Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hand piecing- Gather your Tools

I am inviting everyone to hand piece a quilt with me. While making this quilt I will describe my time saving and very useful method based on Barbara Johannah's machine piecing method. Even if you do not want to make this quilt- you might find the method valuable to use in your own projects.

You will need to make three triangle templates: No 2 (Straight sides 5 cm (2 Inch)), no 3 (straight sides 15 cm (6 inch)) and no 4 (straight sides 25 cm (10 inches)) as in the drawing.

You will draw around the template. In a big quilt it is best to make the templates from plastic like Mylar (I use old x ray's). For a single block, cardboard (as from a cereal box) will be fine. We do not need a template for the square- but you will need a perspex square of 15 cm (6 inches) with lines marked every half cm or every 1/4 inch. You will also need a bigger square: 30-40 cm (12-16 inch)

You will also need a multi- line perspex ruler marked in centimeters if you are following the metric instructions and an Inch ruler if you prefer to use that measurement. A rotary cutter and cutting mat is also essential. Perhaps I should call it Hand piecing with a Rotary cutter?

I draw around the template with a HB pencil, make sure it stay sharp or use a mechanical pencil.

I sew with a between needle (the same one used for hand quilting.) I see most books and people recommend using a sharp needle. I find them to long to control to make tiny stitches. I use cotton thread and I prefer a thin thread (no 50) so that there is no bulk in the seam lines.

For this quilt I have used a jelly roll with pre-cut strips. The pinking cutting make the strips  a little thin.(I will talk later about this again). I used 18 of the strips- a medium value, 6 greens, 6 reds and 6 blues. I like to use many fabrics in my quilts. I feel it make a quilt more interesting and unique. So I have only used one strip of a particular fabric. You do not need to use pre cut fabrics. You can cut a 6,5 cm or 2 1/2 inch strip of 18 different fabrics. You will also need to cut 23 strips of the same width from a very light or very dark fabric. I have used white to make sure that I get a good contrast.

The 15 cm (6 inch) triangles were cut from dark Kaffe Fasset fabrics. Once again try to use a variety. You will need 72 of the triangles and will be able to get 12 from a fat quarter. I like to have a wider variety and cut only 6 triangles from a specific fabric- I had 12 different fabrics. So you will need  of 6-12  fat quarters.
The biggest triangle form a pathway. I used Westminster big prints in a medium to medium light colorway. OI coloured it to form a green, a blue and a red/pinkish path. (See previous post) One could make it one solid fabric through out and do some lovely quilting on it or you can have it in a variety of dark colours and make the smaller triangle a medium value. (If the small triangles stay a medium value it will look as if the triangles are part of that fabric and can create an interesting look.)

In this quilt I will first piece all the triangle units. I will then lay it on my design wall and audition fabrics to decide if I will use a dark or medium fabric for the big squares. You will get 4 squares from a 30 cm (12 inch) cut of yardage. You will need 9 squares in total. I think at this stage that I will have to green, two blue and 5 red/ maroon squares but I will make a final decision later.

Here is another EQ diagram coloured differently.
 I prefer to put my fabrics in a tub full of hot water. I want to shrink it and let extra colour come out. I keep the light and dark fabrics separate. I press it with steam to make sure it has no wrinkles.

If all the preparations is complete we are ready to start.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hand piecing and Barbara Johannah

In 1982/3 when I started again doing Patchwork (as we called it in South Africa) the rotary cutter and rulers were not available yet. In my 5 magazines I have read an article about Seminole patchwork and immediately saw how I could apply it to other patterns like the lone star. I immediately started to cut strips, using a cardboard ruler of 6,4 cm, drawing lines with a pencil and cutting 4 layers of fabric with my pair of scissors.

Although I could only hand quilt it after my trip to the USA I could complete the top before I left. I experiment a lot with Seminole strips and till today use strip piecing whenever I can. (Remember- I am a Stripper).

