Thursday, August 16, 2018

Paper Piecing Tutorial with Waterwheels

I came early to paper piecing only because I worked on the editorial staff of Quilt Magazine and was asked to design patterns to share with our readers. 


My Cloissoné Diamonds quilt on cover
I was not impressed because it was SLOW and I didn’t want to spend all that time on little, bitty, tiny blocks with a zillion pieces! I saw the process that popular teachers used and I just didn’t get the appeal - hold your pattern up to the light? Cut large fabric pieces (aka as mega-wads) and hope they cover the patch intended? Leave the paper on when you join units? No thanks!

I jumped in and tried out a few of the blocks I designed. First, I super-sized them from 3” and 4” to 8” and 10”!  Just like these paper pieced Palm Blocks in 10" size!


Sixteen paper pieced Palm Blocks in 10" size
I streamlined the process realizing that you can pre-cut squares, rectangles and triangles to correspond with the patches so you can sew with confidence that you won’t have to “un-sew” an inadequate unit. None of this “hold it up to the light and pray to the fabric gods for special dispensation.” It was “trim, then sew” and not “sew, then trim.” I saw that using a ruler to trim a patch to 1/4” BEFORE adding the next patch assures a perfect alignment. I actually began to enjoy this!

My inspiration comes from traditional quilts. 


Traditional, vintage Palm Block in today's fabric!

I love quilts from an era where the maker did not have computers. Only a pencil, paper and a clever brain! Antique quilts give me the most pleasure and I stand in awe of what these (mostly) women have done with minimal tools. This next quilt was inspired by a vintage quilt from the 1930s. I call it "That Spiky Thing."


Vintage quilt from early 1930 
I used large scale floral print for the centers and paper pieced those sharp, sharp points! These are 21" blocks (with the paper pieced units being 7".)
My updated version of that vintage quilt: Metropolitan Home Star
Because I tend to sew for the camera, I let the fabrics do most of the work. If you look at most of my hundreds of patterns, they really are yesterday’s blocks with today’s fabrics. I also love to take a difficult block and streamline it so ANY quilter can make it using today’s tools.

Here are some more samples of the Metropolitan Home Star (and then I'll get into the Waterwheels, I promise)


Single 21" Metropolitan Home Star block with added borders
Four blocks set in a staggered assembly using the Butterfly Dance collection. You can see my post and steps to paper piecing this block here: Butterfly Dance

Four stars using Butterfly Dance
I have taught hundreds of students in the classroom and thousands more via my patterns. I learned many things along the way and because my students give me some good feedback, here are some of the best tips!

1. Always cut and sew a sample block before cutting out an entire quilt! You may not like the one block; do you think you would like 16 of them even more?

2. Paper really does matter. Computer bond is too heavy. Consider tracing paper or any of the specialty papers on the market (my favorite is that put out by Martingale – fancy newsprint).

My favorite paper for foundation piecing
B . . U. . T! Listen up! You can buy cheap tablets of newsprint in the Dollar Store. Or the stationery aisle of the grocery store or Target or Walmart. Very cheap. Did I say cheap?

3. Shorten your sewing machine stitches slightly. It perforates the paper for ease in removal.

4. You can't use pins with ball heads; they will get in the way when you fold the patterns back to trim and can cause a bad cut. My favorite pins are short, silk pins without heads.

Notice the small, short pin without a head
5. The most confusing part of paper piecing is the paper! It sits between you and your fabrics and some people feel like they're driving blindfolded. I audition my fabric patches, laying them out on the foundation as they will appear when sewn. I sometimes indicate the colors, etc on the unwritten side (that's the side the fabrics show up on). The side with the writing is the side you sew on (sewing on the line.)

Shimmering Waterwheels foundation
6. Remove all paper outside the pattern; you can't paper piece on an 8-1/2" x 11" page when your pattern is only 5" in size. It will cause you to overshoot the placement of your fabrics.

Pattern trimmed to the outside seam allowance
 7. Once you cut out the pattern, fold along every line using a postcard. This will allow you to "see" the lines as you place the fabrics. 

Pattern folded along every line to help in placing fabric patches
8. After each stitched seam, fold the pattern back along the NEXT line and trim the just-added fabric, leaving a 1/4" seam. Now you have the perfect edge to align the next fabric patch. No guessing. Holding a pattern up to the light to hope you can place it correctly is primitive at best – a lot of mistakes happen with this technique.

