Monday, August 6, 2018

Baking Interlude: Apple Cinnamon Scones, Because Food Is Love. Also a RTW Alteration Success, and Pineapple Progress!

Fresh Apple Cinnamon Scones, Second Batch
Have you ever made a recipe with fantastic results, but then the next time you tried to make it was a disaster?  That's what happened to me over the weekend with this King Arthur Flour Baker's Catalog recipe for Apple Cinnamon Scones.  I've made these scones in the past and they were stellar, but when I tried to make them again this Saturday the batter was a goopy mess, they spread like muffin tops, and the bottoms burnt.  Disaster!  So after my family and I begrudgingly ate up all of the burned scones (because even bad homemade baked goods are better than store-bought), I put on my apron and my thinking cap to figure out what might have gone wrong.

The number one drawback to this recipe is that it requires some kind of cinnamon chips, and I cannot find them locally.  Sometimes stores will have the Hershey's cinnamon chips around the holidays, and those will work in a pinch but they are my last resort since they are full of waxy non-food ingredients -- they don't actually contain any cinnamon, so they don't give that amazing blast of cinnamon.  I like to use the King Arthur Flour Cinnamon Sweet Bits for this recipe, so I have to plan ahead and order them online.  

KAF Cinnamon Sweet Bits Ingredients: Sugar, Vegetable Oil, CINNAMON, and Sunflower Lecithin
So, after driving around to every grocery store in a 20-mile radius, even Target and Walmart, finally accepting defeat, ordering online, and waiting for my cinnamon chips to arrive in the mail, it was especially frustrating to have a Baking Fail!  

Here's what went wrong, and what I changed in order to achieve Scone Nirvana with the second batch:

1. The recipes on the KAF Baker's Catalog website always give you the option to measure ingredients either by weight or by volume.  I usually prefer to measure my flour by weight, since you can get drastically different amounts of flour in the same measuring cup depending on whether you just dumped a new bag of flour into the canister or whether it's been sitting awhile and has settled.  Since the batter was overly wet and runny with the first failed batch of scones, and I weighed the flour for that batch, I decided to measure by volume with the second batch, using the old-fashioned "dip-and-sweep" method for 2 3/4 cups.  This yielded much better results, so either something was amiss with my kitchen scale or the recipe requires more flour than the 11 1/2 oz. called for in the recipe.  So from now on, that's how I'll measure the flour for this recipe!

2. This recipe calls for chilling the scones in the freezer for 30 minutes prior to baking, to allow the gluten in the flour to relax and to chill the butter.  They tell you to scoop your scones onto your sheet pan and then put it in the freezer, but I have a side-by-side fridge and none of my baking sheets fit on those little 12" x 12" freezer shelves!  I couldn't remember how I handled this last time, so with my failed batch I attempted to chill the scones on the wider refrigerator shelf instead.  In the refrigerator, the dough sank down and spread instead of holding their "scoops of ice cream" shape as they chilled.  So, with the second batch, I scooped my scones into parchment-lined Pyrex pie plates that fit into my freezer instead of scooping them directly onto the baking sheet.
How To Chill Drop Scones In a Side-By-Side Freezer

I have no idea how I managed the chilling of the scones the first time I made this recipe, when they were amazing.  I might have put them in the fridge for longer, or maybe I made them in winter and just put the baking sheet full of scones out in my screen porch for 30 minutes to chill, but evidently this step is crucial so I'm glad I found a solution that works without having to buy any new gadgets or tiny little baking sheets.

Speaking of gadgets, I used a Zeroll muffin scoop, Blue Size 16 for this recipe.  I like the round, uniform "scoop of ice cream" shape it gives me for drop scones, and when the scones are all the exact same size and shape, they all bake the same rather than having the slightly smaller scones overbake while the larger ones are still raw in the center.  I also think the round scooped scones look cute when they come out of the oven, and we all know that cute scones taste better than ugly misshapen scones.  ;-)  (Zeroll cookie scoops are fantastic for the same reasons, by the way, and the speed and efficiency of using a cookie scoop is a godsend when I'm making dozens and dozens of Christmas cookies).  Back to the scones!

