Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Block 7 - Lillies


As with any applique project, there are numerous ways of doing the applique.  Block 7 can be done with needle turn applique, turned machine applique, or fused.  The flower shapes on this one are a bit challenging for needleturn, although that is the method I have used. I believe the pattern designer chose to fuse her flowers and then do a decorative hand blanket stitch around the edges. This gives a little more folk art look to the block.

Fabric Selection

There is one fabric included in the kit which is specifically for the flowers in this block.  It is the lightest cream fabric, included with your Dedicated Fabrics bundle. For those selecting their own fabrics, choose a fabric here that does stand out.  This block is really beautiful and you do want your flowers to be a focal point.

The background I chose for this block is black, as are most of the blocks, and for the stems and leaves I chose a brown hombre plaid.  I love the look of the hombre value changes along the flower stems and it gives the leaves a bit of variation so they all look a little different. This fabric also shows up well on the black background, but does not compete with the flowers.

For the centers of the flowers I chose a soft, small scale plaid that is actually a green/gray color with accent threads in both blue and cream. The very small scale of the plaid gives the look of a check in the center of the flowers.
A note of caution however, the fabric I chose to use for the centers is really soft and has very little body.  I was very concerned that I would not be able to create the crisp round shape I wanted to with this fabric, so I fused a Pellon featherweight interfacing (#906F) to the back side of this fabric before cutting out my circles. This stabilized the fabric and totally prevented any stretching.  It is a technique that I have used frequently on lightweight or stretchy fabrics, such as Japanese Kimono Silk, to allow me to cut and piece them along with my standard quilting cottons.  Try it, you will like it.




Assembly of the Block

You will need to copy your applique pattern pages (2) and tape them together to make the complete design.  I like to use a light box to trace the design onto the background fabric.  You may be surprised to learn that, yes, you can see the pattern lines through black fabric.  I learned how to do this when copying Sashiko designs onto dark Indigo fabric.  Make sure your pattern lines are dark and bold.  When you copy the pattern, go over the lines on your copy with black Sharpie Marker.  The fine point, not the extra fine.  Then use a light box with a bright light.  I have been using one of the newer LED flat panel light boxes and it works great.  If you plan on doing this tracing on a window, do it on a bright day in the middle of the afternoon.

On dark fabrics I love to use the Clover white marking pen #517. These pens are fine point, roller ball point pens that go on clear and dry quickly to a chalky white, very fine line.  This line will not wipe off while you work and handle the fabric, but instantly come off with water, or just the steam of your iron.

I demonstrated how to make bias stems for flowers in a previous blog article on applique, so I will not repeat that, or the basic technique of turned edge hand applique.  Just a few pointers. 
Make plastic templates the finished size of your applique pieces.  Trace around the templates on the good side of your fabric (not the back), with a marking tool that will come off (test this).  Laying the fabric on a sand paper board will prevent it from slipping while you are tracing. The line will be your turning line, so you want to be able to see it clearly.  Cut out your pieces leaving a 3/16" seam allowance beyond your marked line.  This is about half way between 1/8" and 1/4". It is not critical if this varies a bit, as it will be turned under during the applique process.  Just be aware, 1/8" is not really enough, and 1/4" is often a bit to much, so something in between works best.
When you are sewing, turn under the edge of your fabric right to the turn line, then finger press with your thumb and take a couple of stitches.  Only turn under the fabric just 1/2"-3/4" ahead of where you are stitching.  As you go around outside curves, take small stitches and adjust the fold of your edge frequently (sometimes every stitch) so you have a nice curve and not several flat sides like a stop sign. When you are approaching an inside point (like the notches between flower petals), clip your seam allowance once right at the base of the valley just up to the turn line. As you sew and get closer to this valley, your seam allowance will get smaller and smaller until there is no seam allowance at all.

Your stitches should get closer together, and you need to take a deeper stitch, beyond the turn line, creating a bit of satin stitching right over the valley. Then begin increasing your stitch spacing, back to about 1/8" apart again. Note the satin stitching over the base of the valleys on my flower.  Choose a close matching thread for this so it does not show much.

To make perfect circles for your centers, use a template form the correct size.  I like Perfect Circles by Karen Kay Buckley.  This pack has all the circle sizes you need for most projects and they are heat resistant, so you can baste around your fabric circle then pull and tighten the basting forming the fabric around the circle template.  While you have the basting tight, iron the circle, setting the perfect circular edge, then remove the template.


