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:
My overall progress looks something like this:
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!
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!
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!
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.
Two of my great-aunts have supported my blog and are accomplished sewers/crafters themselves. Over the years, their projects have included cross-stitch, dolls, scrapbooking, costumes, and crochet. I have received a number of gifts from them, from handmade items (like the hand warmers below, teddy bears, and dolls) to family heirlooms.
(The hand warmers came with adorable paper cutouts of hands inside to indicate they were NOT beer cozies, haha.)
I wanted to show my appreciation, but what do you give someone who can make things with more skill? –especially when I didn’t want to send something that would just collect dust.
For one of the two aunts, I decided on a pillowcase, but not just any pillowcase… an embroidered steampunk pillowcase!
My aunts have attended steampunk events the past few years. Since I have no experience with steampunk and a pretty fluid concept of history, I didn’t want to make a mistake and include items from different decades/centuries that didn’t make sense together. Then it dawned on me: I could embroider an image of my aunt in the costume she made!
The second of these two great-aunts makes incredible scrapbooks. For her, I made a scissors-themed mug rug. The block was inspired by the one in the book Patchwork 318 (see a similar block here), although I had to make my own pattern since the book is unfortunately no longer in print.
Also included in the package was a cute necklace I bought at a craft fair in D.C. called Crafty Bastards. The chain is tiny, but I couldn’t resist.