East Dakota Quilter


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La Passacaglia: Big 4 Complete!

Hooray! I am SO EXCITED to finally be finished with all four of the “big rosettes” in the La Passacaglia pattern – those with a double ring of stars. I’m happy with how the Liberty Tana Lawn Mabelle print in blue and red looks, too:

East Dakota Quilter - 4th Large Rosette

My overall progress looks something like this:

East Dakota Quilter - Passacaglia Progress
Yeah, I can’t believe I failed to blog about that little guy in the bottom middle, either. I guess I thought I must have done it when I posted to Instagram instead. Bonus rosette!

East Dakota Quilter - Passacaglia Rosette

Now I’m trembling with naïve optimism that, with the most time-intensive rosettes finished, the rest of the pattern should practically sew itself and be finished in the next month or so – HA! Never mind it took me over two years to get to this point. And I will be having a baby in a month or two, depending when she decides to arrive.

Speaking of which… I have been disappointed when bloggers suddenly shift directions and turn a blog about home DIY into a blog about polar bears. Just for example. I didn’t want to do that with this blog, so feel free to check out the secondary blog I created, Building Home & Family, if you’re into home renovations and family life. We’re just starting both ventures, so I expect a lot more content should start flowing in future months!

Building Home and Family Collage on East Dakota Quilter

I do have a few sewing-related posts over there:

Planning for a Market + Quilt
Free Boppy Cover Pattern
Crib Sheet to sew crib sheets

Reader Question: Is there any interest in having my family-focused sewing projects appear here, too? Or are you more interested in quilts-and-only-quilts? Most blogs seldom receive much feedback anymore, so it’s difficult to anticipate what readers might want without going the ol’ trial and error route.

That said, there is one question that keeps popping up in relation to this blog, and I thought I’d answer it here for posterity:

Q: How do you create your “progress” images for the La Passacaglia?
A: It’s really time-intensive. Kind of like hand sewing the Passacaglia itself. But if you’re still interested, read on…

Step 1: I used the pattern image from the book and desaturated it (i.e. turned it from color to black and white). Don’t have the pattern? It’s in the Millefiori Quilts book, available here. (The vendor I used is sold out, but the linked Etsy shop owner is someone I met through the DCMQG when I lived out east, and she’s great.)

Step 2: I photograph my latest rosette finish, preferably against a neutral background to make editing easier.

Step 3: In Photoshop, I open the photo and delete/remove the background, including the extra “tails” on the triangles of the rosette to get a clean shape.

Step 4: Finally, I open the full pattern image, copy and paste my newest rosette, and resize/transform/rotate it until it covers the space allocated in the pattern. I aim for “pretty close” vs. perfect because even an overhead photo of a rosette tends to have at least a little bit of angle that makes the proportions a tiny bit wonky.

A few people have asked me to share some of the templates I’ve created for my personal use in designing my La Passacaglia, but I think it’s important not to violate the designer’s intellectual property rights. She worked hard on the design, folks! Given all the hours I’m putting into my quilt, I feel the cost of the book is probably the lowest per-hour book cost I’ve ever spent! And I DEVOUR books!

Check out my WIPs page for links to all my La Passacaglia posts.

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La Passacaglia & EPP Research

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.

Millefiori Cover

Millefiori Contents

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!)

Passacaglia set by East Dakota Quilter

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

 

Passacaglia Shapes by East Dakota Quilter

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.

EPP Measurement by East Dakota Quilter

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.

Glue for EPP by East Dakota Quilter

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.

Wet Erase Marker for EPP by East Dakota Quilter

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.

