Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Pieced borders

I love pieced borders, but I don't always love making them fit!  Happily, there are some tricks to making them work.

Here's what I was working on the last couple of weeks.


I wish I had a better picture.  The only available quilt holder was busy painting her nails and I decided I didn't want wet nail polish anywhere close to the quilt top!  Unfortunately, the deck railing is not a pretty a spot for photos at this time of year.  The backdrop is lacking pretty foliage now that the hostas have died back.

My initial plan for this quilt was to stop after a narrow inner white border and bind with a matching green stripe, making a very simple quilt.  I was aiming for classic with a hint of modern by matching the border to the background and using the binding as a frame.

I did the math to figure out the size and thought it would work.  As I laid out the HST on the design wall, the size looked fine.  Of course, once I started sewing all the blocks together those seam allowances, as always, ate up a lot of fabric!  Why does this still surprise me?  In the end, the quilt center was smaller than I had hoped.  The math was right, but my sense of how large those measurements actually are was off. So, extra borders it was.


I decided to make the second border scrappy, in keeping with the center of the quilt.  I didn't have any yardage to go with the rest of the fabrics anyway, so that confirmed the scrappy choice!

The challenge was to figure out how wide to make the first white border so that my border of scrappy squares would fit perfectly.  Setting the HST on point resulted in a center that wasn't a nice even multiple of any useful measurement, so my inner borders would have to be an odd size to bring the top up to size to fit my pieced border (unless I wanted to cut all the pieces of the pieced border very odd sizes, which I didn't).

Here's how I dealt with it. I didn't worry about a perfect fit to start out.  I figured out an approximate border width and rounded up to an easy-to-cut size, and added 1/4" for good measure.  I cut the borders to this width, and added them to the quilt.  Now I could trim them down to size as needed.  It's a lot easier to trim it down than make it larger, which is why I made it larger than I figured it needed to be.

Next, I made sure both my side pieced borders were the same length.  Small variations in seam allowance add up and become obvious in a  pieced border!  I had to take in a few seams by 1/16th or so to shorten one side by about 1/4".  I matched the lengths of the top and bottom borders as well.

The next step was to compare the width of the quilt with the length of the pieced top/bottom borders, and the length of the quilt with the length of the pieced side borders.  I lay the borders on the quilt:


You can see below that the bottom/top strip was not long enough.


That's OK.  Remember, I made those white inner borders wider on purpose! There was a 1/4" difference, so I shaved 1/8"off each white side border (a total of 1/4") to match the length of the bottom/top pieced borders.

What about the pieced side borders?


Whoa!  That stuck out rather far!  But wait, it was only longer by the amount that the pieced top and bottom border would add to the length.  Perfect!   If it had stuck out more than that, I would have taken in a few seams on the pieced borders to shorten them.  If they had been shorter than that, I would have shaved the difference off the white top/bottom inner borders to bring the quilt's length down to the length of the pieced borders.  It would all have fit in the end!  Notice that I measured this before sewing the bottom and top borders on, because if those were attached I would lose the option of shaving fabric off the white top/bottom borders border if needed.



VoilĂ ! Pieced borders were attached and fit perfectly.

At this point the quilt was large enough, but it didn't look quite as airy and light as I had planned.  The pieced border hemmed everything in too much.  Enter a final white border. Now the pieced border floats and the light airy feel is restored.  Well, I think so anyway!


I plan to quilt this one very simply, and the original green striped binding choice will still work.  I guess I should go check that I have enough for the new size!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Prairie Points and Scattered Leaves update

Last month I presented a trunk show at my local guild, the Ames Quilt Guild.  The next day I taught my new Prairie Point Play workshop, all about ways to make and use prairie points in your quilts, including how to size them and figure out how many to make. I pulled out all my favourite examples and made a few new ones.

You can put them in a border to dress up a simple piece.


The prairie points don't have to run all the way around a quilt.


How about tucking them into the binding?


The points can overlap a lot...


...or not much.


My all-time favourite quilt with prairie points is Scattered Leaves, using the points instead of binding to finish the edge.


I think the scrappy points on that quilt turn an OK quilt into something more.

