Thursday, October 24, 2013

Pressing Matters

Most of my dimensional patterns require some preparation before sewing.  Usually it involves pressing some of the cut fabric pieces:  Squares diagonally into triangles or strips into folded strips or rectangles.
My dimensional curved patterns are a little different from conventional patterns.  The main difference is that you can make curves without having to cut and piece an actual curve. 
This is where the pressing preparation comes in.  Each pressed piece can be shaped into a curve and the smallest curves can be made easily and without tedious curved piecing.  Pressing may seem like a chore at first, but once you realize that fold equals curve, pressing gets much easier.

Some shapes may be finger pressed during construction, but squares are always better pressed with an iron.

Squares to folded Triangles:
Rather than folding, holding down and pressing each piece of fabric separately, use these fast and easy pressing tips.

1.  Lay them all down:  One fast way to do this is to lay out all squares to be folded on your ironing surface right side down.  Fold one square diagonally from corner to corner and touch the fold with an iron.  You may even rest the iron briefly on the square and then fold the next square in line, moving the iron to that square.  Repeat this and move down the line, being careful not to scorch your fabric.  Set the iron a little bit lower than for normal pressing. This is especially good to make a large number of folded triangles.

2.  Stack and Group:  Another equally great way to make folded triangles is to fold squares, stack and group them in groups of 4 to 6 before touching and fixing their folds with the hot iron to preserve their folded shape.

This works well for any number and shapes of folded pieces needed and is a great way to press strips to folded rectangles.

Here are some more photographs to illustrate the different shapes and ways to fold:  Laying out all the strips, then folding and “cooking” one at a time, moving down the line, or pre-folding and grouping the strips to pressed together.  

For cutting tips see my blog about “The Art of Cutting up”. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Quilting Froggy

One of my favorite new patterns is my frog pattern, which will be released this October just as soon as the covers are printed.

The frogs have been hatching all summer and the quilt has finally made it to the quilting stage.
After layering, pin-basting and otherwise getting the quilt ready I was trying to come up with an interesting quilting design.

I decided to frame an orphan block, using the same fabrics I used for the setting of the original quilt, to practice some of my quilting ideas on a single block.  First I used my walking foot and with a light grey thread stitched around each frog block.
In the blue background I quilted a random circle design which could either represent pebbles on the bottom of the lake or bubbles in the water.  I quilted the bubbles in random sizes and shapes, some are oval, some round, and some are connected with multiple lines.

I wanted to come up with just the right quilting design for the frog background and of course the frogs themselves. A line of wiggly free-motion quilting with intermittent fly or bug swirls seemed appropriate for hungry frogs waiting for insects.  The frogs themselves were outlined as much as possible to keep them from moving.
The alternate Lily pad blocks also got the fly treatment, applied horizontally, although I used less flies and more plain wiggly quilting lines.
Last not least I quilted swirly eyes and a mouth on the frogs, which gives them a silly look.  Another fun option is to sew on embellishments to make the eyes more prominent.  Buttons can even be stacked for extra dimension or large beads can be used to make the frog-eyes.  This is better for us grown frog lovers, however, since we don’t want little ones to pick off and swallow a button or bead.  Keep an eye out for the pattern, which will go up on my website: just as soon as it is available.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Art of Cutting Up

I have been in a time crunch lately - deadlines are looming, quilts have to be made, patterns written.  Many of you know just what I am talking about, maybe for different reasons.  When you want to make a quilt for a special event it helps to get yourself organized and accurate cutting is the first in a series of steps to get things done.

Much emphasis is put on cutting strips exactly straight by cutting perpendicular to the fold line.  This is still true of course, however, not as critical if shorter lengths of pieces are needed.  Below are the steps I used to cut out another version of one of my latest designs, a modern, two-color quilt which will be revealed in the coming weeks. The original quilt looks great “in person”, but didn’t photograph quite as well as I had hoped, so I decided on a do-over.

Step 1:  Fold the fabric back the way it came off the bolt.  Then fold it one more time so everything you cut is four-ply.  Scoot your fabric so the folds are parallel - as much as possible.  It helps to work with yardage that is about 1 yard.

Step 2:  Place the fabric with the double fold towards you.  Next line up your ruler perpendicular to that fold.  Just pick any horizontal line on your ruler and line it up on that fold. 

Step 3:  First cut:  Cut the width plus about 1/4 inch as indicated in the pattern.  Then take that strip and true up to the needed measurement.

Step 4:  Cut all the first strips as shown in the pattern and carefully stack them. 
My patterns all have tables.  One column indicates the strips to be cut, the adjacent right column indicates the sub or cross cuts for these strips.

Step 5:  Cross-cuts are made with the fabric still folded, which renders four-ply cuts and greatly speeds up the cutting process.  No need to unfold the strips if the cuts are smaller than 10 inches.

Step 6:  Take the resulting pieces and stack them up so you can count the little four-ply piles.  Check off your cuts with a pencil.

Step 7:  More specific to my dimensional patterns:  Some pieces (usually marked by the letter “f” after the piece to cut) will be folded in half as shown in the pattern and I like to get this done as soon as possible, so I can begin sewing - the real fun.

Of course it doesn’t hurt that I like to make piles and survey my orderly little fabric piles.  Just for right now - we are masters of our fabric universe.  

Feels good to have everything ready!