Thursday, July 24, 2014

Quilt Along Block #9, Clothesline

Finally finished! The clothesline block has always been part of the plan, and I do think it turned out awfully cute, but oh my goodness! What a headache in the making! More about that later.

If I had to choose what I like best about this block it would be the pink and green mini-quilt. It's a real quilt! Pieced and everything! I only cheated on the border. It's satin stitched. The little blocks are just 1/2" square, and I loved making it!

But on to the problems. Sigh...

It isn't that the block is hard to sew. Even though it has so many little bits and pieces of laundry, it goes together just like the others. Or, at least it should go together just like the others. Not for me, though. Not this time.

It all began when I ran out of stabilizer for my applique. I was in a bit of a hurry, so I grabbed something inexpensive from a nearby craft store. I thought it was similar to a more expensive stabilizer I'd used before, but when I opened the container, it was altogether different. Not in a good way, either! Word of warning - do not get the water soluble stabilizer that feels like a plastic bag! It sticks to the bed of the sewing machine and totally messes up the length of zigzag stitches!

I stopped everything and went out to the quilt shop to buy some good stuff. More expensive, but so worth it. This one is a tear-away and works beautifully.

Stabilizer, though, was only the first of my problems. Next came the thread issue. I have thread in every color imaginable.

Only one portion of my thread collection. 
I matched something up with the jeans fabric and appliqued away. This was the first mistake. the thread was very, very old, and rather poor quality to start with. I should have thrown it out long ago!  It broke after sewing just a couple of inches and the tension was all off. So, I finally tossed it and decided to use something different - maybe not quite so close a match. Of course I had to do a bit of stitch ripping, but I hadn't got very far, so it wasn't a horribly big deal. That might have been okay, but the new thread didn't show up at all for showing the pockets and seams on the pants. The next best thread I had was navy blue.

It wasn't till I had done all of this sewing with a very short triple stitch, that I realized how awful it looked!

What a mess!

An hour and a half later I had it all unstitched, but the jeans are looking a bit the worse for wear. I might have been better off drawing those lines with a permanent marker in the first place. I definitely would have been better off simply starting over!

Well, it's too late to do any of that now. The block is finished and it stays as it is! A small imperfect piece won't ever be noticed in such a busy quilt. Will it? Nope. Not going there at all. It's fine. So there!

Truth be told, my sigh of relief at having it finished was huge. The block is done, the pattern made, and aside from the mishaps and mixups it really was loads of fun.

This quilt is really coming along!! I may move blocks around, but it's not looking half bad! What shall we add? We only need one large block and one or two small ones, depending on the size of the larger one.

There is only one little niggling worry about the clothesline block.
That other yellow sock ...
         the one not on the clothesline ...

It had better be in here somewhere!

Unless the washing machine ate it.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Tutorial: Create Flying Geese Paper Pieced Patterns

I love using paper foundation piecing for flying geese blocks. The blocks make up so quickly, and they always finish with perfect points.

When a pattern shows other techniques that don't work quite as well for me, I always sketch out my own paper foundation pieced block patterns, and photocopy them.

You can draw your own paper pieced flying geese blocks,  too - in any size you need. It's easy, and there's very, very little math involved. Most flying geese blocks are twice as tall as they are wide, so you basically need to multiply the width of your block by 2 to get the height.

Start with a rectangle. Make it twice as tall as it is wide.

The most commonly used flying geese block sizes for quilts are:
1" x 2"
1 1/2" x 3"
2" x 4"
2 1/2" x 5"
3" x 6"

Size doesn't make any difference in the process for making the blocks. My examples are for making 2" x 4" blocks. This is a great size for practice, but you can adjust when you are making other sizes you might need for your quilts.

Now, get a ruler, a sharp pencil, and some graph paper. 
And, away we go! 

Make a single block
Step 1:  

  • Draw a rectangle twice as tall as it is wide on your graph paper. Mine is 2" x 4", but the same formula works for all sizes.
  • Measure halfway down the right hand side of the rectangle and make a mark. This is the same measurement as is the width of your rectangle.
  • Draw lines from the mark you just made to either corner on the left hand side of the paper. The lines you have drawn are the lines that you will sew on when sewing the block and assembling the quilt.
Step 2:

  • Add 1/4" seam allowance all around.  This outer line will be the line you cut on when you trim the block down for sewing into your quilt.
  • Write in numbers to show the order of adding fabrics. The large triangle, usually made with a darker color of fabric, is number 1. The smaller triangles made with background fabrics will be numbers 2 and 3. It makes no difference which of the smaller pieces is attached first.

But what if you want to put two blocks into a set so you can sew two at the same time? 

