quilting

Pattern Matching Quarter Square Triangles

Terms

Before we get into details, let’s start by defining a few terms. Fussy cutting or meticulous cutting is a catch-all term for being intentional about how you’re cutting the fabric instead of simply putting your ruler down and what you cut is what you get. There are two general and overlapping categories of fussy cutting: motif highlighting and pattern matching.

Motif Highlighting is what happens when you want a particular part of the fabric featured in a specific part of your quilt or block. The block below is an example of motif highlighting. The cameo is centered in the block, pulling focus to the face.

Pattern matching is cutting the fabric and sewing it back together in such a way that reassembles the image you just cut apart. Usually, pattern matching includes motif highlighting (because why else would you bother?), but sometimes the purpose of pattern matching is achieve a kaleidoscope effect rather than recreating the image. The block on the left is an example of pattern matching to achieve a kaleidoscope effect. The block on the right is an example of pattern matching to recreate an image. There are four seams coming together to recreate the trash panda’s (raccoon’s?) face.

First – Gather Your tools

Having the right tools will make this whole process easier. I used starch, hot iron, rotary cutter, a good ruler, and a water soluble glue stick. Maybe a marking tool if your ruler isn’t the just right size for what you’re making. And my sewing machine…does that need to be included or can we just assume? Anyone doing this by hand?

A Quick Break for Math

We are pattern matching quarter square triangles. YOU CANNOT MAKE THOSE TWO AT A TIME. Therefore, with most patterns a math adjustment is required. Pattern writers will often have you use a 2, 4, or 8 at a time method because it goes faster and uses less fabric. When you make half or quarter square triangles one at time the size squares you cut are the sizes you finish with because you are sewing on the diagonal (instead of a 1/4 inch on either side if it). So if you cut two 4.5 inch squares and sew down the diagonal, you have a 4.5 inch square again after you trim and press. Since we’re going to have to sew two seams to get from squares to quarter square triangles, I’m going to add a half inch to give myself some room to trim and square the block when I’m done. Since I want to finish with a 4.5 inch block, I’m going to cut 5 inch squares to give me some wiggle room to make mistakes. Because the great philosopher, Big Bird, says, “Everyone makes mistakes, so why can’t you?”

Pick Your Motif

To make a quarter square triangle block to pattern match, you must have 4 full repeats of the motif in the size you need to cut. For me that, that’s four repeats of the motif that are 5 inches square. This is the part of the process where a ruler made for fussy cutting is a lot of help. I have Marti Michelle’s and one by Riley Blake. What makes these helpful is the x in the middle that let’s you center your block and see where the seams will be. You can see an examples of both rulers over the fabric below. The Marti Michelle ruler (right) has guides for a 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6 inch block, so it’s a lot more versatile than the one on the left. But the one on the left happens to be the perfect size for this project.

DON’T CUT ANYTHING YET!!

This is one of the MOST crucial steps in the process: starch. So much starch. Fabric is floppy and wiggly and shifty. You cannot trust it to stay put, and we have a lot of little lines to match up here. I use Mary Ellen’s Best Press, and I like it a lot. I spray a generous amount of starch to the back and then flip is over to press. A nice hot iron is key here. You should see some steam rising from the fabric. That is the starch setting. I will often apply another round of starch and press again. You want your fabric to have the feel of thin cardstock. You can see below that I pinched the top of both blocks. The block on the left has not been starched. Look at all the movement. The one on the right is nice and still. Once you have your fabric nice and starched, you can start cutting.

Cutting Your Block

I’ve starched my fabric into the stiffness of a Victorian Aristocrat, so now it’s time to make some cuts. Remember how I said I was adding a .5 inch to the finished block to give myself some wiggle room? This means I have to do some marking before I cut because I don’t have a pretty 5 inch ruler. So I set my 4.5 inch ruler over my fabric and line it up over the part of the motif I wanted centered on the finished block. Then I mark four reference point. Next, I use a different ruler to cut a 5 inch square. I get that’s not pretty/fancy, but I cannot afford to buy a new ruler for each project. Which means, there’s often some creativity/flexibility happening.

Now I have one pretty 5 inch block, but I need three more. So next I take the block I just cut and line it up on top of the next fabric I want to cut. This next fabric I’m cutting has already been starched. Did I mention how important the starch is? Just checking. I’m trying to get as many points of the motif on the top fabric to match the bottom. After you place your reference fabric on top of the one your cutting, using your fingers to gently slide the top fabric so as much of the pattern matches as possible. IT WON’T BE PERFECT. Fabric moves and stretches as you press and cut. No one will ever look at it as closely as you are now. This is why starch is so important, but it still won’t be perfect. When it’s lined up as best as can be, make your cut.

