Thursday, August 25, 2016

Revisiting 6-Pointed Stars

Two years ago, I posted my first (and only come to think of it) Sew-Along -- Diamond Star Playtime.
Right now, I'm away from the studio for a few days and since I have lots of new followers these days, I encourage you to revisit the basic process post from that series. 
The entire series is collected together and listed under the Diamond Star Playtime tab up above, but this post is a good first read on the process which I use and teach.
I'm currently putting the finishing touches on my teaching plan for the new two-day workshop for this winter which focuses on designing, cutting, piecing, and troubleshooting hexagonal blocks.  It's booked for a local regional show in March but I travel!!  Perhaps your guild or shop would like to set up the workshop in your area.  Talk to me!!

Next week, I'll be catching up again of course!?!
Have a stitching weekend.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Star Block Mini Quilt Swap

Have you participated in an Instagram quilt swap yet?
I do one a year for the fun of it but there are quilters who seem to be doing several at a time and all the time!
This box arrived in my mailbox one morning last week!!  So excited.
Ohhhhh, so promising!!
And here it is -- wonderful because it's bright and because it's not something I would ever make for myself.
Such a delightful array of modern prints -- something I could not do with my deep stash of florals and reproduction prints.  And there were some little bonuses.

That is the tiniest hexagon I've ever seen in that necklace and I don't own a single one of those little clips everyone is so in love with and won't this pattern be fun to play with in the future?!?
No y-seams but one of my favorite shapes!!
And what did I make? 
 I've kept very quiet about it!
Tumbling Stars!
It was a spontaneous idea that evolved as it went along.  I intend to play with the stars "sharing a corner" some more (and in a larger scale -- these are 3/4" diamonds) because I see some other design possibilities. 
I think this might be the closest I've come to a "modern" quilt, too!!

If you are an Instagram fan, I encourage you to check out some of the other terrific creations from this swap -- very inspiring!!  The hashtag is #starblockquiltswap

Linking up today with SEW CUTE TUESDAY which has a new hostess over at Young Texan Mama.

Stitch on!!

Friday, August 19, 2016

All Caught Up!!

Now there's an exaggeration if I've ever written one!?!
All Caught Up??
I don't think I'll every really enter that state but I am caught up with the second quilt along I'm currently enjoying -- the #smorgasblocks project led by the creative Anneliese at Eye Candy Quilts.
(Click above to read all the posts and find the links to the patterns featured here today.)
I was delighted to have a reason to piece Barn Bats as shared by Elizabeth Hartman on her blog.
I had bookmarked that tutorial quite some time ago, but of course never actually indulged in the process of making it.  It felt like it took longer to organize the fabric than it did to piece the block.
Every bat is a different fabric and my goal was to spread the blacks and yellows evenly around the block since they seem to stand out most -- interesting that they ended up paired together -- I didn't notice that until just now looking at the photo.
I'll be doing this again for sure!  Two notations I made on my instructions -- first, don't put my favorite prints on the top or bottom of each row since those will be trimmed when squaring up the block (which I have not done yet).  Second, the order of the colors is reversed from top to bottom from the layout I planned.  It's not a problem for me visually, but it confused me for a few minutes when I was piecing since I knew where I had placed certain prints.
The second block in my catch-up binge is Whiskers, a larger than life cat's face.  I have to confess I was disappointed to encounter yet another paper piecing block and didn't love the scale of the block.
In the end, the paper piecing wasn't such a chore after all.
Here are all the units as finished and ready for the next step.
One of the aspects of this pattern from Anna of Six White Horses that I appreciated is that she shaded the seam allowances of her pattern units and it was easier for me to remember not to cut the seams off during the trimming step!!  Thank you, Anna!
Since I wasn't thrilled with the scale of the block, I choose to break it up a bit with two fabrics for the face.  And the choice of plaid with a print background kept the overall image softer and more in keeping with the feel of the other blocks.
I'm listening to A Man Named Ove on Hoopla right now and the weather has cooled enough to turn off the air conditioning in the studio and open the windows, so it all made for a pleasant evening of piecing and trimming and watching Whiskers evolve on the floor next to my machine.
In the end, I'm happy with the block and it blends into the mix perfectly.
The third block in the backlog is Garden Fence from Hyacinth Quilt Designs -- so easy -- yea!!
And the next day, I saw a quilt on Instagram made with this block that inspired me to save this design for a future charity quilt -- it even uses 2 1/2" strips which fill my go-to sourdough scrap box!
I hope the block isn't as crooked as it looks in this picture!  I hope I had the camera cocked at a funny angle.  If not, I might have to revisit the outer sashing.
So that's eight blocks assembled so far -- two or three more?  I need to use more white background in the remaining blocks to balance things out a bit but I'm happy with the results and beginning to think about a simple quilting strategy for this.
What will I do this weekend now that I'm caught up?
Seriously, Mary?!?
I believe the living room requires some focused attention!!
Have a good weekend!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Catching up with Myself -- Morris Hexathon #12, #13, #14, and #15

". . . . though I get no more tired now than I did when I was younger, I take much longer to get un-tired afterwards."  C.S. Lewis

So it goes this week for me as I putter along at catching up with myself and get back into a home/studio routine.  Although it looked like I was here in my studio plugging along last week, I was actually on a family camping trip with my adult children and my grandchildren! 

