Sunday, September 27, 2015

Paper Pieced Pineapple Block #19: A Change of Shoes and Settings

Block #19 of 36
I tried doing a few things differently with block #19 of my Pineapple Log Cabin.  I'm continuing to starch my fabric strips before sewing them to my block, and that seems to have solved the issue I was having where longer strips were not staying completely open while adjacent strips were attached to them.  I didn't starch my fabric before cutting it because starch invites bugs and not all of the fabric is going to make it into this quilt.  Instead, I starch my strips after I cut them to length, just before sewing them to the block.

Starch Keeps Block Nice and Flat During Construction
I'm using Faultless Heavy Spray Starch.  I like Mary Ellen's Best Press for prepared applique, but for starching throughout block construction I prefer the very fine mist of a conventional spray starch product.

I have also devised a method of sorts for staying organized while constructing these blocks.  With the first few blocks, I selected fabrics one at a time, but now I am laying out combinations of two and three fabric rings at once, cutting them to the appropriate length, and then taking them all to the machine, stacked in the order to be sewn.  I still have to get up after sewing four corner strips or four side strips, to trim and press the seams open, but it feels like the sewing goes faster when I don't have to stop and make fabric decisions as frequently.

Fabric Strips Waiting to be Sewn
I like to pile my waiting fabric strips right on top of my sewing machine, where they are in easy reach.

Another change I made with this block was to try a different presser foot.  I had been using the open embroidery presser foot #20D because it gives great visibility. 

Paper Piecing with Open Embroidery Foot #20D
However, all I'm sewing is straight lines that are printed on my foundation paper.  I switched "shoes" on my sewing machine to foot #37D, Bernina's 1/4" patchwork foot (predecessor to the newer foot #97D) and I liked it better.

Paper Piecing with Patchwork Foot #37D
See how there is still plenty of visibility of the needle, but the narrower opening at the front of the presser foot "frames" the stitching line better?  That helps me to sew perfectly straight along the lines even when I get to sewing pretty briskly, because my eye can watch that the line is centered between the toes of the presser foot IN FRONT OF the needle.  With foot #20, the presser foot toes are just too far apart to gauge whether the line is perfectly centered, so I have to watch the needle instead.  I do love and prefer foot #97D for traditional patchwork, but for paper piecing I wanted a foot that was perfectly symmetrical to help me stay right on the lines. 

The other thing I did differently with this block is that instead of sewing beyond the seam lines so that adjacent seams interest, I'm only stitching my strips on the actual printed lines and securing each seam at beginning and end so they don't pull out.  My books on paper piecing say to do it the other way, starting and ending each seam just beyond the printed line, but with the thicker copy paper I used for my block foundations it just isn't as easy to tear those little seam extensions free from the paper so that I can fold it back along the next seam line.  When I try to tear the paper around those extra stitches, they usually get pulled out anyway -- so now I'm doing it the way I would do if I was hand piecing or if I was sewing a Y-Seam.  I was already using the auto thread trimmer on my Bernina 750 QE at the ends of my seams with this project, so I went into my machine settings and activated the feature that makes the machine automatically tie off when using the thread trimmer AND automatically secure at the beginning of the next seam after using the auto thread trimmer.  When I first got my machine it was set to do that by default and I thought it was the stupidest thing ever, but it's EXACTLY what I want my machine to do in this situation.  Now I can sew like I'm brain dead with no worries of forgetting to secure any of my seams and having them pull out later when I remove my paper foundations.  It is nice to have these options available, once you learn how to turn them off and on as needed!

Here's what the completed block looked like before I trimmed it:

Completed Block, Ready to Trim
I'm trimming these blocks upside-down, aligning the 1/4" line on my ruler with the STITCHING LINE on my block rather than aligning the straight edge of the ruler against the printed cutting line at the outside of the block. 

Trimming Up
Ruler Lines Matched on Horizontal and Vertical Seam Lines
If my 1/4" line is lined up with the stitching line along the vertical edge I'm trimming, as well as with the horizontal seamlines, I know I'm going to end up with square, identical blocks that fit together properly.  Or at least, that's the idea...  ;-)

On the Wall Today
So here's my design wall as of today.  I'm still working on the FrankenWhiggesh Rose applique in odd moments here and there.  Now that I've finished the 19th pineapple block, I think I'll go back to the Math Is Beautiful baby quilt on the right and get that finished up.  It was meant to be a "quick and easy" project so I could have the satisfaction of a finish in the midst of all of my long term projects, but then when I got the top sewn together I wasn't excited about it (because it was TOO quick and TOO easy).  However, I signed up for Amy Johnson's Craftsy class, Quilting With Rulers On a Home Machine, and I'm looking forward to learning and experimenting with my Westalee ruler foot and quilting rulers.  A quick and easy quilt top that doesn't really excite me is the perfect first project for testing out new techniques, don't you think?

