Thursday, May 4, 2017

Twilight Gardens - Dutch Tulips

Block 5 - Dutch Tulips

If you followed along on my earlier article, Applique Tutorial, you may have already started or completed block 5.  I wrote that tutorial just a little early, as I know many quilters are not applique people and sometimes get discouraged just at the mention of the word.

In reality, applique is not that difficult, it is just another skill that once you add to your toolbox, will open up an enormous number of patterns to you.  If you are already skilled at applique, you probably have a favorite method you like to use, and so by all means proceed.  My tutorial focused on a method of preparation of the pieces that I had never done before, so it was a learning experience for me too.  I thought it worked very well, and, had the added benefit, that once the pieces are prepared, you can applique them to the background either by hand or by machine, whichever you choose.



We have two groups of fabrics for this block.  The first group includes the block background.  This is the first block where I have selected a fabric other than solid black for my background.  This dark charcoal with a subtle stripe is just a little different, and provides some nice texture for the open areas surrounding the flowers.  I also selected 3 blue fabrics to use for the tulips and a single green (plain) fabric to use for the bias stems and the leaves.  The applique design is simple and these are nice high contrast fabrics with the background.




The second group of fabrics forms the piano key strip that runs along the base of this block. I selected a mix of solid look fabrics, and ones with patterns, textures, and contrasting colors.  I purposely stayed with warmer tones and a couple of grays.  These will each contribute a couple of pieces to the pieced strip, just in random order.













The strip is very easy to construct. We cut 13 rectangles from this group of fabrics (2 or 3 from each) that are 1 1/2" x 5 1/2". Then arrange them in a pleasant, random fashion and sew them together with a 1/4" seam.  Press all seams in the same direction.


Set this pieced strip aside while we do the applique.

Refer to my earlier article, Applique Tutorial, for specific instructions on preparing your applique pieces, and also hand sewing to the background.

For placement of the pieces, I like to transfer the outline design of the block onto the background fabric.  So, the pattern has you start by cutting out a 9 1/2" x 13 1/2" piece from the background.  I cut mine so that the lines on the fabric were vertical, but that is just individual preference.


Use a light box, or work against a bright window. Cover your pattern with the background fabric. Position the fabric over the pattern so that you will have some trimming room around the design on all sides when you are done.  I centered the design left to right, and positioned it so that I had about 1 3/4" of background space above the top of the center tulip.





 Trace the design onto the fabric with your favorite washable (removable) marker.  For dark fabrics like this, my favorite marking pen is the Clover #517 white marking pen.  It creates a fine white line that can easily be seen on any medium to dark value fabric.  It is permanent while you are working, and will not wipe away, even with a lot of handling. Then it completely comes out with a little water, or the steam of an iron.  So easy!









Use these lines as your placement guides when you begin sewing your pieces down. Begin with the stems.  I did the two side stems first, clipping them in the middle where they overlap to create a miter that would easily by covered by the vertical stem.























For hand applique, you can position the pieces, and hold them in place with a washable basting glue (like Roxanne), or just pin them in place with small applique pins.

Applique pins are a special type of pin. They are shorter than regular quilting pins to prevent your thread from getting tangled around them as you are working.  They are available from many companies, but the best on the market, bar none, are those from Little House of Japan.  They have the finest shaft of any applique pins so they don't distort your fabrics, and a very small glass head to grip.  I LOVE them.  Little House Applique Pins.

Proceed to applique all leaves in place.  When you reach to tulips be sure to applique the left and right outside pieces down first, then the center of each tulip.  On mine, I fussy cut the woven accent design on one of the blue fabrics to fall down the center of each of the side tulips.

 Once your applique is finished, stitch the piano key strip to the bottom of your applique block, being sure to incorporate the center stem of the tulips into the seam.  Carefully position before you sew.










