Sunday, December 29, 2013

Must be something about New Year’s

Last year on New Year’s Eve I was inspired to delve into my scrap strips bin to pick out some scrap strips for a Lone Star table runner.  In the end I didn’t finish it completely until March, but the end of 2012 is when those scraps called to me.

It isn’t quite New Year’s Eve yet, but look what had to come out to play today:


These are strings instead of strips, but scraps just the same.  Honestly, the bin was getting rather full and I was questioning my sanity.  Why did I keep all these when I likely wasn’t going to use them?

Enter the 60 degree triangle ruler I received at Christmas.  Dig out a 2004 issue of Fons and Porter’s Love of Quilting.  Resize the units to make them smaller.  Start sewing strings into strip sets.  Throw in a a few strips from the strip bin to add variety in width and color.




Ta da!  I have a good start on a new lap quilt.


I’m hoping once I have all the string sets made and the triangles cut I can distribute the colors evenly enough and avoid a muddy look.  There are rather a lot of different colors and fabric styles competing here.  Looking at this picture I really like the top and the right hand stars, but the other two don’t have the same pop.  I think the bright green and yellows might be what’s lacking in the other two.  My plan was to only use my scrap bins, but I’m wondering if they contain enough of those bright colors.  I might cheat and dip into the bin of bright fabrics and artificially create a few more bright strings. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Emergency quilt repair

I have mentioned before that I need to start a new quilt for my son’s bed.  His current quilt is only 4 years old, so I was a little surprised to see fabric shredding on it.  I do make my quits to be used, and this one has been used daily since it went on his bed in Fall 2009. It has had Legos and books and bodies on it as well as under it, and it has been in the sun every time the sun shines in the window, so perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised after all.  Still a little disappointed though.  I really loved this one.  He still does.


It is a little faded now, certainly not as bright as in this picture, but still looks pretty good except for that shredding issue so we decided it still had some wear in it.  After reading about various quilt repair techniques online that seemed very time consuming and that I thought would stick out like a sore thumb (any new fabric inserted or appliqued over would not go with the now gently faded original fabrics), I decided to do this instead.


The fabric was only shredding at the seam, so I tacked everything down again with variegated thread and fancy stitches on my sewing machine.  It gives the repaired areas a crazy quilt kind of look.  You can see in the second row, far left, that it results in random bursts of pattern on the black back of the quilt, but I can live with it. The quilt is at least stabilized, for now, and can be used a little while longer.

As a side note, all the shredding fabrics were batiks.  There were other fabrics in the worn areas that would have seen the same amount of wear, but the batiks were the ones giving out.  Has anyone else seen this or heard about such issues with batiks?  I’ll certainly think carefully before I use them again in a quilt that will see heavy use.

Now that I’ve bought a little more time, I can spend a little longer deciding on a design for my son’s new quilt.  He would like black with bright colours again, so that’s what I’m working with.  I had thought to make Seeing Stars again with a black background and more colours, but I saw a building block quilt that might be cool too.  I would need to figure out how to place the black among the colours to make that work. I have a resource or two to help with that on my Christmas wish list, so I’ll postpone my decision till after Christmas, in case those resources should find their way under the tree.  I’d like to go buy the fabric before New Year’s though, as my local quilt shop has a storewide 15% off sale through the end of the year.

I’ve already shopped the sale for another project.  I’m off to cut vast quantities of fabric now.  I’ve only made one queen size quilt before, and I’d forgotten just how much fabric and how many pieces they need!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Obsessing? Me?

I couldn’t help myself.  I cut up more red, green and white scraps and made little ornaments.  It just couldn’t be avoided!


After I made the first little blocks I tried various ways of finishing them.  The first several I tried sandwiching them face down then turning them right side out, but on this scale it looked messy, especially where I couldn’t get all the turned out corners equally pointy or rounded, and the points didn’t look vey sharp as they rounded the edge of the puffy little sandwich.  I wasn’t very satisfied with the end result and almost gave up the idea of making more at that point

Luckily, sometimes the brain cooperates.  Usually if I think of something in the middle of the night, that thought is gone by morning.  This time it stuck.  I thought of adding a little border, outline quilting in the border then pinking the edges with pinking shears.  These will be hanging in a tree, not going through the laundry so there is no reason they have to have a sewn finished edge.  The pinked edge through all three layers of the quilt sandwich looks just fine, and certainly crisper than my previous finishing attempts.  So of course I became obsessed and went from two ornaments to eight.
There are more in progress too.  These little blocks are just waiting for their borders, then I’ll sandwich them with a square of muslin and a square of batting.  I can write on the muslin to turn them into gift tags or to record the year they were made, or both.  And just so you know,  they are not very time consuming, so I still had time to do groceries and laundry the past few days.  I may be obsessed but I still like eating and clean clothes!