Superior Threads

RESOURCES

Other bloggers who have written about the La Passacaglia quilt that I found inspirational (obviously not an exhaustive list) include:

Flossie Teacakes – here and here and here

TheLittleRedHen – or here on Flickr

Mommy by Day, Crafter by Night

Lilabellelane

Michal Erika

Seldear

Pattern Jam (feat. Ashley Spilman)

 

You can see about a million more great passacaglia photos on Instagram. Check out:

tulapink (especially the behind the scenes in Artists & Makers magazine; you can see her Passacaglia in the background), lilabellelane, carriestraka, alexouq, kamiemurdock or hashtags #lapassacaglia and #passacagliaquilt

 

A few more on Flickr:

Michal Peter-Anderson (via Rossana Ramani), Melissa (@honeythorpe)

 

Lorena Uriarte of ikwilt doesn’t feature a Passacaglia but does great fussy cutting.

 

If you are interested in EPP but don’t know where to begin, here are some resources:

EPP: Where to Begin

How to Fussy Cut Fabric for EPP

EPP Basics

Stitching for EPP

 

OKAY, I’M READY TO START!

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.


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It threw a little wrench in things…

My dad was out of town for his birthday, so I couldn’t send something to arrive that day. I am pretending it threw a wrench in my plans, but really, the gift I decided to make for him wasn’t finished until the day of his birthday, anyway. At least I called him!

I sew and draw and do right-brained things. My dad is an engineer. Growing up, I didn’t always see what we had in common. When I finished law school and was studying for the bar exam, I saw a job posting for an in-house attorney at a machine tool company. Naturally, I called my dad to see if he knew anything about the company. He did. I worked at that company for the next five years, until I moved from Chicago to D.C.

I will always be grateful to that job for bringing me a little closer into my dad’s world. He still sells tooling for machine tools, and my company sold machine tools. He could tell me things about our competition, and I would call to tease him when his competition bought breakfast for our office. I also understood more about the products that made up his work days and were responsible for his problem solving.

This was his first birthday where we are no longer working in the same industry, so I wanted to make something that was a little nod to both our differences and commonalities over the past few years. Presenting… the wrench pouch! wrench pouch by EastDakotaQuilter wrench interior by EastDakotaQuilter I figure he can use it to organize his suitcase since he travels for work most weeks. The wrench is a nod to our tooling/machining shared interest. And it’s sewn because he gave me the opportunity to follow my own path.

Happy birthday, Dad!  

 

Project details: I used the Open Wide Zippered Pouch DIY Tutorial (free) by Noodlehead. I made a hybrid size: the 12″ width of the medium bag, but 11″ tall instead of 9″. I wanted more of a square shape. I made the wrench paper piecing pattern myself in Microsoft Publisher. Then I ignored my own numbering scheme and had to re-sew the back end of the wrench. Twice.


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Boston Blocks: Assuaging Tragedy with Fabric

Have you heard about the Modern Quilt Guild’s request for quilt blocks in response to the Boston Marathon bombing ? I thought they did a great job of requesting manageable quilt blocks, and some fabrics I’m using for a current project match their color preference.

Blocks should be 12½” on one side by the size of your choice on the other. The preferred colors are those of the Boston Marathon: blue, yellow, gray, and white. Click here for more info.

I made a few myself, later than most bloggers I think, hoping that even a small submission will be useful. Here are the blocks I am submitting:

boston blocks by craftprowler

block for boston by craftprowler

I’m planning to mail my blocks this week to

Quilts for Boston
P. O. Box 79225
Belmont, MA 02479

You can also contact bostonmqg@gmail.com with questions. Submissions should be mailed by May 24, 2013.

UPDATE: Check out the completed quilt where one of my blocks ended up here.


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Farmhouse Baby Quilt

I loved having lots of cousins growing up, but, like most families, not all my cousins lived nearby.  My grandma moved to South Dakota from Michigan in 1956, so much of her family is still there (or at least not in South Dakota). My Great Aunt Andrea and Tolerable Uncle Henry, as he calls himself, did an amazing job of road tripping to visit us every few years. It’s for that reason alone that I am at least familiar with my cousins from that side of the family.

