Friday, February 3, 2017

Precuts, Pressing, and Pinning

You’d be proud of me, dear readers. I’ve been very good lately. I have made no I-need-it-because-it’s-pretty fabric purchases in months. Of course, my local quilt shop closed last June, which has made this feat more attainable, but it’s a triumph nonetheless, right?

This phenomenon does not date back to, say, Thanksgiving 2015. Back then, the Fat Quarter Shop was offering some crazy sales, and I found myself making multiple well-priced purchases, including two jolly bars of Civil War reproduction fabrics.

These fabrics, from Barbara Brackman’s Union Blues collection, weren’t my usual thing. The more masculine palette and traditional designs, however, had the potential to appeal to my dad, who had yet to receive one of my quilty creations.

So what can a modern quilter do with Civil War fabrics? This is what I made for my dad ...

The easiest way to bridge my uncharacteristic fabric selection with my more modern sensibilities was to piece something visually simple. All jolly bars include a pattern. The one accompanying Union Blues was called Regiment and required one jolly bar plus sashing fabric. Since I had two jolly bars in hand, I used the same pattern and enlarged the quilt from a small throw to a much larger one.

My signature straight-line quilting wouldn’t have done much for this project, so I sent it off to Crinklelove for quilting. The swirling leaves of the Harvest Winds pantograph I chose softened the quilt’s strong geometry.

This was my first time using Crinklelove’s quilting service, and I was very satisfied. The process of making this quilt, however, had its hiccups. Maybe you can learn from my missteps and save yourself some heartache in a project of your own!

Precuts: A Blessing and a Curse

I love a good precut because I like owning a cross-section of an entire line. I most often buy jelly rolls and layer cakes, but jolly bars are a great size, too. The 5-inch by 10-inch rectangles can be used as is or cut down to 5-inch charms or smaller. (See my other jolly bar quilt here.) When I buy precuts, I almost always buy Moda precuts because I like Moda fabrics. : )

Precuts have their shortcomings, though. It can be annoying to sew their pinked edges together, and I’ve purchased one jelly roll in particular, from Free Spirit, whose pinked edges were so deep that the strips weren’t a full 2½ inches. I accept that manufacturers do the best they can with the available technology but that precuts aren’t perfect.

Too bad I forgot that before sewing this quilt top together! One jolly bar was an eighth of an inch longer and wider than the other. I had to ease many seams when sewing my rows of rectangles together. If only I had checked the materials I was working with up front, I could have trimmed the larger pieces before piecing and saved myself the need to ease. This experience won’t stop me from buying jolly bars, or other precuts for that matter, in the future. It just makes me more wary.
Pressing and Pinning: The Downside of Peer Pressure

Pins are my friends. I don’t pin as much as I did when I first started sewing because there are plenty of times when it’s not necessary, but in general, pinning is crucial to achieving the precision I want when piecing. (Full disclosure: Here’s a way to avoid pins and still get nice points.)

My instinct with Regiment was to press my seams open and use pins—lots of pins!—to get everything to line up when I sewed my rows together. But I had heard enough quilters (you know who you are!) comment about avoiding pins, and I chose to follow the pattern’s pressing instructions, nest my seams, and forgo pinning.

Boy, did that plan backfire. As it turned out, I had to use pins. Remember that wrongly sized jolly bar? I had to pin and pin and pin to make the seams between rows line up. And I knew I was tempting fate by pressing to one side in a project with light-colored sashing, but I surveyed the situation, checking to see whether the dark colors were noticeable in the side presses. I thought I’d be OK. When I got the final quilt back from Crinklelove, those dark fabrics were noticeable (see picture below). I should have known better!

Despite these missteps, the quilt is still beautiful. My dad—who does not see it through the quilter’s eyes that I do—could care less about any imperfections. He loves this gift, and that’s all that matters, right?

Do you have any tales of woes from projects you’re working on right now? Share them in the comments. I’ll be sympathetic. : )

Linking up to Finish It Up Friday, Let’s Bee Social, Needle and Thread Thursday, and the Precut Linky Party ...

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  1. This is a great dad quilt! I had the SAME issue with a Free Spirit jelly roll -- was very disappointed and had to do a lot of finagling with my pattern to make it work.

