Friday, March 6, 2015

Biscuit Quilt or Puff Coverlet Instructions for Easy Sewing, No Quilting Required

Blue and White Alternating Squares with Colorful Backing Binding
Completed Biscuit Squares with Colorful Trim
Making a biscuit quilt or puff coverlet is one of the easiest craft quilting projects, requiring only simple sewing and the ability to sew a reasonably straight seam. Use leftover fabrics, randomly placed, or create a design with the squares.

The general concept of the puff quilt is that two squares are sewn together, one larger than the other one, and the sewn squares are joined together to form a coverlet. You can choose any size you want for the squares and for the quilt, and squares aren’t required. I’ve seen a Simplicity pattern that uses 7 1/2 by 9 inch rectangles to make a reversible puff coverlet, but you have to watch the direction of the rectangles.
Blue and white alternating puffs or biscuits assembled for pillow or doll quilt
A Nine-Patch Square is a Practice Piece

I prefer top squares that are about 6 inches to start, with the bottom square 5 inches. This makes completed squares about 4 inches. I also prefer light colors for the bottom squares, although they don’t show if you use a backing fabric for the quilt. Lighter colors on the bottom will let you choose a light color for the backing fabric; otherwise, you’ll have to use a dark color or a heavy fabric to prevent the backs of the squares from showing through.

Wash and dry all the fabrics before you start. Iron if necessary.

Cut as many 6-inch top squares as you want to try your luck with, and an equal number of 5-inch squares. Once you’ve tried this, you may want to try even smaller squares. Make your top square an inch larger than the bottom square unless you’re making top squares less than 4 inches. With a 4-inch (or less) top square, use 1/2 inch smaller squares for the bottom. A 4-inch top square matches best with a 3-1/2 inch bottom square.

Match each 6-inch square with 5-inch square, right sides together and wrong sides showing. Line up the top left corner, then pin all corners to make the stitching easier. Make a pleat in the center on three sides. If you have a zipper foot with your sewing machine, it works well for all of the stitching in this quilt. Use about 1/8-inch seam allowance. Starting about an inch from the corner, stitch around the three sides and an inch into the fourth side, leaving an opening for turning the square. Press around the edges of the squares once they’re turned. Make as many as you need for your project.
Sewing about one-eighth inch from the edge and making pleat about center of seam
Stitch around the square with a 1/8 inch seam allowance and a pleat in the center

Design your quilt by laying the squares on a flat surface with open edges at the top and moving them around until you like the combinations and the size. You can make a baby quilt with 7 squares by 9 squares in the 6-inch size, or 63 squares, but you can make a large pillow with 16 squares (4 by 4) or a 12 inch pillow with 9 squares.

Starting with the left square of the top row in your layout, take the first two squares and match the edges with the fronts together. Stitch together with a 1/8 to 1/4 inch seam. Sew each square to the next one until you have a row of stitched squares. Do the same for the other horizontal rows. You may see patterns calling for stitching biscuits so they are overlapped. I tried that and it works, but not as well as stitching them with front sides together. It's more difficult to keep them straight, and it's easy to miss the back edge.
Right sides facing to stitch turned and pressed biscuits together
Stitch Biscuits Together After Turning and Pressing

Cut pieces of batting of your choice about an inch smaller than your back squares. You’ll probably want two pieces for each square. Don’t make it too thick or it will be difficult to sew between the squares. I used Mountain Mist batting for the sample here and it has 4 thin layers together that worked well for my project.

Shows alternating colors of three squares in three horizontal rows for nine-patch design
Lay Out Design with Open Tops in Same Direction
Starting with the top row, stuff each square with an equal amount of batting and pin it closed with a vertical pin. Once you have the batting in place, stitch along the open edge, removing pins as you stitch. Here’s where a zipper foot really works, since the batting makes the quilt bulky. Complete each row of squares.

Sewing the horizontal rows closed after adding batting
Insert Batting and Close Openings With One Seam

Stitch each row of squares to the next one from the backside with front sides together until you have one solid piece for the quilt. Cut a backing piece from a complementary fabric, adding 6 inches all around. Add an extra inch for each seam you have to make in the backing.