Stitching down your circles is just a breeze as the edges are already turned perfectly!
Here is our finished applique.  We will be trimming this block later when we make the blocks for next month and attach them to the bottom of the flowers.
Thanks for following along.  Happy stitching.


Friday, June 9, 2017

Twilight Garden - Block Six - Picnic

Fabric Selection

 This month we are using quite a few fabrics in our block to give it that scrappy look.  My block is going to lean more toward the reds, beige and gray.  I like having a couple of very distinct reds in this block, both in the center checkerboard design, and in the bordering rectangles.  I also am using a couple of plaid, gray fabrics.  These are only being used in the checkerboard, but really give it a lot of visual interest and some motion to carry your eyes from place to place.

The fabrics pictured at right show the color range and the value changes from light to dark.  The darkest at the top is the pure black that I am using for the background setting triangles.


Pattern Errors

I am just going to begin this month's article by pointing out some rather big errors in the pattern for block six.

I had been really looking forward to making this block, as I think it is one of the prettiest in the quilt, and it is very scrappy, including many different fabrics.  I had pre-cut all of my pieces as per the instructions and sat down to make the block.  As I was assembling the different units and pieces, it became clear that the measurements for some of the pieces were wrong.  Fortunately, some pieces are too large, and can just be cut down to the correct size, but some are really too small and will require re-cutting if you have already cut them out.

Under "Cutting Instructions", where it says from a Dark Fabric:  The pieces for A are correct and will work, but the pieces for B - Cut four squares 3 1/4" x 3 1/4" should be larger squares.  This change is necessary because of a measurement error for the center part of the block. The entire block center is a bit smaller than what is stated in the pattern, so the setting triangles, cut from the Dark Fabric, need to be a little bit larger.  I would recommend cutting your B pieces from 3 3/4" squares, cut twice diagonally to create sixteen quarter square triangles.

Then under the section "From the Light Fabric"  It says to cut two rectangles (piece E) 1 1/2" x 6 7/8".  These should be 1 1/2" x 6 1/2".  Also, for piece F, the two rectangles should measure 1 1/2" x 8 1/2" not 1 1/2" x 9".

If the center checkerboard is assembled as called for in the pattern, after pressing, the 6 x 6 checkerboard will measure 6 1/2" square.  After adding the 4 border strips and pressing, it should measure 8 1/2" square, not 9" square as stated in the pattern.

Do not be alarmed by this.  Continue your assembly as the pattern indicates, only substituting the larger cut B pieces as your setting triangles.  This will give you enough overhang to trim your finished blocks down to 12 1/2" square.  (The other error I found was under the title of the block where it says "approximate size 12 1/2" x 12" finished - this should read 12 1/2" x 12 1/2" unfinished)

I guess I was a little disappointed that this pattern was not tested and proof read, but having written patterns myself, I know how easy it is to make a error and not see it.  In any case, it should not cause you much trouble, and the block will come out fine.


 The assembly of this block is pretty straightforward.  You are essentially sewing little squares together in rows, pressing the seam allowances in opposite directions on each row so they will "nest", then sewing the rows together.  The final row seam allowances I pressed open to avoid too much fabric build up.

The photo at left shows the final row seams pressed open to reduce bulk

Here is the block center with the intermediate border installed.  These are your light rectangles (E and F).  Remember to adjust your pattern and cut these at 6 1/2" and 8 1/2".  They should fit perfectly.

Your next step is to assemble the corner units that will finish the block.  The cutting directions of the rectangles used in these units is correct.  Simply add a setting triangle (B) to each end of the rectangles, trim off the dogears, then sew the large rectangle to the smaller one, centering each piece with one another by folding in half and matching the center lines.

