Five years, I say. You ask, so “where’s the short cut”? They’re throughout the quilt you see. And the cumulative nature of all of the supposed short cuts made a project that could never end and that I despised working on… right down to binding the blasted thing. Here is a list of the mistakes I made and the “short cuts” thought I was taking to fix them–which resulted in more mistakes–which resulted in more shortcuts–lather rinse repeat.

  • Picked a pattern and cut pieces over several weeks as I had time–at some point I started making my cuts not from the instructions but by looking on what I cut in the last cutting session. Which evidently at some point I had screwed up on, so the blocks were no longer going to be proportional for the pattern I had wanted.
  • No biggie, right, take what I have, sew it up and see what we’ve got. But when you don’t know where you’re going, sewing up it a wee bit more challenging.
  • Stop sewing and start arranging the mismatches and decide on what I’m doing.
  • Re-sew several not comporting with my new plan. Finish sewing the rest.
  • Lay them out. Have my then four-year old insist that she wants the squares arranged a certain way. Detest the layout. Detest the red. Detest that fact that I had long ago destashed all of the fabrics that made up the pieces I was using–no extras, so use what I have. Detest the Red.
  • Sew together. In incorrect order, evidently without precision in my 1/4 inch seam. Sigh. Unpick, re-sew. Do this 3 times over the course of a year and a half while I’m in law school.
  • It’s together. Hooray. Let’s slap some borders on it. Let’s play it by ear. Let’s take my then 5-year-old to the quilt shop and as I’m looking at fabric, in innocence answer her when she asks what we are looking for. She has a decided opinion. I hated the fabrics she wanted then. One of them I’m still lukewarm on but it actually goes well with the quilt. The polka dots I originally hated–too bright! I love now.
  • Slap them on the quilt, study it and think–I don’t think that’s square.
  • Bring then 6-year-old daughter to get backing fabric–have her insist on some unplanned for flannel on the back with monkeys and other critters. See the quilt that could have lasted her until her teens now have a more childish shelf life. Buy–just enough. (See the monkeys under this other blanket??? At my old house even!)
  • Sigh. Extra sigh. Still be living in our postage stamp sized place and decide to baste it with 505 spray on an autumn afternoon on our porch. With dead leaves swirling everywhere. With dead leaves falling onto the 505’ed areas as I struggle to get the layers squared. After a particularly huge gust of wind, decide that it is “good enough”. Realize later when I go to quilt it that the backing is too small on one side. Decide we’ll cut the borders down to match later.
  • Start quilting one afternoon in our postage stamp sized house–even with my fancy new machine, the quilt is hanging over the edges of my sewing table in a way that is pulling on the needle as the fabric is going through. Try stippling though it’s been years and years since I did any. Disaster. Disgust. Roll it back up and put it in a tub.
  • Move.
  • Have phenomenal sewing room. Have unsightly tub that won’t close because the quilt is in it.
  • Decide to quilt it. Unbloody pick the bit of stipple I did and instead try Oh Franson’s loopy flowers. But on my quilt they’re “sloppy flowers”. Have my 14-year-old niece comment that it’s so cool I wasn’t fussy and making them look exactly perfect because that wouldn’t look cool. Right. I totally planned that. Go to Oh Franson’s tutorial a few times and covet her ability to make things look like she didn’t freehand. Remember to do some half flowers falling off the borders so it looks like they extend to the edges of the quilt. Get tired of making the flowers pretty fast. Do them a little too far apart.
  • Finish quilting and remember to cut the borders… by just over an inch on most sides–effectively destroying the half flowers I had made in the prior step.
  • Take purchased bias binding strips I’ve never used before (I have historically always rolled my own). Pin it on, discover that I’m roughly 30 inches too short. Since I didn’t roll my own–I don’t have any of this fabric to make more from. Sigh. Decide it will be a whimsy (which I hate) corner with interest and use a different fabric. Spend a bazillion years and unpicking time before I admit that I no longer remember how to sew down binding or mitered corners  before I get a book out say “Ooooooohhhhh!” and finish. Stay up late on a work night hand sewing it down. Throw in laundry. Have it NOT bunch up all crinkly and lovely.
  • But have the child loves it just the same.
  • Feel like a free woman out from under the weight of unfinished project.
  • Turn to baby blanket I MUST finish!

