Quilter's Academy - Volume 2 - Sophomore Year

Vol 3 - Junior Year

Friday, January 29, 2010

Project 11 - Carrie's Inlaid Tile Table Runner - Assembly

No dramas with this one - it went together beautifully.  There are a couple of suggestions in the book on how to layout the finished blocks - as a table runner in various sizes or as a quilt.  I shuffled the blocks around to try these suggestions out.

Long table runner layout (as per the book)

Quilt Layout

Short Table Runner with potential border selection

Harriet says laying out this top is a brain bender, which can take a bit to figure out.  I didn't find this at all, in fact I found setting the design a chinch.  I would select a colour - say green - and lay that one to the top left corner.  I now know that all the green patches of the blocks must alternate top or bottom.  It's that easy.  Of course doing the mock-ups helped a lot in sorting out how the pattern works.

There are a lot of seams in this top.  A LOT of seams.  Putting it all together made me realise why Harriet was so insistent in the instructions on precision - measure, trim, then measure and trim again, seam by seam.  If the blocks aren't exactly to size, assembly would be a nightmare.

I pinned this top at every seam, as it's so long it could get out of alignment easily.  Using a walking foot really helps too.

LOTS  of pinning!

I was really happy with the way my seams matched up.  Not perfect, no, but better than I hoped for, and a big improvement on when I started these projects

The seams match up nicely - the extra work in measuring and trimming pays off.

Check it out!

Table Runner - the borders will make a huge differance to the finished look.

The quilt looks pretty much as I expected it to - a nice change!  It's very garden-ish in it's colours - blue sky, brown earth, leaves and flowers. 

Only 2 more projects to go before I get to add borders to all my tops and actually start quilting!  Then the all important Final exam quilt - can't wait!

Project 11 - Carrie's Inlaid Tile Table Runner - putting it together

This is quite straight forward sewing - as long as the strips are sewn in the correct order.  There are 4 different strip sets, all of them using combined grids.

The 4 completed strip sets

Harriet emphasises that it's essential to get the measurements for these strip sets precise.  Each time a strip is added, the set must be measured from the seam line to the outer edge.

The instructions have you do the strip sets with the most seams first, then cut the next 2 strip sets in a size to match exactly.  I was lucky in that I was able to cut my strips according to the correct measurements.

I've had trouble all the way through these projects with bendy strips.  They are cut to the correct size, sewn to the correct size but get out of whack in the pressing stage.  This has been really frustrating, but I think I may have found a solution.

I've been pressing to set the seams, starting at the right end and pressing straight down the strip to the left end.  This time, I noticed that there was some excess fabric at the foldline, and this was getting pushed down the strip, resulting in a bend at the end.

I tried pressing from the centre and out, distributing the extra fabric evenly along the strip.  The results are much less bendy strips.  Pressing the fold out of the fabric before sewing is even better.

The gingham fabric on the pressing table was a tip from a forum.  It would work better if I set it straight!

The first seams are fanned and pressed in the usual way, but when the outside strips are sewn on, the seams are pressed open, to reduce bulk. 

After sewing and pressing each seam, the block must be measured and trimmed down if required.  It's a lot of extra work, but necessary to get nice, even flat blocks.  Most of my trimming came from the green fabric.  It's flimsier than the others and more stretchy when handled, so needed to be cut back to size.

From all those seams within all 36 blocks, this was all the trimming I needed to do.  I'm very happy with this result, as it shows my precision and pressing is improving. 

All the blocks are done and I should get this top assembled today.  Check back soon!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Project 11 - Inlaid Table Runner - Fabric Mock-Ups

I've been having a little trouble envisioning my finished quilt top in my chosen fabrics.  I see the fabrics, I see the design, but putting the two together still gives me a surprise at the finish.  Sometimes the surprise is not a pleasant one.

Making mock-ups certainly helps, but so far, I've been missing something.  I gave it another shot with this design, and am much closer to 'getting it'.

