Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Learning to Quilt--Hand Stitched Quilt Top

I finally did it.  I began working on a quilt.

This is something I've been wanting to do for years, using fabrics that I've held on to for a good 10 years.  I wanted to make something to hand down to the kids, but never thought I could do it.

Then I stumbled on to this little beauty--English Paper Piecing.

I really don't like using rotary cutters, and I have not learned how to make exact seams, even though I can make dresses, skirts, pants, you name it, with ease.  The exactness of quilting befuddled me.

With paper piecing, it is much different.  There's no machine.  No rotary cutter.  Just a hand needle, thread, scissors, and pieces of paper cut to the template you choose.

And fabric.  Lots and lots of fabric.

I dug around out in the shed and found the stash of clothes I'd saved from mom's possessions.  She had left behind clothing still with tags, and some that had cigarette burns and such (yes, she was a smoker).  She had an array of prints that reflected a 1930's to 1950's era, and although these were reproductions, they worked.  So, I added these to the stash to make a quilt to hand down.

I found a site that talked about Grandma's Flower Garden, and how it worked to make it, and the site had many links to other areas that discussed this as well.  So I made a hexagon template and went to work making the little pieces that go into this "block".

Actually, I cheated and traced this pattern to cover a sheet of regular paper, and copied the page multiple times onto card stock and basic paper, to get a few hundred of these babies.  It sure beats tracing it over and over and over and over and over and over again.  If you *do* want to trace over and over and over again, you can use up note cards, scrap paper, etc.

Basically you take this template, pin it to a piece of fabric slightly larger than it is, fold the fabric over the template, and baste the fabric to the paper.  All the instructions I've seen have the seam allowance at 1/4 inches, but as I mentioned before, I can't do exact seam allowances...not even in the ball park on this one...but the extra folds over just as nicely and leaves plenty of room for the stitching to come.

When you get some of these together, put them right sides together (pretty fabric sides together), and whip stitch them at the edges, catching fabric and preferably not the paper/cardstock.  If the sides don't match up perfectly, you can ease the longer side to the shorter side using the hand stitching, making the pieces work.  Isn't that a great thing of working by hand--you can fix errors with little to no effort beyond what you're already doing!

When you have your pieces stitched together, remove the papers from the "block".  Remove the tacking stitches that you put in the papers to hold the fabric in place before you pieced them together, and then slip the papers out.  Then, you can reuse these papers for more piecing.

Folks in the older days used papers from letters and such to make these, and sometimes left the papers in for extra insulation.  If you want to do this, by all means go for it.  I will pass this time around.

I have yet to go around mine in a solid color, like white or beige, to create the "walking path" that goes around the colored "garden" blocks.  i haven't decided which color I'd like to do for that at this point.

My plan for this quilt is to put the solid color "walking path" around the blocks, then put them together.  For the edges, rather than leave them as hexagons, I plan to make more of the templates, and cut them in half, so that when they are put in place on the edges, it creates a solid line, which will make it simpler to quilt layers of the top/batting/back and then bind it.  I'd like to make matching shams to go with this as well, using up pieces from loved ones, scraps from my scrap bag, well loved and worn clothing, reusing what is here already.  I'd like to make one for each child and pass them down through them to their kids.

So, if you like to work by hand on crafts, this is a good one to try!

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