A few months ago Di B made a really pretty mini braid quilt, in a Blanket of Love size, and after some persuasion she agreed to demonstrate, at St Mark's Quilters yesterday, how to create those intricate looking braids.
Having always thought I'd like to make a braid quilt, but putting it in the 'too hard' basket, I looked forward to having the process demystified.
Coincidentally, Sydneysiders woke to a literal fog yesterday morning. No ferries were running on the Harbour in this pea-souper, and planes were being diverted from landing at Sydney Airport.
This was my view of the city. A forest of high-rise towers was out there somewhere, but I couldn't see the forest beyond those trees ;-)
Di's instructions for our little lesson were to bring around half an icecream container of scraps cut into 1 inch wide strips, but I sorted mine into pink, blue, green and yellow, and graded them from dark to light. I had a plan ;-)
The secret to these particular mini braids, with 'strands' that finished a tiny half an inch wide, lay in using foundation papers.
If you're not familiar with this, it's a technique where the fabrics are laid on one side of the pre-printed paper and the stitching is done along the marked lines, following a numbered order, on the other side.
There were more than a few tiny cries of anguish from around the room, and some 'frog stitching' (rippit,rippit) until we each managed to find our rhythm and began building up some very pretty braids.
In the picture below, clockwise from top right, are braids-in-progress by Di C, Gail, Gillian and Barb.
I think you'll agree that, as techniques go, it looks a little messy, and it takes a little imagination to envisage the end result. It's not until all those 'strands' (in this case, 48 of them) have been stitched to the foundation paper that it can be turned to the back and all those raggedy edges trimmed off using a ruler and rotary cutter.
Here's my first braid once I'd finished and trimmed it.
Di B sewed along with us too, making another braid quilt out of left overs from her first. This pattern is just wonderful for quilters like us who feel we have to squirrel away every tiny scrap!
The final step, before you can use those pretties, is to remove the paper, and there are a couple of techniques you can use before you start that might make this easier.
* Set your machine to use a very short stitch. This makes it much easier to tear the paper along those stitching lines. Of course it makes for extra stress if you need to do any unpicking. Ask me how I know.
* My friend Sue M likes to use a Hera marker (from Clover) and a ruler to score along the stitching lines on her foundation paper before she starts. If you have the patience to do this (I didn't) take care that you're not too heavy handed as you can weaken the paper.
* Another friend Perdita 'sewed' along the lines before starting, using her machine without her needle threaded. You can see the perforations in my photo of her braid below. I think the key here is, again, not to weaken the paper too much, so using a longer stitch length would be helpful.
As usual there was plenty happening at St Mark's Quilters.
Michaela popped in to see us with a finished kindy quilt and some very cute show-and-tell, a Cat in the Hat themed kindy quilt just waiting for the binding to be stitched down.
Susie stitched away at her machine and finished a pretty fairy tale pink Blanket of Love.
Gail arrived with this soft little Blanket of Love all finished.
Barb had two cute Blankets of Love finished.
And Perdita arrived with three lovely Blankets of Love tucked under her arm!
It's great to see quilters like Perdita becoming more confident as they sharpen their free motion quilting skills with these manageable little quilts.
And I mustn't forget to say we had fun!