Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Everything Plus the Girl

Drum roll, please...oh heck, forget the drum roll and bring out the trumpets! This week, after 6 months of designing, piecing, gluing, fusing, embellishing and quilting, the freshly blocked garrison quilt was squared, trimmed, bound, sleeved (is that a word?), titled and labeled.

Then, for the last time, the girl came out of her drawer. By Tuesday afternoon, she was gliding up the cobblestone path to the castle garrison. (Did you ever try to glide on cobblestones? :)

Hanging from a makeshift rod that sagged in the middle. I have no real way or place to hang this quilt, which is roughly 43 x 54. Notice the 24-inch ruler hanging from the pegboard.

First, though, she was hand-basted through countless layers of fabric and fusible to keep her firmly in place for free-motion machine applique. Otherwise, her skirt could easily have ended up out of alignment with its shadow, and (horrors!) her entire body could have leaned to one side.

The main challenge was the thickness of the fabric. Counting the girl's 3 to 4 layers, there was a total of up to 10 layers of fabric under the needle. Not even the darning foot in its highest position was high enough. Time to go footless.

If you've ever done that, you know the fabric bounces with each up-and-down motion of the needle. This causes skipped stitches--especially with mono-poly thread, which I was using on top. (Note: my Janome dealer advised me to use mono-poly only when truly necessary. This is the first time I've used it on this machine. Sulky brand is very fine and flexible, unlike the old 'fishing line' mono-poly.) To counteract the bouncing and protect my fingers, I tried using my smallest embroidery hoop (not shown), but it wasn't close enough to the needle to stop the bouncing.

Then I remembered these little guys:

Honestly, I've never liked them very much for their intended purpose, which is clamping around a rolled quilt at the machine--they're too little! However, after knotting 4 rubber bands around one of them, it became a nice, grippy 3-inch 'hoop,' holding the fabric down reasonably well around the needle AND giving me a hand-hold, which helped keep my fingers away from the needle. Pushing gently down on the little hoop also helped me slide the fabric on the machine bed during the free-motion applique.

And now she's ready for her close-up, Mr. DeMille:

Stock photo from MarjoleinART on

She actually looks much more padded than that, as she has her own batting under the dress and hair. The next photo, while a bit blurry, captures the resulting texture a little better:

Below is the back (obviously) of the quilt...
Yardstick at bottom. Sagging rod at top.

...and the label:

The title popped into my head as I woke up the other morning.

The photo that inspired the quilt, taken by VVHH (very versatile handy husband), was shown in a previous post; here it is again:

As you can see in the label photo, the railing and yours truly were digitally removed. Later, the cropped figure of Marjolein (shown next to the close-up of the girl, above) was dropped into the scene. By the way, in case you're wondering, her face is absolutely lovely!

You may have noticed by now that the embroidered shrubs shown in this photo were not included after all. There were several reasons for that, but they'll be used in later quilts. As quilters know, nothing's ever wasted! That goes for landscape quilting, too.

A couple of goodies from the Universe this week:

Five yards of a gorgeous cotton-poly blend found in storage downstairs. Probably been there about 4 years, and totally forgotten until now. It's the perfect fabric for the joining strips I'll be needing for the quilt-as-you-go blocks.

A purple plastic-netting bag my friend Kathy brought me the other day. It came with onions in it (or maybe shallots)--and a portion of it fits beautifully over this 5000m spool of thread.

Okay, I've just got to do this cropped version of The Visit before I sign off.  :)  (By the way, for those of you who haven't visited here before, the title of this post, Everything Plus the Girl, is a sequel to a post months ago, titled Everything BUT the Girl.)

Linking up here with Sarah Craig's Whoop Whoop Friday, where she has had two big finishes this week. Also hooking up with Leah Day's FMQ Project Linkup, where her lovely Quilt Me fabric from Spoonflower has arrived. She has some other good news, too.

Signing off for now. Everyone have a great weekend. We're having our Dogwood Festival here this weekend, but they're everywhere, along with so many other gorgeous blossoming trees. Enjoy!


Friday, April 4, 2014

On a Roll

This week the garrison quilt's wide outer border was quilted in what Leah Day calls 'Gentle Flames' stitch. It did not begin well.

As mentioned previously, this quilt is far too large and stiff to bunch up under the machine. It had to be rolled like a log--and it seemed as heavy as a log. Five minutes into stitching the left-hand border, it was clear that continued 'free' motion would be impossible for anybody but Hercules.

Even a programmed decorative machine stitch requires a back-and-forth motion to stitch correctly, so that idea was out. I could just imagine what a puckered, distorted mess that would make--and I'd have to go around the entire quilt several times to fill the border.

What to do? Despair crept into my mind. Would this have to go to a professional longarm quilter for finishing? Surely not! What I needed was a way for this 'log' to roll back and forth while I stitched, instead of having to be dragged over the table and the vinyl-covered ironing board.

And then for some reason my eyes lit on some wooden dowels standing in the corner. If, during ancient times, boulders and large stones were moved great distances by rolling them on logs, why wouldn't the same method work for a measly little quilt?

In front of the machine
Behind the machine

Of course I had to stop every few minutes to rearrange the dowels (and paper-towel cores), but still; what a difference! After nine hours (over the next three days), the border was finished. 'Gentle Flames' gradually morphed into a sort of tree-bark effect, but that's fine for a woodland quilt.

In the photo above, you can see why my next step was blocking. There was considerable warping on that far side, and a bit of it in the interior, as well. Below, on the photo at right, I've circled the problem areas. All of those needed to be shrunk out as much as possible, so the quilt will hang smooth and flat.

Pinned and ready to block

First smoothing with a mailing tube 

That was yesterday, and I left it overnight to dry. This morning it's still not quite dry, but wow, what a difference already! The interior warping (which is mostly on tree trunks, so no big deal) is almost gone...

...and that really wavy section of border (circled below) is practically flat!

Instructions for blocking a quilt can be found in most landscape quilting books, and probably on the internet. The tools are: carpet or a thick rug, a flannel-backed vinyl tablecloth (turned flannel side up), an old sheet atop the tablecloth, quilt wrong side up, lots of T-pins, a damp towel (I used to use a handkerchief, but there's just not enough moisture in it), a spray bottle of water, and a hot, dry iron.

If your quilt is small and your design wall is moisture- and heat-resistant, you can do this vertically, and save a lot of knee and back strain. But as sore as I am today, there are no regrets, and you can see why by the 'after' photos above.

On the old Singer 403, more quilt-as-you-go blocks got made this week. As the scrap fabric pile grows smaller along with my choices, my combinations get crazier. There are 9 blocks to go, so I may have to invade my batik scrap drawer, although I'd rather save those for landscape quilts.

(These are cropped photos, not squared blocks.) They're fun to make, but because there's no place to put the 403 in the studio (yet), it's set up in the dining room. This is shared space, and for obvious reasons I usually wait for these popular sun patches to disappear before pulling a chair up to the table to sew. That cuts out most of the morning. Oh well. The things we do for our furry children.  :)

Mokie, Morticia and Zoe

Time to hook up with two of my favorite blogs and check in on their reader linkups as well: Leah Day's FMQ Project Linkup and Sarah Craig's Whoop Whoop Fridays.

Have a great weekend, and enjoy all the signs of spring--which is apparently coming after all!