Friday, May 6, 2016

a "For Keeps" quilt for Sarah

Sharing beautiful and useful things with the people we love is the main reason most of us sew, isn't it?  At least that's how I feel about most of the sewing that I do.  I made this simple but lovely quilt for my dear niece Sarah in April.

Sarah is a lovely person inside and out; she's a wife and mom to two beautiful sons, and probably the most kind and genuine person I know. She recently had a bit of a health scare. I wanted to sew a tangible and beautiful reminder of how much she is loved - something she could see and use every day.

The quilt was delivered to her last weekend, and then yesterday I listened to a podcast interview with Amy Gibson of Stitchery Dickery Dock and learned about her "For Keeps" pledge.  It so perfectly sums up how I feel about sewing and making things for my loved ones, and this post seems the perfect place to share it.  Don't worry - I'm also including all the details on the making of the quilt a little further down in the post :)

The For Keeps pledge states:

"I love to sew because it brings me joy, and I love to share that joy with those around me 
by making things that are used and enjoyed every day.

I don't sew because it's trendy.
I don't sew because it might make others like me more.
I don't sew because I have to.

I am taking this pledge to refocus my heart and to remind myself of why I sew, and who I sew for.

I pledge to make things I love
For the people I love
To use every day.

I will sew for keeps."

Perfect, right?!

And now back to the quilt details... Sarah's Pinterest boards gave me great insight into her home decor preferred colors, and I know that she loves simple classic designs.  I immediately thought of the "Small Change" quilt in the "Quilts Made Modern" book by Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr.

Twenty different shot cottons by Kaffe Fassett and Pepper Cory make up the palette for this quilt.  I used a half yard of the bottom grey and quarter yards of all the others cutting two (four from the grey) 3.5" x 42" strips from each.  The strips were then randomly sewn into 3 strip sets which were cross-cut into 3.5" x 9.5" sections shown below.  I advise pre-washing shot cottons especially the Pepper Cory shot cottons - the shrinkage rate of these beautiful fabrics is greater than other quilting cottons which could result in a very puckered finished quilt when it is washed and dried for the first time.

These three-square sections were arranged in an 18 x 24 square grid to determine color placement. I also used the monotone (black and white) setting on my phone's camera to check that the light and dark values were spread across the quilt.

A new quilter in the area - Isis in Huntley - quilted this all over classic fans design in a mauve thread.  She did a fantastic job!

The backing and binding is a solid from Lotta Jansdotter's line Glimma for Windham Fabrics. The color is chameleon-like; it's a dusty grey/mauve/lavender that changes depending on the lighting and what colors are next to it. Very versatile, and I really love the way the quilting texture is highlighted on this solid backing.

I've been keeping a record of most of my projects in this swatch journal. Orderly rows of fabric squares and neat handwriting push all my buttons :) And how fun to have a tactile record of the items I've made for my loved ones!

Let me know your thoughts on the For Keeps pledge. There is a free printable available for your sewing area and a blog button too on Amy's Take the Pledge webpage. I've added the button to my sidebar :)

You can get more information about the podcast interview with Amy here. Sandi Hazlewood does a fantastic job with her Crafty Planner podcasts; you'll want to subscribe and listen to all the episodes!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

modern building blocks 2, 3, and an outsider

Continuing my earlier post documenting my Modern Building Blocks quilt, I've got three more large quilt blocks to show you.  The published pattern includes only one 30" block, but my king-sized layout requires two, so I enlarged a block from Love Patchwork and Quilting magazine Issue #21 designed by Susan Standen at Canadian Abroad.

Originally published as a 14.5" block to use on a quilt block folder project, I chose this one to enlarge to 30" because of the 5x5 grid construction.  5 blocks x 6" each = 30".  Yay!  

After drafting the larger size and including my color scheme, I figured the component sizes I'd need.  This is one of my most favorite parts of the quilting process - the quilt math!  Does anyone know if this block pattern has a name?  I didn't find one in the magazine's instructions.

The other two blocks I have to show you are from the original published Modern Building Blocks Pattern.  They both have super interesting names - here's Block 2 finishing at 36" square...

And Block 3 finishing at 30" square...

4 blocks down, 48 to go!

If you're planing to make this quilt I'm including some cutting and construction modifications I've used that seem to make the blocks more accurate and easier to cut and sew.

