Friday, December 11, 2009

Andrea's Antique Quilt--Part 1

Happy Birthday to my friend, Andrea, photographer/artist extraordinaire and blogger (, owner of this charming antique quilt top made of original feedsack fabric. She showed it to me several months ago and asked me to repair and quilt it for her daughter, Ava.

Through the years, Andrea used the quilt top for a stereo cover. Later she used some of the fabric at the quilt edge to make some glorious circus cards which appear in Jane Davila and Elin Waterston's new book Art Quilts at Play (C&T Publishing, 2009). Andrea casually showed me the copy they sent her and I thought 'girl, you don't even know how cool you are to be in that book'. But she clearly deserves it! Yea, Andrea!

After separating the squares, I spritzed each one with some of Mary Ellen's Best Press spray starch, and trimmed away the frayed edges to a uniform size of 4-1/2" x 4-3/4". I put a block of wood underneath my cutting mat to provide a firm surface underneath; otherwise the rotary cutter can break the mat because the ironing surface is too soft to withstand the pressure when cutting.

As I took each row apart, I kept them in a stack and labeled the first square. I sewed them together with a light gray cotton thread (Presencia 60/3) and shortened the stitch length slightly. The thread is fine yet strong and it's what I use to piece all my own cotton quilt tops.

The original quilt top has solid lavender and hot pink squares. Very random placement of these solid squares appear in two 9-patches. To get the quilt to the correct size, I'm incorporating some other solid colors of light yellow and aqua.

This quilt top is still needing a few feedsack squares to make it a bit longer than the original and to fit the twin bed it is intended for. So while Andrea is on the hunt for more fabric, I'll work on some other projects and show you the finished quilt in the new year!

Copyright ©2009, Sharon Baggs

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

9 for 2009: #2

Finally tackled the UFO pile to complete another quilt for 2009. This one called Heart Puzzle is a wholecloth quilt with colorful hearts on a black background. The other side is a loopy print on a solid yellow fabric, which I consider the right side of the quilt because it really shows off the quilting.

A view of the back folded over the front of the quilt.

I used a stencil called "heart puzzle" (EL5) for the design. When I started the quilting, I drew the design onto Golden Threads quilting paper, stitched through it, then tore it away. When I resumed the quilting several months later, I used a blue washable marker to draw the design on. Finally, as I finished the quilt these past two weeks, I freehand quilted the remainder, having learned the basic line elements of the design.

I sewed on a blue binding and then added echo quilting around the outer edge where there needed a bit more quilting. I like the edges to have enough dense quilting to hold up to tugging and daily wear and tear. The thread used was Superior's Perfect Quilter, a 30/3 cotton.

Copyright 2009, Sharon Baggs

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Denim Quilt 95" x 108"

Molly pieced this quilt top over the years from old jeans she had worn. She asked me to fix it and quilt it. The 'fixing' part required getting the seams as flat as possible by pressing them open and trimming away all the extra stuff on the inside of the quilt. This included zippers, white pocket linings and additional denim fabric that could be removed from inside the quilt top.

I removed the outside border and trimmed it even before reattaching it with 40 wt. white cotton thread. These seams were pressed toward the outside border.

Superior Threads King Tut (Color 976-Olde Golde), a #40/3-ply extra-long staple Egyptian-grown cotton was used for the quilting. It looks just like the thread on jeans and this meandering stitch was a good choice for an all-over design. When the quilting was complete, I had used up most of the 2,000 yd. cone of thread.

Nine yards of Sachet Flannels II by Marcus Fabrics was used for the backing fabric. Hobbs Heirloom 80/20 was used for batting and produced a nice, flat feel. There were virtually no folds or puckers on the back. Ya-hoo!!!

Because Molly incorporated many patches with pockets and name brands, the quilt has lots of interesting variations. The denim colors range from light to very dark.

I regularly had to adjust the presser foot pressure gauge on my Bernina 153, turning it to a higher setting when approaching the added height at an impending seam. After going over the seam, the pressure was readjusted to a lower setting; otherwise, the needle skipped stitches.

Random strips of denim were sewn together to form the border framing the quilt. After stitching in the ditch between the quilt and the border, I quilted a wavy curled design around the perimeter (Stencil #119, 2" border with corner).

