Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Anna Maria Horner + Aurifil Showcase!

Hey!  I'm super excited to finally be able to share my project for the Anna Maria Horner (Instagram: @annamariahorner) + Aurifil (Instagram: @aurifilthread) Showcase featuring Anna Maria's beautiful Passionflower collection for FreeSpirit Fabrics (Instagram: @freespiritfabrics)!

Let's get the basics out of the way, and then I'll share more details (plus a few tips)!

Fabrics from Passionflower:  Imposter in Medieval, Migration in Dahlia, & Passiflora in Silver

Thread:  Aurifil 40wt in 1248 (Dark Grey Blue), 2479 (Medium Orchid), & 4241 (Very Dark Grey)

Pattern:  Easy Does It from ByAnnie (Instagram: @patternsbyannie)

For this project, like many of my others, I wanted to match the thread color to the fabric so I added in a few extra colors. :)  My favorite thread for quilting, making bags, and binding is Aurifil's 40 weight Mako Cotton (I do my quilt piecing in 50wt Aurifil).  The 40wt thread is a little more beefy, so it adds definition to the stitches without dominating. When selecting thread, don't forget to choose a needle that is appropriate for the thread and fabric that you are using because it really does make a big difference.  Here's a link to a Aurifil's Product Guide which lists recommendations for needle types and sizes based on the thread weights.

If you've been with me for at least a few posts (or if you follow me on Instagram), you have probably noticed that I have a bit of an affinity for grid quilting, especially when the quilting is set on point.  There is such a beautiful simplicity to it, and it is a great way to add texture without distracting from either the fabric or the pattern.  With the size of the bag and the scale of the prints, I decided to go with a 3/4" grid (I usually use grids between 3/4" and 1 1/4" depending on the project).  I quilted the fabric to the ByAnnie's Soft and Stable® and cut the pieces to size as instructed.

When I am quilting a grid, I like to actually mark the lines rather than using the guide that I can attach to the foot on my machine.  Clover's #5032 Air Erasable Marker (Instagram: @cloverusa) is my favorite tool for most fabrics.  Please note that you should ALWAYS test your fabric + marking tool combo to make sure that you get the intended result.  I love this specific marker because the ink will disappear on its own,  or they can be removed immediately with water using either the eraser on the pen or a spritz of water from a spray bottle.  Factors like temperature and humidity may impact how long the marks will stay, so I like to mark a couple of lines at a time then quilt them right away.  Whenever possible, I also prefer to mark on the lining side of the fabric just to be extra safe.

I find that I have the best results with my quilting if I use a walking foot and a longer stitch length.  The walking foot helps the fabric to move as one unit because pressure is applied from the top and the bottom at the same time.  When using different colors of thread in the top and bobbin, I am extra particular about my thread tension.  If I am sewing with the lining side up, I will often increase the TOP tension VERY slightly (basically the smallest amount that I am able to adjust) so the stitches on the main/exterior fabric look perfect.  The tiny adjustment still allows for the threads to meet in the middle of my "quilt sandwich", but it gives it a nudge toward the lining.  I will fully admit that the change isn't something that most people would notice because it looks excellent without any adjustment, but it's still something that I do.  Maybe try it and see if you think it makes a difference.

Quilting on marked lines with the lining fabric face up in 40wt Aurifil 2479
After I've marked a few diagonal lines (I line up the 45 degree line on my ruler with the bottom edge of the fabric to make it easy for the first line then I use that as a guide for the other marked lines) for my stitching, I start sewing by working from the center toward the edge.  Once that side is complete, I work out to the other edge starting from the center again.  After all of those parallel lines have been quilted, I place my ruler across the piece perpendicular to the sewn line and mark a couple of lines and repeat the process until it's all finished.  If you look closely at the lower left section of the picture, you will notice that the grid is not yet complete.

Main/exterior fabric quilted with Aurifil 40wt color 1248
Remember, this is the side that was underneath when I was quilting (I used the Dark Grey Blue as my bobbin thread).  It looks pretty great, don't you think?

The Easy Does It is a free pattern from ByAnnie (featured in Issue 6 / 2019-2020 catalog) was designed to use 3 fat quarters, so it was great for this challenge.  I love the size of the bag, and I think it would be great for a variety of skill levels especially with their free Add-On Video (the link should be active soon)!

Just to wrap up, I've got a couple of extra pictures for you!

The finished bag interior.  I love the bound seams!

What could be cooler than getting a picture of my finished project with the amazing Anna Maria Horner at Quilt Market?!?!

So now that I've spilled some of my secrets, I hope you may find some of the information helpful!  Much thanks to the wonderful folks at Aurifil and FreeSpirit for providing the fabric and a spool of thread to those of us that participated in the Anna Maria Horner Showcase.  I am so happy to have the continued opportunity to work with Aurifil as I am a returning Aurifil Artisan for 2019-2020!

p.s. (and a reminder to my future self) - lint rollers are only useful if you don't forget to use them to get all of the little bits of charm pack floof out of the interior of your bag before you take a picture!  Oops!

p.p.s. I made the skirt that I'm wearing in the picture with Anna Maria!  It's the Wander Skirt pattern by Gentle Clothing (Instagram: @gentleclothing).

