"Feathers for Lorna" is my entry for the Colemore Quilters Christmas Challenge this year. The challenge was to make a 24" piece incorporating our own interpretation of the theme LOG CABIN and to use the green floral fabric 'somewhere' in the quilt.
We had 9 months to make the piece ... so please tell me why I waited until 3 days before the deadline to start making this piece? Amazingly the piece went together very quickly although if I am honest it is rushed and not the best in places.
The background is actually Court House steps blocks but thats still a log cabin right? Getting the right block size to make a 24" piece was interesting too! My math skills have suffered in recent years somewhat but I got there in the end ... or so I thought. In my rush I forgot about QUILT SHRINKAGE! Dah!
Quilt Shrinkage For those that don't know ... quilt shrinkage is normal!
As you make your quilt it will naturally loose inches in seam allowance variation, pressing, quilting and laundering. Your choice of quilting design and the density of this design are probably the most significant factors (assuming you can sew a consistent seam allowance) but other factors like using unwashed fabric with steam pressing (as opposed to dry pressing) will shrink the fabric and the addition of surface appliques and trapunto will also add to the shrinkage rate. Together all of these processes can have a significant affect in reducing the size of your overall quilt top.
How much extra should I allow for my quilt top?
Making a quilt top to an exact size can be difficult BUT if you enter competitions you will need to be aware that SIZE is critical and your quilt can be rejected if it is not within the size limitations of the competition. Often the rules have very tight tolerance too of maybe +/- half and inch.
Experience will dictate to you how much extra you need to allow on your quilt top BUT as a general rule try allowing an extra 1" for every 2 feet of quilt. Sounds alot right ? Believe its not! My piece ended up shrinking 2" with the trapunto, quilting and blocking. So my 24" piece was 22" ... when I layed it down for blocking... aargh!!
.. but don't fret if your top gets too small ..
Fudge factor 1: add an extra border before quilting...
If , like me you forget to make the top bigger than the required finished size ... don't panic and fly into a rage! You have options. First of, if you remember before quilting you can add an extra border. I thought if this but didn't want a border on my quilt so I washed and stretched the quilt a little. I had to wash the quilt anyway to remove the trapunto water soluble thread so whilst it was damp I pinned the piece out and stretched it to 22.5".
Fudge factor 2 : square to the back and batting only...
It was still 1" too small though BUT I had extra backing and wadding all around the quilt top so I squared the top up to 24" on the back and backing only. (Normally I would trim the top down to size as well)
Fudge factor 3: make extra wide binding ...
Now all I had to do was to cut extra wide binding strips. In this case I cut 4" strips instead of 2.5" strips for the binding and I had plenty of width to play with and finish the piece to 24".
I learnt a couple of other things with this quilt too! The feathers are a quilting design I drew up for my sisters wedding quilt a couple of years back now. I have wanted to make an applique of them for a while and I thought this would be a great opportunity to test them out. I enlarged the original design and manipulated the proportions a bit first though. Then I fused the feathers, machined buttonhole appliqued the edges, and trapuntoed behind them.
Learning exercise No 1 .... reduce the FUSE
I really enjoyed the trapunto but I made the mistake of having fusible behind the entire feathers instead of just having it around the edge. As a result they are a little stiff.
Learning exercise No 2..... be PATIENT
Fusing appliques is fast BUT with such a large design (the big applique is 20") there is a problem with peeling back the fuse paper and ironing in place. Be patient! Also watch the edges of the applique. Mine got a little ragged in places as I positioned then repositioned the applique before fusing permanently.
So there we have it ... my challenge quilt 2009
"Feathers for Lorna" (24"x24")
It is SOOOOOO cold here today and the roads are dangerously icy. I am just glad we don't have to go anywhere this morning. Its pj's, cartoons and cookies for us this morning instead!
Today's post is somewhat of a blog reply to a couple of other blogs I follow and the thread amongst them is similiar. Each of them have written about or had things happen to them that they have had no control over.
