Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Simple Projects

First of all, so sorry to everyone who is having trouble posting comments on my blog! I just don't have the energy to switch to a different platform and Blogger seems to want to be extra difficult these days. You can email a comment directly and I'll always respond. Otherwise, thanks for reading anyway! I figure there are lots like me out there, reading the blogs but doing a terrible time leaving feedback. I said never, never, but these days it's tempting to switch to Instagram where all you have to do it click on the 'heart' to engage.

The new vintage look 25-Patch project
I took an online personality test the other day and was completely appalled by how low the score came back in Openness {and creativity}. Part of the test was spot on and super interesting. The other part? Uggh. I must have been feeling very self critical and down on myself. Whatever, it made me realize that apparently I'm more 'stuck' that I realized! Time to dig back in and see if that can change eventually. According to the test, color doesn't seem to move me at all??? I started small with a basic project. Just dipping my toes back in the water. This is an idea that's been rattling around in the quilt room forever. 

Starting something new
It's a picture of a vintage quilt made out of scrappy hsts. I took one of those infamous {marinating} stacks of fabrics and got busy. All the hsts are cut out, ironed open now and all that's left to do after yesterday is the trimming. Just trimming the points. I really don't care if the blocks are a little wonky for this quilt. Imperfection will make it more interesting. 

Okay, it probably sounds like I just went after it like crazy, but believe me, I've been having to force myself to work for even a half an hour or so. Take a break. Come back. Making progress has been like pulling teeth, everything feeling like a huge effort. But I've been here before! Just have to break through and get back on track.

It's a true blue finish!
Finally got the binding sewn down on the Improv. Strips quilt {No Wasted Pieces}. Was kind of surprised by the fact that the quilt wanted a pink binding, but oh well. Just glad that I had something suitable languishing in the stash totes!

Loving the texture
My favorite part of the quilt is the added strips in the bottom left corner. Really adds an element of make-it-up-as-you-go to the quilt and helps make it a little bit more quirky. Always a good thing in my book.
Gotta get the attitude on the quilt
I kept the hand quilting super basic of course, don't I always? But then went ahead and stitched a few tulips into the wider border area there at the top of the quilt. Adds a little bit of sweetness to an oddly colored quilt! Overall, it was a good finish and crumpled up very nicely after washing. This one is a good example of how simple shapes can show off and/or disguise older fabrics. Whichever is needed. They all just sort of disappear into the quilt and nothing stands out as too stale or too obnoxious when they're cut this small.

A bit sweeter with flowers
I have also been tentatively playing around with these abandoned hourglass blocks from an older AHIQ quilt. There is a vague design doodled onto a piece of paper and all the potential fabrics for the quilt jumping up and down shouting YES! I know the color palette may be unexciting to some of you, but it's doing something for me. Uh huh. Seems like the Personality Test was taken on a bad day? I learned a long time ago to try not to question the whys and wherefores of current color curiosity and just roll with it. Never know where things might end up!
Hoping to kickstart this one after Thankgiving
That being said, I'm getting flashes of interest, excitement and yes, even trepidation just trying for a start. Can I make this happen the way that I'm envisioning things? The reality is: Probably not. And that's part of what's been holding me back. A general feeling of negativity about sparking real creativity. About making good things happen. Or NOT. The journey is so much fun regardless and I've sort of let that slip this past year, pushing my expectations to unnecessary places. I need to TRY for the idea first, then everything sort of falls into place along the way. If I don't even try, well then. Nothing happens. Duh. Obviously!

In other news, I got my sewing machine fixed! Yay!! Ended up with a way too quick trip to Spokane, dropping someone off at the airport, doing the sewing machine service, going Christmas shopping and then driving back home feeling a bit sick from exhaustion. Now it's Thanksgiving {already!} and there are more things still to bake and fix. We're gathering at my mom and dads this year with all of my siblings. Whoa...... It's going to be A LOT. Only one of our kids will be there though as they all have other obligations. I count it very fortunate to still have my parents and know these years are fading very quickly. Hope you all have the best of holidays filled with lots of good visits, turkey and pie!


Friday, November 11, 2022

Catching Up

Somehow I've managed to drag it out to a solid two weeks between posts again. My dryer broke down, my good Bernina has been having problems and oh yeah, we left town to attend a very good friends funeral. Ughh. That pretty much knocked the wind out of me as she was very close to my age. Such a good person. We were friends for years starting with the fact that I happened to share the same name with her mom. Then our husbands were wild and crazy friends and somehow that brought about an introduction. We got married the same year, had kids in the same timeframe, etc. etc. So many shared life experiences. Sometimes the world is just not fair.

4-Block Tulip Medallion quilt is a true blue finish!
In the realm of quilting, which I know you're really all here for, things have been plodding along in fits and starts. Finally got the 4-Block Tulip Medallion all sorted out and finished up. Yes, the flowers in the baskets are much more 'Carolina Lily' than tulips, but the outside flowers are more tulips than lily.