4. With the failed batch, I followed the recipe instructions to the letter and glazed the scones prior to freezing them, even though I vaguely remembered that I had forgotten to glaze the scones prior to chilling them the first time I baked them.  Big mistake!  I think that gooping milk all over the dough that was already too wet to begin with (due to not enough flour) and then putting them in the fridge instead of the freezer exacerbated the problem of the too-wet dough, as the milk soaked into the scones while they sat in the fridge and the wet dough became more like a muffin batter, unable to hold its shape.  With the successful do-over batch, I waited to glaze the scones until just before I popped them into the oven and brushed much less milk onto each scone, just enough so the sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar would adhere.

5. One more thing -- with the failed batch of scones that burned on the bottoms, I baked them on a sheet of parchment paper using a dark rimmed cookie pan.  With the second batch, I used my silver baking sheet (no sides) and a lightly floured Silpat silicone baking mat.

No Burned Bottoms With Silver Baking Sheet and Silpat Baking Mat
Silpat mats are awesome -- NOTHING sticks to them, they don't need any greasing, and you can reuse them thousands of times instead of single-use parchment paper.  They are made from food safe silicone reinforced with fiberglass and they promote even browning in addition to preventing sticky batters from sticking to the cookie sheet.  I really should get a bigger one for this baking sheet. 

And here are the resulting scones from the second batch, just as wonderful as we remembered them from the first time I made this recipe!

Oh Yes, They DO Taste As Good As They Look!
I've amended my recipe so next time I can avoid making the same mistakes.  I don't bake very often, and it's such a bummer to take the time and trouble and end up with disappointment instead of delight!

Does your family have a favorite recipe for scones or muffins that you'd like to share with me?  I'd love to find a great recipe for rhubarb scones, or lemon blueberry...  

I did manage to get a little bit of sewing done over the weekend, too.  I enlisted Headless Helena's help to alter a RTW princess seamed top:

Headless Helena Models Fit-Corrected RTW Anthropologie Top
I bought this top from Anthropologie because I needed something yellow in a hurry that I could wear with jeans for Sunday's contemporary choir dress code.  In this photo from Anthropologie's website, you can see how the top is supposed to be slightly fitted through the shoulders and then flare out gently beneath the bust.  

Anthropologie Seamed + Textured Tank On Skinny + Flat-Chested Model
It's a textured knit fabric with a good amount of stretch, and I bought a size Medium that fit my upper chest and bust nicely without those dreaded horizontal pull lines.  However, like many RTW tops, the fabric BENEATH the bust was protruding on me in a way that reminds me of a maternity top, and that is NOT a good look when you're not pregnant!

Unaltered Size Medium Top On Headless Helena
Initially I thought there was too much fabric in the tummy area, and I planned to take it in from the princess seams on the front of the top.  Once I got the top on my dress form Helena, though, the first thing I did was align the CF, CB, and side seams with the seams on the fabric dress form cover.  That's when I realized that the extra fabric in the tummy area was actually coming from the BACK of the top.  See what happened when I pinned the side seam to make it hang straight down from the armpit:

With Side Seam Straightened, It's Obvious the BACK Is Too Big
Ideally, if I was making this top from scratch, I would have started out with a pattern size Small to fit the upper chest and shoulders and done a FBA (full bust adjustment).  That would have given me an even better fit through the armhole and would have allowed me to lengthen the front of the top.  I would have LOVED to be able to make something from scratch, but I just didn't have time, not without a local source for decent garment fabric.  So tweaking the fit on this one was the best I could do.  

I pinched out equal amounts along the CB seam and the back princess seams, tapering to nothing.

Extra Fullness Pinned Out from CB and Back Princess Seams
I was very conservative about how much I was taking out, mindful of the disaster of the RTW Diner Blouse Alteration Fail that taught me the perils of overfitting!  I tried the top on my own body with the seams pinned, and then I machine basted what I'd pinned in and checked the fit before stitching them with a "real" machine stitch.  Ideally I would have serged those seams to remove the bulk of the excess seam allowances, but I was time-starved due to the baking fiasco that had eaten up most of my Saturday.  I'm pleased with the improved fit.

