Thursday, April 9, 2015

Wanderlust: Experiment with a One Block Wonder layout

I have a new quilting obsession... Making One Block Wonders with panels or border print-type panels and incorporating an uncut panel into the overall layout! I had already made three different One Block Wonder quilts and have a new mini-OBW in the works. What made this quilt top different started when I recently joined the One Block Wonder Forum group on Facebook. I noticed members posting that they were using panels instead of just multiple repeats of print yardage, which sounded very intriguing! I mentioned this to my local quilt shop owner and her face lit up instantly as she walked across the shop and picked up a bolt of Wanderlust by Hoffman Fabrics, a gorgeous abstract print built around an image of the Eiffel Tower. She asked if I would make a sample to show at the shop during the upcoming shop hop. Of course I agreed! I took home six repeats of the fabric with plans to start cutting the next weekend at our guild's monthly Sew & Sew day.
A single repeat of the uncut Wanderlust fabric.
I followed the usual technique of aligning six repeats of the fabric, cutting strips, sub-cutting the strips into 60 degree triangles, and then assembling the triangles into two halves of three triangles each to create two half-hexies that would later be sewn together into rows for an overall kaleidoscopic layout. Rather than aligning and cutting strips the full width of the fabric, I instead cut them across the 18" repeat width of the repeat, which was much easier to line up and cut. I chose to cut 3-1/2" strips, slightly narrower than the recommended strip width of 3-3/4" for large scale prints in the original One Block Wonder books by Maxine Rosenthal. The floral design at the bottom of the fabric seemed a smaller scale than many of the fabrics used for OBWs, so a 3-1/2" strip would keep the colors and designs better framed within the triangles.

Cutting 3-1/2" strips of the six repeats across the 18" width of the panel.
 I use the Clearview Triangle 12" 60 degree ruler to cut my triangles. I prefer this ruler as it has the point at the top which makes the triangles easier to line up when sewing them together. I place a piece of plastic tape across the ruler at the 3-1/2" cutting line so I don't have to think about where to line up my ruler each time I move it.
Cutting 60 degree triangles from the strips, setting them aside in their sets of 6 pinned together for later sewing.
Remaining sets of 6 triangles pinned together and ready to start sewing!
Once all of the triangles were cut, the gals and I attending the Saturday Sew & Sew wanted to see what this quilt might look like, so we laid out a number of triangles just to see what we had to look forward to as the pieces were sewn together.

Excited by what we had just seen, I started sewing pairs together right away. I took each set of 6 triangles and sewed two pairs together--string piecing continuously, setting the remaining 2 triangles aside to later add to each pair to create the half hexies. Most of the triangle sets were sewed together the same direction they were cut; although, there were a few that I rotated to create a different look. Testing out layout options before sewing took place at the machine before stitching the pairs together.
Testing the layout for orientation before sewing pairs together, string piecing through the whole stack.
After all of the pairs were sewn together, all seams were pressed open before I went back through the stack in the same order, adding the third triangle to each pair. Once the half-hexies were assembled it was time to start playing! The two halves of each hexie were pinned in order to keep them together as I began playing with the layout. Working from the dense color hexies from the bottom of the panel up to the light sky color hexies from the top, I started laying them out on a table to see just what I was coming up with.

As I started laying out the hexies into a color flow, I took a few pictures to post in the OBW Forum on FB. There were many comments and the ones that drew my attention were from members who suggested incorporating the uncut panel into the layout. Normally I would add a piece of the original fabric as a border, but with the panel that didn't make sense. I took the suggestions and started to play even more, returning to the shop to get a 7th repeat of the fabric to use uncut in some way.
The first attempt at incorporating the panel into the OBW layout.
As I added the panel, I felt it needed to be offset by a border, initially thinking surrounding it with a blue sky fabric I had in my stash that blended well with the top of the panel. Getting feedback as the layout progressed, I went from having the blue around the panel and as an overall border, to removing the blue except at the top, and substituting a 1/4" red frame around the panel, allowing it to blend in with the layout while still being set apart.
Option 1: Adding blue sky fabric to complete the hexies and frame the panel.
Option 2: Removing the blue within the layout and adding a narrow red border around panel.
Adding the narrow red border (the red was in my stash and blended well with the overall layout) was looking better and better! I cut 1" strips of the red, pressed them in half lengthwise, and sewed them to the four sides of the panel, thus creating a 1/4" finished flange frame for the panel. Then it was time to start sewing the rows together. Being sure to work one row at a time and keeping the order correct takes time and patience. Opposing halves of hexies have to remain lined up correctly as subsequent rows are sewn together, so I allowed two evenings to sew rows together.
Sewing half hexies together into long rows as the top progresses.
All seams were pressed open in order to distribute the layers as six seams come together at the centers of each hexie as long rows are sewn together.
Pressing long seams open of the main hexie section before attaching to panel.
Once the top was completely sewn together, I layered and pinned it with Dream Poly batting and backing. Then I went to my HandiQuilter Sweet Sixteen to do the quilting. For all of the hexies of the OBW portion of the quilt I did a simple orange peel quilting design with a 50# Aurifil Antique Rose (#2430), keeping the curves about 1/4" from the seams. On other quilts I typically stitch-in-the-ditch, but on a OBW that has seams pressed open, this is not practical, so the narrow orange peel provided stabilization to the seams without stitching on the stitches in the seams. For the uncut panel I chose to quilt a boxy meander in YLI Natural (#239) 100# silk, which blended in beautifully.
Detail of the orange peel quilting on every seam of each hexie of the OBW.

