Monday, January 31, 2011

Question of the day

This morning I was am doing a bit of reading blogs, and came across this gem at "Rebels", here
What a nice design! and so simple too, I think partly I like it so much because of the fabrics.  I have a very similar bunch of colors that are from various "Japanese taupe" groups. Will I start this today???
Plus, I can look out the window and see many of these colors!  the white snow, muted blue sky, gray brown tree trunks and branches, hmmm.

What will happen? start new or work on an existing project???

Sunday, January 30, 2011


"I have measured out my life in coffee spoons" T.S. Eliot

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Saturday Surprise Block 11

This is the block for Saturday, Kite in the Air.  The names of the blocks can be pretty arbitrary.
I like the way the Art to Heart block turned out, but the batik one sort of looks a bit muddy.
 I decided to try posting the instructions here in case someone wants to try it out.  However, the format needs to be a bit different, because I can't seem to copy a table from my word processing program to paste here.

 Cutting Chart:
Fabric I:  Green Batik or Green Art to Heart: (you need about 7" x 11" piece of fabric)
              Three squares 3 x 3"
              4 squares, 2" x 2"
              4 squares, 1-1/2" x 1-1/2"  

Fabric II:  Blue   (7" x 19")
              4 rectangles, 2" x 9-1/2"
              4 rectangles, 2" x 4-1/2"   

Fabric III: Dark Brown batik or  Red Art to Heart ( 4" x 15")
             Three squares 3" x 3"
             2 squares, 2-1/2" x 2-1/2"  

Fabric IV: Light colored batik or off white Art to Heart  (7"x 8-1/2"
            4 rectangles, 1-1/2" x 7-1/2"   

 Step One: Make the six half-square triangle units using Fabrics I and III (___________________________________)
Layer the three 3" squares together into pairs, then cut in half diagonally once.  Sew a scant 1/4" seam on the diagonal edges.  Press seams toward the darker fabric.  Trim 2 of them to measure 2-1/2" square.
Use the 2  units to make the center four-patch, together with the two 2-1/2" squares of Fabric III (__________________) It should measure 4-1/2" square.

Trim the remaining 4 half-square triangle units to 2" x 2".

Step 2:
Sew 2 of the 2" x 4-1/2" rectangles of Fabric II (____________________) to the sides of the center unit.  Press the seams outward.  Sew a 2" square of Fabric I to each end of the other two short rectangles.  Add these to the top and bottom of the unit, making the seams nestle together at the intersections. 

Repeat step 2 for the next round using the rectangles of Fabric IV (_____________________) and the 1-1/2" squares of Fabric I (___________________)

Repeat again using the remaining, trimmed  half square triangle units from step one and the last rectangles of Fabric II (________________).

Also, the diagrams from the pattern did not import.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

More Big quilts to work on...

Sometimes I just feel the need to go through all the stuff in my shelves and boxes and check on the status of the unfinished projects in there. 
Not sure why this is, but each time I have to decide whether to keep it longer, or to give it away, or to actually start working on it.
Sometimes I am ready to let go of a partly finished project.   If it seems that I just have no more interest in it, and can't really get excited about it, then maybe it's time to move it along to someone else who might want to finish it and either use it or give it to someone else. 
On Friday, I noticed that I still have some  got out my sets of stacks of sampler blocks.  (three sets).
Patti had been talking about how she has several of these stacks, and so that is probably why I thought of  them.
I kept them out and thought about what sort of settings would be nice to use.  When I had the opportunity to get together with some other quilters for a sewing day on Saturday, they are what I took along to work on.
This set uses 12 sampler blocks and I call the setting "Scattered Blocks" 
The blocks are from last year and use pastel fabrics designed by Robyn Pandolph, and also Three Sisters Aviary grouping. 
(I'm sorry that all my quilts look like the shape of the province of Saskatchewan.  I don't have a design wall and usually lay out things on the floor, so the perspective gets skewed.  I've been thinking lately about turning one wall into a place where I can take better photos, but have to rearrange a bunch of stuff in the sewing room... soon!)
I've used this setting before, but with 6 blocks. 
These were Kansas Troubles, 
 then the Mary Rose, from that same year,
 and again using a kid's panel. 
They alll look pretty different. 
To do the 12 block version, you just sew 2 sets of the six block version and sew them together.
I was using up all my leftover pieces of fabrics as well, so I ended up piecing a lot of the larger rectangles.  I hope to take in tomorrow and find that perfect piece of fabric to use for the border. 
Then, the Big decision... whether or not to quilt it myself!

