Accurate Patchwork Piecing #2 Application

Sit back, relax, this is NOT the Quilt Police knocking on your device’s screen!

Quick recap from my previous post: ‘I’m on a gentle mission to reassess my piecing techniques and figure out where inaccuracies have crept into my process. My mission is NOT to create a perfect quilt but to increase the sense of satisfaction I gain from the piecing of quilt blocks and quilt tops. In this mini series I’m going to share what I’ve learned about accurate piecing, share how I apply the knowledge and, of course, share the results’.

Using some of the tips and piecing techniques I read about and/or watched during my internet search (find the links in my previous post) I made several changes to my piecing process. Obviously not a truly scientific bit of research on my part – changing more than one variable at a time (apologies to those of a scientific nature).

I broke down the piecing process into three areas: well maintained equipment; careful stitching; and careful pressing.

As for well maintained equipment I’ve got into good habits over the years and do: regularly replace rotary blades and machine needles; clean out lint; use good quality thread.

Change: I decided to try using a smaller needle size with my 50wt thread, switching from an 80/12 Schmetz Microtex down to a 70/10.

Moving onto careful stitching I continued using thread savers/chargers (this is such a good habit to get into!) but made quite a few changes in this area of the piecing process.

Change: After using a ‘Perfect Piecing Seam Guide’ and checking my ¼” seam accuracy using the simple method of stitching three 1½” strips of fabric side by side I was surprised to discover I needed to change the long established settings I’d been using on my Pfaff machine. Just moving the needle position one more notch to the right has made a big difference.

Testing for 1/4″ seam accuracy. Once I’d adjusted the needle position of my machine the centre fabric of the test strip was exactly one inch wide.

Change: I also shortened the stitch length one more notch. The stitches stay in place at the end of seams without being re-enforced but they are only just big enough to unpick!

Change: Pins! Yep! I’ve gone back to using pins even on blocks with no seams to match.

Change: As well as using pins I’ve been holding onto the bottom end of a seam, keeping the two layers of fabric in perfect alignment, as the seam is being stitched. I think this has definitely reduced the amount of movement between the two layers of fabric as they are being stitched. Quilt top edges are much more even with far fewer ‘over-hanging’ blocks.

Blocks lining up square to on another with no need for trimming.

Change: Pinning seam intersections just to one side rather than through the stitching. (Place the pin on the side of the seam that will go under the machine foot first).

As for careful pressing:

Change: Finger pressing seams open (on the back of the patchwork) before pressing open or to one side with an iron.

Change: I have invested in a tailors clapper but I must confess to not using it with as much patience as is required for it to work effectively! I did find laying my freshly pressed and ‘clapped’ patchwork pieces under the wool mat while I continued pressing the rest of the pieces did help keep the seams flat.

Evaluation

All-in-all quite a lot of easy to implement changes. My assessment would be that, not surprisingly, many of these changes slow down and add time to the piecing process. Maybe not such a bad thing to be crafting and creating at a slower, dare I say more ‘mindful’ pace?

These changes have had a beneficial impact on the accuracy of my patchwork and definitely achieved my aim: ‘to increase the sense of satisfaction I gain from the piecing of quilt blocks and quilt tops’ …without turning me into a neurotic perfectionist!

Do you think you might implement any changes to your patchwork piecing process to achieve greater accuracy? Are there any tips or techniques you’d recommend we use to aid piecing accuracy?

Linking with Susan for Midweek Makers.

Allison

 

Making without being creative

Excuse me, I have been in an odd mood lately. Musing on all sorts whilst continuing to sew.

I wonder if I’m boring you? My blog posts seem to have evolved into a catalogue of ‘what I’ve done’ with little or no creative inspiration. Am I being too hard on myself? I don’t know! My sewing time has certainly been spent getting projects done rather than being creative. No new designs, no squirrel projects (the drop everything to do something new type), no playing around on EQ7 or with pencils and graph paper.

Happily I haven’t lost my sew-jo, I’m still enjoying time spent hand stitching binding, machine stitching blocks AND I’m in the mood to begin experimenting with FMQ after a long break. Perhaps that will be my way back to creativity?