Loving the plaid basket
I can't find the exact starting date to this quilt, but it was probably in the year 2019. {The top was finished up last year}. The fabrics were stacked up and waiting for love for at least two-three years before that, so yeah, it's an old project. Goes with that old fashioned vibe, right? Totally don't regret putting in the time though. I am in love with the end result. So sweet looking.

Lots of older fabrics used up in this quilt!
I could always tell that there was just too much goodness in that mix of fabrics to give it up completely--as I randomly do sometimes. It's not uncommon for there to be 10 or more stacks of fabric marinating all at once in the quilt room {sometimes 15!} and how can I possibly get the point of using every single one of them? After a long period of time with zero action taken, then I often find myself questioning the potential for ending up with something amazing. This time my reluctance to give up was a good thing.

Still happy with the graphic-look border addition
I've been especially slow this year in brand new quilt starts so I know it's probably time to throw a couple of those percolating stacks right back into the stash. Must make time to dig through them all and start second guessing how good some of those ideas are. I'm just not sure if it's the fabric stacks or the endless amounts of distractions slowing me down recently. Will look through the stacks soon and see which ones still have sufficient zing in them to continue taking up prime real-estate in the quilt room. And in my brain? No sense pondering for ideas if the fabrics aren't doing it for me anymore.

Tulips are never a bad idea
This quilt looked so good hanging out in the quilt room that I almost didn't get the binding on it right away. Such a cheerful view when I first walked in. Too bad it's not smaller or I'd definitely be putting it on the wall! I wondered about putting the year '2021' on the quilt top when finishing up last year, but I'm not unhappy with it at all. Just gives it a nice little folky touch.

Sometimes I just wanna take a nap in my quilting room
We had also had made plans to fly out to Oklahoma to visit our daughter before everything got sidetracked. Totally a bummer that isn't working out for right now. I was well on my way to getting the applique prepped on the #AHIQColor Palette challenge though, thinking it might be a good visiting project. Oh well. I probably wouldn't have gotten much done anyway, other than in the airports!
Doesn't look like much, but it's a start!
These blocks are quite large and so I kept raiding the newspaper basket for templates. At some point my husband noticed and offered up a roll of protective sheeting he occasionally uses in his construction business. Umm, really? This could be a mistake when he can't find the roll where it belongs in the garage! It's a super nice product though and worked really well for my purposes. Who knew?

These flowers will NOT be brown
One of the highlights of the past two weeks was this package that arrived in the mail one day. Terry from California sent me oodles of perle cotton #8 and #12 for use in my quilting. Some partially used and lots of them brand new. Apparently she has moved on to using another thread and offered these up if I was interested. Uh huh. VERY interested! I'm telling you, it was like Christmas, I was feeling so enthused. Just couldn't quit smiling that day! Thank you Terry, you are the best!!

Quilters are so generous!
A while back one of my nieces posted a pic on Instagram of her new decor in the hallway of their new-to-them little house. I'd always sort of worried that this quilt might be a bit 'too yellow' for gifting, but this just made my heart sigh with pleasure. Now I want a sunny quilt hanging in my hallway too!

This is one of the reasons why I gift quilts to 
the right people. She did not do this for me!
There's currently two quilts with the binding machine stitched down and ready for the hand stitching effort. One of them will be gifted fairly quickly after finishing up, but there's no rush at the moment. I'm trying to weigh the pros and cons of doing another set of quilt meetings at our church, starting in January 2023. It feels like a ton of extra work, but I always come back to the camaraderie involved. That part is fairly irresistible. I'll probably try to find out what the level of interest is before I wade in too far.

Getting closer and closer to the finish line!
My daughter almost talked me into making a spur of the moment baby quilt in the last couple weeks and thankfully I resisted. After working on the beginnings of the #AHIQColorPalette quilt and dreaming up all the applique motifs, it dawned on me that this is what I need most right now. Something new and challenging, open-ended and bright with possibilities. Nothing made to order or any pressure to please. Crossing my fingers for enough time to get something interesting going!

Thursday, October 27, 2022

In The Works

 Okay, things are extra hectic here lately so this post needs to be short and sweet.

Primrose Path--the alien looking flowers
After the hand quilting series, I've found myself betwixt and between projects. Nothing really looked amazing to work on. What I'd like to do is to start five new projects, and well... hand stitching wins it all. In the picture above you can see approximately half of my Primrose Patch blocks are mostly finished. Still need to figure out the color for the inside wobbly center. Obviously I'm thinking black.

Who says I can't make a guy quilt?
I've also bitten the bullet and put in some hand stitching time on Tag's Quilt. It's been hard to get in the mood, 'cuz I'm not really a lodge, outdoors, deep-in-the-woods sort of gal. I'll probably put a tree or two or three on this centerpiece and then call it good. Next up will probably be some cheesy machine pieced words around the centerpiece. Ughh. So not looking forward to that! Love the look, but don't always enjoy the process.
Starting a new project
It feels really weird to only have two applique projects in the works. So of course I had to start another. This is the fabric for the #AHIQColorPalette prompt. Apparently I'm taking my inspiration and tossing everything up in the air for a completely different look. Got the background pieces cut out {pieced together} and next up will be the applique prep work. The new name for this quilt will be 'Revised'.