A boxy meander, with the Eiffel Tower detail outlined, was quilted on the panel.

I love the look of the quilting from the back of a quilt!
Happily, I found that my top squared up easily once the quilting was complete. With as many pieces as there are in a OBW and the possibility of the many bias edges of triangles distorting, having my OBW quilt come out square gave me an amazing sense of accomplishment!
Trimming after the quilting was complete.
With the shop hop starting on Wednesday morning at 9:00 a.m., I knew I was under pressure to meet that deadline. The quilt was done, the binding was sewn on, and I was hand stitching the binding down on Monday evening. At 2:10 a.m. Tuesday morning the final stitch went into the binding and it was complete!

I delivered "Wanderlust" to the shop on Tuesday afternoon where the shop owner greeted me with raves of how great the quilt had turned out! Finishing at 44" x 60", I'm considering this my first art quilt and plan to make many more. Wanderlust will be entered in the Lyon and Douglas County fairs, as well as the Kansas State Fair this summer. I'm also exploring the possibility of entering this quilt in a quilt show competition.

The first cuts were made on Saturday, March 28 and the final stitches went into the binding on Tuesday, April 7, just 9 days later. It may not seem like a long time to most, but I know it would have been completed much faster had I not been at the Sweet Sixteen for 4-6 hours per day working simultaneously on quilting our guild's opportunity quilt. I hope you've enjoyed this journey through the making of Wanderlust, a One Block Wonder art quilt.

More snippets from the sewing room soon,

Monday, March 9, 2015

It Should NOT Snow on Retreat Weekends!

I was blessed to be able to attend the annual Kamp Kutti Uppi at Lake Eufala, Oklahoma, last week for the second time. One of my high school buddies from back in the day in California is now a fellow quilter who lives in Oklahoma, just 5 hours away! Sweet Linda is the director of KKU and since we reconnected (thanks to Facebook!) we have begun scheduling time together at quilt retreats twice a year. No better way to spend time with an old friend than across our respective sewing machines while quilting! This year a quilting buddy from my local guild went along with me to join the fun and to be company for the drive.
Liz, Linda, and Sherry--Kampers at Kamp Kutti Uppi!
There were, I believe, 23 quilters, plus two excellent cooks! We all stayed in the bunk houses at the Pickens Family Campground at Lake Eufala, took our showers in the bath house (yep, that also means running across the property between buildings for night-time potty calls!), and stitched & ate in the lodge. One family brings three generations of quilters with them--mother, daughter and granddaughter! We all had so much fun!

One of the fun activities at KKU is a round-robin quilt that gets made during the weekend. All those who add to and work on the round-robin get their names put in a drawing and are eligible to win it! Whoever wins is supposed to finish the quilt (quilt & bind) and bring it back the next year to show off. This is last year's KKU round-robin, the first one I took part in. The starter blockswas the two-star section in the center and throughout the weekend more borders were added. Paula (in the pink) won and brought it back finished, and was happy to use it this year with the cold temps and snow! My contribution were the two black & red checkerboard rows on either end of the center section.

Paula brought the 2015 round-robin starter block, the yellow-black-green wonky sashed center that had a hilarious cartoon of a fabric avalanche. The first camper put it on-point and away we went from there! Our only "instructions" were that this year's quilt would be bright! Sherry and I worked together and added the bright rainbow piano key borders to each side to help widen it out some. This awesome top grew as campers added borders and accents during the weekend. Some campers brought bright scraps or fat quarters from their stashes, while others dug through the tubs of scraps that are always there for whoever needs them to find just the right touch for their projects. Rita won the drawing for this 2015 quilt and will complete it to bring back to the 2016 KKU, as well as bring the starter block for the next round-robin.

This year I only brought 4 projects with me, instead of the 10 that I schlepped down to OK and back last year, leaving most untouched. My major goal was to finish a new sampler top for a Quilting 101 class I'm teaching and to make a sample for a Cathedral Window class coming up soon. The first time I taught Q101, I used the shop owner's sample, which was fine, but I wanted to tweak it to include some of the techniques I know I use most. The blocks are fairly simple, and do include some curved piecing and a Dresden plate among the six blocks. That project went very well and was done on the first full day of stitching.

