Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday's Trials (and Errors) part III

And now we come to the errors of the day.

I've been interested in quilting, so much so that I borrowed a few books from the library and dragged my sewing machine out of the closet where it sleeps for most of the year. I love to crochet blankets, and I somehow got it into my head that I could sew a quilt just as easily, but faster, than I can crochet an afghan.

The same department store at the Arcade where I found yarn, also carries quilting materials. They have 100% cotton by the meter, and they have pre-cut fat quarters and layer cakes. I thought, "Why not?" and bought some material to play around with.
So, a couple weeks ago, I tried piecing a quilt block. The intention was to make a cover for a 16" pillow form that I have stashed. I originally intended to crochet the pillow cover, but this seemed like good practice.
I read the books, looked at a few patterns online, and decided I wanted to make a Dove-in-Window block. Why this pattern? Because Laura Ingalls Wilder pieced a Dove-in-Window quilt when she was a little girl, and I loved the Little House books.

My first mistake was choosing a pattern so complex. I'm sure there are many, many quilters out there who can piece this block with their eyes closed and will say to me, "But that's easy!" And it might be. It sure looks simple.
My second mistake, was using a tape measure, cardboard template and regular fabric shears to cut the pieces. I work with the tools I have available, and my sewing kit didn't have all those fancy things like rotary cutters, see-through rulers and the like. I'm actually surprised I found spare bobbins and a couple pincushions.
The third mistake I made was piecing this on my sewing machine. Actually, to my mind, a sewing machine is the perfect way to make a quilt, but in this case...well, I just had the regular presser foot that came with the machine. And I eyeballed that 1/4 inch seam.
I was careful to press every seam, like all the books told me too, and pressed the seams to the darker fabric...but...well...
Why don't I just show you?
Pretty sad, huh?
Of course, after this disaster, I ordered a few things: a rotary cutting set, a 1/4 inch piecing foot, and an even-feed (also called a "walking") foot.

The rotary cutting kit arrived last week, and I immediately set out to practice using it. Practice is a very good thing. It helps you learn to be careful and make sure the cutting blade stays against the clear ruler, because otherwise you get a strip sliced at a weird angle. (Yep, did that once.)
After making a few practice strips, I decided to make a Streak O' Lightning block. This one is much simpler than the first one I attempted, which is good. I sewed two of the strips together, then cut the strip into squares, then sewed the squares into strips, then sewed the strips into a block. It went a lot better, but I discovered why I really want that 1/4" piecing foot:
You see it, don't you? Bottom left. That one seam messed up the entire block.

I know, I could have ripped all those seams and started over, but I'm holding on to these for the future. I'll get pretty good at this eventually. When I do, I want to show how far I've come.

And with that, I move into the final trial of the day. I found a pattern for a "mug rug" (basically a giant coaster), and it looked pretty simple. It's just a front & back piece of fabric (no piecing!) and the batting. I figured it's a good way to practice machine quilting.
And I learned why I ordered that even-feed foot.
The top layer of fabric didn't move as fast as the bottom layer, and the fabric wound up with a tuck in it. I also learned that the tension on my sewing machine likes to change on its own. I'm not really in a position to upgrade my machine (yet), so it's something I need to watch when working.
Anyway, this is what came out:


At least I'm practicing, right? I love learning new things, and this was certainly a day for it.

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