Thursday, June 29, 2017

A Pretty Pinwheel Quilt for a Windy Summer's Day

It's the middle of summer! A time I get to finish a few quilting projects. One of them is a fresh Vintage Pinwheel quilt top I found antiquing...

I'm not sure what the original quilter was thinking when she pieced her blocks. If you'll look closely, she got a few turned the wrong way. Don't you love those inconsistencies?! For one thing, it makes me feel better someone else has bobbles when quilting. And for another, it adds charm. I just think she turned her triangle template over to the wrong side one too many times when transferring the markings. Nowadays, we have more streamlined methods to make this process more accurate as well as efficient. Also, her borders are a bit wavy, and one block is quite a bit bigger than all the others which makes the quilt pull to one side, but such are the challenges in quilting any quilt, and things to look for if you're in the business.

I've added a Kona Cotton border to this antique top to match the original 'screaming yellow' fabric because l) I think it needed it and 2) I want to use it on a queen-sized bed. Most of the quilts from this (30s-40s) era were full-sized. It loads well, even though I had to take extra time to square up the side that was affected by the oversized block.

It's such a large quilt after sewing the borders on that I had to reposition my computer keyboard as far as I could to make room for quilting. Which reminds me to mention I disengaged the computer for the quilting on this quilt. Reason being is that occasionally I get the hankering to quilt entirely hand-guided.  Note that I've pre-marked the border spine before loading, which takes time, but after loading you're ready to rock and roll.

Here I'm demonstrating my choice in marking pens, the Dritz "Mark Be Gone" blue water-soluble maker. I also use air-solubles, but knew this project was going to take a while and did not want the markings to disappear before I could get the areas quilted. The caution is that with either marker, you're putting chemicals into the fabric, and they always need to be removed or you risk a chance of heat triggering the marks to reappear, and - horrors! - set permanently. 

Always remove chemicals after quilting by dunking the quilt in a clothes washer or putting it through a gentle cycle. I insert this caution on my quilt labels, to include "Always air dry your vintage or contemporary quilts - never use a clothes dryer". I'm asked sometimes if there is a certain 'order' to quilting; center and work out, border first, left to right? First and foremost is stabilizing the quilt by basting it entirely. Then working from the top of the quilt, quilt outside in, left to right. So, the border is first...

Some progress on the feathered border. For 'perfect' feathers, I quilt one side at a time.

I've quilted as much of the border within my throat depth as possible. Now I'm ready to quilt through the center of the quilt before I advance and continue. This picture seems rather dark but was taken with the intension of the shadows revealing the quilting, which is better than a total wash-out with the light bar on. That being said, sometimes I also quilt using real daylight so I can see the effects of the quilting. 

At this point, I stop and audition designs for the quilt center using plastic and a wet erase marker. (Caution: wet erase markers are NOT for use on fabric. I store them in a drawer away from all my fabric markers). Here I'm using a plain old fabric ruler because it's handy. I'm auditioning different types of feathers within the pinwheel triangles. Once I have picked one, I practice several times to get it down in the brain.
I also try out feather arrangements in the white strips of fabric in between the pinwheel blocks. These strips help 'float' the pinwheel blocks, with the exception of yellow squares within the strips. Odd pattern but...I like a challenge! After some trial and error, I figure it out and design the quilting 'pattern' with my wet-erase-on-ruler method. 

The design looks swell on fabric! Now to file my wet erase marker safely away in the drawer...

It's taken quite a few days to be able to take this photo of the last row of pinwheel blocks! It almost makes me sad, because truly, I love to quilt feathers. It's a good thing, huh?!

Once your markings are on the fabric it's best to remove them ASAP. You'll note the sun is beaming through my studio windows, and while it's great for a cheerful mood, prolonged heat will set markings, permanently (have I said that before?!). I never rinse out markings in an unfinished quilt.  So this one was trimmed, bound (by hand to the backing) and washed in the same week. 

I love every aspect of quilting! Just about every quilt receives a hanging sleeve because my quilts are vain and like to be viewed from the walls of my home from time to time. They're rotated for viewing, and when not being used, they rest for a season by being rolled and stored in the top shelf of my bedroom closets. They're never folded unless I take them to a trunk show.
This quilt had its binding machine-sewn onto the front, and hand-sewn to the backing.

I was able to take only one shot of the finished project today. It was windy - a perfect day for a pinwheel quilt - but once I got the quilt hoisted, it acted like a sail on a boat and everything was blown away, quilt hanging system and all! 

You know what I think? I think the pinwheels on this unfinished quilt had been dormant for so long, that once they got the wind in their sails, they couldn't help but take off!

I hope you get some wind in YOUR sails and finish at least one project this summer.  Call me if you need help completing it!