Tuesday, March 5, 2019

March Goal--King Quilt plan and sample blocks

A few years ago my wonderful husband updated our 20+ year old bedroom.  Does anyone remember sponge painted walls?  Ours were sea green and pink!  He created a soothing, B & B look of warm browns, including a chair rail and painted baseboard.  It looks terrific!

When I saw the collection of Eliza's Indigo fabric I knew it would be perfect for our quilt.  I bought a fat quarter set (40!) but after some calculating (we have a king size bed)  hunted down a second set.  The fabric sat.  And sat.
I've dithered about, trying to find a pattern that will show off the fabric, will not need more than 80 fat quarters, and that I'm able to sew well.  Len and I have settled on Allison's No Point Stars pattern from Cluck Cluck Sew.  I like that more background fabric shows in each block (vs. a classic sawtooth star block) and that the star points don't need to be matched.
Here's where Patty's One Monthly Goal comes in.  I have to tweak Allison's pattern to change my block size.  When I sewed my first sample (above) it turned out much smaller (almost an inch!) than I had calculated.  I need to improve my seam accuracy and use bigger fabric pieces to allow for more trimming.

My goal for this month is to cut and sew until I make a block that is the correct size for my king size quilt.  I also need to do all the math--quilt dimensions, block dimensions, size of all the bits and pieces.  I intend to take enough fabric pairs to sew ten blocks while on my quilt guild retreat at the end of the month.  It may not look like much, but this will take me a while!
Follow this link to Elm Street Quilts to see what needle art goals others are striving for.  Happy March!

Thursday, February 28, 2019

February Goal--So Close!

Finishing my granddaughter's "I Spy" quilt was my February goal, and I am so close!
 It is backed, quilted, squared, and mostly bound.
The binding has been machine stitched to the front; 
I am almost halfway through handstitching it to the back.
 I used my walking foot to make a simple quilted grid.  
For me, fabric is the star of an "I Spy," so I am happy to keep the quilting low key.
 I made my own bias binding (it's more durable than straight-of-grain) for the first time.  I mostly followed this tutorial for continuous bias binding.  It doesn't waste fabric like the traditional method does, but in some areas (see below) the seams are very close together.
I am dutiful about labeling my quilts.  I write on a piece of fabric and turn two edges under.  The two raw edges are sewn into a quilt corner by machine as the binding is added to the top.  The turned down edges are hand stitched.

This time instead of using a micron pen I wrote with a Pentel fabric gel roller.  It is awesome!  It writes so much more easily and made a beautiful, dark line.  The package doesn't suggest it, but after being disappointed by other markers, I heat set the ink with a hot, dry iron.  I washed my sample--no smudging!

Check out the link up at Elm Street Quilts to see how well others have accomplished their One Monthly Goals!

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

February Goal: I Spy Quilt

I gave my granddaughter an "I Spy" quilt for her birthday last month--sort  of.
 I actually presented several large pieces of the top.  
Perhaps you can see the gaps below where seams have not yet been sewn.
I love the "I Spy" concept, and this quilt has 160 unique blocks!
 Border, binding, and backing fabrics have already been selected. 
My goal for February is to complete this quilt--borders, backing, quilting, and binding.
I'm joining Patty and many others at Elm Street Quilts in setting sewing goals for the month.
Follow the link to see what everyone else is up to.
Happy stitching!

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

January Finish--Weighted Blanket

I've now participated in my first One Monthly Goal event--success!
I started and finished a weighted blanket for my grandson.
Inspired by a tutorial from CJ of the I Love My Kids blog as well as size and weight ideas from Mosaic Weighted Blankets, I tweaked the procedure to use batting instead of polyfil stuffing.

 The fabrics his parents chose are a bit simple but they coordinate with his "I Spy" quilt.
Filling the columns and sewing around the pellets was challenging at first, but I got the hang of it by the end of this project.  I've written a tutorial for my version in case you're interested.

Thanks to Patty of Elm Street Quilts for inspiring this finish!  Visit her link up to see what other folks have accomplished.

Weighted Blanket Tutorial

 A couple of years ago I read online that weighted blankets can help people relax and sleep better, especially those with anxiety or sensory issues.  I thought about making one for my young grandson but did nothing.  Recently an occupational therapist friend strongly recommended trying one.  She mentioned Mosaic Weighted Blankets as a source of high quality blankets, but I had seen DIY tutorials and decided to make one myself.
While I read or watched several tutorials, 
the most helpful for me was by CJ of the I Love My Kids blog.  Find it here.
The instructions I found used non-toxic, washable plastic pellets and polyester fiber stuffing.  I bought the pellets using a coupon at JoAnn's, although better prices can be found online if you buy a larger quantity.

I decided I wanted to use cotton quilt batting instead of stuffing.  I prefer cotton in general, and I liked the idea that with batting one side of the blanket would be smooth and the other pebbly.  I suspect that with stuffing the pellets would always fall to the down side, taking away the choice of textures.

Using batting meant I had to tweak CJ's tutorial.  Here are my notes in case you'd like to try your own DIY.

