Monday, December 8, 2014

The Making of Twirling Aqua

I was so excited to share Twirling Aqua, I didn't post anything about the making of the top. . . and there is SO much to share! This is not a tutorial, this is a rundown of the tips and tricks I learned while making this top.

HSTs. . . I am officially obsessed! SO many options, so little time! Haven't given that much thought? Me either. . . until now. Check out this site 'Easy Triangle Quilting Patterns' to get a major dose of inspiration and OMG I have to try thats! (I know thats isn't a word but that is what I said in my head) I may or may not have spent hours on this site and have a plan brewing for the next quilt! 

There are SO many ways to make HSTs and I think I've read and tried just about every one. It's not the making of them that I find challenging - it's putting them together and keeping those pesky points!! With this quilt, I was able to keep every.single.point! In the interest of full disclosure, those points don't always match up perfectly - but they are there! How did I make it work this time? First, the method that worked for me was to sew two squares together with my marked lines being the sewing lines  - if I'm following a line, my sewing tends to be WAY more straight! I measured a scant 1/4 inch from the opposite corners instead of drawing a line down the middle and then a scant quarter from that line. I found this gave me a more accurate measurement.

You can see on the darker fabric, I have two lines drawn, not one down the middle.
I also have struggled in the past with distorting the blocks while ironing once they are cut apart. I have always been a lover of using steam. . . I used no steam with these blocks. Not because I wanted to see if it made a difference, but because my new iron doesn't like to give consistent steam. . . (OK, a little side note here - I have had a very strong dislike for this iron from the day I bought it - the automatic shut off turns it off at any time - even while I am ironing. . . and I have to bang it on the ironing board to get it to turn on again!! FRUSTRATING to say the least!! It is a Shark - I had read mixed reviews. . . my feet are planted firmly in the 'would not ever buy again' camp.) Anyway, back to steam, no steam. . . I found that I had NO distortion using no steam! I might need to thank Shark for that one major aha moment as I don't know it would have happened had the iron performed as it was advertised. . . still not enough for me to buy another!

So now I have my lovely HST blocks all ironed (after much banging of the iron to get it to turn back on . . . GRRRR) and my straight lines are all still straight! YAY Oh, I also ironed my seams open - there's a good amount of bulk created when sewing HSTs together and I wanted to reduce that - and we all know I am an open seam kind of girl ;)

BAD iron, beautiful HSTs :D
On to trimming - yes, trimming. The more accurate the blocks are, the better those points are going to be! I found the best way to trim was to line up the 45 degree angle on my square ruler, having a little to trim on all sides of my  block size worked wonders! I know you might be thinking, duh no kidding, but this is one of those things that I don't typically see in tutorials and it has taken a good amount of trial and error to figure this out. So if you are one of those people who are a little slow on the uptake like me. . . hopefully I can save you some frustration! :)

When you are done trimming, you should have sharp concise corners of each of the fabric pieces on both sides of the seam. . . hopefully that makes sense. . . no extra bits of one fabric or the other at the corner. . . Oh heck, if that doesn't make sense, please leave me a comment or email me, I'll try to 'splain that better! :)
Now we have our perfect HST blocks! Spending the extra time to get the blocks as close to perfection as possible, is going to save LOTS of headaches when sewing these bad boys together! Let's talk about sewing them together. . . It has been awhile since I did any piecing on Rosanne - I had forgotten how wonderful she is in the piecing department! I used the Accufeed 1/4 inch walking foot for all of my piecing. Walking foot for piecing? YES! I have found that using the walking foot makes the fabric easily feed through evenly without having to futz around in order to not have that extra bit of the top or bottom piece be longer at the end of the seam. Having very precisely squared up blocks helps this along and I didn't have to worry about whether my diagonal seams were matching up right. Gotta love that! :)

On to sewing rows together, this is where I struggle the most and is the step where points are lost. . . BOO for lost points! ;) I found the best way for ME was to put a pin directly through where the seam should be to keep those points. The pin is perpendicular to the fabric, not laying flat. I would put the pin in place when I was about 4 to 5 inches from the needle. I then hold that pin in place until I got just to the needle. Now, this requires a little bit of practice and fenagleing (not sure that is officially a word, but it is officially a word in my world! LOL) - it is easy to be applying too much pressure and have that pin slip down to the feed dogs. . . believe me, you DON'T want that to happen! I was also a little sad because this does tend to leave scratch marks on the bobbin cover - I'm going to deal with that because the results made it worth it to me! Disclaimer here, by doing this, there is a potential to totally mess up the timing on your machine if the pin slips down into the feed dogs. I'm not responsible for any damage this might cause ;) I'm just sharing my daring (probably not so smart in terms of what could happen to the machine) ways with you that worked for me. Try at your own risk!

I tried pinning, not pinning and doing what I described above - doing what I described above resulted in the BEST outcome each and every time. 

