every leaf, rock and piece of bark was exactly the same color, you would be lost no matter how many different sizes of leaves you found along your path. For example, try incorporating greens with some blue hues to them, some with yellow tones, and even some with black undertones.

If you expand your palette, you'll be amazed at how rich your quilts will look. Besides, it will give you another reason to add to your fabric stash!

The office supply store can help you audition your quilting designs quickly and easily.

Make a sketch of your quilt or take a digital photograph and print it on 8-1/2" x 11" paper. Slip the paper into a clear plastic page protector. Use a fine-point dry erase marker to audition your quilting ideas right on the plastic. Use a paper towel to wipe the marks off until you are happy with your results. Be sure to keep your sheet protector and markers away from your quilt!

You can also purchase clear vinyl at your local fabric shop or discount store for larger designs. Put masking tape around all the edges of the vinyl so that you clearly see each edge. Then lay the vinyl piece over your actual quilt top and use those same dry-erase markers to audition different designs. You can also try transparency markers, which will require water to remove. But be careful...the masking tape helps keep you "in bounds" so that you don't accidentally draw on your quilt!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Antique Tops...To Quilt or Not to Quilt...That Is the Question!

Quilters and collectors across the globe often scour antique shops, flea markets, and even garage sales for quilt tops to add to their collections. Unfortunately, not every quilt top that survived the early half of the century is valuable. Some are in such poor condition that they are better off quilted and used, while others may be better and more valuable preserved as tops only.

If you aren't sure whether to quilt those tops or leave them "as is", quilt historian Barbara Brackman shares these ideas for protecting quilt tops while still enjoying their beauty and grace:

Sew a sleeve to the back of the quilt top just as you would a completed quilt. Use a double-folded sleeve so that the top is protected from the hanging mechanism. Use cotton fabric and thread along with single or double-fold binding and bind the raw edges by hand to prevent them from pulling and fraying. Hang the top for all to enjoy.

To give a fragile quilt top added strength, mount a piece of backing fabric to the top. Base the edges of the quilt top to the backing fabric with stitches that are about 1/4-inch long on the front of the quilt, but are about 1 inch long on the backing side. Then bring the backing fabric around to the front edge of the quilt top to cover the quilt's raw edges. Tack in place using as few stitches as possible.
Donate an antique quilt top in good condition to a museum that has a good textile collection. Curators are often interested in older quilt tops as historical records of past techniques, fabrics, and patterns.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Design Inspiration Is All Around You

From your newly planted garden to the imprint on your new "green" grocery bag, design inspiration is everywhere if you take the time to open your eyes to the possibilities.

Magazines and catalogs are one obvious source of inspiration. But if you're on a shopping spree, check out the illustrations on greeting cards. Don't miss the store window display, or even the greenery in the aisles. The colors a store uses in its logo can give you a new perspective on color value and hue (they probably paid a design professional lots of money to arrive at those colors--use them to inspire your next quilt!)

And as Fathers Day approaches, if you plan to visit a Museum, take along a camera or sketchpad. Many old items have wonderful designs etched into them. Create a sketch or do a "rubbing". To do a rubbing, place a blank piece of paper over the design, then lightly rub over the design with a pencil or even with a crayon with the paper sleeve removed.

Keep a small notebook in your bag and make a note, or snap a photo any time you are inspired!

Keep your eyes open and get inspiration from everywhere, you never know what will inspire you.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Rounding Corners on Square Quilts is Easy

While many of us have taken to producing quilts that will serve as wall art instead of "bed art", it's still helpful to know how to round off the edges of your quilt. This can be especially helpful if your quilt will fall to the floor on your bed, where you can accidentally trip on the excess fabric at the corners of the mattress.

To round off the corners of your bed quilt, first measure the length of the drop from the top edge of the bed to the floor. Next, draw a square on a piece of paper that's large enough so that the square's sides are the same length as the drop to the floor. You can then create a hand-made compass to draw the curve or rounded corner for your bed quilt. Wrap some yarn or string around a pencil, and align the pencil tip so that it is positioned at one corner of the square on your paper. Wrap the remaining string end around a straight pin, and insert the pin into one of the corners closest to the pencil tip (not the opposite corner).

Be sure the string is taut between the pencil tip and pin tip. Draw an arc from one corner of the square, around to the opposite corner. Use this pattern to "round off" your quilt across the border corners. This technique works well for single fabric borders as well as appliqué borders where a twining vine can wander around the corner.