I'll start by mentioning something I found highly amusing yesterday evening. I followed a link on a craft blog I really love and got a bit of a shock. The link was wrong, or I suspect hijacked, and it diverted to a fairly innocuous porn site. Although I was shocked somewhat I did find it very funny particularly as the 'proper' link was to something very Christmassy and I had a vision of naughty elves keeling over laughing as they played a joke on Santa ... anyway a quick heads up to the blog owner put things right. Now I say I was laughing BUT aside from the fact I know this would have been highly offensive to some people the question I am now asking myself is .... How many of my links have been hijacked? Hopefully none! But, unless I go and check them all I won't know unless some kind person tells me.
inappropriate blog comments
On a similar note I experienced my first bit of porn spam on this Chubby Mummy blog last week in the form of a comment. So I have instigated comment moderation for a while which will stop anything nasty getting posted without me knowing. Unfortunately when I choose my blog name I didn't think about any 'adult' connotations - silly me !
inappropriate google ads
I recently brought the domain chubbymummy.co.uk to start listing my shop items in. As with all new sites there was a short delay waiting for it to be activated and it was parked by the domain suppliers in a holding site with google ads but unfortunately they were porn site ads . Of course you had to click on the ads to go to these sites but non the less I was horrified. Unfortunately at the time there wasn't a great deal I could do about it. A sharp letter afterwards to the domain supplier MAY have helped but I decided it wouldn't be worth the hassle of writing as I only experienced the problem for a couple of hours before the site was activated.
Some of you may have noticed I have google ads on this blog - I don't select the ads - google does that - and on occasion I have seen some odd ads come through - like band saw sharpening when I blogged about rotary blades. Obviously the google algorithm for selecting the ads is based on blog content so I am apologising now if any inappropriate ads come up on this site because I have mentioned the P word, but rest assured IF they do I will be taking action this time!
So lets move away from the problems of unsolicited porn and onto something else ... The POSTAL system ... not blog posting ... real letters and parcels!
A few weeks back I read a blog posting about a lost shipment from a quilt shop. The issue here was not so much about the lost parcel but more about the attitude of the shop owner to it, which in brief was very negative. There is no excuse for a negativity however I would like to respond to this from the shop keepers point of view.
As you know I have a little online shop. I am not a big concern and when I get an order I am ecstatic and jump to the shipping process straight away. A short while back I got an order from a lady in the US at 1.30am UK time. By 9am UK time I had wrapped, packed, invoiced and shipped this order ... it was in the royal mail shipping system and out of my control now! Yep .. it got lost. Well I'll restate that .. the royal mail went on strike and all deliveries went to pot. Now I will qualify by saying in the past I have always experienced good service from the UK Royal Mail and deliveries to the States normally take 5 working days -- which I think is pretty good. So when I placed this particular parcel in the mail I was confident it would be delivered. To this day I have no idea IF the parcel has reached the lady because she has not responded to my email to let me know, although she was very happy to email several times with short sharp (but not rude) emails to advise the item had not arrived after 10 days.
The point is this, both the lady and I choose to accept that the mailing system would work. We both accepted a system that was out of our control.
Now, there were things we both could have done to bring that system more into our control - but we didn't. The lady brought the item and accepted my shipping method. She didn't advise me she needed the item by a certain date or that she wanted (and was willing to pay for) a tracked system. I also accepted the method would work. I don't use a tracked system or a signed for system because it adds significantly to the price. It costs £3.75 extra to have an international parcel signed on receipt. This is a significant adder on a £10 item. It also doesn't mean the item is assured of being delivered BUT it also doesn't include tracking - that would have been £11.25 extra!
The whole issue of mail and shipping is worthy of a separate blog posting maybe to be covered later.
So, todays blog is a bit of a mix but its all about CONTROL. Accepting that some things are out of our control is difficult particularly when you are a bit of a control freak like me but I'm going to follow Yoga Santas lead here and 'chill out' a bit!
Happy Christmas everyone!
p.s as I've been listening to Ricky Tims Christmas in a small Town while I've been writing. You can listen to the whole album for free for 24 hours today - go here to listen. Its a lovely album! Thank you Ricky!
I am actually quite amazed how many sewers do not know how to gain access to the feed dog area of their sewing machine and more surprisingly WHY this is so important. But then if you have never been told I suppose you wouldn't know ..... hence todays tip :
learn how to remove the sole plate and clean your feed dogs
Ok I hear you say ...."what exactly are the feed dogs and where is this plate? "
Lets begin by sewing a simple seam on a piece of fabric. Take your hands off the fabric and let the machine do the work. Do you notice how the fabric is travelling through the machine ALL BY ITSELF ? Well the reason this happens is down to the FEED DOGS. They are used to pull the fabric forward (or backwards) through the machine. Put simply, they are the 'drive wheels' of your sewing machine and without them your fabric won't move (by itself!)
