Sew Room Project: Paint!

I wasn’t going to do a post on what to paint your walls. Personally, as a quilter, I have to resist the urge to be very creative with my walls — and my husband has whispered “resale value” in my ears every time I have had the hankering to paint a wall. It’s kept me restrained so far. For my sewing room, I expect lots and lots of light. I love light because I love to see what’s in front of me. As I result of my love for light, I chose to stick with a basic white paint.

Do you have to do white? Nope. It’s just what I chose knowing that my walls will be lined with shelves and storage compartments suitable for my sewing. However, I would stick to light neutral colors – colors that would not color your view of a quilt on a design wall – a design wall what would butt up right next to the painted walls. Light colors so that the room appears brighter and airier.

For the ceiling we chose a drop ceiling, mostly because we want to be able to access the plumbing for the master bathroom that is right above this room.

Here are the before and after pictures of the room.
Before (Taken mid-day during prime sun and the light is on.):
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After (Taken in the morning and the light is on.):

I will soon have an official retreat, ehm, I mean sew room!

Next big project: Sew Room Remodel

Since we are in a new house and my old sewing room is about 40 miles away with the perfect lighting and the just right storage, I need to refinish a room in the basement for my new sew room. This is one of those times I wish I could snap my fingers and have my sew room just perfect, because I currently have no space to set up my sewing machine. Ack!! (Yes, I am experiencing serious withdrawal. Everywhere I turn I think “I need to sew something for that” and then realize it’s not going to happen until I can set up my sewing machine. All flat surfaces are currently used as staging areas from filing to homeschooling, etc. Literally, no space for a sewing machine!!!!)

However, as I go through this adventure of setting up my sewing room, I will bring you right a long with me. Starting with lighting, then flooring, and storage and layout. I am very picky about my lighting – more so the older I get and my eyes begin to experience that agey-thing – which is why a whole post will be dedicated to lighting!

This is my starting point. Pictures taken from opposite corners of the room. The room is 11′ 5″ x 23′ 1″.

Whew! I have my work cut out for me!

Happy Quilting!!


Quilting Border Design

Lately, I’ve been pondering the science behind border design — in quilting. The border is what frames your quilt – just like a picture frame for a painting. A beautiful picture in an ugly frame can make the picture ugly. A beautiful picture in an extraordinary frame can make the picture extraordinary. Even the mat selection (that strip of color that you can put between the picture and the frame) adds or takes away from the over all picture. The border you choose should bring out what you have designated as the centerpiece and make it pop adding to the overall visual impact of your quilt. (Note: The center piece does not have to be center of your quilt.)

This pondering has not come about by coincidence. Every time I use a pattern I make an attempt at following the pattern, but then I change something. My current dilemma (a.k.a., project) has a block-pieced border and I have been staring at this quilt on my design wall thinking, “It doesn’t fit.” (By “fit” I mean it doesn’t look pretty to me – beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder.)

Contrast, texture, complexity, and unity play their role in artistic composition. Quilts are your work of art. What you like is what you should choose, because, ultimately, it is your creation. It is also why most quilters cringe at doing commissioned pieces. When you look at art pieces, ask yourself: “What did you see first?” and “What did you see last?”. Do you think what you noticed and when you noticed it was what the artist intended? When did you notice the frame? All elements of composition should aid in enhancing your quilt.

Color (Contrast): Light and bright colors pop. You’ll notice these first before the intricacies of darker elements. So, when you look at your quilt what do you see first and what color is it? It what you want people to see first?

Texture (Another form of Contrast): Movement or items representing movement will always catch the eye first. Use texture to take the eye where you would like it to go. Texture can be with the fabric you use of with the lines you sew.

Complexity: The complexity of a border should be less than the quilt itself – unless the border is your focal point. A really busy border (whether from pattern or fabric selection or even quilting lines) will draw the eyes to the border of the quilt and keep them away from the center. Just imagine a bouncy, wiggly child in a sea of stoic adults. ๐Ÿ˜

You can sew an amazingly, detailed pieced border but if you select high contrasting fabrics then it might be too contrasting (a.k.a, “busy”) for your goal or it might not. Too much quilting and too little quilting will, also, change your quilt’s complexity.

