Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Washing Fabric - Part 2

Yesterday I wrote about why we pre-wash our quilt fabric. Today I'm going to show you how I do it. If you look at the photo from yesterday's post, you'll see a square gallon jug. That is a jug of Orvus Paste (aka Quilt Soap). It's a sheep shampoo and I buy mine at Tractor Supply. I've used it for years and have been very happy with it. I found an informatinve article at Hart Cottage Quilts.

I use warm water. It doesn't take much Orvus per washer load. I wet my hand in the washer water and dip it into the jar and scoop a bit out. In reading that article I find I should be wearing gloves. Oh well.

As the washer is filling, I grab my fabric with wet hands. It's a real hassle to unfold fabric and get it in the washer with dry hands. Wet hands can grasp the fabric better and that saves a lot of time and energy. As my hands get dry, I stick them back in the washer water - with the lid up, my washer won't agitate. NEVER stick you hands in a moving washer!!!! (See note below.)

Once the washer is done, I pull the fabric out of the washer and put it in the dryer. I cut the tangle of threads free from the fabric. I view this as a cost of doing business - it's just part of the process. You could get creative and do something with these threads. I know I never will so I throw them away. I've tried all sorts of tricks to cut down on the threads and none have worked for me. I'm too lazy to serge or re-cut the edges with a wavy cutter. But that's me - one of those tricks might work for you.

I dry on warm. Once the fabric is dry I pull it out and fold it. I don't iron fabric until I'm ready to use it in a quilt.

Now - about that note... When my brother was 4 (I was 8), he had to have surgery. We lived in Oklahoma City and he went to Children's Hospital there that is affiliated with the University of Oklahoma medical center. I'll never forget my mom telling me about a much bigger kid (he was 18 I think) who was on the same floor with my brother. He had been doing laundry and he reached into a spinning washer to pull something out. Instead, he lost an arm and they were doing their best to re-attach it. I don't think any washers then had the switch that is supposed to stop the spinning when the lid is up.

I decided to look to see if I could find a reference to this incident online and I didn't find one - but I did find a link to this story dated March 25 of this year! It has happened again. And there are links to even more. So, let me stress this again - NEVER reach into a moving washing machine!

I really thought, until today, that all washers came with the safety switch that stopped all spinning when the lid was up. Be aware, as I am now, that they don't all come with that safety feature.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Washing Fabric - Part 1

Linda and I always pre-wash our fabric - meaning that we wash it before we cut it up and use it in a quilt. Always. We wash in a washer and dry in a dryer.

I spend time in every class telling students why I wash my fabric and it seems like a good topic for the blog. So, why wash?
  1. Cotton shrinks when washed and dried. Not all cottons shrink at the same rate. For example, a batik shrinks less than most cotton off the bolt. If you construct a quilt with batiks and other fabrics, and then wash, your quilt can draw up in some areas and not in others. This often looks bad. You should also be aware that not all regular printed cottons shrink at the same rate either.
  2. Cotton can bleed. It is our experience that this is mostly due to water chemistry. Fabric washed in one place may bleed and it may not in other places. We think it's much better to know if there's a issue before you sew a problem fabric into your quilt. FYI - use Synthrapol, Retayne, or the Color Catchers made by Shout to control bleeding.
  3. In our opinion, pre-washed cotton behaves better. It tends to fray less because it has been pre-shrunk. It has a better hand. We have each used starch in the distant past but don't any more because we haven't noticed a need to use it.
  4. Pre-washing removes the chemicals and finishes from the fabric. Because I know quilters who can't touch unwashed fabric, I asked my dermatologist about it. He said that, yes, these chemicals can cause problems for some people. He also said that some of these chemicals out-gas and that the fumes (that don't bother most people) can be a problem. It's also important to remember that most of our fabric is imported and that shipping containers are treated with insecticides and some of that residue could end up on your fabric.
So that answers the "why" question. Tomorrow I'll answer the "how" question.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Becky's new quilt...

We don't often (or ever) post photos of our quilts in progress. It usually takes 1 year from the time we finish a quilt to the time when the book is at the quilt shop. It is frustrating to people to have to wait so long for a pattern. But blogs are all about sharing what's going on now. So, while I can't show you the whole quilt, I can show you selected parts of what I'm working on now.

I am using these pieces from Jinny Beyer's Palette Collection. The greens laying on the diagonal are the block and border backgrounds. I'm piecing them. I'll show you a pieced block background later next week.

