Circles Block #5, EPP Sew-Along

Circles EPP Button

EPP Circle #5_final block

Circles Block #5 • Capella

This is the fifth in our series of circle blocks, inspired by circles I’ve seen in my travels, as well as found on other quilts.  I think this one was found in Barbara Brackman’s Book, Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns and modified slightly.  I chose an eight-pointed star to keep the variety in our English Paper-Pieced blocks.  I assume you have some knowledge of English Paper Piecing, which is the method of printing out a pattern, cutting it out, then wrapping and sewing your fabric over the little pieces before sewing them together.  When I read that last sentence, I know for sure we quilters are a bit insane.

A word about cutting out the pieces and another couple of words about fabrics.  The patterns are drawn to the best of my ability, and although I long to be a machine, cranking out the patterns, I am not.  So sometimes I might cut the pattern right on the line, sometimes I may fudge and cut it slightly inside the line and sometimes I cut it on the outside of the line, just like it used to happen in those Famous Old Days.

My favorite fabric to use is one that has a soft hand, and is 100% cotton.  Why? Because I need to be able to shrink up — using a hot steam iron — any excess caused by my human imperfections.  All the fabrics above, except for the green print, are those type of fabrics and after working the circle, they lay nice and flat.  The green ones caused many moments of ill will at the ironing board, because it is a sheeting, like what you find in a batik and is very tightly woven.  This fabric generally doesn’t move or shrink or give once it has been stitched.  It is what it is, so if you need to shrink in a bit extra of the ease. . . um, not happening.  I know that when I quilt this thing, I’ll put some extra stitches in those wedges and they will flatten out and be fine, but there were some tense moments earlier this week, but I promise I didn’t cuss.

Here is the pattern for this, in a PDF file: EPP #5

Printer Settings 100percent

Please double-check your printer settings to make sure you are printing it at 100% scale.  I printed three copies and had enough pieces.  Cut only one circle and then two wedges (the circle and one wedge share space).

EPP #5_prepping pattern

Those outer arcs I knew would be confusing once they were covered with fabric, so I prepped up the pattern by drawing arrows pointing to the top center-most point.  This will help when I try to sew them together later.  (I should have drawn them on both sides, as I ended up putting the printed side UP.  Sometimes I am my own worst sewing enemy. . .)

EPP #5_wedge piece v1

I wanted to try to fussy cut some chevron fabric so that the zigzags were going down the middle of the double-wedge piece.  I matched the chevrons, then lay on the pattern.

EPP #5_2wedge piece v1

Circle 5 rejectAnd once I’d sewn a few together, I just didn’t like it.  Call it a gut feeling, but it just didn’t feel like it was made of the Right Stuff.  Back to the cutting board.  I printed out another set of patterns, cut them apart, and started again:

EPP #5_cutting v2

Remember to be aware when you are laying out your pattern.  Mine are laid with all the printing UP.  And yes, I can see where I should have trimmed off those pieces a bit.  So don’t be in a hurry.

EPP #5_cutting v2a

Again, I use my rotary blade to cut the fabric roughly 1/4″ away from the paper.  I can trim it more closely when I am hand-sewing if I want.

EPP #5_cutting v2b

EPP #5_cutting v2c

This is from the BEFORE block, but you can see my general layout.

EPP #5_placing pattern for circle

If you have a motif and you want to make sure your circle is centered, one way is to fold the pattern into fourths, and put the tip of the fold in the center of your motif.  Pin one side, then carefully unfold and pin the rest.

EPP #5_placement for circle pinned

EPP #5_auditioning outer points2

I stitched all my wedges together, then I constructed the star-point ring: I sewed all the star points together, then joined them to the blue outer arcs.

EPP #5_auditioning outer points1

This is my attempt to figure out if I wanted the blue-triangle fabric over the green, or over the yellow.  I try out my combinations as I go.  I’m spending a lot of time sewing this and I want to like it when I’m finished.

EPP #5_back with papers

Blue-triangles over the yellow was the winner.  Here is the back with all the paper in it.  I will never tire of this view.

EPP #5_lumpy bumpy

But boy, does all the paper make it lumpy.  (And that unforgiving green sheeting-type fabric didn’t help either!)

EPP #5_flattened out center

I took out all but the blue outer arc papers and gave it a press.  Much better.  Now I need to audition that center.  The first flower (above) was a definite NO.

EPP #5_making center1

I cut out several more.  I use a running stitch around the outside, then laying it on a piece of fabric to protect my ironing board, I give it a shot of spray starch.

EPP #5_making center2

I slip in my cardboard or plastic circle template, then lightly press it, pulling that thread taut to draw the gathers up around the circle.

