Friday, January 19, 2018

Technique: How I Finger-Press to Save Time

There are times I find peace in the routine of sewing. Cutting a project out, chain-piecing blocks, and pressing seams can be relaxing and meditative. Other times, I just need to get something done. In those latter cases, I try to cut corners without sacrificing quality.

This simple patchwork was the perfect candidate for a piecing short-cut.

One way to save time is by finger-pressing. When I finger-press a seam, I run my finger along it to open it up and then sew the piece to something else before heading to my ironing board. Not every project is a candidate for this short-cut, but I recently pieced squares to make a back for a table runner. It was a simple project, with manageable 5-inch blocks, so I thought I’d save some time by following these steps ...

Chain-piece the rows. I started by chain-piecing the rows. For me with this particular project, that meant chain-piecing the blocks for one row at a time. I’d sew the 14 blocks into 7 sets of 2 blocks and so on until the row was complete. Once one row was done, I’d start on the next.

Finger-press the seams to join. Then I took two rows that needed to be sewn together and finger-pressed the last inch of the seams to join. I actually used my finger nail to open the seam up—it works better for me. 

Pin and sew. I pinned all of the joins twice—on both sides of each seam—and then sewed the two rows together.

Two pins keep everything lined up for me.

These are the seams before I take them to the ironing board.

Press with the iron. Once all of the rows were sewn together, I took the patchwork to my ironing board. First I ironed all the vertical seams, the ones I had partially finger-pressed. Then I pressed the horizontal seams. After everything was pressed on the back of the piece, I pressed it from the front.
I start pressing the vertical seams.
Spray for good measure. Finally, I turned the patchwork over to the wrong side again, gave it a light spray of Best Press, let that soak into the fabric, and pressed one last time from the wrong side.

Ta da! The finished, perfectly pressed patchwork!
* * *
Some of you may be thinking that the time saver here would have been pressing my seams to the side with an iron. By alternating the direction of seams between rows, I could have nested my seams and skipped pinning. I could have, and so could you, if that’s what works best for you and gives you the results you want. I greatly prefer sewing my seams open; I like quilting over seams that lie as flat as possible.

Admittedly, I don’t rely on this technique all that much; I tend to use it for smaller seams. I specifically remember saving some time with my pin cushion production line by finger-pressing. : )

Do you have any other suggestions for shaving time off of pressing? (You can admit to not pressing unless absolutely necessary!)

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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Past, Present, Future

Now that the crafty deadlines of November and December have passed, I can do anything I want on my sewing machine. Anything. I could make a bag or finish a WIP. I could start a brand-new quilting project. That should feel empowering, but it feels a little overwhelming and I’m not sure where to start.

I thought I’d participate in Meadow Mist Designs’ Best of 2017 Linky Party as a way to review my sewing accomplishments of the past year and provide myself firmer footing to plan the next few months. (Could this also be a procrastination ploy, avoiding making any concrete decisions about future craftiness by looking at past projects? Why yes, yes it could be.)

Without further ado, here is an overview of From Bolt to Beauty 2017 in five “most” posts ...

Most Trafficked Post

The most popular post of 2017, according to log reports, is actually not from 2017. It’s my Ridiculously Easy Jelly Roll Quilt tutorial, which was published back in November 2015. I attribute the phenomenon to all the pins and links that point to that post and the allure of a title like Ridiculously Easy Jelly Roll Quilt. I think of a lot of you are like me, suckers for a thick roll of 2.5-inch strips and attracted to the notion of an easy sew! (My follow-up to that tutorial—my Still Pretty Simple Jelly Roll Quilt tutorial—has been on the back burner for months. It will have its day in the sun sometime in early 2018!)

Most Noteworthy Finish—According to You

My most popular finish, both here on the blog and on my Instagram feed, was Grape Fizz. It’s a showstopping design by Amy Garro that I rendered in shades of eggplant and lavender. I’m not the connoiseur of purple that some of you are, but this design is so bold and graphic in its purple-osity that I can see why it was so well received. To see more pics, including close-ups of Mary Gregory’s quilting, read the post.

