New Directions: Pattern tester makes!

From my work as a scientist, I know that papers improve a lot when you receive feedback on the text and figures from colleagues or peer reviewers. After reading a text again and again and again you simply no longer spot missing words or typos. When you are completely submerged in the subject, concepts that are super clear to you may not be as clear to others that know less about the topic and may require additional clarification.

So, knowing how valuable feedback can be, I had the New Directions pincushion pattern tested before it was released to make sure that there are no errors in the FPP templates or instructions. Two of my quilting/blogging friends offered to test the pattern for me for which I am very grateful! They were able to provide me with useful comments and suggestions that I incorporated in the instructions.

New Directions pincushions made by Sanne from sewbysanne.

Sanne tested both the flat and boxy pincushion options and I think she used some fun fabric combinations. The top of each pincushion has a slightly different look because of how she positioned the fabrics. Also, look at those nice fussy cut flowers in the center squares!

New Directions pincushions made by Sanne from sewbysanne.

Tierney tested the flat pincushion option, I think she used shot cottons and they give her pincushion a luscious look. I must admit I was surprised at first that Tierney wanted to test the pattern at all because she has not kept her thoughts about FPP a secret in the past!

New directions pincushion made by Tierney from tierneycreates.

As I went through the process of writing a pattern and having Sanne and Tierney test it, I started to think whether it would be good to have a peer review system for sewing patterns to improve the quality of what’s available. I quickly realised that it would probably not work because in science the peer review process is part of getting your work published in good journals. While there are several quilting magazines to which you can submit pattern ideas, most patterns do not end up in journals but are self published. It got me wondering though, which sewing magazine would you consider to be the Nature and Science of quilting?

Going patchwork mini

This quarter my guild has a mini & MAXI theme and a challenge to go with it. We could choose from the half-square triangle, pineapple, robbing Peter to pay Paul or crown and star blocks to make something to fit the theme.

I chose the pineapple block because I had never made one even though it is quite similar to the log cabin block which I love to make. Going maxi would quickly lead to a quilt top and, since I already have several tops still waiting to be quilted, going mini seemed the wiser choice here. A postcard maybe?

Scrolling through Google images for inspiration I saw a lot of different pineapple variations but they were all square, as most quilt blocks are. Since I was thinking about making a postcard, I started wondering what the pineapple block would look like if it was stretched out to fit a 4×6” block.

So, I went to Adobe Illustrator to play around a bit and I came up with a FPP design that I thought promising. It definitely qualifies as mini with 69 pieces and the smallest less than ¼” wide.

For the fabrics I chose a simple pastel colour scheme that is a bit outside of the colour range that I usually gravitate toward but I quite like it. The background is Bella solid Mint and the triangles are Coral Rose and Pale Pink. I thought it fun to make the small triangles pop.

At the beginning it was a bit fiddly, but the block came together quicker than I had expected. After a couple of rounds it’s possible to sew the four triangles in one go before you need to press again which really speeds things up.

To finish, I paired the patchwork top with a light blue fabric interfaced with Decovil light and simply zig zagged the edges with a reddish thread.

All in all, a successful experiment!

Completed: Erica’s pincushion

In May and June the Dutch MQG organized a pincushion swap and of course I participated. I had to make something for Erica, which is great because last year she made me a very beautiful mini quilt so it was nice to make her something in return.

Everyone had to make an inspirational mosaic and answer some questions so their swap partner could get some ideas. Erica likes green and nature and wanted a small pincushion with room on the sides to stick needles in. The pincushions in her mosaic contained a lot of triangles (my favourite!) and fussy cutting which I decided to incorporate into my own design.

I played around in Adobe Illustrator to create a foundation paper piecing pattern to use for the top of the pincushion. The block was originally 4 inches but as I started assembling it this felt too large for a small pincushion and I reduced it to 3 inches. Oh, and yes, I do remind myself to check the printer settings before printing FPP patterns.

I was super happy to find a fabric that I could cut a ball like flowery thing out of that somewhat resembled the flowery pictures that she put in her mosaic. That fabric also contained several other smaller items that I fussy cut for the corners. I picked some green and yellow-green fabrics to work with that purple fabric and as a fellow lover of green I am very pleased with how it all turned out.

The sides are 1 3/8’’ high which was mainly determined by the print that I wanted to fussy cut. The sides were sewn to the top and bottom using Y-seams and this came together without problems. Y-seams don’t scare me. I filled the pincushion with lavender scented crushed walnut shells. This was the first time I used this type of filling and I really like how it feels when you push the pins into the shells. Apparently it helps to keep your pins and needles sharp. I also like that it adds some weight to the pincushion so that it sits a bit more stable. The lavender smell is great; it reminds me of summer vacations in southern France with my parents.

My guild’s theme for this quarter is scraps so I made a scrap card to send with the pincushion. As part of the swap we also included 50 grams of our own scraps in our package so we’d all get some new fabrics to play with. I chose a variety of sizes and shapes and a combination of prints and solids.

You are probably also curious to see what I got in return. Ingrid made me a pincushion from the Deluxe pattern of Heidi Staples. I love the fussy cutting of the text fabrics that she included. This pincushion has a pocket that can be used to put a pair of scissors in but I prefer to keep my scissors elsewhere so I used the nine patch to organize the different types of pins that I use most often. The top of the pocket can be used to clip wonderclips on, I think this feature will really come in handy. The scraps that I received were very different from the fabrics that I currently have in my scrap box so they were a very good addition to add some more variety to my projects. All in all, I consider this another very successful swap!

