Once I got past the fact that my stitches weren't perfect (I kept beating myself up, telling myself, "How in the world are you going to be able to machine stitch quilts for others if you can't do a decent job with this little project??!!"), I thoroughly enjoyed the process! The imperfections and "wonkiness" are the exact things that give this craft some personality. (More thoughts on that in an upcoming post!) I only made a few for family and my quilting and crafting friends, but they were a joy to create and share.
I picked up these three fabrics yesterday at Jo-Ann's to make some fabric-inspired Christmas cards. (Believe it or not, I didn't have any greens that were quite right in my stash - how sad is that?!) The two fabrics on the left are Denyse Schmidt, and the one on the right...
I was preshrinking a few more fabrics today in preparation for some T-shirt quilts I need to work on, so I went ahead and prewashed the rest of my low volume fabrics.
I had picked up this fabric last month at one of the larger quilt shops in the area, both for my low volume collection as well as use as a background fabric in this Jen Kingswell quilt that I'm itchy to make. It wasn't until I was ironing it that I realized just how captivating the print is. Here are some more shots of the fabric:
I was so intrigued with J. Wecker Frisch's artwork on this print that I looked up her blog and read a bit about her. Cool stuff from a very inspiring artist!
But, I knew I definitely wanted some reds in the quilt, and most definitely want to use a white background. So, I knew I needed to do something to prevent them from bleeding.
I've had this bottle of Retayne in my laundry room cupboard for years...
... (you can tell just how long by the price on the bottle!), but had never tried using it.
I basically followed the directions - hot water and a longer wash cycle than normal. After treating the fabric with the Retayne, I tested the colorfastness by prewashing the fabrics, along with a Shout Color Catcher sheet.
I couldn't believe it - not a trace of pink or red on the Color Catcher sheet - so not the usual case when prewashing reds! It worked!!
(Why did it take me this long to work up the courage to trying using the product?!)
These lovely threads arrived in the mail today (this year's Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas to me gifts!) - I was so excited! I've been working on various applique projects here and there, and more recently, this hexagon quilt. I struggled to find thread that matched the various colors. I broke my 100%-cotton-thread rule when working with cotton quilt fabrics and used some poly or poly/cotton blends from my garment sewing thread supply, but was frustrated.... I hate working with polyester thread (even though it is necessary for garment sewing), and all of the threads I was using were a little too heavy; I was having trouble hiding the stitches as a result. I needed to come up with another solution! My 50-wt. Aurafil thread(LOVE that thread!!) worked perfectly, but I only have a few basic colors in my supply at the moment. Then, I remembered reading a post from Sherri McConnell at A Quilting Lifere: these thread sets from Superior Threads, so thought I'd give it a try.
Each bobbin contains 80 yards (I think?) of their Masterpiece thread - a 50-weight 100% cotton thread. I ordered both sets (Frosted Donut I & II) so I would have plenty of shades to choose from. It's handles just like that dreamy Aurafil thread, so I'm thrilled.
The "donuts" are so handy - they are made out of a flexible rubbery plastic, so they hold the bobbins snugly, but allow you to easily remove a bobbin as you need it.
The other nice thing is that the thread color number is clearly printed on the bobbin, so you can easily order another bobbin or spool of that color when you run out.
Or if you want to use the Masterpiece thread for machine quilting (my guess is that you would only want to use it on your domestic machine, and that it wouldn't be strong enough for longarm use, but don't quote me on that), you can find the thread that matches best and avoid ordering a huge spool of the wrong color!
The other goody that arrived in the mail today was this lovely bundle of 12 fat quarters of Lecien Flower Sugar fabric from Simply Sweet Fabric Etsy shop. I fell in love with the Flower Sugar lines of fabric ever since I saw the "Farmer's Wife Quilt" that Kristyne Czepuryk made out of her collection of Flower Sugar fabrics over a year ago. I can't wait to make my own!
Today's arrival will play well with my current stash!
OK, I picked up a pinking blade today at JoAnn's, but didn't realize that the regular cutters aren't designed to work with the special blades. Oh phooey! I was able to limp along (the blade kept falling off!) and pink a few more fabrics, but I'll plan to run back to JoAnn's tomorrow for the appropriate cutter for this blade. Even though I'm going to end up spending more money than I intended, it still is way quicker that using pinking shears, and it does save all that time trimming raveled threads.
