Ok, peeps, time for our first progress check-in! I’m moving along at a steady, though not especially speedy, pace. I was cruising along, but had to take a detour to work on a little gift project. Now I’m back at it as my main project – out of my 144 finished blocks, here’s where I stand:
– 11 completed blocks
– 19 pinned for appliqué
– 20 peels basted
– 17 peels ready for basting
I can’t say exactly if I’ve met my 21-peels-per-week quota, my progress isn’t moving in such a linear fashion. It seems to make more sense for me to cut a big stack at once / spend a full evening just basting / settle in for a long stretch of appliqué. But I feel like I’m on track so far – and loving it very much. The hand-stitching is soothing, and although I worried just a touch that, after already completing one orange peel wall quilt, I’d be ready to move on before I managed to finish this one, I can’t get enough. I love matching the backgrounds to the peels in adorable combinations and watching them come together. So, basically, so far so good. This project is exactly what I need right now.
So, how are you doing with your peels? Are you enjoying it? Have you run into any problems I or the group can help with? Tell us all about it!
Oh, and before I forget – I didn’t start it myself, but a tag for this quilt-along has popped up with us Instagram users anyway! So if you’re an Instagram user and post as you work, tag your photos with #orangepeelqal2014 to share with the group. But don’t forget to share them here when we check-in, even if you’re posting elsewhere!
Today I’ll show you how to applique your orange peels onto your backing squares. This is the last thing you need to learn in order to go off on your own and whip up your 36 / 144 blocks!
First, press your peels. Leave the freezer paper and basting stitches exactly as they are, just press them so they lay nice and flat.
Then, place your peel on your backing square so that it is on the diagonal and centered. But don’t forget, our squares are a little larger than we really need, so there’s no need to go crazy being exact about it. The simplest way to mark your square for placement is to just make a light finger-pressed fold on the diagonal and align your peel ends to it:
You’ll want to place it so there’s even spacing on either end – but again, eyeballing it will be fine since we’ll trim it to the exact seam allowance later. Place a couple of pins, keeping everything as flat as you can.
Now, we want to start sewing at around the mid-point of one side so that we can stop a couple of inches short at the end to pull the freezer paper out. Basically: sew around the peel, leaving a 2″-ish gap at the end – does that make sense? This is one of those things that’s silly to describe but easy to do, so read through the rest before start and you’ll see what I mean.
Thread a hand-sewing or applique needle with thread that matches your peel, tie a good knot, and then come up through the backing square, catching a tiny bit of the edge of your peel – about mid-way along one peel side. (Note: You want to catch a few threads of your peel fabric but not the freezer paper inside! Yet again, if you’ve sewn any paper pieces hexagons together, this is very similar.)
Your knot will be at the back of your work, and your thread will now be coming out through the peel, having caught the tiniest stitch possible on its way through. In this same way – taking a stitch through the backing fabric and catching a teeeensy stitch of peel at the same time – work your way all the way around your peel, stopping about 2″ from where you started.
In the above photo, I’m mid-stitch and I’ve already done about a inch. Your goal is to catch so little of the peel fabric that your stitches are barely visible. This is why you use a thread to match the peel fabric, it helps to keep them as hidden as possible.
When you reach the pointy ends, take one stitch exactly at the point and tuck in (or fold under) that little tail as you go:
When you’ve got about a 2″ gap remaining, pause your stitching and remove the basting stitches with a seam ripper:
Then reach inside your peel and remove the freezer paper:
This isn’t always easy, sometimes you have to root around a bit to get it unstuck, and sometimes they tear. This is why I said you can usually re-use the applique shapes. If they come out in one piece, they’ll be a little rumpled, but that’s ok, just set it aside to re-use for another peel.
Now you can simply continue stitching until you’re back where you started (the shape’s edge will be nicely defined because you pressed your peel before you started), then bring your needle to the back and tie off with a knot. Huzzah, one block done! This is what your finished block will look like on the back:
And from the front:
Now you are fully equipped to make all 36 / 144 of your blocks. From today, we have just about 7 weeks until the next tutorial, during which we’ll all be peel-ing and applique-ing away, and hopefully sharing our progress regularly. (I’ll post here about every 10 days or so, and leave link-ups on each post.) Of course there’s no obligation to be finished with every single block by then, but if you aim to, here’s a little progress guideline:
- For the wall quilt, you should aim for about 5-6 finished blocks per week. - For a lap quilt, your goal is 20-21 finished blocks per week.
Honestly, that sounds a lot more serious than it is, especially for us lap quilt (or larger) makers. It takes me about 20 minutes to make each block, basting and applique combined. Admittedly, I’ve made a whole bunch now and I’m used to the process, but after a few, I’m sure you’ll be just as quick. That means it’ll take me around 6 hours a week, or the equivalent of 2-3 hand-stitchy evenings. In my world, that’s totally do-able.
But of course, don’t feel that those are anything more than guidelines. Go your own way! You might like to make one finished block at a time, or maybe you’d rather make all of your peels first, then applique them (but keep in mind that you can’t reuse your freezer paper peels if you go that route). However you approach it, let me know at any time (by email / blog comment / Twitter @juliezryan / Instagram @juliezryan) if you run into trouble, and promise you’ll show your progress often!
