Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Self-Printed Quilt Labels

Here's a quick tutorial for printing quilt labels with an ink jet printer at home with regular fabric.  I fall back on this approach when I don't have any commercial printer ready fabric or when I want to use quilt fabric.  I think I learned how to do this from Caryl Bryer Fallert many years ago in a fabric printing workshop she taught for my shop.

It's simple but there are a few tricks for success.

This weekend, I finished the twelfth block for my version of Pamala Jo Designs Whirly Weeds 2023 Sewalong and I have a vision for a wallhanging but I want to label all the plants featured on the blocks.

I want them to be printed legibly on fabric that blends with the background prints and the easiest way to do that is create a Word document that I can print directly onto fabric.  I love having all those fonts to choose from and I can play around with the font size!
As you'll see, you can play around with ink color, too!
  The document is the easy part!  

To prepare the fabric, I use spray starch or Best Press to stabilize it - this helps keep it flat in the printer and helps keep the printer ink from bleeding out.  Then iron two layers of freezer paper to the back side of the fabric using a warm iron.
If you've never used freezer paper as a quilting tool, the shiny waxy side will fuse to fabric temporarily with an iron set on warm (too hot doesn't work).  There are lots of YouTube videos on using freezer paper for applique if you google it. 
   Each piece was about 9" by 11 1/2" and after fusing the paper in place, I trimmed the fabric/freezer paper layered pieces to a perfect 8 1/2" by 11", the size of a standard  sheet of paper.

I do a test print on paper to evaluate the size and spacing of my text.
Once I'm happy with the test print, I load the freezer backed fabric into my printer.  I had some trouble getting the printer to recognize the fabric as a sheet of paper and so went into "properties" and changed the paper setting to "thick paper".
My first attempt was a "fail" because I only used one piece of freezer paper -- must use two layers of paper and be sure to have a good bond between the fabric and the paper.
Once I added a second layer of freezer paper and changed the paper setting to "thick", it took less than 5 minutes to print out the three pages for my plant labels.

After letting the sheets set for a bit, I peel off the freezer paper and heat set the printing a couple times with my iron on the cotton setting.
I did use the bottom half of the messed up piece to make a label for my recently finished Homage to Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt.
Lemons into lemonade!!
I framed the quilt label with 1 1/2" wide strips of fabric from the quilt, pressed the raw edges under and appliqued it to the back of my finished quilt!
So efficient!?!
More about those plant labels in a future post!!
Let me know if you try this and how it works for you!

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

May is all about BIRDS

And native wildflowers, too.  

If you didn't already know, I've been a bit of a nature nerd since grade school -- love birding, seeking out new native plants, learning about insects.  That makes May a busy month for me because everything outside is waking up for the summer months.  So much to see and do!?!

For example, look at this little orchid -- just 6" tall??  It's a showy orchis -- I've read about them, but just saw my first one this past weekend!

I've been stitching along steadily all month but can't settle at my computer long enough to write a blogpost and I'm not sure I have anything to share except to brag a bit about stitching accomplishments?!?

I've stayed caught up with stitching the Whirly Weeds blocks from Pamalama Jo Designs -- major accomplishment since I don't enjoy machine applique -- these are the last three I've done and there is just one more to do this week. 

 I like the blocks and have this (awesome) idea in my head about the setting but I'm not sure I'll be able to get the idea out of my head and onto the design wall??
I knit this cute little pair of shorty socks with ruffled cuffs -- not sure if I'll keep them or gift them?
A quilting friend (very kindly) pointed out a new BOM from Celeste at Meerkat Shweshwe African Prints -- definitely not too late to join in the fun!!  Only six months long and each month features one block to be made six times.  I'm totally copying Celeste's color scheme because I am too tired (from birding) to think.
I'm still on track with the Flourishes BOM that has been ageing in my stash for 3 decades.  I am rediscovering an enjoyment of hand applique.
Each month, when I finish the Flourishes block, I work on making a couple more blocks for an EPP quilt from Australian design company, Rachaeldaisy Designs -- it's called Hextravaganza
My version won't be as "carefree" but I'm having fun pulling out piles of fabric and organizing interesting combinations!
My goal is twelve blocks with an emphasis on "using up stash"!!