Next I was on to the Cathedral Window sample. I had seen them, had fallen in love with them, but had never tried them. So, I found a great tutorial on the Moda Bake Shop Recipes blog for a Charming Window Pillow Cover, printed it out, and took it and the required materials with me. On day two I dove in before breakfast and ten hours later, I had this beautiful little ~14" square of 9 cathedral window blocks sewn together and ready to show my students. Wow! Can you say Origami for quilts?!? I loved doing it, but I can definitely say I won't be making a whole Cathedral Windows quilt! Blessings on those who have and those who will--I will admire you from afar.
The four day retreat, again this year, got caught in some late season snow & ice. Last year I left on Saturday by noon (the retreat goes from Thursday at 9am through 11am Sunday) because of an ice storm heading towards northeast Kansas where I was headed. Indeed I drove home in sleet and freezing rain and just a few miles from home hit a point where my windshield was on the verge of being frozen over with no clear spot to look through. I did make it home safely, put my car in the garage to be unloaded later, and hunkered down. The next morning I had several inches of snow covering said ice and was surely grateful to have made the decision to leave early. Once again, snow interfered with our stitching fun by moving into OK during the retreat time.
Not the weather we had hoped for on retreat weekend...

The lodge where we quilted. It was safer to walk in the snow than on the walkways that kept freezing over!
This year Sherry (my travel/quilter buddy) and I made a similar decision because it had already started snowing where we were, had been snowing at home some 4+ hours away, and the next day the forecast for where we were in Oklahoma was for freezing rain and ice! So, we packed up Saturday morning and headed for home.
It sure felt like a long way from those bunkhouses to the bathhouse at 2am in the snow!

We drove snow-packed roads most of the way home. No problems getting back to northeast Kansas; although, we did go a longer route just to stay on a more major highway and drove slower than usual which lengthened our drive home to just over six hours. The snow wasn't bad at home, but we heard later that the ice and sleet hit hard back at Lake Eufala! The walkways between buildings were sheets of ice, so the campers walked in the snow to keep from slipping down the hill to the bunkhouses. The state park rangers helped clear the road out to the highway, so the campers who stayed through Sunday could get home. It was a challenge, but all made it home safe and sound. Though we would have loved the extra day of stitching with friends, we were grateful to have made the decision to cut our retreat weekend a day short and get home safely before the ice.
Snow-packed roads on our drive home.
A snowy stop to get gas on our way home.
I'm already on the list to go back next year to KKU! I'm meeting up with Linda again in August when our friend Marsha plans to fly to Kansas from California for our own private mini-retreat at my place! It's such fun being able to share our passion for quilting at mini-reunions together!

More snippets from the sewing room soon!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Paper Piecing Step-by-Step

My duties as teacher at Quilters' Paradise in Baldwin City, Kansas, are pushing me to look at my skills in various quilting techniques from a new angle. I'm learning how to explain what I do rather than just do it without thinking about it. It's great to be able to break a technique down into steps to share with others! With our monthly table runner class, I'm trying to introduce new techniques each month and January featured paper piecing. While we didn't complete a table runner in class this time, those who attended did leave with one of four paper pieced hearts complete and time to make the others for a cute Valentine's Day runner.
When I posted the picture of my pieced hearts on my Facebook page, I had requests for a how-to, so here goes. Paper Piecing Step-by-Step as done by me in preparation for my class.

There are a variety of patterns and books out that cover paper piecing. I have learned from both Carol Doak's website of free quilt patterns and her blog, and from Michele Foster at Quilting Gallery while doing her Delightful Stars online quilt-along (now available on her website as a booklet). Both have excellent information and patterns available at their websites.

