Sunday, December 25, 2011

Learning Experiences

It is said that we learn more from our mistakes than our successes.  If someone says something was a “learning experience”, they often mean that many mistakes were made along the way. Some births are more difficult than others and so it goes for quilts, it seems.  Some of my projects have gone off without a hitch and others have been a real trial.  My latest quilt is named Thorny Roses, because if I could screw something up with it, I did.  It’s a gift for a friend.  She wanted compass roses and I love freezer paper piecing, so I decided to give them a shot.  Turns out even these roses have thorns.  I got a book about them but quickly realized that I could easily draft a rose that was well beyond my capabilities to sew.  While the book does a good job of explaining how to design them, there’s no explanation of how to break the project down into sewable pieces. After months of trying to make my design work, I ended up buying some patterns on line and then enlarging them to the size I needed.

The sewing went no better – the blocks didn’t quite come out to the size wanted, but I fixed that with narrow sashing and in the long run, I think that looks better than without.  Then I discovered a block that was mispieced, so I had to tear out several seams to fix that. At least putting on the border went well.

Then I start to quilt.  All is hunky dory, but then I spy another part of one of the blocks that I pieced with the wrong color.  Oh well, too late and I am NOT starting over. Several times I run out of bobbin thread only inches away from completing a pattern.  The final straw came when I put in the final stitches on the border quilting, flip the quilt over and discover that part way through some of the backing had folded over.  So I had to tear out a bunch of quilting and redo that. I screwed up sewing the strips of fabric to make the binding. I am using batiks and so the right and wrong sides of the fabric are not apparent.  Thus I was not consistent when placing “right” sides together.  It took several tries to get it right. Sewing the binding on was no problem, but when I sewed the beginning and ending together, I managed to twist one end, so I had to redo that, too.

It’s washing now.  I gave it a double whammy of Retayne, so if it still bleeds I am going to cry and scream, whatever.  No, I do not wash my fabrics first.  My bad, perhaps, but I like working with unwashed fabrics better.  Ah, I just took it out of the washer – looks great.  WHEW!

Yet, despite all the goofs, this still came out nice and I think it will look great on her very large dining room table.

Thorny Roses top - 28"by 70"

Thorny Roses back
I discovered one very good thing during this project, however.  It’s hard to hang on to a larger quilt while quilting on a domestic machine.  I don’t want to use a hoop and I hate using quilting gloves.  I like feeling the fabric and I feel I have finer control without gloves.  Diane Gaudinski doesn’t use them but makes her fingers more tactile through hand lotion.  I am concerned that lotion could leave stains and I hate having sticky hands.  Recently I bought a used book by Nancy Zieman about landscape quilting.  In it she shows using the rubber finger tips people use to turn paper or count money.  You can buy a box of 12 at an office supply place for under $3. They come in 3 sizes. They worked fine, but I didn’t like the fact that the tips of the fingers were covered, which makes things like using scissors or pulling thread up in the machine difficult.  So I cut off the ends.  I find using one on the first finger and the thumb of each hand enough.  I sprinkle a little baby powder on my fingers before putting them on – keeps them from getting all pruny.  I can do all the fine motor stuff without having to remove them, but I can hang on to the quilt like I want.  The only issue I see for someone else is that I think they are made out of latex, which is a big problem if you have a latex allergy.  I luckily do not, although my dad did and my daughter does.
Finger tips for better grip while quilting.  The one on the left is as they come, the 2 on the right after cutting the tip off

So tonight my friend will receive the quilt as her Christmas present.  Hope she likes it!

To any readers of my blog – hope your Christmas was joyous and may next year’s quilts not be difficult learning experiences!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Printing PDF Files to Scale

In various discussion boards I have encountered numerous comments regarding inability to print out pdf pattern files to the correct scale.  I think the main reason is that people overlook a sneaky little thing that Acrobat Reader does when you want to print.

First, don’t print the file through your web browser.  Some browser settings can interfere and cause the file to print to the wrong scale.  Always save the file first.  Usually right click and save file or save page as does the trick here.

  • Open the file.  Either click on the Acrobat Reader’s print icon or go to File and Print.
  • A window pops up like shown in Figure 1 below.  
  • In the middle of it is a Page Handling section. 
    • I have pulled down the Page Scaling menu.  Often Reader will default to Shrink to printable area.  Notice the word shrink – that’s what it does.  Always select None, as shown in the Figure.  Now print it out.  Measure it several ways - it should be to scale.

Figure 1: Acrobat Reader's Print window.  Note the page scaling.  Make sure to select none!