  There has been a little machine quilting -- and as I write this, I'm remembering that there are two small quilts up in the studio -- quilting is finished, binding is ready.
I need a rainy day!?!
And of course, I have to hang out with the "littles"!  They will be four years old in a couple weeks!?!   (and I'll be older, too??)
When they were here on Mother's Day to help their Dad install a new bush for me, one of the butterflies I overwintered as chrysalis emerged -- oh my, were we all excited!!
It was a female spicebush swallowtail and we were so excited that a picture was not possible.  Since then three more have emerged including this male black swallowtail.
One of my "written down" goals this month was to get a few quilts listed for sale on ETSY -- it's so hard for me to let go of my makes but they do need to be thinned out a bit.  So if you've always wanted to own one of my pieces -- here is your chance!!

Time for 30 minutes weeding in the front flower bed!!


Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Look at This!?!

A BIG project is finished!!

Homage to Grandmother's Flower Garden, an original design by Katja Marek was my big focus in 2022.  I pieced my version as part of her annual sew-along.  The pattern and English paper piecing supplies are available from Paper Pieces in Paducah, KY HERE.
My version is machine-pieced using 3/4" hexagons (cut with a Marti Michell template) and my Set-In Piecing Simplified technique to chain piece -- PDF HERE.  Most participants used 1" hexagons and English paper piecing including Katja's mom who worked with 1/2" hexagons!?!
The finished quilt measures 58" square and it is destined to hang on the wall of the guest room at the head of the bed.

This is my inspiration fabric which I found in my stash -- all the "double" flower motifs contain fussy cut hexagons from it. 
 I plotted out the placement of the three colors used -- pink, blue, yellow -- so that they (almost) never touch.  You can see in the photo that it's really chopped up
but I did have enough to make the binding which I think is perfect.
I used a combination of machine and hand quilting -- I like doing that!  The machine quilting is "in the ditch" and crosses the center of each hexagon making a rhythmic pattern of equilateral triangles.  Once the center of the quilt was finished, I hand quilted (big stitch style) all the flower motifs with pearl cotton -- I like doing that, too!  Then I returned to the machine to quilt the area outside the wreath.
It was fun to sort out the fussy cutting and you'll notice there are bees in almost every flower center
For a few of the double flowers, I used the kite shape and eliminated the center hexagon just for fun.
I'm feeling pretty "chuffed" that I finished this quilt in 16 months and relieved that it's done before spring birding and gardening kicks into high gear!!  I have seen at least two other finished ones on Instagram -- HERE -- but I expect many quilters are still working on their version.
As is often the case when I finished a BIG project, my wheels have been spinning while I figure out where to focus the energy and time but with a stack of waiting quilt tops, it wasn't hard to find something to do.  I layered this little top and have it almost ready to bind!
With May on the doorstep, it will be time next week to tackled Block #5 of the Flourishes BOM after I have a little palette cleanser knitting project.
Enjoy the last weekend of April!!


Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Spring - Time to Diddle Around

Spring is advancing here in Northeast Ohio -- we had lots of rain for a couple weeks and now it's warmer than usual but next week will be much cooler . . . so I don't want to do much in the garden.

And because I'm embracing the current movement to loosen up my control of nature in my yard, about all I can do right now is dig out noxious weeds and I've done what I can do of that today physically.  I watered the new strawberry plants and the bok choy seedlings and the pansies.  I've walked all around the yard (twice) to see what's coming up and who's coming out -- there are lots of small solitary bees on the native trout lilies which are at peak bloom.  (The bees were moving too fast to photograph.) 

 I've walked to the back fence three times (picking up sticks in the lawn each time) to see if the Screech Owl that lives in the big maple is out sunbathing.  She's not today but this is a (poor) picture I got of her a couple days ago (right in the center of the picture) -- looks like little bunny ears sticking out of the hole.
And I've made good progress on picking up sticks!?!
I spent forty-five minutes in my studio prepping appliques for a couple projects.  The Whirly Weeds series is at the halfway point and this week's plant is "bastard cabbage".  With a name like that, you know it has to be non-native and perhaps invasive in the southwest USA.