Preparing to Sew

I can only get half and quarter square triangles to pattern match when I sew from the top left corner to the bottom right corner. I’m sure someone smarter than me can explain why that is. I’ve just accepted it as fact and don’t fuss with it. Also, this was the point in my tutorial making process where I noticed that my other two fabrics were not big enough to cut my motif at 5 inches. I’m going to have cheat the skull block and that doesn’t make a good example. Thus, with a bit of magic, we’re now making a bee block. Ta dah! What’s fun about the bee block is we only have three color variations, so we’ll also have to pay attention to color placement. We don’t want the two blue fabrics side by side.

Divide your four fabrics into pairs. If you have any fabric that is the same or similar, put them in separate groups. This separation prevents them from being next to each other in the final block.

Since I have two of the same colorways in each group, I need to make sure they don’t end up touching. So in group one, I’ll pick the blue as the top fabric and in group two, I’ll pick it as the bottom. Which ever fabric you’ve picked for your top, fold it in half, wrong sides together, and lay it on the fabric you’ve chosen for the bottom. This lets you see if you’ve folded the top fabric the correct way. Once you have the fold correct, take it back to your ironing board and press it along the diagonal.

I also like to do a quick check of how it’s going to look finished. Before sewing anything I fold one of the blocks a second time and put them all together to get a feel for the finished product. Feel free to rearrange your fabric until you like what you see. This part can feel it bit confusing. It takes some practice to fold the fabric in such a way that it matches. Give yourself some space to play and practice. It’s the only way to learn. It’s also helpful to take a pictures of your arrangement so you don’t get turned around on the last step.

Notice that none of image lines up well here. I’m only trying to get an idea of what colors will end up where in the final block.

Here’s where we get to the actual pattern matching. Take the triangle you’ve made by pressing the square along the diagonal and put some water soluble glue on the side that will become the seam allowance (check out the picture if this seems confusing). Place the piece with the glue on top of your bottom square. Using the same process as you did when you cut, slide the top fabric until it matches the bottom as best it can. I learned about glue basing from Bobbi who you can find on Instagram @geekybobbin or you can check out her blog here.

Repeat the process of pressing the top fabric in your second group along the diagonal and gluing.

Time For Sewing

There are some masters of sewing who can fold back their top block, sew right on the fold, and get a delightfully matched block each time. I am not that master. So I need extra help. To do that I picked a sewing foot that shows me right where my needle is going to hit. Then, I set my machine to it’s biggest stich and baste the pieces together. Why yes, that’s right, I baste with glue AND thread when I’m pattern matching half and quarter square triangles. Sewing on the bias is tricky and some patterns have more lines to match than others. Using a basting stich first makes the need to rip and redo feel like a normal part of my process rather than a failure. (Remember what Big Bird said?) I learned about using a basting stitch from Lou who is on Instagram as @sand_salt_sew

If things line up, I do happy dance and move on. If they don’t, I scowl at no one and try again. This is also when I remind myself that finished is better than perfect. I’m not making a show quilt, and likely no one will every look this closely at the block ever again. Sometimes I need to look at it from a distance to reassure myself that the match is enough. If I’m keeping it, it reset my stitch length and sew over the basted line. Then I repeat the sewing processing with the second block. For this block, I didn’t like my first attempt, so I redid it. You can see both blocks

When I have two block sewn together that I am satisfied with, I check a zillon times to make sure it’s right and then trim off the excess and press the block open. BE GENTLE WHEN YOU PRESS. The starch reduces the amount of shifting, but you’re still on the bias and have one seam to go.

Don’t forget to double check you’re cutting on the correct side.

Time to repeat: fold, press, glue baste, thread baste, check, sew the seam, check x 100 and trim. When I reach the glue basting step, I check to make sure my seams are nesting and that the pattern matches in the center where the seams are nesting together. You can see on the block below I did not check and the center is a bit off. Being a bit off isn’t the end of the world, and I like to try my best where I can.

Look at the center of the block. See how the seams don’t match, but the pattern does? Also, look at how wonky the edges are. This why I add that extra .5 inch for trim space.

I didn’t take as many pictures of this step when I was making the bee, so I took some when I went back and finished the skull block. Here they are:

You did it! Congratulations! If yours is anything like mine, the edges are a little wonky. Time to square it up. Here is where I love my little 4.5 ruler because is has pretty lines I can use to keep my motif centered. If you don’t have that, you can use the diagonal line on any square ruler and use whatever half of your block is (in this case 2.25 inches) as a center line. Then trim to 4.5 inches.

TA-DAH! You did it! Great job!

PS I’ve been actively practicing my pattern matching skills for about five years now. If this is your first time, give yourself permission to be a beginner. This is advanced sewing. Also, these techniques cannot be applied to sewing together rectangles and squares without making some adjustments. When you sew triangles, you want two squares that are exactly the same because you’re sewing on the diagonal. When you’re sewing straight pieces together, you need to adjust what you consider seam allowance to allow the patterns to match correctly. I made tutorial for that years ago…you can see my growth because I didn’t even start by having you starch your fabric. Rookie move.