Find your dogs!
Your feed dogs are quite easy to see and locate. Lower your needle and look at the sewing bed where the needle disappears into the guts of the machine. (If you can remove your pressor foot that will help you to see more clearly). Either side of the needle you will see a slot just over half an inch long. Got it? Now raise your needle. As you do a set of ridged teeth should start to poke through the slots. These are your feed dogs. Lower the needle again and watch as the ridged teeth disappear. The action of these ridged teeth - the feed dogs - coming to the surface and then disappearing is all part of the mechanism that moves your fabric through the sewing machine. Amazingly simple really isn't it?
Feed dogs are a much underrated aspect of our sewing machines but the truth is we do rely on them so lets look after them.
The Sole Plate
Surrounding the feed dogs will be a metal plate (on some machines this may be plastic). This is known by several names ... I call it the Sole Plate but your sewing machine manual may call it a Slide plate , Cover plate, Feed dog plate or Pressor Foot plate amongst others. We are going to remove this so consult your manual and discover how you do this. Every machine will be different. Most domestic machines have an easy 'pop-off' mechanism but if you are using a semi-industrial models you may find you have to unscrew the plate in some way. Take your time with this and READ the manual ... you don't want to damage this plate. BUT don't be afraid to do it either .... !
Get out your duster
Right ... once you have removed the plate be ready for a shock! You will looking into the guts of your sewing machine now .. ta dah! and yuck ... see all the dirt and dust and lint build up? Oh yes .. it will be there sure as eggs are eggs and we need to get rid of it! Use your brush from your sewing kit to clean out all those crevices and if you have one get hold of a new clean stencil brush (or household paint brush) and get deep into the machine with it to remove all those stray threads. Pay particular attention to your feed dogs. Look at the grooves between the teeth and the teeth ridges ... often you will see a build of lint that has 'felted' up. Get this out ! Left in place ... it WILL gum up your machine.
I don't recommend using canned air by the way .... it can send lint and theaad further into the machine and can deposit some moisture on metal parts that could (I suppose) start the rust up. Your choice of course but I wouldn't use it. Its just another expense too and nothing that a good brush can't cope with.
So now your feed dogs should be nice and clean. Keep them this way! Depending on how much you sew you may need to give this area a good clean once a month or more. So give your feed dogs a treat ... they will thank you for it!
So to recap : today's tip is:
learn how to remove the sole plate and clean your feed dogs
Today I thought we would start the tip with a little tutorial and take a look at one of the major causes of poor performances in our sewing machines ... its a tricky little devil and one that left unchecked will leave you tearing your hair out as you experience poor tension and thread breaks as well as erratic stitching, noisy and clunky machine motion. Its called LINT!
You have probably all heard the term I am sure and if not in connection to a sewing machine you will have seen it in your pockets. Its that fluffy stuff that seems to come from nowhere ... so just what is it ?
As the sewing thread passes through the workings of the your sewing machine to form a stitch it will be physically tested. It will be subjected to a number of linear and rotational stresses as well as frictional strains. As a result it may begin to weaken. Eventually this weakening can cause the thread to loose integrity and it will start to shred and eventually break. Before it gets to this stage though microscopic amounts of the thread surface may start to peel or break away from the the main strand and it generates something called LINT.
Just how much lint a thread generates depends on a number of factors including such things as the type of thread ( natural or manmade), the thickness of the thread, the length of the spun fibres, how smooth the thread is or just how 'slippy' the surface is to name a few. Dye colour or chemical affects applied to threads also seems to affect a threads linting capacity too.
Some threads are free linters and others are not but if left unchecked it WILL build up and start to play havoc with your machines performance. So my advice is to remove it - regularly!
Lint and the Bobbin Case ...
There are several areas where lint will build up but lets start by looking at the bobbin area.
Take your bobbin case out of the sewing machine and remove the bobbin. Put the bobbin to one side. Now take a good look at the bobbin case itself. Is it free from fluff and loose threads? Well if you have done any sewing at all recently the answer will most probably be NO (unless you have cleaned it already of course!) Get your small cleaning brush that came with your sewing machine and give it good clean out. Use a Q-Tip and wipe out any dirt and dust build up on the back of the case. Look at the thread tension bar on the outside of the bobbin case and check for trapped threads too. Use a pair of tweezers to get any small tails caught in this area.
