Friday, February 17, 2023

Honeycomb Tutorial for Erin!!

On January 11, I shared a photo of a scrappy honeycomb quilt laying on the floor of my studio.  It came out of "hiding" (LOL) and I have been using it for sew-offs as I work on other projects over the past month.  It's the best way to me to make progress on a UFO when I've lost interest.  Since I chain-piece all the time, sew-offs are always in demand in my studio -- I may not be able to stand working on a project anymore but I can always muster up the interest to sew a 2" seam here and there while working on my "newest" love interest!?!

I started this in response to a question about whether honeycombs could be machine-pieced using the Set-in Piecing Simplified technique that I taught -- I can remember getting Erin's email, perhaps 10 years ago?  I was in California on a teaching trip so I sketched an idea on graph paper and was ready to try it out when I got home. 

I cut some pieces from the 2 1/2" scrappy strips that are always on hand!  
I stitched just enough of it to confirm that my idea was on target and then put it in a box.  
I'm not sure I ever responded to Erin with an answer???
So here's the answer, Erin!

All the pieces are cut with Marti Michell tools.  The yellow squares are cut using template #12 from Set B and the honeycombs are 2 1/2" by 4 1/2" rectangles trimmed with the Evening Star end of the Sashing Stars Set  (linked HERE).
Finally I marked the corners of the honeycomb pieces with dots using the 45 degree angle on Marti's Corner Trimmer tool.

After a bit of fiddling to determine the best piecing order, I made all the 3-piece units with two honeycomb pieces and one square.  Once I find my rhythm, this is the type of repetitive work that makes a perfect sew-off. 
If you are familiar with Set-in Piecing Simplified, the upper left seam between the two honeycombs is stitched from the outer edge and stops at the "dot" as in the photo below.  The two seams attaching the square to the two honeycombs art stitched dot-to-dot.
144 sew-off's later, all 48 of the basic 3-piece units were stitched together!
Time to lay them out!

The easiest way to layout a scrap quilt is the same way you deal a game of Solitaire -- off the top of the deck in random order.  Once they are all laid out you can see where to tweak -- if there are 3 of the same brown print clustered together, un-cluster them.
My layout is six units by eight units -- each honeycomb and each square counts as 2" side to side -- so my piece is 26" by 34".   Once I was happy with the layout, I cut more honeycombs to finish the right edge and the lower edge and added those to the "design floor".  To make the edges straight, I cut triangles using the quarter square method and template #14 from Marti's set B -- the straight of fabric grain runs along the "diagonal" of the triangle so the outer edge of the piece will not stretch when I add borders.   HERE is a link to that template set which you can order direct from Marti!  There's even a video to show you how to work with the templates!

Now to assemble the units!  I've got lots of pictures to share.  Even if you never want to piece this, reading through the process and looking at the pictures might help you figure out the best approach to a project in your future?

I added a triangle to the lower edge of each left side unit.
I added a triangle to each right edge honeycomb.
And I added a honeycomb and triangle to the lower edge of each lower edge unit.
Once all those units were pieced, I started pieced in the upper left corner and worked across the piece to the right.  Once the first row was assembled, I returned to the left side and added the next row of units, one unit at a time.  This was much easier than assembling the units into rows and then attaching the rows -- just take my word for it!?!

After a bit of trial and error, I determined the best sewing order for the four seams needed to insert a unit was to start by attaching the intersection of the four honeycombs -- dot-to-dot seam.
Since this is the most critical matching point, it worked best when I did it first.
Second, attach the left side of the vertical honeycomb to the right edge of the adjacent square --  
dot-to-dot seam.
Third, attach the upper edge of the horizontal honeycomb to the lower edge of the adjacent square --
And finally, attach the right edge of the horizontal honeycomb to the left edge of the vertical honeycomb in the row above -- dot-to-edge.
Repeat, repeat, repeat.
Soon, the top will be coming together and covering the sewing table!
The final corner (lower right) looked like this and notice, I added that last triangle to the lower right side of the honeycomb in the row above.  Also, I used two triangles in each corner because I like the way it blended instead of a bigger triangle.
Scroll back up to the first picture -- the top isn't finished.  I'm thinking a yellow frame next and then I don't know what?  It's on the design wall and percolating in my head.  If I had used a lighter print for the squares, the lattice created by the honeycombs would have been stronger looking but I'm just having fun here .

And that's the third quilt top from that 2 1/2" strip box this winter.  The 4-patch is all set together and a backing made -- planning to take it along to a retreat in a couple weeks and get it layered up!
Didn't it turn out great!  The black and white print alternate squares make all those scrappy 4-patches hang together beautifully.  I even got a bit artsy with the layout to get those diagonal rows of darker prints.  The main reason for the shifting value of the alternate squares was "I ran out of fabric", not just once, but twice?!?  And as usual, it looks all the better for it.
Running out of a print can be fun if you let it have it's way with you!!

If I've made you curious about the Set-in Simplified technique for chain piecing, see my face up there on the right -- click on it and it will take you right to my Etsy shop where you can purchase an instructional PDF (download it tonight) and try it out!
In fact, I'll give you 10% off through the end of February, 2023.
No coupon needed!

