A lot of my sewing time recently has been dedicated to this project and I'm really pleased to say that I now have a finished quilt top.
I have mixed feelings about this quilt. As I said last week, I have loved putting it together. It's been a real workout for the brain cells, as some of the instructions are more than a little vague... and I've tried to find ways to avoid templates at all possible opportunities.
I've learned a lot. Most importantly: I love freezer paper! I've used it so much for this project: for all my applique, for foundation piecing any units that stray from squares, rectangles and half square triangles, and for creating those few templates I couldn't avoid (curves).
I've definitely improved my applique and freezer paper is the key. I create and cut out a template (without seam allowance) from the freezer paper, iron the shiny side to the wrong side of the fabric, then cut the fabric eye-balling a quarter-inch seam allowance. I then use sew-line glue and fold the seam allowance over to the dull side of the freezer paper. A bit more glue on the reverse of the shape holds it in place whilst I applique it. Once finished, I cut away the fabric behind the applique and gently remove the freezer paper.
I had success with clam-shells. I tried EPP clam-shells this time last year and it was ok to a point, and then the shapes started going a bit squiffy and going out of line, and that's when I stopped. I can't say I was 100% happy with that last attempt. So I searched for some tutorials. The first I found involved a cardboard template and turning the seam allowance using kitchen foil and an iron, then appliqueing the resulting clams onto a foundation fabric. It was incredibly unsuccessful... I couldn't get the curves smooth and I couldn't get the positioning of the clams correct relative to each other. Lucky for me, Instagram came to the rescue. I posted my less-than-satisfactory attempt and Sharon @Lillabellelane suggested checking out a video tutorial by Sue Daley. It was eye-opening. I tried it the very next morning and it went so well that I am almost tempted to attempt a full clam-shell quilt! I would highly recommend checking it out if you are considering clam-shells!
The part of the quilt I most enjoyed, and was the most challenging was the fifth section - top left: green background and a variety of arcs: that New York Beauty style arc was perhaps the biggest test of the lot: avoiding using templates, I carefully traced the templates onto freezer paper, butting up against each other to create the full arc and a foundation piecing template - I carefully trimmed the top of each of the three arcs right up against the finished line. I pieced it in the standard way of freezer paper foundation piecing, which I love, then left the paper in place and used the same template as an applique template, trimming the piecing, then turning the seam allowance over and gluing to the reverse of the freezer paper. I figured this was a more forgiving method than trying the machine piece the curves.
One final learning: hind-sight is a wonderful thing, and I wish I'd done this as I went along: there are a lot of seams in this quilt. I've kept each of the six sections separate until today when I finally stitched them together, and what I've found is that in a few areas the seams have started to come apart at the edges. In order to prevent this, stitch a single stitched line all round the edge of each section, about eighth of an inch from the edge. This helps keep the seams together whilst waiting to be pieced, and the stitches disappear into the seam allowance. I have taken this step on the finished quilt top...
The original pattern included some embroidery: the Eiffel Tower, Leaning Tower of Pisa and Sydney Opera House floating in the sky. It seemed a little odd to me (the floating in the sky part) and these particular places have no meaning to me. So I left it out. Instead I did a couple of bits of embroidery in chaotic part of the quilt: there's a cat in one of the windows, and I embroidered out family name rather than find a fussy-cuttable fabric in section 2.
So whilst I've enjoyed creating this quilt top, I'm not sure I like it. Last week, I really didn't like it. I said as much. It's about the chaos of the colours - scrappy. Turns out I don't like disordered scrappy. Give me a rainbow any day. But in rainbow order! It's an important learning. This week, with the top all together and the final two sections added, I find that I like it a bit more. Maybe once it's quilted, I'll like it enough to actually hang it on the wall when I finish it!
Of course a quilt top is only half the story and you definitely haven't seen the end of this project yet: let the hand-quilting begin!