Sunday, December 29, 2013

Escaping to the piecing

It was good to have family here the past few days but I was ready to escape to the sewing machines on Sunday afternoon.  I spent a couple hours doing some machine quilting to finish up one more quilt before the year ends -- that will make a total of 26 quilts for 2013!
Then after supper I went up to the studio for a session of cutting and piecing on Step 5 of Bonnie Hunter's Celtic Solstice Mystery.  Have you been exploring the "link-ups"?  That is so much fun.  I'm especially enjoying those that are exploring what all these units might look like in a quilt block. 
I like my fabrics -- it's going to make a great quilt to donate to one of my causes this year.  A cheerful quilt will always lift a person's heart.

Step 5 uses two templates from Marti Michell's Set A -- the 3" finished triangle which is A-2 and the 1 1/2" finished triangle, A-6. 

I layered up 4 background prints at a time to cut being sure to trim off all the points as suggested.

This is one of those times when the pre-trimmed corners of the triangles really shines.  I even take off the tip of the square corner.   Because of the trims, I didn't need to pay attention to "rights" and "lefts" which was good since my focus is a bit "blurry" from all the holiday fussing.

Thanks to the trims, when I align the background triangles with the orange/yellow triangle units, they settle in perfectly.  And I've discovered that if the square corner trim of the triangle is the same size as the corner of my pieced unit (see the upper right corner in the photo below), that means the unit is spot on perfect -- square and the right size!

The background triangles are going onto the pieced units easily and next I'll be ready for the blue triangles. 

The blues I'm using are from the mid-90's and are about the last of my clear blues which were so common at that time.  I hope I can replace them with some new ones this winter.  It didn't take long to cut the blue triangles from 3 1/2" strips layered 4 to a stack and it was easy to keep the count so I didn't overcut.
I was glad to see how well everything lined up and I didn't lose any points on the first ones for the test sew.  Since I don't have to clean this week -- I did enough of that the last two weeks to take a week off, I expect to be completely caught up by Friday morning when Step 6 arrives!
If you've been following my (lack of) progress on my 2013 goal of finishing 13 of my oldest UFQ's, I'll be back on Wednesday, January 1, 2014 with a complete rundown on what I accomplished and what I've learned about myself.
Until then, keep on piecing!
Mary Huey


Monday, December 23, 2013

A template experiment!

Friday morning when I opened Part 4 of Bonnie Hunter's Celtic Solstice Mystery, I was relieved to see it was quick and simple 4-patches.  But since I've started with Marti Michell's Template Sets A and C, should I do the 4-patches with the template or the strip piecing method? Hmmm!

I decided to conduct a test and see if one approach gave me better results than the other because the templates often do give me better results but I have to confess that I've strip pieced for a longer time.

So I cut the 2" strips and then did three tests.

First, I stitched a couple pairs of green and orange strips together, pressed them and cut off rows to be stitched into 4-patches.

Then I stacked up 4 strips (green right side up, orange right side down, green up, orange down) and used template A-5 to cut a couple stacks of squares to stitch into 4-patches.

And finally, I used the template to cut a few rows off of strip sets before I pressed the strip sets. 

Here are the three results -- they are all exactly the same size -- 3 1/2" squares.  So I can finish the rest whichever way!

Step 2 is finished and Step 3 nearing the halfway mark but there are still placemats (follow that link to the "good idea" page on my website for how I make these placemats using approx. 6" blocks) to finish . . . .

. . . . .  and a piece of flannel to transform into a skirt for my 7-year old granddaughter . . . . .

. . . . . . and one more sock to complete. . . . .

. . . . . .  before the gang all arrives.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Mary Huey

Monday, December 16, 2013

Catching up!!

I'm slightly behind . . . . . of course!  That is another reason I have so many UFQ's -- too many oars out of the boat.

Part 3 of Bonnie Hunter's Celtic Solstice quilt went on line Friday morning and while I'm not completely finished with Step 2, I am moving forward!

I was pleased to see all those extra yellow strips I cut last week were needed for this step! 
 I just needed to cut the orange ones!
And I could use template #6 from Marti Michell's Set A once again.

I layered my strips up four at a time -- orange right-side up, yellow right-side down, orange right-side up, yellow right-side down -- so that as I cut them they were ready to sew!  I've learned to trim the points even when it doesn't seem necessary -- the bulk it eliminates does make a difference in the quality of my finished work.

Soon all the stacks were cut and I was ready to head to the machine.
Then the ironing board -- the "salad" of pieces on the left slows me down and wastes mental energy as I have to figure out what to do with each piece as I pick it up.  So as I clip my chain pieces apart, I stack all of them exactly the same.  My post in early October on "pressing" has more detail.  Once they are stacked, I just need to figure out what to do for the first one (press to the orange) and I'm off -- much less thinking!! 
 I really appreciate Bonnie including pressing instructions at each step -- that saves me some more mental energy!!
I still have half the triangle sets left to stitch but had to stop and put one pinwheel together. 
This week, I'm finishing up Christmas sewing -- three more gifts (small) to go -- but I have lots of "leaders and enders" for my stitching and that's good!!
Escaping from the "hectic's" at the sewing machine every chance I get!
Mary Huey




Monday, December 9, 2013

Distracted by fun!!

And that, my quilting friends, is why we have so many UFQ's!!

