Each of us has stories that are well worth sharing with others. There seems to be something almost magical about sharing those stories when sitting around a quilt with friends, either hand quilting or working together to complete the hand stitching of the binding.
A few weeks ago, three good friends helped arrange tables so that we could lay out a large quilt to complete it in preparation for the joy of presenting the quilt to a dear friend who had retired at the end of December. When we initially heard about the upcoming retirement, our little team of quilters mourned for a while, then we gathered our wits together and decided to make a quilt for friends to sign and present at a “Celebration” party for the retiree. What a joy the planning process turned out to be. One of our teammates suggested making a rail fence using batiks with colors ranging from lights to darks. The light strips could be where friends signed and wrote notes or memories. Kind of like “fishes and loaves.” When our team perused our stashes, we discovered that we had plenty of fabrics except for the dark strips, which required a trip to a quilt shop. Then we divided the fabrics, shared directions for cutting and stitching, and conquered by making blocks. A couple of teammates sewed blocks into rows, and rows into the top. Another teammate cut and stitched an inner border, and still another added the outer border.
Next, a dear long arm quilter helped select a lovely design of birds and butterflies that enhanced the top and turned the back into a beautiful fluttery design. The binding was machine stitched on the top, then four of us gathered around four tables to spend a wonderful morning hand stitching the binding on the back. A question like: “When did you begin sewing?” resulted in reaching back into our memory banks, telling about a mother, grandmother, or dear aunt who took us under their wings to teach us the ins and outs of needle and thread. One person began sewing in a 4-H club; another in Home Economics as a freshman in high school. As we hand stitched the binding on that quilt, we shared stories, adding to each other’s’ comments and experiences. There is so much value in sharing a process with others, working together to complete a project.
As the signature memory quilt was presented to our dear friend at her “Celebration” party, we shared in her joy as she read the signatures, best wishes, and memories. We also realized that we shared something of ourselves: perhaps a better understanding and appreciation of each other.
Please pardon the pun, and alliteration, but I love to play with words, fabric, threads, etc., etc. I just flat out love to play, don’t you? I have wonderful little girl memories of watching my parents rake fallen multi-colored maple and oak leaves in Ohio in the fall. Then, I would jump in the middle of the pile of leaves, scattering them over the newly raked yard. I also well remember walking home from elementary school savoring the crunch of those beautifully colored leaves under my saddle oxfords. Fast forward a couple decades later to my very own classroom of elementary school students as we collected colorful leaves to pin on our bulletin board bearing the title: “Leaf Through a Good Book.” Throughout our awesome autumn, we read, wrote, and illustrated stories about that special time of year when corn is harvested, hours of daylight become shorter, and animals begin gathering and hunting in preparation for a time of less abundance of food. I still have leaves to rake and magically turn into veggie-loving soil by composting them in what will become a springtime garden.
I love to leaf through good books and magazines at our local public library and my personal library at home. As a little girl, I got into (good) trouble reading under the quilts by flashlight when I was supposed to be sleeping. What in the world made me think that my parents could not see the shine of that flashlight under the covers?! Today, I have a stack of reading materials on the dressing table beside my bed to peruse before I turn out the lamp. There are so many good books and magazines of quilt making designs in so many genres from hand and/or machine applique and piecing, designs and instructions for various borders, children’s themed quilts, what to do with panels, small projects, table runners, gifts, alternative textiles such as wool, batiks, or cottons, threads and designs, rug hooking, needle felting, quilt history, whew……
At times, it seems that my books and various reading materials breed overnight. I have such a wonderful expanding collection, that I have turned them into design elements in my home and sewing studio. Thankfully, our coffee table has a bottom shelf, so I can stack and display the strikingly beautiful covers of my treasures on two levels, and rotate them whenever I dust. I stack them with spines facing outward and plop a lamp on top of my barristers shelves of more books. By taking over the guest room closet and adding more shelves for fabric, I am able to organize wool applique and rug hooking books and magazines in the hall closet, formerly known as the bathroom linen closet, near my wool and PHD’s (Projects Half Done). My cute Half Hoosier Cabinet, where I store my “secret stash” of treats and snacks, has just enough room next to antique cookie jars for books to stand up straight at attention like soldiers.
