Friday, May 23, 2014

Diamond Star Playtime Sew-Along -- Step 7 -- Straight Setting

I've decided to set this group of three stars into a table runner and I think they look more interesting with the points touching rather than the flat sides touching.  There are large triangular voids and they could be filled in with a large triangle.  If one choses that route, the fabric needs to be an interesting one, possibly something that can be fussy cut.  The other option would be to use a very simple print or solid with the idea that the quilting would stand out more.
I have decided to use a group of four smaller triangles that will create a unit large enough to fill the space.  If you are working with Set G or Set H, it's the equilateral triangle that is half of the diamond template you used for the stars.
Since I'm working with a small assortment of prints, I've chosen four and each unit will be arranged identically.  It's easy sewing -- all straight seams.  The only mistake you can make is to sew the wrong two sides together because there are three choices, but only one right one.  So start carefully and be sure you chain piece correctly -- there is nothing more frustrating that an entire chain of "wrongs".
This is how they will be placed with the stars and I have separated them into three construction segments in order that all these seams will be straight -- no set-ins.
Before I stitch them together, lets look at a couple other arrangements that can be used for a quilt with several rows of stars.  In the one below, I've staggered the stars.  The "void" is the same and I can use the same large single triangles or units of four smaller ones.  If I used a larger fabric assortment, I'd make the units of four "scrappy".  I could also have experimented with rotating the orientation of the darkest point so it was the farthest from the center star to achieve a second larger star around a center star block -- can you see that?  I didn't see it on the work wall -- just saw it in this photo.  I do like how crisp and defined this setting makes each star look.
If I stack the stars as in the photo below, the "void" is a large diamond but to keep the straight seams during the setting process, I would still work with equilateral triangle units.  You do need to be careful when joining the points of the adjacent stars -- go slow as there is lots of bulk at those points.  I have more success when I press away from the points (towards the background diamonds).
This is the setting I used for my first diamond star sampler.  Because of the variety of star backgrounds and the scrappy triangles used in the setting units, I liked stacking the stars in this one.
A smaller star could also be used to fill that diamond shaped void.  It's made with the smaller diamond template in the set you are using and adding an equilateral triangle that matches the large diamond in your set to finish it into a diamond unit the right size.  You will however need to set these blocks together with set-in seams -- no long straight seams here.  I do think it would make for an interesting setting though.
As I was setting the table runner together, I laid an end unit (look back at the fourth picture) down wrong.  I took this picture before fixing it because it made me think that might be a fun center for a cluster of star blocks -- to have those triangle units all facing to the center.  I'm not going to explore that idea now but want to recall it later and the  photo will help. 
I hope you are pleased with your progress so far!

Mary Huey

If you are having trouble finding the templates locally, you can order them directly from Marti!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

UFQ Assault evening!

Last evening, I made time to layer up a quilt top that I'd like to finish this month!  I often talk with quilters who do their layering on the floor -- I've only done that once and don't like getting onto the quilt.  These days, I use an extra tall table and have developed a one person strategy.  So come along with me as I get it done.  Maybe it will give you a new perspective on this odious task! 
First, set up the table.  I used two tables years ago and discovered I always got a pleat where the two tables met -- so it's only one table.  The weight of the quilt holds itself smooth once you get it smooth.
 Second, find a good movie to watch while you work.
Third, Harry, get off the table!!
I have marked a small + in the center of my table and I use it to center the backing. 
I fold the backing into quarters with the right sides out and lay it on the table with the center at my mark. 
Now I can unfold it and it will be centered -- I also put a mark at the center of the backing to help me center the batting.
The batting is also folded into quarters.  I match it to the center mark on the backing.
I unfold the batting carefully so as to minimize wrinkling the backing.  You can clamp the backing firmly to a table but my table is too thick for the clamps.  Half the batting is unfolded in this picture and the metal yardstick is stabilizing the backing temporarily.
Once the batting is unfolded, I fold the quilt top in quarters with the wrong side out.  Once again it is centered on the first two layers and unfolded carefully.
I make a quick check on all four sides to make sure I have extra batting and backing.
I pin baste, but before beginning that, I place my hand at the center of the layers and give JUST THE BACKING a firm tug.  I move my hand a bit further and give the backing another tug and continue to work my way all along each side of the quilt until I've pulled any wrinkles out of the backing.  (Yes, I'm in my jammies.) 
Now I'm ready to start pinning! 
I place the pins every 3 to 4 inches in a grid and don't close ANY pins until the entire quilt is pinned.  If I close the pin as I put it into the quilt, I'll lift everything slightly and the backing will shift. 
Once the portion on the table has pins inserted (but not closed), I shift the quilt and bring up the next section.  Once again, I smooth out everything and tug the backing again before continuing to insert pins.  This quilt is 48" by 60" and it took about an hour to pin baste while I watched episode four of the Masterpiece version of Mansfield Park from the late 80's. 

