Friday, June 15, 2018

Postcard from Sweden Tips for Success

I, along with Helen of Midget Gem Quilts, recently hosted a QAL for making the absolutely gorgeous Postcard from Sweden quilt, a pattern I downloaded from Craftsy (free!!) shortly after I became a member. It is designed by the talented Kelly of Jeli Quilts. Here is my finished quilt back in April on the little stone bridge over Mill Creek which runs into Lake Erie:

Whilst making the quilt, I came up with a few strategies, as it were, (I'm channelling my mum here, I can hear her voice in my head) to help with the construction and pressing of the quilt. I took photos which I popped on Instagram, intending to write this post oh, over a month ago. It took the Tips and Tutorials Festival going on at Meadow Mist Designs and Quilting Jet Girl to spur me to writing it up.

Tip 1
The first one helps with organizing the myriad of HSTs. Suggestions are to label with either Washi tape or white sticky labels. The first problem is they can fall off (ask me how I know that, ha) and the second is that pressing seams with one of these under the iron is not a good thing. So I hit upon writing with either a permanent marker or a Micron pen in the seam allowance to label the paired HSTs.
No more lost labels!
Tip 2
The second tip is on pressing. Kelly has you construct the quilt in rows. I found that putting the HSTs together in blocks of four, pinwheel style gave me a great pressing advantage: I could spin the seams where so many intersected.

For this you just have to press alternate rows in alternate directions. For example, odd numbered rows might have the diagonal seam pressed to the right, while even numbered rows would have those seams pressed to the left. Instead of sewing the row together, take two HSTs from, say, row A, let's say they're A1 and A2, and pair them with the same numbers of row B, which would be B1 and B2. Press the vertical seams in the same direction as the diagonals go, and then sew the horizontal seam to make the block of four HSTs. Gently open a couple of stitches right at the centre, and continue pressing the horizontal seams in the same flowing direction as the diagonal seams are going (see above). You will get a cute little 'quilt block' at the very centre. The magic is that where you join the blocks of four, the seams will be pressed in opposite directions, so they nest perfectly! This ensures a nice and flat quilt top, with no lumps at the centres where 16 layers meet!

Furthermore, the seams all nest or butt up beautifully against each other for nice crisp points and intersections!

Tip 3
The third tip with this quilt will cut your squaring up of HSTs time in half! I forgot to take photos as I constructed this quilt, but I used another one I'm working on, Tish N Wonderland's Fireburst Mystery Quilt, to show you how it works. I've also written about this method before, here.

First of all, press the diagonal seam to one side, the dark side is what I usually do. Then stack two just-sewn HST units atop each other, abutting the diagonal seams. You can wiggle them together; you'll feel the two ridges butting up against each other, and trust me, you get really good with practice. You can pull back the top corner to check:

Check the opposite corner to ensure the dog ears are on either side of the seam, which is centred exactly between them.

Lay a ruler with a 45° angle along the stitched seam.
Trim the two sides as shown.

Now! You might notice I have a small cutting mat on top of my large cutting mat. This is my cheap-ass alternative to the Olfa rotating cutting mat. Of course, if you have one, this is a perfect opportunity to use it!

Once you've cut the first two sides, swivel the mat so you can get ready to cut the remaining two sides. Cut!
Notice that the seam lines are going exactly (yeah!) through the points at either end of the HSTs!

Finally, unstack the two HSTs, and.... (drum roll 🥁)...
 Voilà! Two HSTs all trimmed up in the cutting time it took to do one. 😀 When you have 180 of these puppies to do, as for the Postcard from Sweden quilt, this can sure save your wrist and save you time!

Tip 4
Once you have your quilt quilted, it can sometimes be daunting to try to square it up. You may have a 15" square and a 24" ruler but your quilt size is 48" x 60" or 60" x 75". This query came up during the QAL, and so I took a couple of photos of how I did my PfS quilt. For most of you, this may not be anything new.

I'm using my 15" square. Lie it down in the corner, aligning the horizontal and vertical lines with seams, and the 45° line on an appropriate seam on the quilt.

