Friday, May 31, 2013

More how tos for Stars in the Loft and Turtle Girl makes a quilt!

Today Quilting Gallery's Show and Tell voting opens up and I've entered Stars in the Loft. I hope you'll find time to visit and take a look at the quilts and read the stories. You will find all of the quilts and be able to vote for your favourite here.

I really emjoy making hexagon quilts. I have master templates for a wide variety of sizes of hexagons and I make copies from the masters and I cut up those copies to make my quilts. The master templates are kept in a binder. On the master I write the size of the template on each hexagon (the example below is 1") and I place a coloured dot at the top in the centre. This lets me know that this is the original template from which copies should be made. In this way the master never gets cut up! You can see that this master has been well used!

Yesterday I showed you how I make my "firecracker" hexagons. I thought I would show you a few more of the motifs in Stars in the Loft and how I made them. They really are very easy to make once you know the secrets! EvenTurtle Girl has started her own little quilt. I snapped this picture of her out in the garden enjoying the flowers and sunshine!


She's doing a pretty good job of it considering she doesn't have opposable thumbs!

So let's get started by expanding on the firecracker motif. If I add one more piece to this hexagon I can make a T hexagon. I construct the T hexagon in the same manner as the firecracker. I shorten the length of the stitches on my sewing machine and I foundation piece the block. Shortening the stitch length will make it easier to remove the papers when the time comes. The drawn lines are my sewing lines. The last piece I sew is the cross bar at the top of the hexagon.

Firecracker hexagon
T hexagon

The finished T hexagon

The star motif is another simple but effective design. I draw my sewing lines on the hexagon as follows:

I shorten the length of the stitches on my sewing machine and I foundation piece the hexagon. The drawn lines are my sewing lines and this is the hexagon that results:

Six of these hexagons and one for the centre will make this!

Or this!

Dividing the template in half from point to point like this,

results in a hexagon that looks like this!

Depending on your fabric selection you can come up with a variety of motifs! Here are some examples.

Or you can change the placement of the hexagons and make a whirligig (a pinwheel)!


Are the creative juices flowing? I sure hope so! I would love to hear from you. Tell me what you think of this method of constructing hexagon blocks. I'll share more in the days to come.

While I was outside with Turtle Girl I look a couple of pictures of blossoms in the garden.

Until I post again, happy sewing!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The making of Stars in the Loft and Hobb's Thermore Batting

Hexagon quilts are so much fun to make because they are portable and they make use of small scraps of fabric. I also like them because it is a good way to experiment with different colour combinations, combinations you would never have planned. Don't like the centre patch, swap it out for something else! Experiment and explore! When making hexagon quilts I always learn more about colour and usually come up with print and colour combinations that I would never have considered!

The basic technique used to make Stars in the Loft is English paper piecing, EPP for short. Simply put the seam allowances of the patches are folded over a paper hexagon template and then basted. These basted patches are whip stitched together to make the desired motif. The best known and most traditional motif is what I call a flower; it consists of six “petals” surrounding the centre patch.

Basic flower motif
To add interest to the basic flower fussy cut the centre patch.


For even more interest fussy cut the petals.

If you don’t have enough fabric to fussy cut six petals, fussy cut three and alternate them with another fabric.

Fussy cutting is great  fun because it allows you to make interesting designs or patterns.The medallion in Stars in the Loft is surrounded by a border of what I call firecrackers. They could have been fussy cut from a striped fabric but they weren`t. I made them with a dark navy fabric with a light stripe in the centre - don't they sparkle! The medallion is sourrounded by firecrackers and the border design was also made with them. I used only one navy fabric for the medallion but the border design was made with firecrackers made with a wide assortment of navy fabrics including the one used in the medallion.
Centre medallion surrounded by firecrackers
Close-up of firecrackers in medallion
Firecrackers used in the border
I could have searched for a striped fabric that could be fussy cut so the stripe was centred but I had two problems with that approach. First it would involve a lot of time to search for the fabric (time that would be better spent sewing) and secondly fussy cutting can waste a lot of fabric. So I had to figure out a work around for the firecrackers. The solution was simple; combine foundation paper piecing with EPP.
Here is how I do it. I draw my sewing lines on the paper template and foundation piece on my sewing machine.
Once the foundation piecing is completed the EPP techinique is used to baste the patch and built the motifs.

Once I had solved the border around the medallions I thought why not apply this same method to the flower blocks in the quilt. Ao here are three flowers made using the firecracker template!

