Quilter's Academy - Volume 2 - Sophomore Year

Vol 3 - Junior Year

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Project 8 - Asian Nights Quilt

I finished piecing the blocks for the Asian Nights quilt top and layed them out (with baited breath, hoping I got it right in the end).  Thank you to those who offered advice on getting the colour placement right.  It was good advice..........check it out!

I must say I quite like it.

I haven't sewed the rows together yet (obviously) as I think I will make the extra 32 blocks required for the large version. 

When I'm going to make the extra 32 blocks for the large version is another question.  I am pondering whether to start on them straight away, now - or to continue on to the next project and finish this one off after I've done with this book.

But then again, I keep looking at the Jinny Beyer kits just sitting there......I'm in a rush to get stuck into one of those.

I'll sleep on it.

Cheers all and Happy New Year

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Project 7 - Harriet's Town Square Quilt - Part 1

I've not done any sewing for a couple of days, (hey, it's holiday time)  so I've been hunkered down in my sewing room today, working on the next project.

The Town Square Quilt is a 32" x 32" top (without borders) made up of 16 blocks.

Also included in the book is an alternative - The Asian Nights Quilt, which is probably my favourite project in the book.  Asian Nights is a 48 block quilt measuring 48" x 64" (without borders).

I really liked the colourway of Asian Nights, but of course didn't have enough fabric in the right colours.  I have some fabric on order, but rather than wait, I popped into Spotlight to see if there was anything close.

Now the Spotlight in Hobart is not the most flash store in the chain.  It's been classed 'Regional' (wha...? Hobart is a capital city doncha know) and listed as D grade.  What that means to the Hobart customer is the pickings are small. 

I lucked out and found what I needed, which were a tan, mid brown, dark brown and a blue, all tonals.  I had a choice of 1 of each ... no wait, there was an alternative mid brown tonal, but it just didn't fit at all with the others.

I coloured in the layout sheet (glad I took the time to do this), and trued up the fabric last night and began cutting this morning.  Hopefully the end result will look something like Harriet's.

Although I have enough fabric (it was cheap) to do the large version, I decided to do the smaller one first to see how I liked the result.  I'm not 100% sold on the colours as they are not quite what I wanted.

Harriet encourages you to do the math to work out how many strips to cut.  I try to do this, but got confused here.  There is a mistake in the instructions!  

As a beginner quilter, I simply assumed I'd got the math wrong, the author knows what she's doing and I don't.  So I proceeded to cut according to the instructions in the book.  I ended up with too many strips.

 For some reason Harriet's instructions are to cut enough strips for 12 blocks.  There are only 8 A blocks with small 4 patch units, not 12.  You are asked to cut 96 units from the strip sets - but you actually only need 64 units.  That's a chunk of fabric wastage right there (not to mention extra cutting & sewing time),  and as I was making Blocks A & B at the same time - so I got it wrong for both of them.

This is not a disaster for me, as I will probably use the extra strip sets in the extra blocks for the larger quilt.  But to get the math wrong in a beginner tutorial book is very bad!  Shame Harriet.  It's hard enough when you don't know what you're doing, without poor instructions.

The design is quite simple, it's all 4 patch blocks, in 2 different sizes, so just simple sewing of strips and cutting to size. Getting the colour placement right is the tricky bit.

Now the instructions in this book are written by colour e.g. sew the green print fabric strip to the dark green etc.  I don't know if all quilting instructions are done this way (I've seen the same thing in magazines though) but I find it terribly confusing, cause I'm using different colours.  There are no separate instructions for the Asian Nights version, just how many extra blocks to make and how much extra fabric to buy.

Making the mock-up really helped here, and I had to go through the pattern and change all the colours, hoping all the way I hadn't mixed any of them up. 

These are the small 4 patch blocks in 2 colourways.  Actually the colours don't look too bad together.

Now I'm getting scared.  Two mistakes?? That is just cruel.  The next step is to sew the small patch blocks to a single larger unit, then to sew 2 of these units together to make a large 4 patch block.

