I’ve been a bit slow the last couple of weeks due to other commitments, but here are 36 more hexagons to bring the total to 108 (I need 365).
I don’t know why the gallery tool always has to make one image larger instead of arranging them 2 x 2 — I’ll have to try and remember to upload in sets of three in future.
As you can see from the images, I have exhausted the scrap drawers and am now working my way through the colour drawers, so there will be less colour variation within sets from now on.
I’ve also bought a couple more blacks so now I have the required 14 (actually 13, since rings 1 and 2 will use the same fabric). I still like the idea of arranging the hexagons with lights in the middle and darks around the edge, so I took the black fabrics and tried to arrange them in value order. It was interesting to compare the fabrics as they are versus how they look in black and white — some of them appear slightly blue under the flash (I also had some that had a brownish tone but I removed them completely).
Ignore the large smudge at upper left — I have cleaned the camera lens since then.
It took a few tries, checking with the camera, but this is the probable order (except that I will swap 4 and 5):
The fabric marked X is lovely but I don’t have enough of it so if I use it at all it will be for borders and / or binding.
Size: 232 cm x 278 cm (92″ x 110″)
Design: Based on “Stained Glass Quilt Designed by Bob”, modified by me
Fabric: all cotton, various designs and manufacturers
Machine: Janome Horizon MemoryCraft 9400QCP
Batting: Matilda’s Own 60%wool / 40% polyester
Backing: Kennard & Kennard digital print 212, 108″ wide
Cut: January & March 2019
Pieced: April 2019.
Top assembled & basted: September 2022
Quilted: October 2022 and January 2023
Bound: January 2023
I’ve been attracted to bright, gold-accented oriental-style fabrics for many years — the Hoffman Antique Kimono fabric that I used for Serenity (still a WIP) was one of the first I bought, and at the time I thought it was the most beautiful fabric I’d ever seen. Since then I’ve bought more at almost every opportunity. Sometimes I was sensible and bought a pack of fat quarters, sometimes I let myself buy two or three metres. Some of them are authentic Japanese fabrics, but most are the faux-oriental designs by Hoffman, Kaufman, Benartex et al.
Obviously I was looking for a pattern that would show them to their best advantage, and that meant large pieces. On the other hand, some of the fabrics were quite small-scale and would appear dull in a large piece. Eventually I decided on a stained glass block which could accommodate all scales.
My pattern inspiration was the “Stained Glass Quilt designed by Bob” which used to be on Craftsy/Bluprint but has since disappeared.
I changed the proportions to make an 18″ block and then designed an alternate block to allow for smaller fabric designs. I later found out that my altered proportions made the quilt very close to the Asian Scrappy Road design by Nancy Scott.
When I eventually hauled the orientals out of the cubby (which was full to overflowing) I found that I had 87 different fabrics … and that didn’t include the panels! I divided them into large, medium and small scale designs, and made sure that the square pieces were cut from the appropriate scale design. The rectangles were cut from the rest of the strips, taking care to ensure that horizontal and vertical rectangles were cut in the correct orientation. I decided not to use a few of the fabrics that were too white but I definitely used over 80.
It took me four days to cut them all, mainly because it was during the heatwave in early January 2019 and I could only stay in the sewing room for a half-hour at a time before I started dripping sweat on the rulers. Naturally, after finishing the cutting I found that the fabric pile looked no smaller than when I’d started. All the purple, pink and teal fabrics went into the Serenity 2 project box; the green, orange and brown fabrics went to the Autumn Leaves project box; and I used some of the red leftovers in an Aussie Heroes quilt which featured a dragon panel. I’ll have to think of something for the blues.
The black sashing fabric is Emma Louise cotton (also from Japan), and all the strips were cut on 27 March 2019 (the wrong width — I ended up having to trim every single one). It’s a lovely matte black, very soft and easy to handle.
The blocks were sewn in April 2019. I then found that I had assembled some of the blocks incorrectly, but I would have had to take them completely apart to fix them and I’m too lazy for that. Instead I worked out how to arrange the blocks in a way that minimised the impact of the error.
It was interesting to see that most of the real Japanese fabrics appear a little dull in comparison with the American fabrics and they never have metallic pigments — they only use gold in silk, never in cotton. They do, however, use textured weaves which add variety to the feel of the quilt. In the above picture, both fabrics at bottom right are Japanese — you can see the texture in the purple one. All the fabrics along the top are American, with gold accents.