Unity: This is your “big picture” view of your quilt. Step back, does everything belong? Or is there something you see that just doesn’t fit? (This is how I determined that it was time to veer away from the pattern.) I could have changed the highly contrasting colors in the pieced border, but the block chosen for the border, though it fit in theme, would have required introducing a few new colors to the quilt. I do not like introducing new colors in the border. I prefer to select a handful of colors already inside the quilt and bring those out into the border, which, seems to bring about a sense of completion to me.

So, after all this pondering, I have decided to not follow the pattern for my current project and apply a simpler border. Sometimes simplicity is the answer to complexity and in this instance simplicity matched my tastes the best. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Happy quilting!


Ever struggle with how to bind a quilt?

I want to take some time to talk about binding. There are several different ways to bind a quilt. Some methods are designed to save time, others not so much. The most popular is the double fold binding method. It’s the way I was taught and has become my method of choice for most of the quilts I’ve made.

The only exceptions are my art quilts and the method used depends on the purpose of the quilt. For art quilts/wall hangings, be creative. That’s my best advice. Art is meant to be, well, artistic. Think about the overall impact you want the quilt to have for the viewer and then think how to “frame” it. The binding is the final “frame” for any quilt – it is your final chance to stop someone’s eye from leaving your quilt. Look at my one of my art quilts below. Notice how the borders and the binding work together. The black border on one side and the black binding on the other side stops your eye; thus, framing the piece.

For utility quilts, I *highly* recommend the double fold method because it is a method designed for durability.ย  By utility quilts I mean quilts used as bedding, baby quilts, lap quilts, or any other type of quilt that you make with the knowledge it will be used. The reason why is best illustrated by the below picture.

This is one of the first quilts I made (approximately 10+ years ago). Sadly, my at the time young puppy got a hold of the quilt and ate a very small hole into the quilt. (I can see a lot of quilters just cringing.) I was upset with her but not for long, because I will have only 10-15 (if I am lucky 15) with my puppy. I will have this quilt for much longer (hole and all) and it will always remind me of my fur baby. I did use this quilt for a time (yes, back on topic!) and, as you can see, the binding wore down. However, the quilt edge is still protected because of that second layer of fabric from the double binding method.

I will provide binding training videos, if people comment a desire for it. There are lots of binding training videos out in cyberspace, as a result, I don’t feel the need to redo what others have already done quite well. However, if my style of writing is something that you find helps you to assimilate data then comment or e-mail me and I’ll see what I can do. ๐Ÿ™‚

Until next time and have a fabulous day!


The Quilter’s Stash (and Maintenance)

We quilter’s love (LOVE!) to collect fabric. For each new piece added to our stash there is a limitless list of possibilities and endeavors. Fabric is a quilter’s passion – well, next to quilting.

Every few years I cull through my insanely large stash and refold and reorganize. Since I have recently returned from vacation, I have discovered that my stash is in dire need of this activity and it took me weeks to accomplish!

The need for reorganizing is easy to understand. A properly organized stash allows you to quickly find that perfect color match for your next quilt without digging through countless yardages of fabric. (Unless you prefer to spending hours searching and petting fabric rather than sewing – to each their own!) I’m a little OCD, so, I need my stash to be organized by the color wheel. In other words all the blues are together – lightest to darkest. Same for my reds and blue-reds (a.k.a. purples). (I took a color theory class eons ago and my husband is adamant that it has ruined my color perception. I disagree of course because there are some “purples” that are more red than others and putting them in the class of just purple seems just wrong so they are my red-violets!) There should be fabric that fits into each color on the color wheel for your stash to be complete and functional. Also, organizing by the color wheel helps you realize that, when your favorite color is blue, there’s never enough blues in your stash (and never enough space for the blues)!

