Quilter's Academy - Volume 2 - Sophomore Year

Vol 3 - Junior Year

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Vol 2 - Project 11 - Harriet's Navajo Dreams - MAKING

I've been busy making blocks................

these are some of them....there are more.

This is a very tricky block to make and while I try to be as precise as I can, fabric is a malleable thing - it moves, it stretches, it flops around.  Harriet says that as long as seams finish at a precise 1/4" the block will be square. 

so here is the block with a 1/4" seam marked all the way around.  Those seams look pretty good....

see what happens when a 6 1/2" template is set on top of it.  Those seams are slightly off, and you can see instantly the block isn't square.

I've made 61 blocks so far and the result is the same on every one of them, not one a perfect fit.   Admittedly I've been working rather quickly and getting tired and errors happen when working in haste!  But as a quilter I still have a long way to go.  I decided to cut the blocks square and sacrifice the prettiness of the points hitting the seam line exactly.

So why have I made so many blocks when the quilt only need 30?  I should first explain the reason I bumped this project forward.  I'd earmarked it for my brother Ian - the fabrics are perfect for him.  When he informed me he had a serious illness, everything else went on hold and I immediately got started on this project.  I wanted to make the quilt larger, as it would be of more use as a bed cover than as a throw.

Also, I could get 3 blocks from a half fat quarter, instead of just 2.  An Australian FQ, being cut from a metre of fabric rather than a yard, is a tad larger than an American FQ.

surprisingly that extra little bit allows me a whole extra block

the 3rd blocks from the large Fat Quarter's - and more fabrics!

What I found interesting also, was that I cut my strips 10" long, instead of the 9" suggested in the pattern.  Simply because half an Aust. FQ is 10" and it was just faster to do it that way.  The template barely fits in there.

that 6 1/2" diagonal square only just fits into this 10" block.

I decided to double the size of the quilt and have 2 blocks of 30 different fabrics.  Sadly, the news came that the illness was untreatable and my time frame to finish shrunk dramatically. Even with the blocks made, there are still the triangles to do, not to mention basting, quilting and binding.  The quilt needs to be complete in about 10 days, so when I travel up north to see my brother, I can give it to him personally. 

Now the decision on which blocks to use.  I'll put the rest of the blocks aside and make another quilt with them, when time allows.  The fabric I'd chosen for the side triangles wasn't working for me, so it's back to the shop tomorrow to audition something else. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Vol 2 - Project 11 - Harriet's Navajo Dreams

I've skipped ahead a little here but don't worry, I'll go back to the 2 projects I've missed when this one is done.

As soon as I saw this quilt, I knew I wanted to make it using Aboriginal fabrics and started collecting fat quarters for it. 

Here's a selection of my collection.  The project requires 15 different fat quarters and I have a few extras as I want to make the quilt larger than the one in the book.  All of these fabrics have been designed by Indigenous Australians and feature the colours of the outback, the foods, wildlife and fauna, the people and the ceremonies they celebrate.

The fabrics are quite busy and some of the repeats are very large, however the colours and the dots/stripes which make up the designs will all work really well together when cut up into smaller pieces.

Harriet's been rather clever with this design.  The block is based on a design often known as the Album Block, or Roman Cross and numerous other names.  Normally it's made with templates and tiny triangles, but Harriet has found a way to make it using strip sets.  The good news is that it's much easier to sew strips than to fiddle around with templates, but the bad news is there is a fair amount of waste to get to the finished block.

There are 9 rows and 4 strip sets to make up the block.  The strips are cut into various sizes so to avoid mistakes I bagged them as I cut.

I used a Westalee Ruler to cut the strips.  I really like this ruler when there are lots of different sizes to cut.  The ruler can be set to the desired size, then locked into place so there can be no mistakes! 

Setting the ruler to 2.5 inches, it's then screwed into place.  I then cut all the 2.5" strips, before changing the setting to the next size.  I cut heaps of strips and not a single mistake!

As this is my first go at making this block, I decided to make a complete one first to see how it worked.

the nine rows

Sew the strips and cross-cut, then sew the block.  The seams need to be accurate or the block won't work.  Also, the seams are to be pressed open.  This is more time consuming (for me) than pressing to one side.  The book doesn't explain why the seams are pressed open.  It's a mystery!

Seams are pressed open - a little starch on the back helps them lie flat

Once the block is sewn together, it's time to make the magic happen.  In order to make this square block go 'on point' it needs to be trimmed.  That's where sewing accuracy comes into play.  If your 1/4" seams aren't spot on - it's not going to work!

The block ready for trimming

Measure 1/4" from the point and cut!

Those trimmed triangles are now waste.  If I was an art quilter I'd probably find a use for them!

The finished block.

