Sunday, April 30, 2017

A vintage and yarn-dyed fabric mix jacket—part 2

Vintage improv jacket.
On this last day of April, I'm listing this jacket in the "Finished in 2017" column. Yay! Here is Part 2 of the process for making this vintage and yarn-dyed fabric jacket. Read about the inspiration and fabric prep in Part 1.

As a quilter, I often incorporate quilting in my garments. Jackets especially lend themselves to this process. I learned this "quilted garment" concept from a fabulous folk artist, instructor and friend, Rachel Clark. Check out Rachel's work and patterns on her website, "Clothing for the Body and Soul," and social media sites for inspiration. She makes amazing pieces!

Three Layers
This jacket is "quilted." It has three layers with stitching to keep the layers together. It has (1) a pieced front, (2) a piece of flannel in the middle, and (3) a silk lining fabric—all sandwiched together. It is machine quilted with straight lines using a walking foot. Stitch length = 2.8mm - 3mm.

Choosing Threads
For the style of this jacket, I thought a cotton thread with a matte finish was appropriate. I wanted a little color and contrast to the creamy yarn-dyed woven and a color palette that would complement the colors in the patchwork.

I chose a WonderFil 50 wt. variegated cotton (Tutti #TU14) with a soft color palette of grey, lavender, yellow and moss green. (This is one of my all-time favorite variegated thread color combos and one of the things that drew me to the WonderFil line of threads.) The bobbin was also a 50wt. cotton (WonderFil Konfetti #KT306) in a soft blush color that blended nicely with the color of the jacket's silk lining.
Auditioning threads for quilting.
Quilting and Assembly
Because of the woven windowpane pattern in the fabric, it was easy to keep the quilting lines straight and parallel (no marking!). I've been told that the fabric looks like a pinstripe from a distance.
Straight line quilting with the walking foot.
The jacket pieces—left and right fronts, back, sleeves—were quilted before jacket assembly. When I brought this piece to a recent quilt guild meeting, one of my guild friends asked if I cut out the pattern pieces larger to accommodate the shrinkage from quilting. This is a good idea! 

When I plan to quilt a garment, cutting the pieces slightly oversize, quilting them, and then trimming the quilted pieces to the pattern piece is my process. This project started off with another direction in mind, so were not cut oversize. However, the parallel lines of quilting did not cause the pieces to shrink excessively, so it was fine. The flannel (middle layer) and the silk lining (back layer) were cut larger than the front pieces. The larger layers can be seen in the photo below.
Quilted jacket fronts.
Here is the jacket back with straight line quilting. The parallel lines were randomly spaced (again, no marking!). A large zigzag design was quilted on the patchwork insert.
Quilted jacket back with patchwork insert.
The collar was interfaced, faced and turned, but not quilted. The outside edges were top stitched.
Patchwork collar with vintage fabrics.
Here is a view of the quilting from the jacket's inside. The silk lining fabric makes is easy to slip the jacket on and off.
Quilted jacket lining.
Neck and front facings were cut from the yarn-dyed woven. They were tacked down by hand to the lining.
Improv patchwork collar with vintage and modern fabrics.
This jacket is going to Spring Quilt Market with me this year. I'll be meeting with the President of Diamond Textiles and hope to find Mary Kerr on the show floor to show them both how I was inspired by them, their product and techniques.
Vintage Improv Jacket. 
A 2017 finish! Hope you enjoyed reading about the process.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

A vintage and yarn-dyed fabric mix jacket—part 1

Jacket collar detail: a vintage and modern fabric mix.
Another vintage fabric revival!

The inspiration from a recent workshop with author and quiltmaker Mary Kerr that my guild hosted, continues to infuse my creative path. The workshop was called "A Wonky Star, Improv with a Vintage Twist," and it offered techniques and ideas for using, reviving and upcycling vintage textiles into modern quilts.

For this project—a jacket—I paired vintage fabric bits and orphaned 4-patch units with a lovely textured yarn-dyed cotton from Diamond Textiles. This creamy textured cotton fabric is PRF-715 from the Diamond Textiles Primitive collection. I think the yarn-dyed and the vintage make a perfect couple. Don't you?

I've documented the process with photos which will be posted over two blog posts. Let's begin.