** Please note that I am not providing all the instructions here for making these blocks; you'll need your own copy of the pattern for a complete set of instructions to sew along.  I'm only providing information about how I modified the cutting and construction steps to make the blocks easier to sew and more accurate :)

Block 2 pattern cutting modifications
  1. A fabric: cut (7) 7.5" squares
  2. B fabric: cut (7) 7.5" squares
  3. C fabric: cut (10) 7.5" squares
  4. D fabric: cut (1) 20.5" squares
Block 2 construction modifications
  1. Make (10) A/C and (10) C/B HST units trimming all to 6 7/8'.  Combine these to make (10) C/B/A/C flying geese units pressing the center seam open.
  2. Make (4) B/A triangle units pressing the center seam open.
Block 3 pattern cutting modifications - 93 pieces!!
  1. Cut fabrics A, B, H, and I as directed
  2. C fabric: cut (10) 3.5" squares
  3. D fabric: cut (6) 3.5" squares
  4. E fabric: cut (2) 6.5" squares
  5. F fabric: cut (12) 6" squares
  6. G fabric: cut (8) 6" squares
Block 3 construction modifications
  1. Make (4) flying geese units with B and C.  Trim to 3" x 5.5"
  2. Make (16) F/G HST units.  Press (12) to F and (4) to G.  Trim to 5.5" square.
  3. Make (4) HST using D and C.  Press to D and trim to 3".
  4. Center 9-patch should measure 10.5" square unfinished.
  5. Corner H/I units should measure 10.5" square unfinished.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

the biggest quilt block ever

Almost one year ago I started a Block of the Month program at a local quilt shop using the Moda Modern Building Blocks pattern.  The 84" x 96" quilt in the published pattern is made of 48 different blocks ranging in size from 6" to 36" using 21 unique Moda solid fabrics.

I chose a color palette of red, white/cream, grey, and icy blue that qualifies as Christmas-y, but can still be used in all the winter months December through February.  But I need mine to be king sized.  Because who doesn't want a special holiday quilt for their bed?

Block #1 is the largest (36" finished) and that's where the BOM program started - go big right outta the gate!  My center red and white section on point finishes at 12" square; adding the blue triangles brings the block center to 18" square.  The four outer squares are 9" and the flying geese sections are 9" x 18".  I'm quite sure this is the biggest quilt block I've ever made!  (If you're making this quilt too and would like some helpful cutting info, make sure you read all the way to the bottom of this post.)

The background here is a long-hoarded Paris street map print from the "Passport" line by 3 Sisters for Moda.  I'm planning to make this a very scrappy quilt with many different prints in my four main colors, but I'll use this Paris map print in lots of blocks because I love it so much :)  

My planning for a king sized quilt started with graph paper and scale cut cardstock pieces.  I used a 12:1 scale for cutting the cardstock, so the 36" block above is represented by a 3" square of cardstock.

Fortunately all of the block sizes in this quilt pattern are divisible by 3, so I assigned each square on my graph paper chart to be equivalent to 3" in real life.  By slightly upsizing a standard king sized quilt measurement to 96" x 108", both the height and width dimensions of my planned quilt are divisible by 3.  Whew - first step of quilt math done!

With the 96" x 108" grid marked on my graph paper, I started filling it with cardstock pieces to determine a layout.  After several iterations (and advice from a design-savvy friend) I arrived at this final layout.

My king-sized version of the Modern Building Blocks quilt will contain:
  • (2) 36" blocks
  • (2) 30" blocks
  • (2) 24" blocks
  • (5) 18" blocks
  • (16) 12" blocks
  • (25) 6" blocks
That's a total of 52 blocks!  I've been plugging away at this little by little over the past 12 months, but if I have any hope of draping this quilt over my bed in the Christmas/Winter season of 2016-17 I need to buckle down and finish the top soon.  I've got 23 blocks sewn so far, which I'll show you in posts to come.  While most of my blocks are from the published pattern, there are also a few designs that I pulled from other sources.