EPP #5_making center3I turn it over and give a good press.  Pick the iron up and down so you are NOT sliding it around–you want your circle to be centered, not skewed and moving the iron can throw it off center.  You can moosh it into place with your fingers if it does move off-center, then press it again.  Let it cool, then cut the thread to about 4 inches and slip out your template.  Tighten the thread back up again.

Trying out Centers for EPP Circle#5

Aren’t we having fun?  Yes, I tried seven different circles.  I do keep these little circles though, as they may come in handy further on in our series.

EPP #5_prepping background

You can choose to English Paper Piece your outer edges onto your circle (pattern is here: EPP Corners) but I think this method of appliqué yields a better product.  Prepare a square of 14 1/2″ fabric, then fold it into quarters and give a light press to give you some guidelines for placement.

EPP #5_whichway1

You get to decide how you want your block placed.  This one emphasizes the outer points.

EPP #5_whichway2This one emphasizes both the outer points and that cool inner square thing that is happening around the wedge circle.  I like both placements, but went with this one.

EPP #5_applique circle

I smoothed out my circle onto the large square, then used appliqué pins (you can use regular pins) to attach the circle to the background.  I leave that mess at the edge of the arc to deal with as I come to it, as I am appliquéing around the circle.  When I do get there, I snip out the extra seam allowances from behind to remove bulk, tuck in the raw edges, smooth out the outer line and stitch it down.  (I wrote about it on Circles Block #3.)  Monkey with it until it is a nice and smooth outer line.

I can also pat my head and rub my tummy at the same time too. (I love how the little girl’s eyes blink at the end as she pats her head.)

I know there is a lot going on in this little corner of your sewing, but be patient and work with the cloth, use the pins and the tip of your needle to smooth the fabrics into place, and it will happen.

After this large circle is appliquéd on, I cut away the background fabric from behind the circle, leaving a 1/4″ seam allowance.  (Again Circles Block #3, shows this step.)  Center your chosen small circle over the hole.  I like to do this on a hard, flat surface, so that there is no distortion.  Pin, then appliqué it on, making sure you have sufficient coverage with no gaps.

EPP Circle #5_final block

And there you have it!

I’m thinking I’d like to do at least twelve circles, but again, feel free to move at your own pace, stopping when you feel like you’ve done enough.  I do want to remind you that Downton Abbey is just a short three months away, so you may want to get a hand-piecing project to do in front of the TV come January.  These circles might work for you.  If you do make a circle, shoot me a photo and I’ll post it up here.

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Circles Block #4, EPP Sew-A-Long

Circles EPP Button

EPP #4 front

Circle #4: Pravoslavni Park

Here is the fourth circle in our EPP Sew-A-Long, another circle taken from Ljubljana, Slovenia in an ornately painted church.  I chose not to make the outer arcs in a different color in order to let the star points pop out of this eight-point star.  (If I were doing this one again, I’d make the arcs in a different color.  I just like the look of that circle shape.)

Four Circle Blocks

Here they are all together, all different, but they play nicely together, I think.  I was asked about color selection for my blocks.  I have to admit I just have chosen my favorite fabrics from my stash.  I do keep in mind that they need to coordinate, but I also know that the repetition of this circular shape would also tie the blocks together.  The upper left is not really that dark (see above); I’m just taking the picture with the late afternoon sun and it makes the left side of the photo darker.

Like I said, this Circle Block is an eight-pointed star, and I again used the technique of making the circle by English Paper Piecing (EPP) but appliquéing it onto a 14 – 1/2″ square.  Click here to download the pattern for the pieces:  EPP #4.  I do spend a lot of time on these, so please always give proper attribution to OPQuilt.com.  Thanks.

EPP 4Stapled pages

Pieces for EPP4

As before, print out enough copies so you can make your eight-pointed star, then staple them all together heavily so you can cut them out without them shifting.

EPP 4 cutting pieces

Again, if the pieces have no direction (are the same shape if folded along an axis line), lay them with the printing either up or down. If they are specific, like the point-pieces, lay them out on your fabric with the printed side facing the wrong side of the fabric, and then cut them out.  Sometimes if I whack off too big of a seam allowance, I’ll trim it later as I’m basting around it.  It’s all very forgiving, so don’t stress.  There are more tips and instructions on Circles #3, Ljubljana.

Block Number Four Inspiration

The inspiration for this block came from a combination of the two above blocks.  I wanted fewer points than are shown in the church paintings but I did like the division or the “layers” of points.  Again, these circles are high above floor level, so they are a bit hard to capture in a photograph.