The Jacket Pattern
I have a go-to pattern for my jackets. It's Simplicity 4826 (an older pattern that you probably can't get anymore but I mention because people ask). I've got this pattern fitted to my body and I've created several neckline variations, sleeves and jacket fronts for it over the years that I keep in the pattern envelope as well. I also write notes with dates (when I remember) on the pattern pieces, so I know which front or sleeve I used for which jacket. Putting dates beside this information is very helpful—especially when it's been awhile since the pattern was last used.
Jacket pattern: Simplicity 4826
Fabric Prep
The vintage textiles were soaked (washed) by hand in a sink with Vintage Textile Soak. They were air-dried and then pressed.
Soaking vintage textiles.
I tried to keep the patchwork intact as much as possible to preserve the original quilter's handiwork. However, depending on the fabric combination (if it fit the project's color palette) or if the pieces had narrow or frayed seam allowances, the patchwork was dissected and re-stitched.
Examining the pre-washed vintage pieces
It was interesting to see the hand and machine stitching on the vintage patchwork. This quilter used a "backstitch" to secure the threads.
Backstitch by hand to secure the thread.
Working with yarn-dyed wovens
The yarn-dyed fabric, silk lining and flannel (center layer) were also pre-washed and machine dried. I always pre-wash and pre-shrink yardage if I'm making a garment. It's just good policy.

With yarn-dyed wovens, there is no "wrong side" to the fabric. So, you can use either side for the public-facing side of your project/garment. Although the woven pattern on this fabric is geometric, there was a slight difference in the look and tone of the textured windowpane pattern from one side to the other. I marked the side I preferred as the "front side" with a piece of painters tape... to make it easy to remember.
Marking the "right side" of the fabric with a piece of tape.
Improv Piecing with Vintage Textiles
The initial plan was to use the vintage fabrics to create a back yoke for the jacket. Strips of the yarn-dyed woven were improvisationally pieced with the vintage 4-patches.
Possible improv patchwork yoke.
I was not satisfied with how the patchwork looked as a yoke, so it was turned into a lapel/collar. I made a second similar piece to complete the pair—one left and one right lapel.
Improv pieced collar with vintage textiles.
For me, improv piecing is fun. I decided to take the leftover collar trimmings and other vintage bits to make something for the jacket back.
Improv patchwork insert for the jacket back.
The vintage fabrics were auditioned (left) and then a patchwork strip was inserted into the jacket back (right). In the next blog post, I'll talk about the quilting, threads and finishing. Stay tuned.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Annual Easter egg dying—what's your favorite?

Clear off the kitchen table... get out the big box of 96 Crayons... fill the mugs with water and vinegar. Let the egg dying commence!
Prep for the annual Easter egg dying session.
As busy, complicated and chaotic as life is these days, we always schedule time to color Easter eggs. For us, this is a much-needed break from technology and the other go-go-go work-related activities. We get to spend quiet time together, unplugged, just doing something as simple as putting color on hard boiled eggs. Coloring eggs for Easter has become a great tradition at our house.

This year, Larry said he found a new technique for egg dying. Supplies required: a leaf, nylon stockings or panty hose, and a twist tie. For the fabric dyers out there, this is a shibori resist dying technique.
Larry prepares the clover resist for dying.
Larry used a clover as the resist and the process worked quite well. The veins in the leaves and the stem were quite pronounced.
Two eggs using the leaf resist method.
I worked with my crayons and drew free-motion quilting designs on the eggs. I found a metallic lime green in the crayon box that got good results. Rubber band resists is also an easy technique that works well. And if you can get the brown eggs, they offer a warmer undertone and beautiful darker nuances to the otherwise bright colored dyes. 
Free-motion quilting designs and rubber band resists.
It's fun and relaxing to be creative and crafty by using one's hands on such a simple activity. At the end of the night, we alway wish we had boiled more eggs.
Colored Easter eggs: which is your favorite?
So, which is my favorite egg this year? The resists yield great results. The FMQ designs are a nice surprise to the recipients of the eggs. I'm drawn to the colors that are achieved from the brown eggs. But the forever classic "baseball egg" is the favorite because this is the one Larry always makes. And, he's MY favorite.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

When washing vintage fabrics, watch out for the rebel blue

When washing vintage textiles, beware of any unstable dyes.
My fellow guild members and I are excited about our upcoming visit from author, award-winning quilter, and vintage fabric rescuer, Mary Kerr. Mary's doing two workshops and presenting a lecture and trunk show this Friday and Saturday. Mary's quilting forté is all about incorporating vintage textiles with today's fabrics to create something "modern with a vintage twist." (Or vintage with a modern twist—however you choose to look at it.)

