QV2018: Envelope finish for art quilts

11 11 2018

In Grace Errea’s class at Houston, she gave us detailed instructions for finishing art quilts with an envelope (or pillowcase) finish, and then we created our own. Here are my notes from that class — hopefully I’ll be able to make sense of them next time I need to do this sort of finish:

  1. Pre-wash ALL fabrics before you start making the quilt — you’ll be wetting the quilt later when you block it (and you MUST block it), so you don’t want to ruin your work with fabrics that will run.
  2. Make the quilt top.
  3. Before you start quilting the art quilt, decide on the finish you want. If an envelope finish, then ONLY quilt two layers — the top and the batting. Do not add a backing fabric.
  4. Quilt as normal.
  5. Block the quilt.
    • Stretch the quilt onto a design wall, foam core board, or something solid.
    • Pin (using large T-pins) every two inches.
    • Pin the top edge first (from the middle out to the sides), then pull down and stretch the quilt and pin the bottom edge (also from the middle out).┬áRepeat for the sides. (Note: Cindy Needham also does this, but she also marks a straight line on the top and right side [squared correctly, of course] to guide her when stretching and pinning her quilts.)
  6. Soak the quilt using a water sprayer until completely wet.
  7. Let dry — this could take hours in a hot climate, or days in a cooler climate. It must be completely dry before the next step.
  8. Once dry, unpin the quilt. Grace assured us it will never hang wonky again!
  9. Square the quilt and trim.
    • Cut one side, then use that cut side to mark the opposite side (typically in three places; use a square ruler or T-square if possible).
    • Cut the opposite side in the same way, following the marks.
    • If you’re not sure you’ll get it correct, then cut a little larger (each 1 inch all round), check the squareness, then cut again as necessary.
  10. Cut a backing piece a little larger than the trimmed quilt.
    • Cut 3″ off the top of the backing fabric.
    • Sew the 3″ piece back onto the backing fabric, using a long (or basting) stitch. Yes, this seems strange, but you’ll see why later…
    • Press the seam up towards the top of the backing fabric piece.
    • The final size of the backing piece should be the same as the trimmed quilt — if it’s too big, trim it to size.
  11. Place the right side of the backing fabric onto the front of the quilt (i.e. right sides together) and pin into place all around.
  12. Mark with a dot the 1/4″ vertical/horizontal position in each corner.
  13. Stitch with a 1/4″ seam down one side and STOP when you are ONE stitch from the 1/4″ mark.
  14. Backstitch for 3 stitches.
  15. Go forward three stitches, then pivot the piece diagonally.
  16. Stitch diagonally (usually one stitch, but might need two) to where you will start stitching your next side. This diagonal stitch should be just below the 1/4″ mark at the corner. It’s this diagonal stitch and trimming away the bulk (step 21) that gives the corners a sharp crisp finish.
  17. Pivot so you are ready to stitch the next side.
  18. Stitch 3 stitches, then backstitch 3 stitches.
  19. Continue stitching down this side.
  20. Repeat steps 12 to 19 for ALL sides. You will be fully enclosing the ‘envelope’.
  21. Trim all corners without cutting any stitches.
    • Trim the diagonal ‘ear’ off.
    • Then taper trim for about a half inch into the 1/4″ seam area.
    • You’re taking all the bulk out of the corner.
  22. Unpick the seam you basted earlier on the backing fabric.
  23. Turn the quilt out through the opening on the back, gently poking out the corners with a ROUNDED tool (e.g. chopstick, end of an artists’ brush etc.). Be careful not to poke all the way through!
  24. Finger turn and finger press the edges to make sure none of the backing fabric shows on the front and vice versa.
  25. Steam iron (or spritz) the edges to make then sharp and flat. Keep checking none of the fabric shows on the other side.
  26. You’ll need to do some more quilting (MINIMAL) to make sure you don’t have a loose and floppy back.
    • Turn the quilt so the back is facing up.
    • From the bottom, gently push any loose fabric into the gap in the backing fabric.
    • Go all around the quilt doing this.
    • Using straight pins, pin as you go after pushing any fullness in the gap. Start pinning from the edges.
    • Keep pushing excess looseness into the gap, and pinning as you do so.
    • When you’ve finished the main part of the quilt, do the same from the top of the quilt, pushing the looseness out of the fabric in the top 3 inches. Pin.
    • Turn the quilt over, and if you using basting pins, re-pin the quilt from the front side matching the straight pins on the back.
    • Once pinned, turn the quilt back and remove the straight pins from the back. (Grace uses straight tailors’ pins with very tiny heads and says she doesn’t bother with this step and the quilting goes over the top of those pins without a problem — she then removes them after quilting.)
    • Quilt minimally, using clear or smoke nylon thread (e.g. Madeira) top and bottom to match the quilt. The aim is to hold the layers together, not to quilt the death out of it — you’ve already done that, and any dense quilting now will only distort the quilt. Typically, you’d just quilt around the major elements of the quilt.
  27. Add a hanging sleeve — yes, this is another reason why you did that 3″ join earlier! Any puckers at that seam from the final quilting will be covered by the hanging sleeve.

