Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Value Proposition - fabric requirements and fabric selection

Today I'm going to write about the fabric requirements for the Value Proposition QAL. Let's start with the path. There are two path options available to you, a single path or a triple path.

Single Path
If you decide to make a single path then you will need only one fabric and 1.25 yards/meters should suffice.

But this is a scrap quilt so there is another option available to you and that would be to use an assortment of fabrics that are very close in value and colour. That is what I did with my quilt Stars in the Loft quilt. I thought I had enough fabric for the path but a it turns out I ran short so I added several other fabrics and I like the result! Now in the picture below some of the fabrics photographed very light in value and you can see how they advance. I wrote about this yesterday. However, when you see my quilt in person the difference in value is less dramatic.

Detail from  Stars in the Loft
Triple Path
 I chose to use a triple path and I used it to create a design element by using two fabrics. In the picture below the middle row of the path is marked in pink.

If you prefer to use a single fabric for the triple path or an assortment of fabrics of similar value and colour as I did with Stars in the Loft you will need a 3.5 yards/meters of  fabric.

If you choose to use two fabrics, one for the outside edges and one for the center of the path you will need 1.25 yards/meters of fabric for the center path and for the outside path on either side you will need 2.25 yards/meters of fabric.

So what did I do? I chose to use two fabrics that are an oatmeal colour with a grey-green shade. One was slightly lighter in value than the other and although the difference is subtle the final result is, I believe, quite elegant!

I used the darker fabric in the center and the light fabric on the outsides but there is no reason why you couldn't do the reverse. The value difference creates a really nice effect in the quilt. Wish I could show it to you now but I can't because it will spoil the surprise! You might want to use an even darker fabric for the center path to create a very dramatic result. I had considered making a turkey red path but in the end went for the subtle look.

I would not recommend using a dark fabric for the path because there is a great risk that the blocks will bleed into the path however if you are keen to have a dark path I would suggest that you postpone your fabric selection until you've made the blocks. That way you can chose a fabric that will showcase your blocks to their best advantage.

Fabric Selection for the Blocks
Value Proposition is inspired by an antique quilt circa late 1800's so I chose to use many older looking prints. Civil War/reproduction prints would work really well. Smaller prints are easier to work with and larger scale prints tended to be more challenging. Tone on tones and textural fabrics worked a treat.

If I needed 12 hexagons but only had enough fabric for 6 then I looked for a similar fabric so I could cut the extra six needed. So what I am saying is don't discount a fabric because you don't have enough of it - just add another fabric of similar value and colour!

I looked for fabrics that had visual interest. In this assortment you can see light colour fabrics with dots and small repeated designs. I used multiple prints in a single block where a particular value was called for. For example if I needed 12 lights I would select 4 or 6 fabrics and cut equal numbers of each to yield 12 hexagons!

I chose to use stripes in several blocks because they add visual interest and create secondary designs beyond the basic design. So pull out your stripes and plaids! While I only have pulled lighter fabrics for the photo I did use darker stripes as well.

We will be working with 1" hexagons and while they are a good size I did avoid large scale, busy prints. The exception to this rule would be a large scale print that is used for fussy cutting or a large scale print that didn't have much variance in value. I did very little fussy cutting in my quilt but you should feel free to fussy cut if you want! Here are a couple of large scale prints. The top fabric would be great for fussy cuts and the lower fabric was a little easier to use provided I avoided having light and dark in the same patch.

Helpful Tip: To give my quilt a cohesive look I did repeat fabrics. I would cut a 2 1/2" strip of fabric and from that I would cut my hexagons. The leftovers were saved for another block. So if you have scraps that are 2 1/2" x 2" they will be large enough for a hexagon so hang on to those little treasures! They might just be the perfect fit for one of your blocks!

Don't worry if you don't have just the right fabric! I might have some tricks to allow you to work with your stash to create something new and interesting!

Well I hope I've given you some food for thought! On Friday I will post the first block pattern. Each block is made up of 37 1" hexagons. If you don't have 1" hexagons you will find a master template on my blog under English Paper Piecing & Hexagon Fun. If you are new to English paper piecing (EPP) I have published a booklet that provides the hexie basics. It is under the same tab and the title is Easier Than Pie - English Paper Piecing for Beginners.

