Sunday, March 30, 2014

I finished A-12, Framed Fancy, and A-13, Starlight Starbright, to complete Dear Jane Row A!!

I finished Framed Fancy and Starlight Starbright, this week.  Framed Fancy was a nice exercise in straight-forward paper-piecing. 

The block is rather muted to my taste, but I want my Dear Jane to have a nice variety of values to add interest to the trip around the world format.  At least, that's what I keep telling myself! 

The next block, Starlight, Starbright, is much more to my taste color-wise.  I first paper-pieced the inner 9-patch and the four outer edge units.  I then hand-pieced (not appliqued) the outer edges to the 9-patch center.  

I'm not an experienced hand-piecer.  You can easily see some of my white hand-stitches, but it will have to do.  I'm MUCH LESS PLEASED that I forgot to add the extra 1/4 inch to the outer edges and it finished small!  Wouldn't you know?  The last block in the row and it's the first one that finished small. grrrr

As I said in the previous post, I've really gotten hooked on Bonnie Hunter's quilt cam!  It's such an enjoyable, productive way to sew.  I love sewing in company, but it's not usually my most productive time, plus I'm not using my favorite machine in its most comfortable setup.  Quilt cam will never take the place of my real-world sewing buddies, but it sure is good company for, say, endless paper-piecing. 

Bonnie kept referring to "Leaders & Enders" projects during Quilt Cam.  After I figured out what she was talking about, I realized I already had the perfect project to replace my "thread bunnies".  I'm trying to use up a bunch of awful, dark fabrics donated to the Blanketeers years ago, which everyone else passed on, that I inherited.  Last year, I cut them into usable squares per Bonnie's system.  I matched each dark with a coordinating bright and made up many HSTs.  Now I'm keeping them beside my machine, waiting to take their turn after every paper-pieced chain.

I have many HSTs done, but I need lots more; this is the perfect Leaders & Enders project.  So far, it's working like a charm.  I need over 600 HSTs for this quilt; if I waited until I had the chance to work on just this project, it would never happen!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Paper Piecing A-11 Pebble's Protest, a Dear Jane Tutorial

I encourage everyone to try paper-piecing, but don't start with this block!  lol  It's not a true paper-pieced block, because near the end of construction there are four inset seams that have to be "dealt with".  

One of the reasons I enjoy paper-piecing now is that I no longer try to use the absolute smallest bits of fabric that will cover the pattern. Nothing is more frustrating than sewing a line, then having the fabric not cover like it is supposed to.  Also, a little prep-work makes the whole process go smoothly.  

To prepare, I measure the widest part of each shape, then add .5" for both seam allowances and another .5" for slop.  If the piece is on the outer edge, it gets another .25" for block "shrinkage".  I describe how I cut the fabric here.

To save time, I chain stitch units whenever possible.  For these tiny blocks I don't bother with using starch.  And since my fabric is plenty big, I don't mess with pins either; actually, I think pins just distort blocks this small.

These blocks are ready to be trimmed.  I like to do them factory style.  It's all too easy to forget to trim, and after you've sewn the next seam, well, then it's just too late.

Here they are, all trimmed.  There is a small amount of waste from using slightly over-sized pieces of fabric, but it makes life so much easier! 

These squares don't look like they need much trimming at all.

This Dear Jane block had lots of very tiny units. 

I think really good pressing is the most neglected step in quilting.  I see it all the time, but I'm not the quilt police, so I don't say anything. On tiny blocks like these, though, you really have to make pressing a priority.

After "melding" the stitching, I finger press the seams.  I use a small white press cloth to avoid getting the blocks grubby, and really spread those seams wide open.

The same cloth does double duty with my Clover iron.  I've scorched muslin with the Clover on high, so I set it to medium and use a press cloth.  So far, this has kept my blocks "scorch-free" despite heavy pressing.

Here are the center units, all firmly pressed and awaiting either a trim or their next attachment.

All the center unit sewing is done, now to join the inner units.  With Dear Jane blocks, it's always good to have the original pattern nearby for consultation.  These bits go together pretty easily, though dealing with units of one piece (and therefore, NO seams) is a bit tricky.  Another good reason not to make this block your first paper-pieced project.  lol

I found the idea of sewing inset seams daunting. I had never done any inset sewing at all before. I turned on a Bonnie Hunter web cam while I tackled them, and they turned out fine.  Just one more inset block to go!

And done! 

