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.


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.