Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sedona Star Month 3

No, I haven't fixed my wobbly Month 4 ring from last week yet.  I decided it would be better to regroup on something easier, and then go back to it.  So, I've had a very satisfying day doing my first ring from Month 3:

I also put together all my Month 2 templates, so they are ready for paper piecing too.  A couple of weeks ago I said I was going to applique the Month 2 points.  But, when I pulled out my paper-pieced practice block I still really liked it.  With the fusible applique my background fabric would show through.  Plus, all these sunflower blocks are paper pieced, so it will be more consistent to paper piece the points in Month 2 as well.  So, that's what I'll do!

Related posts:

Sedona Star Month 4

Designing the sunflower blocks

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Month 4 Disaster!

I definitely should have stayed in bed this morning.  But instead, I spent the morning merrily working on the last ring for Sedona Star Month 4, congratulating myself the whole time because I felt I had really mastered it.  I got it all together and this was the result:

The first two were perfect!  What happened with this one?

I checked my seams again with pins at the corners, and found that even though I was right on the lines, several of the corners were off by about 1/16".  And because they were always off in the same direction, it added up.  Overall, the size of the circle is 9.75" instead of 10".  And you can see how wobbly it is.

So for the rest of the afternoon it looks like my seam ripper will be busy.  Without fail this month, every time I let my mind wander or I get cocky, I make a mistake.  It really requires complete focus.

Oh, well, it is fixable. 

Plus, halfway through the morning, a heavy painting spontaneously fell off a shelf and broke my beloved Enso meditation timer/alarm clock.  So that's going to be expensive to replace.

What a day!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

English Paper Piecing Refinements

I had a busy and very productive day today!  I started with a trip to Sew Sisters Quilt Shop in north Toronto to buy the 100 wt silk thread I mentioned yesterday.  They carry the Kimono line from Superior Threads.  I bought two neutrals to see which would work better:

In fact, it does not matter which one I use, because as you can see from the first photo, you really can't see the thread at all.  It is fantastic, and very strong!  Although it is a little tricky to get used to.  In order to make the knot in the end big enough I make a quilter's knot with six wraps, and keep the wraps together carefully as I pull the thread through.  I also had to get out my best embroidery scissors to cut it cleanly.  And it helps to pull each stitch quite tight as you go.  And keep the tail long.  But it is totally worth the extra trouble!

I wanted to use just stash fabrics for this project, but I did buy fat quarters of the two blue fabrics you see here while I was at Sew Sisters.  You know how it goes.  This time I rotary cut 2" squares in all the fabrics, which went quickly and which sew up neatly.

Yesterday I had the idea of pre-folding the paper pieces before I use them.  I tried it today and it is REALLY helpful.  I fold the piece in half, bringing the straight sides together, in all three directions.  In origami you would say I'm making three valley folds.  Then I turn it over, place it on the wrong side of the fabric so it makes a little "mountain," and start to baste:

The folds are exaggerated here so they show in the photo.  I flatten it out before I start to stitch.  Then later on, when I need to fold the work to sew the Y seam, it folds easily and perfectly straight.

So, I am very happy with how it is going.  I think my biggest problem is going to be giving this little quilt away.  Maybe I will find a place for it around here.  ;)

Monday, April 16, 2012

English Paper Piecing

My hexagons arrived today!  I immediately had to try them out:

This is just a leftover strip of fabric from my yoyos.  The hexagons have 3/4" sides, which makes them 1.5" across.  When I got the package they were smaller than I expected!  But now that I have worked with them I find them very comfortable.  In some ways they are probably easier to work with than larger ones.  I can already see that they are going to become extremely addictive.  I only bought a package of 125, and I can feel myself tensing because I know I will run out quickly.

Here is the back:

I used a combination of techniques gleaned from various sources.

  • The Paper Pieces website recommends 2" squares for the 3/4" hexagons.  They also recommend leaving the seam allowances untrimmed.  This makes them easier to baste as well as just saving a step with the cutting.  I cut a 2.5" strip down to 2" squares with scissors and by eye, so some of mine may have been a little larger.
  • I picked up two helpful tips from the video embedded below.  First, I didn't baste through the paper at all, I just took a tack stitch in each corner.  You can do this easily with the smaller pieces.  Then the basting doesn't need to be removed when you are ready to take the paper out!
  • The second helpful tip was to baste and sew with the same thread, all in one step.  This is easy and works great.

The stitching does show a bit with this technique.  Here I used 50 wt cotton in a neutral colour, but I think I will try to find some 100 wt silk, which will hopefully be a little less visible.  I prefer not to use nylon thread.  The Paper Pieces instructions suggest 6 - 10 stitches per inch, but I found I was taking 11 or 12 stitches per 3/4 inch.  That's what looks good to me, anyway.

Here is the first video.  You can skip over the first 5 minutes or so if you are planning to use fabric squares.  Right at the end she also has a great tip for basting larger pieces.

