Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Simplicity Bias Tape Maker - tutorial

Someone asked me to post a tutorial on how to use the Simplicity Bias Tape Maker to make quilt bindings, and I'll be happy to, because I don't know what I ever did before this thing. I've seen some bad reviews on Amazon for this thing, but when it's whirring away and I get to go change my presser feet and get set up for some binding while the machine does the dirty work, I'm glad I ignored them.

The first thing you have to do is buy an extra tip. The machine does not come standard with the binding sized tip, so buy yourself the 1 1/4" binding tip.

The preparation for the binding is pretty standard. Calculate how many WOF (width of fabric) strips you'll need and cut as many 2 1/2" strips as you need.
Sew them as shown in the next pictures...

and trim.
The outcome should look like this...

 When I use the bias tape maker, I don't even bother to press these seams since it will be done by the machine as it's folded. So, just roll the binding onto the spool...

 Feed the lose end through the binding tip.
The first few times, this is going to be a pain. Undoubtedly, you will need to use a pin or your seam ripper to pull the fabric all the way through.

 Attach the tip to the machine and place the fabric filled spool in its holder. Remove the hot-plate cover, lay the fabric along the track and make sure it goes past the roller, then replace the cover and snap it into place.

 Flip the red switch to "on" and wait for the "ready" light to come on. The green light will let you know when the plates are hot enough (just like an iron heating up). Then, when it's ready, just hit the "run" button and watch the magic happen. A small caveat; it may take a few times before the tip is adjusted well enough that seams will go through unassisted. Until that happens, you may need to help with a slight tug every time one of the seams goes through the tip. But, after the first few times, you should be able to walk away when it's running and get on with more quilty business.

 And, in the end, you will be left with this lovely pile-o-binding.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Design for "Second Chance" quilt

So, last night I sat down and worked with the design from my first quilt, trying to update the design into something I would want to make again. I thought that since many of the more modern quilts have larger blocks of color (but I'm limiting myself to black and white), I would just see what the blocks blown up would look like...

It's hard to photograph white in my house after the sun goes down... and it's winter in New England; the sun's always down. So, imagine the taupe areas as white... and these things are still dead boring. So, I moved on.

I thought that I would really like to use circles, but I didn't want applique, so I moved to drunkard's path block thingys. Again, imagine white...

Cute enough and I might actually do it one day, but it did not look in the least like it was inspired by the pattern from my first quilt, so I scratched that and started over again. And landed on this... 

I think it definitely looks like it was inspired by this... (mostly because it was)

I think that once it's together (with actual white -- fine, I'll let it go), it will look more dramatic and vibrant. Oh, and thanks Quiltography for making the design process relatively painless. Now I just have to see if Quilt Pro 5 can give me templates for 10" drunkard's path blocks or if I need to break out the protractor and poster board.

Monday, January 27, 2014

My next project...

I have been bogged down for the last week or so and haven't wanted to set foot in my sewing room, but I think inspiration has struck. I was looking for something to do with the black and white fabric I'd been accumulating (mentioned that here) and I think I've found it. I am going to give myself a retry at my very first quilt.

Thirteen years ago, I sat down at the sewing machine for the first time in my life and made a king-sized monstrosity of a quilt...

I used poly batting, barely quilted it, and just kept adding borders until it reached the size I wanted. I think I am going to try to give this design a modern twist... and do this quilt again. It will be fun to hang them up side by side and see if I've progressed as far as I like to think I have. Now I want to leave work immediately and go home and sew. Luckily, I always have graph paper handy for when design inspiration strikes - is it 5pm yet?

Friday, January 24, 2014

Another gift from my neighbor

If you read my blog, you might remember that my 90 something year old neighbor is cleaning her house and decided to give me her sewing things as she runs across them. This is great because she's promised me a couple of 100 year old quilts, when she gets around to the cedar chests they are in. But so far, I was given this sewing box a couple of months ago...

Now, she's given me a lot of appliquéd stars that her aunt made before she passed. I love the fabrics and assured her I could do something with them which made her incredibly happy. 

But when I got home and looked at the stitching... I had some second thoughts. They are not very well constructed.

The points are a mess and I just can't take them all apart and redo them, but I'm committed. I've been thinking that I might be able to appliqué a circle or something over the offending part in the center. And since the hand-appliqué class I was supposed to take today was cancelled, I need something to practice on anyway. I thought about sashing them and making her a lap quilt out of these, but she keeps her house at a balmy 85 degrees all winter, so I'm not sure that's the best option. If any of you have suggestions on how to fix the structural issues or, in the bigger picture, what to do with 42 of these 7.5" stars, I would appreciate any feedback.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Unwanted Advice

When is it ok to give another quilter advice? I'm really struggling with this.

