Saturday, July 29, 2017

Christmas Elves Quilt Along: Block 1

I had so much fun making this first group of blocks for the Christmas Elf quilt!

Click on this link to go directly to the pattern on Craftsy: Christmas Elves, Block 1

It's ever so scrappy, so I get to play with all of my pretty Christmas fabrics. I like the gray background fabric, too. I was surprised at how nicely it pulls all of the colors and designs in my various fabrics together. There may be more gray in future quilts.

I want the whole quilt, but I can definitely see each of the elf blocks as an independent wall hanging. I wonder how many people will make them that way.

Every quilt has a few little quirks, and this one is no exception. I've tried to include everything in the patterns for the blocks, but some of the details may need more clarification.

1. I think that the trickiest part of the quilt designs is with the ears. The front of the ears need to be snipped down a bit to make space for the hair and hat brim to slip under the ear and fit tightly against the forehead. I didn't photograph every one of the elves faces, but these two pictures should explain.
The snip down the front of the ear lets the hair slide under the ear and over the forehead. 
The ear overlaps the hair and hat brim.
2. The elves look fine without eyes or definite features, but just the slightest enhancement really bring them to life. A simple French knot is all that's needed for an eye, and a tiny bit of colored pencil suggests lips and rosy cheeks. I'm not planning to wash this quilt, but if you do have to wash it, don't worry too much about the pencil washing out. After it's been pressed with a hot iron, it will be fairly permanent.

The colored pencil work really is minimal. In this photo you can also see the way the blanket stitching fit on the ear and hair.

3. The lettering on the North Pole sign would be very hard to embroider after it was fused to the background. Hand embroidery is not easy on thick layers of fusible web. I bit of fabric is lost, but I cut a square of white fabric that was just a bit larger than my embroidery hoop. When I was finished with the embroidery, I ironed fusible web to the back of it. It was easy to work with after that. As a bonus, the embroidery will never pull loose. Those threads on the back are fused right along with everything else.

4. The paint can was fun. Sometimes  a marker is the best solution, although machine lettering would have been lovely, too. I could have drawn the handle with a marker too, but machine triple stitching was fast.

The right edge of the paint at the top of the can is tucked into the can rather like the hair is tucked behind the ear.
In case you were wondering, this is how Block 1 and it's smaller blocks will fit into the whole quilt. The quilt will be 29" x 33" before sashing is added around the outside.

Stay tuned.
Block 2, the Elf with the reindeer, is coming in three weeks!

Happy Stitching!! 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Christmas Elves Quilt Along: Tips and Ideas For Getting Started

The Christmas Elves quilt along begins in earnest next Saturday.

If you're thinking about making the quilt, the following information might be helpful. I've shared some of these ideas on my Facebook page and in various blog posts that I'll refer you to.

Fabrics Used
  • Most of the fabrics are scraps of Christmas fabrics and other bits and pieces that I've collected over several years.
  • The gray background fabric is "Gray Snow" from the Holiday Traditions collection for Henry Glass. I found it at my local quilt shop, and I bought 2 1/2" yards just to be sure I'd have enough. 
  • I got 1 yard of pink and red candy striped fabric. I'm planning to use it for binding and, possibly, for a narrow border, so I may have quite a bit leftover. The fabric is from "Cozy Christmas" by Lori Holt for Riley Blake Designs. This is from last year's collection, so I ordered it online.
Working With Fusible Web Applique

If you are new to using fusible web or if you'd like a quick refresher on the basics, you can visit an earlier page on my blog. It covers most of the tips for using fusible web. Topics include: choosing the right fusible web, cutting out applique pieces, protecting your iron, easy removal of the web's paper backing, and thread choices. Click on this link to go straight to the page.  Tips for Using Fusible Web

This quilt is quite detailed, so I'm strongly recommending that an applique pressing sheet or a piece of non-stick baking parchment be used to make the fusing and assembly easier.
  • You can see through the sheet. If you place the layout plan under the sheet, you can fuse  the appliques right on the layout.
  • It's often easier to fuse smaller sections of the applique together and then add them to other sections to make the whole applique piece.
  • Pieces of applique can be assembled separately and then combined into the whole.

Pieces of Block 1 ready to assemble
    The head was fused together first.

    Assembly line packages
    Stitching the Appliques in Place

    I almost always prefer a machine blanket stitch for stitching the appliques down, and that is what I've used throughout this quilt. I like the finished look on the edge of the applique. The width and length of the stitch may need to be altered - narrower and shorter for small pieces with tight curves, a bit larger for less detailed pieces. Zigzag stitching works well, too, but with either type of stitching, it really helps to practice on sample pieces. The main thing to remember is that you need to pivot often to go around curves or turn corners. Also, the pivot should only be made on the outside edge of the applique and with the needle down. A couple of years ago I created a tutorial for using the blanket stitch. Click here to view it. Machine Blanket Stitch Applique

    Hands and Faces

    Any number of fabric colors from light pink to dark brown can be used for hands and faces. It all depends on the skin tones you prefer to use. I've never been able to find the exact shades that I prefer, so I've learned a trick or two. I start with a peach Kona Cotton and a few tea bags. Hot tea will dye the peach into a much more natural color. Stronger tea or the addition of coffee will make slightly darker tones.  I know that tea and coffee stains can be hard to remove, but I'm not sure how well the colors will hold up when laundered. I don't plan on washing this quilt, though, so I'm not concerned.

    An earlier blog post explains the process in detail.  Click on this link to view it. A Christmas Elf and a Trick or Two

    A bit of colored pencil brightened up the faces. It was like being back in elementary school. Once done, the pencil can be set with a hot iron.

    The pattern for Block 1 and it's sashing pieces will be ready for you next Saturday. I'll include specific information for making that group of blocks in my blog next week.

    Wishing you a lovely July week.