I planned a trip to Europe and the USA, to travel with my backpack, staying in youth Hostels and see the wonderful sights in Europe, then going on a quilt tour in the USA. I knew that all the shows were listed in the quilt magazines- remember I had 5! After three weeks in Israel, Greece and Italy, I realized my money will be finished before I reached the USA. So I changed my plans, flew to London and arrange to leave for New York 5 days later, after exploring London a bit and visit the Victoria and Albert museum to see some quilts.

When I arrived at New York Airport I got on the shuttle-as per my 10$ a day book and ask if it was going to New York. They want to know where I want to get off- at Manhattan? Did I not read my book properly? I was unsure and realized how ignorant I was- here I want to go to New York and I did not even know it has 5 Burroughs.

I walked the streets of Manhattan- going into every bookstore in search for a quilting magazine. Can you believe it, not one of the bookstores had a quilting magazine! I found the offices of Lady Circle (I think I got the address in a phone book) but lo and behold- they did not have a magazine in the office- it was just the subscription office. I was devastated! Will I now have to go back home without seeing a quilt in the LAND of QUILTS ?

My last change was the library but neither did they have any quilting magazines. When I walked out of the library not knowing what to do, there was a News and Magazine stand just outside. I searched the stand and - I wasn't heading home anymore!

I found myself a postbox- yes I had a Manhattan address once and wrote letters to the organizers of Quilt events. With a map of the whole country and the available shows I planned a possible route. In the youth Hostel where I stayed, I learned that for (I think) $50 foreigner youths with a student card (which I had) could purchase a pass to travel for 5 days on the Greyhound buses.

I also saw that the next week there was a Quilt Festival at Northfield Vermont. (In one of my 5 magazines I have read about the Shelburne Museum) So I use one of my passes to travel to Burlington. I went to visit the Shelburne museum and saw the wonderful quilts- and learned something about the history of "America". I immediately felt more at home. I could see all the similarities to our own history.

I use the same bus pass to go to Northfield  two days before the classes and exhibition began and helped to hang the show. What a privileged to held in my hands some antique quilts. I was in Seventh Heaven. There were still openings in classes and I took a class from Nancy Halpern, Jinny Beyer (who's book "The Quilter's Album of Blocks and Borders was then already my quilting bible) and Carla Hassle. I also took a class on machine applique on the Bernina- a class that convinced me to trade in my Elna for a Bernina when I reached home.

In Carla's class I learned that for handwork the template do not have the seam allowance added as in machine work, you draw around the template with a pencil- on the wrong side of the fabrics. You pin the two patches together and while sewing on the pencil line, you flip the work to the back to make sure that you are still on the drawn line of the patch at the back. (I have since learned Jinny Beyer's method as well where you only have dots in the corner -from her handwork book- I will blog about that at another time.) We made a block where we also pieced a quarter circle and a triangle. We learned that in handwork you never sew a seam allowance down. You flip it out of the way so that you can accurately get right to the exact point where the patch end. Here you make a double stitch before you pass the needle to the other side and again start with a back stitch to make sure the two patches meet accurately at the corner.

I also learned to take 3-4 running stitches on my needle before I pull the thread through. I then start with a back stitch and again load 3-4 stitches on my needle. I start with a knot and double stitch and end with a double stitch but also work 2 more stitches backwards. I work with a between needle- so hand piecing is good practice for hand quilting. I try to make small stitches to ensure a stronger seam.

(I will later tell you more about my Quilt trip in the Eastern parts of the USA- now I want to get back to the hand piece story.) I bought some Liberty of London prints in Greece and was making this Middelpos wall hanging for Stephanus. I pieced the word Middelpos with my new found knowledge, in this maroon Liberty of London fabrics.

