Thursday, May 14, 2015

and done!

The Epic College Map Quilt top for Thing 2 is finished! I spent much of last week churning out 200 flying geese blocks assembly line style, and then last Saturday I started playing with the layout of the blocks and ended up finishing the entire top :)

I had it in my head that 198 flying geese blocks (finishing at 3" x 6") were needed for the borders, but I really only needed 98. As I sat on the floor Saturday positioning the blocks I kept wondering "why does it seem like there are way too many of these?" Ummm... because there were too many! When designing the pattern I had intended to use my Sizzix dies to cut all of the pieces which included 196 background fabric triangles - aha! That's how the extra 100 got stuck in my mind! But then I decided to use the Eleanor Burns flying geese method (shown below) because there is no triangle cutting involved and very little fabric waste. So the lesson here is always check back with the pattern before cutting - and that no matter how long you've been sewing there is always something to learn!

Now for the fabulous 4-at-a-time-super-easy-and-accurate flying geese method that I used - you'll need a "Quilt in a Day" Flying Geese ruler.  There are two sizes available; mine makes blocks 1.5" x 3" or 3" x 6".  I'm using a Frixion pen to mark my fabrics because the ink vanishes when you iron it, but you should definitely test this on your fabrics first!

To make 4 flying geese units that finish at 3" x 6" cut one 9" background fabric square and one 7.5" main fabric square.  Place the background (grey) fabric square right side up and mark the center diagonal line.  Place the main (pink) fabric square right side down over the background piece and mark the center diagonal line.  Center the main fabric just by eyeballing it, but make sure the diagonal line matches up with the background.  Pin in a couple of spots to secure.

Now sew a 1/4" seam on both sides of the drawn line.

Cut on the diagonal line.

Press each unit with the seam allowance toward the background fabric.

Place the two units right sides together with the main fabric pieces opposite of each other.  DON'T NEST THE SEAMS - align the outer edges of the two pieces.

Mark the center diagonal line on the top unit as shown and pin to secure.

Sew a 1/4" seam on both sides of the drawn line.

Cut on the drawn diagonal line.

Make a small snip in the center of each seam allowance to aid in pressing the seam allowances correctly.

Press the seam allowances toward the background fabric again.  Here is a shot of what your two pieces should look like from the back and front.

Align the marked triangle on your Quilt in a Day ruler with your block as shown.  (Those little tan dots are sandpaper disks I stuck to the back of the ruler to help keep it from slipping around on the fabric.)  Trim the excess fabric along the right and top edges of the ruler, then pivot the fabric and ruler so you can cut the left and bottom sides.  If you have a rotating cutting mat on hand definitely use it for this step.

And from two squares of fabric you now have four perfectly sized identical flying geese blocks!

I repeated this process 49 more times to get my 200 blocks (even though I could have stopped at 24 repetitions - hehe!)

200 flying geese ready to go!

This is the background fabric that Thing 2 has chosen; it's from the Waterfront Park line by Violet Craft for Moda.  Line drawings of bridges in white on navy - perfect for a Civil Engineering major :)

Monday morning this is off to the quilter!  I probably won't see it again until mid-July, but I'll be sure to share photos of the finished product before it heads to it's new (dorm) home in mid-August.  Oh, and she loves it.  She really loves it :)

Final stats:
  • Quilt will finish at 66" x 93"
  • Applique center finished at 42.25" x 81"
  • Side borders to applique section (added before flying geese) finish at 6" x 81" and 5.75" x 81".  These borders were not pieced - they were cut on the lengthwise grain to avoid seams.
  • 6.5 yards of background fabric is probably what is needed to make this quilt without sewing an extra 100 flying geese.  7.5 yards is what I actually purchased and cut. 
  • Flying geese units were made from applique scraps and quarter yard cuts.  Fabrics used include several Studio E Peppered Shot Cottons, a few P&B Textiles blender prints, as well as AMH, Parson Gray, Juliana Horner, and Denyse Schmidt prints.  

Friday, May 1, 2015

applique finish line

And the applique work is finished!! My neck and back are so very thankful :)

Great Britain, Ireland, Iceland and Novaya Zemyla (shown below) took a total of 26 minutes to stitch.  I had originally cut Novaya Zemyla as the shape on the right in this photo.  But after spending so much time stitching around all the tight curves found in Asia and Europe I took a few liberties and simplified the shape to make my job a little bit easier.  Wikipedia tells me that this archipelago is the easternmost point of Europe and that it is a northern extension of the Ural Mountains in Russia.  Since the Ural Mountains are generally recognized as the dividing line between Europe and Asia I chose to include it as part of Europe.

North America wins for the continent taking the longest time to applique. The main part of the continent took 1 hour and 31 minutes.

And the islands of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories took another hour and 17 minutes. Again I took some liberties here with the island silhouettes to make tracing, cutting, and stitching do-able.

South America is my new favorite continent - only 17 minutes for this one!

And lastly I added the largest islands of Japan and the Philippines in 27 minutes. Whew!

