Craft Swaps

I’m a member of crafting forum Craftster and have settled into the quilting community there.  It’s a cosy group with some really lovely, informed and helpful people!  Of course, it’s a general crafts forum so all kinds of people do all kinds of crafts, and craft swaps (both private and public) are very popular.  It’s a great way to exchange like-for-like or trade your skill in your craft for someone else’s skill in theirs – with the upside that you both get something beautiful and personal to enjoy.  🙂  I haven’t joined many craft swaps so far (I’m acutely conscious  of my time management and only want to commit to deadlines I’m sure I can manage without too much stress), but the ones I have joined have been great fun and have really enriched my crafting.

The Quilt Block Swap

The first quilt-related swap I joined was a Quilt Block Swap – swapping blocks with four other people, although the more ambitious quilters could choose to join several groups if they wished!  I only joined one group to start with, which meant making three blocks per partner for a total of 12 blocks made and sent out.  It’s a great way to “access” other peoples’ stashes and accrue a number of blocks that might be tedious to make en masse, but are quite bearable if everyone is only making three.  The swap has guidelines about block size so that the exchange is reasonably fair, although some flexibility is cheerfully accepted if all the swappers are on board with the concept, as I’ll show!

These are the blocks I made and sent out to my four partners, according to their specifications:

From top to bottom, we have Scrappy Trip Around the World and/or Ohio Star, Bright Hope blocks with a central feature fabric plus coordinates, Wonky Houses, and Words.  Yes, I totally made a swear word; the recipient made it clear that any and all words, including swears, were acceptable!  😉  The Words blocks were a bit unusual, but everyone really loved the idea so there were no issues with the person choosing them – in fact I think she almost had to beat us all off with a stick!  All the blocks were fun to make, although interestingly the Wonky Houses gave me the most pause – possibly due to some kind of “blank canvas” effect.  Once I got going with them though, I think they came out well – and are really going to make an amazing quilt when put with the rest of the “village”!  I also can’t wait to see the Words quilt come to life – the crafter making it is a complete dynamo when it comes to crafting, so I’m sure it won’t be too long.

In return, I asked for versions of my Origami Crane block:

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I specified that the background should be cream or off-white and the cranes themselves were “quilter’s choice” with oriental/asian-themed fabric if available, but no problem if not.  I have to say that my fellow crafters did not disappoint!  I love all the Cranes I received and how diverse they all are!  All of them are beautiful and well made, and I’m so looking forward to turning them all into a quilt (possibly with four more cranes made by Yours Truly).  In the photo above, you can already see my plan, which is to intersperse Flying Geese blocks between the Cranes to mix things up a bit – and having two birds on one quilt is a notion that rather tickles me!  😉  I need to re-do that example block though – sadly the fabric is a bit cheap and that solid pink has already faded unevenly.  🙁

The Hexie Swap

So how ’bout that EPP, eh?  It feels like it’s going through a bit of a revival recently, what with the apparent popularity of EPP patterns such as the Passacaglia (I adore that pattern, not sure I’m yet brave enough to try it myself!).  EPP is something I’ve so far watched curiously from the sidelines, thinking it might be fun to try but lacking a suitable impetus to give it a go.  When someone on Craftster mentioned the idea of swapping fabric squares or finished hexies, I decided it was high time to jump on the EPP bandwagon!  After all, what’s more appealing than the thought of chilling in the summer afternoon sunshine whipping up some traditional patchwork, favourite drink at elbow?  Of course, living in Britain means the sunshine ain’t all that reliable, but it’s still a nice idea!  Also, I have some vague plans for quilt designs that would revolve around EPP and this seemed like a good taster session to find out whether it really is something I would enjoy doing a lot of before I commit lots of resources and supplies to a larger, more complex project.

Because it ended up being quite a small group (eight of us in total), we decided to do a mass swap together, meaning that I have seven people to send squares or hexagons too.  Of course, it also means that I will receive squares or hexagons from seven people – I can’t wait to see what they have in store for me!  😀  For the sake of my sanity, I ended up creating a spreadsheet to keep track of each crafter and what they had requested, and I already have all the squares and templates cut:

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There we are, all ready to go!  In fact, one package is already in the post.  🙂

Having never really tried EPP previously, I thought I ought to have a bit of a practice to make sure I’d be ok with making them for other people, so I whipped up a quick half-dozen hexies in my chosen size (3/4″ sides) to put on a personal project:

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Yay!  These were fussy-cut from an Eclectic Elements model aeroplane blueprints print that I love so much I went back for more!  The project they’re on is one that I would like to try and work into a magazine pattern submission, now that I’ve made a prototype and identified the areas that need smoothing out a bit, so I’ll be keeping the rest of it under wraps for now.  😉  I will, however, post my progress with the swap hexies so I can show off all the fabrics I picked out.  🙂

Origami Crane Pattern and Tutorial

At long last I’ve managed to do a tutorial for my Origami Crane block (finishes at 12″).  I’m planning to request it as my block in an online quilt block swap, so it seemed only fair to provide some instructions to go with!  If you’re confident with foundation piecing, you can download the pattern here: Origami_Crane_pattern and get started (print the pattern with no scaling!), or see below for how I pieced this block.

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Preparation

Basic sewing and rotary cutter skills will be useful.

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You will need:

  • the pattern – printed with NO scaling!
  • three different fabrics (background fabric, fabric 1, fabric 2)
  • fabric scissors
  • paper scissors
  • a rotary cutter
  • a cutting mat
  • a quilting ruler with a 1/4″ mark
  • pins
  • neutral-coloured thread for piecing
  • a seam ripper (hopefully not necessary, but just in case!)
  • a sewing machine
  • iron and ironing board (steam setting OFF!)

The pattern is intended to print on A4 paper without scaling, though I have tried to ensure that it will print ok on US Letter paper.  There are six pages – five with different parts of the block and one with an overall joining scheme.  Each block part also has a list of fabrics that correspond to the labelled areas on the block part.

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On each block piece page, there is also a grey 1″ square for checking the scale – if this square is not 1″, the block will not be the right size!  I recommend printing just one part to begin with and checking the size of the grey square to make sure your printer settings are correct before wasting paper printing out all the pieces at the wrong scale!

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Once all the pages are printed, cut out each part carefully around the outermost lines and make sure to keep the piecing lists:

The outer line is the seam allowance for joining the block parts – don’t cut it off!

Lastly, make sure you have shortened the stitch length on your sewing machine.  About 1.5mm works well.

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Assembly

Here’s how I pieced part A – the other parts are all pieced in much the same way.

Important!  When cutting out fabric pieces, always make sure that the fabric is right-side facing down and the foundation paper is printed side facing up.  This will ensure that the fabric always ends up the right way round and less fabric is wasted due to miss-cuts.

In my example, I have chosen a cream music-score print as the background fabric, a big floral print as fabric 1 (the main parts of the crane) and a solid pink as fabric 2 (the smaller detail parts of the crane).

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The first piece (A1) of part A is background fabric.  I folded the paper along the stitch lines so that I could get a good idea of the shape of the piece, then cut out a piece of background fabric with a very generous seam allowance.  It’s a good idea to secure the first piece of fabric to the paper with a few pins to stop it wandering off where it shouldn’t.

I then repeated the process to cut out A2 (here, A2 is cut from fabric 2).

When held up to the light, you can see that the fabric comfortably covers area A2 with plenty of seam allowance.

Next comes the clever bit!  I stumbled across this trick on the internet, but can’t remember where, I will add a link if I find it again.  This is an easy way to join the two bits of fabric and make sure that they cover the right areas.  It seems fiddly initially, but it works brilliantly and soon becomes second nature.

First, make sure both pieces are covering their respective areas, then pin along the stitch line between the two areas, like so:

When the piece is flipped over, the pins create an anchor point for where the seam will be.  You can check whether the seam allowance is large enough, and trim it back a little if it’s very large.  (I recommend caution with trimming, though – if something goes wrong then that extra fabric might be useful for re-alignment.)

Next, fold down and pin the main flap of the second piece (A2 here) so that the fold runs snugly along the stitch-line pins, like so:

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Try not to distort the fabric, and make sure that the pin(s) does not catch any of the seam allowance underneath.  Flip back to the paper side and remove the pins along the stitch line.  This will allow the seam allowance of A2 to be unfolded:

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The fold in the fabric should line up nicely with the stitch line.  If it does, sew along the stitch line between A1 and A2:

Fold A2 back along the stitched line to make sure that it is still correctly covering the whole area:

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If all is well, the seam allowance can be trimmed to 1/4″ (with a rotary cutter – the scissors are just attention seekers!), set and pressed:

Repeat the process for A3 (fabric 3 here):

The last piece of part A is A4, another background piece, attached in the same way as before:

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Once the whole part is pieced, it can be trimmed to size along the outer edges by using a ruler and rotary cutter (there is no need to add an “extra” 1/4″ allowance, it is already included):

If you have cut out the paper parts carefully, the risk of cutting paper with the rotary cutter blade should be minimal – the 1/4″ seam allowance should line up with the 1/4″ mark of the ruler.

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Part A is finished!

Assemble parts B-E in the same way. and join them as described in the pattern.  Note that the seam for D6 can be trimmed to 1/8″ if necessary.

Joining the parts

For larger areas of fabric (particularly the background), it is helpful to pin it in place to the paper to stop it wriggling and wrinkling during the final assembly.

Part A is joined to part B:

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Use pins to line up the two parts so that the points match:

I put a pin straight through the all points I want to match and then use more pins to secure the two pieces together, then sew along the seam line:

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Then open it up and check that the points match!