Trim the two sides. I went slightly beyond 1/4" past the points so I would be sure NOT to cut any off with the binding!

Repeat with the opposite corner along this same side. I'm doing the shortest side first, the 48" side. Without moving the 15" square after you cut, carefully butt up your 24" ruler against it, ensuring you are lining up seams with lines on the ruler. Trim. Repeat this for the other short side.

The long side is a bit trickier. 15" + 15" + 24" = 54" which isn't quite long enough for the 60" side (which is the short side if you've made the large version of this quilt! Did you follow that?!) It will still work if you align the markings on your ruler with seams on your quilt, gently pulling them into submission, ha! (my secret's out) and knowing that once the quilt is laundered, you can block it (that's another post, ha) to make them behave and be square!
When I had a lovely large basement floor upon which to work, I'd take my cutting mats to the floor and work there. This cutting counter works quite well though and isn't so hard on the knees!

Once you've trimmed all four sides, step back, or in my case, because it was just misting rain at the time, stay IN and toss your freshly trimmed quilt down on the deck for a quick 'AHH!' photo:
Nice 'n square; we like that! An absolute RsOT of colour; we LOVE that, right?!

I hope these tips helps for your own Postcard from Sweden quilt. My original finish post is here. And here's one more pretty shot on the bench in Lakeside Park.

I miss going here on a daily basis (our previous home was within walking distance) and watching everything grow and bloom and be glorious! Might have to drive over this weekend and see what's happening.
Foof! Got this post done just in the nick of time to link up!


  1. Great tips, I like the idea of a label in the seam, and what a wonderful photo shoot, those colours glow against the stone bridge and the seat.

  2. Writing the label in the seam a terrific idea and could be used for any quilt were keeping pieces in the right order is necessary.

  3. These are fantastic tips. I have taken to writing the names of my solids in the selvage with a permanent marker much like you suggest for the seam allowances; the labels can just peel off too easily. Thank you for linking up with the Festival!

  4. Thanks for the tips! I've still got this kit marinating in a drawer, waiting for time to make it. Hopefully soon!!

  5. I like your ideas. I have to say those little stickies only stick to the wrong things...floor, my clothes, chairs (don't want to come off without scraping), etc. I've wondered about using a marking pen but only thought about the iron off pen and how that would be NO HELP. Should have thought of the Sharpie....I have them in loads of colors.

  6. Great tutorial, Sandra! People will be referring to this for years to come. I enjoyed seeing your PFS up close and personal again, too :)

  7. Great tips! Thanks so much for the tutorial!

  8. Great tutorial, Sandra! My top is finished, but waiting on the quilting. I may bring it back home to quilt. Love those outdoor shots with that bright burst of color!

  9. Sandra, these were great tips! I especially liked labeling with a pen, assemble into units, and all the pressing tips. 😊 RicefordStrams (at) G Mail

  10. Sandra,
    Great tips on trimming 2 HSTs at once and reducing the bulk when sewing together HSTs. I'm sure I'll use them soon!

  11. some very good tips there. Wish i had known about writing the block numbers in the seam allowance. I have yet to try nesting the seams, and have learnt from experience what it is like sewing through 16 fabrics.

  12. Great tips. Opposing seams works wonders for accuracy.

  13. Great tips. I love the texture from your quilt.

  14. I'm still stalled on this one. I appreciate your tips....I should just dive in and get going on it!

  15. All great tips. This is definitely a pattern you need to be organized.

  16. Google Search brought me to you night before last. I am having my own Postcard from Sweden Sew Along while I am on vacation in the mountains of Colorado. I had completed piecing the first half of the quilt and was very frustrated with the bulky seams as the pinwheels came together. At age 74, my brain must be freezing more often. I found Tip #2 of your Tips post made over a year ago and the light bulb went on. I have just completed the first double row making the pinwheels in the traditional method. Wow! Such a better method of handling the bulk. The challenge is working the placement of the colors in the pinwheel. Each one gets better. So, practice does make perfect, even at my age. Thanks so much for putting this out there and sharing. Have a wonderful day. Gratefully, mona keegan