WIP: voile test

Some WIP eye candy for you today!

DSC04369 

This is my cotton/linen/voile test mini. My objective is to work with voile and a linen blend for the first time and see how they work together with regular quilting weight cotton.

DSC04317 DSC04351

As you can see I don’t shy away from a challenge: I’m doing some pretty fussy piecing (y seams!). I thought about keeping it simple with square patchwork but I thought this would be a more helpful test.

I will tell you that so far I love working with the linen blend but I find the voile pretty challenging!

I’m hoping to have a full report in time for Finish it up Friday – including how everything behaves in the wash!

Linking up today with Work in Progress Wednesday.

A cup of tea

Have you seen that Sarah Fielke is collecting blocks for a special birthday virtual cup of tea quilt? Of course I’m participating since we all know I’m her biggest fan! And there’s prizes!

Here’s the color scheme I came up with:

DSC04263 DSC04270

And here’s the block:

DSC04287

Ok, so the handle appliqué could be smoother but I think it’s still super cute. I hope it fits in well with the others. I’m sure the final quilt will be stunning!

That’s all today because I am working away on my voile test mini quilt I hope to share with you guys later this week. Voile, linen, and cotton, oh my!

Linking up with And Sew We Craft Together!

WIP (sort of): shirt quilts

Remember when I said I don’t want to buy anything at Marshall’s because I’d rather buy fabric? (You can see that post about my stash here).

Well I found a solution: now I pass right by the rows of cute little tops and dresses and shoes and head straight for the men’s clearance rack. You see, I realized that Marshall’s sells fabric right there!

DSC04239

Of course it’s not just Marshall’s: it’s the back of your husband’s closet, your parent’s basement, the local thrift store. Perfectly good 100% cotton fabric in every color of the rainbow.

I really must give some credit for this idea to Sarah Fielke. The quilt on the cover of her latest book, Hand Quilted with Love, is made with cast offs from a shirt maker who happens to be her neighbor. Yup, that’s right: her neighbor just stopped by with huge bags of free fabric. I spent some time feeling jealous but then I decided to take action.

I started collecting shirts from the men in my life as well as the local thrift stores. I check the labels carefully to be sure they are 100% cotton because many of them contain polyester. If it says “wrinkle free” you can skip it because those are all poly blends. Once I had a pretty big stack and a little more direction about color, I bought just 2 from the TJ Maxx clearance rack. These were a bit of a splurge ($12 and $15) compared to the others but worth it to round out my color scheme.

DSC04199

You might be wondering how much fabric comes from one men’s shirt. Is it even a good deal? Here’s what an XL long sleeve shirt looks like all cut up and laid on a 36 by 44 inch area marked with blue painter’s tape. I removed the sleeve bands and collar but the buttons and pocket are still there.

DSC04062

I think it’s fair to say that you can get at least a yard of usable fabric from this shirt. Obviously long sleeves are better than short sleeves and bigger is better. I found a XXXL shirt at TJ’s that would have been amazing if only it was the right color! Just the back of it alone looked like a full yard.

Now, personally I am keeping my shirt collection separate from my stash. I do not pre-wash my fabric but these are an exception since most of them are used. If I did want to work in some fabrics from my stash I would wash it first so that everything is equally pre-shrunk.

What quilts will I make with these beautiful shirt fabrics?

DSC04141 DSC04155

The picture on the left is the Marcelle Medallion from Liberty Love. On the right is Sarah Fielke’s shirt quilt from Hand Quilted with Love.

I’ve been wanting to try both of these quilts for a while and I think the shirt fabric is perfect. Since these are both medallion-style quilts (one central block surrounded by multiple borders) and they’ll both be made with the same fabric I think they are likely to end up on my boys’ bunk beds.

It’ll be an epic challenge but I’m giving myself permission to take my time on this one.

I will warn you about one side effect of collecting shirts for fabric… You start to look at your husband’s wardrobe quite selfishly. “Um, honey, the next time you stain a shirt can it be this one?”

Finish it up Friday: handwork

I’m so thrilled to say that I have completed my appliqué and hand quilting project!

DSC04022

You can read more about it here and here.

This project surprised me. I expected needle turn appliqué to be really challenging and hand quilting to be more straightforward. It was just the opposite! I thought the needle turn was very doable and Sarah Fielke‘s method (from her Craftsy class) worked great for me.  The hand quilting was harder. I used Sarah’s mini-tutorial but I just couldn’t get it. I probably gave up on doing it right too quickly… I ended up just putting the needle all the way through and then bringing it back up. It looks fantastic on the front but the back is a little bit of a mess!

DSC04055

 DSC04056

A charming mess. 🙂 I sometimes let myself do things incorrectly at first and then try to refine my method as I go. In this case it doesn’t matter because it will be a wall hanging. But if I ever want to do a bed or throw quilt (and I do!) then I’ll have to try harder to do it correctly because how it looks on the back will matter more.

