Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Heart of Quilters

The December blog posts are about things quilters would like to give or receive as a gift for creating and making quilts.  Today is the yearly post about the giving nature of quilters, their thoughtfulness and their caring for others. 
Quilters, alone and with others, give away countless hours and dollars worth of materials to help others.  There is little recognition other than from quilting peers. You don't see it on the news. You may read about it in a little article in a paper if there is room that day but, most of the time, quilters carry on supporting others without fanfare or celebrity. 

In the last couple of years, more and more quilters are creating Dignity Quilts.  In nursing homes or other group care homes for the elderly, people felt the need for moving the deceased out of the building with dignity.  A quilt made to gurney specifications can cover the person as they are moved out.  Many Dignity Quilts are made with symbols of passage that signify a life lived and moving on.  Butterflies, the tree of life, doves and symbols of friendship were used in some of the quilts I have seen.  What a thoughtful way of moving on!

Many guilds have outreach quilts that can be shared in the community.  Here are some of the people who have received a quilt to hug them in their time of need:
cancer patients
flood, fire and tornado victims
children in homes, not there own, in need of a warm hug
children with special needs
Alzheimer patients
and so many more.

Wherever there is someone in need, there will be a quilt for the asking or given anonymously by a quilter who cares. Thank you for being the heart of quilting; you know who you are!!!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Wool, Wool Felt, Wool Applique

The other day someone called and asked if we have wool felt.  So today, let's talk about wool fibres and felting.
Wool fibres will felt together when exposed to warm water, a little soap and friction.  Remember wool sweaters that were mistakenly thrown in the washing machine and came out many sizes too small?  I belong to the Canadian Embroiderers' Guild, London chapter, where I took a class on wet felting around a rock. We took some pieces of loose wool roving, wrapped them around a rock and then wet them with warm water and a little soap.  We started working the fibres to create friction until they started to mesh together and form a firm fabric tightly around the rock. 
Needle felting is the process of melding fibres into a fabric using barbed needles instead of water and friction. The needles cause the wool fibres to hook together.
We sell some wool felt in black and white.  It is not woven but is felted until it makes a fabric.  You know it is 100% wool because it is at least $25 per metre.  We have had other colours of wool felt for under $15 per metre but, even though we called it wool, it was mostly acrylic fibres with a little wool.  Both work for wool applique.  Because the fibres are tightly bonded together they fray very little when cut so are easy to applique with a blanket stitch. 
Wool applique can be done with woven wool fabric.  It can be felted to make it more firm and denser but this I call felted wool fabric.  Marcus Brothers came out with a line of wool fabrics this fall in about 20 antique like colours for wool applique.  It is $54 per metre but we have cut it into 9" by 10.5" pieces for $3.25.  Usually you use smaller pieces for applique so you can get a wider variety of colours without having to invest by the metre.
If you search through second hand and thrift shops you may find wool suits, coats or sweaters.  You can take them apart and felt the wool fabric for applique. 
Aurafil makes a wool blend thread.  We have a few colours which I like for wool applique.  There is no shine to the thread so it blends well with the fabrics.  The thread is 50% wool.
Now, knowing a little about felting and wool, you can figure out that wool batt may take special care.  If you machine wash wool batt in a washing machine with warm water and soap you will be encouraging the batt to felt.  If you go the expense of using wool batt for warmth, take extra care to clean it very very gently!!  If you choose wool batt because you want a warm quilt remember this.
It is not one quilt's job to keep you as warm as you want to be!!
I am up to 3 quilts upstairs at the store (we live here).  If it is a cold winter like last year, it may be a 4 quilt winter.  The last quilt is Aunt Bessie's wedding present, a 100% polyester crimplene top and bottom quilt with polyester batting and hand quilted.  No heat escapes under that quilt!

Book Clubs

At Quilt Market, the trade show for quilt industry retailers, there is a day before the show opens called Schoolhouse.  Every half hour from 11 am to 6 pm there are information sessions to attend.  Every half hour there are 10 or more sessions to choose to visit.  You have about 5 minutes to change sessions.  Sessions are put on by fabric designers, book publishers, pattern designers or product designers.  There are a couple hundreds of quilters hurrying to change sessions.  By about session 4, I need a break because there is so much to see and enjoy.  By 6 pm I am overwhelmed, overstimulated and over informed but very excited and happy!

In October I went to a session by Martingale, one of the larger book publishers of quilting books.  As the presenter was talking about great new books I began thinking about book clubs.

We love books.  We gather together to talk about fiction books so why not have quilters' book clubs?  Gather together with a few friends to talk about your favourite books.  Share ideas, talk about family and quilts you are working on.  It wouldn't have to be once a month.  Since we are not gathering to hand quilt at quilting bees anymore, a quilt book club would give us an opportunity to gather together and share time with friends.  No sewing machines and tasks involved.  Here are some thoughts to get you started. 

1.  Create a group of quilter friends who want to share ideas by talking about quilt books.
2.  Pick a date.  It could be once a month, once every other month or four times a year.
3.  Pick a topic.  Not everyone has to bring a book or the same book but the group should have some to share.  Topics could range from applique to colour to art quilts.
4.  Pick a location.
5.  Meet, snack and chat.

Other than that, meet and have fun.  We learn by sharing!!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Foam Batting

Foam batting is a layer of foam with tricot or soft polyester fabric on either side.  It is easy to sew, washes well without shrinkage and is great for adding dimension to projects.  We use it for bags to make them stand up and look good for long periods of time.  I made 2 tote bags with the Whistlepig Creek pattern, 'Six Pack Stack'.  It is used 6 fat quarters and is reversible. 

