Saturday, January 25, 2020

Spend Time to Save Time - Basting

When I learned to sew in 4-H*, we were taught to baste our garment together by hand before sewing, be it on the machine or by hand. Being young and foolish, I decided I would rather do anything than baste. Thus, I wasted time ripping stitches out, re-doing them, only to rip again. When someone used the words “pin” basting, I thought I need never baste with needle and thread again. However, pin basting only works in certain instances.

A pin doesn’t bend easily. If it’s long enough to be effective it is too long, and if it is short enough to be effective, it’s too short. Plus, it snags the skin and lets blood flow into the fabric. A needle will prick the skin as well, but it is easier to control one needle than many pins.

The problem is: A pin is not a stitch, nor is a pin a thread and never will be. Nor is tape, glue or staples, although each of those have a purpose.

The tools for basting are simple:

A good needle with a round eye and contrasting thread. The size of the thread determines the size of the needle, as it must be able to pass through the needle’s eye. The thread would be fine enough to glide easily through the fabric, but not so fine as to allow the simple running stitch to slip out. Normally, I use a heavier weight basting thread than the sewing thread. It’s a judgment call and may need some trial and error on a sample of the fabric being used.

Avoid using an embroidery needle with an oblong eye. It’s designed for use with threads that are thicker than the needle. To pass through the longer narrow eye, the thread must be separated and flattened.

When basting, the needle compresses the fibers of the cloth, and the thread passes through. When removing basting an inch or so in front of hand sewing, you can see what looks like holes in the fabric. Unlike actual holes, they are spaces where the fibers have been pushed apart and will soon disappear.

Sometimes it’s helpful to use those “holes” to guide your stitches as you sew.
The thread is guided through the eye of the needle before it is ever cut from the spool. If the end of the thread has relaxed and frayed while on the shelf you can clip a bit off the end to give you a clean, sharp point. I’ve seen advice to stiffen the thread with clear nail polish or glue, but have never found any need for it.

The reason for threading the needle before cutting the thread is to be sure the “grain” of the thread is going in the right direction.  If you put a fiber, or a spun group of fibers under a microscope you will see that there is a distinct direction to it, like the point of a barbed arrow. One end will be smooth, the other with barbs. If you thread the needle “backwards” the barbs will push against the fabric, causing the thread to tangle and knot. If you’ve ever gotten a fishhook in your hand, you know to cut the hook off rather than try to pull it out. Thread manufacturers know this and wind the spool accordingly.

To knot, or not?

With basting, your stitches are temporary. Knotting the thread is optional, so long as it’s easy to remove. Consider if you will be working the final stitches on the right or wrong side: If I am basting for a hand stitched appliqué my knot will lie on the right side of the fabric where I can see it. If I will be stitching a seam with right sides together, the knot would be on the wrong side of the fabric. It only matters that the knot isn’t enclosed.

If I choose to leave the thread unknotted, I may take 2 long stitches, one on top of the other, to secure the end which is easily removed from either side. The stitches only need be long enough to get the scissors’ point underneath them for snipping, or to pull free of the fabric.
How long to cut the thread is also optional. The longer thread may need some careful handling to avoid tangles.

The process of the needle and thread passing through the fabric will twist the thread. A few stitches won’t make any difference, but if you see the thread twisting back on itself, roll the needle between your thumb and finger just enough to let the thread relax. Otherwise it will tangle and knot.

The length or pattern of your stitches
depends on the reason for basting.

For example, long stitches work well when basting the three layers of a quilt before actual quilting, or very thick fabrics.
Back basting to mark a needle turned appliqué calls for a tiny stitch on the wrong side of the fabric, and a stitch on the right side of the fabric that is about a quarter inch long. A tight curve may need a smaller right-side stitch, but the scissor’s point will still fit under it, for cutting.
Top basting is a series of stitches worked on the right side of the fabric: 2 – 3 straight stitches on the background with a small stitch that only bites the edge of the foreground fabric, followed by 2 – 3 more straight stitches in the background. Top basting is done when matching prints or plaids, or in curved piecing that will be machine stitched.

What determines effective basting?

The layers of fabric are held securely, while the piece remains flexible and able to withstand the handling of sewing without shifting or coming apart. Unlike pins, the sewing machine can stitch over, or even through it. It is easily removed when its purpose has been served.

A special “thank you” goes out to Connie Sue Haidle of Apple Blossom Quilts. Her YouTube demonstrations and Face Book group have inspired me to re-visit beautiful hand appliqué.

*4-H is a national educational organization in the United States dedicated to teaching the fundamental skills of agriculture, homemaking and consumer economics. Each state directs the program through a state college or university. The four “H”s stand for: Head, Heart, Hands and Health. Generally, teachers are local volunteers who are under the supervision of an agent of the state organization.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

On Creativity

For every obstacle, there is a way around...
                    The solutions are what we know as "creativity."