And here is another simple variation, what I call  half and half. I made this template quickly so the sewing line isn`t centred but in this block it wouldn`t make much difference!

And here is the block!

So that`s the basic tecnique!

One of the things I want to tell you about hexagon quilts is that they are HEAVY, not the far out kind of heavy but rather they weigh a lot! All of those seam allowance add up. When it comes to what batting to use a I find that a cotton batting or an 80/20 is just too heavy. I prefer to use Hobb's Thermore. It is a thin light weight batting that needles beautifully. It is polyester but I've used it for both hand and machine quilting with not probllem at all. It is also a great batting to use for miniature quilts!

I buy my battings from Connecting Threads when they are on sale. Right now they are on sale at 30% off. The regular price is $22 but you can get a queen size batt for just over $15. Even with the shipping it is a great deal, particularly if you purchase multiple battings for yourself or with a group of friends.

I hope you enjoy my technique for making stellar hexagon blocks. It really is fast, fun and easy. And it lends itself to chain piecing which is a great time saver!

Until I post again, happy sewing!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Stars in the Loft - Close-ups and things I learned in the process!

I learn something with every quilt I make and Stars in the Loft is no exception! The first lesson I learned with this quilt, and bear in mind it was not my first hexagon quilt, is this: you always need more fabric than you think, especially if the hexagons are small. Those seam allowances eat up a lot of fabric!

I had selected a subtle fabric for the background. It looked like crazed paint or porcelain. I thought I had more than enough to make the quilt. Surprise, surprise! I didn't have enough fabric and I was too far into the quilt to change backgrounds. So I found anothr fabric in my stash that I thought was "close" to what I had used and there was plenty of it so I started cutting and sewing. Once again, I was wrong...there was nowhere near enough fabric. So I added a third and then a fourth and finally a FIFTH background fabric!  There are five background fabrics around the "flower" block shown below.

In the end I was pleased with the addition of background fabrics because it added to the scrappy nature of the quilt but because the fabrics are close, there is control. And I think the combination of background fabrics add depth and interest. Now when I make a quilt I sometimes plan to run out of a fabric to force me to add another! But this wasn't the first time I ran out of this quilt. I had already been through this with the border!

I had a 1/2 yard of lovely red mpale fabric that I thought would be more than enough for the centre medallion and the stars in the border. Wrong! So I figured out how many stars and flowers I had to make and calculated that I had enough red to make half of what I needed. So I introduced a second fabric, a rusty red. I needed six star points per block so I used three reds and three rusts per block. Disaster averted and more importantly it added interest and complexity to the stars!
Star with one red

Star with two reds
One of six flowers in the medallion - two reds used

The centre medallion

Fussy cutting can waste a lot of fabric so I only fussy cut the centres of the star blocks. Again using a single fabric in the centres added continuity so although the border is scrappy it is controlled.

And then it happened for a third time! The stars in the border were alternated with a "flower" block. I thought I had plenty of the blue striped fabric. Wrong! So I selected a similar fabric but this time I didn't mix the two fabrics in each block. Instead I used either the stripe fabric in the entire block OR the new fabric for the entire block. I then alternated the blocks in the border. Again, it makes the border look more complex.

Flower block with striped fabric

Flower block with similar fabric
Once again I used the same fabric in the centre of each block to maintain continuity but I didn't worry abut fussy cutting this fabric. The photos don't do the fabric justice - it is a lovely soft colour that just glows! I still have some of this fabric and I use it sparingly!

Some of the blocks in the quite are straight forward English paper piecing but I added a twist.
A border print was used

 A fussy cut centre

A single fabric that was ombred - I alternated the dark and the light

Stripes always add pizzaza!

The six outer hexagons were fussy cut
I also developed a technique for making what looks like very complicated pieced blocks. I'll leave you with some pictures of those blocks and will explain the technique in the near future - it is surprisingly easy and fun! It is also a little addictive!


You will notice that the black check fabric is used in quite a few blocks. Again it adds continuity to the quilt.

I decided to enter Stars in the Loft in this week's Show and Tell over at Quilting Gallery. The theme this weekend is In Memory. This is the last quilt I was able to share with my Dad; it reminds me of him so while it wasn't made in memory, it is a memory of him. And it is a nod to Elizabeth Van Horne Clarkson, the woman who made the original almost two hundred years ago!

Until I post again, happy sewing!