Monday, February 27, 2017

Sara's Quilt, Block 3 Tutorial

Sara's Quilt, Block 3 (10 1/2" x 10 1/2"

So far, I've made six sampler blocks for Sara's Quilt. The sewing is going too fast for me to keep the patterns up to date. I'll try to get one out every week or two. Block 3 is a very basic pinwheel in a star. I loved making it because it's so quick and easy to piece.


Three reds, one cream, one wheat. This could be done very nicely with one light and two medium to dark fabrics of any color combination.

I forgot to photograph each fabric before cutting, and I don't have scraps of one of the reds left. This photo should help to explain the color arrangements.

Cutting and Piecing
1/4" seam allowances are used. 
I like to cut any pieces used for triangles just slightly larger than needed. This way I can line seams up on the diagonal lines of my ruler and trim than back to get exact measurements and perfect points.  It's so much easier to trim than to deal with pieces that are too small or a bit wonky.

Small Pinwheel
This block within a block is made with quarter square and half square triangles.

1. To make the small Pinwheel section, cut:
  • one 4" square of Red 1 and one 4" square of Cream. 
  • two 3 1/2" squares of cream

2. Cut each square in half diagonally. Turn and cut on the other diagonal making four triangles.
 3. Lay the triangles out in pairs as shown below. Make sure the positions of fabrics on all four of the pairs are the same.

3. With right sides together, sew the matching short legs of the triangles together. Press seams open.

4. Cut each 3 1/2" square of cream in half once diagonally. You will have four triangles.

5. Sew each cream triangle to the long side of the triangle made from the two smaller triangles. Press the seams open.

6. Line the seams up with the diagonal measures on your ruler. The short seam on the half square triangles should fall exactly at the corner of the 3 inch mark. Trim each square to 3" x 3".

7. Sew the patches right sides together to make the pinwheel.

8. Press the seams open. The pinwheel block will measure  5 1/2" x 5 1/2".

Outer Star

To make the outer star, cut:
  • two 3 5/8" squares of Red 2
  • two 3 5/8" squares of Red 3
  • four 3 5/8" squares of Wheat
  • four 3" squares of Wheat 

1. Draw a diagonal line on the wrong side of each 3 5/8" Wheat square.

2. Place each Wheat square on top of a red square, right sides together. Make two half square triangle sections by sewing a 1/4" seam on either side of the drawn line.

3.  Cut on the line, fold open, and press the seams open. Line the seam up with the diagonal line on your ruler and trim each half square triangle patch to 3" x 3".

At first, I pressed the seams to the dark. When it came time to sew the patches together, I realized that I'd have a very thick layer of fabric on one side of each seam. Back to the ironing board to press those seams open.

4. Arrange the half square triangle patches in pairs so that the reds are in the same positions for all four pairs.
Half square triangle sections will be sewn down the center where the wheat colored pieces meet.
5. Sew with right sides together. Press the seams open. The sections will measure 3" x 5 1/2".

6. Place one of the red and wheat sections on either side of the pinwheel block.

7. Sew 3" squares of wheat to either side of each of the red and wheat half square triangle sets. The sections will now measure 3" x 10 1/2".

8. Sew these last two sections to the top and bottom of the pinwheel block. The finished block will measure 10 1/2" x 10 1/2".

That's it. Happy Stitching!

March arrives this week! Spring is definitely on the way. 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sara's Quilt, Block 2

There hasn't been much progress on Sara's quilt this week, but I do have the pattern for Block 2 ready. It's the first in Sara's quilt that's made with applique on a pieced block.

This blog post explains details about how I did the applique, but I can't make PDF downloads of the templates available on my blog. I can only give a link to another site, so I'm publishing the instructions for cutting and assembling the block in a free pattern on Craftsy.

This is the link:

The templates can be used with fusible web, and that's the method I almost always use. I want this quilt to be special, though, with turned under edges. I love the look of hand applique, and with turned under edges, I can avoid the stiffness that can come with fusible web.

I'm not an expert at all when it comes to hand applique. I've experimented with lots of techniques, from needle turn applique to ironing heavily starched edges around templates. I'm pretty hopeless at turning edges as I sew or with an iron, so I used freezer paper, basting, and starch. Yes, it's much more time consuming than fusing, but this is a once only, very special quilt.

1. I traced the templates onto the dull side of freezer paper and cut them out on the lines.

2. I put the freezer paper shape shiny side down on the wrong side of the fabric and ironed it so it would stick.

3. When I cut the fabric I cut it about a quarter of an inch larger than the freezer paper template all around.

4. Now came the not so fun part - basting. Hand sewing is not my thing, but my O.C.D. has kicked in and I'm being fussy. Hand work is something I can do to keep my hands busy in the evening, and basting doesn't require much finesse. I have to admit that the basting  went very fast. I had all the pieces basted in less than an hour.

