Saturday, February 27, 2010

Siggy Tutorial with Homemade Positioning Template

This tutorial explains how to make a signature block easily, using a simple positioning template you can make yourself. Decide how many siggies you want to make and cut out that same number of 3.5" squares of muslin fabric. You can get about 110 centers from one yard of muslin.
Cut twice as many 4" squares of patterned fabric and cut them in half once diagonally. You can get about 90 squares from one yard of fabric, which is enough for 45 blocks.
To make the template, use your quilting ruler to draw the two outer vertical parallel lines 3.5" apart. The length of the lines isn't critical, mine are about 3" long. Connect the two lines with a horizontal line about 1" away from the edge of the plastic. Mark two dots in line with the connector, about 1-1/16" to either side of the vertical lines. Draw a center line parallel to the vertical lines dividing the space exactly in two, 1-3/4" from either line. Make this center line about 4" long. Place a mark on this line a bit more than 2-3/4" down from the connector. Finally, mark 2 lines 1/4" in from each of the vertical lines, from the connecting line to the edge of the plastic.
I drew the positioning lines directly on the plastic template, then taped a piece of paper to the back so the lines would show up better. You could also draw the lines on paper; the plastic is just more durable.
This is how to use the positioning template: Place a triangle right side up on the template along the connecting line, with a point on either dot. Make sure the tip of the triangle lines up along the center line. Here you can see the mark you made on the center line; it should be pretty close to the tip of the triangle.
Hold the triangle in place with your baby finger and forefinger while you place the muslin center on the triangle.
Carefully align the muslin between the outer two vertical lines. The edges of the two fabrics should meet along the connecting line. Ignore the inner vertical lines for now.
Rub the two fabrics together a little to get them to meld with each other. Pile them gently to the side near your sewing machine. They stay together pretty well, especially if you are gentle and don't flip them over.
Inspect the edges of each pair to make sure they are closely aligned, then chain sew the pairs together. I always start and end sewing on a bit of waste fabric. This avoids thread nests on the siggies and keeps all the long thread tails on the waste fabric. Raise and lower the presser foot between each pair to keep the seam a nice 1/4". Don't rush! Slow and steady wins the race.
When all your pairs have been sewn, finish sewing with the waste fabric, then snip the pairs apart. Line the pairs up on the ironing board triangle side up. This way the seams will be ironed towards the darker fabric. Iron with right sides together first to meld the seams. I always use a dry iron, no steam.
Finger press a seam, then iron it, making sure to get a clean seam. Normally I let the iron sit on the previous pair while I finger press the next pair. I don't worry too much about ironing the ends perfectly, but I am careful to get a nice clean open seam. I hate it when the patterned fabric gets sewn in with a tiny fold next to the seam. Yuck!
To sew the second corner on, place a triangle on the template exactly the same way as before, with the tips on the dots along the connecting line and the point on the center line at the mark.
Attach the opposite corner by placing the sewn pair on the triangle face down. The unsewn edge of the muslin should line up between the outer two vertical lines and along the connecting line just as it did for the first corner. Continue to ignore the inner two vertical lines.
Chain sew the opposite corners to the sewn pairs using waste fabric to start and end your seam. Snip the sections apart and line them up for ironing with the original corner face up and near you. Meld the seams, then finger press and iron each seam.
The sections should look like this when they are all ironed:Begin to attach the third corner by placing a triangle on the template exactly as you did for the other two corners, tips to dots along the connecting line, with the point on the center line at the mark.
Now it's time to use those inner vertical lines that we have been ignoring until now. Align the seams with the inner vertical lines, while still matching the edges along the connecting line. Here is my husband carefully holding up the tips of the existing corners so you can see how they line up with the inner vertical lines.
This set is perfectly positioned and is all ready to be gently lifted up and set aside.

Here you can finally see the waste fabric I mentioned. Chain sew all the sections with the seams facing upwards so you can be sure they lay properly while being sewn. Snip the sections apart and line them up for ironing with the new corner face down and away from you. Meld the seams, then finger press and iron each seam. Here is a section with three corners sewn on. When properly positioned and sewn, the outer edges of the corners should be very smooth. This one is turning out pretty good.
This one isn't quite so good. See how the right edge is a little bit off. It's not perfect, but it is plenty good enough since the edges will all be trimmed before they are made into a quilt.
For the final corner, begin the exact same way, with the triangle positioned as shown.
Lay the section on top of the triangle, using the inner vertical lines as a guide for the seams as before. Match the edges along the connecting line.
Chain sew all the sections with the seams facing upwards so you can be sure they lay properly while being sewn. Keep using that waste fabric and remember to raise your presser foot so you can slide the next section up close to the needle; taking these little pains really makes a difference in your final product.
Snip the sections apart one last time, then line them up for ironing with the new corner face down and away from you. Meld the seams, then finger press and iron each seam.

