Not to beat a dead horse, but I’ve been really sick. How sick? Ten days away from any stitching, drafting, piecing, knitting or cutting sick. This is highly unusual for me, I often spend at least three or four hours a day performing delicate work with my hands. After so long at rest, I knew I would have a case of “stupid fingers” the moment I picked up my work. “Stupid fingers” happens when I know in my brain what the fabric should do but my hands can’t quite make it happen. I fumble, the fabric slips around, I get grouchy and the sewing takes much longer than it should. I have also seen this in beginners, it’s a great cause of frustration.
But there’s a cure! Quilting helps me overcome “stupid fingers.” I can’t have “stupid fingers,” especially since I’m teaching full knit fabrics masterclass at Piece Together this next weekend. I’m the teacher, my fingers must be nimble and sure!
On Sunday, my husband spent the day out with the boys deep sea fishing (I was still feeling too delicate for that) and my daughter went to visit her grandmother. I took the opportunity to dig up these fabric swatches I bought over a year ago to see where my inspiration would take me.
With the exception of the Panda fabric (which I since decided I’ll use in a Lila-dress-fabrics-quilt at a later date), all of these are swatches from a designer quilt fabric book. When fabric merchants visited the quilting store where I worked, they brought all the latest designs stapled into a cardboard bound book. “Ranges” of fabrics are grouped together to show the effect of the many prints together. The Boss and more experienced staff would leaf through the swatches and place an order for meterage with the merchant.
At some point, I picked up these old swatches from a discontinued range for about $20, thinking I’d turn them into a “scrap” quilt at some point. I like the prints and the colors. Each piece of fabric is a slightly different size, from roughly a fat quarter down to dainty handkerchief size.
Then, once again proving to myself how useful it is to have a huge pictorial database of good ideas, I leafed through my Quilting Pinboard for some good paper-pieced blocks. I like paper piecing. It’s easy to use small scraps and I can create marvelous designs without much pre-cutting. I tend to hoard both scraps and quilt blocks, and every so often I stitch some blocks together for a quilt.
Also, paper piecing is the most satisfying way I can think of to cure “stupid fingers.” It’s easy once you get the hang of it, but paper piecing relies on accuracy in sewing, trimming and pressing. Otherwise, the blocks come out all ugly. The repetition and the accuracy required, as well as the small size of a quilt block make paper piecing perfect for training or re-training sewing fingers.
My sewing room still looks like someone let a Niffler loose in it, so I took advantage of the empty house and set myself up at the dinner table. The ironing board is roughly the same height as the table, I have the iron and the self-heal mat to one side, and my sewing machine on the table. This is fantastic because it means I can build up some good sewing momentum without moving about.
Sigh. Cracked or not, the self heal mat is still useful. I’m not a serious enough quilter to justify replacing this just yet. I used my piping trimmer to guide my seam allowance trimmings because I couldn’t find my proper 1/4″ ruler. It worked well.
My “stupid fingers” made a little mistake with the white along the bottom edge, but I sort of faked it when I stitched the sections of the star block together and it will be fine once it’s quilted. (Shhh!) Once I hit my stride, each of these star sections took me about 15 minutes to make. Each block has 8 sections.
I made the first one very scrappy with white (spotted!) background fabric, just like the one that I pinned. When I read Anna’s post about this block at Six White Horses (she very generously posts the paper piecing template, too!) and saw more colorful variations of this block at The Undercover Crafter, I knew I couldn’t stick to the scrappy/white variation only. It’s too much fun to mix things up! Besides, I figure I’ll run out of fabric for squares and then put them together as seems best. This is not a carefully planned quilt, and I’m fine with that.
Each block is 12″ finished (because I square off my edges, which is not cheating…) and I figure I should have enough blue, green, brown and white fabric for 9 blocks total. That should make a decent sized throw, but not pose such a quilting conundrum that I don’t finish it. These three blocks took quite a while to complete, and I was utterly exhausted at the end of the day. But my fingers felt smarter, and I knew I could get back to drafting and sewing other things without making a big mess.
Do you ever get “stupid fingers”? How do you fix them up? Have you ever paper-pieced? I’d LOVE to see links to your work…
Also- If you’re interested in perspectives on body image and sewing, check out this humorous and sensible post on Sew You Said. As a pattern maker, I definitely believe that “the body is always right.”