Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Folk School class in March

The new catalog is out for the John C. Campbell Folk School (Brasstown, NC)!
One of my greatest joys is to be teaching there the week of March 4--9 next year.
I'll be teaching the Campbell Folk School Quilt again. It's my design, using traditional patterns to tell the colorful story of how the school was founded. But there are 30 more block patterns included so you can personalize it, make it as big was you want, or whatever! It's sort of like an excuse for quilters of all skill levels to get together and have some fun. And who wouldn't want to spend a week here:
It's like a Dream Studio! With design walls all around, ironing surfaces, etc etc etc.
If you want some time out of the studio (though many at the school like to do their 6 hours of class per day and then go back for more work time in the evening) you can find dancing, music and other activities in Keith House, the heart of the school:

What else could you possibly want?
Good food...cooked for you by somebody else! The bell rings three times each day and everyone heads down to the Dining Hall:

That's some good Southern cooking, too. And if you're a vegetarian, they have that all taken care of as well.
Housing? Very comfortable rooms for 2 or 3 (if you don't bring a roomie, you can ask for one) most with a private bath. The houses are scattered all through the main part of the school and have names like Rock House, Little House, and Log House.
The top of this post has a link to the school's website...you'll enjoy the pictures!...or click the link below and get the page for my class. Look on the right side for the other classes being held that week, so you can bring a friend or loved one along with you:
 https://www.folkschool.org/index.php?section=class_detail&class_id=5381 .

If you want to read more about my class and see pictures, just type Campbell school into the search box.
It's going to be a lot of fun...I'd love to see you there!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Quilt Binding By Machine

Recently a faithful follwer, the Mysterious Ms. E, requested some information on doing a binding completely by machine.
This is a fantastic way to finish a quilt that is meant for hard use, or one that is not intended as a show-stopping heirloom. It's great for pot holders! And, while I know there are a few people out there who can do this beautifully, it is not considered to be the nicest way to do the binding. The control you have with a traditional hand-sewn finish method will give a much better edge.
That said...let's look at how to do it!

Here are the supplies...I used a gold bobbin and black thread on top in hopes the pictures would be clearer (it's a usable pot holder!).  The quilt block has one layer of cotton batting, and a backing made of blue terrycloth, and has  been "quilted" (stitched through all layers) in a X. You can just stack the layers up and then trim them all to be the same size. I would also suggest that you do a quick zig-zag stitch all around the outside to hold the layers together better...not necessary for a regular quilt, though.
The binding is a French double fold , meaning the strip is cut and folded so the long raw edges are together. You may want to cut a slightly wider binding to finish by machine (2.5").  For a hand-finished binding, I cut it a bit narrower.
Sew the binding on the BACK, as it will be turned to the front. That is so the wonky stitching will show on the back, when it's done, not the front. Just sew it the way you usually do, folding and mitering the corners as you go around. Feel free to skip ahead here if you know how to sew a binding...

This is actually what I do (please do whatever works for you!). Sew towards the first corner, and stop 1/4" (OR the width of the seam allowance) before the corner. Remove the item from the machine, rotate to line up for the next side, and turn the binding strip up so the raw edge is straight in line with the side.
When you bring the binding back down to match the raw edges on this next side, the fold goes right at the top, even with the first side. I am using my fingers to keep everything in place...

...and I continue to use them to hold it all together. Feel free to pin, but I find it is easier to give it the "Pinch O' Death" to move back under the needle. If something slips, I can easily re-adjust it. Sometimes pinning and removing the pin will pull things out of place.
Eventually you get all the way around to where you started...and if you remembered to leave a bit unsewn, you can tuck the end inside the beginning. Or you can use any number of nice ways to sew the ends together...that is a subject all in itself!
Now turn to the front:

Pull all the binding to the front, and check a corner to see how the miter will fold. You are going to sew this the same way as any binding, so you want the first part to go smoothly down to the corner, then the miter forms when you turn the corner.
The difference is that you are going to topstitch right along the fold.
Sewing close to the fold gives it a neat look....the fold should cover the bobbin thread (first line of stitching).
...Now the bobbin thread will show on the back, so maybe you want it to be the same color..
...You could match the fold to the stitching line, and in theory it would look like stitch-in-the-ditch along the back side (don't count on it!). There is a fusable thread, which you could use in the bobbin when you first sew the binding on, then you can fuse the fold right where you want it. And do remember to change it out before you go to the front.
...Matching the fold to the stitching line may not allow the edge of the item to fill the binding.
...You could use a fancy stitch with totally contrasting thread.
When we return to the back you will get the idea. Until then, let's keep sewing!
Sew all the way to the end of the side, at the corner. Backstitch, and remove from the machine.
Fold the miter in place, and continue topstitching along the fold.

There you are! Staying close to the fold keeps you from having a flap-like effect along edge.
So let's look at the back now (the bobbin thread is now red instead of gold):

OK, this is the important point...something is going to look funny, unless you happen to be one of those people who take the time to finesse the entire project.  That means "be really fussy"...but thank-you if you are...you give the world something nicer to look at than my slap-dash style!
Now, it is possible to sew the binding on the front, as usual, and turn it to the back to sew down. Then you'd get this kind of stitching showing on the front.
OR  you can sew to the front, turn to the back, but stitch-in-the-ditch along the front...and then you will get a flap on the back side, or not catch the fold evenly all around.
This is why Our Friend the Pot Holder is so good...he allows us to try out a technique so we can understand it, and then have a useful life in the kitchen! None of that wasted "practise time"!