Sadly for me, his block didn't trim to size - it's too small.  Despite taking all care with sewing, pressing, measuring and trimming the strips, I'm about a 1/4" off the correct size.  I'll have another shot, but I'm not quite sure what went wrong.  Up until I cut the waste off, it all seemed to be exactly the right size.  Maybe I'll figure it out with the next attempt.

I've moved rather quickly onto this project, leaving a growing pile of Un-Finished Projects.  I hate that! 

The red & white quilt has been ditched-stitched, and all the nine patches grid-quilted, but all the bird blocks still need quilting.

Krakatoa is still not finished!

The Michele Hill 'Bird' wall hanging still has some free motion quilting to finish (I ran out of thread).

The Tangled Web Quilter's 'Portrait' quilt is still waiting for a binding.

To top it all off, I started yet another NHP - the Alien's quilt for another grandson.  This one is promised for a September birthday, so I wanted to get started on it.

Like the Bug Quilt, this one is also designed by Amy Bradley - Planetary Party

I cut and fused all the aliens onto starry background fabric

I had an idea to applique these with Glow-In-The-Dark thread, just for some extra fun.  When searching for colours, I found this............

Metallic Glow-in-the-Dark

As the background fabric has little metallic stars, I thought this thread was perfect for the project.  I found I could only buy it as a set of 5 different colours.  At $50 a set it was pricey, especially as there's only 100 yards per reel.

I appliqued the first alien with it.  It sews horribly.  I fiddled with tension for ages, but I still got hideous loops in the blanket stitch.  The thread is also wiry, not soft at all.  It feels just awful on a bed quilt.

Loopy, split stitches. 

To top it off, the thread doesn't glow in the dark at all. Not a spark, not even a teeny glow.  The thread on the spool glows, but as a single thread, there is probably not enough of whatever it needs to make the thread fluorescent. The reel says luminous, but the ads say it glows in the dark.  An expensive mistake, I'm going to have to re-do this block.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Vol 2 - Project 8 - Five Patch Chain - Assembly

The top is now completed and ready for quilting.  First all the birds had to be appliqued -
I like to use a small blanket stitch 1.5 x 1.5 - small enough to go around those tiny curves on the feet

Sewing the rows together was tricky, due to ongoing pressing problems with the polyester fabric.  Lots of distortion in the seams and edges.........
Ewww - quilter's nightmare!
Really frustrating when you take so much care with accurate cutting and sewing, only to get this sort of result after pressing.

The  oops ................

Three little Dickie birds sitting on a quilt .... one is ready to fly away home!

For the backing, I wanted to use the red cotton, but didn't have enough of the fabric left.  Back to Spotlight for some more - sold out!  There were still bolts of the cream and white - so a white backing it will have to be.  Carefully checking the bolts, I found lots of them were unlabelled but there was a mix of cottons and polyester.

I picked out a likely suspect and asked a staff member to scan it as there was no info on the bolt except for a bar code.  It was cotton!  The staff member pointed out that it was easy to tell which was which, the polyester was shinier - but given the mess and poor lighting in the store, not to mention the long queue at the counter just to ask a simple question, it's really a matter of pot luck. A 'fabric expert' could probably tell which was which, but as a relatively new sew-ist I wasn't that confident.  Really, labels on the bolts would be nice!!!

The fabric is 220 cm wide (that's around 87" to you non-metric folk) and I bought extra so I could put a white border around the edges - enough to help square out the wonky quilt and to give the top a nice finish.  I like to use wide fabrics for borders if I can get it - no joins!

First task was to get the grain straight............ check it out!
Almost 11.5" lost from each side after tearing

I lost so much fabric getting the grain straight, there wasn't enough left for the borders.  Grrrrr!!  A pity, cause once I folded the backing around the edges, the white looked quite good.  I'll have to settle for white binding instead.

The fabric also was dotted with little spots and dots, the blue ones were mostly around the edges, so I can work around them, I'm hoping the dark ones will wash out.  This really isn't good enough for fabric which costs $20 per metre.
I've used a 60/40 wool/polyester batting - it's got a medium loft and I want to see how this works with applique.  I'm hoping the extra loft will help the birds pop up.  I'm planning to do quite a bit of quilting on this - and I'm even going to practice free-form FMQ.  Being confined to small blocks I think will help a bit. 

The Bird wall hanging is currently in the process of being quilted and I've done a combination of echo and free-form.  I have a tendency to get lost and backed into a corner and the 'headband' design I'm using keeps turning into teardrops as I try to fit the quilting into the available space.  LOL.  Still it's nice to climb out of the stencil box!

I have a few things to finish up before moving onto the next project from QA - finish the quilting and bind the bird wall hanging - bind the 'Cobweb Cottage Girls' quilt, finish quilting Krakatoa, bind it and send it to my daughter-in-law (who actually likes it)!!, and of course ditch-stitch, quilt and finish this red & white quilt. Whew - a bit of a list, but what an excellent way to spend spare time!