Hello There! If we haven’t met, I’m Anne.
As the Lawrence Arts Center’s Print Coordinator, I can usually be found lurking in the depths of the LAC basement. Current conditions have relocated me from my favorite dungeon into a makeshift studio in my East Lawrence kitchen, and has presented me with a challenge: how can I stay creative with items kicking around our cramped living space? If you’re reading this, maybe you’ve been considering the same question. Maybe, just maybe, you too need something to suppliment your Tiger King viewing. Or maybe, maybe, just maybe, you need a little something to keep your hands busy and your mind off of how you’re starting to notice new personality traits in those living with you, ones that you had never noticed before. You never noticed these things before, but now you can’t unsee and…..
This is where Bunker Crafts come in!
Cozy, low material, low stakes, and meditatively repetitive, I’ve designed a few tutorials to help you generate works of art from the comfort of your living space. These projects will use things that you may already have, or won’t cost you a ton in material investment. Some of these materials you can even find at the grocery store.
Want to try something new? Now’s the time. Grab your beverage of choice, and join me in this week’s adventure: paper pieced quilting.
Paper piecing, sometimes referred to as English Paper Piecing, is a technique that generates dazzling mosaic-like patchwork. If you’re on Pinterest, I urge you to stop reading this and run a search. Actually, even if you’re not on Pinterest, just type it into your browser. Actually, here:
This work of wonder not only exists, but you can make it! Kits, including this kit, exist as packs of paper templates, ready to iron onto fabric and stitch together. And, while it may take you the entire run of Game of Thrones to put this one together, I know that you have it in you!
Don’t let this psychedelic wonder intimidate you; just like the five 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzles you may have already assembled during the early hours of social distancing, these wonders come together one piece at a time.
We’re going to start small and simple. Later this week, I’ll be posting a video tutorial on how the process works, beginning with sewing hexagons together. The crescent moon and star pattern above was actually my first attempt at designing and sewing my own pattern, which you may want to try out after you learn the basics! Before the tutorial, here is the list of what you’ll need.
What You’ll Need:
It’s likely that you already have some fabric scraps that will work for this project! Plain weave fabrics will work best for this type of geometric quilting, and will commonly be labeled as “quilting fabric” or “plain weave cotton” in your local fabric store.
Because the shapes we’ll be working with are small, you won’t need much of each different color or pattern. It can be a fun challenge to see what combinations you can make with what you have on hand, and this can result in choices you may not have considered otherwise.
My favorite online fabric source is Fabricworm. This company carries a wide variety of unusual prints from contemporary designers, and even some eco-forward organic choices. Best of all, you can order amounts of fabric as small as a quarter yard of each selection, making it a great choice for quilting projects.
The paper piecing method used in this tutorial is unique in its use of paper templates. Your fabric will be ironed around these templates, and the small paper pieces stay inside each section as you are sewing, resulting in super accurate geometic shapes, even for the beginner.
Classic shapes are available at your local craft store, pre-cut in multipacks, and ready to use. Your entire composition may be made out of tesselated hexagons, pentagons, or diamonds, or you can mix and match different shapes for a kalidoscopic effect.
Looking for inspiration? Check out some of the following master-pieces! (eh, master-pieces?)
Needles….and a safe place to store them.
Any hand sewing needles will work for this project, and even if you’re not a routine sewing pro, you probably have some kicking around in a dusty travel sewing kit. Choose a needle that you’re comfortable with, prefferably with the smallest eye for threading that you can manage. Because this technique relies on small stitches, catching very little fabric with each stitch, a sharp needle makes the work much easier and enjoyable.
If you have a pincushion like mine, go ahead and make the proper adjustments before starting your work. Better.
Manufacturers make thread specifically for hand quilting, but go ahead and use what you have. Thread labeled “all purpose” will work just fine for our project. If you are going to join sections next to one another where one piece is a much lighter color than its mate, matching the thread to the lighter shade will make your stitches a little less visible.
Grab a pair of scissors to keep your loose threads in check and keep your work running smoothly. You’ll need them initially to cut out your fabric, so use the sharpest ones you have. If you really get into the project, invest in some scissors to only use on fabric. These glittery, glam rock ones are my favorite. I’ve named mine David Sewy, but I considered Snippy Stardust.
Other things that you may enjoy using, but are not absolutely necessary:
A few bowls:
I like to keep a few bowls in my making space. This project will generate lots of little bits and pieces to manage, and I find it easier to keep separate shaped pieces in different bowls to keep track of everything.
This method works wonders if your workspace is your coffee table because now you can binge Netflix and not have to rummage around for that super specific diamond shape you cut. Bonus points go to the bowls if your workspace contains cats. How perfect is this bowl I scored at the Annual Lawrence Arts Center Souper Bowl?
Freezer paper and spray starch:
If you decide to venture into the world of tiny designs, or custom cutting your own templates, freezer paper is the way to go. Found next to its friend wax paper, freezer paper has a plasticized backing that can be ironed directly to the wrong side of your fabric. This both secures your template, and makes ironing the edges of your fabric super simple.
Speaking of ironing, if you can get your hands on a can of spray starch, it’s well worth the effort. A little goes a long way, and the stiffening agent will hold your ironed edges in place so the sewing process will take a little less attention.