The instructions tell me ".......You will have 32 units 4 1/2 x 2 1/2.  Repeat the above steps for Block B. "
Righto, done.
Now I am told to......"using the units you have made, make 2 stacks of 32 units, 1 turned opposite the other.  Stitch these together."
Huh? What?
I have 32 units of Block A and 32 units of Block B.  Am I being told to sew Blocks A & B together here? 
If I did that, I would get this........
Now that looks nothing like the pattern in my mock up.

I think what the instructions should say is.."using the units you have made, make 2 stacks of 16 units...."
If I did that, I would get this........

I think this is right, but now I'm not sure.  I am wary of sewing these up in case the instructions are correct and I'm not.  According to my mock up and according to the illustration which accompanied the instructions, this is the right way to sew them.

I am very disappointed to find these sort of errors in a tutorial.  It's difficult enough for a beginner to work out the maths, the designs and the colour placement, without this sort of thing happening. 

This is really disconcerting.  I am only halfway through this quilt top and already encounted 2 errors.  I can't help but wonder if there are more errors and more importantly, if I will pick up on them. 

I suppose though, that coming across these sort of errors is actually good for a beginner.  It makes me think about what I'm doing, rather than blindly following instructions.  Maybe that is what Harriet intended?

To be continued..............

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Project 6 - Carrie's Country Lanes Table Runner

For the last 2 days I've been working on & off on this project.  A table runner!  I don't actually have one of these and it makes a change from a quilt.  This is what it's supposed to look like - Carrie Hargrave's version

I like these fabrics, but also found them confusing in that I didn't realise for a while that there is a tan and a cream fabric in there - in the photo they look the same, making it more difficult to figure out the piecing in the block.

I sorted it out when I did the mock-up.  A mock-up is recommended for this one and I'm glad I did one (or two or three).  You can see my mock-ups in an earlier post but I was never happy with the results.

I ended up scratching most of the fabrics I'd chosen - sticking to the main fabric, cause I wanted to use it, but having all sorts of trouble finding a harmonious mix within my limited stash.

This is what I ended up with - I had some white quilter's muslin I picked up on sale to use as backing, which mixed ok with the main fabric.  I settled on this combo as I felt it had a fresh look to it.

This project was fairly straight forward and didn't cause me any real hassles, until the end.  It uses strip sets, solid blocks and 4 patch blocks.  I'm gaining confidence, and happier with my seam butting, although there are still a few which don't work out perfectly.  I don't really understand why, as the good ones were done in exactly the same way as the bad ones - everything was meticulously cut, measured, starched, measured again, sewn & trimmed.  I suppose as fabric is fluid there is going to be some shifting no matter how careful you are.  Anyway - here it is, almost finished...........

I thought I'd finished, but there is a little bit left - trimming those ends!

I must admit I didn't quite understand the instructions until I'd read them over a couple of times.  Even then I wasn't sure - but this time I have some left over fabrics, so I rolled the rotary cutter over them with crossed fingers.  Here is the result.........

Now, compare the right side to the left side.......hmmmm what is going on here?
The end squares are supposed to be trimmed to include a 1/4 seam.  I did this on both sides, but one side has 1/4 notches and the other doesn't.  Uh Oh.??

Well I left it there - I'll wait till I get to putting on the mitered border to see if I need to re-do the ends. 

Speaking of borders - I am kinda annoyed at having to shelve these projects before adding borders.  I worry about not having enough fabric, or not liking the result and it being too late to get any more material.  Harriet does insist though, not to add borders until all the projects are finished. 

I'm not looking forward to doing a dozen borders in a row - then of course having to back, batt, quilt and bind them all.  Eek!

I wanted to get an idea of what this would look like once the border was on, so I laid it on top of the fabric - check it out.

Quite flowery isn't it.

The floral, red, white & brown fabrics came from Spotlight - the black was from Eddy's (I think)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Project 1 - Sampler continued

So what do you do if you can't sleep?  Head to the sewing room of course.  There's something rather unreal, yet peaceful when sewing at 4am!

