March 29, 2017

Weft/Warp, Crosswise/Lengthwise - and Why You Care

I've got something to share with you.  Maybe you know about this, maybe you don't.  It's something that had me pulling my hair out in my early days of quilting, when my perfectly measured and precisely cut pieces were stitching up to be too long or too short.  It took me a while to realize what was going on.  Here goes:

One of the first "technical" terms I learned when I started sewing was "selvage".  Selvage is the woven edge of fabric.

When you buy a length of fabric, the sales person will measure out the length you want along the selvage, and then will cut it from the bolt by cutting crosswise from one side to the other - cutting from selvage to selvage.

If we buy 2 yards of 44" inch-wide yellow fabric, we'd have a piece that would look roughly like this:
Below I've marked where the selvage is - and also show the direction of what we call the "crosswise grain" (aka: weft threads) and the "lengthwise grain" (aka: warp threads) of the fabric.  Crosswise, of course, is where our salesperson cut the fabric.
I've been sewing for over 50 years.  I've made dresses, shirts, pants, coats - all kinds of things.  I was always aware of the selvage, and paid attention to the crosswise/lengthwise grain on fabrics with one-way designs and/or nap (velvet, cordoroy, etc.).  But it wasn't until I started quilting that I became very aware of a big difference between the crosswise and lengthwise grain on woven fabrics.

The difference is this: there's usually a bit of "stretch" in woven fabrics - and there seems to be more stretch along the crosswise grain.  Sometimes a lot more stretch. That stretch can get you into trouble.  If you aren't mindful of how much you are pulling on the weft (crosswise grain), you can get your blocks pulled out of proportion as you go along.

It's easy to tell the weft from the warp; all you have to do is grab the sides and pull.  The weft (crosswise grain) will stretch more.

Of course the traditional remedy is to pin sides together before sewing.  But I'm an impatient sewer - and I hate pinning - won't do it if I can get away with it.  

These days, when cutting out borders, I make a point of trying to cut borders that run along the lengthwise grain - to minimize the stretch problem.  When I have to cut along the crosswise grain, I know I have to slow down a bit and maybe even (grrrr) pin a couple of times.

When working with simple quilt designs, such as my recent "Summer Breeze" quilt (below) I check for the crosswise/lengthwise grain when I lay the blocks out.
In the quilt above, there are 8 strips of squares with 10 squares going down each strip.  I laid out the squares so that the lengthwise (less stretchy) grain is going left-to-right (horizontal). You can see that in the photo below.  I've pinned the squares together for a strip - and the horizontal edges I'm pointing to are on the lengthwise grain:



Then I stitch the squares together, joining lengthwise edges to lengthwise edges.  After that, when I join the columns together, I am sewing down on the crosswise (more stretchy) grain, and it's easy to get the corners lined up without pinning (I just stretch one side or the other to get the corners perfectly aligned). 

Once I became aware of the weft/warp stretch, my quilting life certainly became easier!

Writing this post was especially fun.  As a self-taught seamstress/quilter, I knew what I wanted to share with you, but didn't know the technical terms (other than "selvage").  I did a little research on Google to get the terms weft, warp, crosswise grain and lengthwise grain.  I'm not sure well I'll remember those new terms, but I sure don't forget the concept. 

March 22, 2017

Quilt 89: Moda's "Summer Breeze IV" Charm Squares - DONE!

A little over a month ago, I was in my favorite quilt shop looking for backing fabric.  As I always do, I cruised by the charm square table to have a look at what was on offer.  I found this set by Moda Fabrics:
(doubleclick any picture on this page to see a larger image)

I fell in love with this set instantly.  The blue, white, and yellow squares are so fresh and clean looking!  I bought 2 packs of these, as I planned to use my favorite simple squares design.

I've done several charm square quilts like this one - just joining the squares together and slapping on a border.  It's a fun (and fast) project to do.  With this one, I wanted yellow and blue for the border, with a half-inch wide strip of green to frame the squares.  But I wasn't sure how to place the blue and yellow borders.

This is one of those times when I'm especially pleased with my Quilt Wizard computer software.  I used the tool to mock up a design for the quilt, and then auditioned the borders:

First with the yellow between the blue borders:

Then with the blue between the yellow:

I liked the second arrangement the best.

Next I spread out the squares, arranging them on the bed, and working to have the different lights and darks as evenly distributed as possible:
Now that I've got an arrangement I'm happy with, I mark the columns of squares to make sure I don't get confused about which columns go next to each other.  I do this with pins.  In the rightmost column, I've put one pin in the bottom square - so I'll remember that's column 1.  In the next one, 2 pins, and so on:

Now I pin the squares in each column together.  What you see below is column 6 pinned together.
Once the columns are marked and pinned together, I stitch the columns together.  Then I press the completed columns so that the odd numbered columns are pressed down and the even columns are pressed up (as you see below).  Doing this prevents a big lump at the corners when the columns are joined together.