Like many of my quilting projects it was on hold for a few years while I concentrated on doll dressmaking. Eventually, in July 2022, I took the blocks up to a friend’s place and we spent an hour laying them out.
I knew that there would be some clashes of colour and some places where the same fabric occurred very close together in different blocks, but after several rearrangements and a few photos we settled on a final layout with most of the lighter fabrics at the top and most of the fishes at the bottom (for some reason my friend Sue was not at all comfortable with the thought of fish designs at neck level). The layout photo is courtesy of Sue’s phone camera.
Assembly of the top was delayed for a couple of months while my machine went for a service but then it was back to Sue’s for basting, which was a combination of spray adhesive and safety pins.
I found a multicoloured wide backing fabric that went well with the colours on the front, so I didn’t have to do any piecing on the back.
Since many of the fabrics are quite dark I considered using a charcoal wool/polyester batt — I had one in queen size (95″ x 108″) — but I had to discard that idea for two reasons: firstly, there are a couple of fabrics where grey or white under the fabric made a big difference; and, secondly, my quilt top ended up being 92″ x 110″ which was too large for that batt (like an idiot, I’d only added up the block sizes and left out the border). As chance had it, I had one king size batt in the stash which I bought for Pentastic but hadn’t used and since I’m never likely to make a quilt this size again I figured I’d use it for this one. It was my first time using a wool batt and I was very happy with how it handled. I was expecting a lot more bearding but there wasn’t much at all, and it didn’t create as much “fluff” on the surface as a cotton batt does.
I knew that the size of the quilt would make it heavy so it needed a lot of quilting to support it. I also knew that the top is too busy for any complex quilting design to be visible, so I decided on a very simple triple diagonal grid, worked in a tan Rasant thread that looks gold when it’s stitched but isn’t as fragile as a rayon or metallic thread. On the back I used another Rasant thread in dark brown. I had done about 90% of it when the machine crashed with a bobbin jam and had to go back to the service centre so completion was delayed by a few weeks.
The quilting looks fantastic from a distance but I know how many wobbles there are in those supposedly straight lines. There are one or two more visible goofs (as shown above) but not many. The quilting took about 20 hours and I went through at least 15 bobbins, possibly more.
For the binding I used more Emma Louise black — I toyed with the idea of using a gold-on-black fabric but I knew that the gold would wear off very quickly and it wouldn’t contribute anything to the design. The binding was attached at the back and stitched down by machine on the front, because our January sewing day was moved up a fortnight and I didn’t have time to do the binding by hand (I can only do a little at a time because of my hand issues, and I’d rather spend my hand-sewing time doing hexagons).
I took the quilt to Sue’s place for photography — we had hoped to use her Hills Hoist but it didn’t go high enough. Her husband brought out two stepladders and he and I held the quilt up while Sue operated the camera. The shot isn’t perfect but our situation was perilous — as most of you know (or should know) the highest point on a stepladder, be it the top step or a guide pole, should never be lower than your waist. I was on the second top step with no guide pole, and my balance isn’t great at the best of times. I wish Keith had gone up another step (he’s holding the right side on the picture, the one that’s drooping) but while I can take risks with my own safety I can’t tell others to do the same.
If you’re wondering where the “incorrect” blocks are, they start at bottom left and go diagonally up to second top on the right. If you can follow that line without losing track you’re better than I am.
Finally, I had to find a better name for the quilt than “Oriental Stained Glass” which was its working title for four years. Given the number of koi fish in the fabrics I eventually decided on 鯉と寝る (Koi to Neru) which is a near translation of “Sleeping with the Fishes”. Yes, my sense of humour is that weird.
A few more detail pictures:
(Apologies for the spider webs in the background — it’s been so wet I haven’t cleaned the balcony in a long time.)
1. Measure twice, cut once!
2. Have a block diagram beside your machine when compiling complex blocks (especially if you are making two similar but not identical blocks).
3. Massive quilts are a massive pain to handle.
In this post I will be assessing several glue sticks (not liquid glues) and some ways to hold templates together as you sew. As with yesterday’s post, all items were bought in Australia except where noted, and all prices are in Australian dollars. Prices may vary from store to store.