Quilter's often want to use exactly the fabrics that we used when they are making their quilts. This collection and these colors should still be available in 2 years - and even longer. Here's a question for you: If I added a few prints or dots just for fun, and those fabrics were not available in 2 years, would you be unhappy? My thought is that there is always a fun substitute and finding those substitutes is a great way to make a quilt your own. Is that what you think too?

I really would like to know what you all think so please leave comments.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A new iron....

I am an iron killer. I don't know how I do it, but irons just don't last at my house. It probably has something to do with the fact that I tend to knock them off the board and onto the floor every now and then. Seriously, don't you think an iron should be able to take that sort of abuse?

I bought a new iron yesterday to replace my now way-to-leaky older iron. Because I do tend to kill irons, I don't spend a lot of money on them. I found a Shark Professional model for under $50.

So, I read the instructions (I really did) and plugged it in. I turned it to its highest heat setting and started ironing. But it wasn't gliding the way it should... It took me a bit to actually look at the sole plate and to my horror I saw a sticker that I should have removed before ironing. Where was that in the instructions!? I let it cool and scraped off what I could (see photo).

I tried heating it back up and using an iron cleaner to remove the remaining goo - that didn't work. I let it cool again and finally got it clean with Goo-Gone. I can now say that it's a very nice iron! It heats up quickly, is heavy, glides well, and the steam works. Oh happy day!

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Last fall we planted one lonely broccoli plant just to see what it would do. It's been making broccoli! Since I had no idea what broccoli 'in the wild' looks like I thought that some of you might not know either.

Ours is wispier than I thought it would be, probably because we aren't watering it. But we have been eating what the plant produces. Next year we're going to plant more.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Little Man at dinner...

The organizers of the Pigeon Forge Quiltfest took us to dinner one night at the Old Mill Pottery House Cafe. The actually make things from clay in an adjoining shop. We all we given a hand-thrown Quiltfest mug. That's Little Man holding my mug!
Lila, one of the event coordinators, was nice enough to have her picture made with Little Man.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Little Man on the road...

I have this little wooden man action figure that was given to me by my editor and fellow author, Lynn Koolish. (Thanks, Lynn!) Little Man is not really an action figure - he's a drawing tool and he has been an interesting addition to my desk.

I decided to take Little Man with me on my trip to Pigeon Forge, thinking that it would be fun to include him in some photographs.

Here he is perched on the Skylink sign at DFW. Skylink is the people mover at the airport.

When I got to the airport in Knoxville I began to realize that I was going to be seeing a lot of bears. This carved mama bear (and her cub) greet you as you go toward security. While Smokey Bear is the mascot of the entire US Forest Service, I'm guessing that he is especially loved by those in the Smoky Mountains.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Once Upon A Seaon eBook....

I've just uploaded a new eBook on our site and you are the first to know! Once Upon A Season is available again. Many of you have been hunting the Poppy quilt and it's in this book.

Happy stitching!

Iris and tulips...

The tulips are up. The iris are blooming. The trees are leafing out. It's almost hot outside! I think I can start to plant those vegetable seeds that I ordered this winter!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Inside the Arrowcraft store...

I went to Arrowcraft with Nancy Smith and Lynda Milligan (from Great American Quilt Factory) and Klaudeen Hansen. That's Lynda and Klaudeen in the photo. Shopping with other quilters is always more fun!

There are many fine, handcrafted items in the Arrowcraft shop but these stuffed and mounted "trophies" are what caught my eye. There was a whole row of them over the front counter. It was nice of them to let me take a photo to share with you.

Jack is going to get this wooden car full of little wooden people in his Easter basket!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Arrowcraft in Gatlinburg...

I visited Arrowcraft in Gatlinburg, TN, which is just up the road from Pigeon Forge. Arrowcraft is part of the Southern Highland Craft Guild. It's a very cool place. There is a gallery, and a gallery shop that's lots of fun! They offer classes in a wide variety of crafts.

The grounds are interesting. I'm not sure what is in the little log cabin. Luckily, it wasn't me.

These totem poles are situated behind the gallery. I didn't learn much about them other than that they have been there a long time. They are fascinating up close.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Where do you iron?

This is not a sign you see very often :-). Apparently one year at the show a quilter melted the vinyl-coated wall paper. What is it about a sign like this!? Every time I saw one I wanted to iron on the wall!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Pictures of quilts and copyright infringement...

I wanted to take pictures the quilts at the Quiltfest show to post here, but I didn't and here's why: The owner of the quilt was not there to give me permission.

