SEW I SEE!

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Goodbyes & Hellos

My family has experienced another loss since the last time I wrote.  About a week ago, my paternal grandmother passed away at the age of 83.  

Granny W. was my last living grandparent.  Coming less than six months after the passing of Grandpa L., this feels like the end of an era for me, but I’m aware I was incredibly fortunate to have had all four of my grandparents with us through so much of my adulthood.

I’ll cherish the joyful memories I have of all four of them, and I know I’ll continue to feel their presence in my life through the positive impressions they created in so very many ways.  I often find myself thinking of them as I go through my life—in little everyday moments that bring a smile to my face—and I’m grateful for all the love and goodness they brought into my life.

Good things have been happening in my family, too.  On my mother’s side of the family, one of my cousins and his wife welcomed a baby girl in February—the first grandchild in that branch of our family.  I expect we’ll meet her on Easter, or soon thereafter.  

Selvage Quilt Project

What are Selvages?

As I mentioned last time, for my next quilt project, I wanted to make a selvage quilt.  Most quilters will be familiar with the concept, but if you’re new, the selvage (a.k.a. selvedge) is the more tightly woven edges on a bolt of fabric.  I think yardage usually has words (brand, fabric line, designer, etc.) and the colors in the print (often circular dots, but sometimes other shapes) printed on one selvage on the bolt, while the other side just has the print continued out to the edge.  Quilters remove and set aside the selvages before cutting and using fabric, because they’re woven differently from the main fabric and behave differently, too.  

I’m not sure how long people have been saving up the selvages and making quilts specifically featuring them, but I know the idea experienced a surge in popularity starting in the mid-to-late “Aughties” (2000s), based on the results I found while looking at patterns.  

If you’re just hearing about this for the first time and are interested, there’s a wealth of information online.  My only brief advice about collecting them is to make sure you cut them wider than just “the words”.  You need at least a quarter inch above what you want to be able to see/read in the finished project.  Including a little sneak peek at the print is fun and adds color and interest to your selvage quilt.  

In the photo below, you can see some of my selvage stash, collected over years and now separated into color families (and “multicolor” for the ones that were impossible to categorize).  I knew I had a lot of them saved, but I was surprised by just how many!  I will admit that I went through at some point and cut most selvages off fabrics in my stash, whether I’d used the fabric or not.  After that point, I started cutting the selvages off before filing away new purchases, too.  I don’t care about keeping lines of fabrics together or organizing by designer, etc., and I’m not bad at remembering which ones “go together”, anyway, if I ever need to.  …So they don’t need the label. 

Prior to sorting, they were stored in pretty glass jars and other glass containers, on shelves in my craft room.  You can see some of those empty containers on the left edge of this photo.

So Many Pattern Options!

I looked at many, many selvage quilts while I was pondering which one to make.  I knew I wanted something that wouldn’t be too labor-intensive, and I also thought I’d like to incorporate some plain areas—largish pieces of background fabric for some lighter-weight negative space, instead of a quilt that is 100% selvages.  

After much mulling and debating, I settled on an idea.  It’s inspired by a quilt I found on Pinterest—basically just HSTs made with background fabric on one half and selvage strips on the other. 

I’m making the HSTs using the two-at-a-time method: One square of plain white fabric with one square of selvage fabric.  Right sides together.  Mark the diagonal from corner to corner.  Sew ¼-inch from the line.  (Or use one of those rulers that make it easy to mark two lines, then sew just next to each of those…)  Cut between the two seams.  Trim to size, press open, and remove the dog ears. 

Ta-da!  Two HSTs in practically no time at all!

Note: Depending on the direction the diagonal line tilts relative to the lines of the selvages, your finished HSTs will have either horizontal or vertical lines.  You can make them all the same or go for a mix.  I opted for a mix. 

I found another similar quilt where the selvages were applied diagonally, from corner to corner, but those would take longer strips in the center, and they just felt like more work.  They’d certainly take longer to make.  No thanks!  Maybe someday, but not this time around.  I’m keeping things easy and geared toward instant gratification.  

Make Your Own Selvage Fabric.

For the parts of the HSTs that are made with selvages, you must make your own fabric, similarly to how you can make your own fabric from crumbs or strings.  In fact, I even found one person who sewed her selvages together just like strings, right sides together with traditional seam allowances.  That’s not how most people do it, though. 

