Dressmaker’s Quilt: LoneStar Burst Progress

 

I’ve been quilting again!  The Lonestar Burst throw began as a pile of fabric samples gleaned from a swatch book some time ago.  I got the itch to stitch them into a throw while I slowly recovered from the worst flu ever a few months ago.

The other day, Lila and I pulled out my completed Lonestar Burst blocks to see what we could do with them.  She thinks quilting is a special kind of magic, and I intend to let her think that as long as she wants.

Before I started this quilt, I knew I wanted it to be a “zero cost” project if possible.  That means using only what I have on hand, no “new” materials.  Lila used to sleep under this fleecy blanket when she was a baby, sometimes.  Now it lies around in a cupboard.  It’s the same weight and thickness as batting, so I’ll use it for this throw.

I decided to stitch a few “string pieced” panels which I then cross-cut into 4cm strips to use for sashing between the quilt blocks.  The blocks looked too plain on their own.  Lila sat beside me and handed me strips at random, it delighted her to no end to help this way.

I decided not to replace the blocks with the colored background with new white backgrounds, opting to keep moving forward with the project. First I stitched sashing between each of the blocks in a horizontal row. That worked out well.  When I joined the rows, I created a jog.  To a certain extent, the sashing masks any irregularities between block sizes.  I set this aside for a while and decided I could live with it.  However, my husband spotted it and shook his head at me.

Fine!  I unpicked the row and re-stitched, making sure my blocks align.  Yes, quilters, I eased the block into the sashing.  That’s kind of a no-no for proper quilting but I’m not a proper quilter.  I just like stitching bits of colored fabric together… and that’s ok!

I like the extemporaneous quality of this quilt.  While I am not a proper quilter, I’m perfectly competent in a variety of techniques, which means I don’t need to carefully plan the quilt before starting.  For a beginner, or for a person who pursues quilting as an artform, a plan is recommended.

But for me, quilting is a palate cleanser or a way to unwind.  I started this quilt when I was desperate to do something with my hands after weeks of being still.  The work continued while I waited impatiently for Tiramisu to go to print.  (The production speed was out of my hands at that point… Quilting was my equivalent of pacing back and forth in a waiting room.) Now I look at those blocks and think about that, and want to complete this project.

The trick to avoiding Area 51 is to work on a large project in small doses, over time.  Progress is progress, and I figure if I work on a project like this once every month or 6 weeks, it’s not a UFO.  It’s just slow.  By the time I finish, I have a warm and friendly reminder of the life I lived while I stitched.  A textile snapshot.

Before I baste, quilt, and bind this throw I want to add a final border.  Can you help me decide which one?  Either border will use white as the background, and remaining scraps of fabric for the feature.  It will be maybe 3-4″ (~10cm) wide:

Click for source- great tutorial for template piecing this block, and an entire quilt using this and one other block. It’s pretty cool.

This is attractive because it’s geometric, simple, I can paper piece it, and it will use small scraps of white fabric.

Click for source, a really cool little quilt and blog post… I’d just use a single “line” of appliqued shapes like these…

I like this one, too.  The lines and the applique stitching will contrast with the lines and the techniques in the main part of the throw.  However, applique can be rather slow and it means I’ll need to use whole strips of white fabric.  That’s not a problem, but it does use more fabric than the square border.

Vote to help me decide, and I’ll get cracking on the borders shortly…

What do you think?  How many quilters do we have here?  I really can’t help myself posting about my quilting, and I wonder how many quilters read 3 Hours Past?  Do you ever string piece?  What do you think about my crazy scrappy throw?

Up Next: Notes on use and abuse of fusible webbing strips, then a reclaimed felted alpaca tote!

Tiramisu should arrive at my house next week!  Swoon!!  When I have a firm shipping date, I’ll gleefully report to the Cake Mailing list, and reveal the next release!

