Monday, November 29, 2010

And the Champeen IS......

As promised, Grandma Coco's here to recount another exciting tale of Woman VS Machine. Sewing machine, that is.

Lots of quilters talk about binding a quilt totally by machine. No biggie, they say. Just stitched that binding on in no time at all. Well, I've always done it by hand which, as we all know, is very time consuming. So, I thought I'd just give this  new-fangled machine binding a try.

My very best source for this kind of information, Karen, of the Maple Leaf (online) Quilt Guild, stitches her binding on the backside first. OK, I can do that.

Next, she turns the binding (double fold binding BTW) to the right side and uses a decorative stitch to topstitch the binding. machine doesn't have a lot of decorative stitches. It's got Zig-Zag. That's pretty decorative, right?

So, I started to Zig the Zag. After a few inches, I got in the groove. In the end, I like the look of the Zig-Zag stitch when it isn't centred but it just barely Zags onto the front of the quilt.

I have to admit, it looks pretty good.

What would Grandma Coco do differently next time?

She would take the time to turn the corners and tack them in place first.....or maybe just a little more practice is all that's required. (Why do you suppose she isn't showing you the corners? Ah, well, there's always next time.)

The quilt in all its glory is a wall hanging that grew out of a BOM project on the MLQG. All the blocks are pinwheels and I chose (mostly) blue and white for mine. I was going to make 20 blocks but then we had our bathroom renovated and the designer suggested pale blue walls and then we had this big, blank, boring wall and....the rest is history. Sorry I can only show you such a long, narrow shot. The room itself is TINY and this is the only angle that will let me photograph the quilt.....but, trust me, it looks great from the bathtub.

So, to recap.....Grandma Coco!!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Learning, learning....always learning

If we're lucky, that is. Everyday is a new opportunity. Another chance to learn something new.

When I was a kid I had an elderly aunt whom I loved dearly. She was actually my Grandmother's sister so she was a great-aunt. She was fun and always interested in us kids. However, it quickly became apparent that she was a little out-of-touch with cultural current events. For instance, she didn't really care for the Beatles (gasp!) or, I suppose, Elvis. But Elvis was a tad before my time and that didn't bother me so much. But the Beatles!!!

As I've gotten older, I've promised myself I'd never give in to Auntie Gertie-ness. And I really thought I could avoid that trap by reading widely and listening to the radio, always with an eye to keeping in touch with pop culture.'s becoming apparent to me that it's not going to work. Oh, I get some of the references. I know about Lady Gaga's meat dress and Holy Crap Cereal for instance. I get my daily dose of Jian Ghomeshi (CBC radio).  It's a struggle. A lot of work really but I'm staying afloat....for now.

As part of my on-going effort, I give you the newest up-date on this blog. You can purchase any of my patterns now simply by clicking on the Add to Cart button beside each pattern in the side bar. It will take you to Paypal where I'm assured you can safely pay for your purchase with the credit card of your choice even if you don't have a Paypal account. Now that's progress! Is Grandma Coco not a hip chick???

I was going to blog about my knock-down-drag-out fight with my sewing machine to bind a little quilt entirely by machine but that's going to have to wait until tomorrow because Grandma Coco (while triumphant) is just a little bit tired right now and needs to lie down for a while in a dimly lit room. A demain, mes amis........

Friday, November 26, 2010

November Morning

There's something about November that I really like. Everyone's turning inward, preparing for the winter that's on its way. Like squirrels, we've readied ourselves for the dark days ahead. We've got firewood for the woodstove piled high in the garage and bags of pellets for the pellet stove. We'll be warm and dry and safe in our little house in the country. And the garden's bounty is all harvested, tucked away in the cold cellar and freezer. I like this feeling that we're just waiting for the snow. Any day now it will come and we are ready.

Sunrise from our front window
November is a good month for working in my studio. I'm well stocked with supplies there, too, with a large stash of fabric and yarn and art supplies of every description. That's one thing you learn when you live out in the country far from a grocery store or a fabric shop. I've got lots of projects on-the-go but some of them are secret and will be revealed in due course. One thing I can share.....Tuesday, December 7 will be a big day here for Grandma Coco. I hope you'll join me then.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Some Thoughts on Perfection

I've always been one of those up-tight, gotta be perfect people.....sort of the exact opposite of Cassie here who doesn't worry too much about anything. Someone who thinks if it's worth doing, it's worth doing right. The problem is, I'm finding that sometimes "just doing" may be better than doing nothing at all.

