“For Your Consideration….”

In the world of sewing, there are very few hard and fast rules that must be followed. Most of the rules we follow are based on opinion and experience. My two most recent quilting projects, the table runner…..

  

and the quilted throw…….    

used monofilament, or invisible thread for the needle thread with a cotton thread in the bobbin for all the stitch-in-the-ditch quilting. Usually, the rule I follow is to use cotton quilting thread for all the quilting except in two specific instances. First, if the top of my quilted project has very different colors in it, I usually opt for the monofilament thread since it will not draw attention to itself as the project is stitched through the different colored areas (this was the case for the table runner).  In the second case, if the backing and the top of the quilted project are two very different colors. This was the case for the quilted throw  

where the back was a deep chocolate brown solid and the top was made up of fabrics that had various shades of beige. If I had used light beige for the top thread and dark brown for the bobbin, evenly spaced “picks” of beige would have shown through on the dark background, where the top thread joined the bobbin thread. By using the monofilament thread on the top, it disappeared into the various shades of beige on the top of the quilt and did not show at all on the dark solid back.

Though I would not use monofilament thread to stitch out the embroidery designs (I used a 30 weight cotton thread),

it proved very helpful in hiding my stitches for the stitch-in-the-ditch quilting. I hope you’ll give this a try.

“Where’s My Quilt Backing?”

Last week I shared with you that I had started a jelly roll quilt.  As I was attaching the backing to the batting and top, I thought about sharing with you how I put everything together that has consistently worked for me. I have seen videos where the backing has been attached to the table with tape or has had weights attached to it to keep it straight. I’m sure those work great for those who choose those methods, but I have found what is for me, a much simpler method that yields excellent results. I start by laying the batting down on my work surface. After making sure the batting is smooth, I lay the backing; the right side of the fabric facing up, on top of the batting and pin it in spaced rows with long straight pins. 

I next pin right along the edge of the backing fabric, creating a border of straight pins.  

With everything smooth and pinned, I turn over the pinned backing and batting.  As I am ready to attach the top of my quilt to the rest of the sandwich, I can easily see the pins I placed along the border of my backing.

 

I now know exactly where my backing is. This allows me to leave a significant edge of batting and backing around my quilt top without having to guess if I’m on the money. I can leave myself as much of a border as I will need to do the final embroidered quilting. Once I know where my layers are, I then continue with my regular pinning of the entire quilt with quilting safety pins, about every couple inches to hold everything securely while I quilt and embroider the top. Once I finish pinning the entire quilt, I turn the quilt sandwich over and quickly remove the straight pins I used to temporarily hold the backing and the batting together. Everything remains free of wrinkles and unexpected tucks and I know I am exactly squared on my backing and ready to move onto the next step in the process.

“Bridging Batting”

I was working this week on finishing up my table runner, but ran into the problem of not enough batting. UGH!  So, to fix this issue, I did what every other sewer would do………….I started another project!  Later this month I was going to make a jelly roll race quilted throw for a housewarming gift for my niece, so I just decided to start that now in order to use the left over batting from the throw to finish the runner.  Made perfect sense to me!  Anyway, I got to the point where I could trim the batting from the throw only to discover that none of the long pieces I had left over were wide enough to pad the table runner.  I have seen fusible joining products for batting, but I decided instead to try the bridging stitch on my machine

( #31), paired with the Interchangeable Dual Feed Changeable Decorative Foot (from Husqvarna Viking).  Because the two pieces of batting are not overlapping but are butted up next to one another, there is absolutely no bulk.    The foot has a metal guide down the middle where the two pieces of batting meet and the stitch joins them together.  

I am very happy with the final piece of batting .  If this is hard for you to see in the photo, I took another photo with the bridge flanked by two pins (the joint is between the two pins).  

If you own a Pfaff, you do not have the same Interchangeable Dual Feed Foot, but you do have the Narrow Edge Foot for IDT which will do the exact same job.  If you own a Husqvarna Viking but do not have the Interchangeable Dual Feed, there is also a foot called the Edge Joining Foot that will work.  When using any of these options, consider lowering the presser foot pressure to about 3 so the batting does not get stretched out with this technique.  (Remember, if you can adjust the presser foot pressure on your machine, you will do that either with a knob on the left side or top of your machine or in the Set Menu).  Also, use a thinner thread.  I used a 50 weight.