While writing up the handouts for the workshop I re-read my Prairie Point tutorials. I also looked at the prairie point instructions I had written in my Scattered Leaves pattern in 2012 and decided the pattern could use a few more details about how to finish the edge with prairie points instead of binding.  I went ahead and added more instructions and diagrams, and cleaned up the rest of the pattern while I was at it. 

I am pleased to release the updated version of Scattered Leaves. To mark the occasion, I am offering a 25% discount on the pattern in my Payhip shop through the end of November.  Use the coupon code PRAIRIEPOINTS.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Starlight Wishes revisited

Last fall I whipped up a Starlight Wishes quilt top in alternate colors and in a larger size, fully intending to rewrite the pattern to include extra sizes. I didn't get much farther than the flimsy because I couldn't decide how to quilt it. Other projects, deadlines, and life got in the way.

This summer, after learning to use my Westalee quilting rulers, I quilted it.  I already shared photos of the baptist fan quilting.  It was just what this quilt wanted. If I had to do it over again I would probably tweak the border quilting a bit, but I'm not picking it out!  This quilt is officially a finished quilt!


Starlight Wishes all grown up

Here a full view.


I debated leaving off the blue border and making the cream one under the prairie points a little bit wider.  I liked it that way too.  It had a bit more modern feel to it that way.  However, I was feeling less modern on the day I decided I had to make up my mind one way or the other!

My initial reason for making this version was to show the quilt in a non-baby colorway for the cover of the revised pattern.  Didn't it grow up nicely?  But with this on the cover, how will people visualize it as a baby quilt? The answer was to add an inset photo of the brighter baby quilt, but I don't own that quilt anymore to take a proper flat picture for that purpose.

I had no choice!  I just had to make another.

Starlight Wishes, half-scale version

I'm sure you noticed this isn't quite big enough for  a baby quilt.  I'm running out of room to store quilt samples and I figured in a flat shot with no size reference, it wouldn't really matter that the quilt was not full-scale, but it would still show off an alternate colorway.  I made all the parts half-size. It is awfully cute!  Those tiny little prairie points were not difficult to make but they are too cute for words. I'm pretty sure this quilt will claim some of my sewing room wall for "storage" space.

So there's the cover for the revised version all planned out and squared away.  Now all I have to do is actually revise the pattern...which turned out to not be as straightforward as I expected.  May I bend your ear and solicit some opinions, please and thank you?

The original quilt called for cutting rectangles and pairing them up to make square units.  Making strip sets and sub-cutting units would also work, but was very wasteful of fabric for the baby size, with lots of leftover lengths of strip sets.  It wasn't a big deal to cut individual pieces for the baby size because there weren't that many pieces (relatively speaking).  When I started working out cutting instructions for the twin and queen sizes, the number of rectangles got very large. That makes strip piecing and sub-cutting much more attractive.



Including both option, or strip piecing for some sizes and not for the other makes a very clunky, unwieldy pattern, and alternate fabric requirements, so I need to choose just one method.  Strip piecing makes for lots of leftover strip set chunks in the smaller sizes.  Not strip piecing requires a lot of extra cutting in the larger sizes.  Which would you prefer to see in a pattern?

I will put off that decision till  have more data (that would be your input) and indulge in a little bit of sewing for the rest of the day.  Happy thought!



Saturday, October 13, 2018

Is this Magnitudes?

Do you ever take a pattern and not only choose different fabrics than what the designer used but also completely re-imagine contrast and blending?  An alternate version of Magnitudes has been bouncing around in my head for several months and I finally caved and set everything else aside.

Milky Way from pattern Magnitudes by Canuck Quilter Designs
Milky Way from Magnitudes pattern by Canuck Quilter Designs 2018

I really love blue and white quilts.  I can't believe I haven't made one since Clear Skies in 2013. It was time!

Milky Way from Magnitudes pattern by  Canuck Quilter Designs 2018.

I named this one Milky Way, but it is made from the Magnitudes pattern. In Magnitudes the stars are a solid color on a scrappy colour background, but I flipped that around here.  The stars are the pop of colour instead.  By matching the block background to the sashing and borders, I made all the stars float. 