Still Not Perfect, But Better Than Before
In order to get the top to fit me the way it fits the Anthropologie model, I'd need to remove some fabric from those front princess seams all the way down to the hemline and that means opening up and restitching the hem.  There are limits to how much I want to disassemble and reconstruct something that I bought off the rack.  Anyway, I'm pleased that I was able to tweak this top by myself, without calling my mom for emergency backup (although I was tempted!), and that I got it done in under an hour without overcomplicating things.  Helena's help was crucial (my customized Fabulous Fit dress form) for realizing the side seams were angling forward and pinning the top on the dress form is the only way I could have pinned seams on my back without help and gotten them just right on the first try.  I really need to sew myself some more clothes from scratch instead of wasting so much time and money on RTW that almost sort-of fits...  

These Seam Intersections Make Me Happy!
...Oh, and I've been working on my pineapple log cabin quilt in fits and snatches, too.  The foundation papers of all 36 blocks were removed during a family Harry Potter Film Marathon and I've started pinning and piecing them together.  Since I'm trying to align lots of seams that are all pressed in the same direction rather than nesting, I've been experimenting with different pinning techniques.  

I seem to be having the most success when I pin right through the stitching line at an angle, like this, although I have to be careful that my needle doesn't deflect against the pins because that creates a little jog in the stitching line:

Angled Pinning to Match the Seams
After taking the photo above, I started placing those pins even closer to the stitching lines and making sure that the pin goes through the stitching on both sides before I start sewing the blocks together.  It's slow going with all the pinning, but I've got one whole row of blocks seamed together so far just from Sunday afternoon.

By the way, a HUGE thanks to all of you who reached out with suggestions about piecing batting!  I ordered two King size Dream Wool precut battings and I'm going to experiment to see whether a whip stitch by hand or a machine stitch will work best for joining them.  I don't even have my backing fabric for this quilt yet, but that's okay because I picked up a couple of tops from the charity quilting group at our church and I'm planning to practice pantograph quilting the charity quilts before I attempt to quilt my pineapple quilt.  Stay tuned...

Oh, and speaking of my church -- my 17-year-old son sang his first solo with the adult contemporary choir this Sunday morning and he did a great job.  I'm so proud of him!  If you're interested, check out the recording hereLars's solo begins at 54:20 into the worship service, and as an added bonus, you can see me and my yellow Anthropologie top singing with the choir behind him.  I mean, I'M singing in the choir -- tops don't sing...  :-)

Well, friends, now that we're all caught up it's time for me to figure out what I'm going to feed my family for dinner!  Have a great week, everyone.  

I'm linking up with:

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Scrappy Thousand Pyramids Plan, Pineapple Paper Peeling Progress, and a Batting Query

Scrappy Thousand Pyramids, Something Like This?

I made a bunch more of my scrappy, strippy equilateral triangles a couple weeks ago, but then I stopped to come up with a plan for them.  I'm thinking of a throw size quilt, around 52" x 66", similar to the EQ8 design pictured above.  My triangles finish 7 1/2" tall x 8 3/8" wide, so I'll need 50 full pieced triangles, 8 half pieced triangles, and then 50 whole + 8 half alternate triangles in a mix of solids and prints -- not necessarily the prints pictured, mind you, but whatever odds and ends are gleaned from my scrap hoard. The mottled solids that I used in my EQ8 design are mostly the Moda Grunge Basics, which I absolutely love.  They remind me of artists' pastels.  So much more depth than plain solids, and the variations of shade and intensity within each piece of fabric will enable these better-than-solids to tie all of the colors of my crazy scrap prints together nicely.