I figured out the arrangement of the leaves which I had prepped last evening,
chose the thread color I want to use,
and set up my machine so it's ready to go later today or tomorrow.
The remains of the prepping process -- still in a pile on the floor next to my recliner?!?
I pulled out the light table and prepped and positioned the next few pieces to be added to the fourth block of my Flourishes BOM project.  I've probably used the light table more in the past 3 months than anytime since I invested in it -- good investment!!
The designers of Flourishes are Becky Goldsmith and Linda Jenkins -- they suggest finger pressing the seams before positioning the applique pieces and it's a great trick -- makes the needle turning so much easier!

I came across my old stash of applique pins -- 3/4" long -- another seldom used but good investment.  Much less finger poking!!
Block 4 is progressing nicely and I think I'll have it finished in a couple days!  This project is going so much better than I anticipated.  I'm keeping up, I'm enjoying the process, and I'm surprised!!
Plus I talked myself out of starting a new piecing project -- now that's an accomplishment.

So a good spasm of "diddling" (as opposed to "dithering" which accomplishes nothing)!  
Now if I could just figure out what to fix for supper?!?

Maybe I'll go pick up the pile of trimmings.
Carry on!!

Monday, April 3, 2023


     Earlier today, I was looking for something in a recent blog post and reminded of my (energetic) post from the end of 2022 laying out a few goals for 2023.  I can't forgot about them because I leave my work journal open to the page with the list on the desk by my sewing machine so I see it every day!

Just the same, perhaps a "first quarter" progress review would be a good idea to keep me accountable and rejuvenate my focus?  So this post is written mostly for my benefit which makes reading further optional for you.

  1.  Finish six more UFO's from the leftover 2022 list.  Excellent progress here -- two are completely finished, three are finished tops (instead of piles of stuff) and another one just came off the shelf to serve it's time as a "leader/ender" project!

Leftover blocks and a hoarded fabric finally used!!

2.  Quilt the new tops I made in 2022.  Moderate progress here -- no finishes but one is just past the halfway point of quilting.   And I'm giving myself a "pat on the back" for quilting three lap-size quilt tops that I've pieced since the beginning of the year!!   (That's so not me!?!)

A blend of machine and hand quilting is in progress on my version of Homage to Grandmother's Flower Garden.  I just finished the hand quilting last evening and will now do the machine quilting around the outside edges -- an April finish for sure!!

3.  Deal with all the antique/vintage quilt tops I own.  I sold two!!  And I have a firm plan for finishing a third one including a recipient when it's done!  Six to go!!

Perhaps I should move this stack to a place where I see it more often?

4. If/when I start new projects, chose from a list of seven that I've wanted to make for a while.  Looking at this one again, what a silly girl I was to say "if/when" -- of course, I'm going to start new projects?!?  Of the four piecing and applique projects . . . . no, make that five . . . . that are actively in process at the moment -- two are from the list.  But you get it -- it's so hard to resist a shiny new idea!?!

Three of my current "works in progress" -- two from the "list of seven" and one shiny new sew-along (lower left).  I'm "storing" them flat on the portable back-up design wall (seeing them every day is so inspiring!!).

5. Rehome twelve finished quilts.  Progress on this goal is a bit shaky.  I have let go of two quilts and have a short list of quilts and recipients on my desk, but as usual my follow through is a bit light.  What's my excuse?  I'm a quilt hoarder???  I just need to do it!!

As I'm writing this, I'm reviewing my potential recipient list and realize this quilt which I finished last month will be perfect for one of them.  It's in the washing machine as we speak getting ready for it's forever home!!

As I was looking for a picture of it to share, I realized I never showed off the finished quilt after posting the tutorial on piecing the honeycomb pattern HERE so here it is!!  A vibrant border was needed to balance the yellow but when I didn't have enough of the stripe, I had to get creative and plug in those two green prints.

I kept the quilting simple because "finished is the goal" but I did get courageous and use one of my (much neglected) quilting rulers to create that border design.

That was fun for me and not too boring for you, I hope -- I just put a sticky note on my July calendar to do a quarterly review again!

