Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Tutorial: Bias Binding on a Scalloped Edge

I love the curvature of scalloped borders on quilts. It takes a bit of patience to put the bias binding around the curves of the border, but when I buy the most perfect fabrics I can find and spend many days working on a quilt, I'm not about to cut corners at the end. I'm sure there are almost as many ways to bind a quilt as there are quilters. I'll be describing the way I work with bias binding. I'm sorry to say that I know of no wonderful shortcuts for this job. 

I think that most of us are often intimidated by something new, and at first, the very idea of working with bias binding can sound pretty scary. Binding edges with curves does require fabric cut on the bias, so it pays to at least give it a try on practice piece. Attaching binding around a  curved edge is like any other skill. Once you've practiced a bit, the fear almost always disappears.

There are two main disadvantages to working with bias binding.  First, it uses more fabric than straight binding does. In order to get binding sections that aren't too short, large triangles from the corners of the fabric will wind up in the scrap basket.

Then, there is the pinning. I don't know of a way to avoid using lots of pins to get the fabrics to lie flat and smooth in the end.

Other than the need to pin around inner and outer curves, sewing bias binding onto a quilt is very much like attaching any other binding

The "Kitty Craft" quilt shown in this tutorial has been designed with a gently scalloped border.

Part 1: Make the binding. 

160 inches of binding ready to attach.

My favorite tool for measuring 45 degree angles on bindings

1. Measure halfway around the quilt, snugging the tape measure up against the scallops. Multiply by two to get the distance around your quilt. I recommend adding 10" - 12" to that length to determine how much binding you'll need to make.

2. Lay your cutting ruler at a 45 degree angle and cut as many 2 1/4" strips from the fabric as you will need. From here on, the binding is made much like any other binding.

3. Cut both ends of each strip with the 45 degree angle going in the same direction.

4. Lay two strips perpendicular to each other. Stitch the seam with a 1/4" seam allowance.

5. Press the seams open and trim off the little ears.

6. Press the binding in half lengthwise.

Part 2: Attach the binding.

1. Pin the raw edges of the folded binding to the edge of the quilt. Leave a tail of about 6" and start pinning in the area where the outer curve begins to transition to an inner curve. Joining the ends of the binding on an outer curve is easier than it is on an inner curve.

I like to pin and stitch about 2 to 3 feet at a time. Be careful not to stretch the binding as you pin it around outside curves. It shouldn't be so loose that it gathers, but it shouldn't be at all stretched. If the binding is too tight on those curves it won't lie flat when you fold it over and stitch it to the edge of the quilt.  The inner curves need to be treated in exactly the opposite way. Pull the binding nice and snug on those inner curves. That will help to minimize puckering on the inside of the curves. Backstitch to secure the stitches and sew with a 1/4" seam.

2. Stop about 6" or so from the starting point. Backstitch.

3. Lay the binding on the curve bringing the two ends together in the middle. Pinch the ends together and connect them with a pin. 

4. Mark both ends of the binding with pins exactly where the ends need to meet.

5. This next part gets a little trickier. Work with one tail of the binding at a time. Keep your ruler at a 45 degree angle. Align the sewing line of your ruler with the pin exactly on the marked center fold. You need to cut 1/4" on the outside of the sewing line so you will have that 1/4" seam allowance for stitching. Do this on both tails of the binding.

Take extra care to cut those edges at the very same angle! When you go to sew the ends together you don't want to find that one is cut on the opposite slant from the other. I've done that. Not fun. :(

6. Pin the two ends of the binding together. Double check to make sure that the pieces aren't twisted.  Sew in the same way that you sewed the strips together to make the original long piece of binding.

7. Finger press the seam open. Fold and pin to the quilt edge. Stitch in place.

 8. Fold the binding to the back of the quilt and sew it down with neat hand stitching.

9. Press. Place the iron flat on the bound edge of the quilt, press down, and give it a burst of steam. Bias binding has a lot of give. The steam sets it so it will lie smooth and flat on the scallops.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Mother Nature Brings Sewing to a Halt

If you've never spent a spring living in "Tornado Alley", you may not have witnessed the havoc of a violent prairie thunderstorm.