The final product, all ready to be stamped and signed.

International Siggy Swap - Annelies Hofstede and Illene Tiziani

I got two more lovely siggies this week. The first is from Annelies Hofstede in Holland. I am so impressed with the workmanship of these siggies. All that blanket stitch applique, and so well done too! (All I do is stamp and sign mine; I may have to upgrade.) Annelies is the mother of 3, and proud grandmother of 4. She quilts a great deal and loves butterflies and tulips.

This lovely siggy is from Illene Tiziani in Fish Creek ,Victoria, Australia. Fish Creek is about 100 miles southeast of Melbourne, almost on the coast straight across from Tasmania, where so many of my favorite bloggers reside. I love this tropical fabric. It's very warming to me here in the middle of the worst Texas winter I can remember in 25 years! (Whatever happened to 72F and sunny?) And yes, Illene, though it is probably perfectly clear to you by now that you guessed correctly; I am that Susan in Texas. 8)

Friday, February 19, 2010

International Siggy Swap - Stanislava Simon

Stanislava's siggy is my first siggy from Croatia.  I first heard from Stanislava after she sent my former Secret Pal a siggy.  Terry posted about it here and I left a comment on Terry's blog wishing that I had one like it, only with an "S" for Susan.  Stanislava contacted me to say that she had sent me a siggy before she read my comment!  Now the siggy swap list has hundreds of names on it, so even if she was just swapping with US swappers, that's still an amazing coincidence.
I realized once again that geography is not my long suit when I googled Varazdin, Croatia.  Not only had I never heard of Varazdin before, I was even a little fuzzy on just where Croatia is, though I knew it used to be part of Yugoslavia.  I determined that Croatia is around the coast from Italy, near Venice.  Varazdin is a small city northwest of Zagreb, about midway between Venice and Budapest.  Stanislava lives near the border with Slovenia, and apparently within walking distance of the Davra River, one of the main rivers in that part of the world.  I also saw that Croatia's western sea border, opposite Italy is called the Dalmatian Coast.  Do you suppose that's where the dogs come from?

Before I sign off today, I just wanted to say how saddened I was by Monday's terrible train wreck in Belgium.  My heart goes out to my fellow bloggers there, and to everyone touched by this horrible tragedy.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

February Finish - "First Steps" in Yellow, Blue & White

I finished my second "First Steps" baby quilt of the year, maybe I should just call it "Second Steps". 8)
They have the same plush pink backing, which I love, though the pink embossed stars seem to disappear a little bit in the wash. Well, it WAS much cheaper than actual Minkee. 8)

I've already washed the one (left) that I finished in January. It only shrunk up about 1/2", but what a big difference that makes, I think. The unwashed yellow one looks very different to me.
I'm completely out of this striped binding fabric now, I'll have to bind the toddler in waiting with something else. ;) After that, I'll only have one more "First Steps" top left. That one is going to get a backing of really pretty turquoise Minkee. Then I'll only have one quilt top left. I'll have to start actually quilting again!
This year I'm planning to make quilts out of my stash based on what backing fabric I already have. Otherwise it never fails that I use up a bunch of scraps for the top, then have to buy lots of the perfect backing fabric to finish it off. I end up with LOTS more scraps than I started with. Anyone else ever have this problem, or is it just me? lol

Friday, February 12, 2010

Record Snowfall - Most Ever in Fort Worth

Yesterday we got 9 inches of snow, the most ever in 111 years of recorded weather history in Fort Worth. It started snowing Wednesday night and snowed all day Thursday. We woke up this morning to a completely snow-covered world.

The trees spread out enormously under the weight of all that snow. It was very sticky and created fancy shapes on the collection of empty pots that lives on the back porch. Later in the morning I noticed the trees in our front yard were simply FILLED with robins. (middle left) There must have been 30 robins sitting in the two trees. I've never seen more than 3 in one place before. Also, something came to visit later (lower middle), perhaps a cat?