Once the two units are sewn together, press the seam allowance toward the applique block.  Center and trim the finished block to measure 12 1/2" tall x 13 1/2" wide.  Note this is a different size than the previous blocks we have made.  This is because we will be adding additional sashing around all the blocks.  The sizes will all work out in the end.


Steven

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Twilight Gardens - Block 4

Well, some of you may have wondered if I was ever going to get around to posting the 4th block of Twilight Gardens.  I apologize for the delay.  I was out of town at the beginning of the month, then right when I returned, I came down with a round of the flu that was the worst I've had in years. I am just now getting over it, and my energy level has been low for several days.

Fortunately, this block is the same pattern as that of Block 2, so I will not go into detail about the construction of the block, but I did want to share my fabric choices, and my reasoning.


Fabrics for Block 4
 Whereas Block 2 had a distinctly reddish overtone to the fabric colors and was warmer looking, I wanted this one to look a little different.  I guess this is just another way of making the block distinctive even though it is the same pattern.  I had quite a few cooler grayish tones available, and particularly, some with a bit of green color, so that is what I was aiming for with these fabrics. 

I still used black as my background and then choose a darker gray as my outer corners.  This sets the neutral gray as the tone for the block and leaves the lighter, more contrast fabrics as the focus of the star itself.  The outer star points are the lighter gray with the ticking pattern.  There are two of these fabrics (very similar) included in the kit for this quilt.  This one is the one that has a subtle gray-green cast, not the tan one.  I then follow the green theme by selecting the distinctly green primitive pattern with lines and stars in the weave.

The central star is made up of a lighter tan fabric for the center square (there are several similar ones in the kit that would all look good here), and a pale green fabric, with brown check, for the points. The background for the central star is a medium brown fabric with a square pattern in the weave.

 Block Construction


 Don't forget to trim down the quarter-square triangle units for this block to 3 1/2" square.  You can use any square ruler that is at least 3 1/2".  Line up the unit with the diagonal mark on your ruler. The center of the block should fall right at the 1 3/4" lines. Trim a small amount from the first two sides. Spin the block 180 degrees, then line up using the diagonal, and the 3 1/2" ruler lines.  Note that the center of the block should still fall at the 1 3/4" marks on the ruler.  Trim the last two sides of the unit.


The assembly of this block is the same as in Block 2.  I will mention an error in the pattern for block 4 - In the section "Making the Center Star Points"  the first paragraph should begin "With right sides together, layer a light 2" (d) square onto rectangle (c) as shown."

Also, In the section "Marking the Large Star Points", Just to clarify which pieces are being used,  when pairing up the fabrics for the Quarter-Square Triangle Units, you will be using pieces C, E, and two of piece D.

Other than that, the diagrams on the pattern page are correct, and the block should go together easily.


Remember that when doing the final block assembly, you can reduce bulk by pressing your seam allowances open rather than to one side.  This is always a little more time consuming, but in the case of this block, it does help to make the finished block lay flat.





Your finished block should measure 12 1/2" square.  You will notice as we proceed on with Block 5 that we are starting to see blocks with different outer measurements.  This is due to the irregular sashing panels that will be used between some of the blocks in the finished quilt.  We will talk more about this later.

Have fun with this one.

Steven

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Applique Tutorial

Those of you who are following along with the construction of Twilight Gardens may have been wondering about the applique coming up in block 5.  We are not quite there yet, but I thought I would give you a little primer on one way to do applique.

It seems there are dozens of ways to applique one fabric to another, and ultimately, you need to try a few methods and find the one you like the best and gives you the best results.  I tend to be a hand applique person, and many of you are not, and prefer to do everything by machine.  The applique in the Twilight Gardens quilt can be done by hand or machine, and this method of prepping your applique pieces can be used for either method. If you have another method you would like to use on this quilt, please feel free to do that.  The main thing is that you are enjoying the technique and it is achieving the results you like.

