Saturday, May 30, 2015

Getting to the bottom of things and a new tip for fussy cutting

And what exactly are those "things"? Why they are the hexagon rosettes that were stitched together complete with border to make the bottom section of my Birds in the Loft hexagon quilt! This weekend my goal is to complete the middle section. Fingers crossed that on Monday I'll have something exciting to share with you!

There were several questions about the Tulip Hiroshima Milliners Straw Needles.

First off the size I am using is No. 10. I bought them from Hancocks of Paducah. In Canada Sew-Sisters carries this brand of needle however they do not have the Milliners Straw Needles on their site. I've written to ask if they carry them and will keep you posted in case you want to give them a try! Yes they are expensive. I paid $7.65US for six needles however I plan to look after them so that I get lots of use out of each one. And let's put it in perspective.....when you pay $15/m for fabric the needle is the least of the expense of making a quilt! There are other less expensive brands available. I believe that John James also makes a straw needle. If you know of an online Canadian shop (or US shop) that sells Milliners Straw Needles why not leave a comment and share the information with all of us?

I had some used 3/4" hexagon paper and decided to cut some fabric and make a rosette. It isn't in aid of anything - it was just fun, mindless sewing. This is what I made.

The striped outer ring of hexagons is a directional print. Notice how a subtle stripe radiates out from the centre? What you may not notice at first glance is that the stripes radiate out from the point of a hexagon on six of them and on the other six they radiate out from a flat edge.

When I want to cut a fabric like this what I do is draw an arrow on the hexagon paper to show the direction of the stripe. Then I tack my paper to the fabric with the arrow matching the direction of the stripe and I cut out the fabric with scissors. When it comes time to sew them together I sort them into two piles (stripes from the point and stripes from the flat edge). To sew them together I just alternate a stripe from the point with a stripe from the flat edge! This technique will work with any directional print and it makes the sewing together so easy because you don't have to think about what way the fabric is meant to be positioned! If you use this technique for the hexagons that surround the centre you would only need six that radiate from the same direction. If you wanted to add another round of hexagons to what I've done you would need six and twelve.

That's it for today. Until I post again, happy sewing!
Karen H

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Come together, right now!

The various pieces of my Birds in the Loft hexagon quilt are coming together. This part goes fast! I know I have previously mentioned that it is big. I was wrong. It is not is VERY big. I really should have used 3/4" hexagons. Oh well, it is what it is!

I showed you the right middle section and I've now stitched it

to the centre panel.

And this is what it looks like! I'm afraid to measure is that big!

The stitching goes fast because it is a fairly straight seam. I used off-white thread and the reason is that at least one hexagon in each seam contains the path fabric (the path is the area between the hexagons made with the off-white fabric).

Also I have decided to try my new milliners needles. Missie of Traditional Primitives swears by them for English paper piecing. Debra of Patchwork Sanity swears by them for applique. Both women were absolutely right. The long, thin needles pierce the fabric like a hot knife cutting through butter. My needles are Tulip Hiroshima Needles. They are not inexpensive but they make a big difference in the sewing.

I am able to catch fewer threads making the stitches even less visible. Now don't get me wrong; I don't mind seeing a bit of the stitches because it shows the hand of the maker. But I want them to be small stitches. If you struggle with small, tidy stitches I would encourage you to give milliners needles a try. One note of caution: the eye of the needle is small but it threads so easily. I think that the reason for that is that the bore hole in the Hiroshima needles is smoothed in both directions so there are no burrs inside the eye. This is a significance from other needles which have a nap inside the eye of the needle. If you try to thread a needle and the thread just will not go through turn the needle and thread in the other direction.

That's it for today. Until I post again, happy sewing!
Karen H

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The mitered corner on Birds

I told you that I wanted to miter the corners of the final red strip that will surround my Birds in the Loft hexagon quilt. There are many ways to do it. I wrote about how I attached the borders and mitered the corners on my hexagon quilt Good Golly Miss Mollie here.

Good Golly Miss Mollie by Karen H 2014

To make the miter for Birds I doing it a little differently. I joined two strips of 2 1/2" red fabric by sewing a diagonal line. The result is the mitered corner.

The mitered corner is on the floor with the quilt.

At the yellow arrow you can see that folded the strip under and pressed a 1/4" seam allowance. This will be the finished edge that is on the front of the quilt and strip on the left side will be under the folded edge. To start I flipped the left strip out of the way (yellow circle) so it doesn't interfere with the pinning.

The first place I pin is at the corner (green arrow).l I want the miter to line up with the hexagon (more or less). I then continue pinning as demonstrated in my previous post.  The yellow circles indicate where I've pinned the strip so that it lines up with the seam allowance of the hexagon. The pins in the blue circles are added after to hold the hexagon tight to the strip. The other edge of the quilt is the side edge and I made sure the strip was 1/4" in from the inner "v" of the hexagon and I pinned (red circles).