Apparently, those poor souls who show up on episodes of Hoarders are perfectionists. Who knew? They get into trouble because they can't clean and organize perfectly (due to time constraints or whatever) so they do nothing at all. I learned this on Oprah, I think. So, it's got to be true, right? :)  The Fly Lady on the other hand gives everyone permission to do a half-fast job (as my sister-in-law would say). What a concept.

A few years ago, I had the marvelous opportunity to learn from some of the best quilters around....The Kingston Heirloom Quilters of Kingston, Ontario. Have a look at some of their quilts. Those ladies are as generous as they are talented. I was fortunate to be there when they set up a new group quilt for quilting and they showed me how they do it. Precision. Patience. Talent. And a beautiful result.

I did notice that the group was kind of split when it came time to set up the quilt. A very serious bunch get it ready while another group waits to just start quilting. One of those ladies-in-waiting told me quietly that the serious ones "suck the fun right out of it."  To each her own, right?

They stretch the quilt taut and hand quilt it. Beautifully and perfectly. I tried to do that at home but it's hard to do all by yourself. The frame occupies a big chunk of real estate and it takes forever to quilt!! As well, I'm really more about the design process. So, I needed a short cut. Grandma Coco is all about the shortcut and she gives you permission to look for the shortcut, too.

If you want to hand it in small sections quilt-as-you-go-style and to get that perfect smooth-as-glass look, run to your closest art supply store and pick up some canvas stretcher bars. They come in all sorts of lengths. You buy 2 pairs and assemble them. They slide into each other. Couldn't be easier. Now you can thumb tack your block to the frame and hand quilt it easily. Just remember to leave some extra fabric on the edges (for tacking).

Of course, if I'm really going to jump on this imperfect band wagon, I'm going to have to get more comfortable with my sewing machine.

I'm working on that. :)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Spring is Sprung

Click on the bird drawing and it will enlarge so you can print it full-size. There is a very faint outside line that should measure 8 inches square. A machine zig-zag stitch works well for the branch. It doesn't have to be's a branch! Work the branch first and then layer on the appliqué. In last week's post, you saw how we used this motif to make a group project with the Maple Leaf Quilt Guild. We added borders to each bird block and completed it in a quilt-as-you-go manner.

For perfect circles...especially small ones....cut a cardboard template (cereal boxes work well for this) of the finished size circle. Cut you fabric slightly larger all around and run a basting stitch close to the edge. Draw up the basting with the cardboard inside and iron it. When it's cool, you can loosen the basting and remove the cardboard template.

Edited Dec. 4/10 ..... If you have any difficulty with the template, just click here for the .PDF.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Quilt-As-You-Go is the way to go!

I started out a couple of decades ago doing everything the hard way. You know....hand-piecing, hand-quilting. As if there was some merit in....oh, I don't know....suffering!!? :) Well, like a lot of people, I found I had more ideas than I had time to complete them so I started cutting corners.

I really like the idea of machine quilting for speed but I never really got a nice product. I like the look of smooth puckers. I have a very old Singer sewing machine. I bought it in 1976 after I graduated from university. It was my graduation present to myself. I just love that machine. It still works well. But, even with a walking foot, the layers of fabric shift and the more I stitch across a large expanse, the worse it gets. And, did I mention I'm a bit of a perfectionist?

Somewhere along the way, I discovered quilt-as-you-go and I've never looked back. QAYG allows you to piece/appliqué, layer and quilt each block and then assemble all the blocks at the end. And the final quilt looks good, too!

Birds of Hope
This is a quilt that my online quilt guild (The Maple Leaf Quilt Guild) made for the last charity quilt auction that offered in 2009. Twenty-four quilters made blocks for this quilt. Each block was completed right  down to the quilting and sent back to me to assemble.

Close up of an individual block
If anyone wants to attempt this as a group project, the only suggestion I would make is to choose a block which can be trimmed when it comes time to join them. This one has a simple outer border. It's easy to trim this border so each block is exactly the same size and your eye won't notice if one block's border is a tiny bit smaller than the next.

One other feature of QAYG is the ability to make a statement on the back by varying the backing fabric.

The back is pretty, too!
Next week.....I'll have the Spring Has Sprung appliqué design as a free pattern.