Tag Archives: paper piecing

Very Short Term Memory Loss

If you’ve ever seen the movie “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” you know how I’ve felt the past week. If you haven’t, let me explain. About a week ago I began to work on a long delayed paper templates project that I designed from a drawing. Here’s the genesis of the drawing.

I believe the final result succeeded in abstracting the object.

I enlarged my drawing and made freezer paper templates for the pieces. Each piece was carefully numbered and color coded, and the sewing order was worked out. The idea was the actual sewing would be a no brainer, just cut out and join the pieces in the already numbered sequence.

I selected a white, gray and black palette, with one color. Originally that color was to be green, but I didn’t like that and ended up using a very muted red.

On day one of sewing I used my master drawing for the big picture and cut out the freezer paper pieces. I ironed the freezer paper to my fabrics and cut out the pieces, leaving a quarter inch seam allowance. Then I saw I forgot to mirror image my freezer paper, and the freezer paper was on the inside, not the outside, of my fabric pieces when I put them together to sew.  I remade the freezer paper templates for my first section, reversing the image this time.

On day two I moved on to the second section. After cutting out two pieces of fabric I realized I forgot to remake the freezer paper pieces, so I stopped and redid the templates for section 2. Then, I ironed the now correctly mirror imaged pieces to my fabrics. Oops, I ironed them to the wrong (right) side of the fabric so I peeled off the pieces and began again, ironing the paper to the correct side (which is the wrong side) of the fabric.

Days three and four were a repeat of day two, only with the third and fourth sections. Apparently my brain was reset each night and failed to remember the mirror image reversal needed. At least I discovered my mistake sooner on days three and four and wasted less fabric. I did spend time each day holding two pieces of fabric up and thinking, which way do they go now?

I resewed section four three times as I changed my mind about the color, so I got lots of practice in ironing the templates to the correct side of the fabric.

In defense of paper piecing, you have less chance of repeating your errors if you’re sewing to one paper pattern than if you’re using individual templates. In further defense, I’m sure the templates technique works better if you have a properly functioning brain that doesn’t delete hard won knowledge overnight.

The final top has a few additions because the cut and dried path didn’t work so well for me. So much for advance planning.



Filed under Commentary, In Process, Techniques

Three Little Birds

I like to have a well defined project on the go to balance all my “where am I going with this” efforts. A project where most of the decisions have already been made gives my brain a rest. For me, this is often paper piecing.

As I browsed photos from QuiltCon my eye was caught by a group quilt that featured paper pieced birds. The pattern is from McCall’s Quilting and is pretty simple for paper piecing.

paper pieced birdsI like the different sizes of birds, the way they face different directions, and the gaps in the lineups.

I decided to begin with birds of the same size, but facing different directions. Later I may enlarge some and shrink others. And maybe I’ll embroider a worm or a twig in some of the beaks.

After a fling through my scraps I began to piece. Here are the three little birds I’ve made so far. The Bob Marley song keeps running through my head, so here’s a link to it to keep you company.

three little birdsI’m undecided about whether to make long, skinny pillows from my birds with a single row on a branch, or turn them into a child’s quilt with lots of branches. I just ordered a feathers backing fabric for it, whatever “it” turns out to be.



Filed under In Process, Project Ideas

Wrapping Up 2014

My recent quilting goal has been to finish up pieces I knew how I wanted to finish. Let’s leave the ones I’m at sea about for 2015. I just finished hand sewing the last of three bindings so I’m ready to show my progress, though I’ll talk about Kansas in another post.

First up is Dancing Stars which I’ve shown earlier. It’s from a paper piecing pattern by Amy Ellis. I had it quilted with an all over pattern and wool batting, which really pops the quilting.

Dancing_StarsThe binding matches the ash gray around the stars.

Dancing_Stars_labelI built the label into the back using a leftover block. One less pesky finishing detail. I even have a hanging sleeve sewn onto this one.

Jeweled Leaves is another geometric, paper pieced quilt. The binding is purple.


To play on the name, I sewed an amethyst “jewel” in the quilt’s center.


I decided to call these two quilts contemporary, as they don’t seem to fit into any other category. Sometimes it’s soothing to work with a block structure. Now, if I could only do work like Sue Benner’s Prairie/Wall #3: Autumn Bluestem which breathes new life into that structure.



Filed under Completed Projects

Left Brain, Right Brain

I know some quilters who focus on one major project at a time. They may mull over ideas for other new pieces, but the actual cutting, piecing, sewing, and quilting  are confined to just the one piece.

Then there’s yours truly. Without consciously deciding to work this way, I always seem to have at least two big projects actively going. They are often quite different kinds of pieces. It’s as if my brain needs to have both hemispheres stimulated.

Right now I’m finishing up the top for a paper pieced project that features four color gradients. I just need to buy more of the narrow rickrack as I want to place it differently than shown. The hand dyed border strips aren’t sewn in place yet, so that’s why they may seem off kilter, and the end of the day photo doesn’t help.

leaves_topMy inspiration was a Craftsy course on color taught by Joen Wolfrom. I’m only about halfway through the videos but I just had to do a color gradient or two. The leaf pattern was developed by Deb Karasik.

My other work in progress is also related to an online course. I mentioned earlier that I’m taking a landscape quilt class and am using photos of a salt marsh in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, for my inspiration.

Mack_marsh_pinnedThis piece needs a lot more work than the leaf one. Right now it’s tenuously pinned to a board. None of the edges are turned under. Because the pieces are cut oversize to make sure there’s enough fabric for complete coverage, they are larger than they will finish up. There’s been lots of trial and error and some creative adjustments based on the fabrics I had available. I’ll be fiddling with fabric choices for another day or so, and possibly longer.

