Recently I’ve been doing a lot of hand stitching, between finishing the piecing of my English Paper Pieced table runner, and stitching the pieced Lucy Boston blocks down to the border fabric to complete my table runner quilt top. During the past weeks, I learned two tricks that have helped streamline the process, and I’d like to share them with you today. I’ll call it “hand stitching preparedness” since it seems pretty logical, even if both tips were revelations to me.
The first tip came in the form of an Instagram post by Carole Lyles Shaw (@carole_lylesshaw), a simple photo of a few pre-threaded and knotted needles stuck into the arm of the couch to help streamline her binding while watching a game on TV. I saw this and a lightbulb went off in my brain: duh!!
Before sitting down with your hand stitching, whether it be EPP, hand applique, or quilt binding, pre-thread and knot a few needles and have them ready and waiting within reach.
You can keep them in a pincushion nearby (photo above)…
or you can keep them on a needle minder on your actual work…
or you can just stick them into the arm of the couch right next to you.
This tip came in particularly handy since I was doing my hand stitching with my sleeping baby in my lap and my scissors, thread, and other sewing tools way up high on top of the bookcase, out of reach of my curious and busy 3 year old. Talk about a game changer! I was able to finish stitching down the blocks without waking my babe or having to juggle a sleeping baby, scissors, and sewing needles to cut new threads as I progressed.
One additional bit of advice I’ll add to this tip is to lay your threads out neatly and separately when cutting them to pre-thread your needles. If you cut them and lay them on top of each other, they *may* make a tangled mess before you can thread the needles successfully.
Ask me how I know this 😉
And finally, learning how to tie a quilter’s knot has saved me a lot of time with my recent hand stitching. That’s one of the downfalls of being a primarily self-taught sewist: you miss the simple basic tricks that well versed quilters take for granted. My friend Stephanie at Late Night Quilter posted this video tutorial a couple weeks ago, and I’ve made dozens of quilter’s knots since.
It’s hard to believe that less than a month ago, I was still pregnant. Yet in early June when I was setting my goal for A Lovely Year of Finishes (ALYoF), my goal was to have a baby!! I also added in a little hand stitching goal of completing my Summer English Paper Pieced (EPP) table runner top. I’m happy to report that I accomplished both of those goals!
Many of you have been appropriately introduced to baby Finn, who made his appearance 5 days into the month. Earlier today, I completed the final stitches attaching the EPP pieces to a solid border, finishing the table runner quilt top just in time.
I used Aurifil 1320 – Medium Teal and a blind-ish stitch, which I hear is a highly favored stitch, to attach the EPP Lucy Boston blocks to a solid border fabric, Moda Bella solid in Coastal. I have not yet cut away the fabric behind the blocks, but I most likely will do so before layering, basting, and hand quilting the table runner.
Now that I’ve grown my Aurifil 12wt thread stash, I’m excited to hand quilt this table runner. I have not yet decided on a quilting pattern, but I probably will go with a simple echo-border pattern. Finn doesn’t seem too interested in the stitching, but that’s ok!
I’m linking up with A Lovely Year of Finishes June Finish Party, and already contemplating my goal for July. I’m really enjoying being a part of ALYoF, since it is a little added incentive to focus on one project and actually make visible progress. This is my fourth successful monthly finish, since I missed the goal setting deadline for January and completely missed May. Not too bad!
The fussy cutting fun involved with English Paper piecing (EPP) and Lucy Boston Patchwork of the Crosses blocks hooked me immediately (although I still think it should be called meticulous cutting or assiduous cutting). I’m still wondering what one is to do with these gorgeous blocks other than make a ton and stitch them into a large quilt, though. With the three I’ve completed, I decided to turn them into a summery table runner to match these placemats. I’ve begun to join them together, slowly planning how I want to border these blocks so that they finish as a table runner. This is my first time “finishing” an EPP project, so I’m learning as I go (read: making it up as I go), as I do with most everything.
With a newborn snoozing in my lap all day and night, and since I still have the help of my visiting mom and paternity-leave-taking husband, I’ve been making steady progress on finishing the center block and making tiny 1″ squares to join the three together. Even since these photos were taken this morning, the third block is joined as well. There’s not much better than resting with a peacefully sleeping newborn on your lap, doing some stitching while watching the milk drunk stupor reflex smiles.