It was probably 4-5 years after I moved to Chicago that it dawned on me how easy it would be to visit family in Michigan. Until that point, I was amazed every time I learned some other city was within road trip distance. I decided to make an effort to visit more often. I attended a few weddings, went to the Greenfield Village Halloween event, and recently celebrated the pending births of the new generation of cousins. I stayed with a cousin I didn’t know well but whom I found is living the life I’ve planned for myself in a few years: farmhouse, a few animals, small acreage very near civilization. (In other words, not at all the hardworking farms from back home, but the fun kind.)

The baby shower gifts I gave were a product of work-related travel: gift cards–versus the baby blankets I wanted to make but didn’t have time to begin, much less complete, when I was away from home almost every weekend for several months. Of course, since planning the colors and design is the most fun part of making a project, I had already started gathering supplies. My favorites were for the cousin I stayed with. I’d selected various shades of blue and gray. I didn’t know the gender of the baby and hoped she’d be okay with blue even if she had a girl. Not that it’s a problem when you don’t complete a project. I was disappointed I’d put so much thought into a project that seemed like it would probably never be finished.

Then I stayed in her guest room, which was converted into a nursery shortly after I left. It’s blue. And the hourglass pattern I selected seemed to fit the beautifully renovated farmhouse perfectly. So I decided to finish the baby blanket as a hostess gift. You can find the sites that inspired me here (Purl Bee) and here (Diary of a Quilter). My project:

A word on pressing: I found the layers started getting thick, which resulted in my thread breaking repeatedly. A friend told me it’s a good idea to press the edges to one side instead of pressing seams open because it strengthens the quilt and makes it last longer. I continued to press edges to one side, but I pressed the edges for each piece to a different side:

And a word on binding: I followed the Purl Bee’s tutorial for the most part. However, I find that corners can be a little difficult. I have a tough time sewing to ¼ inch, even if I use a marker to show where I should stop sewing. I’ve been marking the spot instead with a pin, sewing right up to it and then reversing the machine, and that works well for me.

And here is the finished product:

By the way, it’s a girl!


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Palette Restraint

Coming off the successes of my first two projects, I wanted to make something (a) I didn’t have to give away; and (b) with modern color or design that flies in the face of the more cautious approach I use daily as a lawyer. It was also important not to get so excited about fabrics that color would transform into the nasty mess that is my Ugly Quilt. I thought that by limiting myself to a gray palette, I could accomplish all these goals.

The first obstacle was that although I knew what a palette is in theory, I didn’t know what one looked like in an actual project. What became one color too many? A girl I knew from high school posted on facebook about some of her projects, and I somehow found the gumption to contact her, even though I didn’t know her really well. She was sweet. She directed me to some websites and sent some color wheels of her own.

My next step was searching for fabrics (online since my local fabric store is meh) with gray in them. That’s when I really discovered how trendy gray is right now. There were grays and reds, grays and aquas, grays and yellows, grays and tangerine… the combos were endless. Then I had an idea: grays and primaries, variations on a theme. I selected fabrics with reds, aquas, and butter.

The quilt design was inspired by the Purl Bee, a blog my high school classmate helped me find. While I waited for fabrics to arrive over the course of the next few weeks (which felt like a decade!), I created a template on my computer:

One thing I love about people who work with sewing and/or crafts? They’re so darn friendly! Even the fabric I received from online purchases came with cute little cards, thank you notes, ribbon, and in one case even a teeny-tiny origami crane!

As with my first quilt, I got help finishing my quilt. I requested simple, stitch-in-the-ditch (i.e. stitching along the seams instead of big, looping designs) quilting. I didn’t want to detract from the fabrics I had so painstakingly selected. The woman who did the work told me her quilting friends all protested that my quilt was too plain but that she understood what I wanted and was going to deliver. And she did. I kind of like plain. And I love my quilt (photographed in my parents’ house).

Unfortunately, the box I used to ship the quilt to the woman who finished it had grease stains I didn’t notice… until the final product carried telltale signs. Preliminary research (again, google) suggests dry cleaning solution might work without ruining the quilt. Here’s hoping! I’ll post results if it works.

UPDATE: The dry cleaning kit I used worked surprisingly well! I wasn’t too optimistic about getting a grease stain out.