It’s time to revisit a blog from the past. If you remember correctly at the end of 2016, I was very concerned (and still am) about the current state of quilting. Shops are closing, please buy local, yada, yada, yada…
In my anxiety about preserving quilting, one of the last items I mentioned was that every quilter needs to teach someone else how to quilt. My happy to say that my local guild has a mentoring program for folks that come in and want to learn to quilt or learn to quilt better. This is important to keep the art alive.
However, I have a very special reason for wanting to pass the “quilt gene” along. Neither my daughter or daughter-in-law have expressed an interest in quilting. This has been distressing me, because I’m a sixth generation quilter and I was wondering if I would have anyone to leave my machines and stash to when I’m called to That Great Quilt Bee in the Sky. However, I’ve been blessed with two granddaughters. My youngest is Ell. She will be three in May.
And this is my oldest, Evangeline.
Evangeline just turned four. She has always expressed a desire to sit on my lap while I sewed. So we did just that. She’d sit on my lap and touch the start and stop button on the machine. She’d raise and lower the pressure foot. She’d depress the needled down button. She’d rummage through my scrap box and lay her “quilt” out on the floor and move pieces around until she got it “just right.” She’d ask for a Ziploc bag to take some “stash” home with her to play with.
In short, this is a little gal after her Mimi’s heart and soul. I promised her when she turned four, I’d get a machine for her that was all hers. After we celebrated her fourth birthday, that was the first thing out of her mouth. “Where’s my machine, Mimi?”
The apple definitely did not fall far from the tree with this one.
Let me explain this process. I did not want to get her a toy sewing machine. They’re great, but the manufacturing folks really don’t make those like they did in the forties and fifties when the machines would literally last for generations. They don’t sew well and usually only do a chain stitch. I knew Evangeline would get discouraged with that, especially since she’s seen what my Janome 7700 can do. So, I purchased her a real machine.
I chose a Janome Honeycomb.
It’s small – even the pedal is the right size for her foot. It has a drop-in bobbin, so we don’t have to struggle with a bobbin case. We tried it out this week and she is smitten. I’ve got to make a few adjustments, but we’re good to go. The first thing she wants to make is a skirt. I know, it’s not a quilt, but you start where they want to. Evangeline and Elli will be staying with me quite a bit as their parents are moving in the next few weeks, so I plan to take them on a field trip to a local big box store with fabric. I have a simple skirt pattern (two pieces). I want her to pick out her fabric, the notions, and her own sewing basket.
We do have rules. She’s to never use the machine without me. And while she’s sewing, I work with her only. She must wear tennis shoes. They don’t slide, the toe is closed, and despite the fact that I’m diligent about picking up stray pins, you never know when I may miss one. I cut the fabric – she’s not to touch my fabric scissors or the rotary cutter. At least for now.
There’s nothing like teaching someone else to sew and quilt. Especially when that someone is your granddaughter.
A thought occurred to me as I am in the middle of three or four different projects… in everything I have written and taught about quilts and quilting, I have never, not once, discussed the subject of pins.
Pins are one of those sewing items that everyone needs, regardless of what they’re making. I know quilters, crafters, and seamstresses that declare either they don’t use them or rarely use them. I’ve never known why they say that with such an air of pride. In my mind, pins do more than hold the fabric together as you feed it through the machine. To me, they cut down on any errors you could possibly make. I always pin my nested seams together before I sew them. It prevents any slippage, so my corners always meet nicely. If I’m sewing long, skinny strips together, such as in a log cabin quilt, it keeps the edges together and straight. So, I’ve never been quite sure why some seamstresses and quilters don’t see the need for pinning their projects.
There are roughly six major types of pins on the market. The one that’s most widely available are the dressmaker pins.
Don’t let the name fool you. These can be used just fine in quilting, too, although they aren’t my first choice. These vary in length from 1 1/16-inches to 1 3/8-inches. Dressmaker pins can be found nearly anywhere – dollar store establishments, grocery stores, big box craft stores…you name it, they’re generally in the same aisle as the laundry supplies or general sewing notions. They play well with a variety of fabrics. However, like shoes, you get what you pay for. While they’re always going to be on the inexpensive end of pins, the cheaper ones are coarser and the business end of the pin may not always be ground to a sharp point. They are also larger in diameter and may leave a visible hole in some fine cottons or delicate fabrics.
My “go-to” pin when I’m piecing are the pins designed specifically for quilting.
