Sunday, June 28, 2009

When two seams meet

Pull seams in opposite directions to loosen stitches and fan out seams, flattening them.

This blogging stuff is hard work. I guess I'm going to have to learn HTML instead of just poking around in the code trying things to see what works. Especially because the preview never looks anything like the actual post. Well, it sort of does, but to someone as anal retentive and detail-oriented as I am, it doesn't.
I have picked up this book at the library, but I haven't started reading it yet. (The pix above are courtesy of Picasa's "I'm feeling lucky" feature and the online help.)

Anyway, the point of the photos above is: Here's a trick for flattening out the seams at intersections such as in a four-patch (short of pulling out a hammer). The pictures are arranged clockwise starting at the upper left to show you what I did (after the fact because I couldn't get an action shot without a photographer's assistant or on-screen talent, and this blog doesn't have that kind of budget). You pull the seam in opposite directions to loosen the stitches in the very middle so that you can press one seam going one way and the other seam going the other way. The center seams fan out to make a little 4-patch of their own.

Can't remember exactly where I learned this, but it is in Sally Collins' "The Art of Machine Piecing." If you've ever seen one of her quilts in person, especially a miniature, you will be blown away at the precision. No cut off points here! What she does in a three-inch block, I strive to do in a 12!

Here's another tip, also not sure where I learned it, and I don't see it in my copy of Sally's book: To keep pieced seams nestled together and matching, whenever possible, feed the pieces into your machine with the cut edge of the seam toward the needle. (Does that make sense? If not, check out the picture. It's worth a thousand words!) The machine foot will push the fabric on top, while the feed dogs will pull the fabric on the bottom keeping the seams of the four-patch together.

I may be a wee bit of a perfectionist, but I seldom pin. This little trick helps me maintain my anal retentiveness without the extra work.

Why all this posting about four-patches? Because I'd tired of the half-square triangle trimming and thought if I made a few four-patches (56) and started putting things up on the design wall I'd be a little more inspired to trim more half-square triangles. I was right.

I trimmed more half-square triangles after I took this photo. Getting it up on the design wall really was inspirational!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

In the bag

Four reversible drawstring bags for the nieces.

I was thinking (a phrase that my husband hates when I utter it aloud in his presence) about making some small reversible pouches to put a couple little treats in for my nieces, and the next day while reading blogs I stumbled upon this tutorial on the Pink Penguin blog. Serendipity! Started them last night and finished them up this morning.

Had to make my own ribbon for two of them. My 1/2-inch bias tape maker came in handy and works when your strips are cut straight of grain. I just folded the "bias" tape in half and sewed it together. Having a machine that will let you move your needle position was essential as the 1/4-inch strip had to be over over the feed dogs on one side or it wouldn't be pulled through the machine.

Obviously I didn't do the patchwork part. I'm headed to Orlando for the week for work, then off to visit the nieces in New England so had to keep it simple in order to get these made and the laundry done for maximum available clean underwear for packing.

Haven't managed to do much other sewing except for a bit of applique on the Prairie Flowers. I did step away from the mouse and work on that for a few hours last weekend.

I made this test block for the twins' quilts a couple weeks ago, and that was followed by a burst of half-square-triangle sewing, but now I've got dozens of them to trim to 3.5" and well, that's boring. On the bright side, I tidied up the sewing room to avoid the trimming, which always makes me want to get in there and sew. That'll have to wait until I'm home again week after next.

The twins' monkey wrench variation quilt in progress. I just love the monkey fabric I found for the border.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Mrs. O'Leary's BBQ

Wood Sorrel block from Barbara Brackman's
"Prairie Flower: A Year on the Plains" book.

Isn't that a great name for a nail polish? Was trying to make myself presentable in sandals if it ever stays warm enough around here to take the socks off. I've got Pinking Of You on my fingers, but as usual I have smudged most of my nails. The right pinkie appears to be still intact. Why do I bother?

This is a quilting/sewing blog so hence the applique block I'm standing on. It's from Barbara Brackman's book "Prairie Flower." My friend Lynn and I spotted some finished blocks from it in a quilt shop, so we each bought the book and made plans to applique six of the blocks. One a month, I think. We know our limitations. The blocks are big. Six is plenty.

We managed probably two before I moved from Orlando to Chicago. The third block was not loaded on the moving truck, and I actually worked on it while we were trying to find a house, settle into new jobs, etc. This one was all prepped and No. 5 was cut out. Fast forward five years. Yuppers. Five years. In which time I have not worked on it a bit, but have found inspiration for a pieced border once the blocks are done and have managed to keep the fabrics, book, pattern pieces and completed blocks together. No small feat, my friends!

My sewing room used to look like this. Now there are different fabrics and papers piled around, but I still know where those Prairie Flower blocks are.

And having discovered the joys of bifoculs (and bifocul contacts -- yes! they make them) I thought I might actually work on this again. So I pulled off the glued-on pieces, rinsed out the backing fabric (It was a bit dusty.) and repressed and pinned everything together with the new short applique pins I bought just for this block.

And it has sat on my old cutting mat on the floor for weeks with nary a stitch. Did I mention that my friends had twins, and I've got two baby quilts to work on? Maybe I should step away from the mouse and work on one of those projects instead!