PPS I hate the waste that comes from sewing half and quarter square triangles one at a time so I sew together the bits I trim off. Sometimes my seams are so good I end up with two bonus 4.5 inch blocks and a 3.5 inch block. On this block my seams were wonky so I ended up with two 4 inch blocks and 3 inch block. Happy Sewing!

Project Status, quilting

When in doubt: Make a list

I have a crazy pile of quilt tops that need quilting. So I decided to make a list so I can start checking them off. Here we go:

  1. Pineapple Baby Quilt✔
  2. Black Swan✔
  3. White Swan
  4. Pineapple pillows x 3
  5. Pineapple Quilt
  6. Interwoven Quilt
  7. Tula Butterfly Quilt
  8. Cherish Quilt
  9. Ice Cream Soda Quilt (technically I still need to put the borders on)
  10. Lone Star Quilt (also needs borders)
  11. Log Cabin Quilt

Now for the pictures!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

mental health, quilting

The Courage to Rip and Redo

Sometimes you have to rip things to pieces and start over.

When I first started quilting I was obsessed with the Missouri Star Quilt Company  video tutorials. I loved watching them…I still do.

The first tutorial I watch that had me thinking, “I wanna try that!” was the jelly roll race tutorial. Basically you sew a bunch of 2.5 inch strips together end to end, and then you sew the strips together over and over until you have a quilt top.

As a new quilter, I thought all 2.5 inch strip rolls were the same. I went to JoAnn Fabric and bought their version of a roll of 2.5 inch strips. I was aware enough to notice there were only 20 strips in the package so I bought two.  I did not know that a Jelly Roll is a trademarked product by Moda Fabric and contains 40-42 2.5 inch strips from a fabric line. Other design houses have variations of the same things: Roll Ups, Pixie Stripes, Rolie Polie, etc. I believed that two of the JoAnn’s versions would be the same as buying one of the others. I was wrong.

The result was a disaster. All the fabric strips ended up grouped by value in the final quilt. All the lights, mediums and darks were together. It looked awful.

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Sometimes I would look at this picture and think, “Maybe it wasn’t THAT bad.” Then I would see it in person and think, “Nope is really is that bad.” Also, I look a this picture and notice how much my photography skills have improved.

I was so discouraged. I loved the fabric, and I hated the result. I also hated that I hated the result. I wasted by little bit of quilting money on something I could not stand to look at. It was misery.

So like any (un)healthy person, I put it away somewhere I would not have to look at it and pretended it wasn’t a thing. I denied that quilt top’s existence. I moved on to other projects, improving my skills along the way.

About six months later, this quilt top started coming to mind a lot. I started to question if it really was as bad as I remember. I took it out and looked at it, concluding it was worse. The more I knew about quilting, the more I didn’t like it. However, I had come to appreciate the power of a good seam ripper.

A seam ripper is the ultimate permission to declare, “This isn’t working. I’m trying something else!”

I ripped off the borders. And then I remembered ANOTHER Missouri Star Quilt tutorial featuring a technique by 3 Dogs quilting that used three 2.5 inch strips sewn together and then cut into 6.5 inch squares.

So I ripped the quilt into sets of three strips, cutting those strips into 6.5 inch squares. I decided to keep them scrappy and random, so I threw the squares into a laundry basket.

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I sewed them back together as per the pattern, ending up with blocks that looked like this:

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This quilt also started the habit of my youngest of wanting to play on any quilting related object I had laid out on the floor. No blocks in a layout, quilt top to be basted, or quilting in progress is safe.

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There was a time that a seam ripper represented failure to me. Only novice, unskilled, lousy quilters need a seam ripper. Excellent quilters don’t make mistakes.

Now my the seam ripper represents freedom. It’s an opportunity for a do-over or a change of a plan. It gives me the opportunity to try something new or a different way  of doing. And try again if that doesn’t work.

What I love about this quilt is that the materials and essence of the quilt stayed the same. I didn’t buy new fabric or materials. The only thing that changed was how the fabric was arranged.

I am an in-progress quilter. I am an in-progress person. I have not yet arrived a mastery level skill. I am on a learning journey. Part of learning is having the courage to declare that something isn’t working, rip it to pieces and reassemble it into something that does.

The road to mastery is paved with the lint of ripped seams…so at least it’s a fluffy road.

Journey on.

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Project Status, quilting

Bucket List Quilts

I heard the term bucket list quilts recently and I realized that I totally have a quilting bucket list. These are the big or the complex quilts that you take your time making and developing because they cannot help but be stunners! I broke my list into three groups: The quilts I’m dreaming/planning/thinking about doing,  the bucket list quilts I started,  and the quilts I’ve already finished.

