Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Adapting Quilt Patterns -- Part I

My day is off to a perky beginning.  It's only 10 a.m. and I've done my morning devotions, the dishwasher is hard at work in the kitchen and the bread machine is hopefully producing an excellent loaf of sourdough artisan bread for Thursday's turkey stuffing!  (Though I am still in my jammies.)

One of the lectures and a workshop that I've offered for the past few years is titled ADAPTING PATTERNS.  During it, listeners and students are guided through some steps to open up new options for using some of that pile of patterns and tabbed pages in our favorite magazines.  This series (I think there will be 4 parts) will share some of those ideas with you.

We'll start with the easiest way to adapt a pattern -- changing the color and/or fabric style.  And I'm going to use my pattern, MISSISSIPPI MUD, as an illustration.  That's it on the left in this booth photo from one of my road trips.  It's the oldest pattern in my line, Mary Huey Quilts.

Mississippi Mud came to life in the late 1980's (I think).  My teaching mentor, Mary Ellen Hopkins, of It's Okay To Sit On My Quilt fame shared a pattern called Mississippi Simplified that would make good use of what we called "connector corners".  Most gals call them "snowball corners" today.  When I began to putter with the block design, there were two triangles whose placement bothered me, so I eliminated them.  When I shared the design with my Quilt Sitters Circle group, they were excited enough about my modified design that I began to offer workshops. 
To say it was popular would be an understatement.  During the late 80's and early 90's, I taught it so often that I got tired of it.  I finally wrote the pattern so that when customers whined about my not offering the class, I could set them up with the pattern and they could make the quilt.  The photo on the front of the pattern is traditional reproduction style fabrics and frankly that is way many quilters organize their fabrics when making it.  Everyone sees it as a "traditional" quilt because of the cover photo. 
I've made at least a half dozen of them over the years from crib to queen size and my students are always amazed when they meet someone here in Northeast Ohio who hasn't made Mississippi Mud.
A student's signature version.
Over 25 years, it's an easy quilt for me to produce (I can knock out a crib size top in a day) and I like to make it for gifts since it's a "signature" Mary Huey design.
My granddaughter, Grace, with her big girl bed quilt.

As you look at the three versions of the pattern, which one catches your eye?  Most of us are more heavily influenced by the color and fabric style of a quilt than we realize.  To see a pattern in your preferred style is challenging until you manipulate your mind into thinking about it that way.  It's hard to subdue the instant "yuck" and look at the design for itself, but once you train yourself to take this deeper look, you will discover some wonderful patterns. 
Two weeks ago, I taught workshops for the Chambersburg Quilt Guild in Pennsylvania and the Towpath Quilt Guild near Syracuse, NY using this pattern.  I can't remember the last time I got to teach Mud -- it must have been quite a while because when it came time to send samples to each guild, there was nothing to send.  So I had to make two new ones.  When explaining to gals how to chose the fabric, I suggest that they "theme" it -- all one color family or all one print style -- and make certain the fabric chosen for the star contrasts strongly with the other fabrics. 

Both of these versions differ enough from the photo on the pattern cover plus I send out small scale mock-ups in two other color ways -- my goal is to help students see more possibilities.  But I have to tell you, what happened in those workshops was very exciting. 

Belinda arrived with this assortment of black and white prints -- it broke one of my cardinal rules for this design -- no light background prints.  But it works!!  I'm not sure it would work with other color families but who knows?  And that lime green star may not work for you, but how about orange or hot pink or turquoise?  Mmmmm!! 
Fran took one of the popular new Christmas collections and did this -- I never would have thought to do it in all pastels with a dark star.  You don't need to find this fabric collection -- you need to think about the effect of using a pastel group of a color family.
Bali's always work well with this pattern, but I've never had a student do it with the entire color palette and be able to find a batik that contrasts as well as these pink stars.  Generally, I suggest students use only a cool palette (greens, blues, purples) so they can chose a warm color (yellow or orange) for the stars (or vice versa).  But this works just fine!

Ann's assortment of large scale florals looked chaotic when she first pulled it out -- but I think I need some of this chaos myself.  What a great look!  This time the contrast of the star is established by the scale of the print, not the color. That's a new idea for me.  Do you think polka dots are the new neutral?

So take another look at that latest magazine today and explore the possibilities of the patterns you don't like in it.  Ask yourself "how would changing the color palette or the style of the fabrics effect this design?"  And then listen to your brain's answer.

Pull out some of your favorite patterns to revisit them by updating with a change of the color palette or fabric style.  I enjoy making patterns again -- it's easier the second time because I know the "in's and out's" of it. 

Let me know what discoveries you make -- as for me, I need to go now.  The dishwasher is finished and the loaf of bread is looking good.  But more important, there is another version of Mississippi Mud I need to make!!

Mary Huey

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Sashed Quilt Settings -- Construction

To finish this series on working with sashing for setting quilt blocks together I want to share my construction approach.  I haven't seen this approach in any books but that doesn't mean there aren't other quilters using it.  It's an extension of a setting technique which Mary Ellen Hopkins taught me in the 1980's called "twosy-foursy".   She encouraged her students to set blocks together in clusters rather than rows as a way to get a quilt top that was truer to square. 