Here’s some “making” shots:

EPP 4 Circle Block making_2

All three sections joined together, the left side and the right side done separately.

EPP 4 Circle Block making_1

I put pins in the joining seams to keep them aligned as I sew.

EPP 4 Circle Block making_0

I located the tip of the paper inside my basted piece and started sewing them together from the bottom, matching that teensy end first.

EPP 4 Circle Block making_3

EPP 4 Circle Block making_4

This is when I had one done.  I laid out all the pieces to see if I liked it.  I didn’t.

Circles Four Gathering Fabrics

I had started in the usual way,with the fabrics like this, trying to lay them out as I think they will work in the design.

Old and New Fabrics

It looked okay as laid out, but after I finished one, I didn’t like it at all.  I brought out more fabrics.

Choosing New Fabrics

I liked this better, but I kept trying.  As usual, I try not to obsess too much about perfection in design and color and pattern and all those other things we quilters worry about.  Scrap quilts can sometimes boggle our minds as they don’t fit together as easily as those ones we make from one line of fabric, that line of fabrics perfectly keyed to work together.  These kinds of quilts can stretch us as quilters, as well as teach us patience and confidence.  But it’s good practice to make up one point of your star to see if you like it, knowing that with a  few snips, you can change it out.  I kept doing this until I was happy with my choices, and again, made one more star point to check.

EPP 4 Circle Block making_5

I liked it a lot better.  Carry on!

EPP #4 outside

This is the photo I took this morning before I starched and ironed it, and you can see  how it looks, all soft from the handwork.

EPP #4 back

Back.

I used the same technique I used in Circles #3, of appliquéing the large pointed circle onto a 14.5″ square of background.  Then I appliqué that smaller center circle on, cut out the underneath, snipping away the yellow points.  Before I’d done that, it was a bit lumpy there, but it all flattened out once I cut away the points.

EPP #4 front

I love that color of blue against that tangeriney orange in the second division.

EPP 4 Pravoslavni Park drawing

And yes, it is the correct size.

A couple of quilters have written to me, showing me their circle projects.  Here are a couple:

Missie Carpenter Circle Blocks

Missie Carpenter of Traditional Primitives

Dittany Matthews Circle

Dittany Matthews of Blue Moth

And I found this post from Quilt Inspiration about another quilter’s journey in circles.

 I’ll post the next circles block sometime around the first part of November.  Have fun sewing!

Circles Block #3, EPP Sew-A-Long

Circles EPP Button

This month the block is a tad more difficult, but my primary motto on these things is “I Make The Mistakes So You Don’t Have To.”  Here we go.

Circles Block Three EPP

And where did the inspiration for this block, titled “Ljubljana” come from?

Ljubljana Serbian Church

From the Serbian Orthodox Church in Ljubljana, Slovenia, which is beautifully painted on the inside (see blurry photo below), and has rich colors and lots and lots of circles.  We recently visited that country, and my husband was under strict instructions to photograph any and all circles, so we gathered quite a few ideas.

Circles Block Three Inspiration

This is a detail of a larger picture, so that’s why it’s slightly blurry, but see that circle fifteen feet up there on the left, on the ceiling arch?  That’s where the inspiration for this one came from.  As usual, please read through the entire blog post before you begin.

Here are the two sheets of patterns, in PDF form: EPP #3A_OPQuilt   and EPP #3B_OPQuilt  As usual, you’ll need to print out several copies of each.

Printer Settings 100 percent

Please make sure your printer is set for 100% and is not scaled down, otherwise the pieces won’t fit together to form the correct diameter of circle.  (How do I know this to be a problem?  Call that my first rookie mistake on this process.)  I print out the number of sheets I need for each, then staple the stack of 3 or 4 or 5 together all over in the spaces.  ALL OVER, staples everywhere in between the pieces.  Then I can cut them out as a group without the paper shifting.

Fabric Selection

Choose your fabrics for your circle by laying them out so you can see the combinations up against each other.

Laying out Inner Diamonds

If the pieces have a certain direction or shape and I want to reproduce the picture above exactly, place the paper with the printing FACE DOWN on the fabric, then pin.

Layout Inner Arcs

If the pieces don’t matter (like the symmetrical small arc, above), you can place the pieces either printing UP or printing DOWN, or a mix.  I don’t care, nor should you. Notice that I just curve around them with my rotary cutter, as you don’t have to be so precise on that quarter-inch seam allowance for English Paper Piecing (EPP).  Just get sort of close to that quarter-inch, but not less than.  I pin through each of my pieces, then I fold over the seam allowances a side at a time and baste them down with that icky thread from the back of my sewing box.  (I’ve got to use it up somehow.)  I make sure the beginning knot and the ending tail are on TOP of the piece, not on the paper side.  This is good stuff to do while you watch Endeavor on television, or something (can you believe the ending on Season 2, Episode #4?  We’re still stunned).

