Stained Glass

During the last two months of 2017, my daughter and I decided to work on a joint quilt project to present to a friend later in 2018. After tossing around several different designs, we finally zeroed in on a Stained Glass Quilt, a fitting choice since our friend worked with recycled glass.

Once the design was finalized it was time to head out to get some fabric. We threw some quilt layouts, sizes and fabric colors in our design software package so that we could at least get an idea about fabric requirements before agreeing to meet at a quilt shop located half way between us. We met at Mystic Maine Quilting in Chelsea and hoped that we could pull the whole thing together. Once inside I was amazed at how quickly my daughter selected 7 fabrics and a border for this project, especially since I have never seen her leave a quilt shop in less than an hour.

With fabric in hand, I returned home to assemble the quilt. First I entered the new fabrics in the software program in order to print out an accurate layout. To prevent confusion at the end I decided that I would sew the blocks row by row, constructing the row as I completed each block. As each row was completed I would attach it to the previous row. I soon discovered that this printout was essential for the construction of this project. Somehow the second row just refused to cooperate. I swear that every block in that row was taken apart at least once. First I would put the black strip in the wrong orientation so that the colored pieces of fabric were in the wrong place to each other. Then I would put the sashing piece on the wrong side of the block. After frequent use of my stitch ripper I finally got the row assembled. From that point on, I carefully referred to the layout diagram during the construction of each block and checked it off when the block was completed.

After a few days I attached the borders and my part of this joint endeavor was finished. I handed the quilt top over to my daughter to add a backing and complete the quilting process. I can’t wait to see the finished product.


Quilt Progress – 2017

I have been making significant progress on my numerous 2017 quilt projects. The frenzied pace and stress of all these tasks going on simultaneously has given way to a calmer pace. That is not to say that the 2018 designs are not yet in progress but I have settled in to a more relaxed pace.

First I have completed my Friendship Twist quilt. I really like the way the backing compliments the front of this design. The wild colors of the back really matches my friend’s personality. All that is left is to slap a label on it before our next visit down to Long Island, sometime later this year.

The table mats are also completed. Two are sitting on the night tables in the guest bedrooms, protecting them from accidental water stains and other such catastrophes. The third is on a little display table that my husband made from a tree that went down in a yard years ago.

The quilt along project that I call Autumn Stars is assembled and I am currently hand quilting the blocks. I have decided to outline and echo the stars in one block and the squares in the other. This quilt is small enough that I have decided not to put it on the large quilt frame. It is the perfect size to put in a 12 inch hoop as I sit in my living room in front the warmth emanating from the fireplace.

Finally, there is the dinosaur donation quilt. The second yellow that I picked up goes well with the original yellow from my stash. It is completely assembled now but there are some issues. The flying geese units are constructed using the old fashioned method of cutting individual triangles and sewing them together. I prefer the waste method of using a rectangle and two squares sewn along the diagonal. For me, it is more accurate but since there is not enough of the yellow I have no room for waste. I also have noticed that the two yellows seem to be different weights, consequently there is some stretch in the units. No matter how hard I try to line the rows up, every other row seems to be misaligned. Fortunately, my quilting daughter claims that she only notices that one row is off. She also has a saying that I should adopt; “if you can’t see it while galloping past on a horse than no one else will notice.” So, I am going with it. Still, the title “Dinosaur Disaster” comes to mind as a name for this project.

I believe I have enough of the green to use as backing. I still need to decide whether to hand quilt it and what to use as binding. My daughter has offered her longarm quilting services. Since it is a donation quilt, the cost will be her needle and thread supplies. It is a good deal and might be the best option for Dinosaur Disaster. It will certainly brighten a child’s day sooner rather than later.

All Through the House

As mentioned in “I Must be Crazy”, I generally complete one quilt project before starting another but right now I have four going on at the same time. In addition my quilting daughter and I are discussing a joint endeavor for a friend. I have to say that having so many works in progress going on at once is leaving me frazzled and a little obsessed about getting something done.

Part of the problem is that Thanksgiving is now less than one week away and while I am frantically working on my quilts nothing else is getting done. The laundry sits unfolded, our dust bunnies have become family pets and you can write your name in the dust on the furniture. In addition, these projects having taking over the entire house!

