Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Mounting Your Quilt On Stretcher Bars

I have found that some wall-hanging quilts will look better when mounted on wooden stretcher bars (just like a painted canvas). By doing so, you avoid any curling, waviness, or other things that often occur with hanging pieces. And it also saves a little work as you don't have to do a binding or put on a hanging sleeve (as they hang just like a regular framed piece of art).

For example:

You may be able to buy the stretcher bars locally, although they are not always the best quality and may not come in the size you want without a special order. I usually get mine on-line from French Canvas.  They are solid and straight and generally cheaper than the store ones (although the cost of shipping cancels that out).

Once you have finished piecing your top, and before you start quilting, you need to do some different planning than for a normal bound quilt.

First: You will be wrapping the edges of the quilt top around the stretcher bars. So make sure there is enough extra background fabric (or in the border) that you will not lose any part of your design.  Determine the depth (thickness) of the stretcher bars you will be using. Add this number (times 2) + 2" to the top/bottom and side dimensions of the quilt. If necessary, add more fabric to the background / border to account for this.

For example: Let's say your design body was 24" x 24". Then you have a 2" border all around. So the total size is 28" x 28". If you want to see the finished quilt as 28" x 28", this is the size of the stretcher bars to buy. However, you will need to add more border fabric. Here's what to do: The bars I use are typically 3/4" deep. You need this plus at least a 2" overhang to be able to mount the quilt. So you would need to add (at least) 2 3/4" more border fabric (or another border) all around. So our quilt top now measures 33 1/2" square. The finished piece will still be 28" x 28".

Next: baste a line of contrasting thread all the way around the quilt at the point where the back side edge of the stretchers will be. In our example, this would be 28 3/4" from the center point (or, you could measure in 2" from the new outer edges). Later, when you are actually mounting the piece, this line will give you an alignment guide. This line also tells you where to stop quilting!  Do not cross it. Make sure you sew this basting BEFORE you make the quilt sandwich. Otherwise you will get a nasty bulge when you quilt.

Then, as with any quilted piece, you would cut your batting and backing fabric a few inches extra all around. So for our 33 1/2" x 33 1/2" quilt they might be 39" x 39". Do what you're comfortable with.

Quilt as you normally would.

After the quilting is done for a regular bound quilt, you would trim the batting and backing even with the top's edges. With this method, any batting or backing fabric should be trimmed even with the basted line. DO NOT CUT THE TOP! You will have to turn the quilt over and hand trim using the basting line as a guide.  It doesn't have to be perfect or exact.

Assemble the stretcher bars per the manufacturer's instructions. Also, put on the hanging hardware at this time, but not the wire (do that last). The hangers should be about 1/3 of the way down from the outer edge of the top stretcher.

Next, you will mount the finished quilt on the bars.  You will need a bunch of push pins and a heavy duty stapler with (preferably) 1/2" staples. Follow the instructions at this link, or look at the steps which I have reproduced here. Note: Having the basting lines means that you don't have to mark the bars as indicated below. Just align and start pinning!

How much to stretch?  You do want the quilt to be "taut", but be careful: unless it is a small piece (say 18" or less), it will not be "tight"; there will always be some "give". Use you judgment. Also, be careful not to pull so tight you break any stitching threads or (heavens!) any pieced seams. And as you work your way around, keep making sure that it is still square and lined up. Before you put that first staple in, stand it up and back away and check for proper alignment. Maybe it is centered left and right, but the top has more border showing than the bottom. If so, unpin and fix.

Now, remove the basting threads. As you rip out the top thread, use your seam ripper point (or a tweezers) to grab the bobbin thread and pull it through to the surface (it is now buried under the pinned top, so you can't get to it from the back).

Then start stapling as per above.

The corners are the most difficult. You will have double thicknesses and, depending on how you trimmed and how much you have pulled, there may be batting and backing fabs. I like to have the folds going along the top and bottom, so here's how I do it:  Finish stapling the top (or bottom) fabric all the way to the edge. Then CAREFULLY cut parallel to the side edge ALMOST to the fold of the top-edge fabric. Then fold the side edge down. It will still be bulky. Note where that extra piece of triangular fabric (the corner) is as you fold it under (trust me, you'll see it). Unfold and CAREFULLY trim a little away. Repeat as often as necessary until the fold-over sits nicely and is not too bulky, then staple it in place. Better to trim a little each time than too much!!! You do not want any raw edges showing. Repeat for the other 3 corners.

Put on the hanging wire, hang, step back and admire your work!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Mosaic Quilting

The tips found here are all based on my reading and use of the excellent how-to book: "Mosaic Picture Quilts", by Pat Durbin and what I learned as I made my own mosaic quilt. Before doing yours, you should probably refer to the book and my post Sunflower Mosaic.