A lightweight denim was used to bind the quilt. I avoided using a stretch denim so there would be crisp corners and no distortion.

This was definitely the biggest and bulkiest quilt I have tackled on my domestic machine. And yet here's proof it was possible to quilt it. The process was enjoyable too, but the best part was giving it back to Molly, whose determination to get this quilt finished was an inspiration to me.

Copyright 2009, Sharon Baggs

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fabric Color Touch-Ups

A flaw in fabric can be noticeable and unsightly, particularly solids. This occurs from the manufacturing process or a safety pin causes a snag. There's a quick way to fix this problem.

Choose a permanent marker or fabric marker that matches the fabric and use a light touch, being careful to immediately cap the pen. Here I've used a fine line brown marker for touch up.

These markers can also be used to tint thread pop-ups if the bobbin thread is a light color. If you use a medium or dark shade of thread in the bobbin the pop-ups will show.

Copyright ©2009, Sharon Baggs

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Kaleidoscope Quilt: Take 2

Here's another look at the Kaleidoscope quilt block, made by the same quiltmaker but with slightly different color placement than the previous Kaleidoscope Quilt.

This time we decided to stitch-in-the-ditch through all the block seams and add a small feathered design to fill the 2" outer border.

I began with stitching through all the horizontal and vertical seam lines between all the blocks. This is my usual first step in anchoring a quilt before proceeding with any additional quilting.

Using Sew Art smoke colored nylon monofilament in the top and Presencia brown (color #226) in the bobbin for the anchor quilting, I used the same combination to stitch a ditch pattern. There is no set direction to this--just find a logical path and go for it. I decided to quilt vertically down from the top. On each block I made four passes to finish the ditch quilting. I started at the top, turned at the bottom and ended a line of stitching at the top.

I used a walking foot for the ditch quilting. If you want to avoid turning the quilt and you've become very comfortable with ditch quilting, try using your free motion foot for this step. It's easier and more convenient than you might think, especially for a larger quilt.

Here's a view from the back:

With the ditch quilting of the blocks completed, I quilted around the inside and outside edge of the blue accent strip using matching thread.

For the outer border, I chose a stencil (EK53 2" Ripple Border) that fit the space. I marked it with the Clover fine line white marker which resembles a gel pen. After marking it takes a few seconds for the white mark to appear.

Always test markers on the fabric to make sure it will remove. After a quick rinse the lines have faded. A gentle warm wash with Orvus Paste should remove the ink (See Washing a Quilt).

Copyright ©2009, Sharon Baggs

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Sew Oregon: Day Two

On the drive back home from a mini-vacation to Crater Lake and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival where we saw The Music Man, we stopped by six quilt shops on the Sew Oregon route.
I did the driving while my husband with GPS, laptop, map of Oregon and cell phone in hand expertly mapped out all our stops with precision and great patience.

Our first stop was Thistleberries in the town of Riddle. Hannah picked out a red Moda fat quarter and we were on our way to Something to Crow About in Springfield. Here we found an awesome polka dot print to match our Christmas print perfectly.

On to Callapooya Quilts in Brownsville. Gotta love the small town quilt shops and this was the one I will remember, situated at the end of the sweetest street I've seen in a long time. Hannah was given not just one charm square but enough to make a 9-patch!

We missed the next shop in Albany (The Quilt Loft) because the directions on their website were for I-5 south and we were traveling north--my navigator was very disgruntled over this! We scored big in Salem by visiting Rich's Sew and Vac who gave us two packages of machine needles, followed by Greenbaum's Quilted Forest--always a visual explosion to behold, and finally The Cotton Patch (just north of Salem in Keizer).

Today was the final day of Sew Oregon and I did not make it out to any more shops. Our total of nine shops was just one shy of entering the grand prize drawing (one ticket for every ten shops visited), so I'm keeping my passport with my blocks and will work with Hannah to make our keepsake quilt. Thanks to all the shops who participated; hope you were blessed!

Copyright ©2009, Sharon Baggs

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sew Oregon: Day One

Here in the great state of Oregon, 35 quilt shops are participating in the third annual Sew Oregon ( from June 25 - July 9, 2009. It's been a few years since I've shop-hopped but thought it would be a fun adventure for my youngest daughter and I to do together.

