Paper piecing, part two

Yesterday, I started a tutorial on paper piecing. I thought of something I didn't say. When I started these blocks, each one took about four to six hours, from marking the pattern to final assembly. Now, I'm down to about two and a half hours each. That's just practice. So, if you are starting one and it takes FOREVER, then don't despair. The more you do, the better you'll get at it and the faster it will go.

Okay, so next part is picking fabrics and cutting them. I'm making very distinct blocks, in a bright and cheerful color palette. So, what I can share about picking fabrics is more general. Once you've picked your fabrics for a quilt, look at them from a distance. I use two tools to give me that distance. I use either a camera or a front door peeper...you know, that little magnifying hole thing in a front door so you can see who just rang your bell. I first used the one out of the front door when we bought a new one, but it was 35 years old and not optimal, so I bought a new one. It is great for giving your work distance so you can see it better. Believe me. I don't know why it works, but it works. And, has saved me from many color combination mistakes.

Looking at these fabrics, without the pattern, can you see my mistake?

My fabrics are too close in value. They are all mediums. Even the yellow is a medium and not a light. Here's a link to the block they made. You can see that there's not sufficient contrast between the orange background fabric and the other fabrics that make up the star part of the block. A lighter orange would have made this block nearly perfect.

Another thing to bear in mind, especially when using batiks and hand dyes is that they are notoriously not evenly colored. The lighter of the two purples is nice in contrast, but there was a part of the fabric that was darker; the same shade as the other purple. I did my best to cut that out and only use the light parts, but you can see that I still have some spots that are too close in value and you lose part of the impact of the star point.

After you've picked your fabrics, iron them and then it's time to cut. But, how big? I have wasted so much fabric trying to avoid wasting even a bit of fabric. I have cut pieces that were too small or cut from another piece and ended up with two pieces that don't work. So, this year, I resolved that it is okay to throw away part of my stash. Okay? It's okay. The whole thing is that fabric is expensive, right? So we don't want to waste an inch. But, who defines waste as any piece of fabric that doesn't make it into a quilt? Is it wasted if it makes my life easier? I don't think so. I'm half way through what I can reasonably expect as a maximum lifespan. When am I gonna use that stash? So, it's okay to toss some to make it easier. After all, it still gets used. Just not in a way that you can see forever. It's like a seam allowance. Now, you wouldn't try to make a quilt without seam allowances, would you?

But, I also don't want to waste fabric, willy-nilly. I want to toss the smallest possible piece in the trash. So, first, I measure for fabric width.

Here, I'm measuring for piece number 2. That's the piece under the ruler. First, I measure from the line where pieces one and two are sewn together. I lay my ruler with the one quarter inch measurement along that line. This is very important. that ensures me the seam allowance I'm going to need. Look at the left most point of piece two (it's at the 3 3/4" mark on the vertical ruler markings). That says that I need an inch wide strip to give me one seam allowance and cover piece 2. But, I need a second seam allowance for the other side, so I add another quarter inch. So, I need a strip at least one and one quarter inch wide.

One and one quarter inch doesn't really fit in my scrap users system. My system is set up on half inch measurements (1.5", 2", 2.5", 3",...) so instead of cutting a strip one and one quarter inch wide, I'm going to cut one that is one and one half inch wide so that any leftover can be dropped in with my one and one half inch strips.

Then, I need to subcut that strip into pieces that I can use. I prefer a nice rectangle or square instead of trying to cut exact triangles. That's what lead to so much frustration with paper piecing in the past. I was trying to cut exact pieces and then fit them on just perfectly so they'd cover what they needed to cover and I waste as little fabric as possible. Didn't work fo rme. So, I measure for length. Length has to go from one end of the piece to the other, not just the length of the seam. So, see where pieces one and two come together in the upper left corner of the above photo (piece two is still under the ruler, making the number hard to see)? That measurement is much shorter than the actual piece of fabric needs to be because of that point that extends down and to the right. I have to include that point in the measurement. And, I have to include seam allowances on both ends. To get a good corner where it hangs off the pattern, I added a half inch to one end and I added a quarter inch to the other. And, then I added just a bit to be sure. I cut my pieces four and one quarter inches long.

And, I can tell you that they fit perfectly and I tossed out a little triangle of fabric that was about two inches long and less than an inch wide at its widest and tapered to a point. The rest became a permanent part of the block. That's just not much waste for the convenience I got from it.

I keep doing that, first cutting all the strips and from them, rectangles or squares and then I start assembling the block. That's part three and I'll try to get it out early tomorrow morning.

Everybody have a great Friday. I've started block 7, so don't be surprised if the assembly pictures are from a different block.

Okay, so that's it for me today. Except for a Mable update. She has become part of our pack. She's headstrong (bullheaded is more like it) but she is taking to training pretty well. We had lots of trouble keeping her from jumping up on Rob's Mom. She doesn't jump on us, but she would not stay off Topsy for some reason. Now, Rob is working on sit and stay. She knows what he wants her to do...but she's powerless to resist the temptation to stay under his feet. Mostly that makes a lot of funny situations that I can't smile or laugh about for fear that I'll distract one of them from their training work. And, I want that work done, so I'll suppress my laughter to support them.


1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

Paper piecing is so fiddly. I've done tons of it. And I'm OK with throwing scraps away. I haven't been a saver of scraps until recently, when I started reading blogs where people made amazing things out of scraps. Then I started saving them, but I haven't done anything with them yet. I'm going to have to overhaul my fabric storage system, first, I think.

Anyway, I'm interested to see how the freezer paper method works. I haven't tried it that way before. So keep the tutorials coming.

xo -E

P.S. I turn 40 next year. 2012 is the year of the WIP/UFO/Ph.D for me. But I've already decided that I'm going to start a completely new quilt in 2013, doing one block a month for the entire year. I'm going to save the jubilee blocks (which are GORGEOUS) until I'm 50, but the blocks I'm using came from the same site you got your jubilee blocks and are going to be done in batiks as well. I'm looking forward to it. So I'd better kick some serious Ph.D booty this year. It is already mid-March and I'm way behind.