Typically, you use one of the following methods to make the selvage fabric squares (or other shape): 

Foundation Fabric:
Some people sew selvage strips onto a square of foundation fabric, which ends up in the finished quilt.  This adds bulk and weight (and uses more fabric, of course), so I didn’t want to do that.  

Foundation Paper:
Just as you can use printer paper, phonebook pages, or other thin paper as a foundation for string piecing, you can also use those for selvage piecing.  You simply tear away the paper at a later point in the process.  

Washable Glue Sticks (or Washable Liquid Glue):
This is a method I saw demonstrated in a book about selvage quilting, but I’ve also heard of glue basting in other types of quilting.  Use washable glue sticks to tack down (baste) a whole section of selvages before taking them to the sewing machine.  

There are probably even more methods, but I tried the glue and really like it!  I’ve used both glue sticks and washable liquid glue.  Both work, though the liquid glue takes longer to dry if not helped along.  If you give it a quick press with a dry (no steam) iron, it dries more quickly.  Just be sure you’re using washable glue that will come out when you wash your quilt. 

How I'm Making Mine...

I start by measuring a string (not a selvage) for the bottom of my square.  Cut it down to the right size, then press it nice and flat. 

I like to work on a piece of paper to keep excess glue off my cutting mat.  You could also use a silicon craft mat, if you prefer.  

Select a selvage and trim it to match.  Press smooth, if necessary.  (I tend to press them all, even if they’re not too bad. It doesn’t take long.)  

Apply a little glue to either the front top of the string or the bottom wrong side of the selvage. 

As I mentioned before, I’ve used washable glue sticks and washable liquid glue, with good results from both.  If you use glue stick, just run or dot some along the “finished” side of the selvage, on the back of the fabric.  

Place the selvage down over one edge of the string (or previous selvage, if you’re further along in your progress).  Overlap the raw fabric edge by at least a quarter of an inch.  

Here, I’m further along in my glue basting.  At this point, everything is just glued together.  If you’re having trouble seeing if you’ve overlapped the selvages enough, hold them up to a light to get a better view.  

The selvages don’t have to be perfectly straight.  Often the selvages themselves are a little crooked or uneven in width.  You can make things intentionally wonky, or just aim for “good enough”.  

In the next photo, I’m using liquid washable glue.  I just put down a line of dots, and that’s plenty of glue.  

As you can see, with the liquid glue, I prefer to put the glue on the raw edge facing up rather than the back of the next piece going down.  It’s all just a matter of personal preference.

Place the selvage down on the wet (washable!) liquid glue.  With both kinds of glue, but especially liquid, you have a little “open time” before it dries.  Feel free to adjust and reposition.  The glue stick will dry fairly quickly, but there’s definitely a grace period when you can check that your overlap is good and the placement is straight(ish).  

 If using liquid glue, I’d recommend pressing to dry.  It doesn’t take long.  

Repeat the process with another selvage, then another, and so on.  When you’re getting close to a finished square, check against a ruler or your self-healing mat.  It’s best to err on the side of having a little more than you think you need.  

I like to make a whole batch of glue-basted squares before stopping to sew down each selvage strip—but don’t forget to sew them before you move on to making HSTs! 😂 You don’t want the whole thing falling apart later on! 

Here I’m sewing down one of the red selvage squares.  (Did I mention that yet?  My blocks will cover eight different color families—red, orange, yellow, green, aqua, blue, purple, and pink.)

Sewing over the glue-basted selvages is quick and easy.  This whole project feels very low-stress to me.  Maybe it’s the glue taking me back to elementary school craft time…

I’ve finished the red and orange blocks, which means I’m a quarter of the way through making the blocks—and I’ve just started stitching down the glue-basted squares for the yellow blocks.  

It feels like flying, after the slow-motion sensation of the “Morning Glories” quilt!

Welcome!

I’m Michael (a female Michael, to remove any doubt).  I live on the Alabama Gulf Coast with my husband, Donald, and our crazy American Eskimo Dogs. 

I love to fill my spare time with various crafts and other hobbies, and this blog is where I share photos, record my progress, and ramble endlessly.

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