Until I post again, have fun looking through your fabric and happy sewing!
Karen H

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Value Proposition - value and colour

I'm not an expert on colour of value but I know what I like and what sits well with me based upon my colour preferences. I like muddy, earthy colours. I tend to avoid brights and whites not because I dislike them but rather I have difficulty working with them. I've started a few quilts with the idea that they would be bright and they end up back in the earth tone spectrum . It is just what I like! My latest GG (Godstone Grannies) block is an example of that preference!

Heather Stewart, an award winning quilt teacher, spoke at my quilt Guild last week. Her talk focused on colour and value. According to Heather the secret to a successful quilt is the use of a minimum of 7 values. Now not all of those seven values will be the same colour but rather there should be a good mix of lights, mediums and darks. Value and colour are not the same thing!

Value is the first thing that the eye sees, even before colour, so it is an important factor to consider when making a quilt.For a quilter value is the relative lightness or darkness of a fabric compared to another. Heather had a large colour wheel on which she demonstrated value on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being black, 10 being white and 2 through 9 were the grey shades in between. That is not to say that there are only ten values but rather that this is the scale that was used to demonstrate value. Between each value there are of course many other values, particularly in the lighter range.

We are all familiar with the colour wheel. The primary colours (red, yellow and blue) are in the 12, 4 and 8 o'clock positions on the wheel below. You cannot make a primary colour. The secondary colours are made by combining two primary colours and the colours that are created are orange, green and violet  which are in the 2, 6 and 10 o'clock positions. Tertiary colours are a combination of a primary colour and a secondary colour. The tertiary colours are red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet and red-violet. The tertiary colours are in the 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11 o'clock positions.

The colours on a colour wheel are described as "pure colours". This term is related to the physical spectrum but for our purposes lets just say nothing has been added to them. When black, white or grey is added the terms shade, tint and tone are used respectively to describe the resultant colours. I'll bet you have a natural preference for one of these. I've often said I am drawn the the muddier colours and those are tones (colours that have had grey added to them). What about you? I'll bet a quick look at your stash will give you the answer!

Complementary colours are those that are opposite one another on the colour wheel (e.g. red and green, blue and orange, yellow and violet). Do you know how to make brown? Easy - you combine complementary colours. Depending upon the quantity of colour used the brown could be a warm brown (it would have more red, orange or yellow) or it could be a cool brown (it would have more blue, green or violet). When you make a quilt it can be very effective to use a complementary colour scheme however one colour would be used simply as an accent. A blue quilt with a little bit of orange will sparkle!

Heather spoke about the concepts of base and tone. The eye sees white-base colours first and brown-base colours second. When a white-base colour is used it appears to advance because the eye sees it first. Try a simple experiment - place white fabric next to cream fabric of the same size and the white fabric will appear larger because the eye sees it first!  You can repeat this experiment with any colour and the results will be the same. If you make a scrap quilt and use both white an brown base fabrics the white-base fabrics will appear to jump out at you. This is fine if that is the effect you want but if not the white may detract from the overall appearance of your quilt. A quilt made entirely with white-base colours will be vibrant and lively whereas a quilt made with brown-base colours will be softer, more muted and very much like an antique quilt.

One final bit of information Heather shared was four colour recipes for successful quilts. They are:
  • neutral and colour;
  • light and dark (the most common recipe in quilts);
  • warm and cool (a very effective combination) and
  • colour and colour (e.g. yellow and red)
So why am I telling you all this? It to help you think about my Value Proposition QAL. I will not be showing you colour pictures of the hexagon blocks I made. Instead I will provide the block pattern and what I will show is the value rather than the colour. Work with the colours and prints that you have in your stash. The trick to making effective blocks will be to select dark fabrics where I show the darkest value(s), mid-value fabrics where I show mid-value and light where I show light. Just remember the term "dark" is relative which is to say the darkest patch must be the darkest of the fabrics you use in that block - it does not mean black or the deepest darkest of fabrics.

Finally it can be difficult to determine value when you are looking at two fabrics in different colours. If you have a red value finder this will be the time to use it! If you don't have one read my April 3, 2014 post for instructions on making your own value finder.

Tomorrow I'll talk about my fabric choices for the path in my Value Proposition quilt and fabric requirements for the path. I'll also talk a little about my fabric choices for the blocks. Until then, happy sewing!
Karen H

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Value Proposition Quilt Along (QAL) - The Path

If you are considering sewing along in my next QAL, Value Proposition, you will want to start thinking about the layout. You don't have to do anything at this point other than think!

