Friday, September 30, 2011

Paper Piecing Tip - Print on Vellum!

To do the Circle of Geese pattern, you use the paper piecing technique.  In watching Leah Day's tutorial (see posting below), I kept thinking that it was too hard to do paper piecing when you can't see the pattern on both sides of the paper.

When I first learned paper piecing years ago, I bought patterns already printed on tracing paper or paper that you could see through.  Back then, these printed pattern sheets were only available at quilt shows.  However, since not many quilt shows came to New York, at least not then, I began to experiment with making my own pattern sheets. 

I used tracing paper because it was the same kind of paper as the printed pattern sheets that I bought.  I tried feeding this paper through my copier, but it kept jamming the machine because it was too thin and lightweight.  Then I tried gluing the tracing paper onto copy paper before feeding it through the copier.  It worked, but it was hard to separate the tracing paper from the copy paper, which defeated the purpose.  Finally, I used a glue stick to put a thin line of glue across the top of the tracing paper before adhering it to the copy paper. This last method worked because the glue on the tracing paper anchored it to the copy paper, but you could still freely lift the tracing paper.  The best part was that the copier recognized the two sheets of paper as one.  Once the copy was made, you could separate the two papers easily. 

I used this method whenever I wanted to work on a paper-pieced quilt.  But it's been years since I did this, and I no longer have the small personal copier.  The copier I now use is for high volume printing and it is very sensitive.  Rather than mess with that machine, I started thinking about other options because I knew that using the pattern printed on copy paper wasn't going to work for me.

Here is where the vellum comes in!  Vellum is transparent paper that is similar to tracing paper but is much heavier.  This paper is used by scrapbookers as a design element, often to soften or add texture to a design. 

When I was into scrapbooking (remember, seasonal crafter here!), I made a birthday card for my younger sister's 30th birthday.  I took her baby picture, copied it onto 4 different color vellum sheets, and then cut small squares with the pictures in the center.  I glued the 4 squares in a two by two layout to make it look Andy Warhol-ish.

Anyway, the whole point of sharing this story is that I copied the photograph onto vellum without having to prep it in any way.  This started me thinking about how I can apply this technique to paper piecing.  It wasn't a stretch to think that if I can copy onto vellum without a problem, I can probably print onto vellum without a problem.  Scrapbookers do it all the time!

I went to the local craft store and bought some individual sheets of vellum.  The store ran out of white vellum so I bought whatever colors they had - blue and red.  I put the sheets into my laser printer and tried to print multiple copies.  The sheets kept sticking together, so I tried it one at a time, which worked best.  Here is the result:

By printing the pattern on vellum, you can see the fabric through the paper, which will not only help you place the fabric for the pieces correctly, but you will also sew on the lines more accurately.

The major drawback to this technique is cost.  The sheets cost $.60 each, but I got it on sale for $.20.  For once my timing was right!   This is fine if you're doing a small quilt, like a wall-hanging, but it can add up if you're doing a full-sized quilt.  I'm just doing a wall-hanging, so I won't need much paper.  Plus, I got the paper on sale.  According to the cashier, Michaels has this paper on sale a lot, so keep an eye out.

In my next post, I'm going to do my first tutorial - how to paper piece using vellum for those who are new to paper piecing.  Cheers!

Next Project: Circle of Geese Wallhanging

While I wait for the border fabric for the baby quilt to dry, I'm preparing for my next project - Circle of Geese Wallhanging.  I orginally read about this pattern on the Applique Today blog.  I think the author of the blog was doing a group QAL using this pattern. 

The Circle of Geese pattern is foundation-pieced.  The pattern reflects 1/4 of the total block, which is a 12" .  I think I"m going to reduce the size of the pattern so that it is 4 X 4, with a finished block size of 8".  This pattern can easily be adjust since the pattern pieces are relatively large.  Here is a picture of the foundation piecing pattern:

I'm using an almost solid black fabric for the background.  Because the background pieces go in all different directions, if you use a striped or directional fabric, it will take your focus away from the geese pieces.  Since I want the focus to be on the different purple fabrics that I'll be using for the geese, I want my background to enhance the purple fabrics, not distract from them.

