[whispering] I did it. I finished the foundation-pieced Vulcan Greeting project I started a few weeks ago. But it’s still in transit to the friend I made it for, so let’s keep this just between you and me for another day or so.
Vulcan Greeting quilted pillow made by Mary Kate Karr-Petras
I first wrote about this project a few weeks ago in a blog post about foundation piecing fundamentals. At the time all I’d completed was piecing the 10″ block (seen below), which was designed by Vanda Chittenden and is available as a free download from Fandom in Stitches. Turning it into a finished project — well, that was another matter.
Vulcan Greeting 10″ block designed by Vanda Chittenden, made by Mary Kate Karr-Petras
The friend I made it for has much better taste than I, plus she doesn’t have children, which means her home looks like a showcase pretty much all the time. I really have no expectations that she will display this Vulcan Greeting prominently if at all. At the very least I know she’ll get a kick out of it and she’ll appreciate the effort that went into it. After that point, she can do with it what she likes.
Firework Flag pattern by Gigi Khalsa, a combination zippered pillowcase/wall hanging
Even so, I wanted to make it easy for her to display it in a couple of different ways if she so chooses, so I decided to make it into a 12″ pillow sham. If I wasn’t still intimidated by zippers I would have used a method devised by our own Gigi Khalsa for making a dual-purpose pillowcase/wall hanging, which was detailed as the Easy Lesson in our June/July 2013 issue. (Click here to purchase the print or digital edition of June/July 2013, both available for 50% off as of today, June 18.) Gigi also demonstrated her technique in a class for Quilters Newsletter Workshop; the full episode of “How to Make a Quilted Flag Pillowcase and Wall Hanging” is available on QNNtv.com.
But before I could worry about making my block into a pillow case, I had to quilt it.
For some reason — I don’t remember what it was — I decided I wanted to quilt the hand with the words “live long and prosper.” My inspiration was The Eleventh Hour: A Curious Mystery by Graeme Base, one of my favorite illustrated children’s books that is fun for anyone who loves to solve riddles and puzzles. (You’ll have to work your way through the book to figure out which illustration I took my inspiration from, but no spoilers!)
First I roughed out my idea on a couple of smaller-scale printouts of the pattern (as you can see, my 3-year-old seems to have gotten to it, too). Then I photocopied the pieced block itself at 100% to get a full-scale copy on which I drew my final version. I made some variations in placement on the different versions, but the main idea stayed the same.
Before starting to quilt the actual block, I made a practice sandwich. If you know me at all, you may know that I sometimes skip this step — I just want to get to the actual quilting. But there were too many unknowns with this project so I played it safe. What you see above is the result of trying a few different approaches. At first, I thought I wanted to hand quilt the letters; you can see where I practiced with 50-weight neutral thread from Presencia in the middle of the photo (letters N & G). But I realized that I would have to quilt over some thick seams and didn’t want to deal with that, so I switched to machine quilting with the 50-weight thread. Because the letters are so long, most of the quilting is made up of straight lines, perfect for using a walking foot. Even the curves were easy to handle just by going one stitch at a time and rotating the block as needed.
I wondered if using neutral cotton thread wasn’t maybe playing it a little too safe so I experimented with some other threads. In addition to a white polyester thread from Isacord, I tried a silver metallic from Kreinik and a gold metallic from Sulky. As much as I liked the idea of the metallic threads, and as easy as it was to quilt with the polyester, I and my fellow QN team members felt they called too much attention to themselves and actually detracted from the quilting motif. So I went back to the 50-weight neutral cotton.
I tried a couple of different lightbox approaches for transfering the letters to the foundation-pieced block, to which I had added borders, and ended up taping the pattern and block to a window on a sunny day.
I left all my thread ends loose so I could bury them. Tedious, but I prefer the look to backstitching.
Here’s the quilted hand after I removed the water-soluble pen markings and buried all my threads.
The best way to read the words is to hold the quilt at eye level and parallel to the ground; you can make out the word “LIVE” in the thumb in the photo above.
I decided to have fun with the silver metallic thread in the navy blue background, which I quilted improvisationally with a zigzag or starburst motion.
Even that little amount of quilting in the background helped smooth out some of the distortion that had been caused to the unquilted areas by the dense quilting in the center. When all was said and done, I think the quilting took longer than the foundation piecing since I designed it from scratch.
Because I wanted this pillow sham to fit a 12″ pillow form, I had added 2″-wide borders to allow for any shrinkage cause by the quilting. After trimming the quilted block to 12.5″ (I know some of the starburst points are cut off — it doesn’t bother me since I did it improvisationally), I added an envelope back and bound it. For some reason, hand finishing the binding took me a long time — trying to stitch dark fabric with dark thread by lamplight was not as easy as I thought it would be.
Vulcan Greeting quilted pillow made by Mary Kate Karr-Petras
But finish it I did. I kind of like making small projects; the feeling of accomplishment is fantastic and it gives me the chance to experiment with new techniques, tools and materials without having to commit to a large project. Pillow shams seem to be my thing this year. I’m planning to add to the winter and spring pillow shams I’ve already made with one for summer, and I’m pretty sure I want to make it my first mariner’s compass. Stay tuned.
If you’re interested in foundation piecing (aka paper piecing), you may want to pick up a package of Carol Doak’s Foundation Paper. I used regular copier paper for this small project, but for anything with more blocks I would want to use a specialty paper, if only because it’s designed to perforate easily when it comes time to remove the foundations from the blocks. Most experienced foundation piecers only use specialty foundation paper, and Carol Doak’s is one of the most popular.
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