If you have questions about today's tutorial, leave them in the comments!



Friday, February 3, 2023

Quick(ish) Finish

Started December 31, 2022 -- finished February 1, 2023
Pieced, machine quilted, bound!
Ready to be washed.
And I love it (which means it will be so hard to part with it)!!

I gave you a glimpse of the top a couple weeks ago but I'll review what I did here today and how it achieved one of my goals for the year (already?).

On December 31, I spent an entire afternoon tidying up my very messy box of 
2 1/2" scrap strips sorting out strips that were less than 12" long to cut up into squares for the 2 1/2" scrap squares box.  Daydreaming along, I started to consider making a "jelly roll" quilt -- you know sew the strips together end-to-end for a couple miles and then -- just "google" it.  
Then I recalled a pattern -- Sakura Sun -- which has been on my "I want to make that" list for a couple years.  It's a free pattern on the RJR Fabrics website designed by Linda Fitch.
Upon reading through the pattern instructions, it calls for three different strip lengths all under 12" -- perfect use for that growing pile of short strips.

Time to make a color plan!
The aspect of the pattern that first caught my eye was the way the colors bled down the length of the quilt.  So to achieve that, I decided to use the warm colors down the middle of the quilt and the cool colors down each side.  When I sorted out cools and warms, there was twice as much green as blue or purple and lots more cool prints than warm prints. 

The resulting strategy was to "muckle up" (old Mary Ellen Hopkins term) the warm colors down the middle, with greens down both sides bleeding into blues on the right and purples on the left.  All the strips in each band are the same length and the pattern calls for ten sets of the three different bands.  So every set began with purple, then green, then warm colors, green again and ending with blue.  The sets with seven pieces have three warm color prints in the middle and the sets with six pieces have two warm color prints.
After setting the top together, I went back and added an eleventh set of bands.

I stacked the strips for each band from left to right without being fussy about "matching" or "coordinating" the prints -- the quicker this step is done, the more random the results! 
After piecing and pressing the bands, I put them on the design wall as they came off the ironing board -- no fiddling at this point.  When I walked away from the design wall and turned around to look at the layout, I gasped!!  This was so much better than I imagined!!
I did fiddle a bit to move the reds to the top and bottom of the quilt and concentrate the yellows in the middle but I didn't necessarily need to do that.

TIP: I forgot to do this until I realized the quilt top was skewing to one side --
I stitched the bands into pairs, pressed the seams to one side and then began to stitch the pairs into fours -- my mistake at this stage was I always started at the blue end.
To eliminate the skewing, I needed to switch and start at the purple end to join the rest of the bands.
Does that make sense?

Also, the bands are a bit random in their finished length -- part of the reason for that is there are varying numbers of seams.  So a band with seven strips will be shorted than a band with five strips because there are more seams -- not because you are a "bad" piecer!! 

Once the top was finished it was time to figure out a backing.  Of course, I didn't find any piece large enough so I pulled four colorful prints that have some common colors and were all florals.  Here they are laying on the quilt top (on the design wall) to make sure my calculations are good.
Nothing more frustrating than piecing a backing and having it short!!
As I layered it with batting (a Frankenbat made from three leftover pieces), I considered whether random lines zigzagging down the quilt would emphasize the color flow. It just took a few chalk lines drawn across the quilt to convince me it was a good idea.

I drew the first line down the length of the center of the quilt, stitched it and then used my straight line quilting guide tool to achieve the random spacing as I worked out to the sides from the center. 
It's not apparent in this photo, but I also changed thread colors as I progressed -- yellow down the middle, a variegated pink/red on either side of the center, then a variegated green down through the green prints, finishing up with a variegated blue thread on the right and variegated purple on the left. 
 I played two rounds of "thread chicken" running out of both the blue and the purple threads with just a few inches left to quilt.  After another cuppa' to calm me down, I was able to think and estimate how many more lines I could get from the remaining thread.  I spaced those lines further apart.  
Then I came back in and added lines with a thread color that blended with what I had already used.   Could you tell if I had not point it out?
As I finished the quilting, I started thinking about the binding.  All my auditioned ideas weren't working -- black, rainbow strip . . . .    But then I had a "clever" moment, dove back into the 2 1/2" strip box and made a scrappy binding that changed colors to (almost) match the edges of the quilt -- blue on the right, green and warm colors on the top and bottom, purple on the left!!
The "goals" reached?
I used a pattern from my "want to make" list!
I used about 6 yards of my stash, leftover batting, and thread I had on hand!
I finished the quilt in a timely fashion!
(My kids don't appreciate the favor I'm doing them using up some of the stash!?!)

My version is 53" by 66" -- did I say I love it!
An easy, cheerful, and quick make during the gray months of winter here in NE Ohio.
I have another simple quilt in the works using the shortest strips from the same stash box!
Hope you are able to do some satisfying stitching this weekend.

P.S. -- here's a link to a "jelly roll 1600" quilt I did out of my stash a few years ago that you might also find inspiring!  After re-reading it, I'm wondering if I followed through on making a charity quilt from every shelf of fabric in my stash that year -- guess I have to go back and read more posts?!?  Plus there's a great (I think) tip on managing the assembly of this style of quilt top.