At the Quilt Festival in Northfield I received a Goodie bag- the first of many to follow at all the events. In this bag was a piece of Iron- on Vilene with this grid printed on it.
So I asked the quilters what this was meant for- and learned about the quick piecing method Barbara Johannah  has described in her books. They explained that the soft iron on Vilene was a "quick" version- otherwise one need to draw the lines on the fabric. (This is the method that many books described- some only use a variation with  squares and others has it in this bigger format. One also get some printed papers or suggestions on how to print your own papers from the computer.You cut a piece of the two fabrics, draw the lines on it or use a pre-drawn paper or vilene. You sew on either side of the diagonal lines and cut on all the green and diagonal lines to create a number of squares consisting out of two triangles )

I was pondering this method and have seen the wonderful tool- a rotary cutter that were shown at some of the shows. At that stage I was stacking layers 4 high, drawing lines with my set of perspex rulers (or sometimes cardboard rulers) and cutting the 4 layers with my scissors. I could just see how the rotary cutter will eliminate the pencil line and how much more accurate it will be- the scissor lift the fabric while the rotary cutter press it accurately down while cutting. I could not understand why people would want to do all that drawing and then only cut two layers if they can cut 4 or 8. (I can still not understand that people are still doing it- but this will also be a later subject.)

I suddenly realize that this is actually a wonderful method for hand piecing. This method will eliminate drawing all the lines around the template for all the pieces, then checking all the time while you sew that you are still sewing on the bottom line as well. With Barbara Johannah's method adapted for hand piecing I set out. I grabbed a piece of dark red fabric. I have cut some pieces from it so it was just a scrap piece. I made a template of a triangle less than 1 inch on the straight sides and start marking triangles on the fabric. I then lay it on top of a piece of calico (unbleached muslin) and start hand piecing the diagonal side. This job I did on the airplane when I returned home three months later.

The triangles was the start of the Feathered star of this quilt. I hand pieced the whole top using variations on this quick hand piecing method. I have refined this method over the years. I have used this method to hand piece a quilt a year. This was done in times waiting in the doctor's office, waiting for the children at sport events and in the evening when I kept my husband company.

Any time saving method usually only save time with the initial joining of the patches. With this method you do not only save piecing time, but also cutting time and marking time. The other advantages are that one is not working with a number of small units that can get lost when one take this project everywhere with you. When sewing triangles with the machine the bias diagonal side do not stretch if you handle it with care. When sewing by hand this diagonal seam do get stretched over your fingers and it is almost impossible not to stretch it and get a wonky piece that do not want to lay flat. With this method the diagonal seam is only cut after the piecing is done- so  stretching is eliminated.

I am busy with a new project and will explain my quick hand piecing method while giving the details- so if you would like to try  hand piecing - why don't you join me? (In South Africa hand piecing is associated with hexagons and Cathedral Windows. When quilters see me hand piece they ask why I do not do it with the machine. Well I do most of my work by machine so my hand project is for when I am not at home or not at my machine-when I have company etc. Now that I am determined to master applique- I also do some hand applique in these times.)

The quilt I am hand piecing is a variation on Delectable Mountains called Delectable Star and it appeared in the QNM of Jan/Feb 2000 made by Marilyn (I have searched everywhere for the magazine now. As soon as I find it I will give the proper credit here) This pattern has big patches where one can show of the fabrics- so it will be an ideal quilt to make with a variety of modern fabrics. This is my EQ version:

Here is a line drawing to colour- I do not know how to make a pdf file available- will supply if I figure it out.

So instructions for hand piecing this quilt will be in several blog posts-will you join me?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Hand piecing and History

I love hand piecing. It hasn’t been like this always. When I start quilting in 1982 I said I will do it if it can be done by machine.

In the 1980’s quilt or rather “Patchwork” classes was very popular in South Africa. I saw the pillows some of my friends made using paper hexagons with fabric basted onto it. With a small overcast stitch these hexagons were sewn together.

When I was about 14 in 1971, I started my first Quilting project. I took home economics and was doing some Florentine embroidery. This looked very grand – it was easy to get even stitches on this even weave fabric. I took out some handwork books from the library and must have seen in these books or in a magazine something about patchwork.