Trees bend to the ground under the wind and the weight of the rain, gutters overflow creating waterfalls in front of windows, hail decimates flower beds, and all eyes are glued to the weather channel radar. While tornado sirens pierce the air rainwater creeps silently from the ground onto basement floors.

The nearest tornado touched down 4 miles from our house, but when Monday evening's storm ended we'd had 6 1/2"  inches of rain in just a few hours. The water in my sewing room and in the storage area under the stairs wasn't discovered till Tuesday morning.

Everything came to a standstill. I didn't sew a stitch from early Monday through Friday, and I heated leftovers or supermarket rotisserie chicken for every meal. The pictures tell the story.
Everything was shoved together away from the wet areas. The sewing machine is almost hidden behind the piles.
It was too much for the shop vac.

Carpet pads drying outside on the makeshift clothesline.

Almost dry floors.

Lots of baking soda sprinkled under dry carpet pads.
I'll be sewing tomorrow. A cat quilt needs to be finished. 
The cutting tables sit right in the corner where water came in. They are easily collapsed, the desk is on sliders, and most of the storage drawers have wheels.

For the time being I've rearranged furniture and put the heavy dresser against a wall that stayed dry, and more easily moved furniture by the wet areas. After we get some work done to stop the water, I'll decide where to place furniture permanently. 

They say we'll have a wet summer, and more rain is expected Sunday night through Tuesday. We are hoping we can schedule something quickly, but it's taking time to find a contractor. Everyone who works with basements is overwhelmed by calls for help from all over the city. 

It could have been so much worse! The tornado missed us, and nothing more than a pack of wrapping paper was ruined. This little bit of water is a nuisance, but falls way down in the minor category on the scale of things that could go wrong. I'll be sewing again today. 

Stay dry and safe, everyone! 
Wishing you a super great week!

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Splendid Sampler Gallery - Slowing Down

The Splendid Sampler post is late this week, and I may not have something to show every week, at least not over the summer. I need to swing into wedding mode and work on new designs for my patterns. In addition to that, summer is upon us, and my friends won't have any Splendid Sampler blocks till later.

I actually did make a teensy bit of progress after dinner last night. I chose two very easy blocks and finished them up quickly - anything to make me feel like I'm getting somewhere. Once again, I need to remind myself that I'm not in school, the blocks are not graded assignments, and I can work at my own slow turtle pace.

The hat is actually a bonus block named "Derby Day" from Pat Sloan. I don't know why it simply begged to go on this background piece, but it was unrelenting. Guess it wanted to be a city hat.

The second block I made is Block 17, "Sweet Candy". I absolutely loved making this one! This is one of those fun little things for those moments when a person craves something fast, easy, and no-fail. It is definitely a sweet little block. Marjorie sent this photo of her latest block. The colors are so springlike and happy! Her quilt will be so much fun when it's finished. She's going on vacation, so she won't be be sending any photos of Splendid Sampler blocks for awhile.

From My Splendid Friends 

Marjorie sent this photo of her latest block. The colors are so springlike and happy! Her quilt will be so much fun when it's finished. She's going on vacation, so she won't be be sending any photos of Splendid Sampler blocks for awhile.

 Marjorie says, 
"This was really a relaxing pattern to stitch.  Sad to say this will probably be my last block for about a month.  It is time to close our Fl home and go to GA for the summer."

Dixie, on the other hand, has so many other projects in the works that she's taking a very long break from the Splendid Sampler. This Baltimore Album quilt in progress simply boggles my mind. Never in a million years would I have the patience to take on something like this! Just WOW, Dixie! This is gorgeous!