I'm linking up with Design Wall Monday at Patchwork Times, Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt, Sew Cute Tuesday at Blossom Heart Quilts, Fabric Tuesday at Quilt Story, Let's Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts, and WIPs on Wednesday at Esther's Blog.  Have a great week, everyone!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Making It Up As I Go Along: The FrankenWhiggish Rose Saga Continues

After finally finishing all 32 of the stacked petals for my FrankenWhiggish Rose needle turned applique project, I thought to myself, "Now I just need to piece eight more block backgrounds, make 32 stems, glue baste them in place, and then I can get back to hand stitching again."  The hand stitching is the fun part.  :-)

Finishing the Last Petal!
As usual, what I thought I could quickly knock out in an hour or so has stretched out over an entire week.  I didn't have enough of some of my background fabrics (surprise, surprise!) so I had to scour the Internet to find and order more yardage.  Then when it arrived I had to prewash, iron, and cut my 9 1/2" squares before I could sew blocks together.  I love the green handwriting print so much and definitely want it in all the blocks, and the green dots balances it out perfectly, so that's the one I ordered more of.  I had enough of that brownish larger floral spray fabric and enough of the handwriting print, but the smaller scale brownish fabric square in my initial block came from one of last year (or the year before)'s Moda French General layer cakes and I only had two squares of that particular fabric including the one I already used in my first block. 

Only enough of this fabric for two blocks
I decided to mix in some of the other small-scale brownish prints from the layer cake as well as a typographical print in roughly the same color, slightly darker value from my stash.  I think this will look fine as long as I mix the blocks up in the final layout.

All 9 Blocks on the Wall
It did occur to me that it might look weird to have three of the same fabrics in every block, and different fabrics only in the fourth quadrant.  Seeing it on the wall, though, I like it.  It's just random enough to be interesting, but not enough variation to be distracting or to make it too difficult to get a nice layout for the finished blocks.  I didn't want my background fabrics to upstage the applique, after all.  (Just ignore that other quilt top on the right, partially covered by my pieced applique block backgrounds.  I'm ignoring it for now...)

Once I had pieced together all of the block backgrounds, it was time to turn my attention to the stems.

Stem Factory with the Clover 1/4" Bias Tape Maker

I made all 32 of my stems with that little Clover tool a few days ago, cutting half inch strips of fabric on the straight of grain and then feeding them through the big end of the little green gizmo with the iron riding along next to the skinny end to press the stems flat as the folded fabric came out.  The long strips of fabric came out nice and flat and smooth, like magic, and I cut them into 6" stems for my blocks.  I put all of my stems into a Ziplock baggy in case humidity in the air might soften the creases overnight, but in the morning I found that they had all started opening up anyway and needed to be pressed again before I could use them.  Grrr!  I wonder if starching the fabric ahead of time would have helped with that, or if you just really need to use the stems immediately after making them?  I don't recall having this issue when I made the stems for my first block, but that was a year ago and I was only making the four little stems at that time, not a whole batch of them.  I probably took them straight from the ironing board and glued them to the block immediately.   Having to fiddle with the turned edges and press each stem again before using it is really slowing me down. 

So anyway, I made myself a bunch of little stems, and now I'm trying to glue baste them to the blocks with my handy dandy vinyl placement overlay as per the Piece O'Cake method.  Except that once I have my stems positioned just right, I have to lift the overlay and lift the stems themselves in order to glue them in place and they keep MOVING!  This is SO not working.  There has to be an easier way.  I considered using my my light box with the vinyl drawing UNDER my block, but my light box is too small to fit the entire block and I can't see through the brown fabrics well enough, anyway.  I did press diagonal crease lines in my blocks but they aren't helping much because I can't see the creases under the bright light at my work table and I can't feel the creases through the vinyl overlay.  So I'm just plodding along this way, getting the stems glued down as accurately as I can, and hoping for the best!