Then when it is clean just give it the once over again and be happy you have a lint free bobbin!
Look how much lint I found in my bobbin today ... and that was after just one full bobbin of thread had gone through my machine!
So to keep your bobbin rotating freely and to avoid bobbin tension issues clean your bobbin each and every bobbin change!
Hello Chubblyz ... no tip post today ... I'm busy making disappearing nine patch blocks to send to Irish Quilting magazine for the flood relief program they are coordinating at the moment. If you have time they need blocks, quilts and supplies.
If your live stateside you can send donations to Rachael over at P.S I Quilt (who is very talented and has a wonderful blog btw!) and produced the button for this project.
If you are in Europe send donations to :
Irish Quilting Magazine Flood Relief in Action Berowra Djouce Roundwood County Wicklow Ireland
Is anything like this being done for people of Cumbria?
So lets paint a picture .... you have had a great day sewing and everything has been going well ... your on a roll and looking forward to getting your project finished. Just a few more blocks to make and you'll be 'cooking with gas' ...or maybe not. Your rotary blade is beginning to get a bit dull and you find your fabric strips are not cutting cleanly. The top fabric layer might be ok but your having to do a double cut to avoid those tiny pesky litte tie-threads between the lower fabric strips. You really need a new blade but you haven't got one to hand .... aargh!
Don't panic ... do you have a roll of kitchen foil on hand? If you do then this tip will help tide you over until you can go shopping for a new blade.
Take a sheet of kitchen foil, place it on your cutting board and then chop away with your rotary blade .... chop , chop,chop ,chop chop. The action of cutting through the foil will help sharpen up the blade just enough to help alleviate the pesky threads problem. Its not an alternative to getting a new blade I'm afraid but it is a temporary fix!
So todays tip is:
rotary cut a sheet of kitchen foil into small bits to put a temporary edge on your rotary blade
Todays tip is a really a little bit of common sense .... but something we often forget to do.
Stop to take a water break every hour!
Now I am the worlds worst offender with this tip ...but I am now making a very conscious effort to follow my own advice.
As a longarm machine quilter I am use to standing on my feet for long hours and can easily work for 3 or more hours at a time without a break. BUT my body does not thank me for it.... my legs and shoulders will eventually begin to ache, my eyes will hurt, my head might even spin a little and I could even feel a little dizzy. I will also start to loose concentration and may even eventually start to make mistakes. Well if I haven't stopped to draw breath and rehydrate myself is that so surprising? No, of course its not!
A short 5 minute break every hour to stretch my back, neck and shoulders and take on board some fluid is a very simple but effective method to help your body keep in tiptop form and working at its best!
Today it is not just computers and stereo systems that contain expensive electronics ..... your sewing machine, overlocker, embellisher or quilting machine is just as likely to have them too! How do you know ... well if it has a display panel it has electronics ... its thats simple and todays tip is for you:
Use a surge protector to protect your expensive electronic devices
A surge protector is a device to protect your electronic devices from being 'fried' by sudden and unplanned surges in power that are significantly above your usual country voltage level (220-240v in the UK/Australia/Europe, 110v- 120v in the US/Canada). Most electronic equipment is designed to cope with some voltage overage but nothing of any significance so it is best to protect them from the possibility.
A common cause of power surges is lightning but this doesn't account for most power surges experienced in the home. More likely is the sudden demand for power when switching on power hungry equipment like electric kettles, fridges, air conditioners, garden shredders, compressors and motors. These sudden power drains can cause either immediate or gradual damage to components. These together with other possible causes such as faulty domestic electrical wiring or problems with the supply grid equipment can mean an uneven power flow and result in power surges. So protect your precious electronics (sewing machines, computers and stereos) with a simple power surge protection strip. They aren't expensive and are available in many home departments.
I wont go into how they work here but rest assured they will protect your equipment from expensive repairs and downtime. BUT a word of warning ... make sure your surge protector has an illumination light on it. If this light does not light up when you plug it into your mains supply then your surge strip has taken a power hit already and you will need to replace it.