The vintage block pillow project
Off on a tangent with the pillow making too. The blocks that started this particular project were vintage, hand-made blocks picked up at a second hand store somewhere. I needed something personal to add to an end-of-the-year gift exchange thing I take part in. Didn't want to make a quilt, but home-made sometimes feels a bit more special. They might be brighter than this persons decorating can handle, but I'm sure her rowdy kids will maul them half to death and shorten the pillow life expectancy! 

Country Stars
I also got another quilt in the hoop. Another one of those 'don't wanna' projects that need to be wrapped up before the years end. Went ahead and did the stitch-in-the-ditch around the compass blocks and now I'm hand quilting everywhere else. Finally made the decision to do a loose cross-hatching all around the outside of the quilt. It would probably look marginally better with echo quilting on or around the applique vine, leaves, berries etc, but I just want it done! I made so many quilts in these colors back in the day and now I don't find a lot of joy in working in this particular palette. Am surprisingly pleased with how much better it looks with the addition of hand quilting, but then.... don't I always say that? lol

Friday, October 14, 2022

Quilty Folk Hand Quilting With Perle Cotton Basics--Part #4 An Enthusiast's Guide To Uncomplicated Stitching Design

So this is the last post in the series, unless there's reason to provide more information later on. Several people have previously asked questions about how one goes about deciding on the quilt stitching design. It generally doesn't have to be something to overly stress about and in fact, the more that you do, the more intuitive it can seem. In an effort to make cheerful, comfy looking quilts, you'll notice that I tend toward stitching quite simple designs. This is on purpose. The look is inspired by some of the most humble quilts ever made, and yet it's exactly what I have striven for {and nurtured} through all my years of hand quilting. 

Improv. Strips #2

How to achieve a cozy looking quilt that doesn't look the least bit sloppy or uncaring? This is the question that has driven me crazy since I first started to take quilting seriously. Well, one of the easiest ways this can happen, of course, is to have a good base to play with. Obviously it won't do to make a complex Baltimore Beauty quilt, do some plain stitching and then expect to have that stitching well received! Plan on starting with a quilt top that isn't already screaming for something really complex in terms of the quilting motif.

Then, you basically let the quilt steer your stitching path. I know. Easier said than done. Words to describe this relaxed style of quilting might be: basic, simple, naïve, uncomplicated, and/or utilitarian. Don't overthink things and do try to start in a spot where there's a clear direction forward. Is there set of blocks where you can do some echo quilting, just to the inside of a seam allowance? An applique element that could use some outline stitching? Following is a list of potential options for producing simplicity in stitching design and look. You definitely don't need to get overly fussy to end up with something beautiful!

  • Echo Stitching--Stitch approximately 1/4"or less from edge of seam. For background texture, keep repeating at similar distances {usually 1-2"} from original stitch line until entire area is filled in. Helpful to freestyle mark subsequent lines in areas where the stitching lines extend beyond the hoop.
  • Outline Stitching over top of applique--Stitch approximately 1/4" or so from edge, over the top of the applique itself.
  • X Across Squares--Stitch diagonally in each direction across squares, cornerstones etc.
  • Straight Lines--Stitch straight lines through the approximate center of rectangles in log cabin or improv. type units, etc. For sashing, stitch down the entire length of each sashing strip, making 90 degree turn at corners.
  • Double Lines--Stitch straight lines approximately 1/4" or more {equidistant} on either side of marked {but not stitched} center line in unit or length of sashing.
  • Triple Lines-Stitch straight line in center of unit or sashing. Then, stitch equidistant from left and right sides. These lines generally measure between 1/4" to 1/2" apart but feel free to do what looks best.
  • Flying Geese--Stitch flying geese units in rectangle shaped areas, sashing or border. Can make paper or plastic template to mark shapes or freestyle mark for more of a human touch.
The following designs take a bit more effort, but are not nearly as complicated as you might suppose. 
  • Crosshatch Stitching--Stitch a simple grid pattern over entire area of quilt or in the sashing area, or over the top of blocks, especially plain ones. Can also easily stitch crosshatching over the top of large applique elements. Clear quilting rulers are very helpful when marking the grid.
  • Applique Element Imitates--Use a plastic or paper {cutout} shape copying an applique element sewn onto the quilt. Trace around edges of template, marking the shape onto the quilt for stitching. Stitch repeats of this shape in border areas etc. Can also mark these completely freehand for more of a carefree appearance.
  • Baptist Fan--Stitch an allover design of repeated curves, generally used to cover complete quilt area, but can also be successfully used just for borders and other areas. Here is an older tutorial for making the orderly-look fans. Or you can make freehand fans if that's the look you prefer.
  • Hills--An allover stitching design of repeated hills, generally used to cover complete quilt area, but can also be used in borders and other areas. Make a cardboard or plastic template of one largish hill {usually 10-12" or taller}. Starting at the bottom of the quilt, mark the outside of the hills over the complete area of the quilt, being careful to offset hills at approximately the halfway point. Mark repeat rows, one on top of the other. Stitch consecutively smaller hills inside each of the larger hills in an echo stitching manner, freehand marking if you like.
  • Clamshells--An allover stitching design of repeat clamshells, generally used to cover complete quilt but also be used in borders and other areas. Make a cardboard or plastic template of 4-5 {upper half only} clamshells in a straight line. Starting at the bottom of the quilt, mark outside of template over quilt top in one row after another, offsetting the 'shells'.