The reason for refolding is the same reason heirloom quilts are refolded – to reduce creasing and wear along fold line. I do this because … warning I’m about to confess to something quite profound … there are some pieces of fabric I haven’t found a use for in 12 years!!!! I blame these purchases on temporary chemical imbalances in my system at the time of purchase (hormones…evil hormones). However, I am an optimist – one day they will be used in a quilt! Also, you know how all fabric purchased is folded in half on the bolt and that nasty crease line through your beautiful 42โ€ wide fabric? Yea, that crease line. The longer itโ€™s there the more ironing and Best Press it takes to remove it. (BTW, Best Press is awesome!)


Now that Iโ€™ve explained why I do this chore. I saw a Pinterest Pin on fabric storage that peaked my interest. Like most everyone, I have been disillusioned on the actual realistic functionality of most Pinterest pins. (My cucumber trellis fell over 3x one year – the trellis idea came from Pinterest.) I figured I would try this particular idea. It involved magazine backer boards. You know, it worked AND it wasn’t expensive! Below are the before and after for half my blues (yea, I really do love blue).

The blues are organized by how much red or green they have then by value. I might tweak over the next few months – or maybe actually use my fabric in a quilt (shocker!!!) so that it’s not taking up all the space available in my sew room.

It was a huge chore, but it was so worth it for my little sew room!

Have fun sewing (or organizing fabric)!


The Dilemma with Gorgeous Large Print Fabrics

As I was laying out fabrics for my next set of mug rugs, I had set aside this beautiful blue large print fabric along with a couple of complimentary fabrics.

I go through 2 phases of fabrics selection — well most of the time – sometimes 2 phases isn’t enough! The first phase is just colors – selecting a collection of fabrics with colors that would look fabulous together. Next might be several iterations of ironing and laying out the fabrics and taking a close look at the printed designs on it. I need to answer several questions before the fabric is used.

  1. Does the fabric look good in small pieces? (Because, let’s just face the fact that, as a quilter, I cut up fabric to sew it together into a beautiful, harmonious quilt – ultimate goal is harmony in design, color, and texture.)
  2. Will the chosen quilt/block pattern do justice to the fabric?
  3. Will I need to fussy cut to attain the desired end product? If, yes, will fussy cutting add or take away from the fabric, and thusly, to the overall quilt?

For example, look at the above fabric. In its wholeness, it is quite a magnificent piece. Now, imagine it in 2″ x 2″ squares. Each square would look different. Some would have a dark blue background and others a white background. Some would have leafy, flowery curves and others straight lines and geometric shapes.

I could fussy cut it, but then I’d lose the beauty in the parts I elected not to use in the quilt.  This fabric screams to be used in a much larger design and, as a result, it was ironed, refolded and placed back into my stash – for now! 

Love of batiks

I grew up appreciating art and artists. You see, both my parents are artists though now mostly retired: ย my mom with her sewing and fabric, and my dad with his ink-line drawings. My dad, when he wasn’t helping my mom with the tailoring business, would sit and draw. My parents had a huge appreciation for batiks, because it is a large art form in Sri Lanka. I remember visiting an artist in Sri Lanka that sold batik shirts. This artist used the canting method to make batiks. It is a lengthy process of hand painting designs onto a cloth with wax, dying the fabric, adding wax for the next dye color repeating this process until the batik had the desired colors and patterns.

To this day I love batiks — doesn’t matter if it’s the canting process or the stamping process. When you hold a gem up to the light, remember how it just glows? Well, batiks do that for me. The colors in batik fabrics seems to be so rich that they glow. Also, because it is dying and not printing, the color has a lot of variation, which makes batik fabrics difficult to work with in quilts, but when you get the perfect combination and layout the quilts are just magnificent!

Also, batiks have a higher thread count, largely due to the resin and dyes (more threads holds the resin or dyes better). When you buy sheets, you will notice the higher quality sheets have a higher thread count. Same rules applies to cotton quilting fabrics: higher quality means higher thread count. The higher the quality of the fabrics used in a quilt means the quilt will last longer.

Thus, you now understand my sincere love of batiks. That’s not to say I won’t use printed fabrics but I will always gravitate to my batiks…always.