Thursday, January 14, 2021

Hand-Quilting Tools: What Works For Me


This quilt has been my nightly companion since December 11.  I think in another two weeks it will be finished.  I am loving the texture.  I am loving the sound of the thread being pulled through the three layers.  It's only been the past 6 years that I've been hand-quilting, and now it seems my day is missing something if I don't hand-quilt for a bit.  Let me share with you what I have found works for me.  I am left-handed and do things differently from others.  

My thread of choice is No 8 Perle Cotton.  JoAnn's is not a bad place to get the basic colors.  And you have to be careful because sometimes the No 8's and No 5's get mixed up.  No 5 is, in my humber opinion, just too thick to pull through the three layers.  These are usually $2.99 a ball.

There are fabulous colors of No 8 available, but going on-line has worked best for me.  See that cone of variegated red?  Evans brought that back from QuiltCon for me, and I do love it.  It specifically says Sashiko on it.  The way I learned to quilt was with beige Sashiko thread - think thin butcher's twine.  It's perfect for a primitive look, but it doesn't come in colors.

On to needles.  And Jen BB gave me the best tip:  No 5 Milliner's needles.  They are longish so that you can load 4 or 5 stitches on them.  The eye is just the right size for threading - I've become of master of this, with a lot of patience.  But they are hard to find.  Ordering from Amazon works best.  The packets at Joann's contain sizes from 3 (too large) to 9 (too small).  4, 5, and 6 are all compatible with my hands and skill set.  

On to finger protection.  By trial and error, I have learned that I need to keep something strong on my thumb for pushing and something grippy on my index finger for pulling.  Since my thumb both pushes and pulls, the protection has to be firm but also pliable.  My protection of choice are the black leather cap thimbles (Joann's) used in conjunction with the pink finger grips.  I keep one grip on my index finger and layer a pink grip and a black thimble on my thumb.  It is what works for me.  
Depending on the thickness and the layers, I may also add some little stick-em dots.  For the hand that is under the quilt helping with the tension, I wear nothing.  I have however developed a callous on my middle finger, the one that feels whether the needle has gone through all the layers.

Last but not least, bandaids.  Sometimes for gripping. Sometimes for stopping bleeds.  All I'm saying is keep them handy!  Next time?  maybe we'll talk about the actual process!

Happily Plugging Away

I love jelly rolls.  They are a reasonable way to place with a fabric collection, like this one - “quotation” by Zen Chic.  These colors are not one I gravitate towards, but I really like how this quilt turned out. It’s 60” x 80” and will be looking for its owner once it’s quilted.  And this will not be hand-quilted because the whites are all sort of heavy,  ot the kind of fabric I want to needle.  So I’ll baste this and put it in the “needs to be quilted”

I’m part of a little bee group in my Chicago Modern Quilt Guild, and December was my turn to be Queen Bee.  I asked my bee mates to make tuning fork blocks for my “Piano Tuner’s Daughter” quilt.  And these are finally starting to come in - these blocks are from 3 of us.  I asked for blocks that are 5.5”or 10.5” wide.  And that clever little Laura Hartrich also sent some that are 2.5” wide.  I love these and think the layout will be more interesting with this third size added.  To be continued as more blocks arrive.

And I’m still making masks.  

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Starting 2021 with a Big List of Unfinished Projects

I have a love affair with peppered shot cottons going on.  These are the leftovers from Cristina's quilt.  I couldn't bear to cut them up, so here's this terrific 80" x 80" quilt which I am hand-quilting. It will go to Ann Arbor and my niece Jen.  She went to Fordham and danced professionally in NYC for several years.  Now she is raising her children in a beautifully inclusive way.  This quilt will be perfect for their house.  And I love the touch of this quilt and the sound made as the needle pulls the No. 8 Perle cotton through the layers.  Look at the backing - I bought it years ago, probably because it was on sale, not knowing how I would want to use it.  This quilt?  Perfect. I'm two-thirds of the way through, which means I need to line up my next hand quilting project!
This has been long armed and just needs binding.
This 60” x 80” Chevron just needs quilting and binding.

This is the quilt of blocks made with the Canadian Quilters Association Sew-A-Long in 2019.  Blocks have all been connected, but the quilt needs quilting.

But this is my next hand-quilting project.  Just lots of low volume with a wall batting and an AGF backing.  It will be perfect to hold and fondle as soon as the first quilt above is complete.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

December: A Purse A Day


What works for me is to devote the studio to purses for a month at a time.  Each purse has 11 pieces, most of which are interfaced.  So to do the same step several times makes the best use of my time.  With this batch I used some leftover pieces that I was experimenting with and some leftover bits from other projects.  But best of all, for me, are fabrics with text.  I’m not sure whether the girls in Lusaka, Zambia, like this.  But I am confident that we are making something to suit everyone’s taste.  Sew Powerful leaders Jason and Cinnamon Miles set a goal of 20,020 purses for 2020.  And the mighty team of sewists of which I’m a part met this goal.  These 31 purses are for the 2021 goal of 20,400.  

Today I picked up all the leftover fabrics, already plotting for future purses.  And I vacuumed and organized.  I have a list of quilting projects I can’t wait to continue, start, and finish.  What a great end to 2020, the year of broken bones and Covid.  

