Taking an Element
A few weeks ago, I started making hexies from some scrap fabrics left over from the Christmas bunting that I made for my sisters in law. I needed a project for my bus commute to the city. With all the hoopla about English Paper Piecing (EPP), I gave it a shot. I learned a few things in doing this.
Number one, I really like EPP and there is something very satisfying in fussy cutting to select and place design elements where you want them to go. In using this lovely Christmas fabric designed by Jocelyn Proust, I could place festive Aussie animals where I wanted. One thing I kept in mind was the wisdom imparted to me by Miriam Jones of Sew Miriam, she taught me that things are a bit more interesting when placed off centre. I think these came out pretty well.
The other thing that I learned was that I really need a pattern or some sort of end goal for creating the hexies. I know that there are heaps of folks out there (they are all over the internet), who routinely make hexies with their scraps and put them in a box to make… something…sometime… in the future… I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen something along the lines of “Great idea! Make hexies whenever u have a few scraps and start a box to collect them!”
I thought that was something I could do. I imagined having boxes of neat hexies made from my scraps… But alas… making aimless hexies without a vision was simply not something that fits well with me. AND making hexie after hexie after hexie after hexie…….. sigh.
Hence the dilemma. I really, really, really like EPP, but needed a project. Enter the marvelous Megan Whitfield … she recommended that I consider “Little Miss April” by Margaret Sampson George from her book, “Take an Element | Seeing the possibilities”. This beauty is made up of hexagons with four inch sides, that are subdivided into smaller shapes to be recreated, stitched together to be made whole again. It had everything I longed for. EPP, different shapes, fussy cutting, an end goal! I promptly bought the starter pack and took it home to start my adventure.I decided that I wanted to make this an ocean themed quilt and started pulling out some of my stash a dove right in (pardon the pun!). To be perfectly honest, I really didn’t set all the fabrics out to look at them as a whole until I sat down to write this blog. I just pulled fabrics that had an ocean theme to them and figured I would flesh out the rest as I went along.
First off, I realized that it was challenging for me to imagine what the final fussy shape might look like. I had my mirror, but realized that I needed templates for viewing. I had some that I bought at the quilt show earlier this year, but they weren’t the right sizes for this quilt. So, I made my own. A piece of A4 paper, a laminator, pen and scissors. Done. Here are a few of the ones I made.
Even though I didn’t have the book yet, I just charged right ahead in starting to put this together. Hoping that I don’t go too far down the wrong path before the next Marg Sampson George class on 11 December. I searched the internet for wisdom and came across a number of helpful tutorials that talk about different ways to baste EPP. Annette and Megan and Sandy have all shown me basting with needle and thread. I took a class with Kellie Wulfsohn of Cutting Cloth at the quilt show where I learned a combination of glue and thread basting, then there was just plain glue basting without the thread and starch basting. I’ve read and heard of the advantages and disadvantages of each, but I figured I could use this experience as a way to learn the different techniques and learn for myself what works.
The large 4” hexie was actually the most daunting to consider how to baste it. I didn’t really want to glue it…. All that surface area covered in glue?? Ick. I couldn’t really get my head around tacking the corners either. Then I came across this video tutorial by Missie Carpenter of Traditional Primatives. I borrowed a paint brush from Brayden’s stash of unused art supplies and I was off. I think these two came out pretty well!
The next hexie I embarked on was the one made up of the smallest elements: 30 X one” six sided star diamonds and 12 X 1” half hexagons. Given the small shapes and the shear number of them, the thought of struggling with getting glued on papers out at the end would be the end of me, so I tacked the corners of these. Two bus trips to the city and this is where I am.
I then popped into the shop to write the blog just on the Tuesday that the TPG (Tiny piecing group) meets. I shared with them what I was up to and learned even more! Apparently, it is not a good thing to mix different techniques for basting hexies on the same quilt. Josephine explained that mixing different techniques will result in different tensions on the fabric and the different pieces may not fit together! This makes perfect sense. I can see how tacking the corners would result in a looser finish than glue basting—hence a larger shape!! Saved by the wisdom of generous, knowledgeable women!!
Four days into the project (today!) I have finally gotten a hold of “Take an Element” (Thanks, Gerri). WOW. This book is so much more than the patterns! Margaret so warmly invites us into a reflection on her journey as a quilter, an observer, and someone so full of gratitude for the beauty that surrounds all of us in everyday… even to the colours and palate of the Asian Supermarket.
What I love about this book is how to choose your fabrics… not necessarily the way I did, so I’m going to back up and start over.
She suggests finding a piece of fabric that you are madly in love with… this is your HERO. This would be my Neptunes Neverland from ‘Neptune and the mermaid’ by TokyoMilk designed by Margot Elena. Then, find fabrics that contain at least one of the colours in your hero piece, keeping in mind that they vary in scale and floral/geometric/spots and stripes. Do this again, making another row that based on the first row colours, resulting in a cohesive, connected pile of fabrics.
Now for the fun bit! She says to add in surprises, spice things up, add something different. Margaret Sampson George has just given me permission to add rabbits to my nautical themed quilt!! YAY. Maybe even cats!! Ohhhhh back to the stash!!
Can’t wait for this! Can’t wait for her class next week!