In this case, “summer camp” was the Vermont Quilt Festival, which I attended in late June, and blogged a bit about here. This post looks more closely at one of the four classes that I took.
Quilt classes are like science labs:
A bunch of people with a wide variety of experience and skill trying to learn principles and techniques by working on a project under close supervision. One way in which they are not like science labs: Everyone in the class really does want to be in the class.
Typically, the class project is a complete quilt of any size from crib to wall hanging to bed size, but most often an indeterminate size known as “throw”. This particular class used the quilt pattern “Diamonds in the Rough” by Jackie Kunkel of Canton Village Quiltworks.
But here’s the rub: the last thing I need is another quilt project. I’ve got an entire list of them already, as I explained in an earlier post. Still, I really need to learn a lot more about the use of color, modern quilt design and really accurate piecing techniques. So I went a bit off script, and decided to try making just 3 small sections of the quilt, each one in separate color sets. The one constraint I had was that all of the fabrics had to come from my existing stash of fabrics. It is quite a small stash compared to some, but it is probably still more than I will get sewn up, ever.
Jackie Kunkel was really terrific about accepting my approach to the class, and she had a great discussion at the beginning of classe regarding color and pattern choices for this project. I wish I had captured more of the work of the other students, because color and pattern choices were so very varied, and all of them looked good! That in itself is very encouraging: the possibilities for personal choice resulting in a good looking quilt are tremendous.
What’s so hard about 1/2 square triangles?
- Cutting all of the pieces to the same size;
- Stitching a consistent 1/4 inch seam down the diagonal edge;
- Not stretching the fabric along the diagonal edge (this is particularly difficult);
- Stitching all of the blocks together with the same consistent 1/4 inch seam as was used on the diagonal seam;
- Making sure the triangle points all meet together at the seam intersections in the final block.
Other than that, the whole project is a piece of cake.
Two approaches to solving #1 above: Make the triangles a bit bigger than necessary, then cut the unit down to the correct size after sewing them together; or make super accurate, super identical triangles with a die cutter, and then piece them together very accurately.
A surprising solution to #2: I decided to try the die cutter method this time, and used and AccuQuilt Go cutter to cut the triangles. The die cutter pretty much guarantees that all of the triangles are exactly the same size. In addition, it squares off the corners of the triangles as a guide to correct seam line placement, and permits cutting of both colors of fabrics at the same time, face to face and ready to sew, so they are a perfect match.
Somewhat to my surprise, I found these pieces easy to match up and sew in a consistent manner. Consistency is not something I’m particularly good at, and it is really important in quilting. It’s just part of the challenge for me.
Regarding problem #3: Another “opportunity for error” is in pressing the blocks open and flat. That diagonal seam is in the direction of greatest stretch for a woven fabric, also known as the bias grain. You would not believe how easy it is to turn that straight seam into a smile, or from the quilter’s perspective, a frown. It just loves to curve, and your iron can easily make it go there.
What about problems #4 and #5? Read, view the “results” photos, and judge for yourself.
Finally, the 3 Color Studies
Recall that experimenting with color and pattern was one of my goals for this class. This point may have been lost in all of the foregoing.
I managed to create the blocks for two of the studies pieced during the class, and I was able to get some feedback that indicated the color choices were working pretty well. I had to wait until I got home to sew together the third color set pieces, and then to piece all of the squares together. My studies included a grey ground with blue & purple prints of various types:
Note the pleats and wrinkles are NOT supposed to be there. This is problem #4 expressing itself: the square block seams are narrower that the triangle seams. Oops! The colors and prints seem to work pretty well.
Here’s my black ground with pink and purplish prints:
Fewer wrinkles this time (learning is taking place), and the triangle points are meeting in the corners fairly well. (Note that triangles at the edges will look odd, as there is a 1/4 inch seam allowance hanging out there.) As I look at this color study next to the grey one, I think if I were to make this full quilt, I’d like to try the grey ground with the pink and purple prints.
Finally, I went waaaaayyyyy outside my comfort zone and made a study with peach, orange and green prints in a brown ground:
Yes, a few of those wrinkles crept back. Clearly I need more practice; but the points are all in good shape, which is good.
So: what did I learn at summer camp?
The brown and peach study surprised me. I like it the best of all three studies, and I am not a fan of the color pink, plus I pretty much hate the color orange. Yes, all of these colors of which I am not a fan were in my stash, but that is largely an accident of fate. Some small cuts of fabric are sold in bundles, and you get the fabrics you really want, plus some others. But having gotten these fabrics, I feel I am required to use them, personal preferences aside. This study has proven the wisdom of this approach. I quite like this color set, where I would not normally choose these colors.
I also found that die cut pieces were pretty easy to handle and assemble correctly; and that consistency is still very hard for me. But that is what practicing is all about, yes?