Early adopter

If you’ve read much of this blog, you know I’m a big fan of EQ (Electric Quilt). I started with EQ5 around 2005, upgraded to EQ6 in 2007-ish, then EQ7 when it came out in 2010, and yesterday I upgraded to EQ8 on the day it was released.

I’m so excited.

I know that looks kind of… not excited, but trust me, I’m bouncing up and down in my chair and making 12-year-old-girl-at-a-Taylor-Swift-concert noises.

The new E8 is so pretty! I’m just barely getting started with it, but I’m excited to see a few new things, like the Photo Patchwork layout, where you can import a picture and create a mosaic quilt in about 3 steps. How cool is that?  There are over 40 new features in EQ8. The biggest change is the user interface, so it looks completely different from EQ7 and is easier and more intuitive. Check out the new features at the Electric Quilt website.

Any of you who currently use EQ7 will love this change – when you are drawing a block, you can color it, then go back to the drawing tab, remove or add lines, go back to the color tab AND THE COLORS ARE STILL IN THE RIGHT PLACE!!! I can’t overstate how awesome this is. No more recoloring the whole thing every time I change one line on a block. When your block looks like this…

 

And you remove four lines and go back to the color tab and it looks like this…

 

… it’s kind of frustrating.

 

 

 

 

 

But now in EQ8, that isn’t a problem. I take the lines out in EQ8 and go back to the color tab and I find this:


… and it’s perfect!

 

 

 

 

 

If you currently have EQ7 and have any interest in EQ8, now is the time to get it because the upgrade is 25% off, but only until November 6. You can also upgrade from EQ6 and EQ Mini, which will save a chunk of change over buying the full version. If you do not currently have EQ6/EQ7/EQ Mini, you’ll have to wait to buy EQ8 when the full version comes out in November. You can sign up to be notified on the Electric Quilt website. Check out all of the great stuff it can do over at the EQ website! It’s an amazing piece of software, and if you’re at all interested in quilt design, I can’t emphasize enough how useful it is. Here’s just a tiny peek at some of the quilts I’ve designed in EQ7:

In case you’re wondering, no, I don’t work for Electric Quilt, or get any sort of payment or incentive from them for writing this. I just really love the product.

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WI Quilt Expo 2017

Anyone planning to attend the Wisconsin Quilt Expo in Madison this week? If you’re there on Saturday and see seven woman all wearing shirts like this, say hello, won’t you? Each painted mandala is different, though I used the same color palette throughout.

Quilt Expo Shirts

I’ve been to every Expo since it began 13 years ago, and it’s a wonderful experience. It’s big enough to draw a wonderful selection of quilts, classes and vendors, but small enough that you can see it all in a day if you want. This year I’m attending all three days, including a few lectures.

It’s bittersweet this year. The WI Quilt Expo is presented by Nancy Zieman Productions and Wisconsin Public Television. Nancy Zieman, of Nancy’s Notions and Sewing with Nancy fame, is a familiar face at the Expo, and yesterday she announced her retirement in this letter to her viewers and customers. In it, she tells of her diagnosis of osteosarcoma (bone cancer) and breast cancer, one of which has metastasized. She was told additional treatment would not be helpful. Just the day before, I was talking with a volunteer at work who taught Home Economics in the seventies and eighties when Nancy’s Notions was just getting started. The teacher asked Nancy to come speak to the Home Ec staff, and she agreed, making two trips to Janesville. Nancy Zieman has contributed so much to the sewing and quilting world, and we’re lucky to have had the opportunity to learn from her.

Fade in

I’m considering picking up this blog again. It’s been three years since I wrote anything substantial, and Instagram seems to have replaced a lot of blogs. Still, I am more about words than photos, and I always enjoyed writing, so maybe I’ll give it another go. The Sampler Quilt Which Shall Not Be Named… shall not be named here. If you used to follow me and are interested in whether we’ll ever finish it, the answer is Maybe.

It was an eventful year (my brother got married, I was in a car accident and (badly) broke both bones in my left forearm, and my mom fell and tore her rotator cuff), and a moderately productive couple of years as far as quilts go. I didn’t really sew much, but I designed a couple of quilts and my mom sewed them, then I quilted them. We weren’t very good at getting photos, or at least I can’t seem to locate them all. Here are a few, and EQ illustrations of some more we finished.

The second to last post was December 2014, and I shared an EQ illustration of the Doctor Who quilt I made for my nephew. Here it is (almost) finished (it needed binding), with my nephew, Austin.