White backing of biscuit quilt stitching completed from backside
Back of Nine-Patch Biscuit or Puff Squares with No Raw Edges
Center the quilt onto the backing fabric and pin into place. You should have 3 inches of backing all the way around that extends beyond the quilt. Press the edges toward the quilt, so they’re doubled, and extending about 1 1/2 inches all around. Fold that edge again catching the edge of the quilt, and pin with straight pins. Shape the corners so they look alike, either with a straight seam or by folding a triangle at the top to create a mitered look.

Center the Squares on the Backing Fabric and Fold Edge Twice to Meet Biscuits
Machine stitch all the way around the quilt with a straight stitch, just catching the edge of both the backing and the quilt. Remove the pins. You can add knots to the quilt by hand if you choose to hold the back to the front, but it isn’t necessary to keep the batting in place. The biscuit square confines the batting, so it won’t move much with washing.

My sample would be good for a pillow, but I'll probably give it to my granddaughter for a doll quilt. She'll put it to the best use.

See you again soon!



Saturday, January 31, 2015

Design Your Own Redwork or Blackwork Embroidery on Evenweave Fabric

Redwork or blackwork butterfly in different colors and stitches
Blackwork or Redwork Made in Blue and Brown Stitches

Redwork and blackwork embroidery are a form of cross stitch using evenweave or Aida cloth with embroidery thread. If you’re a counted-thread cross-stitcher, you’ll pick this up quickly and probably enjoy trying thread colors other than black or red.

You can make your own pattern using a scroll saw pattern book, a child’s coloring book or a picture you like. It’s best to keep it simple to start because the embroidery is fancy, and you only need the outline. Here’s how to make the butterfly design. You’ll need to make some decisions along the way -- fabric type, thread colors and stitches to use.
Half butterfly design created on graph paper to transfer to evenweave fabric
Graph Paper Design of Half Butterfly for Blackwork Embroidery

Make a pattern on grid paper that is one-half of the butterfly design and fold it to trace the opposite side by holding it up to a window. Use tracing paper to transfer the completed outline of the design to 11-count evenweave fabric or a fabric of your choice.

Eleven-count evenweave has eleven blocks or stitches to an inch. Fourteen-count works just as well because the size of your drawing determines the size of the design, unlike counted cross-stitch where the design size is smaller with 14-count fabric. You can also use 22-count and work over two squares to get the same result with a finer fabric.

Choose your color or colors. You’ll notice the example here is in blue and brown, and there are blues and browns in the outline. Decide how thick you want the stitching. Embroidery floss comes in six strands, and you can separate the threads in one, two or three strands. Fine work uses only one strand of thread, but you may want the outline stitching to be heavier, using two or three strands in the needle. You may also choose to outline with a sharp-pointed needle instead of a tapestry needle. You'll need a dull point needle for the fill stitches.

Blue and brown stitches show creative alternative to redwork or blackwork embroidery
Completed Design Shows Different Stitches for Blackwork Embroidery
Outline the design in a backstitch or double running stitch. Double running stitch requires two passes through the outline path. Backstitch only requires one pass through the outline, but each stitch is forward and back. You may decide not to outline an area you don’t want defined. Notice we didn’t outline where the wings attach to the thorax of the butterfly in the example. We also completed the antennae at this time, since we were backstitching with the dark brown thread.

Select stitches you’d like to try. These embroidery stitches are repeating designs, but you can design your own or use pictures for ideas. Notice we didn't fill in all of the light blue design at the bottom of the wings.

Blackwork embroidery stitches for butterfly on evenweave fabric
Close-up Shows Stitches Used on this Design

Fill in the backstitched areas so that each side is the same or at least similar. If you choose a subject from nature (like the butterfly), it doesn’t have to be exactly the same on each side, but needs to be similar.

Butterfly in blackwork or redwork shows creativity
Outline Colors Correspond to Stitching Colors in this Butterfly

Create your own style. Notice that the lower wing design in the example isn’t complete to show shading in the bottom inner lobes. The inner wings are designs like scales on a fish, while the exterior wings are “x” patterns. The top wings are both blue and brown, while the second set of wings is brown and the bottom wings are shades of blue. The thorax or body of the butterfly is knobby and uses all the shades of brown. You'll miss some of the style with creating your design in all red or black, but the overall impact of a solid color is what gives redwork and blackwork its name.

