Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Quilt Block Surgery: How To Change The Center Patch WITHOUT Taking the Block Apart. Also, I Just Remembered I Love Embroidery.

You guys -- I am so excited about my Jingle BOM quilt right now that I'm GIDDY!  Thanks to all of you who reached out and shared your opinions about the crooked tree block and my idea about embroidering dates on the front of this quilt.  I especially liked the idea of putting my initials on the front of the quilt somewhere -- MONOGRAM!!  As for the tree -- ironically, it was Frog Quilter who said that I should leave the tree the way it is (rather than frog stitching it) because it "shows character and makes the quilt uniquely yours."  When I thought about it that way, I realized the tree HAD to come out, because leaving the crooked tree would NOT reflect my character -- MY character is all about analyzing the details and wanting to make a good thing even better.  Also, removing the center patch of that block without disassembling the border OR taking the block apart is a challenge -- and I love a good challenge!

French Hare Embroidery Scissors for Quilt Block Surgery!
So the first thing I did was make sure I had this block-within-the-border pressed and starched so it was very crisp and stable.  Then I carefully used my seam ripper to cut every 3rd or fourth stitch holding that green tree fabric to the adjacent gold fabric patches, working from the back side.  The corners of the green patch were secured by subsequent seams that I didn't want to take out, so I used my new French hare embroidery scissors to clip the green patch's corners right up close to those seam lines, and then carefully pulled the green patch out of the seam without disturbing the stitching.  A few green threads remained caught in the seam, and those pulled out easily with a tweezers.

At this point I was able to audition replacement fabric possibilities through the window/gaping wound in the center of my block.  I decided the original Christmas tree fabric was too cutesy and I didn't like it with the other fabrics in the block anymore, so I replaced it with a red metallic instead.  I used the old patch as a template to cut out the replacement patch.

I Was NOT Supposed to Cut Those Corners Off!
Yes, I forgot that I'd cut the green patch away from the block right at the seam line on all four corners when I was cutting the new patch -- after I took this photo I cut a new red patch and left the corners on this time.

Positioning and Glue Basting Replacement Patch, WITH Corners
I wanted to use my Roxanne's Glue Baste-It for this step, but I found my fabric glue stick before I could locate the Roxanne's liquid glue so that's what I used.  The liquid glue in tiny droplets would have worked better and given me more control of where I was putting glue rather than gooping up all over the place -- but if the glue stick is all you have on hand, you can certainly make do with it.

Anyway, I applied the glue to the seam allowances of the gold fabric and then, with the new red patch right side up on my worktable, I positioned the block -- also right side up -- over the new patch, trying to keep the wavy gold lines in the new patch fabric as straight as possible.  Then I pressed down with my fingertips so the glue would adhere the block to the new patch along the seam allowances, and carefully turned the block to the back side.  Next I used my fingernails to push those corners all the way into place beneath the overlapping seam allowances.

I wasn't trusting the goopy glue stick to hold this patch 100% securely throughout hand stitching all by itself, so I added pins along all four sides of the patch, going through the seam allowances, as well.  These are the 5/8" Essential Applique Pins from Piece O'Cake that I'm using, by the way.  They are just a smidge longer than the more common 1/2" sequin/applique pins, they are super sharp to glide through fabric without resistance, and that extra eighth of an inch makes it easier for me to manipulate them than the smaller pins.

Replacement Patch Glue Basted and Pinned, Ready for Reverse Applique

Now all I had to do was reverse applique the new patch in place!  I used YLI 100 weight silk thread in a cornsilk shade that disappeared into the gold feathery fabric, with my favorite size 12 Bohin applique needle.

Glue Basting Plus Pins Keeps New Patch From Shifting During Stitching
The trickiest bit was when I got to the corners, getting them nice and sharp again.  I had to sort of finesse the fabrics into place at the corners with some additional stitches there.

Back Side of Block, Surgery Completed!
Here's the back side of my block following surgery, with the new patch hand stitched into place and the excess fabric trimmed away at the corners.  Isn't that cute?

Surgery Was A Success!  The Patient Survived!!
I like this block SO MUCH BETTER than the original. Remember that this Jingle quilt was a BOM (designed by Erin Russek of One Piece at a Time, complete patterns available here) so I didn't have a vision of what the entire quilt was going to look like as I was making each block.  Then I decided to alternate red and green fabrics for my setting triangles rather than using all red as directed by the pattern.  Seeing it up on my wall now, I just felt like I wanted a red in the center of this block.  Here's what my block looked like pre-surgery:

Crooked Tree Block, Prior to Surgery
See?  Now, if you happen to like this block better with the crooked tree in the center, feel free to keep that comment to yourself...  ;-)  Just kidding!  Maybe I'll stick that little tree patch on the back of the quilt and incorporate it into the label somehow.  We'll see.  

The surgically altered block is in the right side border, so once I'd replaced the leaning tree I went ahead and attached that border to the center medallion.  It fit perfectly, and the stripe came out exactly as I'd hoped it would...  So I turned my attention to the other last-minute details I had in mind.  Embroidery!