I turn the quilt so that the right side is facing up and I pin the folded edge to the loose strip making sure that the strip to the left of the pin is laying flat and smooth! I thread baste the quilt to the strip and applique with red thread! Where the strips are joined will also be an applique stitch to join the strips.

So that's how I will be doing it.

Until I post again, happy sewing!
Karen H

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Adding the final border to the side of Birds

It is time to add the final strip of red to my Birds in the Loft hexagon quilt sections. My plan is to applique the quilt sections to a 2 1/2" strip of red fabric so that the quilt will have a straight outside edge. I had promised to show you how I do it and today is the day! My plan is to use the leftover strips of reds that I used for the "made fabric" hexagons. I may have to cut a few more but first I'll use up what I have.

The first step is to make the cat get off the scraps of red! If you don't have a cat just skip this step.

I am going to stitch the red strips to one of the side panels. The little yellow "tents" come right to the edge so the extra bit of red will create a visual stop so that the tent points float and don't get cropped when the quilt is bound.

A few of the red strips were stitched together. I need a strip that is at least 5 inches longer than the length of the side of the quilt I am working with.

I pressed the outside edges of the panel with a hot, dry iron and removed the papers.

Although I could use Roxanne Glue Baste-It (basting glue) to hold the red strip in place I decided to use tiny applique pins to hold the red border strips to the quilt and then thread baste them into position.

I place the strip on the quilt making sure that the strip extends  a couple of inches beyond the end of the quilt. I line up the strip 1/4" in from the "v" that is created where the hexagons are joined and I pin it in place with an applique pin (red circles). The area in the green circle will be the next to be pinned.

Working from left to right I smooth the strip making sure it is laying flat. Any excess fabric is pushed to the right. Once the fabric is smooth and taught I hold it in place between my fingers and place a pin. Continue in this way and while doing so .....

shoo the cat as required. If you don't have a cat please skip this step.

The pinned border will look like this from the right side. You can see the pins on the right side (inside the red circles) and the red border fabric is laying flat and smooth. Continue pinning the strip and

once again shoo the cat as required.

Once the entire strip is pinned to the quilt I thread baste it in place so that it is ready for the hand applique. The pins are removed.

Here you see the right side of the quilt with the red pieced border and the red finished border stitched together. The extra strip of red really makes the little yellow "tents" stand out nicely!

If you are wondering about the loose fabric at the top and bottom of the red strip please stay tuned because I will be explaining the reason for it and what I will be doing it!

Time for me to do a little more basting while little you-know-who takes a cat nap! All that help with pinning has worn him out so he found a nice sunny spot and is fast asleep in the sunshine!

In my next post I hope to show you how I'll add the border to the top section (complete with mitered corners. Until I post again, happy sewing!
Karen H
p.s. If you have a troublesome pussycat why not link up with Sarah's Feline Friday?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Tricks and treats!

Debra is a master appliquer and when I heard that she was doing a free demonstration of applique with heat resistant templates I was thrilled. Some techniques I can figure out easily just by looking at a picture but sometimes I want to see a live demonstration so when I heard that Debra was going to show how she does it I jumped at the opportunity!

Debra brought her design board with blocks that she made using heat resistant templates and starch.

The little baskets on the left are from a pattern called Trick or Treat in the the book When the Cold Wind Blows by Barb Adams and Alma Allen of Blackbird Designs.

The hexagon blocks on the right are a design called Garden Pavers and there is a free pattern for a table runner. Just click here. Debra says she is going to make an entire quilt with these hexagon blocks!

Debra's demonstration was very helpful and  informative. I found it interesting that she just uses her finger to apply the starch to the seam allowance before pressing it over the template! I also learned that you really need a seam allowance that is less than 1/4" to get smooth curves and turns. She also highly recommended Tulip Hiroshima Needles (#10 Milliners Needles - Straw). I ordered some to try them out. They are very nice needles to work with. They are thin and flexible and just glide through the fabric. I still like to use Roxanne Applique Needles but these ones are quickly gaining a place in my sewing kit!

I have the book When the Cold Wind Blows in my library so I pulled it out and decided make a block to try out what I had learned. I also timed myself.  Debra told us the first basket she appliqued took 30 minutes but with practice she got it down to 15 minutes. The starch basting is quick and easy and then I used my Roxanne Glue Baste-It to hold the handle and basket in place. I looked at the clock and started stitching. On hour later this is what I had!

