Some fun places to visit

Google Reader is my library for escape when life uses up all my time and there’s no time for quilting and art. The internet is an incredible tool that gives us the thrill of being able to enjoy these great techniques through these talented artists. So, I thought I’d tell you about a couple of blogs that I follow that have wonderful creative masters. The first is Blue Moon River by Susan Brubaker Knapp. I’m sure you’ve seen her name and work if you’ve ever opened a Quilting Arts magazine. Take a trip over to her blog and see her blue bird feathers and what she’s doing with them.

Another really great blog is Painted Threads by Judy Coates Perez. Her work is also often highlighted in Quilting Arts. She has done some great things with sewing aluminum craft metal and painting fabric to make ornaments and plaques. I have to login to my Quilting Arts emagazines and read more about this over the weekend.

The nice thing about reading about all these techniques is that reading about them doesn’t clutter my space. There’s enough clutter already – and reading and daydreaming is so much fun. 
 

On the frame and off

Blogging has taken a back seat the last few weeks. Perhaps I should explain. Our oldest granddaughter was born with a brain tumor called a hypothalamic hamartoma. Her tumor was 1-1/2 inches in diameter. While this is classified as ‘benign’ — it’s effects are not benign. It causes gelastic and dacrystic seizures, both of which can progress to more serious complex and tonic clonic seizures over time. For many children, these seizures – although lasting only seconds sometimes – can occur up to hundreds of times in a day. This inability to focus will eventually cause cognitive delay. For our granddaughter, the seizures are very brief lasting only seconds and occur 40-60 times per day. The majority of her seizures are the dacrystic type which cause crying and sadness. She does still have gelastic or laughing seizures too. She was four years old in December and has already had three brain surgeries which have resulted in the removal of all but a few remnants of the tumor. And now, the time will soon be here for a fourth surgery to remove those remnants. That has been on my mind, and although I’ve been quilting, it’s hard to write about anything.

She’s a very sweet and happy little girl except during these brief episodes when the sadness overtakes her. Lately, when there’s a lot going on around her and things get noisy, whether it’s her preschool classroom or at home, she will announce, “Inside voices, please.” Other times she will tell us, “I’m not all right.” We hope you’ll keep her in your thoughts and prayers. The surgery will be in May, near the end of school. The photo below was taken in January when she was clowning around with the glasses from her doctor’s kit.

Ezri 01-2011

You can find more information about this disorder at http://www.hopeforhh.org and also about Ezri by following the Caring Bridge link in the right column. 
 

My Take on Tips for Accurate Cuts using the Accuquilt GO

Many of the questions that come up about using the Accuquilt GO have to do with how to get accurate cuts and what to do when your cut is just a bit off. I want to address some of those questions. Since we all have our own way of doing things, I’m sure I won’t answer them all nor will the answers satisfy some of you–but I’ll try. Many of these suggestions would also apply to rotary cutting, so if you don’t have a GO yet, give them some thought when you’re using your rotary cutter.

Many of the Accuquilt GO users are new to quilting and thus, some of the information below is basic to quilting methods. This is information and support you would likely get if you are making your purchases at a local quilt shop. However, many of you don’t have a local quilt shop or only have a JoAnn’s or another chain store or the internet for fabric purchases. The GO is sold primarily at shops like JoAnn’s where the discount is greater than local quilt shops can afford. If you buy from JoAnn’s or the internet, then you will have to search online for support. There are many videos on Youtube. I have a few which are listed in the Instructions tab above. You can also look for Ebony’s Quilt Possible and LoveBugStudios videos. Some of her videos are for the Studio cutter, but many are for the Accuquilt GO. The best place to find videos is on the http://www.accuquilt.com website.

Be sure to read through all the tips as they’re all applicable and there is no particular order. This is my take on cutting with the Accuquilt GO. Others may have different advice. Read everything you can and then develop your own methods that work for you. Remember, it’s the process and the challenge that make it fun. Life isn’t perfect and neither are 1/4 inch seams or fabric grains. 

