Friday 7 September 2012

planning + preparation + process = product

There is a certain amount of planning and preparation that has to take place before embarking on any project, whether a craft, a chore or a home renovation.

In a recent post, Carla of Lollyquiltz talked about preparation in relation to making quilts for “free” from leaders and enders.

Interestingly, I had been thinking along the same lines myself. You see, yesterday was one of the two monthly meetings of Caring Hearts Community Quilting group. I needed a hand stitching project to take along with me. I had finished the last of the appliqué heart blocks last month so I knew I needed to prepare a few blocks.

So, on Wednesday I decided to prepare all the blocks for which I had already cut the fabric –- if i was going to get everything organised to do a couple of blocks, I may as well do them all, right?

It was during this time that I realised just how much preparation goes into quilting projects.

If you are not a knitter, you may not know that the planning stage for knitting and quilting is the same. There is the choice of pattern and materials (whether yarn or fabric) and the gathering together of the necessary tools.

But here the similarity ends. In most knitting situations, once the tools, the yarn and the pattern are gathered together, the knitter can cast on and go straight to the process of knitting. Sometimes hanks or skeins have to be prepared by winding into balls or yarn cakes, but that’s usually about it.

Compare this with the above mentioned hand-appliqué project. I had already cut 18 x 4.5” squares of fabric. Let me walk you through the rest of the preparation.fused heart
  1. Measure and cut 18 x 4.5” squares of iron on fusing.
  2. Set up the Accuquilt Go Baby, the die and the cutting mat.
  3. Put all 18 slippery squares through the die cutter. Throw the outer border in the bin, stack the curling hearts (yes, my fusible comes in a roll).
  4. Put all 18 fabric squares through the die cutter. Throw the outer border in the scrap bin, stack the fabric hearts face down.
  5. Turn iron on to heat. (The ironing board is always up in my sewing room).
  6. Pack up the Accuquilt Go Baby, the die and the cutting mat.
  7. Place one Teflon sheet on the ironing board. Place fabric heart (face down) on sheet, line up fusible, hold tight, cover with second Teflon sheet (I don't want glue on my iron or new ironing board cover),
  8. Lift top Teflon sheet, place another heart (face down) on bottom sheet, line up fusible, replace top Teflon sheet, press.
  9. Repeat Step 8 twice more.
  10. Lift top Teflon sheet, remove first pressed heart (which is now cool enough to touch) at end of ironing board. Repeat Step 8.
  11. Repeat step 11 until there are no more hearts left.
  12. Cut away any excess fusible hanging outside the fabric.
  13. Remove white fabric from drawer. Press.
  14. Take to cutting table. Cut 18 x 6” squares. Stack squares as you go.
  15. Take squares to ironing board.
  16. Place white square on Teflon sheet (still on ironing board). Remove paper from back of heart. Centre heart on square of white fabric using a 6” square ruler to make sure everything lines up correctly. Hold in position, cover with second Teflon sheet. Press.
  17. Remove top Teflon sheet. Pick up white square by corner (keeps the square clean and stops me from burning my fingers on the still hot glue) and move to skinny end of ironing board.stored straded threads
  18. Repeat Steps 15 and 16 seventeen more times, stacking the white squares between each pressing.
  19. Wipe excess moisture from Teflon sheets, roll and store.
  20. Take out the cases of stranded cotton and open them. (In case you are wondering why one is crammed full and the other is not, the case on the right holds the threads of my current cross stitch project).
  21. Find a thread colour that closely matches the fabric of each heart. Go for something slightly darker if an exact match can’t be found. Put aside any heart where no match can be found (a trip to the LQS or Big Box Store will be needed).
  22. Put the hearts that have been matched into the project case, put the matching bobbin of thread into a zip-lock bag.
  23. Put the cases of thread away.
  24. Check that there is a packet of needles, a needle threader, a pair of scissors and a container for scraps in the case before closing.
stitching in progress
The eighteen squares are now ready for hand-stitching! I could have knitted a six inch square with a heart motif in the time it took me to do all that - just as well I love what I do!

Have you ever thought about how much preparation time goes into your sewing projects?


  1. I teach sewing classes for kids. People always complain that classes cost sooo much. If I charged for the prep time they would never be able to afford me or the class. Hahaha. People don't realize how many hours it takes behind the scenes to design a class program, design a pattern, test it, make samples, write the pattern and cut/prep for a class. Whew. I'm tired just thinking about it:)

  2. I always laugh when someone asks how long it took to make a certain quilt. Your post is a case in point that it's much longer than anyone imagines. Thanks for the shout out to my post about leader/enders too!

  3. Lynne, I think this is why I am a knitter! But...I do still have a cupboard shelf full of folded fabrics just in case I change my mind suddenly...

  4. Whew what a lot of work, but sure worth it, especially when (as you said) you love it. :)

  5. Funny you should post about time required for a project. I was just wondering if it was possible for me to finish a decent size project ( not a full quilt ) in one day. I love to finish things but I think I like the fun of creating over time more. It is clear why so many quilters give away or swap their projects. There is just no way to put a price on all the time and effort.

  6. The longest part of making any quilt is the planning and preparation, once you start sewing you are 90% there!

  7. Definitely when you love it, it doesn't seem like much work, right? Having a Accuquilt machine does speed things up though, doesn't it? As oppose to hand cutting?

  8. It does take a lot of work to start a new project. Just reading your steps makes me tired. So how come if it's so much work, we all have a hard time not starting new projects?

  9. Appliqué is definitely big on preparation time. That is why it is nice to have things ready to go so you don't have to start from scratch when inspiration strikes. Bonnie Hunter's scrap user system has made the starting part of pieced quilts go much faster for me. In the end, we all do what we love no matter how long it takes.

  10. there's a reason I don't do as much sewing as knitting. You've set out well why one is more accessible than the other!


Hi. Thanks for dropping in. I look forward to reading your comment.
I like to answer comments; if you are "no-reply blogger" I will try my best to get back to you on your blog! I'm not on FaceBook so I can't contact you there!