Friday, July 19, 2019

Scrappy Triple Irish Chain with a Twist

Greetings from all of us in my backyard!!
When I said on June 13, I'd organize cutting instructions, I didn't mean to take so long to share the them.  Either I've had too many oars out of the boat this past month or I've lost my sense of urgency as I enjoy the lazy, hazy days of summer?
I finished piecing the top yesterday, organized the backing and I'm ready to hand it off for quilting. 
I've checked the math several times and am pretty sure I've got my counts correct.
If I don't, sorry -- just post a polite comment if you find an error.

As I explained in the original post, my goal was a twin size quilt using 14" blocks.  That meant that 4 blocks by 6 blocks would be the ideal size but an Irish Chain setting wants odd numbers of blocks to keep the corners identical -- 3 by 5, 5 by 7, etc.  Once I stumbled onto the idea of piecing "half blocks" for the outer rows, my problem was solved.

Since this is a charity quilt, my goal is to keep the quilting process simple and a big white empty space never brings "simple" to my mind.  So I started to try out ideas for filling the center of the alternate blocks and a "trip" variation was perfect since all the squares and strips needed could be cut using the same grid as the blocks -- 2 1/2" cut!

Here are the statistics for my twin size quilt top.
I made seven of the basic 7 by 7 blocks using 2 1/2" cut squares (from my very scrappy basket).
For each block, I used thirteen assorted green squares, four white (background) squares, and thirty-two assorted squares.
I pieced the blocks in vertical rows and pressed every block exactly the same - alternating seams so they nest together.
The outer left and right sides rows are both pressed down (towards the bottom of the blocks).
Once the rows were pieced together, I pressed all the vertical seams to the right.
I made eight of the alternate blocks using the same 7 by 7 grid.
I wanted more green in the quilt and liked the unity of using just one other color with it through out the quilt but this block could be as scrappy as you wish.
Here's the block broken down so you can see the rectangles needed and their placement.
Each block used twelve scrappy 2 1/2" squares, nine assorted green squares, four assorted yellow squares, and four white (background) squares.
In addition to the squares, there are four 2 1/2" by 6 1/2" rectangles around the outside edges of this block plus four 2 1/2" by 4 1/2" rectangles in the second and sixth vertical rows.
To make it easy to set the finished blocks together, I pressed these blocks opposite of the first set of blocks.  The outer left and right edge row seams are pressed up (towards the top of the block) and the vertical seams are pressed to the left.
Time to make the half blocks!  Each one is a 4 by 7 grid of squares.
Ten of these blocks are needed for the twin size I made.
There are three white (background) squares, seven scrappy green squares, and eighteen scrappy squares.  I found it easiest to stay on track by laying out the green squares and the white squares in the correct positions, then filling in with the scrappy squares.
Looking at this photo, the left edge of the block will always be on the outside edge of the quilt so it must be rotated for each side of the quilt.  
For that reason, I found I had to press each one so it would nest together with the adjacent block rather than pressing all of them identically -- the left side blocks were pressed opposite of the right side blocks, etc.
I wasn't sure the half-alternate block would look good, but once I pieced one and added it to the design wall, it was fine.  Eight of these blocks were needed for my size.
I used six scrappy 2 1/2" squares, six assorted green squares, three assorted yellow squares, two white (background) squares, four 2 1/2" by 4 1/2" rectangles, and one 2 1/2" by 6 1/2" rectangle for each block.  
Pressing is the same as above -- adjusting to nest with adjacent blocks. 
Finally, I made four corner blocks.  
Do these last so you can determine the best pressing directions more easily.
Each corner blocks uses three scrappy 2 1/2" squares, four assorted green squares, two assorted yellow squares, one white (background) square, and three 2 1/2" by 4 1/2" white rectangles. 

Here are my cutting totals for the complete quilt!

                          734 -- 2 1/2" assorted squares (that's 46 2 1/2" strips cut into squares)
                          161 -- 2 1/2" squares for central cross of main block (my greens) 
                                         To use one fabric for this, get 1 yard.
                          Background -- 2 3/4" yards (includes first border)
                                  Cut 4 lengthwise strips, 2 1/2" wide by 2 3/4" yards long for first border.
                                  From remainder of background fabric, cut
                                                    106 -- 2 1/2" squares
                                                     84 --  2 1/2" by 4 1/2" rectangles
                                                     38 --  2 1/2" by 6 1/2" rectangles
                           Border -- I cut mine 4 1/2" wide on the lengthwise grain and pieced strips end to                                          end to get the length needed so used about 1 1/2 yards.