  2. Great finish Michelle. I still have a soft spot in my heart for reproduction prints. I rarely use precuts for this very same reason. Fat quarters are about as close as I get.

  3. This has turned out beautifully for your Dad :)

  4. I think it looks wonderful - and a gorgeous masculine quilt - I'm sure your Dad loves it :)

  5. That is a beautiful finish! Only you would notice the little things you wish you had done differently. I have pressed whole rows in one direction before realizing it was the "wrong" direction. Sigh. I am glad I noticed in the row phase (as long as that row was). Pressing them the other way didn't get them to lay as flat as I would have liked, but it was acceptable. I think we all have little things like this that we wish we would have paid more attention to. The important thing is that the finished project is amazing!

  6. It's a wonderful quilt for your dad, it's a great size! I've had all the same issues. I had a jelly roll where the strips were almost a full 1/4 inch bigger, and the pinked edges seem to always alter the dimensions. I find I end up trimming precuts which is a pain. I mostly nest seams, but I think pressing open and pinning, especially with lights and darks does give a better result. Good to know it's not just me!!

  7. I think you did a fantastic job of marrying those prints with your design aesthetic. The result is a gorgeous quilt! FQ's are my favorite precut, although I do like a nice layer cake now and then. But I find myself trimming those 10" squares just to get rid of the edges and to make sure I have squares all the same size. A pain in my behind, but sometimes I'm willing to do it because I like having a piece of the entire fabric line. Great job Michelle! :)

  8. Congratulations on a quilt that will be much loved! I have SO many stories of learning the hard way! I have indeed had problems with pre-cuts not being consistently cut. The pinked edge thing is tricky...sometimes I need to measure from the edge of the pinking and other times on the inside of the pinking. Another story...I just finished a quilt with red dots and had the same thing happen when Ironed to nest dots coming through the adjacent white blocks. BUT I have to say, the quilt is adorable and no one will notice those red spots in the 1/4" seam!!

  9. Wonderful quilt! I'm not a huge fan of Civil War repros, but your modern pattern and the controlled palette are really attractive. I haven't used many precuts because I didn't like the pinked edges I saw, but I won a bunch of charms last year, took a deep breath and dove in. Luckily the pinks were tiny and they were pretty uniform, so it worked out fine, but thanks for the heads-up about possible variations.

  10. Great finish. I've never used a jolly bar. It looks like it would be a great size to work with.

  11. It's hard to pass up the oh so pretty fabrics that you just want. I can't tell you how many times lately I've filled a cart at a shop, paused, and ultimately decided not to. It's really pushed me to use what's in my stash already.

    Great job with civil war prints.

  12. You're dad should be very happy. I have had similar experiences with pre-cuts. Peer pressure: always pin when lining up sashing. Even the craziest of us pin sometimes!

  13. Jolly bar - new term to me.
    I too am working on a masculine quilt and my next project will also be along those lines because it will be for my son.
    Popped by from Let's Bee Social.

  14. What a great way to use those traditional style fabrics! I really like how clean and modern this quilt turned out.

    Yes, I've grumbled and cursed over my share of precuts. I've vowed to measure them all up front, but that seems to take away half of the convenience, doesn't it? The worst was a "charm pack" of solids that was not only deeply pinked, but measured something like 5 1/8" x 4 7/8"...not square AT ALL and both larger and smaller than the 5" standard. ARGH!! Needless to say, I was not charmed :(

  15. What a beautiful quilt for a man! I am not a fan of those fabric lines but , this quilt is awesome!

  16. As a huge fan of blue, I love this quilt! No one sees the imperfections that we see :) I'm sure your dad will love it for years to come.

  17. It's a lovely quilt despite the pre-cut oddness. I've had the same trouble with pre-cuts, and sometimes I find that they are actually *less* convenient than just cutting my own fabric!

  18. This is a beautiful quilt! I hadn't come across this pre-cut before... another to maybe add to my collection. I know what you mean about pinked edges causing problems, I cut my precuts with a straight edge, and don't really find that they fray too much if you're gentle with them :)

  19. I love the modern take on more traditional fabrics. Great work!


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