Thursday, March 19, 2020

Back to Beware the Ishmaelites: Foundation Paper Piecing Plus Y-Seams

Good morning, Fearless Quilters!  Happy First Day of Spring to those in the Northern Hemisphere, and I suppose Happy First Day of Autumn to those South of the Equator.  

Yesterday I pushed myself out of my news-induced funk and into my studio for a few hours. I had a lot of clutter accumulated on my cutting table that needed to be cleared away before I could cut borders for my Spirit Song quilt, and one of the things I unearthed there was the foundation papers, templates, and precut fabrics for the next block of my son Anders' "Beware the Ishmaelites" quilt.  Since I prepped everything for this block SEVEN months ago and it's been sitting on my cutting table, ready to go, ever since, I decided that I should take a detour to sew this block together before I lose any of the pieces. 

Next Block In Progress for Anders' MBB Beware the Ishmaelites Sampler
To recap, Beware the Ishmaelites is my version of the Moda Modern Building Blocks sampler quilt from a few years ago.  

Beware the Ishmaelites Rendering, 94 x 104
Here's the Moda Modern Building Blocks quilt that I started out with:

Moda Modern Building Blocks, 84 x 96, Free Pattern Available Here
When I was first smitten with this quilt and decided to make one like it for Anders' bedroom, he still had a deep pillowtop Twin mattress and the Moda quilt was not the right size.  So I recreated it in my EQ quilt design software, shrinking the width to fit a Twin mattress and adding striped borders at the top and bottom of the quilt to get the length I needed.  I figured, as cool as those little blocks on the top and bottom edges look when this quilt is displayed on a wall, they would be a wasted effort on a bed where the top edge is hidden by the pillow and the bottom edge is tucked under the mattress.  Of course, resizing the quilt this way meant that my blocks were no longer ruler-friendly -- they would all need to be cut out with templates or foundation paper pieced -- but I was okay with that.  I was able to find almost all of the MBB sampler blocks in my EQ8 Block Libraries, but I replaced some of the blocks in the original design with others that I thought would be more interesting to make, such as today's block, which will go in the lower left hand corner of the quilt.  I also recolored my quilt using Kona Solids (nothing against Moda, but I have a swatch card for Kona solids that makes it so much easier to match colors and order online).

First Block, 30 x 30, Completed in August 2019
So I started out making the first giant block, and then I got distracted and set the project aside...  and meanwhile my son hit puberty and started growing like bamboo...  and I had to get rid of that Twin bed and get him a Queen bed because at 16 years old he is now a 6' tall GIANT.  Well, I'd already made that first big block and it came out so nicely, and I'd purchased all of my fabrics for the entire quilt in the right quantities for the way I'd downsized all of the blocks, so I didn't want to resize the blocks again even though it would have simplified the cutting and piecing for a lot of them.  So I added the striped borders to the sides of the quilt as well as the top and bottom to get it to the size I wanted for Anders' current bed.  His bed is a black, very contemporary platform bed from Ikea and his bedroom walls are white now, except for a retro geometric wallpaper in his bathroom vanity area (I color-matched my quilt fabrics to the colors of that wallpaper).  

Three Blocks Completed So Far...
Now we're all up to speed!  Back to Block Four, the one I started piecing yesterday.

Foundation Paper Piecing in Sections
Since piecing inaccuracies add up incrementally in complex blocks, and because I have a low tolerance for points that are chopped off or that don't meet up where I want them to, I am foundation paper piecing as much as possible.  The seams within each of these paper pieced sections are guaranteed to be 100% accurate.  When I upgraded my EQ software to the newest version 8, I was delighted to discover that now the foundation papers print out in COLOR instead of in grayscale, which is awesome.  Much less chance of sewing the wrong fabric where it isn't supposed to go!  

Foundation Paper Piecing on my Bernina 750QE
I completed all of the foundation paper piecing and trimming before I called it quits for the day yesterday.  In case anyone's interested in the nitty-gritty details, I did the foundation paper piecing on my Bernina 750QE using 50/3 Mettler cotton thread, a Schmetz size 90/14 Quilting needle, straight stitch plate, presser foot 97D with Dual Feed engaged, and Piecing Straight Stitch #1326 with stitch length REDUCED to 1.5.  The larger needle and shorter stitch length combine to perforate the paper nicely along the stitching line, making it easy to remove the foundation papers later, and the 50 weight 3-ply Mettler thread gives the seam a little extra strength (compared to the Aurifil 50 weight 2-ply thread that I use for traditional piecing).  Ripping away the paper puts a little stress on the seam, so the heavier Mettler thread is my "insurance" against thread breaks.  Foundation paper piecing automatically compensates for thread bulk anyway, so there's no advantage to using the finer thread for that reason.