Quilting pins are longer in shank than other pins, which makes them perfect for paper piecing. Typically, they are at least 1 ¾-inch long, which means they work well when pinning all three layers of your quilt together. Some brands have heavier shanks than others, so be sure to test drive several brands before settling on a favorite. Some have the typical “ball head” but others can have T-heads or small plastic disks that are shaped like butterflies, flowers, etc. I like the ones with the disk because these plastic parts are large enough to write on with a fine-tipped marker, meaning you can use them to indicate such things as row one, block 3 (R1,B3) or left and right. The points are generally very sharp and go through cotton fabric easily.
Silk pins are another pin that quilters may want to consider, especially when piecing fine cotton fabrics, such as Liberty of London.
These are usually 1 ¼-inch long, so they fall between dressmaker pins and quilting pins. They were originally designed to use with silk and silk-like fabrics, which means they are smooth and the shank is very slender in diameter and they have super-sharp points. If you need to use these, make sure you get the nickel plated, hard steel kind that won’t rust. I love to use these if I’m piecing blocks that have lots of small pieces.
Ballpoint pins are another kind of pin you may want to consider using.
Like dressmaker pins, they have a larger, coarser shank and they come in several different lengths. The ball point is the factor for consideration with these pins. The end is not sharpened to a super-fine point, but is slightly rounded, making them ideal to use with knit fabrics, since they separate the fabric threads instead of piercing them. I would not use them with fine cotton fabrics because of this fact. The separation of the fabric threads may cause “runs” in the cotton material. However, like the dressmaker pins, they’re not my favorite to use in quilting. Their saving grace is that they are widely available. This means if I forget my pins while I’m on vacation, I can find these or the dressmaker pins at the local grocery store.
The last two pins are specialty pins, but I seriously could not do without them. The first specialty pin is the applique pin.
These are easily identifiable, because the shank is smaller both in length and diameter than any other pin. Applique pins are generally no longer than ½-inch in length and can be smaller in diameter than even the silk pins. For years applique enthusiasts used sequin pins (small pins used for pinning sequins on to Styrofoam forms to make Christmas ornaments), but these have a large head on them, which meant your applique thread was constantly getting tangled around that end of the pin. Clover came out with a tapered head on their pins’ heads, which prevented any tangling. Karen Kay Buckley has also developed an applique pin with an even thinner shank than Clover and is slightly longer, which makes it perfect for larger applique pieces. If you love applique, but dislike the glue-basting, some of these pins are worth the investment.
The second specialty pin that I absolutely must have on my sewing table and in my sewing basket, are glass head pins.
I was introduced to this engineering marvel years ago, when I did a lot of lace-shaping for my daughter’s French Heirloom dresses. These are long and thin in shank, like the silk pins, but the head is indeed made of glass. What’s so special about that? Well, the glass head means that it doesn’t melt under a hot iron. Some aspects of quilting are like lace-shaping – you pin the fabric down and with lots of steam and a hot iron, you force it to take the shape you need it to take. Specifically, I’m think of Celtic Quilts and vines and stems and basket handles in applique blocks. If you use a quilting pin with a plastic head, that plastic could melt on the fabric and ruin your work. Glass head pins won’t. They’re one of the most expensive pins on the market, but gosh, if you applique, they are more than worth the investment.
My final statement about pins: Don’t sew over them. That action can break a needle or damage your bobbin case. Stop before the pin gets under your sewing machine needle and remove it.
I did make two purchases this week and those weren’t fabric! However, they are quilt-related. From some of my Christmas money I bought these new Kixs….
And I ordered Bonnie Sullivan’s new book.
I know it was published in 2016, but I just got around to buying it. I looked through it this week and my mouth watered. Now I want to make all the things….
Let me update you on my latest adventure with Santa’s Loading Dock. My knee is better. I’m out of my brace, the pain is minimal (except at the end of the day), and I still am using my cane. I have planned my background and am cutting out my squares. Hopefully by Sunday evening, I will have the background together.
I did manage to email the pieces I needed enlarged to my local Office Depot. In the notes part of my email, I told the nice folks there that I knew that some of the pieces would be on reallllllyyyyy large pieces of paper. So, a few hours after they received my email, I got a call….
“Ms. Fields, do you know just how large some of those pieces are going to be?”
I assured them I did….sort of.
Here are the window and the continents. The sleigh took four….FOUR…pieces of paper the same size as the paper the window is printed on. This thing is massive. I came out of Office Depo $38.00 poorer, but it’s well worth it if this quilt works out. I still think we’re going to have to re-do the timeline and put the floor on sooner than the book calls for just to make sure the whole thing comes together proportionately.
Still working on snowmen and Farmer’s Wife blocks….and need to finish the border of my President’s Challenge. But first I need to make up my mind what I want to do with it.