Here it is!!  My finished top is 70" by 93".
I love how balanced and cheerful it looks!!
Using up 895 squares out of my "sourdough" basket is great, too!!
(The picture is a little lame but it's really HOT here and my daughter has short arms so we were working quickly to get back inside!!)
There might be another one of these in the future because the 2 1/2" strip box is pretty full and could use a good thinning out! If I were going to do anything different, I would use one really dark print (or solid) for the center chain -- my green chain disappears partially because there is so much variation in value -- mediums to darks instead of just darks.

Book mark or print out the text of this post so you can give it a try down the road with your scrappy stash.  If this inspires you to make your own version, post a photo on Instagram and tag me @hueymary - I want to see it!!
 Linking up with Oh, Scrap and Finished or Not Friday.



Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Pattern Revival!

Early last week, I quilted this lap robe version of a pattern, Stars For All, which I wrote in 2005 for the Northern Ohio Shop Hop.  We were the first shop hop group in this region and my contribution was designing and writing the patterns for our "promo giveaway" (one step of the pattern was collected from each of the 9 shops).  This was my least favorite. . . . . .
. . . . until I saw the completely scrappy version made by a nearby shop, Remembrances.  The owner, Cheryl Pederson kept pestering me about what a great pattern it was and I should publish it.  I was too busy that summer (closing my shop) but once the dust settled, I went to see her scrappy version and realized she was right.  I came straight home and made my own scrappy version using my hoard of veggie fabrics and organized an expanded version of the pattern.  
Cheryl was right -- it is a great pattern!!
Many of you will recognize the traditional Sisters Choice block, but the simplified construction based on Mary Ellen Hopkins' ideas to eliminate seams whenever possible are what sets this pattern apart from the traditional block and sashing approach to piecing this quilt.
9-patch blocks are alternated with simple snowball blocks to create an easy setting.
I self-published the full pattern in 2007 but because marketing is my weak spot, you've never seen it.
Now with this wonderful era of downloadable PDF patterns, it's easier to get a pattern out there since a designer no longer has to rely on catching the fancy of a wholesale buyer.
I can come direct to you.

So that's what I'm doing!!
I've edited the pattern completely and uploaded it to my Etsy shop - MaryHueyQuilts.

The scrappy version includes instructions for making quick 9-patch blocks two at a time that you will love!  The scrappy version is easy to organize without leaving my stash!  While editing the pattern this weekend, I experimented with using the 10" squares of  a layer cake for the stars and it's perfect! I can cut everything I need for the 9-patches and the star points if I use the triangle from the Sashing Stars ruler.
That's possible using the bonus instructions that were only available in my workshops for using Marti Michell's Sashing Stars ruler set. 
The snowball corners can be pre-trimmed using the sashing trimming tool.
Now the triangles, which are pre-trimmed as well, match perfectly.
The finished snowball block is a perfect square -- no need to square up or fuss with alignment.
I finished up (i.e., quilted) this lap robe as a retirement gift for a friend.
I adapted my favorite Baptist fan quilting design to look more like clamshell rainbows.
While I love the look, it was a bit more challenging to stitch out smoothly so I might not repeat this orientation.
The quilting is very "organic"!?!
Now that I've discovered that a layer cake is a perfect fit, when I get back from my vacation in Vermont with my 11 year old grandson next week, I might just crack out a long hoarded layer cake and whip up a new one of these!!

The pattern includes instructions rotary cutting and machine piecing in the original two-color family version and Cheryl's inspired scrappy version. There are two sizes -- a lap robe/twin that finishes at 66" by 83" and a double/queen which is 87" by 104".  
It retails for $8.00 but during the month of July, it is only $6.
Thanks for supporting my Etsy Shop!!


