Friday, August 31, 2012

Wash that quilt...or not?

After all the work we put into a quilt, sometimes it's hard to think of it taking a trip through the washing machine...and maybe even the dryer!
Not all quilts need to be washed, but when I am planning to sell it, or I realize how much Shayla O'Puss "helped", I know it has to be cleaned. And when I sell a quilt that is meant to be used and loved (i.e. a utility quilt) that's especially important.
Cherry-cherry always washes her quilts, and she has a point: that's how they get the soft and crinkly texture most people love!
We're both working on finishing quilts to sell in the QuiltFest sale room, and this year they'll have a special additional tag that says the quilts have been pre-washed and give a few care suggestions.
It can be scary to wash a quilt, especially when you aren't positive about the condition of the fabrics: were they pre-washed? are they still  full of dye anyway? were they so cheap they are only held together by the excessive amount of sizing/starch?
Here is an example, my Homespun Christmas Quilt:
Disclaimer: only the side filler triangles are actually homespun!
This is the quilted but un-washed quilt. It is not heavily quilted, having just an X of stitching through each 6" block. The batt is an 80/20 cotton/poly.

Un-washed back
The backing fabric is something really stiff and cheap, beside being darker than this picture shows. So I had no idea what would happen when it gets washed.
I always wash with cold water and a minimal (if any) amount of detergent. For this one I also put in 2 sheets of dye catchers. After the wash, it went right into the dryer.
NOTE: this is NOT the way to clean a vintage quilt!!!
So how did it fare?
Very lazy quilting!

It does have a softer look! A judge would say "Needs more quilting" but it has enough to hold it together.
How about the back?
Very cheap backing fabric!

Also much nicer. The green did not run!
This would have a much nicer "crinkle" if it had more lines of quilting.
And guess what? I just may put some more in! Yes, you can add quilting when it looks like this, but you also have to be careful to ease the fabric where it has puffed up. And after it has a lot of texture, you shouldn't mess with it....unless you enjoy having lots of pleats stitched in!
If I do quilt more on this, the top will be fine, since I can control that. The back will probably get a few, as usual, it's another decision to make!

With Turn In Day only a week away, I have to switch gears and get my entry ready. It seems no matter how "finished" you think that quilt is, it always needs something right before the show: sleeve, label, last few embellishments...and probably some cat hair removal!
Shayla is a dedicated "helper", which means she likes to sleep on any quilt she can get at.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Countdown to Quilt Show!

This is the last week that does not have an official QuiltFest event scheduled before the show opens Thursday, September 20.
A week from Saturday is Turn-In Day, and I am heading up one of the locations where quilters will bring their entries.
"Smells fine and has no pet hair!" 
Basically that means I get to lug tables around and set up the room, but there will be plenty of helpers! And if anyone has questions, well, you know I am full of opinions!
Each quilt is removed from it's bag (let's hope everyone has a BIG bag this year!) and checked over: Does it look OK? Stains or pet hair? Is the hanging sleeve stitched on? Is it the correct size for the category it's in?
We can't do anything about stains except note them, so we are not blamed when the quilt is returned. If there's pet hair, we have a sticky lint roller!(also great for loose threads).  If the quilt has "an odor", judging it has sheets over & under it to protect the other quilts.
Sometimes a quilt is moved to a different category due to the size. Very rarely it gets moved because the maker confused how much applique or piecing was done, or we find out a Young Quiltmaker (age 18 & under) really wants to compete for a prize....or a relative has helped so much that the quilt needs to go in the Duet category (two makers)!
Mostly though, we try to go with the category the maker entered in.

Next comes Judging for 2--3 days.
A category on tables, ready for the judge.
Judging is a lot of work for teams of people...quilts going in and out of their bags, tables set up, scribes taking down what the judge says, awards being decided, and all has to kept in order so quilts are not misplaced.
It's a great way to have a sneak peek at the show, and to learn from the comments.
BUT, what happens at Judging, stays at Judging!