Using the pattern picture as a guide, I make an initial fabric selection. Next, I need to see the design.

Colouring in the blocks and laying them out, shows up the design.

What I see here, is that there is no dominant pattern - the intensity of the colour determines which part of the design 'pops' out.  Colour and pattern selection is going to be critical here.

I am more comfortable with tones than with mixed patterns on fabric.  While the main fabric I select has a pattern or theme, I prefer to choose tonals or subtle patterns to co-ordinate.  The times I haven't done this have been less than successful.  Check out my versions of Woodland Winter, Triple Rail Fence & Country Lanes to see what I mean.  Maybe I will get braver and better as I get more experience.

Next comes the difficult part of choosing the colours.  I also need to keep in mind the values of the fabrics.  I do this by taking a black & white photocopy of the mock-up blocks.

Here are several colourways from my 5 fabric selections.  I am liking the yellow/blue/mustard/green combo, also the one without the blue.

Turning the blocks around, gives a different look to the design.

Next I made fabric mock-ups to give me a better idea of how the pattern and fabrics work together.

I am concerned over using 2 patterned fabrics - the sunflowers and the green leaves.  Putting them together, I find that as the leaves are a tone-on-tone pattern, it doesn't dominate and also adds a bit of texture to the selection. I find the dark brown fabric, although it co-ordinates really well, and gives the colour a richness and depth, it over-dominates the pattern.  I think this must be the one to go. 

I am still working on values.  The values of the sunflower, blue, mustard & green, looks to me like light, dark and 2 mediums.  I am conflicted on whether the green is a dark or a medium.

Putting the whole lot together, the fabrics, the design mock up and the fabric mock up, gives me a really clear idea of what my finished top will look like. 

I like this but I am still considering replacing the blue with the dark brown, although by doing that I will lose my contrast colour. 

I think the sunflower gives the focus, the mustard blends, the blue gives contrast and adds punch and the green provides texture.  I have a co-ordinating border fabric (which I'll decide on whether to use when the time comes) and can use the dark brown as binding, and/or possibly a narrow framing border.

I hope I got this right.  Doing mock-ups is time consuming and it's tempting to skip it.  I don't always do them, particularly when I can clearly see the pattern in the design.  Using the method above, doing design mock ups as well as fabric ones, really helps to see the complete picture.

All the fabrics were purchased from chocolate-coated.com

Serenity Sunflower main & border RJR Fabrics
Green Leaves from Kona Bay
Fabric Fusions Blueberry by Robert Kaufman
Fabric Fusions Mustard by Robert Kaufman
Moda Marbles Mink

Monday, January 25, 2010

A bit of a distraction.........

Well I still haven't started the mock-up for the table runner.  I sort of got distracted by a UFO which suddenly 'called' to me.  So while this post is not strictly related to the QA book, I'll call it an extra-curicular activity, as it's actually a practice piece for borders & quilting.  For me, it's a lesson on how not to sew a quilt!

My second attempt at making a quilt (before I found Quilter's Academy) came to a dead halt once the blocks were finished.  I had no idea how to assemble it.  The design is a pleated log cabin made up of 24 x 10 inch blocks, which I modified by putting a 20 inch block in the centre.  (Also note that I had no idea that log cabin fabrics are supposed to be one side dark, the other light.  I just alternated).

Here it is layed out on the floor, unassembled.

I suddenly had the desire to assemble this top, now that I knew how to approach it, thanks to QA.  Actually, I was just putting off doing the mock-ups - I wanted to sew!

Talk about a challenge!  None of the blocks were to size, a couple of them distinctly crooked.  It took me most of yesterday afternoon to figure out how to put them together.  I trimmed, pressed and swore, but there is nothing I could do to match the seams, other than re-sew all the blocks.

I went ahead an assembled them as they were - crooked.  I think the crookedness adds charm!  The next step was to add a border or two, hoping they will help to make it a bit straighter.

I spent the best part of today, measuring, cutting and adding 2 borders, using QA for the instructions.  It's also a practice run for when I start putting borders on my projects, which is not that far away.

