Friday, August 18, 2017

Marty's Quilt

A couple weeks ago I started a quilt for my brother who's going through some health issues and is stuck in a rehab center until after Labor Day.

Using the Block Mama method and the Four Corners block from my book Cut and Shuffle Quilts, I made nearly 30 blocks. The palette of russet, tan, dark blue and light grey is nice and masculine, and all the fabrics came from my stash.

The palette needed brightening so I added light orange to the mix, inspired by the backing fabric. Here are some of the blocks on my design wall before I finalized the layout.

After making a few more blocks I ended up with a 5 x 7 block layout, 60" x 84". Then Murphy helped me pin-baste the layers together.

I quilted a simple allover meander, about the extent of my FMQ skills. The quilting was accomplished within one day and the quilt remained soft and drapey. I used Aurifil 50 wt, in a medium grey #2610.

I finished it off with machine binding in the darkest brown, with a label tucked into the binding seam. Now Marty's quilt is not only finished, it 's already on its way to him in Arizona.

The fabrics are all from stash except for the backing, which was purchased with Marty and this quilt in mind.

Some quilts look better in real life than they do in photos, and this is one of them. All the prints have a lot of texture or small scale pattern going on, but you can't really see the some of the prints in the whole quilt photo. Here you can see the texture created by the quilting.

In the photo below you can see some of the small scale prints. The light orange is Grunge. This blue print is the largest, boldest print in the whole quilt. The two russets were purchased several years ago in Texas when DH wanted me to make him a cowboy quilt. 

So Marty's quilt is on its way to him, in care of his daughter who will take it to him in the rehab center. It should arrive next week. I hope he likes it.

This is by far the fastest I've ever made a quilt from start to finish. I don't remember what day I started working on it, but it was definitely after the first of August. He doesn't need a quilt in Arizona in August, but he can sure use a quilty hug, so this one's on its way to him.

Linking up with Whoop Whoop Friday at Confessions of a Fabric Addict

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Helping Mom

A Guest Post from Murphy

Mom is doing that thing on the floor in the dining room again. She moved all the furniture out and she left the gate open. I wonder what's in there? She never lets me in the dining room.

She hasn't chased me out yet, maybe I can sneak in and see what she's doing.

It has something to do with fabric and batting and pins. She's crawling around on the floor....

Mom's on the floor! Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, lap time!!!  Mom and Dad only let me sit on their laps when they're on the floor. She's on the floor so she's mine!!!
I can sit here while she does whatever with those pin things. She sure isn't making much of a lap for me, but she has to reach over me for her pins, so I get extra hugs in the process.

Oh, mom doesn't want me in her lap now after all. Sigh.

Maybe if I just stay here on the wood, not the carpet, mom will at least let me stay on this side of the gate. In her lap would be better, but at least I can stay here nearby.

Do you think my ears are big? Mom thinks they're huge. I'm 13 months old now, and I still haven't grown into my ears. That's okay, they make me cute.

Mom finished up whatever she was doing with those pins and carried the whole fabric thing up the stairs. Dad says her sewing room is up there. I'm not allowed up there so I don't know.... Mom will show us that fabric thing later, when she's done with whatever she does to it in the sewing room.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Snake Quilt Tutorial

I had the pleasure of getting back together with friends Kevin the Quilter, Cherie (Quilted Jonquil) and Dar (Dar's Patchwork Garden) recently to continue working on the snake quilt we started earlier this year. When we left off in March, we had 32 blocks done: 

Now we have all 48 blocks done!!!

Actually we'll set them in a 6 x 8 layout and our top will finish at 60" by 80" for a Quilt of Valor. Here's the plan, a traditional layout:

When I last posted about this back in March, several people asked me for a tutorial.

The snake block/quilt is a traditional pattern which Barbara Brackman discusses here, dating from the 1930s to the 1960s. In her post she mentions that she cannot find a commercial pattern for it. There is a similar quilt called Snake Trail in Denise Schmidt's book Modern Quilts Traditional Inspiration; Denise's block size, proportions, corners, construction methods, and pressing differ from mine.

