Bullseye! A tip for precise points…

Setting the center circle into the Ring 1 is the most tedious part of making the Bullseye quilt. There are clear instructions and photos in the instructions showing how I match, pin, and then sew the center in place.

In a recent class, one of my students had a really good idea. Her background is in garment sewing and she decided to thread baste the center circle into Ring 1, rather than pinning it. What a good idea!

She tacked the points in place with heavy thread and then thread basted between the tacks along the seam line. Basting the center circle makes it easier to see if you have your points correctly positioned before you sew the circle in place.

My student planned to go to the machine and baste it in place again, before sewing it for real. I would run the machine basting stitches to one side or the other of the first (yellow) basting stitches. Then I would remove the hand basting to keep it from being sewn into the final seam.

On the one hand, this is more work than pinning. On the other hand, it adds precision.

I hadn’t considered doing this when I made my Bullseye quilts, but it’s definitely going to be something I try when I make my next one!

Read the instructions!

There are some things that I think I know so well that I don’t need to read the instructions. As it turns out, I’m usually wrong. Batting is a case in point.

I have a small quilt to hand quilt and I decided to try silk batting from the Tuscany Collection made by Hobbs. It has a reputation for being easy to needle which sounds good to me. I did read the instructions before basting and I learned that I need to use cool water and little-to-no agitation when washing, and to NEVER DRY IT IN THE DRYER!!! FYI: Wool batting needs to be handled in the same way.

Silk Batting.jpeg

I don’t know about you, but I tend to forget which batting I put in a quilt. That is just one reason why laundering information should always be included on the documentation patch. I may not always own this quilt and whoever ends up with it needs to know how to wash and dry it.

In addition to the laundering information, there are instructions in the chart that are  important. For example, I would not have thought to test the batting for use with dark fabrics. I suspect that it could beard with some fabrics and I’d want to test it before using it in a quilt.

I am looking forward to seeing how this batting differs from the cotton batting I’ve been using. I’ll let you know when I know more. Until then, keep reading those instructions :-).

TuscanySilkBatt

 

Polyester update…

I wrote a post about polyester thread on August 17 in which I said that the research I could find indicated that polyester thread probably doesn’t degrade any faster than cotton thread. There’s more to the story…

#1

I still can’t find any research specific to thread longevity. My husband tells me that if absolutely no references to research show up in a google search, there probably are none to be found. Thread makers do post information about their own collections of thread but that’s not the same as academic research.

The one study I did find (click here to read it) compared the biodegradability of cotton vs. polyester fabric in a compost pile. Cotton fabric degraded quicker and more thoroughly than polyester fabric which indicates that polyester thread should last longer, right?

My husband, Steve, is a field biologist who teaches invertebrate biology. When I brought this study up at dinner recently he said that decomposers (the bugs and microbes that live in compost) would recognize cotton as food and happily eat it. They don’t necessarily recognize polyester, a petroleum product, as food. Of course cotton degrades faster in compost (he didn’t add ‘duh’, but I’m pretty sure he wanted to).

#2

On August 28 the New York Times published an article entitled These Cultural Treasures Are Made of Plastic. Now They’re Falling Apart.” Click here to find the story. It’s definitely worth reading.

I read a similar story years ago in the Dallas Morning News but I didn’t save it and have not been able to find it. I was beginning to doubt my memory. It turns out that what I remember from that article is still true… Tupperware, spacesuits, and plastic artifacts of all kinds are degrading.

28SCI-PLASTICS2-jumbo

Now what?

There are all sorts of plastics and they degrade differently. Again, I can find no specific information on polyester or synthetic threads.

I don’t believe that polyester or synthetic threads are inherently bad, or that we shouldn’t use them. There are many times when a polyester thread is the best choice. That said, every time we choose thread for a project, we weigh a variety of factors… this is just one more thing to keep in mind.

 

 

I learned a new thing about polyester thread!

so-fine-50-polyester-thread.jpg

Sew Fine! thread from Superior.

What do you do when you find out that something you thought was true, really isn’t? If you are me, you write a blog post for all the world to see :-).

NOTE: I did, in fact, find out a little more and the updated information is in this post (https://wordpress.com/post/pieceocakeblog.com/12789).

If you have ever been in my class, you know that I use cotton thread with cotton fabric. That’s not going to change because cotton thread has many characteristics that I like. However, one of the main reasons I have not recommended using polyester thread is that I believed that it might degrade faster than cotton over time. This was based on old information that may have true back in the day but is no longer relevant.