The Seedpod quilt has echo stitching around all the applique. Larger spaced {repeat} echo stitching lines fill in the background of the applique, all in a loose diamond shape. There is echo stitching in the centerpiece border area and also inside the economy square blocks. Straight line stitching anchors the block spacer strips.
Log Cabin
This log cabin quilt has straight line stitching in every log and X Across Square stitching in every corner starting square. There is double line stitching in the sashing length and also the cream 'spacer' strips.

Love Apples
This Love Apple quilt has freehand Baptist Fan stitching over the entire quilt.

This improv. AHIQFlowers quilt has straight line stitching, double and triple stitching, repeat echo stitching, X Across the Squares, and also some cross-hatching in certain areas. 

Rising Sun
The Rising Sun quilt was machine stitched-in-the-ditch along the sashing and at the outside of every block. There is outline stitching over the top of the Rising Sun block applique and also the berries and leaves. There is echo stitching just to the inside of the center squares, crosshatch stitching in the sashing lengths and also over the top of the largest applique. There is largely spaced echo quilting in the outside, lighter areas of each block.

Bullseye Medallion
The Bullseye Medallion has outline stitching in the appliqued centerpiece and anywhere else there might be applique. There is also straight line stitching at the center of the red applique element. Largely spaced echo stitching fill in the gold background of the centerpiece area. Each subsequent border has a different quilting motif, from freehand flying geese, crosshatching, circles inside of crosshatching, and repeat applique imitates.

Tidbits quilt has an overall Hills quilting design. Largely spaced echo quilting makes up the freestyle smaller hills inside of the larger hills.

Antique Crows
This Antique Crows quilt was machine stitched-in-the-ditch around all of the blocks. It has outline stitching on most all of the applique with largely spaced echo stitching on the inside of the sunburst center. Straight line stitching takes care of the sashing and X Across Squares all the cornerstones. There is very largely spaced {repeat} straight line stitching inside of the border areas--at the shortest measurement of the border instead of along the length.

Chunky Tulips
Chunky Tulips was machine stitched-in-the-ditch along the edge of every sashing piece. There is echo stitching to the inside of the coping strips in each block. There is outline stitching on all the tulip applique and echo quilting at the largest tip of the tulips. There is freehand 'extra' stitching inside of the tulips as well, not exactly echo stitching but something very similar. There is X Across Squares at the sashing cornerstones and loosely measured crosshatching in the sashing areas and outer setting triangles.

Sweet Tart
This Sweet Tart quilt was machine stitched-in-the-ditch around every single block and both sides of the centerpiece sashing surround. There is outline stitching on most of the applique plus a little extra in the large tulips and larger baskets. Lots of repeat echo stitching in the background of the larger tulips. There is echo stitching in the triangles around the smaller baskets and just to the inside of the background square where those baskets reside. There is also echo stitching at the striped center of the 'every-other' blocks and straight line stitching in those pink floral areas.

The HaHa quilt has overall clamshell stitching over the top of the all the center applique areas. There is outline stitching on the HaHa applique itself, and echo quilting just inside of the gray blocks. There is largish crosshatching over all of the outside triangle pieced border areas.

The Quilty Folk lady with the ridiculous video set-up!
For the most part, I find that loosely spaced quilting gives off a cozier vibe than dense and tightly filled areas of stitching. After all, there needs to be plenty of space for that lovely crumpled affect to happen after washing and drying! In the case of the HaHa quilt, you'll notice that I only echo stitched inside of every other gray background block, not both, as those stitches would be unnecessarily close to each other. I  mean, you can stitch there if you like, but you definitely don't have to.

These are just a few ideas {and quilts} to demonstrate ways to involve basic quilting designs. There are endless solutions depending on your specific quilt sandwich and of course, your particular likes and dislikes. The main thing is, there are no rules. Go check out antique, utilitarian quilts for inspiration! Look closely at how the stitching is happening in all of the quilts that you fall in love with!

Everywhere possible, try to 'eyeball' stitching lines and do without marking in your own efforts. Try to embrace the affect of 'the human touch'. Stitches will be slightly different length here and there, possibly even angling off on the random stitch. Straight lines will undoubtedly look organic instead of being perfect little soldiers. Try not to rip them all out! Believe it or not, this is adding charm to your quilt. A little added sweetness. Some of the X's at the cornerstones might even look a little wobbly, and if you can, just smile and wave at the doubters. Quilting with perle cotton accentuates the texture so very quickly, you'll be surprised at how much your imperfect stitching seems to practically disappear!