Thursday, June 13, 2019

Scrappy Triple Irish Chain with a Twist

At the end of May, I shared the beginning of this new scrap quilt with you.
I'm making very good progress for gardening season (it's been raining quite a bit).
I will donate it to a local "recovery" home for women that will be opening at the end of 2019.
Wait until you see what I'm doing with the alternate blocks!!
The prospect of quilting the big alternate (14") mostly white blocks with a lovely design is intimidates me.  I worry I'll "ruin" the quilt.  So I started to think about using a 6" "fussy cut" fabric square as the center of the alternate blocks to eliminate the issue but before I could even start to audition possible prints, I came up with a simpler (to me) idea.
A pieced block using the same 7 by 7 grid of 2 1/2" squares!!
I like the way yellow brightens up an ugly batch of scrappy squares so to add more of it to the quilt, I combined it with the green to pull the motley collection of fabric together.
I am using up lots of my basket of squares (yea!!!) -- so far I've only had to cut more green squares.
Here's my assembly breakdown for the alternate blocks -- more 2 1/2" squares and rectangles cut from 2 1/2" strips of white -- four 4 1/2" long and four 6 1/2" long rectangles for each block.
All alternate block settings need to use odd numbers of blocks to maintain their visual balance -- so 3 by 5 blocks or 5 by 7 blocks.  An even number results in different corner blocks.  
As I worked out the math, I decided 5 by 7 blocks was a bit too large and 3 by 5 too small.
4 blocks by 6 blocks would be the perfect size but the corners would not match and the quilt would look awkward to me.  I did audition it on the design wall just to confirm -- definitely awkward!!!

Then a Mary Ellen Hopkins design idea crept out of my sub-conscious cache of ideas.  Back in the mid 1980's, Mary Ellen taught her teacher trainees (I was one) to create borders by carrying the design of the patchwork out into the border in such a way as to create a balanced, finished design.

I shifted blocks around the design wall to a 3 by 5 setting with the alternate blocks in the corners rather than the main blocks.  Then by adding half blocks around the edges of the setting, I was able to get the perfect 4 by 6 blocks setting!!
I love it when old lessons inspire new ideas!!
This idea could be adapted to so many blocks!

This is my layout so far.  The blocks are easy to piece and I've streamlined my process so that it takes me about 45 minutes to make one -- just enough time to "rest" from all the other stuff that needs to be done!!
Here are the four units I'm piecing, separated so you can see how they connect together to create the overall design.
These are the two different "half blocks" used to make the "border"
and this is the corner block. 
I still have about ten of the "border" blocks to piece and when I get the top set together, I'll think about organizing a guide for making this top that will include yardages needed if one isn't chopping up scraps, and a cutting list for the twin size I'm making if anyone is interested.  I won't write instructions for piecing the blocks (remember, I'm retired) -- you already know how to do that, right?  Just leave a comment below.

To finish off today, here's a few of my favorite pictures from my walks this week.
This was the view at one of my creekside stops -- just two buddies hanging out at the beach -- Northern Cardinal on the left and an American Goldfinch on the right.
I'm trying to learn dragonfly identification -- it's a slow process.
I'm pretty sure this is a blue dasher.  Aren't those eyes gorgeous?!?
I'll submit the photo to the I-naturalist app and they'll confirm it or correct me.
It's hard to resist the male Ebony Jewelwing!!  They are about 2" long and so delicate looking.
So here's hoping those of us who are being overwhelmed with rain get none this weekend and those of you who need it get your fair share!!


and at Oh, Scrap linkies!

Friday, May 31, 2019

And I Finished a Quilt!!

What did you do today?
I watched my neighbor attempt to spread a huge pile of mulch around his yard . . . . 
. . . . . and I drank a lot of tea . . . .  
. . . . . . and I finished this quilt!
Finishing it was my #onemonthlygoal for May's Elm Street Quilts linkup and today is the last day to share the results for this month.
I layered it on May 1 and quickly stitched this first pattern row down the length of the quilt.
And then I got distracted or bored or disappointed with the design???
I don't know but there it sat until May 29 -- that was the day I cleared all the stuff off of it so I could get back to work on it.
I ditched between all the blocks hoping to for fresh inspiration as I engaged with the process of machine quilting.  

Quilting a top continues to be a "speed bump" for me but I do find that starting with the simplest approach (often stitch in the ditch) can break the creative jam for me.