QV2018: Day 19: Houston Quilt Festival

11 11 2018

The only class I had today was in the afternoon, so I had a leisurely breakfast with Mary Beth and her husband. I first met Mary Beth at the first-ever Quilting Adventures workshop I went to in New Braunfels, Texas (2012). I’ve since met her at Festival. This was the first time I met her husband.

After breakfast, I wandered back over to the quilt exhibition to see a few more sections in detail, and to check out some of the vendor mall — it wasn’t so crazy busy today as it was on Thursday, thank goodness (for me as an attendee; perhaps not so much for the vendors). Then back to my room to pick up my class supplies and to call and catch up with Kim, the ex-owner of Quilting Adventures (now closed). Kim’s mom has a booth in the vendor mall, which I missed, so I’ll check that out tomorrow when I go say hi to her. My class was on Super Fast Binding and Piping with Melody Crust, and it was super fast — I was done in half the allocated time!

This evening we had our final group dinner at The Grove restaurant in Houston, and said goodbye to Miss Pat, the lovely Texan who joined this mad group of Aussies on this trip — she leaves early tomorrow morning.

Here are some more photos of quilts on display at Festival this year:

One of Jane Sassaman's quilts -- I did a whole day drawing workshop (Abstracting from Nature) with her

One of Jane Sassaman’s quilts — I did a whole day drawing workshop (Abstracting from Nature) with her

QV2018: Houston classes

11 11 2018

This is my third time at the Houston International Quilt Festival. As in previous years, I fill up on classes because it’s a great opportunity to get a taste of a particular teacher’s techniques and teaching abilities, without committing to a week-long workshop either in Perth or in the US. And so again this year.

Below is a summary of the classes I took (some with photos, but not all classes lend themselves to photos).

Wednesday 7 Nov: Jane Sassaman: Abstracting from Nature

This was an all-day drawing class, though effectively we drew for about 4 hours, because there was a 2-hour lunch break and time when Jane demonstrated and described techniques, and showed her quilts, describing her motivations and inspirations for their design. We had to bring along some photos of a plant — showing the flower, buds, leaves, stems etc. from different angles. Most people brought along photos of a few plants and Jane helped us decide which to draw. I had pictures of a lily, a daisy-type flower, and one of the Western Australian banksia species that has self-propagated in my garden. My preference was to do the banksia, but it has quite a unique flower structure so I wasn’t at all confident I could draw it. Jane was far more confident than me, and so that’s what I worked on for the class.

She got us to draw at least 10 variations of leaves (and told us that art students might do just leaves for a month!), then to tackle the flower, really looking at its structure and how petals overlapped etc. (not applicable to a banksia!). Next, we had to draw a prototype leaf and flower based on the ones we’d been drawing, and abstract it to its basic parts (almost like a cartoon) and then we had to draw each inside a triangle, a square and a circle, then draw both together inside each of these shapes. Her final lesson dealt with simplifying and abstracting our prototype drawings even further.

