We quilters are fortunate to have so many wonderful tools and materials available these days. I for one could not create my quilt projects without my 'holy trinity': rotary cutters, self-healing mats, and acrylic rulers. I can't imagine tracing cardboard template shapes on the back of the flimsy cottons of years ago.
|With pin basting alone, this pepper block is rippled and will poses problems for machine quilting.
But as advanced as our tools have become, there is no substitute to learning and using good sewing know-how.
I grew up in a time when Home Economics—Home Ec., for short—was still taught in public schools. I made some nifty aprons, pillows, and pot holders … and then promptly forgot all the rudiments I was taught. Pity. That knowledge would have been an excellent foundation to build on.
When I took up quilting 25 years ago, I plowed in and remembered enough rudiments of sewing to get by for many years. My skills even improved. I embraced or at least experimented with many gadgets, tools, and techniques. Many of my teachers were writing books and designing new tools, and there was always something new to try. But what about the 'old,' the basics, the classic techniques? Sometimes you bump into a problem that can't be solved by the latest gadget or new fad.
|After hand basting the block, the ripples really
Recently, I ran into a little trouble with a paper-pieced vegetable quilt I am trying to finish. After making the blocks and sashing them, I figured they were stable enough to remove the annoying paper from the back. I tried to be careful but then I handled the quilt top, ironed it, and handled it some more. Well, guess what? All those bias seams that were no longer stabilized by the paper foundation began to wiggle woggle. As I sandwiched the quilt, I discovered pin basting was not helping the rippling. It was too late for spray baste. What to do?
Lucky for me, my co-workers at Quilting Arts and our sister publications, Stitch and Cloth Paper Scissors, are excellent seamstresses and quilters and they are happy to help in times of fabric emergency. I sought out Stitch technical editor Mary Walter, who is also an award-winning quilter and designer. Mary suggested I thread baste the blocks, by hand, in a grid pattern. Gulp. Ah yes, memories of seventh-grade Home Ec. class came flooding back! At first I resisted the thought—wasn't there a faster, more modern approach, I asked myself? But a wiser part of my brain asked that cranky girl to please be quiet and she acquiesced. I hope she went and bought herself a how-to book on sewing basics!
|If you look closely, you'll see my machine quilting success.
Also pinned on the block is my tissue paper "template" for
writing with free-motion machine stitching.
So, the other night I sat down with my hand-sewing tools, my quilt, and a nice TV program. I basted a 2" grid across each puffy vegetable block—and I sewed an even narrower grid on one block that was really troublesome—and all of the wonkiness disappeared. The stability of the grid evened it out and calmed my nerves, too.
As an unexpected bonus, I was reminded of how much I enjoy hand work! After that, machine quilting the blocks was so enjoyable that I even went the extra mile and decided to add some writing on the quilt, labeling all of the blocks with the name of each vegetable. Did I mention this is a quilt for a child? The words might be teaching tools someday.
So the long and short of it is this: Don't forget the tried-and-true techniques even while you're working with the latest tools. They complement each other. If you don't know them, look for resources at your local library, quilt shop, or bookstore.
And to my lovely and patient Home Ec. teachers, wherever you are, thank you for giving me my start in sewing!
P.S. Who gave you your start in sewing? Did you learn in Home Ec.? Leave a comment below.