Honestly, if you see something that I could be doing better or know of a technique that will take my quilting to the next level - for the love of all things good, TELL ME!

This leads me to a quandary, because I can only assume that not everyone feels this way. I know that stitching in the ditch, every single seam (ESS, known as EFS when I'm frustrated), before doing the free motion quilting makes a quilt not just better looking, but shockingly so. If I see someone not doing that and it shows, is it ok to let them know that there's a better way?

I didn't learn to hand-bind a quilt until a couple of years ago - 10 years after I started quilting. Crazy, right? Hand-binding looks a million times better than machine binding. And while I do use machine binding for some baby quilts that I know will be in and out of the washing machine a few hundred times, doing it hurts my heart a little. I wish I'd learned hand-binding the day I bound my first quilt. Is it ok to suggest that people learn how to do it?

I think what all this boils down to is a misconception that I used to have as well - that the quilt top is the only important part of a quilt. I used to think that when I finished a top, I was pretty much done... now I know that I am, at most, half-way through the process. A beautiful top cannot stand on its own - the rest of the construction is just as important.

When we post pictures of our latest creations online, we are usually fishing for compliments rather than opening ourselves to critique. But, I would like to say that I welcome any advice anyone has to offer... it doesn't even have to be surrounded by praise, like we have to do in our writing groups. :-) I may cry a little, but if it will help me - please tell me. If I'd have had people giving me specific and helpful advice 13 years ago, who knows how great my quilts would be by now?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Social Media and Quilting

Quilting has always been a solitary activity for me, until this last year when I started getting involved with other quilters on social media. There are two guilds here in Boston. One is large but meets in West Roxbury, which if you're familiar with our subway system, might as well be in New York. The other doesn't seem to do a lot: I technically joined but don't see where they've done much. So, as most of us introverts have done in the last ten or so years, I've turned to the internet.

I've even found an active group for male quilters. There is a website that I joined about a year ago, but I'm not a fan of threaded discussions and I'm pretty lazy when it comes to my internets. So when a group started on Facebook, I pounced. I check Facebook every day anyway, so it doesn't take up any more time than what I already waste. If you're a guy quilter, be sure to check out the Men Who Quilt or Quilting Men Facebook pages - two popped up at close to the same time and there's a lot of cross-over. If you're not a man and want to see what the guys are up to, follow #menwhoquilt on Instagram. I always forget to add that to my posts... but there are others who are not as scatterbrained as I am.

But, in the end, the world of quilting is a woman's world - as Mary Fons reminded us in her Modern Quilt Guild presentation - and I'm just grateful you all let me tag along.

The best thing that social media has done for my quilting is helping me keep track of time. Because of Instagram, I know that the quilt I made for my next throw pattern took over a month to make. I designed it on Dec 9th, finished the top on the 15th, started quilting on the 21st.... and didn't finish until a month later.

Facebook plays a part too. I used Excel to design this on January 15th and had it done on the 20th. It actually took only 15 hours of straight work from first cut to tying off the binding thread.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Over-run By Animals

I think I am quilting too many animals lately, but I've realized that selling quilts is not a viable business model. I'm sure anyone out there could have told me... if I'd bothered to ask. So instead of selling quilts, I'm trying to sell more patterns. Most of us can look at a quilt, immediately see the structure, and sit down with a piece of graph paper and know how to replicate it in about a minute and a half. Because of this... I'm sticking pretty close to the animals. They are harder to replicate and I know that if I wanted a baby quilt, I'd be willing to pay a few bucks for someone else to have done the initial legwork. So, for now, I am vying to be King of Animal Applique.

Also, I am taking my first class this week. I've been quilting off and on for 13 years and have never had a reason and the opportunity to take a class right when I need it. Usually, I have to learn how to do something on the fly and need the information as quickly as I can get it so I find the information on the internet or in a book. But, when I came up with this design...

and decided that I wanted to use hand applique on it, I realized I've never actually gotten around to learning how to do that. On Thursday (impending snow storm willing), I'm going to go sit down with an actual teacher and learn how. This way, someone can hear me when I whine, "But, I just don't get it." Look out, Cambridge Quilt Shop. Assuming I can slog through the snow, I'll see you ladies on Thursday.