I have been doing quite a bit of research on thread and I ran across this academic study  that looked at the biodegradability of polyester vs. cotton. You can read the whole paper, or skim it, but here’s the very short story:

The researchers took cotton and polyester jersey fabrics and subjected them to the same treatment. All fabrics were laundered 30 times with various washing products to simulate garments at the end of their useful lives prior to testing. They were then buried and composted for 3 months.

“The polyester fabric showed a slight initial degradation, but the fabric was still intact after testing under both laboratory conditions and the compost environment. In soil and compost testing, which included multiple organisms and enzymes, the cotton fabric with softener had an accelerated degradation rate, while the cotton fabric with resin showed a relatively slow degradation rate.

All cotton samples were more significantly degraded in the compost environment than under the laboratory conditions and confirmed to be ‘compostable’.”

I’ve been wrong about this aspect of polyester thread. I still don’t love it for the kind of sewing that I do. Polyester thread doesn’t tolerate high heat from an iron, it is slippery, and it is shinier than cotton. But there is nothing suspect about the fiber itself. If you have a place where it makes sense to use polyester, go for it. Who knows… it’s possible I might find myself using it in some future project.

Lastly, it is true that polyester is basically a plastic. Many of us, me included, are trying to cut back on the amount of plastic we use. However, until we manage to cut out much bigger sources of plastic in our lives, I think it’s safe not to obsess about the plastic in polyester thread.

Yes, I’m mellowing…

There’s a block in the secret project that has 16 points that meet in the center. I drew this block and knew it would be bulky. I also know that it is possible to make the points (mostly) match (there is that one that is way off)…

IMG_4704

The problem is that even when the points match, the seam allowances on the back are still there…

IMG_4705

It’s like a little mountain in the middle of the block. I could hammer the seams flat, but that’s not a great fix. You know what is a good fix? A circle appliqued over the center which allows me to cut away the bulk AND which is really cute on the block! Done!

In my younger, more hard-core days, I would have worked and worked to on these points. I feel much calmer now that I am willing to let go of some of my perfectionist tendencies :-).

Fabric Washing – 2018 Update

I keep learning new things! The last time I wrote about fabric washing was in August 2017. (Click here, and on the link in that post, to read about why I always wash my fabric.) Since then I’ve made changes to my washing routine.  FYI: I never use laundry detergent or fabric softeners on my quilts or quilt fabric.

Retayne-RetroWash

  • I now use Retro Wash instead of Orvus Paste as the “soap” in the washer. Both work, but Retro Wash is easier to use.

Retro Wash is a powder. The instructions on the package are clear. Use 1 tablespoon per load in a top-loading HE machine. I don’t mix it with water first, but you probably could. I use the same amount of Retro Wash, no matter the size of the load, which might be wrong, but it works for me.

  •  Retayne is the chemical that sets the dye into the fabric. There is new, much improved, information on the label now.

The label says is to use 1 teaspoon of Retayne per yard of fabric in a HE machine, with warm water. It turns out that I wasn’t using near enough Retayne before! I mix the Retayne in a half-cup of water and pour it into the detergent receptacle.

Click here to find Retro Wash and Retayne.

  • Add 1 Color Catcher to pick up excess dye, just because.

Color Catchers catch the excess dye from the water. (I very much suspect that they have Synthrapol in them, but I don’t know that for sure.)

Since I changed my washing routine, the Color Catchers are coming out white, even in dark loads. I am happy!

When I wash quilts, I will use Retro Wash, at least 1 Color Catcher, and Synthrapol. Synthrapol keeps dye that has migrated into the wash water from re-depositing into the fabric. I haven’t done that yet — I’ll let you know when I do.

I do have one more bit of (mildly disturbing) news that I learned from a student who works for US Customs. There’s not a nice way to say it, so here goes: ships, and the containers on them, are often infested with vermin. Who leave droppings. ICK!!!!

I don’t know how fabric is wrapped for travel inside the container. It starts on rolls and later is folded, wound onto cardboard bolts, and then shrink-wrapped in plastic. That might happen here in the US, or overseas. Either way, the contamination is probably small. But still, that got my attention. (FYI: Most of our clothes are also imported so I’m now washing new clothes before I wear them.)