Preparing your applique pieces

Normally when I do applique, I like to do simple needle-turn.  This eliminates the need to pre-turn the edges of your pieces. But I thought I would try a new method. I have seen this demonstrated, and it seemed like a pretty easy method and one that could be used for either hand or machine.
Start by tracing your pattern pieces onto the paper (non slick) side of a piece of freezer paper. If you need it, use a light box or a well lit window to help you see the pattern clearly. Make sure you trace an outline for each piece you will be appliqueing, as the freezer paper templates can not be reused. Label them if there is any confusion about where they go in the block design.
Cut out the templates right on the line, and separate them into piles based on the fabric that will be used for each applique piece.  In this case I have flower petals in either medium or light blue, and leaves that will all be cut out of a single green fabric.



I like to use a separate pair of scissors to cut paper from the good ones I use to cut fabric with.  This keeps my fabric shears sharper longer. 

Now, using a water soluble glue stick, apply a little glue on the center of the paper (non slick) side of each template and glue them down to the wrong side of your fabric.  Leave 1/2" space between all templates.


 Once you have your templates glued down, using your fabric shears, cut the fabric pieces out leaving a scant 1/4" seam allowance (about 3/16" is about right) on all sides.

Now we will start turning the raw edges of the fabric. If there are any sharp points on your applique shapes, begin by folding over the point first.  Using a mini iron and a stiletto that will not melt, gently iron the seam allowance over the template, with the crease right on the edge of the freezer paper.  The seam allowance should lightly adhere to the slick side of the freezer paper which is now facing up. 
Follow around the edge of your template turning the edge with the stiletto and gently ironing with the mini iron to hold in place. The example shown in the photos has all convex sides, but if your piece has a tighter concave curve or an inside point, you will need to clip into the seam allowance almost all the way to the freezer paper to have it conform to the shape easily.  Clip only once for an inside point, make a few clips for a curve.
Once you make it all the way around your piece it should look like the photos below.

 















The next piece you need to prep is the stems.  These also can be made a variety of different ways.  The method I will show you here is one of the oldest.  It was the first method I learned and one I still prefer for doing small bias stems.


Fold over the corner of your stem fabric forming a 45 degree angle.  Cut how ever many strips you need off the corner so your strips are cut on the bias.

Fold these strips in half down the length of the strip and mark a sew line using a contrasting marking tool at a width slightly wider than your finished stem should be.  
Here I am marking at a little over 1/8" for a 1/8" finished width.


Use a set of press bars for making bias strips.  They come in metal, and heat resistant plastic.  They both work well, but the metal ones can get hot to the touch.  Stitch on your marked line and trim the seam allowance down to less than the width of your finished stem.  Here I am trimming seam allowance to less than 1/8".  Insert the appropriate size press bar and roll the tube so the seam can be pressed the back side of the stem and not show.
 Once the seam allowance is pressed to the back, remove the bar and turn over your stem.

Pin the stems in place first.  Use a fine thread with matching color to applique them down.  They can be either machine sewn using a close matching thread color and a blind hem stitch, or they can be hand appliqued.  I like to use Kimono brand 100 wt. silk thread by Superior Threads. It is very fine and nearly invisible.  It comes in 80 colors and is strong for it's weight.



  When appliqueing by hand take small stitches. Drop the needle into the background fabric right adjacent to the applique piece, then bring the needle back up slightly under the edge of the applique, and out right at the edge fold.  Repeat this stitch along all edges.



Once the pieces are stitched in place, turn over the piece and locate the individual pieces with freezer paper still attached inside.  CAREFULLY with a pair of applique scissors that are sharp right to the point, cut a small slit in the background directly underneath your applique piece. Be very careful to stay far from the sew edges.  You just need a small hole large enough to pull the freezer paper through.  Using a stiletto or pair of tweezers, grab the paper and give a slight tug to release the glue.  Remove the paper from the back.






