 Add the larger corner setting triangle (A) to the smaller rectangle side of the unit, again centering the pieces together.  The edges with not align properly and that is ok.  They will be trimmed in the final step. Press the seam allowances toward the large setting triangle. Repeat and make 4 of these units.
 Now you want to sew the corner units to the center block.  Again, find the center of each side of the block, and the center of the long side of each triangle corner unit and match them when you are aligning the corner unit on the side of the block.  Sew on the top and bottom first. Press. Then sew on the sides.
Your block should then look something like this, all irregular around the outside edge.  If you used the larger cutting directions I gave you at the beginning of this article, you should have plenty of trimming room around the edge of your block.  The easiest way to trim is to use a 12 1/2" square ruler and line up the center point of the checkerboard with the measuring lines for 6 1/4" in both direction on the ruler, then adjust the rotation of the ruler so it's sides parallel the sides of your block.  The setting fabric should extend beyond the ruler on all sides, and there should be at least 1/4" of space beyond all "points" on the block. 

Trim block to 12 1/2" square.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Twilight Gardens - Dutch Tulips

Block 5 - Dutch Tulips

If you followed along on my earlier article, Applique Tutorial, you may have already started or completed block 5.  I wrote that tutorial just a little early, as I know many quilters are not applique people and sometimes get discouraged just at the mention of the word.

In reality, applique is not that difficult, it is just another skill that once you add to your toolbox, will open up an enormous number of patterns to you.  If you are already skilled at applique, you probably have a favorite method you like to use, and so by all means proceed.  My tutorial focused on a method of preparation of the pieces that I had never done before, so it was a learning experience for me too.  I thought it worked very well, and, had the added benefit, that once the pieces are prepared, you can applique them to the background either by hand or by machine, whichever you choose.

We have two groups of fabrics for this block.  The first group includes the block background.  This is the first block where I have selected a fabric other than solid black for my background.  This dark charcoal with a subtle stripe is just a little different, and provides some nice texture for the open areas surrounding the flowers.  I also selected 3 blue fabrics to use for the tulips and a single green (plain) fabric to use for the bias stems and the leaves.  The applique design is simple and these are nice high contrast fabrics with the background.

The second group of fabrics forms the piano key strip that runs along the base of this block. I selected a mix of solid look fabrics, and ones with patterns, textures, and contrasting colors.  I purposely stayed with warmer tones and a couple of grays.  These will each contribute a couple of pieces to the pieced strip, just in random order.

The strip is very easy to construct. We cut 13 rectangles from this group of fabrics (2 or 3 from each) that are 1 1/2" x 5 1/2". Then arrange them in a pleasant, random fashion and sew them together with a 1/4" seam.  Press all seams in the same direction.

Set this pieced strip aside while we do the applique.

Refer to my earlier article, Applique Tutorial, for specific instructions on preparing your applique pieces, and also hand sewing to the background.

For placement of the pieces, I like to transfer the outline design of the block onto the background fabric.  So, the pattern has you start by cutting out a 9 1/2" x 13 1/2" piece from the background.  I cut mine so that the lines on the fabric were vertical, but that is just individual preference.

Use a light box, or work against a bright window. Cover your pattern with the background fabric. Position the fabric over the pattern so that you will have some trimming room around the design on all sides when you are done.  I centered the design left to right, and positioned it so that I had about 1 3/4" of background space above the top of the center tulip.

 Trace the design onto the fabric with your favorite washable (removable) marker.  For dark fabrics like this, my favorite marking pen is the Clover #517 white marking pen.  It creates a fine white line that can easily be seen on any medium to dark value fabric.  It is permanent while you are working, and will not wipe away, even with a lot of handling. Then it completely comes out with a little water, or the steam of an iron.  So easy!

Use these lines as your placement guides when you begin sewing your pieces down. Begin with the stems.  I did the two side stems first, clipping them in the middle where they overlap to create a miter that would easily by covered by the vertical stem.

For hand applique, you can position the pieces, and hold them in place with a washable basting glue (like Roxanne), or just pin them in place with small applique pins.

Applique pins are a special type of pin. They are shorter than regular quilting pins to prevent your thread from getting tangled around them as you are working.  They are available from many companies, but the best on the market, bar none, are those from Little House of Japan.  They have the finest shaft of any applique pins so they don't distort your fabrics, and a very small glass head to grip.  I LOVE them.  Little House Applique Pins.

Proceed to applique all leaves in place.  When you reach to tulips be sure to applique the left and right outside pieces down first, then the center of each tulip.  On mine, I fussy cut the woven accent design on one of the blue fabrics to fall down the center of each of the side tulips.

