Saturday, January 2, 2010

Sometimes you have to waste some fabric

I haven't been blogging much recently and I haven't been keeping up with my blog-reading either. No, I haven't fallen off the edge of the world, I've just been dismantling and storing the Christmas stuff and actually sewing (as opposed to reading about and talking about sewing, I guess).

The Christmas decorations seem to reproduce and multiply while in situ, or at least grow in size. How else to explain why the piles of items won't fit back in the boxes from which they were removed, only 3 weeks ago? It took an entire day to break down the tree (artificial) and box the ornaments, and take down all the outside decorations, and then stuff all this into the closet in the garage. This process involves a ladder, heavy boxes and at least one close call where a box almost falls on my head.

Another whole day was shot tearing down the Christmas village and wrangling all the houses and accoutrements into their boxes. I waited til the next morning to shove all of the village stuff into the top of the guest room closet, which required two or three false starts until I stumbled upon the scheme that allows all the boxes fit on the two shelves. See? The stuff must grow or something.

However, that's all completed and we have our house back. The living room looks so large after the tree is removed. In a few weeks it will feel crowded again, but I can enjoy the apparent roominess for a while.

Christmas trimmings having been properly banished for the year, I decided to start the foundation pieced wall quilt gift I had planned. Sorry to be vague about the design but the recipient might be reading this. So let's just say I'm using the foundation piecing method to make a 16" block depicting X. The free pattern for X was found on the website of a foundation pattern designer. It's really cute, and probably would have been more so in its original size of 8" square, but I decided I wasn't quite crazy enough to try that and enlarged it. It's got 81 pieces, for heaven's sake. I'm not sure how you would squeeze 81 pieces and all those seam allowances into 64 square inches. So it's bigger.

I made it twice today. That doesn't mean that I made two blocks. I made the segments of the first one, tried to join them, screamed, pulled my hair, complained to my husband and threw them away. Then I paced the house, dug through my fabric stash, picked a new background fabric because I had used all of the first one in the block that wouldn't go together right. Finally, I started over, trimmed the seams smaller, pressed more carefully and finally finished it.

There are several things I learned from this attempt. First, and most important, I don't enjoy foundation piecing. I had forgotten that. The last time I tried it was on the fish crib quilts for my friend's grandsons. The fish weren't so bad, but, oh, those seahorses! Tiny, tiny little bits of fabric, and of course I had to make two of them because there were two quilts. I thought they would never be finished.

The second thing I learned was to figure out how large your next fabric patch has to be, and then double the size. This is no time to be worrying about saving fabric. All you scrap-users out there, who cut your stash into the neat little squares and strips and make extra half square triangles out of the waste corners when you sew flying geese blocks - go read another blog because this is going to kill you. To not drive yourself crazy doing foundation piecing you are going to have to waste fabric. And don't throw your trimmed edges in a little pile and tell yourself that you will be able to pick through it and find the exact size you need for a wee little segment. That way lies madness. They will never be the right size, and trying to squeeze them in will only lead to failure. Just slap a big ol' piece of fabric on the paper, sew the seam and trim, trim trim. Give yourself room to move.

The third thing I learned is to handle the squares VERY CAREFULLY. These foundation pieced blocks are probably going to have bias every which way, because you had to sew seams in all directions during the piecing and they are stretchy, folks, which is why my first try was doomed to failure. Press gingerly, handle gently and don't be pushy.

So now I have a completed square (!) block ready for borders. It will have very simple machine quilting, because the design is the primary thing. And it's adorable.


paula, the quilter said...

This is too funny! I have also found that I DO NOT enjoy foundation piecing. That is unless it is strings. If I need something like a seahorse then I end up appliqueing it. Saves my sanity. But then applique is not for a scrap saver/user either is it? I have many a piece of fabric that looks like swiss cheese.

Paula said...

I and paper piecing does not save fabric. So, what I do is save the bits and pieces left over from other projects and use them in paper piecing. Then I feel like I am using my scraps and don't even feel bad about the fabric that ends up in the garbage. I would love it if someone would come over and go through my sewing room trash can and USE that fabric. But I'm not doing it. I really don't think you can make anything out of it, but someone might be able to. Bonnie H. could probably make something with it. *smile*

Linda said...

I have loved foundation piecing in the past. Sometimes when I pull out some fabric from my stash, those pesky pieces I saved will drop out. I secretly think they multiply in my stash closet just like your Christmas decorations.

*karendianne. said...

Wow! This is a great post and filled with humor, too. I really enjoyed the read. The line about madness cracked me up: "And don't throw your trimmed edges in a little pile and tell yourself that you will be able to pick through it and find the exact size you need for a wee little segment. That way lies madness."