Monday, October 2, 2023

Accountability -- Third Quarter 2023 Review

 While there has been a long "radio silence" here on the blog for over a month, my sewing fingers have been busy.  I realized in mid-August as I finished up the Dresden Stars tutorial series for the sew-along, that the "tops to be quilted" pile was growing a bit faster than is good for my overriding goal to never have a big pile of UFO's again. 

Time to slow down on the piecing and the starting of new tops!  I was in the middle of a couple new starts which I needed/wanted to finish to eliminate the piecing distraction so I could focus on the quilting.

I had succumbed to the mini-plaidish sew along earlier in August when I realized I could cut most of the pieces out of my scrap boxes of  3", 2 1/2" and 1 1/2" strips.  It wasn't even like I was starting a new project because after all, everything was practially cut?!?  Never heard of the Plaidish quilt? -- check out this Instagram hashtag collection HERE.  It's the brainchild of Erica at Kitchen Table Quilting and the instructions are very clear so it was easy and fun to organize the blocks and watch them become a plaidish quilt top.  This is a laprobe and destined to be a holiday gift for someone.

And would you look at the backing!?!  I'm stretched to make backings these days as most of my big stash pieces are gorgeous florals which aren't always as versatile as I would like.   Plus the yardages are smaller.  So every backing is becoming a challenge but I'm very pleased with this one!!  Using the stash is always a priority!!

Did you start this quilt along?  I loved the cover quilt and started with the group earlier in the year but lost interest rather quickly.  It may be because I wasn't working with bright cheery prints -- using my stash of traditional reproduction prints which I enjoy working with but . . . . or maybe just lack of focus.  Bright, new, shiny -- you know the feeling!

So I quit at "this many" blocks thinking another laprobe.  I set the blocks together and was trying to decide if it needed a border since it was a bit skinny -- only 36" wide -- and I thought what am I going to do with another laprobe???  
So I didn't add borders (it's the rebel in me) and split the center seam crosswise for two wheel chair laprobes that I know I'll be able to donate locally!!  This one is quilted with simple cross hatching and the second will be ready later this week!!
(The quilt is square but I always seem to hold the camera cock-eyed.)
Each one is 27" by 36" -- three afternoons to finish!!

Since the scrap baskets were still out from the Plaidish quilt . . . 
and I've been wanting to replace this much loved and worn Trip Around the World for a couple years. . . . .
 I didn't resist -- it was a fast job!
 Most of the squares were already cut (again, is it a new start?).  I followed the original quilt's light, medium, dark of a color rainbow look laying out a row at a time and piecing it as "leaders and enders" for other sewing.
Isn't it fun!!  It used up about 825 squares of scraps - yes!!
I think it will be a gift, too which might mean I'll have to make another one after the first of the year?

Time to document my progress on the 2023 goals!!

1.  Finish six more UFO's from the leftover 2022 list.  With the two table runner finishes below, I have crossed five of the six off my list!  This finish was a one afternoon project -- don't you always find yourself saying "that was so easy, why didn't I do it sooner?"  I have the answer!!  It's because we didn't have a reason to finish.  This one will be a gift this fall and the one in the photo for goal #5 has been donated -- found a reason, did the finish!!
The final UFO on this list is the Dresden Stars top I pieced in August and that might be the next top to be layered up for some machine quilting.  You didn't realize it was in my UFO stack did you?
  I could reach this goal for 2023!

2.  Quilt the new tops I made in 2022.  No new progress here  }-:  but my fall plan is to get one of the tops on that list of five layered and begin handquilting it now that evenings are starting earlier -- autumnal nesting, you know.

3.  Deal with all the antique/vintage quilt tops I own.  And no new progress here either.  I need a big dose of courage and more focus with fewer distractions --  maybe this will be my only goal in 2024? 