The snake block is a very challenging block even for experienced quilters, and it requires templates. Here's a tutorial for how I made our templates and how my friends and I made our blocks. Our block is intentionally made slightly oversized and trimmed down for accuracy. Our block finishes at 10", and requires both paper piecing and sewing curves.

Snake Block Tutorial
Traditional block; instructions and images copyright Jan Ochterbeck 2017

Drafting the Block and Making the Templates

  • Graph paper – must be at least 11" square, preferably larger; okay to tape pieces together keeping ruled lines aligned
  • Ruler
  • Sharp pencil
  • Compass
  • Eraser
  • Paper scissors
  • Plain printer paper
  • Add-a-Quarter ruler if desired (or use your regular ruler)
  • Large template plastic
  • Glue stick
  • Access to a copy machine

  1. Draw a 10" square on the graph paper.
  2. Make a mark on the outline 4" from each corner on all sides.
  3. Using the compass set at 4 inches, draw arcs in two opposite corners.
  4. Reset the compass at 6 inches and draw larger arcs outside the first ones.
  5. Note that the ends of the arcs are on the 4" marks you made earlier. If they’re not exactly at these 4" marks, redraw the arcs.
  6. Lightly draw a diagonal line from the same corners. Draw it more heavily within the arcs and erase the rest, but make sure marks show a little on the background and corner pieces.
  7. From the same corners, draw diagonals within the arcs as shown, like spokes, spaced as evenly as possible. Make sure the lines extend past the curved line of the arc because these marks serve as match points. 

8. Very carefully and accurately, cut your drawing apart to separate the arcs from the center and the corners. Do not cut the arcs into little pieces.
-          Note: These pieces do not have seam allowances. 

Making paper piecing foundations:
  1. Lightly glue both arcs to a piece of plain printer paper, allowing 1/2" clearance on all sides.
  2. Draw 1/4" seam allowance all the way around each arc, using the Add-a-Quarter ruler or any ruler that gives you an accurate 1/4".
  3. Make sure the lines at the ends of the arc are perpendicular to the edge.
  4. Tip: Add additional 1/8" to the ends, shown here in red.
  5. Make copies for paper piecing; one page will make two arcs for one block. 

Making templates for the background and the corners:
  1. Lightly apply glue stick around the outside edges of the background piece. The moisture makes the paper stretch, so keep the glue only at the edges and work quickly.
  2. Glue the paper down to template plastic, making sure you have 1/2" of plastic all the way around.
  3. Draw 1/4" seam allowances on the plastic all the way around the paper. *

      4.  Tip: add additional 1/8" to the straight sides (not the curves), shown in the photo below in red.*
5. Mark match points where the seams in the arc will align.
6. Carefully cut out the plastic template.
7. With sharp scissor points, notch the match points, cutting about 1/8" into the seam allowance.
8. Repeat steps 1-7 for the corner piece; make only one corner template. 

Tip: It’s better to make the block slightly oversized and square it up to 10-1/2" after it’s sewn. Therefore I recommend adding 1/8" to the outside edges of all block pieces. 
This is planned in the instructions above, so the additional 1/8" is already included
on both templates and the paper piecing foundation. 

* I used a Sharpie marker for this step so the lines would show in the photos for this tutorial. Never use Sharpie with any templates or rulers in your sewing studio.  Some of the ink gets on – and stays on – the edge of the ruler or template. Some marking pens, such as water-erasable markers, dissolve the permanent ink of the Sharpie and allow it to bleed onto the fabric being marked. It’s permanent. It will never wash out, and your project may be ruined. Keep all permanent markers away from your sewing! 

Making cutting guide for arc pieces
  1. Mark a piece of template plastic 2-1/2" x 3".
  2. Draw a tumbler shape: With the plastic in portrait orientation, make marks on the bottom line 3/8" in from each corner. Draw a line from the top corner to the bottom mark on each side, creating a tumbler shape.
  3. Cut out the plastic template on these lines.
  4. Cut six plastic pieces exactly this same size.
  5. Glue them together in a stack. Make sure the edges are exactly aligned when you add each layer. Six layers is sturdy enough to use with care with a rotary cutter (the blade will cut into fewer layers). 

