Saturday, April 30, 2011

Foundation piecing tips

I finished piecing Hokule'a this afternoon.  Here it is on the background fabric.  It is 24" x 24".  Doesn't it look like it is out there in the Milky Way somewhere? I have decided on a fabric for the center, but haven't cut it yet. I really learned a lot about paper piecing with this one, so I would like to share some tips with you.  This is not a tutorial, just some things I thought I would pass on.
I really enjoy working with foundation piecing, but I find some of it a bit difficult.  I have found a few things that really help me make this very fun.  Finding foundation pieceing patterns is pretty easy.  Unfortunately, they don't all come in the sizes I want.  That was true for this piece.  I had some general ideas about how many sections I needed for each point, so I started sketching.  Once I drew out the sections, I remembered to add a 1/4 inch seam allowance all around the perimeter.  That is very important.
The hardest part for me is putting on the first two pieces.  I have no easy tips about how to do that.  Some people pin the first piece, some don't.  The most important thing is to remember to put that first piece, right side out, on the non-lined side of the foundation.  The second piece needs to be right side toward the first piece.  See my tips below for how I measure and cut the fabrics to fill the spaces. Beyond that, I have nothing magical to offer. 
The first thing I figured out was to pre-fold the foundation pattern along all the lines.  I was trying to fold and cut after I made each seam, but it was a pain.  This is an extra step, but I have come to learn that creating something using foundation piecing takes time and I don't mind this extra step.  I find that it has saved me time in the long run.

Another important thing to remember is to finger press or iron each piece into place as you go.  This prevents problems such as the wrong piece of fabric being cut or sewn into the wrong place.

This is the thing I discovered that has helped me the most in getting my pieces lined up correctly.  I am about to add piece #7 on this unit.  I have folded back the paper along the line for #7 and set my ruler 1/4" away.  Then I cut all the extra fabric away.  When you are getting ready to cut, make sure you are not cutting any of the fabric covering the areas they are supposed to be covering.

That leaves me a very lovely 1/4" guideline to place my next piece of fabric.

Turn the piece back over and line up the next piece, in this case #7, with the nice cut you just made.  Make sure the piece will cover the area it needs to cover.  This brings me to measuring the pieces.  I always cut my pieces 1" longer than the longest measurement for the shape, and 1" wider that the widest part of the shape. For the side pieces, be sure and add the seam allowance into the equation. So far, this has worked for me.

Another thing I had to learn the hard way was where to start and end my stitches.  I thought I needed to sew 5 or 6 stitches past the line, but that just made the paper really hard to remove.  Now I start and end my sewing 1 or 2 stitches before and after the line.  I have also played around with stitch length.  I have finally settled on #1 on my Bernina.

I hope these little tips make some sense to you.  Following these guidelines, I was able to put together this mariner's compass without ripping out more than two seams, and those happened at the beginning of the process.  I believe each seam ripped out is a learning experience.  It was certainly true in this case.
Thanks for stopping by.  I would love to hear from you about your experience or interesting in foundation piecing.
Joyful quilting, everyone.

Friday, April 29, 2011

A little cutting, a little sewing

I wanted to get the whole block put together today, but I only got half done.  I am having so much fun with this.  I have only had to use my seam ripper twice, so far.  That is a record for me on foundation piecing.  I think I am getting the hang of this.  One of the things going for me in this one is using batiks.  Both sides of the fabric are the right sides.  Maybe I will get the rest of this done tomorrow.  My big plan for now is to do a halo of flying geese about an inch outside the compass.  Hokule'a is coming along. 

I have read so much about EQ7, a way to design quilts on your computer.  I am impressed with what this program can do, but I remain a pencil and paper kind of designer.  I started out using graph paper and a ruler to make everything pretty.  Then I ran out of graph paper, and had an idea I just had to sketch out.  I used ordinary lined paper.  Then I started using any old piece of paper I could find.  I was taking care of Bella on Tuesday when I started thinking about what I wanted to do with the red, black, and white fabric.  This is the sketch I did on a stray piece of paper I found in my bag.  What do you do your designing on?