This quilt top was made entirely from contents of my scrap bins.  In addition to cutting instructions that tell you how many strips to cut and sub-cut when you are using yardage, the pattern includes a table that summarizes size and number for each piece in the quilt. You can dip into your scraps, even odd shaped and small pieces, and just keep digging and cutting until you have the right number of pieces. Even the white background is made up of various white-on-white print scraps.  I think it adds interest to all that white background space. This photo of the quilt in progress shows that best.

Scrappy white-on-white background
Scrappy white-on-white background

Quilting the quilt was a bit of an adventure. My original plan was to freemotion loose hooked swirls all over the background.  Stop.  Nothing else.  It was supposed to be quick and easy, but by the time I had quilted half the swirls that are in the finished quilt, I knew I was having trouble with loose and open.  My swirls were tight and dense and I thought they looked too busy to cover the whole background.  I went to bed, slept , and came back with a different plan.  I extended the swirls across the rest of the width, like a path, and switched to my trusty walking foot to do all the straight line quilting.  I was tempted to add some freemotion ruler work circles in the border, but decided that would be too fussy and distract from the swirls and the planned scallops.  I settled for using the rulers to make quicker work of the piano key quilting.


This is the baby size, but I doubled the width of the border to give me enough width to cut a scalloped edge.  A coworker told me I was a glutton for punishment when I told her I planned to scallop the borders, but in the end it was not as frightening as I feared.  I admit I took several deep breaths before I wielded the scissors on a perfectly good, almost finished quilted quilt!

Scalloping a quilt border
No turning back! Scalloping the edge.
I used Darlene Zimmerman's excellent instructions from her book The Quilter's Edge. I think the key was her tip to draw the scallop, sew on the drawn line, and not cut along the scallop until after the binding is sewn to the front of the quilt.  Also, use single fold bias binding.  The bias helps when going around the curves and the single fold minimizes bulk in the Vs between scallops.

Before I sign off I have to share the back!  I swear I wasn't thinking about the scallops at all when I pieced the back.  I had orphan blocks from two or three years ago that were the right colour and size to add the needed extra width to my length of backing fabric. Aren't they a perfect fit?

Orphan blocks on the back of Milky Way

May I say I love, love, love this finish?

Linking up with 
DrEAMi at mmm!Quilts 

Friday, October 12, 2018

Magnitudes Parade of Quilts

As promised (though very late and with apologies to my testers), I am sharing pictures of my pattern testers' versions of Magnitudes.  As always, the variations astound and delight me!

Elaine and Joanne's quilts both conjure visions of fall.  Perhaps the summer heat had them both thinking of cooler weather!


Magnitudes pieced by Elaine Williamson, Ontario, Canada
You can find more of Elaine's beautiful work on her Flickr feed.

Magnitudes pieced by Joanne Harris
Joanne is a prolific quilter.  Sh shares her work on instagram as @turltlequilterjo and on her blog.

Magnitudes pieced by Sue.
I'm thrilled Sue chose to use her hand dyed fabrics to make her quilt. As you see, she even used up her scraps to add a piano key border.  I love to see quilters add their personal touches to my designs.

Magnitudes pieced by Kathi Kivi
Kathi added extra sparkle by fussy cutting stars for the centers of the large stars in her sweet baby version.  See more of Kathi's work on her Facebook page.

Thank you again testers!

Next up is my latest version of the quilt.  I flipped the fabrics and tried something new with the binding.  You won't want to miss it!

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

In stores October 2nd!

I was going to share one or two projects in progress today but there were pretty pictures in my email inbox that I just couldn't wait to share.  See what's in the December 2018 issue of American Patchwork and Quilting magazine?


Used with permission from American Patchwork and Quilting magazine. (c)2018 Meredith Corporation.  All rights reserved.

Look familiar? These smaller cousins of my 9" snowflake blocks measure 4 1/4" across from corner to corner.  I pinked the edges instead of trying to bind such a small piece.  That gives a much tidier (and faster!) finish than I could manage with binding on such a small piece.

The project made the cover, too!  Look way up in the top right corner.

Used with permission from American Patchwork and Quilting magazine. (c)2018 Meredith Corporation.  All rights reserved.

