Wednesday, July 15, 2015

I've moved!

If you're reading this, please come visit me on my new website,! I have picked up the blog over there and I update it on a much more regular basis. Thanks!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

How to Bind a Quilt with Minky Fabric (and how to join binding ends)

Yes! It can be done!

Backstory: I made a t-shirt quilt for my daughter's school auction. It has shirts and plaid from uniforms. I really wanted to back this quilt in Minky, because I think it would make it even more appealing. But then, all I could think was how dull a plain cotton binding would be, especially from the back. So I was determined to figure out how to bind with Minky.

If you've not ever worked with Minky fabric, it's notoriously squirrelly. It's polyester, it's slippery, and it's stretchy width-wise. Many people hate even putting it on the backs of quilts. My solution to that is to use spray baste. If you pin baste, you will likely have problems because the backing could stretch and you might get puckers. However, if you spray baste, the batting acts as a stabilizer and the Minky doesn't stretch. My favorite spray baste is 505. It's not stinky like some of the others, and as long as you don't apply it too heavily, it doesn't gum up your needle. In fact, I spray it indoors and can't even smell it.

Oh, and though I quilt my quilts on a straight stitch machine, for this part I used my trusty Kenmore.

It only has 12 stitches!

I lowered my presser foot pressure down to zero and I lengthened the stitch length to about 3.

Anyway, I knew the typical double fold binding would not work with Minky. It was too stretchy, and the binding would be so bulky. After some experimenting, here's how I did it.

First, I cut my binding strips 1 3/4 inches wide. I joined them as you would a typical cotton binding. I was sure the keep the nap of the Minky going the same way.

I used a straight stitch to attach the binding to the back of the quilt. You'll see later why I chose to do this on the back. I forgot to take a photo here, but rest assured it's just like attaching any other binding, including at the corners. I did try to put it on so that when I was doing my final stitching, I would be sewing with the nap instead of against it. I attached it at about 3/8 inch, or the width of my walking foot.

I like to join my binding ends, so here's a little bonus tutorial! Be sure to leave a tail at the beginning of attaching your binding, as you probably do already. Then, when you approach the end, after you've sewn all the way around, leave another tail of about six inches, overlap the binding ends and trim your excess so that it's the same as the width you originally cut the binding. In this case, 1 3/4 inches. If you look closely, you can see the tail from the start of the binding peeking out right at 1 3/4 inches. Cut the end tail.

Overlap the ends like you would when making binding. You have to scrunch up the quilt to do this. It's awkward, to be sure.

 Pin in both directions and make a diagonal line from the corner of the top binding to the corner where the bottom binding meets the top. It should be a 45 degree angle. Again, just like joining binding strips.

Sew on the line.

This is what it should look like. Don't trim yet!

First, lay your quilt flat and make sure you didn't accidentally twist your binding when you joined it.

Okay, NOW you can trim your excess out of the binding seam allowance.

Now, if you've ever taken a class with me, you know that pinning is not my favorite thing. When I'm piecing, I rarely pin, unless I feel like I really need to. I think in general that pinning can distort things and make matching corners even harder. However, in this case? I pin. A lot.

Start sewing behind the point you stopped attaching your binding, backstitch, and slowly sew the rest of the binding on. Oh, yeah, I'm sewing over pins here. The truth is, if I'm using these pins, I sew over them fairly regularly. They're very fine. Because they're fine, the needle tends not to hit them. They're kind of expensive, but they are hands down my favorite. 

All done! No puckers!

Begin stitching from the front side. I used a three-step zigzag. I think it's much more secure than a regular zigzag. I simply ran my presser foot along the raw edge on the left.

At the corners, I stitched into the corner a bit, then took the quilt off the machine and folded the next side of the binding down to miter the binding.

That's it! I used a few pins to make sure I didn't get a pucker at the point where I approached the start of the zigzagging, but only about three. And because of the shape of the bit of Minky I had left over, it was even going cross-grain, which is the stretchy way! 

 So the reason I didn't sew the Minky onto the front of the quilt and zigzag from the back (like a typical binding) is that you can't quite tell what's happening on the back. For the most part, my back looks like this.

But in a few places, the zigzag ventured into the binding. 

If this had been on the front of the quilt, it would have been really noticeable. On the back, it's not so bad.

I hope this inspires you to use Minky for bindings some time!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

I'm official!

Big news: yesterday I officially registered as a business in the state of Wisconsin! Welcome to unSpooled! I still have to come up with a logo and website and EVERYTHING else, but it's a start!

My focus will be teaching quilting classes as well as making skating dresses. Also, I'll be traveling to North Carolina next month to become an official tuffet instructor! I'm so excited!

In the meantime, here are some skating photos! I made these teams' dresses! I'm hoping to do more synchronized skating dresses as well as individual skaters' dresses.

Madison Ice Diamonds Beginner 2:

Beaver Dam Beginner 1:

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Backings revisited

So remember in the last post where I said I'd talk about other backing topics? So here are some of my thoughts that aren't related to just figuring out the math.

T-shaped backs

I'm talking about backings that have two pieces of fabric running in one direction and another running perpendicular. Thusly:

I can tell you that longarmers hate T-shaped backs. This is because of the warp and weft (or crosswise vs. lengthwise grain of the fabric). There is a little bit of stretch in the weft (crosswise, that is, selvedge to selvedge) grain of the fabric. When a longarmer is loading a quilt onto the frame, she has to work against gravity. That gravity is pulling down on the backing, which isn't actually attached to anything but a couple of roller bars on her frame. This means that the backing may sag and if it's sewn together in a T shape as illustrated above, it will sag weirdly. So, if you're sending your quilt to a longarmer, skip the t-shaped backing. In fact, if I were sending mine off, I would piece the back as little as possible.

