OMG! A give away!!

Now who doesn't like a good give away?  Freebies are wonderful little gifts!  This time, it's not just a free embroidery design of an flower, or a free quilt block that you probably have in a quilt book already on your book shelf, it is 6 Farmers Wife Lessons!!!  How cool is that?

laughyourselfintostitches Karen's lessons are great, exact and to the point.  Her lessons will improve your piecing skills, teach you how to put together blocks that you never thought you would make and are down right fun to do.

Need an excuse to do a little fabric shopping?  This is it!  

Have a stash that is out of control and you need to make a dent in it?This is it!

So what are you waiting for?  You have the book, you have the fabric, now you have the motivation.. free classes that are proven to create perfect blocks!

So, what do you have to do to win?? 
1. Be or become a follower of Karen's blog by clicking here
2. or become a follower of Karen's Craftsy Pattern Store OR her Etsy Shop
3. Click here, go to Karen's site AND leave a comment letting her know, are you a modern farmer or traditional farmer like her dad? 
It's so sad when she can't reach you to say "Yippee!!  You won!".

Happy Farming!

Testimonial - Farmers Wife Revival Classes

One day, a few months back, I was standing in front of my bookshelf shelf looking for inspiration. 

I had just won a full quilt shop box of Thimbleberries – Shades Apart and wanted to make something using this line, but what.  There are 70 different shades, I didn't want to make a scrappy quilt just for the sake of using the fabric, I wanted a project, not a quickie quilt.  

There, sitting on my shelf, was The Farmers Wife Quilt book.  I had read through it a while back and decided that it was no interest to me, but now I had a whole box of coordinating fabric, it might be worth a second look.  If you have the book (and you must have the book to do these lessons) you know the book does not have cutting information, nor does it have assembly instructions, one of the reasons that I shelved the book in the first place.  But I was determined to do this quilt.  

I started to think that I could draft all of the blocks in EQ and then place the actual fabric to see what the blocks were going to look like.  EQ provides the cutting instructions, even paper piecing templates, but even with the cutting instructions, they were templates, not modern ways of constructions, just the pieces.  I figured that with 30+ years of quilting experience, I could do this, I hate templates, but I could do it. 

As I was drafting the blocks, I was also searching on the internet for others that were doing the same as me and I stumbled upon the fact that there was a companion CD that had all of the blocks drafted for EQ and I found Karen Walkers Farmers Wife Revival Classes. 

 I started reading her blog and taking in all of the information that she was posting and thought, OK, so she knows what she is doing, maybe this is the place I need to be.  It takes me a while to make on line purchases, but I dove right in and purchased classes 1 & 2 right from her as I didn't (past thence), like to give my credit card to web sites.  I quickly received the lessons back via e-mail, I started working through class one.  Not only was it  was easy, fun, but well written.  

But at the end of class one, I discovered I needed to be more organized, so I created my notebook, had my book spiral bound and started my own blog (which you are reading now). 

 Class 2 was next up.  I was finding that, although I had been quilting for 30+ years, I had never created a lot of these blocks.  I was also find out that the blocks I was afraid of making, were, in fact, easy once I knew the tricks.  

I also thought that my accuracy was spot on, I was using a scant quarter inch and doing everything all of the teachers tell you to do, and my blocks never quite turned out, but were acceptable.  Now that I am making blocks that measure 6 1/2 inches and have 49 or more pieces, I have found that my accuracy has greatly improved and that scant quarter inch seam allowance is for the birds!  
If you cut accurately and then piece with 50 weight thread, there is really no need for adding that 2 or 3 threads extra, and as I am finding out as I work through these lessons, accuracy, TRUE accuracy is the key. It doesn't matter what foot you use and in fact I am using both of these feet to create these blocks, it totally depends on the method you are using. Also moving your needle to the dead center position, is the key, no more one click to the right!

Marking sewing lines and then sewing ON the line, not next to it is the key.  At first, my blocks were coming out at 6 to 6 1/4 inches, now they are coming out at the full 6 1/2 inches, even the one with the 49 pieces was a full 6 1/2 inches!  Thanks to Karen’s instructions, perfect cutting directions, it is possible to create a perfect block using 11/16th measurements. 

