The Pressing Matter of Pressing

At some point in their creative process, most quilters try to refine their technique and increase their precision.  Achieving an accurate seam allowance is the first place we tend to go when looking at precision, but pressing seams properly is just as crucial.  Today for the 31 Day Blog Writing Challenge we were asked for our top tip, and I am going to talk about a few tools to help make your pressing easier.

  1. A starch alternative gives your fabric a slightly firmer hand that makes it easier to sew without stretching.  This is great for all forms of piecing, but it is especially useful for fabrics that will include piecing or applique on bias edges.  I pour my starch alternative into a mist dispenser to get a more even spray across the fabric I am pressing.
  2. This flat metal hem gauge is great for turning back a specific amount of fabric along the edge of a piece of fabric. As a quilter, I use this most when turning back the edges of quilt labels, but I find it extremely useful in constructing garments and bags.
  3. A wool pressing mat allows you to press seam allowances with very little distortion to the block.  The wool holds it in place just enough to prevent movement as you press that seam allowance flat.  The wool also has just enough give to it to absorb the thickness of the seam and prevent an unsightly bump in the quilt top.
  4. Go with the best quality iron that you can get. I recommend one that can be used dry or with steam.  This is a Hot Steam gravity fed iron. This means that a water reservoir is suspended above the iron, and you get steam by tapping a button with your thumb. This is a fantastic iron choice if you have a place you can permanently set up your ironing space.
  5. If you make clothes or bags, a tailor’s ham helps to emulate all sorts of curves to make your pressing look great!
  6. There are certain instances that you need to press a seam in a long narrow tube, such as a quilt sleeve. At these times, I use a large dowel rod on the inside of the tube to press the seam allowance open.
  7. My newest favorite pressing tool is a wool pressing bar and clapper. It is perfect for pressing any seam allowances open, and the wooden base also functions as a clapper to set a seam allowance.  If you press a seam with steam, you can help it set nicely by holding the clapper over it as it cools, similar to using the cool air function on your hair dryer.

I hope that these tools help you up your pressing game!

I am excited to be participating in this year’s 31 Day Blog Writing Challenge hosted by Cheryl Sleboda of Muppin.com, and I hope you will have the chance to check out some of the other awesome blogs that are participating this month.

Most Used Quilting Tools of 2019

Tools are the topic of the day!  Fabric (deservedly!) gets most of the attention, but good quality tools can help make it even more fun to sew! Here, in no particular order, are some of the go-to tools that help my quilts come together.

  1. Straight Stitcher longarm quilting ruler:  The groove down the center of the ruler gives you even more control while stitching, but my favorite part of this ruler is having measurements on both sides of the machine foot as you stitch.
  2. 50wt Aurifil: My go-to thread for the majority of my quilting and piecing!
  3. 12wt Aurifil: Great for hand stitching and machine quilting that you really want to pop!
  4. Spiral Eye Needle:  These are the best needles I have found for quickly burying thread tails
  5. Duo marking pens: The marking pen gives an easy to see brown line, and the eraser pen takes out the mark easily and instantly.
  6. Wool pressing bar: This is fabulous when you want to press a seam open or if you would like you seam lifted off the main pressing surface a bit.  Its a great companion to a wool pressing mat which is another favorite of mine!
  7. Clover Clips:  I love these for binding and bag making!
  8. Stiletto:  The perfect tool to guide fussy piecing or thick layers found in bag making
  9. Scissors: Spring loaded Gingher Shears are great to reduce hand fatigue when you are cutting a lot of fabric.  These small snips are very inexpensive (about $3), sharp, and lightweight.  I keep a pair with every machine and one in my purse.
  10. Rotary cutters: A Gingher rotary cutter and an Olfa
  11. Seam ripper: This one is sharp and has a fine blade.  I try to replace my seam ripper every year.
  12. Add a Quarter Plus and Add an Eighth Plus rulers: These are amazing for foundation paper piecing.  I used to do without, but now I consider them must-haves!
  13. Quilter’s Select ruler:  This brand of ruler has thin black lines that are easy to see and a coating on the back that makes them non-slip.  My cutting, which was always pretty accurate, became much more accurate when I switched to this type of ruler.  I have been gradually replacing my old rulers with these, and I currently have the 6″x24″, 3″x12″, 8.5″x8.5″, and 12.5″x12.5″.

What are your favorite tools?  Did you discover any new notions this year that you wouldn’t want to be without?

I am excited to be participating in this year’s 31 Day Blog Writing Challenge hosted by Cheryl Sleboda of Muppin.com, and I hope you will have the chance to check out some of the other awesome blogs that are participating this month.

Anna Maria Horner & Aurifil Showcase Project

If you have followed me long, you may have noticed that I love a good challenge, so when Aurifil offered their Artisans an opportunity to make a project using Anna Maria Horner’s fabric and Aurifil thread, I was excited to sign up!  It is hard to commit to a particular project without knowing what exact materials you will be given, but based on Anna Maria Horner’s  overall design aesthetic, I thought that a pillow would be a fun project.

