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.
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.
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?).
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.
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.
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.
I’m feeling a lot of sad recently. How much sad occurred to me as I was reading the third sympathy card my bosses wrote to me since the start of the 2018. This most recent card was for the loss of my dog, Cooper. One might believe that loosing a pet is not as significant as loosing a human, and I agree with that sentiment. However, my agreement that humans and dogs are different does not lessen my sense of loss.
Since the start of my fabric fast, I’ve spent a lot more time hand stitching. I find myself most connected with what I’m experiencing when I sew with my hands. So I started using the time I’ve been connecting one piece of a quilt to another to reflect on why loosing Cooper feels like such a big deal to me. And it feels like a BIG deal to me. Partly because Cooper’s loss is connected to other recent losses, and also because I used to buy things to make myself feel better. I am choosing to not do that anymore and part of my process for not spending is to try to stay connected to my whole experience of life. So I am down a self medicating strategy in a time of stress while practicing feeling all my feelings and weaving them into my story. And Cooper is huge part of my story.
Cooper lived a month shy of 12, which for a Newfoundland Dog (big breed) is nothing short of a miracle. Nine is considered well into old age. We brought Cooper home shortly after buying our first house. Sometime after getting married, buying a house, getting a dog and eventually having children, my husband and I made that transition to FEELING like an adult. We were adults by all measure, but I did not feel like one.
Cooper was our dog my whole adult life. He was witness to some great joys and losses in our home. He ran miles with my husband while my husband was training for triathlons and marathons. Cooper laid on my yoga mat while I was trying to do yoga. I used to wiggle my feet under his warm fur during Shavasana. When I worked in my sewing room, he would lay right outside of the gate. He wasn’t allowed in because of the drool and shedding, but he’d position himself in such a way that I could not leave the room without him knowing. He is in the background of most of the photos of our kids. He slept outside our oldest’s door since she came home. Cooper is woven into the fabric of the story our family has been telling for the past twelve years. Then suddenly he was gone.
Lucky for me I am a quilter. And quilters know a few things about what to do when fabric is out of print. Unfortunately, I am now going to need to change the pattern of my life because my life is different now. That fabric we wove when Cooper was a part of the family is now forever out of print. It is time to learn to weave something new. Then we get the joy of experiencing how the past can be mixed with the present in a way that creates something new and beautiful, something unlike anything we’ve seen before.
So I am spending a lot of time sewing, slowly, one stitch at a time, letting the sadness fall across my psyche like waves during a storm. The storm will pass. The sun will shine. And I will weave a beautiful tapestry of life to tell you the whole story. I especially love the part about the big, black, drooling dog we loved.
I finished hand sewing together all the blocks for my Mischief Quit! I started the quilt in June of 2017. The fabric was gift from my mom for my birthday and the pattern was a Mother’s Day gift from my husband. I met my goal of having the block assembled in less than a year by mere days, but it still counts!! (If you’d like to try this quilt kit you can buy it here.)
Now comes the next big step: appliqueing on the borders. I have never done anything like this before. So it will come as no surprise I spent a lot of time on the internet. Then I read Flossie Teacakes’s Guide to English Paper Piecing. Lastly, Karen Tripp, the DIY Addict herself, shared a photo of my quilt top on her Instagram page and asked people for advice.
I now had mountains of information and needed to get on with it. I figured there are four borders to attach so I have four tries to figure out what technique works the best for me. As it turns out, I did something different with each borders. Yay for being a beginner. 🙄
One of the Instagrammers shared that she left the end paper pieces in and machine sewed right through them. This was my ideal since I was afraid of removing the edge pieces and distorting that beautiful pattern in Karen’s design. I used a Hera marking tool to mark the border fabric.
See the line? It means no markings to remove later. 🙂
Next I pressed the edges and applied the applique glue. I was immediately concerned that the glue’s hold wasn’t strong enough so I added pins. I sewed right through the papers and got beautiful crisp edges…then I tried to take the papers out and it was a DISASTER. I destroyed the papers, which I was bummed about because I already have plans for a repeat, AND I don’t think I was able to get all the paper out.
Conclusion: be brave and take the paper’s out first.
I took the papers out, pressed the fabric and secured the fabric with pins this time. It went okay but the fabric felt a little shifty to me. AND a few of my corners rounded a bit after taking the papers out. I did not like that.
Conclusion: Better pinning is needed and need a way to preserve edges without paper.
For this attempt, I pressed the edge while the papers were still in to crisp up the borders and then I took the papers out and pressed AGAIN with a bit of Best Press. This left me with nice pretty edges. I decided to give the glue another chances…and the second half came unglued while sewing. I had to stop to realign the fabric and pin. I felt grumpy about that.
Conclusion: Pressing before removing the papers makes a big difference and the glue is not enough.
Taking in everything I learned, I pressed the edges with the papers still in. Then I removed the papers and pressed again with the Best Press.
Before Best Press:
After Best Press: Then I glued the borders and then let it sit under heavy stuff all day to make sure it set
And I added a few pins just to be sure.
Conclusion: I still had some shifting problems. I don’t think I pinned frequently enough. I’m chalking this up to being a beginning. I think I’ll need to practice some more.
After I sewed the corners, I went around the corners to make sure everything we super tacked down and wasn’t going to move. Then I trimmed some of the bulk from the seam allowance.
I’d love say that I used pinking shears for a super strategic reason. The truth is I was afraid to use the rotary cutter because I didn’t want to cut something I wasn’t supposed to and my fabric scissors were in the other room and I did not want to go get them.
A few side notes:
I love my “purple thang” tool. It is amazing for popping out papers and for tucking in fabric tails while sewing. It costs hardly anything and is super helpful.
I had to remind myself over and over again that I am a beginner. I have NEVER done this before so the results will reflect my novice status. As we tell our OCD clients All. The. Time: done is better than perfect. When a cold Illinois winter hits and I’m snuggled under this quilt feeling super proud of myself, I’m not going to notice those few bits of paper I wasn’t able to pull out or that corners didn’t miter exactly.