Friday, May 13, 2016

Tips For Making Your Own La Passacaglia Quilt

Now that I'm nearly done, and with over a year of experience working on my own La Passacaglia quilt, I'm here with some tips just in case you want to tackle this project yourself.

First, you need the book Millefiori Quilts by Willyne Hammerstein. It was published by Quilt Mania and is not widely available in the US (not available on; I got my copy at  Even if you know how to do English paper piecing, you will need the diagrams in the book because this quilt goes together like a jigsaw puzzle.

La Passacaglia is constructed using the English paper piecing method, where fabric is secured around pieces of stiff paper cut to the desired shape and size then hand sewn together.  I can't see machine piecing working for this quilt, given how tiny the individual pieces are.  I got my paper pieces from  They sell a complete pack for this quilt (as well as other Willyne Hammerstein designs) and while it seems kind of pricey, it will save you a lot of time; I would rather sew than cut pieces of paper!  You can either baste the fabric to the paper or use fabric glue.  I used glue, the Sewline glue pen, which is easy to handle and applies a narrow line of glue.  You don't want too much glue as it will make it harder to remove the paper at the end.  I think I used about seven glue refills for the pen as well.

It is very helpful to do your gluing and some of the cutting on a rotating cutting mat.  It makes things easier but is not absolutely necessary.  I have this Olfa mat and have used it for other projects.  Don't let the square shape fool you; it does spin.

It is possible to cut your fabric using a regular ruler and rotary cutter but I bought the acrylic templates for each shape from along with the papers.  I found them particularly useful when fussy cutting.  When not fussy cutting my shapes, I cut my fabric in strips the width of each shape then used the acrylic templates to cut the individual pieces.

Of course, you need needles and thread for the hand sewing.  In her YouTube tutorial, Sue Daley recommends Bottom Line thread from Superior Threads so I bought the set of bobbins to give me a wide range of colors.  You want your thread to either match the fabric color or blend, so your stitches don't show.  I used matching colors where I could and found a khaki color included in the bobbin donut (actually #617 taupe) blended well.  Bottom Line thread is polyester; if you don't like using polyester thread, try one of the fine threads like Aurifil or a thread made for hand applique.

You need a size 10 or 11 straw needle for the sewing; I used some I had in my quilting tool box.  You will want several needles for the project.  The eye of this size needle is small so you may find a needle threader useful.  I recommend using a thimble to protect your finger tips.  I like the adhesive dots (I put one on the middle finger of my right hand, exactly where a callus would form if I didn't use a thimble), but you can use whatever works for you, which is probably whatever you use when hand finishing binding.  I found the small binding clips useful for holding two pieces together before I took the first few stitches as it is hard to get pins through the paper.

There are a number of videos on YouTube that will help teach you the actual stitching.  I like Sue Daley's videos and has some tutorials as well.

Let's not forget the most important part, the fabric!  If you Google la passacaglia quilt and click on images, you will see this quilt in made in every conceivable color combination.  You can see examples on Pinterest and Instagram as well.  I had a particular color combination in mind and chose fabrics (mostly from my stash) accordingly.  Fussy cutting floral, paisley, and other large patterned prints can give your rosettes a really special look and is worth the time.  You will want to augment these prints with small scale prints, tone-on-tones, and stripes for variety.

Here are three fabrics I used in my quilt, fussy cutting each in different ways.  When fussy cutting, you will need either five or ten repeats of the same motif (keep this in mind if you are shopping for fabric).

Here's an example of the "swiss cheese" effect after fussy cutting.  I used this fabric for the center star (5 diamonds each) in two rosettes and for the outer ring of 10 pentagons in another rosette.

One fabric print can be fussy cut in different ways, emphasizing different parts of the print and different colors, to give a variety of looks.  Go here to see how Lynn Wilder used fussy cutting to great effect in a Lucy Boston block. Here's a 19th century repro fabric that would be great for fussy cutting.  Or say you want to use the French General colors of red, cream, and tan.  A wallpaper stripe like this or this, along with a motif like this would get you off to a great start with lots of potential for variety.