Wide backings

Wide backings are a popular choice, but keep in mind that they are often not made from the same high quality greige goods your regular quilt shop fabric is made from. So, wide backings can also be hard to square and they can be squirrely.


I also understand that longarmers aren't fans of using bedsheets as backings. this is because the thread count on sheets is often too high to easily quilt through.


This is the super soft, furry stuff that is so wonderful to touch. Longarmers don't seem to mind minky fabric on the back of quilts. Remember that quilting stitches will really disappear into your quilt if you use minky fabric on the back, so if you're wanting to highlight the quilting on the back, minky might not be your best choice.

Quilting at home

So all of the things above that I mentioned that longarmers aren't fans of? Well, they're often more do-able at home. If you're basting your quilt on a table or the floor, you don't have gravity working against you. And though I haven't used a sheet as a back before, once I scored a used duvet cover from Crate and Barrel for under ten bucks and used that as a backing and it was just fine. But, it wasn't really a sheet, and because it was Crate and Barrel, it was of reasonably high quality. 

A note about using minky: please don't use the yucky stuff they have at the discount fabric stores. That stuff feel okay (not as good as quilt shop Cuddle) but once you wash it, yuck. And contrary to popular belief, it isn't too bad to quilt with, as long as you use basting spray and not pins to baste. 

Happy quilting!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

How to figure out backing fabric requirements

I recently stumbled upon a question in a quilt group on Facebook asking, "How much fabric do I need to back a 6' x 8' quilt?" Instead of just giving an answer, I decided to write this post to teach her (and others) how to figure it out herself. Sort of a, "tell a quilter how much backing fabric she needs, help her with one project; teach a quilter how to figure it out herself, help her for all of her projects" situation.

The first thing to do is take those numbers in feet and change them to inches. Instead of 6' by 8', we need to think of it as 72" by 96". Quilting fabric usually comes in widths ranging between 40 and 44 inches. I'm going to assume 40, because it's better to have too much than too little.

If we double 40, we get 80. Since 80 is generously bigger than 72, she won't need to sew more than two widths of fabric together. So we know that we will need two times the longer dimension of the quilt, which is 96. So, if we double 96, we get 192 inches. Divide that by 36 (because there are 36 inches in a yard) and voila, we get 5.33 yards. Of course, because we don't want to have to be super precise, and because shops don't cut perfectly, and everything else, we need to increase that amount. So, I would advise her to buy 6 yards of fabric.

This method works with larger quilts, too. If your shortest dimension is 90, you would simply sew three lengths of fabric together using the longer length multiplied by three (along with -- no kidding here -- about another yard of fabric to allow for cutting, sewing, and shrinkage). 

Keep in mind that my method above is assuming she is doing her own quilting. If she is sending the quilt to a longarmer, she needs to add 8 inches to each dimension (most times the longarmer will describe this as "four inches on each side"). So in that case, we would be looking at a backing that needs to be 80 by 104. The 80 is okay in this case; we were assuming we would only get 40 inches of usable fabric when in reality we will probably get a little more. Plus, though I'm not a longarmer (and I don't even play one on tv), I think most can get by with a smidgin less than four inches all around. But we would still need to double the 104 number to come up with 208. Divide that by 36 and we get 5.778 yards. Personally, I'd probably still go with 6 yards, but if she wanted to be really safe, she could get 6 1/4 yards.

So, that wasn't too painful, was it? I'll talk about wide backings and T-shaped backings in another post.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Skating Dresses

Like I said in my last post, so much has happened in our lives since I was writing regularly. One of those things is that Molly has gotten involved in ice skating, and for the last year has been involved in Synchronized Skating (Synchro for short). Last year she was on the Beginner 1 team in Richmond. Here in Madison she'll be on the Beginner 2 team.

Well, let me tell you, skating dresses are expensive! So, being a sewer, I of course decided that I would just make my own. Here are some I've made so far:

First try. Not so hot. Also, too tight, and itchy!

Second dress. It's coming along!

Third dress. This one has a zipper!

Matching dresses for two skaters. This was for the holiday show.
A cross-top dress with an asymmetrical hem.

I'm getting there! The great news is that I'm making the dresses for her current synchro team! And there may be more in the works. I'm so excited I even bought a serger. It sure makes life easier!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Back in the Saddle, she said

Wow. It's been nearly a year. And the last year of posts was really bad. The truth is, I've been extremely overwhelmed. My dad died two summers ago (about a month after I posted about the new car and camper). We had to put Ollie down. And this past summer we moved (back) to Madison, Wisconsin.

Here's the deal. It's been so long that I'm just going to jump in as if I were never gone. Sound good? Great. Also, I'm going to try to be more useful in this blog and not just

blather on about what I'm making. That will start with the next post. In the meantime, here are some things I've done recently:

This is a sample quilt I did for an upcoming class at Quilt-agoius, a shop in Mukwanago, Wisconsin that deals exclusively with modern fabrics, including batiks and a good selection of Kaffe Fassett fabrics. 

The class is based on the book City Sampler/100 Modern Quilt Blocks by Tula Pink. The layout I did uses 70 blocks.

But lest you think that that is really way too big a project to make in a three session class (it is!), never fear. This is what we'll actually make in class:

But because I'm evil I'm not giving out the rest of the pattern until the end of class, when you'll be so hooked on making the blocks that you'll want to make a big one for yourself!