The following modifications and tips helped me get the correct sized block the first time.  I hope you'll follow along with my progress :)

Pattern cutting modifications for Block 1 - These changes allow you to trim sections to size as you sew which leads to better accuracy.
  1. B fabric: cut (8) 4" squares
  2. D fabric: cut (2) 4" squares
  3. E fabric: cut (2) 10.5" squares
  4. F fabric: cut (4) 10" squares
Block section trimming instructions - trim individual sections as you go to make sure you end up with a 36.5" unfinished block.
  1. Center square A/B trim to 6.5"
  2. B/D HST units trim to 3.5"
  3. C/D flying geese units trim to 3.5" x 6.5"
  4. A/B/C/D unit trim to 12.5"
  5. A/B/C/D/E unit trim to 18.5"
  6. F/G flying geese units trim to 9.5" x 18.5"

Friday, February 26, 2016

pixelated heart quilt

In the middle of January I became obsessed with making a pixelated heart quilt after seeing a photo of this one made by Amanda at Westwood Acres Fabric Shop.  Though I already have plenty of works-in-progress to keep me occupied, I couldn't seem to let go of the idea.  So...

Just like her quilt, I used 5" cut squares, and I'm happy to report that ALL the fabrics for the quilt top came from my stash.  Lots and lots of Anna Maria Horner prints in this pile - I just grabbed every pink or purple fabric I had and got busy cutting.  The quilt needs 70 colored squares, but I cut 100+ so I could be choosy about where I placed them in the center of the quilt layout to form the heart.

Low volume fabrics make up the background; 215 background squares plus 70 colored squares yield a 67" x 85" (twin sized) finished quilt arranged in a 15 x 19 block grid.

I took all the cut squares to my quilt guild's January sewing day to get the layout set and get most of it sewn together.  I arranged the heart center and sewed it into rows before positioning the background squares.  (Why do all banks have such hideous carpet in their community/meeting rooms?)

I didn't press any seams at the sew-in; I just kept sewing all day to get each row assembled.  Then the following week at home I pressed the seams for each row in alternating directions so they could be nested and all the corners would line up as I completed the quilt top.

Here's a shot of my favorite section of the quilt - the top center of the heart.  I finally cut into and used this french macaron fabric that I've been saving for a few years :)

The print on the right is my backing - Caravan's Light in Sunrise from the Bijoux collection by Bari J for Art Gallery fabrics.

"Dahlia Dance" is the long-arm quilting pattern I selected; it was quilted by my fellow guild member Isis.  The lilac polyester thread (brand name Glide) has a bit of sheen to it, and I love the results!

Pellon Nature's Touch all cotton batting is in the center.  I hadn't used this batting before, but I may be using it exclusively from now on.  It is lightweight with an excellent drape, and after washing the quilt's texture is so soft and crinkly. 

Perfectly sized for a twin bed!

We had a bit of snow here on February 14 - the day I finished binding the quilt - so I had my husband bundle up and hold it for an outside photo.  Great guy, huh?

I started cutting fabrics for this quilt on January 19 and finished the last stitch of binding on February 14.  26 days start to finish - that's a record for me.  Of course the super speedy quilting job by Isis made that possible!

I'd like to make another one of these quilts in the future using smaller squares to yield a lap sized quilt.  Squares cut at 4" would yield a 52" x 66" quilt - perfect for couch snuggling and movie watching :)

I'll let Thing 1 and Thing 2 hash it out over who gets which size ;-)

Many thanks to Amanda at Westwood Acres for her blog post about her beautiful quilt!

Monday, February 22, 2016

selvage spools made easier

The Crystal Lake Modern Quilt Guild is hosting three block lotteries this year, and the first one takes place in April. We chose the Selvage Spools block from this Riley Blake 2013 Block of the Month program.  You can download and print the Riley Blake block directions here, but you'll probably want to keep reading to discover an easier way to make this block.

The block is composed of four 6" spools to finish at 12" square (12.5" unfinished).

The original pattern uses a template and partial seams - no thank you.  When Lorrie and I met earlier this week to sew the sample blocks for our Sunday guild meeting I made some quick pattern modifications to make it easier.  Easier = Better, am I right?!  Here is my pattern tester block - spot on at 6.5" unfinished :)

I created this tutorial a little differently by adding text to each photo of the steps.  I hope you'll find this easier to follow :)

The materials you'll need for one block:

Using a pencil lightly mark a diagonal line on the wrong side of each 2" square.
Choose selvages with fun words and lots of color dots!

The sewing instructions begin here:

You'll want to center the wording/color dots on the background square.

