Do you know about quilter’s caulk? I heard about it from a quilting friend who in turn learned about it from a fellow quilter. Here’s what it looks like:
Yep. That’s right. You’re looking at a collection of Sharpie Ultra Fine Point permanent marking pens. Calling one of these pens “quilter’s caulk” is a misnomer, really. You can’t use it to fill a gap or seam, which is the definition of the verb “to caulk,” but you can use it to color correct a seam or some other part of an item made with fabric.
I’ve had occasion in the last couple of days to use quilter’s caulk, so let me show just how handy it is. While stitching in the ditch around the borders of a baby quilt, I wandered out of the ditch and onto a border. My thread is light aqua, and those five stitches really showed up on the bright pink border:
Now here it is after applying fuchsia-colored ink on the offending stitches:
On another project, I was using red thread to sew pockets on an apron because I wanted the thread to blend into the background. I had trimmed the top edges of the pocket with black bias tape. Just look how that red thread pops out against the black bias tape:
Quilter’s caulk to the rescue:
Quite an improvement, wouldn’t you say?
Be sure to test the ink color first to make sure it’s a good match. And don’t forget that these Sharpie Ultra Fine Points are permanent markers.
I’m scheduled to teach a class on Fractured Images in a couple of weeks so this seems like a good time to update my class notes and look over my class samples.
Fractured images are created when four identical layers of fabric are cut into squares and sewn together. Three of the four repeats are trimmed different ways before being cut into squares. When the four sets of squares are arranged in a grid and sewn together, a striking ripples-in-a-pond effect emerges. Squares can be cut in many different sizes but 2” and 3” squares are the most common. Bold floral designs with secondary motifs in the background and lots of contrast fracture especially well.
When I taught this class last spring at the Pine Needle, the shop had just received some fabrics in the Hickory House line by Faye Burgos for Marcus Brothers Fabrics. I was curious to see how one of the florals in that line would fracture and whether it would be more striking made from 2” or 3” squares. Here is the image before fracturing . . .
. . . and here are the two fractured images side by side:
The image on the left, which measures 13″ square, contains 81 squares, each square finishing at 1½”. The image on the right, which measures 14″ square, contains 25 squares, each square finishing at 2½”. Which one do you like better?
One way of cutting the fabric for a fracture is to pin the layers together, matching design elements, and then cut only the image intended for the fracture. What to do with the remaining fabric that’s already layered and pinned? Why, cut it into 4-Patch Wonder blocks, of course. (“4-Patch Wonder” is my name for a block made of four identical layers of fabric that are cut in squares and then rotated to make a pleasing symmetrical design. If you’ve looked at the quilts in my Gallery, you know that I’m a big fan of this faux-kaleido block, as well as its more sophisticated cousin, the kaleidoscope block.)
Look how dramatic these 4-Patch Wonder blocks are that were made with leftover Hickory House fabric:
Let me show you another fractured image made from a beautiful tropical floral fabric a friend brought me from Hawaii. Here is the image before fracturing. . .
. . . and after:
This one was made a little differently. Instead of sewing the squares together, I arranged them on a piece of featherweight fusible interfacing and fused them in place. Then I covered the raw edges with grosgrain ribbon held in place with ¼”-wide Steam-a-Seam-2. I added a pink polkadot flange and a wide black border. The squares were cut 3″, by the way, and the piece is 21″ square including the border.
I haven’t decided what to do with this fractured image. I think it could hold its own as a finished piece, but it looks so good set on point that I can also see it as a center medallion in a larger quilt . . .
. . . perhaps accompanied by some of these 4-Patch Wonder blocks made from the leftover fabric:
If you’ve never fractured an image before, I recommend that you try it. It’s a lot of fun, and I predict that it will forever change the way you look at fabric!
(Part 1 of this tutorial, joining two lengths of bias tape, is available here.)
Part 2, Overlapping ends of bias tape on an apron
Several of the vintage apron patterns in my small collection feature aprons edged in double-fold bias tape. As I was working on my Monterey Bay Apron pattern, I consulted my vintage patterns to compare notes on how the edges were finished. To my surprise, none of them – not a single one – explained in detail how to finish the edges. “Turn under one end” was the most common instruction. I tried that, every way I could think of. The result was always a lumpy bump (a bumpy lump?) where the edges overlapped. After much experimentation I was finally satisfied with two methods. The first method is described below, and the second method is described in Part 3 of this tutorial (coming soon).