Since I made my own 1″ square EPP templates with card stock and my paper-cutting rotary cutter, I’m thinking I may just make my own templates for the entire border. In plotting it out, a combination of squares, rectangles, and trapezoids should do the trick (I think).
Have you joined Lucy Boston Patchwork of the Crosses blocks before? What method/shapes did you use? Please link in the comments if there’s a particular method you like, even if it’s just a general EPP tip! I honestly haven’t asked google yet, but I prefer to hear opinions from you, anyway.
I had been stitching the pieces together using a neutral thread, but decided that since I’m joining a bunch of blues, I should use matching thread if possible. I was pleased as punch to find a perfectly coordinating blue Aurifil thread in my stash (but not overly surprised, since there ALWAYS seems to be a perfect match!) It’s right in the middle of the darker blues and lighter turquoise, and is the perfect color for tying this whole runner together (literally!)
What do you make out of your EPP creations? I am really itching to do some more fussy cutting, but I need to have a project idea in mind before adding another project to my pile.
I completely missed May for A Lovely Year of Finishes (ALYoF). It actually is a good thing, since I was going to make my goal “have a baby“. Here we are in June and I still have not had this baby, which means I wouldn’t have had a successful finish to link up anyway! (Enter: haveyouhadthatbabyyet.com)
For June, my goal is to have this baby! He absolutely must make his way out by the end of the month (fingers crossed for by the end of the week!) Since I know that I need to have some little quilting/stitching project in the works, too, I’m also going to make another small goal: to finish piecing the top of the English Paper Pieced table runner I started last summer.
While going through my mental list of old works in progress I could dig out and make a bit of progress on while waiting for this baby, I mentally stumbled upon my Sweet as Honey EPP table runner. I realized that the color scheme is exactly the same as my newly started summer placemats, and decided it would be the perfect handwork project to add to my active to-do pile.
When I last left off on this EPP project, I was planning on making the next row of honeycombs either orange or yellow. In looking at the bundle of fabric for my placemats next to the project, I am going to take a design turn and make the next row of honeycombs for the center Lucy Boston block (the one shown on the right, below) in the dark blue. Then, I plan on making a bunch of 1″ squares (or maybe more honeycombs?) with which to border each of the blocks before joining them together in a row and binding.
I’m planning to buy a little extra yardage of one of the Moda Bella Solids from the August bundle from Fiddlehead Artisan Supply to complete the border squares, and am leaning toward option 2 above: the medium blue. I’m excited and think that this table runner will go really well with my pixelated summer placemats.
This is only a rough visualization of a placemat, but I’m excited at the potential outcome. It looks like even with only 8 colors, the aesthetic works for me. I love that each placemat will be different, and I am looking forward to playing around with color placement. For this progress shot, the half square triangles (HST) aren’t squared up or sewn together yet, and I may make a bunch more and play around with layouts before sewing them together. According to my initial math, I will be able to make a set of six (6) placemats with my bundle of 8 FQs. I may buy another bundle just to be safe.
In lieu of the popular “feet in the photo” quilt shot, here’s my 41+ weeks pregnant version, posted on Instagram a few days ago (and in posting this, I’m realizing I laid out the bottom row backwards in the photo above!):
For those of you who want to get your hands on an August bundle like the one I’m using for the placemats, use coupon code nightquilter15% to get 15% off your entire order from Fiddlehead Artisan Supply‘s online shop from now through June 21st.
I’ve written many times about the amazing online community of quilters and the powerful connections made across the world in this quilting blogosphere. While many times, this community helps us share inspiration and joy, sometimes that close-knit community must play another role: sharing sorrow and hope. Recently, Rachel from Stitched in Color, a fellow quilty blogger, had a much-anticipated baby. While typically the birth of a baby ignites much shared joy, this birth did not go well. I frequent Rachel’s blog, but actually found out about the unexpected complications through Instagram before reading about it on her blog. Jodi from Tales of Cloth has organized a world-wide support for Rachel and her family, in the form of English Paper Pieced hexi flowers. You can read about her plan HERE, where she shares a tutorial on how to make an EPP hexi flower, and explains her plan of expressing all of our support and love. Needless to say, I dropped my to-do list, hugged my kids, and got started on a couple of flowers.
