Thursday, February 23, 2017

Five More 4" Sawtooth Star Blocks Finished, Four More to Go

Five More 4" Sawtooth Star Blocks Finished!
Well, thank goodness for global warming, because that baby girl is 10 days old already and she has no bear paw quilt to keep her warm.  One sawtooth star per day is not going to cut it, folks!  I'm glad I pieced one block from start to finish first, to make sure I cut the patches the right size and to check the piecing order (which I did have to change).  But now it's time for a much more efficient assembly line piecing process.  I've finished FIVE more blocks since my last post, four of them in the same day, and I'm feeling a lot better about actually getting this done now.

Assembly Line Piecing Setup
So this was the setup to the left of my sewing machine.  I've got a small cutting mat, my 28 mm rotary cutter, and my Add-A-Quarter ruler to the left of my machine so I can trim each seam allowance before and after stitching, without getting up.  The green and white scissors are ones I use for paper and template plastic only, and I used them to cut out my foundation pattern sections.  The tiny curved scissors with the sharp point is one that I bought for trimming machine embroidery threads, but it also works well for snipping apart chain-stitched foundation sections.  I've also got a heavy postcard and a thick plastic post office card that may have been accidentally left in my mailbox along with a slew of holiday catalogs that came in December.  It MAY have been accidental, or it may have been a gift from my mail carrier, because that blue plastic tag is fabulous for paper piecing.  And it does say on the bottom of the tag that it is "intended for reuse" and should not be discarded.  I probably should have taken a picture to show you how I use those cards, but I didn't think of it.  Maybe next time!

Piecing In Progress
Basically I'm just chain piecing.  I'll sew one patch onto each foundation, working from left to right so I'm doing the same piece on each block.  I can work faster that way without having to think too much about what I'm doing.  Then I clip them off the machine, retrim the seam allowance, press them open, and do the next four patches. 

Foundation Pattern Sections Lined Up for Chain Piecing in Order to be Sewn
I covered all of the foundation sections this way, then starched and trimmed them all, put that seam guide on the machine, and then VOILA!  Four perfect sawtooth stars came together before my very eyes. 

Ta Da!
Seriously; this is SO MUCH FUN.  I feel sorry for people who aren't quilters.

Here's what the baby quilt looks like in progress right now, up on my design wall:

Four More Stars To Go!
I am loving it!  As for those red bleeder blocks, I think I am going to set them aside and experiment with the Retayne, Synthrapol and Color Catchers later when I have more time.  The dark orange blocks I made yesterday make me feel less urgent about the need for red blocks, and I have several more marbled fabrics that I'd like to use instead. 

Four more sawtooth stars, then the blocks and sashing strips get sewn together, then I add a border, and then it's time to layer and baste this top for quilting.  I would so love to quilt this on a long arm machine... 

Don't know whether I'll get into the studio today, though.  Doctor's appointment at 9:30, then some work to get done in my office and samples to pick up from the showroom for a design client's presentation tomorrow afternoon, plus lots of music to work on.

Happy Thursday, everyone!  I'm linking up with:

·       Needle and Thread Thursday at 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Ta Da; I Made a Star! And Perhaps, Have Saved Two More

So, here's what I have to show for myself so far: 

A 4" Finished Sawtooth Star Block
I made one so far.  Way too much going on last week, and not enough fabric therapy!  I paper pieced this block, and only had to rip out seams twice.  Once, because I misaligned a fabric patch before sewing it down and when I pressed it open, it didn't completely cover the paper.  But the second boo boo was evidence that sleep deprivation is catching up to me, addling my brain:

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Nice, right?  First lesson, day one, Sewing 101:  We sew with RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER!!!  And such a shame, too, because I nailed the triangle points at that seam intersection.  Well, when you're sewing it's not that important that you always get it right the first time.  You just need to get it right the LAST time.  And this is why the seam ripper is such a blessing; it gives us do-overs!

Seam Ripper to the Rescue!
I spent most of today doing paperwork and other housekeeping in my home office, supervising the academic labors of kids who have Presidents' Day off and "forgot" about homework due tomorrow, and finishing up laundry.  Now that I've finished up what I need to get done today. I am DYING to get up to the studio for some fabric therapy and see if I can't sew a few more of these little star blocks -- especially since the baby was born a week ago.  But first, a few other things I wanted to share before I forget:

Bernina LED Lights Reflecting Off the Needle
See that white "line" of light?  The LED lights on my Bernina are so bright, they actually reflect off the machine needle to create a guideline.  I want my paper pieced seams to go all the way through both seam allowances, but instead of having to draw those lines in or eyeball them, I can just line that white light line up with the beginning of the printed stitching line on my foundation paper pattern and know that I'm perfectly straight and centered and good to go.  Love that!

As you can see in the photo above, a sawtooth star block cannot be pieced with a single foundation pattern.  I have four separate patterns to paper piece individually before I remove the foundation papers and join them using traditional piecing techniques. 

