Monday, November 28, 2011

Batting: We are not talking baseball.

"Who took the jam outta your doughnut?" - Tommy (named for a Russian ballet dancer, not the gun)
Batting or "stuffing" for the less sophisticated among us is the jam in the doughnut.  The doughnut is going to be yummy no matter what you put in the middle of it, but some jams taste better than others.  And so it is with batting the middle of your quilt is often an after thought, but it could add some flavor.

How heavy do you want your finished quilt to be?  The default batting for most quilters is the good ole' Warm n' Natural.  It is a good all around cotton batting, but not always the best choice.  Standard weight cotton batting can get heavy in a large queen or king size quilt, now imagine that giant quilt after it gets wet (yes you will have to wash it at some point)  cotton weighs substantially more when wet so moving the quilt from the washer to the dryer could give you a hernia.   

Synthetics (a.k.a polyester) have the advantage of having a lighter weight and not putting on extra weight when wet.  But in smaller projects that lighter weight often results in poor "draping".  A table runner or wall hanging won't display as well with lighter batting.

Do you want a puffy quilt?  If so you want a high loft batting.  Wool and high loft polyester give a third dimension to any project.  But remember loft and weight are two different things.

How close are you going to tie/stitch your quilt?  Stability is a reference to how far apart you can stitch/tie the batting and it won't shred or separate on you. This is important to keep in mind because if your batting falls apart inside your quilt it may still be pretty to look at, but it will suck to sleep under.  

Not all batting is created equal.  Some brands are better than others.  Synthetics and blends especially can vary greatly between brands.  Often as with most things in the quilting world you get what you pay for.  So don't be afraid to ask for samples if you want to try something new or unsure of what you are getting.

There you have it, things to consider when putting the jam in your doughnut.

"You took the #$%*&  jam outta my doughnut, Tommy. You did." - Turkish (a funny name for an Englishman)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Quilt Repair: One Man's Opinion

I had some one stop by the store last week with a worn out quilt. They wanted advice on the best way to repair it. So naturally I though it would make a good blog post as it is not an unusual question. The best advice for repairing a worn out quilt actually comes from a Jewish carpenter who made himself a name a few years back gallivanting around with a couple of fishermen.

He said: "No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse."

By rent he means tear, not the monthly bill. So I have to second the opinion. If the tears in your quilt are a result of worn fabric I would not advise repair, a worn out binding is a different matter and can be easily replaced. If the tears in the quilt are the result of something like a dog chewing it or a vindictive ex-wife, those can actually be repaired without a problem and the quilt can go on to live a long happy life.

Now I know the next question you are gonna ask is: "What do I do with a worn out quilt?" but before I address that let me tell you how to avoid a worn out quilt. The quilt that inspired this weeks blog was only 15 to 20 years old. It had been well used, but the real source of its demise was the fabric it was made from. I have a 15 year old quilt that I love but can't use because it was made before my mother became a fabric snob. There is a reason decent quilting fabric costs $10+ a yard. Eddie's favorite "blanket" gets washed at least once a month and has more miles on it than my '74 VW. It is going on 10 years old (he stole it from his older sister). That quilt was made post fabric snob. The thing is faded in a few spots and stained in others, but there are no holes worn in it. So remember you get what you pay for.

Now back to the original question. What do I do with it now? Cut it, frame it, and hang it. This works good with worn out quilts, or even your dead aunt's collection of unfinished quilt blocks. Cut your old quilt or half finished inheritance small enough to fit into a picture frame and turn it into art. Make 4 or 5 pieces out of one quilt and artistically arrange them for an even more sophisticated effect. A quilt cut up in a picture frame is still better than collecting dust in the attic. A quilt was made to be used and appreciated, not squandered and forgotten.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Quilt Math

I thought it might be useful to post some basic "quilt math" that I take for granted.  