Boobs, Bras, and Quilting

I’ve been paper piecing my final blocks for the Lonestar Burst scrappy throw.  I like to mull while I piece.  Today I couldn’t stop thinking about making bras.  It seems natural to me to discuss bras and boobs while quilting, I guess I’ve hung out with enough quilters to know what gets talked about during an afternoon spent piecing with other women!  So pretend we’re piecing together.

I used a string piecing technique for the middle, which is quite cool and time consuming, but didn’t come out looking as interesting as I’d hoped. The string piecing gets lost.

Boobie Disclaimer- I’m discussing my measurements and underwear preferences in this post.  I usually refrain from both, but this is in the interest of “science.”  I know measurements can be triggering for some, or you may know me personally and have no interest in knowing about my underwear.  That’s cool.  Please stop reading now and come back for the next post, Conversant in Color: Wardrobing.

I tried something using only four colored fabrics that came in two colorways. I like it, but it could be bolder…

Last week, Zoe at “So, Zoe…” posted a great essay about indie pattern companies, and featured many of them in the post.  It’s good, go read it.  In the post, she features Make Bra and I was sucked into their clean, clear website full of photos of bras that look like something I’d like to wear:

Ooooh!  I want to make that!  I haven’t ventured into sewing underwear (do corsets count?), but for me it makes sense.  My bras are dead, dead, dead and I’ve been trying to ignore it.  I can’t afford to buy high-quality ready to wear bras at the moment, but the thought of doing another Target “grab-n-go” doesn’t appeal to me either.  Cheap bras don’t last as long, they don’t fit as well or as uniformly, and I like nice fabrics.  Besides, everything else I wear is made to measure and well sewn, why shouldn’t my bras?

Just scrappy, I like the random ones best…

I’ve been trying to persuade myself to sew some bras for a few months now, but the thought of figuring out the drafting, fiddling with the pattern and gathering all the findings meant I made a pinboard to collect undies inspiration and tutorials, but not much else.  That’s why I was so SO excited to find Make Bra.  The site itself has plenty of info, all kinds of bra styles AND all the findings in one place.  I put together everything I needed for a bra (foam lining and pattern included, but not the fashion fabric) for about 20 euros.  Including shipping from Finland to Australia.  That’s more or less the cost of a Target bra.  Wicked!

I was so excited, I posted about Make Bra on Facebook. That’s where I put stuff I’m SUPER excited about but not ready to blog.  I mean, it’s a balconette bra pattern with all the little pieces arriving at my house! I love balconette bras!  It will take an Act of Dog to keep me from ripping into that parcel the second it arrives and whipping up a new bra.

Then Cassandra asked a very sensible question about bra fitting:

Long story short, I realized I’d skimmed their measurements chart and bought my usual band size- 34.  My ribcage is 33, I’ve worn a 34 band for almost as long as I’ve had boobs, end of story.  Right?

Just scrappy, I like the random ones best…

I bought a 34DD this morning.  Without going into too much detail, I was a 34C before the baby and settled down to a 34D later.  Some of my bras have a 36 band if that’s the cup I could find that fit on the day I went shopping.  I notice those ride up in the back which is a sign of bad fit.  When I was a teenager, my measurements were easy to remember- 36-26-36.   These days I’m a thicker, ever-shifting version of the same shape- 40/41-28/29-40/41.  My bust and hips have expanded more than my waist, to be perfectly truthful it’s a pain to fit my clothes and figure out how to dress without looking either frump-tastic or “sexy”.  But that’s a post for another time..

I may or may not assemble the top this way. I’ll leave it on the sewing room floor until my husband protests or I figure out if I want to just piece another few blocks, make a border, or what.

So after the Facebook discussion I went back to quilting and thinking about bra sizing.  I decided to go back to Make Bra and order the findings for another bra, and to order the size suggested by the instructions below their extensive size chart.  According to their chart, I should add 5″ to my rib cage measurement for my band size.  38.  That puts me in C cup range.

