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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