Monday, April 25, 2016

Paperless or Paper Piecing

As threatened, I compared the timing and result of paper piecing vs paperless paper piecing. See Cristy Fincher's website for clear, complete directions with lots of photos.

Standard Paper Piecing
I design and print my foundation pattern on Sulky Paper Solvy washable stabilizer.  It took 30 minutes to cut fabric, sew and press 1/8 of a 12" star block (a 45º triangle).  I put the 8 triangles together by glue basting before sewing.  It came out 99% perfect - points meet and the center is good where 8 points come together.  It could be slightly better in the center if I had stopped stitching at the 1/4 inch mark.  Next time.  However, it is so near perfect that I will leave it as is ... or not.  I am reluctant to massacre those bias tips.  As far as I can see, the only downside to this method is pulling out the paper.  That's why I use Sulky Paper Solvy.  You can leave it in.  I usually tear it out anyway because I like the hand of plain fabric.  Any little pieces left dissolve in water so I don't have to be too picky.

Paper pattern on Sulky Paper Solvy

Paperless Paper Piecing
Next, I did the same 45º triangle of the next block using the paperless paper piecing method.  First I cut templates for each little piece from doubled freezer paper (iron two pieces shiny sides together).  It took me one hour to assemble and glue the fabric pieces.  I started to sew them and then realized that for a complex pattern like this (13 pieces) I would end up with a product that I couldn't measure and trim precisely so that points and seams matched exactly to its adjacent triangle. I could have made a plastic template and carefully marked it.  It would be do-able, but I am afraid that it has a high potential of ending up wonky, and I don't want wonky stars.  The paperless paper piecing is fascinating, but I will continue with paper and absolutely with glue basting.  Maybe you are braver than I.  However, it would probably work better with a simpler pattern, and there would not be any paper to pull out.

Gluing & sewing went well.  How do I trim it?????
TIP:  By all means check out Cristy Fincher's website and see how paperless piecing is done.  I confess I am a novice, but have decided not to use it.  I am very proficient with paper piecing, but you don't know until you try.

What is glue basting?  Put your pieces right sides together and run a thin line of Elmer's School Glue (no other kind) in the seam allowance of the lower piece.  Carefully matching seams, edges and/or points finger-press the top piece to the lower one.  Then iron to facilitate drying and to set it.  It will all wash out later with no residue or damage to the fabric.  If you are not satisfied with the result you can easily pull the glued pieces apart and redo. Finally, sew the seam.  You will be amazed at the perfection you have created so simply.

First two blocks are a success.
While I am having fun sewing these, I am also preparing the pattern and purchase plan for my spiral that will be my next major project whether I finish the stars or not.  I can always come back to them.

BTW:  My Bigtop spiral and Phoenix will both be showing at HMQS in Salt Lake City May 5-7 and in the Minnesota Quilter's, Inc. Show in St Cloud, MN, June 9-11.

Sew a happy seam this week.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


I feel such freedom.  I loved doing the Phoenix, but it dragged out for 1 1/2 years because of all the problems.  I have started my thread painted portrait, but I find that I tense up, which makes my sore shoulder complain so I limit the time I work on it.    However, it is coming along nicely and fairly quickly.

As a backup, I have started another project too.  It will be a scrap quilt using leftover fabrics from the Phoenix.  I think it may end up a bit wild.  I have had fun on Illustrator designing foundation pieced patterns for a variety of stars.  It would be fun to have every star different.  There will be room for some interesting quilting in between the stars.  I do not intend to show this one.  I don't know how big it will be.  I don't know how long it will take.  I don't really care.  It is just a fun project to have around  in the wings when I am working on something more serious.

I am torn between regular paper piecing and paperless paper piecing.  I did a partial block with the paperless method, finished it all up and one piece of fabric wasn't enough for the seam allowance so I tossed it and am now doing the block with with paper.  Now I think I will try again with the paperless method.  I should time the two methods and see which is quicker.  I'll think about it!

Doesn't look like much at this stage.
TIP:  It is really fun to do an unplanned quilt sometimes.  I think I will do a block or two here and there, and just let them accumulate.

I will also be taking a class by Barbara Yates Beasley in mid-May.    She does lots of animals both realistically and fancifully.  I couldn't pass it up because it will occur right here in my little mountain town.  We are supposed to bring fabric scraps, but I am doing my own little dog and I don't use her colors in my quilting, nor do I save a lot of scraps.  My daughter said, "Why don't you use some wild colors that you already have?"  Well since this is my first class with Ms. Beasley I decided to go realistic.  Besides I am drawn to photorealism, so I went out and picked up some appropriate fat quarters.  What fun to buy some new fabric!  The photo below is the one I am planning to do.  I am hoping that those eyes will be the centerpiece.

TIP:  If you have a few shekels to spend it is so validating, relaxing, and fun to buy a little fabric (or a lot of it).

Dixie as a puppy
Those projects should take me through the summer, and I will start another spiral quilt in the fall.  It is already designed and will be my first foray into the Modern movement.  Definitely out of my comfort zone, but I think it will be straddling the border of Traditional and Modern.... or maybe it will just be an Art quilt.