Quilts I Dream About:

La Passacaglia

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This stunning version of the La Passacaglia Quilt was made by Karen Tripp of http://www.thediyaddict.com She sells the paper pieces for this quilt on her site. Photo used with permission

This quilt was designed by Willyne Hammerstien and is featured in her book Millefiori Quilts. Hammerstien’s Millefori quilts are sort of like the Godfather (mother?) of EPP quilts. The rosettes form a kaleidoscope effect when the fabric is repeated around the rosette. As you can see from this example below, the quilt is a show stopper. My husband bought me the book and the paper pieces kit for Mother’s Day/My Birthday. I’ve decided to wait to start it until my fabric fast is over. I want to go crazy with the fussy cutting and the colors, which means I need access to fabric. Plus I think after the fast is over, I’ll have enough fabric in my stash to get started that will help me get an idea of how many repeats of what I want are in a fat quarter so I can avoid over buying. I have a deal with my Instagram buddy, Annika, that if I haven’t made a rosette by January 1, 2018, she’ll pick the fabric for my first rosette. I think a barrier to finishing with be getting over the fear of starting in the first place.

I anticipate this quilt being a slow stitcher. I would be amazed if I have the top assembles in less than five years.

Dear Jane or Baby Jane

Dear Jane
Quilt by paperpieces.com They have everything you need to EPP the quilt. Photo used with permission.

The Dear Jane Quilt has a very special significance for me. My late mom-in-law was named Jane, and I miss her a lot. My daughter’s middle name is Jane in honor of the grandmother she was never able to meet. I am also a big fan of Jane Austen and the book Jane Eyre. When I heard there was a quilt called Dear Jane, I felt my heart pulling towards it. This is a quilt of many tiny pieces, which intimidates me. Recently, I learned that paperpieces.com had partnered with the author/publisher to offer an English Paper Pieced version. I’m waiting until after the fabric fast is over to start buying rows.

I’m hoping this quilt will help me learn how to plan color placements ahead of time. This quilt will also be a slow one. I hope to listen to many Jane Austen audio books, watch many Jane Austen movies, and remember my mother-in-law while I create this quilt.

Farmers Wife

I’m going really honest: If Angie Wilson of gnomeangel.com does a sew-a-long, I always want in. She picks the most epic quilts, breaks them down into steps and then builds a community to sew-a-long. It’s wonderful. Even though she’s partnered with paperpieces.com to do an EPP version of this, I think I’m going to try to foundation paper piece this one. I really want to hone by FPP skills. Also, that darn fabric fast gets in the way of EPP. I will say I enjoy the creativity needed to make this one work without more fabric.

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Color Block Solids from the Midnight Quilt Show

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Color Block quilt designed by Carl Hentsch and featured on an episode of the Midnight Quilt Show. The quilt pattern and kit are available on craftsy.com

My daughter and I have a ritual. When her hair needs to be combed we watch episodes of the Midnight Quilt show and this episode is by far her favorite. She loves the colors associated with this quilt, and she thinks Ms. Angela is SO COOL! I would love to show her how to make a quilt using this quilt. Also, I have this creative curve ruler I really want to try.

Quilts I Started:

Sugar Skulls

This quilt is in the book Quilting with Tula and Angela. I wanted to make it almost from the moment I saw it. After I saw Tula Pink’s line De La Luna, I REALLY wanted to make it. When the fabric arrived, I had to start cutting. I love the playful and mischievous of the fabric. This quilt is both. Plus, it turns out that the skulls are quite fast and easy to assemble.

Fancy Forest by Elizabeth Hartman

Elizabeth Hartman is a genius. Her ability to make animals into quilts with traditional piecing is incredible. I admired this quilt from the first time I saw the pattern. This pattern sat on my Amazon wish list for ages until my sister bought it for me for Christmas. I am really excited about finishing this quilt!

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Checked Off the List:

Lepidotera by Elizabeth Hartman

I’d been itching to do an Elizabeth Hartman pattern ever since I saw Fancy Forrest and her butterfly pattern blew my mind. I bought the pattern from a deal of the day. I would regularly take it out and look at it, but I was intimidated by picking the fabrics. My sister rescued me. She was super helpful. I am so super proud of this finish!

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What’s on your list? What are the quilts or projects you’re dying to make? What is stopping you?

quilting

Fussy Cutting

Some of the coolest blocks I’ve seen for #100Days100Blocks are fussy cut or meticulously cut. This can mean a couple of things but for the sake of this post let’s focus on cutting your fabric in such a way that when you sew the fabric back together you recreate the pattern. Like this:

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This year for #100Days100Blocks2018 I really want to hone my skills, and I thought I’d show you my process. Obviously step one is to pick the block. I’m working on block 28 from Tula Pink’s City Sampler Book. Here it is:

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Here is my fabric pull:

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My plan is to recreate the raccoon on the right side of the block, put a strip in the middle and use the solid for the left. This means, I need three pieces of raccoon fabric to line up.

