Yes, that’s what I said; Year of the Unicorn. Why? Surely you mean, why not? Unicorns are unique and colorful and strong and amazing and fabulous, or so I hear, and that’s what I want my year to be. (Although it is actually Year of the Dog, and I was born under the dog sign, so maybe this is definitely going to be a good year for me). In order to organize myself and get on track, I made a list for what I want to create and learn this year, and then I started tackling said list.
Here’s my leetle list…
There are quite a lot of quilts on there actually, which surprised even me, but I think it’s doable? Of course I’m not sure if I will finish each quilt, or just the tops, but I’ll aim high. Some of these are projects that I’ve already started but want to make sure I follow through with, and some I’ve wanted to make for years and just haven’t gotten around to them for whatever reason. And, although I didn’t actually write it down, being more consistent with blogging is always at the back of my mind.
I jotted down this list probably on New Year’s day or thereabouts, and I can’t say why, but I had a lot of motivation to get started and start checking things off the list. I think just having a list to look at helps remind me, and I usually keep my notebook open on my sewing table so that I can see the list on a daily basis. Something else that has helped me is embracing my ADD. In the past I’ve felt like, if I can’t complete a project from start to finish, then I just shouldn’t start it. Or I’d start and then feel overwhelmed if I wasn’t able to finish it within a reasonable amount of time (whatever that may be). In the past month however, I’ve been jumping from one project to another and not feeling guilty about it. But I’ve been getting more done too! As I cut out pieces for one project, I’ll cut out pieces for another and then set that one aside. As I work on a few things at once, I’ve realized that things are actually, magically, putting themselves together.
So here’s my month in review, as well as some things I learned while paper piecing a unicorn.
The first project I finished was the Woven quilt by Cluck Cluck Sew. (Maybe I’ve mentioned it before, but she is one of my favorite bloggers and pattern designers. Definitely check her out!) The Woven quilt is a baby sized quilt, and while I don’t have a baby, when it came out in 2016 I thought it was really simple and clean and I wanted to make one. I finally bought the pattern on black Friday last year, and then it sat. My coworker’s daughter is having a baby in February, and for awhile I’ve planned on making her a quilt so it just made sense that this should be it. It’s an easy pattern that uses just a few fat quarters, and from start to finish (including quilting and binding), it only took me about 3 hours. It was a great project to start off the new year, and Bill’s daughter loved it! She wrote me a really sweet thank you card, and Bill texted me the other day to tell me that she’s got it in the nursery and really brightens up the room. It’s nice to know that your quilty gifts are loved!
Next up is some fun with the Kona Color of the Year, Tiger Lily. She’s beautiful! My modern quilt guild announced a mini challenge using this color of the year. We were given a fat quarter to start with, and told to make something, anything, quilted. I love challenges like this because we are not necessarily limited to quilts, but really any type of project as long as it’s quilted somehow. My mind immediately starting imagining projects that I could use this bright color for. I also wondered if I could check off something from my list at the same time. Curious? Read on!
A project that I’ve been wanting/afraid to make as soon photos of it graced my eyeballs was the Unicorn block from Robynie Patterns. Seriously, Google it or search it on Instagram. It’s a total time suck just scrolling through unicorn block photos. Which I did a lot of as I was getting inspiration. Initially I had a color blocked mane in my mind, using Tiger Lily, teal, and possibly Ultra Violet, which is the Pantone color of the year. Boom, extra credit. But, I just wasn’t feeling that setup. I wanted to try making something using all solid fabrics, but apparently this is physically impossible for me, so I had to use some patterned fabric. I didn’t want to order and wait for fabric to be shipped, so I combed through my stash a few times and came up with a rainbow-mane-scheme that I was really happy with. Nothing is more unicorn than rainbow, amiright.
