Friday, August 12, 2016

Making large circles for my Rowdy Flat Library Quilt

Do you ever have to draw a large circle of a specific size? I needed to make circles of varying sizes for my Rowdy Flat Library quilt. There are tools that you can purchase to draw circles of different sizes but why spend money when you can make the tool yourself for nothing?

The first step is to understand the circle. Most often patterns will call for a circle of a particular measurement. That measurement is the diameter of the circle. The diameter of a circle is the measurement through the middle of the circle from one side of the circle to the opposite side. If your pattern calls for a 5" circle the distance from one side of the circle to the other through the middle of the circle is 5".

Diameter of a circle

To make your circle maker tool you will need to know the radius of the circle. The radius is the measurement from the midpoint of the circle to the side. You simply divide the diameter by 2 to come up with the measurement. If you need a 5" circle the radius is 2 1/2".

Radius of a circle

To make your circle maker tool you need only a few supplies: a strip of lightweight cardboard, a ruler, a slim darning needle and a mechanical pencil. The glossy bookmarks used to advertise businesses or quilt shows work really well!

I was lucky enough to get a bookmark that has a little ruler printed on it. If I didn't have this I would just cut a strip of lightweight cardboard that is roughly 1 1/2" wide.  Along the length of the strip of cardboard I would draw a line that is 1/4" in from the long edge. Starting roughly 1/2" in from the end I would make marks in 1/2" increments.

To finish my circle maker tool I take my slim darning needle and pierce the cardboard where the 0" mark intersects with the line that is 1/4" in from the long edge of the tool. If I want to make a 5" I will pierce the cardboard at the measurement that equals the radius, 2 1/2". That's it! The tool is made and ready for use!

How do you use it? Simple! Take your square of fabric. Make sure it is pressed flat and smooth. If you press it with a little starch or sizing it will ensure a nice flat finish. Find the middle of the square by folding it in half in both directions and make a soft crease at the centre point to create a little cross.

Place your fabric on your cutting board. Take a pin and slide it through the hole at the 0" mark on your circle maker tool. Place the pin on the middle point of your fabric. Hold the pin in position so that it is perpendicular to the fabric and place the tip of your mechanical pencil through the hole at the 2 1/2" mark.

Slowly and gently begin drawing the circle.

I like to draw half the circle and then reposition my hands and the circle maker tool in order to draw the other half of the circle. When you do this be sure to check that the lead of the pencil is lining up with the line you've already draw. If they don't line up your pin at the midpoint may have moved in which case you will need to be reposition the pin.

I used this method to make the circles on the toile fabric I plan to use for my Rowdy Flat Library Quilt designed by Susan Smith of Patchwork on Stoneleigh.  I showed you the skeleton toile in my previous post. It is a great print but it was black and white and so I added colour with ink pens and then I added some embroider details! I should have taken the picture with my camera rather than my tablet. Oh well, at least you get the idea. I won't need to use all of the circles but I had so much fun making them that I just couldn't stop.

Here is a close up of one of the coloured circles!

Once the toile circle is placed on the background fabric and a surrounded with little petals - 32 of them!

The next step will be to make 1/4" bias binding that will be appliqued over the edges of the petals. Stay tuned because there are more pictures to come.

I'll leave you with a close up of my pretty little pincushion that was made for me by my friend Paula.

Until I post again, happy sewing.

Karen H

Monday, July 25, 2016

Rowdy Flat Library Quilt and a Tutorial for straightening the edge of a hexagon quilt top

Once again I'm sorry for the silence. All is well but I've been distracted by a variety of happy events and captivating projects. I recently saw some blocks that really caught my attention. There were made by an Australian quilt maker, Susan Smith of Patchwork on Stoneleigh and she is offering the patterns as a block of the month. The blocks will be made into a quilt (which is yet to be revealed). The name of the quilt is the Rowdy Flat Library Quilt and when I saw the bees I was hooked.

The pattern calls for toile and I have been saving some scraps of a toile that I used to make my Lazy Punk quilt.

Lazy Punk

The toile looks like a typical toile until you have an up close look. It is skeletons! I've been saving this scrap waiting for the perfect opportunity to use it and this is just the quilt! But my plan was to transform the fabric to add my personal touch and transform it I did. More to come on the transformation in the coming days.

For now I thought I would do a little mini tutorial about another way to finish the edge of a hexagon quilt. There are so many ways to finish the edge of an English paper pieced hexagon quilt top and today I thought I would share one of the methods that I like to use to create a straight edge.

There are two different edges on a hexagon quilt top. The first is an edge of "Vs".

This one is easy to straighten because you just trim the points with a rotary cutter and ruler and the result will be a nice straight edge. The other important factor is that in trimming this edge you will not be cutting through your stitching so the seams will be intact. I leave the papers in my quilt top until I am ready to trim the points. This prevents stretching.

The other edge looks like dentil molding.

