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.

UPDATE June 2019:  All my patterns have moved to my Etsy shop.

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!