Around this time, my friend and fellow guild member Shawna saw my project goal list on Instagram and she messaged saying she wanted to make a unicorn too, and maybe we should do some Friday Night Sewing, together? I work much better under pressure, with a deadline, and with accountability, so I said yes! I was looking forward to having someone to bounce ideas off of and ask questions if I was confused about a step. It also gave me something fun to look forward to. I spent a few says beforehand picking out fabric (always the toughest part, see above), coloring my free coloring sheet to plan my mane colors, and psyching myself up. 🙂
I can tell you, that with a few fits and starts, I was up until at least 2 a.m. on Saturday. Then I wanted to get up early on Saturday and finish. Which I did! I was having a great time putting that unicorn together and I couldn’t wait to see it all finished. I work on Sundays, and I spent the whole time I was at work thinking about ripping off the little bits of backing paper and pressing the seams. Here are some action shots:
When the tiny pieces start becoming larger pieces and you can see what’s happening, it encourages you to keep going no matter how fried your brain may be. (Grab a coffee, it’s wonderfully helpful!) It’s exciting when you get to the point where you just have to sew the three final sections together and you’re done. And with that, here she is:
AHHHH! I’m so pleased with how it turned out. I might need a break for a bit, but a few months back Shawna shared this tester block at our guild meeting, so I think it’s next on the list. It was our guild’s most liked post last year; that’s how amazing it is!
And of course, no sewing project is complete without mistakes and learning, so here are some tips from me when paper piecing:
- Make sure you use fabric scraps that are large enough to cover your paper piece, including the seam allowance. I ALWAYS think I can’t get away with too-tiny pieces, only to have to rip them out later.
- You’re really piecing things backwards, so pay attention to how you’re placing the right side/wrong side of your fabric against the paper. This is a time when using solids would be helpful since you wouldn’t have to think about this step.
- Also pay attention to the order fabrics need to be pieced, and which fabric you’re using. I ripped out quite a lot of tiny stitches because I got ahead of myself or I just wasn’t reading the colors on each piece properly.
- You’re going to have lots of tiny paper pieces, so write on them which fabric they correspond with. It will help immensely.
- Use shorter stitches. I didn’t (because I forgot) and I’ll be okay, but at the end you have to rip all the paper backing off and you don’t want to risk ripping out stitches too. Smaller stitches can also help perforate the paper, making it easier to tear.
- Goes without saying, but use good quality fabric that can withstand all the tiny stitches, the tearing, and the pressing. I started with a thinner poplin for a few pieces and it was a mess. It went in the trash.
- Every so often, check that you’re on the right track. Lay your finished pieces out and make sure that it looks how it should. See above about paying attention to numbers and fabrics.
- Some pieces may only require one fabric. You still want to stitch this to your paper backing, but don’t do what I did:
- See here how I’ve stitched this to the paper? I didn’t trust myself to stitch directly on the seam line, so I sewed just inside this seam allowance. Which would be fine normally, but when this piece was sewn to another piece, I had two lines of stitching about an 1/8″ apart. And you know what was in between those lines? Paper. That needed to be ripped out. And it was a pain in the arse. Be smarter than me. Don’t do this.
- Use tweezers when ripping out paper. Your fingers will go numb quite quickly if you try to get into all the nooks and crannies with just your finger tips.
- And lastly, if you need help, seek it out! There are likely a million blog posts, tutorials, and videos on the internet that address this technique. I already had a pretty good foundation (tell me you got that…), but I still did some searching just to reinforce my skills and see if there were any new tricks that I could learn. This quick video from Angela Walters is very simple and easy to follow. I’m also taking a paper piecing workshop next month through my guild and I’m really excited!
So what now for Miss Unicorn? Well, my initial plan was to turn her into a tote bag, but then I messed up my quilt backing (see above re: not paying attention), so I decided that she’ll become a pillowcase, which I will display in the sewing studio that I dream to have one day. 🙂
As for to-make my list, I think January was extremely productive and I feel like my momentum for the year is building. I’ve already cut out most of the pieces for my Tahoe quilt, and I am totally up to date with my guild’s block of the month challenge! I’ve also started going through the user’s manual for EQ7; and I made my graphic designer husband install it on his computer too so that he can help me. I’ve gone through my already-cut triangle pieces for my triangle quilt and made a note of how many I have of each color; now I just need to design a layout and stitch them together. I think the Hudson Pants will come along shortly as we eventually move into spring and I can wear something other than a parka and jeans.
How’s your 2018 shaping up?