The inspiration for the quilt is an antique quilt made up of hexagon flowers (or rosettes if you prefer) and each of the flowers was surrounded by the background fabric. This meant each flower was exactly the same size so when stitched together it was the same as no path at all.  In the picture below the hexagon flowers on the left are of an identical size. When stitched together you can see what happens...a slope develops. The flowers on the right have a single path in between and when sewn together the rows and columns are straight. In order for a path to do what it is intended to do it must be made up of an odd number.

The flowers in Value Proposition will have a path.  It will be up to you to decide whether you want a single path or a triple path. I chose to use a triple path for two reasons: I felt that it showcased the blocks and I used the center of thee triple path as an additional design element that is not part of the original quilt. If a triple path seems like a lot of work or does not appeal to you then a single path can be used but it will result in a smaller quilt.
Single path

Triple path

You will need many hexagons for whichever path you choose. I baste mine as I go along. Every time I have a few moments I basted a few and then put them into a bag. If I'm sewing hexagons together and I have a little thread left over I use it to baste another hexagon.  If I don't feel like basting I stitch the path hexagons into pairs so that they are ready to sew together into larger elements. I used two fabrics for my path and it created a lovely and interesting accent. I'll write more about what I did, the colours I chose and why I chose them in the next few days. I will also provide information on fabric requirements for the path For now all you need to do is consider which layout holds greater appeal. If you prefer to postpone the decision that will be fine. You can wait until you have a few blocks under your belt!

The snow is finally gone and the Spring flowers are starting to come up. We have oodles of snowdrops which have naturalized. I love these little Himalayan flowers!

The crocuses are popping up all over the place! They are such jolly little flowers.

The colours of the snowdrops and crocuses are reflected in this Godstone Grannies (GG) diamond hexagon block which is cut out but not yet basted!  The taupe fabric is a scrap that I rescued from the freebie table at my Guild's meeting earlier this week. It fits perfectly with the colour scheme of my GG quilt!

Until I post again, happy sewing!
Karen H

Saturday, April 12, 2014

How about another QAL and another GG Block

Who is up for my second quilt along (QAL)? I will launch my next QAL, Value Proposition on Friday, April 18, 2014. It is a hexagon quilt made entirely of 1" hexagons. Over the next several days I'll provide information leading up to the launch so you'll be ready to start sewing next weekend! Thereafter I'll post the block patterns every two weeks. Are you excited? I am!

This is my next GG (Godstone Grannies) diamond block. I quite like the lacy feel of this one and I am satisfied with the colours so there will be no alterations to the fabric unlike the block I showed you yesterday! This diamond will be one of a pair. I will make some slight alterations to the layout of some of the hexagons in the second diamond so that the second one will have a slightly different look. The hexies are 3/4" in size so they stitch up a little slower than the 1" size but they are a nice size for fussy cuts!

It is a beautiful day today so I'm off to help my Mom with her garden. When that is done I'll cut out the April block from Julia's Hexie BOM. The April block is a basket and I know what I'm going to do! You can see the April block here. I'm making each block out of blue fabrics (I've always wanted a blue and white quilt). I'll post pictures when it is done!

Until I post again, happy sewing!
Karen H

Friday, April 11, 2014

Another GG Block and flattening the puff when quilting

Another GG (Godstone Grannies) block is finished. I like the block but feel that there is a little too much white in the three hexagons at the bottom. I would have preferred to use a darker fabric but I just didn't have anything in my stash that appealed to me.

So what's a quilter to do? Well this quilter took matters into her own hands. I hauled out my Sakura Pigma pens (a black Sharpie would have done in a pinch) and obliterated the offending bits! Here is the amended block; much better, don't you agree? It is a subtle alteration. I may go back and add a little more black but for now this will do!

Now back to quilting problems. Angie  asked me how I deal with puffiness on top. The first thing I will say (I've said it before) is that if a quilt top doesn't lay flat it likely won't quilt flat! Sometimes when constructing a quilt a block just doesn't quite fit and we fiddle with it until it fits. These blocks can be the problem child in the quilt and you may find that they either pucker or puff. The solution of course is accurate piecing! Some of the problem can be address with really good pressing and a little spray starch.

