Textiles & Fabric

Leap Day Superior Thread Giveaway

The lovely lady leaping is not me (aw, shucks), but is Allessandra Hamlin, from a websearch.

Today is the long-awaited Leap Day Superior Threads Giveaway!

Ten of us have joined together in this endeavor.  I hope you will visit them all (listed at the end of this post) and win a bunch of thread today–enough to keep you leaping into quilting for now and for a long time.  We are giving away a total of 35 spools, all courtesy of the Superior Thread Company.

Here’s what I am giving away today:

Three Spools of The Bottom Line, a superb thread for quilting

And two other spools: one of King Tut in my favorite colorway, and another of The Bottom Line.

And because I don’t think that orange should go anywhere without a chaperone, I’m adding a little bundle of fat eighths to keep it company.

I’ve experienced quite a lot of thread in my sewing life.  I started with cotton, used silk and cotton in college while working on my degree in Clothing and Textiles, endured the first wave of polyester thread, and the shredding of combination threads in my machine.   The first decent polyester thread I used was by a German company, and I continued to buy whatever was in the fabric store that matched what I was sewing.  But one day, while at a quilt show, I noticed a newcomer onto the scene: Superior Threads.

I bought some of their thread and the thread was perfect for creating the effect needed for a winter scene.  I learned to step up to a size 14 topstitch needle and to learn to play with my upper tension settings, loosening them, some which I learned from their website, which has TONS of information about threads, as well as tips and tricks for a happy sewing outcome.  Not only does thread have to suit the artistic challenges of what I have in mind, I also need it to perform well.  In other words, I don’t want to have to think about it–I just want to sew. But on my next quilt, I was struggling to get the balance right between the top and bobbin threads: The Bottom Line to the rescue, purchased at my local quilt shop. This slightly finer thread did the trick for me.

This is the King Tut, color #916, quilted into my giant summer flowers Lakehouse quilt.  I had to sew across many different colors and this colorway did the trick. You’ve already read about Be My Valentine, and how I used King Tut on the top and The Bottom Line in the bobbin.

So join in the fun!

To win one of the two giveaways above — either the three spools of The Bottom Line (which is also great for applique, too) or King Tut, his Lady Love in tangerine and the fat-eighth chaperone — leave me a comment and a make up a name for King Tut’s Lady Love.  You can indicate in the comments which giveaway you’d rather have. I’ll close the giveaway on Saturday, March 3rd at 8:00 p.m. PST, and announce the winner that evening, along with the new name for King Tut’s tangerine Lady Love.

Now head over to our other bloggers and enter their giveaways too!

 Lee from Freshly Pieced
 Sherri from A Quilting Life
Leanne from She Can Quilt
Jeni from In Color Order
Carla from Lollyquiltz
Jennifer from That Girl, That Quilt
Terri from Sewfantastic

Scrappy Star, part II

This is a continuation of Monday’s post, where I began showing you how I put together these scrappy star blocks.  Head to yesterday to download a PDF file of my paper piecing template.  But if you hate paper piecing, even though this one is an easy block to paper piece, consider making strips of fabrics (one selvage-to-selvage width should be fine) to match the widths on listed on the template, then merely use the diamond as a pattern to cut out your blocks.  I’d still do the stay-stitching on the outside edge.

As with anything, the first time you make a new pattern, you’re in the process of figuring it out.  I first thought I’d sew them all together with the paper on.  So I did, but the ripping off the paper was horrid. So don’t do that.  First rip off the paper, then piece it together.

I used “fatty thigh method” as taught to me by Katie Pasquini-Masopust in a class I took from her at Houston.  Yep.  Set it on that little thigh of yours, poke and rip that paper off.

Actually, it comes off a lot easier if you crease it with your thumbnail and you use that vellum paper.  First rip off the outside 1/4″ edges, then go for the interior.  Be careful not rip out your stitching; I sometimes rip from the side, like tearing off a piece of paper from a pad.

Set it up on the ironing board, give it spritz of spray starch, press it flat. Now lay it out to decide:


Funny, I how never get tired of playing this game.

Piece two diamonds together.

Don’t stitch right off the edge on either end of the seam — stay within the stay-stitching on that outer edge.  Tighten up your stitch length as you approach the place where you are going to end.  At the outer edge, the Y-seaming, that you’ll later have to do when you inset the outer pieces, is made easier with a little bit of wiggle room. And at the top, you’ll need room for all those points to meet together.

After you seam two together, then add one more to make three.

Then line up the edges, and stitch the two halves together, again, being careful to not sew across the point, but instead staying within the stay-stitching lines, breaking your stitching as you travel across that center point area.

You might freak out at this point because it has that “training bra” look in the middle, but be patient. Press each seam open, bit by bit, using a little bit a steam as you go.  It will lay down flat.

Then take your thumb and place it in the center.  Press hard and give it a twisty-twirl to get those seam allowances to lay down.

Back after twirling and pressing.

Front, after twirling and pressing.  Remember that you left a little hole in the center because you stayed within the stay-stitching line.