Children 12 and under receive a novelty charm square from each shop and adults get a free pattern and fabric kit to make a quilt block. All the shops use coordinating fabric from "Have a Sheri Berry Holiday"--Lyndhurst Studio and have created a block featuring their "favorite ornament".

We decided to collect a fat quarter from each shop we visited and found a wonderful retro Christmas print "candy-colored christmas" by the Alexander Henry Fabric Collection. From this print we selected additional fat quarters. The fabric just happens to coordinate very nicely with the shop hop Christmas blocks. (The charm squares Hannah received are pictured 1,2,3 at the lower right-hand corner; she has project plans for those.)

So our first day out was today and we visited three shops. First was Cool Cottons at 2417 SE Hawthorne (Portland). This is where we found the Christmas print that jump-started our whole excursion. There is so much beautiful fabric in this shop and on the porch they feature bolts at $4/yard--very nice for backing a quilt. They also feature "baby bolts" (smaller lots of fabric) and several adorable sewing projects such as a bubble skirt.

Next up was Quilter's Corner at 15717 SE McLoughlin Blvd. (Milwaukie) tucked in a corner lot with other gift and children's clothing shops. Such a welcome entrance and even sweeter ladies inside. The previous owner of the shop I learned to quilt at 11 years ago now teaches classes at this shop. It was fun to see her primitive style, homespun quilts up in the shop and to smell the wonderful smell that was like coming home again.

Our last stop for the day was Canby Quilt and Fabric at 248 NW 1st Ave. (Canby). We had just been in this shop last month and the owner asked if we were going to participate in Sew Oregon. "No time" I said we are!

Copyright ©2009, Sharon Baggs

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Kaleidoscope Quilt

Following up on how to layer a quilt, here's how it was quilted.

I started off with stitch-in-the-ditch using Sew Art's clear monofilament nylon in the top and Presencia's 50/3 100% cotton thread (color 225--part of Jo Morton Coordinates Spice Collection) in the bobbin.

This process of quilting a grid through all the horizontal and vertical seam lines is called "anchoring" and provides a basic, minimal amount of quilting. A walking foot (or even-feed foot) is used because it is designed to "evenly feed" the three layers of the quilt under the needle. It handles the bulky work and can also be used for the next step of quilting.

With the same thread in the top and bobbin (Presencia #225), a series of arcs were quilted along the rose-colored triangles. This is referred to as "continuous curve quilting". In 1980, Barbara Johannah, published a small booklet by the same name which illustrated how to incorporate this technique on blocks featuring squares and triangles.

I used a closed toe free motion foot to quilt the continuous curve pattern; although I typically use an open toe foot, it kept getting caught in the triangle edges of this block. There was a greater amount of bulk at the center of each block so I switched back to the even feed/walking foot. For slight curves, such as cables, this foot can be used--it's not just for straight line quilting.

The third step was to stitch-in-the-ditch around the inner frame of the quilt between the block area and the green accent border using the monofilament/cotton combo. I used matching Presencia thread to stitch between the aqua and the green and again between the outside border rose print and the aqua.

Lastly, I used medium green Presencia thread to freehand quilt an oak leaf design continuously around the outside border. There is an oak leaf printed on the rose fabric so I looked at the curve of the leaf to adapt my basic leaf design to look like an oak leaf. There was no marking on the quilt so I had to gauge the spacing between each leaf and pay attention to the corners. An alternative for quilting the border would be a straight line design such as channel quilting--three lines 1/4" apart with a 2" gap between the next three lines, for example. Because the print is busy, these leaves aren't too visible so lines are a good option.

After quilting is complete, check the corners with a square ruler and trim the edges even around the perimeter of the quilt. I basted 1/8" from the edge this time--not always--but now it is ready for binding.

Copyright ©2009, Sharon Baggs

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Layering and basting a quilt

When it comes to layering and basting a quilt together to prepare it for machine quilting, there are several ways to approach the task. I've used different techniques including spray basting, pinning to the floor, etc., but my standard method is using an oblong table. This procedure is explained and illustrated further in Harriet Hargrave's Heirloom Machine Quilting--4th Ed.

The first step in putting it all together is to turn your quilt top over and clip all the loose threads from the back, making sure your seam lines are pressed to one side or open, with no flipped seams that will add bulk. If you plan to stitch-in-the-ditch, always press seams to one side in the piecing process. Press both sides of the top and use a bit of spray starch if desired. If your backing fabric has a seam, press it open and starch the entire backing for smooth quilting.