When you find your quilting rhythm, you'll also be discovering your quilting 'voice'. That is a very special thing. The beauty of hand quilting, is how easily it lends itself to celebrating and illuminating our humanity. None of us are perfect beings. Why would we expect our quilts to be any different? Hand quilting in it's plainest form invariably embeds a bit of sentimentality into the very fibers of the whole, making it practically impossible for the quilt to end up looking too stiff or formal for use. People tend to respond to this unpretentiousness open-heartedly.

If you find yourself without any idea of how to start hand quilting a specific quilt? Get your quilt sandwich into the hoop and load up a thread color that looks agreeable. Then, start stitching something. ANYTHING! Don't like it? Rip it out and start over with a different take. Eventually something will speak to you so that you can quit waffling around and get down to business. With overall designs, I have to say things never tend to look good right at first. At least not to me! I have to give it at least two or three rows before I'm convinced that the right path has been taken. 

Wishing everyone the very best luck in their quilting adventures! Hopefully this series has been a help to some of the fledging hand quilters out there. Honestly, it has taken an enormous amount of my quilting time, but I can't be unhappy about that. You wouldn't believe all of the questions I didn't have proper answers to when first starting to hand quilt!*sigh

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Quilty Folk Hand Quilting With Perle Cotton Basics--Part #3 An Enthusiast's Guide to Choosing Thread Color

Hand quilting beginners often ask about appropriate thread colors for their projects. How do you know which colors to use or not to use? As always, I defer to the default of doing whatever looks best to YOU. Because that's really the very best barometer for ending up with a finish that you'll love and appreciate. It doesn't matter what I think if you don't end up liking the results! For the purposes of this series though, I will try to explain the 'Quilty Folk' look.

I gain much inspiration by way of viewing antique quilts, but to my surprise, quickly found that hand quilting with only traditional cream thread, became quite boring in terms of 'doing'. My philosophy in choosing thread color is quite simple. I want it to bring joy. It shouldn't overshadow the quilt in any way, but simply provide just another bit of soft, sweet interest. Hand quilting with perle cotton thread can be very addictive if you love chunky thread stitching. Why not make it even better by taking advantage of all the beautiful colors of thread available?

Auditioning thread colors for the Improv. Strips Quilt #1
If I'm going to put in the time and effort of hand quilting, then I unquestionably intend for the stitches to show up. Right? Not compete with the quilt design in any way, but accent and complement. First, I like to to start with the obvious-- thread colors that match the various colors in the quilt. Sometimes it helps to audition them by laying a long thread across a specific area where it will potentially end up. 

Sometimes you won't use all of the colors you've initially chosen. I tend to use between 4-6 thread colors {maybe 8 or more if it's complex} in every quilt. In the quilt above, I never could find a good spot for two of the threads, no matter how pretty they seemed to look in theory. And that's okay. If the quilt doesn't want them, then I definitely won't want to force anything.

Possible thread colors for the 4-Block Tulip Medallion
When I choose a specific thread color for a certain area in a quilt, then you can be sure that I'll use it consistently throughout the whole quilt. If the red thread is meant to outline the triangles in the basket elements of the quilt, then it's going to have to work for every one of those triangles. Rarely do I make individual {custom} choices as to thread, for similar spots. It's just too confusing when it comes to doing the actual stitching. Plus, I love the continuity of the same thread colors popping throughout the quilt. It's a less chaotic look overall and so much more soothing to the eye when it doesn't have to jump around trying to figure out what is going on here or there. If my triangles range from very light to very dark fabrics, then I might, possibly? use two shades of the same color of thread, but only if a single best color remains super elusive. Usually there is something that will end up being a good compromise!

The best way to know if a color of thread is right for the quilt is to just get started stitching. It's pretty obvious within that 17" x 17" frame whether or not a thread color is looking 'flat' or if it is subtlety improving the look of the entire quilt. You just know. And yes, it's annoying to spend an evening basically auditioning thread in your hoop over and over for an hour or so. After it's all figured out though, the rest of the stitching should be a breeze! If a thread is not being good humored about being included in your precious quilt, now is the time to rip it out and try a new color! If it kind of shines and makes you feel happy, then leave it--you've found the perfect spot for that specific thread. 

An interesting thing about thread is how it reflects back depending on where it's placed on the quilt. Some threads will look wonderful in one area of a quilt and fairly bland in another spot. Try a darker, lighter or brighter shade in the other spot. You'll also find that the lightest colors in every color thread almost always look 'white-ish' after being stitched, but much, much softer. Same principle with the darkest colors of thread in each colorway. They will look 'black-ish' yet not nearly as stark. This is a very nuanced step to take, but so much fun when it works out well! Anything that causes even a subtle 'jarring' in my quilts is a big 'no thank you'! In most cases, you can easily find the extreme {as to making the perfect accent stitch} without ever resorting to true white or solid black and it doesn't take any extra time either.
Red perle cotton
Here's a little bit about every color that might possibly be used as thread color in my quilts. I've listed many of the favorites below for those specifically interested in those details.

