Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Tessellations or a plate of noseless brie...


This tiny project - scaled down to be more than 75% smaller than the original pattern - has been sewn together with fragile stitches, fraying seams and fragments of fabric that have been left tattered and feeling out of sorts from the battle they went through under the foot of my sewing machine, but from a distance, at least, it seems to shine.


These are some of the great wodges of seam allowance that went beneath my sewing machine foot. I think it comes down to inexperience that I even attempted to make the pattern at this scale, as while foundation piecing is fantastic for sewing really tiny pieces, I've learnt from this project that I need to study a pattern to make sure that not too many seam allowances are converging at the same point in order for things to end happily. At some points, 14 seams met. It was horrible. (For those confused about the different types of paper piecing - this is foundation paper piecing (FPP) all done by machine and very different from the English paper piecing (EPP), sewn by hand, which I normally do. I've done very little FPP. As is probably apparent).

The photo at the top of this post gives you some sense of scale, but here's a photo of the nail on my ring finger on top of one of the blocks, which might convey its tinyness more clearly.



The actual piecing of the individual blocks went really smoothly - I enjoyed it hugely and loved seeing a pile of precision-pieced blocks gathering on my desk.


And then playing around with possible arrangements on my pin board.


Piecing the blocks into rows was relatively successful...but piecing the rows to one another was quite disastrous and at this point everything began to go horribly wrong. If I was reading this blog post, I'd really want to see close-up photos of the finished piece, because as sewists, it's the details and finish that we really want to see and study so that we can learn ourselves...so I'm going to have to ask you to look on this piecing with kind eyes, because technically, it's an absolute eyesore and I feel slightly like I'm sharing photos of myself wearing just my underwear by posting these photos! Brace yourself.


The blocks which had once been so crisp and precise, quickly became quite the opposite. The fans of graduating colour distorted into swirls with such definition that it began to look as though it were an intentional design feature (note especially the ones at the bottom of the photo below!).



Blocks refused to meet up politely, stitches bulged under the tension of trying to hold so many layers together and points became blunted, as though I were wielding a cheeseboard laden with brie where the nose had been cut from each.




And yet, I find myself drawn to looking at it. Despite its obvious flaws, it feels as though it is more textural and tactile than anything I've ever made. Although it is so very far from the result I was hoping for, I don't feel traumatised by the ruination of so many carefully constructed blocks, but oddly fascinated by them. When it comes to sewing, I am a perfectionist, so faced with having produced this I find myself slightly stunned by its blatant flouting of this type of aspiration...but not stunned in a negative way necessarily. More like a surprised: Oh my goodness! So the world really doesn't end if the points don't meet!


I'd originally intended to hang it in our hallway, but instead it now hangs in my sewing room. It makes me happy to look at it: a cosy and joyful-looking testament to how things can still look overall okay, even if the details aren't all lined up looking present and correct. I'm enjoying the contrast of looking at it from a distance where I feel really quite thrilled by all the colour and sparkle and then sidling by for a close-up of the true horror of it and just thinking: Wow! That's really terrible!

I always assume that most sewists are perfectionists, as I imagine one of the things that pushes us to constantly start new projects is the wish to learn, progress, to become better and more skilled at what we do, so I'd love to hear how you felt if you've ever had to face a project ending so differently from your own expectations in terms of a complete technique fail. Do you find a way to embrace it or do you squirrel it away quietly in a drawer...which you don't open very often? My normal response is the latter, so I've surprised myself in my reaction to this one!

Florence x

Ps. Please don't be put off buying this incredibly lovely pattern by reading about my own misadventures - my only difficulty with it came from down-scaling it so heavily.
Pps. I know foundation piecing is perfect for sewing really minuscule pieces, but I've no idea if dealing with this many converging seams at such a small scale is all in day's work for a really competent foundation piecer - I'd love to know if it would be possible to get really amazing pinpoint results with this pattern with more practise or whether it just wasn't the right pattern to scale down in this way.
Pps. And have you seen these incredible miniature quilts?

22 comments:

  1. This is so beautiful I almost swooned when the page loaded. It is all of life and colour in those tiny triangles. Just gorgeous.

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  2. I love the texture that resulted from the bulk in the seams. I think it looks great. The colours are fantastic and it looks more like a piece of art when it isn't perfect. Like brush strokes on canvas.

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  3. Wow, it really is amazing both in colour and texture - I just want to run my hand over it. It's really a gorgeous piece! Who cares about the minor flaws when you have all this is return?
    P.S. I ate all the brie noses.

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  4. I love all of the movement and color. I'm usually quite embarrassed by my misadventures. I like your attitude. I enjoy FPP but would also appreciate a more experienced person to help with the multiple layers meeting problem. I have stuggled with this quite a few times resulting in a very bumpy piece which was hard to quilt. Luckily for me, my duaghter is blind to my ugly sewing and gladly squirrels away my rejects. I often find small things I've made pinned to her walls.

