Wednesday, April 29, 2015

progress report - epic college map quilt

After the previous day's marathon session of applique sewing, I worked on some easier continents on Monday. Whew!

Africa was a quick sew at 18 minutes. However, the Kaffe woven stripe Thing 2 selected did not adhere to the background very well. I'm not sure why that is, but it could have something to do with the fact that the Heat and Bond directions state that your fabrics should be prewashed. (I rarely prewash. I'm not a rebel; I'm just too anxious to jump right in to be bothered with prewashing, and so far it hasn't been an issue for me.) I used a touch of Elmer's glue to hold Madagascar down while I sewed it, and that seemed to do the trick.

Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, and New Guinea were also quick - 32 minutes.

I forgot to mark the stopwatch time for Greenland, so I believe it's included in the time total time for the European islands I'll show you tomorrow. Maybe you're finding my stopwatch time reporting to be tedious, but the numbers geek in me finds it sort of fascinating and necessary for proper documentation :)

Just keep stitching, just keep stitching...

Africa: Kaffe Fassett Caterpillar Dusk Woven Stripe
Australia: M and S Textiles Dancing Flowers in Black by June Smith
Greenland: Art Gallery Oval Elements in Eggplant
Background fabric: Andover Fabrics Moonshadow Formica Grey by Kim Schaefer

Total applique stitching time: 3 hours, 12 minutes

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

epic college map quilt

Thing 2 is headed off to college this fall.

I'm not entirely sure how this is possible since she was just in a car seat a couple of months ago, but there you have it.  Life moves pretty fast.

Late last year we started talking about what kind of quilt she would like to take with her, and she zeroed in on this duvet cover on Pinterest.  You can buy it here.

But of course this isn't a quilt, and it wasn't made by mom - so we used it as a jumping off point.  She didn't like the white background or the orientation of the map on the bed.  So out came my handy graph paper, pencil, and ruler.  The basic dorm mattress size is 39" x 80", and we wanted the map image to cover as much of the mattress top as possible.

The continent areas on a laminated wall map we have at the house measure 26" x 47", so by increasing those dimensions 150% we could get a map image measuring 39" x 70" - almost exactly what we need!

I carefully traced each continent and the larger islands from the wall map onto 18" wide freezer paper adding latitude and longitude lines to assist later with placing the fabric versions on our background.

A local copy and graphic arts shop told me they would be able to enlarge and print my images on to 36" paper - not quite wide enough for my purposes, so that's how I ended up tracing each continent on a separate sheet.

The enlargement and copy job ended up being a bit more pricey than I anticipated (around $65!) but hey - it turned out exactly as I had planned!

My next step was to transfer the reverse enlarged images to an iron-on fabric adhesive called Heat and Bond, and I began by tracing each enlargement with a Sharpie marker that bled through the back.  Then I was able to see the continent outlines in reverse and trace them on to the paper side of my Heat and Bond featherweight iron-on adhesive.  (When using a product like Heat and Bond to fuse your applique pieces for machine stitching you need to trace the reverse or back side of your images because the Heat and Bond is ironed to the wrong side of your fabric.)

Here you can see the reverse images of the northernmost parts of North America traced on to the Heat and Bond.  After ironing this ultra lightweight fusible adhesive to the wrong side of my continent fabrics I carefully cut out each shape with some very sharp, short blade scissors.

Based on my graph paper diagram, the center length of the quilt (minus borders) should finish at 81".  I cut a single width of fabric (WOF) piece measuring 84" in length since machine applique stitching almost always causes the background fabric to "shrink" a bit, and I'll trim it to size after the applique work is done.  Vertical and horizontal creases mark the center point of this background piece.  We started positioning the continent pieces using the ironed center lines as 30 degrees latitude and 30 degrees longitude, but in order to have the design area centered, each continent had to be carefully shifted a few inches "south" and "east".  Here is our final placement before fusing and stitching began - so exciting!!

Starting with Asia, I fused this continent to the background, set my machine to a short, narrow zigzag stitch, and started the stopwatch...

One hour and 26 minutes later, Asia was completely stitched down and secured!  I'm going to fuse each piece right before sewing it because the featherweight adhesive doesn't provide the strongest bond.  As I stitched and moved this large piece of fabric around and under the needle some of the smaller points started to lift up before they were stitched.  Fusing each piece separately before stitching will help me avoid having Madagascar or Tasmania completely fall off while I'm stitching another larger piece.

