East Dakota Quilter


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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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Pixelation Paradise (a.k.a. the Pixelated Panda)

I used an amazing program to plan this quilt, but let’s start with the background story.

Some friends of ours are about to have a baby girl. The mom-to-be loves pandas and watched baby Bao Bao on the National Zoo’s Giant Panda Cam almost every day when it first came out. The dad loves computers. To marry the two interests, I thought a pixelated panda quilt would be perfect!

Pixelated Panda by East Dakota Quilter

I didn’t want to make the quilt too girlie, so pink on the front side of the quilt is relegated to binding.

On the back? More pink… and a lot more pandas!

Back Side of Pixelated Panda by East Dakota Quilter

For once, I even remembered to include care instructions and a gift tag (back side, not pictured). I kind of hate making labels and I’m not really sure why.

Gift Tag by East Dakota Quilter

I pretty well destroyed our apartment while I was working on this one. There were various-sized pieces that covered our kitchen table. Each time I finished a block, I washi taped it to the wall. I had little sections ALL OVER the apartment.

Messy Workspace by East Dakota Quilter

I think the finished quilt was worth the mess!

While I still hate chain piecing, the program I used made it as painless as possible. Does anyone here remember the tutorial I wrote about how to turn a photo into a pixelated quilt? I really enjoyed the manual process and it’s FREE… but you guys, I don’t think I’d ever do it again. The year after I published my tutorial, a husband and wife team developed a website called YouPatch that does the pixelation for you. Maybe you’ve heard of it. I’ve seen other bloggers write about it, but after trying it for myself, I wanted to tell the whole world how amazing it is! They’re not paying me to write this. Their website is just AWESOME.

For a reasonable price (less than $10 for the quilt I made), here’s the process:

1. Upload the photo you want to turn into a quilt. I used a photo of a panda, removing the background. Eliminating the background makes the main subject of the photo really stand out. I was also pleased that YouPatch did a great job with my poor quality photo!

Pixelated Comparison by East Dakota Quilter

Once the photo is uploaded into YouPatch, you decide whether you want the orientation of your quilt to be portrait, landscape, or square. I picked portrait.

2. Pick how many fabric colors you want to use. I chose 8 for my quilt. The current maximum number is 15. The higher the number, the more detail in your quilt… and also the more work you have to do. You get to preview the difference for each option, which is insanely cool. I would have been happy with fewer options, but I really liked the control this gave me.

YouPatch Step 2 - Size and Detail

3. Pick a finished quilt size. Why? you might ask. Can’t I just use the grid of pieces the software generates to do my own sizing? Well, yes. But a few things: (a) you’re crazy if you want to do quilty maths that the program would do for you; and (b) based on the size you select, the program will tell you how much fabric to buy!

4. Change out colors if you want. My quilt was grayscale. You could do crazy-different colors (a pop of lime on plum), or you could do a quilt using the same concept as grayscale (light to dark) using a specific color like blue. (I bought my Kona solids on fabric.com. They were out of Kona Silver, so I substituted Kona Shadow.)

YouPatch Step 3 - Selecting Fabrics & Colors

You also have the option to manually change a pixel, which is cool. If I hadn’t deleted the background on my photo before uploading it, I would have used this feature to manually remove any distracting details.

YouPatch Step 3b - Option to make manual changes

Then you just pay for the pattern (less than $10 for me), and they email it in pdf format. Mine was very detailed, with 17 pages of instructions, illustrations, and ideas. I didn’t need all the provided info, but it was nice to gauge whether I was on the right track at times.

I wondered was whether each pixel would be an individual, standard-sized square or whether YouPatch would group side-by-side pixels of the same color. Probably I could have researched this in advance, but I didn’t. They do #2 (grouping). I love this. The pattern tells you what size blocks to cut. Due to grouping, not all pieces are the same size. I received another email when I was about halfway through sewing this quilt that said the grouping has been even further improved. There’s definitely a balance between grouping as many pieces as possible so there is less sewing and trying to ensure the pieces can be assembled into standard-sized blocks that don’t require you to read a complicated “map.” I did some minor adjusting on my own but would be interested to see the changes.

The pattern also gives you layout ideas for each fabric color to ensure all your blocks can be cut from the amount of fabric recommended.

YouPatch - Fabric Cutting Guide

Once your pieces are cut, the pattern the shows you how to assemble the pieces into equal-sized blocks. Put the squares together and voila! Finished quilt!

There are plenty of instructions if you’re new to quilting. I got by using only the grid (pieces to blocks assembly) because it was clear on its own. Yay for feeling like a pro!

The customer service was great, too. I actually received a follow-up email about an hour after I received my pdf pattern that contained some suggestions and even a second pattern choice. If I hadn’t already decided to review YouPatch, this would have been the clincher.

