Sunday, August 28, 2011

To Starch or Not to Starch, That is the Question.

Dedicated to the Pros's and Con's of Starching.

    I have to admit that Bi-Polar is the best way to describe my quilting.
I am torn between two modes - the first being what is known as "The Galloping Horsewomen" and the second  aspiring to the heights of "Extreme Quiltmonship"  of some of the most beautifully made and designed quilts that are presented at the Guild. My mantra has been "If you couldn't see it from a galloping horse, then don't worry about it." or a simple way of explaining it "Turn off your Critical Ear" - in my case my brain, my eyes and my spirit quilter. I have left so many other crafty pursuits because of my own self criticism; I am grim and determined not to leave quilting.  My friend Ethel was the one who drummed the Galloping Horsewoman Mantra in my head and without her I would have stopped quilting.  So the other part is the critical part of my brain. They talk about left brain and right brain thinking, well I have decided I have middle brain syndrome. The most beautiful unfinished quilt top I ever saw was done by Beth who owned a quilting store. I can't remember what the pattern was, I know it was in shades of green and blues stripes, Many many stripes, but why I remember it so vividly is that it lay quiescent on the table top like a lake without a single ripple in it exactly pieced together at peace. My tops tend to look like the the ocean 10 miles off shore during a hurricane. One of my favorite free motion quilters said that heavy quilting tends to mask all kinds of problems. I can attest to that.

So for the last 6 months I have been on a mission to find ways to improve my piecing and quilting. I ask questions and then if I can try it out. I have volunteered to free motion quilt two charity quilt tops studying the backs of the tops for insight into my problem. These quilts are exactly cut and all the seams lie flat. So I asked "Texas Rose" she is a master quilter and hails originally from Texas, how did she do it.  Quilters will always share their knowledge, its what I love about quilters, they answer you directly about what you want to know when you want to know it.  She said "Starch"  - a good quilter's starch like Niagara non aerosol spray.
       Texas Rose starches every seam before during and after the fact, at least 3 times.  Pressing the seams, not ironing for those of you in the know about the difference between pressing and ironing.  She also told me some other things like thread tension, exact rotary cutting, a long arm, and a good machine.   Starch I could handle right then and there.
Block of the Month
Sept 2011 - Leaf in Block

The fabric block is so stiff it
practically stands up straight.

I have been working on a gift for my niece and a single block for the Block of the Month Drawing. I starched before, during and after on every seam. You can the effect on the single block I sewed.   It is so stiff it practically stands at attention. 
       Then I turned my iron and starch to the small nine block wall hanging and I starched  and pressed before during and after every seam.
The picture on the left shows what the seams look like before pressing and starching.
Un-starched Seams
   The picture on the right shows what the seams look like with the Starch and using the iron to press - the seam is flat and stays put.
        See the knotted thread on the right - that is a bird nest. I could host an Audubon Field Trip with all the bird nests on the back on my quilt. Suggestions would be appreciated for that particular problem as well. 
This is a vast improvement on what I usually get.
Because every seam is relatively flat and facing the right direction.
This is what happened:
1. The quilted pieces and their seams did not stretch. The Starch acts like a stabilizer.
2. The 1/4 inch seam allowances  stay in place on top and bottom and don't bunch up under the foot when you are sewing multiple layers.
3. You can sew thicker layers all to the the same side so the seam allowance doesn't get twisted in making the transition from one block to another. The seam allowances stay put on the side you want them to stay.
4. The seam allowance on the back of the quilt are all laying in the correct directions and the entire top will be flatter on the front.
5. The starch keeps the seam allowances in the back of the quilt in the right place for many hours, several days and even longer.

I found this  blog in which they were discussing the starch issue.

1. It keeps bias edges from stretching (as in Lone Star diamonds).

2. The pencil marks wash out better because they are on the starch, not on the fabric.
3. Zig-zag-edged applique pieces don't bunch, fray or shift when they are being sewed down.
4. Backings don't get puckers in them as readily.  ( A terrible problem I have)

Here are the cons that I came across:
If you store your quilt with the starch and don't wash it,  If the starch you use doesn't have a mildew inhibitor or you also don't use a mildew inhibitor two things can happen.  The starch is a good source of food for mildew and silver fish love eating the starch which can cause damage to the fabric.
Elizabeth's Ruff
round her neck.