Would I highly recommend her lessons to even the most seasoned quilter, you bet I would!  I have learned so much that I didn't expect to learn and created blocks that I would have never attempted before. Because of her instructions, even the most complicated looking blocks are as easy as a simple 9 patch! 
Thanks Karen!!

FW Progress Blocks 51 - 60 (Class 6)

To re-cut or rip and re-stitch, that is the question.  Be it easier to re-cut than to rip out a 1 1/2 inch HST and given the fact that I am at block 70 and have not yet reached the half way in my fabric allocation for this project, I thought it best to re-cut.

So let me back up a few days.  Class 6 of the Farmers Wife Revival project (link on the right) showed up before I was finished class 5, along with the end of school, the beginning of summer school and a whole bunch of other things, I found myself behind on my block construction.  My goal was, and still is, to keep up with the classes.  I know that if I fall behind, I will probably just put the project in a box and set it on the shelf for a later date, which will never come, and I don't want to do that.

I was able to find a weekend with nothing planned and finished class 5 and surprisingly, the cutting for class 6.  Class 6 introduces Traditional and No Waste Flying Geese.  I have to say, I was not thrilled at the aspect of making flying geese, never have been, but, after making these 10 blocks, I have no issues using them now.  I really don't have a preference as to which method either, but the no waste seam to be a slight bit easier and the results were a little more consistent.

Now brings me back to the first line of this blog, cut or rip.
I remade this block, why?  Well, because it was the first one that I had done with the no waste flying geese, and the geese turned out the wrong size.  The left one is the first attempt and the right one is the completed correct block, much easier to re-cut and rip as the blocks were different sizes!

 Then comes this block.  I had everything done, pressed, pictures taken and then as I was going through the book to put numbers on the blocks, I see the block on the left.  You say, whats wrong with that?  Its fine.  HA, that's where your wrong.  The block was supposed to be the one on the right.  I just turned the four pieces the wrong direction when sewing them together and I thought it was supposed to have the pinwheel in the center.  So in this case, it was much easier to re-cut than to rip, because I like the block on the left and I might just make a quilt using this one block with the pieces turned.  Sometimes mistakes are good!

I was watching the movie Amadeus while I was creating most of the blocks in lesson 6.  One of the lines in the movie happens when Mozart is composing an opera and the directors opinion was "There are too many notes" Really? Motzart says, "There are just enough, if there are too many, which ones would you have me remove?"  Good question. That is just what I was thinking about Block 87, too many pieces for a block that is only 6 1/2 inches, just enough and if you remove any, the block is not pleasing to the eye.. 49 pieces.

When I was looking through the instructions for this class, I was thinking that block 36 would be better off if it was paper pieced, because like the block 87, too may small piece and this one had a bias X in the middle of it, so I printed out the PP pattern from EQ and cut strips of fabric instead of the pieces indicated in the lesson and put them in the book.  Didn't give it another though till I went to put it together.  I don't think I will second guess the instructions again, needless to say, its wasn't pretty given the fact that there are so many seams and that the paper just adds one more layer.... I re-cut the fabric according to the instructions and had no issues putting it together to make the block.

Here are the finished blocks from Class 6

Happy Farming!

FW Progress Blocks 41 - 50 (class 5)

This has been a long lesson for me.  I started this one back on 5/3/14 and life just got in the way.  The end of school was coming, lots of long hours and field trips kept me away from my machine.  Other projects have also gotten in the way for the new granddaughter.  So now that they are almost finished, it is time to get back to the farm and finish the last 3 blocks of the lesson.

Most of the blocks in this lesson went together quite easy and fast, HST, Magic 8 and corner triangle units are now easy and quick to put together and my accuracy in putting these together is getting a lot better.

Then came blocks 57 & 100, The last two in the lesson. They are exactly alike except for the center square which is a different color.