Then it's down to the Convention Center to hang the quilts.
Thank goodness the pipe & drape is done by professionals!
QuiltFest invested in a new hanging system a couple years ago that is worth every penny. The hanger is like a curtain rod and goes on hooks, with cords and pulleys. It used to take an entire day to hang the show. Now it's done by early afternoon. It seems pretty slick, but that is thanks to a lot of organization by many people all the way along.

The next day vendors come in to set up their "booths of temptation", and members of QuiltFest guilds bring in quilts to sell.
Quilts for sale: all sizes and types!
This is a great place to buy a quilt at a very good price. There are also some antique quilts for collectors, and quilt tops. Sometimes there are purses and bags. My guild is in charge of this booth on Thursday afternoon...stop by and let us show you some fantastic holiday gifts!

Then comes the Preview Party (Wed. Sept. 19) and the show opens and it's a mad rush of happy quilters until it all has to be taken down. You can follow along here as I (over)do each activity...but if you can make it to the show, that's the best!
I hope to see you there...

Now back to quilting my sale items!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Utility Quilting can be pretty!

It's time again to get ready for QuiltFest...especially the Sale Room!
With seven guilds presenting this big show, there is no boutique of small items...but members of a hosting guild may sell quilts. So this time of year I am thinking of how to turn some of my samples and tops into sale items. 
And being the lazy person I am, my first choice is utility quilting! Let's get it done!
Utility quilting can be pretty, although basically it's purpose is to hold all the layers together .
Use either of these feet. I prefer the open toe.
You can see the thread coming right up at the seam line, but I'm not stitching "in-the-ditch"...I am stitching ON the ditch! Choose a nice programmed stitch on your machine that goes from side to side (like a feather stitch) and just use the seam as a guide. Sure, you can use a tiny zigzag stitch, about with a fancy thread?
This stitch seems has little V shape.
If you look back behind the foot, on the green patch, you can see what happens when you have a (ahem) mis-matched corner. Just stop at the end of the patch, then lift the needle & foot, and re-align it to go down the center of the next patch.
By the time you're done quilting, you'll hardly see it.
In fact, I think when you make a "mistake" you should wait until the next day and, if you can't find it immediately, forget about it!
NOTE: that is NOT the way to win an award.
Although this stitch seemed like a good idea at the time, it does have a straight line right down the center. That means it ended up being almost like stitch-in-the-ditch. Here is a place I went out of the ditch.
Is it hideous? Has it ruined your day?
If so, you may prefer to read someone else's blog.
Otherwise, stick with me and we'll continue to explore real life!

What else happens with this kind of quilting?
You'll often see the fabric piling up in front of the foot.
Try to resist the urge to pull it flat... it usually just eases itself by the time it is under the needle.
Remember, the joy of this quilting style is the feed dogs are UP and the machine is making even stitches. This is not Free Motion (which I will bend you ear...or eyes...about at other times!).
Now this is a pleat forming , and you don't want that sewn into the quilt. No problem!
Just stop, lift up the foot, and chances are the fold will disappear. If not, smooth it out a bit. As always, the needle down position is helpful for holding your exact place!

It does help if you don't try to break a land speed record while you're sewing. I always want to go faster...get it done, and be on to the next project! In my long experience of quilting, this is what I can tell you for sure:
The third time you think you can go a little faster is the time you mess it up.
So if you only speed up twice, you  have probably found the correct rate for your quilting!

Here's what the whole quilt looks like:

You're could use some quilting around the outside edge. That floating set leaves a good bit of space there. 
But it does have a binding.... and thanks to the Olympic Games, two other do as well!

Tomorrow is another Baste-A-Thon with Cherry-cherry.

Our secret weapon is the biggest can of 505 spray that you ever have seen!
And we know how to use it.

PERSONAL NOTE: "They" say you should never start a blog post with an apology for not writing. And that's true, it's boring to many people, especially those are reading for the first time.
But I do love my Follwers, and wanted to let you know a giant electric surge wiped out a number of items at my house...including my computer. It's taken awhile to get back up to normal (whatever that might be).