My mother made our clothes (4 daughters) and had a box full of leftover fabric. I had to beg some pieces from her. If it was a dress we were still wearing, I could not use the scraps- in case she will need some fabric to patch the clothes up.

I cut squares from these fabrics- more or less 12,5 cm (5 inches). I fold this diagonally and sew the two sides- leaving a small gap on the one side.

I turned the triangles through the gap and stuff it with a polyester stuffing or old stockings I snipped in pièces. I  closed the gaps with machine stitching- not doing a very neat job. You can imagine- this did not look very well at this stage. I did not turn the corners to neatly either, so the triangles had blunt points.

Then I had to sew these small pillows together- and that on the bias stuffed edges as well. I start doing this by hand but the stitches looked so horrible that I made another plan. I butt the two edges and sew with a zig zag to join two triangles to form a square.

In South Africa we do not have a “patchwork” or quilting tradition. I had no one to show me how to sort your scraps in value or colour piles. I did not realize I could create patterns by paying attention to color and value placement. When I have completed about a meter by a meter (more or less a square yard) piece, I was so disgusted with my work that I through the half finished project away. (It looked so disgusting- and luckily I have nothing left to show you- it was a big flop!)

So in 1982 when Patchwork became popular I was very interested. (10 years ago I did not only attempt the triangle project on my own- I also made a knitted patchwork blanket) Now there was a possibility to learn to do it properly but I knew my handwork was not neat at all. Besides I have received an Elna sewing machine from my parents and was making my own clothes. I already loved machine sewing' so was only interested to do it by machine.

A friend gave me this book: Quick and Easy Patchwork on the Sewing Machine (Dover Needlework) [Paperback]

I immediately start with the 8 point star and the next thing I did was sewing hexagons on the sewing machine! I was hooked. I bought some Quilt magazines and studied them till they fell apart. The only puzzle that the magazines and books did not solve was how and with what to do the quilting. I knew I had to go to the USA to take some classes and learn how to do HANDWORK. Initially only thinking about appliqué and quilting- but in 1984 I took a class with Carla Hassle and learned handpiecing the Hassle way.

To be continued......

Friday, August 19, 2011

Onbekend maak onbemind

In Afrikaans we say that the unknown cannot be loved. In South Africa the "modern" prints are only showing up in the last 3 years. So first I looked at these fabrics and thought "How can one use this in piecing a quilt?"

I have now realised that this wild fabrics need to be shown off. You cannot piece a star- it will get lost in the multi-colour prints. But if you use bold big pieces you can make a vibrant quilt. I have hanged all my new purchases of this wild fabric on my design wall. And looking at it for a week while doing my embroidery. I can truly say: I think I like it!

I completed some more blocks from Aie Rossman's Heart applique. I have now realised that the perfect setting for a blanket stitch in my Artista software is 1,5 wide and 1,5 spacing. I have also seen if I off set it I get the neatest results. I have also started to put applique paper (Steam a seam) on my applique fabrics. Although I am using mainly batiks, they still fray and do not have a neat appearance. The applique paper bond the edges and give a very neat result.

I have admired this embroidery piece for a long time- and the results is just as stunning as it look on my computer screen. I will embroider some more of this designers work. I selected the same colours that was suggested to get this wonderful effect.

I was enjoying seeing all the embroidery designs stitched out. So I got an idea for a quilt to showcase them all. I have recieved two rolls of Moda fabric strips 4 cm wide(1and1/2 inch). I used half of both to create blocks of Double Irish Chain. This is my idea of how to combine it. I will use the black and bright green blocks in the center and the red and blue blocks on the outside.

So I had a new motivation and I could embroider 50 designs. I decided to embroider all of the many heart designs that I have on a cream fabric and the other designs- not bigger than 4 inches, on a white fabric. I have nearly completed all the designs on the white background and will be able to start piecing the rows tomorrow.