Upstairs, there are two guest rooms. You would think that since I only need one of them for Thanksgiving that I would be able to confine my work into one room. Not so! In the one room, the bed has yet to be made ready but for the time being it is pushed against the wall so that the quilt frame bearing the “Friendship Twist” quilt can be fully opened. This is my immediate concern. With less than a week to go, I have only the final border to be quilted so it is possible that I can get it off the quilt frame. I am quilting like crazy and my old shoulder injury is bothering me, either from the quilting angle of the frame, repetitive motion or just a flare up but I dare not stop or see a doctor about it now. What if he tells me I have to stop quilting!!!!

In the second guest room I have the Autumn Star quilt lying on the floor with a possible border layout. Of course I am using the block choice that requires bringing the point into the border which means I do not have enough of that material. I have one strip of green left 24 inches long and 3.5 inches wide, not enough to make the points. Fortunately, my daughter has found a one yard wide back of the green, so after pre-treating and washing it I can move forward. This brings us to the third room in the house.

The mudroom includes our laundry area and my ironing board. At the moment, not only is the green fabric sitting on the ironing board waiting to be pressed but so is the extra yellow fabric for the donation dinosaur quilt. While gathering fabrics from my stash for this donation blanket, I discovered that I do not have enough of the yellow to make it. The dinosaur print, brown, yellow, white print and the yellow fabric had been given to me as a gift, so the best I could do was run to my local shop and match the yellow as close as possible.

The dining table holds my nightstand mat project. It is in the hand quilting stage and is small enough to place somewhere else. One of the bedrooms, perhaps? It sits there because the double doors out to the patio provided me with enough light to sew after a nor’easter came through knocking out power for 4 days. Easy enough to move, I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

And finally, the dinosaur project. As I get older I find it difficult on my back to spend long periods of time cutting and laying out projects on our dining table. Then there is the laying out and basting part of the work while kneeling on a hard wood floor. Not only is this hard on the knees but after a short period of time it is difficult getting up off the floor. My husband has just completed a cutting table that is big enough both for cutting and laying out projects. This table sits in the loft above the garage, so yes I have taken over part of the garage too (my husband draws the line at the basement and his kitchen). This is where all the fabric for the dinosaur quilt is hanging out at the moment waiting for me to get around to cutting the yellow fabric, as well as the green for the Autumn Star quilt.

So, less that one week to Thanksgiving and quilt projects are all over the house. I wonder if my guests would mind if I handed them dust cloths and a dust mop when they walk through the door.

I Must be Crazy

Normally, I am the type of person who is pretty obsessed about finishing one project before beginning another, so what am I thinking to have 4 quilt projects going on at the same time! And if 4 assignments are not enough, I still need to attach a label to the comforter I finished in the spring. I must be crazy! Either that, or like a wooly caterpillar that puts on an extra layer of fuzz to predict a bad winter I am lining my nest with things to do during the inclement winter months. Just a theory.

So, how did this happen? I am currently still working on my Friendship Twist quilt. It is half-way through the hand quilting phase and I would like to get it off the quilt frame before the holiday guests arrive in December. But sitting in front of the frame one day, I thought about another donation quilt. Soon enough, I am in front of my fabric cabinet pulling out contenders for this gift. I am told that charities are very appreciative of receiving items geared towards boys, so out comes a dinosaur print and matching material.

In the meantime, knowing how annoyed I was to discover a black water ring on a bedroom night-table that was brand new, my husband has stripped and refinished the table. With this in mind, I pull some fabrics to create table mats for both guest room night-tables and a small display table near the living room. The guest room tables will be a light tan floral print surrounded by a green leafy material. Because these table are larger than the display stand, I will add borders on each side. These mats are currently assembled and I am in the hand quilting phase. I would like to have at least the covers for the guest rooms finished by Christmas.

A quilt blog that I read regularly, From My Carolina Home, just put up a quilt along pattern for the month of October. I am so excited by the colors and patterns for this Stars on Autumn Lane quilt that I pull some Artisan Landscape oranges from my stash to get started. I decide to reverse the background from light to dark and pull a green to compliment the oranges. I may call my project Autumn Stars.

My first task on the last three activities is to prewash the fabrics with color catchers and make sure they do not run. The place-mat fabrics are fine, but alas the greens for both the donation and autumn projects turn the color catchers green. In addition the brown fabric with interlocking squares and the black with stars for the dinosaur quilt also run. Fortunately, as mentioned in my Fabric Color Story, I have discovered Retayne which is a dye fixative. This does mean that I have to spend a morning treating these fabrics in the utility sink, then re-washing them in the machine with new color catcher sheets. To be on the safe side, I decide to save a step and just treat the Artisan Landscape orange fat quarters. As expected the sheets come clean in the next washing. I am now ready to cut pieces for the dinosaur and autumn quilt.