By the way, I will never complain about threading a needle with normal thread again after threading my needle with that danged pearl cotton so many times! That was a pain.

I really miss my sewing machine! I spent the better part of the last 2 weeks on this project and my thumb is sore from grasping a needle. I can’t wait to get some good machine sewing in next week.

That said, I love how this looks and I definitely will be doing more appliqué and hand quilting in the future.

DSC04032
DSC04039

Thanks for visiting! Come back Monday to hear about a new project I’m developing using men’s shirts!

Linking up with Crazy Mom!

Theory Thursday: stash

 DSC03984

Today I want to take a break from talking about specific projects to talk about a more general topic: choosing fabric. I am convinced that this is the single most important aspect of a quilting project.

Or maybe I just wanted an excuse to do a fabric photo shoot.

DSC03964

But really- think about it. When you’re shopping for a new quilting book or pattern, is it hard to buy it if the author’s fabric style is significantly different from yours? Think about the blogs you read: how many of them use the same fabrics you do?

When I made my first several quilts I went specifically to the quilt shop (ok, I’ll admit it was JoAnn’s at first) and purchased fabric for that project. When I started watching Quilty (I recommend it!) and reading quilting magazines and books I learned what quilters mean when they talk about their “stash.” A quilting stash is a carefully curated collection of fabrics that enable a quilter to make a project without going to the fabric store or hopping online (and then waaaaiting for the mail) before starting a project.

DSC04011

Your stash is distinct from your scraps. Stash is generally a fat quarter or bigger. Scraps are smaller than that. I usually draw the line at whether the piece of fabric seems big enough to fold it. If it’s too small to fold into a neat square for my stash containers, it’s a scrap.

There are a couple of good reasons to stash. I am well-practiced at these arguments because I have had to remind my husband of them from time to time.

  • One of the reasons I believe in stashing is the inordinate variety of absolutely amazing fabrics that is available at any one time. If you like scrappy-looking quilts like I do, it can be really overwhelming to shop for 50 (or 150!) different blue prints and 25 different background prints all at once. It’s also hard to spend that much $$$ all at once.
  • On the other hand, despite the great variety there’s also limitations. Maybe you want to do a quilt all in stripes like this beauty. (Red Pepper Quilts again. Love her.) Could you do it with what’s available in stores right now? Maybe. But you’d probably have to make some compromises and include some fabrics that maybe aren’t your favorite but they’re striped so they’ll have to do. This is my point: if you have a collection of stripes you love and have collected over time in your stash, you are more likely to be able to achieve that amazing quilt you see in your head and not have to use any fabrics you don’t love.
  • Another reason I stash is because it’s so much easier to see what looks good together in person rather than online. Online coloration can be very deceiving. This is of course a good reason to shop local! But if your local quilt shop doesn’t carry the style of fabric you’re looking for, then you have to go online and that can lead to disappointment. If you are ordering fabric for your stash rather than a specific project, the exact shade is less important.
  • Yet another reason to stash: in my opinion it leads to more interesting quilts. Making a quilt out of a single line of fabric can be just beautiful. But sometimes it’s fun to challenge yourself to combine fabric lines in a way that someone else hasn’t done before. A good stash will enable you to do that.

DSC03993

Now that you’ve thought through the reasons to have a stash, you might want some tips on how to build one. Here are just a few things I’ve been thinking about lately.

  • The easiest way to build a stash (especially in the earlier stages of your quilting career) is to identify a fabric line you love and order the whole thing. They will all coordinate and you’ll have a good start. Then research the designer of that fabric and find out if they have any other fabric lines available (maybe even on sale!). Very often a designer will have multiple lines available that compliment each other. In this way you can find your own favorites and have a good place to start when you are shopping. I have my favorites (Denyse Schmidt, Anna Maria Horner, Bonnie & Camille) that I always keep my eye on- what are they doing next? What’s on sale? What’s available on Etsy that might not be available in stores anymore?
  • But please please don’t forget to develop your collection of stash basics! These are things like neutral tone-on-tones, dots, and stripes. Rachel from Stitched in Color calls these “helpful” fabrics and has a great post on this topic. If I had all the money in the world I would have dots and stripes in every shade of the rainbow. Someday!

You know you’re a quilter when you consider other purchases in terms of fabric yardage. Walking through Marshall’s, “Oh that’s a cute top but I’d rather buy 2 yards of fabric.” or “Well, yes we need a new car but that’s 1500 yards of fabric…”

WIP Wednesday: Sarah Fielke applique update

Checking in quickly today to share this progress on my very 1st appliqué & hand quilting project.

DSC03926

The applique is done! It went really well. Hand quilting? Harder. 🙂

You can read more about this project here!

I hope to have it done by Friday- in time to link up with Crazy Mom! And today I’m linking with Lee @ Freshly Pieced, kind host of Work in Progress Wednesday.

Thank you guys so much for your kind comments and support of my EPP tutorial! It’s been so fun to hear your thoughts. I’ve already updated it a bit due to a thoughtful question. Thank you!

