Monday, July 17, 2017

The Maker's Tote -- Part One

On my last road trip across central Ohio, I left a few hours early with the thought I'd take some shopping or birding breaks.  The first stop was at Sew To Speak in Worthington, Ohio -- a newish shop filled with modern fabrics, yarn, and cheerful people.  I left with a few pieces of fabric and the Maker's Tote pattern from Anna Graham at Noodlehead

Then at the beginning of July, a group of gals on Instagram announced the Maker's Tote would be their project of the month and it seemed like a call to me to work on one, too -- not just own the pattern.

Once the decision to make something is made, the next job is to pull fabric and a piece of handwoven fabric from Ghana that my anthropologist sister brought me years ago was laying on top of a pile.
It's a sturdy somewhat coarse fabric and will be perfect for the outer fabric.
But do I have anything that will work with it or do I need to shop?
Not to worry -- look at all those teals and golds?
There are a couple new pieces but the majority is from that deep stash I own!!

With so many prints to chose amongst, I decided to piece a small scale tumbling block to show off the "set-in piecing simplified" technique which I teach -- should be an awesome conversation piece!
I worked with 1" finished 60 degree diamonds using G48 from Marti Michell's Set G (it's also in her Grandmother's Flower Garden template set).  My value inspiration is that narrow band second from the lower left corner of the package.
The day I decided to begin was beautiful outside and I wanted to be sitting in the back yard watching the bird feeders.
Solution?  Move the cutting to the patio table!
Can you see the small rotary mat on top of a larger one?
That makes all the cutting and trimming easier since I can twist the little mat in any direction!
That evening, I began to piece the tumbling blocks and decided to keep track of how long it took me. 
You do know I chain piece through these?
That's what my DVD and workshops are all about! 
Piecing tumbling blocks is the best way to learn the process and this stack of 30 blocks took just over 30 minutes.  Now it might take you longer in the beginning but with practice, it's an awesome technique. 
All pressed and ready to layout! 
I'm making a section large enough for the front pocket of the tote.
I'll fill in the sides with extra diamonds. 
I have found it's easier to assemble sections rather than rows -- much less cumbersome and easier to maintain the chain-piecing process.  In the picture below, I've divided all the tumbling block units into groups of three and two for the first step. 
Even though I need to start and stop at "dots" to keep the ends of the seams open, I'm still able to chain-piece. 
I call this the "Y" unit -- the alternate units are upside-down "Y" units. 
All the "Y" units are assembled and laid back out -- working from the layout is the secret to keeping on track in my experience.  There are a few single units across the bottom. 
Now I begin to set the "Y" units together -- the upper pair is already pieced and the lower pair is next. 
It's coming together! 
More progress -- two halves with a few single units to be set into place. 
I worked back and forth between the two halves adding the single tumbling blocks and extra pieces needed along the outside edges to complete my pocket. 
Everything is added and it's time to piece the center seam -- there will be nine individual 1" long seams and so I will throw in pieces from another project as "leaders and enders" at this point to keep the chain going!   I pieced the last of the 4-patches for Long Time Gone as I assembled this piece.
Now it's time to press! 
I have found that waiting to press until the entire piece is assembled makes it easier to keep adjacent seams out of the way of the y-seam I'm stitching.  Once they are pressed, you need to be constantly alert about moving the seams to one side or another. 
The pattern calls for interfacing this pocket and I fused that to the back side of the patchwork for extra reinforcement.  Then I laid the lining right side down on the patchwork and stitched them together leaving a 3" opening along the top edge. 
And it's beautiful!!
Next step is to decide how to position it on the Ghanaian fabric, cut all the pieces for the tote and settle into the studio for a long session!
Maybe two long sessions -- there are zippers!?!

Hope the week is off to a good start for you!

If you are on Instagram, you can check out #makerstoteclub2017 to see what the other sewists are doing with this pattern!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Dodecagon Progress and Tips

It's been several months since I shared the beginning of my version of Marge Sampson-George's Dodecagon pattern (HERE).  I've been poking along with it and have just started the final assembly of dodecagon #13 of what I think will be 21 in the final version.  I am so inspired by Kate's version (@midknightquilter on Instagram) that I've started to mess around with the basic layout suggested with the information Marge included with the templates and papers.  

Here are the first twelve!
Looking at them on the living room floor isn't ideal but it's the largest clear flat space in the house right now.  Thinning out is a messy business but that's another story!

All of them will be outlined with black hexagons and there will be four large floral pieces plus more hexagons outlining the dodecagons -- maybe scrappy greens??
Does auditioning for the color using the rug count?
This week, I spent a morning with some local gals who also want to make this pattern -- they purchased templates and paper from Paper Pieces here in the USA.  Not that I'm an expert but I'm thirteen blocks ahead of them and was able to share some tips about what is working for me.
Maybe you might be interested, too?
I think some of the tips I've discovered will apply to other English paper pieced designs with similar centers where eight or more pieces comes together.

I prefer thread basting my EPP (have never been a glue fan -- not even in grade school) and I find that doing my basting in the same direction around the pieces is an advantage.  I happen to go counter clockwise but clockwise would work too as long as you are consistent.  
Shouldn't do "either or" -- pick one and stay with it.
The advantage in my view is that it enables you to swirl the seams at the center without giving it much thought because the seam allowances are lapped the same way on each individual piece.
The photo below zooms in on the hardest spot to match -- the "corner" on the brown blade where the pink blade has to match is more of a "bend" and so going slowly and double checking before the stitching starts is important. 
Get careless about this and you'll be destitching!!
I've been assembling the blades into quarter sections of three -- seemed quite logical to me but the group had all tried to construct a half block (sort of Dresden plate style). 
I think the logic I applied comes from piecing 8-pointed stars in quarter sections.
This approach helps me achieve a sharp V-intersection at the center of the blocks and that's critical.
Then I piece the quarter sections into halves and finally do the center seam which I do in two separate seams coming from the outside edge to the center, tying off my thread and then coming in from the opposite edge.  The result is that I haven't actually sewn through the center -- there is a tiny little hole but it doesn't seem to be a problem. 
If you look back up at the dodecagon outlined in black hexagons, you'll see my centers aren't perfect but a search on Instagram for #dodecagon shows me I'm doing as well as most others with this!
And the blocks are getting better with experience!

So perhaps these are some helpful tips you can apply to your own work!

Looking ahead, in the studio this week, I've started to review Emily Breclaw's new book, Adventures in Hexagons, which was just released by C&T Publishing.  This is the beginning of my version of one of the quilts she designed for the book.  The patterns in the book are compatible with Marti Michell's hexagon templates sets which I'll be using for the cutting and I'll be machine piecing using the technique I teach, Set-In Piecing Simplified.
More to come on August 1 as part of her blog tour for the book!!
Ready for the weekend!!
We've had a bunch of rain so weeding should be a snap and is at the top of my "to-do" list!

See you next week!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Scrappy Long Time Gone Piecing Progress

I'm  looking back at my Instagram posts to see when I began to piece this quilt -- looks like I posted my first finished block on March 19.  Here I am, almost 4 months down the calendar and still on schedule!?!  I sorted out all the blocks by "sections" to be sure I had everything finished.  I didn't even need the "amnesty" week the organizers allowed for catching up with the block piecing!!
Once I was sure I had everything, I began organizing the checkerboard fill-ins sections and assembling the six sections of the top.  Sorting through the leftovers from sixteen weeks of piecing provided most of the strips needed for the checkerboards and helped clear off the cutting table.
My strip sets were various lengths which helped keep everything scrappy.
Once the strips sets were pressed, I paired them up for quick cutting by laying them right sides together with the seams meshed together.
It's important to maintain consistency when piecing light/dark 4-patches.  You think it won't matter which direction the pairs are facing, but it does!!  Take my word for that -- been there, done that and it doesn't work -- well, it does if you de-stitch.
To quickly pair up sets, I start by sorting them into stacks by color as above. 
Then I pair up all the sets from one stack with something from another stack until that stack is gone, so I've paired up all the turquoise in the picture below -- time to move on to the green stack.  
Sometimes I "manage" the combinations by only pairing up a warm color with a cool color.  
I find it doesn't pay to get too fussy because there is a gremlin hiding in the studio closet who comes out and rearranges what I've arranged?!? 
Case in point -- there were not blues or purples together when I laid out this group of blocks!!
I must say, the crisp contrast of the checkerboard sections have me thinking about a larger scale checkerboard quilt -- the 1 1/2" strips make for a cute piece but I don't think I'd stay with it for a larger quilt at that scale!
My checkerboards are all finished and I am past the halfway point with the final assembly.  I've run into a couple instances of the checkerboard being too long.
No need to panic!!
Experience has taught me to simply go back and take a slightly deeper seam here and there in a band until the lengths match. 
No need to destitch -- and as you can see my Bernina 1/4" foot makes it easy to see what I need to do.  I'm guiding the original seam along the inside edge of the presser foot. 
From the right side, you hardly notice and no one else will notice it at all!!
This is section 5, waiting for me to return to the studio and stitch it together.  I love how the black is making everything sparkly and breaking up sections to calm the quilt down a bit.
One more session in the studio and it will be ready for the borders.  I found a backing fabric in my "big hunks" stash -- love when that happens!!  And I think I've come up with the quilt's ultimate destiny -- that should provide the incentive to move all the way through the quilting!!
Most of the colored prints in this quilt have been gleaned from my scrap basket and my strip boxes.  There are even some precious little favorite "last" bits tucked here and there.
The center blue square in the upper left corner churn dash is a scrap from the first dress I made when I was 11 years old!!

So time to start a new project, right?
And it's on the cutting table -- hopefully I'll be far enough along with it later this week to share!
Keep on stitching -- there's lots to do!!


Linking up with SCRAPTASTIC TUESDAY today!!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Third Quarter 2017 Finish-A-Long Goals

Given that I didn't meet all my goals for the second quarter I'll be rolling over these two projects -- quilt tops that need quilted!  I'd like to give my Smorgasblock quilt away in mid-September -- perhaps the "deadline" was too far off to motivate me during the spring?
I also want to finish this sweet little crib size quilt and get it listed in my Etsy shop -- it really needs a nicer home than my UFO shelves, don't you think?
Then there are the two quilts I picked up from Sarah at Quilting by the Mill in early May -- binding is cut -- surely I can get that put on sometime in the next 3 months???
This is my orchid kaleidoscope quilt top -- in four sections for a more manageable quilting experience.  It's gorgeous and will look fabulous in my newly redecorated bedroom, so time to get in gear and finish this one, too.  I think I can quilt it using the same pattern I used on a previous kaleidoscope quilt so trying to figure out "how to" should not be an excuse to hold me back. 
Here's another quilt I want to gift in September and it's a simple quilting job as well!!  Will I get it done??  I sure hope so!!
Many years ago, my youngest sister, an anthropologist brought this piece of fabric back from Ghana for me.  This heavy cotton is handwoven in strips and the strips are stitched together.  It's impossible to photograph the "joining" but it is down the middle of the widest black stripes.  I finally found a project for it!!  The Maker's Tote by Noodle Head (at the moment, the pattern is being shy -- okay, I've set it down in a stupid place -- so you'll have to go HERE to see it).  It looks a bit intimidating to me but @robotmomsews is hosting a sew-along on Instagram during July -- might just be the motivation and encouragement I need?  
I'm thinking some of this Kaffe that a friend gave me for my 70th might work well with it??
Six goals -- two per month?
I think I can do this!!

What's on your list?

Linking up at She Can Quilt -- I'm number 69!! 
Check it out -- there's some inspiring projects going on out there!!