“Pressing Point”

As you saw in my May 27th entry, I have been making a bird-themed table runner.    I am now to the point of assembly and I wanted to share with you how I get such precise seams using some pressing aids used in garment sewing. Since the blocks are embroidered and quilted before assembly, the seams can get a bit bulky when joined together. To minimize this, I use a Point Presser.    

This is a wooden tool that allows me to drape the block over the Point Presser so I leave no imprint of the seam on the right side of the block.

      Because the point presser is wooden, the surface is much harder than pressing the seam on the ironing board, so the seam is extremely flat. After pressing the seam on the Point Presser, I press again, this time on the ironing board and with only enough pressure to steam it well. I then use the Clapper to press down on the seam.

The Clapper is also made of wood (for me the two tools are one) and is used to absorb the steam from the material leaving the fabric very flat. Once my seams are flat, matching the points where the blocks join together is much easier. 

If the seam I have to press is longer, I use my Seam Stick, which is also made

of wood. 

It produces a very crisp seam and also doesn’t allow an impression of the seam to show through the right side of the project.

     

Once all the blocks were joined together,                                         I added the border, which has no batting attached. 

Now all I have left to do is add one whole piece of batting to the backing, stitch in the ditch, embroider the quilting around the border, add the binding and I’m finished. I hope you give these pressing ideas a try.

“Rolled Hemmers”

Summer is a great time to break out the Rolled Hem presser feet you may have in your accessory tray and whip up some picnic napkins, ruffles, light weight scarves; the list is endless! These hemmers are common to all home sewing machines, no matter the manufacturer and can produce a beautiful, professional looking hem. They do take a bit of practice though, so I thought you might appreciate seeing a couple videos that are particularly good in their demonstration of the different stitches and techniques that can be used to create different finished looks. It is easiest to hem in one straight line when you are just beginning, but with a little bit of practice, you will soon be turning corners and sewing in circles! Not all the sizes of hemmers are available for all machines, but these tutorials will give you a good idea of what is possible. The first video is by Sara at Heirloom Creations. She will show you how to start your fabric and how to add lace, hem in a circle and more. The second video is by The Colorful World of Sewing and provides an excellent demonstration of how to turn corners, different methods for getting the hem started and how to use different stitches to produce different sized scallops.

“Check the Blog!”

Each time I teach a machine class, project ideas are always fun to discuss. People love to share the projects they are working on and I am always happy when a subject we cover in class helps to make someone’s in-progress project easier. I always remind students that they should be checking the online blogs from both Husqvarna Viking and Pfaff to see what project ideas and inspirations they may have. There are projects for all levels of sewers; some with embroidery (sometimes with a free embroidery design to download) and some without. I wanted to draw your attention to two new blogs that were just posted at the beginning of June that may spark a creative idea for you.  The Husqvarna Viking blog is featuring a pillow that would be fun to make for a new home décor accent and the Pfaff blog is featuring a travel bag that would be perfect for those of you who are planning to travel this summer. Each of these projects are found on the site’s blog which you can find either on the home page of the website or under “Inspiration” or “Be Inspired” across the top menu bar. If you have never stopped by the online site for both Husqvarna Viking and Pfaff, I encourage you to visit both. If you see something you like, download the project instructions and have fun!

“Make Something Unique”

It’s always fun to have something new to wear. As the seasons change, we tend to add things to our wardrobe that are reflective of our personal style. You don’t have to be a garment sewer to add unique touches to new wardrobe pieces. I have often talked, in this blog, about using the decorative stitches that came on your machine. No matter what machine make or model you own, you have a selection of decorative stitches (or utility stitches that can be used decoratively) that can make things you wear uniquely you. A purchased shirt can sport a contrasting pocket that features decorative stitches. A new tote can have a row of ribbon stitches around the top (ribbon stitches are available on select Pfaff machines). A jacket can have a circle of decorative stitches on the back using the Circular Attachment for your machine.              

Take some time to make a sampler of the decorative stitches available on your machine. Stitch them out using different decorative threads or even using different sized twin needles. Once you have made the sampler, keep it handy to spark your creative juices as you bring garments, accessories or home décor items home.