Yes, I elected to sew way too many pieces on a deadline, but I loved using YouPatch and I really like the finished quilt. If you’re thinking of trying it, I can definitely say I recommend the YouPatch program.


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QuiltCon Registration Tips

QuiltCon2015_Email

I registered for QuiltCon 2015 today! It will be my first-ever QuiltCon, and I am very excited. As a total newbie, I was unfamiliar with the registration process but now have a few observations and suggestions to share.

Expect delays. I expected the MQG server would be overwhelmed at the time of registration, so this wasn’t a total surprise to me. The fact that the site was already experiencing major delays more than a full hour in advance of registration worried me. At that point, I was able to connect to the site about 3 minutes after I clicked each link. By the time registration opened, there were delays around 10-20 minutes, depending on the computer, place in the queue, etc. It took me 30 minutes to complete my registration for all 4 sessions I wanted to attend, including 2 workshops and 2 lectures. I logged in at exactly the time registration opened. I type 115+ WPM. I copied the discount code in advance so all I’d have to do was paste it. I did everything right, and the fastest I could get through the server was still 30 minutes. (I saw the first Instagram tags about 10-15 minutes before mine.)

Use the email link. I thought I would be clever and link to the site directly, saving the link-from-email step. I got errors on both Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox saying that my session had timed out and was never able to move past those errors to the website. When I clicked the email link, I still experienced a delay, but I was ultimately able to get through.

Use a computer instead of a mobile device. I saw this advice on the MQG website and Instagram, so I didn’t even attempt to use my phone for comparison purposes. But I figured I’d still pass along the advice.

Register in pieces. Prioritize the workshops you want to attend. If there’s a session you don’t want to miss, register for it first, then “modify” your registration to include additional sessions.  There’s a tutorial for doing that here. Each time I clicked a link (including the “Add to Agenda” link for each session), it took about 5-10 minutes. If you consider all the people who could add one session in the amount of time you’re setting up your full courseload, it’s not surprising you could end up with a waitlisted status.

MQG_modification

Prioritize workshops over lectures. Each time I added a session, I could still see the webpage listing all sessions while the request processed. I used that time to see which sessions were full already. Each session showed remaining seats available below the title. For perspective, about 20 minutes after registration opened, every lecture I saw still had 300+ spots available while at least 4 workshops were completely full (“Add to Agenda” changes to “Add to Waitlist”). Many more workshops had few seats remaining.

I was interested to see whether I could guess which workshops would fill up first. I did a pretty good job! Of course all this year’s speakers have impressive backgrounds. Some are always popular, like Anna Maria Horner, whose sessions filled immediately. Most quilters know who you mean if you simply write her initials: AMH. Similarly, Alison Glass and Lizzy House have great new fabric lines; their sessions were full in less than 30 minutes. And Lee Heinrich‘s popular book (she’s one of three authors) also meant her session filled quickly. If a designer or quilter is all over Instagram, (s)he is going to have full sessions. Duh.

I didn’t scroll through the whole list while I waited for my page to refresh–I only thought of it halfway through my registration–so I don’t have a comprehensive list of all the courses that were full; I did notice that the following sessions were full 20 minutes after registration, the absolute soonest I could complete my registration due to the crush of people on the MQG server:

  • The Meadow with Lizzy House (031)
  • Drive by Color with Anna Maria Horner (220)
  • Advanced Piecing with Lee Heinrich (715)
  • Creative Quilting with Your Walking Foot by Jacquie Gering (813)

By the time I got to my second run of registration (for the lectures) 10 minutes later–a total of 30 minutes after registration opened–I found the following additional sessions were full:

  • Modern Appliqué Overview by Alison Glass (120)
  • Composition in Modern Quilts by Bill Kerr (211)
  • Mod Corsage by Anna Maria Horner (230)
  • Intro to Embroidery by Alison Glass (420)
  • Basic Improv Quiltmaking with the Quilters of Gee’s Bend (515)
  • Little Changes, Big Variety by Angela Walters (812)

The courses above appear to be this year’s hot ticket items. If you got into these courses, congratulations!

Don’t “search” for courses. As noted above, each time the page refreshes (i.e. each time you click anything on the screen), you waste precious minutes. Running a search means that instead of scrolling down the page quickly, you have to wait for the page to respond to your search parameters and refresh. Instead, locate the course by scrolling down the page. Courses are listed numerically by course number, with the workshop section above the lecture section if you select the “All Registrations” option (versus only lectures or general admission).

I am only attending QuiltCon over the weekend since I have to save as many vacation days as possible for my wedding this year. I got into all four sessions that I prioritized!

QuiltCon_Confirmation

I am nervous since I won’t know a soul at the conference center. If you’ll be there–and especially if you’ll be in one of my sessions–please let me know! I am most looking forward to making some real life connections.