I know I always underestimate how long it will take me to complete a project, but we’re talking whole new levels with the La Passacaglia quilt. (If you don’t know what quilt I’m talking about, check out my earlier post here.) I worked on it with all my free time last week and only made it through three rings on the first rosette. Now I am finally FINISHED… with the first rosette of many, haha. Here’s my first blue & orange rosette:
It’s big! It takes up an entire café table. The photo below was taken earlier in the afternoon, when I thought I was finished. Then I noticed my error and had to re-sew a section. Can you spot the issue? The lighting was much better for the mix-up than the final version. Bummer!
In case you’re curious, here’s the back side of my La Passacaglia.
I also came up with another fun technique for fussy cutting. In my last post, I described using a wet erase pen on acrylic templates to ensure multiple cuts of fabric have an identical pattern. It worked pretty well. But I thought to myself, If I could just copy the fabric pattern and somehow see through it, I could line things up, and there wouldn’t be the user error of my not marking perfectly or accidentally lifting half the marker off the acrylic with my fingers. That’s when I came up with what might be an even BETTER idea than the wet erase/acrylic method!
Did you have a math class in the 1990s? If so, you might remember your teacher standing at the overhead projector, using his/her wet erase marker to complete math problems that were photocopied onto a transparency sheet. Those transparency sheets are still available for sale, believe it or not. (I got mine here; no affiliation.) I just put my fabric in a copy machine, inserted a transparency sheet, and hit copy at 100%. Do make sure the scale of your copier is correct by lining up the transparency over the fabric after copying the first print.
Fabric and transparency side-by-side, but one is backward (also, reflective surfaces are difficult to photograph)
I photocopied onto paper before using the paper copies to make transparency sheets. I wanted to be sure I got all the important elements on a single sheet first. The paper copy made it easy to try multiple configurations and to test the repeat pattern before cutting into the transparency sheet. For this part, I skipped the seam allowance to see what the finished pieces would look like. When you’re happy with the selection, you can use an acrylic template to cut around the transparency version, then double-stick tape the transparency to the acrylic. From there, just line it up over the fabric to make multiple, identical cuts. What could be easier?! (Reminder: Be sure to include the seam allowance here, even if you skipped it for the step above.)
Of course, this doesn’t work if you don’t have access to a copier, but if you do… BAM! You’re welcome. This method (photocopying fabric onto either paper or transparency) also makes it easy to see whether two images on the fabric are too close together to get separate cuts. (Be sure to include seam allowances.)
You could also use washi tape on the bottom of an acrylic template to hide seam allowances and really see what portion of the fabric will show on the final piece. (You don’t need to see that the outer edges line up with the fabric because you can already see through the transparency!) My first passacaglia rosette was made before I thought of the photocopy/transparency method. I am confident my next few rosettes will be even better! I’ve already started on my second.
I mentioned in my QuiltCon blog post that I intend to begin a La Passacaglia quilt. Naturally, I’ve begun with more research than can help me actually do the work and make the quilt. I thought I’d summarize some things for anyone else who wants to do this project because it is blowing up all over the interwebs!
THE BOOK THAT STARTED THE CRAZE
First, we’re talking about the La Passacaglia Quilt pattern from the book Millefiori Quilts, which features 19 of Willyne Hammerstein’s quilts.
All that Italian actually does a great job of describing the style: millefiori is a combination of the words “mille” (thousand) and “fiori” (flowers). Certainly the concept of a thousand flowers applies to the La Passacaglia, which has many rosettes/flowers making up the quilt. Passacaglia comes from the Spanish “pasar” (to walk) and “calle” (street). Think walking or dancing down the street—perfectly appropriate if you imagine winding, cobbled lanes and compare that against the many curves in the quilt.
Instructions in Millefiori Quilts are for machine piecing the quilts. However, if you’ve ever done a Y-seam, you can understand why a majority of people are choosing the English Paper Piecing (EPP) method instead.
I bought ALL THE THINGS to start this project from paperpieces.com. (UPDATE 2017: Since the link from paperpieces is no longer working, Karen of the DIY Addict was kind enough to send me a link to her site, where you can still buy the supplies!)
Items include the book, acrylic templates, and all the paper pieces necessary to make the quilt. I might have bought a smaller set of papers if I had it to do over again since you can just reuse them, but it’s nice not to have to. Between these items and the fabric, it’s probably going to be the most expensive quilt I’ll make… but have you seen how awesome it looks?! I’ve also seen acrylics on Etsy that have holes at the intersection of each seam allowance in case you want to machine piece and mark your Y-seams. LA PASSACAGLIA INFORMATION
The La Passacaglia Quilt includes approximately 2900 pieces in five different shapes/sizes as follows:
Piece A (1¼” diamonds for 5-pointed stars): 468 Pieces
Piece B (1¼” diamonds for 10-pointed stars): 206 Pieces
Piece C (1¼” pentagons): 640 Pieces
Piece D (¾” pentagons): 272 Pieces
Piece E (1¼” isosceles triangles): 1368 Pieces
This info comes from the number of pieces in paper piecing packs, rather than the pattern itself. I was surprised not to see any hexagons and also that there were only five shapes for the entire, very busy quilt top.