Books and magazines can also be arranged to serve as bookends for other books and magazines. I like to mingle my collection of old readers with my newer books about hand sewing and embroidery. As I pass by the collection, I am reminded of dear sweet Granny, who took me under her wings on her sofa when I was three years old and introduced me to the lifetime joy of the push and pull of a needle and thread through a dishtowel. I still love to work with my hands (except for doing dishes and cleaning bathrooms). Dear sweet Granny also planted the seed of “each one reach one and teach one” in my heart and soul. She inspired me to continue that tradition of sewing and helping others learn and appreciate the gift of handwork.
So, until the hours of daylight lengthen, perhaps one can turn attention to places for inspiration for projects for our wintry days, when gardens and flowers are resting and critters are snug in their burrows. A big pot of homemade soup will last for several meals, allowing one to spend less time cooking and more time leafing through some good books and magazines for ideas that will become the seeds for projects and inspiration. Leaf through a good book or two, or ten, and see what happens!
I love the peace and serenity of our back yard; serenaded by birds and the rustle of leaves in the trees, early in the morning before lawn mowers get cranked up. Even on gray rainy days, the sound of raindrops on the roof provides a sense of peace and tranquility while I sip morning coffee and stay snug and dry under the extended roof over the back porch. I look up from my hand stitching when Sable and Sadie race and chase after squirrels that they will never catch, as those annoying little fluffy- tailed critters leap from tree to tree, taunting our furry little girls.
Making quilts for children also provides a wonderful sense of peace and fulfillment for me. A dear friend and I love to make charity children’s quilts. There are children in need, and we want to help provide the comfort of a quilt for as many children as we can. Debbie has a very large sewing room at her house, so she cuts the tops and backings, layers with batting, pin-bastes the layers together, and marks a diagonal grid with Roxanne’s marking pencils for machine quilting. She passes the quilts to me and I machine quilt and stitch the binding to the top. Debbie and I hand stitch the folded edge of the French fold bindings while binge-watching streamed TV in the evenings.
I love the process of doing something (except for the process of vacuuming and dusting.) I need a bumper sticker that tells the person behind me that “I would rather be sewing,” or “I would rather be shopping for fabric.” What would you rather be doing? What would your bumper sticker say about you?
Back to enjoying process…
I find that machine quilting the grid on these children’s quilts is so peaceful. Most of the tops are whole cloth, 36” x width of fabric, although some are lap size larger. Debbie creatively and artistically extends panels and darling children’s prints for tops by piecing, adding borders, turning plain-Jane fabrics into something fun for a child. Debbie is also a master at piecing scraps and strips together to make the bindings. Piece by piece, we hope to provide comfort and peace for children. This process provides a sense of peace for us as well. As I machine quilt the layers, I sometimes listen to audio books borrowed from our local library. At other times, I listen to music on my laptop. And sometimes, I simply savor the peace and quiet of the hum of my machine.
The peace acquired by hand stitching bindings is enhanced by the newest John James Signature Collection Needles from Colonial Needle Company. I had an opportunity to try the John James Signature Collection Milliners, size 10, for needle turn applique, one of my passions. What a joy! This needle is so sharp and glides so smoothly—easily piercing the turned edge of fabric rather than pushing or distorting it, which provides more accuracy and much greater ease of stitching. These needles are so user friendly that some of my “I don’t do hand applique” friends may even take up the art, joy, and passion of hand applique.
Threading the new John James Signature Collection Milliners, size 10, with Presencia 60-weight thread was also easy. Presencia 60 weight thread is 3-ply, long staple, so very strong while also very fine, perfect for hand applique and hiding those stitches. The length of this John James Signature Collection Milliners also made it perfect for swooping under and turning the seam allowance. One more thing I highly recommend is using two Needle Grip-Its to more easily grip the needle. Adhere one to your forefinger and one to your thumb tip on the hand with which you grip the needle. The repeated motion of gripping and pulling a needle can result in pain in hands and fingers over time. These great grips enable me to stitch for hours pain-free, also adding to my peace of mind whether I am doing hand applique or hand stitching a binding on a quilt.