And here it is - the center of the top all stitched together and ready for the borders!
The charm square packs had 42 squares, so I had these 4 squares left over.  I always seem to have a few squares left over from each project when I've used charm squares.  I'm hanging onto them - eventually I'll have enough leftovers for a quilt!
The borders took no time at all to put on - and the quilting?  That was fast, too, because I opted for free-motion loop-d-loops.  It only took about 3 hours to finish the quilting
54" x 62" - quilted on the longarm (free-motion loop-d-loops) - bamboo batting
Here's a closeup of the stitches (below) and you can see the binding and backing fabric.
I'd originally planned on backing this with solid yellow homespun, but then I saw the blue-and-yellow pansy fabric and oh, it's just perfect for this quilt.  I'm quite proud of this backing - there's a seam there (the backing fabric is 44" wide, so I needed to stitch 2 lengths together) - but you really can't see it, can you?

This quilt, like the one I posted about last week, is going to a Cystic Fybrosis fundraiser which I believe is happening this coming weekend.

March 15, 2017

Quilt 88: Yet another "Triest" (in teal) - DONE!

This is the 3rd quilt in a row using the Robert Kaufman panel "Trieste".  You'll be wondering if I'm ever going to do anything else!  (I will - don't worry.)

Early last week, Nancy (from Inspirational Quilts) contacted me to say that she'd been approached by a local Cystic Fibrosis group asking if they might have a couple of "adult size" quilts for the fundraising gala they are having at the end of this month.  She said she'd be making one for them, and might I have one I'd like to donate.  I was delighted she asked, and I happened to have the top for this one (plus one other adult-size quilt) already done and waiting to be quilted.

So here it is - with no fanfare:
48" x 64" - quilted on the longarm ("Blustery Breeze" groovy boards) - cotton batting
The backing and binding are the same as the previous Trieste quilts. 

As I said, I had another adult-size quilt top ready, and I finished it and took both adult quilts plus 3 for children up to her on Saturday.  I have a goal to donate at least one quilt a month to Nancy's charity - so I guess I'm ahead of schedule - which is great!

Stay tuned next week for the other adult-size quilt.  I don't know which of these (both?) she'll give to the Cystic Fibrosis group.  Guess I'll have to wait and see.

March 8, 2017

Quilt 87: The Kaufman "Trieste" in Blue - DONE!

A couple of weeks ago I told you about a quilt I put together for my friend Janet.  She loved the Robert Kaufman "Trieste" jewel tones panel, as I did, and wanted a quilt made with it.  As I mentioned last week, I had a bad time finding a true blue tone to match the blues in the panel's center - and instead went with a teal shade which matched the thin teal border in the panel itself.  And then...  ...after hunting for MONTHS (I kid you not), just as I was finishing the quilt, I found the true blue I'd been looking for.

HOORAY!  I've got more of the panels, so making another one would be no problem. I contacted Janet - who was fine with waiting another week for her quilt - and got busy making another.  My friend Joanne visited me at about this time - saw the teal quilt (I'd finished it) and bought it instantly.  So it was win-win-win all the way around! 

I also stumbled over the coordinating print that I'd bought at the same time as the panels.  Have a look:
(doubleclick any picture on this page for a larger image)


In the photo above, the coordinating print is on top, with the blue beneath and the panel on the bottom.  I've also got metallic gold and metallic red/gold fabric (also Robert Kaufman) for the borders.  Now to decide how to border this panel.  Here's what I came up with:
We definitely want the metallic gold and red/gold fabrics in this - but the red is a bit problematic; it doesn't play well with the blue.  The best fabric to place immediately outside the panel (in the center) is definitely the blue.  Gold is the best pairing next, and the red and gold fabrics go together, so a thin band of red next, then the coordinating "medallions" print next.  In the design above, the medallions go where my design shows white in the borders.

But wait.

There's a problem. In the photo below, I've placed the medallions of the center panel just above the medallion print.  Look carefully at how the medallions match up.  Start with the ones on the left and then look toward the right... and yes!  You see it, don't you?  The medallions in the panel are spaced just a tiny bit further apart than the ones in the coordinating print!  What a headache!


But I came up with a solution.  Have a look at the image below:
Look at the red medallion in the center.  I lined up the medallions there, in the center of the border panel, and as the 2 prints gradually deviate going left and going right, your eye just doesn't really "see" it so much.  Whew!

Here it is on the longarm:

 
I used the "Blustery Breeze" groovy boards for the quilting pattern and Signature Thread's "chamois" (pale matt gold) thread.  As you can see in the photo below, the thread fades well into the complex center design - exactly what I want it to do.


And below is the top with the backing (solid gold homespun).  The edging is the metallic gold Kaufman print.

It only took about 4 hours to do the quilting - pretty fast!

And here's the final quilt:
50" x 68" - quilted on the longarm ("Blustery Breeze" groovy boards) - polyester batting
I delivered the quilt to Janet yesterday.  I'm very pleased to say that she loves it!