So todays tip again :
Use a surge protector to protect your expensive electronic devices
Its been a blustery old day here in Blighty - very cold and lots and lots of rain - so much heavy, heavy, heavy rain in fact I thought I was going to be marooned in my studio... which would be heaven IF I had a loo in it! So the first of todays tips is (tongue in cheek) a note to self .... make sure you have a wee before you go to work!
On a slightly more serious note I want to chat about NEEDLES today !
If you are new to sewing it is recommended that you change your machine needle at least every 8 hours of sewing. Some people even recommend changing it every project, which is sound advice if you can afford it. In the general scheme of things needles are cheap in comparison to fabric BUT they can be expensive, particularly the ones I like to use ... which is a Schmetz Metallic 80/12. I use this needle as a general all rounder because it is good for general piecing, good for embroidery work like satin stitch and it is good for quilting. It has a large eye, a stiff shaft and a generous groove down the front as well as a reasonable size scarf at the back. The anatomical parts of the needle all have a function and I will come back to these in later posts, but if there is one tip I can give you about needles today ... it is this :
TIP : Choose your needle to suit your choice of thread (as well as the fabric)
In fact I would say that your selection of machine needle in relation to your choice of thread is probably THE key success element in any sewing project.
A bold statement perhaps and one that contradicts popular sewing manuals where we are told to choose a needle that suits our fabric. Well yes .. we do need to consider the fabric as well... you wouldn't want to choose a big heavyweight needle (say a size 18 plus) to sew a fine sheer fabric or indeed a flimsy lightweight needle (size 9) to sew a denim. We may even be told to select a thread that is similar in weight to the fabric BUT we are rarely told to select a needle that suits the thread !
The relationship between the sewing needle, fabric and thead are quite complex but in the simplest of terms all we really want is for the sewing needle to open apart the fibres of the fabric JUST enough for the thread to glide easily through it without making a hole or damaging the fibres of the fabric itself. If we can do this then we stand a better chance of getting a good stitch formation and avoiding skipped stitches and poor tension.
So, take a good look at your needle and your thread. Look at the eye of the needle first. How big is it? Can you get at least 3 strands of your thread through the eye ? No ... the needle eye is too small and your thread will struggle to pass through easily .. even resulting in it fraying and breaking.
Now look at the shaft of the needle and find the groove that runs down the front of it. When the needle is in the machine this groove will be facing you. Thread your needle as normal and look to see how the thread lies in the groove. Does the thread sit comfortably in the groove? No... your needle is too small for the thread and the needle will not be able to carry the thread smoothly through the fabric. This may result in the fabric puckering or even skipped stitches as the needle is unable to create a wide enough passage for the thread to pass through. The stitch formation will not be good and you may even experience tension issues. To avoid these problems, try a larger needle.
So .. lets recap ... if your needle has an eye large enough to take 3 strands of thread AND a groove deep enough to allow the thread to sit in it you have made a good needle choice. The needle will now pierce your fabric and create an opening between the fabric fibres just the right size to accommodate your thread and allow it to glide smoothly through.
So todays tip again is : Choose your needle to suit your thread (as well as your fabric).
Yikes.. we are on the run up to christmas already so that means its time for me to do a special project! If you were following my blog last year you would know I did a project 'Santa of the Day' project photographing one of my tree ornaments each day for 24 days. (I collect Santas to put you in the picture). Well this years project will be a little bit more crafty. I hope to give you 24 hint and tips about some aspect of sewing. Could be quilt related, might not be ..not sure yet .. I haven't planned out the whole 24 days! Could end after a few days even but anyway let us begin today with a tip about 'mucky irons'. Watch the video of me (without laughing please)to see my sterling tip about using HOBBRITE!
After doing the vid I read the back and it looks like Hobbrite is a UK brand only. More info here at their website. However I am sure similiar products exist in the US and overseas. It is a very gentle cleanser that removes burnt on residue. (Not burnt-off as I said in the video - der!) I use it on my glass hob and on the glass door and base of the oven and it works beautifully to remove burnt on crap without scratching the surface. So I thought it would work for the iron ... and yes it does - without too much effort either! Sometimes I cant believe how smart I am!
So to clean your mucky iron use Hob Brite for sparkling clean hobs AND IRONS!
btw ... my family and friends are sure to disown me when they see this attempt at a home-grown video! Sorry peeps! Its just a bit of fun of though ... filmed using photobooth on my mac!