Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Sunset still in progress

I am making progress - slowly but surely! This blog entry will show you a bit of how I use a tear away foundation to piece my quilt tops.  I call it the Fold and Sew technique and I invented it in a moment of desperation years ago. (I have a patent on it, if you can believe it!)

I use a foundation to piece long strips.  It makes a huge difference keeping those straight rows straight! HUGE difference.  What you are seeing is the top part of my sunset quilt; it is all the strip segments sewn together and transferred to a tear-away foundation. I use a simple glue stick for paper to glue the strips to the foundation and will fold and sew along some lines I drew on the foundation earlier.

I explained the technique much more in depth in my first book and it will also be part of the subject matter of my second book.  And maybe a third?!  So, let me show you some of the steps involved in using a foundation to piece. 

First, I sewed together the less complicated strip segments and pinned them back on my design wall. This is my last chance to change any strips, or any part of the design.  You can see from the photo that I have only taken care of the top half or so.
Sewing simple strip segments together and re-pinning them in place on the wall

 When I'm designing, I don't stop to sew any strip segments together, I just pin everything. So the first thing I need to do is sew those strip segments together. 

Before sewing

Sew on the drawn line
 Since this strip is part of the sky, I want a long angle - which helps blend one strip color into the next. To get this long angle I lay the top strip at a long angle and eyeball it. This should be about a 20-30 degree angle when I open it up. (If I want to build mountains or a steep hill slope, I'll chose a different angle; closer to way we sew binding strips together - a 45 degree angle.) I drew in a sewing line to help you see where you'd sew. 

Working my way down the landscape strip by strip, every strip segment so far is pieced except for the sunny area.

 In the above photograph you can see that most of my strip segments have all been sewn into long strips. This quilt will be 47 inches wide when I'm finished. HOWEVER - there are a few strip segments I haven't stitched down yet. You can see these below.  Why? you might ask? Because these are arranged and spaced in a bit more complicated way and I don't like peicing... lol. I think I mentioned this before!  So for these few strips, I'll use a glue stick to finish them. 

Complicated strip segments 

 All I have to do is open up those pinned strips, press in the angle I want, open up that angle, glue along the crease, finger press it closed, glue it to the strip beneath and trim off the excess fabric. Got that!?  It is pretty easy once you think about it.

Once the angles are glued in place, I top stitch them with monofilament thread.  Here is one finished strip.  I just need to trim off seam allowances.

Finished glued and top stitched strip segment 

Lets get on to the foundation part.

Foundation taped to my rotary mat

My favorite foundation is called Create a Pattern by Bosal Foam and Fiber. I sell it on my website because it is hard to find.  It comes on a bolt - 46 inches wide. Pellon also makes a product I like, it is called Easy Pattern and it comes on a bolt 45 inches wide.  I cut off the necessary amount of foundation and tape it to my cutting mat.  (Excess foundation can just drape over the edge of my table. If I'm working on a big quilt, I can finish drawing one side at a time and move the foundation over by just lining up the previous drawn lines.)  

I overlap the foundation along the 1 inch measuring line both horizontally and vertically.  Then I draw in that line using a ball point pen and my rotary ruler. I call these two lines my plumb lines.  When sewing strip pieced landscapes, you don't have a 'reference point' so these plumb lines become the actual side and bottom of your landscape.  

Once these lines are drawn, I add more lines to enclose my strip widths. Then I transfer all my strips, row by row to the foundation with a glue stick and fold and sew along those drawn lines.  By the way, you can get somewhat  precise when transferring your strips to the foundation in case you want any of your strip angles to line up once they are pieced. You just glue them to the foundation taking the 1/4 inch seam allowance into account. 

Aligning strips taking into account the 1/4 inch seam allowance

And here we are. All the strip segments are sewn together and glued to the foundation. One other thing which makes this method so nice is that if your strips are not perfect, it doesn't matter. As long as they fit between those fold/sew lines you drew, they will come out perfectly when you are finished!

More on my Fold/Sew technique will follow, and this material will be a big part of my next book. (Due in the Fall of 2014, it is called Lovely Landscape Quilts.)  As always, questions and comments are welcomed! 


  1. Thanks for sharing a look at how you compose those skies

  2. Whoa! I went too fast from one step to the next and got all fuddled (lol). Backed up and started again - slowly - and I get it! Do you get frustrated with all the strips sometimes? Get "lost "?
    I'm gonna try this. Just gotta finish my married daughter's quilt (she's patiently waiting. :o) )
    Then I'm jumping in! Thanks!

    1. There are so many little things involved here that I had to just show the big steps. My book comes out next fall and it will go into everything in great detail... not that I'm promoting my book, lol.

      I'm not frustrated with strips yet. I think it is because there is so much you can do with them. I like making these big sweeping landscapes, but I also like string piecing little blocks with leftovers. Lately I've been thinking about string piecing groups of similar fabrics and then cutting out landscape features and putting them together like a jig saw puzzle... Like what would happen if I strip pieced a bunch of boulders and appliqued them over a lake... stuff like that. There is so much I want to try, but so little time. PLUS, I like to read so sometimes I'm kind of a lazy butt. If you know what I mean... lol.

  3. This is an awesome way to make the background. I love the effect, and will be planning something with it as soon as I can, after I finish my current projects. Can I use your technique in an art quilt I'm planning to sell? I've seen several similar backgrounds, and I'm trying to do a similar background on a flying star I have in the works now, but I like the looks of yours better.

    1. Hi Faye and thanks! I have another book coming out this fall about this technique and even though it is patented, I teach it and share it so others can use it too. The patent doesn't mean that no one else can use it, it just means that someone else can't make money (like there is any money to be made, lol) by teaching this method as their own.

      Yes, feel free to use it to piece your own art quilts. (And if you share them publicly, I'd love to see them!) :)

  4. Hi Cathy,
    Thank you so much for sharing this technique. Now that I could actually read through all the steps it gives me a lot more confidence to try it as well. Love your quilts!

    1. You are welcome! Use a large needle and TINY stitches when you are sewing those fold/sew rows. That way the foundation tears off more easily. Larger quilts get stiff and are harder to quilt when you leave the rest of the foundation on, so for those quilts, I gently tear off all of the foundation after the applique has been added. GENTLE is the key word... you don't want to stretch out the fabric.

      I don't bother removing the stuff from smaller projects. There of course will be more details in my upcoming book. #Insert shameless plug# Lol. Thanks for writing!