4. If/when I start new projects, chose from a list of seven.   I have not started any new projects from this list since January, but the progress on the two underway has been steady.  The Hextraganza quilt top is set together.  When I posted my progress on Instagram last week, the pattern designer left a lovely comment which gave me a thrill!!  This will be a finished top by year's end!!
 I'm at the final step of appliqueing the quartered-circle motifs in place.
Plus the Flourishes applique blocks are on schedule.  Nine of twelve are finished and here's the last three I stitched.  Each time I finish a block, I think to myself -- "I can't believe I did it?!?"  It's time to start number ten!  
I've started to think about the setting.  The pattern has a setting of course. but I might modify it so I would finish with three smaller quilts that could go to my granddaughters someday.

5. Re-home twelve finished quilts.   I only let go of one more piece - this recently finished table topper (another cross-off from the 2022 list!!) is going to a fall fund raiser for one of my nature groups.  They are a birdy bunch and the center motif of each star is a fussy cut bird print.  Hopefully it appeals to lots of folks and earn the big bucks!!
(Can you believe that binding job??)
I've let go of twelve pieces which was my goal for 2023 but I have decided to push myself a bit and increase the goal to let go of as many pieces as I finish this year.  So far I've finished thirteen quilted pieces so I'm in good shape.  I hope to finish five more so that means letting go of 18 -- trying to keep a lid on the inventory growth here!?!   Combined with my current intentions to donate two and to gift another two to specific people, it's shouldn't take much effort to figure out how to let go of  two more quilts . . . . . should it???  

If you've followed my journey as a quilter for any length of time, here or in the classroom, you know that I'm a goal-oriented quilt maker.  Some say to me, do what makes you happy and don't worry about how many you finish, etc.  However, I know that big stacks of UFO's are not good for my mental health.  Much as I love the thrill of a new project, the relief of finishing an old project is worth setting goals and striving to reach them.

Now go finish something -- that's where I'm headed!!


Friday, August 11, 2023

Part 6 -- Dresden Star Tutorials

 Time to share the last steps -- adding borders and some quilting ideas!  

I added three borders to my finished top -- first border is the background fabric and cut 2" wide to finish at 1 1/2".    Second border used up all my leftovers from the layer cake (plus a couple add-ins because it was pretty tight) -- it's cut 3" wide to finish at 2 1/2".  The third border is the background fabric and cut 4" wide to finish at 3 1/2" wide.

The layer cake leftovers could be pieced together with straight seams but for the fun of it, I cut all the pieces on an angle that matched the angles of the star points.

I cut all the leftovers into 3" wide strips (most of them were already that width) and then laid them end to end in a "random" scrappy order -- spacing the colors evenly for a bit of balance. Once satisfied with the order, I stacked up (on the left) and worked down through the stack trimming the ends and restacked them for sewing (on the right).

I used the 60 degree angle on a rotary ruler to trim  the ends and

the opposite end was trimmed on the opposite angle.
I used my diamond template to trim the sharp points  which helps with the matching as the strips are stitched together.  

Lay two pieces end to end as pictured
then when you flip the right sides together for stitching, the alignment will be quick and  accurate!  You can skip the trimming step but I never do since noticing the increased accuracy of my piecing!
Now just sew all the strips together into one long border band and you are ready to add it to the quilt top.
If you scroll back up to the first picture and look at the lower right corner, you can see that I cut off the band when I reached the corner, squared it up and continued.  I added this border "log cabin" style around the quilt to get as many "the color turned the corners" as I could.

Finally, I'm going to share the quilting designs I used on the first version I made of this quilt because I'll probably use the same ones on this version.  Why make new choices???
A striped fabric cut on the bias was the perfect binding!!