In case anyone else might need a harmless (and yes Katie, I know, crazy!) obsession I prepared a free photo tutorial showing how to add to the Ridiculously Tiny 4-Patch to make an ornament.  It also has alternate sizes to make a 4” coaster instead.

Only 11 more days to tree-trimming in our house…

Friday, November 15, 2013

Quilter’s Scrapbook!

It’s finished!  Now I am yet again pondering the question of how quilt magazines get all those lovely shots of quilts artfully draped on furniture.  It was a little mucky to go outside for pictures so I tried the artful drape approach.

IMG_7091 IMG_7095


I’m not quite managing that magazine look!  It looks very tidy on the sofa. No, I didn’t intentionally match the pillows. Those were already on the sofa, but they do complement the quilt nicely.


I quilted this with, of course, my walking foot. The borders and sashing are all quilted in the ditch.  The perimeter of the 100-patches are quilted in the ditch and again 1/4” outside the block. Here’s what I ended up with in the block, after playing with then taking a seam ripper to nesting squares on point and diagonals all in one direction:


I didn’t get a good picture of the quilting across the whole quilt.  If you could see the whole top you would see that tipping this quilting design on its side every other block added a bit of movement to the quit top, drawing the eye from one block to the next.

Despite grand thoughts of trying some quilting in the white parts of the sashing to make it look like the red and yellow strips were floating on top of the quilting, I decided that would make the quilting in these spaces much too dense compared to other parts of the quilt and I’d get a puckered, wavy quilt.  I didn’t want to quilt too densely in the 100-patches because I wanted the scraps to be the focus.

I have already posted a peek of the border quilting, but here it is again.


By the time I started quilting the last side of the border I had figured out how to quilt it most efficiently so that side was completed fairly quickly.  Those first three were not fun though!

I am writing a pattern for Quilter’s Scrapbook and am looking for a few kind souls who might like to test it in exchange for the pattern.  If you are interested please email me.  Now I am off to wrestle with block diagrams…

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Ridiculously Tiny tutorial

My son tells me a ridiculously tiny tutorial calls for ridiculously tiny font…but then I can’t read what I’m typing!

Warning: Making these tiny 4-patches may be addictive.  Exercise extreme caution!

IMG_7114To make the ridiculously tiny 4-patches from my last post you will need two 2” squares.


Layer the two squares together, right sides together.  Sew a 1/4” seam on two opposite sides.


Cut the unit exactly down the middle between the seams.  In this case, that’s 1” from each side.


Open and press both units.


Layer the two units, right sides together, matching opposite colors (in this case red layers over green and vice versa), and nesting the seams.


Sew 1/4” seams across the top and bottom, perpendicular to the existing seam.


Cut the unit exactly down the middle between these two new seams.


Open up the two units.  You have two 4-patch units.  They should measure 1 1/2” and will finish at 1” when sewn together with something else.  Wouldn’t these make a lovely doll quilt?  They could be set with plain alternate squares in a straight set or on point, or in a zigzag setting…

This technique will work for making larger 4patches as well.  Just start with squares that are 1” larger than the desired finished size of the 4-patch unit.


This tiny stitching is a bit addictive. After playing with these I browsed online for other tiny blocks.  How about tiny flying geese?  I tried these, starting with a 2 3/4” square and a   2 1/4” square to make four  1/2”x1” finished units to add to my 4 patches.


They were pretty easy (and also ridiculously cute!)  so I was encouraged to try tiny triangle squares,  I used this method from Missouri Quilt Company, starting with 2” squares and ending up with 1” unfinished units (I had to trim the units just smidge to get them down to exactly 1”).  That was pretty easy too.

IMG_7128Next I decided to join my little units together into 2 1/2” blocks.  That’s when I stopped having fun.  Well, the block on the left was fine.  I could make a few more of those. I just added a frame around the 4-patch and used a 1 1/2” square and the stitch-and-flip method to add the white corners.  I’ll probably make more of those.

The block on the right used my 4-patch, flying geese and triangle squares. Getting those tiny units where they needed to be was a fussy task!  Any little wobble or mismatched point is accentuated when everything else is little too. The wonkiness is less obvious in the photo than in the actual block.  Ah well, who’s going to be looking at the details when it’s on the Christmas tree?