So Sunday didn’t end up being a skirt-making day, but it did end up being a shirt-making day and quiche completely from scratch day, and cleaning and organizing day. And boy, was I tired!

I used IndieTute’s peasant shirt instructions using some better quality but still on sale plain white muslin for this one, just in case because I have been known, especially recently to waste perfectly good, nice, expensive fabric with silly cuts that are undoable.

Poor Bunny was not thrilled with the number of times I called her away from her stuffed friends tea party, magic tree house book, and tinker bell play tree to try on the shirt as I constructed it. sans elasticWithout the elastic in, it looked wrongly large to me, but after the elastic went in, it shrank right up.

Based on a combination of Indie’s suggestions for sizing up the pattern  the pattern and Bunny’s measurements, I ended up cutting something close to what Indie’s size 5 would be, which is interesting because Bunny is in a loose fitting 6 for store bought clothes. I paid close attention to how much I cut from the length of both the sleeves and the bodice (well over 3 inches from the bodice). I had my “oops” cutting moment  after I measured the sleeves before sewing the hem and adding the elastic. The shirt should have been about 3/4 inch longer in the sleeves based on what I thought was the “best” measurement but then I went and cut the hem when it was doubled up. Sigh. I was  afraid that the length it ended up would be odd.

But I actually think it turned out fine.

february-2009-357 back view

Indie says it should take about an hour, and now that I know exaclty what she means in her instructions, I could probably crank out a few assembly line style in about an hour. Oh, and I dusted off my serger for this one which made it go extra lickety split.

Next time around, I’m going to take a crack at an A-line shape instead of the boxy shape and make the arm holes a little deeper. It fits right now, but on the tighter side of fitting… so it won’t likely last the whole summer.

After I decided that it had turned out well enough, I decided white was boring and that Bunny needed a little viny addition and a couple of kittens (viny pattern in Doodle Stitching, cats from Sublime Stitching). I think the kittens turned out OK. The little one’s whiskers are going to be redone I think. And the viny looking split stitch with lazy daisies over the hem was painful on my hands, especially since it obviously doesn’t hoop that well. Lesson learned: I will do any long hem embellishments with one of my fancy Bernina 440 sewing stitches next round 🙂

kitty close uppeasant shirt plus embroidery

*BTW–does anyone know how to post two or three pix side by side in wordpress? I can only ever get them stacked like in this post.

So I had a chance a little while ago to try out my Bernina Stitch Regulator (BSR). A Dog Named Banjo has a really nice tutorial on how to attach it to your Bernina sewing machine and how it works. She’s even got a couple of great close up samples of her stitching with and without it.

The BSR helps you to get even stitches while you are doing free-motion quilting. Can you still have wonky stitching? yes. Is it really minimized? yes.

Before you can free motion quilt, you’ve got to have a “sandwich” to quilt first. I used to tape all the layers to the floor and pin. Then I tried attaching the layers to pieces of wood (placed like a frame, but on the ground) and pin. Those methods both sucked. Seriously, free motion quilting with a bunch of pins in your quilt sandwich is no fun at all. And all the time it takes to make sure the layers are taut before you pin in either method is just painful. So I tried a spray baste… with total failure. I was too cheap to buy 505 and tried the Joanne’s equivalent. FYI–I would NEVER use that with my new machine. In any case, I finally broke down one time and used the 505, and I’ll never go back. The trick with 505 is to spray the BATTING, not the fabric.

Lay down a large old sheet on your back or front porch or driveway (yes, this must be done outside). Then lay the batting you’ve cut a few inches larger than your quilt top.

