One of my dear friends collected some fabrics from someone she knew and gave them to me with the plan/intent of creating quilts for Boys Haven. This facility houses troubled boys and each boy is given a quilt for their bed while they stay and then take it home with them when they leave. It is brokenheartedly sad to see them question the gift—as these quilts are all made by someone who does not know them, is not related to them and is not a cast-off or a plain blanket nor is it a loan.
They like patterned quilts and those featuring super heroes or other themes. I have made western themed, denim ones and this past week put together this one from those scraps and leftovers. It needs a border still to make it large enough and it will join the pile of quilts destined for Boys Haven. I put a label on the back with an encouraging wish for their future—a small thing but maybe it will make a difference in someone’s life.
During the past few months I have been diligently working on completing UFO’s (all those quilt tops awaiting quilting and binding). I was able to finish the quilting on all of them, still working on the binding–that takes a bit longer and many sessions of evening Netflix. And then I started in on the projects that needed just a little bit or maybe a fair amount of construction to complete. Now those are piling up with four in the pile and one I just put on the frame. I like to load the backing and leave it under tension over-night before quilting.
But starting something new is always enticing.
Alex Anderson from the QuiltShow has been doing live facetime presentations using a pattern called Sequoia Sampler. She demonstrated the construction of several blocks in the Sampler using a particular bundle of fabric from the QuiltShow Store.
Blessed/cursed/endowed with a large quantity of fabric and a strip of fabric I was supposed to use as the starting point for a Blooming Quilt for one of the quilting bees I am in—I pulled out the first quilt I made in this style and decided just not doing it. So I pulled some more fabric to coordinate with it.
I must say I have never worked on a pattern quite like this before. I made blocks after each of her sessions demonstrating the construction and placed them on the design wall. I selected fabric for each block depending upon where I thought the next block should go. It was a very different way to work and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The flowers and vase in the center were my design, some embroidery was added to the leaves and the vase and I used straight line quilting. Binding will have to wait until the current binding project is complete.
I don’t have the best setup for taking photos of pieces hanging off the Gammill–too much back light from the window overlooking the huge field behind my building but I think you can see the quilting–easy with channel locks and the border I designed using flying geese. The dark blue floral is the original fabric and I have a three inch square leftover.
Yesterday I took this quilt off the frame. it has embroidered letters of the alphabet and numbers in the white spaces; and all of those squares have mitered corners all perfectly done. Mom pinned a note to one of her completed quilts—“I signed up for a class on making mitered corners but the teacher didn’t know how. I decided I could teach quilting.” She had a loyal local following for many years and taught in the community room in the small town of Eastman.
It is the last one of the over twenty some for my mother’s grandchildren. She died in the summer of 2000 and it has taken me this long to complete them all.
Don’t judge me–there have been a few bends along the road.
Mom had always taken care of all the financial things; my Dad managed by going to the bank to ask how much money he had and then spent accordingly. They both had separate bank accounts with the same bank and labeled the same way—what a nightmare to figure out as I had to check just the account number on every transaction. That plus Mom had not been able to do the banking/billing for the past nearly year of her life left a big mess—plus I then took over Dad’s bills—he lived in Wisconsin and I in Texas–I made that drive nearly every month for over a year while working full time.
At that time, the grandchildren were mostly pre-teens and just barely teens—these were supposed to be wedding gifts—and I did not have a longarm quilting machine–just my well-used and loved Pfaff 7570. While I did quilt some good sized quilts on that machine, ti was not fun dealing with the basting and wrangling all that fabric.
I had one quilt professionally quilted but that person decided she really did not like quilting for others–and after a time I was able to buy a Gammill quilting machine—I named her Vivian after my grandmother. Basting is no longer a chore—-and now I baste everything larger than a standard sheet of paper—it’s just so easy and everything is so wrinkle free.
Now I have completed all of those quilts. Five are not married but their quilts are done—well, almost. I still have to put binding on this one and label it and the previous one. These were huge quilts–this one is 86 by 89; the previous one was 93 by 108 which were a challenge given the size of my frames.