I took this photo to give you an idea of the size of this quilt center. Those are my pink converse shoes, and I'm standing up on my tiptoes hovering the camera at eye level to get almost all of the quilt top in the photo.

North America: Free Spirit Vagabond Parquet Moondial by Parson Gray
South America: Cotton and Steel Stampede in Navy by Sarah Watts
Africa: Caterpillar Dusk Woven Stripe by Kaffe Fassett
Australia: M and S Textiles Dancing Flowers in Black by June Smith
Europe and Greenland: Art Gallery Oval Elements in Eggplant
Asia: M and S Textiles Bush Plum in Black
Background fabric: Andover Fabrics Moonshadow Formica Grey by Kim Schaefer

Total applique stitching time: 7 hours, 10 minutes (goodness it felt like so much longer than that!)

The Mercator projection was used to create the silhouettes of all the continents and islands shown on this quilt.  On all map projections, shapes or sizes are distortions of the true layout of the Earth's surface. The Mercator projection exaggerates areas far from the equator. In case you are wondering what that really means, here are some fun facts about it:
  • Greenland is almost as large as Africa on this map, but in reality Africa's area is 14 times greater and Greenland's is comparable to the country of Algeria's alone.
  • Alaska takes as much area on the map as Brazil, when Brazil's area is nearly five times that of Alaska.
  • Finland appears to have a greater north-to-south reach than India, although India's is actually greater.
So yeah, the quilt top is not completely accurate, but it's easily recognizable as a map of the world, and we are okay with that :)

Next up: 198 flying geese units for the quilt border!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

progress report - epic college map quilt

After the previous day's marathon session of applique sewing, I worked on some easier continents on Monday. Whew!

Africa was a quick sew at 18 minutes. However, the Kaffe woven stripe Thing 2 selected did not adhere to the background very well. I'm not sure why that is, but it could have something to do with the fact that the Heat and Bond directions state that your fabrics should be prewashed. (I rarely prewash. I'm not a rebel; I'm just too anxious to jump right in to be bothered with prewashing, and so far it hasn't been an issue for me.) I used a touch of Elmer's glue to hold Madagascar down while I sewed it, and that seemed to do the trick.

Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, and New Guinea were also quick - 32 minutes.

I forgot to mark the stopwatch time for Greenland, so I believe it's included in the time total time for the European islands I'll show you tomorrow. Maybe you're finding my stopwatch time reporting to be tedious, but the numbers geek in me finds it sort of fascinating and necessary for proper documentation :)

Just keep stitching, just keep stitching...

Africa: Kaffe Fassett Caterpillar Dusk Woven Stripe
Australia: M and S Textiles Dancing Flowers in Black by June Smith
Greenland: Art Gallery Oval Elements in Eggplant
Background fabric: Andover Fabrics Moonshadow Formica Grey by Kim Schaefer

Total applique stitching time: 3 hours, 12 minutes

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

epic college map quilt

Thing 2 is headed off to college this fall.

I'm not entirely sure how this is possible since she was just in a car seat a couple of months ago, but there you have it.  Life moves pretty fast.

Late last year we started talking about what kind of quilt she would like to take with her, and she zeroed in on this duvet cover on Pinterest.  You can buy it here.

But of course this isn't a quilt, and it wasn't made by mom - so we used it as a jumping off point.  She didn't like the white background or the orientation of the map on the bed.  So out came my handy graph paper, pencil, and ruler.  The basic dorm mattress size is 39" x 80", and we wanted the map image to cover as much of the mattress top as possible.

The continent areas on a laminated wall map we have at the house measure 26" x 47", so by increasing those dimensions 150% we could get a map image measuring 39" x 70" - almost exactly what we need!

I carefully traced each continent and the larger islands from the wall map onto 18" wide freezer paper adding latitude and longitude lines to assist later with placing the fabric versions on our background.

A local copy and graphic arts shop told me they would be able to enlarge and print my images on to 36" paper - not quite wide enough for my purposes, so that's how I ended up tracing each continent on a separate sheet.

The enlargement and copy job ended up being a bit more pricey than I anticipated (around $65!) but hey - it turned out exactly as I had planned!

My next step was to transfer the reverse enlarged images to an iron-on fabric adhesive called Heat and Bond, and I began by tracing each enlargement with a Sharpie marker that bled through the back.  Then I was able to see the continent outlines in reverse and trace them on to the paper side of my Heat and Bond featherweight iron-on adhesive.  (When using a product like Heat and Bond to fuse your applique pieces for machine stitching you need to trace the reverse or back side of your images because the Heat and Bond is ironed to the wrong side of your fabric.)

Here you can see the reverse images of the northernmost parts of North America traced on to the Heat and Bond.  After ironing this ultra lightweight fusible adhesive to the wrong side of my continent fabrics I carefully cut out each shape with some very sharp, short blade scissors.