This is the King of Spain,
Elizabeth refused to
She was vain about her
clothes, maybe the real
reason was his ruff.
Spanish Armada,
really overkill.
Now I was curious about when Starch was invented and it dates back to Elizabethan England. The beautiful Lace Ruffs, the pleated lace neck pieces that we associate with Queen Elizabeth's Neck. Even the men wore them. Ruffs were made possible by the invention of starch.  
Ruffs had a particular purpose,  If you did sweat,   the ruffs were easily washable. The expensive garments with pearls and jewels  did not have to be cleaned. I wonder what they stuck under their underarms?

    I was curious about the history of Niagara Starch and discovered this picture of the Niagara Starch company suffering extreme damage in an explosion in 1898.  Don't Worry, Be Happy, Starch is not Volatile, it was probably the coal fired steam engines. They don't know for sure because the black coal boxes were blown to smithereens.  Actually I did come across some references to chemical experiments using starch for volatile purposes and they were not the iodine testing for starch kind.

    I also was looking for some pictures of ironing and starch and I came across this website called The Art of Manliness. Now a website for the manly art of ironing, what have we come to. However it had some excellent directions in incredible detail on how to iron shirts. There were over 80 comments on this particular issue, but my favorite was the first, that the directions were too complicated and he was going to keep on paying a neighbor to iron his shirts. One of the few things I liberated myself from was ironing when I got married. Its ironic that I am so interested in ironing and pressing right now.
    For years I taught in one of the most rural school district in South Carolina. The children's clothes and uniforms were extremely well pressed and starched. In middle school we made an annual trip to Washington DC and the students brought irons with them and they were constantly pressing their clothes refusing to leave the hotel until their clothes were pressed. Even when their britches were down lower then what I called the Mason Dixon Line, their boxer shorts were exceptionally well starched. They ballooned out but they were not ever wrinkled. I learned to take more pride in my clothes and the iron which I had put up came down and was available on a daily basis. When I saw a child in school that did not have ironed clothes, I knew to take that child aside and find out what was wrong or to refer that child to the guidance counselor.

This is a Niagara Trading Card.  It is worth about $65.00.  See, it pays to starch.  It is available at this website if you wish to purchase it.
A bottle of the Niagara Spray Starch, non aerosol sells for about $18.00.
This card might be a wise purchase to offset the future cost of the Niagara Spray Starch bottle, non aerosol if you decide to use it when you sew your blocks.

So how do you feel about pressing, ironing, or other helpful hints which you can see I can use and grateful for your help.  If you would like to leave a comment, please mash, not press the blue word comment. A new window will open up and you can leave your comment.  I really love reading your comments.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Workday With the Swamp Fox Quilters - Strip Quilting

Swamp Fox Quilter's Work Day 
 3rd Thursday of the Month - August 13th, 2011

The third Thursday of every month is The Swamp Fox Quilter's Work Day.  This last meeting many events were going on in many nooks and crannies and even large rooms.
Sara's Strip Quilt 
 Sara one of our members was doing a demonstration on Strip Quilting. She shared her love and enjoyment of this technique with the group.
This the red, white and blue strip quilt top that Sara finished. She set up shop and was ready to demonstrate.  

She said you have to begin by cutting strips of fabric. The strips can be the same size or different widths.  The strips were about 1 1/2 inches wide.  
The first strip is glued on.
The strips are sewn on a muslin background which is a permanent stablizer or you can use freezer paper, deli paper or even newspaper.  The paper stabilizers will be removed later.  You lay the first strip face up on the diagonal and glue it down to hold it in place. You can also leave a white strip open on the diagonal as a pattern variation.

The strips can be
Placed on either side
of the center white muslin
diagonal and sewn into
place as a pattern variation.

Place the next strip right sides together and sew l/4 inch.
The next strip is placed on the diagonal strip right sides together and you then you sew 1/4 inch from the side of the strips. Flip the strip, finger press and then add the next strip until you get to the corner and then do the other side.  Trim your block and it is finished.  If you used a paper stablilzer, you will have to remove the paper before you baste or pin the quilt for quilting. You can quilt by stitching in the ditch or an all over quilting pattern.

Here is a finished block that is given a final trimming on the cutting mat by lining up the corners of the block on on the diagonal lines of the mat.