I start by picking what I think of as the “anchor piece”. It’s the piece of the block I’m going to build off. In this case I’m going to start by cutting the bottom piece and then work my way up.

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Next I lay the piece I just cut over the fabric and match the pattern.

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The pins point to some of the places that I matched the pattern such as the stems of leaves and raccoon fur.

It’s time to cut the fabric! First identify seam you want to match. In the picture below that is labeled with an “A.” Next, identify the side that is going to match the edge of the block. In the picture below that is labeled as side “B.”

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You’ll notice I did not work too hard to match the pattern on the bottom of the piece. The seam isn’t going to match here, so it’s not that important.

When you are fussy cutting your seam allowance is 1/2 inch of the total size you’re cutting. Let’s say the piece you were cutting was 1.5 in by 3.5 in (that isn’t what you would cut for this block, but I do not have permission to disclose details of the patterns so we’re making stuff up.) This means when you’re cutting you will overlap your side “A” fabric by .5 inches.

Next it’s time to line up your ruler. I line the ruler flush against side “B” and then 1/2 down on side “A.” Then I cut 1.5 inches down on the “B” side and 3.5 inches across on the “A” side.

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I used washi tape to mark where the edge of the anchor piece meets the fabric I’m cutting.  Since it’s really hard to see.

You can see below the cut extends down a half inch below the anchor piece.

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At this point, I remove the anchor piece and put a piece of paper under the corner I already cut. This helps me line the ruler up with the corner so I can cut the other two sides.

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After I’m done cutting I set out the pieces.

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At this stage I often feel a little nervous because the fabric doesn’t look like it will ever match. But as you can see below, it will

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Another trick, I use a quarter inch presser foot that is a quarter inch on both sides of the foot. In this block, it doesn’t matter if the blue fabric lines up exactly, so I want any fabric shifting to be absorbed by the blue. Therefore, I run what I am trying to match through the machine first.

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I try not to obsess about if the pattern looks lined up while I’m sewing and focus on trusting my cutting and lining up the edges. After I’m done, there is a good press with starch and then it’s done!

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A word about perfectionism: I have a three rips rule. If my seams don’t still line up after trying three times I either need to re-cut my pieces or let it go. You’ll notice that ears and leaf to the left line up much better than the ear on the right. At the end of the day, I’m not making a show quilt. No one will notice the leaf being one stitch off, but they will notice the overall effect of the block. Finished is ALWAYS better than perfect! 🙂

Another note: I recently watch GeekyBobbin do an Instagram live in which she recommended starching your fabric (are you following her on wordpress or instagram? You should be.). It’s making my process MUCH easier. She also recommends glue basting which I have not been able to get to work for me. That goes to show that all methods don’t work for all quilters and you must find what fits you.

Happy fussy cutting!

Fabric Fast, mental health, quilting

The $1,000 Quilt and FOMO

Instagram sew-a-longs are my favorite and no one does a sew-a-long like Angie Wilson of Gnomeangel.com. Angie has a gift for identifying fantastic quilt patterns and engaging a community to sew a long. I have tackled quilts I would not dream of trying because I was sewing a long with her and the community she’s built on Instagram. During an Instagram live event she referred to a quilt as a “bucket list quilt.” That phrase captures why I love quilting along with her. Angie picks bucket list quilts and makes them manageable. In fact, I have my fabric sorted to join her for Tula Pink’s City Sampler Quilt in the 100Days100Blocks2018 sew-a-long.

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I am ready to get piecing for #100Days100Blocks2018 Check out all that Tula Pink!!!

Recently she announced a new sew-a-long featuring the 1920s Farmer’s Wife Sampler Quilt and a partnership with Paper Pieces to provide an English Paper Piecing version of the quilt sampler.

I. Want. In.

This kind of event is exactly the reason I started a fabric fast in the first place. I see a cool idea. I get all caught up in it. I forget to count the cost.

Let’s do some math:

The book is listed for $27.99

If I wanted to buy all the paper pieces to English Paper Piece the quilt at one time, it would cost $195.00 OR I could spread it out over course of 9 months a pay $24.00 per month ($216) and then buy the finishing pieces ($14) for a total of $230.

Next there are the acrylic templates. These are super helpful for fussy cutting the shapes AND the book only has paper templates…that means NO dimensions for cutting shapes. There are two template options: only the shapes that appear 10 or more times in the pattern ($80) or every single shape ($240).

Lastly the hosts recommend having 50 fat quarters for the blocks plus a few extra for sashing and corner stones. There are the 12 boxes of fat quarters (10 per box) that Paper Pieces used to make the GORGEOUS version of the quilt showing above. $34.95 each for a total of $420 (if we’re rounding)

Let’s add it all up:

Book: $28.00

Paper Pieces: $230.00 (because I wouldn’t be able to buy it all at once)

Templates: $240.00

Fabric (not including backing and binding): $420.00

Total: $918.00 add in backing, batting, batting, and thread for quilting, you’re easily over a grand.

