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.

quilting

Sometimes You Have To Try: A look at my mishaps while trying to appliqué borders

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. 🙄

Attempt #1

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.img_1409

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.

Attempt #2

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.

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See the rounded corner on the right? Not what I was going for.

Conclusion: Better pinning is needed and need a way to preserve edges without paper.

Attempt #3

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.

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Conclusion: Pressing before removing the papers makes a big difference and the glue is not enough.

Attempt #4

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

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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.

Mitering the Corners

I used Angela Walter’s framework for mitering my borders. You can check out her episode of the Midnight Quilt Show (skip to about 7 minutes in).

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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.

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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 accidentally got too close to a pin and now it was stuck. The Purple Thang pushed it right out!

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.

Enjoy!