The outer border was this simple straight line-curvy line repeat worked back and forth -- the straight line was worked stitching forward and the curvy line backwards sneaking along the edge of the second border to get to the beginning of the new line.
For the setting triangles, I marked the center of each piece, then "arced" from point to center, center to point, etc. working around the triangle.  It was a big "pumpkin seed" so after the first one, I added the little vein squiggle in the center of each "seed".  You can also see the first border quilting -- first I stitched straight lines evenly spaced from the seams, then came back around with the curvy line.  The curvy line was freehand -- you can do that!!
This is the best picture I could get of the detail on the star points.  My goal is always to do as much continuous stitching as possible to eliminate thread burying.  I outlined the center hexagon "in the ditch" and as I got to each blade seam, I arced up to the point, freehand squiggled the point, and then back down to the hexagon.  The result was just one beginning and one ending set of threads for each star block.
The background diamonds were quilted as I outlined the blocks.  Look at the bottom of the diamond below.  Trace the stitching to the left along the seamline.  Stop at the first line of the "maze" that you come to and then trace around the "maze".  Into the center and back out.  Then I stitched a few stitches along the seamline back to the beginning of the "maze",  retraced my stitching and on to the next diamond.  So again, one starting and one stopping set of threads to bury.  The "mazes" aren't perfectly aligned -- I used the edge of my free motion foot to align things and I'm content with the results.  If marking makes you happier, use my photo as a pattern for your diamonds.
I have yet to layer my quilt top -- the backing is still to be pieced (but I did find yardage in my stash for that) and I've had to fix a design glitch in my pieced border!?!  Scroll back up to the first picture.  See those two solid looking brown strips?  They were an add-in to bring more brown into the border but when I stepped back (after the borders were finished), they glared at me.
My solution?

I pulled out the tiny scraps I had left of the layer cake
and created a pile of tiny hexagons (1/2"), basting them as for English paper piecing.
I had enough to prep a few 5/8" hexagons and now I'm popping out the papers, pressing the hexagons and machine stitching them in place.  
To make it look like it was a "plan" all along (this is a skill you need to cultivate), I scattered some all along the border.   It's working -- breaks up the brown globs perfectly but they are a pain in the ---- to stitch down so I keep getting distracted to stitching that is more "fun"!?!
I hope you will give this pattern a try or at the very least, give my Set-In Piecing Simplified technique a try on your next piecing project with set-in seams.  They are so much easier than you think they are going to be when you use this technique -- that's my students review of the process!!
If you haven't invested in my teaching guide for the technique, here's a coupon code to use for 25% off until the end of August, 2023!  Click on my face up on the right side of the blog and use this code when you check out in my Etsy shop!

Let me know if this series has been helpful and inspiring!


Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Part 5 -- Dresden Star Tutorials

My blocks are finished!!  
Time to set them into the quilt top!
For the lap robe size, I'm setting the rows horizontal -- for the crib size in the pattern, I set the rows vertical.    Here, I cropped the photo of my current quilt and rotated it 90 degrees to illustrate that option.
NOTE:  There are some other setting options that might appeal to you for hexagon shaped star blocks from a sew-along I did here on the blog in 2014 -- you can review them HERE.

Anytime I'm making a "scrappy" quilt, I begin the setting process by putting my finished blocks onto the design wall in a random order -- I start at the top left corner and lay the blocks in position as they come off my pile of finished blocks.  
Then I step away for a couple hours.
When I come back, what ever "jumps" out at me is what I change.
The only block that jumped this time is the second from the right in the second of the bottom row.
It grabbed my attention immediately (not in a good way) so I started moving it around.

My goal was to minimize it's impact.  Positioning it in a corner and making sure the other corner blocks were also "strong" seems to do the trick for me.  I also organized the center horizontal row with the brightest blocks and that gives a focal point.  I could have also put the "difficult" block in the center of the quilt if I wanted to draw attention to it.
Once I was happy with the block positions, I added the setting triangles -- random placement to begin.
Looking through my camera is a good way to pick-up on "glaring" spots.  
At this point, the quilt felt chaotic and unbalanced so I began to move triangles around.
What worked for me was to organize the triangles with teal prints around the center Dresden Star -- it creates a subtle secondary star which I like but there could have been a dozen other arrangements.
It's all about what appeals to your design sense.
Trust your intuition -- if you are waffling, it means you don't like it!
Be sure the straight of grain on the setting triangles is laying horizontal to the quilt.  This controls stretching when sewing the rows together.
Can you find the four triangles that are pieced from half triangles?