From Dixie:

"Several years ago I completed the same designer’s “Baltimore Autumn” quilt, same size, same format. When Keepsake Quilting offered it as a block of the month, all laser cut, I had to jump in.  I have always been fascinated by Baltimore Album quilts, but I knew I’d not have the time nor the patience for all the extra preliminary work.  It took me several years to complete, and then I sent it off to an award-winning long arm quilter in Maine, and the results were stunning.  Wow, I was so happy.

I thought long and hard about doing this “Spring” one.  I don’t have the same energy these days, but I made up my mind to have the “companion” piece in my collection.  As with my “Baltimore Autumn,” this one will be all machine appliqué, a combination of blanket stitch where I can, and, where the pieces are too tiny, I’ll just do raw edge appliqué. I’ll probably take all the blocks down from my wall soon, as, sometimes when I walk into the sewing room, I want to turn around right away and run as fast as I can, as the work looks so daunting!  Slow and steady wins the race, though, and  that’s what I am counting on."
These particular blocks my be slowing down, but even if I have nothing to show from the Splendid Sampler, I'll continue blogging every week about something or another. 

Take Note: 
I love sharing my readers' work. If you have a project of any kind that you'd be willing to share, please send photos and tell us something about it. You can send them through my facebook page, or you can email them to me here: I'll try to post anything you send within a week of receiving the photos. 

Hope you have a truly "Splendid" week!!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Building Baskets

I really like my pretty tulip baskets! I like that there are two styles and two different sizes in one pattern.  I like that each one of them is lovely. I really like the fact that they stitch up quickly and easily. I like the scalloped top, the flared side panels, the hexagonal base, the button trim, and the handles that can drop out of the way. I'm a very happy camper.

There must be dozens of ways to use these containers, and they make super gifts. In the craft room they can hold project supplies.  In the bathroom a basket could be filled with hand towels or with lotions and creams.  Little onesies, bibs, fresh diapers, or cuddly toys could be stored in a pretty basket in the nursery. A basket by the door would be a great container for mittens, keys, or cell phones. I accidentally discovered that the smallest basket is just right to fit around a small plant pot. 

As always, lessons were learned from making something that was different from anything I'd made before. There are two baskets so awful that they will never be completed, and two that look fine, but were constructed in a complicated, round about way. The last three baskets look perfect, and they were the easy ones. I made two of them in one day.

The Lessons: 

1. Stiff bag batting isn't the best for something with six side panels and a hexagon for a base. This pattern sews up way easier with a flexible batting. When I switched to Soft and Stable I found I could relax while sewing. It isn't my first choice for every bag or basket project, but the more I work with this product, the more I like it.

2. Soft and Stable is too thick for making nice buttonholes. A thinner batting or belting work much better.

3. "Y" seams don't have to be hard! When I finally figured out the steps, the bag just zipped together.

4. Sometimes you need to trim batting back really close to the seams, and sometimes you need to sew next to the batting rather than through it.

Happy Stitching
from this

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Splendid Sampler Gallery. Slim Pickings.

This week I've accomplished nothing at all with Splendid Sampler blocks. Zip, zilch, zero. It isn't that I've been goofing off, but that I've been busy with writing tutorials and a basket pattern.

Dixie has decided to take a break for awhile. Like me, she has other commitments that take precedence over this project.

Now and again we need to step back and decide just what our priorities are. I love the Splendid Sampler and the tremendous variety of blocks in different styles. It's challenging, it's fun, it's filled with new skills for me to learn. In spite of that, I have no choice but to work on those thing that matter most to my family. There are pants and a wedding dress waiting to be shortened, a garden in need of attention, a house that must be cleaned, meals that have to be prepared, and only so many hours in a given day. 

I will catch up eventually. Will I make every single block that we are given? Absolutely not. I love most of the blocks, but there are some I'll skip. Some are too time consuming and others simply don't fit in with my vision of the finished quilt.

But, all is not lost!! 

