Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Grandma's Quilt

If you wait until you are finally READY, you will be waiting all your life...

Two years ago, I got a long arm quilting machine and A-1. A few years prior, I had purchased a Handi-Quilter Frame to use with a domestic machine and had made several quilts using that, but I was limited in the size of the quilt designs that were possible...I needed a longer throat on the machine to do larger, more sweeping designs. So, my dear husband agreed to the purchase of the larger machine.

My husband liked the idea of quilting for other people (and earning money!) but I was hesitant...firstly, I didn't have the skills yet. I would wait until I was ready. And secondly, I was NOT going to 'market' myself...if anyone ASKED me to quilt for them, I would do it, but I wasn't comfortable putting myself out there. But more importantly, I really just wanted the machine to enable me to complete the art quilts which I loved making.

I knew I would gain skills as I quilted each quilt, but as it turns out, I cannot make quilts fast enough to get as much quilting practice as I wanted! I did bring home a 'hospice' quilt from the local guild to quilt and I did an all-over design on it. But I had not done any quilts that had definite 'blocks' and sashing and borders and stuff. No traditional quilts.

Enter Grandma's quilt.

This was a flimsy top that was hand-pieced by Grandma Grace, my husband's now-deceased maternal grandmother. His sister, Julie, had it and was more than willing to let me take it home to quilt it. Grandma had used whatever fabrics were available to her in her small town...perhaps from Sears or Wal-Mart. She used muslin for the background...the kind with tiny dark bits of the cotton plant stuck in the weave...and pieced and appliqued a two-fabric Dresden plate design onto the muslin. She used a solid avocado green that is surely a poly-cotton blend, as well as a green floral print, which seems to be a cotton fabric. She also sewed a strip of the solid green to one side of each block before piecing them all together, so there is a strip of green between rows of the plates.

Well, her seam allowances varied, as did the block sizes and the widths of the solid strips. The outer edge of the quilt top was not even...some blocks jutted out more than others. Plus, Julie had washed this flimsy after bringing it home. That meant that the muslin had shrunk, but we all know that poly-cotton doesn't shrink, so the plates were a bit 'proud' of the muslin...they were blousy.

The raw edges of the poly-cotton fabric were resistant to staying turned under and wanted to 'peak out' between the hand stitches every here and there. Grandma's stitches were large, too...I wondered what kind of thread was used and how strong it was? I felt like I needed to 'nail down' every seam with my quilting!

Does it sound like I am making excuses? grin.

I have had this quilt top in my possession for nearly two years...I brought it home in the fall of 2011. I decided it was TIME to get this one done.

The quilt top came to me with several yards of the green poly-cotton, which was (we think) intended to be used as the backing for the quilt. Too bad there wasn't quite enough.

After much ironing to force the seam allowances to behave (where possible, sometimes they were sewn down in the wrong direction so could not be forced!), I finally added borders around all edges of the quilt top (borders that I cut from the green fabric) then loaded it on the frame and set to work. I bought some natural colored cotton sateen to use as the backing...120 inches wide, 320 thread count. Nicer than anything used on the top!

After basting the edges and stitching in the ditches, I came up with a design for the 'plates' and began there, although I still didn't yet see the big picture in my head. As I stitched the plates, I began to think of them as lily pads...YES! I decided to do 'frog eggs' in the long sashing strips...coupled with a wavy stitching pattern, I could perhaps disguise the mismatched widths and crooked stripes.

I used chalk to mark the quilt, giving me guidelines so I could keep all the swirls going in the same direction, as well as create' targets' for the scalloped outline that would jump on and off the edge of the, lily pads.

I began to think of this quilt as a pond...after all, it had lily pads and frog eggs!  I felt like the background stitching would need to be done in blue thread and perhaps done in a style that would give the impression of water.   Ideas were percolating...

But just before I started the blue stitching, I decided...what if...what if I put a few water lilies in there? I could do some triangular feathers at the block intersections that would a) help nail down those seams and b) break up the background stitching. So I drew out a design and added the feathered lilies...I liked the way they looked!

Too bad I hadn't thought of this design BEFORE I stitched the stripes with the wavy lines and frog eggs...I could have lessened the thread build-up that occurred. Oh well! That is why it is good to have experience...

Next, it was time to tackle the borders. I wanted to do a feather border on this one, even though it probably wasn't the BEST design for this particular quilt. But I needed the practice at doing feathers, so feathers it is!

There weren't many feathers, and by the time I felt halfway competent, I was finished.  sigh.

I did the top border and TRIED to do the side borders as I rolled each section, but didn't like the thread build-up that resulted with that method.  So I skipped the sides, did the bottom, then moved on to the blue background quilting.  Once that was finished, I took the quilt off the frame and turned it 90 degrees then reloaded it to stitch the side borders.  It made it SOOOO much easier and they looked better, too.