This weekend I made the decision to join in on Bonnie Hunter's mystery, Celtic Solstice.  Do I need another new project?  No.  Are there other projects I should be working at?  Yes.  But the lure of pulling a cheerful assortment of fabrics from my stash is always a great temptation.

When I realized I could use Marti Michell's templates -- it provided the "perfect" justification!!  Because now I can "tutor" all of you Marti template buffs on how to apply the templates to this design thus helping you understand the templates better and get more out of your investment!?! 

So if you'd like to join the fun, too -- go to Bonnie's website for the fabric pull instructions -- -- and pull some stuff out of your stash.  I noticed on last week's "link-up" that not everyone is following her color suggestions, but I would suggest that if you change the colors to substitute a warm color for a warm color and a cool color for a cool color to maintain the feel of her color scheme.

Step 1 uses Template Set C (available on my website if you don't have that one) -- when you print out the instructions for Step 1, you'll know how many to cut from which colors.

The cutting is efficient and be sure to trim those corners and points!!  It makes the sewing fast and accurate because you don't have to spend excess time aligning the pieces. 

On Friday, I read through Step 2.  Not Template Set C for this step -- but C is the companion for A, so out Set A came to see if that would work.  I'd like to eliminate some of the fabric wasted by doing flip and sew corners plus I know I'll get squarer units using the templates.
So I started with paper mock-up pieces to experiment with which templates might work and discovered that everything for this step could be cut with Template #6.  Plus the "green" pieces uses one of Marti's favorite tricks -- flipping a template to create another shape -- which provides me with a perfect tutoring opportunity. 
First you need a hot beverage (coffee plus a small candy cane plus a large dollop of Italian Sweet Crème seen here -- mmmmm.)

 Get out your rotating mat or put a smaller mat on top of your large mat for easier manipulation while cutting.  Layout strips in sets with right sides facing.  I cut six strips at a time -- right side up, right side down, right side up, right side down, etc.  This is VERY important as the pieces you are cutting need to be right-handed and left-handed.  If you don't do this, you'll end up with twice as many as you need of one side and none of the other -- you'll be growling!!

Use Template 6 to trim off the ends of the strips and trim the corner.  Notice that the grainline arrow is vertical.

Now rotate the template 180 degrees until the grainline mark is vertical again as in the photo below.  DO NOT FLIP THE TEMPLATE OVER.  The trim of the square corner will match to the first diagonal cut you made and the straight edge of the template will match the upper edge of the strip stack.

The photo below with the grainline mark laying horizontal is WRONG (although it would be right if we were cutting flying geese -- file that in your memory).
Cut along the right edge of the template, carefully pull the stack of strips aside a bit and trim the corner.   

 When you separate the stacks, half of them will be left-handed and half will be right-handed -- these pieces work perfectly in place of the green rectangles in the instructions.   

Finally, you'll use Template #6 to cut triangles from the neutrals and the yellows to replace the "squares" in the instructions.  I have laid out all the pieces in the position they will be sewn -- very important so I don't run amuck.

 I still have some sewing to do as you can see, but I have 4 more days to get caught up before the third clue is ready. 
I hope you'll get your templates out and play with them -- it will be nice break from all the hub-bub and I find it really calms me down to sit and stitch for a bit -- then I can go back at the world with energy!!
Happy Piecing!
Mary Huey


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Adapting Quilt Patterns -- Part II

What is the first thing about a quilt design that catches your eye?  Have you stopped to think about that?  For me, it's often the setting of a quilt and so I've trained myself to look beyond the color and the specific quilt block paying attention to the design of the setting.  How does the sashing or alternate blocks affect the overall design.  And when I find one I like, I save that idea to apply later with my own quilt blocks.

This is the second way to adapt a quilt pattern -- use the setting of the design. I'll use two of my patterns, Mary's Holiday Baskets and Courthouse Stars to illustrate my point.

Holiday Baskets is a basic basket block set together with a simple alternate setting block that is then modified around the outside edges to create an interesting overall design of framed basket blocks.  That alternate block frame can be used with any block that looks good set on-point!  The easiest adaptation of this setting will be to use the same size quilt block that is a "5-patch" block (which means it can be draw on a grid of squares that is 5 by 5).  But if you aren't afraid of the math, you could adapt it to other sizes of 5 by 5 grid blocks.

Courthouse Stars was the last mystery quilt I offered to my customers in 2005 before closing my shop in Willoughby, Ohio.  It uses Courthouse Log Cabin blocks to frame a double star block and has been a very popular pattern with my customers.  Once again, the star block which is the design block could be replaced with other blocks.  Modifying the size of the log cabin blocks would be fairly easy math -- might be as simple as adding a strip. 

I think either of these settings would be perfect for a set of blocks from a block of the month project.  I have a couple stacks of these languishing on my UFQ (unfinished quilts) shelves.  Either setting would frame up the blocks nicely and the setting would be my unique touch.

So here's a design challenge exercise.  Look through your favorite patterns for quilts that use an alternate block setting.  Sort out which are the design blocks and which are the setting blocks or sashing that make the overall design.  Now think about other blocks you could substitute for the "design" blocks.  You don't have to start a new quilt!  Just think.  By exploring this idea in your head, you'll start to look at patterns in more depth and see the possibilities beyond what is printed on the pattern cover.   

Next week, we'll look at adapting a quilt pattern by changing the scale of it!

Mary Huey