Sunday, December 18, 2016

Grandma's Choice Finished

Hi all -

I've finally finished my nephew, Trevor's, Christmas wallhanging. Yea! I decided to call it Grandma's Choice because it was made from a selection of fabrics that my mom gave to me one birthday, with a few additions from me. Trevor was very close to his grandmother so I think the fabrics will be special to him. I also think it's a great combination so he would like it anyway.

In my last post about this quilt, I had finished the piecing and wanted to add corners to the quilt with appliqued feathers based on the feather appliques that Karen used in her pattern. I was pretty sure I wanted to use the navy blue fabric with the stars for the applique, so now I had to pick a background fabric. First I tried a light fabric that I had:

 but decided that this one was too light and would draw attention away from the center. So I tried a darker fabric:

 This looked a lot better to me!

I didn't want the vines and circles from Karen's pattern, so I drew a triangle the size of the corner I wanted and traced a couple of her plumes onto it. Then I freehand drew a couple more plumes to make what I felt was a pleasant design. I wanted to do turned edge applique so I traced the plumes on freezer paper:

Then I ironed the freezer paper on some cardstock:

and cut out the shapes to make templates:

I only needed to make shapes for the center plume and all of the plumes on one side since the feather design is symmetric.

To make the applique shapes, I traced the template on the back side of the fabric and cut out the shape leaving an approximate 1/4" seam allowance. I sprayed the fabric with sizing and ironed it until it was just slightly damp. Then I replaced the template and ironed the edges over the template to create the shape. If an area of the seam allowance dried out before I got to it or if I got a fold on the edge, I just brushed it with a little more sizing and ironed it into place. I have a set of the Appliquick tools and I found they were really useful for turning the edges on the narrow points, but found my fingers to be easier to use on the wider ends. I then popped the template out of the shape, gave it one last press and glued it into place. When all of the plumes were in place on a corner piece, I sewed around the edges of the appliques using a narrow zigzag stitch and invisible thread. I finished one corner and checked to make sure that I liked it:

I'm liking it! So I made the other corners, attached them and trimmed up the quilt top:

I was now ready for quilting. I always stress over how to quilt my quilts, and this one was no different. I did the stitch-in-the-ditch quilting first, using smokey invisible thread in top and bobbin, to stabilize the quilt and to give me more time to think about the other quilting. That part, while a bit boring, is a nice break before the stressful part of making the hard decisions about the quilting that would show. But the time always comes where I have to make decisions....

I knew I wanted to break up the center a bit and that I wanted the quilting to tone down the seam line in the center. I had pressed the seams to the side when sewing the blocks together and that left me with very prominent seam lines. If I make a quilt like this again, I will definitely press those seams open so the line isn't so strong. I figured the best way to reduce the impact of those lines would be to quilt lines that were perpendicular to the seams. But straight lines would be too harsh so I would need curved lines. I used Lisa Calle's method of printing out a picture of the quilt and then drawing the quilting on tracing paper over the top of the picture to test this idea out:

I was liking the idea, but found I didn't like this method of design, at least for this quilt, because I really needed to see how far apart the lines would need to be on the quilt and which size curved ruler to use. So I switched to a method I've used before where I cut a piece of paper the size of the quilt and traced the main piecing lines in permanent pen. Then I could draw my quilting lines in pencil and erase anything I didn't like:

I found that really helpful and continued to play with quilting ideas:

This gave me a good starting point for the quilting. Once I'd decided what I would quilt in the middle, I did the quilting. I used a ruler with my Bernina to quilt the curved lines. I definitely need a lot more practice with rulers, but it turned out good enough since I would be filling the channels with pearls and ribbon candy which would mask my bobbles and uneven lines. Once the legs of the center were quilted, I quilted the center circles. Those I traced and quilted free-hand since I find that easier and quicker and I get better results. I filled the center with pebbles to match the pearls in the longest channel in the corners and filled the outer center circle with ribbon candy to match the ribbon candy in the legs. Then I quilted the feathers in the center. I wanted to put those in there to match the feather appliques. It's always good to repeat elements in your quilting! I drew the feathers free-hand and then quilted them. When I was finished with the feathers, they looked a little bland because they blended in with the background in that area which hadn't been quilted, so I added scribble quilting behind the feathers to give them more definition. That helped a lot, but unfortunately blended in with the ribbon quilting in the center. I decided that was fine and just left it, but next time I would probably use three channels in the center circle and put ribbon candy in the center channel, leaving the inner and outer channel unquilted for better definition. It's hard to see the center quilting because of the matching thread, but you can get a sense of it with the light in this picture:

When the center quilting was finished, I quickly quilted the background around the appliques using a simple stipple. I wanted the applique to pop and knew that the quilting would be invisible, so that was a good choice. I didn't take any pictures of that because you really can't see anything.

