Washing, Ironing and Cutting

After washing all of your fabrics, iron and starch them.

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This is how much fraying and threads that happened when we washed these homespuns, we lost just under 3/4in on this green fabric and the others lost about the same but none more than an inch. This is why I urge you to consider buying extra fabric to save you the grief and hassle of going back and buying more fabric.

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Watch this video for using starch.

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Fold your fabrics in half with wrong sides together, selvedges aligned. You may need to allow the fabric to dictate to you where the fold is, which may pull the selvedges out of line but they will be cut off so don’t worry too much. Your selvedges will not match up – in the photo below you can see the teal fabric selvedges are way off – this is due to two things, washing and grain line. When we washed our fabrics they have shrunk, we removed the sizing that was keeping them nice for the shelves in the shop and the grain line has been ‘relaxed’. By adjusting the position of the selvedge when folding your fabric in half for cutting you will get a much better and more natural grain line and it will be straighter.

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Trim off the frayed edge to straighten up the fabric. If you are left-handed you can continue cutting as the fabric is laid out in the right position for you. Right-handers turn the fabric’s newly straight edge to the left-hand side of your board and then continue cutting.

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From your five fabrics (50cm pieces of homespun in the materials list) cut three 2 1/2in strips.

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Note: the remaining fabric will be used to piece the backing for Mum’s quilt, you can choose to do the same if you wish.

Set up your sewing machine with the neutral thread for piecing, the 1/4in foot and a straight stitch that is the average for your machine – check your manual for tips on this. My Janome likes a stitch width of 5.5 and a length of 2.

Piece the strips together in the sequence of your choice. This is the sequence we have chosen for mum. There is reason behind it, it’s not just random. If you paint put your mind into that way of thinking, but I will explain.

1. Green is on this end because it has a yellow base colour and is essentially the odd one out in this range of colours.

2. Teal is next because it is made up of blue and green so it can sit nicely next to green to help tie it into the block.

3. The blue is in the middle as it is the darkest fabric and will draw the eye in, but it is also there because it is blue – the teal has blue in it so they can sit next to each other, and the blue also is used in making the colour for the next strip so it is tying the two sides of this block together.

4. Purple has a red base (mix red and blue together to make purple) and so this is why it’s next to the blue.

5. Brown is often classed as a red based colour so it belongs next to the purple for this reason. It is also technically an odd one out so it is also balancing the green’s oddness on the other side.

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Piecing

Start with the green strip and place it on top of the teal strip. Pin if you feel you need to hold the strips together.

Note: I like to sew my strips together so that as they are being joined so that they are off to the left side of the machine – this keeps them out of the way and doesn’t clutter up the throat of the machine. I am right-handed, as is mum. Left-handers may like to try both ways and see what suits you better. Like all my other notes these are just suggestions of things that I find easier and have discovered over many years of quilting, it’s not gospel and you don’t have to treat it as such. Find what is comfortable for you and your machine.

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Continuing adding your strips, keeping them in order and making sure that you are sewing so that the seams are all on the same side. Always start from the same edge.

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Once you have joined the 5 strips, press the seams in one direction.

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You may notice that the strips are not all the same length.

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This is fairly common and is a manufacturing issue and a washing issue. It’s not something that can be fixed. But if you always start from the same edge when joining strips you will reduce the waste of fabric.

Trim the selvedges off the edge that you started piecing on.

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Then cut your pieced unit into four 10 1/2in blocks.

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Repeat for your other sets of strips and you have made all of your blocks.

In the next blog post we will be cutting the focal piece, adding a small border, assembling the quilt top and preparing for quilting.

Mum’s First Quilt

So this quilt-along will be a little different to your usual type of quilting instructions. Mainly because I’m letting Mum take the lead on this one. It’s her quilt and her learning pace, so there’s no rushing and no set timeframe.

Mum works from home for the most part of the week, working in our shared space, the craft room/office. As it’s on the top floor of the house it does get a bit warm but when the sun is around the back of the house first thing in the morning it is quite chilly. Mum decided she wanted to try and make a quilt for herself. Something small enough that she can give it a go without being too overwhelmed with its size, but big enough to drape over her legs while she works on the computer.

So the other night while we watched CSI (Saturday Crime Night) we pulled out every piece of fabric that Mum owns. Which was not a lot as she’s not really a sewer  to the extent I am (read craft hoarder), she used to dabble when my sister and I were little but she mainly painted ceramics and now does cake decorating and some knitting.

Having helped quilters choose fabrics for almost a decade I have created my own process when working with customers who struggle with fabric choice – getting them to tell me little things about the fabrics they’ve chosen so I can work my way through their selections and help nudge them in the right direction – whether that direction be a complete selection or a partial one with more things to find later – and then get the fabrics to speak its design to us.