How many binding strips do I need?
[( Length + Width) * 2 ] / 40 = Number of Strips
Okay it is not as complicated as it looks.  Get the length of your quilt in inches and add the width, multiply that number by two then divide it all by 40.  Round that number up to the next whole number and you have your number of strips.  The 40 is based on 42/44 inch fabric,  I round it down to keep myself out of trouble.  If you are using some oddball width fabric adjust the 40 as needed.

How much fabric do I need for Binding?
Number of Strips * Width of Strips
Take the number you got from our strip calculation and multiply it by the width of your preferred binding strip.
Consult your friendly local shop keeper if you have trouble converting inches to yards, round up to the nearest 1/4 yard to avoid shortcomings.

Both of these calculations can also be used to figure borders.  I know that most you don't really care about these calculations, but at least now you will know what is rattling through my brain when you ask me to cipher your quilt.

Remember, if it ain't fun you are doing it wrong.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Halloween Special

Yes, I know it is a couple of weeks late but seeing how every one is skipping turkey day and heading straight in to Christmas I figured a little deviation from the proscribed retail marketing regimen would be a welcome diversion.  So let me begin.

My wife is a big fan of the horror/thriller genre of films.  I don't mind a good, well thought out thriller, or a scary movie that thinks outside of the box of creepy music and lots of blood.  So here is my list of  "scary" movies that I have recently watched and my analysis.

I was told to leave the room if I didn't stop laughing at it.  When the gas mask with the  vacuum cleaner hose came out I almost lost it.  Then the whispering started.  I left the room.

"The Thing"(2011 version)
It was date night so I got to see this on on the big screen.  I did not mind the movie, but I had a huge problem with it on a logical level.  X-files (the show not the movies) raised the bar for these type of stories.  If you are going to try and appeal to the logical/science side of your audience, you have to go all the way or not at all.  This movie made the classic misstep of trying to scientifically explain the "thing" with out actually thinking the whole thing through so when a geek like me watches it, it pisses me off.  I am willing to suspend belief and enjoy a movie for what it is, but if you want to open the door to logic and science in your movie at least build a plausible enough foundation for it stand on.  Zombie movies are a prime example.  I don't mind a decent zombie movie for what it is, but no one that I know can explain the basic flaw in the zombie apocalypse story line.  Why do they only target healthy people?  I mean if I was a hungry zombie, my slow moving and less intelligent zombie friends seem like they would be an easier dinner than the well armed and more agile uninfected people. Just saying.

"Paranormal Activity"
Another date night.  Two words for this one:  Holy Crap.  I have to say that this was a truly intense and "scary" experience.  The theater was crowded and you could hear a pin drop by the third or fourth night when the lights went out.  It got to the point that I didn't want them to turn the lights out.  It was every thing a scary movie should be.  When Selena brought the sequel home from redbox I thought it was going to be lame, as most horror sequels are in there attempt to cash in on easy money.  When the pool vacum moved across the patio it was freaky, so I am actually interested to see how they do with "Paranormal 3"

"Troll Hunter"
My wife will argue that this is not a thriller/horror movie, but I have to list it because I loved it.  As one of those "found footage" type movie made popular by the "Blair Witch Project" it can be on my scary movie list if I want it to..  Troll Hunter is one of those netflix miracles.  It is the kind of movie I would never have taken a chance on in the video store, but because I get unlimited streaming movies to my Wii I find some pretty dumb movies to watch. "Troll Hunter"  was awesome.  It is Danish or Finnish or something like that, so it was subtitled.  The basic premise of the movie is some film students doing a documentary on bear poaching who are tailing this mysterious hunter that they believe to be poacher numero uno, but he turns out to be a government contractor who takes care of the troll infestation problem.  I  loved it, my wife fell asleep.

I love movies, books, and stories in general so I could go on all day, but I believe my work here is done.  I had originally intended to rant on about the illogical inconsistencies in the whole zombie thing, and I would love to talk to somebody about how bad the "Thing" biology makes no sense but I kept it down to  couple of sentences, Selena would be proud.  However my rave review of "Troll Hunter" will have her shaking her head, and questioning what kind of craziness she married.