Monday, June 13, 2011

Something new

My summer travel season has begun! I love to go places and see things, which kind of cuts into my sewing machine time (especially when I come home, have a mountain of laundry, and am exhausted from the plane-train-automobile thing).

Over Memorial Day weekend, I went to my niece’s lovely wedding in Vermont, a beautiful state which I had never seen, and then came home to prepare for something new for me—a paper piecing class using a Judy Niemeyer pattern. The class was taught by one of Judy’s certified instructors, Catherine Erickson, who came all the way from cool Bemidji, Minnesota, and got to experience Missouri’s June heat wave. (It was 85 degrees at 8 a.m. the day of the class.) I’ve paper-pieced before, years ago, and didn’t like it much. It was tedious and sometimes the pieces didn’t fit exactly, but I decided to give it another try because the quilts constructed with this method are absolutely spectacular. I chose the “Tumbleweeds” pattern, which makes a 78 x 78-inch quilt. That’s a lot of paper piecing. See more of these patterns on Judy’s website at

I collected these 14 fabrics over a period of several months. Yardage is required. I had plenty of batiks in my stash, of course, but not enough of each one.

Good thing I left DAYS to prepare for the class. This pattern was intimidating—the directions are 20 pages long! First, I spent half a day just cutting out the papers. The pattern includes paper templates to cut rectangles and wedges of fabric, plus the paper pieces for the quilt, which you sew directly onto. The second day (and I mean all day), I cut strips of my 14 fabrics, according to the directions in the pattern. As I cut, I made little check marks on the directions to make sure I didn’t miss anything; the directions are that complicated. On the third day, I used the templates to cut the fabric strips into wedges, which took another half day. That was two full days of cutting alone.

An experienced paper piecer who can follow detailed directions could purchase one of these patterns and make a Judy Niemeyer quilt without taking a class, but I’m glad I had the day-long class to start me out. The beauty of using a Judy Niemeyer pattern is that you pre-cut your fabric pieces with templates, and they all fit perfectly. You don’t have to throw away pieces that you’ve cut too small. Catherine’s tips were helpful. She taught us to approach the paper piecing methodically, sewing 4 sections, pressing, trimming, adding another piece, repeat. She showed us how she sews her curved seams using a glue stick to baste the curve! I tried this method but went back to what always works for me. I clip both curved seams, match the ends and centers, then pin and sew. I get a perfect curve every time. Like a lot of other things in quilting, I tried something new, but ended up using what works best for me. In the photo below, you can see my method of sewing the curve. The paper from the pieced unit on top has been partially ripped away.

So I’ve been paper piecing, and piecing, and piecing. This is going to take a while. So far I have 3 of the 13 “wheels” pieced. I think I could go faster if I would quit stepping back and admiring my perfect points and swirling colors! Just SEW!

I’ve had to stop for a few days as I prepare for another niece’s wedding next weekend, this time in Southern Illinois. I dug out a UFO (unfinished object) and decided to quilt it for her. Last minute, naturally.


  1. What a beautiful, really beautiful pattern. Labor intensive but what incredible results. I'm glad you're trying this and we all get to watch along.

  2. It seems I am never home long enough to finish anything--or else I keep choosing projects that are entirely too labor-intensive.