One more thing…
I also tried stitching bindings with the newest John James Signature Collection Sharps, size 10. What a joy to easily pierce the backing, glide through the batting, and pierce upward to catch the fold of the binding. These needles are also strong, sharp, glide easily, and enhance my time of peace and quiet while listening to the sounds of chirping birds or a best seller book, peaceful music or the sound of silence. I’m eager to try these new John James Signature Collection Needles on hand piecing, too.
The process of sewing and creating is both peaceful and exciting for me. I enjoy the doing part of a project, not just the finished product. Using the best tools enhances both the process and the product. I highly recommend these new John James Signature Collection Needles. Just when you thought needles could not get any better ~ they did, they do, and they are!!
I have my parents’ hands and hearts, and for that I am so grateful. My parents’ work with their hands was so connected to their hearts. As I observe and listen to others during these last several months, I am convinced that those who quilt, embroider, knit, crochet, sew or do any kind of handwork do so with a connection of their hearts and hands. During this time of so much uncertainty and concern, many people are pulling together, reaching out with their hearts and hands to help others.
My parents grew up during the time of the Great Depression in Appalachia, a place of great natural beauty, but also great poverty. “Make do or do without” was an expression that defined their daily lives. Times were tough, and so were they. But their hard, laborious work done by hand, also produced soft hearts that reached out willingly to their family, friends, and neighbors.
My mother taught me to sew by hand at an early age on a dishtowel, to mend and sew on buttons, and to fashion clothes for a rag doll from her quilt scraps. I grew up with quilts made from left overs of clothing, pieced and quilted by hand. I remember going to the feed store before entering first grade with my mother to hopefully find enough feed sacks of the same print to make a new dress for my first day of school. Today, those feed sacks are quiltmakers’ collectors items, treasured as much as my new dress in the 1940’s. The feed sacks were chosen and stitched lovingly by my mother’s hands and heart.
My dad instilled in me the pleasure of fixing things instead of tossing aside and buying something new. My dad never had a brand-new car, but I well remember helping him bleed brakes, set the gap of spark plugs, and mend the fence for the chicken’s pen. I still have a strand of braided twine from a feed sack that my dad gave me. He saved the chain-stitched closure on each feed sack. I remember watching him braid three strands together, while sharing with me the lesson of how much stronger we are when we work together. My dad never saw a stranger, always willing to help when and where help was needed.
My quilting friends today are also an example of how individuals work with their hands and hearts to help others. Quilters used their skills and problem-solving abilities to be some of the first to make face masks when it was learned how helpful they can be. They dug into their scraps and stashes to provide fabrics once intended for quilts, table runners, wall hangings, or gifts for others to make and give away face masks, the work of their hands and hearts. They designed a variety of face coverings, some using elastic for ear pieces and others strips that tied the masks in place. Quilters readily shared ideas about what worked best for them. Designs were modified and masks were made for children using colorful and fun prints. And, all the time and efforts on the part of quilters has been freely given using the work of their hands and their hearts to help others.
I firmly believe that we are always being prepared for a turn or fork in the road, or a diversion that allows us to use our individual gifts and talents. Amid so much concern during the last several months, quilters have been using their experiences, gifts, and talents and the work of their hands and their hearts, turning time spent at home and their resources at hand to help others. What a joy to be able to use the lessons learned at an early age from my parents to use my hands and heart as a source of joy and fulfillment.
ROXANNE’S GLUE TIP
I was pressing a 2 1/2” strip for a bias binding using a dry iron, being careful to not stretch the strip out of shape. With steam, I can turn a fat quarter into nearly a half yard. I noticed Roxanne’s Glue Stick in a pretty little container while waiting for the heat of the iron to create a sharp crease in the fold of the binding strip. Then a light bulb went off in my head! I gently swiped the Glue Stick across the wrong side of the binding strip near the cut edge, and gently nudged the other cut edge over to match.
