Friday, April 11, 2014

The Ultimate Learning Quilt - Stitcher's Garden #1

I am about to put the binding on the largest quilt I've ever made - 90x100 inches! Not only is it large in size, it's also large in learning. Stitcher's Garden is a block of the month quilt I teach at Mea Bernina. I've been working on this sample for over a year and I thought it might be interesting to write about everything I've learning while making this monster quilt.

My first lesson was how difficult it was to choose fabrics for the entire quilt at the beginning. I learned through this process that I am more like a design-as-I-go type of piecer. I had trouble visualizing all the different blocks and how they would look together. I do like the final result, but I was uncertain until I saw it all together. I'm not always going to be required to choose everything before starting, but it was a good learning opportunity for me. Actually, today I chose fabric for a new BOM we'll be offering - again, having to pick everything at the beginning. It's still a challenge, but getting easier. 

In month One I experienced prequilting an applique background for the first time. I started out somewhat conservative and used black thread to match the solid black background fabric. if I were to do it over, I would use variegated thread or a bright color to prequilt the background. I'm going to try to remember pre-quilting as a possible technique for future quilts.

Since this is a mostly applique quilt, I had the opportunity to experiment with different paper backed fusible products.  I tried Light Steam-A-Seam 2, Pellon's WonderUnder. and OESD's Fuse & Fix.  My favorite appears to be Light Steam-A-Seam 2.  I like that it is on 9 x 11 sheets (more manageable) and in a sealed envelope (stays fresher). However, occasionally I got a "bad batch" where the paper released before I was ready or the fusible didn't stick well. Since Light Steam-a-Seam 2 has been out of production (see an update here) I've been using WonderUnder on the roll. It's OK but I tend to stuff it into my work storage tub and it gets all wrinkled. As soon as Steam-A-Seam comes in I'll switch back.

More about what I learned in a later post.

Monday, April 7, 2014

New Studio Step 3 - Cutting Table

The third major component of my new quilt studio is a new, larger cutting table. I like my current table but I always seem to be moving stacks of fabric around - I just don't have enough horizontal space. My current table has 2 cupboards and 4 very small drawers. I ordered it from Nebraska Furniture Mart and I really do love it, I've just outgrown it.

So I started looking around for a new one. Koala has a nice one, but I really didn't want to spend that much. I also looked at cubes from Michaels and Target, but they were a little too small.  I saw this one on Pinterest that sort of peaked my interest. It was made from IKEA Expedite bookcases. As shown, the surface was 31 inches wide - a bit smaller than I'd like.  So, I thought about adding another piece and putting them together so that I would have a 47 x 74 inch work surface. I'm thinking of putting my pressing mat on one side and cutting mat on the other.

Fast Forward 2 months. I ordered 2 2x2 and 2 2x4 Expedite bookcases (OK so they call them Kallax now) and asked the son of a quilting friend of mine to put them together into a super-dooper cutting table. He is building a platform with casters to set them on  - that way I can move it around my studio. It also adds a few inches to the height - I'd like it at least 36 inches high. So with the wheels and a top it will be the perfect height.  Here is a picture of the work in progress - the bookcases sitting on top of the base. Notice that I am using it even before it's finished!

Fast forward another week . . . This afternoon Darren delivered the final piece - the top - and it is spectacular!  He stained the oak plywood top the same color as my soon-to-be-ordered sewing table.  I can roll it to wherever I need it - it's not a lightweight, but I can still push it around! The Next step is getting just the right tubs and baskets for the cubbies and getting everything organized. I'll use my current cutting mat for now, but I might decide I need a larger one. So for a moderate investment (Ikea - 200, Home Depot for wood and hardware - 200, and Darren's hard work - I'll let him tell you how much he charged me, he may want to raise his price!), but not nearly as much as a Koala, I have a gorgeous, functional 47 inches wide x 74 inches long x 37 inches tall cutting table to die for!
Later I'll post some pictures of how I organize the cubbies. Now, I want to go cut out some fabric!