I really like the method I am showing you here because it’s fast and easy. It leaves one cut edge of bias tape exposed but the cut is made perpendicular to the folded edges of the tape, i.e. on the bias, so it won’t ravel. It leaves a crisp clean finish, but you can cover the cut edge with a tiny satin stitch if you wish. Here’s what the joined ends looks like:
Before you begin, determine where on the apron you want the bias edges to be joined. Look for straight stretches of fabric at least 4” long. My Monterey Bay Apron pattern calls for the bias tape ends to be joined in the places least likely to be noticed: on the back left inside neckline just below the shoulder seam, on the front right side close to the curve along the bottom edge, and in the middle of both apron belt pieces. Look for straight lines on other apron patterns using bias tape to see where the most unobtrusive joining spots are.
Remember that ¼”-wide double-fold bias tape is pressed in such a way that one side of the tape is slightly narrower than the other (from the fold to the outside edge). The narrow side always goes on the right side of the fabric. When the fabric of the apron is inserted into the fold of the bias tape, the wider side of the tape, underneath, is always caught in the line of stitching from the top.
1. On a straight stretch of fabric, insert fabric into the fold of the bias tape. Leaving a 2” tail of bias tape, insert the needle right next to the folded edge of the tape. Take two or three individual stitches to start. Continue stitching right next to the fold, stopping every inch or so to insert more fabric into the fold of bias tape and to adjust for any curves.
2. Stop stitching 3” from the starting point. Change stitch length to almost zero and take two or three tiny stitches. Clip threads. Cut off the excess bias tape, leaving a 3” tail from the end of stitching.
3. Trim the right-hand tail to 1½”:
4. Trim the left-hand tail so that it overlaps the right tail by ½”. The cut should be perpendicular to the folded edges of the bias tape.
5. Cover the tape on the right side with the tape from the left side. Using the point of a small sharp-pointed instrument such as a stiletto (I use a bamboo skewer), coax open about an inch of the first fold of the bias tape on top and tuck it under the bias tape beneath it:
6. Do the same thing on the back side:
7. Finish sewing the bias tape to the apron, beginning and ending with tiny stitches as shown:
And there you have it! In Part 3, I’ll show you how to join ends of bias tape on an apron using a diagonal seam, similar to finishing the binding on a quilt but with the added challenge of using inch-wide bias tape with multiple folds. This method is quite labor-intensive but it is definitely do-able and the result is a seam that is almost invisible.
A lot of folks think that summer ends with Labor Day. Here in the Pacific Northwest, where it usually doesn’t feel like summer till well after the Fourth of July, we hang on to summer as long as we can, and we are often rewarded with a few more weeks of glorious weather. The advent of fall is measured not so much by a holiday or page on a calendar as it is by the first evening we reluctantly close the windows and turn the heat on.
Fall officially begins tomorrow, Sept. 22. It will be nine long months before we can celebrate the summer solstice and the longest day of the year. You can bet I am savoring every ray of sunlight, even as the days grow noticeably shorter and the nights noticeably cooler.
In the middle of winter, when it’s raining and already dark by 5 pm, I want to remember what the tomatoes from our garden looked, smelled and tasted like just minutes off the vine . . .
. . . and what the hydrangeas in the back yard looked like at 9 pm in the middle of July:
Happily, I just finished making an apron for myself that combines all of the colors in the photos above, so I can carry a bit of summer with me all year ’round:
“Working with 1/4″-wide double-fold bias tape.” You may think that’s an overly-specific title for a tutorial but I have discovered that not all bias tape is created equal, and different widths behave differently depending on how they are sewn. I like the finished look of ¼”-wide double-fold bias tape and used it on my Monterey Bay Apron. I find it easy to handle, and I really like the way it just hugs the inner and outer curves. Here’s a close-up:
I insert the raw edge of my fabric between the folded edges of the bias tape and stitch once to hold both sides down, rather than opening the tape up, stitching one side to the raw edge of the fabric and then turning it to the back and stitching again. Encasing the edge of fabric in the tape leaves a beautiful finish on both sides of the garment and is much faster than the other method. Take a look:
The process of joining two lengths of bias tape is almost identical to joining two strips of fabric for a quilt binding. Double-fold bias tape comes in a package with three folds already pressed firmly in place, however, so handling it can be a bit tricky. (I’ve made my own bias tape but find that the tight weave and the crisply pressed folds of the packaged tape make it easier to handle.)
Quarter-inch double-fold bias tape starts out an inch wide. Each long end is pressed 1/8” under and then the remaining strip is pressed in half . . . but not precisely in half. It’s pressed in such a way that one side of the tape is slightly narrower than the other (from the fold to the outside edge). The narrow side always goes on the right side of the fabric. The wider side, underneath, is always caught in the line of stitching from the top. You can clearly see that in the photo above.
Since a package of bias tape normally contains four yards, you may be wondering why it would it be necessary to join two lengths. Well, many apron patterns require more than one package to go all the way around an outside edge. Not wanting to be wasteful is another good reason. If two shorter lengths of bias tape will make a piece long enough for a specific purpose, why open another package?