Moda Grunge Basics Bundle, Available on Etsy (affiliate link)
As usual, the links in this blog post are as much for my benefit as they are for yours -- the Etsy seller I'm linking to does custom 5-piece bundles of Moda Grunge Basics, either quarter yards or half yard cuts, and you get to pick which 5 colors go in your bundle.  According to the EQ8 yardage calculator, I don't need more than a quarter yard of any one of my solid fabrics for this quilt design, so that's probably the route I'll go.  However, I should probably make all of my pieced triangles first before finalizing the coordinating fabrics.  In real life, I have a lot more variety in the fabric strips going into these pieced triangles than what I bothered to show in the design rendering.  

Two In the Morning Is a Good Time For Triangles

I started out by sewing long strips of fabric together until I had a wide enough piece to cut triangles from and then cutting as many as I could from that pieced length of fabric.  However, I soon switched to piecing rough oversized triangle shapes just a bit bigger than my ruler.  It's more fun, less fiddly to press than long pieced strips, and it lets me use up all different scrap sizes.  What's more, it yields unique triangles rather than several that are alike, and I think that will be more interesting in the finished quilt.  

Behold my cluttered, dysfunctional design wall:

Gridlock On My Design Wall!
This picture of my design wall was taken at 2 AM, when I should have been sleeping, but I was having too much fun sewing strips together and chopping them up into equilateral triangles.  Once I've made all of my triangles I will want to finalize the layout on the design wall, but at the moment the wall is full of:
  1. My Jingle BOM quilt, which needs the center medallion trimmed and the borders tweaked and finished so it can be assembled into a quilt top, ready for quilting.
  2. My FrankenWhiggish Rose Applique project in the lower right corner, which needs LOTS more applique shapes to be prepped, basted and hand stitched before all nine blocks are done.
  3. The Abandoned Skirt Project near the upper right corner, which needs a tricky zipper installation worked out because I decided I need a lining too late in the construction process, and which also needs me to lose another 10 pounds before I'm the size I was when I started making the skirt...
  4. That Schumacher drapery fabric memo in the upper right corner is there for no reason at all.  I forgot to take it down when I was finished with it.
And yet, instead of finishing what needs to be finished with Jingle so I can take it off the wall, I decided to make triangles all night long.  Despite having no room to lay them out.

...Meanwhile, I've been carefully removing the foundation papers from my pineapple log cabin blocks, and contemplating the next steps for that project as well.

Final Layout for My 36 Pineapple Log Cabin Blocks
I am having zero trouble removing the foundation paper, by the way.  The secret-for-success is piecing with a very SHORT stitch length (1.5 on my Bernina) and using a LARGE needle (size 90 quilting).  This creates larger needle holes in the paper, spaced closer together, and that makes for excellent perforation.  I fold the paper back and forth along the stitching line several times during construction of the block, and once the piecing is done, the paper tears away easier than ripping a check out of your checkbook!

Peek-A-Boo!  Back Side of Pineapple Block, Freed From Foundation Paper
I like to make sure I got every little speck of paper off, too, with no tell-tale remnants to inform the snoopy quilt historians of the future that I "cheated" by using foundation paper piecing.  That's my own business -- let them think I have magical skills of precision piecing and measuring!!  (As if the Internet, full of blog posts spilling my secrets, wouldn't give me away...)  I'll be checking again for stray bits of paper as I join the blocks together at the sewing machine, where I have much better visibility thanks to my trusty Stella Lighting Task Lamp.  


Soft, Smooshy Quilt Blocks With Paper Removed!
I'm about two thirds of the way through removing the papers from my 36 quilt blocks.

OFF With Those Foundation Papers!!
But despite the paper tearing cleanly and removing easily, it is still time consuming since there are 97 bits of paper to remove from every single block.  I'm working on it a little bit at a time, mostly while watching television at night.  And I'm using this time to mull over some of the quilting hurdles that lie ahead.  Such as the fact that no batting manufacturer on Planet Earth makes batting wide enough for me to use a single, continuous piece of batting for this oversized King quilt.  The finished top will measure 120" x 120" once the borders have been added, and King batting is sold either 120" x 120" or 120" x 122".  I need at least 4" excess batting on all four sides of the quilt top, and I prefer to have even more excess batting on the sides of my quilt for checking tension throughout the quilting process.  So it looks like I'm going to have to piece my batting, and I do NOT want the join to be even a smidge noticeable in the finished quilt.  No little ditch, no permanent fold line or ridge; I want that join to be INVISIBLE.  