A machine binding is a wonderful thing...but chances are it will not win you any Quilt Show ribbons, as some judges don't like it, even though (as I have shown) it is difficult to do nicely.
But it is very secure, and it is faster than a hand-finished binding, so it has its perfect place in the utility world....which includes a lot of great quilts for kids!

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Pot Holder Pile in Action

I had a birthday last month, and in good Hobbit-style celebrating, we ate lots of food and I gave my friends presents...potholders!
These are functional pot holders: made to be used until disgusting, and then thrown away! No life in a drawer for these guys.
The blocks are left overs from a Quilt In A Day class several years ago. The bindings are strips from a Kaffe Fassett jelly-roll!
But it's the backing that's the real thing:
Nice thick terry cloth! (yes...left over from the towel-apron I made for the Velda Newman class in April...).
You don't have to admit it, but if you are like me in the kitchen, then a handy potholder will get used for any purpose whatever. That includes wiping up a spill!
How much quilting is in these little helpers?
Exactly what you see here. One line to hold the 3 layers together.
Yes, it is wavy because then you can tell it was not even meant to be straight!
I thought about putting a hanging loop on. But then I didn't intend for these to be hung up and shown off!
I hope my friends are enjoying the potholders and giving them a brief but fun life in the kitchen.

A pot holder or a pillowcase...sometimes a quick-yet-useful project is just the thing to get you back into the creative mood again!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Quilt Pattern Testing

It takes quite a bit of work to turn a quilt made into a pattern...even for one that I've already written most of the instructions. I keep thinking that most of the work is done if the quilt has been one of my Personalized Mystery Quilto classes.  But the clues for a mystery quilt are not really the same as pattern steps, and more importantly, a class handout is different than a published pattern. When I am teaching, you can ask me lots of questions! To write a pattern, I need to think about what is necessary, what is helpful...and what is just excess verbage that nobody will read anyway!

I really did not want to make this quilt again (there are already 3 versions of it) but I try to write the best instructions possible and then give them to at least one tester. If it's been awhile since I made the quilt, I still need to cut and sew it, even though a class may have pointed out places to make improvements.
This time I had a great idea: just make the blocks in whatever fabric I wanted (to test the yardage), and not worry about the finished quilt. This one is a pieced picture, so generally it does need specific fabrics for each block!

What was at hand? The collection of coffee theme fabrics...part of my 4 year promise to make kitchen curtains for my sister! Of course I had yards of fabrics, and only used a few.
This is a good example of making the fabric work for you. The top of the picture is a strip set made with a water-color type stripe (always an excellent buy!) and a coffee bean print.
Under that are some of the sections I cut to make the block. See how different each one is? They will provide a nice variety in the finished blocks but used only one fabric.

OK, I can't say I'm totally thrilled with the look....but then, this is not how the blocks go in the pattern....and I am not going to sew up the entire quilt to look like the pattern picture anyway.
I do like the way the brown stripes work, though!

I'm happy to say this part of the pattern worked out fine.
The next set of blocks are the hard ones...and they were turning out fine, too, until my sewing machine jammed up! I hope I can get it fixed soon.
Anyway, the goal is to have the pattern published in time for QuiltFest, since I am entering the quilt it's based on!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Quilt National 2011 at The Dairy Barn

Quilt National has been showing art quilts to the world biennially since 1979. It's home in The Dairy Barn Arts Center, Athens, Ohio, makes a wonderful trip...especially on a beautiful Summer day.
The show runs from May to September, which allows for plenty of time schedule a trip. You may see the quilts until September 5 this year.
I behaved myself (this time...) and did not sneak any pictures inside. But you can enjoy many of the quilts by using this link: http://dairybarn.org
There were three juors who selected 88 quilts from the 1038 entered (sent by 494 artists from around the world). Can you imagine that process?
Quilt National does not have the usual first-second-third place style of awards as we are accustomed to at many shows. That's probably because this really is an art show. There are a total of 15 awards.
The jurors do get to chose the Best of Show, and each one has a pick for a Juror's Award of Merit.
Then comes the impressive array of special awards sponsored by many different people and organizations, some as memorials. I think a quilt show award would be a great way to be remembered after passing on. It would be a great way to honor a living person, too!
I won't list all the awards here, but a couple are especially interesting.
The Quilts Japan Prize is sponsored by the Nihon Vogue Corporation "as an expression of gratitude for teaching and guidance that American quilters have given to Japanese quilters."
There are two awards for "emerging" artists, one for an artist under the age of 30.
Especially dear is the Persistence Pays Award, given to "the first-time exhibitor who has entered Quilt National the most number of times before gaining acceptance." How's that for a wonderful idea??? And it's in memory of Hilary Fletcher, who was the director of Quilt Natioanl for many years.
Of course there is a People's Choice Award, and I did vote...but what a hard choice! That's true for any show I've ever been to.

As I was traveling, I once again thought of the many states who have a Quilt Barn project. Farmers have a huge quilt block painted on the barn, or on a sign hung on the barn, and then a map is made up so you can tour aound and see all the barns. Kentucky has several visible from I-75.

While a book is not as good as seeing quilts "in the cloth", you may want to check out the book from Quilt National 2011 (there are books for each of the past shows as well, though some may be out of print). Besides the jurors' statements (a chance to find out what were they thinking!), there is a very insightful Intrduction written by Kathleen M. Davis, Quilt National Director. It tells in detail about the jurying process.
I paid for my copy, but I'll still give a link to Lark books at http://www.larkcrafts.com  because all their books are just beautifully done!