Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Y-Seams? – Y, Certainly!

The previous time I touched this quilt was almost a year ago, last February. I have a 2017 goal to complete it by April 2017 so I resurrected it. The original American Jane Pattern Flying Circles by Sandy Klop (AJP294) finishes at 72" x 90". I originally intended for this quilt to hang on a 45° angled wall in the corner of my living room, reaching up to a vaulted ceiling. After pondering it for a while I concluded that the wall aspect ratio was too narrow and tall to do justice to this quilt because I would have to truncate the quilt a fair amount in one dimension to fit. I would be able to get only three hexagons across in width oriented point to point. The wall was also narrow enough that it fell short of fitting four hexagons in width, oriented flat to flat. I decided I would make this quilt for the couch instead, keeping it an odd number of hexagons wide and a manageable length to be used and folded easily. After shooting a cell phone image of the pattern cover and inserting it into PowerPoint, I decided on aiming for 60" wide by 75" long dimensions. By making the quilt at least five hexagons in the narrower dimension, I would be able to capture the secondary patterns that emerge. Three hexagons would have barely done that.

With some cut and paste to capture the neat zig zag border, I now had an idea of where I was heading.

I counted those hexagons many, many times and kept getting a different total. I made myself this chart to help me count them repeatably, know how many triangles to make, and check them off as I worked. The top in grey is for the neutral grey hexagons/triangles. The bottom in red is for the colored hexagons/triangles.

In past posts about this quilt, my topic focused on color selection and placement. My post from January 23, 2016 is when I first started on this project. It illustrates how one shape can make this intricate tessellated pattern.
This post from February 4, 2016 shows me playing with some color combinations
Here it is, nearly one year later, having renewed interest and a focused goal, I wanted to motivate myself with evidence of forward progress. As a strategy, I chose to concentrate first on some neutral grey tone hexagons to get down the rhythm of a Y-seam technique. This post will address some details of construction. My design wall started out looking this way when I resumed working on this quilt. I like that the white-bladed pinwheels all turn counter-clockwise and the dark-bladed pinwheels all turn clockwise. That was a challenge that kept me on my toes during assembly!

A trio of squatty triangles join at a central Y-seam to form an equilateral triangle. I am getting very, very skilled at these Y-seams. They are not hard but they are time-consuming. A registration dot must be marked at the top corner of at least two of the three squatty triangles, generally the lighter colored ones, and that is the starting point of each seam. These are the white pieces in the upper left. After sewing two pieces together (1st seam), one squatty triangle needs to be folded back to add the third squatty triangle (2nd seam). These are the pieces in the lower right. The plaid triangle has been folded  back in order to add the second white triangle shown offset immediately below.

I sew my quarter in seam along the right edge starting at the dot. Because the seam must start at the dot and not at the edge, the pressure foot must be lifted each time. The process is only quasi-chain piecing and so goes a bit slower. I also learned it is best to have the needle stop in the up position, not the normal approach to chain piecing. Seams are best sewed from the center (where the dot is) to the outer edge. At the bottom portion of the photo is the next set ready to be aligned and then run through under the pressure foot

For the third seam, if I wanted the side with the registration marking side facing up, I would need to sew from the outer edge in toward the center and stop at the dot. Then I had this brilliant revelation. Well, only sort of brilliant because it is obvious now, but this novel idea had never occurred to me before. I could actually sew a quarter inch from the LEFT edge and begin at that central dot. The quarter inch foot really does work that way too! I tried it and guess what? I could use the left side of the quarter inch foot is just as easily and as accurately as the right. I am not ambidextrous and I learned that being right handed and having many years of ingrained sewing habit did not hamper this ability all. I'd always defaulted to putting the smaller width of fabric through the throat of the machine but for small size piecing that is not necessary. This flexibility frees me up to always mark the lighter fabric and let it be on top.

After that third seam. I trimmed the six triangle dog ears by lining them all up and making one slice. I think in a previous post I had tried using a turntable to zip off each corner but I changed my mind and found this method to be more efficient. I did not use the turntable at all.

Pressing the equilateral triangle formed by the three squatty triangle was kind of magical as long as I was consistent. First I would set each seam. Then I would snug the tip of the iron into the center and press upward on only the seam. I was careful to avoid wandering across the seam line and crumpling the seam allowance beyond that center point.

When I flipped it over, I could flare open the central region so that it kind of twirls around and I got this cute mini rosette where the three seams join. I squashed this flat with the tip of the iron and then gave a finishing swipe on the right side again.

Six of these equilateral triangles now can be joined with straight seams to form a hexagon, two halves of a hexagon only at this point. It is such a feeling of satisfaction, a real aha moment to see these seams all lie in one direction and those three cute rosettes at the Y-seam junctures. OK, I will admit, you do need to be a certain type of quilter for this to give you a nirvana moment.

By pressing the six radial seams all in one direction the bulk in the center will be minimized in the final joining of rows.

These points all come together nicely and make me proud. I am almost reluctant to cover up their intersections by following the pattern suggestion of appliquéing circles in the center. I probably will though, since I think they will add a bit of pizazz.

Oh, well, when I get to the tri-color hexagons that are coming up next, I will be able to enjoy and display perfectly aligned points on them. I hope. It is just about time to start those colored hexagons. I have just one more dark bladed pinwheel and two more partial dark greys to finish at the bottom border. Here is my design wall status upon writing this post. Before I get back to sewing, I am linking up to Let's Bee Social #159.


  1. Wow, that looks like a really time consuming project! Thanks for taking the time to explain your process. I wish you all the best for finshing and having fun sewing on it.

    1. True, it is not your speedy chain piecing but like anything else, I have a system now and it works. I have not lost interest nor gotten discouraged so that is good news. Comments from folks like you help. Thanks for visiting and for the feedback.

  2. As always, I admire the time you devote to getting the little details right on all your quilts. I think an entire quilt of the gray/white would be gorgeous, also. I have never tried a y-seam, and as easy as you make it look, I think it's a ways down the road for my skill set.

    Thanks for sharing your methods as well as the end projects. I always learn something.

    1. Nice to hear from you Tami. It is kind of funny but I too learn as I try these new things. Blogging helps me remember what I did!

  3. Wow - that is some precision sewing! I've only ever tackled tolerances that tight when paper piecing, but you make free-wheelin' it look easy, if time consuming. At least you get to spend lots of quality time with your iron?

    1. I may not go to a gym, but I intentionally keep my ironing board at the opposite corner of the sewing room from my machine. My thighs get a workout because I get up and down for every seam. I am not exercising. I am sewing. Perception is everything.