This Is As Far As Foundation Paper Piecing Takes Me
The next step is to remove the foundation papers and join these sections together using traditional piecing methods, so I'll be switching to a smaller Schmetz size 75/11 Quilting needle, my super-fine 50/2 Aurifil cotton thread, and increasing my stitch length back to 2.0

As you can see in the diagram below, this block has set-in seams, or "Y-Seams."  Yes, I could have transected those black and pale blue QSTs and made them with a pair of HSTs instead to simplify construction of this block -- but I kind of LIKE sewing Y-seams, and I DISLIKE unnecessary seams in my blocks.  I don't like having extra seam lines cutting through the fabric where they don't need to be, and I don't like the added bulk of those added seam allowances, either.  

Let's Get Ready For Some Y-Seams!
However, I prefer to sew Y seams on one of my vintage Featherweights instead of on my computerized Berninas.  When machine piecing a Y-seam, you need the control to stop and backstitch EXACTLY at the point where all three seams intersect.  Sometimes a computerized machine will take one additional step forwards before reversing, but the ancient, all-mechanical Singer Featherweight reliably reverses direction immediately as soon as I flip that lever.  My Bernina educator friend Kari has explained to me that I need to make sure I have completed a full stitch on the Bernina before it can reverse directions, or something like that, so this is probably some kind of user error that I'm doing.  But honestly, it's easier -- and also somehow satisfying -- to get out my Featherweight when I have something fiddly like this.  

Bette, My 1935 Singer Featherweight, Will Be Assisting With Today's Y-Seams
That's Anders in the background of that photo, by the way -- quite a few years ago!!  Well, once again, my "quick little update" post is approaching Russian Novel Length!  I'm headed upstairs to get her set up and ready to go.  Looking forward to having a completed block to share tomorrow, if all goes well, and then it will be on to the Spirit Song borders!

I'm linking up today's post with ·       Needle and Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation  .  Have a great day, stay safe, and happy stitching!


Chris said...

I do all my foundation piecing on one of my Featherweights. I like that I can flip up the bed to access the extra table space under it. Right now I am doing all sewing there with a white Coats Dual thread since the background fabric is white. And yes, I found an Antique Wedding Sampler block that I cut out 2 years ago and ready to go on one of the tables in my quilt room. It got moved to yet another place at I cleared off tables so my grandkids have lots of table space for lego, colouring and now playing cards on my ironing table.

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

great little machines aren't they - I have been using my babylock again for awhile but always go back and forth with the two machines

chrisknits said...

What a useful tip about completing a stitch before reversing, I will endeavor to not just hit that reverse button so quickly. Can't wait to see the complete block. And I hear you on the avoiding news, it's getting ridiculous.

Jill said...

Foundation piecing does produce precision results. Thanks for tip on featherweight for better control on y seams. I shall try it!

dq said...

You always tell great stories about your quilts. I need to try to tell my stories better, I suppose.

It interested me that you resized the quilt to meet your needs and then made further changes due to your son's growth. That is why I love our hobby so much. We make every quilt design/pattern our own. I often adapt to fit my stash.

SJSM said...

You have a lot of projects in your cue. I’m happy to see Anders quilt come up again. Each of your creations are striking. Your color combinations are far and away more striking than most people can continually sustain. I’m sure some is I ate talent but I bet a lot of color theory education comes into play.

Pam said...

Hey Cheeky...nice to be back blogging and to hear from you. I know this is silly because I have my own problems BUT what about your husband? Is he in a high risk category? I worry about him and your family. Is your son home from college? Are you "sheltering in Place"? What precautions are you taking?

I have been following you regularly as I signed up for your blog on email so I never miss it. Ilove seeing what you are making and your plans for future projects.

Donna in KS said...

I am curious at the name of the son's quilt. Is there an explanation? thank you! Enjoy your blog,

Rebecca Grace said...

Hi, Donna. Hope you'll see this reply on the blog -- I tried to respond to you privately but your comment came through as "No Reply Blogger." The story behind the name of this quilt is in this earlier post: Thanks for stopping by!