Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Quilting the Outlined Plus quilt

As I shared with you last week, my Outlined Plus top is done! So the next stop is quilting and the place where I can easily get sidetracked! But this time I have all of you to keep me going and today I got my top basted and ready for quilting.

I know there are lots of great ways to baste the top, batting and backing together, and today I thought I'd show you how I do it. I've been basting my quilts together like this since I can remember and it's never failed me. And it doesn't involve crawling on the floor.

My go-to method for machine quilting is pin basting. I know many people use spray baste and love it.  I personally don't like the fumes, the mess and the expense of spray basting. I also feel that unlike safety pins, the spray method does not "attach" the front of the quilt to the backing and can allow for shifting on a big quilt being stuffed through a domestic machine. My pin basting method is pretty painless and goes very quickly. I snapped some photos today as I did my Outlined Plus...

I baste any size quilt on the cutting table I have in my sewing room. Any table will work {a kitchen island works great!}. My table is 39" x 72" and my quilts are generally bigger than the table. I'll be basting what is on the table then moving the quilt to do the rest.

I center my backing on the table and use large binder clips to secure the backing. If the backing is smaller and doesn't come to the edge of the table, I tape it with masking tape. This will prevent wrinkles and movement of the backing fabric. You want it to be nice and taunt, but don't stretch it. Kind of like a well-made bed.

Next, I center my cotton batting over the backing {my batting favorite is Dream Cotton in Request or Select weight}, smooth it out, and center the quilt top over the batting. I smooth the top out and run my hands over the quilt to be sure there are no wrinkles.

I store my safety pins open and start pinning from the center out in a grid formation about every 3-4 inches. A good guideline is if you place your palm down on the quilt between 2 pins, there should be a pin touching each side of your hand.

As I'm placing my pins, I don't close them for 2 reasons. The first is that by pulling on the pin to close it you may shift the layers of your quilt sandwich. Once all the pins are in place your quilt layers are secure.

Secondly, I can close them much faster if I do them all at once and use this handy tool called a Kwik Klip. I HIGHLY recommend this if you do any safety pin basting. It speeds up the process tremendously and saves your fingers a bit. The tool is held in your left hand {if you're right handed} and used to lift the tip of the pin, so that you can push down on the top to close it. When you first try it, it won't seem very helpful, but keep going. Once you get the hang of it {maybe 50-100 pin closings}, you'll be shocked at how helpful it is. Really, get one. You'll thank me :)

Once the portion of the quilt on the table is basted and the pins are closed, I unclip everything and scoot it to one side. You can see in the picture below that I've moved it to one side. The portion that is already basted is clipped to the table.

The unpinned portion is along the right below. I've flipped up the top and the batting and clipped the backing to the table, pulling out any wrinkles. Then the batting and top are smoothed over and ready to be pinned.

Here, I've lifted up the batting so you can see how it's clipped again.

Once the right side is done, I'll scoot the quilt to the left side and finish up that side. Just about any quilt can be done in 3 sections. Today, I was able to place the long side on the length of my table, so I only had about 10-12" hanging on either side. A bigger quilt, I would have to put widthwise and have more of the length hanging off each edge. No matter what size your quilt, just securely baste what's on the table and then move out to the edges.

I did this one today in less then an hour and that was with taking pictures!

Once my quilt is basted, I cut off all but an inch or so of batting. Removing excess batting will really reduce the bulk of the quilt under the machine.

I like to use 50 weight Aurifil thread for machine quilting. It's nice and fine and blends into the quilt well. I generally choose a light color for overall quilting - maybe a light grayish version of one of the colors in the quilt. I've decided to do straight diagonal lines similar to how I quilted the mini version. I may change thread colors as I go - I've never done that before for straight line quilting, but I think all 3 of these may look nice with my colors...

Deciding how to quilt your quilt is something that takes experience and looking at a lot of quilting options. Whenever I'm looking for an idea, I often turn to one of these 4 books. I have many quilt design books, but these are my favorites. The Outlined Plus has lots of horizontal and vertical lines. That's why I'm choosing to do something diagonal to contrast with that. Anything soft and wavy could look really great too.

Or you could send it out to your favorite longarm quilter!

Don't forget you have one more week to be eligible for the prize drawing! See my previous post for the prizes and how to enter. I'll announce the winners next Wednesday! Good luck!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Outlined Plus - putting it all together

Sorry I'm a day late on the QAL. Our weather here yesterday was not conducive to photography. My blocks are assembled and I wanted to get a good picture!