5. Normally a person would stitch this onto the quilt by hand and later snip the fabric behind the applique and pull out the freezer paper. This block was an experiment with trying to use machine stitching in such a way that it would imitate hand stitching, so stitching it down first wasn't going to work. I feared that some of the stitches would pierce the freezer paper and I'd have bits of paper stuck permanently in the quilt.

6. Starch next. I poured a little bit of liquid starch into a small plastic container. Then I used a small brush to saturate the turned edges of the fabric on the back of the freezer paper. I ironed it dry, and removed the basting stitches and the freezer paper. I was a little bit surprised that it held it's shape perfectly.

7. Next came glue. I put a few drop of quilt basting glue on the starched edges.

8. I placed the applique pieces onto the quilt block. Then I gave them time to dry.

I fussy cut the center part of the flower to get the large dot exactly in the middle.

9. Finally I sewed the appliques in place with a tiny machine blanket stitch. Matching thread for the faux applique was recommended in one of Pat Sloan's books, but even on the dark reds, the stitching didn't totally disappear into the background. That was a bit of a disappointment.

I think I'll go back to using the polyester microfiliment thread next time. It's practically invisible to start with. Then, again, I might just bite the bullet and applique my glued pieces down by hand.

I hope to make another pieced block this coming week. Fingers crossed!

We're experiencing a strange record breaking heatwave in Nebraska right now. I've never seen temperatures near 80 degrees in this part of the country in February! I may have to break down and do some yard cleanup.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Sare's Quilt: Block 1, Tutorial

Sara's quilt is a sampler with some pieced blocks and some applique blocks. This is the first pf the pieced blocks, so I'm calling it Block 1 for now. It looks a bit like four fish in a pond to me. Eventually, I may name it Fishpond. Or not.

I'm working with a layer cake and cream background yardage from "Miss Scarlet" by Moda. 

The block goes together so quickly. It's made entirely of squares and half square triangles (HST).
10" s 10"
I used six fabrics in this first block, but you could make the block with four. The cream fabrics in the blocks could all be made with the background fabric without changing the effect.

From Red 1, cut two 3 1/8" squares
From Red 2, cut six 3 1/8" squares
From Red 3, cut four 2 1/2" squares and two 3 1/8" squares.
From Cream 1, cut four 2 1/2" squares and two 3 1/8" squares.
From Cream 2, cut four 3 1/8" squares.
From Cream 3, cut one 2 1/2" square.

Make the half square triangles.

You will need to make eight of A, four of B, and four of C, and one of Cream 3.

Red 2 and Cream 2 are used to make Unit A.
Red 2 and Red 3 are used in Unit B.
Red 1 and Cream 1 are used for Unit C
Cream 3 is used in the center of the block.
The squares for these are cut a bit larger than the exact measurement. I cut them down to 2 1/2" x  2 1/2" after they were sewn.

1. Choose the two 3 1/8" squares that are used for each unit. Place them right sides together in pairs.

2. Draw a diagonal line from corner to corner on the wrong side of one of the squares in each pair.

3. Stitch 1/4" from the drawn line on each side of the line.

4. Cut along the line. You will have two HST units. Press seams to the dark.
5. Square up and trim each HST to 2 1/2" x 2 1/2.

Assemble the block.
Diagram of the block assembly.
 1. Make four 4-patch units. Use one of each HST in each as shown below.
Make four.

2. Make two 2-patch units from 2 1/2" squares of Red 1 and Cream 1.
3. Sew one of the 4-patch units to either side of the 2-patch unit. Make two of these sets.

4. Sew the remaining 2 1/2" squares together in a row of five squares with the Cream 3 square in the center.

5. The sets from step 3 will go on the top and the bottom of the row of five squares. Sew together.

That's it. Easy-peasy. 

If you find a mistake in this tutorial, please let me know right away so that I can correct it. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

A Mug Rug for St. Patrick's Day

Sara's quilt is coming along nicely, so I decided to take a break and work on a small project.

It's been ages since I made a new mug rug pattern. I had an idea for a St. Patrick's Day design, and the timing couldn't have been better. I named it, "I'm Irish". I'm not the least little bit Irish, but like so many others, I wear something green on this one day each year and declare myself Irish for the day.

I really like the background of two fabrics. The white blossoms stand out against the green print, and the green of the shamrocks and the letters really pop on the white. Flat buttons for the centers of the blossom would be fine, but I like the way that the three sequins on each blossom add sparkle and a festive air.

 I hope you find your very own special rainbow this year.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Sara's Quilt: Chain Block Pattern

Sara's Quilt is  just getting started, but as I make progress, I'll post some of the patterns on my blog. The quilt will measure 50" x 50" without borders and will be made from twenty-five 10" x 10" blocks. This post contains the pattern for the twelve chain blocks that make up most of the quilt.

Chain Block, 10 1/2" x 10 1/2" with seam allowances

The twelve chain blocks on my design wall.

