Wednesday, October 22, 2014

To Wash or Not to Wash

It seems like every year one quilt group or another has a discussion about whether or not to prewash fabrics.  There are many good reasons on both sides.  At my old house where the laundry room adjoined my crafting/sewing room, I was more inclined to wash fabrics before cutting them.  Now that I have to trek through the rain and mud to get to the laundry room, I only prewash when absolutely necessary and take my chances on everything working out.  So far, I've been pretty lucky.

But no one bats a thousand.  I recently unearthed a small wall hanging UFO that had to be laundered before it could be completed (somebody's muddy paw prints!).  When it came out of the dryer, I faced an unpleasant surprise: one fabric, the one I had used for sashing the blocks, had shrunk.  Groan!

Since it's a simple seasonal wall hanging for Halloween, I debated just finishing it with puckers and all.  Strategically placed quilting would have camouflaged a great deal.  But as I studied it, I decided that I really didn't like that pumpkin fabric anymore (tastes change over the years).  So I dug out a seam ripper and took everything apart while "watching" a tv show.  Then I decided to take a detour from my Valentine fabric project and get this UFO finished before this Halloween.  I dug through my stash for other fabric possibilities, spent several days testing this combination and that combination (while sewing heart fabric HSTs), and finally settled on two fabrics for a border and binding without any sash.

If I'd had an appropriate black fabric in my stash, I think I would have added a very narrow inner black border.  But I still like this look better than the original one.  And I have one less UFO cluttering my studio.  Tomorrow, it's back to work on my red and white Sunrise, Sunset blocks.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Switching Gears as the Seasons Change

I've been ill.  After two rounds of antibiotics, I think my body is finally claiming victory over the infection.  While combatting that, the weather changed from sunny and warm to rainy and chilly.  My heaters are now on and my mom's wood stove is puffing away.  I hate the smoke but I sure love the heat a wood stove puts out - there's nothing better except good ol' sunshine!

Today was not rainy so we "battened down the hatches" for winter.  The summer things that could fit in the storage shed were put in the storage shed.  What didn't fit is now covered with tarps.  Tomorrow's storm is supposed to be windy, so we'll find out soon if the tarps are secured well enough.  It's time now to settle into indoor pursuits, like quilting, sewing, crocheting, knitting, embroidery, cross stitch, kumihimo and baking.  Most of these endeavors keep me out of trouble during our long rainy season.

The baking, however, can get me into trouble.  I love to bake, but too much of that and I find myself in need of a new wardrobe!  This year, however, I'll have three 15-year-old nephews (not triplets - twins and a cousin) near by who, I think, will quite happily take the baked goods off my hands so the calories won't go on my hips.  I can bake all kinds of yummy treats and not gain an ounce as long as I limit myself to one little taste.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Half-square Triangles

The friend I was expecting today actually came yesterday (Saturday), so here I am on Sunday instead.  That's kind of how life goes around here.

So, on to half-square triangles, or HSTs as they're commonly called nowadays.  Simply, these are made by cutting two squares of fabrics A and B in half diagonally and then sewing the resulting triangles back together, pairing a fabric A with a fabric B.  It's one of the simplest and most basic units of patchwork, but there are at least half a dozen ways to make them.  I'm only going to cover a few of them here.

For this project, I started with 3-inch squares of light and dark fabrics.  In the first method (top left in photo above), I folded the light square in half to make a creased line, placed the light square right sides together (RST) on the dark square, then sewed 1/4-inch from each side of the creased fold line.  The squares are then cut on the creased fold line, creating two HSTs.  This method is simple and low-tech, but requires good lighting and good eyesight.  At my age, my near vision isn't as good as it use to be, and the lighting in my shed studio after dark is pretty minimal.  I generally avoid this method now, but used it a lot years ago.

The second method (pictured top right) is very similar: the creased fold line is simply replaced by a pencil or pen line drawn with a ruler.  This method is a bit more time-consuming, but the line is a lot easier to see!  I used this method for years, starting with pencil lines at first, then later using fine-point, washable felt markers.

Lately, I've dispensed with the lines altogether and now use method 3 (pictured at bottom in photo above).  I stack my light and dark squares right sides together, cut them diagonally, then sew the triangles together.  As long as I'm careful to not stretch the bias cut of the triangles as I sew, this method is the speediest of the three.  In my early days of patchwork, I produced a lot of wonky HSTs using this method so I switched to the first two methods.  Experience, a better understanding of bias cuts, and the knowledge that
I'm not getting any younger, have made me brave enough use this method again.

Whatever the method, once the triangles are sewn together each HST unit must be pressed open.  In most cases, place the dark fabric on top and then flip it over and press.  This presses the seam toward the darker fabric and reduces the chances of it showing through.  In some block patterns, the seams need to be pressed toward the light fabric in order to make all seams nest together later.  In the "Sunrise, Sunset" block, all HST seams can be pressed toward the dark fabric.

Once the HST units are all pressed, it's time to trim them to exact size.  In this project, they have to be trimmed to 2.5" square.  There are all kinds of rulers on the market for doing this, and slightly different instructions to go with each ruler.  If you need help with this part, I suggest checking for a video that highlights your kind of ruler.  I still use my 5" x 18" ruler to do this part -- I haven't seen any quilter on tv do it this way since the 90's!