Go Teal it on the Mountain #2

A little light relief from pink, then….

I’m really happy with the photos I’ve seen so far of the Ovarian Cancer team blocks for Go Teal it on the Mountain. (While I’m at it, shall we just shorten that to GTOM?) I’m not planning to show them till the blocks arrive, but I know some are on the way already, so you won’t have long to wait.

It was time to make a start on my own blocks. I like the crispness and accuracy of paper piecing, so that’s what I chose to start with.

A quick sketch of the idea, and then onto quilting graph paper. Designing a paper piecing pattern isn’t hard; the trick lies in deciding where the dividing lines between the sections need to go. One helpful point is that if you don’t make the block symmetrical, you won’t have a thousand seams all meeting in the same place, and your block will lie flatter. Anyway, I drew out the design, put in numbers to show assembly order and marks to ensure good alignment when the pieces are sewn together, and cut them out. Then I photocopied the pieces and added seam allowance around the outside. I always add more than ¼ inch, to allow me to trim out and to ensure the piece isn’t skimpy. You do need to remember that the finished design will be a mirror image of what you’ve drawn, since the fabric is stitched onto the back of your pieces. If you don’t want this, you have to trace all the lines and markings through onto the reverse, and make sure you work on the same side of each piece. It might help if you use a different colour on the reverse.

There are a thousand tutorials for assembling paper pieced blocks, so I won’t go there, except to say I like a dab of washable glue stick to hold the first piece in place rather than a pin, that I use an old, dull needle so I don’t spoil my good ones, and that tweezers are less dangerous than stitch rippers for fishing out those little elusive bits of paper in the corners 🙂

Here it is, assembled. The photo doesn’t give the true colour of the ‘sky’ so the contrast between it and the snow caps isn’t very clear. Three are darker and one is lighter than the sky. It’s the first of several different blocks – I have to wait and see how many I’m getting from the rest of the team, but I imagine I’ll be making at least three or four…

More soon.

Cosmatesque # 4: the next ring

The central circle is now appliquéd onto its light background ring, ready for the next stage.

Outer ring segment

Lower left quarter coloursOuter ring piecesThis is the beginning of the second, outer ring. It feels as if it’s going to take forever… A small exaggeration, but there’s a lot of very small bits there. The large triangles alternate dark umber and slate, the small triangles alternate charcoal and golden amber, separated by a zigzag of limestone. Fiddly in the extreme, especially the zigzag, which has to be made up of two pieces. I considered making large limestone triangles and then appliquéing everything else to them, but it wasn’t successful; the fabric was too floppy to get nice straight lines, so I’ve persisted with the EPP method, which has the virtue of producing completely consistent shapes so long as you’re meticulous in how you sew the bits together.

There was some useful learning from the first circle:

•  When making the triangles, fold down and stitch the edge which will be on the outside last. This means that all the excess will be pointing away from the outside edge.
•  Press everything away from what will be the inner and outer edges.
•  Trim seam allowances down as much as possible before joining the shapes, especially on corners
•  Don’t stress if things don’t line up exactly. You can always unpick a bit of basting and ease out some of the seam allowance to make things line up.
•  Do not press pieces basted with polyester thread too hot. You will melt the thread onto the fabric. Don’t ask how I know this, it’s a sore subject 😦

Sore enough, in fact, that it has meant I had to replace my iron. It has seen a lot of action, spent hundreds of long, long hours switched on, and was now regularly overheating, leaking boiling hot water onto my feet, tripping the household power socket fuse (entailing tedious trips down two flights of stairs and outside to the power board) and showing clear signs of corrosion on the charging pins (it was a cordless version, and had to be returned to the stand to reheat after every use). However, since I bought it on special offer about three years ago when it was on sale at one third of the normal price, I had bought two. Out with the old, in with the new. I must admit it feels a bit safer now, and I’m not missing the smell of burning insulation or the scalded feet….

In a recent post, Esther over at ipatchandquilt used a fantastic craquelure print on a block she was making for one of the F2F members.  I saw it and immediately knew it would be perfect for this project, so she’s very kindly sending me half a metre when it’s my turn to receive my F2F blocks in May.  I’m just waiting to hear if there’s anything I can make or do for her in return…

Once this big ring is done, that’s the end of the most fiddly EPP part of this piece. There are other rings, but they’re much simpler.  Soon, I’ll be able to move on to FPP, and progress will be much faster.

But first, back to lots and lots of tiny stitches!


Cosmatesque #2

The first quarter template…

Cosmatesque final planThere’s no point attempting to draft the template for this piece all in one go; it’s 48 inches square and I simply don’t have a flat surface that size (apart from the floor, and I’m not up to grovelling around down there any more). So I’ve divided it into 24 inch square quarters, which still fit on my cutting table. Luckily the design divides neatly into equal quarters, so I just need to make each one and then piece them together. “Just…”, she says airily, as though it were the work of moments.

Extension arm compassI decided to start with the most difficult section first. With that out of the way, the rest of the sections will seem much easier. So it’s the bottom left hand corner, a series of concentric rings with inset triangles. I have a set of good compasses, from small to large, with an extension arm. Just as well, really – do you have any idea how tricky it is to draw an accurate 20 inch circle, even with an extension arm on the compass?  The thing just wobbles, spreads, dislodges and generally misbehaves. But the template’s done. The next thing will be to make a tracing or duplicate of each ring, which I’ll then mount on cartridge paper and cut out to make the papers for EPP (English Paper Piecing*) the triangles.

At least, that’s the plan for now. I’m still wondering if I can do it with FPP (Foundation Paper Piecing†), but just now I’m tending against it, because of the trickiness of matching up all the pieced segments. You can adjust a little with EPP, but over a piece this size, FPP errors tend to magnify.

Explanation of terms for non-quilters, including the quilt’s new owner:

*EPP: fabric is wrapped around a card template and basted/tacked on. The covered templates are then joined edge to edge with tiny hand stitching through the fabric only, and once fully assembled, the basting/tacking is pulled out and the templates removed. This is the process used for traditional hexagon quilts.

†FPP: fabric is stitched directly onto a paper foundation, along drawn or printed lines. This ensures a lot of accuracy of individual pieces, but this shape has to be made up of many sections, and joining these sections can be a little inaccurate (when I do it, anyway!), so that points do not meet and things slip a little. The paper is torn away from the back of the piece once it is fully assembled, which is a laborious job in itself.

I need to start auditioning fabrics now, as very soon I’ll be able to make a start on assembly. I need a good tone-on-tone white. Flat, solid white will not look right, it needs a texture. If I could get a marbled white that would be ideal, but I’ve never seen such a thing (if anyone out there has, let me know asap, please?), and a tone-on-tone print will be the next best thing. I also need a warm deep red, a dark cobalt blue, a granite grey and a limestone beige, all marbled or textured batiks. And if anything else catches my eye, I’ll grab a bit of that too. This quilt won’t need large quantities of anything except the background white, I just need to be careful I don’t run out of any of the fabrics with one triangle to go!

Time to put away the ruler and compasses for a bit, and fetch out the scissors, needle and thread.