As I am telling an acquaintance about my one project at a time philosophy and going crazy with 4 (or 5 if you count the quilt that needs a label) simultaneous assignments, she stops me and says, “oh so you are now a quilter”. So with multiple works in progress for the first time in my life, I have finally become a quilter.


A Fabric Color Story

As I neared the completion of my ribbon quilt, I started thinking about fabric options for the backing. Unfortunately, I had not obtained enough of the red wide-back fabric to cover the quilt but I thought I could pull in a blue on each side and use the red down the center. But first I needed to prewash my fabric.

In the twenty or more years that I have been quilting, I have never had problems with a fabric color bleeding. I prewash all my fabrics with color catcher sheets to make sure the sheets come out white and show no evidence of a fabric color bleeding. So far I have been lucky. But this red! Oh my goodness, did this red bleed! After the first washing, the color catcher was dark red. I washed that fabric 6 more times, soaked it twice in a utility sink with dishwashing liquid overnight and washed it in the machine another 3 or 4 times. The color catchers faded to a dark pink but still were not clear. To top it all off, the fabric itself was beginning to show white spots, indicating that the color was completely coming out of the fabric!

At this point I knew that this particular piece of fabric would be used for test blocks and would never go into a quilt.  But that left me without a backing. As I browsed my local quilt shop looking for a backing, I mentioned my problem of fabric bleed. I had read a number of quilt postings online that had mentioned two products, called Retayne and Synthrapol but none of them indicated whether one was better over another, or, if one should be used first and then treated with the second. The owner of the shop suggested I try them and report my results back to her. So I left the shop, not only with an experiment to run, but with a wonderfully, wild fabric that would complement the quilt front as well as match the personality of the recipient for this quilt.

Coming from a family with backgrounds in math, science, and engineering, my husband and I decided to use the scientific method to conduct my color experiment. My control group would be a piece of fabric thrown into the washing machine with a color catcher. Another group would be treated with the Retayne per the directions on the bottle, then washed with a color catcher. The third group would first be treated with the Retayne, then treated with the Synthrapol before being washed with a color catcher. The final group would be treated with only the Synthrapol and then washed with a color catcher. I probably should have done another group using the Retayne after using the Synthrapol first but I figured the four samples would give me enough information to reach a conclusion.

Having read some information on the manufacturer’s web site, I discovered that Synthrapol was basically a concentrated detergent that would remove sizing as well as excess dye from hand dyed fabrics. The Retayne was described as a dye fixing agent used on commercially dyed cotton fabrics that tend to bleed easily. Processing this information, I developed a hunch that the Retayne would be the product that a quilter would want to use first.

First I need to find some cheap, red fabric for my experiment. Wouldn’t you know, after washing this fabric the color catcher came out absolutely clean. Now what! I didn’t want to spend a lot of money trying to purchase a fabric that would run, so I turned back to my original red fabric hoping that there would still be enough color bleed left in it to complete the experiment. After running the control I decided that there was enough color still bleeding out of my original red fabric and went on with the rest of the experiment. The next group was pretreated with the Retayne and then washed with the color catcher. It came out absolutely clean. I ran the third group, (using the Synthrapol after the Retayne) anyway just for the sake of completeness and as suspected the sheet was clean. Finally I treated the fourth group with just Synthrapol and after washing this piece of fabric discovered that there was still some color bleeding onto my color catcher.

This proved my hypothesis of using the Retayne as a first measure. It made sense to me since the product was described as a dye fixative and I would want any loose dye to fix itself to the fabric to prevent bleeding. The Synthrapol, described as removing excess dye would still have that excess dye floating around to bleed on nearby fabrics. I might use the Synthrapol on a finished quilt where one fabric color bled onto another in the hopes of removing the stain but it would not be my first choice on new fabric. Going forward I would still use the color catchers as a first pass and then if necessary use the Retayne.

Shortly after this, I had a chance to prove the accuracy of this experiment. I set about washing the vibrant backing fabric for my ribbon quilt and was surprised to find that the color catcher came out a very dark purple. I immediately treated the fabric with the Retayne and washed it again. The color catcher was clean and I had only washed the fabric twice as opposed to more than a dozen time.