I'm also playing with the idea of doing some applique on this quilt, probably with some type of floral border.  I love the works of Piece O' Cake designers, Becky Goldsmith and Linda Jenkins, and I might applique some of their simpler florals along the border.  We'll see how ambitious I'm feeling once I get started on the pattern.

I've already started preparing for this quilt.  Having the craft room next to the laundry room is very convenient.  Once I collected all the fabrics I wanted to use, I just had to take a few steps to put them in the washer.  I'll press the fabrics tomorrow and make copies of the foundation piecing pattern.

If you're new to foundation piecing, Leah Day of The Free Motion Quilting Project has a good video tutorial:

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Baby Quilt - Real Progress!

My body apparently doesn't acknowledge when it's suppose to have a day off.  I woke up at 6:30 am today and was in the craft room by 7 am.  Six and a half hours later, I went from this:

to this:

Again, the actual quilt is much more vibrant than the picture, but I'm very happy with the results.  Here is a close up of some of the squares:

I tried to distribute the orange squares so that the same ones are not near each other, but you can see that I wasn't entirely successful.  I love how the black and white fabrics act as a frame for the orange squares, and how they contrast with the turquoise sashing so nicely.  I'm going to add a thin black border around this quilt top and then use an orange fabric for the final border.  At least that's the plan, though you know that I change things up all the time! :)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ceiling Outlet - LOVE it!

Remember I told you that my house is in the process of getting renovated?  Well one of the rooms that was redone was the craft room.  It's a comfortable space, but the room is too small to put in an island to use for cutting, drafting, etc.  Also, my craft room has a exterior door that leads to the backyard.  If I'm working in the room, anyone who wants to go to the backyard through the basement could trip on any of my powercords, especially if the iron was being used.  To solve this problem by keeping powercords off the floor, my sister suggested having a ceiling outlet installed, which we did.  She's brilliant! I just used it for the first time today and I LOVE IT!

Design as you go...

Since the design of the quilt has been changed a few times, it should not be surprising that I changed it again.  This quilt is truly "design as you go!" 

The 6" squares were too big, so I reduced the square size down to 4 1/2".  I cut the black and white fabric strips into wide and narrow strips and placed it around the squares, which didn't look right.  For offset log cabin blocks to work, there has to several rounds of the strips around a smaller center square.  Since I only intended to do 2 rounds at most, the assymmetric effect didn't work.  I also found that using too many different black and white fabrics clashed with the different orange fabrics, so I selected only 4 fabrics.  Below is the initial layout of the quilt:

I wish you could see how vibrant the turquoise sashing is compared to the other fabrics.  This picture is a little dull because I'm still learning to use my digital camera, but the turquoise fabric makes the colors in the squares pop out.  I'll probably sew a thin strip of orange around the turquoise fabric before adding a black and white border.  The design of this quilt is still evolving, but I love the colors, which, thankfully, do not evoke thoughts of Halloween.  Now that I have a direction, I'm going to do the rest of the squares and play with the sashing to improve the design of the quilt.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Baby Quilt - Change in Plans!

As I was looking at my black and white fabrics, I was lamenting how I wanted to get started but was stuck because I didn't have enough variety in the blue and green fabrics.  Then I realized - why did it have to be blue and green?  Because the backing is blue?  It's a baby quilt!  The brighter the colors and the more contrast there is, the more stimulating it is for the baby!

I went back to my fabric collection and the orange fabrics caught my eyes.  They showed well against the black and white ones.  Of course, I was worried that it would be too Halloweenish and would clash too much with the turquoise fleece.  Was I wrong!  The blue color actually made the other colors more vibrant.