A lot of quilts welcome a pop of red colored thread. The rosy red ones are absolutely delectable! And don't even get me started on the variegated red Valdani threads....
  • DMC #321--classic red 
  • Valdani #534--variegated tomato red and med. brown
  • DMC #309 and/or All brands--any shade of cherry red 
  • All brands--any shade of coral red
  • Valdani #775--dark rose or turkey red
  • Valdani #O523--variegated dark cherry red
Pink perle cotton
Oh pink threads, you have won my heart. I want ALL the shades. If you have applique flowers in quilts, you'll probably love seeing a bit of pink thread here and there!
  • Finca--any shade of salmon pink. They call them mauve, geranium and cyclamen
  • All brands--any shade of bubblegum pink, from lightest to darkest
  • DMC #754--shell pink
  • Valdani #M14 or Perle Iris brand {no number}--variegated hot pink to lighter pink 
  • Valdani #JP5--variegated light rose
Green perle cotton
Mostly I just want a rich pop of color to accent appliqued leaves etc. Don't even worry about matching, just buy the bold green shades that catch your eye! I do get in trouble buying the lighter sour green shades. They are so intriguing, but in the end, I generally prefer using a tan or cream variegated color instead.
  • All brands--any med. shade of lime green
  • All brands--any shade of grass green
  • All brands--med. to dark shades of emerald green
  • All brands--any shade of teal green, from lightest to darkest
  • Valdani #JP12--variegated light sea green 
  • Valdani #548--variegated dark moss green
Brown, gold, orange and mustard perle cotton
I simply can't keep enough mustard or dark brown thread on hand. Probably just need to start buying in bulk! The darker mustard shade gets used up especially fast. I don't use a lot of medium brown thread unless it is rust or bronze colored or mixed with the darkest of browns. Not a lot of orange, but if it's necessary, I much prefer more mellow shades.
  • Finca #8072--Dark topaz which is a strong, darker mustard color
  • All brands--any shade of mustard
  • All brands--any of the darkest shades of brown
  • Valdani #P11--variegated brown to black
  • Valdani #P12--variegated med brown to dark brown
  • Sue Spargo Eleganz #EZ08--deep purple brown
  • Valdani #67--light rusty orange
  • Finca #1485--cantaloupe
  • Valdani #JP7--light orange to gold
Purple perle cotton

I use a lots and lots of violet. So much prettier than true purple! The lightest and darkest colors get used up really fast.
  • Valdani #P8--variegated violet rose
  • Valdani #P10--antique violet
  • Valdani #PT13--dark violet with hints of blue {my absolute fave, swoon!}
  • All brands--any shades of lavender
  • Valdani #M2--variegated rose to dark violet
  • All brands--any shade of violet
Black and gray perle cotton
Just plan on keeping some black thread on hand. It's hard to buy the black and brown shades when you love color as much as I do, but there's some beautiful perle cotton in every color! I much, much prefer the softer blacks than the stark black threads that are so much easier to find.
  • Valdani #H211--variegated blue black
  • Valdani #O511--dark charcoal
  • Valdani #O548--variegated black to khaki
  • Valdani #O501--variegated black to dark brown
  • All brands--any shade of gray from lightest to darkest
  • Valdani #O538--variegated gray to cream

Blue perle cotton
I don't even know how people quilt without blue thread, especially turquoise. The color I probably use the least is royal blue. All the lighter variegated blues are just a fun pick when white or cream refuses to act happy in a quilt. 
  • All brands--any shade of turquoise. I use every single shade over and over again.
  • All brands--lightest of blues
  • DMC #823--classic dark navy
  • Valdani #O515--deep blue
  • All brands--any shade of navy
  • All brands--any shade of Caribbean blue

Light neutral perle cotton
I didn't realize how decimated my stock of cream, light tan and soft gold threads was! The last couple years I've been plowing through the thread and rarely buying new. Though I use colored thread every chance I get, invariably there's a spot in many quilts where a light neutral is the only thing that looks right. I admit to completely crushing on the variegated threads and tend to ignore the solid cream and tan threads.
  • Any brand--soft white
  • Valdani #P4--aged white
  • Valdani #11--soft gold
  • Valdani #JP4--variegated ivory, lightest tan and light gray
  • Valdani #M14--variegated soft white to light cream
  • Valdani #514--variegated cream to soft gold
  • Valdani #O576--variegated gold, yellow, tan
Thread color should be a delicious little addition to the quilt, an extra detail that helps to bring the quilt up to the next level. That being said, if you run out of a certain color of thread, go ahead and substitute the next closest thing you have available. Only the pickiest of observers will ever even notice the difference!

When in doubt, use mustard. Not working? How about a  a dark brown color of thread, a soft white, or perhaps a cream to gold variegated thread? These specific shades tend to transcend the complexity of any quilt and give it a soft, ageless quality. If nothing seems to be working, try colors that aren't even in the quilt. Yes, really. Once in awhile, the answer is the absolute unexpected.