I like the basket but there are roughly 300 of them in the quilt so unless I get faster (or do machine applique which is an option) it would take me a very long time to make that quilt. However I will cut and starch baste some baskets and keep them in a bag so that if I need some hand stitching (or decide to machine applique) they will be ready and waiting! They don't take much fabric (the background is a tiny 5 1/2" square) so they are a good way to use up scraps.

Speaking of scraps I've been stitching my red scraps together to make this red border for my Birds in the Loft hexagon quilt. I had to add a few red pieces to either side to bring it to size and I have done that.

It was time to add the border to the top section of the quilt.

That border is now stitched to the top section of the quilt! What a difference a border makes to a quilt.

The final step is to applique this section to a 2 1/2" red border so that I have straight edges! The end is finally in sight! I think that the final red border made with my leftovers will be yet another improvement. Hopefully I can get it stitched down today or tomorrow. And you just have to know I'll show you how I did it (mitered corners and all)!

Until I post again, happy sewing!
Karen H

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

More techniques for fussy cutting fabric

I have been doing some fussy cutting to prepare some samples for an English paper piecing workshop that I will be doing in the November. There are so many ways to fussy cut and the one I use will depends on many factors. I've written several posts on fussy cutting as well as some instructions which you can find under the tab English Paper Piecing Instructions & Hexagon Fun. Today I thought I would share two other fussy cutting methods (one is a variation on something I've already showed) that I like to use. The other is relatively new and it came to me when I didn't want to start cutting up my fabric until I knew what the rosette would look like.

Clear Plastic Template Method
The first step is to make a template from clear plastic. I save scrap plastic (often from presentation folders) to make my templates. The first thing I do is trace the actual size of my hexagon (or diamond) on the plastic with a permanent marker. I then cut it out being sure to add a seam allowance all the way around,

Now I am ready to go! I place the template on my fabric and find the area I want to use. With my permanent marker I make some registration marks to help line up the next motif. I trace around my template. In the following picture the outer green line shows the outer edge of my plastic template. It is the cutting line. The gold inner line represents the finished size of the hexagon. You can see that I've drawn some registration marks on the template.

This is the template with the registration marks.

The nice thing about this plastic template is that it is reusable! I can just hear someone saying but it has registration marks made with a permanent marker. No problem: a tiny bit of nail polish remover on a paper point or an ear swab will remove the registration marks quickly and easily so that the template can be reused.

Now I could use the quilters' template material because it will accept pencil marks that can be erased however I find that it is opaque so it can be difficult to see the design on the fabric so for me the clear plastic works really well and it was material that cost me nothing because it was salvaged!

Copied Fabric
Sometimes I don't know where to place my template on the fabric to get the nicest result and I don't want to just cut up my fabric willy nilly so what to do? Simple! Make a colour copy of the fabric and then cut it up until the right arrangement appears!

I can cut out different sections of the fabric and try out different arrangements of the hexagons.

When I decide which portion of the print that I want to use I line up the copied fabric on the real fabric to cut my hexagons for EPP. I cut around the paper being sure to add a 1/4" seam allowance all around!

This is the finished block using the template made from a copy of the fabric!

So there you have it - two more methods of fussy cutting that you can add to your skill set!

Until I post again, happy sewing!
Karen H

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The top section of Birds

I've stitched together all of the rosettes so that the panel that will connect to the right side of the centre panel of my Birds in the Loft hexagon quilt. The star border is also stitched and ready to be attached to this panel.

What have I been doing in my spare time? I've managed to stitch all of the rosettes that will form the top section of the quilt and the bottom half is almost done!

The red border with stars that I showed to you the other day is now finished and it can now be attached to the top section of the quilt.

What's next? I'll finish stitching the bottom section of the quilt and its border.

I'm planning on adding to the red outer border to create a straight outside edge and think I will add it before I stitch the sections of the quilt together. It will make the sewing more manageable and it will mean less handling of the quilt! When I reach the point where I am ready to add the red strips to the outer border I'll be sure to explain how I will do it!

For those of you who left comments on my last post thank you, thank you, thank you for all the kind words. I am having problems with blogger. Normally when a comment is posted I get an email but lately I find that I'm not receiving email notification of every comment. I've tried to find and answer to this issue and so far no luck. I do reply to every comment so if you don't hear back from me it means one of two things: you are a no reply blogger or I didn't receive notification that you left a comment! I do check my current post for comments but I don't go back and check every post (I'm too busy sewing)!

Until I post again, happy sewing!
Karen H

Friday, May 15, 2015

The stars are aligned!

The stars for the middle side panel are aligned and have been stitched together to the red border for my Birds in the Loft hexagon quilt. This isn't the clearest of pictures and the colours look flat but you get the idea of how it looks. I love the scrapiness of the various reds!