My plan is to make as many of these as I can by the end of the week (I’m aiming for 2-4) and mail them to Jodi in Australia on Saturday.
I am so grateful to Jodi for organizing this effort, since with such a devastating event, one can feel so hopeless. Yet, I fully believe in the power of prayer and positive intention. Call it what you will, but think about this: hundreds of people stitching hexi flowers with Eleni, Rachel, and the rest of their family in mind. Maybe praying, maybe crying, maybe just thinking the most positive, healing, hopeful thoughts they can muster. Each person putting his or her love, hope, prayer, and positive healing intention into every. single. stitch. THAT is powerful.
I’m stitching, praying, sending healing thoughts and energy, and hoping for a miracle. Miracles happen. Sometimes, they appear in very unexpected situations, and sometimes they may not seem like a miracle at first, but miracles happen. If nothing more, we can wrap Rachel and her family in a literal blanket of love with this quilt.
If you would like to join this effort of support, send Jodi a message to find out more information on where to send your flowers. There’s also an Auction for Elenito raise money to help support the family. Or, you could just pray or send your healing and hopeful energy & intentions their way. Check out the hashtag #flowersforeleni on Instagram to see the flowers in progress so far. For me, I am taking moments throughout the day to pause, pray, and stitch, grateful for the opportunity to show my love, and always, always hoping for a miracle and peace for the family.
I’m sneaking in one last post before I disappear for a few weeks on a much needed vacation & blogging break. I finished the mini quilt I’m making for my partner in the Schnitzel and Boo Mini Quilt Swap, and I just have to share! I have loved working on this quilt, and I’m pretty certain my partner will love it, too! Nicole at Modern Handcraft has a wonderful tutorial on this short-cut hexagon quilting method. I’ve done some blogging (and a lot of Instagramming) about my progress on the quilt, which you can read here and here.
Are you ready for a total photograph color explosion? Okay, good. I took a LOT of photos of this baby, and in my usual style I can’t choose just one.
Finished quilt stats:
Name: Modern Hexies Mini Quilt (for Schnitzel and Boo, Round 3) Size: 24″ x 18″ Fabric: Hexies are primarily Anna Maria Horner’s True Colors collection, with supplements from my stash (including but not limited to Carolyn Friedlander’s Botanics, Timeless Treasures Sketch, other Anna Maria Horner fabrics); backing Kona Snow; binding is Carolyn Friedlander’s Leaves in Charcoal from Botanics. Quilting: Straight-line quilted through each hexagon, lines 1″ apart Thread: Aurifil 50wt 2615 – Aluminum (light grey) and 28wt 2000 – Light Sand in the bobbin Finished: December 2014 Related blog posts: Schnitzel and Boo Mini Quilt Swap: I’m in!, A Mini Sneak Peek, Modern Hexies Mini Progress
I finally chose the pattern I am going to use for my Schnitzel and Boo Mini Quilt swap quilt for my partner, and boy am I excited! My inspiration is a quilt I’ve been drooling over since its unveiling by Nicole at Modern Handcraft, and I’m excited to give a go at recreating it.
As much as I was tempted to use Carolyn Friedlander’s Botanics to recreate this stunning quilt exactly, I decided to be a *little* original and use a fabric line by another one of the designers listed as a favorite of my secret partner: True Colors by Anna Maria Horner. I’ve made a little bit of slow progress.
At first, I wasn’t sure about these fabrics and how they would work in a modern hexies mini quilt, but once I put them together and took a photo, I’m a lot more encouraged. For some reason, when looking at the fabrics in a stack, they don’t seem to flow as well as I’d like. Looking at them arranged like so and through the eye of a camera, it definitely “works”. Woo hoo!
I ordered a small pack (100 pieces) of 1″ hexagons from Paper Pieces, but I got a little antsy waiting for them to arrive, since my charm pack of Anna Maria Horner arrived first. Rather than wait, I pulled out some card stock and printed off a page of adorable Happy Hexies by Mollie Johanson of Wild Olive. I had bookmarked these a few months back, and was thrilled to finally use them. I mean, how cute are these little guys peeking out the back!?