I had a backlog of four blocks for Barbara Brackman's Morris Hexathon by the time I returned and spent my first afternoon back in the studio working through those.  Oxford Rose, #13 was easy!  I was able to use the kite template from Marti Michell's 3" Kite and Crown set to cut the pieces and although it is a bit large, it will be easy enough to trim the block at the end of the project.

I need more dark blocks and favored these two directional reproduction prints for a contrast of print. 
Canterbury, #14 was fun to make once I determined a piecing strategy.  I used templates #46 and #48 from Marti's Set G plus some strip piecing and cutting tricks.
Rather than cut individual diamonds with template #48, I pieced a strip set of the red and green prints using the template to determine the width of each strip.
Once they were pieced together and pressed, I struggled to determine the correct angle to start cutting the diamond pairs until I laid the pattern sheet directly above the strip set and lined up my ruler in the direction that matched the diagram!  Once that was done, I aligned the ruler's 60 degree line with the edge of the green strip and cut the angle.
I proceeded to cut six diamond pairs using the template to measure the width of each one.
I used the same strategy to get the starter angle for the background parallelograms.
Again, I was stumped for a minute on how to measure the length of the background units, but realized I could just lay a pieced diamond unit right side down on the strip and use that for a "pattern" to cut the parallelograms.  Notice that I used the diamond template and dutifully trimmed the points of the units and marked the "dots" to guide me with the y-seams.
Here is the block laid out and ready to assemble.  There are 18 seams in this block -- interestingly, the seams around the center hexagon are not y-seams but all the rest are.  Because I always want to chain piece, I organized everything for the next block in the series and worked back and forth between the two blocks to maintain my set-in piecing simplified strategy!!  That is why there are stacks of something else at the bottom of this picture.
These are the beginning units for #15, Kelmscott Tile.  It's made up of twelve 4-piece diamond units though the option was presented to use single larger diamonds for the outer "background" diamonds which is what I did.  Template H53 is perfect for the large diamond and if I could find it, the tiny 60 degree diamond from Set N would be perfect for the small diamonds . . . . . grrrrr.
Again, I chose to take a short cut and made two strip sets for my 4-piece diamond units.
I cut six units from each strip set and assembled them into the main diamond units.
They aren't quite big enough and I'm going to have to remake this block using 1 1/4" strips which will yield a pieced diamond that is slightly larger but can be trimmed down using the template to the perfect size.
Now for the piecing process!  Adding the diamond units to the hexagon center of the Canterbury block is not a y-seam at both ends!  It's a blend of a "partial seam" around the hexagon and a y-seam at the outer edge.  So the first pair is added to one side of the hexagon but I stopped about 2/3 of the way across and left the seam unfinished.  The second pair will be added to the right side of this section and stitching from hexagon end to a dot at the end of the diamond unit.
Press the seams away from the hexagon!
At the end of each of those seams, I stitched together a pair of the strip units for the other block to assemble the 4-piece diamond units for the other block.
Back and forth, back and forth.
The right end of this seam is open for the y-seam needed to insert the background parallelograms. 
(I need a tutorial on how to "draw" arrows on my pictures!!)
Here it is before inserting the background pieces -- these will all be y-seams.
The 4-piece diamonds were finished and ready to begin assembling the second star.  This photo shows the pressing of the "tumbling" units which is the first step of assembling a six-pointed star.
(See a complete explanation of how I piece six-pointed stars HERE.)
All the units are pressed identically.
To keep the points of the first block flat and crisp, I inserted every other background piece, then pressed it before inserting the final three pieces.
And here are final pictures of Canterbury, front
and back.   I like this block and plan to make a larger version of it -- maybe slip one into my Smitten quilt top!?!
And this is Kelmscott Tile front 
and back.  It's smaller than the rest of the blocks and I'm currently talking myself into remaking it so it will fit together with all the other better.  
Block #12 is going to be challenging to cut but easy to piece -- I just need to find that tiny little diamond template and I'll remake Kelmscott Tile at the same time.
Now to catch up with the #smorgasblocks project.  I'm three blocks behind on that -- but it was totally worth it to spend 5 days puttering around with my clan.  Here are the grown-ups headed out for a morning paddle while my grands and I indulged in some butterfly chasing and other silliness!!
Have a good week!!