Make a set of two blocks

Step 1: 
  • Draw a single block just like you did before. 
  • Now attach another block right next to it. Each block will be twice as tall as it is wide.
Step 2: 

  • Add 1/4" seam allowance all around.  Once again, the outer line will be the line you cut on when you trim the set of blocks down for sewing into your quilt, and the inner lines are the lines you stitch on.
  • Write in numbers. The larger triangles for each block are always added first, the smaller triangles next. Number the first block with numbers 1, 2, and 3, and the second block with numbers 4, 5, and 6.

Longer Sets 

Sets of three or more blocks

Follow the same procedure that you used to draw two blocks to make sets of three blocks, 6 blocks, or as many as you can fit on your graph paper.

  • Start with side by side blocks, then add 1/4" seam allowance around the entire set.
  • Write numbers in sequential order, block by block. Make sure that the large triangle is always given the first number in its block.

That's it!  Photocopy as many copies as you need and begin sewing! 

How to measure the fabric pieces for your block sections.

There is always some unavoidable waste with paper foundation piecing, but if the fabric pieces are cut relatively close to the finished size and shape, the waste can be minimal. 

Whether sides are cut on the bias or not is relatively unimportant with paper foundation piecing. I've tried to make the measuring for fabric pieces as easy as possible by cutting the large triangles as quarter square triangles and the background triangles as half square triangles. 

Photo A: half square triangles for small background segments

Photo B: Quarter square triangles for larger segments of the block

The Formula

Yes, there is a formula, but it's pretty easy to follow. 

For the smaller triangles (photo A above) :
  • Begin with a square 1 1/4" longer than the width of the block.
  • For a 2" x 4" block, you would add 1 1/4" to 2", the shorter measurement of the block. 
1 1/4" + 2" = 3 1/4"
  • The square should be cut 3 1/4" on either side. 
  • Cut in half once diagonally. You will have two triangles, enough for one block.

For the larger triangles (photo B above) :
  • Begin with a square 1 5/8" larger than the height of the block. 
  • For a 2" x 4" flying geese block, add 1 5/8" to 4", the longer measurement of the block. 
1 5/8" + 4" = 5 5/8"
  • The square should be cut 5 5/8" on either side. 
  • Cut in half diagonally, and then cut in half diagonally again. You will have four triangles, enough for four blocks.

I've made a chart to simplify it even more.

Chart for cutting common size triangles for paper foundation pieced flying geese blocks.

Size of Block     Cut square for               Cut square for
                           two, small, half             four, large, quarter
                           square triangles:           square triangles:

1 ½” x 3”            2 ¾” x 2 ¾”                 4 5/8” x 4 5/8” 
2” x 4”                3 ¼” x 3 ¼”                  5 5/8” x 5 5/8” 
2 ½” x 5”            3 ¾” x 3 ¾”                 6 5/8” x 6 5/8”
3” x 6”                4 ¼” x 4 ¼”                  7 5/8” x 7 5/8” 
4” x 8”                5 ¼ x 5 ¼”                    9 5/8” x 9 5/8”

And that's everything you need to know! Make all the paper foundation pieced flying geese blocks you like, in any size you like.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

The autumn table runner is finished!

I'm so excited about my just completed autumn table runner!  The appliqued swirly leaves and paper pieced flying geese blocks came out so very well and it came together very quickly.  My daughter likes it, too, and she seems to have already figured out where she wants it displayed it. In her house, of course!

I was having problems getting the layout to come alive. As you can see in these early attempts, something wasn't working. I didn't like all of the leaves, and the arrangements just didn't come together right.

During our weekly coffee get-together, I consulted my good friend, Midge. She's excellent at bringing a fresh perspective to all kinds of topics. She studied my layouts for a bit, pointed out what she did like about them, and then said, "Acorns. It needs acorns." And she was so right!

A few swapped leaves, a few acorns, and I had a layout that was coming together nicely.

Next came the quilting choices. My goal was to make everything pop and give the whole piece a sense of motion. The leaves really had to swirl in the wind. First I added depth by quilting around every piece of applique and in the ditch on every seam with invisible thread. Whew! Free motion quilting in the ditch made it all go a bit faster than it might have with standard stitching, but I don't know that I'd choose to do every stinking seam on a large quilt with hundreds of flying geese! 

Finally I added veins to the leaves with matching thread. Just a few little lines of sewing and the leaves suddenly looked almost real!

For background quilting I used cream colored thread in a very amateur variation of McTavishing. I have so far to go with getting the free motion quilting the way I'd like, but a few months ago this would not have been an option for me. Baby steps. Need to keep reminding myself. 

I'm going to take a couple of days, now, to address some neglected housekeeping and laundry. 