Each of these pieces has called on a different skill set. For the leaf one, choosing the gradient fabrics was the most creative (and fun) part.

leaf fabrics

I paper pieced little bits of fabric together the same way 32 times. The biggest challenges were to make sure I covered all the edges with fabric and to remove the paper. I also did a lot of ironing and starching to get the blessed things to lie flat. I did fiddle with block arrangement. Once I sew on rickrack and the borders I think quilting will be straightforward work with my walking foot.

The landscape has required much more auditioning of fabric, and stepping back and squinting at the effect. I had to be ready to change the pattern shapes to accommodate the amount of fabric I had and the coloring of the fabric.

After I make final fabric choices I’ll have to iron under exposed edges for invisible applique or prepare the fabric for fusing. Some of the water pieces are so skinny that I think fusing will be the only way to go, and the grasses in the foreground will be fused. The quilting will be improvisational and free motion.

Both pieces satisfy different parts of my quilter’s brain. With the leaves I enjoy predictability; with the landscape I flirt with ambiguity. Now I need to keep focused on these pieces and not hare off to begin yet something else.



Filed under In Process

Finish Two, Start One New

As I reported earlier, I’m rounding up my unfinished tops that are ready to quilt and putting pedal to the metal. Two are now done. One, Swimming Upstream, was pieced this year. The other, Shirtsleeves, has been in a plastic tub for at least a year.

Swimming Upstream 2Swimming Upstream came about because I found some leftover 1.5 inch squares and HSTs plus a few leftover blocks. Using Sandi Cummings’ techniques from Thinking Outside the Block, I did a mash up of traditional and contemporary. I free motion quilted it with a loopy meander. It was misery, with the bobbin seizing up at least 30 times on this small (about 24 by 32 inches) piece. Each time I rethreaded, took out the bobbin, cleaned the bobbin case, etc. I used Aurifil thread on the top and bottom and generally did everything recommended. I also tried putting in a different bobbin. Some days I had no problems. Other days I’d get only about 2 inches of stitching done between seizures.

Shirtsleeves 2Shirtsleeves is made mostly of my husband’s old cotton dress shirts, with a bit of other striped fabric. The bits of yellow sprinkled throughout reflect Kaffe Fassett’s influence. He does a shirt fabric quilt like this in his book Passionate Patchwork. The back uses more of the shirts. There is sure a lot of fabric in men’s shirts, even in the smaller sizes. The quilting is a simple 2 inch grid. The label is part of a front placket. I didn’t want to have any buttons on this quilt in case I give it to some new parents.

Shirtsleeves backNow for the new part. Since I had finished two quilts I could start one new one. (Yes, this is totally arbitrary, but self discipline is a goal of mine.) Since I’ve started Joen Wolfrom’s Craftsy class on color I thought I’d try a color gradation.

Here’s my colors arranged for paper pieced leaves using a pattern by Deb Karasik.

leaf fabricsYou can see the fourth gradation in the leaf below.

paper pieced leaf rose 1I’ll be at this project a while as I have only four leaves done so far. The worst part is picking out the little bits of paper. The pieces are too small to use freezer paper piecing. Guess I didn’t learn how tedious this method was with my last project. But …

paper pieced letters


Filed under Completed Projects, In Process

Star Pillow

I finally got around to making an eight pointed star block that’s been in my to-do pile for some time.  The only way I get crisp, sharp points on my stars is to use paper piecing, and for this block I altered the Lone Starburst paper piecing pattern devised by Anna at Six White Horses to suit freezer paper piecing.

The alteration works because you add pieces to this pattern starting at one end and not the middle. I explain how I do this in  my paper piecing tutorial.

8 point star paper piecingI actually make two freezer paper patterns and cut up one to use as a guide to cut the individual pieces.  The piecing goes a lot faster if all the pieces to be joined are roughly cut beforehand.  The key is to iron the freezer paper to the wrong side of your fabric.  This is where yard dyed solids and batiks are handy as they have no wrong side.

Freezer paper piecing startIn this photo I’ve just ironed my first fabric piece to the freezer paper pattern and trimmed the seam allowance to 1/4 of an inch.  I used that bit of graph paper to feed the freezer paper smoothly under my presser foot.  The freezer paper tends to stick a bit at first, but after a few uses you won’t need that extra piece of paper.

With this pattern you sew eight slices and then join them.  I was able to use the same freezer paper pattern for all eight.  The only tricky bit was joining the slices so the fabric strips match.  I used Carol Doak’s technique of machine basting only the tricky areas together, checking for accuracy, and then adjusting as needed before sewing the whole seam.

Because I decided not to make any more stars I expanded the block with a yellow flange and side triangles to make a pillow front, and added a row of big stitching between the two rows of purple machine stitching in the turquoise area.

star pillow frontThen I sewed a zipper into the back using this tutorial on Sew Mama Sew.

star pillow back

My husband gave this effort his ultimate accolade – “that’s pretty.”


Filed under Completed Projects, Techniques

A Farewell to Summer

I just finished a paper pieced small landscape for my guild’s small quilts auction.  As I wrote earlier, it’s a coastal scene that was a Carol Doak (the doyenne of paper piecing) pattern.

coast_paper_piecedNow I wish I had rearranged some of the elements for a better perspective, but it’s bound using Gloria Loughman’s wide binding technique and I’m not taking that out.  I even sewed on a hanging sleeve.

As usual, I found it boring to follow someone else’s pattern as my favorite part of quilting is designing the quilt.  I did enjoy fossicking around my ever growing scraps collection for fabric bits.

With this piece I hereby declare the summer to be done, and will fold away my white pants until next Memorial Day.

Leave a comment

Filed under Completed Projects