The magazine's tester, Monique Jacobs, used Seeing Stars Grunge fabric from Moda Fabrics for her versions.

Used with permission from American Patchwork and Quilting magazine. (c)2018 Meredith Corporation.  All rights reserved.

It feels great to share these.  I shipped them and the pattern off to APQ in May and I have had to keep my mouth shut about them since then.  It was worth the wait though. The December issue hits newsstands next Tuesday, October 2nd.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Butterfly quilting play

I have been thinking about how to quilt my Rainbow Scrap Challenge 2017 butterfly quilt.  One idea involved my new Westalee rulers but I thought I should practice on something else to work out the bugs and gain some confidence before I commit to it.  A spare butterfly block would be a perfect practice piece.

Oh wait!  I have one of those.  The first yellow butterfly block I made was much too light compared to the rest of the butterflies and I replaced it with a new block with more intense yellows.  I added some borders to it and started playing.


I have never ever quilted a piece this densely but it was a good opportunity to try various new-to-me quilting motifs so I just kept adding more quilting.

The walking foot came out to stitch in the ditch around the butterfly and both sides of the narrow border.

I used feather and circle templates/rulers for the quilting in the butterfly wings.  I quilted the left wing first, then tried to quilt the mirror image in the right wings.  Somehow, it was all offset about 1/4" but I kept working at it.  I didn't remember until after I had finished my slightly offset right wing design that I was supposed to center the needle in the ruler foot.  Sigh. Still, the overall look worked out pretty well and I don't think anyone but me will know it isn't quite as I intended.


I switched back to the walking foot for the three concentric circles behind the butterfly.  The circle sewing tool that came with my Sew Steady extension table makes these circles really easy on a small piece like this.


That metal strip has two little prongs on the bottom that fit into a series of holes in the  table, and a pin at the other end.  You push the pin through the quilt from the bottom where you want the center of the circle to be.  You adjust the radius of the circle by moving the pin closer or further away from your needle by setting the strip in different holes.  When you start quilting (I used the walking foot) the quilt pivots at the pin as you quilt and you end up with a perfect circle.


One of my two goals for this practice quilt was to quil feathers on a circle using the Westalee feather templates.  I tried figuring it out on paper first, drawing the circle, then tracing the template and trying to figure out what ruler markings to line up where to space the feathers evenly and have them all lay at the same angle to the arc.  No matter what I tried, the feathers ended up getting longer and skinnier as I went along the arc.  I really didn't feel confident enough about all my pencil and paper attempts to try it on the quilt.



So why are there feathers there after all?  I really, really wanted feathers there, so I ditched the rulers, took a deep breath and freemotion stitched them freehand.  I did it!  I feathered!  I used a lot of registration marks to help me judge the size and position of the individual lobes.  You can see my little blue dots in the picture above.  You can also see that they aren't quite as large as I had intended, falling shy of that outside dotted line, but since I consistently missed the mark, no one knows I missed now that the little blue dots have been erased.  Hush!!   Don't tell anyone.

Next I tried out crosshatching with the straight edge and straight line markings on the 12" arc tool.  That worked out very well, though it was a little tedious, even in the small spaces I filled between the butterfly and the inside of the circle.  I really didn't feel like repeating it all around the feathered wreath as well, but I felt I needed to quilt something out there to even out the quilting density a little.  How about vertical lines?  By the time I had one corner stitched that way, I was bored, so switched the direction on the next corner, and again for each remaining corner.



This is where the quilting ended today.  It took me a while to figure out what to quilt in the green border.  When I finally decided, I realized the only green thread I have is too old.  It breaks at the slightest tug and broke when I tried to sew more than 3 stitches.  It makes me sad.  It was such a pretty green variegated thread, and half a spool of it is now useless.

The second goal for this quilt is to try scalloping the border before I try that on the big butterfly quilt.  The plan is to buy green thread tomorrow, quilt the border, take another deep breath and cut into the border.  Bias binding will also be involved, but I have made that before (see tutorial here) so no worries on that front.  Binding the curves and inside points will be a first for me though.  Stay tuned!

PS: The butterfly block tutorial is still available here if you'd like to make your own.