Sounded easy, make two of the same thing.. But for some reason I kept turning the HST and the corner rectangle block the wrong way when sewing.  Thank goodness I had starched the fabrics well or I would have had to re-cut all the little pieces.

So here is my progress so far.. Lesson 6 is cut and ready to be sewn together, off to the machine!

Side note: The block numbers are not 1 to 60, that is the number of blocks I have completed, for the block numbers and names, refer to the book Farmers Wife Quilt.



Above is the chemical compound of starch. Pretty complex looking chemical for something that looks like a powdered sugar.

I was reading a survey the other day, they asked quilters if they used starch to prepare their fabrics for quilting.  70% said Yes!  Wow, that's an overwhelming amount, so I thought I would look a little deeper and do some experimenting myself.  I have always used a light amount of starch, but after doing some research, I am now a heavy starch convert.

Comments on the survey ran the gamete from "I don't feel like I can iron correctly without it" to "When I am making patchwork, I use lots of spray starch. I like my fabric to feel almost like paper before I cut it…. The starch makes precision cutting a breeze, makes the patches easy to line up and sew, and the seams press ultra-flat.” and “I learned the hard way that the few steps of starching and pressing before starting a quilt are so much easier than using a seam ripper and trying to resew.

However, not everyone was a fan of starching their fabrics.  About 18% of responses said they don't use starch at all and another 12% preferred some other product like a wrinkle release or sizing spray. ( I will give a quick explanation of the difference between starch and sizing below)

And this is why: If you tend to put your quilting projects off to the side for extended periods of time, you might want to use caution with starch! Silverfish love the residue left and will leave your quilts like confetti if left in a cupboard for any length of time.” I checked it out, and Silverfish are attracted to the foodstuffs which are found in spray starch. So if your area is prone to these little pests, be sure to keep your starched fabrics sealed in an air-tight container or in a very cold room while you’re not working on them, and wash your finished quilt to remove all the extra starch residue when you’re finished with the sewing.

Several people preferred Mary Ellen's Best Press, but when pressed, it gives off a chemical  that I find irritating to my system and makes me sick.  It is also on the high price end.  As much pressing as I do, this is just not an option.  On the plus side, it does not leave a residue and comes in several different lovely fragrances and a lot of quilters love it.

Others prefer Sizing.  So what’s the difference between starch and sizing? Can spray starch be used in place of sizing?

Turns out that starch is used to stiffen fabrics such as shirt collars and cuffs, while sizing is used to add body, “crispness” and “hand” to garments. Starch is vegetable-based (it’s formulated from wheat, corn or rice), while sizing is a resinous solution that can be either vegetable or plastic-based.

Because starch doesn't satisfactorily adhere to thermoplastic fibers such as polyester, manufacturers often blend a plastic-based sizing agent and vegetable-based starch to impart stiffness to the synthetic fibers.

When starch is applied in place of sizing, the garment can become overly stiff, crease easily and wrinkle before and during wear. Because sizing adds body to fabric, it makes garments easier to finish, reduces wrinkling during wear, and keeps pleats and creases sharp.

 Humm, aren't we quilting here using 100% cotton fabric and not polyester blends? Yes, so lets use the correct product.  Starch is a natural product, so is the 100% cotton quilt fabric we use to quilt with and sizing is a resin or plastic based chemical used on polyester blend garments.  I think that says it all, don't you?

So you pre-wash your fabrics and they are limp or you just want to add more stiffness to your un-washed fabrics, use starch, you know the pitfalls and the benefits and now you have several choices.  The most popular one being Faultless Heavy Spray Starch. It is cheep, normally around the .98 cents to $1.25 range, you can find it anywhere from Walmart to your local grocery store.  Shake, spray, iron, done.  I go through a can every other quilt.  To use the starch correctly, turn your fabric to the wrong side, spray till wet, WAIT till it breaks the surface tension of the fabric (I don't pre-wash so it takes a few seconds longer), flip the piece over, smooth it with your fingers and CAREFULLY iron from side to side.  If you have done it correctly, your fabric may still be damp, that's OK, pin it to your design wall and let it air dry and then after it's dry, hit it with a steam press and your fabric is flat, crisp and ready to use.