Enjoy needlework crafts while the weather keeps you inside. See ya soon!


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Shopping for Crafts, Quilting or Sewing Supplies

Basic outline of butterfly design can be from scroll saw patterns
Scroll Saw Designs Make Applique Patterns

When you need something for crafts, quilting or sewing, you probably head to the nearest Hancock or JoAnn Fabrics, Michaels or Hobby Lobby. Interesting and useful crafts and sewing supplies are available elsewhere -- places you may not look.

For example, Harbor Freight has a 4-inch and a 6-inch magnetic parts holder that’s ideal for pins and needles. You can also find measuring tools -- like a T-square -- that are handy for quilting, and a plastic lightweight pick up and reach tool that saves lots of bending over when you drop something. 

Lowes and Home Depot have similar tools that work for crafting, sewing and quilting. The scroll saw books have simple shapes easily adapted to appliqué. A metal tape measure works better for large projects than a yardstick and is more accurate than a cloth tape. Staples has an inexpensive paper cutter that works well for paper crafts.

The next time you’re at a home supply or office supply store, look at the possibilities for your crafting or sewing supplies. You’ll find useful items not available in the crafts or fabric stores.

See you next year.



Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Seminole Patchwork Piecing -- Quilting with Strips of Imagination

Completed Seminole patchwork strip with cutting board and rotary cutter
Seminole Piecing Strips Made With Rotary Cutter and Board

Seminole patchwork from the various Seminole Indian tribes creates strips of patchwork quilting designs often used as borders for skirts, pillowcases or even curtains. You can make this patchwork with strips of fabric instead of squares, cutting hours of time off your project.

You’ll need at least two different fabrics -- a solid and a print will show the design best. For this example, we used 2 1/2 inch strips that were the width of the fabric. We use 1/4 inch seams and the result is 2 inch squares for the Seminole patchwork. We use a rotary cutter and cutting board for precision and speed.

Trim the edge of the fabric so that it’s straight and square at the corners. Press if necessary. Cut strips horizontally on the folded fabric from center to selvage. We used 2 1/2 inch strips for both fabrics.
Six strips of fabric stitched together to form alternating design
Six Horizontal Strips Stitched with 1/4 inch Seams

Alternate the fabrics for stitching. Use 1/4 inch seam allowance. We stitched six alternating strips to make this design.

Press the seams toward the darker color. Unlike garments, we never press seams open in quilting to prevent batting from coming out or showing at the stitches.

Cut into vertical strips the same size as the horizontal strips
Check Measurements and Cut into Strips Vertically

Place the six sewn strips on the cutting board and cut in 2 1/2 inch strips vertically. Assemble these cut strips like a ladder, pinning at every cross-seam. Stitch together with 1/4 inch seams. Press all seams from the backside.
Stitch strips together with 1/4 inch seams to make ladder design
Create a Ladder or Steps with the Cut Strips

Place the laddered strip straight on the cutting board. Cut a diagonal from the top left edge of one solid-colored square to the bottom right edge of the laddered matching square on the bottom. Move the ruler over and cut another square, skipping the dark block. Our cuts are 2 1/2 inches apart. Continue until you have only scraps remaining.

Fabric stitched and on cutting board ready to make diagonal strips
Stitch, Press and Lay on the Cutting Board for Diagonal Cuts

Stitch the pieces together to create one long strip of Seminole patchwork. Press the seams from the backside.

Stitch the diagonal strips together to make long strip of Seminole patchwork
Cut Strips Fit Together to Make a Long Strip of Seminole Patchwork

Trim the edge of the patchwork if necessary and it’s ready to use for pillows or home décor, skirts or wearing apparel. You can also make a belt or use it for a purse handle or design. You may want to use light fabric for a backing to add to the strength of the Seminole patchwork if you’re using it for something that requires a sturdy fabric.

Place completed Seminole patchwork on cutting board and trim if needed
Trim Seminole Patchwork Strip for Accuracy if Needed

Once you’ve worked with this awhile, try different combinations or colors and three or four color strips. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

See you soon!