Ed is talking to Francis about the strip quilting on the left and Jim and Shirley are sewing the strips  together.  Here are the Blocks that Jim and Shirley finished at workday.
Francis is working on her block.
She told me today she has several
 more blocks completed.
Jim and Shirley were helping each other complete the various steps of making the strip block. 
Shirley's Block.

Jim's Completed Block

 We have recently started a Block of the Month Challenge again. This time quilters bring in a block of a pre set theme, for September it is leafs, and one very lucky quilter leaves with all the the blocks. This has brought back memories of past Block of the Month activities for many quilters who have been sharing their blocks from previous challenges.

Gramma Moses Quilting Bee

Lorene brought in her completed quilt of blocks that she had done from a previous Block of the Month Challenge and we had a modern version of an old timey quilting Bee  in one of the church's classroom. The quilting bee has a long history of the social threads that held together a community. 
 If you follow this link, you might get a more complete version of what the quilting bees were actually like:

Lorene's Beautiful Block of the Month quilt with many techniques
Lorene brought her quilt in to be basted and you can see how this is done on tables without a frame. So the quilters pushed together the sturdy white plastic fold up tables in the classroom and used masking tape
 to gently stretch the back of the quilt. Then the cotton batting or filler was placed on top of the quilt and finally the top of the quilt. I am a rank beginner at putting together a quilt and I admire the tenancity and faith of quilters who know that they will tame the divergent quilt layers of back, batting and top to form a cohesive whole. They like most people have particular moods and desires of who they want to be close with.  
 I have seen the quilters use quilters safety pins to pin the quilt together but this time the quilt was going to get basted using needles and thread. My personal favorite is the petite flexible person who gets up on top of the quilt table and bastes the middle part of the table. (I personally refer to this as "The Table Dance". 
 I am the first to sadly admit that I would never be chosen for this particular task because of my traditional built and arthritis.)       
You can see how the quilters are using a running basteing stitch thru all the layers of the quilt. 
     The most wonderful thing of all is the social interplay among the quilters. Sharing a task like this brings together a group of divergent women  into a community of social quilting that far outstrips the original task.

Nooks and Grannies
You would think that there wasn't any time for much else.
But a great deal of sharing of projects and experiences was going in the small crannies.

Akemi's daughter is looking at
some of Ray's beautiful blocks

Ray is working on some of her beautiful hand appliqued blocks in the foreground and in the background, Ed and Francis are "Quilt Talking"

With each needle and thread and stitch taken, threads that hold and bind our hearts and spirits together will be remembered for a life time.

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Harry Potter, The Final Chapter.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is complete. For those of you who dont know, Harry did survive and is married to Ginny and at the end they are sending their son off to Hogworths.
The entire 3-g network, mom and dad have shared the book and movie saga with me. We have read all the books and seen all of the movies together. I have gone to 2 midnight book premiers at Borders and Books a Million and attended one with G-1 where we finally got our book at 3:00 am in the morning. To say that we are Harry Potter Fans is not an exaggeration.

In Preparation for the Movie Night, the girls dressed up in their Hermonie and Ginny Costumes.
We attended the movie in 3-D. I bought upteen boxes of candy for the event. I still have my 3-D glasses and did not turn them in.

Harry Potter did not stop with the premier of the movie.  I took G-2 to Wallmart and we purchased the missing Harry Potter Movies and then spent over a week watching the movies over and over again. I saw Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire 3 times before I couldn't watch it again. G-2 who usually never stays home stayed home day after day, watching the movies and I watched with her. It was so much fun.
                When the books first were coming out I was still teaching. Children who hardly ever read before were reading the big books cover to cover. The series made a generation of readers. My librarian at school kept copies of all the books in the school library and you could see her walking down the hall carrying the books to the children. She was a Prim and proper Church going woman who insisted the boys wear belts and took them for hair cuts when their families couldn't afford the barber and no one argued with her about the propriety of the books.
The official website for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
quilt patterns for Harry Potter
the method of making a paper pieced pattern and the sorting hat

At least 5 years ago, I started making a collection of the Paper Pieced Harry Potter Quilt Patterns. They used to be free and available on the web. My computer crashed last year and I lost them all. Now you can find the examples but not the patterns which is more difficult. If some one know where to find them, please email me at

And finally for those of you that dont find anything at all amusing about Harry Potter, I recommend this site that G-1 turned me on to:  Just hilarious.

I love my grandkids they keep me young. 

