Tuesday, May 29, 2012

An Asian Inspired Wall Quilt - Part 3

The Construction Phase

During the design phase, the fabrics for the lanterns were picked out and using the foil wrapped method, paper pieced into hexagon shapes. .

6 hexagons
 Using Clover bias adhesive-backed tape, two rows of three hexagons were placed on a white background.

2 rows of 3 hexagons placed on white background
The next step was to finalize the arrangement.  The rope and lanterns were repositioned and ironed in place.  Something seemed not right, so hangers were added to the lanterns.

Hangers were added to lanterns
This looked much more like Japanese lanterns.  It was now time to sew all the bias strips and hexagons down onto the white background.  All bias taped surfaces were zig-zagged in place.  Look closely at the lanterns and notice the edge stitching with black thread.

All pieces sewn in place
It was now time to add the first set of borders.1 inch black strips were folded in half, sewn to each side of the white square and pressed towards the white fabric.

1st set of vertical borders added
Horizontal borders were added in the same way.

All four borders sewn in place
In Part 4 of this series, the final assembly will be completed, so watch for that segment in the near future!


Saturday, May 26, 2012

An Asian Inspired Wall Quilt - Part 2

The Design Phase

My design wall came in very handy last night as I gave this quilt more thought.  After putting two and two together, this equation came to mind.  Japanese fabrics plus hexagons equals Japanese lanterns!  And because it has to be a quick quilt, I decided to create just six of them and frame them in a 12" block.

Picked out 6 fabrics for lanterns

Remember that fun and easy technique I told you about in Part 1 of this series?  I'm going to call it the Foil Wrapped Method for constructing hexagons, which eliminates the tedious basting step.  Here's how it's done!

I gathered the ingredients for this wrap, the first of which is aluminum foil, cut into 4" squares.

4" squares of aluminum foil
The second ingredient is the plastic 2" hexagon template. Uh-oh, I found that the plastic template is not heat-resistant!  Look what happened to it!

The plastic warps and shrinks when heat is applied to it!
So I used the paper template, provided by Craftsy (on page 7 of the class materials for the April BOM), and folded down the edges to make the 2" hexagon shape.  This template has to be accurate and sturdy.  The fabric that will be wrapped around it doesn't need to be cut to the exact shape.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Take a look at the paper template I created.

Back of paper template
with edges folded down
Front of paper template
The third ingredient is a piece of fabric, trimmed to 4".
4" piece of fabric
To assemble the wrap, place the ingredients on the ironing surface in the following order:
  • 4" square of foil, shiny side up
  • 4" fabric, face down
  • paper template of hexagon, face down
Assemble the wrap
Now fold the all the edges around the paper template.
Fold down all 6 edges
 Press the front of the foil-wrapped hexagon.

Press front with a hot iron
Press the back of the foil-wrapped hexagon.

Press the creases on the back
Undo the wrap, separating the 3 layers and press the fabric hexagon again.

Separate the layers of the wrap
See how easy that is?  No fiddling with needle and thread, or hand-basting all those edges down!  English- paper-piecing (EPP) will be a breeze from here on!  I found the blog that demonstrated this method for constructing Super Circles.  Brilliant!

Now back to the design board.

Time to preview the six hexies
With the help of Clover bias tape in a black color,

Clover bias tape
 and a little trimming,

Trim excess from lantern
the lanterns look lovely!

Pretty lanterns
Take a look at the lantern on the right of the last row.  It's upside down, but that'll be taken care of in Part 3 of this series, the Construction Phase.  The Clover bias tape is re-positionable until it's sewn down, thank goodness!

So look out for the next segment in this series.


Friday, May 25, 2012

An Asian Inspired Wall Quilt - Part 1

The Fabric Selection Phase

I've taken the first step in the creation of a quilt inspired by Japanese fabrics, the fabric selection phase.  A long time ago, before the year 2000, I made a Fan Quilt. At that time, I'd sent for a Japanese Fan Quilt kit from a mail order company. It came with numerous little rectangles of Japanese fabrics, and yardages of black fabric and printed fabric for sashing and borders.

Sashing and border fabric
Craftsy's April BOM challenge was to come up with an alternative design for the English paper pieced hexagon shape. So I dug out the fabric kit and laid out a few of the pieces.

Rectangles of Japanese fabrics
These rectangles of fabric are just large enough to accommodate the 2" hexagon template.  Here are the templates I'd made for Craftsy's April BOM.  They're in 2". 1-1/4" and 3/4" hexagon sizes.

Hexagon Templates
I saved the parchment paper pieces I'd made from these templates.

Parchment paper pieces
However, I may not need to use them because I plan to use a unique technique I saw somewhere on someone else's blog to form the hexagons.  I will track down that blog, so that you too can try this technique!

So watch this space for the next phase of this project - Part 2, the Design Phase.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Easiest Ever Design Wall

My sewing room or quilting studio is ever evolving.