You could simply trim the hexagons 1/4" beyond the mid-point (the red circles) to give you a nice straight edge.

When you open up the seam of the lower hexagon the problem is that the 1/4" seam allowance area is not stitched closed (see inside the red circle). I like my seams stitched right to the end of the seam because I know it will be secure. If it is not stitched to the end my fear is that eventually the seam may open.

A second option is to open the seam allowance at the top of the innermost hexagons (at the red arrows) and then trim the them on the red dashed line. What I don't like about this method is that when you add a border or binding the seam will be 1/4" in from the edge (the black line) and so the outermost hexagon will be less than a half hexagon. This just looks wrong to my eye.

My preferred approach is to add half hexagons to fill the space. Normally I baste my hexagons from the back so that the basting will remain in the quilt however when I make half hexagons to fill the dentil edge I prefer to baste through the paper.

I like to work with a larger seam allowance because it makes the basting process so much easier. I dislike cutting fabric slowly, especially if I need to cut lots of fabric for the path between the hexagon rosettes. I wrote about my rapid fire cutting method here. When making half hexagons I will trim the raw edge after I've basted it to the paper. There is a precise 1/4" seam allowance that will allow all raw edges to line up.

My next step is to clip the basting basting threads at the top edge of the outermost hexagons and trim the outer edge so that there is a precise 1/4" seam allowance.

Once the outermost edge is trimmed I can set in the half hexagons.Notice that I've used some tiny applique pins to hold the papers in position. This is optional but I find that retaining the papers helps maintain nice, crisp edges for sewing.

The finished product is a nice straight edge that makes it easy to add borders or binding.

Until I post again, happy sewing!
Karen H

Monday, June 6, 2016

For Little-What's-His-Name and answers to a reader's questions

On Saturday evening I took the last stitches in the baby quilt I made for a friend and her baby who is expected on June 21.  I call the quilt "Counting on Little-What's-His-Name". When the baby is born and they've settled on a name I'll finish the label and replace "Little-What's-His-Name" with the actual name! The quilt was delivered to the Mom-to-be yesterday and she was delighted with it!

I don't normally work from patterns but this quilt was just so darned cute and so much fun to make that I've now made it twice (19 years apart)! The pattern comes from a book by Chuck Nohara. It is an old book that is out-of-print. It is loaded with great ideas and designs. If you come across a copy snap it up. There are many quilts in the book as well as lovely gift items for everyone in the family!

I hand quilted Little-What's-His-Name's quilt; I've got the sore finger joints to prove it! In a previous post I wrote about a couple of nifty tools, one of which I used to help with the marking of the quilt. The tool was a Hera Marker. It scores (or creases) the fabric thereby creating a quilting line. It worked like a charm and was perfect for all the straight line quilting in the sashing. A reader asked what quilting thread I used, how I keep the stitches even and any other tips that might help so here I go!

Thread Used - I used YLI hand quilting thread. I like it because it doesn't twist and tangle so I can work with a longer length. 

Needle Used - As for the needle I used a Roxanne applique needle which is longer and thicker than a between which I find very hard on my fingers. The needles are in the little pouch in the upper left corner of this picture.

For me a bigger, thicker needle tends not to flex as much and I find it easier to get consistent stitches. Don't feel that you have to use a particular needle for a particular task. Experiment with different needles until you find the one that is comfortable in your hand and that allows you to achieve the desired result.

Even Stitches - For this quilt I am did a bigger stitch. To keep the stitches as even as possible I took only two or three stitches at a time. I'm not sure how people count stitches but what I count are those that show on top so if I'm taking two stitches that means two stitches show on the front of the quilt but some quilters would consider that four stitches since there are two on top and two on the back. I find it is easier to gauge the size of the stitches if there are fewer on the needle; I can compare what I have on the needle to what I've already done.

Hoop or Frame? - I use neither! I've tried a frame and didn't like being tied to it plus in my little house I have no space for a frame. I've tried working with a hoop and it is just plain uncomfortable plus it is hard to use a hoop when you pin baste. So I dispensed with the hoop. I pin baste my quilt so that everything is tight, smooth and flat. If it isn't basted tight, smooth and flat it won't quilt tight, smooth and flat. I start from the middle out and anchor all the major seam lines, just as I would if I were machine quilting. Once this is done I can quilt the border, trim the excess fabric and bind the quilt. In doing it this way the excess fabric is removed making the quilt lighter, smaller and easier to manage. Once the quilt is bound I go back and fill in the quilting. It works for me and I get excellent results.

I hope this was helpful. Until I post again happy sewing!

Karen H

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Nifty tools for quilting

I'm busy hand quilting the baby quilt for my friend. I'm using the same method I use when machine quilting which is that I first quilt the major seam lines where the blocks abut. Once the centre is stabilized in this way I can quilt the border and bind the quilt. This reduces the bulk of the excess batting and backing and makes quilting the centre of the quilt much easier. You can read a more detailed description of my method here.