If you've been thinking about starting this project, I urge you to go for it!  I've found it very satisfying and see myself doing another EPP project in the future.  Just allow yourself plenty of time and enjoy the process.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Further Progress on La Passacaglia Quilt

This is where I was in March when I last documented my progress on my La Passacaglia quilt project.  (The newspaper is there to show me where I need to add more to reach the desired size.)

Here she is with three more rosettes added.

Closer up:

And in this photo, I've added two more.  Just three more rosettes to go in the upper right corner.

I started this project in April, 2015, and I think I can finish it this month!  Later this week, I'll have a post covering what you need to make this quilt and my tips for the construction process.

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Heavy Starch

Do you starch your fabric before cutting?  I usually press my fabric with a light spritz of starch before cutting but after reading this blog post by Carrie Nelson on the Moda blog, I decided to try her method.  I gave the strips a pretty heavy blast from the can and hung them to dry on my portable lingerie drying rack in the bathtub in Miss Main Street's bathroom (she's away at college so won't need to use her tub for a few more weeks).

Warning - this method uses a lot of starch, about a bottle-and-a-half for the packaged strips and the background yardage.  And where do you buy your spray starch?  Our local supermarket discontinued it long ago so I was buying it at Target but they stopped carrying it too.  I made a trip to Walmart but they didn't have it either.  I stocked up at but the prices there seem very high.   Now I see from the Target website that I can order Faultless spray starch for pickup in the store but they won't ship aerosol products to homes.  I really prefer the trigger spray bottles but they sell for more than Best Press on  If I end up liking this heavy starch method, I'll order several cans at a time for pickup at Target.

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Monday, April 18, 2016

Color Inspiration

I began a pin board to hold color inspiration on Pinterest.  I use it to pin photos that have combinations of color that call to me, not necessarily because I like the photo itself.  My next quilt project is based on several of the photos I pinned, particularly Beach Blues.

I'm using a set of 2.5" batik strips from Wilmington Jewels, appropriately called "Ocean View,"  I've got a sand colored batik for the background.  And the pattern is Simply Woven Quilt from Moda Bakeshop.  I've had this pattern on "my list" ever since I saw Thelma's version on her blog.

This project will be a sort of fast fix after working on La Passacaglia for so long.  La Passacaglia is slow sewing at its finest but sometimes a quilter craves a strip pieced top from pre-cuts that can be finished in no time!

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Fourth and Final

The photo below shows the start of the fourth and final large rosette for my La Passacaglia quilt.  This one includes some more fussy cutting.

I'm in the process of making all the rosettes for the upper right quadrant of the quilt then I'll attach them.  My mental deadline for this quilt top has been Christmas 2016 but it now looks like I could be done earlier!

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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Merrily We Roll Along

With Mr. Main Street glued to the television watching basketball, I've had some extra time to sew and made some real progress on La Passacaglia in the last week.  The third big rosette is now in place in the upper left corner.

One big rosette to go, along with some of the small rosettes and some partials to fill in along the edges.  The end is in sight for a project I thought would take forever!

The top has grown big enough to be unwieldy as I sew on additional pieces, hard to hold and manipulate, hard to line up the pieces exactly.  I'm thinking of removing some of the paper pieces, just leaving then in around the edges for stability.  My hope is that this will make the top easier to manipulate.  Does anyone have experience with EPP and want to offer advice on this issue?  I'm also wondering if it is worth it to save the paper pieces for re-use?

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Monday, March 28, 2016

The Wall Street Journal Comes In Handy

I've made some progress on my La Passacaglia project, my English paper piecing, extremely slow going, hand sewing project.  In my last post on this topic, it was this far along:

Now I'm here:

I've added three more rosettes to the upper left side.

Wondering what connection the Wall Street Journal could possibly have to quilting?   I used pages from the newspaper to make a template the size I want my finished quilt to be.  My plan is for this quilt to be a wall hanging, to hang in a specific space in my house.  This means it needs to be a little bit smaller than the original in the book with the directions so I need to make some modifications.  I taped newspaper pages together to the size I want (roughly 40" by 55").  

With the quilt on top of the newspaper template, I can see how much more work I need to do.  Importantly, I can see where I need to insert partial rosettes along the edges to square up the flimsy.  I don't want to piece a lot of rosettes only to wack off large parts of them. 

I'll use rulers to square up the final top but this newspaper template is a big help in the meantime.

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