If you have hung in there this long, congratulations! I said I had a lot to say! LOL Three more things. . . Chain piecing.  I have to admit, I have not been a fan. . . I've been slow to jump on the band wagon. . . that all changed with this quilt! From sewing the squares together to sewing the quilt top together, I chained pieced this one.! Everything went together SO much faster! I admit, sometimes I am a slow learner! LOL

Second, sometimes the very first layout put on the design wall - is the best! I'm still in shock that I actually left the first go as it was an just sewed it together!

And third, Peppered Cottons (the dark grey is Peppered Cotton) - I had heard stories about issues with fraying. I had none. I am going to attribute this to the fact that I SOAK my fabric with starch prior to cutting. . . I mean SOAK. :) I did not pre-wash - I don't pre-wash anything.ever. Also, make sure that you order enough fabric to finish your project. . . Because I had intended these fabrics for a different quilt, I was a fat quarter short of being able to add an additional row to the length of the quilt. . . I had a fat quarter from a bundle of Peppered Cottons that is waiting for it's turn to be cut up into a quilt. The colors were not.even.close. I was going to add the row using the fat quarter anyway, and my husband (who doesn't typically have strong reactions one way or the other) said "Don't do it!" OK, message received and I actually complied!! ;)

There you have it, all of the things I learned about sewing with HSTs :) An update to the status of the top - The backing is pieced and I was able to use almost every usable scrap of fabric! This is definitely going to be another reversible quilt - LOVE that! :) I spent the day yesterday doodling. I'll spend today and probably most of tomorrow quilting. . . I am definitely on track to finish the quilt by Friday. . . and then I can start pulling fabric for my next HST adventure!! :D 

One of the many pictures of Twirling Aqua posted here.
Linking up with Judy for Design Wall Monday. Check it out to see what others are working on and for a healthy dose of inspiration :)

Until next time, keep on quilting!
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  1. I do agree on the no steam helps a bunch-I used to use steam ALL the time and now not as much. Great flimsy!

  2. Beautiful, I love the colors and the design

  3. I totally agree with how to trim HSTs - it's the only way I stand a chance of having precision with these blocks! :)

  4. Oh, I do love this. I'm going to try the non-steaming of HSTs from now on because mine are always distorted, too.

  5. It's still beautiful and I think it's brilliant of you to get it done so quickly. May I make a suggestion? I will anyway!
    Instead of endangering your machine with a pin through the join, try putting the pin through to mark the place, and then, BEFORE you start sewing, use another pin each side, about ½" away, to hold the pieces in position where there is less bulk and so less danger of slipping. Those two pins you put in in the normal way. You can now remove the vertical pin as it's work has been taken over by the other two. Slightly more work, but far less dangerous. Not my original idea; I saw it in a McCall's video.

  6. I've started pressing with no steam now too - never can manage to get a HST square with steam! Love the colours in this.

  7. I loved reading what you had to say. I can hardly stand quilts that I can't chain piece. I LOVE chain piecing, and I'm glad you enjoy it now too. :)

  8. Always have loved HST's and your combination is stunning. Also everything goes so.... much faster with chain piecing. These 2 techniques are a match made in heaven!

  9. Oh yes, I'm a fan of the four at a time for HSTs. No marking. And I'm trimming anyway so....if I were going to try to not trim, I'd do the two at a time, but the four is my preferred method. Even when making tons of them.i don't mind trimming for better accuracy either. Like I said, I've got square rulers in every half inch size from 2-18.5 so any size works for me! Iron suggestion....Vermont Country Store has a dry iron for 30 bucks. It has a FLAT SURFACE WITH NO HOLES...I LOVE IT. And a lifetime warranty. The dial plate is cheaply assembled, but I make do. Right after I ordered mine, I found two OLD OLD dry irons in a thrift store for five bucks each~~they are heavy as hell but I love them most of all! But, you might want to try that iron. No auto shut off, heats up quick, stays hot a long time after unplugging. It's a little heavy, but not nearly as heavy as those two old ones I have. I just use a spray bottle of water and I'm a heavy starcher too! Sole plate stays clean a long long long time. LOVE process posts! Thanks!

  10. Lots of interesting things Judy! You are converting me away from using steam. What a bugger of an iron you got there.
    And why it is a revelation to me to use a walking foot for small piecing, I don't know, but i love your idea!
    I did a test once to compare chain piecing with progressive piecing (on a log cabin quilt) The chain pieced half of the quilt took fourteen hours less to put together... yup!
    Twirling aqua is gorgeous! Love those colors together too!

  11. Judy, Thank you so much for the detailed instructions on HSTs, points, trimming, ironing, piecing and pinning. This is a very comprehensive post. It will definitely save headaches and heartbreaks when I make anything using HSTs.

  12. That is very striking! Cool combo!


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