Sew Grammo Blog

Singer 31-15 SOS

The Story Continues

I can’t believe it’s been almost two years since I posted “As The Treadle Turns”.  And, it almost has a happy ending.

This beautiful 31-15 treadle machine has been a monkey on my back.  My friend says she loves vintage sewing machines because there’s no drama; no electronics to go wrong; and straightforward sewing.

Well, in my case; I was the drama.

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Using Up Fabric Scraps

There seems to be a theme in a few of my blog posts.  Stashbusting is at the top of the list.  If you quilt, or sew, chances are you have a lot of fabric scraps left over.  The more you try to use them up, the more they multiply. It's a never ending war. Like my friend says if you cut one piece of fabric, you do end up with two.  I know it's probably not good for the quilt industry if I put a limit on buying new fabric.  Don't worry, I will always be tempted by some of the new lines that are appearing on a regular basis.  Supporting my local quilt shop has been my downfall on several occasions--in a good way, of course!

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A Holiday Finish

The Fourth of July has come and gone.  A holiday usually associated with fireworks, picnics, concerts, and family reunions.  When I lived in a small town everyone would come out for all the emergency vehicles parading down the main street with high school bands right behind them.  Today it’s trying to convince the dogs that the world isn’t coming to an end.

I’m ready to bring out the brass band and march in my own parade.  Last year I bought these adorable juvenile prints with bears and bees and an occasional honey pot.  I stewed over what to do with it for quite a while.  Of course, I worked on other things in the meantime, but every time I looked through my stash, they taunted me.  I also bought a few more of the Darling Little Dickens line that had bunnies and carrots which I made into a baby quilt a few months ago.

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Why Buy A Handcrafted Quilt?

You’re buying a one-of-a-kind item.  You won’t see it in any other bedroom, hanging on any other wall, or thrown on anyone else’s couch.

But they’re so expensive you say.  Yes, that’s true.  A king size quilt can take up to sixteen yards of fabric and four yards of batting.  Well, I’ll just toddle off to Wal-Mart or a sale at Joann’s.  That’s, unfortunately, some people’s only option.  Or, there’s a movement to use old clothes, which I applaud, but if I’m going to spend all that time designing, piecing, and quilting, I want to use quality fabrics.

If you’ve ever had a chain store fabric in one hand and a quilt shop fabric in the other, you’ll notice the difference immediately.  Premium quilting fabric brands start with high quality greige (gray) goods that have a thread count of at least 60 by 60 threads.  Higher thread counts produce a silkier hand, less bearding when quilted, longer fabric life and better printing definition.  Most chain store cotton prints are made from less expensive greige goods that have 60 square construction or less.

Premium brands typically make use of a higher number of screens (the number of colors used in the print) and more complex and sophisticated engravings.  Once the greige goods are printed, they are placed in a chemical bath that sets the dye into the cotton fibers. Unfinished, or poorly-finished goods, bleed badly and have a very coarse, “boardy” hand. Premium brands are finished using more time-consuming and expensive processes that create the silken hand of quilters’ grade fabric in addition to superior colorfastness.

Chain stores often carry a limited range of premium brands. But, generally speaking, chain store offerings are price driven. They cannot easily sell the higher priced fabrics to their clientele. As a result, chain stores tend to carry the lower priced (and therefore lower quality) cotton fabrics.

Batting is the same.  I use a quality 80% cotton 20% polyester for my quilts, but I’ve just recently discovered organic cotton.  The hand on that almost feels like a silk scarf; it begs you to wrap yourself in that quilt.  I have yet to try wool batting.  First, wool is a renewable & sustainable natural fiber. Harvesting it from sheep doesn’t harm them, and it grows back.  Wool is warm, but breathable, so it’s great for bed quilts. It’s super-soft and drapes beautifully.

And then there’s the design.  Modern quilt design is based on several factors, including modern art, modern design, nature and architecture.  I like bright, bold colors, the heavy use of solids, expansive negative spaces, asymmetry and improvisational piecing.

I also like to make pieced backings, also known as “back art”.  I think it adds interest and is sometimes more fun to make than the front!

As much as I’d love to have a long arm machine, I have a very talented friend at Cambridge Lane Quilt Studio who owns one and I do take a few quilts there for magnificent results.  I machine quilt on my domestic sewing machine and love domestic machine quilting. I’ve taken a Craftsy class from Jacquie Gering on straight-line quilting.  There are also several techniques I’ve learned from other quilters I admire.

Finally, the quilt is squared and ready for binding.  There is magic in seeing a quilt bound.  During those hours of hand sewing I can start dreaming of my next project.

In this day in age when one can go to a big box retailer and purchase a manufactured quilt for $50 or less – without question – there is a huge pricing gap comparing store bought vs. handmade quilts. Quilting is an industry that can be difficult to understand unless you do it.

Not everyone can afford handmade.  When you do buy a handcrafted quilt, you’re buying workmanship, high quality fabrics, and a quilt that will last through generations.

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Busting My Stash

While I’m not joining the 2018 RTW Fasters at Goodbye Valentino, I am going to do my best to use up all my quilt fabrics this year.  I know I don’t have the biggest stash.  Believe me, I’ve seen some who have rooms full of unused fabric that rival a quilt store’s stock.  But then, I’ve heard of people who only buy what they need for a given project and don’t have a stash at all.  I’ve got to say, I’m a little weary of that.


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