1. Glues: Sewline, Sue Daley, Matilda’s Own, Roxanne, June Tailor, Bostick
I have to preface this section by stating that I live in Canberra which usually has pretty low humidity. There were some days where I had to apply the glue one side (that is, one inch) at a time because it was drying so fast that I couldn’t get the fabric to stick if I left it longer. I also lost a bit of glue from the Sue Daley pen when a lid wasn’t put on tightly enough and 5 mm of the glue stick dried out overnight.
Sewline Cost: $11.55 for a pen with 2.2 g glue plus one replacement cartridge ($2.63 / g) Refills available: $16.50 for 6 ($2.75 each or $1.25 / g) or $58.50 for 20 ($2.92 each or $1.33 / g) Country of Manufacture: Japan Width of glue: 8 mm (5/16″) Colour: blue, dries clear (refills are also available in pink)
The 8 mm width is perfect for small templates. The glue goes on smoothly and the colour makes it easy to see where you have and haven’t applied it. Drying time is pretty fast (5-10 seconds) and removal is easy from most template types, especially if the glue has had 24 -48 hours to dry fully. I was able to glue-baste 23 hexagon flowers from one cartridge (966 inches) but obviously your usage may vary according to how much you put on at a time, what template material you are using and the humidity of your house. Note that the larger refill pack is more expensive per gram than the smaller pack.
Sue Daley Cost: $11.55 for a pen with 2.2 g glue plus one replacement cartridge ($2.63 / g) Refills available: $15 for 6 ($2.50 each or $1.14 / g) Country of Manufacture: Japan Width of glue: 8 mm (5/16″) Colour: Pink, dries clear
This is identical to the Sewline pen apart from the colour of the glue. Both are made in Japan and both use the same replacement cartridge. I’m not sure if they are made in the same factory but it’s likely. The refills are slightly cheaper than for Sewline. The above illustration shows a Sewline refill cartridge fitted to a Sue Daley pen, so they really are identical.
Matilda’s Own Cost: $7.95 for a pen with 2.2 g glue ($3.61 / g) (no refill included) Refills available: $42 for 12 ($3.50 each or $1.59 / g) Country of manufacture: South Korea Width of glue: 8 mm (5/16″) Colour: blue, dries clear
Although sold as “Matilda’s Own” this is made in Korea and intended for the Japanese market (all the text on the pen is in Japanese). It uses the same pen and cartridge design as Sewline & Sue Daley. I felt (but cannot quantify) that it is slightly more adherent than the above glues and it’s the one for which I have ordered refills. It is the most expensive, though, and for people on a tight budget it’s probably not worth the additional cost over Sue Daley / Sewline. Also, if anyone can tell me the original brand name I’d be obliged — I can make out the kana but not the kanji.
Roxanne Cost: $13.95 for pen with 6 g glue ($2.33 / g) Refills available: no Country of Manufacture: China Width of glue: 12 mm (about ½”) Colour: clear This glue is very, very greasy (I don’t think it’s actually grease but it feels like it). It takes a long time to dry, it leaves a lot of residue on templates and if it gets on your fingers it won’t wipe off easily (nor will it lick off — I had to go to the sink and scrub it off). I found that it worked best on the very porous Paper Pieces / cardboard templates (even then it wasn’t very good) and worst on Mylar (almost useless — it did dry eventually but took around ten minutes). It was also more difficult to remove the centre papers. I would not recommend this glue if you have alternatives.
June Tailor Cost: $8.20 for 8 g pen ($1.03 / g) Refills available: no Country of Manufacture: Taiwan Width of glue: 16 mm (5/8″) Colour: purple, dries clear
This glue doesn’t feel quite as greasy as the Roxanne and it dries more quickly. but it’s definitely less effective than the three pens. The wider stick width makes precision usage very difficult, especially on the Eppiflex, where a lot of it ended up in the cut lines. It adhered adequately on very porous templates, such as the Paper Pieces and the medical forms, but poorly on the slightly glossy Sue Daley / Sewline templates and even worse on Mylar.
The stick is the same size and shape as the non-sewing 8g glue sticks such as Uhu and Bostick that you find in stationery stores. The design of the stick does not allow for replacement cartridges so you would have to buy another whole pen, but on a gram for gram basis it’s cheaper than the other sewing brands.