This second video also has some helpful tips to fill in the gaps:

I am trying not to drop everything and start this right away!  My first plan for this technique will be to use it for the centre panel of a 16" x 20" wall hanging that I will adapt from the book Fat Quarter Quilting by Lori Smith.  It is a great book, I will have to review it soon.  After that I have a much bigger plan in mind!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Free Motion Quilting Inspiration

I know I have been quiet for a few days now, but that is because I have been massively productive!  I always get an energy spurt in the spring, so I am trying to make the most of it.  I'll share some of my work in the next few days, but in the mean time, here is an inspirational quilt by another TQS member, Terry Knott from Boring, Oregon:

Bursting With Joy

All the colour on this quilt is thread!  And it is all free motion quilting, no machine specialty stitches.  Terry was kind enough to also send me her Smilebox slideshow, with close-ups of all the stitching.  You can find it here.  If you go to the last slide there is a photo of the label.  428 hours of stitching and 29 bobbins full of thread!  Here's some additional background on the quilt from Terry herself:

In October, I took a "ZenSuedeled" class from Sue Patten and drew the outline of the shapes. It took me a couple months to find a backing fabric that I loved and then I purchased six cones of Superior's Highlights 40 wt polyester thread and one cone of Superior's Rainbow 40 wt polyester thread. I started stitching the first of December. Before this quilt, I was comfortable stitching pebbles, small stippling, meandering and was making progress on feathers. I wanted to be more comfortable stitching background stitches without marking.
The thing I like the most about Terry's quilt is that even though it is machine quilted, it still has a "hand drawn" feel to it.  I am finding that I have a strong dislike of computerized quilting.  It always looks too rigid to me, and lacks "flow."  Terry's stitches are lovely and even, but they don't have that impersonal feel that computerized stitches would have.

I was very inspired by Terry's quilt, because I really want to bring my free motion quilting up to this level.  Terry suggested that just 15 minutes a day would improve my skills quickly.  I find that idea to be very appealing!  I immediately started to think about a 30 day challenge to quilt every day.  I think September will be an easier month on Sedona Star, so I may think about doing it then.

I am not a great finisher of 30 day challenges - my 30 day drawing challenge fizzled before it really got started.  Last spring I did a 30 day walking challenge, which lasted about 15 days before my outdoor allergies completely paralyzed me.  But in both cases I still learned something valuable, so it may be worth starting even if I don't finish.  Maybe I can re-vamp that drawing blog!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Even More Collector Blocks

The other day I had reached the saturation point on Sedona Star, but I was still in the mood to sew, so I put together a few more square in a square Collector Blocks.  Do they ever seem easy now!

The ones on the top and bottom right are Kaffe Fassett's Lichen design.  I love this design, and I am very unhappy that it has been discontinued!  I particularly like the way the grey/brown one at the top plays well with the spotted background fabric.

I may make up the last 10 of these later today, but first I want to make at least half of another Month 4 ring.  Lots to do!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Finished Month 4 Ring

Hi!  Just a quick post today.  Here is the first completed ring for Sedona Star Month 4.  The inside edge is a little wobbly, but hopefully the applique centre will still go on smoothly.  The green fabric is Kaffe Fassett's Aboriginal Dots in Forest.  Two more to go!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Starting to Piece Month 4

As promised, I got a decent start on the Month 4 piecing for Sedona Star yesterday.  It is pretty painstaking work!  Yesterday morning I checked the Show & Tell section at The Quilt Show to see how people are doing with Month 4.  Only one person was finished!  So I had a feeling this month would be trickier.  Usually there would be four or five people done after the first week.  But maybe enthusiasm wanes after the first couple of months too.

My modifications to the template went smoothly, and they didn't seem to add to the difficulty at all:

You can see that I drew in the 1/4 inch shadow on all the templates.  I used 1/8 seam allowances on all the internal seams, which turned out to be no problem at all.  Even though the darker orange pieces would finish small, I still cut the fabric 1 1/2 inch wide so I would have somewhere to put the pins.  You can see that I have also been staystitching the side seams, which gives me one less thing to worry about with the assembly.

The assembly of the sub-units is definitely the biggest challenge:

By the end of the day I had sewn together seven, and I had to redo a seam twice.  Because joining the units is the trickiest part, I am forcing myself to add each unit to the whole as I go.  That way I will not be stuck with the worst part at the end.

You probably realize that I have skipped over Month 3.  I am looking forward to going back to it, because I think it will be a doddle compared to Month 4!  It is fun to see how the designer Sarah Vedeler is increasing the challenge each month.  We will all be Mariner's Compass masters after this!

Overall, I am very happy with how it is going.  It is becoming clear that once again The Quilt Show BOM is going to be impressive.  When you see how all the details keep building month after month, it becomes a very satisfying thing.  Onwards and upwards!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter!

I think Easter is my favourite holiday.  It's not just the chocolate, either!  Although that doesn't hurt. ;)  I love all the spring colours and spring flowers, and it's a gorgeous sunny day too.  It's such a hopeful time of year.

