Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Cleaning House

I own a perfectly serviceable plastic cover for my sewing machine. I never use it. Why? It is just plain ugly. And besides, what possible good does it do when the lint collecting in the bobbin area comes from sewing?

This winter, I have been floored by the amount of dust in my house. I dust and I swear- as soon as my back is turned - there it is again. Now I'm thinking, it must be invading my machine too.  So, I decided to do something about it.

my block
Once upon a time, my quilt guild scheduled Karen Kay Buckley to lecture and give a workshop.  Karen is an award winning quilter whose work has been featured on the cover of Quilters Newsletter. She is an extremely organized, personable and a gifted teacher. I signed up for her applique class, Heard it Through the Grapevine. She taught techniques and tricks I continue to use. When I finished my block, I put it away. It became an orphan waiting for a home. That is, until today, when in the battle against dust, I decided to make a cover for my sewing machine.
If you would like to wage your own war against dust and bobbin lint here's what to do.
Measure your machine. My measurements are in parentheses. Substitute yours.

Adding the strip to the block 
 a. For the main panel, measure your machine from the bottom front to the bottom back - that is, from the point where it sits on the table and up and over the top and back down to where it meets the table again. ( 20"). Then measure the machine's width.  (16.").  Add a 1/2" for the seam allowance. My main panel needs to be 20.5" by 16.5".

The block I wanted to use as the main panel was only 16.5" square, so I added a 4" by 16.5" strip to the top of the block. This lengthened the piece and offset the block so that the pretty part is the focal point.

Line up the panels using the creases as a guide

b. For the side panels, measure the height ( 7")  and depth  (6.5") of the machine.   Add a 1/2" for the seam allowance.  My side panels need to be 7.5"  by 7 ".  Cut two. Trim the top corners a bit to round them out.  To mark the middle of the side panel, fold it in half from left to right and finger press a crease. Do the same for the main panel but fold it from top to bottom. Then, matching crease marks, place the side and main panels right sides together.

Pin the curves

Pin the panels together and sew. I found it easiest to begin in the center at the top, sewing down to the back edge and then starting at the top again and sewing down to the front edge.  Repeat to complete the other side.

Hemming the skirt

At this point, I could have finished the cover by hemming the bottom. My machine usually sits in a 3" well inside the sewing cabinet for flatbed sewing. But because I am who I am, I added a little "skirt" for those times when the machine sits on the table top. To do this, I measured the perimeter of the cover (45 ") and cut another rectangle of fabric 3.5" by 45.5". I hemmed the long side and joined the ends together before sewing it to the bottom.

Side view

I think it turned out quite nicely.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Getting it Right

I woke this morning happy it was Saturday. I couldn't wait to see what  Barbara Brackman had in store. Lately, it's been feeling a bit like Christmas, with a gift to open every week.  When I saw this week's block was the Cotton Boll, I thought great, easy! I'll have it pieced with plenty of time to spare before my guild meeting.

I chose a stripe so the block would radiate from the center like the cotton boll.  I cut the fabrics using the rotary directions and sat down to sew. I liked how efficient it was to chain piece, a stint at the iron, a bit of trimming, two more seams and done. Ya' think. Not. The pattern didn't match. Was the problem with the cutting? Could be. Could I make it work? Maybe. I pinned, I sewed, I pressed. I contemplated,.  Heck, I thought, no one is ever going to notice. It's one of fifty-two blocks.
And I could hear my friends saying, " but you know you will......."

Of course. So, I did. Do it over. This time I printed out the template. Marked it with registration lines from fabric so I could re-position it accurately.  I placed my ruler on top and rotary cut the 1/8th inch carefully. And as I sewed I could see it was going to work. The needle met those little triangular "ears" at the 1/4 " mark coming and going. The stripes matched,. Perfectly. I didn't take short-cuts. After all, why? I waited all week and it's going to take a whole year. This is slow sewing which is why it is so satisfying to me.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Autumn 2007
26 1/2" x 20 1/2"

I took a workshop at the Vermont Quilt Festival in 2007 with Nora  McMeeking The class was called Pieceful Leaves. She'd learned from Ruth McDowell to place seams where they were convenient to sew.

Choosing the fabrics for the leaves was challenging.  I wanted them to shine like wet leaves on a pavement.  I gathered fallen leaves from the park and traced them onto golden threads quilting paper. After machine quilting, the paper tears easily away.  After I quilted it I was reminded of the ghostly imprints of leaves that I see on the pavement sometimes after it rains.

The quilt, Autumn, was shown at Prospect Park's Annual Quilt Show , "Small Quilts, Big Ideas" in 2008 at the Lefferts Historic House and Audubon Center at the Boathouse.

I'd nearly forgotten how much fun our gang of four had on this trip. VQF 2011 is scheduled for June 24 - 26 this year. It might be time to plan another quilting vacation.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Dresden Plates

Do you like to have machine and hand projects going at the same time?  Isn't it great when they are combined in the same project?

Called Broken China, this pattern was published in Quilters Newsletter Magazine in June of 1997.  It was a great beginner applique' project. The background blocks and petal shaped wedges were pieced by machine.  The "plate" was stitched down using needle turned applique.

For my friend Mary's Victorian home, I wanted a scrappy quilt that was subtly controlled.  I choose many different fabrics for the petals, gradating the color in each plate and shifting the rotation to create movement.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Another Garden

In 2003, the Quilters' Guild of Brooklyn celebrated its 10th year. One of our members coordinated a group quilt to be raffled called "The Sum of Its Parts". She gave out fabric in assorted sizes for the block center to members to sew.  After sewing one, I couldn't stop.
Back then I was new to quilting and didn't have a stash.  But I had a gorgeous floral fabric printed with a variety of flowers in different sizes.  I fussy cut daisies and zinnias, in hothouse colors,  for the center squares and randomly cut the strips to compliment each flower.  This gave the blocks a scrappy, but coordinated look.  I like how the different sized strips and centers make the quilt bounce. I think it has a sixties vintage that is still totally fresh and modern. I sent it out to be quilted because I wanted my niece, Ana to be able to bounce on it too.

My sister's child was named for our grandmother.  She grew roses and perennials in our backyard garden. I still remember the botanical  names of the plants she grew.

Ana's Mod Garden -
Even though this was made in 2002 it still looks fresh and modern! 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Japanese Garden

In 2002,  The Quilter's Guild of Brooklyn asked Bethany Reynolds to do a workshop for members.  She taught her pattern Talking Blocks. It looks like a traditional tumbling block but doesn't have any set in seams. Which means it is so NOT complicated and simple enough for a beginner.
For my main fabric I chose an asian with lots of different but related images. I fussy cut them so that the "box tops" would have variety but still be closely related. The quilt was machine pieced and quilted by hand.
After it was shown at the Guild's Tenth Anniversary Guilt Show ( A Guild Grows in Brooklyn)  in 2003, I gave the quilt to my BFF.  She designs gardens in a style I think of as asian fusion - japanese influence and native perennial plants.
Japanese Garden 2002
 45" by 35"