Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Giving old clothes a new life

 Monday, 6th February 2012

I ended up re-doing my cushion cover because I wasn't happy with how thin the fabrics were.  I decided to iron on interfacing.  I had already cut a whole load of my fabric into 3½" squares so ended up having to cut them down to 2½" squares after backing them.  I then cut side-setting triangles from 4¼" parent squares and corner setting triangles from 2½" parent squares.  The squares and triangles have been pieced together with no particular pattern, but I quite like the randomness of it. 

It was definitely worth re-doing it because the interfacing has added a stability to the fabrics.  I will definitely always use interfacing with thinner fabrics because it makes them so much easier to work with.  All it needs now is a 2" border and I can turn it from a patchwork to a quilt.

Thursday, 2nd February 2012

I've finally got round to cutting out the side and corner setting triangles.  I didn't really appreciate the markings on my cutting board until now.  After cutting my parent square for my side setting triangles once diagonally, I lined up the short sides along a set of perpendicular guides and cut diagonally again.

Something that needs to be noted if you are going to try to 'learn' from me: despite sewing with a machine since I was 12, I was never formally taught, have never used a pattern and therefore have loads of bad habits and have never had to sew particularly accurately before!!!!  You can certainly learn from my trial-and-error (and error, and error) though =)

My next step was to piece together my squares.  I selected my most basic sewing machine foot, set my stitch length to a fairly small setting of '1.8' and off I went.  Not having a key to my pattern, I worked on my middle row first because it contains one square in each fabric.  I then referred back to the key to complete the other four rows.  I found that sewing with the square on top of the triangles was easier as the triangles are quite stretchy on the edge adjoining the squares.

With all my rows sewn together, I pressed my seams.  I always press seams to the side and then make sure that where they meet other seams, I have one set of seams on one side and the other on the other side so as to avoid a big clump. 

When working with two different fabrics, it is always best to press seams towards the darker fabric.  As most of my fabrics are of roughly the same tone apart from the centre square, I pressed the seams towards that centre piece and then made sure to press all seams such that when lining the rows up, the seams were on alternating sides.  I then trimmed all tail threads to ¼" and trimmed away the dog ears created by the triangles.

Rows constructed and seams pressed, I proceeded to sew together my rows.  Despite not usually basting or using pins, I decided to pin my rows as I was working on them by lining up the seams.  After completing my sewing, I pressed again and here it is: my first piece of patchwork.

It's on top of the cushion it will eventually cover so you can see I still have to add a border, but I think I'll wait til my next quilting class on Monday instead of just making it up.  It's no work of art, and it certainly won't win any prizes for creativity, but I'm pretty happy with it.  Better still it's not cost me anything in fabric and my daughter has actually recognised her old clothes and can't wait for her cushion cover.

I've not been quilting for very long, but have already learned the following valuable lessons:
  • Not all triangles are the same, and don't cut triangles from your squares!
  • When designing blocks or pieces of work, think them through and plan the steps - there is no point rushing in
  • Use a small stitch length for piecing
  • Sew with a ¼" inch seam....  My sewing machine, like most has a ¼" guide on both the foot and the table
  • When using pins, there is no need to remove them when sewing
  • When working with fine material from old clothes, it probably would be best to back the fabric with interfacing 
  • If using new fabric, it's best to wash and press it before cutting squares.  Not only do some fabrics shrink a little, but some will have loose dyes in them that will need to be washed out (especially as cotton is the best material for quilting)
  • Cotton thread is best because it has less stretch than polyester
The rest, I just made up as I went alone based on my sewing 'experience'.

I think I'll make the cushion double-sided, and I'll certainly let you know how I get on =)

Monday, 30th January 2012

Today was my second quilting lesson.  I felt proud as punch of myself for having got ahead with cutting out my squares.   I decided however, that the card trick block is rather advanced and sketched out a simpler pattern for my first project.  I wanted a simple pattern with only squares in the block, but still wanted to incorporate triangles.

Deciding to wing it instead of waiting for Heather to come round to me, I identified that the pattern was essentially 5 rows, where the end pieces were triangles (which are just diagonally cut squares, right), so I'd just sew strips of squares together and trim it down to size when I was done.  Boy was I wrong!!!!  I'd just put two squares together and was about to put my foot to the pedal when I was swooped upon by the omnipotent Heather who very sweetly corrected my misconceptions.  Let's tell you what I learned so you don't make the same boo boos.

Not all triangles of the same size are the same

I'm not making sense am I?  OK.  Take your square and hold it at opposite sizes.  Pull.  Not very stretchy right?  Now take it and hold it at opposite corners.  Very stretchy.  You do NOT want such stretchy sides being along the border of your work now, do you?

