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July 31, 2011

DWR Quilt Along: Attaching the Arcs to the Melons

DWR Quilt Along

Finally! My hubby needed the computer for work stuff all afternoon, so I just now gained possession of it ;) Life has been a little chaotic lately, as evidenced by the state of my sewing room right now...


Yeah...it's madness...sheer madness...


So enough of that...on to the instructions. For this step you will need:
  • All 80 of your arcs
  • All 40 of your melons
  • All 80 of your intersection squares
Grab two arcs (one of each color group if you're assembling them like me) Grab one of your melons and fold it in half. Finger press and unfold.


Grab one of the arcs and line up the center fold of the melon with the center seam of the arc.


Pin in place.


After you've pinned the center, you'll need to pin the tips of the melon to the ends of the arc. I find it's easier to keep the tip from shifting if you pin it at a 45 degree angle (rather than a 90 degree angle).


It should now look a little something like the photo above.


Next you'll need to line up and pin the areas in between the center and the tips. I find the easiest way for me to smooth out the fabrics is to fold them back into an arch.


The melon shifts away from the edge easily, so I line up the fabric one small section at a time and pin about every 1/2 inch.


Your melon & arc should now look like the photo above.


Try to pin close to the edge, because the melon will fight you every step of the way. It shifts away from the bottom edge of the arc very easily, so if you don't pin close to the edge, it will scoot up and mess with your seam allowances.


Once you've finished pinning, flip the arc over to the paper back. Start sewing at the corner where the two solid black lines meet. Try to be as accurate as possible and sew directly on top of the black line. Stop sewing at the corner on the other end.


One you're finished, cut notches all the way down the seam allowance with a fine pair of scissors. This allows the curve to stretch out a little more naturally and keeps the fabric from bunching.


Press the seam with an iron to set in place.


Grab your second arc and two coordinating 2" x 2" intersection squares. Sew a square to the each end of the second arc.


When you sew the intersection squares to the ends, you won't stop and start at the corners like you did with the arc. Instead, you'll sew all the way across, starting and stopping at the very edge of the paper.


Fold the intersection squares out and press. Your second arc should now look similar to the photo above.


Grab your first arc/melon piece and lay it wrong side down on top of the second arc. Again, line up the center fold of the melon with the center seam of the second arc.


Before pinning, fold back the top arc and make sure their center seams are lining up.


Pin at the center exactly like you did with the first arc.


You'll need to pin the corners next like you did with the first arc, but we'll do things a little differently this time around. The easiest way for me to figure out where my corners need to be, is to fold the arc and intersection square so that their ends line up perfectly. Then I pin the inside corner in place (see red circle above).


After that, arch your fabrics, line them up, and pin every 1/2" (just like we did the first time)


Your arcs + melon should now look a little something like this. Flip them over to the paper side and sew down the seam allowance line, stopping and starting at the corners.


When you're finished, flip the whole thing back over again. The tips should now look like this. If the fabric is bunched, 1) make sure you stopped and started at the corner lines, rather than sewing all the way to the end of the paper, or 2) compare your melon template to your fabric melon and make sure it's not too wide at the tip.  Both of those things could be the cause for the bunching.


Now to wrap things up, line up one end of your arc with the end of the intersection square again. Pin in place (this time, you'll actually be sewing them together!)


Sew from the inside corner to the very tip of the paper (sew past the corner on the outside edge of the arc). Repeat for the other end.


The ends should now look a little something like this.


And the whole back should look like this.


Flip over and press all your seams. Don't worry if it doesn't lay perfectly flat or looks a bit wrinkly in places, because it's due to the paper backing. Once you've assembled your quilt top and removed all the paper, it will lay much smoother.

Like I said...this was the hardest part of the pattern for me to "get" initially. But once I found my groove, curved piecing kinda clicked in my brain and figuring out the rest of the quilt wasn't nearly as difficult. If you struggle with this step, don't worry - it takes a little getting used to...especially if you've never pieced curves before. Let me know if the pictures aren't cutting it, because I've considered putting together a video for this step. Obviously that's a lot of additional work, so I wanted to see if it was merited before I actually did it. If you try out this next step and just can't seem to figure it out, leave me a note in the comments and if I get a large enough response, I'll try and enlist my hubby's help for a brief video tutorial sometime this/next week.