Austin's Quilt

At the same time I made this (just a reminder, over 100 hours in 3 weeks, start to finish!), Mom made two quilts for my niece Lily and nephew Beau.

Lily's Quilt//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Beau's Quilt//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
Since then, Mom made a string quilt…

A 50th anniversary quilt for the most wonderful couple (no photo, so here’s the EQ illustration)…
Mary & Urs Cross & Crown//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

A wedding quilt for my brother and sister-in-law (also no photo, so EQ)…
Bob & Michele Blooming Nine Patch//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

And going-away quilt by the Stitch & Bitch ladies for one of our members who moved to Las Vegas…

Lisa's Quilt//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

There are more, but I think that’s a good start for my comeback post.

EQ7 Block Design Challenge featuring Moda Fresh Cut by Basic Grey

ModaChallengeLogo1

I was updating my EQ7 fabric files today, and the January fabric is a line from Basic Grey for Moda called Fresh Cut. I think it’s one of the prettiest fabric lines I’ve seen in a long time, and one of the few that would actually tempt me to buy the whole line. Imagine my delight when I realized it was the featured fabric in Electric Quilt’s design challenge! The challenge ends tomorrow, so I didn’t have a lot of time to go out and design a new block. That was not a requirement – I could have colored an existing block – but I figure if it’s a design challenge, I’d like to try to offer an original design. When I looked harder at the fabric line, however, I realized I already have an original block that would work really well with it. The block needed to have several components so it could feature at least four different fabrics (my requirement, not theirs), and I wanted a block that had a single larger space that could highlight one of the larger scale floral fabrics. My original Anxiety block fit the bill perfectly, don’t you think?

Moda Fresh Cut EQ Block Challenge

I love the combination of retro floral prints with more contemporary geometrics, and the sweet, soft but not childish colors make me think Spring – something I really appreciate, since I’m in southern Wisconsin and it’s been snowing for the last 20 hours.

Be sure to pop over to the EQ blog post and check out the links at the bottom to all of the beautiful blocks. Also check out Moda’s Fresh Cut line – click here to see a PDF of all of the fabrics.

We wish you a merry Christmas

Oh, hello there! Nice to see someone’s still checking in here occasionally.

This Christmas we had three special quilts to make. Although we planned to make quilt gifts for a couple of months before the holiday, procrastination raised it ugly head as usual and Mom and I didn’t get started until the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Yep, par for the course.

I wanted to make something special for my nephew, Austin, and had contemplated somehow incorporating his college colors (blue and yellow) and logo somehow, but midway through designing it another idea popped into my head and I ran with it. He’s a fan of Doctor Who (as am I). The colors reminded me of the night sky. What if I did an off kilter setting of various sized star blocks, with one little TARDIS floating in the middle? My first attempt was nice, but when I replaced the orange with green and pumped up the turquoise, it clicked. I fell in love with the quilt and decided that I could make it happen in three weeks. Yeah, this:

Christmas Quilt

Not asking too much, hmmm?

Normally, I would have help from my mom, but at the same time I was working on this, she turned out two more Christmas quilts. They’re both already wrapped, so I’ll have to share photos after we open gifts.

Meanwhile, I sewed and sewed and sewed – 110 hours in 3 weeks. I used this pattern from Trillium Design for the TARDIS (indicated in the design above by the blue rectangle), but I shrank it from 12″ to 8″ so I could fit it into the right space. I believe there are 79 piece in the TARDIS block alone.  Four blocks were paper pieced in addition to the TARDIS, and I used templates for one – can you guess which?

Sunday night I finished the top. Tomorrow Mom will put it on the frame and I’ll quilt it when I get home. As much as I’d love to do something really spectacular, the reality is I don’t have the skill and I need to get it done. I’m planning on an allover swirl pattern. Wish me luck. I also need to find the perfect name for this quilt. Any suggestions?

TARDIS block
 

TYSS: Indiana Puzzle

Here it is, the penultimate block in the Test Your Skills Sampler: the Indiana Puzzle.

Indiana Puzzle

If you’re following the White & Bright layout, this block is orange, green, purple and yellow. The block finishes at 12″ (12 1/2″ unfinished).