Background Fabric
  • The background template requires 12" of fabric, 1/3 yard. 4 background pieces can be cut from one 12" width of fabric.
  • On the wrong side of the background fabric, align the graph paper lines of the background template with the grain line of the fabric and carefully trace around the template.
  • Mark the match points on the fabric so they’re visible on the wrong side of the fabric.
  • Cut out the background fabric, making sure the match points are visible. Be sure to keep the extra 1/8" on the straight sides.
  • For a 6 x 8 block layout (60" x 80" top) cut 48 background pieces.
  • If using all one background fabric, 4-3/4 yards are needed. 

Corner Wedges
  • The corner template can be cut from yardage, scraps, or from a 5" charm square.
  • On the right side of the corner fabric, carefully trace around the corner wedge template, keeping the graph paper lines aligned with the grain of the fabric.
  • Mark the match points on the fabric so they’re visible on the right side of the fabric, for matching up with the arcs later.
  • Cut out the corner fabric, making sure the match points are visible. Be sure to keep the extra 1/8" on the straight sides.
  • For a 6 x 8 block layout (60" x 80" top) cut 96 corner wedges. If using all one fabric for corner wedges, 1-5/8 yards are needed. 

Tumblers for Paper Pieced Arcs
  • The tumbler-shaped cutting guide can be used with 2-1/2" pre-cut strips of fabric to cut pieces along the length of the strip.
  • Or use the cutting guide with 3" strips of fabric and rotate the template up and down for each cut for less waste.
  • Stack strips or scraps and rotary cut to save time and fabric.
  • For a 6 x 8 block layout, 288 pieces are needed, the more variety the better. 

Sewing the blocks: 

Block Components: Corner Wedges (red), Arcs (blue), Background (white)

Paper piece the arcs:
  1. Cut the two arc foundations apart and work on two at a time to chain piece.
  2. Pre-fold the sewing lines for easy alignment of pieces.
  3. Put two blue pieces right sides together, wrong side to the back side of the paper foundation.
  4. Sew on the first line, open the fabric, and press.
  5. Fold back the paper on the next line; trim the fabric 1/4" away from the folded paper.
  6. Align the next blue piece right sides together, and sew on the next line. 
  7. Repeat steps 4, 5 & 6 to complete the arc.
  8. Cut on the outer cutting lines. Be sure to keep the extra 1/8" at the ends of the arcs.
  9. Remove the paper.

Assemble block:
1. Pin an arc to a corner, matching the arc seams to the marked match points, pinning ends and match points. Sew with 1/4" seam. Sewing with the concave arc on top is recommended to ease it onto the corner wedge. Repeat for other corner. 
Tip: align edges and use a pin to “stitch a seam” (see arrows) which will prevent the ends of your arcs from swinging outward; this helps keep the arc seam perpendicular to the edges of the block. 

 2.  Pin center background piece to arc, aligning ends and matching match points to seams in arc. Sew with 1/4" seam. Piecing with the concave background on top is recommended to ease it onto the arc.
Tip: align edges and use a pin to “stitch a seam (see arrows).” 

3. Repeat to attach center to other arc. 
4. Press all seams toward the corners, away from center background piece.
5. Square up and trim the block to 10-1/2", making sure all the ends of the arcs are as close as possible to 4-1/4" away from the corners, shown by the arrows in the photo below. This assures that the arcs will line up smoothly and create the snake-like effect when the blocks are set together.

Completed block, 10-1/2" unfinished (will be 10" finished)

Note 1: If the block comes out wavy or seems to ripple, you may have taken too scant a 1/4" seam when attaching the background center to the arcs. Try increasing your seam allowance by one or two thread widths to eliminate the excess waviness. Do this before trimming and squaring up, while the block is still oversized.

Note 2: When sewing blocks together in the traditional layout, the seams will nest. Match seams and pin carefully for smooth transition of snake-like arcs from one block to the next. For alternate layouts such as loops, the seams of some of the blocks may need to be re-pressed to get the seams to nest.

