I really, really love the elegance of the complete circles (without squared-off and enlarged connector diamonds), but it is definitely not a speed-piecing project!
I will never again piece a king-size all-rings DWR unless somebody pays me $35/hr to do so. And at 132 sewing hours (what it'll add up to when I finish this flimsy), nobody's going to do that! But I don't regret doing this for our 25th anniversary next summer - it's perfect for that.
I'm very pleased with how even and flat this has come out - no future quilting woes of easing in over-fullness or dealing with sucked-in spots! So I'm recording tips for my future reference and to share with anyone else wanting to work with the tradition full-round DWR. (This is not a comprehensive tutorial - you'll still want a pattern or book.)
**Things you HAVE to be good at already to get nice results: You *have* to sew accurate quarter-inch seams. And you need to be comfortable with Y-seams, because the throw-in of the curves on the connector seams puts this task into a major on-steroids mode.
**Things you can let the DWR teach you: doing curved seams.
For pain-free pressing and to protect the integrity of the arc and melon shapes:
*Always* finger-press everything as you go along (except the connector-corner seams). Seriously. Do not let the iron touch arc pieces until they are attached to the melon slice.
On arc pieces, to make the seams lie the easy way for future seams, hold the arc with the fabric facing away from you, and the curve in the direction of a C; finger-press the seam DOWN. Every time.
When you attach the connector pieces, press that seam toward the arc segments:
And it reduces bulk in the final connector seams if you trim these corners off:
On curved seams, finger-press toward the arcs.
I very RARELY press seams open for several reasons. First of all, DWR quilts look infinitely better when the rings are stitched-in-the-ditch, and open-pressed seams cancel that possibility. (It is too weak to SID on just the sewing thread line and doesn't look as nice.) Secondly, after having several decades-old quilts appraised, I do not want increased areas for future bearding of the batting through the seams. Third, the rings look very nice with the ever-so-slight 3D effect of the float above the background created by pressing toward the arcs. Fourth, this keeps the points of the centers at the connecting corners from bulking up in that seam.
When you are joining rows of rings, you DO NOT sew the connector corners closed yet:
I didn't see why this was necessary, but in the beginning I found that the book was right - you need them to stay open until you come back to them later. Can't remember exactly why, but I do remember having to pick seams out. So, while working your way across rows of rings, just reach right through the open connectors to finger-press each curve seam as you move along:
To press with the iron after each arc is attached:
For me, it is easiest to keep the melon from warping by pressing the first attachment from the back side. It's all finger-pressed, but still play with everything to get the seam to lie down properly without stretching the background out of shape. First press one side:
Then the other:
Then ease the middle pieces flat with the iron.
This way, any extra fullness will ease in on the inner seams while leaving the two ends nice and smooth. This is why you don't let the iron touch the arcs until they're attached.
I do starch the resulting flying saucer - it helps maintain the shape integrity with the second arc's attachment and the joining of the resulting football to the ring center. I don't starch anything else as I'm going along - it's not necessary. (Although I will probably starch the top from the backside when I press the finished flimsy in preparation for layering on the batting.)
When I iron-press the second arc, I do this from the front side. Again doing first one side, then the other, and then easing in the middle for perfect flatness.
No warped footballs!
Pinning those curves:
Always put the concave piece on top. Easiest way to stitch the curve, and the arc-segment seams will be laying the right way to just flow over the machine's feed dogs.
I keep 9 pins on hand and the most effective pinning turns out to be this:
Start on the first end, put the next pin in only 3/4" away, match the connector seams, do the mid-point, match the second connector seam, pin the last end, and then ease the curves to match and pin the gaps with 2 pins each. (Just need one pin in each gap when doing the first arc and there's no connector ends yet.)
~~~Speaking of which, a quirk in matching seams - ONLY when putting the second arc on, and ONLY when matching the connector seams, I found that if I eyeball a scant quarter-inch placement of the pin in each piece of fabric at the seam between the connector piece and the arc segment and between the arc segment and the melon piece,
I will get a perfect inside corner on the football every time. Everywhere else, eyeball an exact quarter inch spacing.
[For a scant quarter-inch, go one thread's worth shy of an exact measurement.]
Attaching finished footballs to the ring centers:
First of all, the center does not extend all the way along the football. The connector corners hang over, so you match the quarter-inch point of the ring-center's arm point with the quarter-inch-from-the-curve-edge at the seam between the connector piece and the arc segment: [Do not sew the extending connector pieces yet, or you'll be picking those out like I had to. . . ]
Later you will have to do Y-seams at those connection points. I found that it is infinitely easier to get a perfect Y-join when you go to sew the connector seams, if, in the football-attachment seams you leave the TINIEST gap from the exact connecting point (half a stitch-length, only). If you sew exactly to the pinning point, you have no easement room when trying to connect the final Y-seam, and with the added challenge of the previous curves, that can be a real bear. In the photo below, you can see the hole where the pin was placed in the exact match-up point, and the end of the stitching just barely shy of it:
If you leave more than that for the gap, you'll have tiny holes at the connections after you finish.
Pin the ring center on in this order and tease/shift the top fabric into alignment with the bottom curve as you go:
Pinning in that order puts in the stability, then lets you ease the curve up in an order that leaves the top bulkiness in the right position to start your sewing.
You'll need to turn-shift the top bulk backward as you sew along the curve to avoid pinches in the top fabric.
When I go back and do the connector seams, I do the first cross-over in one seam, moving from the first Y-point along the straight connector edge, across the gap (don't need to leave a lot of free thread), and to the ending Y-point. It's not necessary to do each side separately.
It IS necessary to stitch precisely from and to the connection spots this time, unlike the intentionally-created mini-gaps when you attached the footballs to the ring centers.
When pinning the second connector seam, pay attention to which way the middle seams lie most flatly at that cross seam's two endpoints and go with that for the laying-down of the seams. Sometimes they're the easy-pass-over-feed-dogs way, and sometimes not, like below:
This is the only part of the piecing process that I don't finger-press as I go along, and I find it much easier to get a flat pressing result if I do this from the back side. You can ease all the background points open and flat the way they're supposed to be and watch that you don't accidentally mess up the pressing of earlier seams in the surrounding area. And when you turn it over to look at the front, you'll have a gorgeous curved connector diamond. :)
So..... those were all helpful details that took me several rings to figure out in the beginning, and if I ever do another traditional DWR, I don't want to waste the time doing trial-and-error all over again.
I'm excited to get this quilt top finished!! We have company this week, so I only have an hour in the wee morning time to sew. Should take 3 more sessions is all!!
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