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!

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!