When it comes to assembling the quilt, it's really helpful to have a design wall to arrange your blocks in a pleasing way. A design floor works great, but there seems to be something helpful about looking at your quilts on a vertical surface. If you google "quilt design wall" you'll find lots of options, including some portable ones. They're really wonderful and I don't think at this point I could quilt without mine!

You want to arrange your blocks so that the blocks that jump out at you are evenly balanced throughout the quilt. Often those are the blocks with the warmer, brighter colors like red, orange and yellow. Some people spend lots of time agonizing and rearranging blocks, sometimes for weeks and that works for many quilters. I usually try to distribute the colors as I put them up on the wall and may end up moving one or two. Then I sew them together - takes me a few minutes. 

Often the hardest part is sewing the blocks together in the order that you've come up with. I have to admit, I'm so bad at that. I know there are several tools out there for numbering your blocks and rows, and I'm sure they work great. My method is to put a pin facing up in the first block of each row, pile them in order and then try to sew them together in order. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. I usually don't realize a difference until the blocks are sew together - and I seldom change anything. Do any of you have a good method?

We have about 2 weeks to go until the end of the QAL. Remember you only have to have 9 blocks completed to be entered. You can enter by:
  • Posting a photo on Instagram. Use the #outlinedplus hashtag and tag me @clammon.
  • Send a photo to me:
  • Send me or leave a comment here with the link to your blog or flickr account with the photo.
I will respond or comment on IG to let you know that you are entered, so if you don't hear from me be sure to try again. The deadline is February 17th!

One of the prizes is this mini Outlined Plus quilt made by me!

Cheryl is also offering one of the adorable Cathedral Window pincushions from her Etsy shop (US only) and 2 sets of 2 digital patterns each.

I also have an 8 fat quarter bundle of Day Sail (US only) to give away for 5 prizes in all. You still have time to make 9 blocks! Here's a link to the digital pattern if you need it: Outlined Plus

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Chasing Squirrels and the QAL

Have you heard the term chasing squirrels? It refers to dogs that are easily distracted and lose focus on the task at hand. My husband uses the term all the time as he gets easily distracted by something new that comes along. I hear this often - no, I didn't get that done - saw a squirrel!

I had to laugh when I read this post on my friend Cindy's blog, Live a Colorful Life. It's an interview with Sue from Chasing Squirrels. She talks about the origin of the blog name and how she, like so many of us, starts a project and is so easily distracted when something seemingly more interesting comes along. I love how one of my friends on Instagram dubbed it "the new project high".

At a time of year when so many of us have resolved to finish up those WIPs, it seems like a good time to think about how to stay focused or maybe if it's even necessary to stay focused on finishing a project.

I'm a prime example. I had all sorts of intentions to work on a few projects before starting something new. Then I saw a squirrel!

I ran across this post with a tour of the studio where the fabulous Cotton and Steel designers work. {If you haven't seen it - go!} I admire them so much and love their aesthetic. Then I saw a quilt on the wall. The block design is Arkansas Traveler and has been on my to-do list for a while. And done in Cotton and Steel?! I was gone!

I dropped everything {including my Outlined Plus} and just had to make it. Do you ever have those moments when you just have to try something? Maybe there is a "new project high".

The good thing is I loved making it and loved how it was turning out, so I stuck with it.

I drafted the block to 8" finished, made an elongated 4-patch and paper pieced the background around the 4-patch. There are 12 points that come together and most of those intersections are far from perfect, but I love it anyway. I quilted it heavily to flatten out all the lumps and bumps.

So today I thought I'd share my feelings on staying on task - for some of you that may be working to finish your Outlined Plus.

First, I think you have to know yourself. I would love to be more like Thelma from Cupcakes and Daisies or Rita from Red Pepper Quilts, who seem to be able to work on one project at a time and actually complete it before starting the next. But that's just not me and no matter how hard I try it never will be. And that's okay!

I love what Sue says in her interview with Cindy. How important is it really to finish everything? There are so many things we "have to do" in life, why make finishing a quilting project one of them? You should really hop over and read what Sue says - I think she makes a really good point. No need to feel bad about UFOs!

But I do like to finish things. I enjoy quilting more when I don't have too many ongoing projects.  Here are some ideas that work for me:

  • I know I can't do just one, but I try to limit the number of WIPs.
  • I keep an ongoing list of what I have started.
  • I put finished tops into a drawer, but anything I'm currently piecing is out in the open and there's only so much room.
  • If I start something and really don't like it - I give it up easily. There are many things I try that don't look anything like what they did in my head.

