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 :)

Monday, March 16, 2015

dots and low volume: stars for a block lottery

The Crystal Lake Modern Quilt Guild is introducing a new program at our April meeting - a block lottery! Any member that would like to participate makes a block (or two or three) following the rules for that lottery and each block earns that member one chance to win.  The winner of the drawing takes home all the blocks brought in for that lottery!

For our first lottery we chose a theme of star blocks made from dot fabrics on backgrounds of low volume fabrics. Any star block is fair game as long as the fabric requirement and size rules are followed.  The other board members and I each made a couple of blocks as examples to show the guild at our March meeting. For my first sample block I modified a pattern in the book Modern Bee - the Triple Star. My 12.5" unfinished version is a Double Star...

The center square finishes at 3" surrounded by half-square triangle (HST) and square units that finish at 1.5". The outer star HST and square sections all finish at 3". I chose to use a variety of blue dot fabrics as well as a wide variety of low volume background fabrics.

My second block was cut using the Easy Dresden ruler (you can watch a Missouri Star Quilt Company video tutorial explaining how to use the ruler here). The orange blades were cut from a 3.5" x 22" fabric strip, and the pink blades were cut from a 4.5" x 22" strip. One strip of each color is plenty for the entire block. After sewing each blade point and then sewing the blades together, I machine appliqued the entire unit to the 13" square background fabric. The background fabric was cut slightly larger because when appliqueing a block like this the background fabric tends to shrink up a bit.

The center circle of the dresden star was backed with Heat and Bond Lite so it could be fused to the dresden and background. I used a machine blanket stitch to permanently secure the circle to the center and then trimmed the block to the required 12.5".

This post contains photos of the other samples made as well as more details of the block lottery program.  I'm very excited to see the blocks that other members bring in April - maybe I'll be the lucky winner!  I sure wouldn't mind winning mine and the other sample blocks for myself :)

Monday, March 2, 2015

the perfect little gift

Last month I made a cute little Valentine's Day gift for Thing 1's college apartment - a fabric box filled with chocolate candies! I used this well-written tutorial found on the Seaside Stitches blog. You could make one of these quick-sew gifts for almost any occasion.

Per the tutorial, you'll need two coordinating fabric squares and one thin batting square each measuring between 8" and 12". I used 12" squares to make this box and the thinnest cotton batting I had on hand - Quilter's Dream Request in white.  Stitch all three layers right sides together using a 1/4" seam and leave a 4" opening for turning.  After you've clipped the corners and turned it right sides out, topstitch around the outer edges and then quilt as you like.  I segmented this square into triangles by marking the corner to corner diagonal lines, and then stitched a concentric triangle in each segment using the edge of the presser foot as my guide for spacing.

Here's a shot of the completed quilting lines on what will become the box interior.  The edges are a tad wavy from all the quilting lines, but don't worry if yours ends up like this too - it will all turn out just fine in the end :)

Since I started with 12" squares to make a larger box, I marked and sewed 2.5" triangles in each corner rather than the 2" triangles indicated in the tutorial.  This adjustment makes the finished box a little bit taller on the sides.

After sewing the corners and turning the box right side out you'll need to fold and press the outer flaps down on the box exterior.  You may also want to tack the inside corner flaps down with a bit of hand stitching.

Add some cute buttons to the points on the exterior flaps...

And you're done.  Fill it up with chocolate candies and you've got the perfect gift that can be used in so many other ways after the candy is long gone!

I'm going to make another one for my local Crystal Lake Modern Quilt Guild's April door prize filled with Easter grass, chocolates, and some other goodies.  Maybe I'll even engineer a way to add a handle to make it a real Easter basket :)

I think this might be my go-to 2015 hostess gift project.  Do you have other suggestions for quick and useful handmade gifts that you regularly sew?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Red Hot Dreamy Hexagons progress

The second UFO that I want to complete this year is my Red Hot Dreamy Hexagons quilt.  Last year I wrote a post about the center medallion of this quilt, but then I put it away for a long while during the time I spent working on the SIL quilts :)

At the end of 2014 this is what the quilt looked like...

The original quilt (from the pattern book Quilt Grandeur) was made in greys and very subtle colors.  To be honest I didn't give this quilt a second thought while looking through the book because "subtle" doesn't usually draw me in.

But a few months later I saw this earth-toned version offered as a class on, and I couldn't stop thinking about it.  I was really intrigued by the English paper pieced (EPP) hexagons appliqued in the center, and this version was obviously brighter.

Pretty soon I started thinking about how a red version might look, and I was off hand-basting and sewing hexagons like mad!  I used the background fabric to choose these shot cotton colors for the hexagon rings, but once I sewed the rings and saw them all together on the background fabric I knew right away that that yellow had to go.

In the second iteration I added the flowers behind a few different rings.  While these colors were an improvement, that one blue ring was the odd man out.

I felt like the hexagon colors were right in this third try with the addition of a second blue and the brighter orange, but I didn't like the green flowers within the top and bottom left rings.

So I replaced the green flowers and arrived at this arrangement for the quilt center medallion  All that rework was worth the effort - I love this final version!  The first border is one of my favorite prints - Paperweight in Paprika - and the cornerstones are cut from the same floral print used in the center of each hexagon ring - Japanese Chrysanthemum in Scarlet.

Each ring was hand-appliqued to a single fussy-cut flower.  The seven hexagon rings were then hand-sewn together at the edges to make one large centerpiece which was hand-appliqued as a whole over the background fabric - Jupiter in Red.  Lots of hand sewing, which I really enjoyed :)

I put this quilt up on the design wall again today so I could finish the second border and get started on the third (there are five total borders).  Based on my goal of completing five UFO quilts before October, my ideal timeline is to complete one quilt top each month January through May to allow time for long arm quilting and binding.  It will be a stretch to finish this one by the end of January, but I'm hopeful!  After all, goals are supposed to be a bit of a stretch, right?


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