Friday, October 15, 2010

Quilt date for October

You probably thought that because there was no quilt date last month I was out of the matchmaking business.  Not so; just too sick and demoralized to go search out some cute guy to introduce to you.  But this month I've done better.  I know you all loved Mr. April and I know he's much better looking than Mr. October.  You certainly aren't going to want a lasting, exclusive relationship with this new guy.  But maybe you'll get something out of this quilt date that you can stick into work in progress.

It all started with a trip to Office Depot, one of my favorite stores.  I can always find some stationery supply that I really, really need to take home with me, and this particular time, I bought a pack of 2-inch adding machine tapes.  Then I had to find a way to justify the purchase.  Decided it would be good as a base for paper-piecing strips of triangles, which are a favorite motif of mine.

You have probably heard about paper-piecing, also known as foundation piecing (it can be done on fabric as well as on paper) and perhaps you think of it as a fussy, tedious technique.  It is a bit fussy, but it's unparalleled for giving you perfect points that line up exactly where you want them to -- an effect that sometimes we like to have in the arsenal even if we don't work that way all the time.  So here's a fast run-through on how to piece nice strips of points.

If you have adding machine tape, it's perfect for this date; if not, just get some paper and rule two lines as the edge of your strip.  You can use plain typing paper, newsprint or tissue paper.

The trick of foundation piecing is that you work from the back of your foundation, where you can rule perfectly straight lines as a guide or pattern, then sew along them for perfectly straight seams.  Again, that's an effect you may not want to use all the time in your work, but it's nice to be able to do it when you want to.  In general, you sew with the foundation up, then flip it over to press and trim the fabric before you do the next seam.

Start by drawing a pattern on the paper -- anything will work, as long as each seam goes across the entire foundation (no stopping in the center).  Here I've made regular triangles, two inches wide at the base.  I numbered the pieces for this demo but you don't have to.  Start by pinning the red fabric for piece #1 in place.  Note the piece must be wider than your two-inch strip, because you need a seam allowance on either side of the pieced section.

*  (if you've ever followed patterns for knitting and crocheting you know what the asterisk means)  Place the green fabric for #2 on the table, right side up, with a straight edge making a horizon in front of you, and the expanse of the fabric coming from the horizon into your lap (or not quite so far, depending on how big a piece of fabric you use).

Turn your strip around so the seam between #1 and #2 also makes a horizon -- #1 closest to you, #2 away from you.  Carefully place the strip on top of the #2 fabric, aligning it so the seam line drawn on your paper falls about a quarter-inch below the edge of the #2 fabric.  This quarter-inch will be your seam allowance.  It's helpful to use a much larger piece of fabric for #2 than you really need (you can trim later) so you can be sure the two pieces are aligned properly.  Make sure you can see the edge of the fabric on either side of your strip, and make sure there's a quarter-inch seam allowance extending above the seam line.

When you have the pieces aligned, either pin them in place or grasp them firmly as you shift the package 90 degrees and position it in front of your needle.  Sew along the drawn seamline. 

Trim off the extra red fabric from piece #1, leaving just a seam allowance. 

Fold the green piece #2 away from piece #1 and press it.

Trim off the extra green fabric from piece #2, leaving just a seam allowance along the edge of the strip.  You could also trim along the #2/#3 seam line if you're careful to leave yourself a seam allowance, but I hadn't done it yet in this photo.  *

Repeat  from * to * with turquoise fabric for piece #3, and all subsequent pieces.

After you've made a strip as long as you want, stitch it along one of its long edges to some other part of your quilt.  The edge of the paper is your guide, but stitch just a hair outside, not on the paper.  Because paper, unlike fabric, doesn't stretch or wobble, your seam will be perfectly straight.

Tear off the paper, a mindless project for while you watch TV, supervise homework, or attend a board meeting.

If you draw your sewing lines to the edge of the strip, your modules will look like the first two below, with all the triangles the same height.  But if you draw your lines so the triangles don't extend all the way across the strip, the triangles will be different heights, as in the last module.

If you like this technique, here are some ideas for the second date:

• Do the same thing on a larger scale than your sample.

• Make several modules on the same scale as your sample, and join them into a larger piece.

• Experiment with different widths and heights of triangles, regular or irregular spacing, and different color combinations.

• Make your foundation wider or narrower than 2 inches.

• Make your foundation wedge-shaped or triangular rather than rectangular.

• Or anything else that strikes your fancy.

Let me know how it works out. If you want to send me a picture of what you made, I’ll post it.  Have fun!



  1. Thank you! Good info and I can see how useful the adding machine tape can be...gotta get some.

  2. Hi Gloria! glad that you found this old post and hope it will help you make something beautiful. you might try this out just using plain paper before investing in the adding machine tape. if you like to noodle around with the DRAW feature of Word, you can make patterns on the computer and print them out -- I made a whole quilt that way once.