It's snowing today, so it's a perfect day to work at prewashing all my recent (and not so recent!) fabric purchases. YES, it's a nuisance - that's why I always put it off! Committing to prewashing means I end up having fabric piled all over the place waiting to be prewashed, such as this pile on top of my dryer.
But, I'm more convinced than ever about the importance of preshrinking your fabrics after reading this post and this post by Rachel at Stitched in Color. (Makes me feel even better to know I'm not the only one who feels strongly about prewashing!) Here's the link to what I had posted previously about my thoughts. I'm planning to purchase a few more lingerie bags at the dollar store for use with smaller cuts of fabric, especially those skinny 1/4 yard non-fat quarter cuts. Today I tried pinking the raw edges (another nuisance, even with my good Gingher pinking shears!) to prevent raveling, so I think I'll also purchase a rotary pinking blade; that should makes things go a little quicker. (I don't recommend zig zagging the edges - it will prevent your fabric from laying flat.) Here are the reasons I had listed on my previous post:
1) Because I want to be able to mix fabrics in a quilt without having to worry if they have been prewashed or not.
2) I want to be able to use any fabric from my stash for hand applique, and prewashed fabrics do much better when using the needle-turn-applique method.
3) I still do a fair amount of hand quilting, and prewashed fabrics needle much better.
4) I don't like the idea of my hands touching all the chemicals that remain in fabric from the manufacturing process. Learning that fabric directly off the bolt still contains dyes, formaldehyde, insecticides, etc. (AAAHHHH!!!) was the final data I needed to make my decision!
In addition, here are a few more reasons that motivate me:
1) Fabric right off the bolt is often terribly stretched and distorted. (Have you ever noticed how the bolts are sometimes jammed onto some store shelves, resulting in quite a bit of distortion?)
Prewashing your fabric gives the fibers a chance to relax back into their natural shape.
Take a look at these two pictures! Both are 1/2 yard cuts from a reputable manufacturer!
2) I prefer to press my seams with a bit of steam. If the fabric has been prewashed, I don't have to worry about shrinkage.
3) Fabrics that haven't been prewashed are much more slippery, which I find makes accurate piecing difficult.
4) Prewashed fabrics stick to a design wall much better.
5) The commitment to prewashing keeps our fabric purchases under control. (Ask yourself when you're contemplating a fabric purchase - do you love that fabric enough to prewash it??!!)
OK, Here's how I go about it:
I use just a bit of detergent and wash on cold (I would never wash a quilt in anything but cold water),
on delicate cycle with the shortest time possible.
Tumble dry on low.
Remove fabric from dryer when ever-so-slightly damp. (It's almost impossible for me to multitask when prewashing - it's important to pay close attention. Even an extra minute too long in the dryer can result in fabrics with rumples "baked" in.)
Iron damp fabrics with a dry iron or smooth and allow to finish air drying. If your fabrics ended up in the dryer longer than you intended, use a steam iron to remove wrinkles.
One thing I have found helpful is to try to avoid buying 1/4 yard cuts that aren't fat quarters. That way I don't have that skinny piece of fabric tangling around everything in the wash. I usually buy 1/2 yards cuts for the most part just to avoid that nuisance.
OK, are you convinced??!!
I want to encourage you to join the small (but hopefully growing!) ranks of those of us who prewash!
(Yes, there's always going to be stacks of fabric waiting to prewashed, but as long as it's folded, organized, and neatly stacked, it can be a design feature, not a nuisance!)
I was cleaning up my quilt studio this evening, and decided that instead of putting this pile of strings and strips away after pulling them out and looking at them yet another time, I would finally do something with them!
To keep things easy, I simply used some 8 1/2 x 11"" scrap paper (from a previous job a number of years ago that I'd like to forget I was ever dumb enough to accept!), trimmed to 8 1/2" square with a dull rotary blade.
The center white strips start out at 1 inch.
Since my strings and strips were fairly narrow to start with, I decided to use a 1/8" seam allowance.
But, after this experience, I wouldn't recommend such a skimpy seam allowance, especially when needing to tear away the foundation paper....
This cool modern block was included in with the scraps I had purchased; I'm planning to incorporate it into the backing.
Not sure how big this quilt will end up being - the supply of fabric scraps will dictate that, although I did pull some more fabric from my stash to allow me to make a few more blocks!