Thursday, March 23, 2023

A Layer Cake Idea!

Are you a layer cake sucker? 
I'm trying to use up a few (so I can buy more guilt-free?).
  I'm pretty good at talking myself out of them but this was one I couldn't resist -- I wanted it so badly, I had a friend buy it for me at QuiltCon in 2019.  
Forty exciting African prints!! 
 I think they came from Crimson & Tate in Indianapolis, Indiana?
Problem was that I could not cut them up!?! I auditioned several ideas, but never started anything.  What is the point of buying fabric you don't have the courage to use???  Then last week, while filing some old teaching handouts, I had a lightbulb moment.  
Make a ZIG ZAG quilt!

Step one -- cut all the 10" squares on both diagonals into four triangles.
Caution -- measure some of the squares to make sure they are actually squares.  The layer cake I used for the Exploding Heart quilt was 10" by 10 1/4".  It wasn't a problem for that quilt but it would have been for this one!!
Keep each set of triangles together.
Step 2 - lay out the stacks so you can see everything.  I needed to determine the proportion of warm colors and cool colors -- that is a good color strategy when working with lots of prints that aren't "coordinated".
Two stacks of triangles make one horizontal row.  I chose two contrasting prints for each row.  Starting at the top, my first row is a mostly green print and a mostly red print.  For the second row, I start with another red print and chose a contrasting print, a cool color in this case, for the lower side of the row.  As I moved down the layout, I repeated the process -- the upper triangles in each row repeat the color (but not the print) of the previous row and the second color used for the lower triangles of that row contrast with it.

As the layout is built, the "zig zags" begin to appear!  If they don't, rearrange to get more contrast -- either of value (light vs. dark) or color.
Once I was happy with the layout, I took the right edge triangle from each row and cut it in half as shown below.  One of these triangles will square off the left end of the row and the other the right end.
Time to sew!  I pieced the units into pairs as below.
I was lazy and didn't trim the points, just eyeballed aligning them with the "dog-ear" sticking equally out on both ends.
The seam allowance should start and end at the intersection of a diagonal edge and a straight edge -- see below.  I pressed the seams to one-side and all the seams in a row go the same direction.
The rows go together quickly with just 8 seams!  My rows are about 32" across and 4 1/4" wide -- 10 rows will be about 42" -- a nice child size piece.  The plan is for no borders and a solid color backing.
I don't even have to figure out how to quilt it since I used this same design several years ago to make a quilt for my daughter's guest room.

I finished assembling the rows before lunch and couldn't resist sewing "just two" of them together as you see below . . . . . but I stitched the wrong edges so the first and second row (from the top) are flipped.  Arghhh!!  My "staff" will be ripping that apart later this afternoon so I can correct it?!?
I have enough fabric to make two of these quilts and my plan is to donate them to a local group that works to improve the birthing experience for women of color.

If you want to use this idea with a layer cake that is more coordinated, it seems to me you could sort the prints by light and dark and perhaps color depending on the assortment.  If the contrast between two zig-zags is good, a scrappy arrangement of the prints will work.  If all the prints in a zig-zag are assorted blues and the next one is assorted oranges, the uniform color families and the contrast of opposite colors makes the zig-zag work.   

If I were planning a lap size piece with a layer cake, I would add one set of triangles to each row for a width of about 40" and use thirteen rows for a length of 54".  Some quick math tells me that would need about thirty-three 10" squares so one layer cake would do that with a few leftovers. 
For every two triangles added to a row, the row will increase by approximately 8" and adding another complete row to the top will add about 4".

So I'm another layer cake down with just three more to use up!!
I hope you are inspired to use up one of your layer cakes!!

Daffodils starting to bloom here!!
It's so nice to look out the window and see cheery spots of yellow!!
Enjoy the first weekend of the new season -- spring or fall!!



Friday, March 10, 2023

Something Fun!!!

