Sunday, October 25, 2015

FW 11: Bea and 12: Becky

A good week this week. I finally felt like I was catching up a bit after my slow start. I have a bit of a routine going now. I print out a bunch of the templates. Every evening I sit in front of the TV and cut out a bunch. I stick the little thumbnail in my notebook and try and work out colours and sizes. Then I put all the templates in their own plastic bag and number them. Once they are all cut out. I take one a night and choose the fabric and cut it all out. It's always bad lighting so I am not overly confident in my choices. Then I put the current two bags by the sewing machine and literally grab a few minutes when I can to sew a unit. Sometimes it's literally one piece a day. I do a big catch up on Saturday or Sunday depending how the old 'independent play' idea goes down. We have boxes of Play Mobil, Duplo and train tracks which I empty out one after the other. They probably buy me about 10 minutes each.

Here I am making complex notations that even I don't really understand. I spend a lot of time looking at my notes thinking 'what is going on?' I often end up not even using them. I mark the plan with my colours using abbreviations. I know some people use coloured pencils but it would just be another thing to balance on the sofa and I already have my basket of fabric, my project bag and my cutting board. Everything ends up falling down the cracks in the sofa as it is. when I started this I had done two other small test blocks in order to learn foundation piecing. I feel I am only just starting to get into my groove of how to do this technique.

The Bea block felt a bit overwhelming with all its pieces, so I made a bulk batch of half square triangles then realised I had no idea how to use them with the foundation paper technique. I made quite a few mistakes before I worked out a way. I am not 100 percent on it. My blocks still aren't perfect but that could be because I don't so enough ironing and starching or unpicking. My tolerance level is quite high. I hate going backwards so a lot of things slide. Back to my new technique: I ended up having to draw 1/4" lines on the back to make sure I got them in the right place.

I did manage to do some chain piecing for once. Usually my brain just can't cope and I have to do each bit one at a time. But there were so many bits with these blocks that I felt like I just needed to save some time.

I starched and pressed all the units which I don't normally do but I thought it might help as these pieces have so many bits that need to line up. The wetness of the starch curls my paper but if I turn them over and do a quick press on the front they usually loose most of the kink.

Here is one of my units. I cut all by pieces 1/2" bigger rather than 1/4" as I find it gives me the leeway I need. Except for the premade half square triangles which had to be 1/4" just to line up with my foundation paper borders otherwise I couldn't make them work. Then I trim each section before sewing them together. But I have started leaving the outside edges untrimmed so that when it comes to trimming out the whole block I don't need to be 1/8" short.

Here is my unit trimmed just on the inner sides.

Another thing I have been doing is after I sew two units together I pull off the papers along the seam so that I can have some open seams. These blocks can get so bulky.

Here is what it looks like. Ready to sew to the next unit. It doesn't make much of a difference here perhaps.

But it does here. Jeez. What a lot of blocks.

My new phrase is; 'It's not perfect, but it'll do'.

If you look closely there are some lost points and some bits that don't line up. I think if you took the papers off before sewing you could tug some of these joins into place, but I haven't tried that yet. We just won't look that closely at it.

Block 15: Blossom
Behold! The finished block. Erm... hang on. It's not the block I was meaning to do. There is however a reason for this...

Block 11: Bea
I made the Bea block first and I just wasn't that happy with it. 1. I am sort of thinking I won't do my blocks on point yet this basket doesn't look so good square. 2. I felt the flowery fabric was a bit, well old fashioned. And 3. It just looks wonky. This is where I made all my mistakes and unpicked to high heaven trying to work out the best way to do it. So I decided to make a similar style block straight away putting all my new knowledge into practice. More starch, more starch!

So I ended up making Block 11: Bea and Block 15: Blossom. I'm much happier with the more contemporary fabric and I feel I have tamed the HST overload block. It was an intensive week though. I'm glad it's out of the way.