So what am I carrying around?  C or DD?  Who knows?  I do know for sure that bra fitting can be quite treacherous for many of us, so I’m putting myself “out there” as a guinea pig.  What works best?  My intuition and habit, or the sizing chart?   I’ll make both sizes, wear them a bit and we can talk about it.   Make Bra also offers a free pdf panties pattern.  They look pretty good and I keep telling myself to make some panties, so I’ll give that a whorl this week and report back.

Oh!! I want to make this too! It’s the balconette bra, made with stripes and a front closure which is explained thoroughly on their website. A bra hack!

What about you?  Do you find the whole bra sizing mess scary and weird like I do?  How weird are boobs?  Have you ever sewn your own bras?  What are your favorite bra-making resources/inspiration?  I’m a lingerie newb here and I’m positive you’ll know something I don’t, so please do tell me your secrets…

Don’t forget to vote in the Name That Lady poll for Cake’s first covergirl and enter the polka-dot jersey giveaway!

Visual Quilting- Lonestar Burst Pictutorial

Here’s my latest Lonestar Burst square.  I’m feeling much better lately, almost healthy enough to take my vigor for granted again.  I decided to keep making quilt blocks from scraps- even if it’s just one a week- because I really enjoy the repetition and stillness of creating a quilt block.

I only made one block this week, but I documented the process in painstaking detail for those who are interested in how paper piecing this square works.  (nudge nudge)  I wrote a Storm at Sea paper piecing tutorial some time ago, but I want to play with other ways to make pictutorials- can they be a little more Japanese, a little less wordy?

First you’ll want to print off four Lonestar Burst templates from Six White Horses and cut the A section from the B.  I use scrap paper.  You’ll be sewing on the lined side.  Each section is numbered, starting with 1.  The brown fabric here is for section 1, and the white for section 2.  I don’t pre-cut my fabric into shapes, but I do like strips.  Here, the white one is 3 1/4″ and the brown is 4″.  Lay the first two fabrics right side together, one raw edge matching.

This part is not tricky, but it won’t make sense until you get your hand in.  The wrong side of the brown fabric needs to lie against the “wrong” (unlined) side of the paper.  That raw edge should lie on the line between section 2 and 4, and make sure the fabrics cover sections 1 and 2 with a bit extra around the edges.  You can pin.  Setting up the first two sections is a bit weird, but the rest is not too bad.

Stitch the line between sections 1 and 2.  The template doesn’t show to stitch in the gray area seam allowance, but I find it’s neater.  Use a tiny stitch (1.6 length or so) to make tearing the fabric simpler later.  I don’t bother to backstitch.

This is what it looks like when it comes out of the sewing machine.

Open out the fabrics and press.

Flip it over and trim off the bottom edge of section #1, 1/4″ from the marked seamline.  I use a piping trimming tool to guide my rotary cutter, but there’s all kinds of rulers to help with this.

This is the repetitive bit.  We’re trimming section 2.  Begin by folding the paper along the dividing line between sections 2 and 4.  Measure 1/4″ from the fold.  Trim.

Before adding section 3, fold the template along the line between sections 1 and 3.

Measure 1/4″ from the folded edge and trim the excess from section 1.

I used white for section 3.  Right sides together with the brown from section 1, raw edges aligned.  Pin if desired.

Flip the template over and stitch the line between 1 and 3.  Remove from the sewing machine, open out the new fabric, and press.  Remember the repetitive bit I mentioned above?  Do that again for section 3.  Then use another color for section 4, following the same stitch/press/fold paper/trim steps.  Then section 5.  Sections 6 and 7 are the “background” fabric.

One you cover all the sections, the block will need a trim.

Flip it over, measure 1/4″ from each seam line, and trim.

One section down, seven to go.

To remove the paper, I found it’s best to start at section 7.  Crease the paper along the line between sections 4 and 7, and tear gently.  Don’t pull the stitches, the paper should tear easily.  Continue for all sections.

Stitch two sections together along the diagonals to make four squares.  Then stitch two square sections together for a rectangle, then stitch the two rectangles together.  That’s it!