Once I started doing the blue background stitching, I was again reminded of my inexperience! There were areas of ballooning fabric between a few of the, lily pads.  Because the blocks were stitched together willy-nilly, the excess fabric had to be dealt with somehow!

I tried stitching closely, but that still resulting in some pleating and puckering.

So I took a needle and thread and (by hand) sewed double-ended darts at a few of the seams to tuck out the excess muslin before quilting those areas. That worked!

I started out using a darker thread to sew these temporary 'darts' then removed the thread after quilting, but it didn't take long before I realized...use matching thread and you can leave it in!  duh...

Once the quilting was finished, I cut some bias strips from the remaining green fabric and joined them together to create the binding.  After pressing it in half, I loosely wound it around an empty thread cone and put that cone on a thread holder next to my machine.  This made it so much easier to control the binding as I applied it the around the edges of the quilt.

Now all that is left to do is sew the binding down by hand on the backside...I will let Julie do that! I will take this quilt to her this weekend...I wonder if she even remembers I have it!

The blue thread I chose was very faint...not the bright teal I had originally envisioned!
Probably a better choice...

This binding on the edge looks wide, but has not been wrapped to the back yet.  It will finish much narrower...

Despite my wavy lines and frog eggs, the sashing strips ARE still crooked. 
No miracles were performed in the making of this quilt! ;)

Using colored threads in the bobbin, too, makes the back of the quilt kind of interesting.  The colors are subtle and the stitching really shows up.

 Eventually, the green binding will show on the back edges.

And, as a side note...I now have, in my possession, my FIRST CUSTOMER QUILT!
That's right...I will be quilting for someone else...on a quilt that I didn't make...for money!

I am ready.

While my skills have improved, there is still a lot of improvement needed (duh!) but the only way to get better is to DO IT! This customer knows my work and is pleased with what she has seen me do...she is delighted that I agreed to quilt for her!
And you know that makes me feel good...

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Aqua Fitted Princess and Kimono

Back in April, right after the wedding, I worked a bit on fitting a knit top.  Although it wasn't perfect, the improved fit of the MOG dress had me raring to go, anxious to see if I could improve the fit of the knit garments too.

Ok, that was PART of the inspiration, but there was more.  I had fabric that was tempting me.

Last Fall, when shopping for the MOG dress, I stumbled onto some fabric at THE FABRIC SOURCE in Jackson, TN.  It was a floral printed stretch tulle.  Precut into approximately 2yd lengths, I bought 2 of them, for $5 each.  They provided instructions for a no-sew swimsuit just cut it into a big oval and cut out armholes. 

Well, also on that same trip, we stopped and did a bit of shopping at FELICIA BELLA BOUTIQUE, also in Jackson.  I had tried on a long-sleeved pullover made guessed it!...printed stretch tulle!  I didn't buy it because it was nearly $60!  But I studied it as closely as I could in this not-so-private dressing room.  I even did a bit of measuring!  It seemed to be almost a long tube with two holes in the for the body and one for the head. 

Inspired by the memory of that top, and wanting to use this fabric to get it out of my way,, I decided to start cutting.  I layed out the fabric on my table and cut what I hoped would be similar to the shape I had tried on (months ago!). 

Well, it wasn't good.  So I went to the computer and opened my PMB software!  I drafted a KIMONO pullover, then compared the patterns on screen.

As you can see, there wasn't much difference between the front and back patterns. 
Here, the front is RED.
 I decided that I would just use the BACK PATTERN...but I still didn't want to have to print it, because, after all, this was simple, right?

So I measured it!  Then I could print this diagram on one piece of paper, take it to the fabric and measure and cut.  It seemed like a good plan.
There was ONE PLACE I was having a hard time just winging it...and that was the sideseam/underarm area.  So I printed ONLY that area and placed it where the measurements dictated:

Above is the sideseam...the right edge of this paper is the cutting line.
Once I began actually plotting out my cuts, I made another change.  I LOWERED the angle of the arm by 3 inches....shown below by the dark blue line.
But after sewing this (yet again), I still wasn't happy with the way the sleeves draped.  I knew this was gonna be loose and drapey, but I didn't want it twisting!  And yes, the sleeves seemed kinda twisty.  So I ripped and reshaped the FRONT sleeve to lower the over-sleeve seam by 2" at wrist AND, I shorted that seam by 2" also.  This allowed me to ease the back seam to the front, creating fullness in back and eliminating the twisting.  Good enough! 


I hemmed the neck and lower edge, as well as the sleeves, with the coverstitch machine, turning a small hem to the backside.

