how to… use freezer paper for applique

I mentioned on a previous post recently that I had tried lots of different methods for applique- this was mainly to just trial them and see which I prefer. While doing blocks for my ‘Lollipop Tree’ quilt, I’ve had ample opportunity to try them out! I finished another block this weekend…
lollypop_tree_10 thought I would show the method that I like the best, using freezer paper. First of all, I trace the pattern pieces onto the freezer paper and then cut them out right on the line.
I will be ironing those pattern pieces onto the wrong-side of the chosen fabric. You therefore need to remember, when tracing the pieces, to use a mirror-reverse of the design if appropriate: this pattern I’m doing is symmetrical, meaning that the left side of the block is the reverse-image of the right, so I have two of every piece each at reverse angle to the other and then it doesn’t matter how I place them on the wrong side of the fabric.
You then cut out each piece, allowing for a quarter inch seam allowance all around. I’m showing below the last piece I usually put on each block which is the tree trunk. You can free-hand cut it out- you don’t need to mark it all first. The seam allowance just gets turned under so it doesn’t have to be exact.
I take a can of spray starch, spray some into the can lid, and then dip into it with an old paintbrush.
Dab with the brush onto the seam allowance all around the piece. While it is still damp, press the seam allowance over with a hot iron.
You can use the tip of the iron to flip over the edge as you move it along, and use a stiletto to aid you.
Press all the edges down. Going around curves can be a little touchy but I have a trick to ensure you don’t get any tucks or pleats: when pressing the allowance over, press with the tip of the iron only along the very edge of the shape, like only a millimetre or two, so that the iron is just pressing along the very edge and not the whole seam allowance. Once you have gone around the edge of the curve, without any pleats, you can then press the whole 1/4″ seam allowance- it doesn’t matter if the allowance gets a tuck or looks a little frilly as long as the very edge is smooth. Just press all that down afterwards. It gets hidden underneath when you stitch it down anyway. You only need to worry about what the edge looks like from the right side.

clockwise: pressing curves

clockwise: pressing curves

Now the piece is ready to applique down. Peel off the piece of freezer paper and the pressed edges will stay in place and it will have nice crisp edges to stitch down.

a house block

I have done another couple of the ‘My Favourite Block’ quilt blocks. The first one is a House Block, made with foundation paper piecing. You make each of the sections individually, then piece them together.
The next one is Bock #15-a Dancing Spools block, from Fabric Fascination. This block originally also included a pincushion block which was in the middle with 4 spool blocks placed around it, but I decided to just do the spool block in a 6 1/2″ size. I’ve only done one so far, but will make another 3 to go with it.
I actually made this with a different technique to that shown in the original instructions, mainly because I forgot to print out the instructions and didn’t feel like going back to the computer! The original instructions used pattern pieces by which you cut out the individual pieces and sewed together. But, I did mine like this:
The spool block can be thought of as 4 squares joined together. These are the pieces I worked out I would need:
First of all, to get the large triangles in each corner, I cut out two squares big enough (3 7/8″) so that you can cut them into triangles diagonally.
Sew a light and dark half-square triangle together, twice.
To the two dark triangle corners of those pieces, I sewed a smaller square (2″) of the other dark fabric, diagonally corner to corner, and folded that over to make the triangle corner. The underneath bits can be trimmed off.
I sewed the other two small (2″) squares to the corners of the other large light squares.
Then it just needs the four pieces to be joined to make the finished block.
My pile of blocks is growing – it’ll be exciting to see what they look like all together!

practising the free-motion

You know that old saying about the only way to find out how to do something is to just do it (I think it’s a saying or did I make it up?) Anyway, it’s one I’ve come to believe in more and more over the years. It’s very true about skills like free-hand quilting or stitching- to get any good at that requires tens of minutes and hours of just sitting down and doing it. It’s also very true about the associated skills that go hand-in-hand with any sewing on a machine, like really getting to know your machine, know what threads it ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’, which thread is best handled by which needle, or what tension setting to have for a particular needle-thread combination or task that you’re doing.
Last year when I was preparing for a local craft fair, I was making a lot of fabric postcards, like these.

