Saturday, March 22, 2014

Finishing a baby quilt

Many years ago my mother made a baby quilt for my son and started one for my daughter. It got packed away and only a couple of years ago when my sister was moving did she unearth this second quilt - I have no idea how she came to have it as mom passed away in 1988! But what a treasure to pass on to a new generation!

The quilt as I received it
She was certainly ahead of her time some might think with her choice or a strong yellow broadcloth but in truth, I am sure she was trying to avoid gender stereotypes and had a very limited choice in fabrics considering they lived in the country. The puppies are hand appliqued and embroidered. At first I thought I was going to have to do all the assembly and quilting so you can imagine my surprise to find that it was finished all but the binding.

Now I am the first to admit that I am no quilter! Years ago I took a quilting course that covered many types of quilting so I have a pretty good idea of how to do it but like all things, techniques change and it seems that binding are done differently today. I learned quite a little bit when I went searching for fabric for the binding at the local quilt store and chatting with the sales girl.

I often make submissions to A Needle Pulling Thread magazine and Carla, the chief editor and owner, insisted that young moms don't want pastels any longer and so I went searching for something to 'tone in' with the colours of the embroidery and help to calm the bright yellow that was too much for me. I found a delightful print with just the right bright colours, gender neutral and not too much like a nursery print. And since a binding (the way the sales lady described the modern style to me) is fairly narrow, not a whole lot will show anyway.                 

I decided to make the binding half the width of the outer sashing (a bit wider than what I saw in the quilt store) and made use of the grid in my cutting mat to cut the correct with - 6" - rather than drawing lines on the fabric as a guide. This was against all my training to use proper straight grain by pulling a thread or tearing!

The final width of the binding was only 1.5" and I will show you why and how I got these measurements. First I had to join the strips which I cut on the 'straight' grain not the bias. I was amazed at how well this worked - no stretching like I would have gotten with a bias binding! Next I had to cut the ends on the bias or at 45 degrees. Doing this reduced any bulk I might have had by keeping the joins on the straight grain. Again the cutting mat saved a lot of time and bother.
Follow the grid and use the ruler to keep the blade cutting straight.
Next step was to join these strips with 1/4" seam allowances and press the length of fabric in half.
Next I pressed the raw edges so they met at the centre fold. Finally I folded the piece in half again on the original fold and gave it one more press. Now I was ready to start attaching the binding.
Fold in half & press
Press raw edges to centre

Press in half on the original fold again
To attach the binding to the quilt, open it out so the raw edge, single thickness, lines up to the edge of the quilt.

Here you can see how the binding, when folded to the back side of the quilt is half the width of the yellow sashing. The fold you see on the right is the centre fold of the binding.

It all went together so well! I chose to mitre the corners but I see that many of the modern quilts don't do it this way and have 'square' corners much, much easier. But I am still a bit of a traditionalist and fiddled with these corners to get the perfect mitres. And they are perfect thanks to measuring.

Here you see the binding being pinned to the back of the quilt. The stitching done on the top to hold the binding in place now acts as a perfect guide to get the binding hand stitched in place.

Everything is ready now to sit in the evening and enjoy some handwork while I watch tv! I can hardly wait....

Hope you like this print as much as I do now - it kind of grows on one!

Till next time, keep stitching.......

Friday, March 7, 2014

Trying a new fabric...

I saw this 'cabbage rose' minky-type fabric at the local fabric store and once I touched it I just knew I wanted to try a "Buckleberry" teddy bear in this fabric. Now this is taking me out of my usual range of woven fabrics but it is a good thing to try new stuff, right?


They had a wonderful baby pink but since I don't know if this is going to a baby girl or boy I had second thoughts and chose a beautiful honey brown (not sure what colour this will be on your computer).
To give this little fellow a bit of definition, I found a soft satin in a similar colour.

The sales girl and I tested the pile to be sure it didn't pull out should the baby put it in his or her mouth. (We are now learning to think of safety first in all we sew) She tore the fabric instead of cutting it - quite a surprise in these days of rotary cutters. It tore like a dream, again a surprise as the foundation of the fabric seems to be a type of knit fabric. 
At home I started cutting out and quickly found I had 'fall out' everywhere. (When torn, there was no fallout!! so this mess came as a bit of a surprise.) But it became an easy clean-up job for my trusty hand vac! Working with it close at hand, I could keep things well under control and not end up covered in bits of brown pile.  Even each piece that I cut shed as I picked it up!

Lessons to learn: Cut single thickness with the backing side up for more accuracy. I am a strong believer in grain and this makes it easy to know how you are laying the pattern pieces.
Pins seemed to work better than weights - just don't forget to flip the pieces to get the left versus right sides.
Work with a longer stitch length such as 3 rather than 2.5. Makes it easier to see the stitches and lets the machine glide over the fabric.

