Thursday, September 7, 2017

English Paper Piecing Workshop

I'll be teaching a full-day English paper piecing (EPP) workshop in Pickering, Ontario on Sunday, September 17, 2017. The workshop is being hosted by the Twisted Stitchers Quilt Guild.

My workshop is called Easier Than Pie & Beyond because my methods and techniques make EPP easier than pie! I've been using EPP to make quilts for 35+ years and developed my "beyond" methods in the late 1990s. It is fun and exciting for me to see others get excited about the possibilities using my basic techniques combined with "made" fabric methods. It takes EPP beyond the basics and launches it to the next level. Although this workshop focuses on hexagons the knowledge you will acquire can be applied to any shape.   These are my class samples that demonstrate the techniques that I teach.

If you are interested in attending the workshop feel free to send me an email (my address is on the sidebar on the right) and I will forward your message to the organizer. She'll be able to provide you with all the details including location and cost.

Until I post again, happy sewing.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Antique Wedding Sampler Blocks 3 and 4

Today I'm sharing pictures of blocks 3 and 4 of the Antique Wedding Sampler Quilt blocks made by Paula and me. The pattern is from the book Primarily Quilts by Di Ford Hall. These blocks were relatively quick to make. Perhaps the most challenging component was the little compass in the middle of block 3 but in my next post I'll share some tips on constructing both blocks.

I chose to use a different arrangement of HSTs in my block. It's always fun to be able to personalize a quilt block by making changes!

Karen's Block 3

Paula's Block 3

For block 4 I went with the pattern including the little appliqued bud in the corners of the star in the centre however Paula chose to do some broderie perse instead and I think that the result is beautiful.

Karen's Block 4

Paula's Block 4

Until the next time, happy sewing!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Antique Wedding Sample blocks 1 and 2 - oh silly me!

Oh silly me! I know that Paula had revisited her first two blocks. She replaced the broderie perse in the corners of block 1 and she completely remade block 2. Unfortunately I published pictures of the original blocks and not the final versions of the blocks in my August 21, 2017 post. I've updated the post so you can see both versions. Click here to go to the post.

Until the next time, happy sewing!


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Antique Wedding Sampler - block 1 construction tips

Yesterday I wrote about blocks 1 and 2 that Paula and I made for our Antique Wedding Sampler quilts. There were a couple of questions/comments about block 1 that I thought I would address today.

Leslie (sorry but you are a no reply blogger so I couldn't send you a personal message) asked about the broderie perse (the floral applique in the corners). She wanted to know if there are tutorials or books available. I did publish a tutorial on broderie perse and you can find it here. There are several on YouTube however many seem to use fusible web and that is not something I wanted to do. I have searched for books specifically about broderie perse but there are very few available. One that I do have in my library is Broderie Perse by Barbara W. Barber. It is an older book and can be difficult to find. It is an interesting and informative book but honestly the information that you really need can be boiled down to a few points.

When I do broderie perse there are a few things that are important for me and I thought I would share them today.

  1. When I cut my shapes I leave roughly a 1/4" seam allowance. I position the shape on my background fabric and then trim seam allowance down to a scant 1/8". I generally trim down my seam allowances as I sew. I might trim an 1" or 1 1/2" and stitch most of that down before I trim more excess seam allowance. I do this because I find that if there is a lot of handling of the applique it can fray and you may not have enough seam allowance to turn under.
  2. I use a slim, sharp needle. My preferred needles are #10 milliners needles.
  3. I use a fine thread that either matches my applique or the background. My preferred thread these days (introduced to me by Paula) is DMC machine embroidery thread. It is cotton and very lightweight. I find that a taupe colour works well for many of my appliques but I also have other colours in my thread box.
  4. I used a tiny dab of inexpensive glue to temporarily tack my shapes in position. I look for a glue that is washable, fabric safe and acid free. For those who live in Canada you can buy Studio Glue from Dollarama. It costs $1.25 for four sticks. Bargain!

To stitch down the shapes there are a few stitches that can be used. A blind stitch (the traditional applique method where the seam allowance is turned under with the tip of the needle) is my preferred method however the applique can also be done with a buttonhole/blanket stitch in which case the raw edge of the applique is not turned under but is instead covered with the stitches.

The compass in block 1 is English paper pieced and I have a couple of tips for piecing the compass. You will notice that the large brown diamonds have tiny cream diamonds (with a red print) at the inner point. I appliqued the cream fabric to the brown fabric before I basted the paper to the brown fabric (inside the green circle).

