Saturday, August 16, 2008
In these last few weeks of summer vacation I am on a quilting binge. One of my summer goals was to make as many Christmas gifts as possible, and since I joined Mary Hunt's Debt Proof Living Olympics with a pledge to do those gifts during the Olympics, I am getting down to it. I have a new sewing machine after years of wishing and saving for one and I am hard at work learning to use it. I also bought a walking foot attachment, which makes it easier to quilt by machine because it feeds the thick quilt layers through with less stress and strain. In the past I have relied on hand quilting (which takes a lot of time) or tied the quilts with embroidery floss. I still like those methods better than machine quilting because I need a lot of practice to get the machine quilting smooth.
I've made two lap quilts, a wall hanging and six pot holders in the past week. The pot holders are layered with heat-resistant batting made specially for them. I am practicing the different types of stitches this machine can do and using the different foot attachments, including the walking foot, in the ditch quilting foot, darning foot and the embroidery foot. I've taken almost all of the fabrics from my stash and my scrap bag. I even pieced the batting together from left-overs rather than go out and buy more. I am hoping to make another lap-size quilt and some tote bags in the next two weeks, as well as practice more quilting techniques. Here are some of the books that have been a big help to me:
Magical Four-Patch and Nine-Patch Quilts by Yvonne Porcella. I have had this book on my shelf for a couple years. It is the inspiration for my scrap quilt, although I didn't follow her method exactly. She chooses eleven colors and has a formula for how to place the nine and four patches interspersed with horizontal and lateral strips of solid color fabric. I started collecting strips of fabric scraps and making nine patches a year or more ago, planing to try this method. The quilt I've been finishing in the last couple days was based on her plan but I made up the composition myself as I went along. It's purely scrappy, with no overall pattern. I picked up a few tips on how to balance the colors and composition from Porcella. This is a very helpful book.
Show Me How To Machine Quilt by Kathy Sandbach. I got this one from the library. Sandbach's book is a quick read. It's very clear and concise. She gives excellent advice on what type of tools you need, the different kinds of batting and how it effects your quilt, and the precise techniques that make for success. She has photographs of her hand positions that really helped me. She explains how to adjust the settings on your machine, which is something that always mystified me. She has extensive illustrations of the free-hand quilting designs she uses with explanations of how you can learn to do it without needing to mark your quilt top. Once you learn to use the needle and fabric like a pen and paper you can just start to doodle or sketch repeating designs. With practice it becomes smooth and it's fun. I've never had the courage to try this before. I've also never had a machine that could drop the feed dogs or a darning foot that made the movements possible. Now I am really having fun trying it out. I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn to machine quilt.
Patchwork Skills & Techniques by Dorothy Wood is one of the first books I bought about quilting ten years ago. It is a very helpful guide to learning all the basics. From how to select fabrics, how to piece blocks together, how to layer and bind and how to do basic quilting stitches it is fabulous. I learned so much from studying this book. Clear, concise explanations, step-by-step directions and illustrative photographs show everything you need to know to make hundreds of block designs. I've made a lot of quilts from the instructions in this book.
I am so happy with the way my library lets me search the catalog and request books online, by the way. With little kids in tow I don't have time to do that in the library. It is great to be able to do it from home and then just pick up the books on the way to the children's room. Our local public library has an extensive collection of quilting books. Many of them were bought at the request of me and my sister over the years. If they don't have the book I want they get it from interlibrary loan. When I sign in to the library's web page I get a list of what books I have out and when they are due, which helps me keep track. A reader left a comment here a week or so ago tipping me off to the site Library Elf, which keeps track of multiple library cards so I can keep up with all the books my kids have out. What a great service!