Monday, September 6, 2010

Making the Stars with Freezer Paper Piecing

At last I felt I was ready to start the stars!! Looking at my overall quilt design, I decided to shade from dark purples to red purples to reds to red-orange. I was going to skip the shading to blue since my sister wasn't a big fan of blue. It seemed like red was a good place to start. I needed 8 different reds for the pie shaped pieces around the outside of the stars, a theme of two reds and two pinks/neutrals for the sixteen point outer star. For the inner star I needed three reds and three pinks/neutrals for the inner star and again, a palette of 8 reds to make the inner pie-shaped pieces. Looking over her design, she seemed to randomize the pie pieces a little more, but I decided to just use the same 8 fabrics for simplicity's sake.
I followed a sketch on p2 of the directions (p84 in the book)which suggested an assembly method. (See below). First I would sew together pieces E to make a tiny point, then sew on pieces D to make a larger pie piece, then pieces F to the outside and finally sew the assembly onto a larger point G2 which I had previously made. That made a quarter star and I just had to sew together 4 quarters to make the inner star. I reasoned that assembling the outer star ring would be a lot like the 4 pointed arcs, just more. Having it all figured out, I launched into it.

Above layout, lights on left. Below detail layout, darks on left. Who knew?

Not quite. The left sides of the points were dark and the rights light. Or was it the other way around? I'd made my 4-pointed arcs with the lights on the left and the darks on the right. How could I have made such a mistake? Then I looked again at her patterns. On p2 and on the front of the book, darks are on the left; on p4 of the directions (p 87 in the book), the layout shows darks on the right. I guess I used the layout for the arcs. But I had already made freezer paper pieces, carefully reversing the dark and light on the shaded pattern pieces in the book since I would be pressing the paper to the wrong side. And I had, in an early flush of enthusiasm, already cut some pieces of fabric using the templates and they were now reversed. I couldn't waste those, could I? So I decided to leave the arcs and the stars as is, since the arcs in the finished quilt snake through the stars and it would take a quilt judge to notice.

I had decided to follow a suggestion earlier in the book (on p 42) and make some points by sewing strips of fabric together and then cutting the points, saving having to sew the precise, symmetrical "dart" points. It worked, but I ended up wasting a lot of fabric since I could only cut 18 to 22 in strips from my fat quarters. I also ran into trouble with Y-seams in sewing the small stars (see below). I quickly abandoned this method and devised an easier method for assembling the large pointed arcs which I'll talk about later.

I almost immediately realized that assembling the inner star as the layout suggested (refer to picture above) would require that I make 12 (count'em, 12) Y seams. I was no stranger to Y-seams, having made a huge lonestar medallion quilt with a border of smaller LeMoyne stars . But 12 per star? and I'm making 11 stars? I may be skilled at it, but I'm not crazy. Nevertheless, for my first star I did make 8 Y-seams, as I had (you guessed it) already made 8 tiny "E" points and couldn't waste the fabric, could I?

So I FINALLY hit on the best way to sew the inner stars. First, make freezer paper pieces by assembling pieces E (left and right), two symmetrical pieces D, then an F and finally half a G2. (see above, my cut and pasted paper piecing templates). Make 4 "left" hand pieces with a light F piece and a dark G2 piece, and 4 "right" hand patterns with a dark F piece and a light G2 piece. Photocopy a few extra paper pieces , as it is helpful to sometimes use subsets of the pattern papers (a right-handed D and E subset to go with the left-handed D, E, and F).

I quickly abandoned any hope of using the tiny template pieces I had already cut out. I decided to cut oversize pieces and trim as I went, as is the classic method for paper piecing, also illustrated on p 52. The dimensions I used were:

Piece E: 3 1/2 x 2 in, 8 light, 8 dark
Piece F: 4 x 2 1/2 in, 8 light, 8 dark
Piece D: 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 in, 16, all dark, for simplicity, 2 ea of 8 different fabrics.
Piece G2: 6 x 2 3/4 in, 8 light, 8 dark.

As I got better at doing the piecing, I found I could use the fabric pieces left from the first piecing to make a second one as I cut rectangles and the piecing generated triangles. Except for D, which makes a pie-shaped piece.

