Thursday, February 25, 2010

It's Thursday, I know!

Well, sorry I'm late in posting this week. The taxman got me all flustered trying to get all the paperwork gathered. Next thing I know, it's Thursday! Where did this week go??!

One thing I wanted to tell you about is bias. It can be your friend...or not! When fabric is woven, there are two basic threads, the warp and the weft. I can never remember which is which, but it doesn't matter. One goes the lengthwise of the fabric, parallel to the selvage and the other goes crosswise, from selvage to selvage. When the fabric is woven the lengthwise one is threaded on the loom first and then the crosswise one is woven back and forth, using a shuttle.

As an aside, if you haven't visited the historic textile mills in Lowell, MA, it is well worth the time. I visited there several times, the most notable was on a field trip with the 5th graders who had read Lyddie by Katherine Patterson. Lyddie takes place in Lowell and seeing where Lyddie worked and lived was powerful.

Anyway, the bias is the diagonal (45 degrees) between the threads. A piece cut on the bias will not fray, but it will stretch. Consequently, you must take care when cutting out triangles, for instance, to make sure your work is stable. Some notes to think about:

Always make cuts to ensure that you are not sewing 2 bias edges together, if possible. Sewing a bias edge to an edge cut on the crosswise or lengthwise grain will stabilize the seam and it will be less likely to stretch.

If you have triangles on the edge of a quilt (think blocks set on the diagonal with setting triangles) always try to cut the 1/2 square triangle so the hypotenuse of the triangle is cut on the crosswise or lengthwise grain. If you don't, the edges of the quilt will be on the bias and stretch. The quilt will not lay flat.

These are ways that bias can haunt you if you don't take care. On the other hand, bias can be a real friend when binding a quilt. Right now I think you are using a straight grain binding, which is fine and works well in most cases.
(By the way, I have always been taught to use double thickness of fabric for binding to make it a little sturdier. Many store-bought bias bindings don't lend themselves to double thickness and it's more fun and professional to make your own anyway...)
But if you are making a quilt with rounded corners, swag edges or anything that is not squared edges, bias can help round the corners without puckering. In addition, some fabrics...stripes and plaids lend themselves nicely to fun and interesting bindings, as you can see in the photo.
I will leave you with those thoughts for now. Cutting and piecing bias binding will have to be another time. If you told most people that quilting was really a practical application of math, they would shudder, but I'm sure you were quite amused by some of the above descriptons! There are actually books that teach math using quilts. What a great idea, don't you think?
Ciao for now!

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