Friday, April 19, 2019

Adventures in foundation paper piecing

Like many other techniques, foundation paper piecing (FPP) has its share of people that love it and hate it.  I fall into the group in between.  I do not love it, but I do not completely hate it.  For me, it's simply a means to an end - I WILL do it if I must, but I will probably complain about it because I honestly do not enjoy the process.

I've put together a list of a few things that I've learned along the way which help to make the whole thing more enjoyable/less painful for me.  As always, your mileage may vary.

As a side note for anybody that might be new to my blog, you will not find affiliate links in my posts.  If I should happen to use them in the future, they will be noted as such.  Many of these products may be available at your favorite quilt shop, sewing store, or Amazon.com.  I'm providing links from the pages of the manufacturers because they are likely to be the most reliable in terms of whether or product is still being marketed/sold/available.  :)

My setup when doing FPP (my iron is to the left of the Wafer)

Let there be light!
In my first FPP projects, I would hold my pieces up to a lamp.  It worked ok, but sometimes it was hard to keep the pieces aligned where I needed them and hold it up to the light.  Buying a lightbox was really a game changer for me.  There are a lot of options available from different manufacturers, but I use the Wafer 1 from Daylight Company, the smallest of their three size offerings.  It's a convenient size to store, and I love that they offer a translucent cutting mat so you can see and cut without moving to a different surface.

You aren't going to get very far without thread.
It should come as no surprise that I use Aurifil thread when I do FPP.  I use the same 50 weight thread that I use for all of my quilt piecing. It is a 2-ply thread, so it's fine enough to not add a lot of bulk in my seams, and it's strong enough to withstand the dreaded removal of paper.

Press it real good.
This is one of the best ways to improve the finish of your sewing projects.  I find that I'm happiest with my results when I use an iron, but I don't use my regular iron.  You want to make sure that you are using a dry iron.  I use a Clover Wedge Iron when I do FPP.  It has a pointy tip which is a feature that is important to me in an iron, and it seems to get suitably hot (and it's a great size when I'm making mini quilts too).  There is no water reservoir, so I don't have to worry about accidentally having water in the iron.  My biggest complaint about the iron is that it takes a while for it to get hot. If I'm working somewhere that an iron isn't available, I will use my Violet Craft Seam Roller.  I think it's the next best option.

Go big.
I try to be as effective and efficient as I can when cutting fabric, so FPP was a bit challenging to get my head around.  FPP is not a method that super low waste.  It's just how it is.  On top of that, unlike a lot of traditional/conventional patterns, many patterns do not tell you what sizes pieces you should cut.  I've realized that I'd rather deal with cutting away more fabric as waste than deal with having pieces that are too small and having to rip the stitches.  Generally, I will cut pieces that are 1" larger than the size that they need to cover to account for seam allowances.  If I have a piece that is rectangular, I won't push it out that far.  It's one of those things that you just have to look at for each piece.  The bottom line is that you should cut to a size that is comfortable for you and adjust as needed.

You rule.
When I FPP, I like to use the Add-A-Quarter Plus ruler by CM Designs.  I love how one side has a beveled edge that allows me to fold my paper back easily and one side with a 1/4" lip for trimming without the need to line up things on a ruler.  Just place it down, butt the lip up to the seam, and trim  using your rotary cutter. You can absolutely use a regular ruler, but I love how much time I can save when I don't have to stop and measure.  They also make a regular Add-A-Quarter ruler without the beveled edge if you don't fold your papers, and there are even rulers for other seam allowance sizes!

It IS worth the paper it's printed on.
There are a lot of different options you can use to print/copy your patterns.  Some people use plain newsprint, vellum, or cheap copy paper.  I like Carol Doak's Foundation Paper by C&T Publishing.  It prints without issues in my laser printer, it tears easily when I need it to do so, I haven't had any problems with line crispness or ink bleed, and it isn't bright white which sometimes gives me a headache if I look at it for too long.  I also like the texture.

Size matters.
When you are printing (if your pattern is a PDF) or if you're making copies of the templates, make sure that they are printing the correct size.  Many patterns will include a size guide on at least one page that you can measure to make sure that things are printing as intended.  If things are not printing as expected, it is often just a simple, easily resolved misconfiguration of your printer settings.  Personally, I also like PDF because it's pretty straightforward if you want to resize the pattern templates.  The last FPP project that I made had blocks that finished at 4" square.  I wanted to make them a little bigger, so I printed them at 125% so they would finish at 5" square.

Write it down.
FPP can be a bit of a challenge to wrap your brain around when you first get started.  You sew on the printed side of the paper, so you sewing everything as a mirror image of how the finished block will appear.  Some designers may shade areas of the pattern so you have an idea of what color to put where, but that's not as common in my experience.  For that reason, I take the low tech approach and grab a pencil and write which fabrics I want in each section (on the printed side of the paper).

Embrace it or don't.
Maybe you will love the process of FPP or maybe you won't. You know what?  It's ok either way!  As I wrote at the beginning, it's just a means to an end for me.  I am glad that I know how to FPP, and I feel confident that I can successfully make something using that method if I felt inclined to do so.  Will it ever be my preferred method?  I doubt it, but things have been known to change.  I guess we shall just have to wait and see.

We've come to the end. I've basically said all I have to say on the subject right now, so let's all go forth and make.