Thursday, 26 November 2015

Ironing out the inaccuracy - Tip on Thursday #2

Pressing and Ironing

Earlier today I showed off my new project with improv curved piecing, tentatively named "Energy". I was very happy with the top, but to be honest it was rather wavy and not as flat as I liked.

This was to be expected I suppose, because there was no extra fabric for seam allowances added to the pieces due to the method I used. This caused the pieces to not fit exactly, and especially with the "curvier" curves the result is not quite flat. It is particularly noticeable on the left side and in the top left corner, and it bothered me!

So out came the iron, ironing board, and a wet cloth. Often we are admonished to "press, not iron" our patchwork in order not to distort it. It is usually good advice, but the reverse is true too: If you use your iron well, you can "encourage" your distorted patchwork into a better, in this case flatter, shape. This is what I did:

Step 1: Press/iron your patchwork so that seam allowances are pressed to the right direction, and the fabric is as flat as possible (as above).

Step 2: Lay your fabric on the ironing board, making sure straight lines (edges and seams) are positioned straight, even if this gives waves or lumps in between. You can even pin crucial points in place onto the ironing board (put the pins in as flat as you can, and preferably small pin heads). If the patchwork is larger than the ironing board, I usually start with the middle section first, though if one section is particularly bad, I may start there. In this case the middle section included the waviest bits, so that part got the treatment first. I did the top and bottom sections after.

Step 3: Pat down the fabric to even out any lumps and bumps as much as possible. Then gently iron as flat as possible, leaving each section flat in place until cooled then moving to the next section. In my case this was not enough, though sometimes this is all that's needed.

Step 4: Lay the wet, but not dripping, cloth on top of the patchwork. Pat down as much as possible with your hands, making sure there are no creases, either in the pressing cloth, or in the patchwork underneath!

Step 5: Press with a dry iron, one small section at a time. Lift the iron from place to place, the cloth will steam and gradually get slightly drier, though there is no need to iron the cloth completely dry. When the cloth is no longer very wet, the ironing can become a bit firmer without the cloth moving about, but keep a gentle touch.

Step 6: Lift the cloth from the patchwork. The patchwork will be (unevenly) damp, and disconcertingly wrinkled, though unless it was severely wavy, the large waves will have gone.

Now iron out the small wrinkles, a small section at a time, using the tip of the iron. Pay particular attention not to distort bulky corners and (straight) seams, since distortion here can be extra visible.

Step 7: Place the full iron on the piece, going around the whole area bit by bit. Don't hold the iron in one place for too long, you don't want scorch marks! But keep going round until the piece is completely dry.

Leave your section lying flat on the ironing board until the fabric is cooled, then repeat the whole process with remaining sections until the whole piece is done.

Isn't this much better? It's not completely perfect, but the small waves that are left will hardly be visible once layered with wadding, and the rest will easily quilt out!


A productive morning

For a while now I wanted to play with some curved piecing. I had some ideas in my head, percolating away for ages! Big, bold curves and solid fabrics. Bright colours. Big pieces. Modern look.

Finally two days ago, it was such a grey, gloomy day that I had to take out some colourful fabrics to play with. I picked my (limited) selection of solid fabrics and chose some dark reds, oranges and a lime green/yellow. That day this combination of colours said "warmth and cheerfulness" which was exactly what I was looking for.

I cut freehand curves through two fabrics, and sewed them together, building up one fabric at a time from the middle outwards. Trimming was done when needed, and a straight seam entered at some point too. I thoroughly enjoyed my morning, and ended up much more cheerful, and extremely satisfied with the result:

I am hesitating what to name this one... I thought of "Energy", but I am not sure yet. The centre shape reminds me a bit of an eye, though on its side... Then again, there is something of an Earth shape on its tilted axis... And isn't the Earth full of energy?

The problem now is that this is 27" wide x 32" long. It seems a good size for a (bold yet small) wall hanging, but how many wall hangings can I hang?! A throw might be much more useful, but then I need to "grow" it a bit more... And what would be more appreciated if I wanted to give it away? I have been thinking about it a lot, but I can't decide.