Note 3: If you make a Snake Quilt as a group project, I strongly recommend that you use one set of templates for all the blocks rather than lots of individual sets of templates. Just like everyone’s quarter inch seam differs, everyone’s templates will come out just a tiny bit different. 

Traditional Layout

If you would like a PDF of this tutorial, please leave a comment and be sure to include your email address. 

Linking up with Sew Fresh Quilts

Monday, August 7, 2017

A Quilt for Marty

My brother is having some health issues and he's stuck in a skilled nursing/rehab center until after Labor Day. I'm making him a quilt. It's what quilters do, right? Not that he needs a quilt in Arizona in August, but he could use a quilty hug.

I'm keeping it simple and using the Four Corners block from my book Cut and Shuffle Quilts. I pulled a palette from stash of browns, russets, dark blues, and light greys, many from last month's splurge at the FQ sale. I cut squares and strips and quickly made a pile of Block Mamas, light ones and dark ones.

Nice contrast; these will make good Four Corners blocks. 

Over the weekend I got all the Block Mamas cut, shuffled the parts, and made 30 blocks. 

I'm pushing to get this quilt finished as quickly as possible. You know what they say, "Haste makes waste" and "The hurrier I go, the behinder I get." I've been keeping company with my seam ripper over stupid things like having fabric wrong sides together or attaching the wrong parts together. I've made hundreds of Cut and Shuffle blocks, I should know what I'm doing. Yeesh! 

Marty's into motorcycles so I went searching for a backing fabric with a motorcycle theme. I found a whole collection of prints featuring Indian motorcycles, but Marty's a Harley guy. Then I found the perfect print: Biker themed, but not brand-specific, and the colors work well with my palette. In fact, I added a few more blocks in light orange to brighten up the palette a bit. 

I started laying out the blocks on the wall; I can see that I need to move some around. I'm also adding one more row and I need one more dark frame block. I'm glad I added the light orange to brighten everything up. (pardon the bad lighting)

Friday, August 4, 2017

Seasonal Migration

Finished except for the sleeve.
78" x 90"

Using all Kaffe Fasset and Batik prints for the Flying Geese, 
this quilt's working name was KBFG, 
but I have remaned it Seasonal Migration 
for the way the geese fly north and south. 

46 different fabrics used in the top, plus the backing, plus the binding.

I'm keeping this quilt for myself. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Emerald Isle BOM blocks

My LQS will soon wrap up a BOM series called Emerald Isle. We get our last block kit this Saturday. Each month there's a main block and an optional alternate block. I've made all the main blocks and stayed caught up with the series, but I held off making the alternate blocks. I was hoping a plan to make them and the resulting quilt more my own would emerge. Here are all the main blocks through July.

Each block has a pieced center and a framed border with cornerstones that create an Irish Chain effect. The alternate blocks were supposed to be more of the same, with different pieced centers.

I decided to make my alternate blocks using a constant fabric that harmonizes with all the colors in the blocks. I'm using the kits for the frames around my constant fabric, which you can see at the top of the photo above. Here are the ones made so far:

These are not arranged in any final layout; I need to make more pieced blocks and alternate blocks for a 5 x 6 block layout, 30 blocks, 15 of each.

I'm auditioning dark sashing that will continue the Irish Chain effect. Dark blue? Navy? Dark green? Do you have a suggestion?

Not sure I'm loving that chartreuse color, but when there's more similar shades in more of the alternate blocks I think it'll be okay. Do you subscribe to the "When in doubt, take it out" school of thought, or, "When in doubt, add more?"

I'll use the pieced block centers from some of the alternate block kits for the three extra main blocks needed, with frame fabrics from my stash. I'm also using stash fabrics for some of the alternate block frames. But I need more of the ecru cornerstone fabric before I can make any more, so I'll pick some up Saturday.

This green and blue color combo is so not my usual style - after all, it's the shop's series which is a mystery until she presents each month's block - but it's kind of pretty and I do like that crosshatch fabric from my stash with these blocks. And it's using up a bit of stash, in addition to the kits.

Link ups: Sew Fresh Quilts, My Quilt Infatuation