P.S. I wasn't kidding about the seam ripper and loose change in my last post...you're probably gonna need 'em ;) Happy piecing! And please feel free to email me or post in the Comments with any questions you have :)

July 30, 2011

Almost there...

Alright ladies and gents...I've got all the photos and directions together for the next step of the DWR Quilt Along, but it's taking me longer than anticipated to edit them. In my honest opinion, this is the most tedious part of the pattern. Once you get past piecing the melons, you're over the hump in terms of difficulty. Therefore, I'm trying to be as detailed as possible with my instructions for this portion...so naturally, at the last minute, I decided to add in some arrows, circles, diagrams and whatnot to the photos. Cross my heart and hope to die, they'll be up by tomorrow evening. 

Hope you're excited because your quilt is gonna start taking shape soon! (oh...and make sure you have your seam ripper and coins for the swear jar nearby, because you'll be needing both...lol!)

July 28, 2011

Things that do the heart good.

Hand-sewing during my lunch break at work...


...and receiving hand-crafted buttons from my husband's cousin who moved down here last week.


She was an art major in college and makes all kinds of gorgeous jewelry and buttons. Look at the precious wee Scottie! She's incredibly sweet, and has been such a blessing to our family since she's been here. Yesterday she brought me two bags full of fresh blueberries she picked on the Northshore that afternoon, and I'm itchin' to make a tasty pie for us this weekend. I need a little warmth after the two weeks of straight rain we've had.

Can't wait to show you all the custom buttons she's making for my bags! I'm trying to convince her to get her Etsy shop up and running :)

And thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for all your well-wishes and prayers...reading through your comments has been a ray of sunshine in the gloom. The more I get to know you all, the more I wish we lived close enough to sit around and chat and sew together. Sometimes I get nostalgic for the old days of sewing bees, don't you? It might seem crazy to continue with the Quilt Along amidst all the chaos, but I'm honestly looking forward to it. Quilting is therapy for me, and it sure as heck beats sittin' around feeling sorry for myself ;) Things have been rough, but it's getting better each day, and I believe there's always a positive that comes out of every negative. God is good, and I know one day our family will be able to look back on this time, and be thankful for the ways in which this situation made us grow and strengthen. It doesn't feel that way now...more like a kick to the gut, lol...but we'll get there some day :) In the meantime, I appreciate each and every one of you and I'm looking forward to meeting many of you at the Sewing Summit more than ever!

Have a lovely weekend, and keep an eye out for the next step in the Quilt Along on Saturday :)

July 25, 2011

A Humble Request


Please "bear" with me as I try to get the next DWR lesson up for you! (wokka wokka)

I mentioned this in passing before, but my family has been dealing with some very difficult issues recently, and this past weekend was particularly tough. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers - we could really use an extra boost of support right now! I really want to thank those of you that have checked in on me and emailed/commented with encouraging words - even though we're technically "strangers", I consider many of you friends from all our email chats over the past year, and it means a lot that you care enough to ask :)

I so wanted to be on time with my DWR post on Friday since I was a day late with the last one, but unfortunately it just wasn't possible this weekend, and I still haven't finished it. I posted the binding tutorial on Saturday because, 1) I finished writing that post on Tuesday after completing the Blueberry Hill quilt, so it was ready and rearing to go...and 2) I wanted to give you all something fun to try while you wait patiently. Originally I had planned to post that tutorial at the end of the Quilt Along because that's how I bound my last DWR quilt, but I think it was better things worked out like they did, because now you'll have time to practice on a few projects before we wrap things up in September!

