Modern Sunbonnet Sue's Musings

Musings from the mind of a modern day Sue:

August 2011 - Posts

Binding Basics

Binding isn't everyone's favorite part of quilting, but I must admit that I don't mind the process. Not that it was always the case. I have made binding several different ways over the years. I began just cutting strips, but did not sew them on the diagonal and found the bulk at the seams a problem. Then I found out about the tube method and used it for a long time. Now, I prefer to just cut crossgrain strips. Often, I use up the scraps from the quilt, which may or may not all match.

I always struggled with the proper width to make, too. I prefer double fold bias edges. If I intend to have a 1/4" binding based on the expected seam allowance of the quilt edge, then it seems logical that the quilt would require a 1-1/2" strip. When this is folded, it leaves 3/4" for the seam and turning to the back. Whenever I made this width of binding, I struggled to cover the seam on the back and would have to trim my seam allowance. I tried making a narrower seam, but this did not help. Currently, a 2" to 2-1/4" strip works best. I have no trouble turning the edge and it is not too snug, so as to cause fraying after only a little wear.

The second binding issue that always arose was connecting the two ends after attaching the binding to the quilt. I either made the ends too short to stitch the final seam easily, laid the two strips in the wrong direction causing the binding to be twisted, or turned the corners with either too much or too little fabric causing a round or pointed corner. Connecting the entire binding strip and laying it out on the quilt requires repeated measuring to ensure it is the correct size. However, I have also found that just pinning it along the edge and stitching can cause a wavy binding. Just as borders are cut to fit the finished measurements of the quilt center to keep the quilt squared, so must the binding be measured to maintain the straight edge. Just as the measured borders are centered, so the binding will attach more squarely if it is divided into the side measures. The best binding that I have attached was made by measuring the circumference of the quilt and making the binding just that finished length plus about 1/4" for easing the corners. I have finally mastered connecting the ends without twisting the binding on itself. And, my stitches are small, secure and well hidden.

If you have ever entered a quilt into a judged quilt show, the responses by the judge will often cause you to look closer at your quilting process to make improvements. Binding was one of those judged responses for me. My corners were not square. My stitches were not evenly spaced. My stitches were too far apart. Some quilters would just brush off the responses, or more likely, not enter a quilt in a judged show. I prefer to take the responses and use them to try and perfect my quilting. Not that I will ever be perfect, but I certainly can try.

I do not subscribe to knowing everything about binding, but feel that my finished edges have improved over the years. Happy Binding!

Offer your comments on your best binding tips.

Posted Thu, Aug 11 2011 9:53 PM by Pamela | 2 comment(s)

Filed under: ,

Picture This quilt completed for show

I have been challenging myself to complete a quilt to display in the St. John's Mint Festival quilt show. Last night, I finished stitching the binding. So, all that remains is to make the label. I began the quilt in March 2010 during a quilt guild class called Picture Perfect taught by Janna Rust-Getzin of Midland, Michigan. Each participant selected a photo in advance of the class and the teacher made them into a 24X36 inch blueprint enlargement. Each part of the photo was made into a pattern and the fabric used was based upon the value on the black and white enlargement. The class supplies said to choose five fabrics from shades of black and white. I decided to use brown to cream and the effect was the same. The pieces were fused to a muslin background, then fused to a background piece.


This is the photo of my granddaughter that I selected. She was about 9 months old at the time and this picture captures her joyful personality. Her eyes are an amazing blue that sparkle, and I wanted to capture that aspect in my quilt.


 Here is the finished quilt. It measures 26-3/8"X26-3/8" square. As you may notice, I like a scrappy quilt. I made the background from 5-inch charm squares. Some of the fabrics were purchased many years ago. As an example, three of the blues and the binding are leftover Moda Marbles by Patrick Lose from a quilt of the month I purchased back in 1999. I chose the blue fabrics to pull the color from her eyes. I also chose various pinks for her top to add interest.