Chain Blocks
Make twelve10" x 10" blocks

   cream background fabric: 1 1/4 yards
 * red: 1/2 yard mixed reds

 *Red fabrics need to be in pieces no less than 2 1/2" wide and 15" long. I used six strips of red fabric that were 2 1/2" x W.O.F. (width of fabric).

Note: The measurements for cutting are just a bit long. I trimmed off the extra fabric when I squared up the blocks after they were sewn together. 

For Strip A

From background fabric,  cut
  • four strips 8 3/4" x 16" .
From red,  cut
  • four strips 2 1/2" x 16".

For Strip B

From background fabric,  cut
  • four pieces 2 3/4" x 16" .
  • four pieces 6 3/4" x 16" .
From red,  cut
  • four strips 2 1/2" x 16".

For Strip C

From background fabric,  cut
  • four pieces 4 3/4" x 16" .
From red,  cut
  • two strips 2 1/2" x 16".  

Note: Use 1/4" seam allowances throughout.

Strip A:

1. Make four strip sets. Sew one 2 1/2" x 15" red strip and one 8 3/4" x 15: background piece together lengthwise to make a strip set.  Press to the red. 

2. Cut six 2 1/2" wide strips from each of the four rectangles just made as shown in the diagram. You will have 24 of Strip A.

Strip B:

1. Make four strip sets. For each strip set, sew a 2 3/4" x 15" background piece and a 6 3/4" x 15 background piece to either side of a 2 1/2" x 15" red strip. Press to the red.

2. Cut six 2 1/2" wide strips from each of the four rectangles just made as shown in the diagram. You will have 24 of Strip B.

Strip C:

1. Make two strip sets. For each strip set, sew a 4 1/2" x 15" background piece to either side of a 2 1/2" x 15" red strip. Press to the red.
 2. Cut six 2 1/2" wide strips from each of the four rectangles just made as shown in the diagram. You will have 12 of Strip C.

Note: Each block will use two of strip A, two of strip B, and one of strip C.

3. For each block, assemble and sew the strips as shown in the diagram. 

2. Square up and trim each block to 10 1/2" x 10 1/2".

Saturday, January 28, 2017

A Wedding Quilt and Corn Bread in a Cast Iron Skillet

I was in a creative rut last week, and it was time to step back from designing for a bit.

On the first day of no designing, I turned my kitchen inside out and upside down. I sorted, I tossed, I gave things away, and I scrubbed. The feeling of accomplishment was wonderful. On the second day, I organized closets. On the third day, I cooked a big pot of chicken soup. In the afternoon of the same day I baked a totally scrumptious cornbread in my cast iron skillet. On the fourth day, I sorted and organized my sewing room.

On the fifth day, I began to sew a wedding quilt for my granddaughter. The first twelve blocks are finished, and I've collected pattern ideas for the empty places between blocks. I think I'll include both pieced and appliqued blocks. I'll update my blog with progress reports, and, possibly, a few tutorials as this quilt develops.

The Recipe

I've used my cast iron skillet quite a bit since I got it, but this was the first time I tried baking with it. I'll never again make cornbread any other way. It was that good. I substituted buttermilk for the milk in the recipe on the cornbread box, added baking soda as well as baking powder, preheated the skillet in the oven, and shortened the baking time. 

The results were beautiful - thick, fluffy pieces of perfectly golden cornbread that were less crumbly than any I've made before. I cut the bread right in the pan, and the pieces slipped out without the slightest bit of sticking.

I couldn't resist digging in right away. I had two pieces of hot cornbread with melting butter for my afternoon snack. I meant to eat only one, but ... well, you know.

Important things to remember:

1. Pre-heat the skillet.

While the oven was heating with the greased skillet inside, I mixed the dough.

2. Separately mix wet and dry ingredients before combining.

All of the dry ingredients need to be mixed together in a medium size mixing bowl. The wet ingredients, buttermilk, oil, and egg, are mixed together separately.

3. Don't over mix the dough.  

Pour the wet ingredients onto the dry, and stir with a fork. Stir only until the dry ingredients are moist. The dough will be lumpy and thick.

Pull the oven rack holding the hot skillet out far enough to scoop the cornbread dough into the skillet. Spread the dough fairly evenly with a spatula, and bake.

Cast Iron Skillet Cornbread

1 1/4 c flour
3/4 c corn meal
1/4 c sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 c buttermilk
1/4 c vegetable oil
1 egg

1. Grease the skillet with vegetable oil or shortening.
2. Place the skillet on a middle rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 °.
3. Combine dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.
4. Combine buttermilk, vegetable oil, and egg in a measuring cup or small bowl, and beat with a fork.
5. Pour wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients. Stir with a fork only enough to moisten the dry ingredients. The dough will be thick and a bit lumpy.
6. Open the oven door, pull out the rack holding the skillet, and scoop the dough into the hot skillet. Smooth with a spatula.
7. Bake 15 to 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
8. The cornbread can cool in the skillet on a cooling rack, or it can be cut and served hot.

Chicken soup with cornbread. Comfort food at it's best.

Hope you have a wonderful week!