It was an excellent way to practise and play around with the settings on my machine, in particular really getting to understand how the tension worked. I could experiment on each little postcard: use different fabrics, different threads, and aim for different effects as it was only a small piece and not a large quilt top being adversely affected.

I changed threads as much as a dozen times a day, and I worked a lot of little foibles that my machine had. I have had my machine, a Bernina 440QE, for about 4 years and I have done a lot of sewing on it but I feel I know it a lot better now from the last 6 months than any time before that. I know when I can use the Stitch Regulator attachment, and when its better to just freehand stitch without it, and I’m more comfortable with the stitches it can do and how I can achieve certain effects.

I had great fun doing these postcards, and I often also make birthday cards the same way. Here is a card I did recently for a friend:

It didn’t take an awful lot of time but the end effect is lovely and colourful and a little bit unique!

While I’m sure that I still don’t know everything there is to know about my machine, I certainly know a lot more than I did not too long ago. I find consistent, regular practise is the key.

My Favourite Block Quiltalong- a strippy leaf block

Today is my turn to give you a block for the “My Favourite Block Quiltalong”, which is being hosted by Kim at Persimmon Dreams. Kim will have a little interview with me on her blog so hop over and have a look!
My block uses two techniques- scrappy stripping to make some fabric from your own scraps, as well as reverse applique, which I think gives a great effect with not too much effort.

This block can be made either as a 12 ½” block or at the 6 ½” size. Four of these smaller blocks look great sewn together as a four-patch and you can try a couple of different arrangements. The instructions below are for the larger block, the smaller block measurements are in (brackets).

Strips of colourful fabric
Pink spotted fabric for top – 12 ½” (6 ½”)square
Freezer paper
Spray starch and paintbrush
fabric glue (optional)

To create this block you will need to first make some strip-pieced fabric (or if you rather, it can be made using one fabric piece for the bottom layer).You can use strips cut from the fabrics in your stash and your scraps- they can be any width but will need to be about 13” long (or 7”). Use any colours- the better to give that scrappy look. Just pick up any two strips, of any width, and sew together with a ¼” seam. Keep adding another strip until you have a piece approximately 12” (6”) wide. This strip-pieced fabric will be the underneath piece in our two layers so that is why it doesn’t have to be exactly 12 ½” (6 ½”)– in fact it really only needs to be as big as the leaf shape that you are going to have, plus a little extra for the seam allowance around all sides. Press this stripped fabric so the seam allowances all go to one side, ensuring that you have pressed it as flat as possible and there are no little ‘pleats’ along the seam lines.
If not using strip-pieced fabric for the bottom layer, cut a 12 ½” (6 ½”) square from your chosen fabric.

Cut a 12 ½” (6 ½”)square of fabric that you wish to use as the top fabric for your block. I’m using a pink spotted fabric for this- it will have the leaf shape cut out of it to reveal the colourful stripped piece underneath.

Prepare the leaf template
1. You will need a 12 ½” (6 ½”) square piece of freezer paper. On the dull side of the paper, use a pencil to mark a point in one corner about 2” (1”) in from the side and 2” (1”) down from the top. Draw a corresponding point in the diagonally opposite corner. Using these as the points for each end of your leaf, freehand draw a large leaf shape diagonally across the square. If you wish, you can practise drawing it on a plain sheet of paper first and then trace it onto the freezer paper. To make it easier for turning later, you might want to round off the tips of the leaf instead of leaving them pointy – you choose what leaf shape you would like.

2. Using paper scissors, cut out the freezer-paper leaf directly on the line you have drawn and discard it. If you do this as neatly as possible, you will be able to keep that piece you cut out to use in another project.