Most Noteworthy Finish—According to Me

I love Grape Fizz, but I also really love my Ode to Art Gallery quilt. It was fun to play with all of those different prints and see them come together, with the help of navy plus signs, in a cohesive quilt top. I gifted the quilt just recently, and the recipient was elated. I don’t know much about her design sense, but I felt good about sending it off with her. The quilt is modern but not too modern. It has a lot of some colors and a lot of other colors, as well. It’s pretty and feminine, and I like gifting pretty and feminine quilts to friends who are like me, the lone lady in the house. 

Most Triumphant Sewing Feat

Hands down, the technical sewing I was most proud of this year is all the Y-seams I sewed! These appeared first in my Happy Hexie Baby Quilt. I’ve since sewn more, in a yet-to-be-unveiled project. (To learn more about my approach, see “How I Machine-Piece Hexagons” under the Techniques tab.)

Most Triumphant Quilting Feat

I tried two fancy-for-me quilting techniques this past year, both from Jacquie Gering’s book Walk. The first one, an orange peel design, went well but left a lot of room for improvement. The second, a cross-hatch with a secondary diamond pattern, however, rocked my world. It was a super fun experience with my walking foot and worth every stitch.

Do any of those “mosts” resonate with you? If you have a noteworthy finish or quilting feat or other “most” you’d like to share, the rest of us would like to celebrate with you!

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Sunday, December 31, 2017

Lessons from Christmas 2017

At From Bolt to Beauty world headquarters, Christmas 2017 lingers. The tree is still up and decorated. Toys litter the living room floor. It’s an appropriate time to look back at the events of the past month—the holiday fairs and parties and shopping—and admit it: I botched it all up! I thought I took on a manageable number of holiday activities, but I ended up committing myself to too much.

Case in point: two Christmas tree quilts. I was so proud of myself, back in November, when I came to the realization I wouldn’t have time to quilt either of them before Christmas. I sent both projects off to a longarmer, which meant I was on the hook for binding only. Bind them I did—finally!—on December 23.

The first quilt is for my family to keep. I used it to chip away at my red and green stash, buying just a little yardage to flesh out the fabric pull.

The beauty of this tree block, designed by Amy Smart of Diary of a Quilter, is that it works with small-scale prints as well as large ones. Before this project, I had no idea what to do with the green and white Trellis print from Heather Bailey’s Up Parasol collection (pictured in tree on right, below), but it works perfectly here. I love how it reads as a lower-volume green without being a light green.

This quilt reminds me that I can veer from my palette on the back of a quilt. The main print on the back, from Anna Maria Horner’s Field Study line, wouldn’t have worked on the quilt top. It has too much cream in it (I used mostly white on the front), and the green is too different. Paired with the three leftover tree blocks and the same cherry red used on the top, however, the AMH print allows the back to both work well in its own right and complement the design on the other side.

The quilting, done by Lisa Teichmann of Garden Gate Quilting, is perfect for this project. The easy-breezy orange peels look ornament-like against the Christmas-tree backdrop.

After finishing piecing the first Christmas tree quilt, I moved on to a second! Whereas the first one focused on cherry reds and grassy greens, the second incorporated pinker reds and yellow-greens. (I get a kick out of seeing the same design rendered in different palettes like that.)

The Bonnie and Camille print from April Showers inspired the palette. It’s not a Christmas fabric, but the red flowers remind me of poinsettias and I like the gray it introduces into the palette.

The back features more Bonnie and Camille. As with most of my quilt backs, I cut a length of fabric vertically and filled it out with a columns of scraps to make a back that would accommodate the size of the top. (More on that approach to piecing backs can be found under the Techniques tab.)

Christmas 2017 was a happy one. We were all healthy, so all of our plans (mostly) went off without a hitch. But binding quilts two days before the holiday was for the birds. If it weren’t for all the other stuff I was doing—the quilted ornaments and belated-birthday sewing and guild commitments—two binding projects would have been doable. Let’s hope I can hold on to these lessons for the next 12 months and make the holiday season of 2018 saner!

How did you hold up over the holidays? Were you crafting at the 11th hour?!

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