Saturday, January 23, 2010

Promise Quilting 1

On Wednesdays I've been going to the quilt group called In Stitches that meets at the Methodist Church in our town. Jo, one of the leaders of the group, teaches a method of hand quilting that she learned from her aunt in Montana. Her aunt is Cherokee and teaches Promise Quilting. What's special about Promise Quilting? There are specific rules of construction that reflect the culture and heritage of the Cherokee people. The name refers to the maker's promise to not use anything mechanical to make the quilts, i.e. sewing machine, iron, pins. As a promise quilter, you also promise to pass along the techniques that you have learned to others. I am not going to claim to be an expert in this. I am taking the beginning class from Jo now. Several years ago she taught our quilt group some of the techniques and I remember some of that information as well.

The first project that one makes in Promise Quilting is a pillow. Traditionally, a young woman would begin her pillow at the time she was coming of age to be married. In making the pillow, she would learn all the techniques she needed to make a quilt of any size and also sew for her family. While she was learning the technique, her father would carve her a special button that she would sew on the front of the pillow when she was done.

There are more interesting aspects about all the special techniques used and what they represent in the Cherokee culture. I don't want to get the details wrong, and I don't want to make this post too long. I just thought I would share my Promise Quilting project with you.

So, I began my pillow last week. Using squares measuring about 2 1/2 inches, I sewed together the 25-patch block. The seams are sewn by hand with a running stitch in the usual way. When you get to the end of the seam, you fingerpress the seam allowance to one side. Then you open the two layers and topstitch with a running stitch through the seam allowance in a line parallel to the seam. This is an uncropped picture of the front of my pillow which doesn't have a border yet.

The picture below shows a close picture of the topstitching. You are not supposed to use pins, so if you want to hold two pieces together as you are sewing, you tack with a short loop of thread. I chose my fabrics from a bucket of scraps Jo provided for us. I love these colors.

The next step, which doesn't have a picture yet, is to apply borders in the same manner as you sewed the squares together. When you are done with the front, you make a sandwich with double sided flannel as batting and muslin for backing. Now you will be quilting through all 3 layers along the seams that don't have topstitching.

What I like about this is the simplicity. This can be done with scissors, needle, thread and fabric. It can be worked anywhere. Working by hand is also very relaxing. The measurements used are supposed to be based on the proportions of your own body For instance, the squares are approximately the width of 3 fingers on my hand. So the project reflects the quilter very personally. A lot of the projects are worked with scraps. I love making new fabric from virtually nothing.

Years ago when I first learned about this, Jo demonstrated making string pieced blocks pieced with the double sided flannel as foundation. I made a bunch of little blocks, about 5 inches or so in size. Now I am learning what to do with those blocks.

Jo does all kinds of quilting. She machine pieces some of her quilts. She has done a lot of hand quilting, but she also has some of her tops machine quilted by area longarm quilters. But, according to the philosophy of Promise Quilting, each quilt you make is like a child to you. Her Promise quilts are some of her favorites. "It instantly relaxes me when I sit down to work on my Promise Quilting," she says.

This blog is meant to record my accomplishments in quilting and creativity, so I thought I'd include this entry about what I am working on today. It's very addictive. I'll show more pictures later.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Progress Report...with Pictures!

So, this is what it looks like to have a quilt in progress on my sewing machine! Yay! I am finally working on my snowman quilt. My friends at the In Stitches sewing club helped me get the basting done. It was very intimidating to me. And some of these ladies are so experienced, it's all old hat. I had to wait from Wednesday to Saturday to get started. It was excruciating!

I had known all along that I wanted to do some outline quilting around the figures in my panel pieces and some highlight quilting around the borders. I decided to do it with free motion quilting to get some practice following lines.

Then I decided to fill in the logs with a swirly design that's kind of like McTavishing. It is reminiscent of Dr. Seuss's drawings. I love quilting with the red thread. It's so bold and cheerful.

Once I got going it was hard to stop. I was scared that my irregularities would show on the lighter areas. Ironically, it was hard working in the red areas, where my thread matched, because I couldn't see where I had been! The jingle bell fabric, of course, is the backing.

