Monday, July 27, 2015

Checkerboard border

It seemed like a good idea, then not so much, then good again, then I ground my teeth.   I think it was worth it. 


(The blue is a bit washed out from the camera flash, but that’s what I get at 9:30pm!)

I thought my airplane quilt needed a little something more.  A checkerboard border to echo the nine-patch alternate blocks sounded just right, and with strip piecing it would come together quickly.  In theory.

In practice, strip piecing is still faster than cutting and sewing together individual 1.5 inch squares, but 196 little sub-cut units still take a while to cut and sew together!  About halfway through I didn’t think this was such a good idea anymore! Thankfully the seams nested very nicely so I didn’t have to pin all those.

Once the border strips were pieced I was happy again – until I measured them.  I thought I had a pretty accurate seam allowance, but being off by as little as1/32 of an inch or less on 40+ seams adds up to about an inch.  On the positive side it was too long rather than too short, and I hadn’t yet cut the blue for the inner border I meant to use to float the center, so I was able to adjust that to make the pieced border fit.  I won’t dwell on the blue strip that ended up too short by about 3 inches even though I used the quilt to mark the length.

Now I’m pleased with how the border looks and think it was well worth the effort.  Now to choose a border width for the final blue border….  I think I might just procrastinate and go prepare the backing and binding instead.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Is my paper shrinking?

OK folks, I measured before and after.  Paper does indeed shrink when it is ironed.  Even the fancy “paper piecing” newsprint-style paper whose manufacturers claim it won’t shrink and curl.  But here’s the kicker: it seems to go back to its original size after cooling down.

IMG_9863This week I needed some airplane blocks, and paper piecing cropped up again.  I had to choose between fussy templates, free-form plane blocks that would each be a little different (sorry, this layout will look better with uniform blocks) or the not-so-favourite paper piecing. 

What drives me nuts about paper piecing is that sometimes things don’t line up where they should, even though precision is the whole point of paper piecing.  If I sew exactly on the lines, things should be just the right size in just the right places and should line up just so when I join up pieced sections. That word “should” definitely doesn’t mean “does”.

While I was trimming along the printed seam allowances for the pieced sections of this plane, I noticed that the lines were not where I expected them to be according to my ruler.  The section was a rectangle, and should be 6” long, or 6 1/2” unfinished.  It was 1/16 of an inch short.  That’s small, but it adds up, and because the shrinkage was greater in one direction than the other, it messed just a bit with the aspect ratio of the design.

Today I printed the paper foundation and measured.  It was exactly the size it was supposed to be. Then I ironed the paper and measured again.  Ha!  It did shrink!  Can’t blame it on stitching puckering the paper, or any such thing, because there was no stitching yet.


You can see I lined up the 1” mark on the ruler with the same line in both pictures, but that dark line on the far right is at the 7 1/4” mark before pressing, but about 1/16th less after ironing.

And, just to mess with my mind, here is the same paper after it has cooled and relaxed for about an hour.


Really?  It’s back to the size it should be.  I tried this with a plain 3” square too, and got the same shrink-unshrink result.  Clearly there is some physics of materials at work here. I really don’t feel liked dusting off my physics degree (I do have one) so here’s what I am going to do: I will sew one seam at a time on my paper pieced units, and wait a nice space of time for the paper to cool and relax before I go sew the next seam.  Then I’ll see if my pieced sections end up the right size and line up “just so”.

While I wait for things to cool, I’ll just stitch up these cute little framed nine-patches for my alternate blocks.  These are NOT giving me any grief!


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Scaling snowflakes

After my attempt at a blue drunkard’s path and snowflake quilt fell flat at the end of March, I planned to give up on that idea and use the drunkard’s path units on their own.  However, readers gave me a lot of positive comments about the original idea’s potential so I packed up all the parts together, just in case I wanted to try again.

The idea kept pulling at me so this week I gave in and played with it again.


I’m still not happy with the color distribution in the drunkard’s path blocks. Things seem washed out to me.  I think I need more mediums and fewer lights. 

However, I think I have the snowflake part sorted out!  The scale was all wrong before.  Also, despite the science geek in me wanting every snowflake to be different, as real snowflakes are, the quilt needs repetition.