Process 3_EPP

The basic idea of EPP is to sew your basted pieces together.  Begin by matching up a corner.  I slide my needle into the corner between the paper and the fabric seam allowance so my knot is buried inside.

Process 4_EPP

EPP is basically just a teeny overcast stitch.  Take only a thread or two on each side when sewing the sides of your shape together.

EPP3 Assembling

I sewed the first center together half-diamond shape by half-diamond shape.  (More on that first thing, later.)  Then sew all the shapes together.  But let me tell you about a cheater trick that will be helpful.

Take Two Center_EPP3

First seam together on your sewing machine the two fabrics for the diamond, then cut apart into segments (below).

Take TwoA_EPP3

Trimming SeamAllowances_EPP3

Before basting the fabric onto your paper shape, trim down the seams beyond the edge of the paper, where it will fall into the seam allowances of your shape.  I hope that doesn’t sound confusing; see above for illustration.  I’m just trying to get bulk out of the process and this won’t affect the structural integrity any.

EPP3_Basted Piece

It’s okay to let the corners extend.  No need to hammer everything down.

Take Two Center2_EPP3

Use pins as you need to to get control as the pieces get narrower.  I always take a double stitch at the end of my seam, then take the needle through the loop and draw it tight to secure.

Take Two Center3_EPP3

Yes, it will look like a volcano but we’ll be taking care of that later, so no worries.  I then sew the dark smaller arcs onto the circle of diamonds.

EPP3_Outer Ring

I stitch the left and the right sides together into groups of two. I have done this next part two ways.  One way is to sew groups of two onto the inner circle (you see them above in the background), then afterwards stitch the sides of those together.  Another way is to sew all the two-part shapes into a large circle, then attach that.  I use pins to keep the intersections lined up.

BAckside of Large Circles Block#3Everything sewn together, from the back.  I’m sure you noticed that this time I didn’t include the four corner pieces on the pattern.  I decided to try putting this on the backing a different way.  Take out all but the outer arc of papers.  Take out the papers by releasing the basting threads from the front, then popping out the papers from the back. You can see it in the photo below.

EPP3 Cutting Center Bump

Then, cut off your volcano top, or, as we call it around the sewing circle — the training bra effect.

EPP3 Cutting Center Bump2

Then trim out the center a little bit more.  Just not too much. I just want it to lay flat.

EPP 3 Circles Block Center Added

Pin your little circle on for the center.

EPP3 Adding Background

Fold a 14 1/2″  square of background fabric into quarters, then press to leave lines for placement.  Start pinning the circle to the backing, using the pressed lines to get it on straight and even.

EPP3 Trimming on outer circle

As you get to that place where all the seams come together, trim down the seam allowances like you did with the diamonds, getting rid of bulk to help the edge to lay flat. I pop out the arc papers one by one as I go.  Proceed carefully, trimming and pinning, and smoothing out the edge to create a nice circle.

EPP3 All pinned down to background

Using an appliqué stitch, attach the circle to the backing.

EPP3 Trimming out back

After stitching the circle on, trim out the backing, leaving a quarter-inch seam allowance.

EPP3 Center Circle Appliqued

Using a smaller-than-usual stitch, appliqué on the center.

EPP3 Center Circle More Trimming

Then turn it over and carefully cut away more of those volcano-y seam allowances, again leaving a quarter-inch seam allowance.  Press everything lightly, using steam.  There are a lot of pieces and a lot of grain lines to deal with, so you don’t want to kill the fabrics with too much handling, although the block is very sturdy.

Circles Block Three EPP

You’re done! And congratulations, it’s just as beautiful as the one in Slovenia.

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And now I’m going to tell about all the mistakes and problems I had, just so you know that I test sew each block before putting up the pattern.  If you have found places that need tweaking, please leave a comment and I’ll work on it.

Backside of First Draft_EPP3

I have actually sewn the block twice.  Here’s how the first one’s center ended–with a definite volcano center.  Actually more like a chrysanthemum, I think.  So I thought it was my pattern, or the way I did things, so I remade the yellow/orange diamonds, as described above, by seaming the fabrics together first.

Still Such a Mess_EPP3

I tried to smooth it out by twirling it with my thumb. Yeah, what a mess.

Oh What a Mess EPP_3Still a mess even though I sewed on the outer arcs.  What was needed was a design change, like adding the center circle to the design.  Even though the fine artists in Slovenia can paint the center of the circle to a distinct point doesn’t mean that fabric will allow us to do that.