I did get all the fabric cut and ready to start sewing the blocks together.  Instead of buying more white fabric, I pulled what little I had from my stash.  I also purchased more black on white.  The more I work with these fabrics, the more I like the colors together.  My goal for this quilt is to show off the fabric and the colors together.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

I was so excited when I opened the package from Rhonda over at Quilter in the Gap!  Look at these yummy red, white, and black fabrics in the top row.  I had the bottom fabric just waiting for them. This H2H quilt is going to be such fun.  It is one of two pieces of fabric I have in my stash that is big enough for a quilt back, and it is perfect.  I am also going to use it for borders, I think.  I am going to use alternating stars and square in square 12 inch blocks.  Tomorrow, I will buy more white and get everything cut.  Hopefully, I will get some blocks made.  I would like to get this finished and on its way soon.  I really wish I could do more of these kind of charity quilts, but I simply cannot afford fabric in large enough pieces to use for backing.  I know there are sale fabrics out there that are more affordable, but I haven't found a good source yet.  I will keep looking.  I could use 50% off coupons at JAF, but I want to use better quality.  Picky, aren't I .

I finished the hand quilting on this one last night and did the binding today.  This is my 12" x 12" Something from Nothing quilt for the exchange over at 15 Minutes Play.  I really had fun doing the hand work on this.  I started it on the ferry going over to Bremerton, then on the way back.  I really like to do hand sewing on the ferry. 
Tomorrow, I have a full day to spend in the studio.  Once again, I have a long list of things I want to do.  I want to finish my mariner's compass, get my H2H quilt started, put the borders on Robin's quilt, and whatever else I have time for.  It is going to be a fun day in the studio.
Have a wonderful evening.  I am heading to voice class.
Joyful quilting, everyone.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Quilting and the Pythagorean Theorem

I had to dig very deep to remember how to figure out the correct measurements for this block.  I am sure there is a pattern out there somewhere, but I don't know the name of the block so don't know where to look.  I was just doodling around, and decided I liked this configuration for a star.  I wanted to make it into a 12" finished block.  So, I had to figure out what size to make the triangles for the square within a square center part so it would be 6.5" unfinished.  Who knew that high school math would be so important.  The only problem is that the square root of way too many numbers does not end in 1/4 or 1/2.  If you have forgotten the formula, it is a squared + b squared = c squared on a right angle triangle.  Aren't you glad I reminded you?

I needed to know the dimensions for the practice block above so I could start my tutorial on making that block using my newly made fabric.  This piece is 14" x 16 inches.  I think it is big enough for what I need.  I have so many scraps in these colors, I think I will make much more fabric and alternate the star blocks with made fabric blocks to create a very colorful quilt.  As I make more fabric, I am getting faster at it.  I really like what happens when I pull fabrics out of this group and put it together.  As someone mentioned about my intuition quilt, it is something only a mother could love.

Another project I started today is a mariner's compass.  I am doing it as my entry in the challenge block contest for my guild's annual quilt show.  I have chosen three different shades of blue from light to dark to simulate the night sky radiating around the star.  The star points are in various shades of yellow/gold.  I am calling it Hokule'a.  This is the Hawaiian name for Arcturus, the brightest star in the northern hemisphere.  The ancient Hawaiians used the stars for navigation instead of a compass.  I thought the name appropriate.  I will set it on a dark blue background that has spots that make it look like the Milky Way at night.  The photo above shows the first paper pieced section.  I have seven more to go.  I have wanted to make one of these for a long time, so today, I got out my pencil and graph paper, drew one out, colored it with the colored pencils I wanted, then made the foundation piecing templates.  I know there are patterns out there I could have used, but I love the challenge of trying to make my own.
I hope you all have been doing great things.  I will be out of the studio for the next two days.
Joyful quilting, everyone.