Sunday, April 2, 2023

From Apple Core Template to English Paper Pieced Bridal Vase

I'm been playing around with turning flat quilting templates into 3-D constructions. Here's one of my new experiments

It's 8" tall. I think it's a spinal column vase, and it started with a 2.5" template acquired years ago. 

Longtime quilters recognize this as a classic apple core shape. Google "apple core quilts" you'll find books, patterns and kits to make scrappy quilts with hundreds of pieces this shape. Especially "charm" quilts, with a different fabric for each piece.

The results are definitely charming - but never charming enough for me to want to make one. Because of the curves, you have to do a lot of scary clipping on inside seams, and precision sewing.  

But the novelty factor drew me to that template a couple of weeks ago. The great thing about making small projects like vases (as opposed to quilts), is that you only need to make a few of the same shape, rather than hundreds! 

I start by cutting out the shapes from an old cardboard mailer. I taped pieces together, and played. Here are two  candidate formations: 

I still wasn't sure where I was going when I started making fabric versions. I pulled gorgeous prints from Michelle Freedman"Fire and Ice" collection from Maywood Studios. (Michelle is a fantastic designer; find her quilt patterns at

I cut 12 apple core shapes out of stiff interfacing with fusible on one side. I cut an oversized apple core shape out of the featured fabric.  I placed it face up on the non-fusible side of each interfacing shape. Then  I wrapped the seam allowances around  to the back, and fused them in place there. This required a whole lot of scary clipping at each piece's waist line.

On the reverse side, I essentially needle-turn appliqued the "lining", to cover the raw edges that came over from the featured side. Again, abundant clipping.

I made six with Michelle's fabric on the featured side; plus 6 more pieces with a dark purple batik.

(In my polyhedron-making book at the bottom of this post,  I make all sorts of bowls and brooches, and more this way; but all those shapes have nice straight sides - hexagons, octagons pentagons, etc. - no clipping required.) 

I experimentally sewed the pieces together with embroidery floss and large stitches, doing what English Paper Piecers call the "flat back stitch." I figured I could  go over it later to replace the big stitches with smaller ones. (Spoiler alert: that's not going to happen until this thing falls apart!)

The cardboard model showed me that I needed the base to be flat; otherwise the vase would rock! So I cut the four pieces on the bottom row (in the photo above) in a straight line before covering them with fabric. 

I brought the last edges together, and here we are. It not only reminded me of spinal column, but a curvy a corset...of a bridal gown...bridal buttons leapt to mind, so I sewed small vintage shank buttons down one edge.

You can't see them from the back. 

This is all trial and error! Before I hit on the vase, I strongly considered a bracelet. Flat, it would look like this: 

Which also reminds me of a spine. And in a circle, minus one piece, you'd wind up with this cuff (Imagine it without the binder clips. Although if I could find sterling silver binder clips, they could be a feature!) 

If you're interested in learning my technique for covering (much easier, straight-line) interfacing shapes and using them to make interesting containers of all sorts, check out my newly updated book, "Stitch-a-hedron; English Paper Pieced Polyhedron Gifts and Accessories to Sew," available as a digital pattern in my etsy shop, here, and also soon on Connecting Threads!