I outlined the scalloped border and both sides of the candy cane border as well as the quilting around the figures.

I have finished quilting in 3 of the blocks and I'm working on the fourth. I have some ideas for the quilting in the sashing and the first border. I'm kind of scared of the outer border with all those big spaces to fill, but I'll work it out when I get there. I don't think I'll get this done before quilt club on January 25, which was my original goal. Boo!

Here is the long skinny table runner that I was working on last week. I free motioned in the green triangles as well as the white squares. I think the design looks kind of folky and cute.

My friend loaned me a pattern for a notebook cover. I used this project as an excuse to do some practice FMQ that would yield me a finished project. In this view, the right edge would be folded under the appliqued flap when closed. I need to finish the button and loop closure.

Here you see the FMQ design I used. It's a meandering line with alternating leaves and flowers. I'm using my gold Aurifil thread that is my newest favoritest thing in the world.

Thank you for your patience in following my progress even when there were no pictures to show you what I meant. It feels so good to be working on this bigger quilt. Finally, I can make something that my family can actually sleep under! (And I can finally finish that pile of tops into something that I can use!)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Getting Started

Today I started quilting my Christmas quilt. I'm following the design on the panels and then doing a swirly sort of pattern in the "logs" around the panel. So far, I'm pretty satisfied with the outcome. Some of my swirlys are "interesting", and the biggest problem is working in the 3 inch space. It's not like doing an allover pattern which might be easier.

I have been avidly studying quilting patterns everywhere, shop samples, magazines, blog galleries. It's funny, though. I sit down at the machine and I can't think of a single pattern to quilt with. It's "quilter's block". Punny, I know. Leah Day, my quilting guru, keeps a notebook with drawn patterns and samples together. That sounds like a good idea, but it'll take me a year to get it together. Maybe that should be my "Pretty-close-to-the-New-Year resolution" for this year.

So, obviously, all this talk about quilting patterns and projects would be better supported with beautiful pictures, I know. I'll try to get something together tomorrow.

It's nice to have finally started a project. It's the beginning of a new phase in my quilting life.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Confidence and Creativity

So, tell me if this ever happens to you: you're working on a project, but you come up to a point where you have a challenge. It might be that you don't have enough fabric, or nothing from your stash seems just right. It might be a part of the process that is harder (or dare I say, scarier) than the rest.

I get hung up on borders. I can think of at least 2 quilt tops that are just waiting for borders in order to be complete. One project was a big bright Yellow Brick Road that I did with batiks. It took me a long time to decide what would work best. I started putting the border together with scraps from the blocks. Then I misplaced them. And the quilt remains unfinished.

Or I have tops that are finished but I don't have the backs ready. I was going to take one of my favorite tops to a friend who is a longarm quilter, but I never got the whole thing together and there the top sits, waiting to become my masterpiece. Except at this rate, I'll never make that masterpiece in this lifetime.

Then I get afraid of doing the right thing with the quilting. I have been closely watching all you prolific quilters out in blogland. You just dive in and see how it turns out. That just puts me into a panic.

But I am getting better. I took a machine quilting class and I have, of course, been following Leah Day's blog and I have actually worked on a stack of samples. I have been pleasantly surprised that I can produce a usable product. I have learned so much in the last 6 months.

So, last week, I took a long skinny table runner that I originally pieced as a practice quilting project. And in no time at all, I find myself done and binding it. I even kind of cheated. Sometimes I just like to bring my backing fabric around to the front to bind things if they're not something that will get heavy use. But this made the project easier, because I couldn't find a satisfactory binding in my stash. And it would be sitting in a drawer waiting for the perfect binding.

So, I have made a plan. I started a Christmas quilt not very long ago. I got busy with the holidays, so I didn't get the top all put together. But this week, I got the final border on. Yeah! I have got some fabrics to piece together for the back. I'm going to work on that tonight.

I am determined to get that quilt done by the end of the month. I'm putting my personal challenge out in the open for you all to see. I am dying to do the FMQ techniques I've been working on.

So, here goes. I'm diving right in. Watch what happens.