Now it was time to make something to wear UNDER this!  I drafted a fairly closely fitted Princess seamed tank and cut it from some cotton interlock.  Oh dear.

Remember?  Back in the post about the ZERO EASE TORSO BLOCK, I discussed the armhole shape and how I was lowering the notch on the BACK armhole so it would coincide with my body's ah measurement...but I was NOT doing it on the front armhole because it just looked 'too scooped'.  Well, after sewing the MOG dress and realizing that the armholes were still not perfect, I decided to give it a try.  I used the AH SHAPE TOOL to lower the front notch until the distance from shoulder to notch matched the distance on my body from shoulder to the V-crease where arm meets body...look back at the HELPING MEASUREMENTS if you need further explanation.

Here is the pattern I came up with.

You can (hopefully) see how very 'J' shaped that front armhole is!  Pattern on the left, FYI.

As I said--Oh dear.

Or, rather--

OH.MAH.GAH. BECKY, Look at that armhole!

The front armhole was WAY too scooped...making this top potentially a wadder. 

The shoulder angle seemed ok, though.
Overall, it wasn't totally unfortunate.

I was SHOCKED by the back:  I think this is the first time ever that the back neck has actually come up to the bone where the back neck is supposed to come to!  I put in a pin to show where I will lower the neck to.

I liked this style and this fabric, though, knew I had to find a way to salvage this top.
Somehow I got it into my mind that I should NOT have used the E cup to draft with after all...and that I needed to shorten the whole upper front, which I could do by ripping the shoulders and cutting off the front shoulder before resewing I did.***

***later evaluation of the fit proved the front was now a tiny bit too short...that front length was needed and should NOT have been whacked off!  It was those goofy armholes making me crazy.  

Anyway, I decided that I could create some facing-like a yoke, perhaps...that could be sewn on to fill in the missing area of the F-armhole.  So I went back to the computer/drafter.

Since I had felt the need to shorten the upper front, the obvious conclusion (to me, that day) was that I had used a bust cup size that was too large (E) and should reduce it.  So I did.
***another spoiler alert!  Bad idea...but I got away with it on this top, this time.

Here you can see the NEW FRONT PATTERN (in RED) superimposed on the old pattern.  The new front is shorter at the shoulder.  The new pattern has a smaller bust dart (so the angle of the upper front is different) and the new armhole is both higher and less scooped (The back armhole is higher on the new pattern, too, but I didn't show that).
I aligned the sides to the center pieces and created 'yokes' that could be cut from the remnants I had left.
 But I needed to know WHERE to trim off the existing garment so I could sew on those yokes!  So I created and printed little 'yokes'  from the original pattern, too, and used them like templates to show me where to cut.  The upper pieces in this image are the 'cutting patterns' and the lower pieces are the new yokes to be sewn on.  you can see that, on the FRONT pattern, there will not be much cut off in the 'scooped' area!   But there WILL be quite a bit added back on, via the yoke, in that area.

And it worked!  It actually looked pretty a design element!  I had top-stitched the seams with the cover-stitch machine, so I top-stitched the new yoke seams, too.

Here is what it looked like right after sewing:


 And back--

As you can see, there is some fullness (rippling) in the back armhole that I didn't notice at the time.  I used clear elastic to stabilize the neck and armhole edges when hemming.  But it wasn't until earlier LAST WEEK that I realized WHY this might be happening. 

I was discussing a program issue with Tech Support Karen...the Dart Override tool isn't working with my numbers...and she asked my why I was enlarging the armhole by raising the shoulder with the SHOULDER HEIGHT TOOL but then trying to shorten the Front Armhole with the Dart Override.

Well, the SHOULDER HEIGHT TOOL affects both front and back patterns, but the DART OVERRIDE tool only affects the FRONT armhole (or at least, that is how it is supposed to work) by putting some of the bust dart into the armhole OR by stealing some of the front armhole to enlarge the bust dart (this is what I was trying to do).

So, even though they do two different things, it did get me thinking about the shoulder height setting and 'what if'...

Up to this point, I have been operating on the assumption that the pattern's shoulder angle was correct for me (and my square shoulders) when I raised that setting 0.5". 

But further reflection has me thinking that:
  • a) lowering the shoulder tip by 0.5" might eliminate that back ah rippling, and
  • b) I should have just lowered the F-shoulder tip in front instead of whacking off the whole front shoulder!  This was kind of a light-bulb moment.
So, for the NEXT ONE......I will NOT raise the shoulder height.  We will see how that does!
And I will go back to the E cup, which is what I should be using.  But I will NOT scoop those front armholes to force the measurements to match my body's measurements!  obviously, the front notch is NOT supposed to be an anatomical location!
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