So at the risk of making you yawn, and sending myself to sleep, here’s what I’ve been up to lately:

Finally finished, a scaled down UFO from maybe a decade ago 🙂 This little quilt (46″ square) is about one quarter of the original design (from a magazine). I decided to add the EPP flowers in the spaces created by the Double Irish Chain blocks as I was too scared to attempt ‘fancy quilting’ in the spaces and ‘spoil’ it! I found the backing and binding fabrics in my stash.

Inside the quilt there’s a double layer of Warm & White wadding. I doubled it up because it was very thin in places (maybe the end of a roll or a production glitch?).

I finished the second of the four English Country Garden QAL cushions.

The last two just need the binding hand stitched – I will take those as my project for a day out sewing tomorrow. We now meet in a hall within a half hour walking distance of my home, which is handy as I don’t drive, so hand stitched projects are a more practical transport option than machine sewn projects.

Talking of walking… The sun made a welcome appearance yesterday afternoon, so rather than write this blog post I took myself on a local circular walk.

Look how long my shadow was at 2pm! The sun is so low in the sky this time of year – I was dazzled on the way back even though I had remembered to wear my sunglasses.

No need of sunglasses today 🙁 A very grey, gloomy view from my window. No matter, I will wrap up warm and do a bit of gardening this afternoon. Our little back garden received a long awaited makeover last week – it’s all one level now with new paving, a low wall, new fencing and fresh turf.

Unfortunately all that work created quite a bit of mess and necessitated having a heavy skip plonked on our front garden, so now the front is in desperate need of some TLC. I guess the squished, dust covered plants have a chance of recovery after a Winter’s rest? I do hope so.

Back to the sewing room…. I’m working on the Modern Fans quilt by SuzyQuilts. I’ve not much experience using templates and made a rookie mistake. I drew the shapes on the back of the fabric so these 18 blocks are the mirror image of Suzy’s design!

The rest of the blocks are non-directional so they are OK! I had a little brain wave in the night (not sleeping so good at the moment – more thinking time!) and reckon if I take a photo of the quilt design on my phone and then edit it to produce a mirror image I should be able to arrange the blocks correctly, all be it they’ll be flipped by 180º …

Now I’m off to the local pharmacy to have a flu jab…. Very thankful that we have the opportunity to have these vaccinations 🙂

Linking with Susan, who is busy with Thanksgiving preparations, for Midweek Makers.

Allison

If you’ve made it this far without dozing-off you may like to see a few more photos from my walk in the Autumn sunshine 🌞

 

 

Making a Bag: How Hard Can It Be?

I invite you to join me on a bag making adventure 🙂 This is a self imposed challenge to learn new skills and maybe, maybe add bag making to my repotoire of workshops. I will endeavour to share with you what I learn as I follow the Pelican Tote pattern from Bagstock Designs. I’ve also be posting on Instagram @allisonreid.neweveverymorning using the hashtag #bagmaking🤔

In the past I have made lined tote bags and one or two zippered pouches but have always shied away from making a bag with zippered  pockets or structured interfacing. The Pelican Tote has both and is labelled a beginner level project. I’ll certainly be putting that to the test 😀

Without further ado, here is what I’ve been learning (skip to the end of the post to find links to online bag making tutorials and book recommendations):

Day 1: Cutting out the fabric pieces and applying fusible interfacing.

  • I followed the pattern requirements, purchasing woven iron-on interfacing, Pelon S-F 101. I fused the interfacing to the fabrics before cutting out the shapes using the templates. The woven interfacing gives quilting cottons a lovely feel and weight – they still move and drape like cotton but don’t crumple, they look smooth and feel soft. (Of course, woven interfacing is more expensive than standard interfacing!).
  • I’m amazed by how much fabric I used! Definitely a surprise. The bag pieces took just about all of the 1¼yds of fabric and all of the 2m of 20″ wide interfacing. Homemade bags, not cheap! Who’d have thought it?

Day 2: Making a zippered external pocket.