The Indiana Puzzle block is made from sixteen Drunkard’s Path units. That’s a lot of curves, but I know you can do it! Since the block finishes at 12″, that means each Drunkard’s Path unit finishes at 3″, or 3 1/2″ unfinished. If you have an AccuQuilt you can use the 3 1/2″ finished die and trim it down. If you have plastic templates for blocks that finish at 3″ or larger, you can use them and trim down. If you don’t have either, I’ve created a couple of PDFs of the templates for you to use. One is for the exact size block and one is for a 3 1/2″ finished block that you can trim down to size after sewing. As always, when printing a PDF make sure it is printing actual size and not “fit to page” or some other scaled setting. Make sure it printed correctly by measuring the square side of the concave piece. Corner to corner on the INSIDE line it should measure 3″ or 3 1/2″, depending on which one you printed (it’s the finished size).

Click here to download the 3″ finished template
Click here to download the 3 1/2″ finished template

When using a template to cut out your fabric pieces, be careful not to cut the template. A few cuts, shaving off a little each time, and pretty soon they aren’t so accurate. You can try tracing them onto cardboard (an empty cereal box, for example) or template plastic to give it a little more substance. You could also trace the template onto the fabric then cut just the fabric. Though you verified the size by measuring the inside line, you need to cut the templates on the outside line.

Follow the instructions in the Skill Builder Series post about curved piecing. With sixteen units, you can experiment with the different methods to see what works best for you. It is important that you trim the units to 3 1/2″. In order to do that, the “points” of the seams should be on the 1 1/2″ mark. If I’d been thinking when I posted the Skill Builder I would have trimmed to that size instead of trimming to 3 3/4″. Ah, well – part of this project is about building skills, and being able to adapt instructions to fit your needs is a good skill to have.

After you’ve sewn all sixteen Drunkard’s Path units, lay them out to form the four circle units and sew them together. The circle units should measure 6 1/2″ unfinished. Sew the four circles together – the final block should measure 12 1/2″ unfinished. Don’t worry too much about this being exactly the right size. When we put the top together we’ll be adding background pieces that we can fudge a little where necessary.

Just one more block to go – the “dreaded” Feathered Star – and then it’s on to quilt top assembly. I missed my birthday deadline – let’s see if we can get this done by oh, say, Memorial Day? As always, let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.

PM/GC Quilts Skill Builder Series: Part 17 – Curved Piecing

I’ll be honest – when I first started quilting, curves gave me the willies. It’s silly, because while I wasn’t particularly good at it, I’ve sewn clothing. I’ve managed a sleeve or two that were decent enough to appear in public. I don’t know why the thought of a curve in quilting made me so nervous. After I’d been quilting about a year I decided it was time to put this silly fear to rest and I bought a Drunkard’s Path template set. I didn’t know any better so I bought the wrong one, of course – one was that was intended to be used for applique rather than piecing. I fiddled with it until I was able to cut a passable Drunkard’s Path block, sewed it, figuratively patted myself on the back, then moved on. Later I found an Olfa circle cutting and tried again. Still no love, mostly because cutting the darn things are really unpleasant if you don’t have proper templates or, even better, a die cutter. Eventually Jeanne picked up an AccuQuilt Go Cutter, I picked up a Drunkard’s Path die set, and voila! I have pieces cut to sew approximately 37 million Drunkard’s Path units. I’ve sewn five. Seeing a pattern? Oh, wait – if you follow my blog (and those who still do, thank you for either your loyalty or your laziness in not cleaning out your feed reader), you are well aware that this fairly typical in many aspects, not just quilting.

Still, curved piecing isn’t just about the Drunkard’s Path unit, which, if you aren’t familiar with it, looks something like this:

Drunkard's Path

It has many different names, depending on how you lay out the blocks. There’s the Drunkard’s Path, of course, so named because of the way the block seems to stagger across the quilt. There’s also a Peace Dove, Drunkard’s Pinwheel, Cleopatra’s Puzzle, Indiana Puzzle, I Wish You Well, and even a Turtle, among many others.

Drunkard' Path

Drunkard’ Path

Peace Dove

Peace Dove

Drunkard's Pinwheel

Drunkard’s Pinwheel

Cleopatra's Puzzle

Cleopatra’s Puzzle

Indiana Puzzle

Indiana Puzzle

I Wish You Well

I Wish You Well

Turtle

Turtle

There are other blocks that use curves, some that also use a quarter circle, such as the New York Beauty, from the most basic block to the more complex.