This lovely Blackwork look like hand embroidery. I have used a cotton thread. I see that the fabric need to be reinforced- it get distorted from the stitching. I will use iron on  interfacing  and also sew it on cotton batting to support the stitches.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Russian Inspiration

Here it is! I am proud to show you my quilt: Russiese Inspirasie (Russian Inspiration.)

When we returned from our trip to Russia last year, I knew I had to make a quilt. Not only as a reminder of our wonderful trip and all the inspiring things we saw, I wanted to recreate some of the treasures in the museums.

I use a tile on the wall in Yaroslav for this block. (A thousand year old town)

All the blocks in the quilt was made in the embroidery hoop. I selected a pieced block and modify or draw it in my Electrical Quilt program. I then insert the drawing into the Embroidery program. I use the outline drawing to digitise the piecing sequence. I use some of my photographs or parts of it to digitize embroidery designs or applique designs.

I then insert the embroidered designs in the pieced designs. In this way I could accurately place the embroidery or applique on the correct patch.
The design from a plate-embroidered in the corners
Once this was done I digitized an outline to attach the backing fabric. I then digitized the quilting design.
This inlay work on the floor was used to design the centre block of the quilt.

Another floor design was the inspiration for this block.

The embroidery on the big triangle in this Flying Swallows block was also designed using a floor pattern.

The centre of the quilt block was from a door knob.

I have used 35 different Bernatex fabrics in this quilt- 5 of them on the back- the other 30 on the front.

The blocks was then pieced together and a binding strip on the back was used to cover the seam allowances.

I was very disappointed  that Russian Inspiration was not exhibited at the National Festival. There wasn't enough space and only the ten price winner quilts was exhibited. I like to share my quilts with the viewers- that is mainly why I enter competitions.

Thank you that I could share it with you!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Embroidery Week

I have decided to have an embroidery week. I gave myself freedom to decide what I want to embroider. I got my two embroidery machines ready on Monday. I search through my designs for all those beauties that I look at regularly but did not have time to embroider. In the process I also saw many that I did not notice before.

It is difficult to decide on what I will embroider. I try to think what I would like to do with the design- and I try to think small- if it will become a big quilt, I will have less time to embroider. So this flower with the ribbon is part of a whole set. I like the No Nonsense way it was designed and thought it would look nice in a shoulder bag. I regularly buy R5 bags of scraps from a curtaining place. So I had a thick weave fabric that I used for this.

I have started to digitize Aie Rossmann's Affairs of the Heart. This is 15 cm (6 inch) blocks. Some of the fabric pieces that she used is so small that I rather embroider them. In the bigger hearts I used Batik fabrics for a lovely effect. Although the designs is already available as digitized patterns, I prefer to digitize it myself. Not only is it a good project to improve my digitizing skill, but I prefer to use other stitches to cover the edge than satin stitch only. So this week I have stitched two more blocks in my two colour ways.

Isn't this Bear just adorable. I first sew it on a soft leatherly fabric which is then appliqued on the baby blanket. There is some more bears in the set that I will stitch next week. Yes I am enjoying myself so much- that every week will be an embroidery week- till I have a new deadline. (Oh my gosh I do have one- 10 September. OK I will only embroider one more week.

This heart block is part of a set for a Quilt. It is designed by Ellen Jay Designs and is available from Oregon Patchworks. I think I will make this quilt- I have the plan ready- I just need the right fabric!

It seems that I had a week of Hearts? I cannot help it, I love hearts, flowers and circular designs. I have lots of heart blocks. I plan to sew them all and combine it with a nine patch.

On Wednesday we had a meeting of Swartland Guild. One of our members demonstrated fused applique and had a pattern ready for us. I started to do the blanket stitches with the machine. For the bigger pieces I will use the double blanket stitch and for the smaller pieces the single blanket stitch- or perhaps I should also try some of the other patterns? (This is not digitized)
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