For this class, I chose three paper pieced hearts from Carol Doak's free downloads, and drafted a Swedish Heart myself in EQ7 to make the four hearts to be sashed and bordered for either a table runner or a small wall hanging. I printed the full size patterns onto foundation paper. While you can print on regular computer paper, it is heavier and will be more difficult to remove after your blocks are made. Using the lighter weight newsprint or foundation paper makes the process much easier. Be sure when printing PDF patterns that you select "actual size" rather than "shrink" or "fit" option from the print screen. This will assure all of your patterns will print full size and won't cause any problems with blocks fitting together down the road. I then pulled my fabrics and began the process.
Separate the various sections that will be paper pieced and later assembled into the block, keeping the instructions nearby. In this case, the instructions were printed on the same page as the block sections. The woven heart block uses five fabrics, each used in specific places on different sections to achieve the woven look. I laid out the fabrics on sticky-notes with numbers and marked the four sections of the paper patterns with numbers matching the fabrics so placement would be correct. The numbers that are printed on the paper patterns indicate the order the fabrics are to be sewn on, not the number of the color assigned to that position. If I had been using multiple colors, I would have written "red", "white", "yellow" etc., into those spots instead of the handwritten #1-5 that I used here. I then followed the pattern guide and cut the indicated pieces out of each fabric and laid them on the stick-notes.
For position 1, take the indicated fabric and place it wrong side to the paper on the back and pin it in place. From the paper side, hold it up to be sure the fabric covers the entire area of position 1 with at least 1/4" allowance beyond the solid stitch line. Fold the paper back on the line between positions 1 and 2 and, with the paper folded back, trim fabric to 1/4". Place the piece of fabric for position 2 right-sides together with the fabric in position 1 and pin, aligning them with 1/4" allowance beyond the stitch-line between their sections. Be sure your fabric in position 2, when stitched and flipped back to its spot, completely covers position 2. For straight pieces like illustrated here, it is pretty easy. For angled pieces, you may or may not have straight edges lined up, which is perfectly okay (more on this below with detail from the Star Heart).
Fold the pattern back out and sew along the solid line between sections 1 and 2. I recommend a stitch length no longer than 2mm and smaller is probably better. Closer stitching will perforate your paper better and make it much easier to remove when your block is complete. When a section goes only part way across the block, start or stop at the center intersection with 2-3 reinforced stitches, and sew off the outside edge of the pattern & fabric.

Once the seam is stitched, remove the pin and press the fabric over towards section 2. Then fold the paper pattern back along the solid line for section 3 and trim the fabric from sections 1 and 2 to 1/4". Align the fabric for section 3 right-sides together with sections 1 and 2, and stitch on the solid line. For this particular piece, section three extends all the way across the block, so stitch on and off the paper at both ends. You always stitch with the paper side UP, following the lines. Again, when finished stitching, press the fabric back over the paper, opening up each piece as you go.
Now it is time to sew on the corner pieces. Fold the paper pattern back along the line between section 2 and 4, and trim the block to 1/4" beyond the fold. Place the triangle for corner position 4, right sides together, behind the block. Unfold the paper pattern and sew along the solid line between section 2 and 4. 
After stitching, press the triangle out to cover the corner section. Repeat for section 5. Your block should now look like this before trimming. There may be times when you stitch off the edge of your paper pattern and then have another section that crosses nearby. You can gently tear your paper away from seams in order to get the pattern free to fold for the next stitch line. Just be sure to keep it intact enough to keep the pattern straight and square throughout the process.
As you build each section, remember to follow the printed numbers as the order to add fabrics. Be sure to keep track of which fabrics you want where and write on your pattern so you keep your fabric placement the way you had planned. Also remember that the blocks are in reverse when the paper side is up. When all four sections are laid out paper side up, it is a mirror image of the finished block from the right side.
Trim all blocks when complete to 1/4" from the solid line (a dotted line was printed on these patterns which indicated the final 1/4" seam allowance around the section). Sew the block sections together into rows and then rows together to complete the block. I pressed the seams in opposing directions for the sections and then pressed the final seam open to reduce bulk. I was careful to pin the intersections where points come together between sections so they would stay properly aligned on the finished block.
Once the block is complete, then you can remove the papers. If a fine stitch has been used, the paper should be perforated and remove easily. Be careful not to pull at your stitches too much as you remove the paper. A pair of tweezers can be very helpful in removing small bits from corners or in seam allowances. If you are assembling multiple paper pieced blocks together into rows, you  might want to leave the paper in until they are all assembled, which will help reduce any distortion of the blocks. Also be aware if outside edges are bias edges, leaving the paper in might serve you well until additional blocks or sashings are attached.
For blocks like the Bow Heart and the Star Heart, there were several pieces that needed to be sewn on that did not line up straight. In this case, I placed the fabric over the indicated section right side out, then folded the seam allowance under to meet the adjoining block to check its placement before pinning, trimming, and sewing. The pieces on angled sections get sewn on at what seems like a funny angle, so lining the fabric up with the previous block will not necessarily cover the next section correctly. As shown here, to get the section of the Star Heart aligned, I had to lay it out at an angle, trimmed to 1/4", and then sewed. When pressed out, it correctly covered the star point. Always test and, if necessary (which I did several times), carefully rip out from the fabric side (picking one stitch at a time helps from tearing the paper you will need to stitch over again), then realign, and resew.

That's it! That is my step-by-step procedure of making paper pieced hearts. It was great fun and, as you can see, when you paper piece and follow the stitching lines, you get absolutely perfect points! And, your points on the outside will match perfectly as a 1/4" seam allowance is built into the patterns.

Good luck in your paper piecing! I hope this tutorial was helpful.

More snippets from the sewing room soon,