Black and white fabrics:

Orange fabrics:

And together:

Unfortunately, just when I thought I solved the problem, there was another glitch.  I decided to use turquoise fabric as my sashing, which worked well, but I didn't have enough of the fabric I wanted to use.  This is a minor problem - it's easier to look for one fabric as opposed to many different ones, like I would have had to if I kept the original color scheme.

On my way home tomorrow, I'll stop by a sewing machine store that also sells fabric to see if they have what I need.  My fingers are crossed since it will save me a trip to Manhattan.  Parking is impossible in Manhattan, unless you're willing to spend a gazillion dollars for a parking lot.

I haven't finalized the pattern of the quilt, but I figured out the blocks - 6" orange blocks with borders of thin strips of black and white fabrics.  I'll make the blocks tomorrow when the fabric is ready to be used.  They're being washed as I type this post since I wasn't sure what was washed and what wasn't. 

Can't wait to finally get going on this quilt!  

Monday, September 26, 2011

Baby Quilt in Progress ... NOT!

I went to Joann's with the intentions of looking for some fabrics for the baby quilt and what did I find?  A bias binding machine!  I was so enthralled with the machine that I completely forgot about the fabric, at least until I got home, which as you know, was very useful. :)

I have Thursday and Friday off this week due to the Jewish holidays, so I'm going to City Quilter, the only quilt shop in Manhattan.  They offer good classes and just expanded their shop so their fabric collection is much wider now.  I just bought some beautiful oil cloth from them that I will eventually make into little bags.  I'll try to find the fabrics there.  At the rate I'm going, it looks like my friend's baby will have facial hair before I'm done. 

Since I'm on the subject of quilt shops ... if you're ever in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, you must set aside time to go fabric shopping.  Let me know and I'll recommend some shops.  I go there at least twice a year, specifically to fabric-shop.  They have all the design lines for at least 25-30% off.  And of course, you must go to Sauder's, which is the mecca for quilters in this area.  Sauder's is also unique in my eyes because it's a business that actually has a functional outhouse.  They have credit card machines but not toilets.  I'm still amazed after all these years.  Provincial, am I not?

Back to the quilt ... I still haven't figured out the pattern for the quilt so I've been going through my quilt magazines.  I'm an avid reader of craft magazines even when I was on hiatus.  I keep all of them though they're piling up.  One thing I noticed is that the patterns in quilt magazines today are not very different from the magazines of 10 years ago or more, with the exception of Quilting Arts, whose quilts tend to be aspirational rather than doable.  I'm not very inspired by these magazines, so I stopped buying them.  What are the newest trends in quilting?  I guess I have to go blog-hopping to find out ...

It's all about the gear!

I decided to use a Joann's coupon to buy Simplicity's Bias Binding Machine because I hate making bias tape.  I always burn my fingers and never get it as perfect as I want it to be.  And since I want to use the adjustable bias binding presser foot, I needed a fast and painless way to make bias binding.  Thus, the machine!

It's awesome!  The set up is a little annoying at first, especially if you use the written directions, but once you make your first bias binding, you'll be hooked.  The machine pressed a 45" long piece of 2" bias tape in less than a minute.  Can you imagine the time you save, not to mention the fingers?  My dad fixed cameras for a living and he always told us that "it's all about the gear!"  Was he right!  Here is the tutorial from Simplicity:

If you're an avid quilter, this tool will really save you time.  Cool, huh?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

How cool is this?

The things that I have missed being out of touch in the crafting world for so long!  I've been reading lots of sewing blogs in preparation for trying my hand at making clothes after I finish the baby quilt.  In one of the sewing blogs, I saw this presser foot that is used to sew invisible zippers into a garment.  I never knew such a presser foot existed. 

Years ago, I took a class at FIT in NYC on couture sewing techniques.  Most of the construction and finishing involved handwork and/or a standard presser foot.  The only other foot we used was a zipper foot.  As a result, I always assumed that you didn't need much else when making clothes. 