The satin worked out beautifully for the soles, the inner ears and the underarms to give a bit of visual definition.

If you have ever sewn fake fur coats (does that date me terribly??) or even real fur you will appreciate how the seams can slip and slide and how the fur pokes out of the seams. What I found was that if I basted (yes, the 'B' word) the tricky seams like setting in the legs, arms and neck it took far less time than fighting with the pins as I stitched with the machine. When you pin to baste, you can push the pile out of the seams so you are lining up the raw edges accurately. So much easier!!

When I was finished I took some time to remove the basting threads, tie off and clip all the threads before stuffing. One more thing to do with this fabric is to turn bear right side out and with a pin or seam ripper go around every seam and pull the pile out of the seams. Give the seam a little rub with your hand and it all but disappears!

So here is the finished little bear. Would I make another in this fabric? You bet. It is very forgiving if you don't get a perfectly straight seam. You are lucky if you can even see a seam!

I stuffed him with a bit less polyester so he would be softer and more cuddly than some of the others. I am hoping this Buckleberry will become as loved as the Velveteen Rabbit.

Hmm, I think I might try a pillow for the new mom from the left overs of this fabric to put behind her back in the rocking chair. One side cabbage rose and the other side - well this might require another little shopping trip; there are so many ways to go: corduroy, satin, velveteen, and on and on......

So till next time, keep stitching....

Sunday, March 2, 2014

A Growth Tuck Hem

I had a note from a student asking about hems. She was not sure how much to turn up on a pre-constructed bishop she had purchased. I quoted her measurements according to the Canadian Standards for Infants but it seemed like she would be turning a huge hem for a 6 month old child's garment. So I suggested a growth tuck hem.

A growth tuck hem is machine stitched (some of you will cheer!) that allows the mom to let down the hem of the dress as the child grows taller and does not require re-stitching (do I hear another cheer?)
This is accomplished by the creation of tucks above the hem which are stitched with a basting length stitch so the tuck is easily removed and the dress lengthened.

I would strongly suggest that you work this all out with a long piece of paper, pencil and ruler so you know how much fabric you will need before you cut the skirt of your garment. This is the best way to eliminate errors!

So here is how you would go about it.
Working from the wrong side of the skirt, turn up the hem allowance. For ease of calculation I have used a 4" hem. Very lightly press with your iron. 

Next, fold back the hem to the wrong side. Lightly press and pin. Be very accurate!
Take the garment to your machine and stitch the width of the first tuck. For ease of measurement and calculations I have chosen to do 1/2" tucks.
Use a regular stitch length for this tuck.
Back to your ironing board for a quick press. First in the folded state and then open up so you are sure there is no fabric creeping up under the tuck.
Now fold back the hem and measure 1" from the machine stitching of the first tuck to the fold of the second tuck. This must also be very accurate - each step takes precision or you will have 'wonky' or 'wavering' tucks.
When you have measured, lightly pressed and pinned the fold in place, it is back to the machine to stitch tuck #2. This tuck is also at 1/2" on your seam guide. (Now I know that my needle stitches ever so slightly to the left of exact Center Needle Position so without an adjustment I will get a very slightly larger tuck but I can live with this. All it means is that you will not see the stitching of the first or second tuck when I am done.) 
So back to the machine and stitch tuck #2. This time switch to a basting length stitch (e.g. 5) so the tuck can easily be removed in the future.
Return to the ironing board to press and measure for Tuck #3. Don't forget to check there is no fabric creeping up any of the stitched tucks.
From both sides now....
So when you are finished three tucks should look very much like this:
The last two tucks are sewn using a long stitch (e.g. 5) so they can easily be removed starting from the top tuck.
Be sure to tell mom what to do. Years ago I made a little dress for my niece and my sister doesn't sew. When I saw the dress a months later to my horror, my sister had picked out the bottom tuck, let down the hem and re-stitched it at half the original width! She said she didn't know any better and had had a rough time reworking the hem. So what seems so simple to a sewer.....
If you anticipate the tucks are going to be let down then suggest that mom not press them every time the dress is pressed. Those press marks are hard to remove at the best of times.
There is nothing saying that you can not space the tucks. This is another reason for working everything out with paper - you can test what space you have in the skirt and what effect you can achieve. Just remember to keep the width of the tucks in proportion to the size of the garment.
You might consider adding touches of embroidery on the tucks themselves or the spaces in between if you are spacing the tucks. Or perhaps you know the tucks are never going to be released and like doing 'shark's teeth'. You can create some very attractive designs with this detail. A set of tucks can be strictly decorative and set apart with a row of two of lace insertion.
There are so many ways of utilizing these wonderful tucks. I hope this inspires you to be creative with your hems.
So till next time, keep stitching.....