Another popular method is to mix your own starch using Sta-Flo liquid concentrated starch.  This stuff has been around since, well, forever.  No cooking, no mess, just mix, put into your spray bottle and your ready.  

I found a couple of starch ads on youtube, check these out

Recipe with Sta-Flo is simple.  50/50 mix of water and Sta-flo in a spray bottle, shake and spray.  The way I use it, is to cut up to 1 yard of fabric, hang it on pants hangers on the inside of the shower curtain, get in the tub and spray the fabric till it is wet, not dripping, but fully wet. Then either hang it outside to dry or hang it from the shower rod without the curtain and put a fan on it to dry.  When it is dry, it will be as stiff as paper.  Take it to your ironing board, use full steam and press it flat.  It washes right off the curtain and of the tub in seconds, so no mess on the ironing board or floor.

Be careful, if your fabric is wet and you hit it with a hot iron and hold it in one place for more than 3 or 4 seconds, the fabric will stick to the bottom of the iron, so keep your iron moving.  It will also cause the wet starch to quickly accumulate and stick to the iron sole plate and and burn leaving nasty black bits all over your nice clean fabric. (remember, starch is a food and it can burn)

The other method is to use dry starch and the most popular one being Argo 100% pure corn starch.

It is quite easy to make and there are only 2 ingredients:
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups warm water

Directions are also simple: 
Combine the ingredients and place in a 16 ounce (or larger) spray bottle. Shake gently before using.

You can make the starch stiffer by adding more cornstarch, or lighter by adding more water, depending on how crisp you want your finish to be.  When you wash the item the cornstarch will wash away in the laundry.

There are a couple of drawbacks using the powered starch.  1. its messy 2. You MUST use warm to hot water 3. There is a shelf life, YES a shelf life.  Remember, this is a food and it will form mold in the bottle, yuck!  Sta-flo has preservatives in it and it is meant just for laundry, Argo can be used in cooking, baking and some people just eat it straight (now that's just plain weird)

Are their benefits to moderate to heavy starching in quilting?  Yes, there are several.
When piecing, if you have fabric that is stiff, it won't stretch and your pieces will be more accurate, and let's face it, accuracy is the key in piecing.  When you have to remove stitches, the ripper will tend to glide between the layers instead of cutting through the threads, and if you are finger pressing, the fabrics will act like paper and crease with little effort.  Ever have that end that gets pushed down into the hole in the throat plate?  Stiff fabric has less of a tenancy to do this.

Ever sew a HST and the bias stretches?  Once the bias stretches, that piece is done for.  It will never go back to the original size and no amount of steam will make it do that either, but if you starch before you sew, the bias will now act like straight of grain.  Nice huh?

So go an get yourself a spray bottle, a jug of Sta-Flo and start making that fabric do what YOU want it to do!

Happy Starching!

OMG.. Cleaning Time!

I know that you are supposed to clean out your machine after you have completed a project, well, what if you don't complete your project, are you still supposed to clean it out?  Yes.  Do we? No!

This is why I love Brother machines.  I can clog up the works and it still runs, doesn't skip stitches and doesn't break needles, but when I opened the bobbin area up this time, I did not expect to see this.

Click on the picture to get a close up view.

So I cleaned, and cleaned, and cleaned.  I DID NOT use caned air.. bad bad bad.  This is why.

 Follow this link and see the pictures.  The explanations under each one are very enlightening.

If you want to be equity as shocked, Google "lint in sewing machine" click on the pictures and take a look, nasty stuff.

I have a set of artist brushes and a fine round brush and have even used furry pipe cleaners, but never any canned air.

Also, IF your machine needs oil, only a drop or two and only in the spots that your manual tells you to put them, no where else.  Oil in unnecessary places only attracts lint causing, well, what you saw above.

Moral of the story, well, clean more often, use better grade thread that doesn't make as much lint (long staple thread vs long staple thread) and have your machine serviced at least once a year and throw out that can of canned air!

Happy Cleaning!