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! 


Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

some how I had forgotten that I have that seam guide for my machine also - thanks for showing it - I will now dig it out and remember to use it. thanks for showing how you do your paper piecing I will be doing some soon.

Elaine said...

You know about Retayne and Synthropol, right? And the new ColorCatchers you can find on the laundry aisle....

Jenny K. Lyon said...

I am so impressed-you are the paper piecing Queen! You have so many great tips along the way. The one with your BERNINA and how it reflects off the needle-brilliant! I'd love to share that with my BERNINA peeps if you'd be okay with that. I think somehow you're not getting my emails-I've responded twice to your previous questions. So give me a holler!

SJSM said...

FWIW you taught me something new with your post. It helped me understand a bit more about paper piecing and the 97D foot. Being a garment sewer who only dabbles in the quilting arena, my knowledge base on quilting is sparse. Your pictures with methodology is helpful. Your quilt is coming right along. The comment about color catchers (use lots of them), Retayne and Synthropo is an easier way for catching the bleeding and setting colors. You can find color catchers in the grocery store and the other two in some quilt shops or go online. l

Shar said...

Also, try vinegar in your soaking water for the 2 red blocks. You probably have that already. I do my paper piecing in nearly the same way.

Pam said...

I swear I made a sundress out of your swirly star fabric in the 1970's! I learn so much about paper piecing when I read your blog! Anymore, if I have to make a block I use your paper piecing. The results are so great-seams line up and the size is correct.

Beth @ Cooking Up Quilts said...

Oh Rebecca, I literally laughed out loud when I saw your second picture. :) Sorry you had to deal with that. I've been there before too. Thanks for walking us through your process on piecing this block. I've seen different tutorials where it is recommended to keep the paper on until all the block is assembled. Tried it, but HATED pulling those bits of paper out of all the seam allowances. I'm going to try your method with the starch this weekend. Thanks for the giggle - I hope you have a great week! And thanks for linking to MCM.

Rebecca Grace said...

Beth, I kept the paper on the sections until after I’d sewn them together the first time I made a block that had to be pieced in multiple sections, because that is what all the instructions tell you to do. Disaster! They tell you to leave the paper on to stabilize everything, in case you have random grain lines all over the place and bias raw fabric edges that you’re trying to join. But then you are trying to sew an accurate seam matching points up and it’s like a squishy sandwich with two pieces of paper “bread” on the top and bottom, and two layers of fabric moving around between the papers while you’re trying to sew them together. You can’t see what you’re doing. So when I precut my patches, I pay attention to the grain the same way I would for traditional piecing so I have straight of grain on the outside edges. The starch controls stretching, too. If I’m going to all of the trouble to paper piece a block for 100% accuracy, I want the WHOLE BLOCK to be 100% accurate, including those last few seams that join the sections together! Let the Quilting Police drag me off to the dungeons; I don’t care as long as they have sewing machines there…

Rebecca Grace