I haven’t decided how to lay out the squares for my final throw, but it’s fun to play.  The colored backgrounds don’t please me as much as the white ones, but I should make one more to balance the backgrounds.  I have a green fabric in the same print as the blue “toolbox” design, I’ll use that.  Only three more blocks!

Click for source

I found this awesome 8 pointed string star while prowling Pinterest last week.  I need to make one of these, just one.  I may smoosh this block into a Lonestar Burst block, anyway I’ll play with it and report back next week.

Have I seduced anyone with my paper-piecing photos?  I’d love to see other blocks.

Tomorrow- Conversant in Color: You and Your Environment

Later this week- The Lila Wardrobe.  If you have a little girl and you want a look at some of the designs I’m discussing with her, check out my Little Girl Pinterest board.

Oh- and the work with Cake is going well, maybe slightly ahead of schedule!  It’s a really fun process, and once I get it all sorted out I’ll start showing you more of what I’m working on.  This is the rough sketch of the lady for the envelope front… What do you think?  She’s not too detailed yet, no coloring, but I love her face already.  Who am I kidding, I love all the faces on Mikhaela’s work.  If you haven’t yet, do sign up for Cake updates.  I haven’t sent any out just yet, but the pre-sale is just around the corner…

Feeling S-crappy

I thought I’d post what I did this week.  It’s not much.  I’m still recovering from the worst flu I’ve ever had (and going to the doctor again tomorrow..). Everything seems to move at half speed lately and its frustrating..

I taught a class this past weekend at Piece Together- such fun!  We worked on knits, using the Blank Canvas Tee as our vehicle.  Great work, ladies!  Much of the class seems to have had the same malady, at least it’s not just me.  It seems to be happening to half of mommy-Brisbane.

I made another two scrappy Lonestarburst blocks to go with the three I made last week.  That brings the total to 5 blocks- another 4 and I’ll have enough for my throw!

I used a white-on-white stripe here, you know how I feel about stripes.  For some reason, this fabric reminds me of toothpaste.  It seems very stark against the colored prints and I like that.  I found sizeable scraps of this fabric when I cleaned out my sewing room.

Yep.  I finally cleaned it up.  Messes bug me, and my sewing room has been torn apart for about a month.  A friend was dropping through Brisbane for the night and since the sewing room doubles as a guest room I had to clean it up or else.  I cleared out every piece of “what was I thinking” fabric, everything that’s a wrong-for-me, wrong-for-the-house fabric, everything for which I don’t have a clear purpose. It took me most of last week, but it’s done now.

I’m taking everything I cleared out to my table at Fabric-a-brac, a charity event I’m running at the State Library on the 25th of August.  It’s a great opportunity to destash or to pick up a few bargains from those who are de-stashing.  I stuffed all these yogurt and honey containers with my stock of large-ish scraps and remnants.  Useful bits and pieces I hope will find a good home.

Except these.  These rumpled odds and ends will eventually become scrap quilts.  I like to keep my scraps separated by color.  The red/pink box will become a pineapple quilt, the blue and white are a half-completed Storm at Sea, and the colorful box holds scraps of Lila fabrics.

The Lila fabric box will yield a fun, bright, and probably slightly obnoxious quilt…

Speaking of Lila fabric, she’s had a sudden growth spurt.  I have a little stock of fabrics for pants, skirts, little tops and dresses but I’ve been putting off making Lila clothes- probably because my workspace was a disaster area.   I love how quickly kids’ clothing goes together, and the first “people” I made clothes for were my dolls.  For some reason, sewing for Lila is the same kind of thrill.  Except she’s real and that makes the sewing 100 times more fun!

She saw this today while I was laundering it and asked for a dress.  It’s a very very fine merino- a steal at $10/m.  You will see much more of this fabric in the next few months, I bought as much as I could justify.  The pale aqua suits mommy and dolly equally well, so I’m sure we’ll get some good use out of it.