I decided to continue with my original idea and finished the pieced blocks.
I've been doing so much straight line quilting for the past couple years that my free motion curves are a little rusty and that shows up with a variegated thread but . . . . must persist!!
Once they were all finished, it looked much better!
Now for the plain blocks -- at 6", they are too large to leave empty even if the batting is stable.
I decided to build on the design I used for the center square of the pieced blocks but my first experiment looked too empty so I added four more "petals" for a total of eight.
Much better!! 
Rather than mark them or use a ruler, I marked the center of each plain square 
and the center of each side of the plain squares.
I stitched "graceful arcs" from "dot-to-dot" -- this is where building muscle memory by doodling quilting designs pays off.  Happily I figured out how to start at one edge of the quilt and work across all the blocks in one continuous line.
Here I've stitched down the right side of the block continuing through all the blocks in that row until I reach the opposite side.  Then I stitched the left side as I came back across the quilt. 
After finishing the first row of plain blocks, I decided the pieced blocks looked too puffy, so I used my straight edge to add a box to those blocks to flatten them down a bit.
Happily, I was able to figure out how to do that as part of the plain square quilting lines by taking a short detour when I connected with the center of one of the rectangles and then come back into the plain square with no extra stops and starts. 
Moving from motif to motif smoothly is a great strategy because it cuts down on the "thread burying".  So the only threads I needed to bury were when the bobbin needed to be changed or the thread broke!!  Yea!!  Plus I do it at once because I hate spending an evening burying threads.
I spent most of the 31st quilting though I did take out time to do a few chores including mowing the back lawn.  Now my daughter and I can have a relaxing weekend outside!
The finished quilt is 42" by 60" and will be donated to one of my causes.
It's made completely from my reproduction stash and I estimated it used up about 4 1/4 yards of stash!!  That's a good thing because now I don't need to feel guilty about that layer cake I bought last week!!


(By the way, my neighbor did move a lot of mulch around but he didn't finish!!)

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

I Might Have Started a New Project?!?

Yep, there is something taking over the design wall in my studio!
Inspired by Jessie Fincham's (aka @messyjessy1 on Instagram) tutorial on piecing a Scrappy Irish Chain (HERE) and . . . . . . 
. . . . . . my bulging basket of 2 1/2" squares, I launched a modified version a couple weeks ago.
My modification is that my blocks are 7 by 7 squares (her's are 9 by 9) and
I'm setting scrappy dark greens squares to criss-cross each block on the diagonals.
There are white squares (the background fabric) in the #4 position around the outside edges and everything else is scrappy, scrappy, scrappy!!
One of the pitfalls of making a truly scrappy quilt is getting caught up in making it "pretty".
"Pretty" has it's place in quiltmaking, but it's tough to achieve in a truly scrappy quilt.
"Go with the flow" has to be the watchword during the piecing process or you won't use up many scraps.
That being said, it is a good idea to pay attention to "value".
To illustrate, this corner of one of the blocks is scrappy and the greens are in the correct positions, but if you squint at it, that top center blue square is so close in value to the green squares it touches that it interrupts the green diagonal pattern. 
However, if I switch the blue square and the yellow floral, now squint, the green diagonal is more distinct and that's good.  You might not think this block is "pretty", but that won't matter once we get a bunch of blocks set together.
Value is the critical element of fabric placement in scrappy quilts! 
I'm chain piecing the blocks together in rows -- here are the first and second rows pieced into pairs.
Now I'm leaving everything attached and adding the third row. 
Here's the fourth row being added. 
Once I add a row of squares to the "grid" (on the right and coming off the back of my machine), my "ender" or "sew-off" is to stitch two rows of the previous block together (on the left).
I leave all the thread chains in place -- no clipping apart -- so nothing gets tangled. 
It took a little trial and error to figure out the easiest way to press the seams in opposite directions without clipping all those chain threads, but then a happy accident presented the solution.
If I let the pressed rows hang off the edge of the ironing board, they aren't in the way. 
Now I can slide my iron right (or left) down the next row effortlessly, pressing the seams in the opposite direction of the previous row which is hanging down over the edge of the ironing board.
At this point, I can work up one of these blocks in about an hour!
And happily each block uses 45 squares from my basket!
That means I'll use 1014 squares for the twin size quilt I have planned!!
Don't worry, there's a backup box of 2 1/2" strips if I start to run low or the assortment of squares gets too ugly.
With no deadline for this quilt top, it could take much of the summer but it's a perfect escape from "the world" when I just want to piece something without starting a new project!!

Oh, yea -- it is a new project?!?

Birding migration is winding down here in Ohio, so I'll be spending more time at my sewing machine There have been a couple fun new additions to my backyard garden in the past couple weeks!
A green frog has moved into my little pond.  It's taken us two weeks to spot and identify him.  Up to now, it's just been "something just jumped into the pond!!"  I'm not sure if he is coexisting with the hundreds of American toad tadpoles in the pond or eating them -- there are so many it's hard to tell?!? 
And while this fellow isn't a new resident (he was likely born in the pond sometime in the past couple years), hanging out on the back porch is a new venue for him.  I say "him" because since toads began to breed in my pond a couple years ago, I've learned the males are smaller than the females.
He spent most of the morning sitting along the edge of the back porch while I came and went - just sunning and watching!  Very chill fellow!
Next week, I'll show you the progress I made on my big English paper piecing project over the past month!!