Sew a happy seam this week.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Flying toward the Sun

Done!  Isn't that a fabulous word?  Sometimes I have felt that the Phoenix and I have been trapped in a tunnel, but this past week we broke out into the sunshine.  I finished.  After more than a year, I finished!  I only have to hand stitch the sleeve on the back.  I plan to show the quilt so I can't post a full photo until it is accepted in its first show.  Here is the bird hanging alone on my fancy design wall.  It hung there while I quilted the background quilt onto which I eventually sewed it.
Thread-painted Phoenix
I am breathless with the anticipation of starting a new project.  While the quilt was drying on the blocking board I began preparation to redo the portrait of my grandson.  The problem I had the first time was thread choice - too pink for Asian skin.  I have since purchased threads in brown tones, which should work better.  The next challenge was to print the posterized image at decreased opacity on Sulky Sticky to stick to background fabric as a guide.  Unfortunately, my Sulky Sticky is on a tight roll and I could not get it flattened enough to go through the printer.  What to do?  I thought that ironing it flat would be my choice, but can I iron the stuff?  So off to the faithful, useful Internet.  After looking at several sites I found that you can iron transfers onto it for embroidery purposes.  What I took from that piece of info is that it can be ironed.  So I did, placing it under a silicone pressing sheet.  It flattened out beautifully and I was able to print the portrait.

TIP:  Use the Internet.  There is a ton of useful information out there on the products we use for quilting (but then, you already knew that).  An added benefit is that researching and continued learning  keep your brain agile as you get older.

Black Belt
The dark strip across the eyes is where two pieces of the printed Sulky Sticky overlap.  The thread painting will cover it or I may use an eraser to tone it down before sewing.  I can also gently lift it and carefully cut it away.  Trial and error is my middle name.  I have begun stitching one cheek with the lightest colors.  I find thread painting very relaxing - much like painting in other media.

Sew some happy stitches this week.

Monday, April 4, 2016


Where do you find inspiration?  Everywhere I look I find ideas for my quilting, and by that I mean the sewing and design as well as the actual stitching for the final sandwich of a quilt.  I see design in nature, wrought iron gates, fabric designs, shadows, other peoples' quilts, and many other places.  My brain sucks in ideas and I collect pages from magazines and put markers in books with interesting art.  Now and then I even look through those sheaves of paper and paper-sprouting volumes.

I mentioned in previous posts that in spite of what I thought was careful planning I have ended up spending way too many hours un-sewing my beautiful plans.  After the latest rip session to remove realistic thread painted fires I snugged down excess fabric with grid quilting.  Then I cut pieces of three different fabrics into interesting shapes originally drawn on freezer paper.  I laid these out over  each other and the grid quilting to suggest fire.  It looked far better than a realistic rendition of flames and reminded me of a bed of coals.  This is so perfect because it does not detract from the thread painted bird, which is the main attraction, but suggests that he is rising out of a hot place.

Fabrics and some of the freezer paper patterns
I was reluctant to tie up all my fabric by ironing fusible onto it before cutting shapes.   I wanted to be sure that all was well with the design in situ.  I cut the fabric pieces and played helter-skelter with different arrangements.  When I was satisfied I fused MistyFuse to the back of each piece.  This was a real nuisance as it was hard to manage the flimsy fusing material and cut it into the necessary shapes.  I then ironed each piece of fabric and its matching MistyFuse onto parchment paper, and then trimmed around the now paper-backed fabric to get rid of any fusible material sticking out from the edges.  Lastly I removed the paper.  I do not recommend this method, but I didn't want to waste fabric or fusible on an uncertain outcome so I did it the hard way.  It was successful anyway and I love the final, fused result on the quilt.

TIP:  Be sure to protect your iron and ironing board with heat-resistant teflon, silicone or fiberglass sheets when fusing.  I also have a teflon iron shoe, which covers the sole plate of my iron so I don't have to clean it when I am done.

One raw-edged appliqué group stitched down over the grid
(looks very bright in isolated photo - more subtle on the quilt)
Shows more of the appliqués.  The red, dotted fabric seems to sparkle.
What does all this have to do with inspiration?  Inspiration was provided by the sun as I came in from walking the dog before breakfast.  My quilt was lying on a card table and the early morning sunshine shone through a window from a low angle.  It lit up the grid design under the appliqué and made it look incredible.  The grid even showed up lightly where the appliqué was fused on top of it.  Ten minutes later the sun had moved on and the effect was gone.  After seeing that, I don't think I will do the McTavishing, but am going to try it some more on a tester before I decide for sure.  I may very well leave it as it is. There is no need to do more quilting except for design purposes and the sideways light is really beautiful on it.

Sunlight on the grid (lump is from quilt being folded over itself)
This last photo is the best reflection of the subtlety of the appliqué.  The background under the appliqué is made up of three different fabrics sewn together in wavy lines like in landscape quilts.  All together it looks like one piece of fabric.

TIP: Sometimes less is better.  Let the ideas percolate as I have said before.  I percolated today as I went into the National Park and walked across (yes, across) Bear Lake.  It was frozen and had a big snowman in the middle of it about 7 ft. tall!

Snowman on Bear Lake; Hallett peak in back.
Sew a happy seam this week.