I’m using this fabric for a mini-hack.  I’ve been meaning to work on a Lila-sized Blank Canvas Tee for some time and I have a cute design I’d like to share, hack-style.   With any luck, I’ll find the energy to put together a few more separates for her that have been living in my head for months.  So watch out.  It may get a little cute around here this week…

How do you organize and use scraps?  How do you decide what to keep and what to toss?

The Cure for “Stupid Fingers”

Not to beat a dead horse, but I’ve been really sick.  How sick?  Ten days away from any stitching, drafting, piecing, knitting or cutting sick.  This is highly unusual for me, I often spend at least three or four hours a day performing delicate work with my hands.  After so long at rest, I knew I would have a case of “stupid fingers” the moment I picked up my work.  “Stupid fingers” happens when I know in my brain what the fabric should do but my hands can’t quite make it happen.  I fumble, the fabric slips around, I get grouchy and the sewing takes much longer than it should.   I have also seen this in beginners, it’s a great cause of frustration.

But there’s a cure!  Quilting helps me overcome “stupid fingers.”  I can’t have “stupid fingers,” especially since I’m teaching full knit fabrics masterclass at Piece Together this next weekend.  I’m the teacher, my fingers must be nimble and sure!

On Sunday, my husband spent the day out with the boys deep sea fishing (I was still feeling too delicate for that) and my daughter went to visit her grandmother.  I took the opportunity to dig up these fabric swatches I bought over a year ago to see where my inspiration would take me.

With the exception of the Panda fabric (which I since decided I’ll use in a Lila-dress-fabrics-quilt at a later date), all of these are swatches from a designer quilt fabric book.  When fabric merchants visited the quilting store where I worked, they brought all the latest designs stapled into a cardboard bound book.  “Ranges” of fabrics are grouped together to show the effect of the many prints together.  The Boss and more experienced staff would leaf through the swatches and place an order for meterage with the merchant.

At some point, I picked up these old swatches from a discontinued range for about $20, thinking I’d turn them into a “scrap” quilt at some point.  I like the prints and the colors.  Each piece of fabric is a slightly different size, from roughly a fat quarter down to dainty handkerchief size.

Click for Six White Horses- Source- Lonestar Burst block

Then, once again proving to myself how useful it is to have a huge pictorial database of good ideas, I leafed through my Quilting Pinboard for some good paper-pieced blocks.  I like paper piecing.  It’s easy to use small scraps and I can create marvelous designs without much pre-cutting.  I tend to hoard both scraps and quilt blocks, and every so often I stitch some blocks together for a quilt.

Also, paper piecing is the most satisfying way I can think of to cure “stupid fingers.”  It’s easy once you get the hang of it, but paper piecing relies on accuracy in sewing, trimming and pressing.  Otherwise, the blocks come out all ugly.  The repetition and the accuracy required, as well as the small size of a quilt block make paper piecing perfect for training or re-training sewing fingers.

My sewing room still looks like someone let a Niffler loose in it, so I took advantage of the empty house and set myself up at the dinner table.  The ironing board is roughly the same height as the table, I have the iron and the self-heal mat to one side, and my sewing machine on the table.  This is fantastic because it means I can build up some good sewing momentum without moving about.

Sigh.  Cracked or not, the self heal mat is still useful.  I’m not a serious enough quilter to justify replacing this just yet.  I used my piping trimmer to guide my seam allowance trimmings because I couldn’t find my proper 1/4″ ruler.  It worked well.

My “stupid fingers” made a little mistake with the white along the bottom edge, but I sort of faked it when I stitched the sections of the star block together and it will be fine once it’s quilted.  (Shhh!)  Once I hit my stride, each of these star sections took me about 15 minutes to make.  Each block has 8 sections.

I made the first one very scrappy with white (spotted!) background fabric, just like the one that I pinned.  When I read Anna’s post about this block at Six White Horses (she very generously posts the paper piecing template, too!) and saw more colorful variations of this block at The Undercover Crafter, I knew I couldn’t stick to the scrappy/white variation only.  It’s too much fun to mix things up!  Besides, I figure I’ll run out of fabric for squares and then put them together as seems best.  This is not a carefully planned quilt, and I’m fine with that.