 Something fun has been happening in my space!?!
A couple weeks ago while tidying a shelf of fabric in my stash, a forgotten layer cake surfaced -- it had fallen behind the stack of fabric.  I recall ordering it on-line quite some time ago -- the flyer says 2015?  So it is properly aged at this point.  
It only took me about a minute to realize it would be perfect for a new make -- Exploding Heart!  I'm pretty sure I've save every picture of this quilt I've ever seen on Instagram so in January, I bought the pattern!
I found the instructions to be excellent (and as a pattern writer myself, I don't say that very often).  Laura of Slice of Pi Quilts is the author and she gives instructions for rotary cutting and using a "fabric cutter" machine.   That impressed me even though I don't own one of those.  

Since I was starting with a layer cake, I cut each piece into 5" squares until I had the number needed which only used 33 of the layer cake's 10" squares.  I used a muckled-up assortment of white-on-white prints from my stash for the  background and only cut the number specified for the "larger" background square.  I waited to cut the "smaller" background squares until I had trimmed all the pieced units -- since my colored squares were smaller than the pattern specified, my pieced units came out smaller and I needed to adjust that size accordingly.
Does that make sense?

You could also use four 5" charm packs of fabrics -- they wouldn't need to be the same collection but could be four different collections from the same designer since I've noticed many designers use a color palette over and over.  And it would be a lot of fun using scraps from your favorite designer -- Kaffe Fassett or Anna Marie Horner??  And four packs equals more squares than you need to begin, so you could eliminate the ones you didn't like as much?

At one point, a line needs to be drawn across the back of triangle sets -- make sure that line is perpendicular to the first seam!!  I lined up the "5 line" on my ruler with the stitching every time to be sure my units were easier to square up during the final trimming step!

Every day last week, I worked on one group of  the units -- since I try not to spend more than 45 minutes with my "nose-down" at the sewing machine these days, it was a perfect work flow.  I could do all the piecing and pressing for one group in less than an hour.

 I knew I wouldn't enjoy trimming the units to a uniform size - I never do.  Since I cut patchwork with templates and have pieced for so many years, my work doesn't need trimmed.  But I was determined to follow Laura's directions faithfully.  My finished units are 1/2" smaller than the pattern specified since I started out with slightly smaller squares and so my quilt top will be a bit smaller.

Happily, I was going to a retreat last weekend and only taking handwork, no sewing machine.  I took all the units with me and trimmed them in small batches, working on it for 15 minutes at a time to minimize shoulder strain that is now one of the perks of rotary cutting for me?!?
If you are a "trimmer", you already know that it's important to "center" the ruler correctly.  In this case, notice that the "4" line is matching the left side "corners" and the diagonal line is aligned perfectly.  If you don't take the time to do this, when you assemble the units, corners will not align no matter what you do!

I came home with all the units trimmed units ready to assemble into the top!

I emptied the design wall and started to work through the pattern, one row at a time.  It only took about 3 rows for me to see this was going to be wonderful!!  And when I got to row 5, it was hard to stop.
All week, I've been assembling two or three rows and adding them to the design wall.
It just keeps getting better and better!!

Today, I pieced the last row and started thinking about whether to add a border.  The pattern doesn't call for it, but it will upsize my version a bit and I like the idea of a white border to "float" the design.  Inspiration arrived in the form of "incorporated" borders which was a favorite tactic of my long-time mentor, Mary Ellen Hopkins.  Piecing the border will blend in with the "muckled-up" background better, so I cut enough rectangles to add a 2" finished border.  Since I haven't finished sewing the rows together, I'll add rectangles to the ends of each row.  A row of rectangles will make the top and bottom borders.  You can see them in place on the design wall (top edge and right edge).
I won't get the top completely assembled today (avoiding aching shoulders and neck) but I'm already envisioning a stripped fabric for the binding and studying my collection of pictures of other quilters versions for quilting inspiration.

I can see myself making this quilt again!!  The only thing I would do different is to cut the pieces with one of Marti Michell's Basic Template sets -- A, B, or T maybe?   My unit size might be different than the pattern and so the quilt would be a different size, but I wouldn't have to trim any of the units.  And there would be no wasted fabric.  