Somewhere along the way, I began to adapt this idea to sashing blocks.  Instead of creating rows of blocks that alternate with sashing to attach to rows of sashing and cornerstones, I add a sashing unit to two adjacent edges of my blocks with the cornerstone.  I like this technique because I can do all that before laying the blocks out so there are fewer trips back and forth to the work wall.  Plus I can continue to chain piece which always makes me feel so efficient.

This photo is from my pattern, Trip to the Stars, (available in my Etsy shop, MaryHueyQuilts) which I wrote to use Marti Michell's Sashing Stars Set.  It enables you to trim the sashing and cut the star points for a basic star (as illustrated) and also for a long pointed star in 3 different sizes -- for 2" wide, 3" wide, and 4" wide sashing -- any length!  It's a very versatile and handy tool!!

I begin by adding a sashing unit to one edge of each block -- in this photo, I've already added them to the left side of my train print squares -- I chain pieced!!

Snip them apart and press all of them. 

Next I sew the cornerstone to one end of another stack of sashing units -- chain-piecing again. 

Snip those apart and press them so the seam will oppose the seam on the sashing/block unit. 

Finally, stitch a sashing/cornerstone unit to an adjacent side of each sashing/block unit.  Still chain-piecing.  These are going onto the top edge of each square in this photo.

Snip these apart and press the final seam -- I press half the units to the left and half to the right. 

Now I'm ready to put the quilt up on the work wall.  Once the arrangement suits me, I will need to add sashing and cornerstones to the block units along one side and the lower edge of the quilt.

Once that is done, I'm ready to set the quilt together, add the borders and quilt!

This is my grandson, Bennett's quilt -- it was fun to make because I got to use lots of my orange stash!
Next week, I'll begin a series on Adapting Quilt Patterns.  We all own lots of those I imagine and I'm going to look at ways to get more out of a pattern than just what appears on the cover!
Keep piecing!!
Mary Huey

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Sashed Quilt Settings -- Pieced Sashing

 I collect setting ideas and so I'm delighted to discover Pinterest as a vehicle for keeping track of some good ones!!  Many unique settings feature pieced sashing -- it's a lot more work but it can take a simple block and add another element of design to a quilt.  So today I'm featuring 3 quilts that I've made recently with pieced sashing.
These big scrappy string stars (each star is about 22" square) came from the home of my husband's paternal grandmother.  They lived on her shelves for quite a long time and they lived on my shelves for over 30 years.  There are 12 blocks and I've made them into identical quilts for my 3 children. 
 I had to add the background triangles and squares so made them larger than necessary so I could square all the blocks up without losing any points.  The sashing was inspired by a small antique quilt I saw on e-bay.  I pieced the sashing from my "sourdough" box of 2 1/2" strips and squares.  The squares were sewn together in pairs (as leaders and enders, Bonnie Hunter style) and then into the sashing units -- 12 pairs long -- and that was too long for my star blocks.  So it had to be 11 pairs and the stars blocks were trimmed to 22 1/2" AFTER the sashing units were finished -- so I guess you could say I backed into the math.

Interesting thing about the string pieced stars -- as I looked closely at them while reworking them, I realized the fabric was much earlier than the 1930's and 40's when Grandma Huey might have been sewing.  Was she using her mother's scrap bag?  Or were the blocks perhaps made by her mother or mother-in-law?  No one will ever know.  But it will be a nice piece of family history for each of my children to own.

This is a close-up of one of the blocks from the top I showed off a couple weeks ago.  The source of the rail fence sashing idea is a mystery to me.  There was another plan for these blocks --  but that was over 10 years ago and if there were notes, they were long lost.

There was a pile of blue blocks and a pile of blue and yellow rail fence blocks in the box and no memory of the original plan.  Two of the blue blocks were bordered with blue strips.  The plan to use the rail fence blocks evolved as things went up on my work wall. 

As I set the rail fence blocks into groups of 4, I discovered that I needed to "organize" them carefully to maintain an alternation of horizontal and vertical rails.    Again, the blue bordered blocks were trimmed to fit the sashing units AFTER I had sewn groups of 4 together. 

First plan for these applique blocks was to use one fabric for the sashing but when I started to audition  fabrics, I did not like the plain strips  -- and a row of squares pieced together looked clunky, too.  So the answer was triangles!  Trouble was that I couldn't organize the design of their layout, so I took a random approach, used squares for cornerstones and kept the value of the blues and greens fairly close so none would stand out too much.  There was quite a bit of "math puttering" to find just the right size for triangles that would fit around the blocks but once again I trimmed the blocks after the sashing was pieced.

Generally, the pieced units used for sashing are simple such as the 3 I've illustrated.  Flying geese are another good one for sashing as they add movement to a quilt.   This is a quilt one of student/friends displayed in a recent quilt show -- since the log cabin blocks are not very trimmable, the math for the sashing would need to be figured and tested to be sure everything fit.

And with most pieced sashing, the size of the individual pieced units will determine the width of the sashing. 

One of my favorite all-time books about settings for quilts is Sharyn Craig's Setting Solutions.  It has been out of print but sometimes you can find copies on Amazon or e-bay (be prepared to pay a healthy price) but there is also now a Kindle edition. 

So start to pay attention to sashing, save the ideas you like and start to apply them to your quilts.  If you'd like to check out my Pinterest board, it's call "sashing ideas".

Next week, I'll share some construction ideas with you pertaining to sashing!

Piece on!!
Mary Huey