1. Lay two ends of bias tape next to each other on the ironing board, narrow side up:
2. Press each end open about an inch and a half from the end. Don’t try to press the fold lines completely out:
A straight pin helps hold the tape in place on the ironing board.
3. Without changing the position of the strips on the ironing board, turn the ends so the right sides are up:
I’ve written an R on the corners with a removable ink pen to indicate the right side. You can also easily distinguish the right side by the fold lines.
4. With right sides together, lay the left strip on top of the right strip at a right angle. Overlap edges slightly as shown. This makes it a bit easier to handle, since the bias tape is only an inch wide:
5. Draw a diagonal line from the upper right to the lower left corner, using a pen or pencil with removable marking lines. Pin in place:
6. Stitch the two strips together along the diagonal line, leaving a tail at each end to keep the seam intact. Use 15 stitches to the inch or 2.0 on a computerized machine. I used a contrasting thread for illustration purposes only; thread should be matched to the color of the bias tape.
Because the tape was originally cut on the bias, the diagonal seam is on the straight of grain.
7. Trim seam to a scant ¼”, being careful to leave the tails on thread. Press seam open:
8. Trim the dog ears – but leave those thread tails on. Press all three folds back into place, using just the tip of the iron. Be very careful not to stretch or distort the length of tape.
9. Now open the bias tape and trim the thread tails:
10. A final press and voila! A beautifully joined seam, ready to be sewn onto your project.
In Parts 2 and 3 of this tutorial, coming soon, I’ll show you two methods of joining the ends of bias tape where they meet on an apron.
My newest pattern, the Monterey Bay Apron, makes its debut this Friday, Sept. 14, at the Pine Needle’s Fall Festival Open House! I am so excited that the pattern is finally ready. Here it is in its little plastic envelope, ready to be displayed in the shop:
I’ve had the design for this apron in my mind for almost three years but started seriously working on it just in the last year. In a future post I’ll tell you how the design process evolved; for now I’ll just say that inspiration struck in an aquarium, of all places. You can guess which one.
The apron pictured below, made from a charming line of fabric called All About Coffee from Exclusively Quilters, is hanging in the Pine Needle right now.
I learned a lot about using 1/4″-wide double-fold bias tape while developing this pattern. So much so that I will be posting a tutorial on it in the next few days.
The Pine Needle’s Open House runs from 10 am to 5 pm Friday and Saturday, Sept. 14 and 15. I’ll be there a good bit of the time both days. If you are in the Portland metro area, please stop by! The Pine Needle is in Lake Oswego, just a few minutes from downtown Portland.
Thelma at CupcakesnDaisies and I both put this project on our summer “to do” list, with the goal of finishing it by Labor Day. I made it, and I think Thelma will, too, though I know she has been distracted by the siren call of wool applique.
I started working on my sewing machine cover in July while I was in Sisters, Oregon with my quilt group. I got as far as the block on the front (which is a little different from the pattern):
Weeks passed. By the time I got back to this project near the end of August, I had decided not to make a duplicate block for the other side, as called for in the pattern, but to put a pocket across the back instead. Here is my work-in-progress with the front and back attached to the middle panel:
When I pinned the sides and draped the cover over my machine, I realized it was going to be way too big, so I took it apart and cut it down to size. (If you are making this pattern, I recommend that you check the size after pinning but before sewing. I think the instructions are much too generous in determining the finished size of the cover in relation to the measurements of the sewing machine.)
Since I had to take the back off, I added a row of decorative stitching across the pocket, which you can see in the picture below. The binding has already been added to the bottom edges:
You may have noticed that I added an opening in the center striped panel to accommodate the handle on my sewing machine. I made a simple facing; this is what it looks like on the inside:
Here is another view of my new sewing machine cover from the front . . .
. . . and from the back:
And here it is with its companion, the Billie Bag I made last year (you can read more about the Billie Bag in my Gallery under Small Pieces):
As you can see, the sewing machine cover was made with fabric left over from my Billie Bag. On the front and back panels of my sewing machine cover, I quilted a stipple design with the occasional leaf thrown in, duplicating the quilting on my Billie Bag. For the middle striped panel I simply used three rows of decorative machine stitching perpendicular to the stripes.
Instead of finishing the binding by hand, I used ¼”-inch wide Steam-a-Seam 2, a double stick fusible web, which proved to be a huge time-saver. I wouldn’t recommend using Steam-a-Seam for binding a quilt that’s going to get washed a lot but it’s perfect for a project like this. I used it on my Billie Bag, too.
So . . . my sewing machine cover project has gone from a “to do” to a “ta-da!” And there’s a bonus involved. For some time I’ve been collecting pictures and jotting down ideas for a quilt made of house blocks. While taking pictures of the sewing machine cover both on and off the machine, I took this shot: