Life happened and I didn’t get to quilt my Marsala top(s) yet. Heck, I only just managed to get some last much-needed fabric for the back yesterday. But that’s ok, I’m really happy with my top and would not have wanted to mess up the quilting by rushing and trying to get it done by today. So here it is, Marsala Spice is my official entry for the 2015 Pantone Quilt Challenge!
Size: 72″ x 72″
Material: Assorted 100% cotton fabrics, including an over-dyed solid
Pattern: Own design (watch this space for a tutorial…)
A reminder of my original design:
More info on the Pantone Challenge can be found at On The Windy Side and play crafts. Thanks guys, it has been awesome fun working with a colour that I would probably never have tried otherwise. 😀 No, honestly, I’m serious! 😉
Yay! It’s not completely as I envisaged it, but it’s ok. No idea whether I’m going to get it quilted in time, but if I don’t I’ll just enter it as a top only. If nothing else, I really like how the block came out in large quantities (and large sizes).
Obligatory close-ups/gate picture:
I’ve started putting a back together for it, using some spare blocks and the un-dyed fabric I bought:
The centre is together now and I’ve started adding the necessary borders, only to discover that I fluffed my calculations a bit and I’m short on two sides. Argh. 🙁 Back to the fabric shop on Monday, I guess!
A Marsala Side-Project
While I was making the Marsala Spice blocks I ended up with a pile of HST units needing a home, so I pieced them randomly together:
Then, because I wanted to test out a possible idea for another quilt, I stacked pairs of blocks together and cut them up again, then skiffled the bits about to make two new “fractured” blocks:
They trimmed up nicely to 5″ square and made 12 new blocks in total, to make this:
It’s an interesting effect, though quite difficult with HSTs of this size and density; the reverse is a nightmare of seam bulk.
I was thinking of turning it into a cushion or maybe adding the blocks to the back of the main quilt, but those seams would make it rather less than comfortable. It’ll probably be a wall hanging, assuming I don’t break ALL the needles trying to quilt it. :s
On Friday I blasted through a bunch more Marsala Spice blocks and then finished the last few off this evening, so that I now have three complete blocks for each variant – over-dyed solid, print and un-dyed solid (oh, yeah, I went and bought a lot more of the Marsala solid I started with). And….
….I dunno. I skiffled some of the blocks around on Stef’s floor on Friday, rather unconvinced by the combination. She suggested running the print blocks as a diagonal across the quilt, with the solids arranged around it, but when I tried it with all the blocks on my own floor, the result was a bit underwhelming. So much so that I didn’t bother to photograph it. I didn’t HATE it, but I certainly didn’t love it, either. In desperation, I summoned Mum for a second opinion (once I’d finished clarifying that I liked the colours and I liked the pattern, I just didn’t like how I’d ended up interpreting them). Mum suggested distributing the print blocks about more evenly, and in doing so I ended up with them arranged in an X across the quilt. This looks…. better?
Maybe. After considering it some more (and mysteriously referring to the two gold/brown fabrics as “green”), Mum noted that the un-dyed solid just doesn’t look as good against the other fabrics as the over-dyed fabric does. I do see what she means (strange comments about fabric colour notwithstanding). And the mixture of the two solids looks a bit weird. I think I’m going to have to cut down the variety to just the over-dyed and print blocks, which I should be able to do with some careful cutting. The “spare” un-dyed blocks can go on the back.
Interested in the possibility of potential patterns formed by arranging the print blocks in different ways, I shuffled some more and came up with this:Yeah, the different-coloured solids still look weird. I must do something about those. And I MUST-MUST-MUST do my quilt maths BEFORE I buy my fabrics next time! >_< It’s quite possible that I’m going to end up with a layout like this:Perhaps not fabulously exciting/original/modern/whatever all the cool kids like, but it would work…
At last, I’ve made a proper start on my Marsala Spice quilt! Here are some assembled blocks! I’m thrilled by the colours so far. As a reminder, here’s the palette I picked from Pantone’s website:
Not a bad match, eh? 🙂 So there’s good progress, but I have a problem. Part of the problem is that I’m short of my over-dyed Marsala colour so I can’t make the big 72″ x 72″ quilt I’d had in mind with it. And I really like that quite strong, graphic look of the basic blocks, so in many ways I don’t want to detract from it by adding complications. I still have another “marsala” fabric that may yet get added into the mix, but it is patterned and looks quite different to my solid Marsala and I’m having trouble picturing how it’s all going to work together.
When I get a chance I’m probably going to churn out some more blocks using the leafy fabric, probably in both large and small versions, and then skiffle everything about until I get something I like. Spare blocks will probably end up on the back.
I wasn’t happy with how burgundy my Marsala fabric appeared in some lights, so I decided to hit it with some dye.
After some deliberation, I picked Dylon’s dark brown. I only wanted to shift the shade of the fabric a few clicks towards brown, so I only used one sachet despite having slightly more than 250g of fabric to dye.This plastic bucket was the perfect size to hold both fabric and dye and kept me from making an epic mess of the kitchen sink! In fact, the only thing I managed to unintentionally dye was myself:
When dyeing, it’s important to establish beforehand that your gloves don’t leak!The packet of dye suggested a total immersion time of an hour, but I decided to remove my fabric after only half an hour because I didn’t want it to be too brown. Then I rinsed it out really well and threw it in the washing machine with a couple of colour catchers (which came out very brown!).
I’m really quite pleased with the final colour; it seems more red-brown now rather than burgundy.I was disappointed that I didn’t get a textured look at all, but I’m not sure this dye works like that and I did stir the fabric in it pretty well. Anyway, I like this colour and I’m looking forward to seeing it in my blocks. With luck, I should get a chance to get started with cutting and piecing this weekend. After some back-of-envelope calculations, I’ve realised I don’t have enough of this fabric to be able to make the size of quilt I want with the large (24″) blocks, but I should be able to do something good with the small (12″) blocks, or maybe even a combination of the two. That’ll teach me to buy fabric first and do the maths later! (But probably not.)
YESSSSSSSS! All those triangles, all together! So pleased with this one! 😀 For reference, here’s the original image I’ve been working on, created from Equal by Play Crafts (and thank you to Lori for pointing out that it was AWOL!):
In a spirit of doing ALL the experiments, I have bought some 100% wool wadding for this (I have not tried wool yet) and I ordered some Aurifil thread for the quilting (I have not tried Aurifil, either). And I couldn’t resist picking up some super-cute koi fish fabric for the back. They manage to combine all the colours in the fabrics of the top, and I like the idea that, if I go with my all-over frosty feathers quilting idea, they’ll look (hopefully!) like they’re swimming below a skim of ice. (I doubt I’m going to be that lucky, but I’m nothing if not ambitious!)
It will most likely be a wall hanging, or some other purpose that doesn’t demand a lot of washing and wear; the wool wadding seems to be a bit picky about cleaning methods and I’m not convinced all that glitter on the fabrics won’t all come off in the first wash. Certainly there seems to be quite a bit on my ironing board! Plus it’s kind of a funny size (~30 x 34″) to do anything with, especially as I have no intention of adding borders.
After trying this pattern, I came to the conclusion that, although my light and dark fabrics worked well, my medium fabrics were less effective because the print is just too large – in some places the medium triangles look reasonably obvious, in others they’re almost impossible to distinguish from the light triangles.
I don’t mind this overly much, I suspected that it would be the case and I still like the outcome because I like these fabrics. However, it does alter the look of the pattern a bit. Were I to do this again, I would lean towards choosing solid or reads-as-solid fabrics over larger prints. The use of two different prints for each shade was also a little confusing, though mostly because of the above-mentioned issue with the medium-coloured fabrics being too light in places. That’s not something I would necessarily avoid in future, but again it changes the very graphic look of the original design. I would also tend to avoid very directional prints, or the effort of getting everything pointed in the right direction could be maddening!
Fat quarters versus yardage?
I mostly used fat quarters for this; it did work out ok and my yardage estimates were pretty good. However, I would say that, because of the approximation used when calculating the number of triangles in a strip (counting two half-triangles at each end of a strip as one whole triangle), there would be less wastage and yardage estimates would be more accurate if WOF yardage were used rather than fat quarters because it reduces the number of strips required (1 WOF strip = 2 FQ strips). That means two fewer “wasted” half-triangles. Alternatively, calculations for the number of strips needed could be approached differently to give a more accurate result.
Using up “ends” from larger triangles to cut smaller triangles also helped reduce waste and proved to be essential for cutting enough of the light-coloured triangles. I almost ran into trouble when piecing the final strip when I realised that I was one medium-sized light triangle short and didn’t have a large enough piece of the light-coloured fabrics left to cut more. I told myself that, if necessary, I would replace it with a medium-coloured triangle, but in the event I found that I had an extra dark triangle the right size, so I substituted that instead. At least with a pattern like this, such antics go pretty much unnoticed! 😀 I also came up a bit short on small light and dark triangles, but had more enough scraps left to be able to cut extras with no trouble. So I can’t count, but it all worked out ok anyway! :p
So, feathers? Feathers. Despite the fact that I have never quilted a feather in my life and I still haven’t really mastered FMQ on the Pfaff. Yay. This may well be time to bust out the water-erase fabric pen I bought, if only I can remember where I put it!
My Aurifil thread arrived, along with some YLI Soft Touch and some Superior Bottom Line and a ridiculous variety of different types and sizes of needles:
Somewhere in here there must be a combination that will work for me! I’m pleased with the colour of Aurifil I chose – it’s called Silver and proved to be a really nice soft grey with a hint of blue, perfect for a frosty look. If Aurifil proves to work well for me, I may pick up their thread shade card – it’s horrible playing “guess the real colour” on a computer screen. :/ I picked grey for the other two as well so that they have the potential to blend with a decent range of colours, I hope. The site I bought these from, New Threads, has a really useful-looking page of advice on choosing the right needle to match the task and the thread, and I shall be using the suggestions in my experiments.
Additionally, I recently discovered that The Cotton Patch run a “Make Friends With Your Pfaff” course that focuses on patchwork and quilting, and the next one is at the end of March (which unfortunately coincides neatly with when we’re likely to move house, but oh well). It was £45 because I didn’t buy my machine from them, but I suspect it will be money well spent so I signed up for the last available place, and hopefully they can help me see where I’m going wrong with my machine and give me some tips on making the most of it. In the meantime, I’m going to Pfaff about with a few thread/needle combos and see how I get on. 😉
I finally got a chance to test the blocks for my Marsala quilt, and I am extremely pleased to discover that they work!
Excuse the somewhat random fabric selection, I basically rummaged through my stash and pulled out whatever I could find that I had a good amount of and didn’t mind using up. (Though I think it could have been MUCH worse!)
The large block is a rather giant 24.5″ square; each sub-block in it is 12.5″ square.
The small block is exactly 1/4 the size of the large block, weighing in at a svelte 12.5″ square (6.5″ sub-blocks).
In terms of piecing, it’s all pretty straightforward (although I did have a Special moment when doing the smaller version where I sewed the wrong corners onto four identical units and had to re-cut and re-do them). The larger one is much easier in terms of handling to put together, and has more tolerance of error, whereas the smaller one is a little more fiddly and offers less wriggle room for mistakes. Right now I’m not sure which I prefer, though I’m leaning towards the larger version.
Another consideration is the fact that I have TWO Marsala-coloured fabrics, which I am trying to figure out how to best combine in the blocks:
Certainly, if I want to do any curved piecing, I would be much better off making the larger block! Of these examples, I quite like option 1 or option 3/4.
Lastly, I need to consider quilt size. If I choose the big block, my quilt is likely to end up being ~72″ square (three blocks wide, three blocks long), but I’m less sure about the size I’d want to make if I choose the small block. And borders? Do I want borders? I don’t know!
I mean yes, I did a bunch ofcalculations to be as sure as I could be that it *would* work, but it’s still nice to find that everything is fitting as it should and going together really well!I am SO pleased with this so far! I still have a few more rows to do, but I’m now confident that they won’t give me any trouble.
In general, the piecing has been as straightforward as it can be with three different sizes of triangle. I’ve trialled a couple of different approaches now (strips versus building up large triangles from the smaller ones), and I think I prefer the latter. I am also absolutely confident that I DO NOT want to piece triangles any smaller than this; the 1″ triangles are just about manageable, but anything smaller would be a nightmare in terms of lining everything up and managing the seams.
Tips for construction
Not put off by walls of maths and the prospect of endless equilateral triangles? Want to try one of these? Here are some of the things I’ve found when piecing this beastie.
Accurate cutting is your friend!
Obviously, starting with carefully cut pieces is crucial since it makes lining everything up to join *so* much easier!
Don’t skimp the seams!
Use the full 1/4″ seam allowance, or even a thread or so more. Using a 1/4″ presser foot helps a lot with this. I found that using scant seams on the smaller triangles meant that they came up a bit large when I joined them to the largest triangles, which meant more need to ease and argue to get everything lined up right. My guess is that the 3/4″ seam allowance given for equilateral triangles is slightly out, but is the closest approximation we can sensibly measure with cutting rulers. It’s fine as long as you’re aware of it.
Be mindful of the fabric grain
If possible, try to make sure that the grain of the fabric is pointing up and down the quilt. This should make the overall quilt more stable and make piecing finished strips easier, but it means that a lot of the piecing of individual triangles is along bias edges, so care is needed to avoid stretching the triangles out of shape.