This amazing chocolate egg was bought for us by my sister at Chocolate Barr's Candies in Stratford, Ontario.  And look what was on the inside:

Caramels, maple creams and solid bunnies and chicks, all in premium dark chocolate.  I'm not sure I have room for lunch!

Otherwise, I've been extremely productive so far this holiday weekend.  I cut all the fabric for Months 2, 3 and 4 of Sedona Star, and copied all the templates onto the Ricky Tims Stable Stuff - one sheet at a time!  This afternoon my plan is to try my "shadow" idea for Month 4.  One way or another, I'll have some photos of that tomorrow. 

In the mean time, I hope you have a great day too.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Free-Form Quilts

For Book Review Day I've just been reviewing my order history at Amazon.ca to remind myself what books I've bought recently.  Create Your Own Free-Form Quilts, by Rayna Gillman (C&T Publishing, 2011), has been on the shelf, not because I don't like it, but because I don't have time for it now.  But that doesn't mean it isn't a fun book!

I am feeling these days like I still have a lot to explore with traditional quilting.  However, when I am ready to branch out, this is one technique that I will definitely try.  Gillman's technique basically involves sewing together lots of strips into blocks, cross cutting the blocks and inserting more strips, and arranging the lot on your design wall until it looks good.  I think it would be tons of fun!  It actually reminds me of string quilts.

To me, the best thing about Gillman's presentation is that she is very encouraging, and breaks the process down into easy steps.  I think this would be a great book for people who want to do art quilts but who don't think they are artistic.  It is hard to go wrong with this technique.

A large part of the book is about exploration, and trying different things to see what you like.  There are no patterns, and the goal is not to duplicate Gillman's quilts.  Gillman gives you so many variations on the basic approach that even just looking at the pictures gives you a chance to consider what you like, and the colour combinations that look good to you.  My belief is that once you start talking about art instead of strictly design, our own personal reactions become the most important thing, rather than any "rules" about colour or design.

Of course, it is also more likely that not everyone will agree with your preferences!  ;)

Gillman started her quilting life as a traditional quilter, and the book has an idea-filled chapter about what to do with your old UFOs:

You can probably already see where she is going with that.  One good idea is to just cut out the seams of your UFOs, and reclaim the smaller bits of fabric, without having to unpick anything.

So, while for me this book is on the shelf for now, if you are feeling stale or artistically blocked at all, this is a great book to break you out of it.  Or, if you tend to be results-oriented, this book will definitely put more fun into your process.  For me, having fun is the most important part!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Amping Up the Mariner's Compass Blocks

Back in December, my inspiration for my colourway of Sedona Star started with the quilt Paradise in the Garden by Jean Wells.  I have loved that quilt ever since I first saw it!  Jean took New York Beauty blocks and made them into sunflowers, and I thought I could do the same thing with the Mariner's Compass blocks in Sedona Star.  There are three different Mariner's Compass blocks in the quilt, each done three times, for a total of nine blocks.

In my first plan for how to colour those blocks I only used two colours of yellow for the "petals."  I have been thinking for some time now, though, that this will be too repetitive.  I decided to use three colours instead, and to play up the differences between the three variations that Sedona Star designer Sarah Vedeler created.  But, I still wanted to keep them looking like flowers.  I decided the best way to meet all my goals would be to add some secondary piecing to the blocks.  For Month 4, I am going to add a 1/4 inch "shadow" to the lower layer of petals:

I haven't tried this with the fabric yet!  But I think it will be doable with a 1/8 inch seam allowance.  If I have to I'll increase the shadow to 3/8 inch.  All the photos today are of enlargements of the uncoloured pdf file that Sarah provided in December, which I coloured with my trusty crayons.

On a side note, do you find that you use the same colours over and over?  I haven't pulled out my crayons in years, and I found that the colours I needed for these blocks were the ones I'd used the most!  You can probably see the resemblance with my profile photo too.

Anyway, I was very happy with how this one looked, so it was on to Month 3.  My first thought was to repeat the 1/4 inch shadow (the new one is on the right):

But, I didn't think that had enough punch.  My second try:

That's pretty good, I thought, but I also wanted to see what would happen if I just widened the shadow from the first try:

This one was too "whirly" for my taste, and not flowery, so the second one is the winner.  For the last one, Month 5, I first tried the same 1/4 inch shadow as Month 4:

Again, I felt that things were getting repetitive.  I wondered what would happen if I didn't add a shadow to this month, and just changed the colours of the back petals:

Winner!  Now when I look at all three variations together, they look unified yet distinct:

Let's see how they look with my fabrics!  I still haven't got my iron, but I'm thinking that now that I've decided to fuse the applique on Month 2 instead of paper piecing the blocks, a regular iron will do the job.  I'll just find the iron with the slowest auto shut off available and be done with it.

Related Post:

Choosing colours for Sedona Star
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