Monday, July 17, 2017

Climbing the Learning Curve

Paperless paper piecing is done with glue basting before sewing.  The cut fabric pieces are put down in the reverse order of paper piecing on a freezer paper template with said fabric backside up.  You fold up the seam allowance of the first piece on one side, line it up in place on the template, and put glue (Elmer's school glue) on the folded-back seam allowance.   Then you set the next piece onto it so the seam allowances are together.  Press.  Each piece has one turned up side.  Now you are all confused so please take a look at this tutorial.  I made a couple of throw away testers to get the hang of it.

See the underlying template in the photo below?  The pieces are marked by number in the order they are to be applied.  The red dotted line shows which edge of the piece will be turned up. The glue will be applied to that bit of seam allowance.  The next piece is laid down with the fold exactly on its black line and with its other sides pressed on top of the glue on the previous piece.  The blue line (see #10) tells me to cut that side with about 1/4 inch extra fabric.  BTW:  I make the templates and pattern pieces in Illustrator and print them, but they could be drawn by hand.  When all pieces are glued down you sew the seams in the reverse order from which you glued.  The learning curve is a little steep at that part.

Just getting started.  Excess glue is white, but washes out.

Templates for individual pieces.  Note the red dotted lines and blue line on them too.
Problem:  I  glued my block into a corner that couldn't be stitched.
Analysis:  Oops!
Solution:  Redo the order of construction.  That did the trick.  It takes a little practice to get your head in the right place for planning so it can be sewn.  Start on something simpler than this.

Problem:  My points were too close to the edge where two triangle blocks were sewed together.
Analysis 1:  Did I put it together sloppily?
Solution:  Since it is only glued so far and not stitched, maybe I can unglue a tiny bit, fudge a little and re-glue.  The only problem here is that the points have to match with those on the other half of the block so too much fudging might distort the whole block.
Analysis 2:  Did I trim the finished block too much?  That turned out to be the problem.
Solution:  I made a template of clear plastic, marking all the seam lines and outside seam allowance.  I can lay it over the top of the finished block now and mark the trim lines.  I also made a mark on the main template and the individual piece templates to remind me to allow a little extra fabric on the outside edges (blue line).

One triangle block completed, untrimmed.

Clear plastic template with finished size of block marked.
TIP:  I used to trim by laying a ruler over the plastic template and cutting with a rotary cutter.  Unfortunately, I discovered that it is too easy to shave little by little off the template until accuracy is impaired.  Now I mark by hand, remove the template, and then cut only fabric with the rotary cutter.

Problem:  One of my fabrics was not right.  It was too dark and didn't show up against the black fabric next to it.
Solution:  Of course >>> go to the fabric store!  I had fabrics, purse and keys in hand when DH mentioned that the road is closed.  Whaaaaat?  A dump truck went off the road and over the edge of a steep canyon (150 ft down).  Road closed most of the day.  How about the other road?  Nope, a car went over a steep embankment on a tight curve.  Road closed the rest of the afternoon.  The only road left to take me out of our mountain valley would involve too much extra travel.  Not worth it.  So I worked on another tester and will wait for open roads to go out for fabric.

Problem:  Again, seam allowance skimpy.  This time after sewing.
Analysis:  Apparently the stitching tightened up the block, shrinking it slightly.
Solution:  Cut extra fabric on all outside edges.  Don't trim until after sewing.  Try finer thread.

There is definitely a learning curve.  My first block had a major difficulty about which I will write next week.  The latest was wonderfully successful.  It took me about three hours to cut paper pattern pieces (reusable), cut fabric pieces, press, glue, and then sew two triangle blocks and stitch them together.  An assembly line will really help speed up the process, but the accuracy is fantastic except for the occasional pilot error.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you gentle learning curves this week.


  1. Though I made be arrested by the quilt police, glue is my friend. I always stock up when there's back to school sales.

  2. I don't glue mine. I have found several blocks where the glue left a residue

    1. I use Elmer's School Glue, the clear kind. I always soak my quilts when I am done and have never had a problem. The glue is all on the inside anyhow - within the seams.