Bostick Cost: $2.18 for pack of 2 @ 8g ($0.14 / g) (might have been a special price), $3.95 for 21 g ($0.19 / g) Refills available: no Country of manufacture: China Width: 16 mm (5/8″) Colour: deep blue, dries clear
Having seen that the June Tailor stick was the same design as UHU / school glue sticks and that the Roxanne stick felt very much like it, I tried to find one to compare. I couldn’t find UHU but I did find a Bostick glue stick in OfficeWorks (along with several other copycat products). I found that it was pretty much identical to the June Tailor glue in feel, adhesiveness, drying time and removal. It’s not as greasy in feel as the Roxanne stick. The colour was very strong to start with but it definitely dries clear. It is also the cheapest of all by a considerable margin.
For small pieces a narrow applicator is appreciably easier to use (because no matter how often you tell yourself you’ll tilt it on edge, you always end up with it vertical), and of the three pens I tried I preferred Matilda’s Own. However, the plastic-to-glue ratio is much higher in these pens and the price per gram of glue is also high. The two wide applicators (June Tailor and Bostick) were more or less the same in effect as each other and I don’t think you’ll harm your fabric by using the cheap glue from your office supply store rather than the more expensive June Tailor brand (as long as you check that it does dry clear and that it is washable). The only one I would advise against is the Roxanne glue stick because I hate the feel of it on my fingers.
Widely available, these generally have enough strength to hold small pieces together. They are best for holding the first few petals to the centre or each other, when the peg can be at the bottom, but can get in the way for the last couple of petals and can be dislodged easily. Because they are so long I find that they don’t catch the thread as often as the Wonder Clips.
Wonder Clips Cost: $8.00 for 25 ($0.32 per clip)
Wonder Clips hold the pieces together quite well but they are easily knocked awry and they catch the thread frequently. Their small size makes them more versatile than pegs when sewing together larger modules. They do take away some of the strain of holding pieces together but that’s about all I can say. (Sorry for the stock image, I can’t find my container of Wonder Clips at the moment.)
SewTite magnets Cost: $30 for 5 dots – $6 per dot Magnet size: 15 mm diameter; 177 mm2
These magnets are great for holding pieces together. I bought the $20 mixer pack (small bar, large bar and dot) and I’ve only used the dot, but the bars would be useful for larger pieces. The dots are covered in plastic and are about ¾” (18 mm) in diameter. They are smooth and don’t catch the thread at all. Unfortunately the magnet is so strong that it jumps to the steel when it gets close and can be difficult to separate from it. After some experimentation I found that the best way to attach it was to align my pieces, place the steel disc underneath and then bring the magnet down on top. Although much more expensive than clips, they will last forever (as long as you don’t do something silly). I think they are too large for cats and rabbits to swallow but dog owners should be careful in putting them away after use to prevent disaster — I have a steel trolley beside my chair so it’s easy to park the magnet there when I pack up for the night.
SewTite Lite: Libs Elliott magnets Cost: USD 24.99 for 5, plus postage (not very much) – about AUD $7.70 per diamond. Magnet size: 9 mm diameter, 64 mm2
These are a weaker version of the original magnets and I found them much easier to use but also easier to dislodge. They are strong enough to hold my 1″ templates together but the magnet doesn’t jump out of my hand. They aren’t available in Australia yet (I bought mine from Paper Pieces in the US) but I’m sure they’ll be here soon. The diamonds have corners and might catch thread occasionally but I haven’t noticed it myself.
Magnetic tape Cost: ?? I didn’t buy any. Like most people I have a large collection of fridge magnets and was interested to see how they would compare. The difficult part for me was finding a small smooth steel object to pair with them — I ended up using a bar from the SewTite set. Unfortunately magnetic tape is not strong enough to hold hexagons together. You could cannibalise a larger magnet (the type that has a magnetic disc glued onto it) but with all the bother of getting the glue off and finding a suitable piece of steel you might as well buy a SewTite.
Conclusions Magnets are the best way of securing your pieces, but the original SewTites are a bit too strong for hand piecing at this size. The Lite versions (in diamonds and bars) are great for handwork and I hope they will be available in Australia shortly.
