Sunday, February 12, 2012

Love Letters

We aren't much of Valentines celebrators around my house, but when Madamme Samme at !Sew We Quilt! put out a call for the color red and heart themed tutorials, I asked if readers might be interested in a quick lesson in the "L" word.  This post won't be on the Sew We Quilt blog until Thursday.   In case you have a few minutes to whip up some fabric valentines, I wanted to share it before V-Day.

Handmade valentine by stayathomelibrarian

Pick a letter fabric, and a background fabric.  In my observation, using solids is the easiest.  If you use a print, try to use one that has a small design, and also not too busy.  If the prints coordinate too closely, it may be hard to read the word.  In this case, I'm using red for the background, and white for the letters.  I use a ruler from June Tailor called a Shape Cut.   I cut 1 inch and 1.5 inch strips before I get started.  Occasionally you do need wider pieces (as in the V below), but this will get you started.

A word of caution when using this ruler.  Take your time when using it.  Pay attention to where you place your hand in order to hold the ruler. Imagine this pencil might be your finger.  Things could get a little- dicey (pause for audience laughter).

Piecing letters is easier than you might think.  Before we start, I want to put forth a tip that'll save you some grief. Set your stitch length short.  It needn't be this small, but after my first few words fell apart in the wash, I made it a habit to set it low when I sit to join my strips.

Now, get one of each of your strips and stitch them together.  Press the seams open.  Open?  Does it matter? Well, I really think it does, and I'll tell you why.  Pressing the seams open keeps it looking flat.  If you press your seams to the darker fabric, in this case the red, the bulk  of the pressed  seam would cause the background to appear raised.  In instances where the letter fabric is the darker fabric, the letter would appear raised. However you decide to press your letters, choose a way and stick to it.  But don't skip pressing.

Add the bottom piece to construct the letter "L".  If you want to make your letters wonky, trim at angles before adding the bottom piece.

For the O, cut a piece of the background fabric and build your "o" around it.  You can be really creative with this letter.  It doesn't need to be as boring as this one.  It may be hard to imagine, but this is one of those letters you can make your own by changing your trimming angles, and using different width of letter fabrics.

The V is my favorite letter.  Once you can make the V, you can make the W, and Y.  The W is two Vs placed together, and the Y is the V with a stick on it.  I like my Vs pointy bottomed, and it is my pleasure to show you how to achieve this look.

Put a piece of wide background fabric with one of your wider letter strips.  Also sew together thin pieces of each of the fabrics.  

Eyeball the strips to decide on the angle that you like best.  Cut your strip on this angle.

This is where your point comes in.  Resist the urge to attach these pieces at the bottom.  Offset it so that when you sew the pieces together, press it,  open it, and trim it,  that the letter will come to a point.  If not, you'll get a flat bottomed v. 

Add another piece of background fabric.  As wide as you can stand it, you can always trim it down later.

I tend to make the most of my fabric.  Meaning, I dig through the pieces I've trimmed in order to construct easier letters.  The E is one of these easiest with which to do this (also the lowercase l).

Can you see it?  I joined these three pieces together, and then added an unused letter fabric in order to make this E.

This is where you get to play.  Arrange your letters.   You might want to save trimming your letters until you get to this point.  As it concerns anything, practice makes perfect, and I for one need a lot more practice, but through some trial and lots of errors, I've found my way to piece letters.  That's the best thing about liberated, improv, free, unruly- or whatever you call- style of piecing.  There is no right or wrong way.  There's no need for the size of your letters to be uniform.  When you're first piecing, you might want to try making larger letters before trying smaller letters.

So, I hope I've hooked you enough to want to make some more letters.  There are plenty of resources which you may use. Word Play Quilts: Easy Techniques from the UnRuly Quilter by Tonya Ricucci is a great place to start.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Bee a {modern} swapper

Katherine at Honeyhill designs asked me to help moderate a new sort of bee over at Flickr. Being the total follower that I am, I agreed. Her idea was to have a year long bee for as many people the two of us felt comfortable enough to handle. The participants would be split into groups we call honeycombs. Those groups would function like a traditional bee, but only be required to make blocks every other month. On the off months, there would be the optional swaps. Her idea is brilliant, and is working marvelously. We capped our membership at 36 for this year. She called it Bee a {modern} swapper.  If I were a good co-moderator, I'd have a little button to share here.  But, a sippy cup of juice, a toddler, and a smoking lap-top have prohibited my construction of said button.

Our first month was a swap month. While I have sewn a total of two dresses in my life, I am no sewer. The idea of crafting something as small as a pincushion was rather frightening. But, I did it. Three times in fact.  I used a wonderful tutorial from Kim at My Go-Go Life. The first had some construction issues. This is the second. I didnt fall in love with the color scheme I'd chosen. I decided to keep it.   I did have the perfect spot for it.  When my grandmother died, I got this pincushion chair from her night stand. She'd already given away and bequeathed everything she owned, which wasn't much- mementos really.  She'd made each of her grandchildren quilts in which she said her goodbyes. She lived a minimalist life as long as I knew her. This gaudy little chair had been a prop in  my childhood, and it was still there, useful to her at the end of her life. If my grandmother had been a rich woman, no greater gift could have been given to me.  The pincushion fits perfectly.  The more I look at it, the less I dislike the pincushion.  I am in love with the third pincushion, which is the one I'm swapping.  I hope my secret swap partner digs it as much as I do.

And thanks for Kaki for making me step outside my comfort zone in more ways than one.