Thursday, March 23, 2023

A Layer Cake Idea!

Are you a layer cake sucker? 
I'm trying to use up a few (so I can buy more guilt-free?).
  I'm pretty good at talking myself out of them but this was one I couldn't resist -- I wanted it so badly, I had a friend buy it for me at QuiltCon in 2019.  
Forty exciting African prints!! 
 I think they came from Crimson & Tate in Indianapolis, Indiana?
Problem was that I could not cut them up!?! I auditioned several ideas, but never started anything.  What is the point of buying fabric you don't have the courage to use???  Then last week, while filing some old teaching handouts, I had a lightbulb moment.  
Make a ZIG ZAG quilt!

Step one -- cut all the 10" squares on both diagonals into four triangles.
Caution -- measure some of the squares to make sure they are actually squares.  The layer cake I used for the Exploding Heart quilt was 10" by 10 1/4".  It wasn't a problem for that quilt but it would have been for this one so trimming them to perfect squares is a good idea!
Keep each set of triangles together.
Step 2 - lay out the stacks so you can see everything.  I needed to determine the proportion of warm colors and cool colors -- that is a good color strategy when working with lots of prints that aren't "coordinated".
Two stacks of triangles make one horizontal row.  I chose two contrasting prints for each row.  Starting at the top, my first row is a mostly green print and a mostly red print.  For the second row, I start with another red print and chose a contrasting print, a cool color in this case, for the lower side of the row.  As I moved down the layout, I repeated the process -- the upper triangles in each row repeat the color (but not the print) of the previous row and the second color used for the lower triangles of that row contrast with it.

As the layout is built, the "zig zags" begin to appear!  If they don't, rearrange to get more contrast -- either of value (light vs. dark) or color.
Once I was happy with the layout, I took the right edge triangle from each row and cut it in half as shown below.  One of these triangles will square off the left end of the row and the other the right end.
Time to sew!  I pieced the units into pairs as below.
I was lazy and didn't trim the points, just eyeballed aligning them with the "dog-ear" sticking equally out on both ends.
The seam allowance should start and end at the intersection of a diagonal edge and a straight edge -- see below.  I pressed the seams to one-side and all the seams in a row go the same direction.
The rows go together quickly with just 8 seams!  My rows are about 32" across and 4 1/4" wide -- 10 rows will be about 42" -- a nice child size piece.  The plan is for no borders and a solid color backing.
I don't even have to figure out how to quilt it since I used this same design several years ago to make a quilt for my daughter's guest room.

I finished assembling the rows before lunch and couldn't resist sewing "just two" of them together as you see below . . . . . but I stitched the wrong edges so the first and second row (from the top) are flipped.  Arghhh!!  My "staff" will be ripping that apart later this afternoon so I can correct it?!?
I have enough fabric to make two of these quilts and my plan is to donate them to a local group that works to improve the birthing experience for women of color.

If you want to use this idea with a layer cake that is more coordinated, it seems to me you could sort the prints by light and dark and perhaps color depending on the assortment.  If the contrast between two zig-zags is good, a scrappy arrangement of the prints will work.  If all the prints in a zig-zag are assorted blues and the next one is assorted oranges, the uniform color families and the contrast of opposite colors makes the zig-zag work.   

If I were planning a lap size piece with a layer cake, I would add one set of triangles to each row for a width of about 40" and use thirteen rows for a length of 54".  Some quick math tells me that would need about thirty-three 10" squares so one layer cake would do that with a few leftovers. 
For every two triangles added to a row, the row will increase by approximately 8" and adding another complete row to the top will add about 4".

So I'm another layer cake down with just three more to use up!!
I hope you are inspired to use up one of your layer cakes!!

Daffodils starting to bloom here!!
It's so nice to look out the window and see cheery spots of yellow!!
Enjoy the first weekend of the new season -- spring or fall!!



Friday, March 10, 2023

Something Fun!!!

 Something fun has been happening in my space!?!
A couple weeks ago while tidying a shelf of fabric in my stash, a forgotten layer cake surfaced -- it had fallen behind the stack of fabric.  I recall ordering it on-line quite some time ago -- the flyer says 2015?  So it is properly aged at this point.  
It only took me about a minute to realize it would be perfect for a new make -- Exploding Heart!  I'm pretty sure I've save every picture of this quilt I've ever seen on Instagram so in January, I bought the pattern!
I found the instructions to be excellent (and as a pattern writer myself, I don't say that very often).  Laura of Slice of Pi Quilts is the author and she gives instructions for rotary cutting and using a "fabric cutter" machine.   That impressed me even though I don't own one of those.  

Since I was starting with a layer cake, I cut each piece into 5" squares until I had the number needed which only used 33 of the layer cake's 10" squares.  I used a muckled-up assortment of white-on-white prints from my stash for the  background and only cut the number specified for the "larger" background square.  I waited to cut the "smaller" background squares until I had trimmed all the pieced units -- since my colored squares were smaller than the pattern specified, my pieced units came out smaller and I needed to adjust that size accordingly.
Does that make sense?