I sewed this piece about 1/8" from the bottom of the background square so the words wouldn't be cut off later in a seam allowance.

You can choose to cover the printed fabric area of the first selvage or not.

We used 6-7 selvages per spool.

Press these seams toward the background fabric.

Make sure you carefully place the marked diagonal lines as shown.

Press away from the center.
Your spool block should measure 6.5" square now. 

These final seams are all pressed toward the spool end - not the background fabric.

And there you have it - a 12" square finished selvage spool block!

Thanks to Riley Blake for the original pattern and inspiration for this fun quilt block!

Monday, February 15, 2016

valentine pillows

Every year after the Christmas holiday is over and all the decorations are packed away, I find myself in the same spot - no seasonally appropriate pretty pillows to replace the Christmas ones.

Last week I finally remedied that problem by whipping up these three fun pillows using home dec weight fabric purchased at WalMart...WalMart!!

I'm not a big fan of that particular retail company, but when I saw Jona Giammalva's recent Periscope about her fabric score at her local superstore, I decided to give it a try.  My local store had this great red geometric print for $3.97 per yard. What?!  And the ticking stripe was $6.97 per yard!

A couple of yards of fabric, three zippers, and two hours of cutting and sewing later, I had three great new pillows for my family room :)

Jona's recent blog post about her new heart applique pillow will give you all the tips and tricks for making your own, and she has a great tutorial on how to insert an invisible zipper into the side seam of your pillow covers.  Check it out - it's easy and foolproof!

The red pillows are 20" square, and the heart pillow is 18" square.  Seriously, this project could not have been any easier. 

Thanks for the terrific tips and tutorials, Jona!!

Friday, February 5, 2016

mystery medallion 2016

The Crystal Lake Modern Quilt Guild is sponsoring a new challenge this year - a Mystery Medallion program where we each create a quilt center block of any size to start and add a border each month for the next five months. The fun (or challenging) part is that no one knows what the requirements for each of the five borders will be; they are revealed month by month. So no planning or scheming ahead of time - just jump in and make it work each month!

My quilt center is an English Paper Pieced (EPP) star on a background of "made fabric" (a bunch of low volume scraps sewn together), and it measures 22.5" square.  The star is machine appliqued to the background with a short straight stitch around the outside edge.

The background fabrics were left over from blocks I made for a quilt shop sample in 2014; it hung there as a sample for quilt kits they were selling, and after that I'm not sure where it ended up. The "plus" blocks were made from a pattern found here.  I really did love it, so one day soon I'll have to make another and keep it for myself (adds yet another project to the much too long already project list.)

The hexagons in my quilt center were made even before 2014 when I was first learning how to EPP one spring break vacation in Florida. I was never sure what to do with them, and at one point they were sewn together in rows. Maybe I was planning to put them on some pillows? Who knows!

But sometime last year I saw a photo of a star made from hexagons so I took the rows apart, and sewed them into the large star shape composed of 73 hexagons. So the star and the background piece have been hanging around on the design wall for quite some time just waiting to be used in a project.

The whole point of a Mystery Medallion Challenge is to let go of control and practice your design and color skills each month when the new border requirements are revealed. At our meeting last weekend we learned that January's border must include snowball blocks and use the color red violet.

RED VIOLET?! Sweet - one of my favorite colors, and I happen to have lots of it in my stash.  I gathered a few fat quarters that were primarily red violet, tossed in a couple more that were primarily yellow (but still contained pink/violet), added a stack of more low volume scraps, and started cutting.

Since my center square measured 22.5" I needed to add a "spacer" border to increase the size to 24.5" in order to accommodate the 4" snowball blocks I planned.  This Peppered Cotton in Fog by Studio E has just enough contrast to set it apart from the backgrounds, but it doesn't overwhelm and grab all the attention.  It was cut at 1.5" width to finish at 1".

The 28 snowball blocks are each 4" finished, so now the quilt center measures 32.5".  I cut each center of the snowballs at 4.5" square and each corner background fabric at 1.75" square.  You can find a handy tutorial for making snowball blocks here.  Mine look more like stop signs (I probably should have made the corner pieces smaller) but whatever - I love how it's turned out!

Even if you aren't a member of CLMQG, you can follow along and make your own Mystery Medallion quilt.  Each month the new border requirements will be posted on our website, and photos of members' progress can be found on our Facebook page.


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