And so I am asking you the questions that I asked in several quilting-related Facebook groups yesterday:

  1.  Have you ever pieced batting for a special quilt before?
  2. Could you tell where the join was in the finished quilt?  
  3. Did the batting seam wear differently and become more noticeable over time?
  4. What kind of batting did you use?  (I'm leaning towards either Quilter's Dream Wool or Dream Orient batting for this quilt)
  5. How did you join your batting pieces?  Whip stitched by hand, machine serpentine or zigzag stitch, fusible batting tape (don't think wool batting can take the heat, though), serger flatlock stitch, or some other method?
  6. Does it matter whether the batting seam is parallel to or perpendicular to the rollers when I load it on the frame?  I'm thinking vertical/perpendicular to the rollers.
  7. Anything else I need to know before I attempt this?
Well, once again my "quick little blog update" has eaten up an outrageous amount of my time.  I've got other fish to fry, so I'll sign off for now.

I'm linking up with:

Friday, July 6, 2018

Reckless and Unsupervised, Quilter Goes Rogue! Strippy Thousand Pyramids, Anyone?

I Made Cute Little Triangles Out of Scraps!
The past few days have been more chaotic than anticipated, and we have company coming in from out of town on Friday so there's lots to get done in preparation for houseguests.  Those are my excuses.  Anyway, I found that I wanted to do a little "decompression sewing" just to hear the rhythmic stitching of my sewing room and touch all the pretty fabrics while my mind was wandering off in multiple directions.  That is not a good mindset for figuring out how to adjust the bottom pieced border for my Jingle BOM, which ended up about 1/4" longer than the top border.  And I'm waiting to start joining pineapple log cabin blocks until Jingle is a complete top in line for quilting.  So I got this wild urge to just grab leftover 1 1/2" wide fabric strips that I'd cut for my log cabin blocks and start sewing them together, with no plan at all.  There was a very good possibility that I was wasting fabric, thread, and time on this fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants piecing.  It was exhilarating!

No Pins or Nothin'!
For my pineapple log cabin quilt, I chopped up lots and lots of fat quarters and fat eighths into 1 1/2" wide WOF (width of fabric) strips and draped them over a tall laundry drying rack to keep them wrinkle-free and ready to go for the FOUR YEARS that I have been working on those blocks(!).  I wanted a lot of variety for the pineapple blocks and I ended up with an awful lot of leftover strips, enough to use in several different scrappy string-type projects.

Lots and Lots of Leftover Strips
I came up with several different designs in EQ8 for using up the strips, such as the Pythagoras-Meets-Jane design I shared with you the other day, as well as this offset star design:

EQ8 Offset String Star Baby or Wall Quilt Design
Here's the other EQ8 design I came up with for my leftover strips:

Another Idea for Leftover Fabric Strips
I still like each of those designs, and I may (or may not) make BOTH of them at some point.  However, each of them would require more brain power than what I have available at the moment.  You know when your Internet is running really slow because one of your teenagers is downloading a movie, Brother the Other is streaming music, and your husband is downloading computer updates all at the same time?  That's how my brain is running right now.  I didn't want to muck around with templates or foundations or even rulers; I just wanted to sew little strips together into big pieces and then decide later what to do with them.  So I just started grabbing strips of fabric and sewing them together, with NO plan.  It felt so wicked!

