Monday, May 30, 2011

Stage Four: Cutting

The templates are prepared. The fabric has been washed and folded. The cutting boards are laid out, and I’ve laid in a selection of audio books. It’s time to cut.
By this stage, I’m entirely in my workroom. There is no TV in there, just my CD/tape stereo and lots of space. I use two cutting boards. One, which I “borrowed” from my mother, is cardboard, and it is useful for laying out the fabrics I want to use and storing pieces as they’re cut. I also lay out the final blocks on it, so the quilt begins to take shape.
The other is actually made up of pieces, called a puzzle mat. It was a gift request one year and I like it so much I asked for a second set the following year. The two sets create a sizable mat, but I can also pull a piece or two off and take it to the sewing machine to help me line up pieces before I sew them, without having to return to the big mats every time. Everyone has a preferred way of doing their cutting, but the puzzle mat is my choice. It makes things much easier.
When I cut, I go block by block: I usually cut pieces for one full block and sew it up before I do a whole set for the block, in case there is something horribly wrong with the template pieces; and, I usually do a whole set of a block before I start cutting for a different block. Usually.
I cut on the floor. I know what you’re thinking—I’m crazy. Honestly, though, it’s the easiest for me. It’s sometimes hard on my back, but I’m able to scramble and scooch around on the floor, all the way around the mat, and there is plenty of space to spread the fabric out.
I lay out a particular fabric, wrong side up, and go piece by piece through a block, tracing (in regular pencil—another quilters’ horror, I’m sure) the correct number of each piece at a time out on the fabric. Sometimes I’ll take a cutting break and cut some pieces out, then go back to tracing.

Here are some bird bodies and wings drawn on purple:
Through this whole process, I’m trying to use fabric as sparingly as I can. I try to squeeze pieces together to ensure there is as little waste as possible—especially if I know I need a lot of a particular color. I often will also label each piece with the corresponding block piece designation, so I will know where and which way it’s supposed to go. For really tricky pieces, I will include an arrow showing which side should be pointed up. This saves time for triangles in particular.It’s also important to note that when I use templates, I have to decide whether to face them label side up or down. If I have all the pieces up, then the block will turn out backwards to the template (because I’m drawing it on the wrong side of the fabric), and vice versa. Often, this doesn’t matter, as in the turtle, or the firefly. Sometimes, I’ll do some one way and some another, as in the lions.
This part of the process doesn’t require much thought beyond the above consideration…unless I am running out of a particular color. Then I have to get clever, or redesign. As referenced in a comment interaction earlier, this is one of the points at which a redesign is possible. I remember I ran out of a green once—a green I needed to make lake weeds. I hadn’t realized that I was so short on the fabric. So, I reworked the overall design to have fewer lake weeds and more of something else. I usually overbuy for the quilt top color, more than I think I need, because it’s really surprising how much space patchwork bits and pieces take up for the background. Thus, for some of my favorite fabrics, I don’t feel guilt about overbuying, because I know it might become a quilt top (or back).

Here is a complete bird and a complete flower block cut out. These are ready to be sewn, to test the template. When I do a whole bunch of pieces for one block, I'll make little piles for each one, in their actual places for the block, to make it easier when it's time to assemble.

Best Part: Production. I really start to feel like I’m getting somewhere, and it’s fun to use up fabric. As much as I like to buy it, I also like to use it, which adds to the feeling of production.
Worst Part: Honestly? My scissors calluses. I have a couple of different pairs of scissors, including so-called “ergonomic” ones, which are okay, but not my favorite—they’re a little heavy and not as maneuverable. I just use a standard pair, which I try to keep at least moderately sharp. Unfortunately, they do give me blisters in a couple of spots.
Next: Stage Five, Assembly

Friday, May 20, 2011

Feathers, anyone? Emily West Lowry

My hours and computer habits this week have been completely ridiculous--random, meandering searches, at the office until nearly nine...
Yet I also searched myself straight into a very intriguing new local business:
Emily West Lowry Designs
Emily is a local woman, who attended BGSU for degrees in history and geography; she is now running an online business and consigning her work to bridal shops and salons, and opening her own store in Waterville, OH.
You've heard before my affinity for 30s/40s fashion, and for vintage gear. You've seen my modern outfits with spins from another time. Looking at Emily's work, it is clear why it appeals to me: feathers and birdcage veils, jewels and buttons, in glamorous and well produced arrangements for the hair. Her work is feminine in the way that suggests a woman who is strong and insightful, used to making statements that people notice, but also keeping a part of herself secret.
I'm greatly looking forward to visiting Emily's shop when it opens in June.
I'm also continuing to work on designs for unique garters, and Emily has given me a new charge to believe that my work has a place in the modern fashion world.