Then gently spray the half of the batting closest to you. Fold your quilt top in half and put the fold in the center of the batting. Slowly lay the half down closest to you and gently smooth the fabric over the batting, so there are no lumps or wrinkles to the edge. If you are working on a large quilt, you will probably want to divide it into quarters to lay down or you’ll have a lumpy mess.

Then spray the other half of the batting and un fold the quilt top and smooth it over the rest of the batting. After you’ve got that the way that you want it, pick the batting and quilt top sandwich up and turn it over so the quilt top is right on the old sheet you laid out and the bare side of the batting is face up. Lather, rinse, repeat for the backing.

With the 505, that puppy should stay put for a while (like a few weeks). If you notice a lump in it later, you can gently separate the layers and re-stick any portion for up to 5 times without having to respray. No pins. Are you excited yet?

So I attached my BSR and took it out for its first spin. Honestly, I was so excited that I didn’t even stop to think about thread etc. I just whipped out the first quilt sandwich that was ready and started going. Yeah, bad idea because bright white thread doesn’t look so pretty on red fabric 🙂 At first I tried to used the BSR foot on straight lines as I would my walking foot. It just seemed like if I could learn to use it straight and free motion, it would really save me time in the end by being able to flow from outlining to free quilting without having to stop and  change feet. I’ve tried it a few times now, and I’m willing to say it’s not going to work out that way. Walking foot=straight lines. BSR=quilting designs that are not straight or stippling.

Quilting with the BSR is so freaking fun. I was actually kind of sad that I just had a small, table top type of quilt ready to do because it was that much fun and went so quickly. I still have a lot to learn with it. I tend to hum along a bit on the fast side so I had some overlapping lines in my stippling, which is really not that big of a deal.

I spent a some time drawing free hand with the BSR as well on a practice piece and ended up putting the stars design into my border of that blue quilt. It looks “quaint,” which is not my style, but since that is for my mom, and she likes kitchy quaint, it should do.

And figuring out how to get close ups of my sewing: check, check, check. This is the middle of me doing a buttonhole. My machine (which I still need to name, but we’re still getting to know one another) can do automagic buttonholes and remember them for later. So I bought my daughter a pettiskirt last year (yes, I could make one, but not without a lot of swearing over that chiffon) and it supposedly came with an “adjustable waist,” which to that designer meant a button in one button hole. To me, adjustable would mean many button holes. So I made 5 more. The foot looks kind of intimidating but it’s just so bulky because it does this neat slide, ratchet thing as you sew.

Do you see the red mark on the left and then a smaller one on the inside of the frame? You measure the button, set it on the outside red mark, then just press the backwards button when the two red marks match up. It remembers where it started from and will sew the rest for you. Thereafter, you just position the fabric where you want the button hole and push down on the pedal while you look around the room bored, waiting the whole few seconds it takes to finish. 🙂

I also put a border on a couple of quilts today. The first is this small, blue, table-top thing. I’m not in love with it. I don’t think that I ever was, so why I started on it, I couldn’t tell you but. Here it is, and it is so almost done, that it would be a shame to not finish it. As I was sewing it and looking at it hatefully, I remembered that my mom is closing on a new house the end of this week and tada: housewarming gift. It’s right up her alley with those stars and stuff.

When I was done with that quick border, I moved on and put the two borders on my daughter’s first big girl quilt. This quilt has been a trial and I’m only in the mood to talk about the border tonight. I’ve got the photographic documentation of the drama that I’ll include some other day. In any case, I remembered that I had my new fancy quilting foot to try out too. My machine came with a 1/4 inch foot, but this other one has a special lip on the right side.

See it? So that it’s even more of a guide for the fabric. I used it for my double border on her quilt, and I’m in love. It was so, so easy. I have a real tendency to do too much of a scant quarter inch on all quilting instead of a proper quarter inch, so it was delightful to feel like I could scooch the fabric over to the right and it would stop me from going too crazy.

I’ve added a few pictures to some works in progess over on that page for the curious ones. And I’ll leave you wondering just what I’m going to do with this: