Sunday, July 10, 2011

Watermelon Label

Here's to the happy couple!  I hope they spend many years together and have a lots of chances to sit on their quilt enjoying a picnic.

The finished Watermelon quilt measured 53" wide by 60" long.  The last piece of work is making the label and getting on the quilt. You know they say that it's not a quilt until it's quilted.  Well I'm a firm beliver that it's not a quilt until the label is on it!

Having said that, the quilt label is one part of the quilt that always poses a challenge for me.  Most quilt labels I've seen are just big white squares of writing documenting the receiver, the quilter, the date, the event, etc.  Some of them can get very long and in my opinion just ugly!  So I'm always trying to make sure that while I document all those important things the label doesn't detract from the overall look of the quilt.  Here's a one label I did that didn't follow the usual big white box theroy:  Twiggy.

So I had this great idea for a label on the Watermelon quilt.  I wanted to make a slice of watermelon where I could write in the white part of the rind!  And then, because the backing fabric was so busy, I was planning to set the slice on a red and white checked fabric made into a napkin.  It sounded good.  The picture in my mind was clear as a bell but I wasn't sure how to do it.  The entire time I was making the Watermelon quilt the label idea was percolating in the back of my mind. 

This is a huge part of the creative process for me.  While my hands are busy doing the work my mind can wonder.  The possibilities are endless.  The freedom is exhilerating.  The down side?  It's also how things can go wrong!  You'll see what I mean, keep reading! 

I checked on-line to see if I could find a template of a slice of watermelon to print out.  I found a tutorial for a pin cushion at the Dakota Cabin Quilts blog that I thought would work.  Isn't it adorable!

I copied and pasted it into PowerPoint, used word art to craft the word on a curve and hit the print button.  Oops, I forgot the printer was broken!  Off to Staples to use their printer.  At this point in time I was still working on the seeds for the quilt which meant I didn't have time to work on the label.  I put the print out in the pile with the other stuff for this part of the project and finished up the seeds.

Piecing the blocks into rows and the rows into a quilt top went along without incident.  The backing was a bit more work but it too turned out just fine. (See the post for July 1, 2011).  

After I sent the quilt off to the long arm quilter I started working on the label in earnest.  First came the red fabrics for the melon part.  Each of these fabrics was used in the log cabin blocks on the front.  As you can see I had plenty left over to play with.

I cut strips 1 1/2" wide and

sewed them together to create a strip set.  This was fun and pretty quick.  I love that I can chain piece them so they fly though the machine.  Here's where my mind starts to work out the "how do I cut that curve"?

I cut the strip set into 1 1/2" inch wide segments.  Using one segment as my starting point I sewed all the others together end to end.  With the polka dots as a reference point, I staggered the segments and just removed the stitching from the long strip at the appropriate breaking point to get the next row. 

I pinned each row together before sewing because I wanted to make sure the seams were nested and stayed that way as I sewed.  There were plenty of seams so the nesting helped keep the intersecting seams square and flat.  No mind wondering allowed here!

Once again I was working last at night so of course, you know Guppie would have to get involved!  I feel I should mention here, for all of you who are NOT cat lovers, I always wash and dry my quilts just before wrapping them up so they are fresh and clean when they arrive as a gift ;o)

I pressed the final patchwork to try to get it as flat as possible since I'd be sewing and cutting it some more.  The reds were beautiful and there was plenty of time before I'd have to finish the label so I just pinned it to my design board and admired it while I continued to work out the finished product in my head.

A week long business trip to New Orleans interupted my sewing rythm but how else am I going to afford this wonderful hobby of mine.  So a couple of weeks later I picked up the finished quilt from the long arm quilter.  I was so thrilled to see that the backing had turned out just right.  The quilting was beautiful.  It was all coming together. 

With a week to go before the wedding I had timed every down to the last minute.  I bought a new dress, looked for new shoes but didn't find any, stuck to my workouts and my diet, got the laundry and housework all done so my weekend would be stress free.  My mother would be so proud!  Yet there was always that label in the back of my mind.  I didn't dare get started on it becasue I knew I wouldn't be able to put it down.

Finally, it was time to finishing up the label.  On a piece of white paper, I drew a curve  the shape I needed for the final watermelon slice .  I then cut out the words I had printed and, using my light box, I arranged the words to fit the curve.  I taped it all down with clear tape so it wouldn't move.

  Next I placed a piece of white muslin over the arrangement to trace the lettering. 