3. Take the square piece of freezer paper which now has a leaf-shaped hole in it, and place it shiny-side down onto the wrong side of the square of the ‘top’ fabric, lining up the sides. Iron with a dry iron for a few seconds to make the freezer paper adhere to the fabric.

4. Take a marking pencil and mark ¼” on the wrong side of the ‘top’ fabric, inside the cut edge of the leaf shape. This doesn’t have to be exact – you can just ‘eye-ball’ it when cutting if you like.

You now can either use a small blade cutter or scissors to cut out a leaf-shaped piece from the top fabric, leaving a ¼” seam allowance that will be used to turn under.

If you have pointy ends on your leaf make a little nick right into within a couple of millimetres of the point, still allowing enough to just turn under.

Don’t cut right to the point as this may fray.

5. Spray a little starch into the lid of the can and use a clean paintbrush to dab the starch on to the seam allowance all around the cut-out shape.
Then quickly, before the starch dries, use the iron to turn the allowance over and press down. You might also want to use a stiletto or chopstick to help turn the edges over as you move the iron along.

This will make a crisp turned edge.

6. The freezer paper can stay on until you are ready to stitch the pieces together. When ready, peel it off and the edges of the cut out shape will stay turned under.

This freezer paper template can be re-used a number of times.
Assemble the block
1. Place the top fabric square on top of the stripped piece, or whichever fabric you are using for the bottom layer, lining up the edges if they are the same size, or otherwise ensuring the cut out shape is completely filled with the stripped fabric showing through from underneath.

2. Pin both pieces together, or use a few dots of fabric glue stick to keep both pieces together. You are now ready to hand sew around the turned-in edge of the leaf cutout. Use a fine needle and thread and take small slip stitches. Start along one of the sides so you aren’t stopping and starting at the points. At the leaf points you will have to use the needle to help turn the fabric under and take little stitches to keep in place.

The stripped fabric underneath can be trimmed from the wrong side, leaving about ½” allowance all round.
You can then do any embellishing on top of the block if you like, such as hand-stitching. You can also cut out a different shape instead of a leaf – there’s lots of scope to play with in this block!
Here are some variations that I have done: 4 single 6 ½” blocks….:

which can also be arranged like this….

Or this…

Or, instead of the pink spotted fabric…….

A downloadable copy of these instructions is available here.
I hope you like this block; don’t forget there will be another block given on Thursday by Shanna of Fiber of All Sorts. You can also post photos of your blocks to the Flickr site as well as have a look at everyone elses while you are there!
Kim has all of the info about the Quiltalong here.

this week in progress

I have been doing some more work on my Spiderweb quilt, first mentioned here and here. I have lots of segments constructed but not yet sewn into blocks. To see how many I have done so far and get an idea on how many left to do, I arranged them onto my design wall.

I think I will make this quilt about 3 spiderwebs wide by three spiderwebs down, which means, as you can see, I’m not there yet!
I am making this by first sewing together lots of strips of brightly coloured fabrics, mainly Kaffe Fassett and Phillip Jacobs fabrics.

Then I use the templates to cut out the triangle-shapes, angling all the strips pointing to the apex of the triangle.

The kite-shaped pieces are also cut using a template, and for these I’m using a black spotted fabric.

I sew two triangles to a kite to make one segment.

The segments will then be sewn together to make small blocks, which will then be sewn together in rows. Its fun to play around with them to see what they will like when together but it is easy to get the segments arranged higgeldy piggeldy!

I’m waiting until I have all the segments sewn before joining them together so that I can check the colour distribution of the strips throughout the blocks.

I’m also linking in to Work in Progress Wednesday and Small Blog Meet – this is a special feature on the blog “Lily’s Quilts” for smaller blogs to make some connections with other blogs and encourage readers from those blogs to come and visit here!