Obviously there are ways to do this cheaper. Buy the book second hand, pay for the pieces all at once, only use the top ten templates, and use fabric from your stash and you’re down to $290. Or you could only buy the book and if you have quilting software like EQ8 (which I don’t) you can make foundation paper piecing versions.

My point is that the expense of quilting can get out of control really quickly, especially when I don’t take time to reflect on what I actually need. I have a habit of getting swept up in the excitement of an idea without reflecting on the idea’s long term impact (you can read more about that here). I need to ask myself if the joy of hand sewing out weighs the stress of paying for materials to make the quilt.

I want the answer to be yes so badly! I want to be able to join the Facebook group and post my blocks on Instagram. I want the challenge of stretching my EPP skills.

If I really dig deep, I also want to play with the cool kids. I admire the other makers I see on Instagram, and I want to imagine that money doesn’t matter for them. I want to imagine they live in a world where they get to make whatever they want whenever they want. But I know that isn’t true. Angie has even said many times to stay within what you can afford. No quilt, not even a bucket list quilt, is worth the stress of carrying debt.

Since I am on a fast and the only way I would be able to participate is if I was given the supplies as a gift, and I have yet to secure a wealthy quilting benefactor (is that a thing?), my original plan was to say no.

Then this happened:

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Jennifer of @yokokudo88 started the hashtag #GetYourQuiltyWishGrantedSummerEdition Here’s how it works: You post your wishes as a quilter and then someone else grants them. How magical is that?! So I posted my wish for the 1920’s Farmer’s Wife Sampler and someone offered it to me!!! I also posted three pre-cuts that came in my sew sampler box that I was NEVER going to us. I got to mail those to quilters who were excited about them. How wonderful is that?!?

In a fun little twist, a quilter messaged me and said she thought she had an extra copy of the Farmer’s Wife and would look for it. She said it turns out is was The Dear Jane book. I asked if she was willing to part with her extra copy and she said yes!!! That’s two bucket list quilts without breaking my fast. Yay!!!!

Now, there is no reason for me to spend $200-$400 on paper pieces and templates. That totally breaks the fast rules. Here’s my plan, I’m going to keep my fingers crossed and hope that the person who offered me her book is able to find it. I am going to do some research on making my own pieces or seeing if there are foundation paper piecing versions of the patterns.

Then I’m going to play around with using my scraps from #100Days100Blocks2017 and all those little pieces of Alison Glass I have and the left over Tula Pink that will inevitably exist after #100Days100Blocks2018. Maybe that will work and maybe it will not. We will have to see. In the meantime, I am breaking my habit of leaping without looking and I am going slow and planning.

mental health, quilting

From Beginner to Expert

My first block for #100Days100Blocks2018 was a legit stunner. I am still surprised that I did that. And many of you asked how. I am not an expert quilter, yet. My real area of expertise is in mental health.  So I thought I would share my thought approach to quilting, specifically developing a growth mindset.

Dr. Carol Dweck of mindsetworks.com coined the terms “growth mindset” and “fixed mindset.” She defines a growth mindset as, “The understanding that abilities and intelligence can be developed.” A fixed mindset views abilities and intelligence as permanent.

A growth mindset looks at the various skills involved in quilting (selecting fabric, piecing, basting, quilting, hand sewing) and asks, “How I can get better?” A fixed mindset assumes how things are is how they will be. A growth mindset believes people developed skills by learning. A fixed mindset assumes a person came by their skills naturally, without much effort.

One of the mistakes we make when comparing our work to another person’s work is assuming that person achieved that work with ease. My first block  for 100Days had to be re-cut right away because I forgot to to allow for the double seam allowance needed for fussy cutting. Then I had to rip and re-sew many times to get the center to line up. When all was said and done, I probably invested two hours into making that block. I struggled to execute my vision. None of that struggle is obvious from the photo.

In her book Grit, Angela Duckworth talking about improving a skill through deliberate practice. First, identify a stretch goal, something outside your current comfort zone. Work relentlessly towards that goal until you achieve it and get feedback on the process from others who are better than you.

My stretch goals for 100Days this year are:

  1. Improve fabric selection, especially mixing color and patterns
  2. Improve my fussy cutting skills
  3. Increase the precision of my piecing.

I also have a way to measure each of these:

  1. overall visual impact of the block, feedback it generates online, how many patterns, colors, fabric types did I use and did that work?
  2. how well the seams line up, is the selected image properly centered in the block
  3. Are my seams straight, is the finished block the correct size, do seams match where they are meant to?

