Friday, October 18, 2013


Bob and I have gotten in the habit of taking a week's vacation in October, our wedding anniversary month. Sometimes we go to Bennett Spring; the last couple of years we've gone to a friend's condo on Lake Taneycomo.

Bob and I both like to do a lot of hobby preparation--while he's busy organizing his fishing lures and flies and rods and reels, I'm going through my sewing box and putting together a mobile quilting kit. I didn't get as much done as I had planned for, but that's okay. I just wanted to be sure to take enough that I would have plenty to do if I wanted to.

I took a bunch of English paper pieces supplies--hexagon templates, mini charm packs (2-1/2" x 2-1/2" precut fabric squares), needles and thread, and I also pre-cut a bunch of circles from a regular (5" x 5") charm pack to make yo-yo's. I made a bunch of Halloween hexagons, and started on some snowman ones. I ended up doing a lot of the snowman ones, and was able to stitch them together as well. My plan is to make some kind of table topper, about the size of a placemat.

I've been wanting to make a tumbler quilt, so I also took a small cutting mat, a rotary cutter and a tumbler template, but ended up not doing that. I decided I want to do English paper piecing for the tumblers, too, rather than cutting out the shapes, and I ended up ordering some papers from I really hated to do that, but I couldn't find any printable templates and didn't want to draw them myself.

There are a lot of English paper pieces hexagon tutorials out there, so I'm not going to go over all that ground, but I know that some people are interested in it, so I wanted to at least show some photos. I downloaded a sheet of printed hexagon shapes (link is on this page, along with an explanation of how to do it), printed them out, then cut them out individually. I actually kind of like that part, too. Then once I have a bunch of little paper hexagons cut out, I start making the fabric hexes.

There are a lot of different ways to do it, and my method isn't necessarily the best, but it's what I like. I buy the mini charm packs--at first I thought that was kind of extravagant, since I could, of course, cut out the squares myself, but they're actually fairly inexpensive: a pack of 42 squares runs around $3.75. And I like having them all perfect and exact and micro-pinked, so I decided that for myself, it's worth it.

I start out by placing one of the paper hexes on the back of a fabric square, and start folding the fabric on one side. I stitch through the paper--some people don't do that, but I like doing it that way. I also don't use freezer paper or glue or pins or anything, the hexes I am making are about 1-1/2" across, so it's easy for me to just hold them in my hand as I stitch. Keep moving around the shape, folding as you go, kind of like wrapping a package. Some people also trim their fabric in a hexagon shape, but I don't think that's necessary, and it's just an additional step. It doesn't matter what kind of thread you use, but you want it to be contrasty, because you're going to be removing the basting stitches. I've been using up a bunch of little spools of cheap thread that came with a sewing box. They're actually perfect for that, because they're thicker than regular thread, so it seems easier to tie knots.

Then, once you have a bunch of little fabric hexes, you can start sewing them together. I take two of them, place them right-sides together, and sew them with little stitches along the edges.

My stitches show, and I'm okay with that. Especially in this particular instance, where I'm using primitive fabric. And I'm not a machine, or a robot, and if I wanted to try to make something perfect (or aspire to), I would use the sewing machine. But I really enjoy doing it this way. It's meditative, and it's something that I can do while watching television or listening to an audio book, or just sitting and thinking, which is what I mostly do.

While we were on vacation I sat out on the deck and sewed a lot, and I loved that. Once a hex is surrounded on all sides, you can remove the basting stitches and take out the paper template. Removing them as you go makes it easier to hold the whole construction in your hands.

Once all my hexes are sewn together, I will make a "quilt sandwich" with some batting and some backing fabric, baste them together, and do some quilting. Then I will bind it. I've never made a full size quilt, just very small ones, and I kind of doubt if I ever will. I'm much more inclined to make small pieces. For one thing, I'm easily distracted and/or bored.

I really love this fabric. The line is called "Snowman Gatherings," by a company called Primitive Gatherings, and produced by Moda. I used two mini charm packs to make the hexes for this little quilt, and have, I think, four more, because I love it so. I haven't decided what to do with them yet, but I'll think of something. I bought a half yard each of these two prints, which were my favorites of the line.

I also read while we were on vacation, of course. I read: Doctor Sleep, by Stephen King--a sort of sequel to "The Shining"--The Cuckoo's Calling, by Robert Galbraith, aka J. K. Rowling; The Sound and the Furry, a Chet and Bernie mystery by Spencer Quinn, and Open Your Heart, by Neal Pollack, a yoga mystery.

I also finished up a new website for author Susan Wiggs. So I was pretty busy!