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  5. Thank you for this post! I have had some trouble with star-design FPP quilts and their points - - I really hope someone has some good advice to post. I am also a perfectionist. I took a goldwork embroidery class once that was supposed to lead me through producing a little box to hang on the Christmas tree. The goldwork went really well and then I messed it all up at home constructing the box. I threw it away thinking I would just let go of the failure and move on. I didn't know, but my husband fished the goldwork panel out of the bin and kept it. When I found it, 2 years later, he said he thought I might want it one day. Isn't that sweet? Now it hangs in my craft room to remind me that there can be success within failure and a little pretty within a big ugly. But back to your piece - it *is* really lovely from a distance - maybe there's another technique that would produce a similar effect? I don't know, but I think that thinking about failures can be a great way to discover something new.

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  6. I think you were so brave to attempt something on this scale. Try not to be too hard on yourself. At a distance the effect is fabulous. I am just about to attempt some small FPP blocks for a challenge set in a small group. I think very accurate sewing and pressing may be the clue to success. I bought a Clover mini iron which I am hoping will help with these kind on blocks and appliqué.

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  7. I love it. I really think you are being overly hard on yourself, which I completely understand if it isn't what you envisaged. Think of it through the lens of how you would react if someone gave it to you. Totally different, right?

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  8. You are working where art and craft join and overlap, and this lovely piece of art is appealing to a different part of your creative self. Sorry if that sounds pompous!

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  9. i also think you are being too hard on yourself! i appreciate knowing about your learnings on this project, but i think the end result is so beautiful and textured. and i'm pretty sure no one else would look at it and see any issues with it!

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  10. I loved this post. Thank you for showing us that all doesn't always come our perfectly for you. I always assume it's just me that sometimes gets unplanned wonkiness. Knowing it happens to someone like you makes me feel less inadequate.

    That being said, to my eyes, your piece is gorgeous. I love the palette and the miniscule shards of color. Even the slight waviness contributes to the shimmering, fractured effect.

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  11. Florence, you are quite mad to have done such a teeny-tiny version! But it looks amazing, like a beautiful painting. I've got an enormous, very heavy, hand-knitted coat that I embarked on about a decade ago with no pattern and very little knitting experience. I dread to think how many hours of knitting it contains and now that it's finished it is remarkably (but not surprisingly) unflattering. I have no idea what to do with/about it! So for the moment it hides in the bottom of the wardrobe. But on the embracing-of-failure side, my boyfriend recently decided he would do the sewing himself to reattach the binding on one of our blankets. He's not exactly a sewist and when it all started going wrong, instead of stopping, he kept his foot on the pedal while exclaiming "argh! oh no!", then examined his work, determined it to be an improvement (on the binding hanging off completely), and returned the blanket to the bedroom. x

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  12. Wow! I say this lovingly... that's INSANE! Insanely awesome!

    Every sewing project I feel at some point I have to let go. It's never 100% how I envisioned it but I always come way learning something new!

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  13. I really like this! It looks so unusual and the colors are all so vibrant! I don't know anything about either EPP or FPP, but from where I stand, this is a complete success.

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  14. You have made an amazing piece of art! The only suggestions I have that may help improve the bulkiness are to press the final seams open; use some sort of starch and a seam clapper, piece of wood, or quilting ruler weighted down, to flatten the seams, if you haven't tried these fixes already. Sue

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  15. This is wonderful! I love the effect of the slightly wavy horizontal seams and the visible stitches. I've just started learning about FPP, drawn by its preciseness, and it's so lovely to see the many types of beauty -- perfect and imperfect -- it's able to create.

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  16. It's absolutely stunning! I love all the character it has with its wonky bits but wow you must have been getting mad at the machine! I know exactly what you mean about wanting to hide things away in a drawer but I have learnt that I always notice things a lot more than everyone else, and I have grown to love the mistakes in some things as what make the item. I'm glad you are able to see the beauty in this one too!

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  17. I still think this is absolutely beautiful. My sewing is always far from perfect but I really love the creative process and I always learn something! I've just bought 'Little quilts' by Sarah Fielke and Amy Lobsiger. I'm really looking forward to trying the different designs and I might even attempt FPP...

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  18. That is simply intoxicating! I can understand why you keep looking at it ;) I am definitely not a perfectionist...but sometimes the results are disappointing, perfectionist or not! This is not one of those times for you though!

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  19. It's beautiful, missing points and all! Would pressing the final seams open help at all? How about pressing and then flattening (with either your hand or a book - I tend to stand the iron on the book for added weight!) until it's cool? I also wonder whether grading some of the seams would help as it would reduce the bulk. You can also cut the seam allowance down to 1/8" for very small FPP, which may also help

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  20. Wow! I love this pattern in solid colours! Yes, you were a bit crazy to downsize it so drastically, but kudos on seeing it through to the end. It still looks great, and I hope you get lots of enjoyment from it! You've inspired me and I've just bought the pattern (although I'll be using it at full size!)

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  21. All of the world would benefit from knowing that the world doesn't end if the points don't meet!! I love your end product and am so glad you love it too.

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  22. Thank you so much for all your kind and generous comments. I'm so sorry I haven't had time to reply to them individually this week, but I appreciated every one of them. x

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Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a message - it's always really lovely to hear from people.

I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x

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