Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Test Quilt

Last month I shared the back story on that ill fated quilt, the one that endured multiple fabric bleeds and seam unraveling.  The good folks at Robert Kaufman came across my post and sent a very kind email apologizing for my less-than-stellar experience with Essex Linen.  Like I said in that post, it wasn't necessarily the linen's fault, as I didn't prewash it and maybe didn't quilt enough.  How nice of them to reach out!

Essex Linen from Robert Kaufman

Then, check out what they sent!  Yep, that's a pile of Essex linen - lots of shades, particularly the yarn-dyed varieties.  So, YAY!  I'm so lucky.  And also, what?  As in, what will I do with that now?  An ounce of reflection yielded the answer - test, Test, Test Quilt!

an Essex test quilt

My friend at Completely Cauchy shared that when folks sew clothes with linen they use 1/2" seams and overcast, zigzag or otherwise finish the seam allowance to prevent unraveling.  Aha!  I want to be able to incorporate linen in my patchwork again, because I Love Linen; but, only if I can do it confidently.  Keep in mind that in both my experiences with linen unraveling (happened with this quilt too, which was sashed with 100% linen), the problems didn't show until about the 4th wash.  

Sewing with linen

So... let's meet that question head on!  I'm going to make a quilt incorporating multiple cuts of Essex linen cotton blend.  I'll sew all linen with 1/2" seams and zigzag the edges, like so.  I've already prewashed my Essex.  And, I'll finish the quilt with generous free motion quilting.

 setting out my layers

I've settled on a simple design - a huge log cabin inspired by this quilt.  I've added some prints and some Kona solids, to keep things interesting.  The quilt is going to be pretty low-key though, as I have it in mind to gift it to someone in particular.

But, ONLY after I wash and machine dry it 4 times and report back to you!  Crossing fingers.

31 comments:

  1. I think your new tactic will solve the problem. I've been sewing clothing for over 60 years, and I learned that a 5/8" seam is standard with clothing. I think your idea of 1/2", plus the zigzag will work splendidly.

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  2. I don't know if you have a serger and I've never tried to make a quilt with my serger but do you think surging a 1/4 inch seam would work on a quilt?

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    1. Maybe! I don't have a serger either, but people in the comments have mentioned serging is good.

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  3. So cool, Rachel! How nice of them to send you some. What a wonderful opportunity to get to test some techniques. I have one quilt that has a lot of yarn-dyed linen in it. I didn't pre-wash or do anything special with my seams (just regular old 1/4" straight stitching), and has been washed about 5 times so far. I haven't had any issues at all, but since I love linen so much, I'm eager to see how I can prevent any in the future. Thanks for testing for us!

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  4. oooh, this is going to be one gorgeous quilt. I'm pretty sure bigger seam allowances and finished edges will prevent any rips and tears but I'm really looking forward to hearing your results.

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  5. That is very sweet that you were sent the linen by Robert Kaufman's. I think your idea of making a test quilt is fabulous. I have never worked with linen, but if there is ever a time in the future where I would be considering it.... It will be such a pleasure to have learned from your experiences what methods will help to make that project a success! Thank you for sharing!

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  6. I'm really interested to see how your experiment turns out. I love linen too. I have some Essex, but I've been afraid to use it in a quilt.

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  7. If that doesn't stop the linen from unravelling, I don't think anything would! You should be fine. Serging the edges is another great option, but zigzagging works too.

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  8. Wow did this post come in time! I have some quilt blocks I'm gonna border with the Essex grey. I'm glad I didn't cut it yet! I never thought about a 1/2in seam. thanks!!

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  9. i can't wait to learn the results...i have some linen i would like to use soon... :)

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  10. Oh no! I've finished an ENORMOUS Swoon quilt top using Essex yarn dyed as the whole background fabric and seams are all 1/4 inch....

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  11. I deepen the seams when I use flannel, which is another fabric that ravels quite a bit. Because of the thickness of flannel I only deepen the seem to 3/8" which lessens the bulk.

