East Dakota Quilter


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First Passacaglia Rosette & More EPP Fussy Cutting Tips

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:

Passacaglia Rosette by East Dakota Quilter

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!

Passacaglia Oops by East Dakota Quilter

In case you’re curious, here’s the back side of my La Passacaglia.

Passacaglia Back by East Dakota Quilter

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 (Sorry - reflective surfaces are difficult to photograph)

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.)

East Dakota Quilter - Fussy Cutting w Photocopies

East Dakota Quilter - Fussy cutting w transparency sheets

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.) Fussy Cutting Tips by East Dakota Quilter

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.

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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Strange Sightings in the City

It takes me a long time to finish projects. Not only do I have to cram exercise, dinner, and hobbies into about two hours every day, but I am also the slowest person ever. I decided this week to share some colorful inspirations I’ve seen around the city of Chicago the past few weeks.

...because who doesn't put mosaic tiles all over her car?

…because who doesn’t put mosaic tiles all over her car?

i suppose if you have a flat tire in the city, carrying a replacement through the train station isn't so strange...

i suppose if you have a flat tire in the city, carrying a replacement through the train station isn’t so strange…

whale street art

whale street art

street art

street art

someone has a batman cutout leering over the fullerton el stop... love it

someone has a batman cutout leering over the fullerton el stop… love it

cow sighting

cow sighting

perhaps the strangest sight of all, i found a sold-out copy of Love Quilting & Patchwork! it was at the barnes & noble in oak brook

i found a sold-out copy of Love Quilting & Patchwork!


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Embroidering Hollywood: The Great Gatsby

Have you seen the movie remake of The Great Gatsby yet?

I remember seeing the preview. When I saw the bright colors and all the excess, I thought, Finally! A movie where CGI glitz actually makes sense! I want to see it! Then I looked over at my boyfriend, Johann, expecting to see his face disfigured with a nasty expression. It wasn’t! We even decided we would re-read the book together before going to the movie.

That was months ago, and I am still waiting to see the movie! Since then, Johann started teaching and has revitalized his family’s business. (Read: I don’t even get to complain about the delayed movie premier except on this blog since what he’s doing is productive. Grr.)

In the meantime, I think I looked up every photo from the movie that was available online. Eventually, I moved past movie-specific infatuation and found myself admiring the era’s clothing. I decided to work on some Gatsby-related project to alleviate my stifling anticipation. Here’s the embroidery design I came up with:

Gatsby Embroidery by Craft Prowler

I didn’t decide whether this is supposed to be Daisy and Gatsby, Nick and Jordan, or some other couple at one of Gatsby’s parties.

I’ve never been a great drawer, so I used some engagement photos to see what it looks like for couples to walk side-by-side, a Robert Redford movie shot to determine I should have his hand in his pocket, and countless other photos of clothes from the Roaring Twenties to help with the beads, feathers, and dropped waistline. I always thought original drawings needed to come straight out of someone’s head. I found my method is actually more like making a collage — and it worked!

gatsby embroidery by craft prowler

I wanted to photograph the piece outdoors. I drove to a forest preserve near my office over lunch, thinking how great it would be to prop it against a tree and include the textures of grass and bark. Know what? They don’t mow the grass around trees! And I should have known because I grew up in the country with an enormous yard; I mowed the lawn all the time. Here’s the best I could do:

gatsby embroidery by craftprowler

Process:

I typically use three strands of floss for embroidery, but since this is 8″ x 10″, I used all six to make the lines thicker and to fill the space. I used fewer strands for the facial features to keep them from getting bulky.

Most of the embroidery is done with backstitching. Exceptions are the eyes, buttons, and necklace (made with colonial knots, tutorial to follow), and…

gatsby embroidered necklace by craftprowler

…the skirt trim and headband (made with chain stitch).

gatsby embroidered skirt by craftprowler

The outline is nice, but I think it still looks a little blank. What do you think? Should I try using crayon to fill in the image? (I’ve had success with this before, even after the stitching was finished.) I am especially concerned about his hair.

gatsby embroidery by craftprowler


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Design: A New Frontier

I chose “craftprowler” as a blog name because I never, ever thought I would be able to design my own projects. I figured I would just make minor alterations to the projects I found on Pinterest. However, I’ve spent a lot of time designing projects since the last time I posted photos. The burst of creativity feels amazing, but there is blessed little to show for my efforts so far!