Our spring has achieved a normal pace thanks to see-saw temperatures, high winds, and lots of rain.  I prefer a slow bloom season myself.  Here's my best hellebore surrounded by deer fence (it's growing under a witch hazel bush that the deer covet) with a carpet of last year's leaves (hopefully harboring overwintering caterpillars and bumblebee queens) and flanked by stalks of Joe-pye weed from last year (hopefully to be the home of this summer's stem-nesting bees and wasps).

Back to the stitching!!


Thursday, March 23, 2023

A Layer Cake Idea!

Are you a layer cake sucker? 
I'm trying to use up a few (so I can buy more guilt-free?).
  I'm pretty good at talking myself out of them but this was one I couldn't resist -- I wanted it so badly, I had a friend buy it for me at QuiltCon in 2019.  
Forty exciting African prints!! 
 I think they came from Crimson & Tate in Indianapolis, Indiana?
Problem was that I could not cut them up!?! I auditioned several ideas, but never started anything.  What is the point of buying fabric you don't have the courage to use???  Then last week, while filing some old teaching handouts, I had a lightbulb moment.  
Make a ZIG ZAG quilt!

Step one -- cut all the 10" squares on both diagonals into four triangles.
Caution -- measure some of the squares to make sure they are actually squares.  The layer cake I used for the Exploding Heart quilt was 10" by 10 1/4".  It wasn't a problem for that quilt but it would have been for this one!!
Keep each set of triangles together.
Step 2 - lay out the stacks so you can see everything.  I needed to determine the proportion of warm colors and cool colors -- that is a good color strategy when working with lots of prints that aren't "coordinated".
Two stacks of triangles make one horizontal row.  I chose two contrasting prints for each row.  Starting at the top, my first row is a mostly green print and a mostly red print.  For the second row, I start with another red print and chose a contrasting print, a cool color in this case, for the lower side of the row.  As I moved down the layout, I repeated the process -- the upper triangles in each row repeat the color (but not the print) of the previous row and the second color used for the lower triangles of that row contrast with it.

As the layout is built, the "zig zags" begin to appear!  If they don't, rearrange to get more contrast -- either of value (light vs. dark) or color.
Once I was happy with the layout, I took the right edge triangle from each row and cut it in half as shown below.  One of these triangles will square off the left end of the row and the other the right end.
Time to sew!  I pieced the units into pairs as below.
I was lazy and didn't trim the points, just eyeballed aligning them with the "dog-ear" sticking equally out on both ends.
The seam allowance should start and end at the intersection of a diagonal edge and a straight edge -- see below.  I pressed the seams to one-side and all the seams in a row go the same direction.
The rows go together quickly with just 8 seams!  My rows are about 32" across and 4 1/4" wide -- 10 rows will be about 42" -- a nice child size piece.  The plan is for no borders and a solid color backing.
I don't even have to figure out how to quilt it since I used this same design several years ago to make a quilt for my daughter's guest room.

I finished assembling the rows before lunch and couldn't resist sewing "just two" of them together as you see below . . . . . but I stitched the wrong edges so the first and second row (from the top) are flipped.  Arghhh!!  My "staff" will be ripping that apart later this afternoon so I can correct it?!?
I have enough fabric to make two of these quilts and my plan is to donate them to a local group that works to improve the birthing experience for women of color.

If you want to use this idea with a layer cake that is more coordinated, it seems to me you could sort the prints by light and dark and perhaps color depending on the assortment.  If the contrast between two zig-zags is good, a scrappy arrangement of the prints will work.  If all the prints in a zig-zag are assorted blues and the next one is assorted oranges, the uniform color families and the contrast of opposite colors makes the zig-zag work.   

If I were planning a lap size piece with a layer cake, I would add one set of triangles to each row for a width of about 40" and use thirteen rows for a length of 54".  Some quick math tells me that would need about thirty-three 10" squares so one layer cake would do that with a few leftovers. 
For every two triangles added to a row, the row will increase by approximately 8" and adding another complete row to the top will add about 4".

So I'm another layer cake down with just three more to use up!!
I hope you are inspired to use up one of your layer cakes!!

Daffodils starting to bloom here!!
It's so nice to look out the window and see cheery spots of yellow!!
Enjoy the first weekend of the new season -- spring or fall!!