Hide-the-basting-stitches method for EPP (a tutorial)

DSC03451 DSC03473

Welcome to my first tutorial! I’m really glad you’re here because english paper piecing (EPP) is something I am passionate about and I think my method simplifies what is admittedly a time-consuming (but lovely!) process.

Let’s make some pretty hexies together!

1.  Introduction.  If you aren’t familiar with EPP here’s how it works. EPP is a very old-fashioned method of hand sewing small pieces of fabric around a piece of paper and then sewing the shapes together before removing the papers and finishing the project. You can read my post on EPP to hear more about what makes EPP so awesome and different from other sewing.

2.  Supplies.  Most of the supplies are your basic sewing basket contents: needle, thread, scissors, pins. The only new supply you will need to acquire is the “paper” part of the EPP. I like to get my papers from paperpieces.com rather than making them myself. If you do a project of large size I definitely recommend purchasing your papers rather than making them. I have been very happy with paperpieces.com and I think the papers are pretty affordable considering the time you are saving. And they’re reusable so you don’t necessarily need as many papers as shapes in your quilt. Oh, and the accuracy is a safer bet when cut out by a machine rather than your scissors. (No offense.)

DSC03777

3.  Cutting.  Oh, the freedom of casual EPP cutting! One of the fun things about EPP is that you can put away your rotary cutter because your cutting does not have to be accurate. You can simply chop at some fabric with scissors and the paper ensures the accuracy. In fact, I use square pieces of fabric for my hexagons and it works just fine. Your fabric needs to be about 3/8 to a 1/2 inch bigger on all sides than your shape. A little less is okay but don’t make yourself crazy by limiting it to a 1/4 inch. A little wiggle room will make your life a lot easier and keep the process relaxing.

4.  Pinning.  Ok, once you have your supplies and fabric ready to go the next step is pinning. I simply put one pin through the middle of the paper and fabric to hold them together during basting. This prevents the paper from sliding out of place once you get going. This is particularly important with my method since you won’t be sewing through the papers at all. I like to pin a pretty little stack and then proceed in an assembly-line fashion.

DSC03790

5.  Basting.  Now you are ready for basting the fabric around the paper. This is the magic of EPP right here: the papers are all exactly the same size and perfect shape so once your fabric is wrapped around it it’ll be perfect too. I baste my EPP shapes by pinching each corner and taking a loop around it with a single stitch. I do not go through the paper at all, and that is the main difference between my method and other methods. Because all of the stitches are on the back side of the shape, they will not need to be removed. Once your pieces are basted you can remove the pins. (I am using nice thick red thread so that you can see my stitches. You should just use white all-purpose thread.)

DSC03830 DSC03834 DSC03837 DSC03844

6.  Ironing.  Press your shapes while being sure not to misshape them. I use the tip of my iron and iron toward the shape. Then when I’m sure the fabric is flush with the paper on all sides I press down to flatten the seam allowances.

7.  Whipstitching.  After you’ve basted some cute little piles of EPP shapes, they can be pieced together by whipstitching. At this point it’s not a bad idea to consider your thread color. I’ve never had a problem with hexies but when I did diamonds I regretted using white thread with my dark fabric.

You hold the pieces right sides together and take small even stitches across the length of the shapes. You want to get just a few threads from each hexagon fabric and not eat too far into the middle of the shape or your stitches will be visible and misshape your pieces. Use the paper as your guide.

DSC03850 DSC03856 DSC03867

8.  Joining rows.  You can piece several together into a row and then join the rows. Unlike sewing machine sewing, there is a lot of flexibility regarding what order you do this. You really can’t screw it up because at any point you can always go back and fill in more hand stitches.When you start joining hexies together you’ll realize that it’s sometimes necessary to fold an adjoining hexi in order to get them to lay right sides together for whipstitching. You do not remove the papers until the individual hexagon you are removing the paper from no longer needs to be joined to any other hexagon. Since the paper is your guide, you want to keep the paper in as long as there is still sewing to do for that hexagon. Once the hexagon is sewed into the quilt, the paper has served its purpose and can be removed.

DSC03886 DSC03896 DSC03901 DSC03924

There really are endless design possibilities once you get the hang of EPP. Here are a couple of experiments I did with diamonds, squares and triangles.

DSC03877

You can even completely design and cut out your own shapes. I’ve used this method to create little ties and bowties to decorate the onesies in this post. All I did was draw the ties on a piece of card stock and cut them into workable shapes. This was a bit easier than some other methods of this project because the EPP created finished edges.

Click here for a fun chart that helps with hexagon math from paperpieces.com. It gives you various measurements for different sizes of hexagons and some tips for cutting your fabric.

All right, please feel free to ask questions and I will update the tutorial from time to time as questions recur. I’ve also added a “Tutorials” tab to my home page so you’ll be able to easily access this and other future tutorials.

Enjoy!