 Once your applique is finished, stitch the piano key strip to the bottom of your applique block, being sure to incorporate the center stem of the tulips into the seam.  Carefully position before you sew.

Once the two units are sewn together, press the seam allowance toward the applique block.  Center and trim the finished block to measure 12 1/2" tall x 13 1/2" wide.  Note this is a different size than the previous blocks we have made.  This is because we will be adding additional sashing around all the blocks.  The sizes will all work out in the end.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Twilight Gardens - Block 4

Well, some of you may have wondered if I was ever going to get around to posting the 4th block of Twilight Gardens.  I apologize for the delay.  I was out of town at the beginning of the month, then right when I returned, I came down with a round of the flu that was the worst I've had in years. I am just now getting over it, and my energy level has been low for several days.

Fortunately, this block is the same pattern as that of Block 2, so I will not go into detail about the construction of the block, but I did want to share my fabric choices, and my reasoning.

Fabrics for Block 4
 Whereas Block 2 had a distinctly reddish overtone to the fabric colors and was warmer looking, I wanted this one to look a little different.  I guess this is just another way of making the block distinctive even though it is the same pattern.  I had quite a few cooler grayish tones available, and particularly, some with a bit of green color, so that is what I was aiming for with these fabrics. 

I still used black as my background and then choose a darker gray as my outer corners.  This sets the neutral gray as the tone for the block and leaves the lighter, more contrast fabrics as the focus of the star itself.  The outer star points are the lighter gray with the ticking pattern.  There are two of these fabrics (very similar) included in the kit for this quilt.  This one is the one that has a subtle gray-green cast, not the tan one.  I then follow the green theme by selecting the distinctly green primitive pattern with lines and stars in the weave.

The central star is made up of a lighter tan fabric for the center square (there are several similar ones in the kit that would all look good here), and a pale green fabric, with brown check, for the points. The background for the central star is a medium brown fabric with a square pattern in the weave.

 Block Construction

 Don't forget to trim down the quarter-square triangle units for this block to 3 1/2" square.  You can use any square ruler that is at least 3 1/2".  Line up the unit with the diagonal mark on your ruler. The center of the block should fall right at the 1 3/4" lines. Trim a small amount from the first two sides. Spin the block 180 degrees, then line up using the diagonal, and the 3 1/2" ruler lines.  Note that the center of the block should still fall at the 1 3/4" marks on the ruler.  Trim the last two sides of the unit.

The assembly of this block is the same as in Block 2.  I will mention an error in the pattern for block 4 - In the section "Making the Center Star Points"  the first paragraph should begin "With right sides together, layer a light 2" (d) square onto rectangle (c) as shown."

Also, In the section "Marking the Large Star Points", Just to clarify which pieces are being used,  when pairing up the fabrics for the Quarter-Square Triangle Units, you will be using pieces C, E, and two of piece D.

Other than that, the diagrams on the pattern page are correct, and the block should go together easily.

Remember that when doing the final block assembly, you can reduce bulk by pressing your seam allowances open rather than to one side.  This is always a little more time consuming, but in the case of this block, it does help to make the finished block lay flat.

Your finished block should measure 12 1/2" square.  You will notice as we proceed on with Block 5 that we are starting to see blocks with different outer measurements.  This is due to the irregular sashing panels that will be used between some of the blocks in the finished quilt.  We will talk more about this later.

Have fun with this one.


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Applique Tutorial

Those of you who are following along with the construction of Twilight Gardens may have been wondering about the applique coming up in block 5.  We are not quite there yet, but I thought I would give you a little primer on one way to do applique.

It seems there are dozens of ways to applique one fabric to another, and ultimately, you need to try a few methods and find the one you like the best and gives you the best results.  I tend to be a hand applique person, and many of you are not, and prefer to do everything by machine.  The applique in the Twilight Gardens quilt can be done by hand or machine, and this method of prepping your applique pieces can be used for either method. If you have another method you would like to use on this quilt, please feel free to do that.  The main thing is that you are enjoying the technique and it is achieving the results you like.