Europe went a bit faster - 56 minutes.  Lots of tight curves, peninsulas, fjords, and inlets on these two continents!  Here is the "boot" of Italy and the Iberian peninsula...

And for the record, Thing 2 chose all the fabrics for this quilt on her own.  It was great fun shopping with her and watching her choose colors :)  Originally I lobbied for using a different fabric for each country (can you imagine what a pain that would be?!) like the inspiration duvet cover is printed, but Thing 2 wanted to keep it simpler and do large pieces for each continent.  Thank goodness she stuck to her guns and didn't let me talk her into it, because I'm afraid that would have turned into a two year project!

Background fabric: Andover Fabrics Moonshadow Formica Grey by Kim Schaefer.
Asia: M and S Textiles Bush Plum in Black.
Europe: Art Gallery Oval Elements in Eggplant.

Stay tuned - I'm hoping to finish all the applique stitching this week so I can get busy making the border flying geese units this weekend!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

flower garden hexagons = slow sewing

Confession: Late in 2014 I started yet another hand sewing project.  At the time I was having such fun making the English paper pieced (EPP) hexagons for my Red Hot Dreamy Hexagons quilt top (which by the way is finished and just waiting to be quilted!) that I immediately started making more when I saw this book cover...

I'm using primarily Kaffe Fassett and Anna Maria Horner fabrics to make my star and flowers and a wide variety of light-to-medium grey prints for the background hexagons. The center star of the quilt top is almost complete!

The pattern calls for 759 colored hexagons (to make the star center and surrounding flower blocks) and 532 background hexagons!  Wow - that is a LOT of hand-sewing!!  I haven't yet made a count of how many are completed because I don't want to discourage myself, but I plan to show you my (slow) progress on this throughout the year.

The great news is that this project is perfectly portable - I've worked on these hexagons while traveling in Florida, Indiana, Texas, and Ohio and in front of the TV many evenings.  You only need to bring along a small bag of precut templates, precut fabric squares, needle, thread, small scissors, and reading glasses while you're on the go :)

I use a 1" Fiskars hexagon punch to cut my EPP papers.  I am way too cheap to buy enough EPP papers for a project of this size, so I cut my papers from the subscription inserts found in magazines.  FREE EPP papers, people!  Using a hole punch tool to make a hole in the center of each paper makes them easy to remove later.

A few of my fabrics were cut using a 1.25" hexagon die and my new Sizzix Fabi Cutter, but I found that they were a little too small to easily wrap around the papers, so I've gone back to my original method of using 2.5" fabric squares for 1" hexagons. (The 1" measurement indicates the length of each side of the hexagon.)  There is a 1.5" hexagon die available for the Sizzix Fabi, but I'm too cheap to buy another die when 2.5" squares work just fine :)

As you can see, there is not a lot of seam allowance on the back side of these EPP hexagons - too fiddly for me.  The method I use for thread basting my hexagons is actually a mash-up of several methods, but this YouTube video is the closest demonstration I can find online to show you how I do it.  I don't glue baste my hexagons - I tried that method but it just didn't work for me.  Thread basting takes longer, but thread is cheaper than glue and it stays in place just fine.

Along with the star center I've completed four of the 32 flower units...

This photo shows the back of the center star unit. You can see that I've removed the papers from all of the hexagons that are surrounded by others.  The perimeter hexagons still have their papers enclosed; I don't remove the paper until a hexagon has been sewn to another on all six sides.  You can also see that the green and black hexagons do not have any thread basting.  These are the ones I tried to glue baste, but the seam allowances didn't remain glued down long enough for me to sew them all together, so I ended up re-gluing all of them.  What a waste of time!

And here are the back sides of my flower units. I'll leave all the basting stitches in even after the whole top is put together. There really is no reason to spend the time removing all those stitches - they'll just be concealed on the back side against the batting and won't interfere with the quilting process.

And one last shot of the center...

This is going to be a very lengthy project. I hesitate to even venture a guess at a completion date, so for now I'll just plan to write an update periodically and maybe at some point provide a count of how many of the 1,291 hexagons are completed.  But that would require counting.  And I'd rather just spend the time sewing :)


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