Coming To Terms

Over the past year I’ve been noticing that my fingers are clumsier with hand sewing, my hands ache after free motion quilting, and I can pretty much forget about sewing on dark fabrics at night even with all the lights on.  I suspect this is my body’s way of saying that I better get ready to make some accommodations in my quilting.

I had already stopped making large quilts as it was just too hard to maneuver the bulk around the sewing machine and ironing board and sandwich the quilt layers.  Besides, how many bed quilts do I (or my family members) need?

So, here’s some work-arounds I tried with a recent small piece called 12 Carat Diamond.

12_Carat_DiamondThe blocks are extremely simple and done with freezer paper piecing – no lengthy cutting sessions.  I wanted the fabric to do the work.  I used fusible batting so I didn’t need to use safety pins.  Even with that helper gadget I find closing and opening the pins to be hard.  I used my walking foot for much of the quilting and kept the free motion work to a minimum.  That way my arthritic hands got a break.

For the binding I used Sharon Shaumber’s starch and glue technique to stiffen and then hold the binding in place while I stitched it down.  I’ve settled on cutting my binding strips at 2 and 3/8 inches for “normal” bindings.  That gives me enough leeway to machine stitch down the folded over edge.  I do nothing fancy.  I just stitch in the ditch on the right side and make sure I catch the binding on the wrong side.


12_Carat_Diamond_binding_backThis is not a quilt that will be entered in shows so who cares if I don’t hem by hand.

One thing I tried this time was to wash the quilt after it was quilted but before it was bound.  I wanted a crinkly finish but didn’t want that on the binding.  Here’s what the edges looked like after washing but before binding.

raw_edgeI stitched about 1/8 inch in from the edges before washing.

Of course, I could try to persuade my husband that living in a warm climate would help my aches, but then a friend and I wouldn’t have gotten the idea for a guild program on methods and tools for quilting with an aging body.

As I was photographing this quilt I realized that its color palette was a good match for my hair color, or lack of it.  I guess my unconscious was sending me a message.


Filed under Commentary, Completed Projects

8 responses to “Coming To Terms

  1. I am right there with you! My hand soreness varies from day to day so I try to vary my activities and not over do one or the other. Of course I have to balance this with all the typing I do for my job. Some days are just better than other. Right now it’s more a matter of dry winter skin than anything else. I’ve got a quilt in the binding stage so I will try the starch technique you mentioned. Thanks for the tip and take care, Byrd

    • If you want to try Sharon’s binding technique, I suggest you watch her video “Binding the Angel” first. I had to watch it a few times (and take notes) before I got all the steps. By now I’ve used her technique enough that I can do it from memory. I’ve also simplified it a bit for smaller size pieces.

  2. Your physical limitations have no impact on your imagination, including coming up with your work-arounds. I think this piece is lovely, and if you hadn’t explained the reasons for your accommodations, I would not have noticed at all.

    My main accommodation at this point is in binding, too. I really think the hand-stitched finish looks better (and somehow I get better at doing them), but it’s too hard. And I’ve decided machine finishing is good enough for most quilts.

    Thanks for showing and sharing your thoughts.

    • A friend of mine has taken up machine embroidery in a big way so she can continue making quilts even though she has carpal tunnel syndrome. She’s 84, and I hope I am still making as many quilts as she does.

      One result of my issues with aging has been finding out how many other folks are in the same boat. And apparently some of the quilting-related products on offer don’t help a lot, except to make your wallet slimmer. I hope to explore this issue more over the next few months.

  3. I hear you on the aging body and having to make accommodations for it! I have found that at certain times of the day, my hands are more limber than at others; and I’m using that information to help me be more productive. Of course, quilting isn’t the only area I’ve had to make adjustments in!

    • Funny, I just attended a meeting where we were talking about aging bodies. One woman sets a timer to remind her to take a break from sewing. Another can’t close her fingers into a fist and has real problems cutting out fabric. Sigh.

  4. jennyklyon

    This is a beautiful quilt and love its gentle color (or lack of). Oh my, that binding is perfect! I have read and watched Sharon’s method but never done it. After seeing yours I am convinced!

    • Thanks for the kind words. Sharon’s method seems like it’s going to be time-consuming, but with the glue holding everything in place I find I make far fewer mistakes. Deb Karasek has come up with refinements to Sharon’s method. For example, she recommends you iron your quilt edges as flat as you can before adding binding. That way you can get a more accurate seam.

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