I could have used B-9 and B-11 to cut the triangles for the size in the pattern, getting 4 large triangles and 8 small triangles from a 10" layer cake square for the 72" square top.
I could also use these templates with 5" charm square packs.
Use template B-8 for the background squares.
Others sizes would be easy to achieve using a different group of the templates.
Using these templates (below) from Set A (1, 2, and 4) would make a 54" quilt top.
Using the smaller templates from Set B (10, 11, & 13) would make about a 52" quilt top.
And the smaller templates from Set A (3, 4, and 6) would make a 38" quilt top
I don't own Set T (that's odd?) but looking at it on, using 102, 103, & 104 would result in a 90" quilt top.

Wouldn't this make a great graduation quilt?  
I might set out the templates for a 54" throw size and cut from scraps as I tidy up the overflowing scrap basket next to my cutting table?!?  Hmmm??
I love it when one idea morphs into another!!

Are you ready for the change of seasons?  I brought out some spring quilts to change the hangings around the house this coming week.  We haven't had much of a winter -- no snow to speak of, so I'm tired of the brown weather and ready for lots of green and pink!!

Talk soon!

P.S.  Let me know if you are rushing out to your local quilt shop to get the pattern!!

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Revisiting a Thoughtful Essay

 I hope you have some FUN planned for the upcoming weekend!

I'm packing my little blue Subaru for a short road trip to Amish country in central Ohio for a weekend of "retreating" with a small group of long-time quilting friends. 

But before I go, I want to point you back to a post I wrote in the summer of 2015.  I revisited it recently and thought it might be good to share it again with those of you who don't go back that far with me.  The sewing philosophy I shared still rings true with me today and is the reason I get "so much done".

So click on the link below to read it -- let me know if it helps you in anyway.


And how about a triplet picture -- there hasn't been one of those for a while!

Have a pleasant weekend!!


Friday, February 17, 2023

Honeycomb Tutorial for Erin!!

On January 11, I shared a photo of a scrappy honeycomb quilt laying on the floor of my studio.  It came out of "hiding" (LOL) and I have been using it for sew-offs as I work on other projects over the past month.  It's the best way to me to make progress on a UFO when I've lost interest.  Since I chain-piece all the time, sew-offs are always in demand in my studio -- I may not be able to stand working on a project anymore but I can always muster up the interest to sew a 2" seam here and there while working on my "newest" love interest!?!

I started this in response to a question about whether honeycombs could be machine-pieced using the Set-in Piecing Simplified technique that I taught -- I can remember getting Erin's email, perhaps 10 years ago?  I was in California on a teaching trip so I sketched an idea on graph paper and was ready to try it out when I got home. 

I cut some pieces from the 2 1/2" scrappy strips that are always on hand!  
I stitched just enough of it to confirm that my idea was on target and then put it in a box.  
I'm not sure I ever responded to Erin with an answer???
So here's the answer, Erin!

All the pieces are cut with Marti Michell tools.  The yellow squares are cut using template #12 from Set B and the honeycombs are 2 1/2" by 4 1/2" rectangles trimmed with the Evening Star end of the Sashing Stars Set  (linked HERE).
Finally I marked the corners of the honeycomb pieces with dots using the 45 degree angle on Marti's Corner Trimmer tool.

After a bit of fiddling to determine the best piecing order, I made all the 3-piece units with two honeycomb pieces and one square.  Once I find my rhythm, this is the type of repetitive work that makes a perfect sew-off. 
If you are familiar with Set-in Piecing Simplified, the upper left seam between the two honeycombs is stitched from the outer edge and stops at the "dot" as in the photo below.  The two seams attaching the square to the two honeycombs art stitched dot-to-dot.
144 sew-off's later, all 48 of the basic 3-piece units were stitched together!
Time to lay them out!