Once I've covered all of my foundation papers with fabric patches, I give them a final pressing and then I starch them twice so they are nice and stiff.  I have to flip them over and trim them paper side up, and I can't have flimsy fabric sliding around under the paper, misbehaving where I can't see it when I'm slicing away with my rotary cutter!

When I trim my foundation sections, I do NOT just cut on that solid line on the outside of the block.  Even though it is the cutting line.  Even though it is supposed to give me a 1/4" seam if I do that.  Nope, I trim my sections the exact same way I would measure and rotary cut fabric for a traditionally pieced block, in the way I know I can get precisely accurate blocks.  I line the 1/4" pink line of my ruler up on the dotted SEAM LINE that is printed on the paper pattern when I trim these sections. 

How I Line Up My Ruler to Trim Foundation Sections
Sometimes my rotary knife blade comes down right on the solid "cutting" line when I do it this way, sometimes the slice is just inside or just outside of the solid line -- but when I sew the trimmed pieces together after cutting them this way, using my 1/4" foot with the guide screwed into the machine bed, everything matches up perfectly and the block finishes the right size.

After trimming the starched pattern sections, this is what I need to sew together to complete the block:

Paper Pieced Foundation Sections Starched, Trimmed, Ready to be Assembled
See?  They are just like tidy little rectangles.  Precisely the right size, nice straight edges with no stray threads or wobbly nonsense to watch out for, and all seamlines are exactly the same kind of 1/4" away from the cut fabric edges.

How I Pin Seam Intersections
So then the papers come off, and matching seamlines get nested tightly together and pinned like so, with a pin just to either side of the already stitched seams that need to match up.  Notice my pins do not extend past the raw edge of the fabric, and the pin heads are pointing to the LEFT as this unit goes through the sewing machine.  This way my seams stay locked together without shifting, the pins don't get in the way of my patchwork seam guide, and I can easily remove the pins as I go.

Bernina #97D 1/4" Patchwork Foot for 9 mm Machine, with Seam Guide
That nifty seam guide takes all of two seconds to screw down or to remove.  I LOVE IT.  I just push it right up against the right toe of presser foot #97D, screw it in place, and I'm good to go.  This gives me nice, straight, even feeding for precision patchwork on my 9 mm Bernina, with the Dual Feed feature engaged, and I don't have to play around with moving my needle one click to the right or left or any other fiddling like that.  As long as I use the CENTER of the line printed on my ruler lined up on the CENTER of the seam line when I cut, this foot with this guide give me perfect results every time. 

How Much Do I Love Those Triangle Points?
However, if you CUT differently, you may need to PIECE differently to get the same results -- that's why you hear so many different people telling you to move your needle one click, or to sew a scant 1/4" or whatever.  I like to keep it simple, so I adjusted my cutting habits to work with my equipment.  That makes the most sense to me, because I've invested in really nice equipment!  :-)  Your mileage may vary...

New 4" Star On Design Wall Amid 10 1/2" Bear Paw Blocks
So another thing I wanted to say before I forget: When I printed off these sawtooth star foundation patterns from EQ7, the software gave me the option to number the piecing order myself.  I decided to just take it the way EQ generated the numbering.  This was a minor mistake.  I should have taken a moment to think through which way all the seam allowances would go before I printed the patterns.  I ended up with perfectly nesting seams on the right side of the block, where EQ7 had me start with the big white QST in the center of the foundation pattern.  But on the left side of the block, EQ7 had me start with the white square at the top of the foundation pattern, and that created one seam allowance that nested with the seam allowance on the center foundation and one seam allowance that stacked.  Stacked seam allowances don't lock together, so they are more prone to shifting and misalignment during stitching in addition to creating unwanted bulk in the block.  But I managed just fine with this block, and I'll change the stitching order for that left unit on all of my remaining blocks:

Foundation Pattern with Stitching Order Correction for Left Side Unit
Oh, I lied -- I have another thing to say before I go upstairs to sew.  Remember how bummed I was that those first two RED sawtooth star blocks that I made so long ago weren't colorfast?  Well, it annoys me that I worked so hard to make them, achieved such precise results, and then can't use the blocks.  So amid all of my other activities today, I conducted some experiments with those blocks involving soaks in hot water followed by rinses of cold water and squeezing between white paper towels.  I think that perhaps they had excess dye that I was able to rinse out, and I am hoping I can still use them in the quilt if they stop bleeding.  What do you think?

Bathing My Bleeders
I plan to repeat the hot water/cold water/paper towel squeeze routine some more just to be sure.  But wouldn't it be great if this worked?  If it works for these hand marbled bleeders, maybe something similar can save my Jingle BOM blocks made with bleeding red batik fabric.  Ah, but I get ahead of myself.  One quilt at a time! 

