Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Foundation piecing - Sea Urchins

When I first started patchwork, I did a beginners course where most of the basic techniques of patchwork were touched on. By 'touched on' I mean that a 2 hour class would be dedicated to the technique and we would do a small sample in class to be finished off at home in that technique. This would then be brought back in to class a week later and we could discuss any problems we have encountered. I did not like the technique, I found it frustrating to hold up against the light to see if the placement was correct and endless pinning, to then find that sometimes the piece was just too small, so have never again attempted it.

I decided to give it another go after my retreat with Ricky Tims (he has a totally different method of doing foundation piecing that does not involve cutting individual shapes) when I found a pattern by Judy Niemeyer for Sea Urchins.  It looked ambitious and there were a LOT of points, but I decided that if I was going to do it, I might as well get a lot of practise in and get to do it well.

Opening the pattern was so daunting, I just glanced at it and then put it away again for 6 months, thinking that it was too complicated.  Besides, before I could start it, I needed to get photocopies made, and as I wanted to start immediately, that meant doing another project.  So, while I started on another quilt, I decided to get the photocopies done, so that next time I looked at it, I would be ready to go (no excuses then), but of course once the photocopies were there, it niggled at me and because I had taken the fabrics out and TOUCHED them, I kept looking at them and wanted to TOUCH them some more.

I stopped doing new projects and just finished off other on the go projects while I waited for a moment when I knew I would have lots of time on my own (did not need any distractions) and then took the plunge.  All my chores were done, my husband was away, kids at school and uni, and I had a week to myself.  Just as well as it turned out!

I followed the instructions to the letter, in the order they were listed, first cutting out all the pieces, then bagging them up with the foundations papers (why so many bags?).  At this point I was desperate to start sewing, but thought it best to start early in the morning rather than at the end of the day, so I had a play with my threads and decided which I was going to use for the quilting.

Got up extra early next day to start the sewing, and believe me when I say there is not much that can get me out of bed early. Started with very carefully reading the instructions, which at this point made no sense to me at all, so read through them again. Decided to make a coffee first and then start.  Surprisingly, once I started, it all made perfect sense and it must be the most pain free, frustrated free way of doing foundation piecing.  It is so easy once you know what you are doing, no squinting up through a light to see if it is pinned in the right place, just a super easy fail proof method.  It helps to have the right tools though! I can't recommend this method enough, only wished I knew of it years ago, I am now hooked and have ordered 2 more of Judy's patterns.

First few units done 
Second lots of units done 

What I did find surprising was how time consuming, and at times down right boring, it is to do a foundation pieced quilt, having said that, this quilt has got a LOT of points and there are a lot of simpler foundation pieced patterns out there that are a lot simpler. But every minute of working on this quilt has been worth it, the results are spectacular and if I can achieve this on my first attempt, I am happy to do many more like this.  This is also the first quilt I have made with inset curves.  I found this surprisingly easy, although the smallest circles were a bit harder to manipulate.

Work in progress

My initial idea for the backing was to use a darkish blue batik, but when I looked in my local shop, they did not have the right shade of blue.  I was about to give up when I spotted a blue with lots of circle shapes by Kaffe Fassett.  These even looked a bit like sea urchins with a bit of imagination and the colours fit perfectly with the colours on the front, so I was happy.  I could start quilting straight away.

I wanted the quilting in the background to blend in and Glide Medium Grey does that perfectly.  For the back of the quilt, I used Glide Ocean, I also used this for the spikes inside the urchins on the front.  For the spikes of the pale coloured urchins, I used a variegated Superior thread.  This is the first time I have used Glide thread and I love the sheen on it.  Glide threads are currently not available in the UK, so have to be ordered from the USA.  I got a whole box full of them for my birthday from my husband, and I can see I am going to be using up lots of birthdays for more (LOL)

My usual way of binding a quilt, is to machine stitch the binding on the front of the quilt and then hand sew it onto the back, but I would like to do some piping on the edge, so this too will be a first for me.  I have ordered the Piping Hot Tool, so will give this a go.

Quite pleased with the effect you get with the piping, it took a bit of fiddling in the corners, and I had to undo the first corner twice before I had the method worked out.  I followed instructions I found on youtube, the binding strip is sown down onto the binding strip by laying it down by eye onto a centre fold ironed on the binding.  After all the effort of cutting and sewing precisely, this seemed a bit slapdash to me, so next time, I will mark a line on the binding before I sew it together.

This is the completed quilt:

Sea Urchins completed

Updates on other projects:
Bag making
I have agreed with some of my quilting travelling buddies, that when we meet up at the Festival of Quilts, we will all be bring a new bag that we have made from fabric that we have bought in Japan.  I followed a pattern in Japanese, which, NO, I can not understand! But was told it is easy as there are lots of diagrams and you just follow the diagrams.  Well that is okay if you know the basics of bag making and know for example how to put a zipper in, but my sewing experience begins and ends with quilts and the occasional other small crafty project.  I have made one or two bags before, but never with zips in, so there were lots of muttering but it is finally done and I am very pleased with the result.  I even managed to insert two pockets in the inside (not included in the instructions) for my phone and keys.  This is the bag:

Sideboard runners
These fabrics are all pieces of silk, that I bought for next to nothing in Japan at the Tokyo International Quilt Show.  The silk has been taken from old kimonos and is a little bit stiff and heavy, so ideal for a runner.

Large sideboard runner

Matching runner for telephone table

Exhibition on the theme "Water, water" in November
Guidelines for this is that it has to be a wall hanging with dimensions no larger than 12" by 24".  Inclusion is by selection, so it is not guaranteed that my piece will be included, but it has been so much fun making this piece and a bonus was that all the fabrics were left overs from other projects.  I have started sewing on the beads, the beads look like glistening drops of rain.

"Rain, rain..."

Next week it is the Festival of Quilts and I am meeting up with my lovely quilting travelling buddies and doing some masterclasses.  I will post some pictures here when I get back.
After having the wettest and coldest springs for years and a very late start to summer, we have now made up for it with Mediterranean like temperatures unheard of in England.  I plan to make the most of the glorious weather while it lasts.  Before we know it, it will be autumn again.


  1. I love your quilts! So awesome! I love love love paper (foundation) piecing!


    1. Thank you Allison, I am starting to love foundation piecing too :-)

  2. I did a google search for Sea Urchin Quilt because I got the pattern for Christmas and am going to start it this week--I love yours, it turned out wonderfully! This is my third Judy Niemeyer quilt, once you figure them out they're easy, aren't they? I agree that they are boring and tedious at times, but the end result is worth it.

    1. I would love to see how yours turn out Laura, any chance you can post some pictures?

    2. Well, it will take me a while to get to the stage where it looks like more than piles of triangles clipped together. Just doing the cutting takes me a few days!