Sunday, August 13, 2017

Kitty Quilt inspection and approval

Three new kitty quilts were dropped off at The Cat Clinic of Chattanooga yesterday. Of course, before they are put to use in the cubbies for the recovering kitties, Jesse the Wonder Cat, the Cat Clinic's king, chief inspector and ruler of the office had to inspect them. "Just doin' my job, ma'am," says Jesse. 
Jesse the Wonder Cat inspects the kitty quilts at The Cat Clinic.
 "Helloooo... anything in here?"
Checking inside and out.
"Let's see about this one over here."
Jesse inspects the three new kitty quilts.
"Gotta check under here, too."
Jesse doesn't miss a thing. He's very thorough.
"This one's got cute animal fabrics..."
Improvisational patchwork with novelty fabric prints.
"I like the flannel. It's soft and warm."
The kitty quilts are backed with flannel fabric.
"Ok. Job complete! What's next?"
Kitty quilts are kitty approved!
The associates reward a job well done with some kitty scratching and food!
Petting time for a job well done.
After inspection, the associates fold up the kitty quilts and take them to the back.
Food time.
"Oh, here comes Cassandra. She's gotta get into the action."
Cassandra joins in after the work is done.
There's always something going on at the Cat Clinic. Jesse, Cassandra and Willie the Super Scooter welcome cat and human visitors alike. The Clinic also has kittens and cats for adoption. Jesse would love for his feline friends to find forever homes!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Built-in zigzag stitches for machine sewn bindings

Built-in zigzag stitches.
How often do you use those built-in stitches that come with your sewing machine? Probably not often.

The vast majority of the time we use the straight stitch for piecing, quilting and sewing seams on garments, accessories and other items. I also use the straight stitch for machine sewn bindings—especially for bindings on charity quilts and sometimes on shop samples. In using up random scraps (my theme for this year it seems) for a few kitty quilts, I decided to use a different built-in stitch on the bindings this time—the built-in zigzag.

Stitch #05 is the "normal" zigzag stitch on my portable sewing machine. I have a Janome. For the first machine sewn binding, I thought I'd give #07 a go. This is a multi-step stitch that incorporates a zigzag and straight stitches.

Working from the front of the quilt, I aligned the straight stitch part of this stitch to drop to the left of the binding—in the ditch. The "zig" (right swing of the needle) went into the binding, and the "zag" (left swing of the needle) went back into the ditch or body of the quilt.

This multi-step zigzag stitch was quite successful. Being a charity quilt that gets washed frequently, I think it will be a bit more secure and longer-lasting (although machine binding holds up quite well anyway).
Machine sewn bindings using built-in zigzag stitches.
It takes longer for the machine to do this stitch because of the back-and-forth straight stitches between each zigzag. The stitch length and width can also be adjusted to suit the application. Consider making a test sample to determine the look you want and to get familiar with the anatomy of the stitch. Learning the anatomy of the stitch will also help when you work the corners of the binding. [Thread Note: 50 wt. cotton (by WonderFil) top thread; 60 wt. poly (Bottom Line by Superior) in the bobbin.]

For the second quilt's binding, I used the basic #05 zigzag and reduced the stitch width. The zigzag straddled the edge of the binding.
Two kitty cuddle quilts.
Left: 26.5" x 29"   Right: 25" x 31.5"
The quilt backings are flannel with a design that looks like paw prints... cute, soft and fuzzy like the kitties.
Kitty cuddle quilts have flannel backing fabrics.
My guild's Cuddle Quilt workshop is in two weeks. I'll have to try other built-in stitches on a few of these quilts. My machine—and probably yours, too—comes with a variety of them!
Decorative built-in stitches that come with sewing machines.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Fabric scraps: Clues in the cutting

Since starting my purging and repurposing episode back in January, I've sorted lots of fabric bits and pieces this year... bags and bins of all kinds of trimmings and leftovers. The scraps are going into quilt blocks for charity projects and lately I'm having fun with improv log cabin blocks.
Improv log cabin blocks from fabric scraps.
Both of my quilt guilds have a community service project, and I also make small quilts for the kitties at the Cat Clinic. Because I'm working with log cabin blocks, the fabric gets sorted by value—darks and lights.
Sorting fabric strips by dark and light values.
In her book, "Clues in the Calico," quilt historian Barbara Brackman provides insight into how to read the "clues" in the fabrics of vintage and antique quilts to identify and date both the fabrics and the time the quilt was made. During my recent fabric foraging escapades, I'm finding clues about the quilters and sewers themselves—and the kinds of projects they made—by looking at how the scraps were cut.

Here's what I mean...
It's a safe guess that these strips are quilt bindings—likely the remaining lengths. They're between 2.25" and 2.5" wide and some were folded and pressed in half. Conclusion: these scraps are from a quilter.
Quilt bindings among the scraps.
This one shows the mark where strips were joined.
The pencil mark for joining the binding.
This larger scrap had an odd shape cut-out. It makes more sense when looked at folded. I'm guessing a garment was cut from this piece. Conclusion: this sewer made garments with quilting cottons.
Leftover fabric piece from a garment.
Here's another symmetrical scrap that was cut with the fabric folded. The project had scallops... possibly an apron or curtains?? The whimsical chicken-and-egg print also lends a clue that the project was something for the kitchen. Conclusion: this sewer/quilter made accessories or items for the home.
Scalloped shape cut on the fold.
Because these trimmings were stuck together—20 or more layers thick—they were all likely cut at the same time. They were also interlaced with a white muslin. The curved shape could be for a garment or another item. It is not clear. Conclusion: these scraps came from a manufacturer's production run.
Manufacturer's trimmings.
For these manufacturer's scraps, I cut them into triangles for half-square triangle units. 
Half-square triangles make good use of scraps. 
I only found one scrap that looked to be from an appliqué project. Generally these fabrics look like swiss cheese with various shapes fussy-cut from a larger piece of fabric. Quilters who like to appliqué also tend to keep their small scraps because they can use them.
Scrap from an appliqué project.

So those are the clues I uncovered in the scraps and the conclusions I've drawn about their backstories. Do they sound plausible? I think there are clues in the calico, and also in the cutting! 

Do you ever do detective work on fabric scraps? If they're not your own personal scraps (or even if they are, our scraps baskets run deep), put on your detective cap and discover (or remember) their past life. And then, of course, repurpose them and send them into the world with a new life!

Below are my improv log cabin blocks that are beginning a new life as Cuddle Quilts. I showed these tops at a recent guild meeting.
Improv log cabin blocks.
These log cabin blocks were paired with a panel. (I really like this one.)
Improv log cabin blocks add length to a horizontal fabric panel.
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