Essentially, there are four types of triangles: half-square triangles, quarter-square triangles, side setting triangles and corner setting triangles.  The first time I came across the terms half-square triangle and quarter-square triangle, I didn't really pay attention to them.   They have slightly weird names, but it makes perfect sense because they are triangles that form part of the block (These are fairly simple to cut and are cut once or twice on the diagonal from squares ⅞" bigger than the finished size of the squares in the project).  The latter two are cut when a block is set 'on point', or diagonally, as I have chosen to do.  These triangles need to be treated with respect, and their sizes need to be worked out using slightly mathematical formulae.

Side setting triangles

Although a side setting triangle is exactly the same size a half-square when the work is finished, it is in fact one of four triangles cut from a really big square, which we call the parent square, so as to make the grain run along its long side.  To calculate the length of one side of the square, take the finished size of the block, multiply by 1.414 (the mathematicians will probably notice that it's the square root of 2, we are after all dealing with right-angled isosceles), add 1¼" and round UP to the nearest ¼".  

Parent square size = 
= (finished block size x 1.414) + 1¼"

The square is then cut twice along the diagonal to form four triangles.  They will be slighter bigger than a half-triangle, but better too big than too small!

Here's my calculation:  (3 x 1.414) + 1.25 = 5.492.  Round up to 5½"

Corner setting triangles

A corner setting triangle is exactly the same size as a quarter-square when the work is finished.  Is in in fact one of two triangles cut from a parent square such that the grain runs along the short sides.

Parent square size =
= (finished block size / 1.414) + "

Here's my calculation:  (3 / 1.414) + 0.875 = 2.997.  Round up to 3"

Obviously I was stuck with the scenario that I had already cut out all my squares so had to find myself another thrown-aside garment.  As it happens, I had a top of my own that I'd torn a little while ago =)

Sunday, 29th January 2012

Not being satisfied with only being able to work on my quilting for two hours a week (I decided that switching to the evening class and leaving the kids with hubby would be more productive), I went onto Amazon and bought myself an Olfa Premium Quilting Kit

Included in the kit is a 12" x 18" self-healing cutting mat, a 6½" x 6½" quilting ruler which has markings in inches to aid the accurate sizing of squares and triangles and a 45 mm rotary cutter.  I absolutely love the cutter and mat - I don't think I will ever use scissors to cut my fabrics again!  The cutter requires very little pressure to cut and the mat will be useful for many of my other craft projects.  The ruler however, I am not so keen on.  I appreciate that I am pretty inexperienced at rotary cutting quilting squares, but the Omnigrid rulers at quilting group are nowhere near as slippery!

Using the technique I learned at quilting group, I set about cutting out 3½" squares (in order to achieve a final size of 3" per square, I need to make the squares ½" bigger for a ¼" seam allowance all the way round).  First I placed my quilting ruler to the bottom right of my fabric making sure that I lined the horizontal markings with the grain and that I had a clear 3½" square.  Cutting away from myself, I used my rotary cutter to cut up the right-hand-side of the ruler then across the top.

I rotated my fabric by 180 degrees and aligned the cut corners with the 3½" markings on the quilting ruler.  I then cut along the edges of the ruler to complete the cutting of my square.

It took a bit of practice, and I ended up throwing a few pieces away, but I now have a little pile of fabric squares =)

Tomorrow, I am off to my second quilting class to learn how to piece these together to form half-squares.

Tuesday, 17th January 2012

Having never done it before (and to be honest, never having had the inclination), I recently joined a quilting class after seeing their stand.  I have to admit, I was rather ignorant with regards to the subject and just thought 'how many blimming quilts could I possible want or even need?'.  Heather and Michael's stand however really had me intrigued; they had quilts, book covers, tea cosies, oven gloves and even clothes!

I went along to the class with the children and there were people of varying abilities there and Heather really paid everyone attention making sure to help them out and work at their pace.  Heather and Michael's passion for quilting and crafting in general was nothing short of inspirational.  I have to be honest, I spent most of the class just watching people, flipping through quilting books and magazines, choosing my practice fabrics and chasing the boy to stop him from escaping!

On my way home, my mind was very active....  All parents must have bags and bags of clothes that they put aside to hand down, then further bags of clothes good only for the recycling bin.  Luckily for me, I have held on to the latter and was already planning my first quilting project.  Despite there being so many beautiful fat quarters, packs of rotary cut squares and jelly rolls available, I wanted my first project to be less arty and return to what I imagine are the thrifty beginnings of quilting: using up oddments and remnants.  I rummaged through and chose a few garments of similar weight and hopefully this rag-tag bundle of clothes will turn into a beautiful memento cushion for my daughter's room.

My next step was (obviously) to do a web search for free quilt block patterns and I found loads at and decided to try the 'card trick block' for my first project.  Planning to cover a 16" square cushion, I sketched my pattern to have a diagonally placed 9" block that I could add a border to in order to make it up to the required size.

Follow me on Facebook and see what I'm up to at the moment =)

No comments:

Post a Comment