Anyway, the very first sewing exercise in the book is learning to sew strip sets.  These were made up into the centre of a sampler block

Here is the example, and my effort.  The next exercise is learning to make 4 patch blocks, which will become the corner pieces of the sampler.  Several quilt projects which follow have 4 or 9 patch blocks, so I need to learn this before continuing on.

The procedure is simple enough, with Harriet emphasising accuracy throughout.   A nifty pressing technique is also shown, called Fanning the Seams.  It involves twisting the centre seam so it lies flat, reducing bulk. A tiny 4 patch appears in the centre of the square if it's done correctly.

I had no trouble with this for the 4 square sets, but when I joined them up to 8 then 16 squares, I just couldn't get the fanning to work.  Kinda frustrating.

Measuring after each seam is sewn (tedious but necessary) ensures the blocks are perfectly square.  I had to do a tiny bit of trimming, which is better than having to do a big chunk of trimming, but not as good as not having to do any trimmng at all. 

My seams have a tendancy to skew slightly right at the end when I'm sewing.  I watch out for it, but sometimes miss, causing the seam to be a little off and in need of trimming, as you can see above.

So I end up with a 4 patch, made up of 16 squares, which will end up as the corner blocks on the sampler.  The sampler will not be completed until Vol 2, so I'll pack this away and hope the insects don't find it (plenty of starch in the fabric to attract them).

The book closes this exercise with a paragraph from Harriet "our goal is to have you learn to slow down, take a breath and enjoy the process of piecing.  This is not a race.  You will save hours of time ripping and much frustration if you will take the time to learn accuracy from the very start."

No matter how far I get into quilting, or how complex my future projects will be, this will be the hardest lesson for me to learn.  I'm not known for my patience.  The paragraph above will need to become my new mantra - or to shorten it


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Project 5 - Log Cabin Re-Visited

Phew!  Shopping, cooking, visitors.........not much time for sewing.  I did however, managed to finish off the Log Cabin Blocks.  I wasn't too impressed until the last round of blue went on.  The print picks up the colours from the light fabric and pulls the whole thing together.

Harriets instructions for this pattern don't include a layout.  Shuffling the blocks around gives me several choices............hmmmmm.............decisions, decisions.

This is the layout Carrie did for the book

How does it look reversed?   Like this............

Shuffle, shuffle and I come up with this..........

Or reversed.................

I think I like the last one, but will sleep on it before sewing it all up.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mock Ups

No sewing yesterday or today, the log cabin quilt is currently on hold - it's a busy time of year! 

The next lessons are on drafting, base grids, mock-ups, planning and changing finished sizes (block and/or quilt).  I tried doing this previously for the triple rail quilt.  The book says that drafting etc are necessary so a quilter can break down blocks to their basic elements and re-create them.  These skills are also handy if you are working on a pattern and something goes wrong.  If you have drafting skills, you have the knowledge to figure out the problem and fix it.

The 1st exersize involves drawing up a pattern on graph paper and colouring it in.  The example used is Interlacing Circles (Project 6 from the book).  To do this, you need to have selected some fabrics.  I had a vague idea of the colours I wanted to use and the exersize really helps in getting this right.

There is a purple fabric in the mock up which I would like to use but haven't purchased yet, but you get the general idea.  I like the colours and the fabrics (a bit of an Art Deco feel I think) and will probably go with these when I get to the project.

The next step is to cut up fabric to the grid size and glue it to graph paper in the block design.  I have limited fabric supplies, so I used photocopies instead. 

The mock up is for Project 4 - Country Lanes Table Runner which requires 5 fabrics including a large scale floral print.

This is the large foral print I've chosen

These are the 5 fabrics I chose from my stash

I started off selecting the large floral print, then tried to chose fabrics which worked with it.  I changed my mind several times and ended up making 4 mock-ups, before deciding (although I could change my mind yet).

My original plan was to use the calico print as the main background fabric, but as you can see - it just didn't work.  The small print is too busy.  I opted to use the light green as the background instead.

Better!  In fact I removed the calico entirely, replacing it with the brown and used green & black for the 4 patch squares instead of brown & black.  Hmmm - still not happy though

Hmmm - still something missing.  I seem to have lost one of the 5 fabrics!