We all have to find what works for our own personalities and circumstances!

If you're working on the Outlined Plus - you do have a bit of an incentive. Remember there are some nice prizes up for grabs if you finish 9 blocks. The deadline is Feb 17th. It's just 3 weeks away -3 blocks per week and you've got it!

So where am I? After I caught the squirrel, I got back on track and finished my 30 blocks. They're ready to be sewn together and I'll be talking about that next week!

Do you have any strategies for staying on task? I'd love if you shared them in the comments!

In the meantime, happy quilting!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Social Media and the Outlined Plus QAL

How are coming along on your Outlined Plus blocks? On Monday, I had this on my design wall...

Some afternoon sewing yesterday and 18 became 24...

Don't you love that we have the tools to share our quilting adventures?

I'm guessing quilters have enjoyed sharing their work since the dawn of quilt making. Early quilters had Quilting Bees and I have to admit that I would not be the quilter that I am had it not been for my first quilt guild and all those members. I tried to do a google search on when quilt guilds first started and came up with nothing. My guess is that it was a pretty long time ago!

And now we have social media! Sometimes overwhelming with all the inspiration, but I feel it's a goldmine for sharing and ideas. Quilting is pretty much a solitary endeavor and social media can really bring us together!

Do you prefer Flickr? Blogs? Pinterest? Instagram? Facebook?

I'm still an avid blog reader, but I do love Instagram because it's simple, easy, quick and so visual.

The nice thing about Instagram is that I can see all of the progress on your Outlined Plus quilt on one page with the use of hashtags. I miss my sewing days with my friend Gina {@glshelley}, but the next best thing is sewing and sharing together on Instagram. Look at the gorgeous progress she's made on her quilt!

If you've been thinking about hopping on Instagram and haven't yet, and especially if you're joining in on the QAL, now's the time! Download the free app, set up an account, and be ready for some inspiration. There's a great tutorial here.

It's really pretty simple and here's my rundown on the basics of what you need to know...

Once you have the app and a profile, you're really going to just need the 5 buttons along the bottom of the screen:

Starting from the far right {the head icon}is your profile/home page. This is a screen shot of my home page. My IG name is at the top. You can click on my followers or following to find other IGers to follow.

The bubble with the heart icon shows the activity on all your posts - "likes", comments and new followers.

The center blue button is your place to post photos. You can take a picture using Instagram or use one of the photos already on your device.

The magnifying glass is your search page. You can search for people to follow or hashtags by typing your search into the box on top and choosing "people" or "tags".

The house icon is your feed. All the posts by the people you follow will be here in chronological order with the newest one first.

One of the things that I love about IG is no ads!

Two more important things to know:

Hashtags are written in your photo's caption or you can add them in a comment on your own posts. Adding a hashtag will put your photo into a pool with all other photos having the same hashtag. Click on the hashtag to see all of the photos. They are written like this #outlinedplusquilt {they do have to be spelled perfectly - one wrong letter or missed letter creates a whole new hashtag}

To tag a person you'll need to know their IG name. You'll tag them by adding the @ sign before their IG name. If you tag them in your caption or comment, your photo will pop up in that person's activity feed. To tag me in your photo, you would add @clammon to your caption or comment.

I know a lot of you are already using Instagram, but I hope this helps if you've been reluctant to try it. What a great place for us to see all the Outlined Plus quilts!

And if you follow me, you may have seen this photo yesterday...

It's a mini Outlined Plus block and will be part of one of the prizes for completing 9 blocks by Feb. 17th!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Plans for 2016...

I had big plans to write this post last week, but the flu had other plans for me.

Back on track and ready to share some of the things I'd like to make in 2016!

With most of my WIPs finished {I'll be quilting the last one on the longarm this week}, I'm so ready to start some new quilts!

I really like having a limited number of WIPs in place. Too many kind of make me feel crazy and my creativity goes into a slump. I thought this year I would work on having no more than 4 projects going on at one time. And that's how I started...

#1 - my Outlined Plus quilt

#2 - 60 degree Stars using Paperie 

#3 - Broken Dishes using Vintage Picnic and Bonnie and Camille stash

#4 Flower Girl using this floral as color inspiration and stash fabrics

Then this idea came to me - Arkansas Traveler using Cotton + Steel

And now I had #5

Then I needed some evening handwork and started this using my Bonnie and Camille 2 1/2" squares

And then there were 6!