I know that a lot of quilters post photos of quilts that they take at shows and the vast majority of the time this makes everyone happy. But sometimes this makes the quiltmaker deeply unhappy. I do not want to make anyone deeply unhappy.

I read an interesting article about an ongoing copyright battle between the Associated Press and an artist by the name of Shepard Fairey. Mr. Fairey drew the now-iconic poster of Barack Obama that we have all seen. He based the image on an AP photo by Mannie Garcia. (Click the link above to see both the photo and the poster.) This article is a reminder to me that it pays to be careful with other people's work.

I did take some fun photos in Pigeon Forge, just not of the quilts in the show. I thought you might like to see this little still life made up of one day's shopping treasures. Nancy and I walked to the Old Mill Toy Shop and Candy Shop. The green guy came named (Charlie Black) and is from Boogily Bunnies. He has bendable appendages which is pretty fun. BTW - this is my toy, not the Jack's!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I'm home!

Hello! I'm back from 7 days of teaching at the Quiltfest in Pigeon Forge, TN. It was wonderful! The quilt show is put on by the city of Pigeon Forge with help from the local guilds. The quilts were lovely, the people were very friendly, and a good time was had by one and all.

I'll share a variety of things from Pigeon Forge with you in the next few days. Today I want to show you this amazing African zebra print fabric that I got from the Traveling Quilt Boutique booth. It's cotton and I love it! I have no idea what I'm going to do with it. I might wear it :-). I've already washed and dried this 2-yard piece and it's even better than it was when I bought it.

I walked in the mornings with Nancy Smith (from the Great American Quilt Factory) and I spotted this door to an art supply shop. It makes me smile to see the two photos together.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Have you listened to this?

I download the This American Life podcast every week. The stories are always good. Last week the show was Bad Bank and I especially recommend it. Alex Blumberg and NPR’s Adam Davidson explain what's up with the banks today in plain, non-political language. You can download the podcast or listen to it for free on your computer.

These same guys did the amazing and scary Giant Pool of Money podcast last May (which you can still listen to) AND they are behind the blog planetmoney.

I'm a quilter, not an economist. But I have learned so much from these guys and the rest of the folks at planetmoney that I felt like I should share the links with you. Let's face it, the economy is not so great right now. Personally I'm fighting fear with information and these guys have good information.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The luxurious life of a traveling quilt teacher...

Traveling can be lots of fun - but packing is a job. I'm leaving for Pigeon Forge tomorrow and need to pack for 8 days and bring 7 quilts.

I travel with 2 not-so-huge bags and I keep them each under 40 lbs. to protect my arms.

In the first photo I have quilts in each suitcase. I've put them in XL ziplock bags so that, if my bag gets wet, the quilts will stay dry. As you can see there's not much room left for clothes!

Luckily, these suitcases expand so I did manage to pack my clothes!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Signs of spring in north Texas...

As I was driving away from my house today I realized that some of the trees in our neighborhood are leafing out! That's little baby almost-yellow leaves on the branches!

My neighbor, Joan, has a plum tree in her backyard and there are white flowers all over it. We almost always have an Easter freeze and Easter is late this year. I don't know whether she'll have plums or not. I hope she does because Joan shares her bounty with us :-).

And my redbud is about to burst into full bloom! We've been bouncing between freezes and days in the 80s. The plants, however, seem to think that spring is definitely here.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Elanor and Jack...

The kids were over for dinner last night. Jack and Elanor came with sticky suckers so they were ushered directly to the back yard to finish them.

I grabbed the camera and very quickly snapped off 26 pictures. I still remember film cameras... I rarely took photos in the "old days" because I never had film and/or I didn't want to waste film. Now I just snap away! I love it!

Monday, March 2, 2009

And the winners are....

We have just posted the results from the 1st Ever Piece O' Cake Block Contest on our site showing all of the entries, including the winners. (Oops - there were broken links that caused the images to be invisible. I hope I fixed it. Hit your refresh button if you don't see them.) Two of the winners are Sarah Crumley who made this amazingly cute purse and Carrie Pippins who made a table topper with a lined prairie point edge!

Thank you to each and every one of you who took part in this contest! We have truly enjoyed seeing the creative ways that you used this block. In our mind, every one of you is a winner!

We hope that everyone enjoys seeing the projects made using this block. It is a reminder of just how much fun it can be to change a pattern to suit your own quilting needs.

Happy stitching,

Becky and Linda