This is where I left it.  I could work with this, but maybe I should purchase a different fabric or 2 to improve it.  This block just seems really busy and messy.

Selecting fabrics can be quite difficult for me.  While I liked the pre-cut fabric combination, once they have been chopped into bits, the result is not always so pleasing.  On the other hand, the first one I did, the Interlacing Circles, was put together really quickly, no changes and I liked it instantly.  Sometimes it just works and sometimes it just doesn't.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Project 5 - Carrie's Patriotic Log Cabin Quilt

The next project is a log cabin - Carrie has used Red, White & Blue for hers.  I am using much the same colours,  but as I have just pieced a red, white and blue quilt top, I chose yellow for the centre squares rather than red.

The 'light' is only one fabric and is actually a border print - I am curious to see how it works in a log cabin design.  I have 3 shades of blue for the 'dark', all florals in various designs and sizes.  Except for the yellow, which came from The Quilted Crow, the fabrics were all purchased from Spotlight.

The i-Pod is loaded up with Rolling Stone's 500 Top Albums (that's over 7000 songs folks) and is currently playing Stevie Wonder, Songs in the Key of Life - which is eerie cause that's the album which was playing in the supermarket today.  I've not heard this album for nearly 20 years I'd guess - how weird.

I had to read through the instructions a couple of times before I 'got it', but once I'd completed a couple of rounds, this design is a snap!

As in the previous projects, the strips are sewn together, cut, chain stitched, pressed and trimmed.

Harriet has you cut your strips 1/8" wider than required, then trim them after each round, keeping the block nice and square (theoretically - mine still managed to go 'off' somehow).  I think it's in the pressing again - the pieced strips never remain straight & square after I've pressed them.  It's getting really frustrating!

This is how the block is looking after 8 rounds - 4 more to go (2 lights/ 2 darks).

I'm would like to finish this top tomorrow, but it's a busy day, so probably not.

Friday, December 18, 2009


You may notice an 'interesting' selection of fabrics used in these projects.  Upon deciding to seriously follow the lessons & exercises in Harriet Hargrave's book, I realise I would be needing a fabric stash of some sort.

With a limited budget, I trudged around the fabric stores looking for whatever was on sale and I didn't totally hate.  I picked up quite a few at Spotlight @ $5 - $10 per metre and a couple at $12 per metre.  Now this is cheap quilting fabric cause the average is around $22 per metre.  Needless to day, the cheaper priced stuff is not the nicest or most popular.

The Quilted Crow supplied me with some lovely fabrics, but I only bought in small amounts.  They have packets of 10 reproduction fabrics for $15 but the fabrics are only 6" x 22".  For some patterns, this amount of fabric is enough - sadly not for any of the ones I'm doing.  Mostly these fabrics are the end of the bolt and there is no more.  So frustrating, as the repos are beautiful and my favourites.

Eddy's Sewing Centre (from where I purchased my wonderful Pfaff) has a good selection of quilting cottons and usually a selection of fabrics at 1/2 price.  I  bought a bunch of these - roughly around $5 per half metre.  Again, the fabrics on sale are the ones which don't sell well, so are not first choice fabrics.

I also purchased some fabric on-line, super cheap going for $5 per metre.  The fabric is fine, but alas, there is a problem with colours on a monitor and reality.  I bought some lovely repo fabric in green/burgandy/gold - which when it arrived, turned out to be teal/pink/gold.  Ewwwww.  I have 4 meters of this stuff - I suppose it will come in handy for backings.

For my next on-line purchase I selected a fabric I liked and emailed the site owner to suggest some co-ordinating fabrics.  Thank you Lara from http://chocolate-coated.com/ for her assistance.  The fabrics are fabulous.

Quilter's Academy has devoted a couple of chapters on fabrics - lots of hints on making the right choices.  Obviously I haven't reached that chapter yet :)

So I am making do the best I can with the fabrics I have on hand.  Most of the projects will end up being cat mats anyway, so I'm not too fussed. 

Project 4 - Finishing the Triple Rail Quilt

Well, it's good and bad news...................