Thursday, August 11, 2016


Earlier this week, I shared my renewed efforts to finish my version of Lucy Carson Kingwell's Smitten quilt.
The work continues and I'm very close to getting the top completed.  In this photo, the upper left corner is assembled and the next diagonal row is set together.  Since these are y-seams, the seams stop at the 1/4" seam and don't go all the way to the raw edge of the blocks.  I find it's better to leave the seams between the hexagon blocks unpressed for now.  It's easier to move them out of the way if they haven't been pressed.
I'm working from the left side diagonally towards the upper right side.  For those of you who have invested in my DVD workshop, Set-In Piecing Simplified (order it HERE) this is another look at the approach I take for setting hexagonal blocks together (this is covered in the second half of the DVD).

Half triangles are used to straighten the left and right sides of the quilt and it's easiest to add those to the hexagon block before you begin to attach the blocks together.
Of course, each seam is a stop and start process but it is greatly simplified by using the chain-piecing process featured in the DVD. 
It's also more accurate and more secure than any y-seam technique I've tried.

Here is the first seam stitched together between two rows.
I have discovered (and perhaps others have as well) that after completing the first seam, if I skip the next seam and go to the third one, this process is half as challenging.  So in the picture below, I have the third seam pinned and am holding open the second seam so you can see it easier. 
This is the result after stitching the third seam pair. 
Now you can fold the entire piece matching the second pair of seams and all the rest of the quilt top falls out of your way easily.  For me, this simplifies the process a great deal!
I continue to hop over a pair of seams, stitch a pair of seams, and then return to close up the gap.
Give it a try and let me know what you think!
Two rows joined!  Everything is flat and secure!! 
Here it is with three rows joined!  I still have to cut and piece about 10 small hexagon blocks which will be assembled into clusters of three to match the size of the large blocks plus the half blocks for the lower edge.
This is going to be an exciting workshop to teach!! 
 I love the combination of teaching a great technique (Set-In Piecing Simplified) and helping students discover all the possibilities of experimenting with value and color.  The two-day format will enable students to leave with a working plan well underway! 
If you can't get to Northeast Ohio, I travel!! 
 Give me a shout at if you like to discuss having me come to teach for your guild/shop/group!
There's still some summer to be enjoyed up here, so get out there this weekend and do it!!
Mary Huey

Monday, August 8, 2016

Another UFQ Adventure and Some Ideas on Getting Unstuck!

Once again, there is nothing like a deadline to motivate me!
I started piecing Lucy Carson Kingwell's Smitten over a year ago and as is so often the case with me, other projects pushed in and took priority.
This year, I listed it as one of my "goal" projects for the APQ Resolution challenge which helped me get back at it briefly earlier in the year.  Then a student asked me to consider using the pattern for a future workshop and the idea formed to follow through on that for my 2017 Farmpark Workshop.
It's too early to book for it at this point, but I can tell you it's
Friday and Saturday, March 17 and 18
at Lake Metroparks Farmpark Quilt Show!
So back out everything came and the finished blocks took over the design wall.
Now I have a deadline to motivate me but I need stimulation to actually do the work!
I find that a good place to start is to sort through all that fabric pulled for the project and reorganize it.
Nothing gets my juices moving like sorting fabric into color and value piles!
Another useful strategy for me is to start cutting pieces without making "matching" decisions.  For this set of small blocks I needed a central hexagon.  Cutting some that I thought were pretty is the quickest way to move forward. 
The "visual" of the shape laying there suggests what to use more quickly than other approaches.
And as I was handling a piece of fabric, I cut some extra pieces -- large diamonds for fillers I would need, a set of background diamonds for a small star, triangle wedges.
(A good pot of tea and a lovely teacup help stimulate creativity.)
Soon I was back in the groove and piecing blocks at a productive rate! 
By adding the newly pieced units to the design wall as they were finished, I can evaluate where I need more of the three main color families -- pink, green, and yellow.  If you don't have a design wall, it is such a helpful resource you might want to give it some thought.
Even though I haven't finished all the interior blocks, I stared to create the half blocks needed for the upper and lower edges.  I have a photo deadline I'm trying to meet!!
I've also begun to incorporate ideas from other sources to build my enthusiasm and maintain momentum -- sometimes I get bored with doing what someone else has done and just need to give it a twist!  Treehouse Textiles is a shop in Australia that I follow on Instagram and they often post ideas for using vintage textiles in their quilted projects (such as this). 
I had three of these tea towels too precious to "use" but if I didn't do something with them, they were doomed for a donation box someday -- now they will always be fondled and appreciated!
I've started to assemble the upper left side working in diagonal rows. 
Friday, I'll share some tips on how I manage this part of the process.
Must head back to the studio for now and stitch, stitch, stitch!!
Mary Huey