So it looks like my four isn't working! It was time to readjust and I've decided to work on piecing two of the quilts, work on a small project {mini, pillow, pouch} and have one handwork project going.

Sound manageable???

That being said, I haven't limited how many quilts are on my list! A girl has to dream! In fact Terrazzo is coming to the top of the list!

How many projects do you have going at once??

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Outlined Plus QAL

Welcome to the second post for the Outlined Plus Quilt Along!

Have you started sewing yet? I'm up to 15 blocks! Halfway there!

I have a few simple piecing tips to share today, though the pattern is definitely not a difficult one. I don't know about you, but I always find the easiest way to piece a block when I get to about the second to last!

Here are some things I found helpful so far...

If you've cut your directional fabrics like I described in my last post, you definitely want to try to keep them in the correct position as you sew them. I like to lay out my pieces for a block on my sewing table (or one of those block holders would be great for this). Then I come up with a mantra for the order in which I'm going to pick them up. Mine is ~ Top, Bottom, Left, Right. If I stay consistent, I always know which piece goes where.

Let's talk about pressing. Do you press your seams to one side or open? I do both. I like to press open, because it creates a nice flat block especially when there are lots of bulky seams. I like to press to one side when I need to accurately match seams.

In this block I've pressed many of the seams open. But there's a seam where the top and bottom pieces match the center rectangle. I really want that seam to match perfectly so the "plus" doesn't have any visual bumps in it. So in Step 2, I've pressed my seams toward the D pieces. And in Step 4, I've pressed the seams toward the H pieces. I find more accuracy when the seams are opposing. They seem to nest and lock together.

As far as pinning goes, I don't pin excessively. But pinning is helpful at those seams that you want to match up. I don't sew over my pins, so my method of pinning is to place my pin just past the seam I'm trying to match. That way the intersection is sewn before I take the pin out. And speaking of pins - you really want nice thin, fine pins for piecing that are super sharp. A dull or thick pin will just shift your intersection and may do more harm than good. My favorite are Little House, but there are other brands that are great. Just be sure they're a good quality brand and say fine pins on the package.

{FYI - Little House pins are on sale at Fat Quarter Shop this month!}

I'm pretty pleased with how my seams have matched up!

Have you found any helpful tips for making the block? If so, share them in the comments so we can all benefit. And don't forget to share your progress on Instagram #outlinedplusquilt

Thanks again for quilting along!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Outlined Plus QAL - Let's get cutting...

Have you selected your fabrics yet?If so, be sure to post them on Instagram #outlinedplusquilt

The next thing to do is start cutting. It's nice to get most of the cutting done, so that you can sit and sew whenever you get a few minutes.

I have most of my fabric cut. I usually cut a few blocks short of what I need. That way as I finish up the blocks and put them up on my design wall, I may find that I need more or less of a certain color  or value than I originally thought. I'm making the 30 block quilt and I have 26 of them cut. I'll cut the last 4 once the 26 are done. Make sense?

This block has a couple of seams that you probably want to "disappear". If you're working with a busy fabric or a solid, that will happen automatically. If you have some stripes or a directional fabric, Cheryl tells you in the pattern that you may need to alter the cutting.

There are probably a couple ways you could do that, but today I'd like to share what I came up with.

For your Plus section:

If you have a stripe, be sure to have the stripes going vertically for this diagram. When the block is pieced "B" will be sewn to the top and bottom of "H". If you cut this way, not only will your direction be consistent, but any stripes will match up because they're being cut right where they will be sewn back together. The "C" pieces move to the sides and the direction will be correct.

Here's how mine looked once it was cut and placed in position:

After doing all that fussy cutting, you want to be sure to keep the pieces organized and oriented. All my plusses are piled on a foam board covered in flannel. These are great block holders and you can find the tutorial for making them from Lori Holt at Bee in My Bonnet. I really need to make some more - they are so handy!

For the background, here's a diagram for an alternate cutting method, if you have directional fabrics or want to match stripes:

By cutting your "F" pieces as pictured {with the waste in the middle} your stripes will all line up when pieced back together. Be sure to have your stripes going vertically for this diagram.

I used my 15" square ruler to organize my pieces. Again, you want to keep them in order if you've done some fussy cutting.

I'm up to 9 blocks pieced together! Like all quilts once you get the rhythm the blocks go together pretty quickly. I made one block in about 20 minutes today {I know, I'm weird, I time myself}

Looking forward to seeing your progress!