All that was left was to "log cabin" the outer white "logs," and trim it to size.  Thirty-three pieces in a 5.5" square and it's not even the most complicated block in row A.  That Jane Stickle had a real sense of humor.

Here it is, all done.  This makes two very tricky blocks in a row.  I'm glad A-12 is plain old simple paper-piecing.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Which Points West? Finished is Better than Perfect!

I'm glad this one is done!  A-10, "Which Points West?" was a puzzler to me.  I studied the published hints on this one and they did not appeal to me at all.  I just couldn't see myself piecing this block.

The points are so sharp they're practically begging to be reverse appliqued, but there's a problem with that since I hate doing reverse applique!  Now, it's been years since my last attempt, so I decided to give it a try with the melon.  This way I could see if it was as bad as I remembered.  At the very worst it would keep the muslin intact for the whole block, and prevent any shadows from having white over purple.  

It was awful.  It wasn't fun and it wasn't pretty.  No way was I going to do that four more times.  One melon of reverse applique was more than enough.  Back to my favorite:  prepared applique. OK, so the points ended up being more like nubs, and I managed to lose all the curvature that is supposed to be at the base of the triangles.  In fact, each point is wonky in its own "special" way, but it's finished. And finished is better than perfect!

Once again I think I've talked myself out of ever making one of those gorgeous Hawaiian quilts.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

If I'm not careful, I'll finish Row A of Dear Jane

Three more Dear Jane blocks are complete.  The first two, "Dad's Plaids" and "Florence Nightingale" were pretty simple, not very many pieces and not too hard.  I ironed the melons around a plastic template for "Dad's Plaids", which gave much more accuracy than freezer paper.

I still have to cut the brown fabric out from behind the white applique to make the white melons less dark.  

"Florence Nightingale" came out nice and crisp, even though I'm not using any starch for the paper-piecing.  I had always used starch before, and I never liked how crunchy the blocks would get.  I wanted this Dear Jane to be soft throughout the process.

At 45 pieces, the third block this week, "Cabin Fever", took lots more planning.  I only enjoy paper piecing if the pre-cut pieces easily cover the paper being pieced; also, this way I can avoid using pins during the paper-pieced part of the process.  (Typically I want the pre-cut rectangle to be 1/2" larger than necessary in both directions.)  I also really hate using pre-cut triangles; I would much rather cover a triangular shape with an over-sized rectangle.

To avoid wasting fabric, I decided how big each rectangular paper-pieced pre-cut needs to be, then cut strips of fabric as wide as one side of the rectangle.  I then labeled the width of the strip in the selvage with permanent marker, then I pre-cut all my rectangles.

Having all the correctly sized pre-cuts ready and waiting made "Cabin Fever" come together quickly and accurately.  Having a six inch cutting mat and my little Clover craft ironing station set up next to the sewing machine helped hurry things along too.  I'm using a press cloth for all pressing (even finger pressing) to keep the blocks nice and clean.

Just because I don't pin during the paper-piecing process doesn't mean I don't pin obsessively when putting the sections together.  I use two pins around a removable guide pin at every seam intersection, as well as pins at each end of the section.  I think I had ten pins in the longer side sections.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Dear Jane, the Obsession Continues

All week I just wanted to hurry home and work on my Dear Jane, and I managed to get four blocks done.  I took Hunter's Moon to Shreveport last weekend since applique travels better than paper piecing.  I hadn't done applique in several years, so I just had to wing it.

The batik for Courtney's Stethoscope is part of my purple color-way batiks.  I had to edit out massive amounts of grey in the fabric. Enough grey remained to make this the most darkly "mysterious" block in the row so far.  I'm really enjoying the contrasting batiks in my stash.

Cathy's Campfire came next with some nice, straight-forward paper-piecing.  After fiddling to get my melons placed just so in Hunter's Moon, and fussy cutting Courtney's Stethoscope, I was ready for something simple.

I was looking forward to the super simple Uncle Homer.  For some reason unknown to man, I decided to paper-piece this ultra simple block.  I did spend lots of time getting the widely spaced batik "blobs" placed right where I wanted them, and I was very pleased with how this one turned out.

I can't believe I'm already working on the middle block in Row A. Of course, none of these first few blocks were particularly tricky. (Would anyone ever make a Dear Jane row by row if Papa's Star was the  very first block?  lol)  Still, I'm going to keep pressing forward while the obsession is hot; this quilt will need all the prioritization possible to ever get completed.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Dear Jane Revisited

I restarted my Dear Jane journey with a lovely new bolt of white muslin and my existing stash of batiks.  I spent way too much time on my last DJ, all 9 blocks of it, deciding which block to do next. This time I'm tackling the blocks first a row, then a column at a time.  I selected and pre-washed fabric for the entire first row, then got started. Here is Block A-1, Pinwheel Gone Awry. 

