Sunday, May 28, 2017

English Paper Piecing 3-D Adventure with Alex Anderson's Pomegranates

Those of you who are longtime quilters know the name Alex Anderson. She’s the author of more than 30 quilt books, hosted "Simply Quilts" on television, and now is co-host, with Ricky Tims, of the delightful Internet quilt show, The Quilt Show! (

Alex is also a fabric designer, with a longtime affection for pomegranates. The rich Jewish symbolism of the pomegranate - learning, good deeds, fertility, joy - was an inspiration for her new fabric collection called Mirage. Here's one of the spectacular fabrics from that collection, by RJR Fabrics:
By coincidence, I'm the president of a non-profit needlework organization called the Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Needlework, so when I learned about the collection, it felt like serendipity. I contacted Alex (having written for her magazine in the past). I proposed a challenge for our members, hoping maybe we could get a discounted rate on some fat quarters.

Well, we got a discount, alright - Alex and RJR Fabrics - thank you, Demetria Hayward - shipped to my door a free, heavy, 5-feet-long 45+ yard roll of this festive fabric to share with our members who wanted to play! 

I waltz/wrestled that roll through my house, to the sewing room in the back, and tore, mailed and/or handed out 1-yard pieces to 45 or so of our members who requested them. They flew out about a month ago, and I can't wait to see what people come up with!

Because I am currently obsessed with English Paper Piecing (EPP), the first thing I did with my yard was make two stuffed stars, using cardstock templates. In the first star below, which I will call the "chiselled star," I left the templates in place permanently, to create facets:
The next photo shows the contours better:

The back has another cardstock layer and is also contoured. There's stuffing in-between to hold the cardstock in position.

For the second star, I removed the cardstock before finishing, so it has a rounder look. We'll call this the chubby star:

 The back has this hanging system:
It started with this star-shaped cardstock templates that I happened to have lying around (I used it for the blue and gold fancy EPP quilt blocks described in this post.) I cut the pieces apart - a hexagon in the center, with six "jewels" surrounding it.
Picked a flower (actually I think that's a pomegranate cross section?) to serve as the center:
Centered the hexagon template on it...

Cut it out about a half-inch all the way around, and basted the back....

Then addressed the six jewels. For the roundish star, I punched a hole to make the templates easier to remove:

For the contoured star, where the cardstock will be permanent, I didn't punch a hole - I drew a midline, pushing hard on a ballpoint pen.
 And folded.
 Placed the template (contoured or not) on top of a flower:
Basted the edges to the back, and here's the front: 
The star points weren't identical, but they were similar. 
Stitched the jewels all the way around the hexagon center, then stitched from the center piece outward six times.
At this stage, it can be used as a flat applique! But not for long.

I made a backing template. This is just the outline of the entire star on cardstock. For a chubby star, the back template looks like this.
For the chiselled star, I drew lines from point to point, pressing hard on the pen.
 Fold back along all those lines (I messed up at the top, I fixed it.)
 Next drew lines from concave angle to concave angle....
 And folded FORWARD on those lines.
 The goal:
Pinned it to the wrong side of the backing fabric. (If it's contoured, place the pen lines side against the back of the fabric.)
Cut about 3/8" all the way around. At each convex angle, clipped inward to about 1/8" from the paper template (where the white arrow is pointing). 
Trimmed and clipped all the way around. At the ironing board, glue sticked the seam allowances inward. Used liberal amounts of glue for the chiselled star. Use glue sparingly for the chubby star. Here's how the back of the chiselled star looked with clipped curves and fully glue basted. 
Here's what the inside will look like - permanently. 
And next is the chubby star front and back. The cardstock on the reverse side.
Placed the two sides wrong sides together and start stitching - a whipstitch or a ladder stitch works well.  Yes, the points and inner angles are tricky - you'll be using your needle to push the seam allowances inside - it's a lot like needle-turn applique.  You'll get there! 
About halfway around, for the chubby star, I pulled out all the templates. When I had just one star point left unsewn, I stuffed it, stitched the hole closed, and done!
For the chiselled star, I stuffed the area between the front and the back templates - and then stitch up the opening. 

As an afterthought, I stitched beads to the center of the chubby star. 
What to do with these ornaments? I think they'd make festive hangings for Sukkoth, Chanukah, and other holidays! The chubby star also works as a pincushion!

If  you want to learn more about the Mirage collection, here’s a video of Alex describing the inspiration, and showing off some the lovely coordinates. The collection can also be viewed on the RJR website, here. To purchase, contact a shop called Once Upon a Quilt in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. There's no shopping cart on their website, but you can call Lisa, the owner, at 954-987-8827 and ask for the coordinates you want from those pictured on the RJR site. Lisa's shop hours are Tuesday through Friday, 9:30 am to 4:30 pm; Saturday, 9:30 am to 4 pm. 

For more information about the Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Needlework, and our many fun and creative projects, check us out at 

After finishing the stars, I still had quite a bit of my one yard of pomegranate fabric left over. So there are still more projects come!


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