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  12. I have made one quilt using Robert Kaufman Essex yarn-dyed linen and had absolutely no problems at all. I did not pre-wash it either. It was straight-line quilted, spaced at about 1 inch. It has been washed numerous times and is still like new! I used a tight stitch- 2.0 on my BabyLoc. Could your stitch length have been a problem?

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    1. There are definitely people not having problems, so I bet a lot of things factor in. Hey, maybe my washing machine is rough on quilts! I do piece near a 2.0 stitch length usually about 2.4. Your quilt was densely quilted, so that certainly improves durability!

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  13. Your experience scared me as I used the essex linen in my AMH Dreamweaver quilt as sashing between rows. I will be interested in your experience.

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  14. I made an Essex linen+field study quilt top 4 months ago and it has been waiting for me to make the backing and finish up. I have been apprehensive since you posted your story and not sure what I am going to do as I was making it as a gift. Too late to prewash or do 1/2" seams. I am glad you were sent some linen and will be testing.

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    1. It's not too late to zigzag stitch the seams, since they're exposed! It'd be a pain, but worth the peace of mind?

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  15. hmm, this is all very interesting. i have sewn a fair amount with linens and i have never had a seam unravel (knocking on wood as I type!). now i mostly do garment sewing. i do use a serger some of the time, but it's not always necessary on lined pieces and i can't say i've had them unravel. i rarely keep a 1/2" seam allowance and often trim seams to 1/8" around curves and such. the one fabric i have had unravel is double gauze. three times. so no more double gauze for us. (i also don't really care for the drape of it for dresses.) but i always, always prewash. i've seen the way the fabrics shrinks on blogs. on garments that shrinkage could be possibly ruin an outfit. i always wash-dry in the drier-press before sewing.

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    1. It is certainly mysterious! I'm sure there are more than one factor at work here. Maybe it's my top loader washing machine? Sadly, I've heard that this is happening to other quilters, so I'm hoping to troubleshoot on our account. I'm glad you haven't had problems, though! I can tell you it's so frustrating when you can see the thread fully intact, but the seam is unraveled. Ugh.

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  16. Oh that is so nice of them to send you the beautiful new linen. I hope you have better luck with this quilt.

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  17. Oh! So excited for you!! I hope it works out you lucky girl! I'm glad to see the YD in red, if you have success, I'll employ your techniques and buy some of that red! Good luck!

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  18. If you have access to a serger, you might try using it instead of a sewing machine. The serger will save you a great deal of time since it sews and overcasts in one step.

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  19. that is going to look great. i love the prints.

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  20. Do you have the details on the your cursive letters fabric? I've been looking for fabrics with writing on them, and this one looks perfect!

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    1. That particular one is called Books and Letters. It's probably hard to find, but I've seen something similar at FabricBubb.

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    2. Thank you, Rachel. I did find some Books and Letters on Etsy and similar fabric at FabricBubb. Perfect!

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  21. Wow, who knew procrastinating would work in my favor? My Dogwood Blossom quilt top can be saved! All the sashing is Essex linen, and I can zigzag or overcast all of it before finishing. I am so sorry you had trouble with linen in the penny sampler, what a heart breaker!
    What a nice apology gift from Robert Kaufman, great idea to do a test quilt. I look forward to your testing and results!

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  22. I cannot wait to see what you find out. I hope a recent quilt I finished that has all of the background in Essex will not pull out. It is quilted more densely and pieced at a stitch length of 2 so I'm hoping it will be ok like a couple others who have commented. I even bound it in Essex cut on the bias. I'm a little terrified to put it in the washer.

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  23. Yikes! So happy to come across this post I'd read about lots of successes with the Essex linen on other blogs and even though I've never worked with it I was planning to use it in a quilt for charity I'm making with the girls next month. I was already going to pre-wash cause of mixing fiber types but now I'll have to do the math again on the quilt or figure out a way to add 1/4" to the seam allowance... no I'm over thinking and considering using a cotton wiht a linen look print... sigh

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    1. I'm waiting on something before I can quilt this quilt top, but i haven't forgotten. Will post the results as soon as I have them!

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