So I took off all the outer little dark arcs, and started again.  Here comes the next mistake.  I got it all done, and cut the 14 1/2″ square for the backing and just about died when I saw that the hand-sewn EPP circle was tooooo big for the backing.  AAAGH!

EPP3B Circles Block Drawing

I went back to the pattern and measured, and sure enough, I’d drawn it too large. The yellow lines are the new re-drawn lines. I re-drew the pattern, re-cut all the outer pieces and arcs and started again, but used the first series of yellow/orange center diamonds, as I didn’t want to take apart the completed Ljublana Circle Block.

EPP3_Basted Piece Front

That’s when I hit on the idea of seaming the two colors together first to cut down on bulk.

EPP3B Better Center

But I still had that hump in the middle.  Still have to make a design change with the center circle.

Auditioning Center Decor2_EPP3

Auditioning Center Decor1_EPP3

Here I’m auditioning center circles for the other block that was too big.  I like the top one in person, but the bottom one on camera.  I ended up recutting and sewing the correct size block so still have the large circle to make into a pillow or to put on the back.  You, too, can audition center circles once you are finished to see the different looks they give to your block.

I hope my story of my mistakes and do-overs hasn’t confused you.  The accurate pattern is up there in PDF.  If you are following along, send me a photo of your finished blocks and I’ll throw them up here for everyone to admire.  I know this one has a lot of moving parts, but once I got the quirks out, and used the shortcut for the diamonds, it went quickly.  Have fun!

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Circles Block #2, English Paper Piecing

EPP Circles #2 Block_finished

Circles Block #2

Here we go again, with the second block in our slow sewing, English Paper Piecing, series of circles.  This one is called Kansas Sunflower and Barbara Brackman’s book shows its origin around 1928.  I have created a PDF pattern (roughly drawn, as I am no graphic artist); click to download: EPP Circles #2

This one has a large center circle, which measures a bit under 5 1/2″  but I would cut it 6″ because I think having the extra bit of cloth is better.  To get a smooth template to gather it up over, iron two pieces of freezer paper together, then trace the circle.  It should give you enough stability.  Or do as I did: head to your iron, and using the tip, iron it in small bites around your paper circle, then sew it to the paper.

EPP2 Circles block #1

Here’s the sketch of the block.  On the lower right you’ll notice that I colored in one half-arc green and one half-arc blue.  If you want to split yours up like that, I included just one tracing of that as an option, but you could also just cut the other arcs in half and go at it that way.  I prefer the larger outer arc. As before, in Circles Block #1, there is an assumption that you know a bit about English Paper Piecing, where you take the pattern, lay it out, then fold the seam allowances back over the paper pattern, then baste.  Others have used freezer paper, or glue.  Do a Google search if you are curious about these other ways of securing the paper.

EPP2 Cutting out EPP pieces

I wanted to use a chevron for the “petal” piece, so I fussy cut them so the chevron stripes would meet along the sides.  I pin down my pieces (with the writing up), then just freehand rotary cut around them.

EPP2 Pieces Laid Out

Auditioning everything.

EPP2 Arcs Basted and Stitched

After basting the seam allowances down to every pattern piece, I stitched the petals together in two groups of six.  Then I sewed the arcs in between those, as shown below:

EPP2 Setting in Outer Arc

EPP2 Stitched and Center Circle Pinned

I stitched those two flower halves together, then the last two arcs, then laid on the center.  I don’t know why I chose this orangey-red; it just spoke to me.  I had already basted the seam allowances down so I just arranged it on the petals and pinned it down.  I appliquéd it onto the petals, and that’s when I discovered that maybe a 6″ diameter circle might make you happier as it’s a scant 1/4″ overlap in some places.  Then the fun part: taking out some of the papers.  I released the center circle basting threads and the petal basting threads and took out those papers, but left the papers in the deep blue outer arcs.

EPP Circles #2 Block_finished

I’m putting the photo in again, because now you have a decision to make: do you want those four seams in the outer pieces to line up with a point?  Or to be offset (like mine)?  I went back and forth and decided I didn’t want it so busy–I liked the slightly off-kilter look of not having points dead center at Noon, Three, Six and Nine O’Clock.

EPP2 Sewing Diagram

I don’t think there is any easy way to get those four outside pieces on.  This is how I do it: I stitch the seams between parts #1 and #2 to get two pieces hooked together, then pin it about four places around that the #1 arc of the outside circle.  I begin at the lower center  (XX) and stitch around that 1/4-arc, stopping one inch short of the next seam allowance.  Part #2 is just flapping in the breeze.