If you are alive, i.e. working, resting, playing, nourishing...
you encounter problems that become obstacles.

Those obstacles provide the opportunity to seek solutions. Sometimes
we get answers. But just any answer isn't necessarily the solution.

The commercial world dumps answers on us from every side.
Ask yourself: What is the question?
Then you seek to find the best fitting,
more effective application.

The simplest question has the most possible answers,
while complex questions are, by their nature,
more limiting by the parameters they impose.

It's true: Less is More!


Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Last post of 2019

Looking over my posting history, the first year I had this blog, I had posted 24 posts during the year, and not that much since then, except in 2017 with 40!

Just to have 24 posts for 2019, along with a resolution to post every 2 weeks in 2020 - I needed one more post:

Patience, a definition

Patience is a noun but sometimes you need a verb - what to do while being patient!

I prayed on it and got the answer:

Patience = Productive Preparation

Monday, December 30, 2019

To Illustrate the Construction Process of a Quilt

You have designed a quilt and made a worksheet.
 Now you want to illustrate how you constructed your quilt.

You can take an image that is drawn and colored on graph paper,
         copy it several times to have images to cut apart
         and paste down to a new piece of paper - or

You can save your image as a metafile (.EMF or .WMF), and
do it digitally.

I use Windows 10, thus save as .EMF - Mac users will save as WMF - 
                       I believe, correct me if I'm wrong. 
I work in Adobe Illustrator/Photoshop, but it can be with most photo editing
software, thus I will use the language of that program:

   provided me with instructions.

Select the image; right click; save as; and choose the file format
you will work in.

Once your image can be edited (i.e. bits are broken apart and
can be moved around, copied and pasted) you will open it in
your photo editing software.

I place the image on one artboard, then open another artboard
to hold the bits. When I have some of the bits put together,
(showing the construction of bits that will be joined and
made more than once) I can select those bits and "group"
them together, so they can be used as a single unit.

An image being edited. The grey units represent white in the quilt.
The background being white, I needed a contrasting color so it
would show up. The yellow square indicates a unit that has
been moved, for illustration purposes only.

The two parts of a half square triangle have not yet
been joined up, but have been moved to the
new page. The Corner Unit and Star unit
have been joined and grouped.

The Red Border indicates a unit of 3 that can be cut as 1,
saving time and fabric.

Now that you know just a little of all the work that goes into 
creating a pattern, you really won't mind spending all that money on 
a pattern someone has published, will you?

Friday, December 27, 2019

Drafting for the Creative Quilter, by Sally Collins - a Book Review

Front Cover

Drafting for the Creative Quilter

Author, Sally Collins

© 2010 by Sally Collins
Back Cover

C & T Publishing

Anyone who ever wanted to design their own quilts would benefit
from having Drafting for the Creative Quilter in their library.

Sally approaches drafting from the standpoint of graph paper, aka cross
section paper, pencils, rulers, and other drawing tools. However,
it is a simple transition to drafting digitally in a drawing or quilt

For her beautiful 36" Sedona shown on the back cover, Sally begins
with a classic: Carpenters Wheel. The Lemoyne Star is another of
her choices for creating new blocks from old patterns.

I have been drafting since taking a mechanical/architectural drawing
course in high school - 1961-62. Even so, Sally's instruction has
answered many questions regarding drafting quilt patterns, and enables
me to draw many geometric quilt patterns I see.

The book does not take the place of purchasing a quilt pattern, however.
There is much more to a good published pattern than the picture
of the quilt.

Colonial Comfort

Colonial Comfort

While learning to weave on a floor loom, I was introduced to
Colonial Overshot weaving and loved the geometric simplicity
and the use of only two colors: white linen, and navy blue wool.

It had long been a goal to design a quilt that expressed those
qualities, but was something that lay in the back of my mind.

Putting my blocks "On Point" was the final piece to the puzzle
when I drew my quilt with graph paper and pencil. The design
has more to be done to finesse it - but this is a start. There is no
pattern published as yet - perhaps in the future - meanwhile
if you wish you may take the idea and run with it, provided
that I am given credit for the original drawing, and you do
not sell any reproduction, or publication for profit of my design.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Fire Blossom

This is a quilt I designed in EQ 8 (a new toy). I use Microsoft Excel to plan patterns for folks who don't have EQ 8. My spreadsheet in Excel gets a screen print for sharing. I like the visual "recipe" for the quilt: no shipping, no downloads. The size of the pattern can be changed with borders, or by changing the size of the finished square. Remember that a 3" square is cut 3.5" for a quarter inch seam allowance. How much fabric to buy? Sorry - do the math. Here's how: Divide the width of the fabric by 3.5" to find how many blocks you get out of each strip. Half square triangles require more fabric than a simple square. If paper piecing the HSTs, I print squares on art pad tracing papers that are cut down to 8.5 x 11, and print them on my home printer.