Thursday, December 26, 2019

Favorite Tools for making Hexified Panel/OBWs

When I think about what I use to make my Hexified Panel Quilts or other One Block Wonders and their variations, I travel to a variety of places in my mind. There's the original books first and foremost, then the pattern I wrote that breaks down how to actually build around the panel. From there I jump to various rulers I've used (there are many!), the foot care department for the molefoam padding, and other notions that make life easier as I work through my projects.

This post is about those other things that make this process easier. It's not all inclusive, but a few key items that truly help. Do you have suggestions for other notions that are helpful to you?
Here goes...

GDQ Pattern and Ruler

The following items are available on my Gypsy Dreamer Quilts shop.

Hexified Panel Quilts -- a pattern that explains in detail inserting a panel into the color flow of hexies

GDQ 5.5" 60 Degree Triangle Ruler -- a smaller ruler that fits easily in your hand when cutting triangle sets for Hexified Panel Quilts or other 60 degree triangle quilts. Since I rarely cut strips wider than 3.25" and most often about 2.75" or smaller, many of the rulers are just too big and awkward to use. While I've used many... Clearview and June Tailor are my former favorites as they have points on all three tips, the Creative Grid and Marti Michell are my least favorites because I prefer that pointed tip on top that creates dog-ears as I sew and press seams open, and everything from 6" to 12", coming up with my own smaller version so far has been serving me well.

Favorite other tools

To discover more about the original technique, each of the books written by Maxine Rosenthal provides inspiration.

Dr. Scholl's Molefoam Padding -- used by cutting ~1/4" strips to place the full width of the line on the bottom side of my ruler to help keep the triangle sets straight and consistent. On the ruler pictured, three different sizes are pre-marked that are used repeatedly--2 3/4", 2 1/2", and 2 1/4". Discussion of how these guides were added can be found in the Tips 102 post.

Clover Roll & Press -- a handy tool to press your seams open at the machine as you go when assembling three triangles each into your half-hexie units.

Mary Ellen's Best Press -- a quilter's starch and sizing alternative. Using Best Press will give your units more body and less likely to stretch along the bias edges of the triangles. If you find you use a lot, consider buying by the gallon and refilling a smaller spray bottle.

Spray Mist Bottle -- this misting spray bottle allows you to spray your Best Press or water in a fine mist for better coverage.

There may be others that I'm not thinking of right now. I'll try to add to this or create an additional post with more information later. If you have questions on any of these items, don't hesitate to contact me.

More snippets from the sewing room soon...

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Part 2: Tips for Hexified Panel Quilts/One Block Wonders

Tips 102: Cutting Your Triangles

As I have been rewriting and updating my pattern, Hexified Panel Quilts, I'm finding there is more information to share than what can be included in the pattern. In my growing experience in making Hexified Panel Quilts and/or One Block Wonders, I have used a wide variety of 60 degree triangle rulers. The large rulers often used with wide border prints to create the twisting triangle table runners are great for that purpose; however, they are too large and awkward for making triangles for these quilts. I've used rulers from 12" to 10" to 8" to 6", and even a couple of 60 degree diamond rulers when in a pinch! In my opinion, the smaller the ruler, the better because it fits better in your hand, and a smaller ruler takes up less space overall as you alternate directions when cutting. For recent workshops and classes, shops have had a harder time finding smaller 60 degree triangle rulers, so when an opportunity came up to create my own, I went for it!
Introducing the Gypsy Dreamer Quilts 5 1/2" 60 degree triangle ruler, GDQ-60R! After making over 30 of these quilts, I have yet to cut strips wider than 3 1/2", so a 5 1/2" ruler is plenty of space to meet my needs. The rulers are etched with lines every 1/4" for ease of measuring your marking line. These are now available on my GDQ Etsy shop for $16.
Regardless of which ruler I'm using, adding a piece of tape, photo mounting tape, or even Dr. Scholl's Molefoam Padding does the trick of keeping my cuts straight and even along the strip. My absolute favorite is the Molefoam Padding. It comes in the foot care department with two ~3x4" squares per package. The thickness of the molefoam, as opposed to the thin moleskin, is similar to the thickness of your six layers of fabric being cut to form triangles for your Hexified Panel Quilts or OBWs. As I get ready to cut my triangles, I first cut a long piece off one edge--I'm not overly particular about how wide the strip is as long as the cut is straight.
Then I line up one angled edge of my triangle ruler, wrong side UP, with the 60 degree line on my 6.5x24" ruler. I place the point at the mark for the strip width I cut (in this case 2.25"), and then place the strip of molefoam along the triangle ruler at the strip width line, snugging it up against the edge of the long ruler. Once the molefoam strip is securely place along the bottom of the ruler, I trim the strip to match the width of the ruler.
Given that we are cutting multiple layers, having the molefoam extend to the edges of the ruler help to box in the triangles as you cut them. Without this guide, as you cut, you may find the layers tend to spread out and cause wonky corners. Boxing them in with the molefoam helps minimize this problem.
Immediately before cutting my first set of triangles, I check the layers of the strip to be sure everything is matched up. If one or two layers are off more than you would like, you can micromanage them, only along the length of the strip, by shifting the layers individually until all are matching to your satisfaction. For me, unless it is 1/4" or more off, I tend to leave them alone as they still blend beautifully when sewn into hexies. 
You're now ready to start cutting your triangle sets. Place the ruler at the desired place at one end of the strip of six layers. On this photo I chose to place my ruler where the frame around the panel will be hidden in the seam. I could have as easily moved it to the left, so long as I have it no closer to the end than where the shortest layer ends. You want every set of triangles to be complete with tips on all three corners.