These aren’t very big triangles so I found that mostly they don’t need a lot of pinning; I could just line the points up and sew. Especially on the smallest triangles (remember, mine finish at only 1″ tall!), pinning would distort them too much and make things worse, not better. I kept pins for matching points and the largest triangles once the strips were long and heavy enough to pull the triangles out of alignment. If possible, I kept pins away from the stitching area to stop them throwing off the presser foot.
Press seams open
The random nature of piecing this makes it pretty well impossible to nest seams pressed to the side, and the dog-ears from seams pressed open are invaluable for helping to line up triangles when piecing. Press ’em open, it makes life a LOT easier!
Press ALL the things!
Don’t even THINK you can get away with not pressing seams!
Use pins to line up points
When piecing complete strips or finished triangles together, I use a pin to line up the points as closely as possible by passing it through the back of one point and then through the front of the opposite point and pinching them tightly together against the head of the pin while I added a second pin to hold them flat and in place for sewing.
Sew a straight line!
Sounds stupid; of course you’d want to sew a straight line! But with the bulk of the seams (and maybe a pin) under the presser foot, it can be easy to wiggle off course and miss catching points together properly.
Have a pointy thing ready to tame rebellious seams
Pressing the seams open results in lots of little dog-ears and pointy seams that have an annoying habit of flipping up and scrunching when they’re sewn. I kept my seam ripper to hand so that I could use the point to press them flat or coax them to lie nicely under the presser foot if necessary. Essential when joining finished strips together.
Strip versus triangle piecing
I started by piecing same-size triangles together into the longest strips possible, then joining strips together and connecting them with larger triangles. This works, but I felt it wasn’t as precise as it could be because you end up with lots of long seams and lots of points to match, which can be a bother. Not to mention, depending on the pattern, long strips aren’t always an option anyway. The advantage of this method is that it’s reasonably easy to keep track of where you’re up to with a strip.
What I refer to as “triangle piecing” means piecing the smallest triangles into medium-sized triangles, then piecing the medium-sized triangles into large triangles and then joining all large triangles into a finished strip. Sound confusing? Yes. That’s the biggest disadvantage of this piecing strategy, really. You can end up spending a fair bit of time squinting at numerous pairs of triangles and trying to figure out where they go and what you need to add next. It helps to define the large triangles before piecing them (I outlined them in pencil on my print-out), or it can get very muddly, and between sewing machine and ironing board things can get very mixed up too. It’s *not* impossible, but it does need patience and attention! However, as mentioned, depending on the pattern this approach may well be necessary anyway and I did feel that the piecing of the finished strips with this approach seemed neater and more precise. I’ll continue using this method for the last few strips.
Thoughts so far
I am SO SO SO proud of how well this experiment is working! Some of my points are bit more “off” than my inner control freak would like, but given what I’m trying to do I think they’re actually pretty damn good. My inner control freak can STFU for once! I wish I could say that the quilting will be beautiful and complement the frosty triangles wonderfully, but I have to be honest and say that quilting’s my weakest skill; I’ll attempt some all-over feathers, but be prepared for disappointment there! I would totally do this kind of thing again, in fact I’d love to make one with larger triangles (because I think accurate cutting/piecing/point matching would be vastly easier) and with shot cottons (because shot cottons might be my new fabric obsession). But I’ll probably need a wee break from equilateral triangles for a bit once I’ve finished this one! 😉
I love these fabrics, they’re so SPARKLY! (Even if my cutting and ironing boards are now covered in glitter.) Anyway, these are some of the triangles I’ve cut for Frostbyte; they are 4.75, 2.75 and 1.75″ tall, and have been cut starting from the largest and working down, which worked well because I could cut up any left-overs from larger strips for the smaller triangles.
I also re-discovered that not all half-triangles are created equal! Initially I just cut them at random without referring to my printed Frostbyte diagram, but then part-way through cutting the medium-coloured, medium-sized triangles it occurred to me to check against my print-out and I realised that a lot of the ones I’d cut didn’t “point” the right way. Ooops. But fortunately I realised in time and could cut the rest of the ones I needed the right way around, though I did have to go back and re-cut both the large dark half-triangles.
Part-way through cutting the smallest triangs, I confess I got kind of bored (I’d done all the dark ones and was still faced with the prospect of cutting some 220-odd more light- and medium coloured ones, blah!), so I took the large and medium triangs over to the sewing machine and started piecing neighbouring same-size triangs into strips in a vague sort of way.
This is not entirely how I intended to piece this, but I think it’ll work. I also think that my medium-coloured fabrics are a bit light in places (depends which bit of the print is showing), but I think I’m still going to like the finished product, even if it’s not identical to the concept image.Whee! 😀 (We’ll see if I’m still squeeing when I have to join triangles of different sizes…)