In the process of hand quilting there are two tools which I've been using and I thought I would write about them today. The first is the Clover Soft Touch Thread Pick and the second is a Hera Marker.

I've had a Hera Marker in my tool box for more than twenty years and have used it for pin tucks and such but never thought about using it to mark a quilt until I read about it in Hilda's blog, Every Stitch. She has written about using a Hera Marker to mark straight lines on light coloured fabrics. The beauty of the Hera Marker is that it scores the fabric to create a visible line on the fabric but there is nothing to wash out.

Hera Marker

It is simple to use.

I had quilted the triangles in the border along the edge of the seam allowance so I didn't need to mark but I wanted to echo those lines of quilting with straight lines.

I used my Hera Marker and a small Omnigrid ruler. I lined 1/4" mark on the ruler on the quilted lines and then scored the fabric with my Hera Marker. I made sure that I had my quilt on a hard surface and that it was smooth and flat. I scored the lines slowly and carefully. I find that if you go too fast it can create little pleats in the fabric which will skew the line.

I did this on each triangle along the length of the border and then hand quilted. It is the perfect tool for marking straight quilt lines. 

The second tool that has come in handy is the Clover Soft Touch Thread Pick.  I was working away on the baby quilt and discovered a dark thread trapped between the top and batting. I stuck out like a sore thumb so I used my Soft Touch Thread Pick to remove it.This tool comes with a protective sheath which you remove in order to use it.

Clover Soft Touch Thread Pick

At the tip is a very tiny crochet hook.

Here you can see a trapped dark thread.

Slide the tip of the hook through the quilt top and hook the offending thread.

Carefully draw out the hook through the point of entry and the thread will come along with the hook.

Time for me to get back to work on this little quilt!

Until I post again, happy sewing!
Karen H

Saturday, May 28, 2016

It's baby time

A friend is expecting her first baby in a few weeks. Although I've know the baby is coming for many months, I've postponed making the quilt until it was crunch time. I'm not really a baby quilt kind of person so I've been casting about for an idea. In the mid-1990s I found a patchwork book in a clearance bin. It was jam packed with ideas and so I bought the book. The projects inside the book are the designs of Chuck Nohara and the instructions were translated from Japanese.

I used one of the patterns in the book to make a quilt for a friend who was expecting her first child in 1997 and really enjoyed making the quilt although I modified the pattern by eliminating the pieced border and instead used a solid subtle neutral plaid for the border. This time I decided I would piece the border (more about that in a moment).

The instructions for making the quilt are "scant". In fact they fit on a single page! They are accurate but you need to be an experience quilt maker to understand them,

The quilt is made up of 20 blocks twelve of which are numbers 0 to 9 (some of the numbers are duplicated) and eight of the blocks are stylized birds. I decided to make the number blocks without repeats so there were ten of them and I made ten bird blocks.

I embroidered the plumes on top of the bird's head and topped each one with a colonial knot. The eyes were cut from a dotted fabric and appliqued to the face. I used a marker to make the dark pupil in the eye.

The feet were outlined with a stem stitch. I though they were dull and didn't stand out enough so I used a Sakura Pigma pen to add some shading to the legs.

The blocks were sewn together with sashing and cornerstones in a soft grey-green print. I made the pieced triangle borders and added the side borders to the quilt. I stepped back to have a look and realized that the border on the right was attached the wrong way! Argh. I little reverse sewing (i.e. ripping out) and it was ready to be reattached.

Much better, don't you agree?

The last step was to make the corner patchwork units and attach them to the top and bottom borders. TA DUM! The finished quilt top. It measures 44" x 54".

I wasted no tine in making the quilt sandwich and pin basting it. This one will be hand quilted with a larger stitch. I think it will make for a nice soft baby quilt. There is a baby shower next weekend and my goal is to have it finished in time for the party. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Meanwhile Jinx has found himself an nice place to sleep out in the solarium ..... he is curled up in a flower pot with a Mandevilla vine! Silly little boy!

Time to get back to hand quilting. Until I post again, happy sewing!

Karen H

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Empire Quilt - top and bottom rows

Today I have the top and bottom rows of The Empire Quilt to share with you. As you can see the four applique bird blocks are used in the corners. They were reverse appliqued to a white background to set them off. I chose to use the owl and the kingfishers for the top row because they are my favourite bird blocks.

I used the remaining two bird blocks in the bottom corners. When I have a block that I really like I either place it closer to the centre or at the top of the quilt because I find that these are the places where my eyes are naturally drawn.

These rows will be added to the centre panel. I just love all of these hexagon blocks and can't wait to get started on another quilt that is a variation on this hexagon quilt. It will allow me to use up the leftover solid green and green print.,

The quilt will have a border of the solid green fabric to frame the whole thing and to pull it all together. I had hoped to have the border on it by now but the sewing room is still partially packed up from the kitchen and bathroom renovations.

Until I post again, happy sewing!

Karen H