In preparation for the workshop, I decided to soak my vintage quilt blocks and textile fragments so they were free of any "vintage" dirt and dust. Even if vintage fabrics don't have an odor, you might be surprised at the dirt that's embedded. I was!

First, I filled the sink with tepid water and added a Vintage Textile Soak washing powder (ask YLQS for this).
Soaking vintage quilt blocks.
As the sink began to fill, I added the vintage pieces, gave them a little swish, and began to watch the water turn grey and grungy. After a few minutes, I pulled them out, squeezed the excess water and refilled the sink.
Soaking vintage quilt blocks.
The instructions that come with the Textile Soak product said the textiles can soak for 4 to 24 hours, or as needed. Mine did not have any stubborn stains, so I let them soak for about 5-10 minutes for each wash. I actually had two batches of blocks going simultaneously so as I worked with one batch, the other was soaking. It was 3 or 4 soaks before the water was clear—except for the batch with this blue one!
Vintage quilt block with unstable blue dye.
The dark blue fabric with the white dots had an unstable blue dye. Even with two additional baths using Synthrapol, it continued to bleed. (Nope. Not going in my project!)

The pieces dried out in the sunshine on a terry towel. It didn't take long.
Drying the vintage blocks outside.
A little pressing and I'm ready for the workshop.
Vintage Churn Dash blocks ready for a modern twist.
I just have to decide on my background fabric.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

My guild doesn't disappoint: more improv blocks

Back in February, I donated a grocery bag full of discontinued fabric swatches to support my guild's Cuddle Quilt community service project and use them for the hands-on meeting program, "Making Do." In March, several guild members returned with improv strips, blocks, a quilt top and even a finished quilt! I belong to... THE. BEST. GUILD. Here is some of what we saw at Show and Tell.
Improvisational patchwork with fabric samples.
We suggested to the members not to trim their blocks. We'll size and trim once a quilt layout is determined. 
Framed squares.
Framing blocks with coping strips will facilitate making the blocks a uniform size.

Experimenting with various improv techniques.
Here are two scrappy blocks and two smaller improv pieces.
Improv blocks and scrappy patchwork blocks.
One of the guild members said she experimented with all the techniques that were presented at the February program.
Improv strips and log cabin strips.
 This is one of my favorites—a triangle block.
Make it a triangle!
Gari (left) finished a scrappy Chinese Coin quilt and Vista (right) completed a quilt top with alternating scrappy and solid quilt blocks.
A finished Cuddle Quilt and a top ready for quilting.
I am thrilled that the fabric swatches are blooming into these fun and useful quilts. And, my guild friends are having a fun time with improv piecing, colorful scraps and running the fabric under the presser foot.

Improv with a Vintage Twist Workshop 
Mary Kerr's award-winning quilt, "A Wonky Star."
Now I'm culling my collection of vintage quilt blocks and fragments in preparation for "A Wonky Star: Improv with a Vintage Twist" workshop with Mary Kerr.

The Choo Choo Quilters and the Chattanooga Modern Quilt Guild are hosting Mary for two workshops and a lecture, this coming Friday and Saturday, April 7 and 8.

There are a few spaces in both workshops and the lecture is open to quilters and non-quilters alike. Contact me if interested.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Quilt bindings: Do you stitch the miters?

Do you stitch closed the miters on a quilt binding? 

There's no way out of it...
(unless someone else does it for you).

Either you love attaching binding or you tolerate it because it means your quilt is almost finished.

Binding: cutting binding strips and attaching them was one of the topics in the "Viewpoints and Q-points" panel discussion at the February ChattMQG meeting. There are probably as many variations for making and attaching bindings as there are quilters:
:: single fold
:: French (double) fold
:: attaching by hand and machine
:: attaching all by machine
:: with piping
:: with a faux piping or flat piping (this technique has various names such as "Magic Binding" or "Reveal Binding," etc.)
:: fused binding

... not to mention the various methods for joining the beginning and ending binding tails as well as faced bindings and other edge-finishing techniques. Whew! Quite a smorgasbord.

One detail about bindings that I posed to the panel members as well as the audience was, "Do you stitch the miters closed at the corners?" In judged quilt shows, among the many things that judges may look at is the quilt's binding. Is it straight? Is it filled to the edge with the batting? And... are the miters stitched?

How did our foremothers do it? The miters on
the corners of this vintage quilt are stitched closed.
For me, I DO stitch the miters closed (tack them down, or sew together, if you will). However, since there was such an interesting reaction to this question, I decided to ask others in the quilting community and here's what I found.

