Monday, June 30, 2014

Tips For Sewing Curves

Blog reading over the past few weeks, I noticed many quilt bloggers expressing an interest in curved piecing, especially using the Quick Curve Ruler, a gadget that is designed to make piecing quilts with spectacular curves easier.  My experience with the ruler is limited but I've made a few quilts with curves so thought I would pass along a few tips.

1.  Starch your fabric before cutting.  I use spray starch; Best Press works too.  Starching helps prevent your fabric pieces from becoming distorted as you tug during sewing.  I say "helps" because you still have to be careful while you press not to distort your pieces or they won't fit together.

2.  Choose a large, gentle curve for you first project.  My first quilt with curved piecing was Aquarium, using the Drunkard's Path block in a large (8") size.  The complexity comes from strip sets that are pieced prior to cutting.  This pattern is in the book Strips 'n Curves by Louisa L. Smith. 

3.  Sew with the concave piece (curve going in) on top.  Ignore any directions that say it doesn't matter; it does matter.  You will have an easier time with the concave piece on top, avoiding puckers and misaligned pieces.  After you have lots of experience, you can try it the other way.  You will then know how it is supposed to work and will be able to tell when things are going right or wrong.

Cider Mill
More large curves; from Winners Bouquet by Atkinson Design
4.  Slow down, take your time.  This is especially important while you are machine sewing.  You want to sew at a speed where you are in control of the stitches.  This will be slower than the speed at which you chain piece straight edges but faster than you can hand sew. 
5.  Use an awl (I use the business end of a seam ripper) to hold pieces together and guide them close to the needle.  It is tempting to use your fingers to control and manipulate the fabric but you can't let your fingers get too close to the needle or this is what happens

Metro Wave
6.  Don't be afraid to sew from the center of the piece out to each end.  Yes, this means you will have to sew twice to finish the entire length of the seam, but it takes less time than unsewing and sewing again.  If it gives you better, more accurate control it will be worth it in the long run. 

Double Wedding Ring
work in progress
7.   Remember that sewing curves when piecing a quilt is not like sewing curves in garment construction.  I got my start sewing with clothing and thought my first curved piecing would be like sewing a sleeve to the shoulder of a dress - easy, peasy, done that many times.  But it is very different.  Curves in clothing are meant to fit the curves of the body.  Curves in quilts are meant to lie flat.   If your pieces are not lying flat after sewing (and a bit of pressing), something is wrong.  (The pieces don't fit together properly, your cutting or seam allowance is off, or something of that nature.)

8.  It's a hobby, it is supposed to be fun.  Give curved piecing a try, but if after some focused effort, it is more frustration than fun, move on to something else.  There are lots of quilt patterns (like curved log cabin) that give the illusion of curves while using all straight piecing.  Try one of those instead.   

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Baby Shower Gift

One of our nieces is having a baby in August.  She and her husband are both big fans of the Stars Wars movies so when I found out there is licensed Star Wars fabric available, I knew I had to make something for Baby.  When I stumbled across Missouri Star Quilt Company's tutorial for the self-binding baby blanket, I found the perfect gift.  Are you aware of the tutorials from Missouri Star Quilt Co?  They are wonderful!  This company is a family affair, based in a small town in Missouri.  Jenny does the tutorials and she is a great teacher and entertaining as well.  She reminds me of Julia Child, not fazed by anything that happens, keep the camera rolling!  If you are looking for a tutorial for something quilty, Missouri Star Quilt Co. probably has one.

The construction of the baby blanket is exactly the same as the napkins I made a while back and is very fast and easy.  I used a piece of black and white flannel with the Star Wars logo and a piece of quilting weight cotton depicting various contraptions (sorry, not familiar with the technical terminology) from the movies. I whipped up two blankets in an afternoon.  (In the photo, the blanket is folded in quarters.) 

You can see what the mitered corner looks like below.  Don't be afraid; super easy...just follow the directions in the tutorial. 

While I'm sure the parents are going to love the Star Wars theme, if I was making a blanket for another recipient, I'd go with this or this or this.  A couple of custom blankets paired with some board books and I am ready for the baby shower!

Monday, June 23, 2014

DWR Quilt Update - Sewing Blocks Into Rows

I continue to work on my Double Wedding Ring quilt project, though progress is S-L-O-W!  This past weekend, I figured I had enough "clamshells" (name for the blocks) finished to try sewing them into rows, just to see how it works.  Fortunately, it worked out just fine.  Although I am following "orders" and not pressing, which is killing me, and explains why the quilt looks like such a mess in the photos.

I am reconsiderning the finished size.  My original idea was to make a quilt for our queen size bed, thinking it would be 36 blocks (6 x 6).  But after getting some blocks sewn together, I can see it will require 49 blocks (7 x 7), yielding a quilt about 90" square.  Now I'm thinking about a throw instead, 25 blocks (5 x 5) or about 65" square.  It will ultimately depend on how much I'm loving the process after I have 25 blocks made. 
Blogging will probably continue to be less frequent than normal for me through the summer because I'm doing a bit of business travel.  If I had anticipated this, I would have prepped a smal hand project to take along but there is always reading.  I'll let you know if I read anything particularly good.  My top recommedation for now is The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, a wonderful Dickensian tale.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

It's Official - I'm A Fabric Hoarder

Thelma of Cupcakes 'n Daisies blog went to Spring Quilt Market in Pittsburgh (lucky, lucky Thelma!) where she picked up some goodies.  I came out the winner in her giveaway and look what I won! 

The bag is from the new fabric company, Cotton + Steel, which got a lot of attention at the show.  I hope my LQS is going to carry the line.  I will certainly be carrying my new Fabric Hoarder bag when I go fabric shopping.

Miss Main Street took the photo.  Mr. Main Street commented, "Oh no, you don't need any encouragement!"
Fabric Hoarder - yes, the name fits!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Clamming Up

No big reveal after my absence of more than a week but I have made some progress on the Double Wedding Ring quilt project.  I have 12 "clamshells" made; 24 more to go.

This does not look like it will be the summer of quilting for me.  Home renovation projects are absorbing my time. Some are fun (dining room redecoration); some are totally boring (powerwash the siding).  They all take time, which I don't have a lot of once you factor out the hours spent on paid work.  Which matter a lot, what with the college tuition bills and Mr. Main Street's desire to retire before he is 90.  But every once in  while, I get into the sewing room and piece away. 

Construction of the Double Wedding Ring block is slower than most quilt blocks.  I was able to chain piece the arcs but the process really slowed down once I got to the curved seams.  It is not particularly difficult, just slow.  It helps so much that the pieces fit together so perfectly, and for that I have to thank Marti Michell and her fantastic set of templates. 

I bought my template set on Amazon (I have a Prime membership so shipping was free - we read a lot of books here on Main Street, Mr. is a high school English teacher)  but you can also order them directly from Marti's website.  The templates are acrylic, like most quilting rulers, so they are great for rotary cutting.  I cut the small pieces for the arcs from strips and the melons and block centers from yardage.  I read the directions before I started, finding some sections not-very-clear but once I had the pieces in my hands, the confusion disappeared.  (I augmented Marti's directions with tips from Jo's County Junction).  And there are several tutorials on YouTube for those needing more help or clarification.

If a Double Wedding Ring quilt is on your bucket list, give it a try!