I got the handpiecing bug again when I went to Lancaster last week. I couldn't stand the thought of not sewing for a week, so I brought 26 of the border blocks from the Courtney quilt with me and worked on handpiecing those. I only got about four done during the week; but on the bus ride home to Maine, Priscilla wanted to help me work on them, and we finished piecing 21 blocks. Not only did it make the trip home go much faster, but it was a huge help getting the borders done. I finished the Courtney quilt a few days after we got back and got it all ready to go to the machine quilter, who now has the flu!
On Saturday my local quilt chapter set up a workshop with Bethany Reynolds of Stack-n-Whack fame. She is a local girl and came up to teach us a quilt from her upcoming book, which I believe she said will be published later this year. I don't often have the opportunity to take a workshop, so I really enjoyed it. Everyone brought a dish to share, and we had a fabulous lunch as well. I think quilters are the best cooks I know.
I tried a stack-n-whack quilt once a long time ago, and I enjoyed making it but never got back to making another. I made hexagons the last time, and yesterday we cut and pieced octagons. Bethany has really perfected the process over the years and taught us a few new tricks I hadn't seen before.
She also had a couple of nifty new tools. I bought her ruler since I couldn't imagine how I would measure to cut for the octagon shapes with anything I have at home. She also had a little tool called a Microstitch tool. Remember the tack guns that were on the market some years ago that you could use to tack the layers of your quilt together to get ready for quilting? It was designed to be a substitute for basting or pinning, but it used a large needle and put big holes in your quilt. The needle rusted after a while, and there was also this egg crate thing you were supposed to put under the quilt or something, which I never wanted and never bought. It was such a pain in the neck that I threw mine away. As far as I could see, it was just another useless notion I wasted money on.
The Microstitch tool is a hand held tool resembling that old tack gun but with a much finer needle, and it shoots a tiny tack about 1/8 inch wide through your layers. Bethany had some of these available for us to try at the workshop. After my experience with the big tack gun, I was doubtful; but it did work as advertised, and I was actually quite impressed with it. It was definitely faster, easier and more accurate when matching up eight layers of fabric than using pins. Worth looking into if you're a stack-n-whack fan, and you can read more about it on Bethany's website here.
I found this fabric in Lancaster for a very good price and bought seven yards of it just for the workshop. When I was pressing it, I began to wonder if I'd made a good choice. When I was admiring it at the store, I hadn't realized the design repeated at a fairly close interval both across the width and the length; but it worked out better than I expected. In fact, there were a lot of fabrics at the workshop that I never thought would be good candidates for a stack-n-whack; but by the end of the workshop, I was pretty well convinced that you can stack-n-whack darn near anything.