Can you believe I had SO MUCH TO SAY, despite how little I've accomplished?  ONE LITTLE BLOCK.  Imagine how much sewing I could get done if someone took away my computer! 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Baby Steps On the Baby Quilt

I've been very busy this past week, working on clients' design projects, learning my music for the upcoming VOX St. John's Passion rehearsals, and even had some minor outpatient surgery last Thursday, so I haven't exactly made great strides with my baby bear paw quilt.  However, I got about 15 minutes in the studio last night for fabric therapy and another 30 minutes this afternoon, and SOME progress is better than NO progress.

On the Wall, Now with Sashing Rectangles

So.  I printed out ten foundation paper patterns from EQ7 for my 4" finished sawtooth stars.  Then I cut out my white rectangles, 4 1/2" x 11", for my sashing.  And I started precutting my patches for the FPP star blocks.

Precutting Patches with Specialty Rulers

I rough cut my shapes using a generous 3/8" seam allowance rather than a standard 1/4" for paper piecing.  This enables me to control the grain line, minimizes fabric waste, and streamlines the process once I start sewing.  Since my block is based on a 1" grid and I'm paper piecing, I'm cutting 1 3/4" strips from which I subcut squares, quarter square triangles and half square triangles using my Nifty Notions Cut for the Cure specialty rulers.  That's the cool thing about those specialty rulers -- I only have to cut one strip size, and from that I can directly cut the correct size half square or quarter square triangles, without having to do any additional math, and without having to first cut squares and then subcut them diagonally as you do in traditional rotary cutting.  Those rulers were one of the best quilting notions purchases I ever made. 

Marble Hand Dyed Fabrics for Sawtooth Stars

I'm using prewashed(!!!) marble hand dyed fabrics from Marjorie Lee Bevis for my sawtooth stars, which are like delicious little textile treasures. I need 10 more stars, and although I have Bible study and choir rehearsal tonight, tomorrow is pretty open except for one ten o'clock meeting.  Hopefully I'll be able to sew up some stars after that.

I'm linking up with Needle & Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation.  Also linking up with:

·       Finish It Up Friday at

·       Whoop Whoop Fridays at

·       Off the Wall Friday at Creations:

·       Finished Or Not Friday at

Have a wonderful night!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Butterfly Bear Paw Baby Quilt: The FINAL, Final Plan, Revised

Okay, I changed my mind yet again, and THIS is what I'm REALLY going to do with those bear paw blocks that I made ages ago:

53.5" x 53.5" Baby Quilt with Satin Binding
I decided to ditch the on point layout in favor of a straight set with 4" sashing and 4" sawtooth stars as shown above.  The idea is to use some of that purply fabric that I used as my bear paw centers for a border, but if I don't have enough of it I'll have to use something else.  The 2" wide hot pink border is actually the satin binding, and there's a purple minky for the backing that's similar in color to the inner border. 

With this arrangement, I need to piece 10 more sawtooth stars, cut the sashing, and then I can assemble the quilt top with no leftover blocks.  I printed off 10 foundation patterns on newsprint from EQ7 and I have an hour or two that I can spend in my studio before I need to leave for Anders' Honors Orchestra concert.  Hopefully my mojo will kick in and it will be all smooth sailing, since this baby is due TOMORROW.

No, the quilt will NOT be done tomorrow...

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Back to the Butterfly Bear Paws!

So does anyone remember these bear paw blocks that I was working on an eternity ago?

10 1/2" Finished Bear Paw Block, One of Nine
I was experimenting with cutting up large scale patterns, and really liked the way this oversized Anna Maria Horner print looks when its cut up and pieced back together again.  Like exuberant gobs of paint!  I didn't do any fussy cutting with these blocks, just rotary cut my fabric randomly but then carefully laid out the patches for each block to ensure a level of balance within each block as well as in the final layout. 

9 Finished Blocks On the Design Wall, with Hand Marbled FQs
But then I couldn't decide what that final layout should be, and got bogged down with different options, and distracted by other projects...

Fancy Borders and Sashing Stars

Plain Alternate Blocks, Sashing Posts, and Sawtooth Star Border
But a friend of mine is expecting a new baby granddaughter soon, and I've decided that I have a better chance of turning these UFO WIP blocks into a baby quilt over the next few weeks than I do finishing something new that I would have to start from scratch.

I made a bunch of 4" sawtooth stars using hand marbled fabrics along with the same background white that I used for the bear paw blocks, and I'm planning to frame four of those stars with white so they "float" between my bear paw blocks like so:

EQ7 Mockup, approximately 50" x 50"
The hot pink outer border is actually going to be satin binding.  And I already have some lavender Minky fabric that I'm planning to use for the backing.  So I have everything I need to do this already in my studio, and all of the difficult piecing is done.  There is also lots of blank white space to play in once I get to the quilting stage...

Wish me luck!  And if you and I happen to know the same expectant grandmother, please don't tell her I'm making something for the baby.  Just because I broadcast what I'm doing all over the Internet doesn't mean that I don't want it to be a surprise!  ;-)