OH MY GOODNESS, you guys -- I FORGOT how much I like embroidery!  And the only hand embroidery I've ever done was the chain stitched stems on the applique blocks for this very quilt.  I gave a lot of thought to the style of the lettering and numerical fonts that would add something aesthetically to this quilt, and I decided I wanted an Art Deco vibe.  I found a font on my computer that I liked for my dates -- after changing the zero to a capital O for a little more oomph -- and printed it out in several sizes until I ended up with a printout that fit my block nicely.

I marked chalk positioning lines on the front of my block from corner to corner, and marked corresponding centering lines in dark pencil on the paper printout of my dates.  Then I pulled out my seldom used but OH SO VALUABLE WHEN I NEED IT light box, slid the paper template under my quilt block, matched up the diagonal centering lines, and carefully traced the dates onto my quilt block with an ultra fine point, archival ink, permanent gold pen.  Now there was no going back!

Dates Marked in Permanent Archival Ink!
At this point in my Jingle project, no more shopping is allowed -- and no stores were open anyway when I was doing all of this last night.  So I chose embroidery threads that I had on hand.  For embroidering the dates, I chose a shiny YLI Pearl Crown Rayon in Gold, color #772, that I found in a bin of heavier threads that I've played with for bobbin work on my Bernina machines.  I wanted the dates to be subtle but legible, and I wanted the numbers to be really delicate as though they had been engraved, so I just did a simple backstitch.  It was so cool to see the embroidery bring these simple numbers to life one stitch at a time!

Embroidery Magic!
How can something SO EASY look SO BEAUTIFUL?!!  I love my dates and I think the block looks like they were meant to be there all along.  Seriously, I'm so glad I did this!

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy!
I know I'm a dork, but you guys have to remember that this is my very first ever applique quilt, my very first ever diagonal block border, my very first time doing a mitered stripe border, my very first ever hand embroidery...  This has been six years in the making with lots of setbacks and challenges along the way, and I am just amazed that after all the blood, sweat and tears, it looks like this is going to be a finished quilt after all.  It might even be a finished quilt that I can be proud of!  And to think, there were moments along the way where I thought it was just an awful mess and I nearly tossed it!

Last One, I Promise
I've done some machine embroidered personalization on the front of quilts for children before -- special quotes, monograms, the baby's name or birth date.  I couldn't bring myself to machine embroider on hand appliqued blocks that had hand embroidered stems and hand embroidered bird eyes.  I'm really liking the look of the hand stitched dates, and there is a strong chance that you will be seeing more of this from me on future projects.

The other fantastic idea that several of you suggested was embroidering my initials on the front of the quilt.  I loved that idea, and decided to do it as a monogram.  I did an Internet search for Art Deco 3-letter monogram styles and cobbled a few things together on the computer and then adjusted the size until I was able to print a template that fit inside my block properly.  I used the same chalk positioning lines and light box technique as before and traced the monogram design onto my block using fine point archival ink pens in the thread colors I'd chosen for the embroidery.

Monogram Drawn on Block, Ready to Stitch
Now, doesn't it look like the monogram just belonged in the center of that tulip wreath all along?  I wanted the monogram to be bolder than the dates, so I went back to the chain stitch that I used for the stems.  I attempted to stitch French knots where the gold dots are but they didn't come out very well -- I might snip them off, find a YouTube video to figure out what I did wrong, and do them over again.  They're in the same gold Pearl Crown Rayon that I used to stitch the dates on the other block.  The R and the D (for Rebecca and Deming, my maiden name) are stitched in the same emerald green thread that I used to stitch my stems six years ago -- DMC size 5 Pearl Cotton, color 699.  The larger R in the center is for my last name/married name, and for that I chose a DMC cotton embroidery floss in variegated Garnet red, color 115, and separated out four threads to get a similar thickness to the size 5 pearl cotton.  You can't tell from the pictures, but I like the way the subtle color variations of the variegated red embroidery floss mimic the color variation in my red batik berry fabric.

Monogram In Progress During Late-Night Television
This is how far I got before I went to bed last night:

One Letter to Go...
So obviously my To-Do for Tuesday is that I want to finish this monogram -- not just because I'm excited about it, but because I don't want to leave it in the embroidery hoop too long and risk hoop burn marks that I can't press out.  It was probably a no-no to leave it in the embroidery hoop overnight, but I don't know what I'm doing and I'm making this up as I go along...  I might go back and add a little something extra around the big "R" of this monogram, or maybe I won't.  And then, once I'm satisfied with my embroidery efforts, the three remaining block borders can get sewn on...  And then the final outer borders will go on, which are also border stripes that get mitered at the corners, but they aren't as wide so they should be a snap compared to the inner border miters.  Then, at long, LONG last, my Jingle BOM UFO/WIP/WWIT (What Was I Thinking?) will be a completed quilt top, ready for quilting!

