Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Adventures in Quilting

Alternate title: KO's summer of Home Ec.
I have filled the hot and humid nights of summer with sewing and cooking classes.
I just finished two of my first quilting projects and the cats couldn't be happier with the results.
It all started with some bright and cheery fabric.
My intention with the quilting class was to make a small lap size blanket. Once class started I realized smaller projects would be better. And not just smaller in scale, but something that didn't need to be perfect on the first try. My lap quilt turned in to 5 cats mats.
I quickly learned my favorite part of making a quilt is the design process. Deciding the pattern and how to arrange the fabrics definitely uses the side of my brain I don't use for working with numbers all day.
With the cat mats the process was a little different. I made a ton of patchwork blocks using different techniques learned in class. We learned how to make blocks with rectangles and triangles; basics that can be used to create an endless variety of patterns.
Once I had a huge stack of blocks I set them out to determine the cat mat designs. Of course the cats tested the product along the way and they were especially helpful when I was laying out the blocks and deciding on borders. Roxy let me know the mat was going to be just the right size.
After sewing the quilt top was complete I had to do the actual quilting process. This involves sandwiching the quilt top, soft batting, and the quilt back with decorative stitching. You may remember the post where I showed the package for my newly purchased walking foot. This is a piece of the sewing machine that helps you do the actual quilting - it allows the thick fabric to feed evenly through the sewing machine. When I quilted the mats at home I didn't have the walking foot yet so some of my straight lines aren't quite straight. Lucky for me the cats don't seem to notice (or they are just too polite to say anything).
After the cat mats were quilted they went through more on-site testing before I added the final piece - the binding.
Sadie was quick to lend a paw during this phase of the project.
Now back to that walking foot. Last night I went to attach the binding. Again the walking foot is very useful because it allows you to evenly sew multiple layers of fabric. When you are sewing on the binding you have to sew through 5 layers of fabric and the corners need to be precise so they will self miter (make a nice crisp point).
Let me show you the "complete" instructions that were included with the walking foot package.
Yes - two tiny paragrahs with a diagram that is practicaly impossible to deciper. After multiple attempts to correctly attach the foot to my sewing machine and sew with it I determined it doesn't work with my machine. Sigh - my sewing machine is a low end model that is at least 7 years old. It doesn't have a factory authorized walking foot attachement for sale, the only option I found on-line was this generic model. It definitley does not fit correctly, at this point I will just have to figure out how to quilt without this device. Needless to say the walking foot will be returned, complete instructions and all!
Sewing the binding is a process I did not enjoy and found rather difficult. Before you can attach the binding you have to make the long thin strip of fabric that will become the binding piece. The connecting edges have to be 45 degree angles in order for the seams to lie flat and be strong enough to last for many years. (Let me tell you there is a lot of math involved in sewing a quilt - I need to review my geometry lessons.) Actually making a long thin strip of fabric with 45 degree seams is much harder to do than it sounds - it took me multiple tries and I still reversed some of the seams. I left some seams showing because I was tired of ripping out seams and afterall this is a project for the cats! When the binding strips were finally complete I was able to attach them using my regular sewing machine foot and the feeding process was fairly even. The final sewing of the binding is all done by hand and compared to making the binding strip and using the machine to attach it the hand sewing was a piece of cake.
Today I am proud to report I have two finished cat mats - yay!
This one has a free style quilt pattern that is made up of wavy lines.
Check out the miter on the corner - not too bad for my first attempt at binding.
The backing is just one piece of fabric. I found out pretty quickly quilting takes more fabric than I realized. I had to go back to the fabric store to get backing fabric and fabric for the binding. I am now out of binding fabric and I need to make one more run to the fabric store to finish the last 3 cat mats.
The second finished cat mat has quilting lines that mimic plaid - one straight line followed by two straight lines. My straight lines aren't quite straight, it just leaves room for improvement on my next project. I'm not too stressed about the wonky lines because as previously mentioned these mats are for the cats and I will let you imagine what they will do to them.
Just like the first finished mat, the backing is one solid piece of fabric.
Sadie was quick to take a nap on the finished cat mat.
Good news! I am now accepting orders for cat mats - the price is $100 for the first mat and if you order two the second mat is just $75 (all shipping and handling charges included). Order now for Summer 2011 delivery.