Preparing your applique pieces

Normally when I do applique, I like to do simple needle-turn.  This eliminates the need to pre-turn the edges of your pieces. But I thought I would try a new method. I have seen this demonstrated, and it seemed like a pretty easy method and one that could be used for either hand or machine.
Start by tracing your pattern pieces onto the paper (non slick) side of a piece of freezer paper. If you need it, use a light box or a well lit window to help you see the pattern clearly. Make sure you trace an outline for each piece you will be appliqueing, as the freezer paper templates can not be reused. Label them if there is any confusion about where they go in the block design.
Cut out the templates right on the line, and separate them into piles based on the fabric that will be used for each applique piece.  In this case I have flower petals in either medium or light blue, and leaves that will all be cut out of a single green fabric.

I like to use a separate pair of scissors to cut paper from the good ones I use to cut fabric with.  This keeps my fabric shears sharper longer. 

Now, using a water soluble glue stick, apply a little glue on the center of the paper (non slick) side of each template and glue them down to the wrong side of your fabric.  Leave 1/2" space between all templates.

 Once you have your templates glued down, using your fabric shears, cut the fabric pieces out leaving a scant 1/4" seam allowance (about 3/16" is about right) on all sides.

Now we will start turning the raw edges of the fabric. If there are any sharp points on your applique shapes, begin by folding over the point first.  Using a mini iron and a stiletto that will not melt, gently iron the seam allowance over the template, with the crease right on the edge of the freezer paper.  The seam allowance should lightly adhere to the slick side of the freezer paper which is now facing up. 
Follow around the edge of your template turning the edge with the stiletto and gently ironing with the mini iron to hold in place. The example shown in the photos has all convex sides, but if your piece has a tighter concave curve or an inside point, you will need to clip into the seam allowance almost all the way to the freezer paper to have it conform to the shape easily.  Clip only once for an inside point, make a few clips for a curve.
Once you make it all the way around your piece it should look like the photos below.


The next piece you need to prep is the stems.  These also can be made a variety of different ways.  The method I will show you here is one of the oldest.  It was the first method I learned and one I still prefer for doing small bias stems.

Fold over the corner of your stem fabric forming a 45 degree angle.  Cut how ever many strips you need off the corner so your strips are cut on the bias.

Fold these strips in half down the length of the strip and mark a sew line using a contrasting marking tool at a width slightly wider than your finished stem should be.  
Here I am marking at a little over 1/8" for a 1/8" finished width.

Use a set of press bars for making bias strips.  They come in metal, and heat resistant plastic.  They both work well, but the metal ones can get hot to the touch.  Stitch on your marked line and trim the seam allowance down to less than the width of your finished stem.  Here I am trimming seam allowance to less than 1/8".  Insert the appropriate size press bar and roll the tube so the seam can be pressed the back side of the stem and not show.
 Once the seam allowance is pressed to the back, remove the bar and turn over your stem.

Pin the stems in place first.  Use a fine thread with matching color to applique them down.  They can be either machine sewn using a close matching thread color and a blind hem stitch, or they can be hand appliqued.  I like to use Kimono brand 100 wt. silk thread by Superior Threads. It is very fine and nearly invisible.  It comes in 80 colors and is strong for it's weight.

  When appliqueing by hand take small stitches. Drop the needle into the background fabric right adjacent to the applique piece, then bring the needle back up slightly under the edge of the applique, and out right at the edge fold.  Repeat this stitch along all edges.

Once the pieces are stitched in place, turn over the piece and locate the individual pieces with freezer paper still attached inside.  CAREFULLY with a pair of applique scissors that are sharp right to the point, cut a small slit in the background directly underneath your applique piece. Be very careful to stay far from the sew edges.  You just need a small hole large enough to pull the freezer paper through.  Using a stiletto or pair of tweezers, grab the paper and give a slight tug to release the glue.  Remove the paper from the back.

Here is trick to make your hand sewing much easier.  If you use silk thread, you may have the problem of the needle coming un-threaded  occasionally due to the fine thread.  When you thread your needle, pull a loop of thread through the eye of the needle and loop over the point of the needle, then pull snug into a small knot at the eye.  This will keep the thread put while you are sewing.  When you reach the end of the thread, tie off and cut the knot off the needle by gently running the blade of your scissors along the eye of the needle.

 This method of preparing my applique pieces worked very well for this project.  At first I was a little concerned about cutting the back of my project to remove paper templates, but I found this was really simple and left a very small hole that does not compromise the strength of the background.
As always, I suggest trying this, as well as other methods, and choosing your favorite.