Mark the center edge of the two short sides of the table with either a toothpick, safety pin, or button; tape over the top. Fold the backing fabric and mark the center edge with a safety pin. With the fabric wrong side up, lay the backing down on the table, matching the safety pin to the toothpick on the table.

Use large office clips to secure the backing fabric to the table top. The fabric should be taut but not stretched off grain.

Use as many clips as necessary to secure the backing fabric to the table top. Smooth out any wrinkles and re-clip if you see any waves in the fabric. The center clip on both ends of the table should clamp over the toothpick.

Fold the batting to find the center and lay it over the backing, matching the center fold with the tootpick (you can't see it but you can feel it). Smooth out the batting over the clamped backing.

Put the top over the batting, matching the centers. It's a good idea to cut your batting piece about 2-4" larger than the quilt top--this is a bit close here so be careful to give yourself what you need.

Be sure your pins don't get in the way of your quilting foot. My quilting plan is to first stitch-in-the-ditch through all the horizontal and vertical seams; next I will free motion a continuous curve through the rose colored triangles (this could actually be accomplished with a walking foot because of the slight curve and it can also help get over any bulky seams where the triangles meet). Therefore, I pinned the aqua and light green triangles so it will hold secure and my walking foot or free motion foot will clear the pins.

Begin pinning from the center out. Once you have pinned everything on the surface, unclamp the backing. Smooth out one side and pin out to the border; repeat with the other three sides. After stitching-in-the-ditch and forming a grid of stitch lines your quilt is now anchored. If necessary, some of the pins can be removed without worry of shifting the layers.

Copyright ©2009, Sharon Baggs

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Chevron Lines--Quick and Classic

Having taught students how to quilt simple line designs on samplers, the chevron line design is one I've always wanted to use on a full scale quilt. Recently, I was contacted to quilt this top for a man who is a Denver Broncos fan...this is a birthday gift from his wife. For a strip quilt such as this, chevron lines are classic, masculine, and fairly easy to quilt.

Strip quilts can be somewhat challenging to square up because there isn't a corner block to work off of. Measure it through the top, middle, and bottom both vertically and horizontally with a 120" tape measure to get it right. I used my 12" square acrylic ruler and a metal T-square to check the corners.

To mark the top, I used a Clover white chalk wheel and a 6" x 24" acrylic ruler. The chalk does stay on fairly well through the quilting. It's easy to remark when necessary and rubs out when you want it to.

First I chalked a line 1/2" in from the edge around the perimeter of the quilt--this is the quilting edge that will be covered by binding eventually but I use it as a guide to quilt to. I can move beyond this line a few stitches to travel to the next quilting line without having to stop and start a new line of quilting.

Next, line up the 45 degree angle of the acrylic ruler on the chalked quilting line and begin marking a line from the top left corner. Keep the ruler on the line and mark the next line, 1-1/2" away.

It really doesn't matter when you decide to change directions and make a point that meets at the quilting edge, but I found the center and then ended up marking it off-set a bit which looked fine. With that kind of freedom, you really can't go wrong. No need to worry about an exact fit as with some grids, this design works even if you decide on 1" or 2" spaced lines.

Using 1" stainless steel safety pins, keep them horizontal with the chalked lines. The quilting is done with a walking foot so there is room for the foot to clear the pins. A sufficient number of pins will prevent puckering and distortion that can occur when quilting long lines; unfortunately this problem is difficult to hide on solid fabrics so keep the pins in as you quilt.

This quilt has Quilter's Dream 100% cotton batting, which I presoaked and dried in the dryer because the quilt fabric had been prewashed. My client wanted the thread to match--navy on navy and orange on orange. The backing was navy so the tricky part was to balance the thread tension so I didn't get pop-ups from the navy bobbin thread while quilting the orange. I quilted several rows on a practice swatch, made adjustments and the tension was balanced. There were a lot of starts and stops but keeping dedicated to 1/4" of small stitches (8-10) at the beginning and end of a quilting line keeps everything secure. Then bury those threads, rather than snip them at the surface. I used a quality thread, Presencia 50/3.

Copyright ©2009, Sharon Baggs