I knew the scale was all wrong back in March, but I resisted the idea because my snowflake block patterns were all for 9” blocks.  If you have seen these patterns, you know the paper foundations have drawn seam allowances, shaped to specific angles at the points to help match sections.  That would be lost if I just enlarged the paper foundations on a copier or printer, as the seam allowance would be enlarged too instead of being the standard 1/4”.  I was feeling lazy and didn’t want to figure things out all over again to redraw trimmed seam allowances for a larger block.

This week my high school math came to the rescue.  Do you remember similar triangles from geometry?  Don’t worry, it will work for you even if you don’t remember the details.  The key part is that when I enlarged the foundations, the lengths of the sides all changed by the same proportion, but the angles stayed the same.


I used my rotary cutting ruler to trim the seam allowances around each paper pieced section to a proper 1/4” and used my paper foundations from the 9” block to trim the points.  Easy peasy!

So, if you have my snowflake block patterns and wish you could make them a different size, you can!  Just photocopy the foundations from the 9” pattern, with scaling set to whatever you need to obtain the size you want.  For example, scaling by 133% will give you foundations for a 12” block.  Scaling by 67% would yield foundations for a 6” block. (A 6” block would be cute, but would have awfully small pieces.  Just saying!)

You can trim the foundations to have the correct seam allowance and shaped points before you start sewing, or you can wait until after you have pieced the sections.  I went ahead and pieced first, then trimmed.



I lined up the 1/4” mark on my ruler along the printed solid line that represents the finished side of the section, then I trimmed away the extra and repeated on each side, leaving a 1/4” seam allowance all around this section.


Next I placed the template from the 9” block over the corresponding section for my enlarged block, matching the orientation, and sliding the smaller template until its point was even with the larger version’s point.  I used the trimmed point of the smaller template as my guide to trim the point of the enlarged section.

I did this for all the points on all the sections, and then just assembled the snowflake according to pattern instructions. Everything lined up perfectly.


I’m so happy I figured out how to scale this pattern!  Now I can stop asking myself why in the world I designed the original as a 9” block in the first place. Though it took on a life of its own,  I started the snowflake design adventure specifically for this quilt idea and 9” doesn’t figure in it anywhere!  So where did the 9” come from?  OK, I guess I’m not done asking.  The answer just doesn’t matter as much anymore.

Now I need to go pull fabrics from my blue bin to see if I can fine tune the drunkard’s path part of the quilt.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Ah, summer!

Summer is here and sewing has slowed right down!  I did get these three Scrappy Trip blocks sewn for Diana’s Golden Needle


Diana is a Girl Scout working on her Gold Award (think Girl Scout equivalent of the Boy Scout Eagle Award).  She is making quilts, using Bonny Hunter’s free Scrappy Trips pattern, for teens who are aging out of the foster care system and she is raising awareness of foster care and adoption. If you might like to contribute, click on the link above to read more about her project.  My daughter is a Girl Scout (who just earned her Silver Award, whoot whoot!), I was a Girl Guide, my mom was a Girl Guide…I just had to help out with this one!

Besides that, not much has been happening in my sewing room as I have been enjoying summer in the garden instead.

Evening primroseIMG_9622HollyhockDaylilies, petunias, founbtain grass, purple salviaPurple fountain grass, petunia, creeping jennyBirdbath gardenBackyard security patrol

I love that red hollyhock.  It’s new this year.  I hope it will grow as tall and wide as the plant tag claimed, because more of those red blooms would be gorgeous.

You can see the Backyard Security Officer in the last picture.  Rosie does a pretty good job keeping the riffraff out of the yard (that would be rabbits and squirrels).  She leaps over flower beds in a single bound to chase those intruders away.  It’s hilarious to watch.  Just the word “squirrel” sends her racing to the back door.  Don’t worry, the critters get plenty to eat when she’s not out.  I can tell by the empty bird feeders and the munched vegetation.

Right now it’s dark and the mosquitos are out in force, so I’ll just go root through some scrap fabric bins and see what happens in the sewing room.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Striped binding

Ta-dah!  Striped binding!  I have never used stripes for binding before, partly because I haven’t seen one that went with what I was working on, and partly because I thought joining stripes would be fussy.  I really don’t want the seams in the binding to jump out at anyone.