Sewing directions:

Choose a left hand paper and crease along the E and D line on the left. (If working with a virgin paper pattern it is helpful to crease along all sewing lines at this point.) Choose a D fabric piece and a light E. Align the fabrics along the long edges and position them so when they are opened up that the faric covers the paper. With the iron, the corresponding paper lightly to the E fabric. Sew along the E/D crease, taking care to not catch the paper. Open up the paper, press the E/D seam towards D and then press lightly to the D fabric. Crease along the E/D line and F line. Trim the E/D piece to a 1/4 in seam.

Choose a dark F rectangle and line it up with trimmed seam, ensuring that when opened it covers the F pattern. Stitch on the line, open up the piece, press the seam towards the E/D side, and iron down the paper. Trim along the outside of the F pattern to a 1/4 in seam. (Insert pictures).

Assemble another D square fabric and a dark E in a similar manner with a small pattern cut from another paper. After trimming, line up the light and dark E pieces the line, matching the E/D seam. Note that the pressed seam allownaces will be on top of one another, not nested. It is necesssary to press the seams away from the points to ensure sharp points. Peel off the bottom paper and save to be used again. Stich carefully along the E/D crease. Open up the seam and check for alignment and make any adjstments now. When you are ssatisfied with your match, press the seam towards the dark E and lighlty press down the paper.

Lastly, take a light G2 fabric rectangle and line up the long edge to the F/E/D seam line. Folding the paper back, sew along the crease. Iron down the paper piece and trim your piece so that you have a 1/4 in seam allowance all around. You now have a left hand eighth section.

Make the right hand section similarly, reversing lights and darks. Asemble a quarter star by lining up the G2 pieces along the G2/D line, matching the seam and removing the bottom paper before carefully stitching. Removing the paper helps prevent stiching through the pattern and ruining it for reuse. When you are satisfied with your point, press the seam towards the dark side. You now have a completed quarter.

Save all your used papers. As long as you don't stitch through the papers and rip them, or lose the narrow points, the plastic on the freezer paper lasts through quite a few ironings.

At this point, I got very excited to make a finished large star. I sewed my four quarters together, matching the F points and F/G2 seams carefully. The small star was beautiful. All I had to do was sew the outer ring and sew them together. As I will explain later, DON'T DO THIS. HAVE PATIENCE. Leave off at making the four quarters.

I am going to excise this last section and include some photos of the assembly in a future post.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

More Adventures with Paper Piecing (and Blogging)

Note to my readers: to those of you who are trying to follow this blog, I am not only learning how to make this quilt, I am also learning how to create blogs and insert pictures. Thanks for your patience.

Lastly, I tried paper piecing. I used the "master" (at left) I had generated for the freezer paper and photocopied onto plain photocopier paper. I sewed exactly along the lines, with the much smaller stitch length suggested. I found it difficult to get everything to match up as I was working with the template cut fabric with only a 1/4 in seam allowance (afterall, I had already cut the fabric, and didn't want to waste it) and not oversized pieces. But I persevered and made a very passable arced piece. But when I tried to rip off the paper, it distorted the seam and in some cases caused the stitching to come loose. I talked to my paper piecing friend and she said to dampen the paper and then rip it off. This was ok, but I ended up having to use tweezers to remove the last bits.
Better yet, buy some tissue paper for piecing. In my previous endeavors I had used some old paper patterns from my dressmaking days (the ones with huge swaths of paper for making shirtwaists), but had purged my patterns and was paperless. Sigh. Back to the quilt store to get some paper piecing paper. This time $10.00 for 100 sheets. I asked myself the question: How much more money was I going to spend on supplies for this quilt? I had already spent $10.00 for 30 sheets of freezer paper which I could put in my photocopier, and two sheets of template plastic at about $1.70 each, all the fabric my sister and I had purchased, and the allure of more new reds & purples had not yet subsided. Maybe I should just stick with the freezer paper and with practice it would get easier. Reason prevailed, and I rewarded myself by purchasing a few fat quarters of new fabric which had just arrived.