Border detail - a 4 inch black border and a 2 inch pieced white one.

Now the Pleated Log Cabin is not meant to have any batting, as it's very thick from just the layers of fabric. Once you sew a folded strip onto another folded strip, which is already sewn to a foundation calico square, you end up with 5 thicknesses of fabric.  The quilt is really quite heavy and stiff (not really one to cuddle up in) but the borders are one thin layer of cotton.  Uh-oh.

I thought to put some batting just under the borders, but didn't have any to spare.  Then I remembered a bunch of calico I had purchased on sale months ago - I bought all sorts and one of them was a very thick calico, the type you use for covering an ironing table.  I used this to line the borders.  I wish I'd thought of doing that before sewing the borders to the top!  I needed to attach the calico to a really small seam, without catching in any of the border fabric.  Tricky.  I ended up basting them in, just in case.

Do you think I have enough pins?

The next step is to quilt it.  The original plan was to simply stitch in the ditch, but as none of the seams match, this won't work.  I also thought about a diagonal grid, but that will mess up the pleating.  I've been practising simple feathers, from Harriet Hargrave's Heirloom Machine Quilting book, but these are not really appropriate for this design.  Some stippling maybe.  I'll think on it.

I made the black border wide, so I could play with free motion quilting.

I call this my vintage quilt, not because of the design, but because all the blocks were pieced on vintage sewing machines - including two treadles, a Featherweight and a Singer 201.  The quilting will be done on the 201.  Despite all it's crookedness and quirks, I'm very attached to this quilt and am looking forward to finally finishing it.

For now, I'll go do those mock-ups!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Project 11 - Carrie's Inlaid Table Runner

Whew - getting closer to the end, but as the designs get more complex (well, complex for me as a beginner anyway) progess slows down.

Here is Carrie's design....... made from combined grid blocks.

For this I have chosen colours similar to the one's Carrie has used as it makes it easier to follow the instructions (which are written according to fabric colour) as well as envisage the end result. 

If I deviate from the sample colours too much, I take a photo-copy of the instructions and change the instructions to reflect the colours of my own fabrics, otherwise it can all get pretty confusing.

Here are my fabric choices, and again I need to lose one as I only need 4 fabrics.

The main fabric also has a matching border print

These fabrics all came from Chocolate Coated in Victoria.  I spotted the sunflower fabric on the website(getting the idea I like sunflowers?) on sale and emailed for help in selecting co-ordinating fabrics.  It's tricky getting a true colour on a monitor so I was reluctant to try to select them myself.  Lara Gibbons from chocolate-coated.com came to my aid by making the above selections for me.  Thank you Lara - decent customer service is getting far too rare these days.

I'll spend some time this afternoon doing mock ups.  Doing these not only helps with fabric selection, but also gets the design layout into my head, so it's easier to know what's going on as I put it together.

Before I get sewing on this project though, I need to do some exercises from the next chapter, Understanding Terminology.  The lessons are about figuring out necessary yardage for making blocks, borders and backing.  A useful skill indeed!

Project 10 - Still on the Double Chain Nine Patch

Being an insomniac has its advantages - I got this top all assembed and complete this morning.

It went together smoothly, with all the seams turned the right way for butting!  Yay!  I am following Harriet's guidence with pressing plans for each project, but I've not managed to work out how to do this for myself yet.  It's a really handy skill to have - having the seams butt nicely saves time and keeps the  top all nice and flat. 

That's a lot of seam butting going on there!

Although I like the Sunflower fabric, I'm not sure it works for this.  I think it makes the pattern look scattered, and loses some of the impact of the design.  I don't think the blue would have been any better.  Something busier, such as Harriet has used in hers would have been better.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Project 10 - Double Nine Patch - Continued

The patches laid out for assembly into blocks.

Today I finished assembling the combined 9-patch chain blocks.  This took some time, as they were stitched together individually instead of chain stitched, so as to keep the blocks in order.

