Flower Festival block 1 (part 2 – quilting)

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So, here there is, my first block of the Flower Festival QAL by Leah Day, and my first block ever being free-motion quilted. With all the imperfections that come when trying a new, completely different technique (and fortunately I already had some experience on FMQ from an introductory class, so I can’t think about what would have happened without that!).

But first things first, before I actually quilted this one there were lots of previous steps that were absolutely worth it. I can’t stress enough how helpful they are.

Firstly, I tested, on spare fabric (but already sized!) the markers I would use: the water-soluble pen and a coloured chalk (the one used by seamstresses) for the darker fabrics. Despite I followed all the instructions, it turned out that after washing the chalk wouldn’t completely go away. So I needed to look for something else to mark on the darker colours, and I came up with what looks like a ceramic pencil. It didn’t give problems, but the drawback is that is goes away with the friction produced whilst moving the quilt around.

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Secondly, I created mock sandwiches to test several things. These two blocks were absolutely improvised with leftovers from the main block, and I absolutely love the results (I might make a whole quilt with this technique some day…). On them I tested:

– Basting with water soluble thread. Left without visible residue. And it does help a lot not having those safety-pins when you’re in the middle of a curve! It takes an extra time, but for me, absolutely worth it.

– Thread colour. It may seem an obvious choice to make, but my first thread choice didn’t actually work when I stitched it on the block. So a second test was required.

– Thread tension, and needles. It took some adjustment for the tension, and I discovered it’s not the same when quilting with the walking foot than when using FMQ (does it make any sense?).

– Actual FMQ with the stippling design. Good to warm up before attempting the actual block.

– Having the design already marked on the block. It is priceless.

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All of this will help for all the sampler’s future blocks, so I think that it was a good investment to spend all that time working on those. For the actual block, however, I discovered the not so wonderful side of FMQ:

– Frustration happens. Specially when you are working with a 5.5″ space from needle to machine’s body, and no extension table (magazines, books and boxes make quite the trick, but not as comfortable as it should be…).

– Stitching in the ditch while FMQ is not easy. It got eventually better.

– Tension issues can happen all the time, regardless of the testing done before. I found that it was worth it to retest the tension at the beginning of every quilting session.

– As the marking on the darker fabrics didn’t stand out really well, and I don’t have freezer paper, I used interfacing, which I already had, to mark from the surface. It worked quite well, although it left fibres when it was tore out. It seems that with the final wash most of them went away, but it’s something to taken into account.

– Ugly, giant stitches happen. And there’s no point on ripping them out. Here goes my perfectionism. I really had to struggle and repeat myself that those were supposed to happen to not throw everything away a couple of times.

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At the end, however, despite all the mistakes, stitches outside the ditch, wonky circles and puckers on the back (why!!??) it doesn’t look so bad for a first attempt, does it? I’m really amazed how much does the quilting show on the back!

Flower Festival block 1 (part 1 – piecing)

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The big goal for this year is to learn how to quilt. I mean, proper quilting, not just straight-line quilting done just to get the quilt finished, and using my little domestic sewing machine (which is proving quite a challenge, to be honest!). As I stated before, to do so I’m joining the Flower Festival QAL by Leah Day.

So, this is the first block for the quilt-along, called “Blooming nine patch”. I wasn’t planing to write two posts about it, but I have lots of things to put down for the quilting part, so I decided to divide all the information in two blog posts.

I faced the piecing of this one as if I was an absolute beginner, following Leah Day instructions by the letter. There’s always something to learn, and I surely did. Starching and prep fabric was something I’ve been doing for a long time now (mostly, because of her tutorials), and now it has become a must for each piece of fabric that arrives at home (pre-cuts are an exception). It makes a huge difference!

Newer for me was the pressing and slow piecing part. I’m also not a big fan of pressing seams open; however, the experience on this one has been extremely positive, and I have done so in another block with great results. I think that it’s the combo “starch (or stabiliser, to be more exact) + smaller stitch length, even for a big block + proper pressing with the iron” that gives such a flat, crisp seam.

And to my surprise all the points matched smoothly! The only thing I can’t understand is why the block ended a little shorter. I think I carried a little off-seam from the central nine-patch…

It has been a pleasure to piece this one. Forcing myself to slow down my piecing, checking constantly and playing with this range of fabric made for a wonderful sewing afternoon.

The block is now almost completely quilted. Once I finish it I will post all my -not so wonderful- quilting thoughts!

Flower Festival Mystery Quilt: fabric selection

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This year I’m determined to learn to quilt. From straight-line quilting to free-motion quilting, I just want to finish a quilt top and not feel overwhelmed by the thought that the next thing that needs to be done is to quilt it. Moreover, after all the love and care I put into piecing, just quilt anything because I need that quilt finished doesn’t feel right. Hence my big goal for this year. I’m going to quilt.

And nothing seems more right to me to join the Flower Festival Mystery Quilt by Leah Day. I followed her video tutorials during 2016 (I already had so many projects on my table to actually sew them), and this year I’m taking the plunge.

As this quilt will be densely quilted, and as I need to see my stitches, I knew I needed solids. I’m not a fan of batiks, which would be another option. And I’d kept an eye on the Grunge collection by Basic Grey for Moda Fabrics for a long time, and it seemed the perfect fabric for this project. I’m not following the colour palette Leah Day is using, so here is my selection:

From top to bottom, all are fabrics from Grunge, by Basic Grey:

1. Ash
2. Peacoat
3. Bachelor
4. Boysenberry
5. Cream, for the background
6. Saxony, for block borders

The backing will be a light grey – 1000 Colours Collection (501), by Lecien-, the same I’m using in the Star-Sampler quilt-along.

(A picture of all the fabric together can be seen in the 2017 goals post).

For the batting, I’m using a 80/20 cotton-polyester mix; “Natural Blend” by Legacy.

I still have to decide which thread I’m going to use for the quilting, it looks like that some practice-sandwiches are in order!