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Not a Christmas Present


All the grandkids have quilts.  And now we’re on the second round since most of them are adults.  Jack, on the left,  is a senior at the U of I.  He is smart, personable, and a great kid.  This year he received his quilt, one I started at a winter retreat last year.  Brother Ben is helping with the photography here.  And Ben is up next.  It will be next Christmas before I figure out what I want to do for him and make it.  But it won’t be a Christmas present - it will just be his turn.   

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Surprises #2 and #3 and #4

 Sometimes I love someone so much that I have to make them something.  When there are several people who love someone so much, the result is breathtaking.  

This quilt is a series of raspberry kiss blocks made by 7 of us in  the color palette of the beloved recipient.  I agreed to hand quilt it, and it has a wonderful texture.  


This group worked on another quilt at the same time.  And we talked one of our group into long-arm quilting it.  And it is just lovely.  These pictures don't do justice to the wonderful quilting.  

The last group project was a series of individual 16" quilts for a recipient who has more quilts than anyone else we know.  I'm eager to see mine in connection with the others.  What great labors of love!  

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Up Next...

 Here are the leftover peppered shot cottons from Cristina’s quilt.  It’s pin-basted and batted with wool.  The backing is a white and black print that features the name of every color in the world.  This is 90” wide, and a little bit taller.  This will keep me busy for the dark and colder winter months ahead.  I know I am going to quilt this horizontally and may perhaps go for a plaid look by quilting vertically, too.  To be determined.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Surprise No. 1: For Cristina and Joe


You know how you want to do something so special for someone and sometimes get a bit paralyzed in getting started?  I knew Cristina and Joe were getting married at some point, and I knew I wanted to make them a "I'm thrilled you found your life partner" quilt.  And then paralysis set in.  What helped me to break through was this fabulous assortment of peppered shot cottons.

I wanted to do something featuring equally all the colors - so saturated and so bright,  I even went to one of Cristina's favorite artists, Robert Motherwell , for inspiration.  I eventually concluded that if I wanted to give her a quilt in this lifetime, that perhaps I needed to stay within my comfort zone.  So I reverted to some basic 9-patches which then I could perk up with some circular hand quilting.  

I started with an off-center spiral on October 5.  Eventualy I added a second needle and then a third.

As I began making the 9-patches and adding them to the design wall, I knew immediately this horizontal design wouldn't work.  It was fun to play around with arrangements, and I'm happy with the one I settled on. 

Its difficult to explain how much I love hand-quilting.  For so many years I palmed my hand-work off to my mother.  Guildmate Mirielle very slowly modeled the importance of handwork.  And as my parents were dying, I finally got it.  Yesterday I put in the last stitches and made a label.  As much as I love Cristina, I'm pretty crazy about Joe, too.  For a while I wasn't sure if he was good enough for her.  But he is for sure.  One night out with them as judges for a local Moth story-telling competition convinced me of that.  

I've known Cristina for almost 20 years. Despite the 41 year age difference,  we truly are friends.  There's a mutual love and recognition of how lucky we are to have this friendship.  

There have been several projects in the past year that I have been working on but haven't been able to share.  I'm thrilled that this quilt is in Cristina and Joe's hands and want to think it will keep them warm starting with their first year of marriage.  And of course I'm eager to reveal other surprises.  Soon...

Monday, November 23, 2020

Get Happy! No. 4


What a winning combination of fabrics and pattern!   I made two of these for nieces who both had quarantine babies last spring.  One niece loved hers so much that she commissioned one more for her sister-in-law (all pinks, see previous post) and for her mother-in-law who will have for the first time a baby grandchild living close to her.   

This pattern Get Happy! is available at the Bernina We All Sew website and was created by Laura McDowell Hopper (@lmhquilts, formerly @sonicstitches), a past president of the Chicago Modern Quilt Guild.  It was designed to be paper-pieced, but I made templates and pieced all four tops.  

The backing incorporates an exclamation point in fabric featuring cursive writing.  The border is the same cursive fabric but in grey.  Exclamation points are from text fabric.  This quilt? Perfection, IMHO!

Thursday, November 19, 2020

An Odd Sort of Panic and New Mantra

When I was teaching I would leave for school early, like 5:30, and then run up to the third floor of Hyde Park HS chanting, "Papers to grade, Papers to grade, I still have more papers to grade."  Recently I have developed a new chant. "Shot Cottons and Wool, Shot Cottons and Wool, I will only quilt with Shot Cottons and Wool."  Actually, I mean peppered shot cottons.  The other night grandson Brandon admitted that he goes into a slight panic when he gets to the end of a binge watch if he doesn't have another watch lined up.  I get it.  That's exactly how I am with hand quilting.  I've been working on hand-quilt ing this piece for Cristina since the beginning of October.  It takes about two months to work my way through a big quilt.  I'm maybe three weeks from completion and already I'm worrying about what to work on next.  

So I've done something with this pile of peppered shot cottons and this backing.  And a roll of wool batting just arrived.  As soon as Cristina's is complete, I'll pin baste this new creation (forgot to take a pic before folding it up...).  Hello, December and January!