Let me preface this blog by plainly stating I am a list maker. Before I go to bed every night, I make a list of the things I need to get done the next day. It’s the last thing I see when I go to bed at night and the first thing I see when I wake up the next morning. It keeps me focused and crossing all the items off makes me feel accomplished.
I’ve done this for years and this system works for me. It may stress other people out, but I’ve done this little exercise since I was in middle school. I like getting things done. However, this week I’ve been a little hamstrung in more ways than one. If you’re a regular reader, you will remember that back in August of 2016, I pulled a tendon in my left knee while walking across a perfectly level, dry floor at the Teeter (my local grocery store). Well, a couple of weeks ago, I pulled the same tendon AGAIN either loading my sewing machine in the car or unloading it at class or at home. And no, it wasn’t Big Red (my Janome 7700), it was the small Juki I use for teaching, classes, and all day sew-ins.
So it’s this….
For at least three more weeks. Coupled with ice and heat and not being on my knee more than about 45 minutes at a time. Needless to say this doesn’t fit into my lifestyle at all. I’m not getting enough done and what I can do is taking forever. The only thing I’ve got going in this situation is that my cane is leopard print.
I did tell you folks about the Snowman Challenge my quilt group is undertaking. You take a traditional 6-inch block and put a snowman in it somehow. I did get three of these done this week. I’m using white wool for my snowmen so that the background fabrics don’t show through. I think they’re kind of cute and it really is wonderfully creative.
And then there’s the Halo Medallion. I did get the first floater, the setting triangles, and the second floater put on. I plan to work on the half-square triangles tonight.
I’m still working on the Farmer’s Wife Quilt. I’ve nearly got all the blocks done.
Meanwhile, let me give you an update on Santa’s Loading Dock. I have all my blue fabric picked out for the background. At some point this weekend, I have to cut them into 6 ½-inch squares and sew them into the background for the globe. Lisa and Linda have finished theirs, so I’ve got to catch up.
We did discover, after we worked up our timeline, that you really need to make the background and floor, and at least have the sleigh and window printed out so you know where to place the continents. The struggle has been to enlarge these pieces as much as the pattern calls for (which is sometimes as much as 200%). Much of my morning was taken up with this battle.
I knew that however I decided to enlarge my pattern, it would be easier if I had my book spiral-bound. So I headed over to my local Office Depo this morning at 10:30, book in one hand and cane in the other. I hobbled over to the service desk and a nice young man told me he certainly could put the book on a spiral, just stand right there and he’d have it back to me in a few minutes.
The key words here are “stand” and “a few minutes.”
Right now, neither do very well for me. I’m not sure what happened in the process, but it took an hour to get that spiral put on the book because one of the machines kept malfunctioning. I had to stand the entire time because there was nowhere to sit. When me and my bum knee finally got out of there, the pain was overwhelming. I didn’t dare ask about enlarging the patterns because I was deathly afraid something else would malfunction and I have to stand another hour.
Needless to say, the pain medication has been my best friend this afternoon.
If all goes well, I’m heading back to Office Depot tomorrow or Sunday and get what I need enlarged and continue to work on the Loading Dock. If this is a precursor to my Year of Fearless Quilting, it should be a wild 365-day trip around the sun.
So yesterday I met with my support group for this little project.
We all know that challenging quilts are more fun when you have someone who is goingto be just as confused as you are at any given point by your side. With that in mind, Linda, Lisa, and I met yesterday to plan our strategy for Santa’s Load Dock. We all had read the book, Lisa had drawn out the globe, and Linda had her background already complete.
Let me mention at this point (least you feel that I was not keeping up my end of the deal) that Lisa and Linda do not work. Please feel free to contact my husband if you feel I need to retire in order to properly support my fellow quilters.
It’s going to take about 27 months to complete this project. Keep in mind that all three of us have other quilts under progress during this time, so SLD (Santa’s Loading Dock) will not be the only quilt under construction. Mary Buvia, the quilt designer, only took a year to make her masterpiece, but I have a feeling that SLD was the only project she was working on during that trip around the sun.
I have decided that this is going to be another one of my stash busters. I may have to purchase more red fabric for the left side of the quilt with the reindeer names, but I think I have enough of everything else to seriously deplete my fabric supply. I love this quilt because it does use so many colors, yet it fits together seamlessly.
In this year of “Fearless Quilting,” I feel that SLD will be my biggest challenge. If it works out well, it will also be one of my biggest rewards. I plan on blogging about the progress of the quilt and my support group.
In the meanwhile, I have the second set of directions for The Halo Medallion.
I have some great ideas for my Snowman Challenge, but haven’t had the time to execute them.