Results from the Poll:
Not many ChattMQGuild members stitched the miters closed. The reasons cited include:
  • don't think it's necessary; 
  • hadn't really considered it; 
  • don't want to take the time.
My students who took Beginning Quiltmaking with me said they do stitch the miters. (It warms my heart that they were paying attention in my class.)

Certified quilt appraiser, Holly Anderson, stitches her miters closed. She cited the following reasons, "... [stitching the miters] does have a practical purpose. It holds the corners together better and keeps things from getting caught in the binding and pulling it loose." She added this helpful tip, "You can also correct some not-so-perfect cornering with the hand stitching."

Modern quilter, Carolyn Friedlander, stitches the miters closed only on the back side of the quilt in one of her online class. When asked about the front side, she replied, "I don't stitch up the miters on the front, but you're welcome to do that if you'd like."
The corners on this antique quilt
are stitched down but are not mitered.

Three fabric representatives who are quilters each responded differently:
  • I stitch the back miters.
  • Not very often [do I stitch the miters together].
  • Nope [I don't stitch the miters].

I then contacted Cathy Neri in Quilt City USA. She is a member of the Visitors Service Team at the Paducah Convention and Visitor's Bureau. The CVB has a rotating exhibit of wall quilts made by professional quilt artists from around the world. Cathy examined the quilts in the current exhibit and relayed the practises of the artists:
  • Jenny Raymond, "Shine Down," 2006,  mitered corners, stitched front and back.
  • Marla Yeager, 1998, "Collide-a-Scope,"1998, mitered corners, stitched front and back
  • "Mariner's Compass" with no label/date/ID: mitered corners, stitched front and back.
  • Helen Marshall, "Carnival," 2006, has curved corners (no miters needed) and bias piped binding.
  • Helene Davis, "Big Blue Marble," 2007, no binding. This on is faced on all sides.
  • Linda Lasco, "Grandma's Stars" (from a Timna Tarr pattern) no date, mitered corners and stitched front and back.
  • Laura Wasilowski, fused quilt (no date, no name): fused, fold-over edges then decorative stitched.
  • Untitled work (unknown maker, no date), mitered corners but left unstitched front and back.
  • Caohagan quilt by a Polynesian artist, 2015, mitered corners stitched by hand on the back only.

And finally, Instagram friend, Tiffany Horn of @villageboundquilts posted my question to the online IG quilting community about tacking down the miters. I compiled the feedback in this pie chart.

Compiled responses from the InstaGram online quilting community
from a post by Tiffany Horn of Village Bound Quilts.
Again, the methods for attaching binding were diverse. Some quilters indicated that they chose hand or machine depending on the quilt's recipient or the quilt's use. If the binding was attached all or partially by hand, the miters were more frequently stitched together. What does this tell us?

Individual IG comments that I found interesting:
  • "... For show quilts, always blind stitch mitered binding corners closed." —@dianavanderyar
  • An interesting idea from @mamasan_gerber is to use a double needle when machine binding. "... It gives a nice front look and the zigzag back catches all, so no stray openings." 
  • "... I sew down the mitered corners when hand binding, not machine." —@prettypiney
  • "... I also sew the corners closed front and back... judges tend to like that!" —@quiltedblooms

So, there you have it... responses, insights and different approaches from various pockets of the quilting community about whether to stitch the miters closed on a quilt binding. Have you found this insightful?

Thank you. I appreciate everyone's input and help in gathering answers to this question. A few IG readers said they appreciated getting a look into other quilters' processes. We can learn things from each other all the time. I'll end with this comment from @sharon_drummond, an open-minded quilter on IG:

"... I don't stitch up the corners though I'm rethinking after reading responses." 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Pairing yarn dyed wovens with the Midi Bag

Cutting 2.5" squares of yarn dyed wovens from Diamond Textiles.
I've been working with fabric scraps lately. And although I love the randomness, serendipity and discovery process of improv patchwork, I also enjoy a project with more structured parameters—and one that is quick to make with a known end-result.

Enter the Midi Bag, the middle-size bag from the popular Mondo Bag series by Quiltsmart.

I've made both the Mondo and Midi bags before. They are spacious, stand on their own (they have a flat bottom), and anyone—even beginners—can be successful making one. So with an extra interfacing kit which I bought at one time but never used, I decided to put it to use with these lovely scraps of textured yarn dyed wovens from Diamond Textiles.