As I’ve previously said, I’ve started piecing some 1″ hexagons together, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to assess all the glue sticks and template materials I was able to buy. The post turned out to be rather long so I’ve split it in two — today’s post will be all about template materials, and tomorrow I’ll post about glues and clips. All items were bought in Australia except where noted, and all prices are in Australian dollars.
Templates: a. Card stock: Sew Easy, Sue Daley, Paper Pieces b. Mylar: June Tailor, OzQuilts, Eppiflex c. Fiskars 1″ hexagon punch: bakery cartons, medical forms, grocery boxes
Note that I removed the centre template from each flower before I stitched the petals together so that the template wasn’t creased. That also allowed me to assess how each template stood up to multiple uses while leaving the petal templates in place.
A. Card stock templates
Sew Easy Cost: $9.50 for pack of 100 ($0.10 each) Light card stock, smooth surface. Probably die-cut. Flexible, but sturdy enough to withstand the pressure of fabric being folded over the edge. Most glues stuck reasonably well but the papers were fairly easy to remove, especially if removal was a couple of days after basting rather than the same day. I have used templates up to 6 times with no problems, although there was significant glue residue towards the end (not enough to hinder removal, though). If you reverse the card you can easily get 10-12 uses from each.
Sue Daley Cost: $6.90 for pack of 100 ($0.07 each) Light card stock, smooth surface. These look and feel identical to the Sew Easy cards and are probably from the same source.
Paper Pieces Cost: USD $4.50 for pack of 100, plus postage The cost is around AUD 6.90 ($0.07 each), so comparable to the Sue Daley templates if you ignore postage which, to be truthful, isn’t a lot. Delivery was around 7-10 days — I can’t be more precise as I only check my post office box once a week. The templates have tiny tags in the middle of each side as a remnant of die-cutting. The paper is thinner and more flexible than the Sew Easy/Sue Daley, and it has a rougher surface — it feels more like cartridge or sketchbook paper than card. Most glues adhered better to this surface than the glossy papers but I found that the templates still came away fairly cleanly once sewn, except where I had inadvertently stitched though the edge. I think that the thinner substrate will lead to a shorter number of uses but 5 or more is proven.
B. Mylar templates (aka BoPET: biaxially-oriented polyethylene terephthalate)
June Tailor Templates Cost: $29.95 for pack of 25 ($1.20 each) Country of Manufacture: USA Made from thick (almost a full millimetre) glossy white Mylar, these templates have a slight curve, presumably from the roll of Mylar they were cut from. Some of the edges retain a few shreds from the cutting, but they aren’t sharp. There is a small hole in the centre to permit them to be strung together. They are slightly flexible and could be folded if you put some effort into it but I chose not to do that.
Since one of the features of Mylar is its non-stick nature, it’s not surprising that none of the glue sticks adhered well. Most of the adhesion was at the corners where glue attached the fabric folds, and some of the templates were falling out before I had started stitching the petals together, so they really need to be basted with thread (which, to be fair, is what the packet directions advise). The thickness and weight of the template made it almost impossible to align the hexagons precisely, even using magnets. Having said that, however, I acknowledge that they are infinitely re-usable since they retain very little of the glue residue and are easily wiped clean if any residue is found.
They are the most expensive templates of all, by a factor of four to twelve.
OzQuilts Templates Cost: $15.00 for pack of 50 ($0.30 each) Country of Manufacture: Australia These templates are also cut from white Mylar (by laser, judging from the slight discoloration around the edges) but are much thinner. Although they feel almost as smooth, they took the glue a lot better than the June Tailor templates and I didn’t have the same problem with fabric coming loose. Removal was easy. Alignment was good. Repeated use showed no deterioration up to ten uses and I think they’d be good for dozens if not hundreds.
Eppiflex Templates Cost: $15.00 for pack of 50 ($0.30 each) or $35.00 for a pack of 175 ($0.20 each) Country of Manufacture: Australia These are made from transparent Mylar with additional cut lines to allow the pieces to be bent or folded — very useful when stitching rows or flowers together. I believe they are die-cut but I could be wrong. They are very thin, very light and very flexible. The surface is the least smooth of the three brands and I thought it would help the glue to stick, but strangely it didn’t. Because they are transparent I sometimes found it difficult to see where I had applied glue, and I found that I had to use all the glue sticks at an angle to prevent glue getting into the slits. I have to admit that I didn’t find them quite as nice to handle as I had expected, but the flexibility is the best of all the templates and they would definitely be the template of choice for larger flowers and more complex designs where you have to bend adjacent pieces.