1. Prepare your fabric first. I always wash, dry, and steam press my fabric before cutting. This is something I learned back in the days when the dyes were not fixed as well and there were very strong smelling chemicals in the fabric from the dyes. In that era it was imperative to wash and dry fabric first, and it became a habit for me. Washing and drying helps the fibers settle into the weave and takes some of the stretchiness out of the fabric. I find the cuts don’t fray as much and my cuts are much more accurate.  

1. Make a test cut. If your die is new, you may want to take a piece of paper and then measure the paper that you have cut with a ruler to be sure the die itself is accurate. If it is, then make a test cut with the fabric you are going to use and make the same measurements . 

2. Make a test block. Would you make cupcakes for 1000 people before testing the recipe first? The same thing applies to cutting out a whole quilt before making a test block. Yes, it takes extra time, but “measure twice and cut once” is the old saying. Measure the pieces before you stitch them together and then measure the finished block. Did the block come out to the expected size. If not, can you adjust your seam allowance so that it does come out to the expected size? If not, can you adjust the block size for the whole quilt?

For example: when I make 6 inch pinwheels from 3 1/2 inch half square triangles, my blocks (matching centers and corner points) come out best when I take an ample 1/4 inch seam. Thus, my blocks come out at 6 1/4 inch which is less than the expected size. So, I square them up to 6 inches which is the expected finished size. My finished size then becomes 5 1/2 inches. It means that the sash length has to be adjusted. If I were setting them differently, I might have to make other adjustments. All of this wouldn’t matter if I didn’t want perfect pinwheels, but I do want perfect pinwheels.

3. Not all fabric is created equal. Accept that not all pieces will cut to exactly the same size based on the fabric you are using. The fibers that are used in fabrics are variable as is the thread count. Batiks have a high thread count and a hard finish because of the wax used in them. I get the most accurate cuts from batiks. Sometimes the highest quality quilting fabric has a little more give and the cuts are a bit more variable. Do the fabric preparation you need to do and remember, quilting is so much more fun when we learn to accept this variability and work with it.

4. Cut on the lengthwise grain when possible. The lengthwise grain has less give and will stretch less as it goes through the roller. Try to cut on the lengthwise grain when you can. That is not always possible and that is all right. Just learn to work with it. This is much more important for dies that are squares, rectangles, and other shapes (like double wedding ring and drunkard’s path) than it is for the strip dies.

5. Mark your dies. This allows you to be sure you are cutting on the grainline. Cutting on the grainline – either lengthwise or crosswise  – is far less likely to have off-size cuts than cutting on the bias. I find that a black Sharpie works very well for this. The silver Sharpie is bought seems to rub off on the bottom layer of fabric even after many, many cuts. Others have not had this problem – but test on one die before marking all your dies.

6. Learn to ease the seam so the beginning and end match. It is quite easy to ease in 1/8 inch for pieces 2 1/2 inches and larger. Remember, you are working with fabric, not wood; and fabric has give. You can use a stiletto or chopstick or anything that helps you hold those ends together. Nothing means more to me than a flat, square quilt top. Making sure each block measures the same size is the way I achieve that. Easing the pieces into the blocks makes sure that the triangles all have nice points into the corner seams.

7. To starch or not to starch. I don’t starch until a block is made. I find I can’t ease my seams as well when the pieces are starched. However, some people do and that is their preference. Thus, no advice from me here except to try it both ways and see what works for you.

8. To use paper or not to use paper. I do not use paper when cutting. My cuts are good, so there is no reason to use paper. For those who prefer not to wash and press their fabric first, this may be necessary. Again, this is a suggestion from some, but there is no advice from me except that you can try it both ways and see what works for you.

9. Number of layers. I always use six layers unless I have a fabric with thicker fibers and it won’t go through the roller. Never force a die and six layers through the roller if it doesn’t go with medium pressure. Back off and use fewer layers and remember to cut all of that fabric with fewer layers. The number of layers that go through the die with medium pressure gives me nice cuts.

Happy Quilting! 
 