Popped into town yesterday and managed to pick up the fabrics I needed to finish the blocks.....Quilted Crow was sold out of the red (uh oh) but new stock was delivered while I was in the store (yay)!  Did a spot of shopping and paid a total 80 cents for 2.5 hours parking (so impressed with that - thank you Hobart).

The bad news..............

Yep, busted.  I had to revert to my old ones, which are not so great (any excuse will do).

So, finished all the blocks, layed out the design and set up to sew it all together, using Harriets foolproof chainstitch method.  (click on the pics for more detail).

Once the chain stitching is done - time to sew the rows together and the all-important butting the seams

Not too bad, but room for improvement.

Sometimes it works beautifully - and sometimes it just doesn't :(
In the end it all comes down to accuracy in cutting & seam allowances.  Practice and more practice and I should get it right - but for now, only a few of the butts are off, so am not complaining too much.

So, after a few dramas and an excuse to do some shopping in town...... another project is done.

All the way through this project, I was iffy about the fabrics.  Seeing it finished, I am now definite I don't like the combination.  The dark green really jars.  So even after doing a mock-up I got it wrong.  In hindsight, I think I should have stuck with my original plan, which was a pale green instead of the dark green.  I thought the darker fabric would have more oomph.  So it does, but not in a good way!  It's hard to see the pattern made by the third rail - the large print floral - as it's so overwhelmed by the stronger colours.

Maybe it's the design itself - I'm not particularly keen on it, a bit boring.  Anyway, onto other things.

Fabrics used were purchased from Spotlight, Eddy's Sewing Centre and The Quilted Crow.

That beautiful sewing machine in the picture is a Wertheim Griffin hand crank, made in Germany, probably in the late 1800's.  I intend to convert this machine into a treadle.  I have the cabinet and irons, in a very distressed condition, awaiting restoration.  The original Griffin which came with the cabinet is unrestorable, so the hand crank will replace it.  I've had a go at the cover - but lots of work yet to do.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Project 4 - A Plethora of Problems

Today I intended to head down to the beach, due to a predicted hot and sunny 32 deg.  By mid morning the sky was cloudy and dark - no sun and a chilly breeze off the ocean.  I headed to the sewing room instead.

Prepare the Fabric

Problem # 1 - Off grain print
When I got the red fabric on grain, I noticed the print went off grain.  Hmmmm.  Harriet covers this, suggesting that if the fabric is to be cut small, the off print won't be noticeable.  I bow to Harriet's superior knowlege here and let it go.

Cut The Strips

Problem # 2 -Not enough fabric. 
I am supposed to get 6 strips from each fabric piece - I got 5 ????? how does this happen - it's not the first time.  I made sure to buy the correct amounts - I usually buy extra, but of course, not this time.  Grrrrr

Set Up For Sewing
Next I cleaned my machine, wound a few bobbins, changed the needle (Universal 70/10), put in the straight stitch plate and 1/4 foot, engaged the IDT and prepared for sewing.

Sew & Press

Problem #3 - Bendy strips
Pressing caused distortion, as it often does - no idea what I am doing wrong here.

Check the Measurements
Measured up the completed strips checking all along the length of each strip - all ok here.

Cut the Strip Sets into Squares

Problem # 4 - Not enough squares (directly related to Problem #1)
I measured and cut the strips into 4 1/2 inch squares, taking my time and re-truing the edge after every 2 - 3 cuts.  I am supposed to have 50 squares of strip set A and 49 squares of strip set B.  I have 40 & 44. 

Problem # 5 - Blunt Cutter
Before cutting the strips, I replaced the blade in my cutter - using a Birch blade I bought because it was cheap.  Not even half way through it started sliding over the fabric and leaving jagged edges.  I replaced it with a Clover blade.

Layout The Design

Problem # 6 - Cutting to the wrong measurement
What is wrong with this picture?

Yep I cut the strips to the wrong size - it was supposed to be 4 1/4 not 4 1/2.  Either a blonde moment or a senior one, take your pick.


Now I need to re-cut the other 80 squares.  Ho Hum.  This simple little quilt top should have been completed over a couple of afternoons. 

I hate being a beginner!