If I do need to make it larger, I do not want to add straight borders around the edges. Maybe a border of blocks, each containing a different improv "eye" shape? Maybe different borders at different sides?

So, what do you think? Bigger, or not? And if yes, how? Any ideas, suggestions and/or comments much appreciated!

Linking up with AHIQ at Sew Slowly and Fret Not Yourself
And yes, this top is a rather wavy, but I solved that too!


Thursday, 19 November 2015

Perfect quilt binding - Tip on Thursday #1

In the last few days I posted some pictures on Instagram which got unexpected comments. Apparently the method I was using is not as common as I thought. Which made me realise that there are probably quite a few tips and tricks that I may have picked up in the twenty-odd years I have been making quilts. So here goes...

Sewing on binding

I used to trim my (quilted) quilt straight and square, and then attach the binding, raw edges together, to the edge of the trimmed quilt. NO MORE! I found that the edges of the quilt stretched while sewing on the binding. And the quilt felt very hard to control under the machine.
While the use of a walking foot helped to some extent, the right feed dog was never quite gripping the fabric since it was trimmed, and I was struggling to keep the quilt going straight. And the edges still tended to stretch, resulting in wavy edges. Not my preferred look.

So now I don't trim the quilt at first. I sew my binding onto the quilt before trimming. The raw edges of the binding are stitched level with the edge of the quilt top and sewn on as usual. Then I trim the quilt edges.

And then... I trim the quilt level with the quilt top, yes?
Well, NO! It depends a bit on the look I am after how wide I make the binding, but I always aim to trim the edges so that I end up with a well filled binding while stitching the binding to the back at the stitching line. In this case, my binding was cut at 2 1/4" wide (my usual size) and folded double. It was stitched a good 1/4" away from the edge of the quilt top. Some difficult calculations Measuring the width of the binding form the stitching to the folded edge gave me 7/8" (approximately). So I cut the quilt edge 3/8" away from my stitching line, allowing a little for thickness (I used only light, thin wadding).

For ease of turning the corners, I trimmed away the very corners of the wadding. The corners are usually bulky enough.

And there you have it, perfect binding! Don't you love the effect the check gives?!

But hold on, what if your quilt is not quite as straight as you would have liked? Shouldn't you trim the quilt first to straighten it?

Some may prefer to do that, but I don't. When the edge needs adjusting (this happens often enough - how do I know...), I draw a line where I would previously have cut the quilt, and then line up the raw edges of my binding with that line. My binding goes on straight, I can still leave some extra wadding along the quilt to fill my binding as needed, and I use the stitched line to cut the quilt straight afterwards.


Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Far friends

Some time ago I got into contact with Lara B. of Buzzin Bumble. We had been following each others' blogs for a while, commenting now and then. And then, some months ago, we got into conversation by email, and from that grew the idea of a person-to-person swap. Since we both had other things going on, we decided on a small swap without pressures.

After some discussion, we decided that a pin cushion would be a very welcome gift to both of us. While I pondered what to make, we kept up our email correspondence. And I tried to find out from her blog what she would like. As she must have done for me, because she got it exactly spot on!

Look at these lovely goodies I received:

The parcel Lara sent me was seaside themed, isn't it wonderful?! I love the sea! And batiks, yum, I love those colours! Even the card was well coordinated. Can you tell how happy I am? The pin cushion is filled with saw dust, which gives it a lovely weight and sturdiness. And this makes the star fish shaped so perfectly, the body stands proud from the surface it sits on, and the tentacles curve up slightly. Very clever!

The lovely appliqué pins she included (very sharp and thin) make a pattern on its body. When I use them, my youngest warns me to put them back into place! Because I do use it, of course! It gets used all the time!

The very best thing though? Because of the swap, we got into a correspondence that otherwise probably not would have happened, and we became friends! Gradually we have gotten to know each other, and emails are still regularly crossing "the pond".

Thank you so much, Lara, for the pin cushion especially made for me, but even more for your friendship!


Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Blocks and Patterns and Calculations...

  and don't be afraid!