Interestingly, the Eppiflex website says that although the templates are PET and therefore technically recyclable they won’t be recognised by recycling centres and should be returned to Eppiflex (or designated stores in the UK and US) for proper disposal to avoid them being sent to landfill.
C. Fiskars 1″ hexagon punch Cost: $39.00 Country of Manufacture: China Although expensive, this punch will pay for itself after 390 templates (assuming 10 cents per template). It is advertised as easy to use and I found that to be true. I have hand issues, as I’ve previously written about, but I didn’t get any pain from this — but I was careful not to do more than 50 at once. I wouldn’t recommend this for anyone with inflammatory arthritis or connective tissue disorders, but making enough for each day’s sewing shouldn’t cause pain for the average user. The worst thing about the punch was the fact that the templates bounce up and can land a fair distance away.
I used the punch on several different substrates: light waxed card from bakery cartons; light card from a stack of old carbonless copy pads I accumulated from my time in Defence; and light card from supermarket boxes such as crispbreads (Ryvita / Vita-Wheat). I also tried to cut templates from plastic milk bottles and slightly heavier card from the back of writing pads, but they were too thick. I didn’t try waxed milk cartons — it’s rare to find milk in cartons (Tetrapaks) these days and while cream is still sold this way it’s almost impossible to get all the fat out of the cartons so I didn’t try the punch on them. I didn’t try cereal boxes either as I don’t eat cereals, but I suspect that the cardboard is roughly the same thickness as crispbread boxes and not the thick cardboard used in America (termed chipboard there, I believe).
The glossy surfaces of the bakery cartons and grocery boxes presented no problems at all although I found that the bakery carton tempates worked better with the waxed side facing the fabric and the other side (which had roughly the same glossiness as the Sew Easy and Sue Daley cards) getting the glue. The card seemed very flimsy as a 20 cm / 8″ box, but once cut into small pieces (about 50 pieces per box) it was much thicker than the commercial card templates. It was still very light, though, and didn’t present any problems with alignment or the magnets I used to hold pieces in place.
The card from the Defence forms was non-glossy but a similar weight and thickness. I had no difficulty with glue sticking or template removal. I was able to get 24 hexagons from each A4 card.
Commercial card templates are very cheap and can probably be used 10 times or more if you reverse them (that is, glued five or six times each side). The Paper Pieces templates have a shorter life due to the thinner, more porous stock but at under 5 cents (US) per paper they are also the cheapest. For all cards I found that it was harder to remove them after several uses due to the build-up of glue residue.
Mylar templates can be used many times if cleaned occasionally. Of the three brands I liked working with OzQuilts the best, but Eppiflex templates are fine and have the advantage that you don’t need to remove the centre to stitch the petals. I would not recommend June Tailor templates because of their price, their weight and their thickness, even if you are happy to baste with thread instead of glue.
The Fiskars 1″ hexagon punch is worth the price if you need several hundred templates and have access to light card stock that would otherwise go to waste. It is not strong enough to make templates from plastic or thick card, and probably not from Mylar sheets.
Tomorrow I’ll talk about glues and holding devices.
I hardly ever used my Twitter account and I deactivated it when the platform was acquired by voldemusk last year. Like many others I’m considering getting a Mastodon account but there doesn’t seem to be a server oriented to crafters. I found some art servers, which seem to be more for Serious Artists (not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I’m definitely NOT an Artist), and handmade.social but that seems to be more for people with Etsy shops and I doubt I’ll ever have one. I would, however, like to be able to upload mini posts, such as the daily block, which would only make clutter here on the blog. (Please don’t suggest Instagram — I have no intention of enriching that person either.)
Does anyone know of a handcrafts-oriented server/instance? If there isn’t one I might join one of the Australian servers but the chance that I’ll upload anything that isn’t handcrafts is very low and I suspect that there aren’t many average Australians who would be interested. I’d much rather upload to a local that has quilters and embroiderers and historical costumes.