F2F: June blocks

Earlier this year, I joined the Foot2Freestyle block swap organized by Kate and Sue. 12 quilters have picked one or more colours and each month we’re making three 12.5’’ blocks in the colours chosen by that month’s quilter. Each person ends up with 36 blocks that she can then turn into a quilt or something else. Apart from the colours, the design of the blocks is completely free. I thought it would be fun to join since I enjoy doing patchwork but don’t really do it all that often.

In June we sent out our first blocks to Esther who had chosen mustard, jadeite and coral with a white or cream background. This is a colour scheme that does not come natural to me and I found it difficult to judge whether the fabrics that I put together really worked. In the end I decided to add a dark blue fabric to all the blocks to make it work for me. To give some cohesion to my blocks I repeated a couple fabrics in all three blocks and some in two blocks since a colour is less likely to look out of place when it is repeated.
The first block that I finished is the Garfunkel foundation paper piecing block from 627Handworks. My love for asymmetry already seeps through in this block as I couldn’t resist making one of the hexagons a different colour. I feel this adds some interest.

Garfunkel block

Garfunkel block

create your own free-form quilts

This is one of my favourite quilting books.

The second block that I made was actually the first one that I started. I intended to make the Marley foundation paper piecing block from 627Handworks but after I had sewn the first quarter I realized the printer had not printed the pieces correctly and I would not end up with a nice 12.5’’ square block. I quite liked what I had made so far though, so I put it aside for a bit and made the Garfunkel block instead. Looking through Esther’s blog I decided that she could probably deal with some non-traditional improvisational piecing and I started to use the “what if” method. This is something I picked up from Rayna Gillman’s book “create your own free-form quilts”. I find this a very inspirational book and it contains pictures of some really amazing quilts. Basically, as you are making a quilt you should continually ask yourself the question “What if I did ….?”.

In this case I started with the Marley block piece I already had (the triangles) and wondered what it would look like if I pieced a strip using the same fabrics. After piecing I tried it in different positions and decided it looked best on the right side with some white negative space in between the triangles and the strip. I decided to add white fabric all around the triangles, but the block still needed something in the upper left corner. I looked through my fabrics and after auditioning several options I picked the one that’s in the block and also decided it would look best with some white fabric separating it from the pieced strip on the right and the top of the block. I just love that little fox that’s almost in the centre of this fabric! This is my favourite out of the three blocks I made this month.

Marley block with improvisational piecing.

Marley block with improvisational piecing. I think this blocks represents my style best.

To make sure the second block wasn’t the only improvisationally pieced one that Esther received I continued the “What if?” strategy for my third block. I started out by piecing some small pieces of cat fabric left over from the Garfunkel block into a strip. Then I thought “What if I add an orange border?”. Followed by “What if I make another strip set using different fabrics and add a border to that strip set as well?”. After trying several different positions for the two pieces I decided they looked best floating apart in the background with one higher than the other.

Completely improvisationally pieced.

Completely improvisationally pieced.

If you are curious to see what the other ladies have made so far, you can have a look here, where the blocks for each month are shown.

Fabrics for these blocks came from Cotton+Steel Tokyo Train ride by Sarah Watts and Mochi by Rashida Coleman-Hale, Moda Sunny side by Kate Spain, RJR fabrics Basically Patrick by Patrick Lose and Kona cotton.

Oh, and I have finished garment to show you too! I just need to take some pictures and write a post.

Free pattern: Foundation paper pieced star

Yesterday I entertained myself by designing and sewing a foundation paper pieced star. I suppose I could have used an existing pattern since there are probably at least a dozen patterns available similar to what I made but designing the block is half the fun. The 12×12” (30×30 cm) star is created by sewing together four 6×6’’ (15×15 cm) blocks, 44 pieces in total, so it’s not overly complicated to construct. I should probably practise a bit more though as not all of my points and matches are as sharp as they’re supposed to be…

140215_StarI_1The real problems were caused by my printer however. I created the block in Illustrator and you would think that a 6×6’’ square drawn with the “draw a square” function, or whatever it is called, would be exactly square when printed. It wasn’t. It was slightly off and resembles a trapezoid. I’m pretty sure it was caused by the printer because I held my quilting ruler up to my computer screen and the square looked pretty square in the PDF on the screen. I tried some different printing settings and then decided to just start sewing and fudge if necessary as it wasn’t off by that much (1/16’’ at most). It drove me nuts though and I wasted quite a bit of time trying to get things to print right. (Edit: I did print the pattern on a different printer and it was exactly square, so I suspect my own printer is inaccurate.)

StarI blockSince I already had the pattern in digital format I thought I might as well share it. I am convinced the pattern should be square when printed on a printer that isn’t mine but if someone would like to check this for me that would be great and relieve me of that tiny piece of doubt nagging at the back of my mind. On the left you can see what the pattern looks like and if you want to download the PDF you can click here. The pattern is for personal use only and does not contain any paper piecing instructions because I am assuming you already know how to paper piece if you want to use the pattern. Below I’ve put the cutting scheme I used for my fabric pieces to save you time calculating this yourself.

StarI block_cutting schemeNow all that’s left to do is decide what to do with this block now that it is pieced together. Make several more and turn it into a quilt or add a border and make another pillow?