Sunday, January 31, 2016

Design Dilemma!

I have actually created this centre medallion for my quilt twice. My first prototype turned out lovely, but has some issues in the area of ease of replication. The first Dresden plate had 26 wedges, which made it tricky for placing the other elements in the design, all of which were divisible by 4. It took me a long time to make all my other design elements fit, requiring a lot of adjusting and fussing with my appliqué pieces. Not ideal for a project  when you want to create a pattern ! I will still use my first medallion for my mother's quilt, but for my pattern design, I have started a new version. As you can see, I added a couple layers of appliqué to my Dresden centre in my original design. Initially I prepared all my appliqués using a method of invisible machine appliqué in which you cut a fusible template out of either freezer paper or C&T wash away appliqué material, fuse it to your fabric on the wrong side, then turn your edges under and glue them with a wash away glue stick. This method has been around for a while, and I have used it successfully in the past. The preparation of the appliqué pieces takes a little time, but you save a lot of time being able to machine sew the appliqués to the background.

First Version of Centre Medallion

My new Dresden plate has 20 wedges, divisible by the number 4. In a perfect world my Dresden Plate would have 24 wedges, ( a 15 degree wedge).  However, I am also determined to use my new toy, my Sizzix die cutter, so that means a slight compromise, as they do not have a 15 degree wedge die available at this date. I also don't own a fifteen degree ruler anyway. 

I had completed my Dresden Plate to this stage last post, and here is my promised follow up  regarding my next phase in construction:

My first plate had a navy blue appliqué layer on top of the pale green centre. I used another Sizzix die, Flower Layers to cut the template for the appliqué. However, I ended up trying a new construction method that reduced my green circle by 1/2 inch in diameter. I really liked the "stitch and flip" method of appliqué, as it results in  the shapes being "iron-on".  At first, I decided to try the stitch and flip on the navy appliqué. However, the sharp curves and angles did not lend themselves to being turned right side out properly. The gluing method resulted in the navy appliqué being too large for the smaller dresden centre.
Sizzix Flower Layers Die. I am using several of the shapes in my quilt.

The paper tears and seams fray too much. The inside corners wrinkle.

The glue method results in too large an appliqué. Back to the drawing board!

I decided to rethink the design, and cut the navy appliqué a different shape. The quilt die has a few different flower layers, so I selected a different shape and cut the navy and fusible layers together. I was able to use the stitch and flip method to prepare the piece. I sewed the seam allowance with a 1/8 inch seam, clipped to the stitching on the inside grooves, and turned it with ease!

Stitched appliqué ready for turning.

However, once I turned it and tried it out for size it seemed a bit too small. I decided to layer a pink 6 inch die cut circle underneath it. Even though the pink design in the centre will be concealed by the navy appliqué, I could not resist fussy cutting it anyway! I used the stitch and flip technique for the pink circle as well. That did the trick! I even like it better than the original design.

Audition of pink layer. By itself, not enough contrast in value.

Audition with the navy on top!

Finally, I added a fussy cut 2 5/8 inch circle to the navy centre, and finished my Dresden Plate. All appliqués were stitched down with Invisafil thread to blend with a tiny zig-zag stitch. The back layers were trimmed after each addition to reduce bulk.

Dresden Plate Completed!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Dresden Fans: Thinking Outside the Box

I decided to do a second version of the Dresden Plate for the Downton Abbey Quilt. I still was puzzling over how to utilize my Sizzix quilt dies instead of hand-cutting all the wedges. The die I own has a straight upper edge, so the only option I could think of was to cut them all out with the die, then make a plastic template and trim each one to a curve with a rotary cutter. Too tedious!!!

Suddenly, I had an idea...More than one idea, actually! Now, this seems like a lot of steps, but keep in mind that I am cutting 10 layers with each pass of my die cutter, so it is way quicker than cutting everything by hand! I can cut 20 wedges in about 2 minutes flat!

I cut 8.5x11 sheets of wash away applique template paper in half lengthwise. This is a product from C&T publishing. You could also use a lightweight fusible interfacing for this step. Or even a muslin fabric. 

Then I fed them through my die cutter and cut them into 2 1/2 inch strips crosswise.

Once I had all my strips cut, I took out my 4 inch circle die, which I marked into quarter sections with a silver sharpie marker. I mark a lot of my dies this way so I can utilize them more thriftily. 

Then I lined up the two inch strips, butting up against each other at the center line, and cut them into half circles. Voila! 20 curved templates in a single pass!

I cut my Dresden Plate wedges out of fabric. You can be very thrifty with your fabric if you turn it upside down after every pass of the cutter. After stacking my fabrics, it only took me only 2 passes to cut out 20 wedges. 

Missouri Star Co. Large Dresden Wedge Die by Sizzix

Now, for the neat part! I simply lined up the curve of the circle with the top of the wedge, then sewed it with a quarter inch seam, following the curve of the wash away applique paper. I placed the iron on side of the paper right sides with the fabric, so that once I turn it inside out, it will be fusible, so I can iron it on to my background fabric to hold it in place!