Once the star strip and red pieced border were stitched together I added them to the section of hexagon rosettes that will go on either side of the centre panel. Here you can see it attached to the left centre section of the quilt. I plan to applique the red pieced border to a strip of red fabric. I've got scraps that are 2 5/8" (leftovers from the "made fabric") so I'll sew them together to be used for the border to create the straight edge.

I am super happy with how the border looks against the quilt; the assorted red scraps I used just glow. There are all sorts of reds from deep blue reds, to purple-reds, orange-reds, fuchsia-reds and barn red just to name a few!

Here you can see the top border pinned to the fence. It is still in progress and there are more pieces to be added. Did I mention that this quilt will be big? I'm also stitching together the rosettes that this border will surround and am almost done!

That's it for today. I'm all fired up and itching to sew, sew, sew because the end is in sight! Until I post again, happy sewing!
Karen H
p.s. I'm linking up with Sarah Did It HeLP for Hexie-aholics. If you followed my Value Proposition Hexagon Quilt Along you can see the progress Sarah is making on her quilt in that post! It is gorgeous!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

REWIND: Twinkle, twinkle, little star

Welcome back to REWIND! Every now and then I "rewind" and republish one of my older posts that you may have missed! Today I'm going to share a post from February 2014 in which I write about making REALLY small hexagon stars! I made stars with 1" hexagons for the border of my Birds in the Loft hexagon quilt. 

The quilt is turning out to be larger than I expected and I wrote that I probably could have got away with 3/4" hexagons. Eloidastiches asked if I could have made the stars with 3/4" hexagons and the answer is yes! I've made stars of all different sizes, the smallest being about 1/2".  In fact I did a little tutorial on making small stars. I used one in the middle of my hexagon heart which had a large open space just begging for something to be tucked inside! Making small stars is the subject of this edition of REWIND!

There are also lots of small stars (and other motifs) in my quilt There's a Snail in Grandma's Flower Garden.
There's a Snail in Grandma's Flower Garden by Karen H 2004

So without further ado here is the tutorial. I hope you enjoy it and if there are any questions please do not hesitate to ask!

* * * * *

Tutorial: Twinkle, twinkle little star!

I thought today I would demonstrate how I made a little star using my technique for foundation pieced English paper pieced hexagons. I worked with 1/2" hexagons! You can find a master template for the hexagons here.

The first step is to draft the star points. I make marks at the top and bottom edge of a pair of hexagons. These marks will be the width of the base of the star point. You can make the base of the star points as wide or narrow as you want however I would not make it as wide as the hexagon itself because there is just too much seam allowance for a little piece. It is much easier to baste with a narrower base.

I connect the marks on the diagonal.

I repeat on the other diagonal.

I make two more pairs and then cut them out.

If you are new here my foundation piecing method is explained in my January 19, 2014 post. It is really important to shorten your stitch length! The basting is explained in my January 20, 2014 post.

Here you see a foundation pieced star point on the hexagon. When trimming the excess be sure to leave at least 1/4" seam allowance but 3/8" is even better. I just trim with my scissors. If the seam allowance is too large when I come to baste it I can trim a little bit.

NOTE: This was not in the original post but I suggest that you use the blunt end of a darning needle or a toothpick to break the bond between the paper and the fabric before you baste the hexagon. This will make the removal of the paper much easier! You can see how I did it with a larger star point here.

Here you can see a basted hexagon from the front and the back. The paper is still in place. Notice how the fabric is folded and basted at the base of the star point. Normally the folds would all be in the same direction but in this instance the fold in the lower right corner has changed direction. It makes for a sharp corner.

The basted hexagons are arranged and ready to be stitched together.

Once basted they can be stitched together and a center is added. I'll do a little video in the near future to show you how I set in the center hexagon.

The little star is complete and it measures a dainty 2 1/2" square.

I used one of these stars to make my miniature quilt Bony Fingers.

Bony Fingers by Karen H 2009

I plan to use the star I made in this tutorial as an embellishment on another quilt so it will be appliqued in place. I gave the star a good press with a hot iron and spray starch. I pressed the front and the back. The basting threads were removed and then the paper was removed. To remove the papers I gently opened the seam allowances that were basted under.

I remove the papers from the sides of the star point. My stitch length was shorted so the paper comes out effortlessly.

The last step is to remove  the paper that was the star point from the center. I neatly folded the seam allowances back into place.

And here you see the finished star ready to be appliqued to my quilt!

While this small star looks difficult it is actually quite easy. Just take your time and have fun! If it doesn't turn out it doesn't take much fabric so it isn't a huge loss! If you do make a little star I would love to hear how you made out!

* * * * *

That's it for REWIND today! I hope you enjoyed seeing how I made my little stars. All you need to do is make one and use it as an embellishment. It won't take long and your friends will be amazed by your work!

Until I post again, happy sewing!
Karen H