Saturday, October 9, 2010

Rags to Riches

This is along post. If you are looking to find out whether or not I believe the Go! rag dies are a good investment, scroll down to the last paragraph. If you have the time and patience to read this whole post thank you! Hopefully you will get a laugh and learn a little about the Go! cutter.

I've always liked the look of rag quilts and have wanted to make one for awhile now. I've been hesitant to try because I've heard how hard it is on your hands to snip all those seams. That was until I won 3 dies from Pat and Accuquilt. Of course I chose a rag die-the 5.25" rag die. I was thinking it would be good for purses as well as baby quilts. Of course I have no sense of measurement and my mind didn't click on how small 5.25" really is. I did manage to make a couple baby quilts though.

I found all the flannel I had in my stash and started cutting it up on my Go!. This is the front of the boy version pre-washing.

This is the back. This flannel is left over from lounge pants I have made for the kids in the family (nieces, nephews, grandkids, and kids).

This is the front of the girl version pre-wash.

and the back.

Since I had never made a rag quilt by hand I thought I would do a comparison between the Go! and doing one by hand. This skull version is all cut and ragged by hand. This is the front pre-washed.

Here is the back. Even though I cut these squares the same size, this one turned out a bit larger. I ended up making the fringe smaller on this one. Did I plan it that way? Of course not. This is just the result of me running full speed with an idea and not paying close attention to the details. It worked out fine though.

Here are all three after going through the washer/dryer once. I was going to take them to a laundromat but the two that we have aren't close to my house plus they are not in the nicest area of town.  I ended up taking a chance and threw them in my washer and dryer at home. Now I know why they say not to do that. Instead of having the washer drain into our septic, we have a hose that runs from the washer to the backyard. At the end of the hose there was a good size pile of threads from the flannel. Very noticeable from a distance. Plus, inside the washer there was an abundance of threads. I wiped out as many as I could but when my son washed his clothes next, they were all over them. Luckily, they came off in the dryer so he (I) didn't have to use a lint roller on his work clothes.

The skull one will be going in the shop once I edit the photos and the other two will be going to Victoria's Bumble Bean Basics. I just need to get them packaged up and in the mail.

I thought I was going to be making a post telling you not to buy the rag dies. After I made both versions I changed my mind. Let me walk you through my process and then you can decide for yourself.

This is a picture of the boy (left) blocks and the girl (right) blocks cut with the Go!.

This is what the 5.25" rag die looks like. My thoughts are based on this die. I do think the 8.5" die would be easier to use but I don't own that die. If you click on the picture you should be able to see all the threads stuck in the blade slots. I was cutting 3 layers of flannel with each pass. After every other pass I was having to stop and clean the threads out of the grooves. I had a very hard time cranking each  pass. Now if you are a regular reader you might remember that I have had 3 shoulder surgeries (2 this year) so I know that is a factor. I do think it would be easier to cut cotton fabric versus flannel. I might try that at a later date.

This is what my mat looks like after cutting out two baby quilts. This was a brand new mat before I started. Each baby quilt is in a 9 X 9 pattern which means I cut a total of 324 individual squares. Since the die cuts 2 squares at a time and I was using 3 layers of fabric, this means that I ran the die through the cutter 54 times. That took me 6 hours to do. I'm sure that is much slower than most people but I spent alot of time picking those darn threads out! If my sewing room had a window I would have thrown that die out it more than once.

I did flip and turn and rotate the mat with every cut but it still looked like this when I was done cutting. There are chunks missing from this mat. If I decide to use this die again I will need to buy another mat. This one is no longer usable.

This pile of flannel is the big pieces that were left from my starting stack of flannel.

This pile is all the pieces that went in the trash. Both of these piles are from both the boy and girl quilts.

These are the squares that I cut using my rotary cutter. There are 81 green and 81 flame. It took me 10 minutes to cut these and I didn't want to throw anything out the window.

With this quilt I did start with yardage. The other 2 quilts were from yardage (2 different fabrics) and the other fabrics were mainly fat quarter size. This pile is of the leftovers that I decided to keep.

This pile is the bits that I threw out.

I had a hard time sewing the Go! squares together but I think that is because I handled them too much. The fringe was giving me a bit of trouble. Since I was playing with the layout the fringe loosened up and was flopping around.  The skull squares went together as easy as you would expect them to. All the quilts took about the same amount of time to sew up. With the boy/girl quilt, once I had all the blocks sewn together I was done. The skull quilt still needed to be snipped. It took me 3 hours of almost constant snipping to get it ready for the wash. Within the first half hour I decided that the Go! rag die was definitely a good idea. I do not have those fancy rag scissors. I was just using a new pair of fabric scissors that had nice sharp tips. My fingers were sore and I was surprised at how sore my shoulders were.

In conclusions, if you have a little patience when picking out the threads from the die I think that the Go! rag dies are worth the investment. My recommendation is to see if any of your local quilt shops have the Go! or Studio cutters and try out their rag dies to see if it is something that would work for you.


Tangos Treasures said...

They came out great!!!
I don't have a GO! but will keep this in mind!

Just JaiCi's Crafts said...

I LOVE rag quilts, and yours are just darling!!
Wish I had a GO! to make mine easier

Jane's Fabrics and Quilts said...

I will say to pick out the threads and buy a new mat. I will pass on that die. Thanks for the info!

Janet said...

Thank you for the wonderful, informative post. I read it all! I don't have a GO yet, but it's on my Christmas list, if I can't win one by then. This was very good information.

Ginny said...

I posted a very similar post on my blog the other day. If I may suggest, even though it means more cranks it will be easier if you only use two layers at a time through the cutter when using flannel. Also, I used a pair of tweezers that have a "hook" or bent end and that made cleaning the die much easier and faster. I also found that I could let the thread build up a little bit before cleaning and it came out just as easy with the hooked tweezers. Last question, the mat you used is it one of the grey ones? I found that even with the regular dies they don't hold up as well, replace it with one of the opaque dies, it will last longer!
Happy quilting!

Barb said...

Over at splitting stitches, she says she just does two layers at a time and you can open up one side and slip in the batting, makes it sooooo much easier, even tho you are only cutting two layers, it save times and handling.

Enjoyed your post, very informative.

Marilyn in San Antonio, TX said...

I'm getting ready to start a rag quilt using the 8 1/2" rag die with my GO! I have made several rag quilts in the past without the die and have the really good Heritage shears. They work & easy. On a test run with the rag die, I found the best way to void the threads in the die blades is to heavily starch and press the fabric. I'm planning a denim & flannel quilt without batting. I cut one layer of flannel & one layer of denim together and they are ready to sew this way without too much handling. The denim & flannel adhere together just great.

Melinda Cornish said...

Ok now I want one!

Katrina said...

I've made several rag quilts manually and I have to say that even with needing a new mat it is soooo much easier on the Go! I can't stand snipping all the rags LOL! Great post!