Then I pressed down firmly, not ironing back and forth. A smooth, flat, stable bias resulted! Hmmmm….wonder if that will help prevent the “bubble” that rises up ahead of my walking foot when I machine stitch binding to the right side of my quilt? A walking foot is so helpful when machine stitching a binding to a quilted project, but I still must frequently stop, lift the presser foot, give a tug front and back on the binding, flatten the binding in place, stitch a few inches, and repeat the process. So, over to my machine to do a field test. BINGO!!!! So much smoother, easier, quicker, and neater! Wonder if it will work on binding that is cut on the straight of grain, cross grain?
Back to my ironing board to glue and press straight and cross grain strips. Stitched the binding in place for a few inches, and BINGO again!! The top layer of cross grain binding stayed in place!!
No “bubble”! I do like bubbles, but not on my bindings. Thank you, Roxanne’s Glue Stick!!
MAKING MASKS MORE EASILY WITH ROXANNE’S GLUE STICK!
I began making masks when our
lives changed in a heartbeat due to the Covid-19 virus. When I feel helpless,
even hopeless at times, I have to DO something productive. The word was put out
in our neighboring communities that hundreds of masks were needed, asap, or
I perused the internet,
emailed, and talked with friends about how to make a face mask. Most mask
instructions called for 1/4” elastic to hook around the ears, and interfacing
to place inside, or a two-flap pocket on the wrong side of the mask for extra
protection. Having neither elastic nor interfacing, and not wanting to wait for
a delivery, I made a prototype mask with two, 2” width of fabric cut ties for
each side of the mask. I located a 1” bias tape maker among my drawer of
notions. You do NOT have to cut fabric on the bias to successfully run it
through a bias tape maker.
I began by cutting and stitching
two 6” x 9” rectangles of 100% cotton along the long sides, right sides
together. I turned them right side out and pressed. I pinned a template to my
ironing board that was 4 1/4” x 9” for pressing two lengthwise pleats in the
mask. My first attempt with three pleats was too bulky and time consuming, and
two pleats worked just as well.
For my prototype mask, I decided to make a simple pocket for the back of the mask so that either a coffee filter cut to size or folded sheet of paper towel could be inserted for greater protection. I did not want to create too much bulk in the mask by making two overlapping flaps in the back. I cut a 4 1/2” x 9” rectangle of 100% cotton muslin, pre-washed and dried, the finished size of the mask, to make one light-weight pocket. At my ironing board, I pressed under 1/4” along each 9” side, then an additional 1/2” on one of those sides. Pressing alone did not hold down those narrow hems well, so Roxanne’sGlue Stick to the rescue! I ran the glue stick along the wrong side where hems would later be stitched, then pressed with a hot dry iron. I then top stitched the ½” hem in place—much easier than pressing and stitching hems.
The two layers of mask were stitched, now to stitch the pocket to the back. Roxanne’s Glue Stick to the rescue again! I ran the glue stick along one 9” length of the back of the mask, placed the 1/4” hem on top, wrong side of muslin to back of mask, pressed, and then back to my sewing machine to stitch in place.
I ran one tie strip of 100% cotton, pre-washed and dried, through the bias tape maker, pressing with a hot dry iron, and folding under the lengthwise raw edges of fabric. To make a narrow tie, I still needed to fold over the strip again, lengthwise down the middle and press. To mark the middle of the strip for insertion of the mask, I folded the strip crosswise and marked 3” on either side of the middle with aRoxanne’s Marking Pencil. At my sewing machine, I opened the long tie strip, and ran Roxanne’s Glue Stick several inches down the middle, then stitched closely to the folded edges. When I came near the middle of the strip, I pressed the Glue Stick to the pleated edges of the mask, positioned the mask inside the strip, and top stitched the tie on each side of the mask pleated ends. Roxanne’s Glue Stick made stitching at the machine so much easier and more accurate.
That worked so well, that I tried a modification of my prototype mask. For the ties, at the ironing board, after pulling the strip through the bias tape maker and pressing, I marked the center of the tie, half way between the ends, with a Roxanne Marking Pencil, and about 3” on either side, where the mask will be inserted and stitched. Then I ran the Glue Stick from one tie end to the first 3” mark, folded the strip, and pressed with a hot dry iron. This secured both sides of the tie for machine stitching. About 6” down, I ran the Glue Stick to the opposite tie end, folded over and pressed. So, I could either glue as I stitched at the machine, or glue at the ironing board. Both methods work well.