Now that my Paper Pieces hexies have arrived, I can go to town on this project, but I’m so grateful for these cheerful little guys and Mollie’s free download since they allowed me to get a little head start on the mini. Hopefully, we will see this cute little stack of hexagons grow and grow and GROW over the next couple weeks!
Sometimes there’s a saying that is so commonly used that you don’t even think twice about it. Last month, while on vacation with my family, my brother Steven commented on how cool my specifically planned cutting looked in my English paper piecing project. I told him how in the quilting world it’s called “fussy cutting”, and how much fun I was having with this, my first foray into it. He looked at me with an almost offended air, repeating with disdain, “fussy cutting”?!
Steven is an artist who lives in San Francisco among many other artists of various trades. Perhaps this is why he was so taken aback by the terminology paired with quilters’ practice of selectively cutting a fabric based upon a particular element or design. He reasoned, “You wouldn’t call Michelangelo a “fussy” painter. You might call him meticulous, or careful, but never fussy.” He has a point.
It’s true; the definition of the word fussy holds a decidedly negative air. “Petty details”? “…a fussy, cluttered look.” Losing the thread of the story because of the fussy writing. None of these definitions or examples are very flattering. Personally, I think that fussy cutting in quilting is a skill and style that deserves a more complimentary, positive name. Then again, it’s just a word, right?
This conversation got me thinking: who coined the term “fussy cutting” and when did it start getting popular? I wonder if it was a saying created by the quilters, or by those seeing the completed work. A bit of googling uncovered the fact that the first evidence of selectively cutting motifs from fabric was the development of Broderie Perse in England in the 1700’s (from answers.com, so take it for what it is). The article goes on to explain that “…this technique was used by women of wealth, who had the leisure time to devote to this style of applique. Their goal was to make a “best” quilt that would be shown off to friends or used on special occasions.” In other words, it was women of wealth who could afford the time and fabric to select only very specific features to make a “best” quilt, leaving the fussy cut refuse to waste or other small, non-functional projects. Was the term “fussing cutting” created by those of lesser social status out of semi-contempt of those who could afford such fabric waste and leisure?
Brenda Horton (BH): Now you called your sister the fussy one but you “fussy cut” sometimes on your patterns, is that where you got the term?
Eleanor Burns (EB): Yes, she told me “fussy cut.” What’s really interesting, we may have coined the word “fussy-cut” but now it’s a standard in the industry. And that’s really fun to see something you started as just common terminology.
MF: Explain to us what “fussy-cut” is.
EB: Fussy-cut means you would have a large floral design with a lot of flowers. You might just specially cut out one flower and use that one flower repeat throughout your quilt, so it’s just specially cut out of the fabric to use in a certain piece. It puts together a really pretty design– fussy.
It doesn’t sound very disparaging, although between sisters, perhaps there is a bit of a teasing tone? What do you think?
For me, I can no longer say “fussy cutting” without thinking of my conversation with my brother. Here’s my IG post from the night of the conversation:
I wrote: Testing out my fussy cutting choices for my next #patchworkofthecrosses. Talking with my artist brother, we decided that “fussy cutting” is quite pejorative. So now, it will be punctilious, meticulous, assiduous, deliberate… but never “fussy”. Who’s with me!? #assiduouscutting not #fussycutting 🙂 Thanks, @vanfremdling and thanks to@goinghometoroost and @amybutlerdesign for the fantastic fabric for my @kickassiduouscutting !! #epp
I’m sure that “fussy cutting” will still be part of my quilting lingo, since when in Rome! However, I will also be using “assiduous cutting”, “meticulous cutting”, and “punctilious cutting” interchangeably. Personally, I lean toward “assiduous cutting” since then I can say I’m doing some “kick-ass-iduous cutting” tonight!
What do you think? Do you think “fussy cutting” has a derogatory inclination? If you are a quilt historian and have any more information regarding the origination of the term “fussy cutting”, I’d love to know!
Until then, have fun with your punctilious, meticulous, assiduous, deliberate, and okay… sometimes fussy… cutting. I know I will!
