Sunday, February 28, 2010

Quilt-Step Three

Disclaimer: I am in no way a quilting expert. I have learned solely from trial and error (emphasis on error) and reading on the internet. I have only made 4 quilt tops and have hand quilted 1 top and machine quilted 4 tops. I am not saying everything I do is the right way to do it, just sharing what I've picked up so far. You'll probably learn best by trial and error too ;-)

With the quilt planned, the pieces cut, and the machine ready, it's time to start piecing the quilt. You typically use 1/4" seams and it's helpful to find out which guideline on your stitch plate is 1/4" from your needle so that you have a straight line to follow. I couldn't stitch (or draw, or paint...) a straight line if my life depended on it, so I have to have a guide. In some instances, it might be nice to piece one block at a time, but with good planning and the more simple designs, you can speed piece and save yourself time and thread. I like speed piecing because it's harder for me to get confused about what I'm working on, I'm just doing the same thing over and over again. Also, on my machine, you use up 5" of thread from the top and 5" from the bobbin each time you stop and start again. For the quilts I'm working on, speed piecing can save me about 3 regular spools of thread.

So what is this speed piecing business? Basically, it amounts to running the next piece of fabric into the machine right behind the last piece without stopping and cutting the thread. On the Scrap Happy quilt, we have 452 pieces of one size and all of those need to be sewn into groups of two. So, Sierra picks out two fabrics she wants together, lays them out, and I feed it into the machine. We repeat this until we have 226 pairs sewn and they are all one big long string. Then I clip them apart. We also have 904 pieces of another size that need the exact same thing done. Rather than working a block and needing pieces of different sizes out and getting it straight in my head which way to sew them, we just do the same thing over and over again, with each step completing some of each block in the quilt.

It gets slightly trickier in the Spindrift quilt I'm working on. There, I need to make 90 pinwheel blocks. I could do that by cutting a bunch of triangles (boo, hiss! that would take me forever), or I could stick to cutting squares. I cut 180 colored squares and 180 "white" (I used an off-white with a sparse print) squares. Because I'm doing so many, and have that whole issue with straight lines, I went ahead and drew a diagonal line across the back of each white square. I use permanent marker because it's easy to see and it's going to be cut later on anyway

Now I have a stack of colored squares and a stack of white squares with lines

I am going to stack one colored and one white square, right sides together, and then sew a line 1/4" from my diagonal, on both sides of my diagonal. Back to my whole straight line issue, I like to give myself a guideline to follow on the machine (I will be covering the stitch plate). It's not necessary, but it's easier to me. So, I put a piece of scotch tape across the machine, figure out where the corner of the square will fall, and draw myself a line that those corners should follow.

Now I start sewing these pairs, without cutting the thread between each pair

And I have a string of squares with one line sewn
Now I just go back (again, without cutting the squares apart) and sew 1/4" on the other side of the line.
With both lines sewn, I cut apart the squares, then get out the handy-dandy rotary cutter and cut along my line I drew

Open both of these up, and I have two triangles pieced together (these will become pinwheels later this week)

Before I go on to piece anything else together, I'm going to have to press my seams. I hate ironing. Really hate it. None of our clothes get ironed. I tried my best to sew without ironing. It doesn't work. If you want to sew accurately, you've got to press the seams. If you don't, you're "losing" fabric in the seams and things start to not line up properly. So, a quick lesson on pressing...

First of all, we are talking pressing here, not ironing. Ironing is running the iron over the fabric--it can stretch your fabric out of shape and make things all wonky. Pressing is just setting the iron on the fabric and letting the weight of the iron do the work. Do not move the iron back and forth over the fabric. Then there is the whole debate about pressing seams to one side, or pressing them open. I press them open if I'm going to be sewing past them again. It takes more time, but I feel like the seam lays flatter and it's easier to line up the seams so the finished quilt looks better. If I won't be sewing over the seam again, I press to one side because it's faster. I started sewing clothes before I ever did any quilts, and you almost always press the seams open on clothes, so that's just what I'm used to. I've read that you should press to one side in quilting to make the seam stronger, but I like this article's rebuttal against that belief.

So here's how I do it:
Lay my fabric flat on the board, open it up and press (this presses the seam to one side)

Turn the fabric over, open the seam and press
Turn it back to the right side and press again

Seems like a lot, but you get a little assembly line going with 5 or 6 pieces on the ironing board at a time and get through it fairly quickly.

It'll be a while before I get to borders, sashing, quilting and binding, but I'll post updates as we work through the piecing!

Quilt Step One: Planning
Quilt Step Two: Cutting Fabric, Preparing Machine
Quilt Step Three: Piecing The Quilt
Quilt: Piecing, Continued
Quilt: More Piecing
Quilt: Scrap Happy Blocks Pieced
Quilt: Spindrift Pieced
Quilt Step Four: Sashing
Quilt Step Five: Border
Quilt: Choosing Batting
Quilt Step Six: The Quilt Sandwich

1 comment:

One Acre Homestead said...

I am so impressed with your quilt how-tos!! I'm thinking I may have to tackle quilts again this summer and give it a try. Sewing is so much faster than knitting...I really need to master it. The items are also much more practical than bunches of wool in Oklahoma!! :-)

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