  • I followed the pattern instructions, applying some of the tips and techniques I remembered from my bag making research – see links at the end of this post.
  • I struggled to use the zipper foot correctly. I even switched to the standard foot a couple of times. My seam ripper came in handy as my top stitching failed to make the grade! In the end I decided to compromise so my topstitching is about 3/8ths from the seam edge rather than the 1/8th prescribed by the pattern but at least it’s reasonably straight.
I really struggled using a zipper foot on a straight stitch machine! I couldn’t figure out which side I should have the needle!
  • Longer stitch length is required for neat topstitching – how many times did I forget to adjust the stitch length on my machine? *sigh*
  • Matching up fabric prints above and below the zipper is tricky! More unpicking!
I got quite a sense of achievement when the external pocket was finally finished!

Day 3: Making an internal pocket and sewing in foam interfacing.

  • I watched a tutorial by Professor Pincushion to pick up a few extra tips about constructing the internal pocket; stitch across ends of zipper to keep it lying straight was one of the tips I applied. I also watched this quick tutorial by So Sew Easy – she used double-sided ‘wonder tape’ rather than pins to position the zip as does Lisa Lam in her Craftsy Class (see link below). I couldn’t get hold of the tape and someone said it can gum-up machine needles (have you experienced this?) so I fiddled about using my Sewline Glue Pen. The glue wasn’t really strong enough to hold the zipper in place but in the end I managed to stitch the zipper into the letter-box like gap.

  • After the zipper trials stitching the foam interlining to the front and back outer panels was an absolute breeze! I used a long basting stitch. Too late I picked up a tip to smooth out and pin the fabric to the interlining before basting to make sure the fabric didn’t shift or pucker. I didn’t have any real issues with this but I could create a slight bubble of fabric against the basting stitches by sweeping my hands across the fabric surface.

Day 4: Making handles, tabs for magnetic clasps and stitching the bag sides together.

  • I followed the pattern to make fabric shoulder straps. I’d run out of woven interlining so cut strips of Bamboo wadding to give the handles a little body.
  • The instructions for making the tabs were straightforward to follow. I used little pieces of the foam interlining as the ‘extra’ layer to add strength and protect the fabric from the metal clasp. 😀 The magnet in the clasp was really strong – I had real trouble separating the two parts before making the tabs!
Tab basted in place to the top edge of the bag lining.
  • I stitched darts in the bottom corners of the bag exterior and lining pieces as per the pattern before stitching them together. The foam interfacing is really easy to stitch through. I remembered to lengthen the machine stitch to about 3 to help keep the thick layers moving under the machine foot. What I forgot to do was widen the lining seam from ½” to 3/8ths so the lining sits a little bit baggy in the bag – if you know what I mean?

Day 5: Turning right-sides out and top-stitching.

  • I followed the pattern which gives instruction for turning the bag right sides out through the bottom of the internal pocket. Of course, despite all the reminders, I forgot to open the zipper before stitching the lining and exterior bag together – what am I like? 😀 So I had to unpick a few inches of stitching to reach inside and open the zipper! Never mind it was mistake that’s quick to correct! It was quite an effort to push all those layers through the gap in the bottom of the pocket but not impossible. (Birthing a bag is one of my favourite things! Many, many years ago I did seriously consider training to be a midwife!). I was pleased to see that all the squishing and tugging didn’t crease the foam interlining.

  • Final touches included hand sewing the open bottom seam in the internal pocket and machine stitching around the top edge of the bag. Julie the Juki stitches through the thick seams with barely a stutter but top stitching around the rim of the bag was a bit awkward as Julie doesn’t have a free arm option. I found turning the bag inside out was the most comfortable way to have the right side of the bag in view as I stitched.

Hurrah! The bag looks like a bag! It’s a finish!

I’m already sorting through my stash to make another. I’ve downloaded the instructions to add a recessed zip next time around – keep adding on the skills 😉

Here are some handy resources for novice bag makers like myself:

If you are mystified by the types of zippers and their uses then I recommend this link: Information about zippers

I watched this ‘Tips for Using Zippers’ tutorial by the Crafty Gemini before zipping (ha!ha!) through this tutorial by Sew Sweetness to find handy tips re. fitting and top stitching zippers.

For an alternative to using a zipper foot and some other tips take a look at Amista Baker’s short tutorial.

I watched a tutorial by Debbie Shore demonstrating how to create a zippered dividing pocket in a tote bag. I like her relaxed but professional style of presentation.

