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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