Then I go back to where I started stitching (XX), and stitch the other side (#2), using a few pins where needed (not too many, or it’s ouch-ouch-ouch).  I then seam together pieces #3 and #4, and repeat the process.  As I draw near to the #2 piece, I thread a different thread, do the seam between #2 and #3, then tie it off.  I go back to the thread I was stitching with before and then finish it off.  Repeat for 1/4-arc #4.

I just reread this, and if you are confused, I don’t blame you.  It’s just hard to navigate those pieces when they are backed with paper, and I get tired of fighting with them.  I suppose you could just seam all four outside corners together, then pin and appliqué it down like you did the center circle.  I don’t think there is a wrong way or a right way to do this.  Have fun and let me know what works for you.

EPP Circles Block 1 and 2

 

Are you worried about the fact that my circles aren’t matchy-matchy?  Sometimes I was worried about that too, but then in the previous post I noticed that there was such a variety of circles and colors in a couple of those quilts, and calmed right down.  Keep going.  Keep stitching.  Have fun.  Next circle block comes up around the first of August, right after our Four-in-Art Reveal of Contrasts.

I’ve started a tab, above, with all the blocks and their posts, for easier reference.  By the way, there is no big deadline for any of this; I think I’d have a heart attack if I had one more deadline.  I just wanted a project to put in a little box and carry with me on car travels, on vacations, and while I collapse in the heat at night on the sofa to watch a good movie. (And given that it will take me several months, I may be curling up under a quilt in the cold, still hand-sewing.) Just know that it’s here if you want to make some circles, or a pillow, or need a hand project that is an alternative to 5,000 hexagon papers or umpteen finished hexies.  If you do decide to make one, or several, send me a photo and I’ll put it up here on the blog.  Have fun sloooow sewing!

Circles EPP Button

Some Interesting Circle Quilts

IMG_0862

While looking through this blog, I found some examples of interesting circle quilts.  This one, made by Kathleen H. McCrady and titled  Sawtooth X, is patterned after an old one from 1875, using reproduction fabrics in brighter colorways.

IMG_0863

IMG_0821

This is kind of “circle-y,” but has added oak leaf appliqués in the corners.

American Folk Art Museum Circle Quilt(from *here*)

Known as the Georgetown Circle Quilt, its maker is unknown, but it was made in the era between 1900-1920.

Georgetown circles variation(from *here*)

Here’s a modern variation of that Georgetown Circles quilt.

airship_propeller_std

I found this one on my computer, with a date of 2005.  It’s from Freddy Moran and I believe she calls it Airship Propeller. But I could be wrong about that title.  Jenn Kingwell did a similar design, but turned her blocks on point:

Steampunk1(from *here*)

Circle Block from Smithsonian

Lastly, when I lived in Washington DC, the Smithsonian Institution’s American History Museum had this sort of secret quilt tour, but if you knew about it, you’d call them up and a docent would take you in the back and open lots of archival drawers, showing you positively ancient quilts (some 250+ years old).  It was amazing.  In one drawer was this quilt with circles.  This one looks challenging to piece, but I think easier if is English Paper Pieced.  I’ll save this one for later in the series, once we’ve gotten our skill set up and going.

All this proves that our slow sewing, of making English paper  pieced circle blocks is an idea that has come around again.

Circles Block #1, English Paper Piecing

Circles Block EPP #1

Worn out from two back-to-back trips, I spent the day quietly hand-sewing my Circles Block #1, using the English Paper-Piecing Method.  A couple of weeks ago, I had decided I wanted to make a series of circular blocks, but I wanted to do them slowly, with hand-sewing.  So I’ve turned to English Paper-Piecing.  (Note: I assume if you are going to try this, that you have some experience with English Paper Piecing, which involves using paper shapes sewn inside your fabric.  For a pretty good video, watch *this one,* which uses hexagon shapes.  The only difference between this video and how I do it, is that I sew from the back to the front with my whipstitch.  Do whichever one you like.)

Here’s the downloadable pattern, which makes a 12″ circle block: EPP Circles#1  I’m no pattern designer, nor do I own Illustrator, so you’re getting my hand-drawn pieces, with notations.  I have included a gauge so when you print it out, you can adjust your printer settings to equal the 12″ circle.  Or you can download the quarter-circle radiant block from the last post, and proceed as it describes.  Feel free to leave a comment if you have questions, and I’ll try to answer them.