Ok, are we ready for the next step? Here’s all of my 6″ squares, 144 of ‘em:
But don’t worry if you haven’t cut all of your squares yet – in fact, you’ll only need one to follow this week’s tutorials, and then you can go ahead and cut one at a time if you like, it’s totally up to you.
So let’s learn how to make peels!
First you’ll need a peel template – here’s one I prepared earlier:
You can print the template, cut it out, then trace it on to card or a thin cardboard (like a cereal box, for example) – or you can simply print directly onto card (which is what I did). The point is to have a sturdy template, because you’ll be tracing it quite a few times.
(Note: when you print, make sure to print to actual size or choose ‘no scaling’ – and the template includes a 1″ block for testing, so double-check that before you continue.)
Using your sturdy template, you will trace the peel shape onto your freezer paper and cut out the applique shapes:
Technically, you’ll need one freezer paper peel per finished peel (so either 36, or 144, or your custom number), but in theory, you *should* be able to reuse them at least once, so I suggest cutting no more than half of what you need to start with. I cut about 60 or so, for now.
In case you’ve never used freezer paper before, here’s how you apply it to your fabric. Check out one of your applique shapes – you’ll see one side is shiny and slick and the other side is papery:
The shiny side is what will stick to your fabric. So press one of your peel fabrics and place a freezer paper shape, shiny side down, onto your fabric with 1/4″ seam allowance all around it. With your iron set to cotton (no steam), simply press down on the shape and it will stick to your fabric. It’s magic!
How long you need to press for full stuck-ness will of course depend on your iron, but I usually hold for a few seconds to get an initial stick, then go over everything a few times once I have a few shapes stuck. As you stick multiple shapes next to each other, make sure to leave at least 1/2″ between them!
(Note: for those of you making the wall quilt, you should have plenty of peel fabric to be casual with your placement. If you’re making the lap quilt, you’ll need to get 12 peels from each FQ, so you might want to lay them all out first to make sure they all fit properly before you press. Also, there’s no reason to lay them out diagonal like I have, just lay them out however you like!)
Now with sharp fabric scissors, cut out each peel with at least 1/4″ seam:
I tend to cut with a slightly bigger seam allowance, just because it’s a little easier to manage and it does no harm to have a bit more fabric to hold later – but it’s not necessary.
Now we’ll baste the seams under. If you’ve ever done any English Paper Piecing, this will be very familiar. Grab your basting / scrap thread and a fairly sturdy needle -
- and starting at one pointy end, fold the seam allowance down over the freezer paper:
Knot the thread and pull it through so that the knot is on the right side of your peel. This will will make your basting stitches easier to remove later. Now using big stitches (about 1/4″-ish) and folding as you go, baste through all layers all around the peel.
At the pointy ends, just fold the second side over the first and stitch through all layers. As I said: if you’ve ever paper pieced a hexagon, you’ll know exactly what to do.
Unlike hexagons, though, you’ll notice that your fabric gathers a little as you stitch. That’s totally fine, we’ll press them flat later.
Here’s what your peels should look like, right and wrong side:
And that’s it. As always, let me know if you have any questions, and I’ll show you how to applique your peels to your squares on Thursday Friday (the 19th)!
I’m so sorry, friends, but some big Real Life stuff has happened and I hope you will understand that I need to take a week before we continue with our quilt-along. I’m just not able to get everything ready by tomorrow for the next steps.
I’ve delayed the coming posts by exactly one week – so we’ll make our next steps on Tuesday the 16th. I’ve already updated the schedule to reflect the delay. In the meantime, keep cutting your squares and I’ll check out the links and comments you’ve left as soon as I can.
Ok, I’ve officially decided to swap my fabrics around, so I’m cutting my background pinks. If you’ve picked your fabrics – or some of them, at least* – let’s get cutting!
Basically, this is the simplest part of the whole project:
From each of your fat quarters, cut NINE 6″ squares.
- If you are making the wall quilt, you will need to cut a total of 36 squares.
- If you are making a lap quilt, you will need to cut a total of 144 squares.
(And if you’re working on a custom size, you know your number.)
A quick note about square size: if you’re a real smartypants, you might notice that we are finishing with 5″ squares in our quilt, so why a half-inch seam allowance in the cutting process? That’s just to make things extra fool-proof. When you appliqué your peels, you’ll need to position them just so on the background squares. If you’re off just a little bit – and how could you not be, really, it’s hand-stitching – and you have no extra room to account for it later, it could get messy. We will trim away the extra 1/4″ later, based on exact placement of the peels, which takes away the need for exact perfection now.
Also, working by hand will no doubt cause a little fraying and whatnot, so if we’re able to trim them clean later, we don’t have to worry about that as we stitch either.
And that’s that. Get cutting!
(*Don’t forget: you can totally get started cutting and stitching even if you don’t have all of your fabrics picked out. You’ll work just one square at a time, so you always add more squares to the pile as you go.)