The guidelines I've seen recommend that for a child a blanket should weigh 10% of his body weight plus one or two pounds so I decided on 5.5 # for this one.  The smallest size (and weight) on the Mosaic site is 38 x 42", so that was my goal.  I cut my fabric 40 x 44" to allow for seams and shrinking from quilting.  (I prewash my fabric and so don't worry about major shrinkage.)
 I turned the top edges down 1/2" and pressed.
Then I layered my fabric and batting:  backing (green) fabric right side up on the bottom, then top fabric right side down, then the batting right side down.  Yes, most batting has a top and bottom!  With my warm and white cotton batting, the dimpled side is the top and the slightly pilly side is the bottom.  It's easier to quilt from the top since that's the same way the needle-punched batting was produced.

I don't know if you can see it, but my batting is pushed all the way into the ironed crease of the top fabric.  When the final seams are stitched the batting will be secured inside.
I clipped the top folded edges together to make sure that side stayed as even as possible.  Then I sewed around the other three sides in one continuous line, pivoting at the corners.  Sew from the very top--don't leave a loose edge at the corner.  I used a small stitch length (1.8?) to make the blanket sturdy and prevent migration of the plastic pellets.
Trim the batting close to the line of stitching and clip the bottom corners of the fabric to make turning easier and neater.  Turn the blanket right side out  and press the edges.  Top stitch around three sides.  I made two rows of stitching for extra security.  I used a walking foot for this project since I was sewing three layers.

Now it's time to calculate how many pockets the blanket will have.  I decided I preferred multiple small squares and settled on a grid of 8 columns and 8 rows--64 pockets. 

The next step is to mark and sew the columns.  These are the lines going from the bottom to the open top of the blanket.  I used a pencil to make tiny marks evenly spaced across the bottom.  Then I used a hera marker and a quilting ruler to make creases for sewing guides.  I'd rather not use ink, chalk, etc.--the creases show up well on light fabric, are easy to follow, can't damage the fabric, and won't last long.

Anyway, after marking your columns however you like, sew along the lines.  As before, I made two rows of stitching and used a small stitch length for extra security.  I sewed from bottom to top because I didn't want any bunchiness at the bottom.  Next time I'll start stitching at the top so those folded edges stay perfectly even.  Once the pellets are sewn in all the pockets are a little puffy, so I believe any unevenness at the bottom won't be noticed.

The photos above and below show the blanket with the vertical seams sewn and the rows across marked with creases.
Now it's time for filling!  My goal was a 5.5 # blanket and I made the mistake of adding 5.5 # of pellets.  With fabric and batting the final product weighed a bit more than 6.5#!  The blanket is big enough that the whole thing isn't on my grandson at once, but you may want to factor that into your calculations.

I'm fortunate enough to have a digital kitchen scale, so I was able to portion my pellets in grams instead of ounces for greater accuracy.  It was easy to find a conversion tool online--5.5 # equals about 2495 grams.  2495 divided by 64 pockets equals 39 grams of pellets per pocket.
Weigh and pour the first batch of plastic pellets into each column.  Caution!  When I simply poured from the top, tons of pellets stuck to the batting on the way instead of falling to the bottom.  I don't know if it was friction or static, but trying to move them down (I ended up scraping with a yardstick) was a pain!  For the remaining rows I inserted a wrapping paper tube into the blanket and poured the pellets through it all the way to the bottom.  So much better!

Once each column has one batch of pellets (39 grams for mine) it's time to sew along the first crease to form the first set of pockets.  I found that it's helpful to use a row of pins to try to keep the pellets on the far side of the pocket, away from the needle.  Without pins the pellets roam all over, including into the path of the needle--not fun, believe me!
 Once again I sewed two seams.
 As you fill more pockets and the blanket gets heavier, folding it onto your extension table (if you have one) makes it easier to move everything along.
 Last row!
 It was easy to drop in the final pellets.
 Pin the pellets back as usual and clip or pin the top closed.  Sew as close to the top edge as possible (twice, of course) to catch the folded edge in your line of stitching. 

Since I had sewn my columns from the bottom up, the folded edges were no longer even along the whole length.  I had to fiddle pocket by pocket to secure the top edge neatly.  Learn from my error!
 My grandson likes his blanket, often giggling when he's under it. ☺❤

Monday, January 7, 2019

One Monthly Goal:  Weighted Blanket
January 2019

Elm Street Quilts

I enjoy my newish craft of sewing and quilting but still struggle to make time for it.  I'm hoping that participating in Patty's One Monthly Goal link up will motivate me to keep moving forward.

From the  Mosaic Weighted Blankets website:  "A weighted blanket is like a firm hug that can help you relax and sleep better. Weighted blankets lower stress and create a calm feeling by raising serotonin levels in the brain."

I hope my young grandson will sleep better with a blanket like this.  An occupational therapist friend strongly recommended these blankets in general and this company in particular.  

MWB offers many fabric, size, and weight choices as well as DIY kits, but I decided to go my own way.  Without the benefit of buying in bulk or having a giant stash I'm not saving much money over the kit price, but this should be fun and the fabrics are more customizeable.