Laying Out Pieces EPP

A word about laying out the pieces.  The straight grain (threads parallel to the selvage) and the cross grain (threads running across the fabric) have less stretch that does the bias, which is what we call the diagonal line across the fabric.  So when you know you have to ease that 1/4″ seam allowance over a curved edge, lay it out so that diagonal bias will align with that edge, as shown above.  I didn’t lay out the swirl pieces with regard to grain (paying attention instead to the fabric’s design), but certainly any time you need a little more ease, or want the fabric to fold easily over a pattern piece, put that bias to work for you.

Stitching

First, cut out the shapes, then cut out the fabric, leaving 1/4″ seam allowance around most of the pieces.  Baste the pieces onto the paper (good time to use up old icky thread that you don’t want to use in your quilts).  Some people like to use freezer paper, others like to use glue.  If you do a search on English Paper Piecing, everyone has a favorite method.  Mine is folding the seam allowances over the paper edges and sewing them to the paper.

When I started sewing the inner swirling pieces together, it was easier if I placed the piece with the outward (or convex) curve on the top (like Spun Sugar does *here*, but I never clipped any of my seam allowances, nor used glue–just pins).  I lined up the outer corner and sewed a couple of stitches to anchor it.  Then I moved on down the seam, using an overcast whipstitch.  I was happy that it went quickly.

Circle Block Circles

Here’s my Instagram photo of the first few swirls sewn together.  I was sewing these as my husband drove us home across the Arizona desert, where I’d been visiting my son and daughter and seeing seven of my eleven grandchildren.  I have a rigid plastic box that hinges in the middle, folding out like a portable desk, and I keep everything in there.

Stitching Circle BlocksAfter I sewed together most of the inner circle, I went back to joining the last three together independently, then added them to make the circle. Next up were the little triangle points and the outer arcs.

Concave Piece in Front

I tried sewing these on two different ways: first the little triangle points, then the arcs in between them.  Fail.

Better to sew a few triangle points to their outer arcs, then attach that to the existing circle.  Then repeat.  Trust me on this one.  I would do about five points and arcs, then attach it to what I’d sewn on before, attach that new section to the circle, and then start again with a few new arcs and circles.  Above you see me finishing off the last of the sewing the arcs/triangles to the circle.

Backside of Outer Arc

Things can get a little skitty-wampus, but this is the back, showing it sewing with all their papers.  I was trying out some designs with my colored pencils, so you see some different colors on the paper. (See sketch below.)

Sketch of EPP Circle

 

I’m sure you noticed that the swirls move a different direction in the fabric, than from the drawing.  Everything is reversed when you lay out the printed pieces with the text facing UP.  In one of our blocks, we’ll lay them facing down, and have it swirl the other direction.

Inner Circle Pieced

Everything is sewn together, and pressed.

Circle #1 EPP Paper Still In

The outside corners have been seamed together, then sewn on.  Again, it’s a little wonky-looking because the papers are still inside.

Perfect Circles

I used Karen Buckley’s Perfect Circles to make my center circle, sewing a running stitch around the outside edge, then drawing it up around the plastic circle, then pressing it into place.  You can iron two pieces of freezer paper together and trace off the circle on the pattern to use as your template, if you don’t have the Perfect Circles.

I was having a hard time figuring out how to get that circle on.  I took out all the papers, gave it a good steamy press, pinned on the circle and just appliquéd it on.

Circles Block EPP #1

And that’s the first circle block!  I am still learning about which colors and shapes and directions will go where with these circle blocks; feel free to experiment as well.  I have learned that I can be overly critical with a particular block, but when worked into a quilt, my concerns and criticisms often disappear, so I just keep going.

I’ll post one of these about every month, somewhere near the beginning of the month.  I hope to get twelve different circle patterns by the time I’m through.  I hope you join me on the journey!

Circles EPP Button

 

First WIP Post of Summer 2013

WIP new button

It’s the first post of summer–the first Works In Progress post, thanks to Lee, of Freshly Pieced.

Trimming Up Ruler

I put together the sections for the Schnibbles block, trimming it up as the pattern recommended (we’re doing Dulcina this month–see Sherri’s blog for more info).

Trimmed UP1

Whoa!  Big Shrinkage.  (The trimmed up squares are on the right.)  If I make this quilt in the future, I’ll try to figure out the dimensions so that the trimmed up block doesn’t lose an inch in each direction.

Dulcinea Center

Final center section, all sewn together.  Now the borders.  Because I have so much going on in the quilt, I’m looking to build some quieter borders than are shown in the design.  But I’m putting this aside for now, to tackle my Big Project: Quilting the English Paper Pieced Quilt:

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Click back over to Lee’s blog to see other quilts that are in progress.  And happy summer!