The next section I looked at was the medium blue semicircles. I knew that I wanted the striped fabric in the diamonds to be the main focus of the quilt, so I wanted something in the semicircles that would emphasize those. I started by quilting lines that went from the bottom of each diamond, continuing the angle of the diamond. I thought that might be enough for that area, but they left too much puffiness in those areas so I added quilted triangles in each section, 1/4" from the edges of the sections, and filled the triangles with ribbon candy, continuing that quilting theme:

I really like how this turned out! I didn't have a blue thread in the right shade, so I used a brown that was the same value as the blue fabric and I think that really added to the look of this area. It's funny, the quilting itself was pretty quick for this area since I did it all freehand with the darning foot, but it took about the same amount of time to bury the threads as it did to do the quilting so it ended up taking forever to finish this part.

The final part was the section with the diamonds. I was hoping that I would be able to leave this area unquilted beyond the ditch quilting, but the diamonds were just too puffy. I thought about quilting straight lines in the diamonds going over the stripes to emphasize them, but the colors in the stripes are so different in value that I was afraid that the stitching would be too visible and would end up fighting with the stripes. But I had to do something, so I finally decided on a stem going up from the bottom point flaring out into a plume at the top (repeating that quilting element) with a swirl on each side to fill the area better. I drew registration lines parallel to the edge of the blue area to help me keep the swirls lined up as best I could and then just went for it. To finish up, I quilted straight lines in the dark blue and cream triangles to push them to the background:

When the quilting was done, I decided to finish off the quilt using a faced edge rather than a binding. I had made the corner triangles a little smaller than I should have so the appliques ended up very close to the edges and I was afraid that a binding would make the corners look crowded. Even if I had done the corners right, I think I would have ended up using a facing for this quilt just because the quilt strikes me as one that doesn't really want a boundary. Here is the final quilt:

And here's the back so you can see the facing:

I added a hanging sleeve and label, but didn't take pictures of those since they just obscure the back. I really love how this wallhanging turned out and I think Trevor will be pleased!

That finished everything that I have to make for Christmas. As usual, I'm cutting it close, but it all works out in the end.


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Gift Bag Tutorial

Hi all -

For several years now, I've been wanting to make reusable gift bags for Christmas rather than wasting wrapping paper or using the paper bags that get old and rip after a few uses. But I kept procrastinating because I wanted to do something that was easy, but would still be nice and sturdy, so it was more of a thought than an action. I'm really good at that procrastination thing!! This year I finally gathered the supplies and made the gift bags. I thought I would share how I made them in case anyone else is interested in doing the same thing. I hope you enjoy it!


Gift Bag Tutorial

This tutorial will show you how to make gift bags like the ones I made this year:

These bags are very basic, but still look pretty. They have enough body that they can stand up on their own, but are not uncomfortably stiff. They are fairly quick to make, especially once you've made a few. They can be made any size, but my instructions are for a bag that will comfortably fit a box that is 8"x5.75"x2.75". This turned out to be a very useful size for me.


For these bags, I used a quilting cotton fabric for the outside of the bag and a polyester lining fabric for the inside. I've been collecting Christmas fabrics that were on sale explicitly for this purpose. I made a birthday gift bag for a friend earlier this year using a home decorator fabric and that worked really well, too. I like using a lining fabric for the inside because it's cheap and because the gift slides in and out more easily. I used a light weight fusible interfacing (Pellon P44F) on both the outer fabric and on the lining to give the bag some body. For the tie I used satin cording. I like the look of the cording and bought spools in several Christmas colors so I would have a variety. You could also use ribbon or any other cord strong enough to be tied without breaking.

Outside fabric:            Cut 1 piece 32" x 10.5"
Lining:                        Cut 1 piece 30" x 10.5"
Fusible interfacing:     Cut 1 piece 32" x 10.5" and 1 piece 30" x 10.5"
Cording:                      Cut 2 pieces 42" long

Here are my supplies except for the satin cording that I forgot to include in the picture:

NOTE: I used 3/8" seam allowances for all of the sewing for these bags.

Prepare the Fabrics

Prepare the fabrics by fusing the interfacing to the back of both fabrics:

I used a dry iron on a cotton setting when fusing the outer fabric, but switched to a lower temperature setting when working with the lining fabric.