What do I consider are the must-haves for such a room, besides all the necessary equipment, of course?
  • Storage Space
    1. For fabrics
    2. Rulers and templates
    3. Threads and bobbins
    4. Books on quilting
    5. Projects in progress
  • A sewing machine cabinet
  • A cutting table
  • An ironing table
  • One or more design walls
  • et al
In the last 20+ years, I've been concentrating my efforts on organizing, and sometimes installing, the first four must-haves.  And for 20+ years I've been dreaming of and conceptualizing the ideal design wall.  So many wasted years of placing, arranging, re-arranging and designing quilts on my bed.
Using bed for a design wall 
A few years ago, I sent for a design wall kit from Fons and Porter's (F&P) mail-order shop and a couple of nights ago, I decided to bite the bullet and try installing it myself.  Well, as you can imagine, I couldn't find the kit even though I searched and looked in all the most logical places.  LOL!  But, guess what?  Right under my nose was another flannel sheet, probably purchased for this very purpose, but it wasn't very big - about 3' by 4'.  I imagined a whole wall devoted to designing! :)

This wall is located between the bookshelf and door
So I kept searching and finally found the F&P kit.  I swear to have looked in that exact same place before!  And it was a whopping 60" x 72"!  Awesome!  It really isn't a kit because it doesn't contain the hardware (or software) to install the design wall.  It's simply a flannel-backed vinyl table cloth with 2" squares printed on the vinyl side of the fabric.  The 2" squares are dark enough that they show through on the flannel side.  Oh, forgive me my transgressions!  There is some hardware in the form of grommets along the 'top' edge of the table cloth.  
Grommets on top edge of flannel backed vinyl
I picked up some 3M photo frame hangers and required Command strips from JoAnn Fabric and Crafts.
Medium and small Command strips
 It was really difficult to line up the grommets exactly which kept falling off the hangers, so I used medium sized Command strips to attach the vinyl sheet to the hanger, just below the grommets.  So that took care of the top of the design wall.
Medium sized Command strips
Then the flannel sheet was smoothed out and stretched from side to side and the smaller Command strips were put to use.
Small Command strips
The small Command strips are used in pairs.

These are used in pairs
The velcro sides are pressed together to fasten.

Velcro sides are zipped together
The protective paper backing is removed to expose a sticky surface which is pressed on the wall with the tabs pointing down and allowed to cure for 30 minutes.  The protective layer on top is then removed and the vinyl sheet is stretched and adhered to the sticky tape.  I did this all the way down the two sides, stretching and sticking from side to side and top to bottom.
Voila! The design wall is ready for action!
 If for any reason the design wall needs to be taken down, all one has to do is pull on the tabs in a downward motion until it stretches about 12 inches and the Command strips come right off without damaging the wall!

Not only do I have a design wall, but I also have a flat surface with a white background on which I can place my projects to photograph them.  It is far enough away that I can move to the opposite wall to get a good view when it's time to arrange units in a block, or blocks in a quilt.

What am I most proud of?  That I did this all on my own, without using a hammer or nails!


Monday, May 7, 2012

Craftsy Block of the Month for April 2012

Check out the video lesson and instructions for the Craftsy Block of the Month for April.  It's free!  All of my Craftsy BOM blocks are documented here.

Yes, it's the first week of May and I've only just completed the Craftsy Block of the Month for April!  To be honest, I was going to give these blocks a miss because I'm not a fan of English paper-piecing, in general, and hexagons, in particular.

Here are my two blocks for the April BOM.

Sunny With a Chance of Hex

Hexi Stripe
 I kept procrastinating and putting off the inevitable until I could stand it no longer and took another look at the instructions.  With a lot of grumbling and mumbling, I sat myself down one afternoon and started creating the three hexagon templates.  The size of a hexagon is determined by the length of one of its six sides.  So I created a 2" plastic template for the sun, a 3/4" template for the rays and a 1-1/4" template for the striped block.

I then went through the exercise of tracing the templates onto parchment paper and cutting them all out.  Why did I decide to use parchment paper?  Because I was working at the dining room table and parchment paper was closer at hand than typing paper.  Subconsciously, I must have been thinking that parchment paper would withstand the heat of an iron better than typing paper.  As it turned out, using parchment paper was a very good idea because it was very easy to baste through.  I've saved all the hexagon paper pieces and was surprised at how well they stood up to all the (man)handling.

Parchment Paper Pieces
Another evening was spent picking out all the fabrics, tracing a quarter inch around and cutting each hexagon from the fabrics.  Yes, the whole process sounds very tedious because I've got so used to rotary cutting the pieces of a quilt and machine sewing everything in sight, but guess what?  The repetitive process was almost meditative and extremely relaxing!

However, the next time I make a hexi-anything, I will create a plastic template for the cut-size of the hexagon to remove one step from this process - that of measuring a 1/4" around the paper piece onto the back of the fabric.  Yes, that will save a lot of time!  Why didn't I think of this earlier?

Fabrics for Sunny With a Chance of Hex
Oh boy, there was more hand piecing to be done, whip stitching all the hexagons to each other.  Then the fun began as I finally sat at the sewing machine and sewed all the hexagons down to the background fabrics.

I love how my blocks turned out!

Somewhere in my pile of UFOs , there are some grandmother's flower garden blocks that are begging for some TLC.  Dare I suggest tackling one of my UFOs?  After all, it's one of my New Year resolutions!  This  UFO is a blue and yellow quilt made from 1" hexagons.  I've completed exactly two blocks out of eight and it was started in 2007!!

I think I can!  I think I can!  After these two blocks that were just completed, I know I can!  But that will be covered in another post.

Cheers, everyone!