After you make your first cut and set your first set of triangles aside, alternate the direction of your ruler as you cut back and forth across the length of the strip. 
The half-triangle on each end will be your only waste. The partial triangle on the right looks large enough to use; however, that is the selvedge end. Using that as a set of triangles could cause problems as the selvedges are woven differently and can add extra bulk to the seams. 

The number of triangle sets you will get from a strip will depend on the width of your strip. This strip was cut at 2.25" and yielded 14 sets of triangles per 22" long strip. Wider strips yield fewer triangle sets, whereas narrower strips yield more. A typical 2.75" strip (my favorite strip width for full WOF panels) that is 22" long will yield ~12 sets of triangles. Each row is then stacked with the direction of each set alternating, making them easy to grab to sew.

If you want to keep the sets together in case of disaster (kids, pets, wind, etc), you can certainly pin each set together and store them in a large Ziploc bag.

Extra Tip! Fussy Cutting Triangle Sets

There may be times when you want to keep certain elements of your panels to include in your hexies. Whether it means adjusting your cut across the middle of the panels to either side of the natural fold from the bolt in order to retain elements in the center of the panel, or moving your triangle ruler to include special elements along your strip sets, you have the choice of how our quilt is cut up. Don't be afraid to experiment to get what you want for your layout.

On a subsequent strip I came to a hummingbird that I wanted to be sure was included in my hexie collection for this layout. I chose to fussy cut and lose a little in the middle in order to get as much of the hummer as I could. 
I cut the triangle sets until I got close and then stopped to move my ruler over to see where I needed to be to include the hummer.  
I cut the hummer triangle set and then went back to the previous section and cut the flower triangle set, leaving a strip between them that is now waste. Since the strip was a little longer than I needed due to the extra frame at the end by the selvedge, I was still able to cut 14 sets of triangles from this strip. The final partial triangle piece was reduced by the amount of that strip between triangles. 

You're now ready to go to the sewing machine with a stack of triangle sets and get sewing! Part 3 is coming soon with tips on keeping a consistent 1/4" seam and more.

More snippets from the sewing room soon,

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Part 1: Tips for Hexified Panels/One Block Wonders

Tips 101: Layering and Cutting Strips

I've have spent the last couple of weeks rewriting and updating my Hexified Panel Quilts pattern. As a result, I find there are loads more tips and tricks that could be helpful to those making Hexified Panel Quilts or One Block Wonders. Having made over 30 Hexified Panel Quilts and/or One Block Wonders, it seems appropriate to share some of tips that are helpful to know when going through the process of making these one-of-a-kind quilts. From layering and cutting your strips, to cutting the triangles, to assembling them into the units ready for design, there are numerous steps that can make or break your success, as well as test your patience. This series of tutorials is meant to help you through some of those steps and make the process easier and smoother.

It has been nearly ten years since I made Strutting Peacocks, my first One Block Wonder. Oh my, how much I've learned since those early days!