Here are my first four.  The first star took forever.  The second one I finished in about an hour, from start to finish.  The first two stars were scrappy, and the third I went into the stash so that’s why it looks more blended.  There’s no rules.  Because they are so big (about 20 inches across from point to point) they make a great impact.  I’ve laid them out with points touching, so you can see that the diamond pattern will also serve as the template for that missing filler piece, if that’s the direction I head.

As soon as I get my other blocks made, I’ll start thinking about settings.  I am wondering if I have enough guts to do a rich visual background, a la Material Obsession in Australia.  I’m also thinking about some kind of borders that will punch up the stars somehow.  I have no clue where I’m going with this, but I hope to enjoy the journey of creation.

Check back for tomorrow’s thread Leap Day Superior Thread Giveaway.  There are ten of us participating; you can hop around and enter to have lots of chances for some great thread!


Scrappy Star, part I

I’ve been diving into scraps this week, as I had a couple of days all to myself.  Inspired by a quilt I saw in the Scrap Attack Flickr group, a scrappy star by Svetlana of s.o.t.a.k homemade, I decided to try it myself.  It looked similar to lots of spiderweb blocks found in many traditional blocks, some published ages and ages ago, I thought I might be able to draw on my years of quilting and put it together myself.

First, download my scrappy stars paper piecing template by clicking on the link (NOT the picture).  It should measure 10 inches from tip to tip when you print it out.

A tip I learned from Becky Goldsmith is to print out your paper piecing templates on vellum paper.  I bought a package some time ago from my local paper store, so I went to the copy center and printed ONE copy of the diamond.  Then I pulled the original off the platen glass and checked it for size.  Yep.  Same size.  I wanted to make about eight stars (and there are six diamonds in each star), so I printed off 60 copies — about ten more diamonds than I needed, just in case.

Okay, so PANIC!  When starting a new process or project, I can feel overwhelmed by it all.  But then I said to myself, just choose six fabrics that go somewhat together, in fact the less they go together the better it will be.  That’s all, then you can take it from there.  I chose fabrics, laid them out, liked them.  I cut 3″ squares for the two tips, then I cut the rests of the strips 2 1/2 inches wide by 6 1/2″ long.  Yes, I know that’s way wide, but I liked some squoosh room when working with them.

Line up two at first, peeking through the parchment template to line them up straight.  Stitch on the line.  If you are not familiar with the technique, there are several YouTube videos (just google “paper piecing”).  I don’t trim up the sides yet.

As you progress, you’ll need to trim off the excess in between your seaming.  Lay it out flat on your cutting surface, and crease back the template on the stitching line, making a nice crisp crease.  This also helps when you rip that paper off, later.

Line up the ruler, slice off the extra.  Iron the fabric down into place, then keep going until you fill up your diamond.

From the paper side, use the marking to stitch around the outside edge.  Since you are using scraps, some may be off-grain and this stay-stitching helps stabilize that outside edge.

Trim.  It looks sooo pretty now, but now comes the real fun!

Lay them all out.  * Smile.*  Since you are working in such a large scale (20 inches from tip to tip), that star really makes an impact.

Or do I like it this way?  Flipping them around creates a totally different look.

I have this clever device: a hinged mirror.  I place ONE diamond, set the edges of the mirror on it, and voila! My block, in reflection.

This is what it looks like from the top, sitting on top of one diamond.

Check back Tuesday for how I put the pieces together.  AND. . .Don’t forget to come back on Wednesday for our thread giveaway.  We have ten different bloggers participating in the Leap Day Superior Thread Giveaway.

100 Quilts · Finishing School Friday

Be My Valentine

Okay, I know I’m late.  Late for Valentine’s Day.  But better late than never, right? Another entry into Friday Finishing School.  In fact, today I have two!mini-love-quilt

I finished sewing down the binding on my LOVE mini quilt–here it is!  Okay, on to the red and white.


Be My Valentine, Quilt #94

I threw a color catcher into the washer to catch the red dye–obviously I needed two, judging by the fact that the little ladies now have a light pink background instead of a white background.  It’s interesting how some of the whites were tinted pink and others were not.  Go figure.

The back.

I wanted something fun for the label, so I cut out a piece of fabric from the front, and printed onto that. It really is squared up.  Ignore the photo.

Beauty shot of the quilting on the front.  I used a thicker thread–King Tut, because I wanted those circles to stand out.  I have to say I really like quilting with Superior Thread’s King Tut.  And I buy my thread from them, just like everyone else does.  No, they are not a sponsor.  Yes, we are having a giveaway but only because I like their product.  I also use the Guterman that I get on a 50% off coupon at  the big box fabric store, but I’ve only really been happy with that for piecing, not for quilting the top.  (And no, I don’t buy into that myth about polyester thread “cutting” the cloth.)  I have also used Sulky on occasion, but sometimes I don’t like the shiny look of the polyester, and head back to the cottons.  Some quilts call for one kind of thread, other quilts call for other threads.