The easiest way to layout a scrap quilt is the same way you deal a game of Solitaire -- off the top of the deck in random order.  Once they are all laid out you can see where to tweak -- if there are 3 of the same brown print clustered together, un-cluster them.
My layout is six units by eight units -- each honeycomb and each square counts as 2" side to side -- so my piece is 26" by 34".   Once I was happy with the layout, I cut more honeycombs to finish the right edge and the lower edge and added those to the "design floor".  To make the edges straight, I cut triangles using the quarter square method and template #14 from Marti's set B -- the straight of fabric grain runs along the "diagonal" of the triangle so the outer edge of the piece will not stretch when I add borders.   HERE is a link to that template set which you can order direct from Marti!  There's even a video to show you how to work with the templates!

Now to assemble the units!  I've got lots of pictures to share.  Even if you never want to piece this, reading through the process and looking at the pictures might help you figure out the best approach to a project in your future?

I added a triangle to the lower edge of each left side unit.
I added a triangle to each right edge honeycomb.
And I added a honeycomb and triangle to the lower edge of each lower edge unit.
Once all those units were pieced, I started pieced in the upper left corner and worked across the piece to the right.  Once the first row was assembled, I returned to the left side and added the next row of units, one unit at a time.  This was much easier than assembling the units into rows and then attaching the rows -- just take my word for it!?!

After a bit of trial and error, I determined the best sewing order for the four seams needed to insert a unit was to start by attaching the intersection of the four honeycombs -- dot-to-dot seam.
Since this is the most critical matching point, it worked best when I did it first.
Second, attach the left side of the vertical honeycomb to the right edge of the adjacent square --  
dot-to-dot seam.
Third, attach the upper edge of the horizontal honeycomb to the lower edge of the adjacent square --
And finally, attach the right edge of the horizontal honeycomb to the left edge of the vertical honeycomb in the row above -- dot-to-edge.
Repeat, repeat, repeat.
Soon, the top will be coming together and covering the sewing table!
The final corner (lower right) looked like this and notice, I added that last triangle to the lower right side of the honeycomb in the row above.  Also, I used two triangles in each corner because I like the way it blended instead of a bigger triangle.
Scroll back up to the first picture -- the top isn't finished.  I'm thinking a yellow frame next and then I don't know what?  It's on the design wall and percolating in my head.  If I had used a lighter print for the squares, the lattice created by the honeycombs would have been stronger looking but I'm just having fun here .

And that's the third quilt top from that 2 1/2" strip box this winter.  The 4-patch is all set together and a backing made -- planning to take it along to a retreat in a couple weeks and get it layered up!
Didn't it turn out great!  The black and white print alternate squares make all those scrappy 4-patches hang together beautifully.  I even got a bit artsy with the layout to get those diagonal rows of darker prints.  The main reason for the shifting value of the alternate squares was "I ran out of fabric", not just once, but twice?!?  And as usual, it looks all the better for it.
Running out of a print can be fun if you let it have it's way with you!!

If I've made you curious about the Set-in Simplified technique for chain piecing, see my face up there on the right -- click on it and it will take you right to my Etsy shop where you can purchase an instructional PDF (download it tonight) and try it out!
In fact, I'll give you 10% off through the end of February, 2023.
No coupon needed!

If you have questions about today's tutorial, leave them in the comments!



Friday, February 3, 2023

Quick(ish) Finish

Started December 31, 2022 -- finished February 1, 2023
Pieced, machine quilted, bound!
Ready to be washed.
And I love it (which means it will be so hard to part with it)!!

I gave you a glimpse of the top a couple weeks ago but I'll review what I did here today and how it achieved one of my goals for the year (already?).

On December 31, I spent an entire afternoon tidying up my very messy box of 
2 1/2" scrap strips sorting out strips that were less than 12" long to cut up into squares for the 2 1/2" scrap squares box.  Daydreaming along, I started to consider making a "jelly roll" quilt -- you know sew the strips together end-to-end for a couple miles and then -- just "google" it.  
Then I recalled a pattern -- Sakura Sun -- which has been on my "I want to make that" list for a couple years.  It's a free pattern on the RJR Fabrics website designed by Linda Fitch.
Upon reading through the pattern instructions, it calls for three different strip lengths all under 12" -- perfect use for that growing pile of short strips.