So Mum’s fabrics were a bit random to say the least. She had a few themes which she’s picked up on but generally it wasn’t a cohesive group of fabrics. We started by dividing them into what groups we could see – blenders, black and whites, brights, small prints (mainly tone-on-tones) and miscellaneous. We also matched up fabrics that worked together, hoping that as we worked through the pile we would find something or enough little somethings that would spark an idea.

Once everything was sorted we stepped back and looked at what we’d done. Mum couldn’t quite see where I was going, she wasn’t really even clear with herself about what she wanted and was concerned that her random fabric purchases and mini raids on my stash had left her with a pile that couldn’t be used.

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Which is never the case. Because stash diving gives you the opportunity to see what you have (and how much of it), which means you can then either use what you have buying only a few bits to add in or you can see you have nothing that works and buy from scratch. Both are equally good but it all boils down to the timing, the project and your budget.

So I made her pick up the two fabrics that spoke to her the most and explain why they spoke to her.

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The first one she finds calming, the softer colour palette is peaceful and contains her favourite colours. It’s not too bold but it’s still an interesting print.

The second one reminds her of a storm – the turbulent nature of it, the depth of colours in it and the movement in the print. She loves the strength in the colours but was concerned about matching them.

So we went through the shop’s stock, our local Spotlight and my stash. After trying to match the storm print and coming up with very little that Mum felt matched the vibrancy of the fabric, we ended up with the batik fat quarter and a handful of soft homespuns in matching tones.

Storm FQ and stash matching  fabrics   Floral FQ and matching homespuns

The design of the quilt also went through several permutations. Starting with the fact that Mum didn’t want to chop up the fat quarter too much and lose the impact of it. We sketched a few ideas, thinking that we were using the storm print. Mum thought about creating a window effect so that we’d be looking out the window at the storm – cutting it up into four squares to make the window panes – but then we were a tad trapped with that design, not having fabric to see how we could expand on the quilt into the border made it difficult. We thought about doing a colour wash – pulling the four main colours from the storm FQ and working with colour gradation, piecing blocks to surround the FQ, possibly edging it with a narrow border of black to frame it and contrast with it, but it all felt a little off so we changed plans. Again.

Because homespuns are a flat, solid colour you don’t want to use them as a large expanse (unless you plan on machine quilting it with detail, like many Modern quilters do), so for Mum’s quilt we decided on strip piecing blocks and as yet we have yet to decide on the width of the strips and in what direction they will go for each block.

Mum’s quilt is a simple layout. The FQ in the centre, trimmed to a square, with a narrow sashing, the 12 pieced blocks surrounding it, a second sashing and then a border.

Materials list for those who’d like to quilt along:

One feature fat quarter – a print that you can pull the other fabrics from

50cm each of 5 co-ordinating fabrics

2.5m of your border fabric (50cm of this will potentially go with the other five 50cm pieces)

60cm of your binding fabric (we have 4 FQs of this colour for Mum’s quilt)

Backing: will be pieced from remaining fabrics with anything extra needed purchased when we get to that stage

Wadding: this quilt’s estimated size will finish at 1.5m square so you can either purchase a 1.7m square of backing (enough for professional quilting needs) or make up a piece using any scraps of wadding you have in your stash.

Tools:

Sewing machine with 1/4in and walking feet

Rotary cutter, ruler and cutting mat

Neutral thread for piecing

General sewing supplies: pins, scissors, marking pens etc

Note: Mum and I have over estimated on fabrics as I roughly calculated she needed about 30cm of each. As we were buying homespun which is generally anywhere from $5 – $10 per metre it was a more economical way to purchase for this particular quilt. If you would like more accurate quantities please hold off on your purchasing until the next post.

So now that we have all the fabrics and the design set what’s next?

Wash all your fabrics. I’ve discussed this before in this post and this is the only part of this whole process where it is up to you.

Then iron and if you like starch them to return them to pre-washed condition which makes for easier cutting. Purchase starch here.

Note: When you wash fabrics there will be fraying. You will lose some off your edges and be required to straighten them cutting into the amount of fabric needed for your quilt. BUY extra if you feel you will lose too much – 5cm extra purchased can save a whole heap of grief when cutting after washing. This is also spoken about in the washing blog post.

Once you have everything washed and ironed and ready to go meet back here for the second instalment of Quilting Along with Mum.

If you have any questions – such as fabrics choice issues – please feel free to post a photo or video of your dilemma and I’ll help you with that part of the process. You can also email me frankensteinsfabrics@hotmail.com.

Marni x