Lily's Quilts

mastering the stitch

Stem stitch is one of those stitches that most, if not everyone, can do, yes? no? It is a stitch that I am usually not very happy with when I try it, and now is no exception. I have been working on this little birdie project, and now onto the second bird:

as I mentioned in a previous post, at least it is giving me practise at doing stem stitch. I think I have worked out where I’m going wrong. When I go to do each successive stitch I am bringing the needle up at the wrong place, like in this photo- the red arrow shows I’m coming up too far back,

and it should come up at the end of the previous stitch, like in this photo:

Now I just have to remember that! For some reason I keep thinking that the needle needed to come out further back to create that sloping look to the stitch, but as long as the thread is kept to underneath the needle, it will automatically create that look as each stitch is taken. Phew, something so simple……

And here is a little montage of photos with colour combinations that caught my eye this week. The rose is the Peace rose, and that is for those people around the world who are currently involved in some way with conflict and I’m sure would like some peace in the coming Christmas season.
The diamonds quilt top that I finished last week is ‘undergoing auditions’ for the binding, when the purple/cerise/whatever strip fell out of my scrap pile- it goes in the ‘possibles’.
The Kaffe Fassett quilt on my bed usually appears to have a mainly-red colour scheme when you look at it as a whole, but I happened to look at it one morning against green pillow cases and the green squares really popped out. Nice.

what I’m working on…

While working on the goodies for the craft show I had to suspend my other projects, so it has been good to get back into working on them again. I have been working on this quilt top for about 18 months now, ever since starting it in a Kaffe Fassett workshop when he visited Toowoomba early 2011.

I did the workshop because I didn’t know whether I would ever again get the chance to do one with the ‘Master of Colour’, even though I didn’t really need to be starting another quilt top at the time. It was worked on for small periods of time in between other priorities. It is also a quilt top that needs lots of looking at on the design wall, rearranging here and there to ensure a balance between lights and darks.
A couple of months ago, I had got to the stage where the diamond blocks were joined into rows, and then the rows were left in a pile, all with little bits of paper denoting their row number.

At long last, this week I got to the rows and joined them all. Even with the row numbers marked on them, I had a few second thoughts ( I guess that should be second and third thoughts?) on the order, so back up on the wall they went with lots of consultation with the photos I had taken all those months ago. Thank goodness for digital cameras!
So this is the top in its current state with all the rows joined. I just have to decide on some backing, but most importantly how to quilt it!

It required some concentration and careful piecing to ensure the seams in each diagonal row matched. There were many hours of stitching in it, which gave me lots of time to think about sewing in general- about all those little things that we learn from the sheer hours spent feeding pieces into our sewing machine. A lot of little things that come from hours of practice, and often little things not worthy of a specific skill-name but just from the familiarity you get when spending a lot of time doing it.
A comment came to mind that I heard once about how tricky it can be to sew a triangle to a square and get the edges lined up properly, so that you get the little triangle point- the dog’s ear or bunny ears- protruding the exact length beyond the straight side of the square. In this quilt I had that situation a few times. I find it easiest to just make sure that where the triangle point extends past the square, it does so at the 1/4″ mark, i.e. by eye-balling it so the ‘valley’ occurs at the 1/4″ mark, like I’ve marked in these photos.

This next photo shows matching up 2 rows on the quilt top – the pin is at the ‘valley’ and this shows where two pieces each join at a different angle- as long as the the ‘ear’ is pointing up only a 1/4″ at its base, you know it will be correct when it is opened up.

It’s all good when the points of two angled rows match up:


I’m taking part in the Work In Progress post on Freshly Pieced!

Fractured slices of quilt art

In our ongoing series of fractured quilt pictures, my quilting group have been given the last of our picture segments to re-create for the year. Like this one I showed a few months ago,
we are each working on one slice of a large photo or picture. By the end of the year we will have 12 pictures, or rather the segments that go to make up 12 pictures. Each contributor will be given one group of segments to put together and finish off to have a completed picture. We have decided to put a narrow sashing of black in between each segment and probably a black border.
Of course, the slices of the pictures vary for each person- some have more detail, or in need of embellishment, or application of texture in varying ways. We have found them a real challenge, because while we are re-creating a picture we don’t want to limit ourselves to only copy it exactly. The idea is to think outside the square a little, and use different fabrics and bits and pieces to good effect: to try and give the illusion but not necessarily the exact copy. An example is in this picture I did one month which was part of an old rusting shed. I used some old tapestry-type fabric on the roof because it gave the effect of the colours of the rusting iron with old drying leaves. (Mine is on the left, Lyn’s on the right.)

