Monday, December 21, 2009

Labor of Love: Sewing has been done!!!

I am so proud of myself. I successfully cut out all my little triangles and squares and rectangles earlier this week. I sewed the first set of patches together -- 2 triangles sandwiching a square and a little triangle hat on top. Egads but that was hard, getting all those corners matched.

Then, as I guess anyone who has quilted before knows, I found that the triangles were taller than the square. I couldn't figure out what I'd done wrong.  I called in reinforcements.

This time I emailed a friend back home and asked her -- am I doing this right? And, how do I line up the triangles?? Match the bottoms? Or center them so that the excess is on both sides???

She came to my rescue (and my great relief) when she said that "If you have cut it out right, the triangles will be too big; this is so they are the right size after the seams" -- whew! Then she said to line up the bottom edge, and the tops would take care of themselves when I sew the strips together.

too big triangles and my wonderfully neat, straight, even stitching....

So that's what I did.  Only on one strip, where the triangle goes at a different angle (like the little hat triangle on the top bit) did I center it, because I decided the point of the triangle, in this case, needed to be centered on the square it was being attached to.  I don't think I took a close up of this part, but it is the center strip where the triangles on the end are turned sideways.

And then I sewed. And now, all the strips are sewn, and all the seams are pressed open, and I've laid out the square, and it looks like it might just, if I am very careful when I sew the strips together, line up properly. I cannot believe it.  But here it is, see for yourself.

JM, how's it looking? Can you believe I did all of this by hand? Without any proper quilting tools? Just me, a needle, and some thread. And not a single Project Runway episode in sight ; )

Now to join those strips together and declare this project done (I hope!)!!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Labor of Love: Progress!

Since I did Step One, call Aunt Carolyn for instructions, over the weekend, I have made a teensy bit of progress on my Labor of Love quilt block. JM would be proud!!

So far I have managed to pre-wash and dry my fabrics.  And press them.

I'm told this is somewhat important, so that when I am measuring my pieces, the fabric lays flat and I cut the right size. Okay, if you say so.

I emailed Aunt Carolyn one more question -- how do I add a quarter inch seam allowance to the measurements, when the directions are for a square to be cut in half on the diagonal???

Answer: usually the sizes given in the directions already include the seam allowances. Whew! What a relief!

And I have --drumroll, please-- cut out the pieces!! 

Lots and lots of little squares and triangles. All of which need to be sewn together, just so, with corners lining up correctly and everything. My Aunt Carolyn stressed that part. Seems it matters a great deal to how well the pattern looks, having the corners all matched correctly. Okay, if you say so.

Cutting was an interesting ordeal.  First I had to figure out how to mark my measurements on the fabric, without staining it or ruining it. Hmmm.

Then I remembered something called paper piecing, which may or may not be what I wound up doing, but it did inspire me, so I drew my shapes on two colors of construction paper (one light, one dark, to go with the fabric). 

Then I cut those shapes out -- I drew every.single.piece. I would need to cut, so that I could keep count more easily.  I pinned the little paper patch onto a section of fabric, and proceeded to cut.


Halfway through I realized my pins were leaving holes that were somewhat visible. Oops. I scoured my house for an alternate and hit upon a brilliant solution -- scrapbooking adhesive! Sweet! The tape stuck to the paper, and peeled right off the fabric. Whew!

Side note: scrapbooking things like scissors, straight edge cutters, paper cutters and the like - not so good for cutting fabric. Not that I tried that or anything, I'm just sayin'.  

I cut the rest of the shapes that way so I'd not make any more pin holes, just in case.

 By late afternoon, I was done!  Look at my pretty pile of shapes--

Now I can begin sewing. Should be fun!

If only I had me some Project Runway to watch while I work.....nah, on second thought, I will probably need to concentrate a bit. I guess only sewing pros can watch TV while they sew. Or people who have a machine to make sure their lines are straight. Whatever.

Since I'm neither of those, I'll skip the TV and pay attention to what I'm doing. Music will work to keep me entertained.

