Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Basics: Flatlocking and our 100th Day projects!

Whoa.  Apparently, the 100th day of school is a big, big deal these days.  Okay, confession time:  I kind of dreaded this assignment.  We didn't do anything special for the 100th day when I was a kid, and really, who wants to walk around finding 100 different objects, sticking them to a piece of paper and watching them fall off?

I looked around the house and found a large piece of white paper, but my very serious artist explained he wanted a colored page.  Then I found construction paper, but he said that wasn't big enough.  (Some of the kids were using poster board, but it was too late in the day to make that happen.)  My attitude started looking up when I figured out that it didn't have to be a piece of paper, though -- fabric stash to the rescue!  Then Big Boy got jazzed about designing his own custom background.

We started with creative concepts.  He drew this as a starting point for what he wanted.

I drew this to show him how to use the graph paper to make a scale drawing.

It made a great math project.

His wanted his project to be approximately 12 inches x 18 inches, ("This big, Momma!"), so I showed him how to use each 1/4 inch sized block on the paper as a pretend "inch."  We counted 12 down and 18 across and drew the lines.  Then we straightened them with a ruler.  I filled in the number 100 according to his design and then drew dashed lines to represent where strips would be pieced together. 

Then we went through the process of counting blocks on the sides and bottoms of each strip to determine the strip sizes.  He figured out the measurements, then I marked the blocks and kept the cut list at the top of the page.  We made our list by "background fabric" ("BF" on the page) and "number fabric" ("NF" on the page), because we hadn't made any color decisions yet.

Felt seemed like a natural choice, since it's already used in lots of school projects and I knew it was glue friendly.  The other nice thing was that felt, as a bulky, stiff fabric, would be perfect for flatlocking.

To flatlock two pieces of fabric means to butt them up against each other -- raw edge to raw edge -- and use a wide stitch to join them.

So two points to take away about flatlocking so far:

1.  Flatlocking is a perfect way to join super bulky or stiff fabrics, because it prevents the extra bulk created by traditional seam allowances.  I frequently use flatlocking to join narrow pieces of leftover batting to make a larger section for quilting projects.  I love to avoid waste where I can! 

2.  Flatlocking is a GREAT way for beginners to sew a complicated design.  We didn't have to get into complicated math with factoring in 1/4 inch seam allowances and worrying about precision piecing.  Now that he had figured out the sizes of the strips to achieve the design he wanted, we were able to cut strips exactly to that size from the felt.

He was feeling a rough that day, so I did the cutting to save time while he took an afternoon nap.  Having precision rotary cuts -- a skill he doesn't have yet -- also avoided a lot of frustration when sewing time came.   

I want him to enjoy the process...not give up in protest.  

(If you want to teach your kids to sew, remember this point.  Ask me how I know...)

I don't have a picture of this next step, but to keep the strips from moving around on him while he flatlocked them, we laid them out on a piece of freezer paper cut roughly 14 x 20 inches and ironed them down to the shiny side.

Time to sew!

At that point, he took the design to the sewing machine and flatlocked each of the seam lines with a wide zigzag stitch, through the freezer paper and all.  When you flatlock, use a standard foot or a walking foot with a normal tip so you can clearly guide the seamlines straight into the channel of the foot.  This will ensure the seam is centered under the needle.  It's still a good idea to check your first few stitches and make sure they're equally distributed on either side of the seam.

Once he finished, we peeled back and cut away all the freezer paper except the narrow strips caught in the seam lines.  With such wide zigzags, tearing away the freezer paper for the stitches probably would've broken the threads, but there's another reason to leave the freezer paper in there:  The felt could also easily tear away at the seam lines, so I figured this would make great reinforcement for the flatlocked seams. 

This brings up another point about flatlocking:

3.  Flatlocked seams can't take a lot of abuse, unless...

- First, consider your purpose in flatlocking.  If you're doing as I often do, joining batting to go inside a quilt, then it doesn't really matter.  The quilting process will hold the quilt together and keep stress off the flatlocked seams, so you don't need any additional reinforcement.

- Second, consider flatlocking your pieces on top of a foundation block.  In this case, we used the freezer paper as a foundation, but if you need your final project to be washable or more durable, you could flatlock on top of a square of color-coordinated fabric or even something fusible like interfacing or fleece.  (That was my first choice for this project, but my cupboard was bare.)

After we finished, we embellished his project by counting out and gluing on 100 buttons from my stash with blue glitter glue.  I loved how buttons that came from my mother, grandmother, Mam-maw and Great Aunt Ethel's stashes all graced his project and provided that final family touch.

Now that it's over, I'm grateful for the chance to sew with Big Boy again.  He really loved the idea of having something different from the other kids, and he's the only one in his 1st grade class who can sew!

This smart, talented Big Boy wasn't the only one putting together an awesome 100th Day project, though.  Check out another smiler with his cheery Cheerio 100!

Daddy's contribution was huge!  He patiently helped both boys counting out their 100 objects -- the buttons for Big and the Cheerios for Bitty -- but declared himself allergic to glitter glue.  Boys, le sigh.