This Is What Reckless Abandon Looks Like
And then, taking a break from my mindless, reckless strip piecing, I poked around on Pinterest for some ideas of what to do with my pieced-together strips.  Inspiration struck when I stumbled across this lovely quilt, "My Life Aquatic," that was made by my friend Julie of Pink Doxies in 2015:

Inspiration Quilt "My Life Aquatic" Made by Julie of Pink Doxies
Isn't that beautiful?  I don't have the dimensions of Julie's quilt, but I think her strips are wider than mine, like maybe from a jelly roll.  But  that's my plan, as much as I have one.  I pieced 8 of my 1 1/2" strips together, and that gave me a big enough piece of "made fabric" to cut out triangles using my Nifty Notions Good Measure Bias Triangle ruler, just lining it up and slicing around the perimeter of the ruler on all three sides with my rotary cutter.  

Nifty Notions Bias Triangle Ruler
That's the ruler I used to cut out those first two triangles at the top of this post.  Nifty Notions calls it a "Bias Triangle," but it's actually an isosceles triangle (two equal sides) because the length of the sides is longer than the length of the base.  This is the triangle that works for a triangle-in-a-square or "peaky and spike" block, like 54-40 Or Fight:
54-40 Or Fight Block Made With Bias Triangle Ruler
 I think I'm going to switch to my 60 degree equilateral triangle ruler.  An equilateral triangle has all three sides the same length and all three angles measure 60 degrees.  As I discovered with my Tabby Mountain Disco Kitties, it's MUCH easier to piece equilateral triangles together because you can just slap them together RST (right sides together) with all the edges even, no pins or nothin', and they'll come out perfectly.  Isosceles triangles need to be offset just so in order to open them up and have the seam look right:

Remember How "Jog the Ends Slightly" Made Me Crazy?
I'm not looking to give myself any more aggravation than absolutely necessary, if you know what I mean!  I'd like to give my seam ripper a few days off for good behavior!  

Meanwhile, I got all the foundation paper carefully torn away the first of 36 pineapple log cabin blocks last night.  It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, either -- just took time and patience.  

Well, I still need to prep some vegetables and do a last-minute dust-and-vacuum run through the house before it's time to pick my niece up from the bus station, so I'd better get off the computer and get on with it!  I hope you all have a wonderful weekend.

I'm linking up with:

Saturday, June 30, 2018

When Pythagoras Met Jane: Ancient Math Magic Comes to the Rescue of a Damsel In Distress

NOPE, I haven't been working on my Jingle BOM, my Pineapple Log Cabin, or anything else that I promised the whole Internet I'd be working on this week.  Instead of sewing, I've been busy designing a NEW project, one that will use up leftover strips that had been cut for pineapple log cabin blocks.

I have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to quick-and-easy, down-and-dirty string pieced projects that would be oh-so-sensible for this purpose.  But alas, I am not a sensible girl.  I'm an impractical, wish-upon-a-star, dream-up-something-different-to-drive-myself-crazy kind of girl.

And so I have camped out in my office with EQ8 quilt design software, brainstorming, browsing the block and layout libraries for inspiration, exploring all of the cool design tools like Merge Blocks, Clip and Flip, Add Frame...  Finding photos on the Internet that simulate what my string-pieced fabric sections will look like so I can treat those areas as if they were a single fabric...  Trying out different layout and color schemes and oodles of different colors and fabrics...  

And after all of those hours of design labor bliss, I ended up with three quilts that I might (or might not) make with my leftover 1 1/2" strips of fabric.  In an effort to get away from the computer and up to my studio sooner rather than later, I'm going to share one of the designs with you today and will share the others over the next few days.  This one is my current favorite:

Option One, Great-Grandbaby Jane, 52 x 52
This design began with one of the 4" applique blocks from the historic "Dear Jane" sampler quilt.  I blew up the scale of the applique and will be using strip pieced fabric for the petals.  Then I added a Storm At Sea frame around the giant applique  (I will be strip piecing the large diamonds as well), and set that block on point in the middle of my quilt.  There are smaller versions of the Dear Jane applique block in the four corners of the quilt, with different pieced frames around them, and the borders of the quilt are from my strip-pieced pineapple scraps as well.  In real life, my scraps will be more mixed up than they are in the design picture, using my leftover blue and green pineapple strips as well as some bright solids, and I think I'm going to chop up some pink and orange strips out of stash fabric as well.  I don't want to be working off the exact same color palette as the pineapple quilt -- enough is enough, if you know what I mean.  I'm so excited about this one that I have already printed off cardstock templates for the center applique and foundation paper patterns for the Storm At Sea border.