After a day of rest (to be sure I liked the layout), I was ready to assemble the quilt top.
The beauty of this layout is that it doesn't require any more set-in seams -- all straight from this point!!
These are the basic units to make.
If you took the time to trim the corners of the triangles and half triangles as you were cutting, all that you need to do to position them is match the corners as shown here.
and here!  
Press the seams toward the triangles.
Once you have all the diamond shaped units and the end units,
 begin to assemble the rows.

There is one little trick you need to know to avoid mismatched intersections as you join the units to assemble the rows.  This can happen if you don't match properly.
This is what you want!
You can poke pins through the seam allowances and fiddle or if the seams allowances are a consistent accurate 1/4", do this.
I hope I got close enough with the photo
Looking down "into" the seam allowances, I've discovered if I align the corner of the seam allowances on the top unit with the end of the stitching line on the lower unit -- the seams will cross/intersect 1/4" from the raw edge.  It might take a few practices to do this but once you figure it out, it streamlines the matching.  It's hard to convey in a picture or words, but if you do it with your units and compare it to the picture, it will make sense.
 I had to fix a couple.  
Usually my bad ones happen because the unit seams weren't exactly 1/4".

It's a good idea to "label" the right end units with a pin or something.  I flipped a row 180 degrees and while looked okay at a quick glance, it messed up my setting triangle arrangement at the center of the quilt.  That will teach me not to be such a cocky bugger?!?
Since the seams within the rows are angled, you can press them to either side.
Here's the finished top ready for borders!  Right now it's about 36" wide and 52" long.  Once the borders are added, it should be 51" by 67".
If you want to make a larger quilt, every block added to the width of a horizontal setting increases the width of the quilt by about 12" and every row added increase the length by about 10".

I'll be back in a week to walk you through the borders and share some quilting ideas!
And happy dance, I found a hunk of fabric for a backing in my stash!!  With all the finishing I've been doing the past few years, those big pieces are becoming more rare in my stash?!?



Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Part 4 -- Dresden Star Tutorials

 How is piecing the Dresden Star blocks going for you? 
 It's very quiet out there so I'm assuming I'm doing such a great job on the tutorials that there is no need for questions or you are all just watching me do this??
Whichever it is, I'm having a good time and making steady progress.  I have 13 finished star blocks and 4 half-blocks in preparation for today's post.

Today, I'll cover making the half-blocks and cutting the setting triangles in preparation for 
Part 5 to discuss the setting of this quilt.

As you recall, I'm using a layer cake for my blocks.  I used a total of 26 squares from the layer cake for the stars.  To make the half-blocks, I'm using the leftover pieces of 8 layer cake squares which measure about 3" by 10".  
Both the crib version (in the pattern) and the laprobe size I'm making use 4 half-blocks.  Each half-block uses 3 pairs of blades, 4 kite points and 3 background diamonds.
Cutting these pieces from jelly roll (2 1/2" ) strips isn't a problem but I had to fiddle around a bit with the layer cake leftovers to get my 3 pair of blades. 
Thank goodness for my rotating rotary mat!!
 I actually found it easier to cut the blades out with the template I made for the last tutorial!?!
In the photo below, I've assembled two of the blade units with a kite point.  The remaining two blades are separated and positioned as shown.
This photo illustrates the order of assembly.
If you look back up at the first picture, you'll see this half-star on my design wall.

Now let's look at cutting the setting triangles.  Of course, as a retired Marti Michell educator, I'm using one of the 60 degree triangle rulers.  There are two and I have both, but if I were buying them today, I'd get the large one.  
If you don't have one of these rulers or a different brand, I'll go over cutting the triangles without one of them.

For the crib size setting, you need 16 full triangles and 4 half triangles.
For the lap robe size, I need 24 full triangles and 12 half triangles.

Before starting my blocks, I set aside all the light background prints from my layer cake to use for my setting triangles.    If you are working with a jelly roll, you'll need a 1/2 yard of a print with a light background that blends/coordinates with your fabric assortment for the setting triangles.