For this month I have two pictures to produce and they look a little tricky! My usual approach is to look at them for a week or two and think about how I might do them- whether to do some fabric painting with textile paints or pencils, perhaps do some needle felting?, perhaps use fabric remnants. The first picture for this month:

Obviously part of a night-time city scape, it has a number of elements to consider. The buildings with all their windows and the shiny lights reflecting off the water occupy my thoughts.
I decide to go through my stash and see what I have to use. My first pick is this hand-dyed fabric for the sky:

The fabric itself is purple, and while the sky in the photo looks more blue, when I put the fabric next to it, it looks a better match than any of my other choices.

Next are the buildings- they could be a nightmare if one wanted to try and reproduce them exactly with all those little squares, so I’ve come up with this checked fabric, which when put in place could give the impression of a building,
plus the couple of striped fabrics for other sections of the line of buildings.

The trickiest part is the lights on the water, so I’ve left that to last. Taking a step back from it, I look at just the colours that are in it. If I can use a mottled fabric that incorporates those colours, I can maybe further enhance it with stitching to get the real shiny bits. I decide that this hand-dyed fabric might be suitable for that:

It has lots of bits of blue and green as well as the mustard-gold so I might be able to find a section that will suit. Then of course it will need lots of stitching to add the final elements.
I am going to put the fabrics together to make a collaged picture, attaching them to a calico background. The background is marked out so that I know the exact measurements of my piece, and I also make a mark where key elements occur along the sides, as this is where my piece must line up along the edges of the other slices being created by someone else. These would be things like where the buildings are, where the buildings meet the water and the sky and anything that extends or passes through my picture through to its neighbour when assembled.

Anyway, that’s the plan, what do you think of my fabric choices?

This is the second picture I’m doing this month, and it looks even harder!:

The only start I’ve made is that this mustard-gold fabric looks close to the colour of the background underneath the ice. I have no idea of how to reproduce the look of the cracked ice, yet…

Home-designed design wall

I’m a happy little vegemite now that I have a design wall in my studio. I’ve been tossing ideas around for ages trying to work out how to put one up in my room- a room that doesn’t have any large expanse of spare wall.You know how handy it would be to have a design wall- where you can try out varying combinations of blocks for a quilt, look at different fabrics to see how they will ‘play’ with each other, and not to have to use the floor which I have been using until now. Besides the knees and the back getting a little tired of it, having everything arranged on the floor can just flat out be a nuisance and in everyone’s way!
The dilemma has always been where to put it, let alone how to make it. In these pictures of my studio you can see how I have things up on all the walls, whether it be built-in shelves, cupboards, benches or windows. The long-arm quilter necessitated having a lovely long room so the overall size is perfect.

You can see in this shot a quilt folded over the roller bar of the quilter. I have just taken it off the long-arm and am about to add the binding. I’ll show photos of that when it is finished.
This end is my reading corner- everyone’s favourite chair in the house for reading, in my case mainly quilting books and magazines. This is where I sit to have a coffee or sometimes lunch, and the chair is old and comfy.

So, back to the design wall. My husband put up a rail across the top of cupboard doors. I first tried just hanging some flannel from that but it wasn’t successful. The wall that runs perpendicular to the cupboards has a large sliding glass door with a roll-down blind. I did consider whether we could somehow utilise that, perhaps by adding flannel to the blind, but that didn’t work either as it wasn’t solid enough when pressing the pieces on. So John got two large pieces of board and cut holes out of the top to enable us to slip the board up inside the rail.