I trimmed the curve with a pair of pinking shears, but you can also trim with regular scissors too. Then turn it right sides out. The curve actually seems to come out smoother using the wash away paper than when I use muslin for the curve backing. 

I pressed the wedges lightly, laying them on top of a piece of parchment paper so they would not stick to the ironing board. 

Sew the wedges to each other, 10 will make a half circle, or Dresden Fan. 20 wedges will make a Dresden Plate. 

I cut two circles using a Sizzix 8 inch circle die, one out of the wash away applique material, and one out of fabric, at the same time. 

Sizzix 8 Inch Circle Die

Fabric circle, wash away appliqué material circle cut at the same time. 

I sewed them, iron on side facing right side of material, after cutting a slit in the paper for turning. 

Sewed with a quarter inch seam

Circle, trimmed with pinking shears.

See what a nice smooth circle!

I turned the circle right side out and lightly pressed it, fusible side down on a piece of baking parchment. Once it was nice and flat, I pressed it onto my completed Dresden Plate. Now, it is ready for stitching!

New Dresden Plate

I am using an invisible machine applique technique for this quilt. The appliqués are stitched with a tiny zig-zag stitch, using a transparent or very fine thread. I am using both Invisafil, in colors to match the applique, and Sulky invisible thread, which is a clear polyester thread. I have used invisible nylon thread for this technique in the past, but I prefer the polyester, as the nylon has more of a shine. My zig-zag stitch length is set to 1.0. Stitch width is 1.5mm. I have a neutral gray 50 wt cotton thread in the bobbin. I use an open toe applique foot on my machine. Sew along the edge of the appliqué, just catching the fold of the fabric with the swing of the zig-zag. The stitching is almost invisible from a viewing distance. 

Almost invisible zig-zag. I started with a 2.0mm width, but reduced it to 1.5mm and was happier with finished appearance.

I trimmed away the excess fabric and appliqué paper from the back of the appliqué.

Now I am ready to add more layers to my Dresden Plate! But that will be another post....

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Another New Year, Another New Beginning...

I started this blog last January, with all sorts of big plans for my budding quilt design career. Unfortunately, I was sidelined by life, in the form of my Dad's metastatic cancer diagnosis. Dad moved in with us, and I spent 6 months nursing him until his death on June 18th. I treasure the memories of those months, even though they were incredibly difficult at times. My husband Lorrie, my mother, my family and my co-workers were all very supportive during Dad's illness. I was able to take the last 3 months of Dad's life off work and stay at his side.

One of my great comforts during those days was my hand sewing and embroidery. I abandoned machine sewing entirely, as it seemed too antisocial. So I sat with Dad, and worked on a variety of handmade projects while I kept him company. He was always interested in whatever project I was working on.
My Bionic Gear Bag, hand embroidered and embellished.
A hand pieced block for the Craftsy Jinny Beyer Block of the Month

Travelling English Paper Piecing Kit

Katja Marek's New Hexagon Millefiori Quilt Along
English Paper Piecing

Following Dad's death, I abandoned my creative pursuits for a few months. I just didn't have the heart for them. However, in the fall I started sketching and the designing bug grabbed me once more. I began to create again. In December, I resolved to start 2016 by reviving my quilt design business. I did have 3 or 4 designs in progress, but true to form, I have not been able to resist starting another new project!

Tree of Life, a wool project utilizing Sue Spargo's techniques.

Block from my quilt based on Mexican pottery designs. 

A quilt I designed for a retirement gift for my friend, Barb McCormack

My West Coast Row By Row
My mother is a Downton Abbey addict, and a few months ago I purchased a quilt kit for a double wedding ring quilt featuring the Downton Abbey line of fabrics by Andover. Mom did not seem too keen on the wedding ring pattern when I showed it to her, so I decided to start the new year by designing my own DA quilt.

I wanted to use only the Downton Abbey fabrics and also to utilize my new Sizzix Big Shot Pro die cutter as much as possible, in the creation of this quilt.

Downton Abbey Fabrics
Dresden Plate with 26 petals.

I decided to start the ball rolling with a Dresden Plate and a centre medallion, and see where that took me. I have always loved mandalas and medallions, and have been dazzled by some of the photos of the Japanese quilts entered in the big US quilt shows. My initial Dresden Plate utilized the Paper Pieces template that I owned, as the only quilt die I had for a large Dresden wedge had a straight top, and I really wanted a curved petal blade. I constructed a 26 petal plate using my template, and ran into a number of problems with none of my pieces lining up symmetrically due to the odd number of petals. The finished medallion looks nice, but it took a lot of fiddling around to get the other motifs to  fit. Not ideal, for a design you want to make into a pattern.

Medallion prototype.
Then inspiration struck, and I devised a method to use my Sizzix dies to create exactly what I want! To be continued.....