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The week after G-3 and I went to the library for the High Tea Party, we went back to listen to Irish Music by UPRiver    
Ms. Holly Van Camp was now dressed in a green tee shirt with the caption of Life is Great, Reading Makes It Better which was a little more casual then the formal white lace and brocade that adorned her the previous week. The enthusiastic crowd was young, and the activity room was filled.


We took along some extra friends to hear the Irish Music. Ms. Holly gave out percussion instruments and the crowd played along.
    Besides playing Irish and Celtic music, UpRiver also played traditional children songs that had their roots in Irish and Celtic music. The little ones enjoyed those songs the most.
I was facinated by an instrument I had never seen before. It was an electric fiddle that looked like a piece of modern sculpture that Picasso might have contructed.      

                  Most of the instrument was not there. Part of the program was to teach the youngsteers to identify the instruments, how they sounded and how they were played.

The finale was when the children who wanted could come up and play an instrument.

G-3 said that this was the most interesting and fun part of the program.
For me too!!!!

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I love sewing with U I love sewing 4 U

One of the best weeks I had this summer was sewing with the 3-G Network.

Recently I learned how to make Little Dresses for Africa or pillowcase Dresses ( More about that at the end of the Blog) and I shared the sewing experience with my grandies.
G-1 loves to bake. If you need something baked, she is right there on the spot whipping something up and the baked goods she produces are delicious. She has a real talent for baking - a regular Betty Crockett. 

So off we went to Joannes where G-1 found the most perfect fabric for her love of baking. She chose a cupcake fabric.
She designed her own dress adding a ruffle and had a real moment of invention and adaptation. She decided that the shoulder straps needed to be like pony tale scrunches, so we invented a way to do it. (directions are at the bottom) This is the first dress that G-l ever made. She had a tiny bit of coaching from her Nana but really and truly not much.  I am so proud of her. Her dress was fab.
G-1 sewed first as the following week she had to start up her summer job of babysitting and guess what her favorite thing to do with her charges was: Yup - you guessed it  BAKING.  She did so many special things like crafts and baking with her charges, G-1 was a fabulous Babysitter as well.

G-3 was next in line and we went off to Joanne's again, but this time G-3 choose the most beautiful tie dyed fabric.  She has great style in all her clothes.  The sewing machine practically dwarves the seamtress and her concentration and dedication is evident.

This is the beautiful tied dyed dress she made with only a tiny itty bit of help from her nana. Nana did the ruffle, G-3 did all the rest sewing from 2 to 3 hours everyday until the dress was finished. I am so proud and impressed with the beautiful results.

G-2 had no interest in dress making because unlike her sisters she does not like wearing dresses. She came with us to Joanne's and found the monkey fabric, that's right the MONKEY Fleece fabric. It was of course the most expensive fleece you could find, but sometimes you have just grin and bear it or should I say monkey it. We also had coupons which reduce the price by half.  G-2 wanted a soft blanket to watch TV with and thats just what she made for herself with barely no direction or coaching whats so ever. The monkey fabric had cupcakes of course and some green highlights so G-2 choose green satin for her blanket binding one of the more useful sewing skills to acquire.

This is a picture I took through the window of one of several cupcake baking sessions that took place. These cupcakes were for a fund raiser.

You can see the white frosting of the cupcakes in between the basket and the bread.

In only one setting G-3 finished her blanket. It was gorgeous and soft and cuddly and very very well sewn. She really wanted to sew it and the day after we went shopping, she finished it in one sitting.

All the sewing inspired me to make another dress as well. Last year I had promised G-3 a zebra dress for herself and a matching one for her American Girl Doll. I tired several times over a period of months to order the dresses but they were always back ordered. So I got some zebra fabric and made the dress for G-3 and her doll.

This is the scrunchie shoulder strap that G-1 invented or designed. Even the doll dress had the same scrunchies. Most ofthe dresses are seen with the ties, but the elastic in the scrunchies make them easy to get on and off.

Here are some websites if you are interested in making these dresses.
I have made two which I sent to Nancy's Notions and they forwarded them to Little Dresses for Africa.  It would make a great sewing project for your sewing group, club or church. The suggestion is to make one for daonation and one for your grandchild. I will be doing a workshop for my quilting guild in October and hoping that there will be more dresses for donations. Here are the Websites:

nancy’s notions website with dress pattern

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