This is the method I use the most when making quilt labels.  It gives me a guideline to follow but I'm still writing it by hand rather than printing it out onto the fabric directly from my computer.  (That's going to be something I'll try when I get my new printer.)  The arc you can see at the top is just some of the words that were printed on the paper that weren't the right size.

To cut the curve of the rind I placed the white fabric on top of the green, with both right sides facing up.  I placed the paper template on top of the white fabric and lined up the words. 

Using my rotary cutter I cut through all three layers at once to get the perfect matching curve on each piece!

This was the first time I had ever done a curved piece for a quilting project.  Turns out it's just like setting a sleeve when sewing clothing! 

To sew the pieces together I placed the white fabric on top of the green, right sides together.  I lined up the center of each piece and pinned it. 

Next I pinned the corners.  Then worked my way from one side toward the middle by aligning the fabric edges along the curve.  I used lots of pins to keep it straight.  With the white piece on top I could see if I was too close or too far from the words.  I didn't want to have to re-do the words so I carefully lined up my fabric edge with the edge of my  presser foot which just happens to be quarter inch wide.

After looking at it I was pleased with the results but it seemed awfully large.  I didn't want it to be the focal point on the back of the quilt.  I just wanted a little bit of fun rather than a big honking label. 

I decided I'd have to cut the pieces as if it was a pie in order to get the right size for what I had envisioned. 

With that accomplished I repeated the process for getting the curve cut on the melon side.  Then I stitched the "rind" to the "melon".  You can see from all the pins I wasn't taking any changes of things slipping as I sewed.

Aren't they just adorable!  I loved them!  One final press and they would be ready to applique to the quilt.  Still thinking about how I was going to do that I went to the ironing board, spritzed the slices with lots of water and watched as THE INK RAN right before my bleary eyes!  I stared in disbelief.  How could this happen!  You guessed it, I was so busy thinking about getting them on the quilt I forgotten to heat set the ink before dousing the pieces with water.  The creative part of the process had just sabotaged the whole thing!

Thinking I could stop it before all was lost I grabbed the hot iron and laid it on the wet fabric.  When I lifted the iron all I could see was the red fabric had bled through the white and mixed with the smeared black ink !!!  Talk about a HOT MESS!  I would not have believed it if I wasn't holding it in my hand.   

This is what happens when it's late at night and you're getting tired and your mind is racing on to the next step.  I should have just stopped when the sewing was done and gone to bed.  Yet, I knew I wouldn't have been able to sleep until I got them sewn on the quilt so I had kept on going.

Now what was I going to do?  It was about 10 pm the night before the wedding.  I knew the next morning would be spent packing and pressing our clothes before we got all decked out for the festivities.  And I still needed to wash and dry the quilt before wrapping it.  No time left for sewing!  

I had just spent the better part of 2 hours making these precious slices of watermelon.  It was too late to start over.  As any quilter will tell you, it's after making a mistake like this that you really have to be creative!  Not the leasurly, mind wondering kind of creative but the thinking fast on your feet creative.

I stopped for a few minutes to consider the alternatives.  There weren't many!  I wanted to give them the quilt the next day and I wanted it signed.  Signed!  I had a flash of a recent video I had seen where the author demonstrted writing directly on the quilt with a permanent pen.  Literally signing the quilt.  Luckily for me the fabric on the back of the quilt had all those cute little watermelons with lots of places where the white of the rind could be used to write the words:

Courtney & Miles     July 2, 2011     Made By Debby Michel

Here's how it finally turned out.

In the end I liked the simple words integrated into the fabric and not sticking out as a big label on the back.  The slices would have been nice and I could have made them tasteful but this turned out great.  In fact, I'll be sure to keep this in mind the next time I get a big creative idea for a label; simple works just as well.

I finally went to bed and slept soundly knowing the quilt was done.  I had a bit of an anxiety attack as I put the quilt into the washer the next morning.  Was the red going to bleed into the white on the front of the quilt?  No it didn't!  The quilt washed and dried beautifully.  The washing and drying is an important point for me since I always hope people to use the quilts I make for them.  If they are too hard to take care of people won't use them.

To wrap it I had purchased an insulated cooler bag that can be used for picnics and placed the quilt inside along with a card.  

I tied a bow on handle and dropped it off at the gift table as we enter the reception hall.

Have you ever messed up a great project at the last minute? 
Leave a comment, I'd love to hear from you.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Finishing The Watermelons

It's getting down to the wire for the upcoming wedding so I've been diligently working on the Watermelon quilt. You may remember on my previous post "Watermelons for Miles and Courtney" I was struggling with not enough fabric for the backing.