“Squaring Embroidered Blocks”

Sewing, for the most part, is an exact art. It matters whether or not seams match up. It matters what direction napped fabrics are cut and it matters whether or not prints match. In quilting, cutting exact sized blocks is very important to the finished product. This applies to standard pieced blocks as well as to embroidered quilt-as-you-go blocks. I have found the most accurate method of squaring up embroidered blocks is to use the quilter’s 150×150 or the 200×200 hoop, both of which come with a plastic template that fits inside the hoop.

I use a heat erasable pen to mark both the X and Y axis as well as the diagonals.

(I use the heat erasable pens because they don’t fade over time. No matter how long it takes me to complete my project, the marks remain until I use the heat of the iron to erase them.) Once the material has been marked and the design embroidered, the marks remain.   By marking the X and Y axis as well as the diagonals, I can then line up my squaring ruler, no matter what kind or size I use, for the most accurate cut to obtain a perfectly square block.

 

  

Once the block is squared, I do not erase the marks, but now use them as hash marks to perfectly align the blocks into the larger configuration.  (On the left block the marks are in red and on the right block, they are in black).

 

In this way I can try out different layouts and be assured that, no matter what layout I decide to use, my blocks will be perfectly aligned when stitched.

 

This technique also ensures that embroidered quilting backgrounds that you may create in embroidery edit from your built-in quilting stitches on the sewing side of your machine (if your machine has that capability) will also match to mimic continuous quilting.

“Why Should I Buy an Optional Foot?”

Today’s sewing machines come with a variety of useful presser feet. Some are for general sewing and some are for specialty techniques. During the machine classes, my students and I often get side tracked talking about optional presser feet. Often the question is asked, “Why would I need that?”

Optional presser feet give you options you just can’t get with the general presser feet. Some of them have metal guides on them allowing for faster and more accurate sewing. Some of them allow you to perform specific techniques, such as rolled hems, that you just cannot do with a general foot. Usually, they allow you to have more choices for your project and allow your work to have a more professional look. Case in point: The ¼” seam for piecing; the mainstay of quilting. I decided to compare three feet to see just what the difference would be for creating a ¼” seam on the edge of a piece of cotton twill. I used three Husqvarna Viking feet (I own a Designer Diamond Royale): the A foot (multi-purpose foot that came with my machine)

the optional Clear ¼” Piecing Foot with Guide 

and the optional ¼” Edge Stitching Foot .

For the first three examples I sewed with the needle in the center position. In the fourth example, I used the ¼” Edge Stitching foot, just as I had done for example #3, except I moved the needle to the farthest right position. The first two examples show what the difference is in the seam between the included utility foot A that came with my machine, and the optional

Clear ¼” Piecing Foot with Guide .

You will notice example #1, sewn with the outside right of the foot along the edge of the fabric and the needle in center position is a wider seam than the one sewn with the Clear ¼” Piecing Foot with Guide, also with needle in the center position. Example #3 is sewn with the optional ¼” Edge Stitching foot with the needle in the center position and that seam allowance is even more narrow than the first two. Lastly, example #4 uses the same foot as example #3, but moves the needle to the farthest right position. This produces a scant ¼” seam. The last picture shows the three feet and the four seams at one time.

The bottom line……….whether or not you need an optional foot is project dependent. Your results will be directly linked to the tools that you use. Optional feet can be terrific tools to get you where you’re going. Happy sewing!

“Grading Your Sewing”

If you are a garment sewer, you are very familiar with grading your seams. The technique is commonly used to reduce bulk in seams that are straight or curved. It involves trimming one side of the seam allowance, making it smaller than the other side.

  

For instance, if your seam is a 5/8” seam, once you finish sewing you trim one side of the two layers about a ¼” smaller than the other side. This leaves you with one side of the seam at the original 5/8” and other side at the trimmed 3/8”.

This technique is not only useful in garment sewing. For quilting or home décor, or when using very heavy fabrics, grading seams can produce a much more professional looking project. Once pressed, the seam lies very flat.

Cutting away excess batting in the seams of a quilt as you go project gives a much crisper look to your seams.  If you then pair grading seams with the use of a clapper, the results are wonderful. Lastly, if you are planning to sew a flat-felled seam,  grading the seam will allow you to press everything to one side and get results that rival that of the best ready made clothing.