Look for more LOL progress reports (umm, there's a great pun in there if you look for it and if you know forum/chat lingo....) as this project continues. I'm sure it will be full of laughs.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Labor of Love: In Which a non-Quilter Makes a Quilt Square for a Friend.....

Folks, I am not a seamstress. I have, when forced by circumstance, successfully managed a few sewing projects in my time, but I am not a seamstress.

I've "made" flannel blankets for my boys, by purchasing a yard or yard & a half of flannel, and then hemming up the edges by hand.

I've made curtains for my boys' room once, by doing the same thing but using a Mexican serape blanket. I did get fancy on that and add a strip of cloth to cinch it up so it was more a valance than a curtain. One strip a few inches in from each side, running top to bottom, and sewn in place so that the valance stayed gathered at the bottom...yep, that was it.

On the flip side, I own one tiny sewing kit, the kind you buy at a drugstore in the US for a dollar. I've never owned a sewing machine, and the only time I have ever used one was when I taught (don't laugh) Home Ec at a Christian school one year. The kids and I (the teens I was teaching, that is) read the manual together and figured out how to work the darn things. Then I let them sew projects while I observed and pretended I had some clue about what I was doing. Seriously.

(okay, okay, you can laugh now....)

But a friend of mine, a lady very dear to me, wants seven people to make one block each for a quilt she is making. She posted the photo on her blog, (click that link to see the photo...) and I thought, since she is so dear to me, that it would be pretty cool if I made one and sent it to her.

I looked at the photo and thought it looked pretty easy -- a giant square with a few little squares sewn onto it to form the pattern. Easy! I can cut and sew little squares!

(pause for more laughter)

Then I looked at the directions: "Cut your pieces. For the first row, you will need 3 triangles and a square, these the 2 side triangles onto the square, then add the teeny-tiny triangle on top. For the next row......."

Huh??? I can't just cut one big square of the background color and then cut little squares in the accent color, arrange them in the correct pattern, and sew them on?? I guess that would be appliqué, not quilting, huh? Oh dear. This might be harder than I thought.

I studied the directions and determined I could do this. No problem. A little more time consuming than I thought, but still -- it's just sewing straight lines. I can do that. Really I can!!!

I bought fabric. I asked many questions of the nice lady at the fabric store. I watched with great interest as she measured my selection, with a handheld tape measure, marked a little hash-mark with the scissors, and then ripped the fabric in one smooth motion to get me the correct length. I have bought just enough fabric in the US to know that's not how they usually do it.

I hope I got the right kind of fabric....she said it would be good for what I'm doing, but what do I know. JM, if it's a bad fabric, forgive me! It is 100% cotton -- that's good, right???

I came home and wanted to cut it out immediately, but my internet was down and I hadn't saved the pattern/directions to my computer (I've since remedied that). Then I thought I was probably supposed to pre-wash & dry my fabric; I remember my dear friend saying that once, when she forgot.....something about the individual blocks shrinking and puckering once they are sewn.

As I am determined not to be the lone "obviously made by a beginner" quilt square in her quilt, I want to do this right. Trouble is, I don't know how. But I knew how to find out. I called my aunt Carolyn, quilter extraordinaire.

Well, I had a terrible internet connection, so I called my mom, who understands choppy phone calls from me, and had her call my aunt and report back to me. I read her my questions, and the website for the pattern, and then I waited.

Mom called back with my answers:
"Yes, you need to pre-wash it and dry it, and preferrably press it as well. With the iron."

"Yes, you need a hem allowance of one-quarter inch, on all sides. You may use quarter-inch tape if they have that there....."

"Okay, here's what you do -- put your fabric faces together/right sides together. Sew along the quarter-inch line. Then, go press the seams open. Then you can sew the next piece. Aunt Carolyn says at the verymost you may do one row of pieces and press those seams before you sew it to the next row of pieces. You have to press the seams open. Okay?"

At which point I realized I might have bitten off more than I can chew, but I don't care because I am bound and determined to do this, and do it right. JM is such a dear friend, and though I've never met her in person, I know she's worth all this work. More than worth it. And hopefully before too terribly long, she'll have a true Labor of Love to show her I think so.