I stitched a red triangle to either side of the diamond. When I got to the point inside the circle I made sure that the cream diamond was a couple of threads shy of the point of the red triangle. I added the red triangle at the left and took an extra stitch to keep the points of the red triangles together (inside the red circle). I then continued sewing the red triangle to the other side of the diamond.

I stitched the curved shapes to either side of four of the brown diamonds.  Those curved edges must line up or you won't have what appears to be a circle behind the compass points.

In order to make sure that the curved edges did match up I made a registration mark on my paper so that I knew where the curved edge should be positioned.

To sew the units together I made sure to line up the curve with the registration mark on the paper template and when I got to the inside edge I made sure that the cream diamond was a couple of threads shy of the point on the red triangle (at the red circle) so that when I added the next unit with the red triangle I could take an extra stitch to pull those points together. As you add pieces to make the compass be sure to open it up and ensure that the curved edge is even on either side of each large diamond.

I hope that these little tips will be helpful! Until the next time, happy sewing!
Karen H

Monday, August 21, 2017

Friendship and the Antique Wedding Sampler Quilt

It's been almost a year since Paula and I struck up an online friendship. We have very similar tastes when it comes to fabric, quilt styles/designs, cats and food! Paula found me via my blog and after corresponding about various projects we were working on Paula asked if I would be interested in working together on a project and I thought it was a fine idea. She had previously mentioned that she had made four blocks from the Antique Wedding Sampler quilt designed by Di Ford Hall, a quilt that I admired greatly. The pattern is in Di's first book, Primarily Quilts. Each of the quilts in the book is inspired by antique quilts.

I believe that the quilt that inspired Di Ford's Antique Wedding Sampler is a Quaker quilt made by Charlotte Gillingham c 1842-1843. It is part of the Philadelphia Museum of Art's collection. You can read more about the original at Quaker Quilt History.

I had seen the Antique Wedding Sampler quilts made by Carole of Wheels on the Warrandyte Bus and the G'nT Sisters. Their blocks and quilts are very inspirational and exciting. Carole had assured me that the blocks were very doable.

Paula wasn't happy with her first four blocks so I suggested that she address her concerns with those blocks and while she was doing that I would make the first four blocks. Thereafter we would work on two blocks a month. We figured two blocks a month was manageable and we would be able to support and encourage each other and more importantly there would somebody with whom we could problem solve. There are twenty five blocks in the quilt and as it turned out we decided that when we both completed our two blocks we would move on to the next two. While the blocks did present some challenges, they were not as difficult as I had originally thought.

Over the next little while I plan to share our 12" blocks with you. Without further ado here are the first two blocks. I'll discuss some of the methods we used and areas where you can get creative!

Block 1 - The compass looks difficult but we English paper pieced it and then appliqued it to the background. My points are a little bit wobbly (I can live with that) whereas Paula's are perfect! The motifs in the corners are done in the broderie perse method of applique. I chose to applique a butterfly in the middle of my block and Paula chose a lovely circle print.

UPDATE #1: I posted a couple tips on constructing the compass and sewing the broderie perse flowers in the corners. You can find them here.

UPDATE #2: I just discovered that I posted versions of Paula's first two blocks which she later changed. In block 1 she replace the broderie perse in the corners and block 2 was remade. Notice that she substituted a hexagon rosette for the tiny 8 point star that the pattern called for! I've updated the post with both revised blocks.

Karen's block 1

Paula's block 1 (first version)

Paula's block 1 (final version)

Block 2 - This was a simple pieced block with some traditional applique in the corners. The centre of the block called for a tiny star which I English paper pieced and then appliqued in position. I thought it needed a little pizzazz so I appliqued a little circle in the centre. Note that it is the same fabric I used for the circles in the north-south-east-west positions in block 1. Paula didn't relish the idea of making the tiny little star so instead she fussy cut a beautiful birds and flowers piece of fabric for the centre.

 Karen's block 2

Paula's block 2

Paula's block 2 (remade)

Next time I post I'll share blocks 3 and 4.  Until then, happy sewing!

Karen H

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Tiny Stems: two more methods

In my last post I wrote about tiny stems.

A reader left a comment describing another method for making those tiny stems. In case you don't read comments I decided to share her suggestion in a post. Thanks for taking the time to comment and share with others. I've said it before; a quilt maker can never have too many tips, techniques and skills in her tool box!

