Mar 112010

I have a bias for a bias quilt and it is causing me problems.

The Little Red Hen's scrappy string quilt.
Image used by email permission of The Little Red Hen.
Here is a great example by the Little Red Hen. I love the colors!

You may recall that a few months ago I mentioned I wanted to make a quilt for myself out of my scrap box and that I was thinking of a string quilt. Particularly, I was taken with this style. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted it. Now, I can think of no other design I want to do first or more – I am obsessed. This type of quilt needs to be foundation pieced because of all the bias* edges that you are sort of creating as you go, once you cut the edges. Here’s a link to the creation process so you can see what I mean: a primer and a prettier primer. The strips of fabric need to be stitched to something else to keep them stable while creating the blocks and top. Otherwise, they’ll twist around and leave puffs and puckers when you get them together, as blogged by Donna of Kindred Crafter here.

Most of the bloggers I’ve come across who made this quilt used paper as their foundation. Eugh! I could no sooner use paper, even thin paper, as a foundation for piecing than I could grow long fingernails or replace real profanity with ‘acceptable’ profanity (sugar for shit, fudge for fuck and all that nonsense) or lay out in the sun and get a tan. No way; not happening with Sarcastra. Muslin ** is the other popular choice I’ve found as a foundation, but I am also not so big on using perfectly good fabric just for the purpose of stitching other fabric to it. It seems redundant and a bit wasteful. Although it would make for a durable quilt, I don’t have large expanses of fabric/muslin to use and would have to buy it just for this purpose, which I don’t really want to do. The best compromise I could come up with is to purchase a stabilizer, either woven or not, to use as a foundation and I did so. Unfortunately, as I mentioned in the last post, I accidentally bought a fusible*** stabilizer.

Last night, when I added my ETA (Edited to add) comment, I thought I’d be able to come up with a way to use the fusible stabilizer anyhow. After a lot of throwing my brain at the problem, I’ve got nothing. As the strips are sewn on, they should be ironed straight away. Maybe, maybe, you could get by with not ironing them at once, but you run a great risk of it looking like rubbish because you’re doing it wrong. I have no desire to do it wrong, much less gamble my precious home time on something other than my best work. Clearly I can’t iron the strips as I sew them onto the fusible stabilizer because they’d stick but more importantly I’d have to be super-careful about not getting the iron off the fabric and touched to the fusible coating as that would be a MESS. Yuk. So, I’m stuck. If you can see some angle I haven’t thought of that would allow me to use the fusible stabilizer I have, then let me know because I cannot see it.

My choices now are to buy new stabilizer which means I’d need buy it at Hobby Lobby (a.k.a. Crafts for Christ from China) but I would need to wait for another 40% off coupon to come up and at a bare minimum that means I’d be lucky to get it on Monday, but more likely in a few weeks. Shit. I could drive down to Ft. Collins where there is a JoAnn’s Fabric Store, but I hate leaving the house, much less Cheyenne, if I can help it when I’m not traveling for work. Shit, again. I could go to the thrift store and buy an old sheet set, launder the hell out of it and use that, but I don’t want to use fabric anyway plus, I’d rather use my own leftovers, if I had any to begin with. Triple shit. I could go ahead a buy the stuff without a coupon, but that just pisses me off. As if the item (they’ve imported from China or Thailand and the starving child workers there) is somehow worth full price at week one and two, but magically on week three when they have a coupon running it is only worth 60% of the full price. Bullshit! I know they do it to bring in customers on coupon week so it is worth it to them and they are betting that when you really need something you’ll bite your fucking mouthy tongue and pay the full price, but still. I have principles and shit. So, out of all this, I think I will go to the store and buy only a yard or so of the correct stabilizer (I will read the fine print while in the store this time) to get me started and wait for a coupon to come along in the meantime.

And this decision is why I’m bothering to type this all up for you to read instead of getting going on this temporary decision. The damned store closes at 2000 so I’m stuck not working on this fixation project until at least 0900 tomorrow, when they reopen. Maybe I’ll do some laundry until then.

* As an informative footnote for those of you unfamiliar with the ways of fabric, grab a non-stretchy shirt or your curtains and look at the fabric closely. The up and down threads are the warp, the side or crosswise threads are the weft. With two hands, give each direction a tug and see how much stretch you get. Now place your hands diagonally (45 degrees) on the fabric and tug – a lot more stretch, right? The diagonal is called the bias. Straight (or with) grain is stable, non-stretchy, but wears through faster when used as an edge. Fabric used on the bias direction is bendy, a bit stretchy and great for curves and long-lasting edges.

** Muslin is a woven cotton cloth in a natural or white color. It is cheap, simple and can be acquired in almost all fabric-selling stores. Due to its ubiquitous and frugal nature, it is often put to utilitarian purposes such as upholstery lining, curtains, foundations for other fabric items or used as a trial run for garments so you don’t waste expensive fashion fabric while testing patterns and fit. Practice or first run garments are often called “muslins” or “making a muslin” whether or not muslin is actually used or some other cheap and available fabric.

*** Fusible, referring to a thin coating of heat-activated fabric glue on the material. You put your material, back side facing the glue, onto the fusible coating then iron it for a few seconds to get a (depending on thickness and type of glue, varying degree of) bond between the materials.

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  6 Responses to “String Quilt – bias”

  1. Oh, I take back my previous comment on the fusible stuff – I wouldn’t use it for foundation piecing for the reason you mentioned. I thought you were making a garment.

    Gorgeous examples of strip quilts. I love how they used scraps.

    Bite the bullet and buy the muslin. The interfacing might disintegrate and make your quilt lumpy if you wash it. (you’ve taken apart clothes with interfacing, right?) I was going to suggest using a thrifted sheet but you already thought of that.

    (I’m a little confused, isn’t interfacing/stabilizer more expensive than the cheap muslin?)

    • Shit, you’re right. Thanks for commenting; I often need to talk through everything. My original plan for the stabilizer was to buy the easy, tear-away or soluble type and remove it once the whole top was finished. Then I saw how expensive that stuff was and found the (fusible) stuff and was enamored with its price and its preprinted grid. It is Pellon Quilter’s Grid. But you are right, I don’t want to leave it in there. I will have to do some experimenting now.

  2. Warning: Not to be taken as Suggestion 😉

    I had a dream last night and in it you took each string and dunked it into a liquid starch then let them dry hard, sewed it all together and then washed them out in delicates bags in the washing machine. the last thing I remember about it was talking to you as you ironed hundreds of blocks.

    At least in my dreams I try to be helpful. 🙂

    • I appreciate your dream help! I’m scumbling up a post right now about how I’ve gone about creating my blocks – and heavy starch is involved!

  3. I’m curious to know what you worked out . . would you believe my string quilt is not done yet? Shocking!!!

    – donna (from kindredcrafters!)

    • Oh, I’d love to see it when it is done. Your posts on the string quilt adventure were the biggest inspiration for my obsession. I’m editing photos now and will post my method soon, largely thanks to you!

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