Cutting your panels

The first thing I've learned is imperative to making a successful OBW or Hexified Panel Quilt is to be sure all of your panels were cut from the same bolt. Several times at workshops I've had students come in with panels they purchased on the internet, 3 panels from one vendor and 4 from another. Invariably, the panels from two different bolts do NOT match up properly and can cause a number of problems. Not realizing I would have a perfect example just hours before writing this, I had planned to just explain why it makes a different.
However, as I was cutting panels for a sample last night, I only had four on the end of one bolt and went to the closet for a fresh bolt to cut three more. Since I had ordered from the same company on the same day, I presumed they would work together just fine. However, they were obviously quite different! If you look at these two panels--one folded and placed on top of the other, the selvedges on the right are quite different, and the blocks themselves don't match up. Also, the colors on each are enough different that it would be obvious if I combined three from each in a single hexie. The first bolt was quite vibrant, while the second bolt was a little more washed out. Once I discovered just how different they were, I cut 3 more from the new bolt and set the four orphans aside for another project. Just like checking that all skeins of yarn for a project are from the same dye-lot, purchasing panels from the same bolt holds true for similar reasons.

For those using full width of fabric panels, rather than wrangle 44" long strips and try to keep them aligned, I cut the panels in half at the fold before I start. Our most common rulers are only 24" long and our cutting mats typically no longer than 36", so trying to cut a 44" long strip is awkward at best! Working with two stacks about the size of fat quarters makes it much easier to handle, and the 22" WOF strips are easier to keep aligned as well. There has been much discussion about the loss of extra hexies when doing this; however, you will only lose one hexie per strip, which isn't much in the big picture. A 24x44" panel cut at 2 3/4" can yield ~12 sets of triangles per 22"/half-WOF strip. Multiply 12 sets x 8 strips across the 24" panel and for just half of your panel you get 96. Double that for both halves of your full WOF panel and you get 192 sets of triangles! Losing 8 sets by cutting the panel in half is minimal waste and makes the process so much more manageable! 

When pinning, I prefer to add my pins oriented long-ways along the long edge of the panels, using only flathead pins. The flathead pins make it easier to place your ruler down on top of them, without causing the ruler to rock as it might when placed on top of pins with round heads. I typically cut my strips width of fabric as there is just a hair of ease when stretched, whereas there is no ease along the length of grain. I've found that little bit of ease is very useful when assembling your units into rows as bias edges of some triangles meet straight edges on other triangles in the assembly process.  
Overall, I've had good luck using minimal pins--sometimes only 2 or 3 along one edge--when lining up my panels; however, these blocks, once all layers were cut from the same bolt, still gave me fits. I lightly sprayed every panel with water and pressed them to get the creases out that they had developed while rolled on the bolt. Even then, two layers in particular were stretched more than the others and resisted laying flat and staying aligned. I ended up using multiple pins across the fabric and down both edges and, spraying the stack lightly from the wrong side (pins down on the board), I re-pressed the stack as a whole while pinned to get them to behave. With a little extra encouragement (and patience!) I was able to get them lined up, removed most of the pins, and trimmed one long edge back to where all six layers were all even. I chose a spot ~1/4" from the edge of the block frame so the frame background would be hidden in the seams. 
I then measured from that cut edge, across the narrow width of the panels, to find out how many usable inches I had to work with to cut strips. I don't trim the opposite edge of the panels as any extra may be needed to assure all strips can be cut without the last one being short. I chose 11 1/4" as my usable amount and began dividing by various possible strip widths until I found a measurement that would give me the most number of strips with the least amount of waste. In this case I could get 5 strips cut at 2.25" and the little bit left untrimmed on the left side would be enough to assure I got all five strips at their full width.

NOTE: When cutting fabric, there will always be bits of fibers left over, similar to the sawdust left behind when cutting lumber. Even if you cut each strip accurately, the placement of your ruler and any twist, as well as the width of the blade, can cause a fifth strip to possibly come out short. For example, if I have exactly 8" of usable fabric with no remnant and want to cut four 2" strips, I will choose to cut 1 7/8" or slightly less per strip to give myself a little leeway. Leaving the extra on the untrimmed opposite edge, gives me a little space for minor errors without shorting the final strip. 
To begin cutting and being right handed, I turn my stack of six layers around so I can use my ruler to accurately measure my 2 1/4", using a piece of rubber shelf liner under the ruler to help prevent shifting. I proceed across the stack, cutting rows until I'm at the far edge where the small amount of leftover will be trimmed away. The first strip was trimmed and set aside before the rest of the strips were cut, so the second picture shows only four of the strips and the leftover waste. 

As each row is cut, I double check to be sure the print is still aligned nicely across the strip on all six layers. As long as they are very close, I don't worry about small anomalies as they won't be noticeable once the triangles are cut and assembled. Remember, these are triangles, so the print won't be matching up on triangle edges as they might on square piecing.
At this point you're ready to cut your triangles, which moves us on to tutorial Tips 102 for Hexified Panels/One Block Wonders.

More snippets from the sewing room soon,