Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The IQA 2015 Houston Raffle Quilt; Getting Ready to Piece

After working on my practice blocks and figuring out where I would need to make changes, I went back to the drawing board. In this case, my drawing board is Electric Quilt 7. I have found this pattern drafting software to be utterly invaluable when creating quilts that are out of the ordinary. I'm not exactly what you might call a math whiz and, unfortunately, a lot of math is required when drafting funky quilt patterns. Using this software frees me from the math part and allows me to focus on the creative part, which is exactly what I want. One of the other things that I really like about this program is that it allows me to quickly see where I'm going to run into trouble and allows me to make the changes needed to head that trouble off at the pass. For example; this quilt is going to have a center medallion and, in the first draft, I thought it would be super cool to have a center medallion with swooping, curving lines. After drafting it, I needed only one look to realize that, while it might look super cool, all of those curved lines would definitely give me a heart attack. Draft #2: Fewer curved lines. I pieced a square medallion and placed the points of my medallion right at the seam line. However, after seeing in EQ7 what that finished medallion was going to look like, I realized that it was going to be a real bear to piece the medallion without chopping off the heads of all of my points. Because I do not think that anyone will be at all impressed by a medallion full of blunted points, I used the program to quickly redraft the pattern and move my points away from the seams so that they 'float' within the block. Yay! EQ7 allows me to go in and adjust piecing orders, piecing lines, shapes, everything. I love it because it allows me to effortlessly tweak, fiddle with, and adjust my patterns to make them as perfect as possible. Only rarely am I able to use the first draft of a pattern for my quilts because I end up doing so much tweaking and adjusting. For this quilt, I think I went through about 12 drafts before I felt I was 'close enough' for practice blocks.


After using EQ7 to fix all of my initial errors, I printed out my corrected pattern on foundation paper.

This paper is very light, which makes it easy to see your fabric clearly. (this is important, because if you can see it clearly you'll have an easier time placing it correctly.) Additionally, it is sturdy enough to run easily through a printer but fragile enough to tear away easily when you're all done piecing.

Next, I cut my patterns apart into individual segments. I'll begin by piecing the curved segment with the floating diamonds, so I cut that segment away from the rest of the block, then cut the segment into individual sections for piecing. Before cutting, I numbered the pieces for easier reassembly. (this pic shows only sections 5-9 because I've already pieced sections 1-4) I always save at least one uncut version of the pattern for reference because we all know that I need a map.

After I spent about forty-eleven hours on their web site trying to decide which fabrics to use, SewBatik sent me a box full of eye candy.

After drooling all over it, I starched it with two coats of liquid Sta-Flo starch, mixed 1:4 with water (one part Sta-Flo, four parts water). Always apply your starch to WARMED fabric to avoid flaking (warm the fabric by simply running your iron over it a time or two, then spritz on the starch). I do my starching in two light coats instead of one heavy coat because, in addition to avoiding flakes, I find this method gives me a more even starching and more consistent body, but that's just me.

Next, it's time to sub-cut the fabric. I am a frugal quilter and don't like to waste fabric but, at the same time, I also do not like to panic while piecing because it looks like I might not have enough fabric to make a good seam allowance. When sub-cutting for paper piecing, I want a piece of fabric that will adequately cover the spot it's supposed to cover and give me good seam allowances plus just a tiny smidge extra. If you look at the pic below, you will see that the purple fabric covers the central diamond and it extends out just enough to give me nice 1/4 inch seam allowances all around, so this is the size that I will cut all of my diamond fabrics.

I store all of my cut fabrics with their pattern pieces in zip-lock baggies because I live in a house with dogs and busy people and windows that are open on nice days and I don't want my fabrics flying off the table and onto the floor. Also, I know that this project is going to take the better part of the spring to complete and if I don't bag them up they'll end up being eaten by dogs and then where will I be? Baggies it is.

Same for my background fabrics, accent fabrics, and completed sections.

I now have all of my prep work done and am ready to begin. Next up: paper piecing techniques!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The 2015 IQA Houston Raffle Quilt: Part 1

A while back, I was asked by the Board of the International Quilt Association to create the 2015 raffle quilt. To those who you who do not speak fluent Quilt, this is sort of like going to the Oscars and being presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

It goes like this; you are invited to create the raffle quilt, but first you are asked to submit your vision of the quilt/artist's statement/fabric swatches/etc. to the Board at it's annual meeting, which takes place between Fall Market and Fall Festival. The quilt must be an original design, it must be over a certain size, and it must have several particular elements incorporated into it's design. The Board reviews your submission, suggests any changes it thinks should be made, and issues it's approval. You then have one year to create the quilt and must have it ready for presentation to the Board at the following year's annual meeting. After that, it travels to all of the IQA shows during that year and is displayed all across the country with your name in big bold letters for everyone in the industry to see. At the following year's Festival, the winning raffle ticket is drawn and off the quilt goes to it's new home. (proceeds from the raffle go to fund the IQA's educational projects.)

Naturally, I panicked.

After picking myself up off the floor, I got busy designing and came up with something that I thought would work. The Board liked it and suggested no changes. Bruce and Diane Magidson at SewBatik, who are two of the nicest people in the entire world, offered to provide the gorgeous batik fabrics for the quilt. Bliss! I love their fabrics, so I'm stoked.

Before starting on the real deal, I decided to make some practice blocks to ensure that the pattern I'd created was accurate. That's the thing with drafting your own patterns; you never know if they're really going to work until you make them, so you ALWAYS make a practice piece or two. This way, you can work out the bugs on fake fabric and not screw up the real fabric.

You start by printing out your patterns and pin/tape/glue/MacGyver them together.

Then you write about a million notes to yourself, all of which will be meaningless within a day or two.

Then you start piecing the block segments and you realize that you will need to cut your pieces larger so that you have enough fabric to have actual seam allowances.

And you realize that you will need to alter your stitching/assembly order so that you don't have funky seam joins hanging out in front of the entire world.

Then you get on a roll and have a couple of segments that go together pretty well, so you start thinking that you're a rock star, even though the blocks look really weird in the practice fabrics. While you're piecing, you write about a million more notes to yourself, which will completely mystify you when you try to decode them later.

And then you realize that it took you forever just to piece this one block and you count how many blocks there will be in the finished quilt and there are 36 and that's when you start drinking.

No pressure here. Nope, no pressure at all.