1. You can get 3 different sizes (scales) of transparent grids from Pat's web site. Use the appropriate template for the piece you are doing. The original photo or print of art work does not need to be the same (full) size as the template. Tape the transparent grid in place over your original. I also made a small "porthole" by cutting a square (the same size as the squares in the transparent grid) in a piece of paper which was about 3" square. This allowed me to isolate a single square on the original so that I could truly see the colors and shapes contained therein.

2. Draw a grid of 1" squares (or the appropriate scalable size) on a large sheet of paper to the size of the finished quilt top. Make sure that you leave enough extra room all around so that the binding will not cover any important part of the pattern. Then, on each side and top and bottom, mark off all of the rows and columns the same way they are marked on the transparency. This will help you later when you are trying to find what square is "R12C11" on the enlarged grid.

3. Cut light-weight non-fusible interfacing a little bigger than the gridded paper.  Tape it flat around the edges.

4. Cut strips of light-weight (e.g., Steam-a-Seam II Lite) fusible webbing 1/8" bigger than the drawn grid squares. So, for example, if your grid had 1" squares, your strips will be 1 1/8".

5. Cut strips of appropriate fabrics the same size as the fusible strips x width of fusible webbing. Cutting on the bias will minimize raveling and stray threads.

6. Fuse webbing to the backs of the fabric strips. Note: You may prefer to fuse a sheet of webbing to a section of fabric before you cut it into strips. Either way works well.

7. Cut squares of the fabric.

8. Starting from any corner, work in a diagonal to fill the gridded space.

9. Peel backing from the squares (a tweezers really helps) and press into place.  Each square fits in a grid corner and slightly overlaps the 2 adjoining squares.

10. After placing a few pieces in place (or even just one) and ensuring that they look ok, fuse it in place per the instructions. I use a piece of muslin between the iron and the square to avoid getting any melted webbing on the iron. This also helps keep "heat shine" from happening to the fabric. Be careful as you fuse near the edges not to melt the scotch tape that is holding the interfacing down. As you go along, you may also find that some of the fusible web has actually gone through the interfacing and fused to the gridded paper. Not to worry, this is a good thing! It helps keep the interface in the correct place as you build the top, and is easy to peel away once the top is complete.

11. For grid squares that require several pieces of fabric, I recommend this:
    a) Place a piece of the Steam-a-Seam paper from a previously used square in the appropriate spot on the grid.
    b) With a pencil, lightly sketch the lines that make up that piece. For example, the top section might need a green fabric and the bottom a blue fabric (there can be more than 2 in a small square!).
    c) Using that small square as a template, cut the pieces from the indicated fabrics. You can either cut each individual piece (to then fit together to make a square) , or, use one fab as the full square base and just cut the balance from the other fab. Doing this means that there will be no gaps of interfacing showing through if your cutting in not exactly perfect. But, if you do this, BEWARE: The lighter fabric should always be used as the "base" square, even if it is the smaller of the sections in that square. Why? If the darker fab is the base, it will tend to darken the color of the lighter fabric placed on top of it. So then that fabric's color (value, intensity) may not match those around it; it might stick out inappropriately.

12. When the whole top has been created / fused:
    a) Look for any areas where there is an abrupt (and inappropriate) break in the pattern. This usually happens at the edge of a square. Find a piece of the matching fabric and free-hand cut a small "rounded" piece to soften the transition.
    b) Go back over it lightly with the iron once more to ensure that there are no unfused edges.

13. Make the quilt sandwich with batting and backing as usual, but do not pin as you normally would. Once there is a pin hole in a fused square it will not "heal" (like a plain piece of fabric would) when the pin is removed. I basted across the bottom, quite close to the edge, and then a few inches up each side. This basting line was inside the area where the binding would go. I also put a few straight pins along the top edge (and parallel to it).

14. Quilt as you normally would, but use a thin (70/10) needle.

15. Pat uses a tulle overlay on all of her quilts as the fourth part of the sandwich (and quilts it into place). I bought a piece, but did not use it in mine for these reasons:
    a) It was very slippery (as Pat notes in her book) and I did not want to put pins in my top to hold it in place.
    b) Even though I bought a white piece, it covered and dulled the colors in my top.
    c) Though it seemed sturdy, I was very fearful of somehow tearing it while quilting. Worse yet, was what would happen if, for some reason, I had to rip out a section of quilting (as indeed I did due to a tension problem!). Could I actually rip the threads without tearing or making a mess of the tulle?
It seemed like the risk / reward was not in my favor.

16. Bind as you normally would.