Renew Me quilt,

I have quilted,
and added the binding,
washed it and let it dry flat

so now the quilt is done! 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Recent Visit to Shop

 On Friday I had my camera with me when I went to the store.  If you were there, you would have noticed:
1. quilts, on walls, and folded in various places.
 the orchid has a lot of blooms on it lately.
 some great fabric collections came in on Thursday, including this group from Alexander Henry.  I love these ones a lot.
 A nice little container of cupcakes (which lasted about 2 minutes), from Earth Bound Bakery across the street. (Pistachio with rose water icing!!)

And if you had come to my sewing room, you would see that I have tried to tame my felted sweater collection that you last saw strewn across the floor.  I've cut a bunch of 9-1/2" squares and rectangles from them; this has reduced the jumbled up parts to one container from two!  Although I now have these stacks.
Well, a lovely day beckons, can you believe it's at melting point outside??? From the minus 30's of a few days ago? 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Backing for the Renew Me quilt

I finished piecing the top of the quilt that I've been working on. I had quite a bit of fabric left over, so I took a couple of days to mull over whether to try to use them in a whole new project or to sew them into the backing of the quilt.  I love these fabrics and thought that they would make a really nice star quilt from one of the Atkinson patterns, but then I realized that was just a make-work project.  I need to sew what I really really want to sew, rather than just whatever comes into my head.  (*Just because it 'can' be done doesn't mean that it 'has' to be done).
Therefore I decided that they would be sewn into the backing of the quilt.
Then, I needed to decide on how to sew them together.  For the same reason as above.*, I discarded ideas that seemed to require a lot of planning and sewing.  I finally decided on a variation of this design idea:
It was a quilt I'd seen some time ago called Random Reflections by  KarrieLyne from Freckled Whimsy.
press here  to go to the free pattern download at the Moda Bake Shop
I've also seen one or two other versions of this idea, and i really like the look of the quilts.
I decided to use this stacked fabric idea on a large scale.
The pieces for the quilt had all been cut as strips across the width of the fabric, so the leftovers were all quite neat, and I didn't need to cut them any furthur. 
The quilt top is 72 inches wide, and so to make the backing wide enough, all I needed to do was add another 36 inches of white to the 43-44" of colored fabrics.  I just cut a white rectangle the same width as each colored strip (and 36 inches long), and then roughly divided it into 2 pieces as I sewed it onto the ends of the colored strips.
I just laid the strips out on the floor as I sewed, so that I could stop when the backing was about the right length.
That's where I am now.  I need to sew the horizontal strips together now.
 Like I said earlier, I really like the look of these stacked rectangles!  It reminds me of a stack of books you might see on a coffee table, not too neatly lined up, which is a common sight around my house!
Have a great day!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

New Pages

I've been busy uploading some photos to the blog for reference.  You might have noticed that just under the header, a row of "tabs" has appeared.  There are a lot of photos!  I have yet to document a lot.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Continuing the "Renew Me" quilt, the "Log Cabin" blocks

I am continuing the "Quilt-A-Long" of the "Renew Me" pattern by Art Gallery fabrics that I am sewing as a sample for the store.
I am going to be a bad sample maker because I am now going to depart from the pattern and do my quilt differently.
Well, that's okay, because at this point, I've sewn most of it according to the instructions and I know that there is lots of fabric included in the kit so that anyone can complete it as written, even if they make several cutting mistakes.
I decided to make the remaining 10 blocks that I need for the quilt as the Block 6 log  cabin design. I don't like cutting strips in 1/8" increments, so I tweaked the measurements to still maintain an 8 inch finished block:

The centers: cut 3-1/2" squares.
Strips for the "log" rounds are cut as strips 1-3/4" x width of the fabric.

the other change I decided to make is to keep all 4 logs of each "round" in the same fabric.  This way, each log cabin block only uses 3 fabrics, and it looks like this:
I think that with all the rest of what's going on in the other blocks, the static nature of this coloring will provide a bit of a resting place for the eye, rather than using more fabrics in each block.

I like to sew log cabin blocks by cutting all the logs before sewing.  I just like to do it that way.