This close-up shows more of the facial details. I finished this quilt a year ago, but hesitated to complete the quilting, because I felt I would ruin the quilt with my quilting. But, I was determined and finally got up enough courage to begin. I am pleased with the results. The quilting on the appliqued photo was mostly done with a clear embroidery foot, although some of the stitching on the pink top was FMQ. The applique photo is heavily quilted, while the background charms has a simple FMQ pattern that I created. Although the mouth did not turn out as well as I had hoped, the eyes look nearly perfect to me. Next time I give this a try, I will have some experience under my quilt belt.

I really cannot blog anymore tonight. I need to finish a label to attach to the quilt before I can go to bed. I have to drop off the quilts at the festival on my way home from work tomorrow night. I am displaying three quilts. One was posted previously in the Mint Festival blog and in My Gallery. Here is the other one. This quilt was also made in a guild sponsored quilt class taught by Ami Simms of Flint, Michigan. The name of the pattern is Twisted Sister. This is another example of my modern scrap quilts. I really enjoyed making this quilt. Piecing the set-in seams of the blocks is not as complicated as it first appears.


Posted Wed, Aug 10 2011 7:48 PM by Pamela | 2 comment(s)

Monday's Musings

Monday. It's the beginning of the week. Usually, it is the day to which few of us look forward since it is the first day of the work week. Monday is the second day of the week by the Judeo-Christian calendar. Mother Goose's nursery rhyme says that "Monday's child is fair of face...", whatever that really means. Yahoo Answers states that the poem's traits assigned to each day may have been based upon traits of the planets, which were representative of gods in Norse, Greek and Roman mythology. "Moonday" referring to the moon, because it is thought to have a face. I'm a Saturday's child and so must "work hard for a living". The poem first appeared in 1838 in a book about the Traditions of Devonshire, by A. E. Bray. The author is unknown.

Sports has it's own take on Mondays with WWE Monday Night Raw; while football reigns on Monday night in the Fall. Vegans and nutritionists would like you to make Monday's meatless Monday. If you read my profile, you'll see that I'm a dietitian/nutritionist. At, Tom Wilson quotes,  “Mondays are the potholes in the road of life.”

Traditionally, women's chores were assigned a certain day of the week. Monday was assigned "washing". An internet search will yield lots of hits on the topic. Supposedly, the assignments made sense as the tasks progressed through the week. Before washers & dryers, laundry was definitely a chore, as the word implies. Completing the toughest chore at the beginning of the week was accomplished better after Sunday's day of rest. Logically, Tuesday's ironing followed Monday's washing; Wednesday's mending and sewing followed Tuesday's ironing. Women even embroidered dishtowels depicting images of each daily chore. Aunt Martha brand was a popular iron-on transfer that could be stitched or painted.

Sunbonnet Sue is often depicted in scenes of daily chores. As my blog proports, I am a fan of Sunbonnet Sue. If you're a fan, too, check out this Sunbonnet Sue website and a free pattern. Monday is about over. So, Sue's Musings must end.


Posted Mon, Aug 8 2011 8:13 PM by Pamela | with no comments

Sue's Sunday Challenge Continues

Sue met her challenge today and finished the FMQ on the photo quilt of my granddaughter. I was also able to prepare and attach the binding. The quilt measures 26-3/8" X 26-3/8" square. The detail quilting on the face was challenging, but looks realistic. I am pleased with the results, especially since this was my first attempt at this type of piecing. Some of the quilting is more like thread painting, which is also something that I haven't tried very much. Since there was so much quilting of small areas, there were a lot of threads to bury in the sandwich, which takes a great deal of time and patience. I used to just backspace the beginning and ending FMQ stitches and trim the threads, but did not like the results. As well, a quilt judge commented on this aspect of a quilt needing improvement. So, I no longer backspace stitches and began knotting and burying my FMQ threads.

Now, all that remains to finish the quilt is to slip stitch the binding and attach a label. My quilt will be ready for the quilt show at the Mint Festival this week-end, August 12-14. Tomorrow, I will have to take photos and upload them for everyone to see the finished quilt.