- this post contains affiliate links (indicated), which means I receive a small amount of the sale price should you wish to purchase (no pressure though). This makes no difference to the price you pay! All opinions are independent and my own -

Some years ago I was asked to write the pattern for a quilt I made. I set about drawing the steps, wrote the text and did the calculations. The pattern got written in the end, but those calculations! After all, this pattern was going out into the world, so the calculations had to be right. I know, I am a bit of a perfectionist at times, but really, they had to be right. There were the cutting instructions (sizes and quantities), and total fabric requirements (number of fabrics and amounts), and while I did not want to tell people to buy too much fabric, I definitely did not want to risk them buying fabric and finding out it was not enough! This feeling of responsibility led to a long time of calculating, and re-calculating, and going over it again and again... It took forever!

These days I seem to be making mainly quilts without commercial (or even any) pattern. Often I make it up as I go along, using whatever selection of fabrics I fancy from my boxes. I am not too upset if I miscalculate, or change my ideas, and I need more (or different) fabric. I just find some more that will go into the mix.

However, I also have some ideas for quilts that will not like that slapdash approach. I draw blocks that want to be made into quilts. I design quilts on paper that do need fabrics that are well coordinated. I stand in the quilt store and wonder how much fabric I will need for a project I have in mind... This needs planning. However, I now have found a great help!

When I was recently asked to review the "Quilty Math Workbook" (*affiliate link*) for Carrie of Carrie Actually, I jumped at the chance! And looking through the book was a light bulb moment. Or rather, a series of light bulb moments...

I had to get my colour pens out for this

The book comes as an e-book (PDF download) of 25 pages. And it is ideal to print off and keep in a folder. Since many copies of the work tables can be added you can make it into a personal resource for as many quilt designs as you can come up with.

The first section shows what you can do with the book. Carrie shows (with clear examples) how to use the diagrams to document your block and quilt design. And then she guides you step-by-step through the worksheets, helping with all the calculations. The worksheets are designed to help decide on quilt dimensions, and sizes for individual patchwork pieces. And from that on to the amounts of fabric you will need to buy (or gather...) to make the quilt as planned.

examples as shown in the Quilty Math Workbook

 Inspired, I worked out an example of my own:

block diagram

quilt diagram

The most attractive page for me is the Seam Allowance Worksheet. I can see a whole folder full of worked out block designs, with sizes and numbers of pieces all worked out, ready to make into a quilt:

The Seam Allowance Worksheet includes a sketch of the block

The next step is the Fabric Requirements Worksheet which guides you through the calculations for the amounts of fabrics required for your chosen quilt top. In her example, Carrie shows the requirements for one fabric, but my quilt didn't need that many fabrics, so there was space enough in the table to fill out all the requirements for my whole quilt top in the table.

Fabric Requirements Worksheet

The book includes explanations for the size of seam allowances for common shapes (squares, rectangles, Half Square Triangles and Quarter Square Triangles), but also a calculation for the number of equilateral triangles you can cut out of a fabric strip. So now it will be a breeze to determine the fabric requirements for that triangle quilt I have in mind...

Since I have not actually sewn the quilt top, I did not use the rest of the book (yet!). The workbook goes on to help decide the size of wadding (batting) needed for your top size, as well as how to piece the backing most efficiently, and how much fabric is needed for that. Lastly, the book guides you through the calculations for the binding (number of strips, amount of fabric) to finish off your quilt to perfection.

There are a few features in the book that I don't think I will use. There is a Quilt Size Worksheet which helps you decide on a quilt size that easily fit a precut wadding size. Since I most easily get my wadding from the roll this is not really relevant for me. And I skipped the Quilt Top Assembly Diagram, too. But I am happy to have found a resource that helps give me confidence that my quilty calculations add up. I will be writing up many more patterns for sure, and keeping them together in a folder to look through when I want to make a well-planned quilt.

For more details, or if you want to have a copy for yourself, the Quilty Math Workbook (*affiliate link*) is available from Carrie's Gumroad site.
With all that designing going on I better not forget to do some sewing as well...

Linking up with:
- Needle and Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation
- Let's Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts