Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sashed Quilt Settings -- Designing and planning

When you look at a quilt -- hanging in a show, featured in a magazine, or included on a Pinterest board -- what aspect of it catches your eye?  Is it the color, or the block design.  Perhaps it the fabric style.  For me, it's the setting -- edge-to-edge, sashed, straight or on-point and all the other myriad of possibilities.  More than imitating the exact design of a quilt, I'm looking for setting ideas to use in the quilts I design. 

So I'm going to start this tutorial series about Sashed Quilt Settings by looking at design options. 

To design the sashing for a quilt, I use a combination of drafting it out in Electric Quilt and auditioning on my design wall.  I can't visual the impact it will have on the blocks so I have to "mock" it up so my mind can see it physically.

The simplest strategy is to frame up the blocks -- the most important decisions one needs to make when doing this is what color to use and how wide to make the sashing.  This is one of my teaching sample for set-in piecing (y-seams) with 8-pointed stars.  I used Marti Michell's 2 1/2" Stripper Set for this version.
The quickest way to make these decisions is auditioning. Get out all the colors you are considering.  Put all of them on your work wall and lay some blocks on top of each of them.  Leave the room and come back later.  When you look at the quilt, pay attention to what your mind says!  When given several options, it will almost always eliminate one or two possibilities at the first glance.  I find this approach of "elimination" gets me to a decision faster.  Since I'm usually trying to work out of my stash, I'm more concerned with finding the best option that I already own than I am with finding "the perfect" fabric.  Nothing disrupts my momentum faster than the quest for "perfect".

Once you've settled on the color, now you can audition for the best width -- again, I encourage you to audition several options at the same time.  It always gets me to a final decision faster than putting up one option, taking it down, putting up another option -- frankly, my brain can't compare two things when it can only see one.

There are other times when I want to "float" the blocks.  This means the sashing will match or blend with the background fabric of the blocks.  I do this for one of two reasons.  I want to focus attention on the design of the blocks.  And often, it allows me to create a secondary design in the quilt.

The quilt below is one of my teaching samples for Marti Michell's Multi-size Kite Ruler.  The Rolling Kite blocks I made are quite large - 17" square -- so it only takes six to make a twin size quilt!!  When I laid out the blocks in Electric Quilt, I didn't like the blob created by the large corner triangles coming together.  When I separated them with sashing, I noticed that adding a cornerstone created a secondary block (the Shoo-fly) block.  I liked it!  The only thing left to determine was the width of the sashing and how to expand it into the final border


Here's another example.  This is one of my students' renderings of my pattern, Trip to the Stars.  The stars in this setting were created as I set the blocks together with sashing that matched the background fabrics of the blocks.  I used Marti Michell's Sashing Stars Set which allowed me to add two different style points to my sashing.  I wish I had space here to post all my students' versions of this easy quilt!

Next week I'll continue to explore Sashed Quilt Settings with a look at pieced sashing units.  In the meantime, think about setting up a Pinterest board for sashing ideas!!
Mary Huey

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Pressing Basics for Piecing -- Part 3

It's Tuesday again already!

Today I'm going to share my thoughts on pressing blocks and they are simple.

If the block has an odd number of units -- 3 by 3, 5 by 5, etc. -- and you are setting them together edge-to-edge, half the blocks should be pressed exactly the same way and the other half should be pressed exactly opposite.  Then when you lay the blocks out, alternate a block from the first half with a block from the second half.

These are 9-patch and shoo-fly blocks for the double/queen size version of my pattern, Marie's Scraps.
This is my crib/lap size version of Marie's Scraps.
If the block has an even number of units -- 2 by 2, 4 by 4, 6 by 6, and so on -- and you are setting them together edge-to-edge (no sashing or alternate blocks), all the blocks should be pressed exactly the same way.   The photo below shows the lower edge of one block (with seams pressed to the right) as it comes up to the upper edge of the adjacent block (with seams pressed to the left). 

These blocks are the 4 by 4 blocks of my pattern, Mississippi Mud.
This scrappy red version of Mississippi Mud is brand new -- maybe it should be called Red Velvet Mud?
Following these two rules will assure you that as the seams come together along the edges of the block, they will automatically mesh together with no lumps or bumps.  It's a no-brainer once you eliminate helter-skelter pressing!

When setting blocks together with sashing or alternate squares, I prefer to press all of the blocks exactly the same.  While it doesn't have an impact on the setting-together process, I think it has a beneficial impact on the quilting if all the blocks are the same -- I know where to expect the lumps and bumps as I move across the surface of the quilt.

I told you they were simple!

I don't know if there is another "part" to the pressing series -- there might be?  Be sure to check back next week and see.  And watch for a progress report later this week on my 2013 UFQ challenge -- there has been progress!!!

Mary Huey

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Pressing Basics for Piecing -- Part 2

Here's some advice on pressing as it relates to chain piecing.  You do chain piece don't you?  If you don't you need to start using this technique.  It saves approximately 25% of every spool of thread -- think about how much you snip off and throw away!  It eliminates all that clean-up thread snipping saving time in the long run.  And it usually prevents those annoying incidents of fabric being sucked into the needle hole of your throat plate. 
So when you are chaining piecing units such as the flying geese below, they come off the machine in a long string like this. 
Anything you need to clip apart in order to use it in the next step, clip them apart.  In other words, I have to separate these geese to be able to sew them to something else.  Stack them in an orderly fashion -- all the same -- so you don't have to think so hard as you press them.

I've stacked these so that I can press with steam to set the stitching and then lift the left triangle up and press that seam to one side.
Pressing flying geese units this way eliminates bulk at the top point making it easier to set it together with other units.  That often breaks the "press towards the dark" rule but less bulk trumps everything in my opinion

 If you are chain piecing units together that will be joined directly to one another, do not snip the chain!!  Go to the ironing board and lay them out in a string as below.  Mine are the first step in sewing together the 4-patch unit for Marti Michell's Tessalating Windmill.

Now flip every other pair up so it's laying in the opposite direction.  Set the stitching with steam.
Now when you press, lift the piece on top and press the seam towards it with the side of your iron on a dry setting.  First seam will point up, second will point down, and so on.  Each seam will be opposite it's opposing seam automatically without thinking too hard.
Now you can snip the chain, but I only snip between the pairs.  I leave the chain between units that will be stitched together -- that way if I get muddled about what edge I'm suppose to be sewing, the chain is there as a reminder.  So I leave the chain between the first and second because they are going to be a block.  I snip the chain between the second and third because they are two different blocks.
Make sense?  If it doesn't, you know where to find me!!
Now go press some stuff!
Mary Huey


Monday, October 7, 2013

My first tutorial -- pressing basics for piecing -- Part 1

Well, that week whizzed past and Tuesday is already here!    Time to write my first blog tutorial.

To begin, you need to know that I was trained as a dressmaker  -- clothing construction was my college major and so I bring an "attention to detail" mindset to my piecing.

If you don't already have a "good" iron, ask friends what they like and try theirs out -- pay attention to the weight; how fast it heats; if you like steam, does it put out a good quantity of steam; automatic shut-off setup; smoothness of the plate; ease of cleaning, etc.  This is an important tool so you want the best one for you and your budget.  I like a heavy iron but the arthritis in my wrists doesn't -- so I've started using the Oliso Pro Smart iron that sits flat and my wrists are happy again because I rarely have to lift the iron.  (I like that it's yellow, too!)

Next, clear off the ironing board -- sounds silly, but flat surfaces have a way of attracting stacks (of important stuff).  It's easier to press your work if the entire surface of the board is available.  (If you are afraid of losing the pile of stuff on the board, just set it on the floor below temporarily.)

I believe it's better to press all my fabric before cutting.  It's the first step to accurate cutting.  If the fabric seems soft or wobbly, I size it with Best Press Starch Alternative.  That means pressing out the center crease so I can fold it for strip cutting more accurately.  In my zeal for using lots of fabric that has been folded up in my stash (for years), I accidently, and happily, discovered that by hanging fabric over the shower rod, spritzing it with water, and coming back later (maybe tomorrow), most of the wrinkles and creases disappear on their own!!  Love that!!  (Just be sure to get it off the shower rod before someone needs to use the shower.)

I always go to my ironing station ready to work!  No tossed salads of stuff to be pressed -- it wastes mental energy to look at each one and decide what to do but when all the pieces are stacked the same way, I just need to make the first decision and then repeat, repeat, repeat -- zoom, zoom!!  I also pay attention to having the fabric on top which I will be pressing a seam towards.  This strategy will cut down on your time at the iron!

Don't do this!
Do this!!
I press on the right side to avoid those little pleats at the seam line and I work with the side of the iron, not the tip to prevent stretching the fabric.  Steam or dry -- it's up to you.  I use steam most of the time -- it softens the fabric and makes it easier to tame.  The trick is to remember you are pressing -- that's an up and down motion.  We aren't ironing (moving the iron vigorously across the fabric, back and forth) -- that's what causes stretching.

My cardinal rule is to press every seam before crossing it with another seam.  Start by pressing it flat as sewn -- that "sets" the stitching and flattens the fabric which makes a subtle difference in it's behavior. This is where I use a spritz of steam -- it softens those stubborn lumps and then I go "dry" to press it to one side or open.  Suit yourself on the pressing to one side or open -- I know gals who do both and will argue for their preference.  I press to one side and towards the darkest fabric or the least resistance as often as possible.  (Remember there will be always be exceptions.)

Set the stitching.
Flip the top piece towards the seam.

Press into the seam with flat edge of iron
Now it's time for you to press some patchwork!! 

If you've been following my UFQ progress report -- did you notice that the pressing examples are UFQ #4 -- making progress!  Next time I'll discuss some specifics of pressing patchwork blocks that I've discovered improve the quality of my piecing.

Eager to read your comments!!