I think when I reach the end I will lay out all the blocks and remove any that I feel aren't really making the grade. The basket might be living on borrowed time, but when I lay them all out and squint it actually fits in okay.

Block 12: Becky
Becky block
But don't worry, I also made block 12: Becky. A lovely easy block and a chance to show some of the bigger prints. I really enjoyed it. I do like simple blocks that allow you to show the fabric. I love this version and this one. Gosh and this one and this plain one. In fact it's fair to say, I liked everyone elses so much I decided to do the block. I was planning not to bother as it seemed too easy and I realised I mostly like blocks where it'e the fabric range I like really. Like this one and this one and this one!

It does mean I have not completed a block from the US quilt a long group this week though, but it was a bit wishful thinking to imagine I could keep up with both. I still have three other blocks to complete from the UK quiltalong on the back burner so I need to keep up the momentum. I missed watching Kerry's Periscope this week. I really look forward to it. I've already done one of next weeks blocks so I am hoping to catch up on the earlier blocks.

Right. I'll stop talking now. Half term here next week so it might end up that I achieve very little. We'll see.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

FW 7: Augusta and 14: Betty

Ere we go. Another week and my first big disaster in quiltland. I have really tried to catch up and get organised, or rather try to. I seem to be failing. I've even been dreaming about blocks. I am not sure why. Last week I managed to make one block from both of the quilt a longs; block 1: Addie and Block 8: Aunt. They were fine. See the post here. I felt good.

Block 14: Betty

This week I made two blocks but I began to notice all the things I was doing wrong and wish my blocks were more perfect. Some of my seams are tiny due to bad lining up of fabric. Some points are off because, well I donn't know. I haven't been starching. I should starch right? I do usually, i just wanted to catch up quickly. I feel like I could be doing better basically. So i feel a little disheartened. But I did get a mention on GnomeAngel's link party roundup! Yay! So i am trying to be upbeat.

I do seem to be learning a lot with each block which is definitely good. With the first two I learnt that using tracing paper to print out the foundation pieces onto is great. This week with block 7: Augusta (from the UK QAL) and block 14: Betty (from the US QAL) I learnt that tracing paper is in fact rubbish as soon as the blocks become complicated. It's too thick and heavy. Either I pull my stitches apart or I make my stitch length so tight that it sheers the paper in two. I am going to buy me some proper foundation piecing paper or just revert to bog standard computer paper.

I also learnt with Augusta that I need to be better about my seams and trim as I go along by folding the paper as shown on verykerry's blog. It really tidies everything up nicely.

I'd also like to iron my seams open as some of the joins are very lumpy. But I am not sure if it's possible with foundation piecing. I did realise that some of the blocks are so simple that you don't really need to foundation piece them. I also realised after I had constructed Aunt above that I should have used my preferred method of making multiple HST's at once. I have actually never tried sewing them from triangle shapes. It's rubbish, they just stretch. But with fussy cutting you don't have a lot of choice.

I also need a small rotating cutting mat. It would just make a big difference. Then I could trim at the sewing machine instead of getting up every five minutes to go trim something. It's annoying as I really don't want to buy more quilting stuff. I just don't have the space nor the funds. but some things are just really useful like this ruler above. I bought it on a whim to go in my project bag. I really didn't need it and now it is really useful as it has bold 1/4 markings to trim my seams with and is a great small size for cutting.

I have also started to do a bit of chain piecing. Not too much as some of the blocks are just too complex. I can only think about one section at a time. I swear I have been doing Block 3: Alice for an age now.

I just keep putting it down when it does my head in. I need to have a better system. I think the coloured pencils on the foundation paper might have to come into play as I can barely understand my current marking system.

But back to my disaster. This week I printed out my template with 'fit to paper' selected and it shrank it every so slightly to fit on A4 paper. Sigh. So my block was 1/2" too small. So I made it again. The one on the far left is the new block. And I got to change my fabric around which is always interesting. Not too bad as it was an easy block but I was hoping to get another block finished from the backlog. I can basically only just about manage one block a week currently so catching up is hard work. I think the first block on the right is nicer though which is slightly annoying.

