Friday, December 18, 2015

Week in Review 2015 - 12/18

Tips, Thoughts and Techniques:

What is it about high, small spaces
that are irresistible to a cat? This week
Lola leapt up into the china cabinet
and settled into the void to watch me
prepare my midday salad. She isn't sleeping,
she is peering down at me from 6 ft. up.
Each week I begin writing my post by typing in the heading, "Tips, Thoughts and Techniques." The censor in my brain is screaming - "Really, Gwyned? Shouldn't you just call it Thoughts since you very rarely pass along tips or techniques?" Today I am feeling exonerated. I do have a combination tip and technique to share with you. It is how I make sleeves for my quilts. Many other quilt artists have shared their methods over the years. My personal favorite is the one available on the IQF (International Quilts Festival) website that Libby Lehman wrote up over two decades ago. Over my own career I have found it necessary to tweak Libby's directions a bit here and there.
Figure 1 - The edge of the sleeve,
folded over twice and stitched in

A sleeve, is a sleeve, is a sleeve. What's the big deal? The big deal is the sleeve is one of the key elements to make sure that your work will hang smoothly against the wall without any embarrassing bulge where the hanging rod sits. You want viewers to admire the artwork, not wonder what's that bump at the top?

As Chair of SAQA's (Studio Art Quilt Associates) Exhibition Committee, responsible (with the help of the Committee and other SAQA support) for 16 art quilt exhibits traveling globally in 2016, I can say the topic of quilt sleeves comes up nearly every week. It is frequently raised when new work arrives at Shipping Central with sleeves that just won't do. Imagine if everyone made their sleeves as exhibit worthy as their spectacular artwork, what a holiday miracle that would be. :)

Figure 2 - The top edge is aligned with the central crease.
Any one who can make a quilt, can make a quilt sleeve. When I make my sleeves I cut the fabric 10" H x the width of the quilt. You need the full 10" in order to create a sleeve with a big enough opening to fit whatever rod will be slipped through it during the course of the quilt's exhibition life. Here are the steps required to create a show stopping quilt sleeve:

1) With the right side of the fabric facing you, make a 1/2" fold at each vertical end of the fabric. Press.

2) Fold the same sections again. Press once more. The rational is to have a strong edge where the rod is inserted and not have the rod get caught in the fold. Folding towards the outside of the sleeve is counter intuitive, but it makes rod insertion and durability of the sleeve much better.

Figure 3 - Note the firmly pressed "stitching guide" crease.
Seam the two horizontal edges together wrong sides
to wrong sides.
3) Stitch the double folded edges twice, 1/8" in from both edges. (Figure 1)

3)  Next step is to make the creases  that will become the sewing line for attaching the sleeve to the quilt. Start by folding the fabric wrong sides to wrong sides horizontally. Press. This line is for reference only.

4) Open the fabric and lay it out horizontally. Now fold the top edge to align with the center crease. Press. Next fold the bottom edge to align with the center crease and "kiss" the top edge. Press. (Figure 2)

5) Seam the top and bottom edges together using a 1/2" (not a typo you want a 1/2" seam for more give) wrong side to wrong side. (Figure 3)

6) Carefully, press open the seam so that you don't loose the two creases you made for sewing guides.

Note the play in the sleeve. This is what you want. Now
any bulge caused from the hanging rod is accommodated
by the sleeve so the rod won't distort the quilt.
7) Pin the sleeve, seam side against the quilt, in place 1/2" down from the top edge of the quilt. Since you turned under both edges of the fabric the sleeve is narrower than the quilt. It should be. This way the hanging rod won't be visible in the front. I use my 24" acrylic ruler to  set the top edge of the sleeve. I place the ruler on top of and parallel to the quilt overlapping by 1/2". Then I lay the sleeve down so that it is snug against the ruler. Be careful not to jiggle the ruler. You may want to weight the ruler in place.

8) Hand stitch around the full circumference of the sleeve using small stitches. I use a ladder stitch.

If my quilt is more than 24" wide, I prefer to make a split sleeve. A split sleeve is the same as a sleeve, but you make two shorter sleeves that are attached leaving a "split" or gap in the center where there is no sleeve. The rod gets inserted through both sleeves and is visible in the gap. This is helpful for many gallery hanging systems that need to "hook" to the rod at the center, especially if the quilt is large or heavy.

I did more than work on sleeves this week. Here is how the week went in my studio:

1)   Deconstructed Sunrise #3 - Add sleeves and label - Still working on it.

2)  Work on Sea Fever - (Due March 15) - Done!

I've been experimenting, researching and having a grand time testing theories and making fabric for this. I should be able to share a visual or two in my next blog posting.

3) Free motion quilting practice. - Done!

I've come up with the primary motif for Sea Fever. I just don't have a picture of my work to share yet.

4) Post the number of days I have worked in my studio in 2015 - 106/126

5) Experiment with Tsukineko ink - Done!

The experiments went well this week. I focused on how to create better bleeding and blending of the ink. I believe I have a method that will produce, if not necessarily predictable results, at least results that I achieve produce usable, fascinating fabric.

6) Perform a random act of kindness - Done!

Next week and the week after I expect my studio time to be curtailed somewhat due to the holidays. However, when I can management a moment in the studio this is the game plan:

1)   Deconstructed Sunrise #3 - Add sleeves and label

2)  Work on Sea Fever - (Due March 15)

3) Free motion quilting practice.

4) Post the number of days I have worked in my studio in 2015

5) Experiment with Tsukineko ink

6) Perform a random act of kindness

I am now linking up to two blogs on Fridays. The first is Nina Marie's Off the Wall Fridays and the second is Free Motion Mavericks.

Happy holiday season to all. Wishing you the perfect balance of fellowship and creativity.


  1. hi Gwenyd. This is maybe my least favorite thing to do next to basting. LeeAnna

  2. I so hate making sleeves, and have just done a pile. I've toyed with the title of The Lazy Quilter's Guide to...because I just pin them on carefully. Thank you for explaining the value of the puffed sleeve. Nothing bothers me more than to see a lovely piece spoiled by the curve of the rod!

    It's lovely that you include a random act of kindness in you plan. Now if that spread to all corners of the Earth...

  3. This makes a lot of sense and it doesn't sound like that much more work. Do you use these for faced quilts as well as bound ones? Also what do you recommend for a space on those two sleeve larger quilts? I never know how big to make it. When I face a quilt that is small, you can really hang it on one nail but then I do have to make a sleeve with 2 halves. I usually bind them so I can use the triangle method but sometimes they just call for a facing. Thank you for your help. Nice to have someone with so much "hanging" experience to get advice from :-)

  4. Proper sleeves are a pet peeve of mine....I can not believe how often I have seen beautiful work on exhibit diminished by lack of a properly created hanging sleeve.
    oh and the cat in the cupboard...yup, My MIL's cat LOVED to spend time in the highest cupboard she could access. finally just cleared one out for her.