Friday, January 10, 2014

First FINISH for 2014

On January 7, I scored my first quilt finish of 2014 -- 14 days earlier than my first finish of 2013.  I'm smokin'!!  Now I have this (perhaps crazy) goal of quilting a top every week during January.  My schedule is pretty open for January so with some serious focus, I could do it?!

We'll see.

This is the finished quilt -- a scrappy Grandmother's Flower Garden inspired by an antique quilt top I saw for sale on e-bay.  I English paper-pieced it during my mother's extended illness and escaping to the work literally was a blessing as it calmed and soothed me to be able to focus on something over which I had total and complete control.

 It's hard to see, but I chose "big stitch" hand quilting with pearl cotton to outline each of the rings and then quilted the border by machine.  I had the deadline of getting it off to The Sew'n Place in Chambersburg, PA where it will hang as a teaching sample for a workshop there in the spring -- deadlines are good!! 

As I was worked on the binding, I thought about all the other quilters in NE Ohio who are finishing their entries for the annual quilt show at Lake Metroparks Farmpark in Kirtland, Ohio.
A friend of mine always serves as a scribe on the judging days and every year she shares remarks that the judges make about poor "bindings". 

Some of us are in a big rush when we do a binding so we don't always take the time we should but that's the first thing a judge touches when she/he goes in for the "close-up".  So here are some of my best tips to improve the quality of your quilt bindings.

First the edges of the quilt need to be flat before the binding is applied.  When spread out on a flat surface, if it doesn't lay flat, the binding will not flatten it.  It actually will emphasize the wobbles.  

There are a couple causes of the wobbles but the most common is not quilting all the way to the raw edge of the quilt.   After I trim the edge of a quilt, I put the walking foot on my machine, set it for the widest zigzag and stitch the edges of the quilt.  On my Bernina that is a length of 3 and width of 5.  This flattens the edge and takes up some of the fullness.  Then I steam the edges with the iron -- full head of steam, hold it 1" above the quilt, and let the steam flow down into the quilt.  If I'm doing it on the ironing board -- I walk away and let that section dry and cool before moving on to the next section.  Takes a bit longer and some patience, but I try to use the time to tidy up something in my studio.

Now I'm ready to stitch on the binding!   The generally accepted width to cut the French fold binding that most of us use is 2 1/2" but that is too wide if you are using a 1/4" seam to stitch the binding in place.  You need to experiment with widths and find the best one for you and your walking foot.  I use 2 1/4" with much better finished results.  And thanks to a tip I gleaned from one of Marci Baker's video tutorials, I no longer press the binding in half before I start stitching it in place.  I fold it as I go.

When I look at a binding, it's usually the corners that are the issue and I do a good corner 95% of the time.

I took this series of photos while I bound my flower garden to illustrate the keys to greater success.

First, stopping 1/4" from the corner only works if you are actually sewing 1/4" seam.  My walking foot's seam is somewhere between 1/4" and 3/8".  So when I'm about 6" from a corner, I fold the binding strip off the quilt at a 45 degree angle and crease it. 

When I open the binding strip out flat, I make a pencil mark on that crease.  Now I stop for the corner at the crease and I really don't need the "measurement".   

  Another tip I learned from a friend (and I'm sorry I can't remember the teacher that shared it with her) was to pivot and stitch off the corner following my pencil line.

Now it's time to fold the binding off to the right at a right angle and back onto itself to turn the corner.   

 It is absolutely critical to line up the fold on the right edge perfectly with the raw edge of the quilt (where my scissor is pointing). If the fold "hangs" over the edge even as little as 1/16", you already have issues. 

Likewise, you must align the two folds that make the upper edge of this little triangle.  It's hard to photograph, but if one of the folds is askew, it will create a problem when you turn the corner to the other side for the final stitching.

Finally, as you begin to stitch down the next edge of the quilt, be sure to secure the end of the stitching so that it holds the diagonal fold underneath in place.  Doing this assures that the miter will turn smoothly to the other side of the quilt.  Notice in the photo, I stop a couple stitches from the edge but the fold will not pull out when I turn the miter.

So there you are -- I hope these tips help you turn better corners on your bindings and you get high marks from the next judge you encounter!!  If you want a face-to-face tutoring session and live in NE Ohio, my next open workshop at home is Saturday, January 18

And I already have another quilt layered and ready to go -- it has a deadline, too!  So I know I'll finish two this month!

It's (actually) not a quilt until it's quilted!

Mary Huey


  1. I've never seen a GFG like this before! I love the scrappy, patterned edges combined with the more rhythmical solid inner petals. I especially love the little green diamond sets that look like leaves! I've been searching for a GFG pattern that was kind of traditional, but not the same old repeat of everyone's from the 30's. This is right along the lines I'm looking for. Thank you!

    1. Thanks, Virginia -- the main motif color plan was inspired by an old GFG I saw on e-bay and I'm not sure where the "leaf" motif came from, but I've collected lots of photos of old GFG's to inspire my students in my Hexagon seminars.

  2. Okay that pivot stitch is EXACTLY what I need to too!! Thank you for that tip! I also appreciate the tip to quilt up to the edge...I didn't really realize the value in this till now. Always learning....THanks Mary!

    1. Glad to provide a helpful tip, Val!

    2. ...and it's been working!! I love my corners so much more now! (Can see why this quilt is one of your favorites too!)

  3. Nice basics, very clear and great photos
    LeeAnna Paylor
    Not Afraid of Color!

  4. Thank you so much for sharing this post again through Val's Archive linky! All the tips you offered are so good, I'm printing out this post to put in my "binding information" file. I love that these tips go beyond the basics of applying the binding. I can really see where using some of these tips will help take my "o.k." bindings up a notch. So again, thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks for visiting, Vivian -- glad it's useful information for you!

  5. Marci Baker's video was great! how many years have I been pressing the binding in half? No more...