This is what Eloidastitches wrote:

Those tiny stems are quite the trick Karen. I would like to share a method I read in a book by Jane Townswick (Artful Applique, the Easy Way). In this book she shares her method of marking seam lines on skinny bias stems using a Hera marker (page 109). Before she cuts the strips, using a quilting ruler, she lines up the 1/8th inch mark along the cut edge on the back of the fabric, and then scores along the edge of the ruler at the 1/8th inch mark. Then she moves the ruler to the 1/4" mark, for the second score. After that you can cut it at the 3/8" mark (or like I do, I cut it at the 1/2" mark to give myself some wiggle room - and I actually do make another score line at the 3/8" mark as well then, which makes it easy for trimming off later). I finger press the first score line before I pin it down on my background fabric, and find this method works quite nicely, the seam allowance just nicely rolls over. The score line for the other edge can also be finger pressed before stitching down. If I have cut the strip at 1/2", then I trim it after the first edge is stitched down. I think I have gained enough confidence now, that I may cut my strips at 3/8" next time.

For all of you back basting fans, that method can be used for tiny stems and you don't have to deal with bias edges. The technique is describe by Jeana Kimball on Instagram.  The description of her method can be found here

Until I post again, happy sewing!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Rowdy Flat Library Quilt and Tiny Stems Tutorial

Again I apologize for the silence but it doesn't mean I don't think about you! I have recently started posting pictures on Instagram so if you are interested you can pop on over and have a look. My address there is @faeriesandfibres.

I've been working away on my Rowdy Flat Library Quilt designed by Susan Smith of Patchwork On Stoneleigh.  There are lots of stems to be appliqued and for the most part they are a mere 1/8" in width. There are eight pots of flowers on each of the four borders and most of them have more than one stem. That's a lot of little stems! UPDATE:Eloidastitches left a comment and she described another lovely method for making the tiny stems. I've added it to the end of this post so do read on!

Now I know that there are tools for making bias strips but the 1/8" size is so difficult if not impossible to find (not to mention expensive if you do find it). There are tutorials on how to make bias makers with cardstock and I tried them but had varying degrees of success. They seemed to work fine for bias strips of 1/4" or larger but the 1/8" size was next to impossible. So here's what I came up with and it works like a charm.

I cut bias strips that are 3/8". For tiny stems I could have worked with strips cut on the grain but when it frays, long threads come loose and it makes it difficult to turn under the raw edges when stitching so bias strips work better.

I fold under one edge by 1/8" and press with a hot, dry iron. Steam can distort the fabric and you are working with such a tiny seam allowance that there will be problems if you use steam. An alternative is to spray your fabric with a little starch and press it before you cut your bias strips. The little 1/8" seam allowance will fold and press much easier than it would without the starch.

Folding and pressing can be a little tricky so an alternative is to fold and thread baste as you fold. I baste only a half inch or so at a time. This is my preferred method because the fold doesn't open up at all. I can baste a longer strip, cut off what I need for a stem and applique it. The remainder of the strip is basted so the fold stays nice and crisp.

You may find it difficult to fold under  1/8" so there is another method. Cut  a 1/2" bias strip. Fold the strip in half and press with a hot, dry iron.

Trim down one side leaving a 1/8" seam allowance.

To applique the stems I place a stem on the fabric. I generally pin the stem to my fabric with tiny applique pins. I stitch down the folded edge first. In the pictures I've used white thread however I would normally use a colour to match the fabric that is being appliqued which in this case is green.

I tuck under the raw edge of the bias strip with the tip of my needle and stitch it down.

I only tuck under enough fabric to take a couple of stitches. This helps to minimize or eliminate any fraying.

The result is nice, tiny little stems!

I'm often asked what thread I use and there are a couple that I like. Gutermann 100% cotton thread is lightweight, very inexpensive and it comes in a wide variety of colours. My favourite thread is DMC machine embroidery thread. It was recommended by my friend Paula and it works beautifully. It has a soft sheen and although it is the same weight as the Gutermann if feels so much finer. It virtually disappears. It comes in the same colours as DMC embroider floss. 