Ridiculously tiny

Last night I was playing around with squares, trying to remember something I saw somewhere online about 4 years ago.  It was a way to make two 4-patch units using two squares.  I don’t currently need 4-patches for anything.  I was just, for no good reason, thinking about different ways to construct them and this idea just got stuck in my brain so I had to try it.

IMG_7112I had 2 inch squares in my scrap bin so that’s what I played with and the results were ridiculously tiny but also rather cute. Yes,these units are 1 1/2” across!  They’ll finish a 1”, so each little square will be 1/2”.  The really fun part is that I didn’t have to cut or handle itty bitty squares to make them.

I may make a bunch for Christmas ornaments because they’re just too cute!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Bias tube method for making binding

IMG_7045I have seen a few blog posts recently about binding. Most of the discussions recommended cutting strips and joining them individually with diagonal seams. I prefer to make binding using the bias tube method and avoid lots of marking, pinning, pressing individual seams and clipping dog ears.  Unlike other posts I’ve seen about this technique, I don’t use scissors or mark any cutting lines.  Here’s how I do it.


  • rotary cutter, ruler and mat
  • iron and pressing surface
  • pins
  • Quilter’s Strip Ticket (optional, see below)
  • corner trimming template (optional)

The following two tools make things easier, but they aren’t essential.

IMG_7087 IMG_7086

Tool #1 :To figure out what size square of fabric to start with for the amount of binding I need, I turn to my handy-dandy “Quilter’s Strip Ticket”.  Besides instructions, it has tables listing what size squares to use to make various amounts of binding of various widths.  This was one of my better quilting tool purchases, well worth the $6.00 it cost me.  You can find it by doing a web search for it.  Alternatively, I have wrestled with the geometry and done the math and I can email you the really ugly equations you can plug numbers into if you are so inclined.  The ready made tables are much handier though!


Tool #2: This corner trimming template helps me line up points with edges just right, but as I managed for years before acquiring the template, I can safely say you can use this bias tube method without trimming points with the template. 

Here we go:


1. Start with a square.


2. Fold the square in half on the diagonal and press the fold.  This creates a guide to cut along in the next step if your ruler isn’t long enough to reach across from corner to corner.


3. Cut the square in half diagonally .



4. If you have a corner trimming template (mine is Marti Michell’s corner trimming template) trim the 45 degree tips of the two resulting triangles.  Trimming here will make everything easier to line up in step 6.


5. Arrange the trimmed triangles as shown above, with the right side of the fabric facing up.



6. Now flip the triangle on the right, top to bottom, turning the fabric wrong side up. The edge that was on the bottom will now be at the top, lined up with the top edge of the other triangle, right sides of the fabric together .  If you trimmed the triangle tips earlier you will find that the trimmed tips line up perfectly with the 90 degree corners as shown in 6b. Join the matched edges with a 1/4” seam.  Press seam open.

If you do not have a corner trimmer, line up your pieces as shown in the following diagram.

alternative to corner trimming 2


7. Lay out the resulting diamond, fabric wrong face up, with the seam oriented as shown above.


8. Measure the desired width of the binding as shown above. Measure from the bias edge.


9.  Make a cut about 6 inches long.


10.  If you have a corner trimmer, trim the point as shown. Again, you don’t need to trim, but it would make things easier in step 14.


11.  Flip the fabric right side up,  with the cut dangling strip away from you as shown above.


12. Fold the left hand point to the right. 


13.  Fold the right hand point to the left.



14. Pin the edges that meet in the center.  The point formed when you made that dangling strip will be at the top left corner.  If you trimmed this point in step 10, it will line up nicely (14b) and you won’t have to guess how much to offset it to allow for the seam allowance.  The lower right hand corner will look like photo 14c below.



IMG_7021 15.  Sew the center seam with 1/4” seam allowance and press the seam open.


16.  Turn the tube right side out.



17. Now go back to that dangling strip you started in step 9.  Starting where you stopped cutting in step 9, measure the correct width and continue the cut, being careful to keep the rest of the fabric tube out of the way of the rotary cutter. 


18. Roll the fabric tube and continue cutting the strip.  Repeat and keep cutting until you reach the end.


19. You now have one long bias strip.


20.  Fold the strip in half lengthwise, pressing the fold as you go.


21.  Ta-da!  Lots of bias binding to bind your lovely quilt.  This particular length of binding is going to bind Quilter’s Scrapbook tomorrow.