I know I've been a little sporadic with my posts lately, and I probably will be for the next week or two, but I will try my best to have it posted by Sunday (at the latest) because I'm conscious of the fact that many of you have deadlines to meet. I don't want to make you late presenting a special gift, and I really do want to dive back into my quilting as soon as possible because it will be good therapy for me :)  I will probably have to bump back the Quilt Along schedule by a week in order to compensate for the lost time, but I don't forsee any more delays along the way. If there are, I'll be sure to inform you ahead of time. And if this puts you behind on your personal schedule, feel free to work ahead and email me with questions - I will try to help you as much as possible :)

Over and Out,
K

July 23, 2011

Machine Binding Tutorial


Since I started blogging a little over a year ago, several of you have noticed that I completely machine-sew my binding, and you've asked for tips and/or instructions.  I've been meaning to put together a tutorial since Christmas, but didn't get a kick in the pants to actually do it until I was contacted by AcquQuilt last month.


I know you've probably seen this program going around the blogosphere, but I was asked if I wanted to receive a Go! Baby Cutter and three cutting dies of my choice to write tutorials for. I've been curious for a while about how well these cutters actually work, but I'll be honest and say that I was hesitant to buy one because of the cost. When the rep from AcquQuilt contacted me, I was ecstatic because not only would I be receiving a cutter and dies, but one of you lucky readers will be as well! I'm very selective about the content on my blog, and I've been very open in the past about my entire drive for blogging; I'm a self-taught quilter and have learned almost everything I know via the internet. My goal is to provide the same kind of free services and teaching materials that I benefited from when I first started quilting. Therefore, I couldn't pass up an opportunity to provide not only one, but three different tutorials for you, and offer someone the chance to win a machine that they might not otherwise have the chance to own.

So let it begin! For my 1/2" binding, I'll be using their 2.5" Strip Cutter to cut my fabric for this project. Even though 1/2" binding should only technically require 2" strips, in reality you need some extra fabric to allow for all the folds and wrapping it around the fat batting.

First off, I measured the dimensions of the die (6" x 24") to figure out what size I needed to cut my fabric. The quilt I was making (Blueberry Hill) required five 44" strips for the binding, so I would have to cut a total of 6 since the die cuts two pieces per layer of fabric. I wanted to do as little pre-cutting as possible, so I multiplied the width of the die by three and cut one big 18" piece.


Then I folded my fabric together selvage to selvage to give me a piece 22" long (the die is 24" long, so I had room to play with), and after that I folded the fabric accordion style to create 3 layers of fabric and narrow the width down to about 6". The folds on the end won't matter because they'll be chopped off when I run my fabric through the machine. Even cooler, the die only cuts along the long edge, and not the short edges...so what that means is the folds on the short edge won't be cut, and I'll be able to unfold them when I'm finished for a long 44" piece.


After I had my fabric folded and centered on the die, I gently covered it with the cutting mat so my fabric wouldn't shift.


And now comes the fun part! Cranking this baby through the cutting machine!


Voila! All I had to do now was peel away the scraps to reveal my six glorious strips!




Once you have your strips ready, you'll need to start attaching them. Line up the ends of two strips, right sides together, at a 90 degree angle. Pin, and then mark a 45 degree line diagonally across the top strip. Make sure your line looks just like mine, because if you make your diagonal using the other two corners, your strip won't fold out correctly after you sew them together. Trust me on this. Just copy the photo below exactly :)


Sew directly on top of the line you just drew.


Trim off the excess fabric. I usually cut a smaller seam allowance than normal, because 1/4" is a bit bulky for binding.


Unfold your pieces and press the seam.


Repeat for remaining strips until you have one mega-strip.


Start folding your strip in half and press the seam as you work your way down the strip.


Then on one side only, fold the raw edge in to meet the center seam you just pressed.


Your binding should look like this when you're finished.


Lay your binding right side down along one edge of your quilt, leaving about an 8" tail. The end needs to be loose so that you'll have enough slack to attach the ends of the binding once you've worked your way around the quilt. Also, the side of the binding with two folds should face the inside of the quilt. You don't need a 1/2" guide on the outside because you can use your sewing foot for that.


Using either your foot or the sewing plate on your machine as a guide, sew a 1/2" seam.


When you reach the corner, stop sewing exactly 1/2" away from the edge.