Here is trick to make your hand sewing much easier.  If you use silk thread, you may have the problem of the needle coming un-threaded  occasionally due to the fine thread.  When you thread your needle, pull a loop of thread through the eye of the needle and loop over the point of the needle, then pull snug into a small knot at the eye.  This will keep the thread put while you are sewing.  When you reach the end of the thread, tie off and cut the knot off the needle by gently running the blade of your scissors along the eye of the needle.


 This method of preparing my applique pieces worked very well for this project.  At first I was a little concerned about cutting the back of my project to remove paper templates, but I found this was really simple and left a very small hole that does not compromise the strength of the background.
As always, I suggest trying this, as well as other methods, and choosing your favorite.

Steven


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Twilight Gardens Block 3

Before we begin talking about block 3, I need to mention a couple of errors in the printed pattern for block 2.  They are not errors of cutting or dimensions.  When assembling the flying geese units that form the center star points, the directions should read, "layer a light 2" d square onto rectangle c as shown". You may not have even noticed this was wrong.

The other error is actually in the diagram for the outer corner units.  Beginning halfway through the pattern, the small a/b half square triangle units are flipped with the dark and light side reversed from where they should be.  Fortunately, the star block looks great made either way, so if you followed the layout this way, it is not a serious problem. I assembled my block this way, and I actually liked it better than the layout in the actual quilt.


My fabric selections     
Moving on, as I mentioned last month, the block patterns for blocks 3 and 4 are identical to the block patterns for blocks 1 and 2 respectively.  So we have been through the construction sequence already.  I will tell you a bit about how I selected fabrics for this block. I wanted two things in this block - a center star that popped, and outer corners that used the hombre plaid.  I love using hombre plaids in quilt blocks.  They tend to have this luminescent look about them, almost as if they were lit from behind.  My outer star points are cut from a fairly dark gray.  It has enough contrast with the pure black background to show up nicely, but not enough to take away from the center star.







Half Square Triangles
Quarter Square Triangles
 Just a small reminder that when you are cutting out your triangle pieces for this block, do make sure you cut them as the pattern states, as either quarter square triangles, or half square triangles as in the two example photos.  This is very important, as the sides with a bias edge should always be pieced into the block, and not fall along the outer edge. This is because the bias edges have more stretch and give to them, and you do not want the outside edges of the blocks to stretch out of shape before you have a chance to sew them into the quilt top.

 



Chain piecing HST's
I also wanted to mention that many pieces in these blocks lend themselves to chain piecing.  The half square triangle units can be sewn in a chain of 4, as can be the flying geese.  Adding one side triangle to one center triangle for each of 4 units, then pressing and adding the next four side triangles in a chain.  This not only saves time, but often results in more accurate piecing.

 

  The layout for this block is identical to that of block 1. If you have trouble getting any of the seams to lay flat, consider pressing them open to divide the bulk in two directions. The center block at left forms the center square when laying out the full block. (Yes, I realize the photo on the right has an error. The bottom right corner square is turned 180 degrees from where it should be in the block layout photo.  Unfortunately, I sewed the block together and missed the opportunity to take a corrected photo.  oops). The photo below is correct, however.
Center Star Layout
Entire Block Layout


 
Finished Block - measures 12 1/2" square
 And here is the completed block (with correct placement of the lower corner.  This block has a very distinct neutral color as compared with the first couple of blocks.  All the fabrics in this quilt are fairly muted in color, but some lean more towards green or brown or gray or red, so I am trying to get a mix of block colors.  In block 4, I think I am going to pick a mix that shows a bit more green-gray coloring.

The block for May (block 5) will be our first applique block. There are many methods of doing applique that will work, and I encourage you to use your favorite method. If you have a method you like, you may want to get started on that block a little early, as the applique might take you a little longer than the piecing we have been doing.  If you are new to applique, or don't have a preferred method, I will be demonstrating a method for preparing your applique pieces using freezer paper. The pieces may then be appliqued to the background either by hand or machine. I will talk more about this in the next article.

Thanks for following along.

Steven