Here's a link to our snowy slideshow.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

February Bee - Lots of Industry

I hosted the February Blanketeer Bee at my house again on Sunday. It was well attended and we got lots of stuff done. 8) Here are Brandy (l) and Jonquele (our newest member) sewing steadily. We were very cozy, I probably should have put the leaf in the table. It's so nice to finally get some use out of the dining room! It was by far the least used room in the house before the bees started up last year.

Here is Sheila hard at work and Virginia in the kitchen. I really like how everyone is getting to feel more at home here. Of course, I want everyone to feel comfortable, but it's also so much less work for me if everyone helps themselves to what they need. 8) That's my latest finish bundled up in front of the near sewing machine. You might recognize it, since it looks very much like my last finish. I'll be really glad when all six of my "First Steps" are quilted and bound!

We had a project day two weeks ago where Rhonda showed us how to make these cute little sailboat blocks, and wouldn't you know? My camera was dead as a doornail that day. Here are Rachel, Virginia and Jonquele holding up some of the blocks. I don't know if the yellow boat belongs to Jonquele or Rachel, but I know that Virginia made the red boat she's holding. Jessica, another new member, (Yeah!) dropped off the two blocks on the ends. Everyone "planned" to finish their blocks before the bee, but a number of blocks were actually finished at the bee. ;) But not by Sheila, she was on a binding tear! She bound not ONE,
not TWO,
but THREE darling little quilts. (And she did it in the time it took me to get 3/4 of one quilt bound one ONE side. I'm very slow!) Of course, Sheila was quick to point out that they were "all pinned already and just had to be sewn", but the rest of us thought it was pretty amazing. Sheila is definitely our "Little Engine that Could"!
I had thought (hoped) that we would get around to putting together the neglected Quilt of Valor. I had it all ready to go in the next room, but we got to sewing and gabbing, and, you know, time REALLY flies when we're sewing and gabbing, so there it sits for another day.
Virginia offered to come over and help decide how the blocks should placed. Thanks, Virginia! 8) I keep forgetting how pretty it is; I think it's going to be really lovely when it's all done.
The food was extra good (and plentiful) at this bee too. Virginia made the same scrumptious white chocolate chex mix that Sheila had brought to the project day. Jonquele surprised us with a delicious razzle-berry pie, and I splurged on a chocolate ganache cake. No one should ever go hungry at one of our bees. 8)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

International Siggy Swap - Nell Benton

I got this "international" siggy from Nell Benton in Manassas, Virgina. Manassas was the site of two very signifant battles in the Civil War, the first and second Battles of Bull Run, both of which were major defeats for the Union Army. Interestingly, Nell has chosen one of her favorite presidents (and mine), Abraham Lincoln, to decorate her siggy. Now Manassas 1 & 2 must have been one long nightmare for President Lincoln, but thankfully, he persevered through the early dark days of the war and preserved the Union for us in the end. I think her two-colored stamp is lovely, and her use of Civil War reproduction fabric inspired. Thanks, Nell!

Monday, February 1, 2010

English Garden Sampler Cross Stitch Project

Last year, at the beginning of the One Project a Month Challenge, I decided that 2009 was the year I would finish Teresa Wentzler's English Garden Sampler. It was already about 2/3's complete, so I broke the remaining task into 12 "do-able" chunks, wrote them neatly on a piece of paper, and never ever touched it again. Ever. Not even once.

Now, a normal person would be disheartened by this. Not me! I declared 2010 the year I would finish TW's EGS. By golly, I would make another list, because that part was a really good idea!!! Then guess what happened? I found last year's list; and it was still perfectly good. It's a sign (I know, me and my "signs" lol) so I decided to share it with you.
  1. Jan - Everything straight across to bottom of topiaries, except (peacock) head
  2. Feb - Whitework
  3. Mar - Bird head and body and left side (border) down to bottom of whitework
  4. Apr - Fonts and right side (border) down to bottom of whitework
  5. May - Tail (peacock) and tops of pillars
  6. Jun - Gate and left side (border) to bottom of bird
  7. Jul - Upper shrubs
  8. Aug - Grasses and right side (border) to bottom of bird
  9. Sep - Numbers and sides (borders) to circles in corners
  10. Oct - Bottom (border)
  11. Nov - Pulled work
  12. Dec - Beading
Yep, that would get 'er done, as they say in Texas. I just have to hop to it! I have this perfectly comfortable place to stitch:
All I need is continued motivation and a little accountability. So every month I'm going to post an update here to let you know how I'm doing. Please remind/harass me if I "forget". ;) Last night I sat down and stitched for several hours, but I still didn't finish January's goal. I'm going to try to catch up in February. I'll keep you posted.