It feels like I’ve been on vacation for most of July, which is not a bad thing! While traveling and away from my sewing machine, I have taken the opportunity to try my hand at English Paper Piecing (EPP) for the first time, delving into stitching my first and second Lucy Boston Patchwork of the Crosses blocks. I was inspired by Jan at Sew and Sow Farm blog to try the Patchwork of the Crosses as my first EPP.I completed my first block (left) during the car ride from Maine to Ohio, and have almost completed my second block (right) since I’ve been here at our rental house on Lake Erie. I have had a lot of fun finding the perfect little peeks of fabric for each of the pieces, called “fussy cutting” by the quilting community, and decidedly meticulous but perhaps not so fussy, per a discussion I recently had with my artist brother (more on that in a later post).
The coast of Lake Erie is gorgeous and very different than the coast of Maine. I had a good shot of my EPP wips on the rocks earlier today, and here are the results:
I have not yet removed the papers from either of the blocks, except the four center bee pieces more as a test to make sure I could get the paper out than anything else, and I love the way the backs look. Every little basting stitch, the crisp folds, the tiny hand stitches holding them all together: beauty.
I think I have decided that these blocks will be turned into a table runner or centerpiece. My plan is to make another block the same as my first with the four bees in the center, and use the new Lark-heavy block as the center with the two bee blocks on either end, joined and bordered by some other background fabric. I still have to decide what color to use in the outermost border for the center block, but I’m leaning toward yellow.
I then might add one more outer edge of some other color, to make the center block larger than the outer ones. I am really enjoying the process of English Paper Piecing, specifically how portable it is and how it is so easy to pick up and put down for even just a five minute sewing stint. I’m looking forward to exploring other EPP template shapes. So far I’ve found hexagon, diamond, and triangle templates, but it looks like there are no rules; any shape or combination of shapes can be made into templates. Let the pattern creation begin! Well, after I finish these blocks of course.
I never wish for rain while I’m on vacation, and this trip isn’t any different. Sometimes, though, you get rain even if you don’t want it. We are on vacation on Hancock Point, Maine, for the week with my husband’s family. The rental house is right on the ocean and has an amazing view of Bar Harbor and Acadia, located directly across the bay.
Until today, we have had gorgeous weather and have spent much of our time swimming (or quickly dipping, in my case) in the ocean or walking along the beach looking for treasures. I don’t think I could ever tire of gazing at the beauty left by the tides.
Today, it is cold, dreary, and pouring. In trying to beat the rainy vacation day humdrums, I decided to pull out my sewing stuff. This morning I tried my hand at English Paper Piecing, starting with the fussy cut center for a Lucy Boston Patchwork of the Crosses. I must say, handwork is quite fun!
I had to unstitch and retry one of the honeycomb pieces since the pattern didn’t even come close to lining up on one side. Admittedly, it wasn’t a whole lot closer after I redid it, but I decided to go with it.
Having never done any handwork before, I felt like I was flying by the seat of my pants. How far apart should the stitches go when joining pieces? How exactly does one “whip stitch” the corners? I think I did two whip stitches, but it seems to have worked for the moment. I can see the stitches a bit, but my mother-in-law said that the slight peek of stitches is part of the charm of hand sewn creations. I’ll take her word for it.
I can certainly see why so many people travel with their English Paper Piecing projects. Progress is made in small bits, so it is easy to pick up and put down as needed. I finished sewing the center four honeycombs together at the breakfast table this morning, and once I figure out what color scheme to go with for the rest of it, I am looking forward to passing the rainy days with stitching.
I also brought my sewing machine with me on this trip. It’s the first time I’ve ever brought a sewing machine on vacation, and I debated for quite a while whether I should take it with me or not. Now, with the next two days forecasted as torrential rain and chilly cold, I’m so glad I did. Not to mention the fact that there is a singer treadle and table right next to my bed in our bedroom.
While this treadle is missing its belt and therefore doesn’t work, I am taking it as a clear sign that I was meant to bring my sewing machine on vacation with me. Perhaps this afternoon I’ll do a bit of machine sewing as well!
Do you take your sewing on vacation with you?
I grab a needle and thread once the kids are in bed