After all the blocks are finished, it is time to set them all out on the floor and fiddle around with the placement.  I don't agonize over this part too much, the variations are infinite, and it is not a matter of life and death.
So, I  tend to get right on with sewing the top together.
Because there are 8 colomns, it is easy to sew them together in pairs.

After all 4 column/pairs are sewn, I press them, so that I can keep track of which way to press the seams so that they nestle together when they get attached.  Also, it is easier to press them now in 4 smaller pieces than to try to press it as one big huge piece.  Okay, it is not that huge, but when you're trying to press it on a normal size ironing board it feels huge.
 I'm not sure if you can see on the photo below, but I use pins at the top of each set to keep track of what goes where.  The pin goes on the top of each column.  One pin for the 1st column, 2 pins on the 2nd column, and so on.  I find that stickers fall off.

Because I departed from the pattern, I did not use the nice light colored fabric that was included in the kit for the setting triangles.  This will make a really nice border,  I like the idea of the bright center set on a light edge.  I was able to cut eight 4-1/2" strips, (plus the 3-1/2" squares that were used for the centers of the log cabin blocks), so the border will finish at 4 inches.
I do have quite a bit of fabric leftover.  I am mulling over whether to add another outer border or whether to use it for another project, or whether to sew it together into the backing.
I sort of like the idea of using it up as the backing, but on the other hand, I do like flannel on the back of a quilt.  Also, I can't quite decide on whether to add another border.  I guess it is time to take a rest from it and let my subconscious mind wrestle with these important decisions...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Continuing the "Renew Me" quilt-- and a partial seams block

Well I have now sewn all the easy blocks for this quilt top.
The pattern looks like this:
The previous post tells where to find it.
It uses 72 eight-inch blocks set on point with setting triangles.  There are 7 different blocks.  So far I have done all the blocks of numbers 1 through 5.
Now it is time to focus on Block 7!!
 This is the cutting chart for these blocks.  Now it is time to figure out how to strip piece them!
I can see that each block will need 4 strip pieced units that are 5-1/4" long.  Therefore, (4 sections x 5-1/4" = 21")-- each block will need a 21" strip pieced unit plus the center square.  Great, that means that each width of fabric strip set will give me enough units for 2 blocks.  If I want 10 blocks in total, I'll need to make 5 strip sets, each with the 3 strips of fabric. 

 I decided to just start with 3 strip sets-- enough for 6 blocks-- using the first fabric combination. 
 This looks like a tricky block to sew because of the inset center.  But don't worry!! I've come across this type of block before and it is easier than it looks.
Sewing it this way is called using "partial seam" construction.
This is how it works:
1. lay the center square at the edge of one of your pieced rectangle units. 
(oops, this photo is from a different colorway than the rest of the photos below)
 2.  Sew the 1/4" seam-- but not the whole way down!!
 you can see how it is not joined the whole way
2.  finger press the partial seam away from the center square, and get ready to add the second rectangular section:
 sew it on, - it covers the center square and the short edge of the pieced rectangle.   Finger press it with the seam again pointing away from the center square.

3. turn the block and add the 3rd rectangular unit:

4.  Add the 4th rectangular unit, holding the first unit out of the way when you sew it on:

5.  When you open up the block, you will see that now you can go back to the first seam and finish sewing it all the way on now.  

 6.  Because you have finger pressed all the seams away from the center square as you are sewing, it is easy to press now, since the seams sort of naturally fall in the right way. 
Now, what I discovered while sewing these blocks, is that the center square measurement should be 2" x 2", not 2-1/8" square.  Trust me.  I have sewn and trimmed, and I know.

Well.  I stopped after 6 blocks, because I am tired of sewing partial seams.
I counted and I now have 62 blocks.  I only need 10 more.
I have lots of fabric left.
The writing is on the wall for me.  There is no way I'm going to sew this quilt top as a diagonal set.  Nope.  It is going to be straight rows.
It is going to be pretty big, anyway.  If I set it 8 blocks across and 9 blocks up and down, that will be 64" x 72".  Plus a border or two and that's plenty big for me.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Sewing from Kits and a note about Free Patterns

 Today I am sewing a sample for the shop!

It features Art Gallery Fabrics from the Revive collection, and the pattern is a free download on their web site,  here .  It is called Renew Me.         

