Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Back where I started

Last week I cut out setting strips for a non-strings version of Sparkling Strings but didn’t get around to sewing because one of the strips was clearly too short and I convinced myself that the logic I used to figure out the sizes must have been wrong and all of the strip sizes must be off.

I spent a couple of days at the end of last week doing math to confirm the quick and easy (maybe too easy?) way I had figured out the sizes in the first place .  My worksheet was a thing of beauty, with geometry and algebra and a touch of trigonometry (anyone else remember SOH CAH TOA?).  And it all brought me back to where I had been in the first place, except for the typo in the size of the unit that was too short…

The whole point was to use a single strip to replace a gazillion white triangles sewn back together to make a pointed strips like this:

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As yet another way to check my measurements I made one strip of triangles to measure then was finally satisfied that my strips were cut correctly (except for that pesky strip “G” that started this frenzy of double checking).

Note to self:  Next time just check the piece that’s making trouble instead of assuming everything is messed up.  This seems like the obvious, sane course of action now, in hindsight!

So today I started sewing bits together, and the quilt top is about half done.

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When it’s done, the layout will be just like Sparkling Strings:

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On a positive note, as I was fussing with all this the last several days I came up with a much better way to explain how to cut the strips than what I had previously written for this pattern in progress, so this will be a much better pattern.  I’m hoping to have it ready for a tester by the end of the week.  If anyone feels like testing it in in the next month or so in return for the pattern, let me know!  It does go together pretty quickly once the cutting is done.

Linking up with Linky Tuesday

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

I love it when that happens!

I pondered quite a few different ideas for the quilting in the border of Baby Steps.  I had an idea to use a butterfly stencil, but the scale was off. I thought about straight lines of some sort but decided that curves were needed to adjust the balance of straight lines to swirls (all straight line quilting in the blocks and just a bit of swirl in the star).

When I finally settled on trying to create a pattern with circles I dug through my envelope of cutout circles to see if any of them fit or if I would have to draft a new one.  There it was: a corrugated cardboard circle I saved from the packaging my pots and pans came in.  Here’s the part I love about it.  Just as though I had planned it that way, the diameter was exactly right to run this border all around the quilt without stretching or squashing any of the circles to make the repeats fit. It just fit exactly as it was! I’m glad I settled on that 1/2” inner border instead of the 1” one I had considered!

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The pattern even wrapped around the corners with no fudging at all.  Happy dance!

In other creative directions, there have been birthdays in this house in the last two weeks which of course required birthday cakes.

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IMG_7889Every year I wonder when the kids will be old enough that I can get away with not decorating the cakes, but I’m coming around to the idea that that isn’t going to happen!  At least now they assist with decorating each other’s cakes.  While my daughter was away at a sleepover my son, husband and I had a fondant sculpting party to make those penguins as a surprise for her. The Craftsy fondant animals cake topper class we watched made it seem very simple.  We managed, but it took us way longer than it took the instructor!

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The LEGO minifigs (from a Craftsy blog tutorial) were a bit more challenging.  That’s why there are fewer of them than there were penguins!  I also tried to make the ladder out of fondant, but in the end a surreptitious raid of my son’s LEGO bins was more effective.

Back to the quilting now.  Today I may cut out the setting pieces for the non-string remake of Sparkling Strings. We’ll see how the day goes.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

I have a stash???

I recently was surprised to discover that I have a small but usable fabric stash.  Really, I was surprised.  I usually buy just what I need for whatever quilt I’m making and there is usually just a bit left over.  The bits started adding up, but for a long time I felt they were all just so different that there just weren’t enough pieces that went together to make anything. Was that collection really a stash?
Recently I realized I might have enough pieces, but those pieces were all small and were the last bits of some fabrics I really liked.  I didn’t want to use up the last bits because, well, they might be just the perfect piece for some project down the line.
Finally I had that little moment of clarity that whispered “What are you saving the fabric for?  Ummm…a quilt???”  So I dug through the bin of bright and novelty fabrics that I was saving and made a quilt.  Here’s the unquilted top of Baby Steps.
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And you know what?  It hardly made a dent in the bins of fabric. My variety of yellows and lighter purples is a little lower than it was before.  I had a little moment of panic when I realized I was using up the last of that really cute purple dragonfly fabric but I survived and now it is in a quilt which is what I was saving it for anyway. There are still a few quilt tops’ worth of fun fabrics in those bins.  And you know there will be new additions to refresh the variety at some point.
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Today is a gorgeous day (finally!) so I’m going outside to do yard work, but I believe there is rain in the forecast for the next couple of days so this quilts might get sandwiched and quilted by the middle of the week. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Focus…

Focus, or rather lack thereof, is a problem for me this week.  I have too many quilty things I want to get done so I am making just about no progress on any of them.  Some are old projects, some are new, some are not started but definitely swimming around in my head with the rest, some are sewing, some are blogging, some are pattern writing…

In no particular order, here’s a peek at the competing projects, some of which you have seen before.

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1. Seeing Stars needs:

  • a backing
  • basting
  • machine quilting (no clue what to quilt here!)

 

 

IMG_77892. Vintage Sparkle needs:

  • a pieced border to continue the sashing stars into the border
  • a plain border to frame everything
  • prairie points
  • a backing and basting
  • hand quilting

 

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3. As yet unnamed Christmas quilt

This one just jumped up on my wall with a mind of its own last week.  It’s the same layout as Sparkling Strings so I can test cutting directions for a possible pattern. It needs:

  • cutting setting strips
  • piecing
  • basting and machine quilting

 

IMG_78614. Baby quilt for hubby’s co-worker needs

  • cutting
  • piecing
  • backing and basting
  • quilting

(but I do have a plan and the fabrics are pulled!)