You'll notice that I include a lot of variegated threads in the lists of favorite colors. Don't be scared of them! They work really hard in areas of echo quilting and allover stitching. Sometimes you just want certain areas to not 'pop' quite as much as other areas, but they still need something that won't be completely lost to the eye. Variegated threads can also give the stitching a wonderful sense of surprise as they constantly change in color, intensifying and/or fading away. 

While I adore the Kantha style of stitching, for the most part I want the stitching to be an added layer. I'd rather people see the quilt first, then zero in on little details that make up the whole. Using Perle Cotton #8 or #12 thread is a absolutely a great way to quickly intensify the texture in a quilt. Using good, strong and/or soft colored threads in all the appropriate places, makes that texture extra sweet. It adds charms and helps level up the cozy factor. As you gain experience in hand quilting with perle cotton, it will be easier and easier to recognize the specific colors and shades of thread that make you happy. 

Part #4, 'Quilting Design and The Cozy Look' will hopefully be ready in a couple days and then we can get back to regular posting!

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Quilty Folk Hand Quilting With Perle Cotton Basics--Part #2 An Enthusiast's Guide to Placing/Moving the Hoop

Getting started with placing the first frame is generally quite easy to figure out. Just find a spot in the middle-ish of the sandwiched quilt and get your hoop situated. You can try to be strategic and eyeball the entire width of the quilt for rough measurements. Can you quilt the entire width of the quilt using only six frames across? If you move the hoop one way or the other a few inches, does that make it so that you'll only have to move the frame four more times across instead of five? If you have an individual block layout then you'll probably be more interested in placing the hoop centered over each block. Perhaps catching part of the sashing inside that same hoop? Just take a few minutes and consider what might save you time as you're quilting along. 

1st hoop
Placement of the first hoop:  I talked about this a little in Part #1, but we'll revisit for a minute or two. Get the main part of the frame underneath the quilt sandwich. Make sure there are zero wrinkles on the underneath side, and THEN take the pins out of the areas where the clamps go. Also take out any pins on the outside area of the clamps where they might be stressed from the action of the hoop pulling fabric into its orbit. Now put the clamps on. Next, take out all of the pins on the inside of the frame. Okay, now would be a good time to fiddle with the tension inside the hoop. You need slack {or sag} but not so much that you end up with a bowl in the middle of the frame. How much? It's definitely unique to each person, so practice and experience is the best teacher. 

You'll know it's too much slack when your needle won't slide immediately into the quilt sandwich. It wants to get bogged down and you'll have to work at getting the fabric into place for the needle. You'll also know when there isn't enough slack. The needle will feel very stiff sliding into the fabric and it's going to take a lot more effort overall to make your stitches. You'll definitely feel the resistance. This is especially true if you want to load more than one stitch at a time. So go ahead an be a 'Goldilocks'. Getting it just right makes a world of difference in how fast you can stitch and how much fun you'll have doing it!

Did you notice {in the above picture} the slightly wrinkled area on the bottom left inside my frame? You can roll the bottom clamp toward the outside of the hoop, tightening up that area, OR you could take that bottom clamp completely off and simply readjust the placement. These are things that you'll constantly have to do as you move your hoop around the quilt sandwich.

 Potential 2nd hoop
Placement of each subsequent hoop: After you have your first frame stitched, then it's time to move the hoop. Ideally, you'll move to one of four spots--directly to the top, the bottom, or directly to the left or right of the previously stitched quilt sandwich. Take the clamps off that newly stitched frame and then simply slide the frame underneath the quilt to the new area. You can do this while the quilt is on your lap or resting in a flat position on the couch, floor or on a table. Make sure to overlap slightly, the previously stitched area with where the new to-be-stitched spot will be.  

The picture above shows a potential 2nd hoop position. {The pins have not been taken out yet or the clamps attached.} When you have the quilt sandwich exactly where you want it, remove the outer pins as before and start placing the clamps. After attaching a single clamp, I often take my hand and lightly push down into the quilt at the center of the frame, thereby creating a better opportunity for slack. Put the remaining clamps on and proceed in the same manner as with the 1st hoop. If you have dangling threads, just make sure they end up inside the frame rather than be caught underneath the clamps.

 Quilty Folk hand quilting Part #3--
Stitching the 2nd hoop
The joy of using older clamps: Be gentle with the previously stitched area. Don't want to inadvertently pop stitches! If you have an older hoop, take one of your more stretched clamps and place it on that particular side. It's also great to use these older clamps for any sides where you might have applique. People think I'm crazy for continuing to use well worn and cracked clamps, but I'm telling you, it saves me oodles of damage to the applique. That is worth its weight in gold!

Stitching in rows
The picture above and the one below illustrate two different approaches to moving the hoop around the quilt. Both ensure that you are constantly moving the hoop in a manner that helps eliminate unsightly wrinkles at the back of the quilt. Obviously you would not want to place the hoop harem-scarum around the quilt sandwich or even kitty corner from finished frame to finished frame. Stitch in a seamless direction, very soldierly in your forward march from the very first hoop. Every time you position the quilt sandwich within the hoop, make sure that the back side is perfectly smooth again. I really can't emphasize this part enough. If you bumble around and quilt through and over a wrinkle in the center back of a quilt sandwich? That problem can {and probably will} multiply and cause you all kinds of grief later on! Just don't do it.