UPDATE: As promised above I am adding the comment from Eloidastitches in which she describes another method for making tiny stems. A quilt maker can never have too may tips, techniques and skills in her tool box! Here is the comment: 

Those tiny stems are quite the trick Karen. I would like to share a method I read in a book by Jane Townswick (Artful Apllique, the Easy Way). In this book she shares her method of marking seam lines on skinny bias stems using a Hera marker (page 109). Before she cuts the strips, using a quilting ruler, she lines up the 1/8th inch mark along the cut edge on the back of the fabric, and then scores along the edge of the ruler at the 1/8th inch mark. Then she moves the ruler to the 1/4" mark, for the second score. After that you can cut it at the 3/8" mark (or like I do, I cut it at the 1/2" mark to give myself some wiggle room - and I actually do make another score line at the 3/8" mark as well then, which makes it easy for trimming off later). I finger press the first score line before I pin it down on my background fabric, and find this method works quite nicely, the seam allowance just nicely rolls over. The score line for the other edge can also be finger pressed before stitching down. If I have cut the strip at 1/2", then I trim it after the first edge is stitched down. I think I have gained enough confidence now, that I may cut my strips at 3/8" next time.

I hope you enjoyed this little tutorial. Until I post again happy sewing and I hope to see you all over at Instagram!


Saturday, June 17, 2017

Tutorial: Finishing a hexagon quilt with a facing

I shared my polka dot quilt with you in my last post. Unlike most of my other hexagon quilts I chose to maintain the hexagons right to the edge of the quilt. So how do you finish the quilt? You make a facing. The next question is so what is a facing and how is it different from a binding?

Tea Dot by Karen H 2017

Let me start out with this qualifier: I'm not an expert but I'll explain it in my own non-technical way. Both a facing and a binding can be used to finish/cover the raw edges of a quilt. A binding (usually cut on the bias) is typically folded in half. The raw edges of the binding are lined up with the raw edges of the quilt and then it is stitched to the quilt. Once done it is folded to the back and the edge of the binding that is folded is stitched to the back of the quilt. With this method the binding shows on the front of the quilt. Attaching a binding to a quilt with a straight edge is easy although there is some care needed at the corners to ensure that the binding is folded at a 90 degree angle to create a mitered corner. If you were to attach a binding to a hexagon quilt you would need to create MANY 60 degree or 300 degree angle folds and this is just way too difficult for me. That's where a facing comes in handy!

A facing is a method of finishing the raw edges with a piece of fabric that is stitched to the quilt and then folded to the back of the quilt such that the facing does not show on the front of the quilt. It creates a smooth edge and no stitching will appear on the front of the quilt.

If you've ever made a sleeveless blouse you will notice that the armhole is typically finishing with a facing that is made from the same fabric as the blouse. The same is true for a neck hole in a blouse that doesn't have a collar or a jacket that doesn't have lapels. Using a facing to finish your hexagon quilt gives you a lovely finished edge. There is a disadvantage to a finishing with a facing and that is that the edge of the quilt is more susceptible to wear. A double fold binding provides two layers of fabric protection for the edge of the quilt whereas a facing provides virtually none. If you make a hexagon quilt that is going to be heavily used and well-loved then I recommend adding a border to create a straight edge and then bind it with a double fold binding. I wrote a tutorial of adding a border and you can find it here.

So let's get started with the tutorial. I like to baste hexagons from the back so that the thread remains in the quilt. If you aren't familiar with this method you can read about it here.  This is what a hexagon looks like basted from the back.

All papers are removed from the quilt top before it is sandwiched and then quilted. If you miss a paper it can be difficult if not impossible to remove! I know whereof I speak because I missed one paper in my Tea Dot quilt and had to quilt through it because I couldn't get it out! Quilt your top as desired.  The next step is to baste the edge of the quilt. I've marked the basting lines with green. This step is optional but I found that it was much easier to trim the excess backing and batting/wadding away if the edge was basted. The basting thread can be removed at any point after the trimming is done.

The facing is made of hexagons that are stitched together to mirror the edges of the quilt. The edge that looks liked dentil moulding will be stitched like this.

The edge that is a simple zigzag will look like this.

The following diagram shows the hexagons stitched together to make the facing. There are less hexagons in the diagram than there were in my quilt. The purpose of the diagram is simply to give you an idea of how the hexagon facing is stitched together. It will look identical from the front and back. I leave the papers in the facing until it is stitched to the quilt. Once attached the paper can be removed. I find the paper gives the hexagon body and makes it easier to line up the edges that are to be stitched. If you prefer to remove the papers before attaching the facing by all means do so!