Here it is quilted:
With all of this quarantine and flattening the curve activities, I have worked on reducing the pile of quilt tops to just needing binding. The stack was huge as one of the hardest things was basting. That involved clearing the dining room table, pulling out binder clips and popsicle sticks to mark the center of the table and stabbing myself with the safety pins or trying to reach the center of the table to stitch—–or finding a gym floor, taping the back to the floor and crawling around the floor with a spoon in one hand and a needle and thread in the other.
But then I was lucky enough to get a Gammill quilting machine. Basting is no longer much of a chore.
That machine lives about five miles away from me; my garden in raised beds is there as well along with a thriving apiary of five hives, and maybe four more from splits we took this spring.
Each morning I drive out to the shop; do a bit of house/yard maintenance and then work on the quilt in the frame. I mostly do pantographs…patterns I follow with a laser light from the back of the machine; but I have also tried doing some ruler work–just to see if I could.
I can do one of these in a morning; and then home for lunch and a bit of sewing and Netflix and maybe a walk in the neighborhood and a phone call or two.
It has begun to feel like a real job. But that stack is steadily diminishing and the binding stack is threatening to topple over.
Here is one of the Quilts of Valor
and another one
And because I seem to never be able to read all the instructions for an exchange in a group I am in—I make them the first week or so but then more rules emerge and I end up keeping all of my exchange— this was two—those triangles and some four patches
Sorry for the lighting; I have not figured out a way to photo them except hanging over the rails of the quilting machine frame; there is a large window overlooking a huge field behind me–where I can sometimes see egrets flying over head and the neighbor’s helicopter.
While doing this quarantine thing, I have been spending a great deal of time with Vivian.
Not to worry, though. Vivian is a Vision 2.0 Gammill quilting machine named after my grandmother. She and I have been working together for a couple of years now and I have learned a lot and picked up a few ideas along the way.
Most of what I am doing now would be classified as utilitarian in nature and mostly pantographs (quilting patterns), I also will do some basting–no more bending over the dining room table or crawling around on the floor; and a few art quilts.
- Stencil Brush and regular paint brush. I use the stencil brush to clean the lint from the bobbin carrier; the regular paint brush to clean the rollers and the track (although the air compressor my sweet husband bought me works better and faster except for the bobbin carrier–too hard to hold onto it in that blast of air)
- a white index card or a sheet of typing paper folded in fourths held behind the needle is helpful in threading dark thread against a dark quilt
- I pin to the top roller, roll slowly and carefully while standing in the middle of the bar and straightening the wrinkles as I go. I then roll slowly back onto the bottom bar. I was taught to pin to bottom, roll up on bottom, then pin to top but I ended up rolling it back and forth several times to be sure it was wrinkle free. This method works much better.
- I leave the backing under tension; drape the batting over the backing along with the top all over night. This takes a bit more time but I have not had any wrinkles in the backing using this method. And I am not ironing a backing that might have a few wrinkles in it from being folded.
- I make a small clip in the backing’s mid points to assist in pinning to the leaders. In the past I used a pin but then had to figure out what to do with that small sewing pin–the ones used to pin to the leaders would fall out.
- I measure each top and pin the measurements to the top; I can measure my pieces of backing and know which piece I can use and how to orient the top on the frame.
- I leave a four to five inch length of top thread when I invariably run out of bobbin thread in the middle or worse–only three inches away from the end of a row. That thread is easier to find when restarting.
- I mark the end of the pantograph with a piece of white plastic–it could be a piece of paper; I use a long straight edge to mark the top of the pantograph when filling in a partial row at the end of the quilt—that long straight edge is the top covering for window blinds but a regular yardstick would also work.
- Vivian does not mind jogging in place or even just standing still while I figure out where I am in the pantograph; she is incredibly patient.
- It is okay to write notes on the pantograph–some do not have top of the pattern marked, some start in odd places. That pattern is a piece of paper—write on it!
- Practice good posture while working; stand up straight; take breaks–Vivian will wait for you—and still smile at you when you come back.
- Don’t step on the electrical cord; it’s like putting your foot on the brake while revving the engine (if that can be done). you are just not going any where.
That’s all I can think of right now. Like a lot of things, there are things you do automatically and don’t even consider but make your tasks much easier.