Design Book

I bought the notebook featured above at Target. It is responsible for maybe 30% of the projects I’ve designed so far. (Another 40% is Pinterest, and 30% is me.) The reason? It has gridlines, with heavier lines around every 8 boxes. It’s perfect for sketching out quilt ideas.

I haven’t gotten far with sewing the Marcelle Medallion quilt, but I selected all the fabrics and cut out the middle pieces already. This is the layout so far:

marcelle medallion center by craftprowler

(Confession: I actually did start sewing the middle, but the Y-seams stopped me short. I am going home tonight to rip out some of the seams and try again. Apparently, marking is important. Oops! I like the pattern enough that this is the first time I won’t just plow forward with the awkward, first-try version.)

I’ve also drawn several more templates for my Barn Quilt, including this 1982 Buick LeSabre:

1980 buick by craftprowler

I drew a fox to grace either a purse or a pillow – haven’t decided just how to use it yet. Embroidery? Appliqué? Both are possibilities. If you want to use the image and end up making something before I do, please email to let me know! I’d love to see your projects.

After seeing some neat images at the Etsy store of cheesebeforebedtime, I tried doing a self-portrait with the intent to post it as my thumbnail here on the blog. The first result was embarrassing. The second definitely looks like a person, but not like me. Let’s just say it might take a few more tries before it’s worth posting online.

I have also been scheming the past few weeks about how to take better photos for my blog. A major issue is my work schedule. My evening commute is around 2 hours, so even if I get out at a decent time, there’s not much daylight left by the time I get home. The windows of my apartment also face directions/buildings that are not conducive to natural light. My new goal is to work on projects a week ahead of time so I can photograph them on weekends. (Disclaimer: Procrastination may still mean low-resolution iPhone photos.)


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Exploring Quilt Shops Near Madison, Wisconsin

I had a fantastic weekend. My boyfriend and I decided to get out of the city. Since we didn’t want to spend the whole weekend driving, we settled on nearby Madison, Wisconsin. Most of our weekend activities don’t really relate to this blog: we ate at cute restaurants, went to a museum, walked through the capitol building and the university arboretum, etc. But I did squeeze in a few minutes at two of Madison’s fabric stores: the Sewcial Lounge and Mill House Quilts.

Madison_Medley by EastDakotaQuilter

I regularly check the blog In Color Order. The blog’s author teaches classes at the Sewcial Lounge, which is how I heard of the store. I was excited to visit a store specializing in modern fabrics. In fact, the shop doesn’t bother with any non-modern prints! It was nice not to sort through “filler fabrics.” I expected the store to contain a lot of fabrics with a small sewing space, but quite a large portion of the space was a dedicated sewing area/lounge. The small shop was bustling when I went in, so it seems I was not the only one who appreciated the fun colors! I especially liked a print with small houses and cats (which I thought they were foxes at first). I’m kicking myself for not getting at least a small piece since it’s not on their website and I haven’t been able to identify the fabric with Google since returning home. This might warrant a phone call at some point…

Comparatively, Mill House Quilts is enormous. I don’t know why I don’t remember seeing them at the Quilt Expo last September. Maybe their booth was so full of people that I decided not to stop, or maybe the fabric selection was so wide that I felt overwhelmed. Maybe I got distracted by coffee… In any case, I see the sign every time I drive from Chicago to visit my parents in South Dakota, only I don’t want to make the ten-and-a-half hour drive take longer than necessary. I was glad for a chance to stop without cutting into family time.

mill house snowman

The store was frankly even better than I’d expected. Again, I was expecting some kind of megastore the size of a warehouse. It wasn’t that. But it was still the biggest fabric store I’ve seen that wasn’t a Joann’s, and I would have been happy to receive as a gift almost any fabric in that store. There were dedicated areas for civil war prints, modern fabrics, batiks, etc. There was a whole room full of sale fabrics. I think the best part, though, was the variety of quilts hanging from the rafters of the store. There were many styles, many colors, and it SO made me want to go home and start a new project! I took a brochure with me and was a little awed by the large number of classes. I only wish I lived closer (and didn’t spend 3 hours a day in commuter traffic already) so I could attend some of them!

DMC floss at MillHouseQuilts by EastDakotaQuilter

modern brights at MillHouseQuilts by EastDakotaQuilter

MillHouseQuilts sample by EastDakotaQuilter

MillHouseQuilts civil war section by EastDakotaQuilter

EastDakotaQuilter purchases at MillHouseQuilts

Okay, so I broke down and bought a few red and white fabrics for an idea that’s been percolating–even though I’m not finished with the myriad other projects I’ve started. That’s me standing outside the store with my purchases!