Next, I played with blues!  “Stupid fingers” tripped me up a little bit while I made this block, but not much.

And then green with a rim of brown!  I like that these second two blocks use “modern” style fabrics with a very restrained and traditional block.

Each block is 12″ finished (because I square off my edges, which is not cheating…) and I figure I should have enough blue, green, brown and white fabric for 9 blocks total.  That should make a decent sized throw, but not pose such a quilting conundrum that I don’t finish it.  These three blocks took quite a while to complete, and I was utterly exhausted at the end of the day.  But my fingers felt smarter, and I knew I could get back to drafting and sewing other things without making a big mess.

Do you ever get “stupid fingers”?  How do you fix them up?  Have you ever paper-pieced?  I’d LOVE to see links to your work…

Also- If you’re interested in perspectives on body image and sewing, check out this humorous and sensible post on Sew You Said.  As a pattern maker, I definitely believe that “the body is always right.”

For Pattern Geeks and Rogue Quilters: Megan’s Mod Dress

Yesterday, I took some time off from working on electronic patterns (serious computer fatigue!) to make a pattern for Megan’s dress.  Not surprisingly, I couldn’t locate either my already-adjusted fitted bodice with midriff or my dress block.  That would have been too easy.  I did find a sleeveless bodice that fit well, so from there I chopped up the pattern for a bodice/midriff combination.

Once I had a final pattern that fit, I marked the contrast bands.  The front midriff section had the most bands, so I started there by dividing the CF of the front midriff into five even sections.  From there I used the photo as a guide to drawing the seam lines, and I labeled each section with the color it should be and a number to make sure I didn’t get lost.

I laid little bits of polytrace over the top and traced the shape of each individual piece, then added 1/4″ seam allowances to the insets.   I decided to approach them as a quilter, not a dressmaker.

I don’t understand why it looks puckered in the photo and flat on my work table.  The raspberry is a little heavier and much darker than the other fabrics so I interfaced the white and pink with a lightweight woven fusible.

The back is my favorite.  You can’t see the back of her dress on the show, so I opted for a v-back and changed the color placement slightly.  On Megan’s dress, the raspberry color is closest to the neck.  This makes sense.  Necks make white necklines look filthy.  However- I want my V to touch the raspberry in the back midriff section so I switched the colors.  I’m tempted to bind or pipe the neckline, but that would take it further from Megan and that’s not what I’m doing with this dress.

Again, it looks puckered here but not on my table.  I haven’t pressed the pink-raspberry seam open yet, I just pressed the seam flat.  That should make the difference.   It was very pleasing to put the insets together.  Once I started, I didn’t want to stop- I wanted to keep sewing and sewing so I could watch this dress finally come together!

Now I just need to assemble the dress and lining, nothing terribly difficult.  The tricky hard parts are over.  Will it look like Megan’s dress?  Will it be wearable in public?  Will I like it?

It might be too early to tell.

Finished Object: Hungry Caterpillar Quilt

Quilted, Finished, Ready for the Baby

I completed this play-quilt for a friend’s new baby last week using Amy Butler’s free Window to the Soul quilt pattern.  I opted to use fewer border fabrics, because the finished quilt as written is nearly bed size.

The quilting was far from perfect, but it feels strong and tough.  I backed it with some co-ordinating yellow fabric- not my first choice, but it was to hand already and will work well for a floor quilt.  I chalked a grid guide to quilt the center, and quilted parallel and intersecting lines on the different sections of the quilt.  All in all, it was a charming, relatively easy and satisfying project.

I made a gallery tutorial on how to square off fabric, which you can find here.

The Revolutionary Road dress is nearly finished, just a little tweaking and she’s ready to wear!  I’ll need advice about styling and accessories…

Also, if you live in Brisbane and you’d like to come to a knit-together email me.  A few people I know are planning to get together on Wednesday night to watch Meet John Doe and knit/crochet together.  I’m knitting for Occupy Our Needles, but you can work on whatever you’d like.