 There are some lovely fabrics included!  It's another turquoise/brown/cream combination, with little additions of mauve.  We didn't get all 18 fabrics called for, so some are substitutions from other lines.  I really like the Art Gallery fabrics because they are such crisp printing on a high quality base fabric.  They use a higher thread count than other companies do, more like a batik. 

This post is pretty detailed, because I wanted to give an example of how I try to stay organized when sewing a project. It has organizational tips as well as how to add in speedy techniques when a pattern doesn't specify them.  
(So, if this seems overly detailed, or confusing, I won't mind if you just skim over it)

My first step when sewing from a kit is to familiarize myself with the fabrics. 

Kits can be put together in different ways.  Sometimes, we start with a pattern from another designer.  It can be a purchased pattern or a free pattern that often accompanies a fabric line to specifically showcase those fabrics.  We hope that the yardages given are right on.  Usually we go through and try to suss out whether the requirements are overly generous, or too scant. Sometimes we even cut and sew one kit  to see what's left over afterward.  That way we can tell whether we should change a recommended amount.  Other times, we cut a bunch of kits when the fabric has just arrived to make sure that we don't run out of a crucial fabric before we get the sample sewn. 
So, for this kit, we cut all the kits using the recommended yardage on the pattern.
There are 18 fabrics in this quilt! Thaat's quite a few to keep straight, so I decided to make a reference chart!
The fabrics are all tagged with a reference letter, so I cut a little swatch from each and stuck them onto a piece of paper to keep close at hand!
Then, I laid all the fabrics out on the floor of my sewing room in the same order as on the paper so that I could easily access the right fabric when cutting.

Often when you download a free pattern, the writers have tried to squeeze all the info into a small space so that the pattern is short and fits into one or two pages.  Because of this, they often use bare bones instructions, and rarely utilize strip-piecing or other time-efficient techniques.
So, I usually read over the pattern before I start cutting the fabrics to see if there are some ways that might make the sewing faster.
The instructions often have you cut individual pieces and sew them together one by one.  Often-times you can sew strip sets and sub-cut units to make the sewing process go much faster.
In this pattern, I noticed that most of the blocks were composed of strips:
You can see the block outlines in grey.  The finished size of the block is 8", and in the cutting instructions there seem to be a lot of 8-1/2" rectangles called for.  This is a big clue that it will be easy to strip piece the units rather than sewing them separately!!

It is also helpful to see that the little grey block diagrams tell you how many of that block you need to sew in all.  If I strip piece the sections, and then sub-cut 8-1/2" blocks, I can tell that I could get 5 blocks from each strip set  (5 sections x 8-1/2"= 42-1/2")

So I decided to start sewing blocks one type at a time.  I could see that Block 2 is the easiest.  I will need 9 blocks total, so if I sew 2 strip sets, that will give me 10 blocks, so that is perfect-- I'll have one extra.
 Sure enough, the author has made the instructions so that half the blocks can be made with colors for one strip set, and the remaining blocks out of colors for a second strip set. 
So, the width of the strip is 4-1/2" x the width of the fabric. ( I won't cut them into the 4-1/2" x 8-1/2" rectangles, because I'm going to strip piece instead.)
As I cut the strips, I check off on the pattern what I've cut. (above)
I also keep track of what i've cut from each fabric, but this isn't neccessary.  I just like the illusion of control.
 Then, rather than keep cutting, I went and sewed all the Block 2's. (sewed the two strip sets that I needed and then cut them into 8-1/2" blocks)  This photo shows one of the strip sets cut into 5 blocks:

 After I had all my Block 2's, I checked them off on the pattern that they were done:

 And then went on to some of the other easy blocks, (1, 3, and 4)  You might notice that sometimes I have extra blocks from strip sewing.  That is, while I only need 14 of Block 1, I have 15.  So I am accumulating a few extras.  This is handy.  I can use them for something else, OR, because the pattern is sort of a random looking design, I can use them instead of sewing the full number of some of the other blocks. That is I will only make 10 blocks of Block 4 instead of 11 blocks, so that I can just sew 2 strip sets. 

Now I have most of the easy ones done, and it is time for me to go sew Block 5!!!  (only 2 strip sets-- i'll get 10 blocks instead of the called-for 12)

So, I will continue this later.

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