The tutorial on how to install an invisible zipper showed how easy it was to do this when you have the right tool.  In the past, I used to pin, baste, rip out, redo, etc., in my quest to make the zipper look professionally sewn.  It was frustrating and probably one of the reasons why I lost interest in making clothes.

Anyway, this tutorial started me on a quest to learn how many other cool presser feet I can get for my machine.  I ordered a few, but am particularly excited by the adjustable bias binding presser foot due to its immediate application to the baby quilt.  This foot allows you to sew on the binding in one step.  I used to sew the binding and then hand finish it.  It took forever!  Now it's fast and doesn't require much hand finishing. Check out this cool tool and don't be surprised if you get one too!

Baby Quilt - What to do?

When I planned the baby quilt yesterday, I assumed I had a large enough variety of blue and green fabrics for the quilt.  However, when I looked at the fabrics today, I realized that I do have a large variety, but they tend to reflect my taste for muted and floral patterns, not exactly prints that would be stimulating for a baby.  I also realized that the bright greens and blues I have tended to have some type of circular pattern.  Does that mean that I equate bright with circles?  Hmm ... something to think about!

I'm going to the fabric store tomorrow to see if I can find some fabrics that fit the color scheme.  I hope I do because my black and white collection is ROCKIN'!  It should be since I've been collecting them for years, ever since I saw the quilt, Freddy's House, in Freddy Moran's book, Freddy's House: Brilliant Color in Quilts.

Wish me luck!

First project ... BABY QUILT!

I decided to try my hand at quilting again. When I was really into it, I used to dye fabric and create original landscapes. Luckily I have the best motivation in the world - my college buddy is having a baby in October. I want to make her a quilt, and I have my eye on a simple pattern that I saw on a blog (sorry, don't remember which one). Over the years, I've made baby quilts, but if there is one thing I've learned from my nieces and nephew and how they dragged their blankets around, it's important to make the quilt comfy and simple.

For this baby quilt, I'm using an anti-pill fleece as the backing.  I considered using the quilt-as-you-go method, but I want to make this quilt quickly since she is having the baby in October!  The fleece will act both as a batting and the backing. 

I am still conflicted about the design.  I want to use my collection of black and white fabrics for the background, but I can't decide if I want to do a funky log cabin with bright colors or squares of bright colors.  The fleece is turquoise blue since my friend is having a boy, so the squares will probably be in shades of bright blue and green. 

I know how I want to quilt the baby quilt.  This is always the worst part for me and I usually try to get my sister to do this for me.  It generally involves a lot of grovelling and pleading and bribing, but since she just had eye surgery, she can't help me.  Boo hoo!

Hopefully, since the quilt will be just be the top and fleece, I'll be able to do this.  You're probably thinking, "why is she concerned with the quilting when she didn't even do the top yet?"  Well, once I get going on the top, I can complete it very quickly.  It's always the quilting that trips me up, and I have a number of quilt tops in a large plastic container that can attest to this sad fact.  Since I am motivated to get this quilt done, I have to plan for all the logistics.  Anyway, I'm a planner and having a clear goal always motivates me to finish a project.

I'm starting the quilt tomorrow, so I'll start posting pictures.  Enjoy!

Let's get this party started!

I decided to start this blog as part of my "getting back to crafts".  I've been on hiatus for over five years, with the occasional knitting and sewing here and there.  But I had forgotten how much I enjoy creating things and learning new skills.  And I also forgot how relaxing it is, which is why I'm about to "get this party started"! :)

I just had my basement redone and had a small craft/sewing room built next to my laundry room.  In the craft room, I had 2 closets installed to house my fabric and jewelry-making supplies.  I used to rationalize not doing any crafts because it was too much trouble to clear some space in the basement, but that excuse no longer exists.  I LOVE my new space, and have to do it justice.  After all, it was built for my use! 

I'm new with blogging, but in my research about crafts blogs, I've learned that this community of bloggers is incredibly generous with their ideas and suggestions.  I'm excited to join this community!