Thursday, September 27, 2012

Starchy Experiments

Best Press - my favorite!
A couple months ago I was reading a blog and the author was discussing how she likes to starch everything all the time.  I'd never starched a thing in my life.  Well except when I was attempting applique - I really am not a big fan of raw edges, so I tried the whole starching and pressing with a little tiny iron to have a nice finished edge on applique pieces.  Needless to say, there hasn't been much applique in my life following THAT experience.  My fingers ended up starchy and blistery.  I used Niagara non-aerosol spray starch.  It just left crustiness everywhere and tended to scorch a bit.  

In the spring, I was lucky enough to win a giveaway and a really heavy mystery box arrived in the mail.  It was an iron and a bottle of Mary Ellen's Best Press!  I used most of that bottle starching the hell out of my Birds of a Feather quilt top and backing.  It made spray basting much easier - wrestling with the wrinkles as you're gluing everything together is a pain.  After starching, there are no wrinkles to speak of!  And it made quilting nice, things seemed to just lay flatter in general.  And so my love of starching was born.

Niagara Non-Aerosol Spray Starch
That old bottle of Niagara spray starch was still sitting around.  So I started using it when I ran out of Best Press.  At the time, I was working on a quilt that was mostly dark colors.  The Niagara spray flaked terribly and left my iron crusty.  It did the job, and I am assuming it will wash out (that quilt is still just a top folded up waiting to be finished), but it looks a little gross in the mean time.

Mid-quilt, I switched from Niagara to Faultless Premium Starch (I went to Target at 8:50 pm and that's all that was left!).  It worked pretty well and didn't flake.  The aerosol did get to me though.  And I'm a fan of unscented things - the fresh scent of the starch was sort of nauseating.  But it did the job.

Faultless Premium Starch
When that ran out, I found Faultless Heavy Starch (try going to the store at a more normal time and there are more things in stock on the shelves!) - the scent is much more pleasant and the fabric is so much more crisp than with the Premium Starch!

As far as economy goes, the aerosol seems to give the best bang for your buck.  Does anyone know where to get mass quantities of Best Press in stores?  I've found gallon jugs online but shipping so much liquid comes at an outrageous price.  I've checked the local JoAnn Stores, hoping to use a coupon, but haven't found it in-store anywhere, only online.

So, in conclusion, I found Best Press to be best (but pricey), followed by Faultless Heavy Starch in second place, Faultless Premium Starch in third, and Niagara non-aerosol spray bringing up the rear. 

Faultless Heavy Starch
I read somewhere that vodka and distilled water are a homemade version of Best Press.  Has anyone tried this?  I don't keep cheap vodka on hand and I don't want to waste my good small-batch vodka (spent a little time...and the Smooth Ambler distillery this past weekend) in an experiment! 

Has anyone tried making their own spray starch?  If you've got an awesome recipe that you love, I'd love to hear about it!

So what else have I been doing for the past...month?  I'm almost finished with the Birds of a Feather quilt!  The Groove quilt is quilted (I half-assed it and just did stitch in the ditch), all that's left is to hand-sew the binding!   Christmas Ribbons is coming along nicely.  And for the last week or so, I've been back on the Pebble Quilting train - it's painfully slow.  But the quilt is probably about 50% quilted!  Hopefully by Monday I will have it about 75% done!  More updates soon :)


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

WIP Wednesday... OMG SEPTEMBER!?!

Well, it's hard to believe it is September already!  Summer flew by and as much as I love fall, I'm not ready for summer to be over yet.  It's going to be Christmas before we know it...and I have a lot of gift-quilting to do between now and then!

Last week, I finished up the top for my Parking Lights quilt - it's inspired by my favorite parking garage in Pittsburgh!  Friday night, I was at a wedding on the Gateway Clipper with my fellow civil engineers.  We were all discussing our favorite infrastructure (usually, "This is my favorite bridge!") and we got onto the topic of our favorite parking garages.  We cruised right past my favorite parking garage!

See the parking garage at the end of the bridge that's all lit up?  Yep, that's my favorite!

The quilt is very simple.  Rectangles.  In Kona solids: nightfall, ash, and pepper.  The pepper forms the sashing between the big blue and gray rectangles.  I still haven't decided what to do for the back or how to quilt it.  The colors aren't quite what I wanted them to be.  But I still like it!  The blue needs to be a little less bright, and I probably should've used a gray-er color than the pepper. 

Parking Lights - It's too big to hang from my make-shift clothesline without touching the ground!

A close-up of the top.  If you notice the white flecks, it's because I went through three types of starch on this quilt.  Non aerosol spray starch DOES flake on dark colors... just sayin.

I've also been getting my groove on!  The Totally Groovy Quilt Along is moving right along and I finally got caught up!  I pressed, starched, and cut all of my fabric.  I only did the crib-size, but it came together really quickly.  My first curved piecing went really well!  Kate Conklin has a great video tutorial for piecing curves without pins - it takes a few attempts before you get the hang of it, but it's a timesaver!

My finished Groove top - I'm not sure why the bottom is so uneven.  Did I cut my fabric inaccurately?  Is my seam allowance inaccurate?  Close enough - just square it up later :)

I'm not sure how to quilt the Groove top or what to do for the back.  Maybe a solid back and do some organic-looking, wavy lines that echo the shapes in the quilt? Thoughts or suggestions welcome!

My latest project is a Christmas quilt!  I've had a jelly roll of Basic Gray's Jovial (and some yardage) laying around for a year now and it's finally time to put it to use.  Its all cut and ready to go for a Christmas Ribbons quilt.  I'm not sure how much I'm going to like it in the end... but I'm hoping it turns out nice.  I cut it all up and then started having second thoughts about the pattern - it's not really my style.  Too late now.  It'll be fine, right!?

My pile of Jovial, nicely organized in a shoebox, and my "test block" for the Christmas Ribbons quilt.

My other big news is that today, my QuiltCon Block Challenge blocks are featured on the MQG Blog!  I'm letters A and G in the second set!

I'm linking up with WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced - be sure to stop by and take a peak at some of the other awesome projects!

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Groovy Quilt top

Just finished my Groove quilt top! I did most of the curves by pinning but got brave and did a few without pins (check out the video here). There are a few little mistakes but overall, I'm happy! Time for another starching (did I mention I'm obsessed with starched fabric now?)! And perhaps a pieced back with some curves? We shall see. Not feeling that ambitious right now haha