I’ve also been delving into some courses on Craftsy. I took advantage of the offer to take out a one year subscription for $3. This gives access to all the courses but only for the duration of the subscription. A bargain – as long as I remember to cancel the direct debit instruction prior to the $79.99 being removed from my bank account next year!

  • Joan Hawley ‘Zip It Up: Easy Techniques for Zippered Bags‘.
  • Sara Lawson ‘Building Better Bags: Interfacing & Structure‘. This provides a comprehensive look at the different types of interfacings and linings, their uses and how to apply them. Sara demonstrations methods of attaching zippers when interfacings and linings are being used and gives clear tips showing how to use interfacings to strengthen bag fastenings. There’s also a lesson on finishing bags with bias binding and how to add piping. The course notes include a table comparing interfacings by manufacturer which is a great help when trying to select the right product for a project.
  • Lisa Lam ‘20 Essential Techniques for Better Bags‘. I haven’t finished this course yet, learning lots as I watch. I have Lisa’s book, ‘The Bag Making Bible’ and have been dipping in and out of it throughout the process of making the Pelican Tote.

And a final ‘link’ to Samantha Hussey’s book ‘The Complete Bag Making Masterclass’ which has been another handy resource.

I hope this record of my foray into bag making has provided some useful information or provided you with an opportunity for a knowing smile or two as you recall your first bag-making projects.

Linking with Susan for Midweek Makers .

Allison

Speedy Patchwork and a Pre-Wash Surprise!

Well! This was a bit of a surprise! To allow the fibres to shrink before cutting and piecing I pre-washed a piece of white cotton from IKEA I wasn’t expecting the colour to change! I mean it’s white, there’s no dye to bleed!

Left: Before washing and Right: After washing

My husband knows a thing or two about this and says its the OBA (Optical Brightening Agent) in the detergent and demonstrated it’s effect with a UV light 🙂

Left: Before washing and Right: After washing

I generally wash my quilting cottons before cutting and piecing. I know there are good arguments on both sides of the pre-wash vs. don’t wash debate. I just feel more comfortable knowing excess dye has been washed out of deep colours and the cotton fibres have shrunk before I start sewing. Of course there are exceptions to most rules and I’m willing to be pragmatic on this issue. Fabrics in packs of pre-cut strips and squares can’t be washed without fraying and becoming distorted. If I’m using pre-cut strips or squares I don’t wash the background fabrics I’ll be piecing with them – they can all shrink together when the finished quilt is washed.  And scrap quilts do end up being a mix of pre-washed fabrics and off-cuts from unwashed pre-cuts. So, in principle, I pre-wash but there are plenty of exceptions 😀

Back to sewing 🙂 I decided to take out the dark solid from the blocks I made over the weekend. I don’t think it was the dark colour value bothering me, it was much more that the chunk of solid colour in amongst the prints and lighter solids kept drawing my eye – becoming less a place to rest the eye and more of a distraction.

Looking at a B&W image of the completed quilt top I’m satisfied there is a fair range of value without the dark solid.

 

Having completed this quilt top my attention went straight back to the remaining fat quarters.

I decided on another simple block pattern and found a really helpful strip piecing technique for making the blocks in Allison Harris’ book, ‘Growing Up Modern’. It was easy to adapt her width-of-fabric instructions to my fat quarters and non-standard width IKEA cotton. I am enjoying giving my sewing machine a pedal-to-the-metal workout as we race through all the long seams together 🙂

Ready for some high-speed strip-piecing action!

I haven’t decided on a layout for this quilt but as there are only four prints I think it may be easier to keep them in an orderly fashion rather than try to make a ‘random’ distribution. Here are the blocks I’ve made so far:

Linking with Jennifer for Wednesday Wait Loss – a place to encourage one-another to keep going with our WIPs. Also linking with Susan for Midweek Makers – she’s found a lot of green quilts to get in the spirit of St Patrick’s Day. With all this speedy strip piecing it seems appropriate to link with Denise for Put your foot down Thursday 🙂

Lastly a heads up that this coming Saturday, 20th March, is International Quilting Day 🙂 Will you be doing anything special to mark the day?

Allison