I really enjoyed this class, despite not feeling confident initially. Below are my original photos and some of my drawings, starting from the first ones through to later ones.

Thursday 8 Nov: Peggy Martin: Luscious Landscapes

This was a class in fusing pieces of fabric to make a landscapes. Peggy started by saying that she hadn’t taught this class in 20 years (!), and after she explained what we had to do and we got started, she said that we might all be done ‘within an hour’ (it was a 3-hour class). She was right — even though I slowed down, I was done in 90 minutes, so I left and went down to the vendor area (what a mistake that was — it was PACKED!)

One thing she neglected to mention regarding landscapes is that hills further away are lighter than those close to you, and that water further away is darker than water close to you — both fundamental pieces of information for landscapes. Of course, I got it the wrong way round and have my furthest hills are darker than my closer ones!

Peggy provided the fabrics, parchment paper, base muslin, and fusible (Steam-a-Seam Light) and the patterns (we had three to choose from, or could do our own thing), with instructions.

Thursday 8 Nov: Jodi Robinson: Modern Simplicity

I really enjoyed this class — Jodi’s methods of free-motion quilting so-called ‘straight lines’ align with my own, so I had no trouble trying out her patterns and designs. She explained her approach to quilting modern quilts on a long-arm quilting machine, emphasising straight(ish) lines, circles, arcs, and how to combine these to create striking quilting designs.

I didn’t take any photos in class as it was a practical one, with about half the time spent on the Gammill-supplied long-arm machines trying out her designs.

Friday 9 Nov: Rita Lynne: Floating Forest

I quite liked this class — the method Rita showed us was a simple but effective one, and she’s a great teacher. She provided us with instructions, pre-fused fabrics, and all other supplies needed to create our fall forest landscapes, then helped every person as they needed it when it came to using the hot glue guns to glue our tulle to the ‘rod’ of sky fabric, and the trees to the tulle. The floating part of the class is shown in the last photo of my creation — the forest floats over the landscape. Will I use this floating technique again? Likely not, but I may well use her method to create the background over which the trees floated.

Friday 9 Nov: Cindy Grisdela: Improv Color Blocks

Cindy does a lot of improvisational quilting and has written books on it. Mostly, she improv pieces her fabrics and blocks, but with this class she showed us how to make improv blocks using fusible and fabric. She provided each of us with kits of instructions, pre-fused fabrics (with extras), background fabric, and parchment paper, showed us her method and off we went. She gave her time and expertise as it was needed and near the end of the class time, she had us tape our pieces to the wall and discussed each one, focusing on all the positive things about each.

I had fun doing this class, and if I used this method in the future, I’d make sure I had a bigger palette of fabrics to choose from.

Friday 9 Nov: Grace Errea: Professional Quilt Edge Finished — The Envelope Edge

This was the class I most enjoyed of all those done so far. Grace explained how she does an envelope (aka pillowcase) finishing on her art quilts. She shared her whole process (I took copious notes that I will likely share on this blog later), which gives perfect edges and corners every time.

Again, this was a very practical class — Grace supplied us with muslin and batting, and we used Babylock sewing machines in class — so there are no photos.

Saturday 10 Nov: Melody Crust: Super Fast Binding and Piping

My final class was with Melody Crust. It wasn’t actually piping, more the illusion of piping using a tiny (less than a quarter inch) flange of contrasting fabric. Her method was quick and easy, and I had completed my sample piece within 90 minutes of the 3 hour class time. We got instructions to take with us — I can see myself using this technique in the future. (This time we got to sew on Husqvarna Viking Epics — I had a Husqvarna Viking Sapphire, so the controls were familiar to me. Nice machine — if I was in the market for a replacement sewing machine [I’m not], this would be on my list.)