To prove that I wasn’t always this good a picking fabric, behold two of my disaster blocks from last year:

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I hated how block nine came out so much that I re-did it with a solid pink in the middle. Block 43 I also hated, but I left it to remind myself I’m learning. You can see that even my block photography needed work.

Here is the lesson I was learning about fabric selection last year: there is a difference between blender patterns and focal patterns. Your eye needs space to rest on a block and blenders give your eye rest. My fabric pull last year was almost exclusively focal fabrics and solids. None of the patterns worked well as blenders. This is the reason I had such a hard time mixing patterns…they didn’t mix!

For this year, I’m using Tula Pink fabric, and I have blender fabrics. I’m noticing that I’m using those fabrics the most because they bring the block together. For example, I’m using the tortoise shell fabric Tula Pink’s Slow and Steady collection a lot.

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Notice how every fabric choice has a pattern but the block doesn’t look too busy.

One of the things I enjoy about declaring this quilt about improving skills and learning is that it gives me freedom to play. Here’s an example of something I tried that did NOT work.

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There is something wrong with these colors, and I can’t explain what it is…I’m still learning about color…I can say that I look at this block and think, “Gross!” So it didn’t make it into the quilt. Oh well and on to try again.

I also want to clarify between honing skills and falling into perfectionism. For example, I recently ripped and re-sewed a block because my seams did not nest exactly. They weren’t that far off:

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I didn’t rip and resew because I needed to be perfect. I ripped and resewed because I’m experimenting with pinning vs no pinning and different methods of pinning. I wasn’t satisfied with one method, and I wanted to try again. My third goal is to increase the precision of my piecing which I cannot do I do not try and improve my technique. I’m asking myself, “Can I do better?”

I also have a three rip rule. If I can’t get it right after three rips and resews, time to leave it as is or make a big change.

Here’s an example of choosing done over perfect: In this block I chose matching fussy cutting/pattern over nesting seams.

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What is the skill you are trying to improve? Once you figure it out,  decide how you’re going to measure it and follow makers who do a better job than you do. Ask people for feedback.

Try, Fail, and Try Again. This is how experts are made. It’s hours alone in your sewing space. Over and over until you figure out what works for you. Then you get to show the masterpiece on Instagram, creating the illusion that you create with ease.

Let’s get practicing!

mental health, Project Status, quilting

Grandmother’s Flower Garden Quilt and Looking Before Leaping

I love forward motion. Want to watch me crawl out of my skin? Put me in a meeting where NOTHING is getting done, like a brainstorming session. I hate brainstorming sessions. I don’t want to put 100 ideas on a board and not examine them. Examining them in the fun part. I want to pick one that seems like it will work and start working on it right now. I can always adjust, right?

There’s a word for that. The Gallop Strength’s Finder calls someone like me an activator. Activators love motion and doing stuff. There are activators in the world who are also strategic thinkers. I am not one of them. In fact, in my list of top five strengths (you can find yours if you take the Strength Finders Inventory) I have activator (likes forward motion) and adaptability (don’t mind changing plans on the fly). Put those two things together and you end up with someone who tends to jump into things and figure them out as she goes. For the most part, this works pretty well for me.

Sometimes it does not.

Around November or December of 2016, I started to get the feeling that I might want to learn English Paper Piecing. Some people I was following on Instagram were doing it and I thought it looked interesting. I watched a YouTube tutorial, bought a starter kit online, and started cutting some fabric I’d gotten in my sew sampler box. I went with a Grandmother’s Flower Garden Pattern because that was what was on the YouTube video and in January of 2017 started cutting and sewing.

I know it was January of 2017 because it’s now July of 2018 and I am about half done. I had no idea what I was starting when I bought a bunch of 1 inch hexagons and started sewing them together.

Here’s how the pattern works:

You start with one hexagon.

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Each side of the hexagon is one inch.

You sew on six more.

Then you sew on 12 more.

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Then you add 18 white hexagons as a border.

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When you live in a house with preschoolers, toys always seem to find there way into pictures.

Then you attach them with green hexagons which represent the garden path between the flowers. You need about 11 green hexagons to attach the flowers together.

As you can see, they start off really cute. Then when I get to the white hexagon border I start to question my life choices. When I’ve assembled a few together and have a long stretch of green to sew, I am sure that I am crazy.

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All the white around the edges need a green hexagon. That’s about 100 green hexagons.

I had no idea how big this was going to be. I thought I’d make it 8 rows of six flowers and that would be no big deal.

Turns out, it’s a big deal.

I learn a lot along the way when I leap before I look, and I also end up feeling frustrated. I’d never heard of fussy cutting when I started. I’m sad I didn’t fussy cut my flowers. I also have two flowers where the 12 hexagon row alternate fabric because I didn’t bother to check if I had enough fabric for a whole row before I started (turns out I did).

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See? The hexagons alternate. Those are the first two flowers I made.