The facing can be stitched together to make the facing for the quilt however I found it easier to stitch the facing to the quilt in sections.  Place the facing on the quilt with right sides together. I begin attaching the facing three or four hexagons in from the edge (I start at the red arrow) using the simple whip stitch. The hexagons to the left of the red arrow are left loose until I've stitched most of the facing to the right side of the quilt. It makes it easier to join the side face to the top facing. I used a neutral colour thread for stitching.

Once the facing has been stitched to the quilt it is flipped to the back. I used a blunt edged instrument to poke out the points of the hexagons. This is what it will look like from the front.

This is what it will look like from the back before it is stitched down.

The facing is stitched to the back of the quilt and you are done! I found it helpful to use little applique pins to hold the facing in position while I stitched it to the back. I would pin five hexagons and stitch four of them down. I would then pin the next four hexagons before stitching again. I did it this way because if the last hexagon was not flat and smooth a bubble would happen. If I stopped sewing before the last hexagon in the facing and that bubble was starting to develop I could reposition my facing without having to do any reverse sewing.

So there you have it, finishing a hexagon quilt with a facing. I hope this was helpful. It all makes sense to me but I know that sometimes it may not be clear to others so if there are questions or comments feel free to let me know and I'll do my best to explain how or why I did it this way!

Until I post again happy sewing!

Karen H

Thursday, June 15, 2017

A polka dot finish

All is well here but I've been more than busy doing trunk shows and teaching. Teaching means making samples so I've made quite a few quilt tops and am itching to quilt at least some of them! I've also been working on projects for myself.

Do you remember these blocks? I used two different polka dot fabrics. One has a slightly smaller dot than the other. Both had stark white backgrounds (nothing that a pot of tea couldn't fix)! Although I'm partial to fussy cutting there is no fussy cutting in the blocks since there is enough going on with the dots and chintz print I used for the path that will connect the blocks.

After many hours of stitching the blocks were put together to make the quilt top. My friend was hand quilting a quilt and it made my fingers itch to do some hand quilting. There's just nothing like the feel of a hand quilted quilt so after many hours of work the itchy fingers have turned into sore fingers but at least the quilt is hand quilted! The photo doesn't do it justice. In real life the colours are much warmer and it looks old and loved. I test drove the quilt on my bed last night and the cats gave it the seal of approval! So what do I call this quilt? I call it Tea Dot!

I didn't want to trim the hexagons and I didn't want a border so I finished the edges with a facing made of hexagons.

It is a time consuming way to finish the edge but it was the look I was going for so it was worth the effort. If anyone is interested in a tutorial for this method let me know and I'll write one and post it here!

Until I post again (hopefully sooner rather than later) happy sewing!
Karen H

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Rowdy Flat Library Quilt Block 3

I am having so much fun with Susan Smith's Rowdy Flat Library Quilt pattern.  Block 3 is finished and I am really happy with it! There are lots of little details like birds, bugs and flowers. This little bird is totally adorable! I cut him from a piece of fabric from an old charm pack. My goal was to centre one of the little flowers to create her eye. She measures about 1" tall and 1.75 wide. That is tiny and it also gives you an idea of just how small the leafs are. At first I didn't think I would be able to make such tiny appliques but I've found over the years that the best approach is to focus on just one small piece and take your time with it. When you focus on the whole it is overwhelming. I made the little rosy breast and that went fine so I then moved on to the bird's body. I just worked slow and took my time.

The is a caterpillar in this block too!

I cut the caterpillar from a leftover scrap from my quilt Mom's Flower Bed. This is the fabric I started with.

It made all of the stars in this quilt (except of course for the dark green stars) and it made the caterpillar in my  Rowdy Flat Library quilt.
Mom's Flower Bed by Karen H

Another little scrap of this same fabric was used to make a snail! I wanted something that mimicked the swirls and curls of the snail shell.

This is my finished block 3.

For me the hardest part of making a quilt from another person's pattern is fabric selection. I am so influenced by the fabrics the designer used and I find it very difficult to make my own choices. I don't have that problem when I make my own quilts.  You may recall my hexagon quilt along called Value Proposition. I did publish colour pictures of each block but I also published black and white pictures. When the colour is removed you see the value (the relative lightness or darkness of one fabric when compared to another). This little trick often helps me make fabric choices because I can search for a fabric that is lighter or darker and colour is much less of an influence.

Time to get back to sewing my polka dot hexagons and prepping for teaching tomorrow! Until I post again, happy sewing.
Karen H