Hooray!  🙂

At this point, I removed the paper that covers the seam allowance between the two parts (this saves a lot of hassle later!), making sure not to stretch the surrounding fabric too much, and press this seam open to reduce bulk:

Part C attaches to part D like so:

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Part E attaches to the top of CD:

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Last of all, AB is attached to CDE to make the finished block:

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If all has gone well, no unpicking will have been necessary and the block will be 12.5″ square (12″ finished):

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If the blocks aren’t going to be used for a while, it’s probably worth leaving the paper attached for support; it can be carefully removed if the blocks are to be used straightaway.  Be gentle when handling the blocks and removing the paper; due to the nature of foundation piecing, the fabric grains will be pointing in various directions and it will be very stretchy and easy to distort as a result!

Ooops…

Things don’t always go to plan:

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I wasn’t concentrating and attached a new piece before I’d pressed the previous one!  That seam ripper came in handy; luckily I could get away with a partial unpicking to release the pink triangle so it could be pressed properly.

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So don’t do that!  🙂

Over to you

I hope this tutorial is interesting and helpful.  If you make something with this block, please link back to me and show me what you’ve made, I would love to see it.  🙂  If you have any feedback or comments, I would also love to hear them – please let me know if there’s something that I’ve missed or if something isn’t clear!

Linking up with Monday Making, Sew Cute Tuesday and Let’s Bee Social when it goes live.

Craft Swap!

A friend from an online game and I decided to do a craft swap before Christmas.  She’s a very clever beader and made me three truly fabulous bracelets.

In return, I am making her a wall hanging using my Paper Crane pattern.  I hope she likes it!

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I re-sized the pattern from the original 12″ finished block down to 8″ finished, which was more manageable (and meant I could fit more of the pieces onto one page of printer paper).  Then I picked out my fabrics and set to!  After some humming and hawing, I ended up with four pairs of fabrics I liked, and decided to make four cranes.  The set-in triangles are fabric I originally bought to make box bags with, but the slightly oriental feel and the colours went so well that I couldn’t resist using it for this project!

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Then a house move/Christmas/New Year/work happened and I didn’t manage to make much more progress until the last couple of weeks, when this project has leapt forward again.

Craft goes in craft place; unfortunately, so did everything else...
Craft goes in craft place; unfortunately, so did everything else…

I’m now busy quilting it and hope to be able to send it off to its new home in Kentucky very soon!  🙂

Linking up with Monday Making!

Adventures in Foundation Piecing

The thing I love about patchwork and quilting is the sheer variety of techniques on offer.  I’ve been doing this for a couple of years now and feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface, lol!  Something I’ve read about a lot but had not tried is foundation piecing (sometimes known as paper piecing).  In essence, a design is printed on a foundation (often paper or calico) and then the fabric is placed underneath and the lines are used as guides for highly controlled stitch’n’flip piecing.  For more complicated designs, several parts may be required to create the finished design.  There are some staggeringly complex foundation-pieced patterns available (The Tartan Kiwi does beautiful ones, I love her birds; Fandom In Stitches has a ginormous range of fan-made patterns for all manner of subjects from Disney to Doctor Who), but I decided that, for my first pattern, something simpler would be good.  And because it’s me, I also couldn’t resist the idea of making my own pattern!

After reading around a little on how foundation patterns work and being inspired by an image I’d seen in one of those Grown-Up Colouring Books, I sketched a nicely graphic paper crane image in Inkscape and started to chop it up into something that might work as a pattern:

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After squinting at it a bit, I decided that I needed five sections to make up the whole design and drew each one up with the necessary seam allowance and carefully labelled the order in which I thought they ought to be pieced.  Then I printed out a copy and lost it in the muddle on my crafting table for some weeks!

Then, because yesterday was Quilt Club and I hadn’t a single idea in my head of what I wanted to work on, I went riffling through my muddle of UFOs and found the pattern again.  And I also found a couple of FQs with postcard motifs, in two different colours, and a lightbulb went on in my head.

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I grabbed everything, plus a handy cream-on-cream print that didn’t run away fast enough (and which I see I’ve accidentally photographed the wrong side of, ooops!) and bundled it all into a bag for Quilt Club.  Knowing that people there had done foundation piecing before was a great comfort and help, and everyone put up very politely with my growling whenever I failed to line up a piece quite right and had to reach for the seam ripper yet again!  I think I re-did one bit about five times before I managed to get it lying correctly, by which stage the paper had almost disintegrated.  But guess what?  IT. WORKED.

ERMAGERD, IT WORKED!  *happy flailing*

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Ok, there are two points in particular that I feel could have lined up a bit better, I probably ought to have paid more attention to fabric grain direction and the lighter postcard fabric is a bit too close in tone to the cream background fabric, but I am over the moon with how well this came out.  However, I am wondering whether there are better ways to cut the pieces than “hack out a generous chunk approximately the right shape and hope” – I feel sure there must be!

The unfinished block ends up being 12.5″ square, which is a nice size.  I’ll probably give this one some corners and turn it into a cushion.  If life ever calms down enough to allow me to sign up to the Quilt Block Swap over on Craftster, this may very well be the block I ask for – I think it could be delightful done in a variety of scrappy prints.  I could also see it done in shot cottons, of which I have a nice bundle.  Hmmmm….!  😀