No matter which way I calculated it, the 3 yards of beautiful watermelon print I had just weren't enough because it's directional.

I ironed it, I measured it, I flipped it around, I ironed it again, I flipped it this way, then that way; I tried and tried and tried to make it work. The harder I tried the harder it got.

Finally, I decided to use the print as a center panel and put a border around it. Off to the fabric store for some green "rind" colored fabric. I found a great match and stitched the whole thing together but had to call the Lorri to let her know I'd be late with dropping it off.

Lorri Wurtzler, whose longarm quilting business, Seventh Heaven Quilting, is just minutes from my home in southern NH has been doing a great job on the quilts I've brought her. The watermelon quilt is just one of three she has quilted for me recently. Working with Lorri to choose the pattern and the thread for the finishing touches is a great part of the creative process that's really fun for me. I usually have an idea of how I want the quilting done and she is able to take that idea and execute it with beautiful results.  Longarm quilting is a life saver for me! I would never have been able to quilt any of my projects, by hand or machine, and get them completed when I wanted them.

Here's a peek at the back corner before I got the binding on. The border on the watermelon fabric turned out fine. You can clearly see the vine/leaf pattern here on the green border.

But what really makes the whole quilt top is the contract of the deep pink threads on the whites of the quilt top. It is pretty in the pictures but just beautiful in real life!

With the quilting completed it was time for binding.  I had been using the same binding instructions for the past ten years.  One of the things that I really didn't like was how bulkie the closure was when you got to the end.

I decided to go on line to see if there was an easier way. I saw a tutorial on the Missouri Star Quilt Company's You-Tube site. They were demonstrating a new template used to make bindings. I was so excited I was ready to send away for it right then and there! That is until, after a few watching a few other videos, I came across one that showed how to do the very same thing without the template. Since time is always of the essence for me I studied the video and tried the new technique. So, I'm not usually the first to do most things but I catch on pretty quickly.  With a little practice, this technique worked like a charm!


Oh, and a second tip I found was winding the prepared binding into a coil. I used to just gather it all up and drape it over my shoulder for safe keeping as I sewed. The coil worked much better.

All the machine stuff was done. Now to the relaxing part, hand sewing the binding. I've seen some videos of people using the machine to finish off their bindings but unless it's a small project I'm not sure I'd want to do that. I enjoy taking my work out of the sewing room and spending time watching TV with the family. Sports are always a good choice for this activity. Luckily here in New England we have four championship teams: the Celtics, the Patriots, the Bruins, and the Red Sox to keep us entertained. Since it's summer now we are taking in the Red Sox games. So I grabbed the quilt and my sewing basket and headed to the living room.

Now you may remember that Guppy is often fussing around my sewing table as I sew but I don't think I've mentioned Alice. Alice is Guppy's sister. She's pretty and she knows it. She feels no need to get involved with the noisy sewing machine activities (although the ironing board does appeal to her so I always have to close it up if it's not in use). Instead, she naps in the kitty bed placed on what was supposed to be the comfy chair for me to use in my sewing room. Oh well . . . 

Alice decided that getting a close up view of the hand sewing of the binding would be a good way to get involved in the watermelon quilt. One evening she strolled in to the living room as I was getting all comfy and ready to sew.  You know how it is, you get the lighting arranged just right and everything within arms reach. She announced herself with a meow, then parked herself on the coffee table. Watching me from across the room.  Just taking it all in, no big deal. Certainly nothing she was interested in.


As I started to sew she came closer, sitting beside me, just touching the quilt at the edges.


She gave it her best "I'm ignoring you" pose, acting as if she really wasn't interested in any old quilt. After all, quilts are all over the house, what's so special about this one? (Settling in a little closer.)

I asked her how I was supposed to get anything done if she was on the quilt. Her ears twitched back and forth in the "don't bother me" pose, which lead to full on relaxing in anticipation of a good nap!

Well, on this particular day the temperature was in the 80's with very high humidity. The quilt in my lap was hot enough but adding the lounging cat was more than I could take. All I needed now was a random hot flash and I be a gonner! I left her and the quilt in the comfy spot, with the lighting just so and everything within arms reach.  I got myself a big glass of iced tea to enjoy the rest of the baseball game leaving the sewing for another day.

Over the course of the next few evenings, as the Red Sox climbed higher up in the standings, the weather cooled considerably and I was able to finish the binding.  Alice never showed any more interest in the watermelon quilt!


Next up, the label.  Check back in, it'll be finished soon because the wedding is July 4th weekend!

In the meantime, do your pets enjoy your hobby as much as you do?