I’ve been in touch with numerous English Paper Piecers working on the La Passacaglia Quilt, and they have all said that getting started was the hardest part. In this post Ill provide a step by step guide as well as a tutorial video that will help you with the first steps.
La Passacaglia First Steps (Video Tutorial)
The video provides several steps as well as commentary regarding the process for getting started with a La Passacaglia Quilt. The steps range from choosing threads, needles, and fabric. I’ll walk through several short cuts and tips that will help you start your La Pass journey as well. Enjoy!
First Steps To Get Started with your La Passacaglia Quilt (Written Tutorial)
I got started with English Paper Piecing, and specifically the La Passacaglia Quilt after I saw it on social media. The shapes and colors were captivating to say the least; I thought I could master the La Pass in a short period of time.
Well – I was wrong. And while yes, I did finally master the techniques required for this gem it wasn’t without a serious learning curve. I will share with you what I have learned and what I would have done differently at the beginning in this written tutorial below. I’m making a second La Passacaglia quilt for my daughter so I get a second chance!
I find that glue basting generates a more precise shape and it goes a little faster than thread basting. I always want to get right to the sewing part and not get stuck in the basting phase. However, I do admire those who thread baste, I just don’t have the patience. You’ll need to find your needle and thread that you like best. I use a #11 Milliner. I use Gutermann’s extra fine polyester thread and I glue baste with Sewline.
Templates and Paper:
I did buy the templates and papers. That was the best investment ever. I used the 3/8″ seam allowance rather than the 1/4″. I felt they were easier to handle and fussy cut using the small pieces. Of course you’ll want the book and it has so many other patterns as well as the La Passacaglia quilt.
There are so many designers of fabric nowadays that it’s hard to keep track. One point I’d like to mention is that I do NOT suggest using one, or even two designers (exclusively) for your quilt. You should not feel cornered or a need to stick to name brand designers either. Ultimately this is your quilt and the journey is long, so having more fabric choices will also make it easier for you. I’ve written a more in-depth article on fabric (which includes a video tutorial) HERE.
Don’t Get Overwhelmed!
Again I feel like this quilt takes so long, if there is anything you can do to help the process along that is great in my mind. The emotional tax of quilting was something that I did not realize until I started. I see too many quilters get overwhelmed or frustrated and then stop. This is so unfortunate because it truly is a gorgeous quilt.
I had a very strict color palette that I decided on before I started. I used peach, violet, pink, and lime green. Head to my “Choosing Fabric“ post for more details about how to select color and fabric. I did have to expand a little out of the palette to make things interesting by adding white and black. I found the limited palette does help if you are trying to get your quilt to have movement and not have clumps of color in certain areas that don’t relate to any others.
Repeating colors helps tie in the overall design. I didn’t repeat too many fabrics but I did repeat the four colors in my palette. Some people just have a natural aptitude for color. I’m probably not one of those folks. But don’t get to bogged down about that you can work on all this as you go along. Some people take a more random approach to color and it works fine. I’m more calculating about color and need a plan.
Patterns and Shapes:
Get the hang of the patterns and shapes and how they come together relating to one another. Use the five diamond shapes, the five skinny diamonds, and the ten pentagons. On one of those rosettes put on the row of the star shapes with a set of four stars and the diamond shapes. All of the rosettes have at least 4 stars sets so you can use it anywhere. It is good to understand the play of pattern each section makes and I don’t think you really understand it until you actually make a rosette. Maybe you’ll keep them or maybe you won’t.
When you add the star row it changes the relationship of the rosette to the adjacent rosettes so you do need to try that so you can see it. When I started, I made one small rosette and just keep going. I ended up making one of the big rosettes! I just couldn’t help myself. But when I was done with that big one I really didn’t like it. I would have done it differently had I worked with the smaller shapes a little more and understood how it all comes together. I’ve wrote extensively about Attaching the Star Row Here.
Small verse Large Rosettes:
At that point though I had put so much time into this I had to use it! In the photo above I went back after making the big rosette and played around with the small ones. There are only 4 big rosettes and they make different fun patterns unlike the smaller rosettes. I think you can get more playful with those big rosettes and you want to make the most of those and you only get four chances.
Keep in mind that the ring made by the pentagon shapes are a multiple of 10. You can also use a 5 and 5 pattern. Having each of the 10 pentagons a different pattern also works.
The larger ring on the big rosette is 20 pentagons and the ring outside of that ring is 20 pentagons. So if you are fussy cutting something like a lizard or what ever, you need 10 of those images for the small rosette or 20 for the large. Now you can split it up and do a 5 and 5 pattern for the small rosette. See photo above. Some people have just used random non matching images in the pentagon row and in that case it doesn’t matter. The beauty of this quilt is that it all works in the end.
I had bought some really cute I Spy fabric with lots of images that I wanted to use but I didn’t have enough of the particular image to fussy cut. Again for me that really happened only four times at the larger rosette ring where you need 20. If I were to do this over again I would pick four pieces of fabric that I could get 20 of the same fussy cut images out of or maybe 10 and 10. If you do the flower pattern with the large ring you need 25 and 25 of each image. See below.
Fussy Cutting Pentagons:
You need a fair amount of fabric to fussy cut 20 pentagons (big row) whether they are identical or random if you are using the same piece of fabric.
Flat Back Stitch:
Try and learn the flat back stitch for invisible stitching see other post. It really helps to make your stitches invisible.
A Combination of Tips:
Always take color, and black and white photos of your quilt as you go. Audition your rosettes before attaching either one at a time or as a group. You’ll want to document everything and this will help you decide what colors look best next to each other. Your eyes can play tricks on you. Looking at a photo makes it easier to locate problem areas. Taking a black and white photo will show you where the values are in the quilt. You can see in the photo above I have light and dark scattered pretty evenly. I made a few rosettes at a time and auditioned them before attaching. About halfway though I would only design and attach one at a time. I sort’a got crazy about the colors.
Decide early on if you want to use the same color through out the quilt with your star points. I didn’t and I think that might have made it harder to make the colors dance. Take a look at some of the other quilts people have made and notice how the colors play with each other at the star points. In this beautiful quilt above, Cassandra Webber Tamplen is using white for all her star points. I think it really ties all the rosettes together.
Additional Additional Tips:
– Make a couple of small rosettes first, maybe even five. I would make these little test rosettes before I bought a bunch of new fabric. Don’t worry about whether or not you’ll keep them. You can always make them into pillows or table runners. Just make a rosette.
– Naturally I did the opposite and in hindsight I would have picked some different fabrics had I known how the pieces play with each other. Some of the fabric that I purchased worked out well but others did not. I had some pretty big scale patterns that didn’t work well for fussy cutting.
Last of all if the community; I couldn’t have done it without the community. Tutorials were not always the best, hence I asked a lot of questions on forums and Facebook groups.
I’ve even had the courage to start a Bay Area meetup group as well!
Find your community and you’ll find your love for La Passacaglia.
Let me know if this is helpful!