Some people will tell you that design software takes the math out of quilting, and that's true to a certain degree...  I mean, for most users it's probably true.  It depends on what you want to design.  But my personal experience is that math skills + fab design software  = QUILTING SUPERPOWERS!  When I tried to print foundation paper patterns for my Storm at Sea border directly from my quilt design in EQ8, this is the wretched print layout the computer came up with:

EQ8 "Doing the Math For Me"
Yuck, right?  Because the block for which I'm trying to print foundations is on point in my quilt, EQ8 plops my foundation sections down on the paper oriented exactly how they are in the quilt -- in this case diagonally, rather than aligning them so their straight edges are parallel to the edges of he sheets of paper.  Normally, quilters are not trying to paper piece gigantic blocks that do not fit on sheets of paper like what I'm trying to do, but I love the accuracy of paper piecing and I have my heart set on doing it that way, so there you go.

I have already adjusted this whacked layout the best that I can using the Rotate option to turn my sections in the screenshot above, but EQ8 only lets me turn the pieces in preset "chunks" -- it's not an infinitely adjustable rotation, and there's no "snap to grid" or "fit the bleepin' page" option.  Sometimes we are grateful to our computers for doing the thinking for us, and other times we need to put on our thinking caps and figure out how to outsmart the computer!

I went back into my project file for this quilt, called the Sketchbook, and opened up the center block I'd created all by itself in the Block worktable, to see if EQ8 would print the foundation sections straight if it didn't know I was secretly planning to set the block on point in my quilt.  YES!!  However -- (don't you HATE when there has to be a "however"?!) -- since I was no longer printing the block from my beautiful quilt design where everything is the right size to fit together nicely, in the Block worktable EQ8 is looking at that center medallion as if it's any old ordinary block, and the default size was something like 6".  And of course, I can easily change that -- but only if I know the actual finished size my block needs to be to fit into my quilt design.  Helpfully "doing the math for me," EQ8 tells me (when I'm looking at the Quilt Worktable) that this block measures 48" x 48".  Unfortunately, however, that is a corner-to-corner measurement, NOT the length of the block sides.  I need to manually enter the length of the SIDES of my block, not just the diagonal measurement, in order for these foundation patterns to print out at the correct size.  It's time to put on my Big Girl Panties and do the math myself.

The Pythagorean Theorem Saves the Day!
When I was sitting in a high school geometry class so many years ago, bored out of my mind, I had NO IDEA how useful all those formulas would be for art and design.  They should offer a course called Math for Design Majors that would cover all of the same content as the regular algebra, geometry and precalculus, except all of the problems would use examples from art, architecture and design instead of those dumb word problems about calculating batting averages, trains traveling in opposite directions at different speeds, and the likelihood of winning at dice games.  My math class would be team taught by the Art Department and the Math Department, would have twice as much class time as the regular math class because students would be actually applying the math they were learning to hands-on art projects for reinforcement, and the class would satisfy both the math requirement as well as an elective fine arts credit...
Today's EQ8 Tech Support Solution is Brought to You by Pythagoras, c. 570 - c. 495 BCE

Anyway, did you see that crazy number my magic math came up with?  My center block needs to measure 33.941" x 33.941" in order to fit in my quilt.  Not exactly ruler-friendly, is it?  And that's where it's such a godsend to be able to type a weird measurement into EQ8 and print out foundation paper piecing patterns of the exact size needed, with no rounding or fudging required.  Here's what the print layout for my Storm at Sea block frame looked like when I printed it from the Block Worktable, setting the block size to 33.941":

THAT's More Like It!
MUCH better!  Now each of the Square-In-Square corner blocks fits on a single page, and each of the diamond sections will be taped together from only two sheets of paper.

What Paper Does Rebecca Use for Paper Piecing?