Thank-you to everyone for your comments reagarding my Grandma Smith and my blog. I have always enjoyed writing in my journal. Over the years, I have written a great deal about my quilting. This blog allows me to share those quilting thoughts with you, my QCA friends.

Posted Sun, Aug 7 2011 10:01 PM by Pamela | with no comments

Singer collection grows

Today, I acquired my Grandma Smith's Singer Athena 2000 that she purchased in 1977. I bought it from my uncle, who closed on the purchase of her home and is trying to clean out the house. I found the actual purchase receipt that indicates she paid $1039 for the sewing machine, along with a wooden cabinet made to house it. This was the top-of-the-line model during that era. In fact, it was the first electronic machine made. My Grandma Smith also kept the company advertisment, two instruction manuals, the directions for placing or removing the machine from the wooden cabinet, and a copy of the 3-year service agreement. There were 14 new bobbins still inside packages and a sample piece of fabric showing all the decorative stitches on the machine.

The sewing machine had been collecting dust in a back room for several years and it appears that a mouse may have taken up residence in the cabinet. I read through the manual and was able to operate the machine without difficulty. It appears to have been used very little, since there was no lint in the bobbin case. The machine stitches an even seam and has several nice features. The thread is wound directly to the bobbin in the bobbin case; and several decorative stitches and buttonholes are two of it's selling points.

The Athena joins my 1951 Black Centenniel Featherweight and my 1980 model. The 1980 model was a gift from my husband and his parents on our first Christmas together. I had been an avid sewer, so the Singer machine was a godsend. Although Singer's are obviously a favored selection, I still prefer my computerized Bernina that I purchased in 2004 at the quilt show in Chicago. Check it out in this virtual tour of my sewing room.

My Bernina Virtuosa housed in a wooden sewing machine case that used to hold the machine I sewed on as a child.

I rotate my quilted wallhangins and here is Stained Glass Tulips that I made in a class in 1999, along with my thimble collection.


This wall also shows off an old wooden spool thread collection. The table is an old laminate top that is flat and sturdy; perfect for my large cutting mat.

Here are the two shoe storage furniture units I set up as fabric stash holders. I also have several boxes, rolling tubs and containers that hold fabric and projects. the piece of furniture just left of the fabric stash has shelves that roll out. This houses several antique quilts & tops, as well as, many of my own finished quilts.

I have several magazine holders full of Quilter's Newsletter, McCall's Quilting and various other magazines. Under the table seen previously, there is a box full of old Quilter's Newsletter magazines from the 70's and 80's. There may even be a few from the 60's.

This is my pressing area. It doesn't see much more than fabric or finished pieces. I prefer to wear permanent press or wrinkles, than spend precious sewing time pressing clothes. On the wall is one of my favorite quilts, Christmas Reflections, from Bargello Quilts by Marge Edie. The pattern is Underwater Reflections.

Posted Sat, Aug 6 2011 5:23 PM by Pamela | 3 comment(s)

In Honor of my Grandma Smith

Today is my Grandmother's birthday. She would have been 95 years old, but she passed away last January. She was the last living parent/grandparent that remained in my life. Today, I wish to honor her.

My Grandma Smith introduced me to hand crafts. I always remember her crocheting granny square afghans. My favorite was made with black borders around various colored squares. She taught me to crochet at nine or ten years old, when I received a beginners crochet kit from her for my birthday. She was also the person who helped me tie off my first quilt. As a senior in high school, a group from my French class worked together to make a quilt for our pregnant teacher with the assistance of a classmate's mother who was a quilter. After that, I had to make a quilt for myself. I used fabric scraps from dressmaking and cut out charm squares. It didn't matter what kind of fabric I used. The quilt was made from knits, corduroy, cotton/poly blends, dotted swiss, and chambray. I used a percale sheet for the backing. My Grandma Smith borrowed a quilt frame from one of her friends and set it up her living room. We spend a week-end putting the queen size quilt on the frame and tying off the corners of each block.