And on the back I used Superior’s Bottom Line thread in white. How did I ever start using this?  It was when I was sewing my Empty Nest, Full Life quilt, and I just couldn’t get the threads to balance properly with their locking of the stitch in between the front and the back.  I think I had purchased a spool of Bottom Line at the last quilt show I’d gone to and in desperation, wound it onto the bobbin to try.  It’s a lighter weight thread, and I think Heather (Mother Superior, as she is known on the website) told me that a lot of show quilters used it because they could more densely quilt their quilts.  That fact didn’t sway me at all (you know how much I hate densely quilted quilts), but the fact that I didn’t have loopy loops or pulled threads to the front did convince me it was something to have around.  I loosen the tension on the top a little, sometimes a lot.  Then I write that on a post-it note and keep it near the machine for when I have to come back to it.  Generally, with a thicker thread on top, I lower it by one full point–from a 4.0 to a 3.0.

So I tend to use it always in the bobbin.  I’ve always wanted to try it in hand piecing, as it is as fine as silk.  Some day.  There you go–two Friday Finishes!


Scraps Into LOVE

This challenge of Rachel’s is looming in my mind, now that I’m past the red/white quilt, and feeling like life has resumed its rhythm.  She has a terrific Flickr group, and I spent some time there this morning, looking at various ideas.

I used to be a real scrap saver until one day I looked at what I had and realized it was mostly junk.  Making a quilt can be a bit like falling in love, with that rush of excitement, the novelty, the promise.  You work your way through the fabrics and patterns and ideas and a quilt evolves into something that becomes comfortable and comforting.  I don’t need the scraps because I have the real thing.  But every once in a while, I do get on a saving jag, but I have decided to confine my scraps to this large bin drawer in the bottom of my studio closet.

I printed out the paper piecing chart from Sew, Mama, Sew for this mini-quilt by Kelly of KelbySews, setting the printing to 50% as I wanted it tiny.  Quick.  Something to do this afternoon while I listened to my novel on the computer.  Something to keep my hands busy and into the scraps.  I don’t know why the corners are skewing like they are–I’ll have to figure out what’s going on before I stitch down the binding.

One way I’ve heard to hang a mini is to make folded triangles in the upper corners of the back.  So I did.

I found many other ideas while browsing.

This one, titled Veggie Star Quilt, by Dana who write the WaterPenny blog, is really wonderful with its wonky star blocks and twisty layout.

This is from the balu51 and her own Flikr pool, and I wish I know who that was, but she has a cute fluffy white dog and lives in a place with LOTS of snow.  She attributes her inspiration to Amy of Badskirt.  (Who wouldn’t find inspiration on that blog?)

And who wouldn’t want to make this variation?  I found this on Rachel’s Stitched in Color blog, but you can also find it on Ayumi’s blog.

I tried to balance the day with some looking, some sewing.  I sleep better at night knowing there’s something begun in a day, whether or not it is completed.  I’ve put all these links and pictures in here, not so much for you, but for me–to remember my wandering journey (a hallmark of the internet is this wandering quality).  Rachel has laid out her plans, with a culminating Festival of Scraps the last week of March.

And an reminder: the Leap Day Superior Thread Giveaway is in less than a week!  I’ll have two giveaways, and one of them has a wee packet of fabric to go with it–something to help you with your scrappy quilts?  See you on Leap Day!


English Paper Piecing, continued

I’m leading with the same photo I did yesterday, the very first English Paper Piecing Block (EPP) I’ve ever done.

But here’s the beginning of my work in progress: block two, all looking like a set of green and blue flower petals, waiting to be joined into a rosette-like flower.  It has  a different background border.

Block Three is in progress, as I cut my fabric full of swiss-cheese-like holes.

And it’s only as I begin to work on Block Four that I’m beginning to see that it’s really no use to get too much of a blender series of kite shapes there at the outer edges.  Otherwise you might as well cut a giant triangle and piece into place.  What makes this form of patchwork beguiling is the ability to incorporate different fabrics to get a mosaicky look to it, like it’s a kaleidoscope or tumbling pieces of glass.

I realize that some of it is the fabric I’ve chosen.  If I’d gone more the color route, drawing different colors form here and there and making them into a rose, I wouldn’t have had to worry so much about getting too much blending.  Typical of me to think of a hard way to do something easy and beautiful.  But I like this challenge, and how the project is teaching me as I work through it.   And in searching for different darker borders, I found two one-yard pieces of this fabric, but I don’t know how many more flowers I want to make.  The first took me about two weeks of TV and conversation time; it measures over 17″ from point to point.  Jumbo.  That small center hexagon on the desk is out there to remind me of Block Two as I work on 3 & 4, as Block Two is usually tucked away in the basket downstairs, waiting for conversation with my husband.

Or  a good show–like the Academy Awards, which is coming up this Sunday. (Go *here* to How About Orange to download the Oscar Bingo cards and Ballots. Her photo, above, is used with permission.)

What else on this WIP Wednesday?  Finishing up the label for the red/white quilt I’ve been working on.  Which is less than wonderful (more on that on Friday), but I love love the quilting.  So isn’t that how it goes?  Sometimes you love the whole of something, and other times you only love parts of it.  Just like toddlers.  Or teenagers.  Or teaching.  Or just like life.

Many thanks to Lee of Freshly Pieced Fabrics for hosting WIP Wednesday.

Head back over there to see other works in progress.