Stitching in a cross shape, filling in the corners
Border areas: Once you get to a border, then you will choose a spot in the middle-ish of that area and quilt one direction and then the other {left and right}. I almost always leave the corners of the quilt for the very last, but you can definitely quilt a corner area immediately after the adjacent borders are totally quilted. Up to you! 

Remember, when you are constantly {lightly} pushing the quilt backing one way and then the other, trying to ensure a smooth look overall, the border is where all of the fabric tends to start waving and wrinkling. If it is going to do so. It may not! Some fabrics seem to be much more prone to stretching than others, so never be super aggressive about stretching the backside of a quilt sandwich. Take a few moments before placing that initial hoop at the border. First, check to see if that area is truly smooth enough in the back--all the way across the quilt--to make for a good finish. Oftentimes you'll need to reposition a few pins at the outside of the quilt where extra fabric has bunched up against them. 

Also, go ahead and doublecheck the backing fabric at the corners of the quilt. Have you pushed the fabric too far in one direction or another? Now would be the time to sew on a smidgen of extra fabric to the backing if need be. Don't ask me how I know this!

Problems: Sometimes you find yourself with a problem border. The fabric is obviously way too wrinkled in the back to lay completely smooth across the entire length of the quilt. Before you freak out and throw the entire thing into the trash, just relax and take a deep breath. Most of the time you can simply position the first hoop somewhere in the middle part of the border, and then gently ease extra fabric into each subsequent frame. Try to do it strategically. As each frame takes part of the wrinkling, the effect is not nearly as obvious or sloppy looking as you first supposed.

Part of the charm of hand quilting is the 'crumpled' effect apparent after a new quilt is laundered and everything shrinks a bit. A little bit of fabric wrinkling {spread out over several feet} will mostly disappear once the quilt is freshly washed and dried. If a wrinkle is largely resistant to any smoothing efforts, then you have to make a choice. Go ahead and hand quilt over the top of it or take out a lot of previous stitching. In all my years of stitching, I've only ever had one major wrinkle that couldn't be manipulated enough to successfully camouflage. I quilted over it, washed the quilt and hardly ever thought about it again. You do you.

Stitching border areas
Stitching the overall pattern: When stitching an 'overall' pattern throughout the quilt, such as the Baptist Fan, the traditional way of starting off is to choose the lower, right hand corner for the very first hoop. From there, you would move the hoop over to the left, and on and on, until you stitch one row the complete width of the quilt. See picture below for example of frame placement. Next, you would start the 2nd row, over on the right side. Place the new hoop directly at the top of the 1st hoop placement {finished area} and proceed to the left from there. 

Whenever the new hoop area is being positioned, it's very important to make very sure that everything feels right at the back of the hoop. You can't just smooth the fabric to one side and say, 'Oh well, that's good'. Throughout this sort of quilting, the fabric will consistently be pushed upwards and outwards, always toward the top lefthand corner. Again, don't be aggressive, but be quite diligent checking for extra fabric starting to wrinkle up and causing problems. 

A reassuring thought--you can almost always feel a problem starting before you can actually see it. Always, always, always take the time to re-position your hoop if it's not right before stitching. And, once or twice during the overall quilting time, take the time to turn your quilt over, lay it completely flat and peruse the entire backside. For preventative measures. Your quilt will thank you! Is there an area where unstitched fabric seems to be bunching at the pins in an alarming way? Might be a good time to reposition some of the pins and stop a problem before it even starts.

Stitching an overall pattern across quilt
I have also seen where people quilt in rows around the entire outside of the quilt, slowly moving inward until they are left with only the center part of the quilt to stitch. This is not something that I have ever attempted, but I imagine you would want to pin your quilt very carefully before undertaking this particular method.

Quilty Folk hand quilting Part #4--
Being efficient with the hoop
Another question I get on occasion is why there is sometimes pictures here on the blog with only two or three clamps on my current hoop. If you go back and look at the 2nd picture, you'll see that there is an awful lot of dangling threads leftover from the previous stitching. When persistently stitching in one direction, it just seems to make sense to take that clamp off {the one in the way}.and go ahead and stitch out a little extra. I wouldn't advise this for brand new quilters, but if you're well accustomed and comfortable with using the hoop, then go ahead! It's a easy way to be economical with secure stitching areas.

Sometimes when quilting from side to side {and trying to squeeze all of the quilt width into a reduced amount of frames}, I'll even take both of the opposing side clamps off at the very same time. I know, I know, breaking all of the rules here.... It's definitely not a 'first hoop' thing to do, but happens more often when the bulk of the quilt is stitched down and not shifting as much. I did warn you. I most definitely have quirks!

This was supposed to be a short post, but clearly something went wrong. Part #3 and #4 will hopefully be posted sometime next week!