My Grandma Smith had a green thumb and was an avid gardener. I will remember her gladiolas the most. She had a round flower bed to the east of her house with blossoms that stood four foot tall. I admired the beautiful flowers, so now I have a bed of glads planted outside my picture window to enjoy. She also had a porch full of house plants, including many African violets. The delicate plants required the appropriate amount of water and care, and she could grow them from just a leaf rooting. I could never seem to keep one alive for more than a year. My Grandmother collected rainwater and used it year round to water all her plants and they flourished. My Grandma also collected salt & pepper shakers. She had literally hundreds of sets of S&P shakers displayed in cabinets between the living room and dining room. I would stop by to visit my Grandmother and find her whistling in the kitchen or outside in her garden. As she aged, she spent more time in her living room doing word search puzzles. She received daily care in a nursing home for the last few years.

I feel privileged to have been able to spend time with her on a regular basis; right up until she passed away. My daughters fondly remember her and my two-year-old granddaughter visited her a couple of times.  I have a special photo of my Grandmother and me hugging each other on the sofa in her living room. We are smiling and her chihuahua, Brownie, is standing beside her in the photo. Other cherished keepsakes include a Bible that she gave to me one year after I was grown and a mural that she displayed on the wall in her back entry that my art group drew in the fourth grade.

My Mother, her only daughter, passed away 24 years ago. I know that losing a mother at a young age leaves an emptiness, because Mothers hold a special place in our hearts. I can only imagine losing a daughter brings even greater heartbreak. My Grandma became my surrogate Mother. It was difficult watching the joyfulness leave her eyes as she became frail and forgetful. She is in a better place, rejoicing to be with my Mother again. I will miss her dearly.  Until we meet again...

Posted Fri, Aug 5 2011 8:52 PM by Pamela | 3 comment(s)

Filed under: ,

Kiltie Quilter Thursday

Twice a month, I meet up at the local library with a group of quilters to socialize. I've been attending this group since the late eighties and there never seems to be more than ten or twelve regulars in the group.  We've organized quilt shows, pieced & tied quilts to give to local families that have a house fire, and taken quilt excursions together over the years. These ladies are my mentors and my friends.

Tonight is supposed to be one of the nights that we tie together a nine-patch quilt to have on hand in case someone has a house fire. It's always a nine-patch quilt. Such a simple pattern, but fun to make. There are so many variations that can be made out of it. The block can be a traditional two color or made totally scrappy. It can be pieced on point with side setting triangles or sashed with cornerstones.  Variations include the double nine patch, four patch/nine patch, and Oklahoma Nine Patch. And who doesn't enjoy a Snowball & Nine Patch design. It's fun to see the blocks all put together.

Since it's time to leave, I will have to cut today's blog entry short. Happy Quilting!

Posted Thu, Aug 4 2011 7:00 PM by Pamela | with no comments

More of my Sewing Room

Every quilter has to have a sewing space. When I was first married, there wasn't any extra space, so the sewing machine only came out when I was making a project. I would power sew for a couple of weeks and the machine would be on one end of the dining room table. This made it impossible to eat a meal at the table, which my husband really disliked. Over the years, we moved to a bigger house and more space became available.

Since my girls left home, an entire extra bedroom was converted into my sewing space. Of course, we won't say how long they've been gone from home. I reorganized the space back in 2008 and added some book shelving and purchased storage areas. One of my favorite aspects of the room is the wooden cupboard in which I house my folded fabrics. The furniture was intended for holding shoes in a closet area, but I put two pieces together for a floor to ceiling rainbow of fabric storage space. My sister, who only recently got involved in making quilts, likes to come shopping in my sewing room when she needs just a little bit of fabric. Don't look too close, you may see some vintage fabrics. Uh oh, I'm telling my age again. And, the space keeps sprawling into the next room. The older I get, the more space I need to sew & quilt.

