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!