Marjorie has come riding across the prairie with two new blocks to share!!

And they are beauties, too!

I love the vibrancy of these color combinations. So bright and lively. This will be such a pretty quilt. 

Marjorie's message was short and sweet.

"Hello Karen,  Hot off the ironing board.  Hopefully I am on a roll .  I must say,  I liked working with Solvy.  Will definitely use again.  Happy stitching,  Marjorie"
 Marjorie, I do hope you're on a roll! Your work is lovely.

Let's see what next week brings. 
It's been wet, gray, and dismal for long enough now.  

I wish you sunshine and lollipops for May, and a few rainbows and other wonderful things, too. 


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Summer Purse, Part 6, Finally Finished

Attach the lining and call it done.

Which bag are you making?

Note: All seam allowances are 1/2" unless otherwise instructed. 

There are two more pieces of lining to cut.

1. Cut two strips of lining, 3" x 16' each.

 2 Locate the center of the 16" sides and mark with a pin or a notch. Also mark the centers of the encased zipper units.

 3. Sew the 3" x 16" strips to the encased zipper. Make sure the right sides of the strips are facing the right side of the zipper (the side with the zipper pull on top).

4. Cut a 1 1/2" square from each bottom corner of the pocket sections of lining. These cuts will be used to make the boxed corners on the bottom sides of the bag.

5. Sandwich the encased zipper between the 3" x 16" strips and the larger, pocketed sections of the lining. The large sections of lining will face the wrong side of the zipper. Sew right on the stitching line that attaches the 3" x 16" strip to the zipper casing.
The zipper is sandwiched between a narrow strip of lining and a pocket section on both sides. 

 Note: Place the zipper pocket on whichever side will allow it and the encased zipper to open in the same direction. My zippers open from left to right.

6. Tuck the zipper ends out of the way and sew the two side seams of the linings right sides together.

View from the top of the bag.

 Note: Open the zipper to finish sewing the bag.

 7. Tuck the body of the purse and the handles inside the lining. Right sides should be together.

8. Place the side seams of the lining in the exact center of the 3" wide sides on the outside of the bag. Pin the lining to the bag all the way around. 

9. Sew the bag and the lining together at the top.

 10. Turn the lining to the inside of the bag. Do not fold the batting down.  Fold the lining over the batting and to the inside of the bag.  The 1/2" strip of lining that remains on the top looks like binding and matches the trim on the main front pocket.

11. Pin the lining in place. Stitch in the ditch right along the seam. Press.

Note: Double check to make sure the bag zipper is open. 

12. Turn the bag inside out. Pull the lining away from inside the bag to finish sewing the bottom.

13. Stitch either side of the bottom edges of the lining together for 1 1/2" - 2" from the side edge inward. This will leave an 8" or 9" opening at the bottom of the lining.  Backstitch so the the short seams don't rip out when you pull the bag through the opening later. 

14. Pinch the square opening at the corners together. Align the side seam with the bottom seam. Pin together.

15. Stitch across. This will create the box corner at the bottom of the lining.

16. Remember that 11" x 2 1/2" piece of plastic canvas you cut and put away back in Part 2 of this tutorial? You need it now. Slide the plastic canvas under the insert at the bottom of the bag and center it. I hope you don't have to cut another piece like I did. I put the one I made earlier away in a place that was evidently too safe.

17. Pull the bag through the opening you left in the lining. Stitch the opening closed, and push the lining to the inside. 

18. Give the whole bag a good pressing and it is done!!

Optional last step.

If you want your bag to remain clean over time and with lots of use, I recommend taking it outside and spraying it with Scotch Guard. Spray it lightly, allow to dry, and spray one more time.

One final note. 
 I would truly appreciate hearing from you about the usefulness and quality of this tutorial. As I said in the beginning, I've made many bags, but this is my first attempt at writing a pattern for one. I welcome any suggestions you might have. If I ever get it figured out, I may design more bag patterns.