As expected, the extra pressing and handling distored the blocks and there was a lot of trimming to do.  I did expect this, but looking at the amount I had to do to get these blocks square, it seemed excessive.  This is waaayyyyy too much trimming.  I need to do better.

Once these 12 blocks were assembled, it's time to cut out the solid squares for the next set of blocks, the 13 large nine patch blocks.

I had a re-think on my fabric choices and went back to my original plan (sorry Floyd).  I was a little concerned about how the blue would work, considering it's essentially a stripe pattern.

I selected a bottle green with a large sunflower print instead - from the Full Sun collection by Maywood Studios.

These blocks all got completed today - again some trimming was necessary.  I'm not sure why my blocks are not staying square, but I strongly suspect it happens in the pressing stage.   I've tried all sorts of techniques to minimise distortion, and they have helped, but not eliminated the problem.

Is that too much trimming for 13 blocks?  I think so.

All that's left to do to complete this top is the assembly - my assignment for tomorrow.  Then fabric selection for the next project!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Project 10 - Harriet's Double Nine Patch Chain Quilt

This quilt top is a little different in that it uses a combined grid to make one of the nine patch blocks.  Here is Harriet's version, done in lovely antique style fabrics.

I didn't have such a hard time choosing fabrics for this project, only changing my mind 3 times :)  and ended up with these 3.

Now I know the centre one looks like I've grabbed the starch-stained calico sheet off my ironing table, but honestly, its been designed to look like that. It's from Wilmington Fabrics named Cookie Cutter Christmas.  The blue one is by Julie Rothermel from the Regency Collection III and the dark brown one is Jewelled Essentials from The Avlyn Studio.  Because of the colours, I'm going to call this my Floyd quilt.  Floyd is my seal point ragdoll cat, coloured dark brown, cream and beige with lovely blue eyes.

Again, this quilt is made from strip sets, although this time one of them is cut a little differently to make the combined grid, using only 2 fabrics of different widths, to combine with the 3 fabric strips.

Now the tricky part of putting the chain patch blocks together, is that the corner blocks must be mirror images of each other.  Looking at the picture of the corner blocks, you can see how the combined grid stip works.

I was fully aware of this while making these blocks, and carefully set up my patches to be sewn in the correct order.  Yes, of course you know what happened...........!

Yesterday was rather a busy one, with several visitors throughout the day, lots of eating and drinking (coffee) and two tradesmen to sort out some plumbing problems.  Why is it that you have no water on days when you have lots of guests?  Anyway, obsessed as I am, I nicked into my sewing room whenever I got the chance through the day, to sew up the patches.  This morning I discover that yes, I had somehow turned them around and made all right corner blocks.  Actually, I had 2 correct left corner blocks, the first 'test' ones I made.  I chain-stitched the rest and got the whole lot wrong. 

What I don't like about unpicking, besides the obvious one of having made mistakes in the first place, is that with all the extra handling and pressing, the fabric is likely to stretch and distort.  I finished re-doing them this morning and will spend some time this afternoon measuring to make sure they're nice and square.  Re-done blocks also fray more, so there is extra timming to do as well.

Today's tip is don't try to piece when distracted - the problems from getting it wrong are far worse than getting a little behind in the work.

The next step is to add solid squares to the block and sew them up.  I couldn't find the instructions for cutting out the solid blocks, but I now know how to work it out for myself.

I needed 48 solid squares 3 1/2" x 3 1/2".  You get 12 squares this size from one strip, so I needed to cut 4 strips of the 'cookie cutter' fabric.  4 x 12 = 48.  Easy Peasy.

When put together, the large 9 patch block (made up of 4 combined grid corner blocks, 4 solid blocks and a centre 9 patch) looks like this.......

I should have these put together today. The next task is to make the large 9 patch blocks, which alternate with these.

Till then..............

Monday, January 18, 2010

Project 9 - Interlacing Circles - My Art Nouveau Top

Well, after all the fussing prior to cutting the strips, it came together pretty quickly.