 

Top complete 2014-03-185. Kaleidoscope quilt needs:

  • basting (I don’t have clear space to manage it right now, but soon I hope!  The backing is pieced and waiting)
  • hand quilting

 

 

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6.  Two table runners

These are way down on the priority list but I have the pattern designed and the fabrics selected! One for summer and one for fall…maybe summer and fall 2015 at this rate!

 

7. A few non-sewing but quilting-related projects competing for attention:

  • stash maintenance chores (but that’s a whole post’s worth all on its own!)
  • I’m thinking about a new page for the blog: how about quilt math reference tables?
  • 3 or 4 patterns I could write, if I can wrestle required diagrams into submission

8.  Sleep

I’ve gotten tired just thinking about all these, so I’m off to bed.  Maybe after a good night’s sleep I’ll be able to prioritize things and make some progress on something!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Kaleidoscope

Forty blocks with 8 points on the edges and another thirty blocks with 4 points on the edges add up to way too many points to match!  Let’s just say the assembly of the kaleidoscope quilt slowed to a crawl and I sewed just a few rows each day.  This was not happy quilting, but I will say that in the end it was worth it for the final result.

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The flimsy measures measures 69” x 93”, which is a generous twin size.  It also made my two kids, who are now both taller than me, feel short.  They had to stand on chairs and raise their arms up to hold this for me.  You wouldn’t believe the cries of “Hurry up and take the picture!  This is heavy!”

I need to piece a simple back then pop into the quilt shop for some black batting before I can get this basted.  I plan to hand quit this one so I’ll have a slow stitching project to work on in the evenings.  I think I know what I want to quilt on it and I’m impatient to get started.  Hubby has the car today, though, so the batting run will have to wait until tomorrow.

Linking up with Linky Tuesday at Freemotion by the River

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Pondering yet another border

IMG_7801After deciding on a border for Vintage Sparkle (not actually making the border, just making a decision) I was ready for a change so I switched back to the kaleidoscope quilt. Over the last several days I finished sewing the block halves together for the center, then sewing them into rows. 

Today I stopped procrastinating and figured out how to cut and add the black halves of the edge blocks.  I taped a template to my ruler, cut the odd shape, held my breath and sewed it to my pieced half units.  It worked!  I’m not sure now why I was so worried about it.

 

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I added all the blocks to the design wall and ran right into another border decision!  Here is what I had planned out in EQ7:

MKK points border

I really liked those grey points on the screen and on paper.  I liked that they looked like a pieced border but in fact were just grey corners added to the edge blocks.  I still like the look on the screen, but in actual fabric in actual size…not so much.  The points just seem to overwhelm the curve illusion on the edges.

I’m glad I pinned a few grey triangles to the blocks in the design wall to audition the effect before actually sewing them on, because it makes it a lot easier to change course.  Here are some other options I’ve come up with.

MKK green borderMKK blue borderMKK grey borderMKK rainbow border

Right now I’m drawn to the last one on the right, but I will let my son choose as it will be on his bed.  I guess I’ll have to wait until tomorrow before continuing.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Joining binding strips

Recently I made binding for a group project and instead of using my favourite bias tube method I had to use strips that someone else had already cut.  The group needed a lot of binding and I really didn’t look forward to marking and pinning all the strips before sewing then having to go back and individually trim all the seams to a 1/4” allowance after sewing.  Happily, I had just cleaned out my filing cabinet and stumbled upon the instruction manual for my corner trimming tool. Wouldn’t you know there was a suggested method for joining strips on the diagonal!

It worked so well that when I decided to make a scrappy binding for Sparkling Strings I used the same method and took pictures to share.  I just found them again, so here is a tutorial on using the corner trimmer to skip the marking part of joining binding strips.

Here is my new favourite tool. This particular one is by Marti Michell but I believe other companies have similar tools.

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Start with cut strips (cut along lengthwise or cross-wise grain, or along the bias if you want bias binding).  I find 2 1/4” or 2 1/2” wide strips work well for double fold binding on most of my quilts.

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Step 1.  Trim one end of each strip using the corner trimming template as shown above.  You can save trimming time if you stack several strips to trim several at once.  Four strips stacked together is usually my limit.  If I cut too many layers at once I find the fabric slips and I don’t get accurate cuts in all the layers.

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Step 2. Rotate the strip 180 degrees and trim the other end the same way.  The cuts at both ends should lean the same way,  as shown in the picture above.  The don’t have to lean left as I have them here, as long as all the cuts on all your strips lean the same way.

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Step 3. Match up the end of one strip with the end of a second strip, right sides together as shown above.  The blunt end of the point on each strip will line up with the side of the other strip to position the fabric perfectly.  You can pin these together if you wish before sewing along the diagonal cut with a 1/4 inch seam allowance.

Note that I have used different colored strips to make a scrappy binding, but of course you can use a single fabric.

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Step 4.  Press the seam open.  Continue adding strips in this way until your pieced strip is as long as you need it to be (usually the combined length of all the sides of your quilt, plus 6 to 12 inches).

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Step 5.  To make double fold binding, fold and press your pieced strip lengthwise, right side out.

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Ta da!  Double fold binding ready to apply to finish your quilt edges. 

I have also been using the corner trimming tool to help me trim the ends of the binding so they meet “just so” when I’m binding a quilt.  I haven’t twisted the binding once since I started doing it this way. I always managed to twist it before, sometimes twice before I got it right!   I took pictures of joining the binding ends. I’ll try to share those in the next week when I find time to write the directions.

I can’t believe I’ve had this tool for years (it came free with a magazine) and only now got around to reading the instructions and using it to its full potential.  Oh, the frustration I could have saved myself.