Saturday 20 March 2010

Quilting Adventures in Knitterland
Project 1 - Chapter 1: It's not as easy as one might think!

Warning: long wordy post!

First choose the fabrics.
It's not a good idea to do this in a hurry when the big box store is closing and they want you out of there. Having chosen to do strips and deciding we needed seven fabrics, the variety to choose from was almost overwhelming. But we did choose; you can view our selection here if you missed that post.

Wash all the fabrics by hand and drip-dry them.
I've since learnt (on Ravelry of all places) that pre-washing is a choice. Some do, some don't. I did and both the purple fabrics left colour in the water so perhaps it's well that I did. Of course, after the washing comes the ironing which would have been a lot easier if I hadn't left the fabrics to completely dry.

Once the fabrics are prepared, it's time for cutting.
Before one cuts, it's a good idea to know what one is trying to achieve! For most that means a pattern or at least a design idea. In our case, it meant an hour's chat interspersed with attending to Baby Boy. So now, with pattern/concept in mind, the fabric must be cut.

Cut strips with rotary cutters.
Beginners, who may discover they don’t like quilt-making and therefore don't want to shell out for tools they may never use, may decide to just use scissors. After all, it works for dressmaking! This, my friends, is a mistake! Don't ask me how I know, I might tell you!

Accuracy in cutting and stitching is important.
Seventy strips of fabric are now prepared for piecing. They are not uniformly two inches wide (yes I know the standard is 2 1/2 inches but our design required two inches!) and the cutting is anything but straight. I could say it resembles a dog's hind leg but that would be unfair to dogs! We did our best but our cutting skills are not good.

Of course, straight cutting is essential if one is to sew straight seams but we must have hoped to bluff our way through because we pushed on!

Prepare the sewing machine.
Knowing how to use one's sewing machine is a good idea; having experience to fix little niggles is even better. I have enough experience to sew a test strip to decide on stitch length (which, apparently, should be smaller than the stitch length used for dressmaking - one guide says sixteen stitches to the inch). A test strip was sewed, the stitch length deemed a little too small and another strip sewn. Ah yes, happy with that.

"Did you know you can move the needle position on this machine?" asks DD, the owner of the machine-in-use. After a quick reference to the manual, the needle was moved into a position so that it was 1/4 inch from the edge of the foot (the seam allowance generally used in piecing quilts-to-be). We were ready to go but the bobbin needed to be checked (don't know why). Some more practice of sewing straight seams on scraps of fabric - now the tension is wrong! Tighten the tension, still not right! Loosen the tension - still wrong! (Experienced sewing machine users have already spotted the problem). After more than an hour and with further reference to the manual, it was discovered that the bobbin had been replaced the wrong way! The bobbin was replaced correctly, further adjustments were made (to put it back to the original settings) and more test strips were sewn.

Finally, some 'real' strips were sewn. Two sewn together, then another two, then another two. The first two were stitched to the second two, and the third two added. Finally we had a long narrow nearly-block (it's actually two blocks but the cutting comes later)! It looks good but wonky; some strips are narrower than others. Perhaps pressing will solve the problem.

Press (don't iron) the seams towards the darker fabric.
Do this on the wrong side and then on the right side.

Now this should be easy. After all, one has only to press the iron on to the nearly-block in order to force the seams towards the darker colour. How hard can it be? Well, when the strips are only 1/2 inches wide, it's difficult to get into each seam individually with a standard household iron but eventually the pressing is done and all seams lie in the appropriate direction. Now, flip the nearly-block over and press on the right side. It is at this point that one realises that some of the strips are actually wider than they appear, they have been slightly folded in the process of pressing the seams. The trick is to be able to get that fold out without burning one's hands on the sole plate or with the steam. And who knew ironing (as opposed to pressing) stretches and distorts the fabric? Again, don't ask me how I know!

Who said this was supposed to be easy? Or fun?

I'm off to the large box store to buy a rotary cutter and an acrylic ruler on my way to a knitters’ guild meeting!


  1. Oh, you have give me quite a chuckle for the day/week! You would not teach someone to knit using drum sticks for needles so I am glad to know you are going to buy the rotary cutter and ruler! It will make a huge diff! Keep at it, you will be charmed when you have a pile of blocks all your own!I am proud of you!

  2. I think the slight wonkiness is a most excellent and modern design feature!! And once done, the quilt will be much loved and hold great memories!

  3. If you don't already have access to one, the other essential item you will *need* is a cutting mat (often green). You can get cheap ones at the Rejectshop especially if you are learning and later you can get a "better" quality one maybe for a Christmas present. It's looking pretty good and just think of all the good stuff you've learnt.

  4. I am sure DGS would love it. Just because it is made by Grandma. Now I just know that I will never ever quilt; just like I will never ever spin. :D

  5. kids quilts need to be very washable, yes? so repeat after me " Pre-washing is A NECESSITY" Trust me, almost 30 years of quiltmaking experience and 27 of teaching it speaking here.
    If you want to skip the pre-wash on a wallhanging that may never get dirty, well that's your choice, isn't it ?
    Given the size of my stash, and the amount of time that fabrics can languish there, I want to know for sure that anything I might use has been treated the same as anything else I might use, so nothing gets into the stash except via the laundry.

    and of course other quilters may hold equally valid and opposing views ... but you did ask LOL

  6. Oh I enjoyed this. All good tips. Another good one is measure twice, cut once !

    Can't wait to see how you go throughout your project.

  7. thanx for the chuckle Lynne, brings back wonderful memories of when I first started quilting in the years before rotary cutters and mats.. you have done a wonderful job for your first time.. keep going it will get easier and more fun. lol I love the way you tell the story also.

  8. oh, I didn't know there was a difference between ironing and pressing either!

    Quilting seems (from a non-sewer's perspective anyway) it would be one of those things that gets easier and more fun with time and experience. You are certainly more patient that me!


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