Fold pattern back and trim fabrics, leaving 1/4" seam allowance
This is what it looks like on the front; no guessing as to where to add the next (red) patch

Easy to add the next patch - right along that nice, straight, trimmed edge

Stitched, folded/pressed and now ready to be trimmed
9. My patterns always give directions on pre-cutting squares, rectangles and triangles to best maximize your time and efficiency. I take the guesswork out of preparation. The precut patches are cut slightly oversized and assure the quilter that he/she will have adequate coverage on each patch when they sew.
Patches pre-cut, according to the size needed for each space on the pattern
 10. Consider using my "Patch of Shame" technique when you need to "unsew."  When I need to unsew, my method is to save the seam and sacrifice the “Patch of Shame.” What? That’s the fabric patch that doesn’t quite cover the space it’s supposed to. You have to assert yourself and sacrifice it for the good of the project.  Grab the Patch of Shame and with a pair of sharp scissors, trim it away as close as you can to the seam. Now grab the remaining seam allowance and it will peel away. Everything’s removed except the seam stitches.

11. Begin and end your seams outside the seam allowance; when possible, begin sewing off the paper. You need stitching in the seam allowances as you do in traditional sewing.

Red circles and arrows show how seams have to criss-cross in seams
12. Many of my paper pieced patterns involve sewing the curved pieced foundation to a curved background. You MUST remove the paper from the foundation before joining in order to have ample "ease" (remember setting in sleeves in garment sewing?) And while you're at it, go ahead and remove all the papers from your finished foundations before you join them to other blocks. Your seams are short and nothing is going to come loose.

Remove paper before joining to the curved background

Trimmed, paper removed and ready to join the curved background piece
 Can you see those awesome sharp, pointy-points?
Yes, these WILL fit together; sew slowly!
My best tip: notice the double pins at the straight ends to keep the ends STRAIGHT.
See those straight sides? My double pins held them in place.

Blocks ready for bottom triangles
Here is a picture of the original quilt made using this pattern. I call it Spinning Waterwheels. It appeared in my 2013 book "Paper Piecing Perfect Points" (Martingale). Now out of print, you can probably find it online somewhere.


Green Spinning Waterwheels
Then I decided to remake it in the black, red and white that you saw above. This is a popular workshop I teach. A lot of sewing, but very rewarding. Here is the center, which is an example of what I call "When 4 Blocks Become 5." These are 16 units that are arranged to make the center block to look like a fifth one!


Center of my Spinning Waterwheels quilt
And I kept going. What do you think? This is a 36 unit quilt.


Black and Red Spinning Waterwheels
This just needs a border. This center is 48" x 48". Yes, a LOT of piecing!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Technique Tuesday with Midnight Poppies

Benartex invited me to design with Midnight Poppies and I was sure I could come up with something. I was concentrating on that large border print. There is a black stripe on either side of it and I thought I could use one of my rulers to slice it up.



Midnight Poppies with a selection of 7 coordinates
Hop on over to the Sew in Love with Fabric blog to see the steps for making this quilt and for the pattern to make it!

Midnight Poppies Off Center Log Cabin: 54" x 54"

Monday, August 13, 2018

Are You a Chick with Sticks or a Happy Hooker?

Now, that is an intriguing title, isn't it? But like most quilters, we also love the yarn.

I can only crochet. I've tried knitting but I just can't make it work.

Today I want to share the 2019 yarn calendars from my publisher (Andrews McMeel publishes my quilting calendar).


First the crochet (because I'm partial):
2019 Crochet Calendar
And some of the projects. I even included that crocheted head of curlers (remember those ladies?). I always love shawl patterns. The crocheted basket is super using that variegated yarn. I love crocheted tea towel holders - now, that's a blast from the past!

Just a few of the crochet projects

Now, for you "Chicks with Sticks." Many of my friends are knitters. And some can do both. I gave it a try and now I'm too old to even consider it.
2019 Knitting Calendar
Let me show you how far I got when I tried to learn in January. Yes, those are DROPPED stitches and I gave it up after this.



Here are some of the projects in the 2019 Knitting Calendar. Always need hat patterns. I love that Ribbon of Hope Back Scrubber - very useful. Don't you love those Goose mittens? Those of us who still own and use clothes pins would love that cute little guy. But it's the knitted brain that just kills me! Gotta love it.
Some projects in 2019 Knitting Calendar
 Don't forget my Quilting Block & Pattern a Day calendar. A lot of good stuff in there, too!

2019 Quilting Block and Pattern a Day Calendar
You can find these online and also in some big box stores. I know that my own quilting calendar is the equivalent of almost 10 quilting books. My editor tells me that it's my best one so far (and I've been doing this since 2006)!


Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Windham Wednesdays with Cottage Joy

I like to revisit some of my blocks from the past. This one, Big Block Stars, dates back to 2006 when I designed it for a workshop and then it found its way into my second book, Supersize 'Em Quilts (Martingale, 2009). (You can see that quilt here: Big Block Stars.)

That first quilt is a whopping 30" block and I made four of them for a VERY large (80" x 80") quilt that has since been gifted to someone. But since I was only sent fat quarters of the new Cottage Joy collection I knew I could at least get a single block out of these.