One of the advantageous features of a yarn dyed fabric is that there is NO "wrong side." So, if need be, the "other" right side can be used and will act like another fabric in your scrappy project.
Right side and the "other" right side of a yarn dyed fabric.
After fusing the 2.5" squares into place on the gridded fusible interfacing (BTW: this is a perfect project for 2.5" pre-cut strip sets, too), a decision about the handles had to be made.

I had a few longer strips of Diamond's brushed cottons in this color palette, but when I pulled yardage of a stripe from Diamond Textile's World Fabrics collection, it gave the bag a little more interest and the color contrast (note the blues and turquoise hues in the stripe) it needed.
Stripe from the World Fabrics by Diamond Textiles.
Had I thought to use the stripe at the onset of this bag project, I would have interjected some squares of the stripe. At this point, un-fusing and un-stitching was not going to happen. Alas, those are the twists and turns of working serendipitously with scraps.

Another thought was to appliqué a strip of the stripe to the outside. Let's audition.
Auditioning the stripe on the body of the bag.
Too much? I think so.
The handles have an inner lining of a yarn dyed woven
and the outside is the stripe.
Learn to edit, edit, edit.
And, make a note for next time.
Midi Bag with yarn-dyed wovens.
The finished bag lets the yarn dyed fabrics shine in their own glory. 

Mark this project "Complete!" and take it on the road.
Completed Midi Bag with yarn-dyed wovens from
Diamond Textiles.
If you haven't worked with yarn dyed wovens, they are easy to sew, have a rich color palette and interesting textures. Contact your local quilt shop or sewing center and ask them about Diamond Textiles. 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

De-stress with a little improv... and some tips

Lately, when I need a break from too much paperwork and computer work, I de-stress and clear my mind with a little improv piecing. Still inspired by the Choo Choo Quilters program last month, I've been "making do" and making quilt blocks with scraps and discontinued fabric swatches.
Scrappy improv patchwork blocks.
Doing research and preparing my part of the program prompted another look at improv and working with random fabric bits. I also gleaned several great ideas from my fellow presenters to fuel this rekindled fire. My guild is also getting ready to host my lovely friend, Mary Kerr, for a vintage-turned-modern workshop in April, so a little practice working with "what you have" is a good thing.

Why improv?
It takes only a few minutes to whip out a pile of scrappy improv blocks... and you (and your over-saturated brain) will enjoy the process. Here's why:
  • the strips don't have to be the same length or width—so no precise cutting required
  • points don't have to match
  • you can mix any and all the prints together in a single block
  • blocks don't even have to be trimmed or squared up
  • you don't have to think hard, just enjoy the sewing
  • you can even disregard that 1/4-inch seam allowance—embrace the randomness!
  • the more fabrics, the merrier the block. Yippee!

Chain piecing.
Improv. No stress. Gotta like it.

Helpful things I've discovered while making scrappy improv patchwork:
  • prep your scraps first: ironing the wrinkly ones and sorting by size or shape—like pulling out "logs" that can be used for log cabin blocks.
  • use a neutral thread—gray or beige—so the thread blends in with the myriad of colors in the fabrics.
  • dial down the stitch length, especially for those smaller pieces.
  • chain piecing is your friend!
  • keep a garbage bag or can close because you'll generate a lot of trimmings.
  • simple, classic quilt blocks work great for scraps because the variation in the prints and colors are the focal point, not the precise or intricate piecing.
Examples of quilt blocks that lend themselves to improv with scraps: Log cabin.
Scrappy log cabin blocks. You can start with any size unit for the center.
4-patch blocks... with improv butterflies.
Butterfly 4-patch blocks.
Another 4-patch variation. 
4-patches with diamonds.
Sashing strips can enlarge a block or compensate for variations in block sizes. 
Sashing strips enlarge the blocks.
Eat up scraps quickly with Chinese coin blocks or strips. Trim the patchwork when necessary to make sewing easier.
Scrappy improv Chinese coin blocks and strips.
Finished quilt top made entirely of fabric swatches and scraps. Sew 'em up and move 'em out!
Quilt top: 31" x 37"
Good workmanship still applies.
Just because you work with scraps or are doing improv patchwork does not mean that good workmanship gets neglected. These 4-patches illustrate spinning the seam allowances. This reduces bulk at the intersection and makes the blocks lie flat. A good habit to get into which will make the quilting step less troublesome. Here's a post from Scrap Queen, Bonnie Hunter, on spinning seams. Or view this YouTube video.
Spin the seam allowances to reduce bulk.
Give improv a try! You'll go back to computer and paperwork drudgery with a clearer head.
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