At least my husband cannot complain. The other extra bedroom was converted into a "man cave".

Posted Wed, Aug 3 2011 6:10 PM by Pamela | 6 comment(s)

More about quilting books

Now that I've gotten started on books, you may recall that I indicated I am a list person - OCD stuff - and have a list of all my quilting projects (see blog post on 7/29/11). I also have numerous quilt books and they are organized, alphabetically, by author, on shelves in my sewing room. I began my quilt book collection in the 1980's and had numerous subscriptions to book clubs and annual realeases of books. I have every edition of Great American Quilts, published by Oxmoor House, from 1990 to 2004. Some books have been won at guild give-a-ways, retreats or quilt shows. Often, local libraries discard old books and I was able to pick up a 1935 edition of The Romance of the Patchwork Quilt in America by Carrie Hall and Rose Kretsinger for free. Quilt friends often decide to trim down their collection of books, while others were acquired when a quilt friend passed away. Some were flea market or antique shop finds, while others were purchased at major quilt shows. It's hard to resist book purchases when a booth has literally hundreds of copies from which to choose.

Some of the books provide patterns, while others have various instructions on quilting such as choosing fabric, making binding, using specialty rulers created by the author, etc. Others are spinkled with stories of quilters in various parts of the country. One such book is A People and Their Quilts by John Rice Irwin with photographs by Robin Hood. The author traveled extensively throughout Tennessee and into the Appalachians, visiting long time residents and collecting stories and conversations about life and quilting. Beautiful photographs of quilts and their makers, along with conversations and geneology fill the 214 page book. I also discovered a booklet amongst my parent's belongings from the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan titled Susan McCord's Quilts, A Farmwife's Legacy.  The museum houses a collection of her quilts and the booklet provides the history of the author and photographs of the collection with detailed examples of her exquisite applique and quilting.

I often browse through my book collection and pull down a volume to revisit. The photograph shows my quilting room after it was organized back in 2008. I have since acquired several more books, fabric and patterns that has caused the space to sprawl into the adjoining room. If I weren't so busy completing quilting projects and blogging, I might be able to reorganize.


Posted Tue, Aug 2 2011 8:15 PM by Pamela | with no comments

History of American Quilting

One aspect of quilting, that continues to fascinate me, is the history of quilting in America. I am always on the lookout for books that provide historical insight into quilts. For one thing, quilts were often the one artistic avenue that women had in this country. Amish quilts are a prime example of bold quilts with extravagant quilting created by women in a simple, plain society.

I think that I love books as much as I love fabric. I love to browse through shelves at the library, bookstore, or antique shop; looking for examples of books that depict quilting in the past. I have acquired a great many books in many parts of the country. Sometimes, individuals have given me books because they know of my curiosity. My most valued quilting book is a first edition, hardcover, Old Patchwork Quilts and The Women Who Made Them by Ruth E. Finley, that I purchased on eBay. I read an article about Ruth E. Finley years ago and have wanted to find out if we are related. Her initial "E" is for her maiden name, Ebright, which we both share.

My most recent acquistion came from my mother-in-law and is a more recent book called The Perfect Patchwork Primer by Beth Gutcheon printed in 1974, just before the quilt revival of the bi-centennial. My mother-in-law also included a pattern booklet published by J&P Coats, copyright 1945, with examples of quilts using fabrics of the 30's and 40's era. Another unique book find came during a trip to Florida in 2007 with my husband. As we browsed through an antique shop in Mt. Dora, I came across a hardcover, 1974 edition of America's Quilts and Coverlets by Carleton L. Stafford and Robert Bishop. The historical information and detailed photographs provide a wealth of quilt history.

I could probably talk about quilts and books for hours, but need to conclude my thoughts by saying; "Someday, someone will be looking back on this time, and discover a vast array of quilts and information that will add to the history of quilting in America".

Posted Mon, Aug 1 2011 8:48 PM by Pamela | 1 comment(s)

More Posts « Previous page