I've learned that sometimes the puffiness is simply an optical illusion. The first thing I do is gently smooth the area to make sure that it lays flat; if it does I continue quilting. Depending on the size of the area and the extent of the problem the solution can be to clamp the quilt snugly to a table. Remove a few pins, smooth the quilt and re-pin. Be sure to check the back to make sure it too is flat and smooth. Continue in this manner until you are satisfied with the results. If I notice some puff developing I will stop with the needle down and have a good feel around to see if a problem is developing. If it is I stop and do what I can to correct the problem. Another thing I do is have a plan for how I will quilt n area. My Lazy Girl quilt had open areas and what I did was pick a start point for quilting and then quilt out and back and forth. I never quilt all around the edge of the area and work into the center. I wrote about how I fill in the spaces on March 28, 2014.  Here you can see I start in the corner on the left and work towards the corner at the top.

I quilt down a little and then I'll quilt my way back to the left just below my start point.

Another thing I've found is to keep my work space limited to the area between my hands. I my arms are stretched out through the throat of the machine and beyond I loose control of the fabric and my work area.

There are times when there is a little puff that you just can't get rid of and the only solution is to quilt the heck out of it so that it flattens. There may be some little pleats that develop and if they really bother you cover them up. That is what my Mom did with one of her African quilts! Where there were puckers or where seams didn't match she covered them with killer bees! You can read about it here.

 If you have large open areas that will be quilted and you are worried about creating problems travelling over these areas why not consider thread basting by hand with water soluble thread? You can quilt right over the thread and when the quilt is washed the thread will dissolve. This is particularly helpful in areas that will have long flowing designs. Having to interrupt these designs to remove pins can affect the quality of the line and the stopping and starting can create little bloops in the line of quilting.

So there you have it - a few tips to help make the quilting process on your domestic sewing machine more enjoyable! My final tip is to make sure that the seams on the back of your quilt top are beautifully pressed so that they are all laying flat. Over the years I've seen many quilt tops that have seams that are not pressed flat and I always worry that when the quilt is sandwiched these seams will act as little tents that lift the quilt off the batting. When I was taught to embroider I was told that the back should be as neat as the front and this is something I strive towards when I make my quilt tops!

READER TIP: Carla of A Few of My Favourite Things left a comment that she gives her batting a light misting with water and then she lets the batting rest for a day or two before she uses it. I've got a king size batting for my quilt  81 The Giant Monstrosity so I'm going to give it a go when I'm ready to start quilting! Thanks for the tip Carla!

That's it for today! Until I post again, happy sewing!
Karen H

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

More reader questions and another GG block

I love having the opportunity to respond to reader questions about how I do things. I'm not an expert but I'm more than happy to share with you what I do to to achieve results with which I am happy. The "I" part of that statement is critical. I worry very little about what others think about my work - I am more concerned with what I think if my work. I know my weaknesses and strengths and when I work I never compare my work to that of others. Instead I compare it to my own work. If I think I can or should do better then I try to do better. If I think I've done the best possible work taking into consideration all of the challenges and issues then I'm happy with the result! Soooooo, bearing all of this in mind I am pleased to respond to questions about what works for me!

I was asked to show the back of my Mom's Anna quilt that I quilted on my domestic sewing machine. Angie wrote that sometimes she gets too much puffiness and it doesn't quilt out and she was wondering what could cause this problem. There can be many reasons for the puffiness. If your quilt top doesn't lay flat it won't quilt flat so that is the first thing I would look at. However for me the main cause is usually related to the creation of the quilt sandwich. It is important that it be as well made as possible and this is what I do to achieve a well sandwiched quilt.

First I press my quilt back with spray starch. I find it keeps the back flat and smooth and it helps the quilt glide smoothly under my needle when I start quilting. I also press the top with spray starch. You can purchase spray starch or you can make your own for pennies a bottle! I've got a recipe under the tab Tips and Tutorials. In the picture I've got a bottle of gin; it should have been vodka! Oops! Oh well at lease you ca see the basic ingredients!