Amy Butler and the Very Hungry Caterpillar

Two long-standing friends of ours are having a baby.  The four of us lived together in a tiny rental house when Stephen and I were first married.  Their baby shower is this weekend and I wanted to make something nice for them.

Amy Butler’s newish free quilt pattern, Windows to the Soul caught my eye as a pretty but quick project.  I decided to make it without the outer border for a playmat size.

Why bias?  Why bias rectangles?  Why not strips cut on the straight?  It’s not like the rectangles must mold around curves.  Ever notice her patterns are… uhm… wasteful?  Me too. 

Don’t get me started on the “setting triangles.”  I took photos to illustrate how to use a rotary cutter, ruler, mat and MUCH less fabric for this pattern.   I’ll post them later this week…

Lila loves The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and I couldn’t resist these.  The pattern is designed to showcase fabric, I thought this would be bright and happy for a baby (boy or girl?  no one knows!).  I’m sewing it tough; I know the mommy-to-be will use it.  I really enjoy making things people will use.

I thought it would be cute to fussy cut the borders, to minimize chopping through the design on the fabric.

Unfortunately, fussy cutting meant I came up short for the last border strip.  The fabric store opens at 10am tomorrow…

I put together what I could, it felt good to sit in front of my sewing machine again. I’ll quilt it this week and take some rad pictures before the baby shower!

For the record, I used:

  • .4m (1/2 yd will do) of the center fabric
  •  .75m (3/4yd) of the red (for binding, too)
  • .6m (3/4 yd will do) of the multi-colored
  • .8m (7/8yd) of the border, though I should have bought more for fussy cutting.  1m/yd

Thanks for all your support with moving the site.  Don’t forget to enter the Moving Time Giveaway- I’m giving away a Dior-style fabric rose trio, The Fashion File book, and two patterns on Friday.

Weather Update: Storm At Sea

I have all these “should” projects on my table and in my mind, yet I can’t resist spending my limited sewing time making up these scrappy paper-pieced squares.

The rectangular blocks only take about 10 minutes, the smaller squares 15, and the larger squares 20 or so minutes to make; I can use scraps of sewing time, seldom making more than a square or two at a whack.   I put away my massive pile of scraps, settling for a smallish pile at the end of my ironing board.  It’s satisfying to watch the pile diminish.

I had this much finished two weeks ago and observed this would be a long project.  I since decided not to make a whale square in every large block.  It seems a bit much, and might be more effective in a few blocks scattered through the finished quilt.  White whales are rare, after all.

I also decided to stick to mid-dark blues and aquas.  The pale blues simply don’t provide enough contrast to flaunt the piecing.  I’ll probably replace the pale blue pieces.

See the blue in the lower right corner?  I scammed some blue scraps off a student.  Well, not scammed; I explained my project and asked for smallish scraps.  I don’t need more blue (not yet) but her paisley appealed to me.  These small squares use ridiculously small bits, usually the trimmings from larger blocks.

The center diamond is some blue silk I made into a wadder of a 30’s blouse.  See the scrimshaw black and white print in the top right corner?  I cut a blouse from it (a blouse I should get cracking on so I can write notes on blouse-making…) primarily to try using the scraps in my quilt.  Storm at Sea… ships….white whales….hurricanes…

I’m planning to use a waves block around the edges, and those will be my next big blocks.  My Southern U.S. brain looks at those squares and sees the symbol for hurricanes.  Last night I lay in bed waiting for sleep and thought it might be fun to add a slim border of black and gray on blue flying geese.

I enjoy watching my projects evolve as I work on them.  It’s thrilling- I never know quite what I’ll end up with when I start a big project.  Especially a quilt.

Happy Independence Day!  Economic necessities force me to work today, but I really wish I could at least blow some stuff up.  Is it just my pyro-mad family, or does everyone have fond memories of Roman Candle Wars, rolls of 1000 black cats, artillery shells and the like on 4th of July?  We used to hoard our money for weeks to buy a stock of explosives to celebrate the day.  It’s highly illegal here.  Le sigh.