I'm pleased with the change from cream to yellow and happy enough with the end result.....although  I am wondering whether reversing the placement of the purple and mauve would be more effective within the design.

When I visualised the quilt top at the fabric selection stage, this is not what I saw.  Despite colouring in the design with pencils, despite paper mock-ups and despite bothering lots of people with questions, I failed to see the end result.

I'm not displeased with how it turned out, but am now wondering if being able to 'see' a finished design at the fabric selection stage comes with experience, or is it something you have a knack for (or not a knack for). 

There were minimal problems with sewing this top together.  Here's a list:

Cutting out too many yellow strips.
Not cutting out enough floral strips.
Stitching thin at the end of the seam (I don't always do this, but once is too often)
Forgetting to engage the walking foot throughout the entire piecing exercise
Unpicking the very last (of course) seam, after a curious kitten had a bite at the thread running from the spool to the machine.  She managed to pull the thread out of the tension discs and I didn't notice. 

The top is displayed on my Art Deco 1937 Jones treadle.

Project 9 - Interlacing Circles - Fabric Selection

This project has cause me quite a bit of confusion - not with the pattern, but with fabric selection. Here is Carrie's version

The top is made up of nine patch blocks and rail strip sets using 4 fabrics.  I made a mock up of this pattern a while back.. remember?   I wanted to use an Art Nouveau floral fabric I had, and then just selected colours I thought would go nicely with it. At this point I was happy, I just needed to purchase the matching fabric for the floral - a purple/green leaves print.  Also while shopping, I selected a dark purple to use instead of the mauve.

I put my selections together and bundled them off to a Quilter's Guild meeting I was attending to get an opinion, as I wasn't quite sure about my choices (hey, it was my first meeting, I had to take something!).  Their advice was that while the colours were ok, the values were out of balance.  I had 3 darks and 1 medium, which wouldn't do at all!  They suggested a mauve instead of the deep purple.  Damm???

I dutifully resurrected my mauve fabric.  Now I had 5 fabrics and was at a loss on which one to lose.  I sought out the advice of the  experienced and talented ladies of the Craft Forum.  These are the 5 fabrics........

The fourm ladies were very helpful (as always) and by an overwhelming majority, suggested I drop the leaves print.

Choosing fabric is hard!

Then the subject of values came up again - which seemed to point to the dark purple being dumped.  One very helpful member (thank you so much Robynne) even went to the trouble to make mock-ups using the photo I posted.  You can see them here......... http://forum.craftmagazines.com.au/showthread.php?t=4768

I decided, after much dithering, to dump the yellow in favour of a cream print.  Now I had 2 prints and 2 plains, like Harriet's version.  I also had 2 dark values, 1 medium and 1 light, a much better balance.  I'd use the yellow for the border.

So I cut and sew some strips and I'm not liking what I'm seeing.  It all looks a bit blah - where's the zing?  And where is my beloved Art Nouveau quilt top gone?

Finally, I decided to sacrifice the fabric I'd already cut and go with my gut instincts - going back to almost what I had in the first place - Floral/Yellow/Purple/Mauve.  Check it out.

Compare colours - cream or yellow?

All of this fluffing about has taught me a valuable lesson - learn the rules thoroughly, promptly forget them, then go with what you like.  Eventually, with a bit of experience and experimentation, it should all come together.

I've finished the piecing and hopefully will post a pic of the assembled top soon.


Friday, January 15, 2010

Project 1 - Sampler - Exercise 3

I thought I was done with this one until Vol 2, but it appears not.  This exercise involves making nine patch blocks.  Completing these will lead into the next project, which makes creative use of them.

Here is the Sampler from the book.........

Today I made 12 of these 9 patch blocks.  They didn't take long and seem to all be the right size......

So here are all the pieces for the Sampler so far........ the large block made from strip sets, the 4 x 4 patch blocks and the 12 x 9 patch blocks.