Now, fold your binding back as seen below. It should jut out and hang off of your quilt. Finger press the seam.


Now, leaving the diagonal fold you just made intact, fold the binding strip back down toward the quilt, making sure your new fold lines up with the edge of the quilt.


If you lift up the top fold you just made, the binding should look a little something like this...


Start pinning the binding along the 2nd edge of your quilt.


Starting from the very edge of the corner, sew 1/2" seam down this side as well. You have to start from the raw edge this time, or else the mitered corner won't be anchored down when you fold the lining back.


Repeat for remainder of quilt. When you've worked your way around all four sides, here's how you'll attach the two loose ends. Fold one end up toward the inside of the quilt, and one end down toward the outside of the quilt. Make sure you pull each end taught so that everything is lying perfectly flat. If there's any slack at either end, you're binding will bunch up and crease when you try and sew down the ends.

Your binding should look like the photo below. Press the diagonal seam you've just made.


Here's another picture in case you need a better visual...


Now here's the tricky part. You know how you pressed that diagonal seam up above? Well now you need to pin the two ends together so that they line up along that fold. I usually slide my fingers under the folds, pinch the opening shut, and then lift the excess fabric that's flapping about straight up in the air.  Then being careful not to stab my fingers that are pinching the opening together (not always successful), I slide two pins in to hold the fabric in place.

Then you'll need to pull the loose part of the binding out and away from the quilt, and sew down that diagonal fold. This will attach your ends at a diagonal (rather than a vertical) seam, which greatly reduces bulk and wear on your fabric.


Once you've sewn your seam, trim down to about 1/8" seam allowance (as I mentioned earlier, 1/4" seams are a little bulky for a binding this narrow).


Now here's my favorite part! Seriously! - I enjoy machine sewing the back. Most of the difficulty in machine sewing the back of a binding is 1) Making it look nice & decorative, and 2) Lining your stitches up with the binding on the front, because when you flip it over, you don't want it to look like a drunken man sewed a random stitch down the middle of your binding.

So here's what I do. I flip my binding over toward the back of the quilt. Remember how we pressed that extra fold on one side of the binding only? Well this fold tells you where to tuck the fabric under on the back side of your quilt, and it's also going to be the inside edge of your binding.


You see that blue seam running straight underneath the binding? That is the seam you created when you sewed the binding to the top of the quilt. If you line up the back fold of your binding so that it barely covers that front seam and sew down it, your stitches will line up along the bottom of the binding on the front AND back of your quilt. 

I actually don't pin or clip the back of the binding down before I start sewing. I find it easier to fold it down as I go so that I can perfectly line up, and don't have to worry about pins/clips shifting as I man-handle the quilt under the machine. I also suggest you use a thread that blends in very well with the color of the binding.

Using a small zig zag stitch, secure the back of your binding. The bottom of your zig zag stitch should be sewn almost directly on top of that straight stitch from the front. (I use a 2.5 zig zag stitch, because smaller stitches are less visible if your seam gets a little wonky in places, plus the denser stitching holds your binding more securely and is less likely to pop..but you don't wanna go too small with your stitch because then it will take forever to sew the whole thing).

When you reach a corner, all you need to do is lift your presser foot and pivot the quilt. There's no need to cut and start a new seam.


You might want to sew a little bit and see how you're doing. If you've done it right, the zig zag should appear like this on the front...


Don't worry if your stitching is a tiny bit off, because that's to be expected. And besides, if you used a thread that blends, it will be hard to tell anyway.

And here's another helpful tip...whenever I start getting all Type A about minor flaws like the binding stitch not being perfectly lined up in places, I have to remind myself that no one I give a quilt to is going to stare at my binding, inch by inch, noting the places where my seams are a hair off. Repeat that to yourself if you get frustrated because it doesn't look 100% perfect on the front. As long as your seams aren't running down the middle of your binding on the front, or hanging 1/4" or more below, it's fine :)

Feel free to post questions in the comments! And if you need more pictures in certain spots to clarify, I'll be happy to provide them :)
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