Exercise In Frugality: Storm At Sea (With Paper Piecing Tutorial)

(Collage of my favorite Storm at Sea quilts on the internets)

I know, I know, I just finished a big quilt.  I’ve loved the Storm at Sea pattern for longer than I can remember; earlier this year I vowed to make one.  Your lovely comments on the Drunkard’s Path quilt inspired me to start this one, especially the comment from Karin:

” All this perfection in quilts is a new thing…I don’t think any one in the 30s or 40s considered themselves “a quilter” or expected the perfection we do now. My great grandmother would have been boggled by a quarter inch patchwork foot and the like. She just stitched things together by hand slowly and wonkily in the increasing free time of her old age.” 

Hey, that’s right!

I like the waves around the edges on this version of Storm at Sea, though mine will be every color of the ocean.

I have piles of scraps, recently sorted by color.  Here’s my blues and whites/creams:

Many of the smaller scraps come from my last two finished quilts.  I was trying to be a “quilter,” so tried to carefully match fabrics and overbought.  My cutting was wasteful of time and fabric.  How did my quilting become an exercise in excess rather than an homage to thrift?

My sewing corner looks like someone puked scraps all over every surface.  I decided to use apparel fabrics as well as “proper” quilting cottons from my scrap bin.  I have linens, hemp, jersey, silks, some seersucker from a dead blouse and I’ll sneak in some of the cord scraps from my WW2 jacket.   Rule: Don’t use the same fabric twice in each block.

I’m using a lightweight fusible cotton woven interfacing to stabilize the wiggly, stretchy or delicate fabrics.

How to make so many perfect little triangles and squares, with best use of fabric, and not have to cut each piece individually?  English Paper Piecing, of course.  I used the Quilter’s Cache printable templates, modified.  My small corner squares have an extra row of triangles.  I stacked some newsprinty paper under the template and stitched along the template lines with an unthreaded needle- easy and effective way to make 8 foundation templates at a time.

A friend gave me this hilarious white whale fabric, perfect for the centers of the big blocks, don’t you think?  I made sure to center the whales inside the square and pinned.

I grabbed a piece of off-white linen at random, put it up against the whale fabric and stitched along one of the lines of my template using a smaller than usual stitch.  The smaller stitch makes it easier to tear.

I folded away the paper along the seam line and used a ruler to trim the seam allowance to 1/4″.

I opened out flat and pressed.  Then I grabbed another piece of fabric for the bottom of the whales- that is, opposite where I just stitched.

It happens to be a slub knit cotton.  I needed to trim it down a little bit, so the extra fabric wouldn’t interfere with other seams.

I positioned a piece of silk (Drunkard’s path leftovers) face down on the whales, flipped it over, and stitched the seamline along my perforated guide.  Once you get the hang of paper piecing, it’s pretty brainless.

Another Drunkard’s Path reject.

All the “whites,” next the blues:

Opposite corners first.  I trim the whites along what will be the next seamline, then position the blues, then trim the blues.

Oh boy, this will take a while.  I have an old thermal 100% wool blanket with the binding falling off- perfect for batting.  If I can get away without buying a backing, this will be a “free” and frugal quilt- making good use of tiny bits of material and a throwaway blanket.

Aside from pleasing my inner skinflint, I’m overjoyed to begin working on a project I’ve dreamed about literally for years and years.  At the moment, I’m not finding the same joy in apparel sewing.  It feels like work; perfectly understandable under the circumstances.   Don’t worry, I’ll need to start dabbling in dressmaking again soon, if for no other reason because I want to use the scraps!

Also, one of my quilting teachers told me to wash my Drunkard’s Path quilt, dry it, and steam it to remove the ripples.  She said it will come up like a dream.  I might try it when I wash it, but I won’t go out of my way.

Thoughts?  Do you find the completion of a big projects spawns similar new projects?  How do you use scraps?