Roxanne’s Glue Stick is one of my favorite tools and my very favorite glue. It goes on clear, so no worry about the color of glue fading through fabric to the right side or showing up at a later time. It glides across fabric like the ice skater I wish I was. Pressing with a hot iron adheres fabric to fabric quickly and securely. Roxanne’s Glue Stick does NOT gum up my sewing machine or get the needle sticky. These masks are meant to be washed following every use, and Roxanne’s Glue Stick is washable.
One more important thing: pre-wash
your fabric, for two good reasons.
You want to make
sure that the fabric is as clean as possible to help prevent the spread of the
the mask will more readily return to its shape, not shrink out of shape.
And finally: Presencia 50-weight is the best thread for machine and hand sewing. It is virtually lint free, so your machine will love it and you. It is 3-ply, which means it is strong and great for construction and top stitching. We want these masks to be washed frequently and hold up well.
We have a need, and that need
can more readily be filled by using your gifts, skills, talents, and sewing
machines to make masks. Not only do you provide a barrier of safety for
yourself and others, but you participate in a worthwhile project that can be
done while nesting at home.
It is the end of January, and I have already broken, amended, and forgotten most of the New Year’s resolutions I made. That is nothing new. However, using one of the best new tools of the quilters’ trade, Roxanne’s Glue Stick has stuck with me (pardon the pun).
Roxanne’s Glue Stick has so
many wonderful qualities. To begin with, it adheres quickly and well. I love
the process of making a project, quilt, table runner, mug rug, etc. However,
sometimes I have a deadline, dear hubby is down to his last clean pair of
socks, there is enough dog hair on the floor to make another 4-legged critter,
and it’s time to prepare lunch while breakfast dishes are still drying. So, I
need a product that is efficient and helps me cross off some of the things on
my To Do List for the day. I do not like to sit around waiting for glue to
stick, the way dear hubby waits around for paint to dry.
Roxanne’s Glue Stick helps me to be more efficient with my time, and complete the many baby quilts on which I am working that need bindings and labels. I stitch French fold bindings to the backing layer of baby quilts, then press the binding away from the quilt.
Next, I turn the quilt to the top side, and press the binding fold just over the stitching line, about a 10” length of binding at a time. It glides on sooo smoothly, another great attribute.
Then, with a hot dry iron, I press the binding fold over the cut edges of the quilt to just cover the stitching line again – continue applying glue and pressing the binding around the quilt.
Works so well when you get to the mitered corners, too. Then hand or machine stitch.
Roxanne’s Glue Stick does not
gum up your hand or machine needle, making hand or machine stitching a breeze. When
pressing my binding and label with an iron, the glue is dry right away, and hand
or machine needles will not be gooey. I certainly do not want to gum up the
innards of my sewing machine which I baby as much as my car. The fabric is easy
to pierce with a needle when the glue is dry. I also recommend John James Gold
n’ Glide Applique needles for hand stitching.
At times, I need to
reposition fabric after using Roxanne’s Glue Stick. This can easily be done. I
glued a label, pressed, and then discovered it was in the wrong corner. I just
lifted a corner and peeled back the label. The same was true for a section of
binding that I positioned in a wonky way. Fabric is not steel; it stretches and
eases in. The glue also washes out, leaving no residue.
Roxanne’s Glue Stick is soooo
easy to use. It glides smoothly over fabric, does not lump or clump. The glue
is clear, so I do not have to be concerned about color from the glue stick
fading through to the right side of fabric when using for applique. I use a
task light directly over my work, and can see a shine of the glue where I place
Since Roxanne’s Glue Stick is a “new” product, introduced at Houston International Quilt Market last fall, I am eager to use on projects that are currently taking back seat to my baby quilts. But making baby quilts is so much fun, and they provide so much comfort for little ones. However, using Roxanne’s Glue Stick to quickly hem dear hubby’s new jeans will allow me to check “hem jeans” off my To Do List, and get back to the joy of making baby quilts!