There MUST be an Easier Way...
So far I have only TWO of these blocks with all four stems glue basted in place, and that's it.

-- Ooh, I just this minute had an epiphany!  Maybe it would be easier and better in the long run if I waited to add the stems until AFTER I had stitched my stacked petals to the block backgrounds?  Then the stems won't be in the way when I'm needle turning the petal edges adjacent to them, and I can use the edges of the petals and the diagonal crease lines to position the stems instead of trying to fiddle around with the overlay?  See, that's why I blog about this stuff even if no one else is reading it.  Sometimes I can stare at a problem and think about it all day long, and the answer doesn't come to me until I wrestle with it in writing.

New plan!  I'm going to stitch the stems down on the two blocks that I have already glue basted.  Then I'm going to starch the rest of the stems, press them super flat, and store them in a Ziplock bag with all of the air squeezed out of it so that hopefully they stay flat.  And then I'm going to:
  1. Pin and needle turn all of my stacked petals to all of my blocks
  2. Glue baste and stitch all of my stems to all of my blocks
  3. Make all of my stacked circle centers off block (starch and press prepared applique with circle templates)
  4. Glue baste and stitch all of my centers to all of my blocks
  5. Make the reverse appliqued tulips off block
  6. Needle turn all of the tulips to all of my blocks
  7. Needle turn all of my leaves to all of my blocks
  8. Make all of my broderie perse rose buds off block using glue stick and Jeanne Sullivan's Patch Back product (thank you, Jeanne!)
  9. Glue baste and stitch all of my rose buds to all of my blocks
  10. Make all of my fussy-cut stuffed berries off block using circle templates
  11. Glue baste and stitch all of my stuffed berries to all of my blocks
Now in reality there will probably be a Step 8 1/2, where I realize that I don't have enough of the Vervain drapery fabric left over to cut out enough rose buds for all of my blocks and I have to cannibalize one of my kitchen drapery panels or something (no one can see the bottom of the drapery panel behind the chair anyway, right?).  But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Gene Kelly in Singin' In the Rain (1952)
Meanwhile, we're headed to the Charlotte Symphony with the kids tomorrow night to see Singin' In the Rain on the big screen with live orchestral accompaniment.  I can't wait!  Then Saturday is my oldest son's confirmation, and on Sunday afternoon we have a big area Reformation service at church involving multiple Lutheran congregations from the Carolinas.  It is shaping up to be a busy September. 

I'm linking up with Let's Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts, WIPs on Wednesday at Esther's Blog, and Needle and Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation.  Happy Thursday, happy stitching, and have a great weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Halfway There! Pineapple Log Cabin Block 18 of 36

Blocks 16, 17 and 18 on my Design Wall
So here we have the last three pineapple log cabin blocks that I've completed, from left to right, blocks 16, 17, and 18.  As you can see, in the 18th block that I completed this morning, I paid more attention to the fabric strips I was selecting for the sides of the blocks, trying to get more of that Asscher diamond effect that I liked in the original antique quilt.  I wouldn't like it if EVERY block was like that, but I think I'm going to like having more variety when I mix up all the blocks in my final layout.  As I'm working on each block I feel like they are all exactly the same, but then when I throw a few of them up on the design wall it's nice to see that actually each block is unique, and that adds a lot of energy. 
Nice Crooked Shot of Block 18
By the way, thank you to those of you who reached out with suggestions for the issues I was having with the longer side strips creeping up while I was attaching adjacent strips.  On this block, I tried starching all of my fabric strips before sewing them onto the block and that seems to have completely eliminated the problem -- it must be a limp fabric issue!  But I'm going to keep the glue stick idea in mind in case I have any issues on future blocks. 

I've officially reached the halfway point of block construction for this quilt, now that I have 18 blocks finished and 18 blocks remaining to be sewn.  Woo hoo!  Will I keep making pineapple blocks, or will I finally get up the nerve to cut into that summer skirt fabric (before the leaves start falling off the trees)?  Or will I start a completely NEW project instead, like Dear Jane or the 1930s Farmer's Wife blocks?  Tune in next time...  :-)

I'm linking up with Fabric Tuesday at Quilt Story, with Sew Cute Tuesday at Blossom Heart Quilts, with WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced, with Let's Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts, with WIPs on Wednesday at Esther's Blog, and with Needle and Thread Thursday (NTT) at My Quilt Infatuation.