Carol Doak's Foundation Paper on the Left; Saxs Newsprint on the Right. EXACTLY the Same Stuff.

When I write about paper piecing, I often get emails from readers asking what kind of paper I use.  I have tried LOTS of different papers, and my favorite is newsprint.  Some people recommend vellum because you can see through it, but my paper piecing method doesn't require see-through foundation paper and I find that vellum is awfully stiff.  The thicker weights can actually crack along the stitching line as you're sewing the seam.   Plus vellum has a slippery coating that encourages your fabric bits to scoot around without your permission.  Newsprint paper is ideal -- like the kind of paper that cheap children's coloring books are printed on, and that's what kind of paper that paper piecing superstar Carol Doak's recommends as well.  Newsprint is strong enough to hold up throughout the paper piecing process without tearing easily, yet thin enough to tear away once stitching is complete.  Newsprint also has a slight rough texture that helps to "grab" your fabric and reduces slipping -- that's a huge help since you are "sewing blind" when you paper piece, with your fabric completely covered by a sheet of paper under the presser foot of our sewing machine!  

The only challenge with newsprint is that our modern printers are spoiled by printing on fancy copy paper all the time, and sometimes they throw a little tantrum when we ask them to print on lowly newsprint.  For instance, the printer may beep at you and complain that the paper is jammed when you can see with your eyes that there is NO jam, or sometimes multiple sheets will feed through instead of just one piece at a time -- it's that slightly rough texture of the newsprint that "grabs" the fabric and holds it still, so we LIKE that quality in our foundation paper!  Check your printer's paper type settings.  My moderately priced Epson WorkForce inkjet printer/scanner has a Recycled Paper setting that seems to feed newsprint more smoothly than the Plain Paper setting does.  And if an extra sheet or two of newsprint gets stuck in the printer occasionally and gets wasted, I don't worry about it anymore because I found a SUPER cheap source for my newsprint foundation paper. 

At first I was using Carol Doak's Foundation Paper, and it's great stuff.  Although it doesn't say so on the package, it is definitely newsprint and it comes in a pack of 100 8 1/2" x 11" sheets that retails for $12.95 (but Amazon usually has it discounted).  You can probably find that at your local quilt shop or even at JoAnn's.  But then I found the exact same paper at a fraction of the cost -- instead of getting a dinky pack of 100 sheets of Carol Doak's newsprint paper for $12.95, you can get a whole ream of 500 sheets of Sax Plain White newsprint for only $9, with free shipping.  

Now, I love Carol's design aesthetic, I have purchased several of her books, and I would be thrilled if I ever get to take a class with her, but I am not going to pay seven times as much for my foundation paper just so it can have her name on the package.  Newsprint paper isn't fancy stuff, y'all -- it's the stuff your newspaper is printed on, it's the cheap scrap paper they used to pass out for standardized tests in elementary school, for goodness' sake.  It should not cost more than regular copy paper!  I bought my 500-sheet ream of Sax newsprint two years ago, and I still haven't even made a dent in it.

This is the book by Carol Doak that taught me how to paper piece, by the way.  Unlike her newsprint paper, her book was worth every single penny.  She has a paper piecing class on Craftsy that has stellar reviews, too.  So, buy Carol's books and sign up for her classes, but get your newsprint from Sax!

Okay, kiddos (of all ages, including ME!) -- somehow it is now after midnight and my "quick little blog update" has spiraled out of control once again. I actually have a red owie on the edge of my wrist where it has been rubbing against the edge of my laptop keyboard as I type!

So, NO TYPING for me tomorrow!  Instead, I'll be either:

  • Working on my Jingle BOM, tweaking the pieced block border, trimming the center medallion and adding inner borders
  • Starting the new design I shared with you today using the foundation patterns I printed out before getting sidetracked by a neverending blog post
  • Removing the foundation papers from my pineapple log cabin blocks and joining them into rows
  • Breaking my no typing vow, and writing another post about the SECOND cool design I came up with today using my EQ8 software!  ;-)
Happy stitching, and have a great weekend!  I'm linking up with :

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