Based on my graph paper diagram, the center length of the quilt (minus borders) should finish at 81".  I cut a single width of fabric (WOF) piece measuring 84" in length since machine applique stitching almost always causes the background fabric to "shrink" a bit, and I'll trim it to size after the applique work is done.  Vertical and horizontal creases mark the center point of this background piece.  We started positioning the continent pieces using the ironed center lines as 30 degrees latitude and 30 degrees longitude, but in order to have the design area centered, each continent had to be carefully shifted a few inches "south" and "east".  Here is our final placement before fusing and stitching began - so exciting!!

Starting with Asia, I fused this continent to the background, set my machine to a short, narrow zigzag stitch, and started the stopwatch...

One hour and 26 minutes later, Asia was completely stitched down and secured!  I'm going to fuse each piece right before sewing it because the featherweight adhesive doesn't provide the strongest bond.  As I stitched and moved this large piece of fabric around and under the needle some of the smaller points started to lift up before they were stitched.  Fusing each piece separately before stitching will help me avoid having Madagascar or Tasmania completely fall off while I'm stitching another larger piece.

Europe went a bit faster - 56 minutes.  Lots of tight curves, peninsulas, fjords, and inlets on these two continents!  Here is the "boot" of Italy and the Iberian peninsula...

And for the record, Thing 2 chose all the fabrics for this quilt on her own.  It was great fun shopping with her and watching her choose colors :)  Originally I lobbied for using a different fabric for each country (can you imagine what a pain that would be?!) like the inspiration duvet cover is printed, but Thing 2 wanted to keep it simpler and do large pieces for each continent.  Thank goodness she stuck to her guns and didn't let me talk her into it, because I'm afraid that would have turned into a two year project!

Background fabric: Andover Fabrics Moonshadow Formica Grey by Kim Schaefer.
Asia: M and S Textiles Bush Plum in Black.
Europe: Art Gallery Oval Elements in Eggplant.

Stay tuned - I'm hoping to finish all the applique stitching this week so I can get busy making the border flying geese units this weekend!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

flower garden hexagons = slow sewing

Confession: Late in 2014 I started yet another hand sewing project.  At the time I was having such fun making the English paper pieced (EPP) hexagons for my Red Hot Dreamy Hexagons quilt top (which by the way is finished and just waiting to be quilted!) that I immediately started making more when I saw this book cover...

I'm using primarily Kaffe Fassett and Anna Maria Horner fabrics to make my star and flowers and a wide variety of light-to-medium grey prints for the background hexagons. The center star of the quilt top is almost complete!

The pattern calls for 759 colored hexagons (to make the star center and surrounding flower blocks) and 532 background hexagons!  Wow - that is a LOT of hand-sewing!!  I haven't yet made a count of how many are completed because I don't want to discourage myself, but I plan to show you my (slow) progress on this throughout the year.

The great news is that this project is perfectly portable - I've worked on these hexagons while traveling in Florida, Indiana, Texas, and Ohio and in front of the TV many evenings.  You only need to bring along a small bag of precut templates, precut fabric squares, needle, thread, small scissors, and reading glasses while you're on the go :)

I use a 1" Fiskars hexagon punch to cut my EPP papers.  I am way too cheap to buy enough EPP papers for a project of this size, so I cut my papers from the subscription inserts found in magazines.  FREE EPP papers, people!  Using a hole punch tool to make a hole in the center of each paper makes them easy to remove later.

A few of my fabrics were cut using a 1.25" hexagon die and my new Sizzix Fabi Cutter, but I found that they were a little too small to easily wrap around the papers, so I've gone back to my original method of using 2.5" fabric squares for 1" hexagons. (The 1" measurement indicates the length of each side of the hexagon.)  There is a 1.5" hexagon die available for the Sizzix Fabi, but I'm too cheap to buy another die when 2.5" squares work just fine :)

As you can see, there is not a lot of seam allowance on the back side of these EPP hexagons - too fiddly for me.  The method I use for thread basting my hexagons is actually a mash-up of several methods, but this YouTube video is the closest demonstration I can find online to show you how I do it.  I don't glue baste my hexagons - I tried that method but it just didn't work for me.  Thread basting takes longer, but thread is cheaper than glue and it stays in place just fine.

Along with the star center I've completed four of the 32 flower units...

This photo shows the back of the center star unit. You can see that I've removed the papers from all of the hexagons that are surrounded by others.  The perimeter hexagons still have their papers enclosed; I don't remove the paper until a hexagon has been sewn to another on all six sides.  You can also see that the green and black hexagons do not have any thread basting.  These are the ones I tried to glue baste, but the seam allowances didn't remain glued down long enough for me to sew them all together, so I ended up re-gluing all of them.  What a waste of time!

And here are the back sides of my flower units. I'll leave all the basting stitches in even after the whole top is put together. There really is no reason to spend the time removing all those stitches - they'll just be concealed on the back side against the batting and won't interfere with the quilting process.

And one last shot of the center...

This is going to be a very lengthy project. I hesitate to even venture a guess at a completion date, so for now I'll just plan to write an update periodically and maybe at some point provide a count of how many of the 1,291 hexagons are completed.  But that would require counting.  And I'd rather just spend the time sewing :)


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