• Planning Your Design With Paper Piecing

    Hundreds of templates are provided to the paper-piecer on the net. Blocks and patterns of varying sizes and combinations are available for free... but, when you're looking at the printed patterns on your table, another crucial question comes to mind.

    What fabrics are you going to use? What colors will look good?

    Designing your first piece may sound daunting and may scare you off altogether from paper-piecing, but fear not. With a few facts and some hints thrown in, you will see that planning and designing your own paper-piece block is fun, creative and even easy!

    Pointers for Design

    Before doing anything, there are a few pointers that you should keep in mind when making your first piece. These questions will help you a lot in visualizing your end product.

    Where are you going to place it? Is it going to be displayed in the dining room, or the living room? Or will it merely be kept inside the bedroom? How will it fit to its surroundings? Considering these things will help you decide in what kind of color combination to use.

    What is its purpose? Is it merely decorative, like wall hangings or framed Photo quilts? Or will it be used for more practical purpose like bedspreads or baby blankets ? these questions will help you decide in what kind of fabric you should use -- cottons or a combination of synthetic fibers.

    Who is it for? If given as gift, this will help you decide what design or motif will suit the personality and taste of the recipient.

    Choosing fabrics

    There are literally thousands of fabrics to choose from, and the question is -- what kind of fabric is suitable for quilts?

    Although most quilters prefer 100% cotton, your choice is not limited to this. Other materials can be used for doing your quilt tops and will prove as versatile and as practical as cotton. But, you have to keep these things in mind when choosing your fabric.

    Choose colorfast fabrics -- when we mean colorfast, it means the fabric's colors does not bleed or run. To test this, dip your fabric in hot water and wring. If some of the color runs, then it's not advisable to use it as it may later bleed and stain your work. A good practice is to always pre-wash the fabrics to be used to prevent running or bleeding.

    Use fabric of medium weight and thread-count -- which means that you should avoid too tightly woven fabrics, like those used for bed sheets, or too loosely woven fabrics which are almost qauzy in consistency. You don't want your quilt top to be too flimsy or too thick.

    It is okay to recycle old clothing and use them for your quilts, however, make sure there are no signs of wear and tear, or else it will affect the over-all look of your piece.

    Consider the different fabric attributes as it can affect your color combinations. Examples of this are the glossiness or a material which gives a lighter effect when seen from a distance. Some fabrics have metallic sheen which does the same.

    Take note of the interplay of colors within the fabric. While some fabrics may look good to you up close, the opposite may happen when seen from a distance. An example of this is if you put side by side a red strip of cloth with green, it may look grey from a distance. To remedy this, try to check their colors a few meters away.

    Use fabrics with a non-directional print. Stripes, arrows, waves patterns are not advisable to use especially if you're a beginner. Keeping tabs of where the stripe ends and where it begins will frustrate you no end. Choosing fabrics with non-directional prints like floral or plain prints will make your life easier.

    Use cotton mixes or 100% cotton fabric as much as possible. Although we said before that your choice is not limited to cotton, using fabrics of this material is still advantageous over using synthetic ones, especially for the novice paper-piecer. Why? Cotton irons flat while piecing, is sturdy and is easy to work with. Aside from the fact that its color hold well. Thus, the brilliance of its colors will remain even after several washing.

    As a last minute tip, remember to press your fabric before cutting them into templates so the fabric grain is straight. This is especially helpful if you're using fabrics with a directional pattern.

    Making Lap Quilts

    Quilting can be done for recreational purposes or for a specific occasion, like giving a loved one a quilt as a gift. In this article, I will describe the construction of simple lap quilts. They are really neat and easy to do, so try it out and see for yourself. I am sure you will enjoy making these.

    What to Know about Lap Quilts

    For starters, you'll need material that is a wash-and-wear type. Don't use 100% cotton, because if ironed, it will become flat and could ruin your quilt. Get something like a cotton blend, which is actually ideal.

    To stitch a quilt 40 inches wide by 50 inches long you'll need two yards of fabric. It may be safer to buy three yards to account for possible mistakes. Anything left over could be used for decorating a pillow in the same design to match your quilt.

    The Designs and Colors Should Be Vivid!

    To make a quilt, choose the colors that will match the shades of your surroundings at home. Quilts look good in many colors. You could choose the colors to be a mixture of solid colors that combine to form vivid patterns. To achieve this you will need at least a 1/2 yard of each fabric color, in a total six different colors and designs. As an alternative, you could use monochrome shades of brown or blues.

    When putting the quilt together, the edges of the fabric should be turned over to give it a nice backing. However, there is an easier way to make the backing -- simply buy a crib sheet where the edges are already finished! Make sure that the sizes correspond. Otherwise, you might run into problems. Keep in mind that the top part is a little larger than the bottom part because of the turning of the edges or adding of trim.

    Let's Begin!

    First, cut out the squares from the fabric you have chosen. Use bright colors and small squares of fabric that measure 4 1/2 inches (the extra 1/2-inch allows you to complete the sewing all around the edges). Use bigger squares for a bold look.

    Some Hints

    To give you some ideas, I made a design of ships which had the colors of red, white, and blue fabric. Another example is a butterfly with solid colored blocks; this design is very pretty.

    After all of your blocks have been cut out and separated by color and pattern, then make a paper design of your finished project. You may want a combination of red-white-blue on the first row and the next row a different combination (if not, you might end up with a vertical stripe of one color or pattern).

    Make sure the squares are cut and ready to sew, allowing a 1/4 inch all around. When the sewing is finished and all the squares are ready, then it's time to put the layers together.

    On a flat wooden surface, lay out your crib sheet the wrong side up, followed by the batting (the batting will be a little larger and can be cut later), then finally, the patchwork top wrong side down.

    The Reason for Big Stitches

    Big stitches are made to hold the quilt together and can be removed later, after you have done the finishing touches on your quilt. To achieve this you'll need a big quilting hoop or frame. Using these is one the most economical ways to quilt.

    If you are making a tie quilt, a hoop would be better. Place onto the fabric layers, starting from the middle, so the batting squeezes out on the open sides. Stitching patterns such as a running stitch (also called as quilting stitch) can be used; you can also make simple X's.

    An Easier Way to Make a Tie Quilt

    Use cotton embroidery thread or acrylic yarn, and then make a tie in each corner of the block. Allow enough thread to be tied in a bow. Simply thread in and up and a bow is made.

    The Finishing Touches

    When all this is done, cut off the extra batting. Take the crib sheet fabric and turn it over the quilt top. Stitch with a hem stitch, keeping the stitches small. You can do straight corners or miter them -- straight is easier but miter is neater.

    That's it! Your quilt is complete and ready to be washed.

    It will keep you warm on cold evenings and serve as a beautiful decoration over the back of your couch when it's not being used.

    Conclusion

    Once you have completed a quilt using a simple design, you will want to try out more difficult designs -- but that is for another time.
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