New York Beauty

New York Beauty

New York Sunburst

New York Sunburst

Of course there are blocks that include gentler curves like the Orange Peel, Robbing Peter to Pay Paul, and the Double Wedding Ring and its variations:

Orange Peel

Orange Peel

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

Plain Double Wedding Ring

Plain Double Wedding Ring

Double Wedding Ring

Double Wedding Ring

Pickle Dish

Pickle Dish

The Improved Nine Patch, one of my favorite blocks from the 30’s:

Improved Nine Patch

Improved Nine Patch

And the wonderfully complex Mariner’s Compass blocks, including variations like Chips and Whetstones:

Mariner's Compass

Mariner’s Compass

Chips and Whetstones

Chips and Whetstones

Curves are becoming popular again in contemporary quilting, thanks to things like Amy Butler’s Single Girl quilt and the Quick Curve Ruler from Sew Kind of Wonderful. Be sure to check out this blog, if you don’t already follow it. There are tons of incredible patterns, including some free tutorials, that use the Quick Curve Ruler. Here’s a recent quilt, Spring Fling (available as a free tutorial), that uses the ruler:

Spring Fling by Sew Kind of Wonderful – click to see the free tutorial

You can also see freeform curved piecing used in improvisational piecing like the incredible Ripple Effect II from Marianne at The Quilting Edge.

Ripple Effect II by The Quilting Edge

The point is, curves are everywhere in quilting today, and even if you have no intention of making a Double Wedding Ring or a Drunkard’s Path, you may want to apply the technique in your own unique way. So how do you do it? Everyone knows when you are sewing curves you need to put the concave side on top and pin the heck out of it, right? Only I’m not a big fan of absolute rules when it comes to quilting, so I tried several different methods and decided that, for me, the method I use depends on the degree of curve I’m sewing.

Improvisational Curves

If you’d like to try curves, improvisational piecing is a great place to start. The curves can be as easy as you’d like and they don’t have to line up with anything so you can sew and then trim to your heart’s content. The only trick is to cut both pieces of fabric along the same curve. In order to do this you need to layer them both right sides up (NOT together).

Free Curve A

Using a rotary cutter, slowly cut a gentle, flowing curve, making sure that you’re cutting through both layers of fabric.

Free Curve B

Flip the pieces right sides together and place one end under the needle. Hold the top piece of fabric and gently ease the edges together as you slowly sew.

Free Curve C

While you could certainly pin this, I think the long, gentle curves are excellent for the no-pin method. You can clip the curves when you’re done if you’d like, but if the curve is gentle enough it isn’t necessary.

Free Curve D

Shallow Curves

A while back I posted a short video of how I sewed the shallow curve of the melon portion of a Double Wedding Ring. I laugh at myself every time I watch it – to quote my original post:

By the way, I don’t lisp. Not that there’s anything wrong with having a lisp, but something went funky with the sound on this and my S’s sound thtrange. Here’s the video:

So the funny part is, I managed this all by myself. Think about it – how do you hold a camera to record a video, and use both hands for the demonstration? Answer: You find the last remaining wire coat hanger in the house and bend it into an odd shape that both fits over your head so it hangs around your neck AND holds the camera in exactly the right position. Well, I’m nothing if not resourceful.

Tight Curves

Since I have so many Drunkard’s Path units already cut out, I’ll show several methods using that block. You’ll notice in a couple of these photos that the two pieces do not appear to line up properly – I don’t know why that is. They seem to come out okay, and they were cut with the AccuQuilt 3 1/2″ finished die, so I’m not going to worry about it.

Method 1

First I tried the method that most people advocate – concave side on top, pin like crazy. Align the center point on both piece, right sides together, make sure it’s straight, then pin the center point.

DP1A

DP1B

Align both outer edges and pin each side.

DP1C

DP1D

Finally, find the center between the pins and pin, then again, and again and again…

DP1E

Sew the standard 1/4″ seam, removing the pins as you get to them. Go slowly and tuck the top layer out of the way to avoid sewing a crease into the seam. You may need to stop occasionally and lift the pressure foot to adjust the fabric. This is where a needle down option on your machine is helpful.

DP1F

Carefully clip the seam allowance along the curve. Don’t cut the thread! Clipping the seam allowance will help it lie flat when you press it.

DP1G

I am usually a press-to-one-side girl, but curves are one time I prefer to press the seam open. If you look closely you can see how clipping the seams helps it stay flat. On the red side, the clips spread open a bit and on the yellow they overlap at the edges.