Sew the Lining

Fold the lining in half, right sides together, to form a rectangle that is 15" x 10.5". Sew the two sides, leaving an opening for turning on one side:

It's a bit hard to see on my monitor, but the opening is on the left side in the picture. It needs to be at least 2" from the bottom of the bag so it doesn't get in the way of the boxed corner and at least 4" from the top of the bag so it doesn't get in the way of the channel for the cording. I backstitched at the top of the bag since we'll be pulling on that a lot as we manipulate the bag; but didn't backstitch at the bottom since we'll be cutting off those corners when we box them.

Press the side seams open. I have this nice pressing ham to make that easy:

Here I am pressing the seams:

Make sure to press the seam allowance along the opening you left for turning, too:

This will make it easier to close up that hole nicely after turning the bag right side out. I also pressed the bottom of the bag flat to give me a nice line along the bottom for lining things up when boxing the corners.

To box the corners, fold the lining at the corner so that the side seam is in the middle and lines up with the crease along the bottom. I pin along the seam to keep things from shifting while I'm measuring and sewing. Measure 1.5" from the point and draw a line:

Sew along that line, backstitching at each end:

Trim the corner, leaving about a 3/8" seam allowance:

Turn the lining right side out and set it aside:

Sew the Outer Bag

The outer bag is made the same way as the lining, except there is no opening for turning and there are small openings on each side for the cord.

Fold the outer bag in half, right sides together, to make a rectangle that is 16" x 10.5". Make marks 3" and 3.5" from the top of the bag on both sides. Sew the side seams, leaving the space between these marks open:

I backstitched at the top of the bag and on each side of the openings, but didn't backstitch at the bottom of the bag.

Press the seams open:

And box the corners, just as you did for the lining:

Your outer bag is now finished. Leave it turned wrong side out:

Assembling the Bag

Slide the lining inside of the outer bag, keeping the right sides together:

Sew all the way around the top:

Pull the lining out:

And turn the bag right side out through the hole in the lining:

I think it's easier to pull out the outer bag side and then pull the lining out. Your bag will now look like this:

Close up the opening in the lining. I'm lazy so wanted to do it all by machine. I just lined up the folded edges of the opening and pinned it (I'm a pinner....):

Then I sewed up the opening on the machine, backstitching at both ends:

Now push the lining to the inside of the bag. Just shove it in and smooth everything out nicely. The outer bag is longer than the lining so that the outer bag will fold over to the inside of the bag, giving you a nice finish on the top:

Once everything is smooth, press the top edge of the bag with an iron and edge stitch around the top:

I like to have one line of stitching along the edge of the bag and a second line of stitching about 1/4" away.

Finishing the Bag

Now we just need to add the channel for the cord and slide the cord in.

Find the openings on each side of the bag that we left for the cord. Mark both edges of the openings on both sides of the bag:

Using a ruler, mark lines all the way around the bag on both sides of the openings:

The distance from the top of the bag will depend on how far you pushed the lining into the bag. My lines were 2 1/8" and 2 7/8" from the top edge. You want to make sure that openings are inside of the channel and that the channel is wide enough for whatever you are using for your cord and whatever you are using for pull the cord through the channel. Sew along both lines, all the way around the bag:

I used an elastic threader to pull the cord through the channel. It worked really well for me:

Starting on one side, thread the cord through the hole and all the way around the bag, pulling it out the same hole:

To help get the threader past the folded edges inside the channels, I poked a chopstick through the hole while pushing the threader through and used that to guide the threader past the folds. Thread the second cord through the hole on the other side of the bag and all the way around the bag, pulling it out the same hole:

On each side, tie the ends of the cord together:

Trim the ends to even them up:

I don't know if it's necessary, but I used a butane lighter to melt the ends of the cord:

Your gift bag is now finished. Slip in your gift and tie the cords in a bow:

Handling Directional Fabrics

If you have a directional fabric, you can't cut the outer bag as a single piece. Also, if you're making a large bag, it's sometimes easier to use two pieces for the outer bag and for the lining. If you want to make this bag using directional fabric, cut the following pieces:

Outer fabric:        Cut 2 pieces 16.5" x 10.5"
Interfacing:          Cut 2 pieces 16.5" x 10.5"

When sewing the outer bag together, sew both sides as above, but also sew along the bottom edge. I don't backstitch on the bottom edge because the corners will be trimmed after they are boxed. Rather than turning at the corner, I sew the lines separately:

Then I trim off the corner:

The trimming makes it easier for me to box the corner:

The rest of the construction is the same as above.

If you find any errors in my instructions or if anything is confusing, please let me know and I'll update my post.