EPP GENERAL INFORMATION
Cutting the Fabric
Standard EPP protocol is to add 3/8” of fabric around each side. Common alternatives are ¼” or ½”. Acrylic templates are available in each of these size preferences.
Measuring the Pieces
In EPP, most pieces are the same measurement along all sides. (An exception from the pieces above is the isoscolese triangle, which is equal on the two long sides but has a shorter “bottom” that matches the length of the pentagon sides.) EPP pieces are measured along one of the equal sides.
Basting Each Piece
There are several methods of basting EPP pieces.
One method is to sew around the shape. Even this has several different versions. In one version, you just tack the fabric along each corner of the piece. In another, you weave your thread along the length of fabric between each corner. I plan to do the first of these since that’s the method I learned in my EPP workshop with Katy Jones of imagingermonkey. And it’s faster and doesn’t mean ripping any paper at the end of the project.
Another method is to glue baste. Some glue pens are specifically made for gluing fabric; I have the Fons & Porter version. I’ve also read that a plain, washable glue stick works well. (It worked great when I glue basted a zipper on this bag.) I have been gluing some of the fussy cut fabric pieces lightly to the papers to keep them from shifting while I hand baste around the edges. It’s been working pretty great. So far, I’ve only used the glue pen, but I’ll likely switch to the Elmer’s when that runs out.
Creating Patterns from Fabric (and being consistent)
Solids are a great choice for EPP. However, one reason I’m excited about this project is a chance to make repeatable patterns from fabrics. I’ve mentioned BEFORE that while I like the look of a repeatable pattern across an entire quilt, I deplore the monotony of chain piecing. Now is my chance to let precision shine! By “fussy cutting” fabrics, you can highlight a portion of the design. It works great with florals/swirls. I’m also thinking about including a few Heather Ross novelty prints. If you don’t know where to start, Google Amy Butler, Tula Pink, and Anna Maria Horner prints to see fabrics with repeatable patterns.
The tricky part about fussy cutting is ensuring all the pieces are consistent. Florence of Flossie Teacakes had the genius idea to make her own plastic templates and draw with pencil the outline of her repeating fabric pieces. Modifying this concept, I have been using erasable marker on the acrylic templates I purchased. It is working great and wiping off cleanly.
Selecting the Right Thread
For the back of your EPP, you can use any thread you want. I still use Aurifil brand thread for this because it doesn’t break or tangle as easily as other threads, but since you aren’t relying on it to hold long-term, you can use anything that will last until you stitch your pieces together.
For stitching pieces together, some threads are less visible than others, so you can decide how “handmade” you want your EPP to look. A woman in my EPP workshop said she swears by silk thread for connecting pieces. Florence blogged about a polyester thread (Superior Threads brand, Bottom Line type – bought mine here) that piqued my interest.
I can’t tell whether I like it. I admit the end result is much prettier/less visible stitching, but the thread is kind of “bouncy” to sew with. When I pull the thread tight at the end of each stitch, it’s kind of like a bungee cord; it stretches longer than it seems it should, then bounces back to a resting position. So it feels weird to sew with but looks fantastic! I think I will continue to use it. I hope it’s durable when I’m putting so much time into one project! I’ll post photos of my first Passacaglia rosette when it’s finished so you can compare.
Other bloggers who have written about the La Passacaglia quilt that I found inspirational (obviously not an exhaustive list) include:
I plan to make my La Passacaglia in blue and orange. It’s my favorite combination, and I found a crazy amount of inspiration from @elisabew’s Farmer’s Wife and blue & orange Marcelle Medallion quilts. I’m concerned the cogs might flow together a little bit, but Pinterest user Quilt Passion (Åsa Holmér) did a good job of distinguishing hers using only a blue and white palette. My quilt will have blue and orange AND white, so with a whole extra color, I should be fine… right?!
Well, I think that about covers EPP generally and La Passacaglia more specifically. There’s nothing left but to dive in. Which is exciting… but also a little unfortunate since the planning/research is my favorite part, aside from having a finished quilt to show off. Since it’s going to take me forever, I have a WIPs page (tab at the top of the blog) available so it is easy to track my progress on this and a few other long-term projects.