Saturday, February 24, 2018

About That "Precision"

I've been couch-bound most of the week, a seemingly innocuous cold turning feverish, and I've learned the hard way that pushing through these times when the body has its hands full fighting off these bugs only prolongs things. Best to succumb to tea, chicken soup, mostly horizontal rest, and when awake, light reading and/or tv watching - the Olympics coverage has been good company!

Yesterday though, I was out of the fog, temperature down, and getting antsy to be doing a little something on the sewing front. I settled on piecing together the binding strips for the baby quilt, as they were already cut and wouldn't take much mental energy (although you'd be surprised at what an effort it was!). When you know what you will use for binding a quilt, sometimes it's nice to have it all ready to go ahead of time. I picked up this trick somewhere quite some time ago for taming and storing long lengths of pieced binding. All you are doing is accordion-folding it about every 18 inches or so and then feeding the folds on one side onto a large safety pin. It holds it neatly together until you are ready to apply it, at which point you remove one fold at a time from the safety pin as you come to it, the bulk of the folded binding resting in your lap.

I love when I get comments on a post, and I especially enjoyed the ones I received about piecing batting. Good to know I'm not the only frugal person out there (remembering what Harriet said was the number one reason quilters listed for choosing a particular batting was . . . it comes in the right size!) There was also a theme there I decided should be addressed in its own post, because it was something I'd been thinking about, even as I went through my process and described it to you. These things I often do that I am fully aware many quilters don't bother with and do not make their quilts any less than mine have their basis in traditional quilt making of BED QUILTS, not wall quilts and certainly not art quilts. The type of join Harriet Hargrave suggests will stand up to a quilt being washed and tugged during use as well as stay mostly invisible. It's a matter of practicality born out of observing how antique quilts have held up over the years and how these methods might help our own quilts last longer under heavy use, or at least to make us less hesitant to take them off the shelf and use them.

Mill Stars 2002 which won many awards including this blue ribbon at an AQS Nashville Exposition. It is far from perfect and not an original design, but I did obsess over making it as perfect as was within my abilities.

And then there is the whole quilt exhibit and competition thing, where every single technical and design portion of a quilt is scrutinized to within an inch of its life. You might not be bothered by seeing the faint line of a batting join on the quilt you snuggle under, but a quilt judge will see that and make a big point of it, no matter how beautiful and well constructed and well quilted the rest of it may be. That's just the way it is, and I used to enter these shows all the time. So yes, I was always striving to do my very best on every part of the quilt process, and managed to win a few ribbons in the process! That made all that effort worth it for me.

But I didn't realize just how stressful all that made my quilting process until I left the world of quilt shows and focused on art quilts. I distinctly remember the moment when I realized, with some relief, that no one would be inspecting the quilt stitches on the back of the art quilt I was working on, so I could relax and just worry about the front. With the exception of not worrying about a neat back, I still tend towards neat and tidy and yes, often precise, in my designs and in carrying them out, but that is as much about my aesthetic as it is about my training. But trust me, I have loosened up immensely since my traditional quilt-making days, and do things now that my old self would be aghast and very disapproving of! But when I do get back to making something like the baby quilt or a lap quilt that I know will be used and washed, the old ways kick in.

That you think I work with precision I take as a compliment, but really, I think it is just the way I am most comfortable in approaching all parts of my life, with a certain order and neatness in which I find enjoyment and satisfaction. So methods presented to me early in my quilting that fit my need for order and neatness that were also backed up with reasoning for doing them, why they worked or solved a particular problem really appealed to me and became my standard go to methods. It would make sense that I'd carry those over into my art quilting, even though some of them aren't really necessary for a successful outcome. I DO use spray baste on many of my art quilts, especially when I am concerned about the holes that safety pins might leave, but also because I'm in a hurry. If heavily quilted enough over any joins of butted pieces of batting, that basting spray which will not be washed out should sufficiently hold those joins in place - yes Margaret, God has weighed in on that! ;-) As for the basting tape, Mary, I've not actually held it in my hand to know how lightweight it might be, so am suspicious about the bulk or stiffness it might add to the join. That suspicion might be totally unwarranted, so if anyone has actually used that product, please chime in.

I'm still not quite up to snuff to start tackling the quilting of the baby quilt - just the use of the word "tackling" shows you how I feel about the machine quilting that lies ahead - but I am so pleased with the top and its color combinations that are somewhat unusual for me to use, and excited to try out the ideas I have for quilting it. And I am secure in the knowledge that I have prepared it the best way I know how to make the quilting process go as smoothly as possible.  


The Inside Stori said...

Mill Stars is amazing…..I don’t think I ever saw the quilt and I should have because I taught at that Nashville show….though I didn’t judge it. Re: basting tape…..I’ve never put my hands on it either……doubt I will. I’m not that much of a gadget/product person, preferring (out of laziness or thrift) to use tried and true methods, even if new ones may take less time. Guess ya can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Sorry to hear you’ve been sick…….hope you feel better each day…..

The Idaho Beauty said...

Jan in Wyoming says this about binding:

"Binding is my favorite part of making a quilt. The hand sewing is something I really enjoy for some reason, although there’s pretty much nothing I don’t enjoy about making a quilt! I make my binding as soon as the top & back are ready to go to my machine quilter to work her magic on them. That way, when the quilt is back home I can get the binding started. When I make it I wind the binding around itself in a neat circle but your method sounds like something to try in the future!"

In response to Jan, I'd tried the rolling thing with binding for big quilts, but often that roll would get away from me, unrolling across the floor - lol. At least if this pinned version falls off my lap, it all stays together, no harm done. But I've also remembered a variation on this, for when you have more binding than you can push onto even the largest safety pin. You can instead wrap a rubber band around one end of folds to hold them together, and it is easy to pull a single fold free of the rubber band as you go.

You can tell it's been awhile since I've finished a large quilt - fuzzy memory! Happy binding!!!

The Idaho Beauty said...

Thanks Mary! And we are two old dogs of a kind. I tried a lot of things along the way, but finally settled on a set of tools, a few tried and true products and basic techniques that not only have saved me money but do everything I need to do with the least amount of fuss (I think). Somewhat depends on the kind of quilting you do and how much of a certain kind as to what may be your can't live without or super time-saver.

I really enjoyed making Mill Stars, was a quilt right up my alley at the time. It was originally made for a contest sponsored by the company that made the "From the Mills" reproduction fabric line to promote that line which was really quite lovely. The pattern came from Vertical Quilts With Style and I had more fun seeing how many different combinations of prints in the line that I could use to make the stars. I was so disappointed that it was not juried into that contest after all that work! (It's queen size and machine quilted on a domestic Viking I no longer have because the harp was so small for this sort of thing). But as I said, it went on to win an amazing number of awards and eventually went to my godson as a wedding present. I still love it, and so does he. :-)

The Idaho Beauty said...

By the way, I made the quilt in 2002 but the Nashville exposition it was in was in 2004 so that may be why you don't remember it, Mary.

Also, see this post for a few more pictures of it, including one with my godson's first child resting on it - eek!

Sherrie Spangler said...

I'm just now getting caught up on my blog reading, so you may be over your cold by now -- I hope so, anyway. Yes, I always think of you as a very thoughtful, meticulous quilt artist. It's your style!

The Idaho Beauty said...

Thanks, Sherrie - yes that's a good description of how I approach my art. Maybe I should incorporate that phrasing in my artist bio! And yes, I think the cold is finally all gone. Really nice to have a clear head and no more rattling in my lungs. :-)