This and That for a WIP Wednesday

WIP new button

Many thanks to Lee of Freshly Pieced Fabrics for hosting all of us quilters on WIP Wednesday.

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Picked up this pattern at the Glendale Quilt Show and slid in one more project before my Spring Break ended.  I love the vinyl see-through fronts, so I can find those scissors. . . or spool of thread.  I’ve already packed up one with a hand-sewing project.

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The project is a little bird pincushion made of felted wool fabrics.  Now to find some movie-watching time to work on it.

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What else am I working on?  Our next Four-in-Art reveal is about a month away, and we had to move the deadline because some of us were panicking.  I resolve to not panic anymore.  (Which involves getting stuff done early.)

California Christmas Tree

I’m teaching a class for a local quilt shop (if peeps sign up. . .) and while it’s based on the idea of large globular shapes in a roughly floral design, I didn’t want to copy Kim McLean’s fine work.

originalLolly

So I pulled up the original quilt from the 1880’s, and tried to combine elements that had that funky vibe.  I just finished it, and after I order some kind of Kona red (do you know how many reds there are in the Kona fabric rainbow?), I’ll start constructing a vaguely Christmasy-Hollandish wall hanging for my sample in blues and greens on a red background.

Bit of EPP

I’m also working on this one — in my mind.  The quilt top is pinned to its backing and laying over the chair in our living room while my subconscious mind figures out a way to quilt it.

I’m trying to be patient.  Lollypop Trees isn’t even pinned to a backing yet as my subconscious can only handle one quilt at a time.  There are many other ideas working their way forward, but that’s enough for today, I think.  Click *here* to head back over to Freshly Pieced and see other fabulous Works-in-Progress.

More Projects?? Must Be Spring

What is it about spring that makes us open up our windows, welcome the sun and add more projects to our already stacked lists?  I played hooky from my stacks of grading by heading down to Sewing Party in Orange County and breathing in the delicious fragrance of a new quilt shop.  Well, new-to-me.  (Bet you thought I was going to say wildflowers, or something.)

Screen Shot 2013-03-13 at 10.32.58 PMIt’s in a business park, so look for the sign.

One of my Instagram pals had mentioned the Sewing Party quilt shop in her comments, then followed up with an email; I was interested in a class they were offering: The Bostonian Bag, which is really a small satchel with some flair.  Sewing Party is a modern-oriented store, with lots of favorites, plus some Kaffe, Kokka, Moda, and others.

SewingParty Purchases

I indulged in a couple of pieces, plus a few bits from the Comma line of fabric–all good basics.

Bostonian Bag Kit

Cecile (the owner) really knows the way to a sewer’s heart: this is the kit for the Bostonian Bag all in its little bag.  Very slick.

Daisy Chain canvas

She made an exception for me and let me choose the fabric I wanted for my satchel.  This Prints Charming canvas print (see selvage below) caught my eye, and she coordinated the stripe for me for other bits and pieces of this bag.  She has the vision.

diasychain selvage

Love the spelling.  (Kind of reminds me of the stack of Fiction Tests I just graded.)

EPP quilt angle shot

What else am I working on?  Well, I finished sewing all the moving pieces of my English Paper Pieced quilt together, and have one more border to add before I’ll show it off here.

Moon

I do believe this is the latest I’ve ever posted on WIP Wednesday over a Lee’s Freshly Pieced blog.  Here’s a shot of our spring Daylight-Saving-Time moon to prove how late it is.

WIP new button

WIP and FAL are real motivation!

WIP new button

I’ve been doing Lee’s Work In Progress Wednesdays for a long time now, and I love participating and reading her blog.  Head back there to see more of what others are working on.

FinishALong Button

And Leanne’s Finish-A-Long has certainly focused what I’m working on.  I’ll get back to posting up Road to California pictures next post, but here’s what I’m working on today.

EPP outer pieces

I’ve finally figured out the outer pieces of my EPP quilt.  And the border after this, too.  Now just to sit and watch something interesting on television, so I can finish it up.  What to watch now that Downton Abbey’s all finished, and the Oscar broadcast is over?  I do have some interesting Netflix coming.  By the way, if you like quirky movies, I can recommend Moonrise Kingdom.

Lollypop Tree Border Blocks2

And I finished appliqueing all the pieces on my Lollypop Tree Border Blocks.  Now I have to cut away the backs of those that have freezer paper in them, pull out the paper, then press them.  When that happens, it means that all the components of the Lollypop Tree quilt will be ready to be put together.  I first saw Kim McLean’s pattern on the blog for Material Obsession–a blog you should defininitely have in your Reader.

Lollypop Tree Border Blocks3

A few of my favorites.  Happy Quilting!