I made a test quilt block the other day to get a feel for how this project was going to go, and let’s just say nothing went the way I expected. I have paper pieced before, I actually did the foundation piecing for an entire crib sized quilt top when my oldest was a baby, but that was a long time ago and I suspect my craftmanship left a lot to be desired (it never even turned into a quilt, I think I handed it off to my mom to sew the pieced triangles into blocks and she found they didn’t match up and gave up on the whole thing). So I know the process, but getting accurate results doing it is new to me.
First off, my finished block turned out 1/4″ small. Eventually I realized my new 1/4″ foot is not measuring a 1/4″ from where my needle is and that millimeter or so over 8 seams definitely added up. I could move my needle to match the foot, but then it is hitting the edge of the hole in my straight stitch throatplate and I dont want to switch to the zigzig plate. I also should NOT have removed the paper before sewing the pieces together into the final block. Keeping the paper on would have made it obvious that my seam allowance was off, kept everything more stable and precise, and made matching the points much easier. Total newbie mistake! After much head scratching about my 1/4″ foot not making a 1/4″ seam, I noticed that the foot was oriented slightly diagonally across the feed dogs. I grabbed the presser bar and twisted it hard, and sure enough I was able to turn the entire presser bar and foot straight. Suddenly everything lined up, my seams measured 1/4″ and the drifting of my seam lines that had been bugging me went away. I am sure the presser bar got twisted when my poor machine was bouncing its way across the world to me with no packing to speak of.
Secondly, my work space was super awkward. I finger pressed my first block as I was piecing it, but after it ended up short, I decided heat pressing was going to be more accurate. But, my ironing station is across the room and since I have a professional iron with the water jug suspended from the ceiling, it isn’t portable. Getting up between every seam to iron was doubling my time and keeping me from ever getting into a good sewing groove.
Now I knew what I needed to make a more ideal workstation for this project:
- A pressing station next to my machine. I decided to make my own since I am super obsessive about colors and materials. I made a 12″ x 18″ ironing surface out of soundboard padded with a piece of wool blanket and covered in cotton drill. I LOVE it. As a matter of fact, I think my entire cutting table it going to get upgraded with a table-sized pressing (and pinning, and blocking) board made exactly the same way. Soundboard is awesome for all of those things because you can pin right into it.
- A couple of removable, washable pressing board covers. These may be optional for people that don’t have cats that specifically seek out ironing boards to throw up on. To each his own.
- A small iron to live at the new pressing station. And because I am me, I wanted a vintage iron. And while we are at it, makes sense for it to be a Singer one, right? It’s not all aesthetic (or obsessive compulsive) though, this iron is super heavy, obviously well-built since it heats up like a champ 60 years later, a nice small size, and no more expensive than a low end, mostly plastic travel iron on Amazon. And look at it! That is a seriously beautiful iron. I even got my husband to rewire it with new cloth wire.
- A cutting station for next to my machine. I bought the 12″ x 18″ Fiskars cutting mat (I love that it is grey instead of green) and a Fiskars rotary cutter that is smaller and more comfortable than my regular Gingher one. I am trying the Fiskars Titanium blades too, and hoping they will last much longer than other blades I have tried.
Other supplies that I put together for this quilt:
- An add-a-quarter ruler for trimming (still waiting for it to arrive)
- Flat head pins
- A real seam ripper – I am so over those cheap forked seam rippers. This one is awesome, super precise and fast.
- Starch and spray bottle. I am just using cheap old Sta-Flo diluted 1:1 and starching the bejesus out of my fabrics before I start cutting them. I love how paper-like and easy to work with the starched fabrics are.
- Marti Michell template sets A, B & D. I am not sure how many of these I will really end up using since I am doing foundation piecing, so I may or may not add more sets as I go along. I could see them being useful for cutting more accurate pieces for foundation piecing, but we shall see.
- Marti Michell 6 1/2″ Squaring Up Ruler.
- Marti Michell My Favorite Ruler 3″ x 18
- Vintage typing paper that I found at Goodwill for printing out foundation templates. It is nice and thin, prints easily and tears away easily.
- Aurifil 50 wt in grey and off-white.
- 80/11 quilting machine needles
- Superior Thread Holder. I have no idea why I waited so long to get one of these. No more big spools spinning on little spool pins and the thread wrapping underneath. I shopped around before I bought a spool holder and chose this one because it is very well made (some of the cheaper ones did not look like they would last at all) and completely versatile – it works with spools, large and small cones and even bobbins, and has an adjustable thread guide.
I ended up getting almost everything at Amazon. I used to use my 50% off coupons and get stuff like this at Joann’s, but when I shopped around this time, Amazon’s prices were pretty much the same as Joann’s 50% off prices, plus they had a bunch of things that Joann’s didn’t carry – they even carry some colors of Aurifil Thread. Since I don’t have a car during the week (and I live 30 minutes from the nearest Joann’s) and I have Amazon Prime, I am just finding myself ordering more and more stuff online. If you don’t already have Prime, you can always do the Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial. I did the Prime free trial a couple of times before I paid for it (I accidentally forgot to cancel it after 30 days the last time, that’s how they get you!) But even though it felt so expensive at the time, I sure use it a lot and will almost certainly keep paying for it when this year is up.
Ok, I think I am ready for the sew along!
I also had to make the Heather Bailey Edgar Owl & Poe Pincushion. I had way too much fun making her and I spent way too much time fussy cutting lace eyelet wings and giving her real feather eyebrows. Obviously I am avoiding real work this week.
Finally, I tweaked my fabric selections for the quilt a bit. I was originally going to go all shot cotton solids and do sort of a gradient thing from the center of the quilt out… but the idea just wasn’t coming together into a workable design. I think I wasn’t taking into account the nature of a patchwork quilt, and I wasn’t allowing myself to really make it what I wanted: feminine, flowery, and with lots of purples. I looked and looked for the right prints though and found absolutely nothing. I wanted a sparse, clean calico with an off-white background and purple to red-violet flowers. That just does not appear to be a thing here right now. I swear, every line of modern vintage looking floral quilting fabrics is some variation of aqua, red, and pink, which I love, but is absolutely not what I want for this. It wasn’t until I started looking at Japanese fabrics that I started to find fabrics like I had in mind.I finally ordered these cotton linen blend calicos on Etsy from a seller in Taiwan. They are exactly what I wanted and now I feel like my fabric selection is perfect. Cant wait to start in a little over a week!
In other news… a certain buxom lady showed up this week, but more on her later!
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