Cottage Joy using my Big Block Stars pattern
Let's see the fabrics from the Cottage Joy Collection by Windham Fabrics. I absolutely love this main print. Maybe that's because I love pink and am partial to bees (if they keep to themselves, of course.)

Main Print in the Cottage Joy Collection
Here are two shots of the set of fat quarters Windham sent:

Yes, there are this many different prints in this collection!
 Then I fanned them out:

Cottage Joy fat quarters
This is the quilt I made and with those borders (all from fat quarters) it measures about 38" x 38". It's the perfect size for a little toddler, don't you think? Or a girl baby?

I made this pattern last year from a Windham holiday collection: Oh, Christmas Tree. It needs borders and I'll get it done in the next month or so in order for my grandkids to enjoy playing with it when they visit for the holidays.

Big Block Star using Christmas fabrics
One more shot of my Cottage Joy block/quilt. Just a note on those borders: I cut those also from fat quarters and had to get creative. Using 4-1/2" strips worked the best.

Creative borders cut from some extra fat quarters in the Cottage Joy Collection

You can see the several quilts I've made using this BIG block pattern here: Big Block Stars. You have to know that I like this pattern (and have for over 12 years) if I remake it again and again!

Thanks for stopping by. Be sure to check out the Cottage Joy Collection.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Garden Maze Tutorial and FREE Pattern

This was first published in August of 2012 - 6 years ago! But the lesson on how to make a Garden Maze block is timeless and I thought I'd revisit this and the tutorial.

I have a simple lesson from 1996 that you can also visit: Garden Maze Tutorial

Addison Collection by Windham Fabrics
 I had a lot of chocolate this past week (no, not the kind you eat; the kind you get to enjoy without any calories). This new collection by Nancy Gere for Windham Fabrics was calling: "Cut me up; sew me up; make me into something beautiful!"

As I only had a little over 1/2 yard of each fabric (and there are a LOT of fabrics in this collection - just look at the pics below - both piles), I decided to focus on the large scale, main print at the top and then use my pattern for the Garden Maze connector unit.
 I first wrote an article for Quilt Magazine about this unit in 1999 and called it "Don't Be Dazed by the Garden Maze." Clever, huh? It is traditionally sewn with odd sized templates. But I have designed both foundation piecing patterns and quick cutting and piecing directions for making it.

Well, what am I waiting for? I pulled out a selection of fabrics and started cutting. Yes, I did some math first, but I always design in the cloth first, check the math later.
I created TWO versions and I am providing the directions for the unit with the thinner dark brown strips, Garden Maze #1.
Cut a 5-3/4" square; finger press (or iron) a crease along one diagonal
Cut a 5-3/4" square; crease along one diagonal
Cut along the other diagonal:
Cut square in half along the other diagonal.
Cut a contrasting strip (1-7/8" x 12") and place it as shown here.
Cut a contrasting strip: 1-7/8" x 12"
Center the strip and stitch to both triangles using a 1/4" seam.
Center and sew strip to both triangles. Align the pressed lines as shown.
Press seams toward the triangle fabrics. Yes, that center strip is longer than the triangle. Not to worry!
Press seams toward the triangle fabric
Cut two strips 1-7/8" x 5-1/2" and join with a contrasting (red here) square.
Sew 2 strips 1-7/8" x 5-1/2" with 1 square 1-7/8"
Center this pieced strip as shown, taking care to align the seams. Sew one side.
Align as shown and sew with 1/4" seam

One side sewn; press.
Press and sew other side
Sew next side. Now we're ready to trim those oversized strips. For this example, I trimmed to 7-3/4".
Trim corner ends using square ruler.
Garden Maze block without funky templates!
7-3/4" unfinished size. Make 4
OK. So what? Well, if you make four, they are the setting corner blocks for this:

Garden Maze sashing with center block


OK. I'm pooping out here. To finish this:
1. Make 4 sashing units. For EACH cut two 1-1/2" x 12-1/2" strips brown and one 5-3/4" x 12-1/2" strip pink print. Yes, those brown strips ARE DIFFERENT from the Garden Maze units; it's because of the diagonal in the Garden Maze units.

2. Make 1 center block. Cut one 9" square large square brown floral and two 6-7/8" squares large scale pink. Cut pink squares in half along ONE diagonal (for 4 triangles total) and sew to each of the 4 sides of the brown floral square. This measures 12-1/2" unfinished.

3. Sew units together. Finished size: 26-1/2".

Here is a second Garden Maze block I made with wider brown strips. Different look, huh?
Wider brown strips with a different look
Thank you for stopping by! And go ahead - share this tutorial link with your friends. It makes my fabric and quilt blocks so happy.