To baste my quilt I clamp the quilt back to a table making sure it is flat, taut and smooth. In the picture below you can see I use office clips to clamp it to the table. I start by clamping in the middle of the top and bottom. I then clamp one over from each of those. Next I clamp in the middle on each side and then place a clamp on either side of those. Every step of the way I am gently pulling the fabric to make sure it is taut. Once I've clamped the entire back I run my hand over the backing. If there is any movement or rippling in the fabric I pull and reclamp so that it is eliminated.

I next layer my batting making sure that it is flat and smooth and finally the quilt top goes on top.

I pin baste so that my pins are roughly 4" apart. I stitch in the ditch (SID) on every main seam so I bear this in mind when pinning; I don't want pins that will be on any of the main seam lines because I don't want to have to remove them as I stitch in the ditch. Removing pins too soon can introduce problems on the back (I learned that the hard way). I generally SID with Superior Monopoly on top and The Bottom Line in the bobbin. I like using the invisible thread on top because it disappears so if I veer off the seam a titch it won't show!

By following these steps I find that any puffiness is eliminated. Honestly the starch makes a really big difference so if you haven't tried it before you really should try it at least once!

In a separate email Angie told me she was curious to know of the SID lines show after the quilt is quilted. The answer is it depends. If the area is densely quilted they virtually disappear. If it isn't they can be seen. The following two pictures are the back of my Lazy Girl quilt. You can see the SID is barely visible in the first picture but it is visible in the second. Personally this doesn't bother me but if it did I could use water soluble thread for SID. It would disappear entirely when the quilt is washed.

Finally I would like to share my latest GG (Godstone Grannies) quilt block with you. There is no fussy cutting in this one! Phew!  I'm considering replacing the four hexagons in the center but will put off the decision until more of the blocks are made so that I can get a feel for how the quilt is shaping up. If I think this block need a little sparkle I'll change the four hexies and if is done!

That's it for today! Tomorrow I'm taking a day off to have some fun with my Mom. I'll be back on Friday with some hexie talk and more ideas for solving the puffiness problem that can happen when quilting! Until I post again, happy basting!
Karen H

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The back of the Anna quilt

I wanted to start off by saying I try to reply by email to every comment. If you don't hear back from me it is likely because you are a no reply blogger!

Angie asked me to share pictures of the back of the Anna quilt that my Mom made and that I quilted for her. I don't have the quilt but I do have some pictures of the back so I thought I would share them today. This is the center panel from the front. Inside the hexagon frames are spider webs and I used the webs as lines for quilting. The other blocks were a large floral print and I wanted to quilt a circle of feathers inside the frame of hexagons - note that I didn't quilt over the hexagons so the feather is underneath. I did however quilt around each hexagon with my free motion foot. I used Superior Monopoly on top and The Bottom Line in the bobbin.

In this picture you can see that I marked a light blue curved line inside the frames of hexagons. These lines would act as the spines for the feathers.

At this point this is how it looked on the back.

I quilted the feathers, echo quilted around them and then stippled in the background.

This is how it looks from the back.

There is a border of elongated hexagons (also called coffins). As part of my initial process of stabilizing the quilt they were stitched in the ditch. You can see the stitching on the sides of the quilt in this picture.

I've stitched just inside the edge of the long edge of middle row of coffins. The purpose of this stitching was to provide me with a stop point when I quilted the filler design.

The filler design I chose was a figure 8. I chose this design because it is something I can easily doodle on paper and if I can doodle it on paper odds are that I can also quilt it!

The last decision was how to fill in the upper and lower rows of elongated hexagons. I stitched just inside the  top and bottom edges of the rows of elongated hexagons and then filled them will a free form feather. I also echo stitched around the feathers. Here you can see the top row completed.

And this is the entire border quilted.

And as requested here it is from the back.

I really enjoyed taking Cindy Needham's Craftsy class Design It, Quilt It: Free Form Techniques and one of the techniques she discusses is divide and conquer. Essentially you divide your larger spaces into smaller spaces and then you quilt them. That is exactly what I did with this quilt and others. The entire quilt is stitched in the ditch to stabilize it and then I go back and divide the larger spaces into small spaces and quilt them. Sometimes spaces may have to be divided a few times. I find I get good, consistent results using this method! I hadn't decided how to quilt the elongated hexagons so I started working the border. Here you can see the dragonfly I quilted and the stippling behind it. I later when back and quilted the elongated hexagons.

I hope you enjoyed this little show! Time for me to do some chores so until I post again, happy sewing!
Karen H