From Improv to Precision

As I have said before, I like traditional, modern, and art quilting. So, having finished the improv mystery, I shifted to precision piecing. Northwest Quilters Guild sponsored a workshop with Sally Collins, known for precision piecing and her miniatures.

Now I’ve seen photos of her miniatures, but that just isn’t the same as seeing a masterpiece made with tiny pieces, like Sedona with borders I’d estimate as 1/4″ triangles. I think everyone at Sally’s talk the night before the workshop was in awe.

Our project for the day was a sawtooth star block; either 3″ or 1 1/2″ or both, using the smaller for the center. I chose the latter.

class block

Sally gave us a plan for a finished product to complete at home. Instead of her pattern, I’m thinking of a sampler. I’ll keep the colors traditional; red and white quilts were once quite popular. I’ll use various shades and tints of red and not worry about using the same white throughout. That much I have planned.

Sally didn’t give a method for making perfect blocks on the first try. Rather she listed the points where care needed to be taken, the times to evaluate, and the details that show we were getting off, even by a thread.  And of course, she gave tips for correcting at each of those points, tips which excluded trimming to size (except for HSTs and QSTs made oversize). Also she made us feel a bit better by telling us she too has to rip and resew. She has written a book, Mastering Precision Piecing, which I imagine covers similar ground as the workshop. (They were sold out before I had a chance to browse.)

One of her tips was to put a weight on a piece while it was hot from pressing (no steam) and to let it sit till it was cool. My weight at home is an antique gasoline iron I bought years ago, and it is pretty heavy.

antique iron

At the workshop, we didn’t weight as we pressed.  A group of around 15 sharing four ironing boards could not tie up the boards to weight their pieces.  Pressing mine and weighting it all at once  at home isn’t giving the desired results. I made another block tonight and pressed as Sally instructed to see how much flatter it would end up.

New star, white center

It is better (and easier to work with at each step), but it still curls. Maybe my weight isn’t heavy enough, or my iron hot enough. I did manage to do other things and wait till it was really cool. Or maybe it needs repeat treatment. I’ll have to experiment.

You can all probably quote the times I have said I don’t rip or the times I’ve advised against ripping out. And I am not claiming to have turned over a new leaf. Not every quilt I make demands that degree of precision. But when they do (like the Storm at Sea on my list, or the Mariners’ Compass), I will have new tools to work with.

I had not planned a “large” 6 1/2″ block as part of my miniature sampler; however, I didn’t think the colors through ahead of time in class; I just started. In this quilt I won’t want blocks alternating background colors, so instead of starting over, I added a star. Maybe I’ll make a modern miniature with “oversized” blocks.

6-inch three-star

Oops. I see we are edging toward 6 3/4 instead of 6 1/2.  I think I’ll let it pass. I’ll not be putting same size blocks together anyway.  My conversion to perfectionist is not complete.

Linking up with Let’s Bee Social, WIP Wednesday, Needle and Thread Thursday and Show Off Saturday. Links in sidebar.


Filed under quilting

8 responses to “From Improv to Precision

  1. Someday I would love to make at least one of the kind of precise, detailed quilt that Sedona represents. I would love to take a workshop with Sally Collins and learn how you get those kinds of results. And then I would probably get part way through the project and think, ‘Eh, this is probably close enough.” We may be related 😉

  2. That is just gorgeous! Even if you’re not converted, you’ve learned a lot and brought some new techniques into your sewing room. I love it!

  3. There is something pleasing about precision piecing, you get that deep sense of accomplishment when it works!

  4. I am pleased to know that your conversion is not complete. =) This is not the pattern I was imagining, thank goodness. This is not insane. Still not gonna do it, though. =) I like your final star, and your evaluation of your learning. I cannot even imagine using a gasoline iron. That’s a little bit scary. I’ll heat really heavy ones in the fire instead!

    • When I bought the gasoline iron, I’d never seen them before. Since then I’ve seen a few more at antique shops. My reaction is like yours: I can’t imagine fire that close to fabric or the heat on the hand. There is an asbestos pad between the fire and the handle, but that gives me small comfort. And I assume you can regulate the height of the flame with the “knob” on the back. Still . . .

      I suppose continuous heat seemed an improvement over the heating and cooling of the stovetop irons.

      On Thu, Apr 16, 2015 at 9:27 AM, knitNkwilt wrote:


  5. I am amazed by how are your points are so perfect on such tiny piecing, beautiful!

  6. I am leaving a second comment to see if I fixed the wordpress issue. Thanks for letting me know about it!

  7. Cher

    a gorgeous block…red and white so classic…enjoy the process

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