Three fat quarters and a spool of Aurifil were provided for the challenge.  I had requested 12wt thread because I intended to incorporate some large stitch hand quilting into the cushion.  I didn’t even think about the design of the pillow until the fabrics arrived because I knew I wanted the fabric to be the key inspiration for this project.  As soon as I saw the large floral inspired print, I was sure that it needed to be the focus of the design.

I had just enough large floral motifs to use one for the center of the pillow and a half motif for each corner.  To start, I marked where the center circle would eventually be cut out and placed the  corner motifs based on that mark.  I then used 80wt Aurifil to hand appliqué the motifs.  Once this was complete, I cut out the center circle and machine pieced the center circle into place using 50wt Aurifil.  To finish the construction of the top, I placed the central motif and used needle turn appliqué to secure it.

With the piecing and appliqué complete, it was time to begin the quilting process.  I selected a wool batting so the pillow top would have a bit of poof to it and really show off the hand stitching.  The quilting on this project really embraced decorative stitching, and I used it as an opportunity to try out several different techniques since the back of the quilting would be enclosed in the pillow.

I started by machine quilting around the circle and each floral motif.  I had 12wt thread on top and 50wt thread in the bobbin, and I loosened the tension slightly so I could have enough give to the stitching to wrap each stitch by hand with a strand of 50wt thread.  This resulted in a stitch that looks like a whipped backstitch, but it took a lot less time!

The rest of the pillow top is quilted using a total of seven colors of 12wt Aurifil that I selected to accent the colors in the fabric.  The bronze color was sent for this project, the light green came in this year’s Aurifil Artisan box, and the remaining colors had been used in previous projects.

I used a standard running stitch and several embroidery stitches to quilt the pillow including the closed fly stitch, French Knots, seed stitches, and variations of cross stitches.

The back of the quilted panel shows off how much stitching went into this project.

A yo-yo in the center of the floral motif completed the pillow top.  I thought that it would be fun to finish the center of the motif with the background print the motif was cut from!

To make the pillow cover easy to remove for cleaning, I inserted a lapped zipper into the backing fabric.

The final touch that I wanted to add was a piped edging covered with the remaining striped challenge fabric.  I love how the bias cut fabric looked with all of the angle changes within the fabric design.  This would make amazing quilt binding!

I selected a feather filled pillow form, and combined with the wool batting it creates a delightful feel for a throw pillow.

Challenge Swap

For the third year, a small quilting group I belong to has done a fun challenge and swap combination project.  Around September or October we each bring a piece of fabric (fat quarter or larger) to a meeting and place it in a brown paper bag.  One by one we each pull out a piece of fabric and try to guess who put that fabric into the bag.  We are surprisingly accurate!  We then take the fabric that we pulled out and make a gift for the person who originally put the fabric in the swap.  It can be anything sewn, and there is usually a wide range of projects that come out of this challenge and swap.

This year the fabric I pulled out of the bag was a cute rectangular dot print on a light green background.  Since the green is so light, it almost read as a neutral.  It looked good with so many different colors!  In the end, I loved the line and dot effect of the black and white batik with the dot print.

I decided to make a project bag with pockets around the outside to hold supplies and notions.  The lower half of the bag has a structure of Annie’s Soft and Stable so that it will stand easily on its own.  The bag is fully lined so there won’t be a chance of having a work in progress catching on any seams or picking up unwanted threads.  I thought the orange was a fun, unexpected pop of color, and it is also a favorite of the swap recipient!

 

Vinyl Front Tula Pouch

For the second year, one of the sewing groups I belong to did a swap.  This swap has a twist:  Each person brings a fat quarter of a favorite fabric from their stash to put in a bag.  Then, we all take turns pulling out a piece of fabric and guess who it belongs to.  We are a small group, so we are typically pretty successful in guessing the owner of the fabric.  We each take the fabric away and come back a couple meetings later with an item made from the fabric we pulled from the bag to give back to the original person.

Tula Vinyl Pouch front

I pulled this cute Tula Pink cat print from the bag of fat quarters.  It happened to be a fabric that I love enough to own, too!  The person who brought the fabric enjoys hand applique and embroidery, so I thought she may like a bag that will keep all of her pieces flat and visible until it is their turn to be secured to the block.

I used a fairly heavy, clear vinyl for the front of the pouch. The primary fabric is the cat print, and for the back of the pouch, I chose to make a nine patch from a charm pack from the same Tula Pink fabric line.  I sandwiched and quilted the fabric layers with a piece of soft and stable to make sure the pouch would lay flat while maintaining flexibility.

Tula Vinyl Pouch back

The binding is also from that same line of prints.  I machine stitched it to the front and folded it around to the back for hand stitching.  This allowed for hand finishing on the fabric portion of the pouch.  The bag finishes a bit over 13″ square, so a lot of quilt blocks could actually lay flat in the pouch.  I wish I had made one for myself when I was in a couple of bees- it would have been perfect to transport blocks!