DP1H

Well, it isn’t the most perfect of Drunkard’s Path blocks, but it isn’t a bad starting point. You may notice the top edge is a little crooked. (Also, you generally aren’t on grain when using a die cutter, resulting in a lot of thread ends that stick out. Of course it doesn’t help that these piece have been lying around for six or eight months.) The crookedness stems from taking too much seam allowance on that side. Maintaining a quarter inch seam is one of the more challenging aspects of curved piecing.

DP1I

 

Method 2

In the second method, I still put the concave side on top but this time I didn’t use any pins. Line up the one edge, right sides together. It will look strange because the curves swing away from each other when they’re right sides together.

DP2A

Sew slowly…

DP2B

…gently easing the two piece into place. Hold the top fabric and lift it so you can see the edge of the bottom fabric. Carefully pull the top fabric to the left so the edges line up as they go under the pressure foot.

DP2C

When you get to the very end use a pair of tweezers (these bent ones are wonderful) to grip both layers and guide them under the foot.

DP2D

This block went faster because there was no pinning, but you can see there’s a little flat spot where I didn’t ease them together quite right. While the start and end line up, it’s still a little crooked like the first one was. With practice, I think this could work well, but if I want a smooth curve the pinning seems to work better.

DP2E

Method 3

This time around I did not pin, but I put the convex piece on top and the concave piece on the bottom. Proceed exactly as in method 2, sewing slowly and easing the two fabrics together. As in the video above, I found this easier because I could see both edges, where in method 2 I had to keep lifting the top fabric to see the edge of the bottom fabric.

DP3A

DP3B

Unfortunately, this one wasn’t quite as neat as the other, and it didn’t line up quite right. The curve was a little smoother, however.

DP3C

Method 4

Finally, I pinned with the convex side on top and the concave on the bottom. As in method 1, line up the fabrics right sides together and pin at the center.

DP4A

Pin both outside edges, then at the halfway point on each side. I didn’t pin any more than this – for this small piece, I felt like all that extra pinning didn’t help me that much.

DP4B

With the convex side on top, the pinned unit curved up. Rather than force it flat, I just let it curl as I fed it through the machine. As always, sew slowly and remove the pins as you go.

Note: Some people are comfortable sewing over the pins. I used to be one of those people, but I’ve bent too many good pins and I’m always nervous that I’ll damage or even break a needle. Since I’m sewing slowly and stopping frequently to adjust the fabric anyway, I might just as well remove the pins before sewing over them. 

DP4C

The finished block, as with all of the others, is not quite perfectly aligned. It was a little awkward to sew and though I didn’t, I was worried I’d sew in a crease because I couldn’t see the excess fabric on the bottom. This was probably my least favorite method.

DP4D

So here are my four blocks.

Drunkard's Path All

Clockwise from the top left, they are lightly pinned and convex on top; no pins and convex on top, no pins and concave on top, and heavily pinned and concave on top. None are perfect, but all are reasonably good. With practice, I’d definitely improve. HOWEVER…

As you well know, I prefer cutting larger and sewing then trimming to size. Could I do that here? The answer is yes, but you have to be very careful and pay close attention. The problem is you need to be able to align the seams and trimming become a bit of a challenge. Pivot it too much either way and the seams don’t align. Also, if you’re using a die cutting machine you can’t adjust the size you cut so you have to adjust the finished size if you want to trim. Make sure the finished size won’t throw off the rest of your project if you’re going to do that. Here’s how to trim:

The block is supposed to finish at 3 1/2″, meaning the sewn unit should be 4″. I’m going to trim them all to 3 3/4″ so the blocks will finish at 3 1/4″. First, determine the measurement you want your “points” to be at – the seam line. This will be the same on both sides. I chose 1 1/4″ from the outside.

Place a ruler on your block, lining up the 1 1/4″ mark with the seam on both sides (blue arrows). Make sure all four sides fit within the lines you’ll use to trim – in this case, the outer edges and the 3 3/4″ marks on the ruler (blue line). Hold the ruler firmly in place and trim the two sides.

DP Trim A

Turn the piece around and put the 3 3/4″ mark on the corner you just trimmed (orange arrow). Check that the seams still line up correctly on both sides (blue arrows) and trim the other two sides.

DP Trim B

Here are the four blocks after trimming. Better, hmm?

DP Trimmed

So if you’d like to give the Drunkard’s Path a try and don’t have a plastic template or special tool, here’s a template you can print: Drunkard’s Path Template

I think this is where I’m going to stop – though there is a lot more to talk about in curved piecing, this post is long enough! Are there any questions you’d like addressed if we do another curved piecing post? Do you have any tips or tricks you’d like to share about curved piecing?