I have been steadily whittling down the backload of quilt tops while under quarantine. I work on quilting nearly every day; while I am mostly doing pantographs, I think any time spent with a tool to be totally comfortable with its use makes future projects easier. While I have completed some art pieces with Vivian, the majority have been bed covers—but that is okay. I am having fun—my only limitation was backing and batting—but thanks to my wonderful long arm shop, I got in two cases of batting—….it’s easier for me to manage pieces of batting instead of cutting off hunks from a huge roll…yes, I know it is more expensive but I save on frustration and not crawling on the floor to cut off a piece.
If those of you who have long arms and more experience than me—are there things you do that improve your work or make things easier? I’d enjoy hearing!
And here is yesterday’s completed quilt—ready to join the binding queue.
yes, nearly all music themed fabrics; about 74 by 86 with a black backing covered with white musical notes.
Like one of two of you, I have been checking social media on a too frequent basis. What is real and what is rumor? Angry comments are mis-directed fear–fear of the unknown and panic has spread from official to official to regular persons who are spending far too much time on social media.
I have been taking advantage of this time to work on some projects. I will admit to no social distancing from Vivian—but Vivian has never been to Walmart, the dog park, Krogers, or church—she just waits patiently for me in the back room of what my husband calls my play-house.
The play-house is a 100 year plus old rice farmer cottage with the dog-run center wide hallway and two rooms on either side plus and upstairs of three rooms. Vivian lives in the back room where I can see a few of my beehives, a good view of the water tanks filled now with lettuce and English peas. The grounds are covered with blooming white clover and the bees are busily working that clover.
We monitor those hives as this is swarming season; Toby and Dora were thrilled to visit and wander around and inspect the sugar cane we planted about two weeks ago—yes there are a few sprouts so we will be able to harvest our own sugar cane in about two years and then I will have to figure out how to make sugar from that cane (maybe I’m kidding here)
Back to Vivian. Vivian was my grandmother’s name and I gave it to my Gammill quilting machine. We have become good friends and like my grandmother, she works hard.
This quilt was made from some stars my mother hand-pieced–eye-balling the 1/4 inch seams which means no two were identical and some green and white triangles my dad cut out for her when her hands could no longer function due to neuropathy from chemo. They weren’t perfectly cut either—and I could have recut everything but just wanted it to be what it was—a joint project between my dad, my mom, my grandmother’s name-sake and me.
it’s all done except for the binding and the words for the label.
My mother worked diligently to piece a quilt for each of her grandchildren. They were meant to be given on the occasion of their wedding. I have been working away at this project for some time and have decided that perhaps one or two of them are not planning of being married—so instead of holding them in perpetuity, I am finishing them.
This one is for my oldest son. It isn’t as large as some she made but it is large enough to make a great TV watching quilt—a tradition in our house as it tends to be a bit on the cool side.
The binding is lacking—but it is otherwise done—and I have just two more left to do.
and just so you can see my wonderful quilting—a pantograph but one of my favorites.
This quilt top has been in the line-up for completion for several months if not over a year. My oldest son is a proud graduate of University of Texas, receiving a Phd in Analytical Chemistry and is a member of the Texas Exes in Fort Worth. The group raises money for scholarships for students to attend U.T.
I used a pattern written by a group that makes Quilts of Valor–the only caveat to using the pattern is that it is not for individual profit but for a charitable purpose.
It is now bound and ready to travel to Fort Worth for their next fund-raiser—-maybe to join the Teddy Bear I made from UT themed fabric earlier this year.
Thread comes in many lovely colors and sizes of spools but I don’t always need a full cone (at $35 each) of a color. And I have a lot of smaller spools but they do not work well on the Gammill. The thread catches on the small slot intended to corral the thread from unwinding itself all over the floor.
One of my sons solved this problem. We designed a spool cap that would fit over the top of the spool and prevent catching in the slot. It worked absolutely perfectly.
Now I can use a lot of different threads and not necessarily invest in a lot of cones of thread.
My mother was a quilter and like many left behind some starts and stops, experiments and partially completed projects. I have been finishing up some of them and gifting them to her great-grandchildren.
the first one is for Ella and the teddy bears is for Eli—-a set of twins, children of one of my nephews and his lovely wife.
I have one more to quilt—the boxes are slowly being emptied and put to good use.