I was going to take a photo of the two bags so you can see what a difference the foam batting makes.  However, did you know I was away for the last 11 days and have been posting while on the road?  I prepared all the posts before we left and posted them each day.  I know you can set the time for posting each one but I have never had success with that.  So, today I cannot find the second bag with the foam batt.  I know Murphy's Law of quilting states I will find it as soon as I post this but you will have to wait another day.

Or not!  The phone rang, I answered it and, while talking, spied the bag.  So here they are:

The bag on the left is made with regular batting, 80-20, and the bag on the right has foam batt. These days it is nice to have a bag that doesn't fall over and require you to touch the floor to get it.  Many of Brenda's bags use the foam batt.  You will see the results in previous posts for 'The Voyager Bag' and 'The Girlfriends Bag'. 

Leftover pieces of foam are great for cosmetic bags for travelling since they sit up straight on a hotel bathroom counter and protect breakables in transit.

Another new pattern of Brenda's this year is the 'Simply Dry'.  Use charm squares or make your own 5" squares and foam batt to make a cushioned drip dry mat for your kitchen or bar.  The foam batt dries quickly, you can test and practise machine stitches for decorative work and make a gift all at the same time. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Lynette Anderson and Block of the Month

For those of us who have been quilting since the early 1990s, it occurred to me one day that Lynette Anderson is my new Debbie Mumm.  Her fabric has a folksy air to it and features the themes of family, friends and pets.  She does lovely embroidery work too.  When I first ordered her fabric she was with a company called Lecien.  Now she is designing for RJR.  Her new line features brighter colours but still with a country feel.

Lynette is from Australia, produces cute wood buttons and has a great sense of whimsy. 

She has designed a Block of the Month for RJR called 'Daisy Chain Cottage'.  The image does not do justice to the colourful fabrics but is here to give you an idea of what the quilt is like.  You can check it out better on the RJR website. 

The pattern is free online and the fabrics are all in stock waiting for me to make the store sample so you can see how delightful it is.  I saw the quilt at Quilt Market and love it, can't wait to start making it.  Want to sew along?  It just occurred to me that I don't have to finish my sample before you start.  We can work together, gain inspiration from each other and have a great time while working away.  You in?

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Digitally Printed Fabric

Most patterned fabric is screen printed using screens of 12" or 24".  Each of the colour dots or symbols on the selvedge indicates a screen that has been used to print on the fabric.  One colour at a time is printed.
There are now digitally printed fabrics.  More colours can be layered creating more detailed images with more depth and in different widths of repeats.   These fabrics cost more but can be well worth the price for creating artful quilts.

We have one bolt from Hoffman fabrics in a line called Wanderlust.  Brenda, of 'Among Brenda's Quilts and Bags', has a free pattern on the Hoffman website using the line.  I chose the one print which includes the Eiffel Tower because the Ailsa Craig Community Quilt Festival is welcoming quilters from France next May.  Also, there are a number of quilters in our area that have travelled to France and want to create a memory of their adventure.

Keeping in mind the quilters from France are coming, we are ordering other fabrics with that theme in mind.  French General designs from Moda are based on antique French textiles.  The Rue Indienne line is here and the Bon Voyage line is due in April. These are screen printed.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Quilting Thread By Hand or Machine

Welcome to the confusing world of thread!  Choosing a thread is like choosing a car or new sewing machine.  You need to test and try to see what works for you and for your machine.  Have you noticed your sewing machine has a taste for some threads and not others?  Do you know which brand of thread works for your hand sewing and glides easily through your machine?  I think I could blog every day for a month and still not talk about everything we need to know about thread.

The best advice is to choose the best quality thread you can afford that fits the need of the sewing job you are working on.  Bob from Superior thread says a good quality polyester thread does as little damage as a good quality cotton while a poor quality polyester thread does as much damage as a poor quality cotton.

Different quilting machines, both  longarm and midarm machines, will work best with different threads.  Tim uses King Tut on the top most of the time.  In the bobbin, he uses a lighter weight thread like Masterpeice, cotton, or Bottom Line, polyester .  All of these are by Superior Threads.  His longarm works best with the variegated King Tut but breaks more often with the solid colours.  He could use the same thread in the bobbin but he would be winding bobbins frequently so lighter weight thread in solid colours work in the bobbin, balancing well with the heavier top thread.  He tested some other brands in the top but they just broke and proved to be very frustrating.

When machine piecing, the weight of the thread can make a difference.  If you are sewing together many points, a lighter weight thread takes up less space in the seam allowances.  It is amazing what a difference it makes.

We have carried Wonderfil lines of thread for awhile.  Tim uses DecoBob in the bobbin since it is a strong thin thread.  It is polyester and a great blender.  Wonderfil is a Canadian company so the cost is   lower than other threads.

Spagetti is a 12 wt hand quilting weight cotton thread by Wonderfil.  It comes in solid colours and can be used in a machine with a larger needle.  I have used it for hand quilting and embroidery (in place of 12 wt perle cotton).  This year we added Fruitti.  It is also a 12wt Egyptian cotton thread but is variegated and comes in 41 colours.

Quilters need 4 basic colours of thread for piecing: light beige, dark beige, light gray and dark gray.  The beige colours are used with earth tones and the grays with jewel tones.  Since seams are usually pressed to one side and the stitch is shorter than usual (about 2.0) because there is no backstitching, you should not see the thread most of the time.  If you want to see the binding stitch I was taught, those are the only thread colours you need for stitching the binding down too.

So, I guess, you should become a thread collector and tester.  If your family is looking for stocking stuffers for you, suggest thread.  Or come to the sale we are having after Christmas and choose a few types to try.