Get off the quilt, Harry!!
I plan to quilt a simple equilateral grid in the body of the quilt and something swirly in the border.  Another UFQ assaulted!!
Mary Huey



Tuesday, May 20, 2014

QCQAL Block #6 -- Churn Dash with Marti's Templates

The journey continues!!  The winner for the sixth block in the QCQAL over at Little Bunny Quilts is Churn Dash.  Alison provided instructions for 12" blocks -- one using four 6" blocks and the other for a single 12" block.  Since I definitely have too many oars out of the boat at this point, I chose to do the large 12" block rather than the four smaller ones.  For that size, I used B8 and B9.  It didn't take long to cut and so I also made another 6" block using B12 and B13. 
I fussy cut a square for the center -- still haven't used all the figures on the focus print!!
To cut the rectangles, I cut a strip 2 1/2" wide and used B8 to trim rectangles to the correct length for the block.
I chose not to use all the polka dot colors for the 12" block and arranged two warms (yellow and orange) and two cools (lavender and green) to balance the block visually.
For the 6" block, I went totally scrappy and used 8 different polka dots -- funky!!  Cutting and piecing both blocks only took an hour -- my kind of project!
Here's my gang of 12" blocks so far -- starting to think about what I'll use for the sashing -- it would be fun to use the coffee cup print with polka dot cornerstones, but I'm not sure I'll have enough of it left when I finish the rest of the blocks.
Here's the 6" blocks.  I might make a small quilt or I might put groups of four together to make three more 12" blocks so the quilt will be a bit larger.  The quilt is destined to be a donation to a child.
All but the first block (Sister's Choice) can be pieced with Set B -- did you notice that?  Pretty versatile template set and none of them are included in Volume 1 of Marti Michell's Encyclopedia of Patchwork Blocks which is a companion book for Sets A and B. 
Now let's talk about your vote over at Little Bunny Quilts.  I want to do CARD TRICKS, so let's all get out there and vote for it!!  Poor block has come in second in the last two polls. 
Mary Huey

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Sticky Fingers -- YUK!

Recently someone commented to me that they were surprised by my interest in EPP since I have always been such an enthusiastic machine piecer.  I told her EPP is like reading romance novels for me.  Two months ago I began to participate in a HEXY SWAP -- you can connect with the group here to read the rules and the monthly themes.  These are the motifs I assembled from my first batch.
The upper left one was missing a hexie and I haven't made the time to find a creative solution.  The color for May was "green" and the deadline for mailing my batch off crept up on me -- glad I only live one mailing day from Heather who coordinates it!!

Since the hexies are 1", I went to my 2 1/2" strip stash -- no problem finding what I need 98% of the time.  It's small and a bit messy, but I've made so many quilts out of it over the past 20 years -- it's a sourdough box -- leftovers go in and quilts come out.
All the batches I've received are glue-basted, but frankly I'm not a fan of that technique because I don't enjoy the sticky fingers part of the process -- YUK!!  I wonder if I whined about projects that required paste in grade school? 
But I really needed to mail mine off on Tuesday morning or I would miss the deadline, so just this once, I glued them (and endured the sticky fingers).  Because the deadline was tight, my tendency to make the process systematic kicked in automatically.  I laid out the first set of hexies wrong side up on a vinyl covered notebook that was at hand.
Then I placed a paper on each one.  I use Fiskars Extra Large Hexagon Punch to make my papers from all those little advertising cards that fall out of magazines and come in the mail.
After a couple clumsy attempts, I finally hit on gluing down every other side first.
And coming back for a second round to glue down the remaining three.
At this point, placing two fingers at each end of the seam being folded over helped me keep the corners tighter where the adjacent seams lap over each other -- really made my fingers sticky!  I'm not sure if it actually went faster, but it felt like a smoother process to me. 
Here they are being auditioned just for fun.
Stacked up and tacked together ready to mail!!  I made it! 
Turns out the notebook was a good work surface since I could clean it up with a quick wipe of a damp cloth and the glue washed off my fingers easily, too.  While I still prefer thread basting, the glue basting does have it's charms and I learned I can tolerant sticky fingers for a short time.
Mary Huey


Monday, May 12, 2014

QCQAL Block #5 with templates!!

I'm behind, no, I'm caught up!!  Intended to post this last week -- things got crazy and so it got delayed (along with a few other things).  The readers over at Little Bunny Quilts voted the most for Broken Dishes and not only is it a great scrap block, it's an easy block to cut and piece.
For a minute, I thought I would just do the 12" block.  But once I got started cutting, it wasn't going to take that much longer to make the 6" one, too -- though I did make it a slightly different layout as I didn't have the energy to cut 1" HST's.  Just needed one template for each block -- using Set B for the 12" block and Set A for the 6" block!
I layered 4 strips to cut 2 pairs of triangles -- bottom strip is right side up; second strip (background) is right side down; third strip (background) is right side up; and fourth strip is right side down. 
That way I don't have to match up anything -- just pick up a pair and stitch them together.
Soon they were stitched and pressed, ready to lay out for assembly.
I laid out the "4-patches" and then proceeded to chain piece them together.
By keeping the chain intact until after I've pressed, it save me some time getting the pairs to the next stitching step.
I only clip every other chain and keep the pairs attached -- helps me remember which side to stitch because I can stitch either side of the pairs, but only one side is right!!
Auditioning the final layout -- nope!! 
I like the balance of having the two warm colors (yellow & orange) in opposite corners of the blocks
I used Bonnie Hunter's little trick for pressing the center seams so no matter which way I turn a unit, the seams will be opposing where the units are joined.
And here's the 12" block -- once again I arranged the warm and cool colors to balance the block (in my opinion).  What's that?  The yellow got twisted -- good grief!  I'll probably fix it or it will make me crazy.
Working on this reminded me of a table runner I made years ago when teaching a color class.  It's one of my favorite pieces and is a permanent fixture on the side table in my dining room.  The objective of the exercise was to use as many prints as possible while maintaining a specific color scheme.  Can you tell what mine was?
Now I can link up to the QCQAL Block Party #5 and see what everyone else made and cross of one of my little goals for May!!
If you are headed for Quilt Market in Pittsburgh this weekend, I'll giving a 30 minute presentation during Schoolhouse on Thursday (1:20 p.m.) about my DVD workshop, Set-In Piecing Simplified and I'll be hanging out in the Michell Marketing booth most of the day on Friday!  Stop by and say "hello"!
Mary Huey