I've decided to rotary cut whenever possible, so A-1 was done that way.  Paper piecing was a better choice for block A-2 called "One, Two Buckle My Shoe".

I'm making my DJ a trip around the world in seven colors, with lots of variation planned in value, hue and tint. I probably already have 50% or more of the batiks I'll need, but except for the upcoming Dallas Quilt Celebration next month, I'm not planning to load up on more right away.  I think by doing first a row, then a column (including the triangles) my current subset of batiks will get widely spaced in the quilt.

I went through my entire stash, pulling all the true batiks.  I was amazed by how many lovely batik prints I have.  I'm not using the the print batiks though, not because I'm a purist, but because true batiks are reversible.  I can just see myself noticing at the very end of completing a 40+ piece block that one of the tiny pieces has been reversed.  Argh!  Sticking with true batiks removes this complication completely.  As Forrest Gump would say, "One less thing."

It was fun selecting 15 batiks for row A.  Who knows if I'll even finish row A, much less the whole quilt, but I know I'll never finish it if I don't at least start it!  I promised myself that if I do finish this DJ I will have earned the right to a long-arm machine if I still want one.  I told my DH this quilt was my quilting Master's Degree.  He said it was more like a PhD, but I told him doctoral projects had to be original, and this is as derivative as it gets.  lol

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Blanketeer Challenge Fabric Quilt Top Completed

The Blanketeers selected the Alzheimer's puzzle fabric as our challenge fabric last spring.  (As I recall it took 7 ballots to select the challenge fabric; there was a strong floral faction. - lol)   We made blocks using a new paper-piecing technique taught by Virginia.  We ended up with 25 6-inch pieced blocks.

I assumed the task of putting it all together since I only made one block.  The pieced patterns were chosen randomly, so I ignored pattern completely, and concentrated on giving the colors a pleasing balance.  

I wanted to use up the leftover puzzle fabric, but I thought a visual break was needed between the blocks and the border.  Nothing stops the eye like red, so a bright red inner border was born.

There's my lone card trick block in the bottom row - took forever! Others liked this particular paper-piecing method, but I was not a fan.  It did, however, give nice results.

Everyone did a terrific job on their blocks, and I don't think we've ever created a more colorful quilt!

Some little kid is going to really love this bright, cheery quilt!

Friday, January 31, 2014

First Finish of 2014 - January

There's a cute little raglan sweater that goes with the booties and cap, but I haven't put it together yet.  The booties will get a white ribbon at the ankles after I find the ribbon.  What do you think; is this cap too small for an infant girl?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Happy Australia Day!

Happy Australia Day to all my blogging buddies down under!

I hope y'all have a lovely day filled with fun, food, and no worries of drought, wildfires, floods, ridiculously hot weather or inland tsunamis to trouble you.


With love from Texas. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Pebbles and Leaves and a Jelly Roll Race

I made some progress quilting my bunny quilt.  I'm pleased with the way the pebbles turned out.  I had never done pebbles before.  They were time-consuming, but fairly easy.  I'm happy enough with the leaf shapes.  I got the effect I was going for, and it was fast.  

The parts I'm really not sure of are the straight lines on the multi-colored fabric.  I wanted to keep it simple, but I'm not sure blue was the best choice thread color.  And the straight lines aren't working out the way I thought they would.  I'll probably add additional elements between the lines, but I'm not sure what yet.  I swear, the most difficult part of free-motion quilting is all the decision-making!

The Blanketeers had a Project Day last Friday where everyone worked on her own Jelly Roll Race quilt.  You start with a jelly roll and sew all the strips end to end.  Takes forever.  Then you divide the long strip in two slightly offset pieces and sew them together lengthwise.  Really takes forever!  Lather, rinse, repeat.  Eventually you have something resembling a quilt top.  It is definitely not my favorite technique. I'll probably never make another, but it did completely use up an old jelly roll that was gathering dust in a drawer for the last 5 years.

Actually, this one isn't too bad.  I've seen some really butt-ugly jelly roll race quilts, and I feared the worst for this one, but it's not too awful.  I have a cool idea for quilting it, but that will have to take a back-burner to the bunny quilt.