I found a bright green vertical stripe print that will be a nice accent to finish off a runner. After auditioning it, I decided diagonal stripes would have a bigger impact, which meant bias binding instead of straight grain binding.  All the tutorials I found about matching stripes in binding were for straight grain binding, so in the end I just cut and joined some bias strips and hoped for the best.

Here’s what I found out.  Joining binding strips at a 45 degree angle reduces bulk in the finished binding.  Depending how I cut those 45 degree cuts at the ends of the strips, I got two different looks.

Cutting across the stripe on the ends of each strip

resulted in a seam that looks like this:

Cutting parallel to the stripe on the ends of each strip

 gave this result:

Guess what I preferred? (In case you aren’t sure: I chose option #2.)

Of course I figured this out after sewing strips together willy-nilly, with the angled ends of the strips in whichever orientation they ended up from cutting the bias strips from the rectangle of fabric.  I decided it was worth cutting out the seams that didn’t match up and recutting the strip ends parallel to the stripe.

Trim tip
If you’re wondering why the tips of the angled cuts are cut off, here’s what’s going on with that. I used my corner trimmer to trim the tips to avoid guessing whether my strips were offset correctly to sew to end up with a straight joined strips.

Guessing where to line up
Trimmed tips line up with edges perfectly

The trimmed tips just help me line everything up just right.

Now that I have the binding made, and the backing prepared, there’s nothing left to do but quilt the runner.  I’ve been putting it off because I’m not entirely sure what to quilt, but there’s a deadline approaching. Tomorrow I’ll just have to get started and hope that inspiration strikes by the time I have finished all the stitching in the ditch!

Unrelated to quilting:  Can anyone recommend a blog editor that I can use to write my posts offline, then upload them to Blogger?  I used Live Writer, which let me format things the way I wanted, but it has recently stopped getting along with Blogger.  The built-in Blogger editor is driving me batty!  I suppose I'll get used to it, but if you can suggest anything else, I'd be grateful!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Second guessing

I made the first block for this quilt as a sample, just to see what it might look like.  I liked the design and I liked the colours and liked the prints so I decided to work it up into a quilt.  I drew it in EQ first and played around with colours and layouts, so I’d know exactly what I was planning.

When I made another block, I thought it might look too bland to have the whole background the same, so I headed off to the quilt shop for more yellows.  Then I looked at it all again and decided the yellows were awfully bright so I went back to the store for a more subdued yellow to toss into the mix to maybe calm things down.


I just finished making the blocks and now that they are all up on the wall I think I should have had more of that calmer yellow.  Or maybe all the same background after all.  And I wish I had reversed the fabric for the small and large stars.  I considered that choice very carefully at the beginning and thought I had gotten it right, but while it was just right for a single block, I think it would be better the other way around in the whole quilt.

I think this needs a border in the same grey as the sashing, but of course that isn’t what I had originally planned so I don’t have enough of that fabric!  There’s another trip to the quilt shop in the near future.  I hope there is still some of that grey left!

Cubby stars

I’m buying extra this time because I may end up setting this on point for a long twin size quilt.  That will require some pieced setting triangles.  Again, this is not what I had planned!


I can see what I want it to look like in my mind’s eye, I just need to get it there in reality.  There might be a version 2 of this quilt down the road to get it right!

Monday, May 18, 2015

I didn’t go to Spring Market…

…but my quilt did!  Here’s Wandering Geese in the Brewer’s booth at Spring Quilt Market this past weekend.  Thank you to Kelly from my local quilt shop, Quilting Connection, for snapping the pictures with her cell phone.

Wandering Geese at Spring 2015 Quiltmarket take 2

Wandering Geese at Spring 2015 Quiltmarket

There’s the quilt, and if you look closely you can see the pattern.  Brewer Quilting and Sewing Supply is currently distributing all eight Canuck Quilter Designs patterns that I have available for sale in printed form!  Yay!  Tell your favourite quilt shop!

I’m a bit sad I didn’t get to market myself, but getting a quilt there is putting a spring in my step.  Time to go sew something new!