Time to make a color plan!
The aspect of the pattern that first caught my eye was the way the colors bled down the length of the quilt.  So to achieve that, I decided to use the warm colors down the middle of the quilt and the cool colors down each side.  When I sorted out cools and warms, there was twice as much green as blue or purple and lots more cool prints than warm prints. 

The resulting strategy was to "muckle up" (old Mary Ellen Hopkins term) the warm colors down the middle, with greens down both sides bleeding into blues on the right and purples on the left.  All the strips in each band are the same length and the pattern calls for ten sets of the three different bands.  So every set began with purple, then green, then warm colors, green again and ending with blue.  The sets with seven pieces have three warm color prints in the middle and the sets with six pieces have two warm color prints.
After setting the top together, I went back and added an eleventh set of bands.

I stacked the strips for each band from left to right without being fussy about "matching" or "coordinating" the prints -- the quicker this step is done, the more random the results! 
After piecing and pressing the bands, I put them on the design wall as they came off the ironing board -- no fiddling at this point.  When I walked away from the design wall and turned around to look at the layout, I gasped!!  This was so much better than I imagined!!
I did fiddle a bit to move the reds to the top and bottom of the quilt and concentrate the yellows in the middle but I didn't necessarily need to do that.

TIP: I forgot to do this until I realized the quilt top was skewing to one side --
I stitched the bands into pairs, pressed the seams to one side and then began to stitch the pairs into fours -- my mistake at this stage was I always started at the blue end.
To eliminate the skewing, I needed to switch and start at the purple end to join the rest of the bands.
Does that make sense?

Also, the bands are a bit random in their finished length -- part of the reason for that is there are varying numbers of seams.  So a band with seven strips will be shorted than a band with five strips because there are more seams -- not because you are a "bad" piecer!! 

Once the top was finished it was time to figure out a backing.  Of course, I didn't find any piece large enough so I pulled four colorful prints that have some common colors and were all florals.  Here they are laying on the quilt top (on the design wall) to make sure my calculations are good.
Nothing more frustrating than piecing a backing and having it short!!
As I layered it with batting (a Frankenbat made from three leftover pieces), I considered whether random lines zigzagging down the quilt would emphasize the color flow. It just took a few chalk lines drawn across the quilt to convince me it was a good idea.

I drew the first line down the length of the center of the quilt, stitched it and then used my straight line quilting guide tool to achieve the random spacing as I worked out to the sides from the center. 
It's not apparent in this photo, but I also changed thread colors as I progressed -- yellow down the middle, a variegated pink/red on either side of the center, then a variegated green down through the green prints, finishing up with a variegated blue thread on the right and variegated purple on the left. 
 I played two rounds of "thread chicken" running out of both the blue and the purple threads with just a few inches left to quilt.  After another cuppa' to calm me down, I was able to think and estimate how many more lines I could get from the remaining thread.  I spaced those lines further apart.  
Then I came back in and added lines with a thread color that blended with what I had already used.   Could you tell if I had not point it out?
As I finished the quilting, I started thinking about the binding.  All my auditioned ideas weren't working -- black, rainbow strip . . . .    But then I had a "clever" moment, dove back into the 2 1/2" strip box and made a scrappy binding that changed colors to (almost) match the edges of the quilt -- blue on the right, green and warm colors on the top and bottom, purple on the left!!
The "goals" reached?
I used a pattern from my "want to make" list!
I used about 6 yards of my stash, leftover batting, and thread I had on hand!
I finished the quilt in a timely fashion!
(My kids don't appreciate the favor I'm doing them using up some of the stash!?!)

My version is 53" by 66" -- did I say I love it!
An easy, cheerful, and quick make during the gray months of winter here in NE Ohio.
I have another simple quilt in the works using the shortest strips from the same stash box!
Hope you are able to do some satisfying stitching this weekend.

P.S. -- here's a link to a "jelly roll 1600" quilt I did out of my stash a few years ago that you might also find inspiring!  After re-reading it, I'm wondering if I followed through on making a charity quilt from every shelf of fabric in my stash that year -- guess I have to go back and read more posts?!?  Plus there's a great (I think) tip on managing the assembly of this style of quilt top.