Truth be told, when I lay out all my blocks together I don't really think they go! I am hoping as I repeat the fabrics and change the combos though that the whole thing will come together. I promised myself I wouldn't play safe and just use one colour way or fabric range. Of course when I look on Instagram I fall in love with many people's versions doing that very same thing. And part of me is sad I am not using repro fabrics as the ones I am seeing are really lovely.

Block 7: Augusta

But on a positive note, Block 7: Augusta was much easier than I anticipated. I was really pleased with it, even though it's a bit more garish. I love the blue print. I was really elated when I went back to Birmingham a year after buying a small fat quarter and there it was again.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Farmers Wife 1930s Start. Block 8: Aunt & Block 1: Addie

Finally! My book arrived! It was being held at the Post Office and then I forgot my ID so it took far too long for me to get my hands on it. I was getting a bit downhearted about how much catching up I would have to do until I spoke to mum. "Oh you could rustle up three blocks a day no worries"... Says the retired lady of leisure.

So I laid out all my tools and sat twiddling my thumbs.

Then I saw that their was a second quiltalong over on Carrie's blog! A US Version which was just starting! Yes! And the second one is handing out the first blocks as downloadable pdf patterns whilst people wait for their books to arrive. Punch the sky! Double result! Sorry about the excessive exclamation marks but I was so desperate to get going. So thank you Gnome Angel for making it all possible.

So whilst I was waiting last week I decided to make one of the blocks from the first four Carrie published. So although I am doing the UK based quiltalong with Kerry, i seem to have defected to the US one immediately. Is that allowed? But it does mean I get to just choose which block I'd prefer to make each week.

I don't have the space nor the funds to make a big quilt and if I am honest, i am a real lap quilt person. So I am not in need of every block. Therefore I thought I might just do one a week or none depending on how I feel. Of course I seem to like most of them so far so I need to play catch up every evening this week.

So behold Aunt block!


Not number one, not first Alphabetically but third in the US version due to its ease of construction. A nice way to ease into this whole thing. As for construction time, the answer is not that long! I managed to print out the pattern in the early morning before she woke. Chose the fabrics and cut them out during breakfast. Sewed them quite quickly after bedtime. I should have starched and ironed but there was no time. Just a bit of finger pressing.

As for my fabric choices, I am really pleased. It doesn't look like a train crash! I find choosing fabrics so hard. I don't want it to all be the same colour or the same family of fabrics. I want lots of colours going on. This is a bit safe but I am still happy.

Above is my fabric pull neatly contained in my new Tiger basket so I can lug it from sewing machine to cutting table to sofa. It is always near me so I can frown at it.

As for my tracing paper foundation piecing templates. Epic fail. The paper is too thick. It's pulling my stitches apart left right and centre, but it's really helpful to be able to see through it. I need some cheapo thin printer paper. I am scouting around for it. In the meantime I'll just have to make do.

Behold Block 1: Addie,  of the UK quiltalong: Addie (I am such a turncoat). This was much harder and my seams were pretty lumpy. This will only get worse with the more complex blocks. I might swat up on Gnome Angel's open seam foundation piecing tutorial and her folded template one. I really like this version this one, and this one. It makes me want to redo mine!

I started thinking about block three and felt a little overwhelmed! Seam central! Can I really bear it? I decided to give it a break and slope off to the US quiltalong and see what's cooking over there. I know I should commit to one, but I can't help myself! Being a member of two is twice the fun. Carrie at Gnome Angel is having a link party each week. I've even heard of one of those. But it seems like a great place to go and sniff round all the other blocks people have been doing. I really like checking out what everyone else does, it really makes me think about why a block works better or how a different colour contrast can change the whole design. It keeps me busy.