Happy (^^) Day

I so much wanted a heart in the title line and tried alt-3 on my keyboard, as that should give me a heart symbol – but it didn’t work. Also tried the ampersand code (♥) and that didn’t work. WordPress must be a different encoding style and there’s not enough time to look it up. Oh well. . .it was a nice little challenge to start the day.

Cleaned up the studio over the weekend and got my mojo back again. For Valentine gifts, I used KarrieLyne from Freckled Whimsy‘s pillow tutorial on Madame Samm’s Stash Manicure blog for throw pillows which I made for the grandchildren. They love to read and pillows are nice for lounging while reading. The embroidery machine was very useful in this endeavor. Each child got something on the front of their pillow that is “just right” for them. That was a lot of fun. The little girls came over yesterday and were thrilled. Will have to finish the ones for the boys and get them in the mail this week. Here’s a pic of all four of them before being stuffed with a pillow form:

Valentine pillows for the grandchildren
 
 

Some photos of the past week

I haven’t posted anything all week – in the beginning I was feeling uninspired – and at the end of the week I was at a conference on Alzheimer’s Research and Care at Duke University. Not once during the conference did anyone mention the Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative, but I do want to mention it here as it is a wonderful cause. I was so impressed with the research that is being done in the field. I am sure there will be a cure for this devastating disease.

While I was spending my week feeling uninspired by quilting and inspired by Alzheimer’s research, Sherry was busy quilting away. She’s been working on instructions for these projects for the Slap Happy Quilters and for you–and I’ll help finish them into final handouts next week.  All of these were cut with the Accuquilt GO. We made all but the second one into kits at our last quilt retreat, and Sherry’s been working on them.

Mother's Color Blocks
Mother's Color Blocks 2
Brick Ripple

Double Rail Fence
 
 

SewCalGal’s Tutorial for Creating Accuquilt Applique’ designs in EQ7

SewCalGal created this tutorial during the holidays, but it’s great information for those of us who already have Spring Fever. This will show you how to create applique designs in EQ7 using the Accuquilt dies.

Insights From SewCalGal: Tutorial: Creating Applique’ designs in EQ7 using AccuQuilt Dies.

There are some wonderful Accuquilt dies that will allow you to create beautiful spring designs. One of my favorite designs is the Butterfly Garden Quilt, but I also love the Heart of my Heart Quilt. You can follow these patterns — or if you’re feeling adventurous, create your own.

Heart of my Heart Quilt

GO Butterfly Garden Quilt 
 

Single Irish Chain Instruction Sheet

Sherry Gray and I have been working on instructions for constructing the Single Irish Chain quilt. Sherry put the instructions and pictures together and I formatted and added the Accuquilt GO instructions to it.  I cut and Sherry stitched together this beautiful Single Irish Chain quilt in green. Click the quilt and it will link to the instructions.

Single Irish Chain

And Sherry’s been busy writing instructions for other quilts too. . .

 
 

Two New Quilt Designs

I am just catching up from last week. Not only did we have a blog hop, but I had a terrible cold and got very little done. One of the things I did while I was “resting” during my cold was some hand piecing. I used the Accuquilt GO to cut some 3 1/2 inch half square triangles, and I marked them and stitched them while “resting.” They were absolutely perfect. Since I’m not much of a hand piecer, my success at joining one finished triangle square to another triangle square wasn’t great. I later took them to the machine to make pinwheels, and the centers were perfect. All of this is truly encouraging me to piece triangles–something I’ve stayed away from for most of my quilting life. My philosophy has been that if it can’t have perfect points, then don’t do it.

I have designed two new quilt tops with the triangles I’ve been piecing. People often ask how one comes up with designs. For me a quilt top design is often the answer to a question. For example: I had a lot of triangles. Did I want to accept the challenge of having them meet in the middle in a pinwheel block? How would it work if I stitched them together in a row across the block. What if the finished block isn’t exactly square or one side is a quarter inch shorter? After hand piecing, I’m certainly not going to throw anything away. So, these are the blocks for using my triangles–you can see that I added a small strip border around each block which allows me to size the block up or down just a bit so they are all the same size in the end:

And these are photos of what the two quilts would look like:

Buttercup lap Quilt

Pinwheel Lap Quilt