Friday, September 6, 2013

After years and years of threatening, I'm finally quilting!

Some of the projects that I've had in the que for the last.....foreeeeevers have been put on semi-permanent hold for a whole variety of reasons, but I'e been itching to do *something* crafty/sew-y.  I've gone through crocheting blankets, making plarn bags, making rag rugs etc etc, until I realized, "Oh yeah, I've been saying for years now that I want to do a quilt again.  So, after nearly a week of bed rest and going absolutely stir crazy with the itchy crafting fingers, in the wee hours of the night, I dragged my sister to the only place that sold fabric at that ungodly hour.  (WalMart.  I know.  I know!  But when you have to start a project right now, what are you gonna do?!) and got some quilting cotton - as that is one of the things that I am sorely lacking in my fabric stash.  I've been semi-obsessed over quilting the last few of weeks!

Anyway, I absolutely do not claim to be a quilting, or English Paper Piecing expert, but this is what I'm up to......

Cute little travel quilting kit, masquerading as a makeup bag!
First, the supplies!  Because, let's face it, one of the very best things about all things crafty and sew-y are all the tools and accouterments!  I have a 'home kit' and a 'away kit' - and first up, the 'away kit'!

I scoured the crafting and make-up sections of multiple stores before I settled on this one - it's really quite perfect.  A little smaller than a lunch bag, and pockets and separators to keep everything somewhat tidy.

Et voilĂ ! A travel sewing kit small enough to take pretty
much anywhere, but packed full of hours and hours worth of sewing supplies!

Miraculously, everything that I need 'on the road' fits in this nice little 8x5x5 case!

The top zipper compartment stores all the tools, save the basting thread and the glue.  Technically, I can fit them in there, but they work nicely to prop up the 'to be glued' squares on the right!  The main body of the bag is split up between a rotating stack of squares that are glued (which eventually evolves into squares that are glued and trimmed), and naked squares.  At any one time, I have any combination of the different steps of the hexie process!  (I like to 'assembly line' construction, and switch to some other process when the one I'm currently working on gets a little stale -- it helps somewhat to avert the 'burnout'.)

The left pocket holds the cut hexagons, the right pocket holds the finished octagons (which I just emptied out last night!), and the front pocket holds mini clothes pins) (which I use instead of straight pins)  Some people use paperclips, which I don't find hold quite tightly enough, and lead to slippage, some people use specialty quilting clips, which I find a mite too expensive for my taste -- at least at the level I'm at right now!

The Tools:
Basting thread, glue, seam ripper, mini clothes pins, measuring tape, mini thread snips, Thread Heaven, magnetic needle case, quilting tape, extra quilting sharps (not pictured: leather thimble & general-duty scissors with retractable lanyard)
A few notes on the supplies - I researched the heck out of EPP (English Paper Piecing) before I started, and have refined what I can only called 'my technique' during the whole learning process.  (And I'm sure there will be a lot more to come!)

Pinning vs. Gluing - I was pretty sure from the outset that I didn't want to bother with pinning.  Because I'm somewhat of a klutz, I could see myself getting poked all the time, losing pins like mad, and I'm pretty sure that the warp that pinning the cardstock makes would drive me absolutely crazy.  I was originally looking for fabric glue sticks mentioned by a few quilters, but couldn't find any in my local craft/fabric stores (spend $10 and wait for shipping?!  No way!)- I decided to spend the 1$ to test out some regular old glue sticks, and found that the crummier/cheaper, the better.  Seriously, find the cheapest school glue stick you can!  I don't know if it will matter in the long-run, but I opted for the one that was branded 'washable'.  The glue un-sticks pretty easily, especially if it is a few days old.  If there's a super stubborn bit, I just poke a needle through fabric and wiggle it back and forth between the cardstock and fabric and it'll pop right out.

Trimming/Squares - A lot of the tutorials I've read on EPP, show cutting out the squares one by one.  (Again, my tendency to 'assembly line' things just does not want to do this!!) I can see that if I were trying to capture a specific portion of the print for a particular pattern, that would be a good way to go, but since I'm kind of aiming for the 'haphazard' look, I figured I'd just cut strips and make a whole bunch 'o squares all at once.  So far, so good.  I have tried to make them as close to the size that I needed, without going too big or too small, though I could probably have managed to get a lot more precise had I spent the time, but honestly, it hasn't seemed to matter.  RE: Trimming.  Pretty much every tutorial I read said to trim to an approximately hexie-shaped piece of fabric.  Later on, I found that some people just use the whole square.  I haven't tried that yet, but it does seem like it would go faster, but may make each hexie a little bulkier.  I may test out not trimming on a small project and see how it goes.

Template Cutting/Precision - Kind of the opposite of hacking out a few hundred squares of fabric, I spent an inordinate amount of time making sure each one of my hand-cut hexies were as close to perfect as I could get.  I haven't really run across an issue with imperfect/hack job hexies, but with my sewing experience, I know that having just a tiny error, multiplied by hundreds - dare I say thousands?! - of seams could prove disastrous in a final result.  So.  Take extra care if you're cutting out your own templates.  There are plenty of places that sell die-cut templates, but again, because I'm honestly trying not to spend too much money, a $5 ream of cardstock seemed like the way to go.

Basting - There are a multitude of ways to handle basting; from no basting, to glue basting, to going all the way through the template, to only grabbing the fabric around the template.  Much like seat belts, I believe in basting, so I don't think I could have ever gone without, but basting with glue seemed like a messy disaster in the making. I started out running my basting stitches all the way through the template.  While this seemed to make it easier to get the precision on the corners, I started to doubt I liked that method.  I messed around with basting just the fabric, and while it is a bit more fiddly, it does seem to be more practical in the end.  (Each piece is more structurally sound with the basting in place, and wouldn't have to go back through and remove all those hundreds (and hundreds!!) of basting stitches.  

Now that I've finally posted again, and I have a project in the works, I will hopefully keep updating, at least for a little while! ;)  I'm sorry to the folks who read (if there is even anyone left!) that is here for the costuming, but that's on hold for a while!  Will hopefully get back to it sometime soon-ish.

Assembly line-ing hexies

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