Thursday, January 20, 2011

Borders class & continuing Asian Nights

 Monday morning was the class on adding borders.  I was pleasantly surprised to find as I worked on the zebra top that the quilt was almost square.  I did err in trimming one corner of the inner border so the line is not as straight as it could be going into the corner, but I may be the only one who notices, especially as we sandwich and quilt next Monday.

The method we were taught for measuring borders was to lay the strips across the middle of the quilt and place a pin at either end, then match up the pins to find the center. Place the center pin on the center point of the quilt along the edge and then check where the pins sit at each corner - does one have to stretch or gather a little of the fabric to square it up?  I am happy to say that I came within an 1/8 of an inch of being square at one corner and was pretty well on target on the other three corners. It will be interesting to see how far off square some of my first tops are as I haven't reached the borders class yet in Quilter's Academy - though I am getting closer and I have read it at least once.

Since I had the day off on Monday, I quickly set up my machine upon returning home from class.  I spent several hours squaring parts of the Asian Nights quilt and have almost finished the next 12 blocks.  These are the blocks where the seam is pressed towards the little four-patch blocks due to me mis-pressing the blue/blue/yellow four patches.  There is a noticeable difference in thickness along that seam.  I say almost finished as I sewed a little later than I probably should have so I have five or seven that need to be redone to better match the corners.  By the time I hope that I will have these 12 finished and can move on to the final 24 which will be pressed correctly. Fortunately I had not cut the last sets of strips so I could press the yellow/blue and blue/blue to the correct direction.

I see that Harriet teaches Town Square, the smaller version of this quilt.  She refers to it as a precision piecing workshop. That is a very apt description of this quilt.  And I think a big part of the problem I'm having is happening in the pressing of the four patch blocks as they look fine until I press, so I need to work on my technique - and I've got plenty of blocks left to press.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Class notes

After an extremely busy fall at the office, I  decided that it was worth my sanity to use a few vacation hours this month to take Quilt School I by Machine at my LQS.

Class one on rotary cutting and piecing was today.  I do things differently from the instructor - but neither of us does it wrong.  Having spent the past several months working on my cutting and piecing, this session was a good chance to get myself organized for travel with machine & supplies.

Some notable differences in the way that QA presents tasks and in class involve preparation (don't pre-wash - I did intend to pre-wash and then starch, but ran out of time this weekend - hoping it doesn't come back to bite me as one of the fabrics is VERY red... will definitely be using a color catcher when I wash this one); measuring to cut (two ruler method - which I've tried in the past and decided against due to slippage); cutting multiple layers at the same time (have proven to myself that this is generally a bad idea for ME - see slippage comment - others may find that it works well for them); sewing rows (chain piecing was not offered as an option - I love chain piecing the rows when I remember to stack them in the correct fashion); pinning at every seam junction (matter of preference, as even though I'll be redoing a few seams this week as I finish the center of the top - overall I think I'll still spend less time on assembly than I would if I was using up to four pins/seam).

Squaring blocks was skipped - though I wonder if that had something to do with the impending snow storm (didn't happen) and the instructor's desire to ensure that we could get to the assemble a row portion.  I need to go back and square a few of mine as I did try the cut multiple layers for my focus blocks - and then realized that I should have pressed open one of my creases.

I was pleased to see that my seam allowance tape is still true - and managed to get a perfect seam allowance on my first try!

I also learned a different method of pressing the seams which I like better than the one recommended in QA - to use the side of the iron. While the side of the iron does work, it is hard on my wrist.  I will need to ensure that all of the water is out of my iron before switching at home - especially as the steam function on the iron really isn't working all that well at the moment. Something quickly solved by a squirt bottle of water at my side.

So this week, I will need to remove the seam between rows three and four as there are too many spots where the corners miss - I think I need to fix one of the seams in row four and that will fix most of the problem. Then sew on row 5. I also need to redo a few of the four patch blocks as I don't like the meeting of the center corners as I'm working with high contrast colors and it does show up when I missed the seams. This will allow me to finish the sixth row and add it on.

Finally, I'll press and starch the top (starching was also not addressed in class today).

I did finish enough in class today to go ahead and pick out my border fabric for next week. Forgot to pick up fabric for backing but can get that this week.

Week 2 will be borders.
Week 3 will be machine quilting
Week 4 will be binding.

I do learn best when I have someone in the room to watch and get feedback from, so I'm looking forward to the next three Monday mornings as these are all parts of the process that I haven't attempted yet. And then I'll feel more comfortable with the upcoming QA chapters.

I'm having fun!

Monday, January 10, 2011

12 down, 36 to go...

For some reason, I made the foolish decision to use my math skills. Did you know that at 28 pieces per block, a 48 block quilt has 1,344 pieces in it (before borders backing and binding...).  Knowing that number is a bit overwhelming.  Especially when you consider how many seams and cuts and trips to the ironing board it becomes.

I've learned a lot from this quilt so far.

  • Don't practice your multiplication skills at the start unless you REALLY want to know. Well, other than what you need to do to calculate the numbers of strips/blocks to cut... well I guess you might have to do the calculations early... 
  • Squaring the blocks at each stage, NO MATTER HOW TEDIOUS is definitely important.  When you don't, yo risk wonky seams. And wonky seams in the little four patch blocks lead to continued wonkiness.
  • Even the experts can end up with odd little ends at the seams.  I found the solution to try to fix that in one of the comments on "AZ Quilting Journey" where she posted a response from Harriet - use a shorter stitch length. So I will try that on the next set.
  • Read thrice press once. It took my third pass through the chapter to figure out why my seams for the large four patch blocks ended up in the same direction as the ones for my four patch with red diagonals.  I thought I was doing a pretty good job in following the directions even with the change in color scheme from QA - but for whatever reason, I assumed press to the light blue - which is the common color in both variations of the block instead of pressing away from it.  At this point, I have the large four patches done for the next 12 blocks. So I'll adjust by pressing the seams for the blocks with the red diagonals (smaller four patches) towards the small blocks - which while it does add an element of risk, will reduce the bulk in seams for these blocks.  I've pressed but not trimmed the last set of strips, so I'll re-press to get those going in the correct direction for the final set of 24 blocks. Knowing the sheer number of squares involved, I'm doing this one in smaller sets.
  • Judicious pressing is important. One can screw up what looked like a perfectly good four patch by pulling/warping the fabric.  Go easy on the steam and starch lightly not saturate...  And be ready to unstitch those that really didn't match up to start with.
  • The seam ripper is my friend.

Once I finished stitching and pressing the first 12 blocks, I started playing with layouts. When I sketched the quilt, I assumed that the very center would be the dark blue -

However - the yellow in the center also has some appeal...

The beauty of being able to play around with fabric/layouts.  I'll make the final decision when I get the rest done.