Every few months or so---usually when the season changes---I get the bug. The itch. The compulsion, no, the need, to make something new. And not just anything new: a quilt. Or something with fabric. It has to do with the little bursts of color textiles add. But it also has to do with the process itself. I love almost everything about making quilts: shopping for just the right fabrics (there are some quilts I have shopped for years for, looking for just the right pieces; I have two, right now, that I'm shopping), picking out colors and patterns and seeing how they work (or don't!) with each other, finding or making a pattern, cutting out the pieces, piecing everything together.
Maybe the only thing i don't like about quilting is pinning stuff together.
It's satisfying to me, seeing how the pieces come together to make something larger. Viscerally pleasing, seeing the quilts being used. Over time, batting and fabric and thread gather memories to themselves, and a quilt becomes something more than just a thing that keeps you warm.
Still, they take lots of time, and there's also the fact that Kendell is always annoyed when I'm working on something ("how many *~&#$# quilts do we need in this house?"), not to mention the expense ($10 a yard? For cotton? Seriously?), so quite often, I try to resist my compulsion. Or just restrict myself to something smallish, and fast. When the bug hit two weeks ago, I decided I needed something new for my little display in the kitchen. Here's one view of the finished table runner:
(Quilts are hard to photograph, by the way. Either they're skewed because of the angle you shoot from, or you can't get the whole thing in. Or you have to rig up a complicated contraption to hang them from. I haven't figured out a perfect photographing-quilts application yet. Let me know if you have.)
Every new sewing project is an experience. Sometimes, it's because of who I'm sewing for. I haven't, for example, blogged about my last spate of sewing, which happened in late April, but it resulted in my friend Chris seeing the hidden symbolism in her gift, an ah-ha moment that reminds me why I value our friendship so much. Get my quilt, get me. ;) My latest sewing adventure, though, brought me a different sort of ah-ha moment, of the sewing-skills variety. A few of them, in fact, namely:
the intrinsic speediness that is the Charm Pack. Charm packs are precut, 5x5" squares bundled together. You get at least one of every piece in the line. I've never used one, mostly because I usually work with flannel (no fabric manufacturers seem to realize how much I need more flannel but that is a different post) and because I tend to design my own patterns, which get a little wonky when it comes to the sizes of pieces I need to cut. But the Charm Packs are awesome. Since you get so many different pieces from the same line, everything works together but in a scrappy sort of way. Plus, everything is pre-cut, so you can start sewing immediately and nothing is accidentally, how-did-I-do-that cut in the wrong size. Not to mention it's a cheap way (about seven bucks) to get a whole bunch of different fabrics without having to buy much yardage.
the severely awesome awesomeness of Spray Adhesive. Remember I said I hate pinning? Putting the "quilt sandwich" together (the quilt back, the batting, the quilt top) is my least favorite step of the entire quilting process, because I really do. Hate pinning. Plus, I can never get it completely smoothed out, so there aren't any puckers. And it never feels tight enough. But the spray adhesive? Totally awesome! You spray the quilt back, then smooth the batting over it. Spray the batting, then smooth the quilt top. Voila! Everything is adhered and non-moving, tight enough, not puckery at all, but without the annoyance of pins. When you wash the piece for the first time, all the spray adhesive washes away. My new best friend. Well. My new best quilting friend.
the goofy satisfaction and obnoxious sense of pride over finally, finally mastering the quilt binding process. Now, I have to preface that statement with this one: I can do a fairly decent binding. I get how to piece the binding together with diagonal seams. I don't have to re-read about turning the corners every time I work on a new quilt. What I've struggled with, though, is how to connect the beginning edge of the binding with the end. On past quilts, the results have been pretty ugly. Even though I've read about it several times, I just couldn't get my mind to grasp it. Who knows why this time, the lightbulb went on. But it did. Here is how to sew the beginning of your binding to the end of it, without cutting the fabric too short or too long:
1. Make sure to leave a good 10-12 inches on each end of binding that is NOT sewn to the quilt yet.
2. Lay the start of the binding so it is flat along the quilt and parallel to the rough edge.
3. Lay the end of the binding so it is flat along the quilt and parallel to the rough edge.
4. Where the end meets the beginning, fold the end piece back upon itself so that the fold is butted up against the beginning edge. (At this point I am thinking...I should have taken pictures to explain this better. But I also didn't really believe it would work, so yeah: lack of faith in my quilting abilities = no photos.)
5. From the folded edge, measure a length that is equal to the original width of your binding (before you folded it in half and ironed it). Make a mark with a pin or a marker or whatever. (I used a Sharpie. It doesn't matter, because it won't end up in the finished quilt anyway.) My binding started out as 2 1/4" strips, so that was what I measured.
6. Cut the end of the binding at that length. Really, you can do it. It will turn out just fine.
7. Turn one edge of the binding on top of the other edge, so that the right sides are together, but match them up the same way you do for a diagonal seam. Please note: unless you're fond of your seam ripper, you should double check right now that the binding has the RIGHT SIDES together. Trust me on this one.
8. Mark the diagonal line and sew along it.
9. Cut 1/4" away from the diagonal line you just sewed.
10.Untwist the binding and lay it flat along the rough edge of the quilt. If you measured right, the binding is now the exact length you need. Finish sewing the rest of the binding to the quilt, then attach the other edge as you see fit. (With smaller pieces, I don't handsew the binding to the back of the quilt. Instead I use the machine to sew it to the front. Not as pretty, but way faster. No one will notice because no one is going to be snuggling underneath it. Since it's not really a quilt, see?)
11. Do a little happy dance! Feel inordinately proud of your sewing skills! Don't pause to realize you have no idea why this works. I mean: Why is the width of the original binding the magic number? And who figured THAT out? Is there a geometry formula that explains it? Geometry was one of the classes that turned me into a taker of Prozac, so maybe I was just spaced out the day they explained quilting applications for geometry?
From start to finish, this tablecloth took about four hours to make. With something this small, I even dared to quilt it myself, albeit with mostly straight lines. (My machine just is not big enough to freeform quilt anything that's much bigger.) I washed it the next day (love the crinkles you get from washing and drying!) and now I just need to decide what to put out as a fall-ish display on top of my new piece.
My quilting compulsion has been quieted. For awhile. I did see a piece of witchy fabric, though, that continues to haunt me. Maybe a Halloween quilt (a real quilt this time) is in order. But not for a few more weeks, lest the dulcet tones of my sewing maching drive my husband bonkers...