Saturday, May 19, 2007

Getting some things squares away

I learned to knit age 8 or so, and had mastered the basis age 9. But long before I learned to knit, I was sewing--or at least, attempting to sew. I didn't master the basics of construction till I was a teen!

But as a preschooler, I was interested in sewing--and, once, took hold of scissors and cut up my bed sheets to make doll clothes! My mother wasn't happy about that! I also have spent years embroidering; simple embroider, crewel embroider, cross stitch embroider, beaded embroidery, needlepoint. I did (and still at times do!) them all.

I have made clothes, for myself, my children, my husband (of the time). I have made curtain, and roman shades, and even slip covers. I have made quilts—mostly American style pieced, “patch work” style quilts-both tops, (round the world, streaks of lightning, log cabin and others) and I've quilted tops other made –30 to 50 year old tops pieced and sew by others. I still have one comforted that has been quilted, but is waiting (some 10 years now!) for the edges to be bound! But UFO's have never stopped me from taking on a new project.

Stained Glass/Cathedral Window Patch Work
Technically this is not quilting. Quilting is a process that involves sewing together a 'sandwich' made up of backing, filling and top. In many styles of quilting, the top is pieced (or as its it commonly said, patched/patchwork)
This pieced and patch 'top' has several layers of fabric, but at no point is it quilted. Instead, it makes a 'top'-- a lightweight, unquilted top or cover for a bed. The back side is “finished” with no exposed edges. I like this patchwork for throw pillows.--for me, there is just too much hand work to contemplate a full sized coverlet!

Step 1-- The Background Squares.
You'll need lots! And they should be large, since they will be folded and sewn, and folded and sewn again! The finished square will be about ½ the size of the starting square.
I started 11 inch squares. 45 inch wide fabric, trimmed of selvages, is 44 inches. Cut into squares, (with no waste) will yield 4 (four) 11 inch squares. Every 45 inches of lengh, (every 1 1/4 yards) will give you 16 squares. If you fabric is wider, or narrower, you could make larger smaller squares. An 11 square to start ends up as 5 inch square, more or less, depending on your seam allowances. Mine actually are 5 1/8 inches-on average.

You might want to experiment, and work out the number of squares you'll need to make coverlet, but 1.25 yards (45 inch square) will give you 16 squares, which will become a 20 to 21 inch pillow top... (another ¾ of yard of fabric will be useful for the pillow backing. So 2 yards of back ground fabric is required for this project--the "Panes of glass" (brightly colored fabric) requirements are small-- a single 'fat quarter' is enough fabric, but several fat quaters, in differnt colors make for a more intereting design.
A coverlet could be backed with a different fabric--if you chose to back it at all. It is also useful (necessary) to have some co-ordinating fabric for a border if you are planning to add a backing. The border fabric can be plain or printed.

Traditionally, the square have been made with unbleached muslin, but any solid (or near solid) will work. I chose grey, as shade that is a bit darker than my walls, (and bit flatter in tone too,) but any color will work.

Traditionally, this sort of patch work is all hand sewn, but I find it easier to do the preliminary work with a machine, (there is plenty of finishing that can only be done by hand!)

Step 2 The First Seam
Fold the square in half, and sew a side seam. As with all patchwork, a ¼ inch seam is normal.
At the folded edge, sew and re-enforce. At the cut edge, stop sewing ½ from edge.

Step 3 The Second Seam
Fold the square again, Matching seam to seam, and sew the second edge to the same way.
Re-enforce the seam at the fold, and end the seam ½ away from edge.(the 'center')
The square will look puffy, as you sew it, but after, with the two seams smoothed and flattend, the result is a smaller square, with the 2 seams forming a X --Finger press or iron only the seams!
Then, working from center, turn the square inside out. (using the small opening in the center of the X). This seems like an impossible task at times, but start with one corner and ease the fabric through, and it will come. A narrow rounded tip tool will help 'turn the corners' into sharp points. (I use a round tip knitting needle!)
Press flat.--this is a bit of a challenge-- the folds and seams will have created a smaller square, but this square is a biased one. All four out edges are on the bias. --This is important later, when you start adding the colored “panes of glass"
Repeat with all the squares –or at least a good number!

Step 4 The Second Fold
With the seam side facing up, fold all four point to the center (don't worry about the small hole, it will be sewn later with all the other hand work)

Remember those “fortune tellers” you used to make in school? At this point, this project reminds me of them.
Press the square with all the corners folded in. By now, my 11 inch square was about 5 1/8 inches in size. (If you started with a larger square will be larger than 5 inches. If you started with squares that were smaller to start, will be smaller.)

Step 5 Joining the Squares Together.
Traditionally, the squares of the this patch work, were sewn together by whip stitching.
The seams--how ever they are sewn--will not show on top, but will show on reverse side.
I use a narrow zig zag stitch-- if you're making a top or coverlet, (and not throw pillow) the seams will show--if the top is not backed.
If you have a sewing machine that has fancy zigzag stitches, here is an opportunity to use them! Use a fancy stitch (and perhaps even a contrasting color thread) to make the seams a decorative element.

Join all the square together if your making a pillow. If you are making a bigger project you might not want to join all of them together just yet. It's easer to complete (some of) the next steps before sewing the whole top together.

Tomorrow.. Finishing the squares and adding the 'stained glass panes' patchwork pieces.