Layer two squares right sides together on the cutting mat and trim to a 9 3/4" square -- this is mostly to eliminate those pinked edges.  The reason for layering the squares right sides together is to get right and left half triangles without having to think about it.
No need to experiment with that idea -- just do it.
(I already messed it up by not doing it.)
Lay one edge of the small triangle or the 6" line of the large triangle along one edge of the squares and snugged up into a corner as below.  Cut the triangles making sure to trim the points as directed with the ruler.
To cut the half triangles, twist the ruler around 180 degrees and align the purple lines down the center of tool as shown.  ALL three lines need to be on the fabric because this creates the seam allowance needed on that edge of the piece.
Here's one of my squares after cutting -- two full triangles, two half triangles, and three scraps -- upper left corner, center piece, and lower right corner.  
With careful cutting, I was able to get 20 full triangles and 20 half triangles.
If you go back to the number of full triangles needed, you'll see that I'm 4 short for the laprobe.  But happily my brain realized that since I only need 12 of the half triangles, I can stitch the extra 8 half triangles together to make 4 more full triangles and I'm golden!!
In the next tutorial, I will explain how to make these blend right into the setting and everyone will think I planned it that way?!?

To use a different brand of ruler or a basic rotary ruler, start by cutting 6" strips across the width of the fabric -- two for the crib size, three for the lap robe size -- from the yardage of your setting fabric.  Layer two of the strips right sides together on your cutting mat (because you need left and right facing half-triangles) and square off the end.
Align the 60 degree line with the lower edge of the strip as below.  This first cut will make two of the half triangles but DON'T align it with the lower left corner as I have in the picture below.  My mistake meant I didn't have a seam allowance on that edge of the piece.
Instead, make a mark 1/4" in from the corner and align the ruler with that mark -- seam allowance.
(I made the mistake so you don't have to!?!)
This first cut will give you a pair of half triangles.
Then work your way across the strips rotating the ruler to line up along the 60 degree line on the lower edge of the strip.
You should get at least 10 triangles from each strip.
Before you take the triangles off the rotary mat, twist a 6" wide ruler so the 5  3/4" line matches each side of the triangle.  See that little corner peeking out at the upper right corner?  
Trim it off to mimic the trimmed corners of Marti's tool.  If you've not worked with trimmed corners, it's a game changer increasing my matching accuracy.
Do this for all three corners of the triangles.
As you near the opposite end of the strip, you can maximize fabric by cutting another set of half-triangles.  To do this, line up the 1/4" line of your straight ruler (adding seam allowance) and cut.
If you have Marti's 60 degree Triangle Ruler, align the tool with the edge of the strip, cut the diagonal and trim the 3 corners.
For other brands of 60 (equilateral) triangles, the horizontal lines may not match the fabric edge on a 6" strip, but this is the correct strip size -- so align the tool as straight as possible and don't worry about matching a line.  You will also need to use the trick for trimming the triangle corners that I shared above.

  One of the unique aspects of Marti's tool is that the sizes noted along the outer edges of the tool are the finished size of the triangles making it easier for you to determine what size is needed for your blocks.  In looking at other brands, their measurements seem to be based on the "height" of the tool and that is absolutely no help -- all it tells you is what size to cut the strip and not the size of the finished triangle. 

Here's a bonus idea I pondered when I realized I was running out of fabric for the triangles.  Cut four scrappy 3" sixty-degree triangles and stitch them together for a 6" triangle.
Just an idea to keep in your back pocket?
And it would be a good solution for a scrappy version!
I've reviewed this tutorial several times and hope I've anticipated everything you need to know about cutting the setting triangles, but if not -- ask away!!


1.  Finish piecing your blocks and make four half-blocks.

2.  Cut the setting triangles as described above.

3.  Clear off your design wall so you will be ready to play next week -- tutorial 5 will come out Wednesday, July 26.

4.  And of course, leave your questions in the comments.  I bet someone else has the same question and will be relieved they aren't the only one asking it!!

Just for fun, if you are on Instagram, remember to post your blocks as you finish them -- use the hashtag, #dresdenstarquilt and tag me @hueymary


P.S.  Did you notice I've added six blocks to the UFO?!?