Of course, it means that I can’t get into the cupboard at the same time, but the boards are easy to slide down and out when not in use. There are two separate boards that fit flush next to each other when one isn’t wide enough.

We then got an old flannel sheet and stapled it all around the board just as a trial- but it works so well I’ll probably just leave it there. I just need to get another piece to cover the second board.

I tried it out with some blocks for the spiderweb quilt {which aren’t really spiderwebs- I’ll have to think of a new name} that I’ve been experimenting with, as mentionerd last week. They are coming along really well too!

How to… use fusible web

I am in a group of friends who are collaborating on a baby quilt for one of us who is soon to be a first-time grandmother {maybe she would prefer ‘granny’?!}. We are each working on a block, even those who have never done any quilting or even a lot of sewing. To help those who are wanting to create a simple applique block, I have written these quick instructions for you on how to use paper-backed fusible webbing. This is sold under various trade names, such as Vliesofix, Wonder Under, Bondaweb etc and I’m not promoting any of these in particular. I will refer to them collectively as ‘web’ in this tutorial.

You will need:
* the base fabric which will form the background for the picture – mine is a cream with a small red print
* the fusible paper-backed web
* the feature fabric from which you will cut the shapes.

1. The low-down on fusible web The fusible web has two sides and you need to be familiar with each side. One side feels like paper; the other has a rough texture- this is the glue, or web, side. Never let your iron come into direct contact with this side!!!

The paper side is dull- on the left-hand folded over corner in the photo above; the glue side has a slight sheen if you hold it up to the light.
On the paper side of the web, use a pencil to draw the shape you want. You can also trace from a picture or access copyright-free drawings. If you are aiming for a picture, you will need to break it up into the individual shapes that make up the picture. For example, I am going for a row of beach huts on my block, so I will want some rectangles for the buildings and triangles for the roofs. {You are working with a reverse-image here at this stage- remember if you want something that is asymmetrical, draw it in reverse so that when it is fused onto the feature fabric and then turned over to fuse onto the background fabric it is the right way up. This might make more sense when you get down to Point 4 below}. Luckily here I just have shapes that appear the same back-to-front!
Trace the two shapes as separate objects on the paper side of the web. My photo shows the rectangles I’m using for the huts.

Cut out the shapes from the web- just outside the lines.

2. Take your feature fabric and work out where you want the shape to be cut from. I want the beach huts to be from striped fabric and have decided to use some fabric which has some sections of the design in stripes. You can see from the photo below I want to be able to get the rectangle from the corner with the stripes, avoiding the cat at the bottom of the square. I turn the feature fabric over so it is face down on the table. The wrong side of the feature fabric is now facing up.

I place the web shape with the glue side down onto this wrong side of the fabric in the spot that I’ve chosen. Feel the web paper- you should be able to feel the paper-side on top – remember, you don’t want to let the glue-side come into contact with your iron or you will have a sticky iron that the rest of the family will not appreciate! You can always use a pressing cloth or a piece of baking paper on top of it all before using the iron as a precautionary measure.
Press with a dry hot iron. You don’t have to keep the iron on it for more than a few seconds; just enough to melt the glue and the paper shape will be stuck to the wrong side of the feature fabric.

3. Cut out the shape. Allow to cool for a few seconds and then cut around the shape from the feature fabric: this time, cut directly out on the lines.

Peel off the paper from the shape.

4. Put your picture together The cut-out fabric shape will have a fine layer of glue on its wrong side. Place this piece, with the glue-side down, onto your background fabric in the position where you want it to be. The background fabric should be lying on the table with the right side facing up.
The shape can be moved around until you get it where you want it. When you are happy with it, press the shape onto the background fabric with the hot iron.

You can go onto adding whatever other shapes and pieces you need to make up your picture. The photo shows one of my beach huts. I’ll be adding more to complete the total picture. All that remains then is to stitch around the edges of each piece in your preferred method, e.g. blanket stitch or buttonhole stitch or machined running stitch or whatever!