I'm linking up with:

Sunday, January 20, 2019

The Joy of Mitered Stripe Borders, With a Little Help From Donna Lynn Thomas

My Jingle BOM project is starting to come together, FINALLY!  I dragged the cutting and seaming of these striped borders for weeks, and then procrastinated actually attaching them to the center applique medallion of this quilt because I had to be in the right frame of mind for it.  Actually, I just had to be fully awake and "sharp" for it, because I didn't have any more of the border fabrics I was using and I did NOT want to spend hours carefully cutting those stripes in single layer..  No math errors, and no cutting errors!  It wasn't brain surgery, but it wasn't "mindless sewing," either.  I'm glad I waited until I was awake, fully caffeinated, and had plenty of time so I wouldn't be rushing.  

Inner Borders Attached and Mitered!  Woo Hoo!
I think this is only the second time I've mitered corners on a border before, and I've never done it before where I was matching stripes at the miter.  I referred to one of my favorite reference books by Donna Lynn Thomas, Quiltmaking Essentials 2: Settings and Borders, Backings and Bindings, and just followed Donna's clear instructions step by step, and those borders came out pretty near perfect!

I have Donna's companion book to this one, too (Quiltmaking Essentials 1: Cutting and Piecing Skills) and I recommend that one, too.  What I like about these two books is that they are thin, quick reads initially, but packed full of useful information at a very low price point.  There are no projects in either book, but these two books are like the instruction manual that tell you everything you need to know for any pattern you got from a magazine or dreamed up in your head.  The information on how and why to create a pressing plan in the first book goes way beyond the old adage of "press to the dark side" and made a huge difference for me between perfect points and points blunted or chopped at the seam -- who knew?  But I digress.

It Fits!
After all of that waffling back and forth, hemming and hawing, I really do like these borders.  The green herringbone was a random quarter yard piece in my stash that I don't remember ever buying, and all of that careful cutting along the border stripe paid off because it looks exactly like I wanted it to look -- like an ornate picture frame and the green fabric is like the mat.  Best of all, the center medallion with borders attached is actually the size it needs to be to connect to the pieced diagonal set block borders that I spent, oh, just a few years on...  
That corner is square -- it looks funny because I took the picture at an angle when I was pressing the border on my ironing board.  I was so worried about the stripes not meeting up perfectly at the miter!

I Love My Borders!
Now I can't imagine this quilt any other way than with my happy little border stripes around the center medallion.

Alright, I don't think you need to see pictures of all four corners, do you?  But there are a couple of other detours I'm contemplating.  

I Was SO PLEASED With This Fussy-Cut Tree...
For instance, when I pieced this particular block 5 years ago, I worked so hard with my fussy-cutting and wanting all the points to be perfect, and did not realize until the block was finished that because of the diagonal setting, my little Christmas tree in the center of the block is leaning like the Tower of Pisa:
Do I Fix That Crooked Christmas Tree?
So...  Do I fix that or leave it alone?  The thing is, I'm NOT willing to take the block apart, remake a new one from scratch, or even remove it from the setting triangles.  Since the block is nicely starched and crisply pressed, I think I'd carefully remove the center patch with the crooked tree, glue-baste a new piece of fabric behind the hole, and then reverse applique it in place.  

Should I Embroider Label Info On the Front of This Quilt?
Also, as I was looking at this up on the design wall, I kept seeing embroidered dates in that birdie-wreath block in the center of the bottom border.  So I'm thinking of embroidering 2013-2019 in the center of that block, like you see in some of the old Baltimore album quilts.  My husband the quilt expert (not!) doesn't like that idea.  He doesn't understand why I would put that on the front instead of just putting the dates on the label on the back of the quilt, but it's kind of like when they put a date on the cornerstone of a building.  It adds historical interest.  Also, it answers that question people always ask "Oh my gosh you MADE THIS?!!  How long did it TAKE?!!!"  And perhaps when people see that it took me 6 years to finish this quilt, they won't even ask the follow up question "Will you make one for ME?!"  Hah!

This quilt is destined for a wall in my family room where I'm planning to display it throughout Advent and Christmas each year.  No one is ever going to be looking at the label on the back of this quilt.  

My Son, Anders, Posing With His Roman Square Blocks in 2013
And someday my son Anders gets this quilt, because he was hanging out with me in my sewing room a lot back when I first made the blocks in 2013, and making a quilt of his own.  We watched Tom & Jerry cartoons and Fraser reruns, and I loved listening to him laugh.  It's hard to believe that was six whole years ago until I look at the pictures and see how small he was back then.  Now he's almost 16 years old, and he is towering over me at about 5'10' or 5'11"!  

Six Years Later...  Anders' High School Orchestra Concert
Ah, my sweet little boy is turning into a handsome young man, and these abandoned blocks are finally turning into a quilt!  Anders also gets this Jingle quilt someday because he has been relentlessly nagging me to finish it all these years -- but for now, it's mine!

I had planned to finish assembling this quilt top with the remaining borders today, but I was so tired when I got home from church that I decided to just lay down for a nap -- and ended up sleeping most of the day!  Very disorienting when I woke up and it was already getting dark outside, but my body must have needed the rest.  Well, there's always tomorrow for borders and things...  And by "things," I mean embroidering dates and fixing crooked Christmas trees.  Or not.  What do you think?  I'm still undecided.

I'm linking up with:

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