You could also use four 5" charm packs of fabrics -- they wouldn't need to be the same collection but could be four different collections from the same designer since I've noticed many designers use a color palette over and over.  And it would be a lot of fun using scraps from your favorite designer -- Kaffe Fassett or Anna Marie Horner??  And four packs equals more squares than you need to begin, so you could eliminate the ones you didn't like as much?

At one point, a line needs to be drawn across the back of triangle sets -- make sure that line is perpendicular to the first seam!!  I lined up the "5 line" on my ruler with the stitching every time to be sure my units were easier to square up during the final trimming step!

Every day last week, I worked on one group of  the units -- since I try not to spend more than 45 minutes with my "nose-down" at the sewing machine these days, it was a perfect work flow.  I could do all the piecing and pressing for one group in less than an hour.

 I knew I wouldn't enjoy trimming the units to a uniform size - I never do.  Since I cut patchwork with templates and have pieced for so many years, my work doesn't need trimmed.  But I was determined to follow Laura's directions faithfully.  My finished units are 1/2" smaller than the pattern specified since I started out with slightly smaller squares and so my quilt top will be a bit smaller.

Happily, I was going to a retreat last weekend and only taking handwork, no sewing machine.  I took all the units with me and trimmed them in small batches, working on it for 15 minutes at a time to minimize shoulder strain that is now one of the perks of rotary cutting for me?!?
If you are a "trimmer", you already know that it's important to "center" the ruler correctly.  In this case, notice that the "4" line is matching the left side "corners" and the diagonal line is aligned perfectly.  If you don't take the time to do this, when you assemble the units, corners will not align no matter what you do!

I came home with all the units trimmed units ready to assemble into the top!

I emptied the design wall and started to work through the pattern, one row at a time.  It only took about 3 rows for me to see this was going to be wonderful!!  And when I got to row 5, it was hard to stop.
All week, I've been assembling two or three rows and adding them to the design wall.
It just keeps getting better and better!!

Today, I pieced the last row and started thinking about whether to add a border.  The pattern doesn't call for it, but it will upsize my version a bit and I like the idea of a white border to "float" the design.  Inspiration arrived in the form of "incorporated" borders which was a favorite tactic of my long-time mentor, Mary Ellen Hopkins.  Piecing the border will blend in with the "muckled-up" background better, so I cut enough rectangles to add a 2" finished border.  Since I haven't finished sewing the rows together, I'll add rectangles to the ends of each row.  A row of rectangles will make the top and bottom borders.  You can see them in place on the design wall (top edge and right edge).
I won't get the top completely assembled today (avoiding aching shoulders and neck) but I'm already envisioning a stripped fabric for the binding and studying my collection of pictures of other quilters versions for quilting inspiration.

I can see myself making this quilt again!!  The only thing I would do different is to cut the pieces with one of Marti Michell's Basic Template sets -- A, B, or T maybe?   My unit size might be different than the pattern and so the quilt would be a different size, but I wouldn't have to trim any of the units.  And there would be no wasted fabric.  

I could have used B-9 and B-11 to cut the triangles for the size in the pattern, getting 4 large triangles and 8 small triangles from a 10" layer cake square for the 72" square top.
I could also use these templates with 5" charm square packs.
Use template B-8 for the background squares.
Others sizes would be easy to achieve using a different group of the templates.
Using these templates (below) from Set A (1, 2, and 4) would make a 54" quilt top.
Using the smaller templates from Set B (10, 11, & 13) would make about a 52" quilt top.
And the smaller templates from Set A (3, 4, and 6) would make a 38" quilt top
I don't own Set T (that's odd?) but looking at it on, using 102, 103, & 104 would result in a 90" quilt top.

Wouldn't this make a great graduation quilt?  
I might set out the templates for a 54" throw size and cut from scraps as I tidy up the overflowing scrap basket next to my cutting table?!?  Hmmm??
I love it when one idea morphs into another!!

Are you ready for the change of seasons?  I brought out some spring quilts to change the hangings around the house this coming week.  We haven't had much of a winter -- no snow to speak of, so I'm tired of the brown weather and ready for lots of green and pink!!

Talk soon!

P.S.  Let me know if you are rushing out to your local quilt shop to get the pattern!!

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Revisiting a Thoughtful Essay

 I hope you have some FUN planned for the upcoming weekend!

I'm packing my little blue Subaru for a short road trip to Amish country in central Ohio for a weekend of "retreating" with a small group of long-time quilting friends. 

But before I go, I want to point you back to a post I wrote in the summer of 2015.  I revisited it recently and thought it might be good to share it again with those of you who don't go back that far with me.  The sewing philosophy I shared still rings true with me today and is the reason I get "so much done".

So click on the link below to read it -- let me know if it helps you in anyway.


And how about a triplet picture -- there hasn't been one of those for a while!

Have a pleasant weekend!!