Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Learn to Quilt Tutorial

As I get ready to launch my new website Simplequiltmaking.com, I have decided to offer a tutorial on my blogsite http://quiltingwithjanet.blogspot.com
I have just posted the next part of this tutorial which you can follow through all the steps to make my original design: Sea Creatures. In it I show the joys of handquilting, one of which is total accuracy the first time, every time - check it out - I am eager to see your comments and will answer questions for you.
Working very hard just now on several commissions and also on a small vintage quilt kit I am handquilting.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

TUTORIAL - Sea Creatures - Part 2

You will have cut all your sets of 3" blocks for the four-patches and are now ready to pin them together before sewing them. Remember that when I say 3" block I mean to draw around a 3" template but cut out with an extra quarter inch on each side for seam allowance - in other words - 3.5"

A REMINDER: you need 24 completed blocks so cut 48 of each of two fabric choices. 96 in all.

Hang Pinning: working with right sides of each piece facing inward, you will hang pin to secure for sewing. Put a pin through the exact corners of two different 3" blocks - line up the pieces exactly and do not bring the pin back through the two pieces - just let it hang. Repeat at the other corner. In the middle, between the 2 hanging pins, line up the markings and hang pin there too. Make sure there are no puckers or gaps. Proceed to pin together all the sets of two different fabrics.

Piecing goes much faster if you don't have to stop to pin each one.

PIECING: Thread your needle but do not make a knot. Insert you needle down through where the right hand corner lines intersect and the pin has been placed - this is crucial to accuracy. Remove the hanging pin.

Bring your needle back up a very short distance left of the entry stitch and repeat, then overcast the first stitch and draw the needle through the loop to secure the end of the thread, leaving a loose tail at least an inch long.

Working from right to left, make tiny running stitches and make a lock stitch every 5 or 6 stitches. The lock stitch is simply a stitch going over the previous one and will serve to make repair easier should a stitch break. Keep your work taut(firm) but not enough to make puckers.

Finish at the exact point where the left corners intersect, and again make a double stitch with the needle through the loop to secure - cut thread, leaving a tail of at least one inch.

Repeat this process until you have no pieces left - you should have 48 two-block units.Press all seams to the right - making sure they are all to the same side - either using an iron, your thumbnail or one of those little flattened wooden sticks you can find in the notions department of your local quilt shop. I'm always losing things so I use my thumbnail - it's imposible to lose and always available - smile - and I save money that I can then spend on more fabric!


Next take 2 of the two block units and turn one of them so that the seam to be stitched comes together, with one seam going one way and the other seam going in the opposite direction. This is most important in order to avoid bulky seams, but more importantly to help the two units to almost automatically come together in a perfect, accurate intersection.
Hang pin the two two piece units right sides together, starting with each end first. Then at the seam in the middle, hang pin on one side of the seam, exactly at the point where the lines intersect. Do not put the pin through the seam allowace, leave the seam allowance free. Then place a pin midway between the end pins and the intersection.
Match marked lines carefully.
NOTE: Until you are confident of your stitching, you can start at the central point(intersecting seam), stitch to the end, cut your thread and then flip the piece over and repeat, starting from the middle intersection again.
Note: Never stitch through seam allowances - just up to them, make a lockstitch and then pass the needle through the seam and continue on at the exact beginning of the marked lines on the other side of the seam. lockstitching helps to maintain accuracy at intersections by preventing "creeping".
Yet Another Note: after several stitches, flip over and check that you are sewing exactly on the marked line on both sides, adjust as you go.

Do all 24 four patch units, checking each for accuracy. When satisfied, press each seam to the same side. Never press seams open inless specifically instructed to - always press to one side, and make it the same side with similar units. Try to press to the darker fabric's side to minimize chance of dark fabric shining through from the wrong side. If that happens, carefully trim away enough of the darker fabric so that the lighter covers it, maintaining a safe seam allowance to avoid ravelling.

Laying out the blocks in preparation for piecing into the large central background:
You will have already cut 6 inch blocks (6.5 including seam allowances) of print #3, 9 for the inside squares, 16 for the setting triangles along the edges and 4 for the corners - 29 in all. Later on you will learn how to cut exact size triangles but for now, we'll work with the squares which will later be trimmed or not as you wish - the part to be trimmed is covered by the scalloped border.
Lay your blocks out on your work area or design wall if you are lucky enough to have one - the 4 patch blocks will be turned "on point" and will start out with one in the upper left hand corner, going diagonally across the design, the next row will have a four patch, a solid block, and another four patch. The third row will have a four patch, a solid square, a four patch, another large square and a four patch. Fourth and final row will have the same arrangement : start with a four patch, end with a four patch - carry on until you have completed a symetical 4x6 grouping of 4 patches, interspersed with the solid blocks, working diagonally downwards and keeping track of where the corners will be.
The blocks - 4patch and solid 6"blocks will be seamed as shown and placed back in the design area and the next row addressed, as shown in the pictures.

When you have all the rows seamed, check carefully that you have not "turned" a block and accidently spoiled the symmetry - if you have, unpick and re-do. Press each row toward the solid blocks each time - this lessens bulk and again allows the seams to nestle into each other, making for great accuracy.

Before seaming the rows together, add solid squares to each end and to the for single corner blocks, pressing as described before. Mark with a pencil at the line where trimming will take place (or not take place if you choose that option. Seam each row together checking for accuracy and pressing each seam in the same direction. You will end up with a rectangle if you imagine the top trimmed or actually trim it.
The next installment - SEA CREATURES TUTORIAL - PART 3 will be posted very shortly - on it I will show you how to achieve a wide scalloped border and discuss preparing the applique pieces.