Monday, April 13, 2009

Breaking a Pattern of No Patterns

Since beginning to sew, two and a half years ago, I haven't used patterns, so I don't have a history of making traditional quilts or having taken workshops to master sewing skills. While I have learned along the way through the doing, I am challenging myself to hone the skills for finer finishing - I want to improve my technique. Also, I am curious to see what I will learn by following a pattern, and that's how this project began. The pattern is from a book and I've copied measurements and templates. Unfortunately, the book does not include detailed instructions for how to sew the center piece together and unexpected challenges have already arisen for me. When choosing the fabrics from my stash, I wanted to have co-ordinating colours, variety and to adhere to a watermelon theme. The checked fabric reminds me of a picnic tablecloth, and if you click on the top photo to enlarge it, you'll see that those circles on the black fabric are watermelon rounds and that the red/pink swirling fabric is made up of tiny checks that mirror the checked fabric as well as have a 'seedy' feel since they are many little bits. Also, the circular swirls are a reference to the watermelon rounds, spots on the green inner border and roughly of the roundness of a watermelon itself. Locating the right combination of fabrics from what I already have involved alot of auditioning - and then, when I cut the pieces, I discovered I had to make changes since I did not have quite enough of two of the chosen fabrics. I had planned to make a mitred inner border, but since the instructions called for a longer strip of fabric then what I had, I went with the above look. Also, the black fabric from which I cut scalloped shaped pieces, couldn't accomodate two pieces that I needed. Since each side has 3 scalloped pieces, I decided to make the center one a different fabric - which required more auditioning and not finding anything quite right or large enough. So I've decided to use a different center scallop piece for each side. I'm noticing surprises for me about what works with what - I thought the red swirly piece would be my favourite for the center scallop, but when I overlaid it after it was sewn in with another of my choices that was green, I noticed that the contrast of the green beside the pink checks looks much better. I was more focused on matching the center scallop to the inner watermelon square - and while that's a part of the whole, I can see that getting the order right with these individual pieces is a challenge. When I normally create as I go, I think this is less of a problem because I'm only matching what's already there, not trying to match something that is several steps down the road. After I sewed the four green border strips to the central square, I noticed that in spite of my careful measuring and use of a quarter inch foot, some of the border were not square and/or extended past the edge of the border piece they squared up with. What to do - because if the border edges aren't even, then surely that would create problems when I would sew the scalloped border on. So I retrimmed everything so it's a large square again, only I know that from the center watermelon square to the edge of each border is not the same dimension. Surely this is not how it's supposed to be? Next I followed an instruction from the book to mark a quarter inch from the edge of the green border and from the sewed scallop and check strip. Only the edge of the scalloped and checked pieces was longer then the green border - not to mention very uneven again. So, I did some more trimming. I'm not sure how this will work out when I sew the corner pieces on. The above photo shows that the quarter inch mark for the checked fabric is right where the green border piece begins and the quarter inch mark for the green piece is another quarter inch in from that. Hmmm. Isn't using a pattern supposed to eliminate these sorts of problems?


Laura said...

Looking good Yvonne. I love the colours and the scalloped edge. Such cheerful fabrics. Makes me dream of summer!
Patterns are not made equal. Some are great, others are not.
I find accuracy and templates a real struggle as the size can be so different depending on what material you use for the template, thickness of line, how you cut, etc etc etc
Using a 1/4" foot does not mean you get a quarter inch seam. Often you need to move the needle one way or another to get an exact quarter inch. You can test this by seaming two 2 1/2" pieces together, iron and then measure - it should measure 4 1/2".

Yvonne said...

Thanks, Laura! I can see that accuracy and exactness when piecing are not as straight forward as I'd expect. I did check my quarter inch foot and it is giving me quarter inch seams. When I cut the templates I used freezer paper on a top layer and then pinned it to multiple layers and cut with scissors - probably not the most exact method, either. Do those quilters who get points exactly where they want them to be cut out each piece individually, I wonder? Maybe the lesson here for me is to go with 'slow quilting'!