Saturday, January 15, 2011

Sewing from Kits and a note about Free Patterns

 Today I am sewing a sample for the shop!

It features Art Gallery Fabrics from the Revive collection, and the pattern is a free download on their web site,  here .  It is called Renew Me.         

 There are some lovely fabrics included!  It's another turquoise/brown/cream combination, with little additions of mauve.  We didn't get all 18 fabrics called for, so some are substitutions from other lines.  I really like the Art Gallery fabrics because they are such crisp printing on a high quality base fabric.  They use a higher thread count than other companies do, more like a batik. 

This post is pretty detailed, because I wanted to give an example of how I try to stay organized when sewing a project. It has organizational tips as well as how to add in speedy techniques when a pattern doesn't specify them.  
(So, if this seems overly detailed, or confusing, I won't mind if you just skim over it)

My first step when sewing from a kit is to familiarize myself with the fabrics. 

Kits can be put together in different ways.  Sometimes, we start with a pattern from another designer.  It can be a purchased pattern or a free pattern that often accompanies a fabric line to specifically showcase those fabrics.  We hope that the yardages given are right on.  Usually we go through and try to suss out whether the requirements are overly generous, or too scant. Sometimes we even cut and sew one kit  to see what's left over afterward.  That way we can tell whether we should change a recommended amount.  Other times, we cut a bunch of kits when the fabric has just arrived to make sure that we don't run out of a crucial fabric before we get the sample sewn. 
So, for this kit, we cut all the kits using the recommended yardage on the pattern.
There are 18 fabrics in this quilt! Thaat's quite a few to keep straight, so I decided to make a reference chart!
The fabrics are all tagged with a reference letter, so I cut a little swatch from each and stuck them onto a piece of paper to keep close at hand!
Then, I laid all the fabrics out on the floor of my sewing room in the same order as on the paper so that I could easily access the right fabric when cutting.

Often when you download a free pattern, the writers have tried to squeeze all the info into a small space so that the pattern is short and fits into one or two pages.  Because of this, they often use bare bones instructions, and rarely utilize strip-piecing or other time-efficient techniques.
So, I usually read over the pattern before I start cutting the fabrics to see if there are some ways that might make the sewing faster.
The instructions often have you cut individual pieces and sew them together one by one.  Often-times you can sew strip sets and sub-cut units to make the sewing process go much faster.
In this pattern, I noticed that most of the blocks were composed of strips:
You can see the block outlines in grey.  The finished size of the block is 8", and in the cutting instructions there seem to be a lot of 8-1/2" rectangles called for.  This is a big clue that it will be easy to strip piece the units rather than sewing them separately!!

It is also helpful to see that the little grey block diagrams tell you how many of that block you need to sew in all.  If I strip piece the sections, and then sub-cut 8-1/2" blocks, I can tell that I could get 5 blocks from each strip set  (5 sections x 8-1/2"= 42-1/2")

So I decided to start sewing blocks one type at a time.  I could see that Block 2 is the easiest.  I will need 9 blocks total, so if I sew 2 strip sets, that will give me 10 blocks, so that is perfect-- I'll have one extra.
 Sure enough, the author has made the instructions so that half the blocks can be made with colors for one strip set, and the remaining blocks out of colors for a second strip set. 
So, the width of the strip is 4-1/2" x the width of the fabric. ( I won't cut them into the 4-1/2" x 8-1/2" rectangles, because I'm going to strip piece instead.)
As I cut the strips, I check off on the pattern what I've cut. (above)
I also keep track of what i've cut from each fabric, but this isn't neccessary.  I just like the illusion of control.
 Then, rather than keep cutting, I went and sewed all the Block 2's. (sewed the two strip sets that I needed and then cut them into 8-1/2" blocks)  This photo shows one of the strip sets cut into 5 blocks:

 After I had all my Block 2's, I checked them off on the pattern that they were done:

 And then went on to some of the other easy blocks, (1, 3, and 4)  You might notice that sometimes I have extra blocks from strip sewing.  That is, while I only need 14 of Block 1, I have 15.  So I am accumulating a few extras.  This is handy.  I can use them for something else, OR, because the pattern is sort of a random looking design, I can use them instead of sewing the full number of some of the other blocks. That is I will only make 10 blocks of Block 4 instead of 11 blocks, so that I can just sew 2 strip sets. 

Now I have most of the easy ones done, and it is time for me to go sew Block 5!!!  (only 2 strip sets-- i'll get 10 blocks instead of the called-for 12)

So, I will continue this later.

1 comment:

  1. Such a lovely quilt! I always like that color combination. But even with my quilting background, it looks pretty complex. Good luck, and please share the finished project with us!


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