This is a bit of pattern for me. I read the quilting pattern once, quickly, get a general feel and then go for it. As a result I miss stuff. That is how I ended up with an extra seam in the backing of my Lepidoptera Quilt. And why Ice Cream Soda quilt is sitting in a box looking a mess.

At this stage in the journey I’ve started to view my Grandmother’s Flower Garden Quilt as an exercise in persistence. I want to finish what I’ve started. I must accept that even thought I’d do it differently now, that does not make it any less of an achievement. There will probably be about 2,000 hexagons by the time this quilt is finished. Two thousand is a lot.

I will finish what I have started. Half of the growth is achieved through persistence. I’ve learned my lesson: I need an understanding of what I’m getting myself into and make a plan to get myself out.

If I understand the beginning and the end, I’ll have fun making it up in the middle.

mental health, Project Status, quilting

Crushed By Comparison and How To Talk To Anxious People

I few months ago I had this vision for a quilt project. Using only left over fabric from another quilt project I would make a blue/purple peacock on a background that went from yellow to orange to red. I was super excited when I started working on the project. Check out that eye!!!

I was so excited I did not read the pattern closely and ended up piecing the project backwards. I thought that was pretty cool because I think I have enough fabric to make another one in reverse, so green to blue to purple background with a yellow/orange peacock. If I made the second one the correct way it would look like they were mirror images.

Then I started scrolling through other people’s interpretation of the pattern on Instagram, realizing that what I was treating as background was actually the peacock’s feathers.

Now my idea feels stupid to me. How did I not catch that the feathers make up the background?! I’ve spent more than 30 hours hand piecing this project, and I don’t want to look at it. I don’t want to do another version mirrored version of my same stupid idea.

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Some of you may be tempted to write a comment about how much you like what I made and reassure me that my idea is not stupid.

I am gong to invite you not to do that.

If I don’t believe that for myself either I won’t believe it from you, or I will need you to remind me forever. This is why telling someone who is anxious that everything is okay is a waste of your time. If a person cannot do it for themselves, then it won’t stick when you do it. You’ll have to keep doing it. Forever.

It is also not effective to tell people who are anxious to calm down or stop worrying. That’s roughly the same as me telling you not to think about Abraham Lincoln.

Seriously, stop thinking about Abraham Lincoln.

Stop thinking about the beard and the top hats or the Emancipation Proclamation.

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STOP THINKING ABOUT ABRAHAM LINCOLN ALREADY!!!!

To which any sane person would say, “Every time I try to stop thinking about him you remind me of him, and I start all over again.” That process is exactly what happens to an anxious person. Each time you tell them to calm down they are reminded of their anxiety and start all over again.

So what to do instead? Ask people what they need to handle whatever it is they are worried about. If they don’t know, I either invite them to take a few deep breaths or take a few moments to think about it. I do not solve the problem for them. Solving the problems leaves ME with the burden of relieving THEIR anxiety. No thank you.

Where does this leave me and the peacock? First I need to make peace with how my original vision is different. Then I need to decide if I want to spend another 30+ hours making another version or if  I want to move on.

One of my favorite things about quilting without deadlines is that I can put something away for awhile and look at it again when some of the original emotion has worn off. So away goes the peacock for a bit.

Until then, I’ll be thinking about Abraham Lincoln.

Project Status, quilting

How I sew my blocks for #100Days100Blocks2018

The countdown is on! We are on our way to the start of another 100Days100Blocks challenge. I love this project! I have so much fun sewing along with all the other quilters. Since this quilt-a-long is such a marathon, I thought I’d share my process with you.

First, I sew ahead. I would not be able to manage this pace otherwise.

I start by putting all the fabrics I’m using in one spot so I can pull fabric for multiple blocks at the same time.

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I usually pick a focal fabric (in this case Prince Charming), and then look for accent colors in the print. I set the blocks together how I envision it working and then take a picture so I don’t forget what I had in mind when I actually go to cut fabric.

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Next I put the fabric in bags with one of my alphabities blocks, so I don’t forget which block I was pulling fabric for (notice a theme of me forgetting things sometimes?).

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After I cut the fabric I lay it all out on a piece of batting so I can see it all together. I also work at least two blocks at a time. Having two blocks going means I can chain piece.

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Here’s how I have my sewing area set up: I bought a press and flip cutting mat. It has a cutting mat on one side and a pressing mat on the other. I also have a tiny iron. I set up the pressing mat and iron on the side of my sewing table. I place the batting on the floor to my left. I press and then realign the blocks.

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Using the batting and pressing right next to my sewing machine minimizes that chance that I mix up pieces. I did that a ton last year and ripping seams is a pain! I also keep the alphabities piece over the block so as to not mix things up.

The process then become a lot of sew, press, repeat until…Ta Da! A finished block.

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Hope that was helpful. Happy stitching!