I showed my daughter and her husband some novelty fabrics (construction related) but they chose these simpler patterns.  

I'm planning to tweak a tutorial I found online at the "I Love My Kids" blog.  Wish me luck and check out others' goals at January's OMG link up!

Friday, September 26, 2014

My First Quilt

I've always loved textiles:  fabric, yarn, quilts, weaving, colors, textures.  
The melody and harmony of quilt designs especially call to and inspire me.  
Through the years, convinced that I hated sewing, all I could do was gaze and admire.
A few years ago I dipped my toes in the sewing sea, working through some Stitch by Stitch lessons with the girls.  Then last fall Len asked if he could give me a quilting class for my birthday. I think we were both surprised when I said yes!

That class series turned out to be one of my best gifts EVER.  My teacher was wonderful--calm, generous with her time, highly skilled, and encouraging.  Once I picked a pattern she helped me select the fabric.  I knew I wanted to use batiks; the movement and washed quality of the colors are exhilarating.  The problem is that it's hard to narrow my choices down when there are so many gorgeous options!  Sharon has a great eye for color and patiently walked me through the fabric selection process.
Once we had narrowed it down to one light, one medium, and two dark fabrics, it was time to map out the blocks.  The pattern I chose used many small pieces.  The original version called for multiple shades of four different colors.  I kept it simpler with only blues, but that meant I couldn't directly follow the written pattern.  I needed to make my own decisions about fabric placement.

Sharon teased me about over-planning, but I did find out that there were some arrangements I actively disliked.  I needed to draw and see the work on paper--I can't visualize all the options in my head yet.
After the color mapping came the cutting guides.  
Time consuming, yes, but I agree with the carpenter's refrain of "measure twice, cut once."
The class ran for about eight weeks, with homework in between each session.  
This got pretty stressful some weeks, as I was neither a quick nor confident sewer.
As the blocks came together, though, I got more and more excited.  Amazed, really, that I could do this!
My instructor taught me a pinning technique that makes it easier to join corner seams accurately.  If you look at the multiple corners in these blocks, you'll see that most of them match up beautifully.  Thank you, Sharon!

The main body of my quilt was supposed to have 16 blocks--eight in the style you see above, and eight of a different style (see the bottom of my diagram page, above).  After cutting and sewing the first set of blocks, I decided to work like an assembly line, cutting all the remaining fabric, arranging it by block, and then putting it together.

Unfortunately, I ran into a huge problem.  

Quilting seams are supposed to be 1/4".  Exactly.  I thought the edge of my sewing machine's presser foot was 1/4" away from the needle; I measured it, and my seams too.  As it turned out, my seams were just a tiny bit wider than 1/4".

Because of the style of the first blocks, the only problem this caused was that the blocks were smaller than they should have been.  Okay.  The way the second set was built, however, left no tolerance for too-wide seams.  It's a long story, but with seams that weren't exactly 1/4", the little pieces could not fit together properly.  They couldn't match up!  And even if I found a way to make my seams the correct size, the new blocks would be bigger than the first ones, meaning they couldn't be joined properly.  Aargh!

I ended up making all sixteen blocks in style "A".  I was able to salvage some of my already cut fabric, but did need to buy some more.  Thank goodness it was still available!  There was, of course, no way to get back all the time I spent cutting the blocks that were not to be.

As you can imagine, this was my biggest set-back.  Everything worked out in the end, and I am thrilled that I was able to create something as beautiful as my first quilt.  It took a lot of hand-holding and coaching, but that's fine.  More pictures and the rest of the story coming soon!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

September Science

To culminate their study of cells, Marianna and her classmates created detailed models, many of them edible.  ;-)  Marianna considered making a pizza, but I persuaded her that gingerbread would be simpler and sturdier.
 Surprise!  We had all the fixings already in the house, including some candy left from last Halloween.
 Charming, isn't it?  And so educational!
Can you identify the flagella, Golgi apparatus, mitochondria, or lysosomes?
How about the rough and smooth endoplasmic reticulum?
At least the nucleus and cilia???
Rebecca and I have been reading a biography of Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, a Dutch cloth merchant from the 1600's.  Although he didn't invent them, Leeuwenhoek was fascinated by microscopes.  He studied microbes, blood, insects, and more, recording detailed information and building many of the best microscopes of his day.

We own a stereoscope (3-D) that magnifies up to 40 X, but soon Len will bring home a real microscope (400 X) for a weekend.  Becca and I are preparing for this with a project suggested by our library book.  Each week we're filling four containers:  one with tap water, another with tap water and pepper (as Leeuwenhoek did), and the others with creek water and tap water plus dry grass.  By the time the microscope arrives,we should have fresh as well as one-, two-, and three-week jars to scrutinize.
 We have woods, a tiny meadow, and a creek behind our house, 
so finding some "natural" water was simple enough.
 We were surprised, though, to find a beaver dam!
It did explain why our trek through the grass was so . . . squishy.

I don't have much of a science plan for this year, but we're holding our own for now.