Then it will be on to the next project. It will definitely be the next block in the "Home" quilt along! It's slow, but I'm gradually catching up with the lost month of June.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!!

Friday, July 11, 2014

A tour of the 2014 Lincoln Quilter's Guild "Quilt Fest"

How could I possibly resist a chance to spend a morning looking at beautiful quilts? Never mind that for the first time in years none of my quilting friends could go. It seems to be vacation weekend. Some folks are gone, others have a house full of guests.

But, wild horses couldn't keep me away from this event. The local quilter's guild only hosts this show every other year and I wasn't about to miss it. So off I went on my own, and I enjoyed every minute.

As always, with local shows, there is a huge range of skills and talent on display. Very ordinary quilts were mixed in with very extraordinary quilts, modern and traditions quilts shared display space, and the quilts came in every size and shape imaginable. I took tons of photos, but I've chosen those I consider most unique or interesting to share with you.

Applique in log cabin blocks. Yum!
From a distance this looks like a traditional pattern made with batiks. But look how that curved piece is made. Clever! Think I might want to give this technique a try one of these days.

The quilting on this just blew my mind! This isn't a little bitty whole cloth quilt. It's bed size!  I can't help but wonder how many spools of thread were used.

I'm such a sucker for trees! These skinny wall hangings are at least 6 feet tall.

I love the way this bark was made! Batiks are so versatile for depicting nature.

Winter fun. More very tall quilts. Is this a new trend in wall hangings? The snow man applique is at least 4 1/2 fee tall, so the entire quilt must be 7 feet or more in height.

This tree reminds me of the one I placed in the paper pieced Christmas quilt I designed and made years ago. My tree is a good deal smaller, though, and definitely not so very tall.

A paper doll quilt! I've been wanting to design one for a very long time. The woman who made it said that she grew up playing with paper dolls. This was a gift for her granddaughter. The child liked it, but didn't know what paper dolls were. The grandmother thought that the quilt might mean more to her than it does to the grandchild

Lots of modern quilts were on display. These are a few of my favorites for today.

I'm feeling inspired!

Now I need to get busy on my own quilts. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Flying geese made with easy paper piecing.

I'm a little bit slow, but I've finally started looking ahead to autumn pattern making.  I pulled out bunches of scraps of those lovely warm autumn colors from my stash and waited for inspiration to strike.

There had to be leaves, of course.

Leaves swirling and blowing in the autumn wind.

And geese. Geese flying south like in one of my favorite poems.

Something told the wild geese,
 It was time to go, 
Though the fields lay golden. 
Something whispered, "snow." 

Yes, definitely flying geese. But there's a bit of a problem here. I have always liked flying geese borders, but working with all of those triangles makes me crazy! I am such a stickler for sharp points and perfect blocks, and I have ripped out seams and redone blocks so many times that I've often given up on flying geese.

Big blocks are easier, but I'm making a table runner, so the blocks have to be small - maximum 1 1/2" x 3".  Yikes!!

And, even for this small table runner I need a LOT of little blocks - 72, to be exact. Three triangles in each block, so that makes 216 little triangles with 648 points to make perfect!

But geese are what I want, so I'm going to make them the easy way.

Paper foundation piecing to the rescue!!

A number of my quilting friends tell me that they don't like paper piecing, that way they've always made their blocks suits them just fine.

For those of us who have been quilting for a long time and learned to quilt with more traditional methods, paper piecing may feel a bit uncomfortable. I truly balked at the idea. All of that upside-down sewing on paper looked downright weird!

Then a friend showed me a quilt she had made with paper foundation piecing. I was blown away! So, I tried it. Liked it, too. A lot! Perfect points, nice straight blocks, and all of it done quickly and easily.

Sew on the line. Cut on the line. Nothing to measure, nothing a tad too short or a little bit crooked, and perfect points every time!

This is what I've done in the past two days. I only worked for a couple of hours yesterday and a couple of hours today, but 26 of my flying geese are done.

Effortless points that even my perfectionist mother would approve. 

Here is a mini-tutorial for making these:

I started by making a pattern template.  

I worked in groups of four blocks. I made six sets of four, and one set of two flying geese blocks to give me the 26 that I needed for the top of my table runner. I may make a template for groups of six blocks as well. The larger the grouping, the easier it all becomes.

There is some waste of fabric, but if the pieces are cut just a bit larger than they would be otherwise, the fabric lost is minimal. 

Step 1: Photocopy the pattern templates. I use the cheapest copy paper I can find for this. It's lighter weight and tears away easily.

Cut out the triangles. 
4 5/8" squares cut twice diagonally are used for the geese.

2 5/8" squares cut in half diagonally work well for the background triangles.

Hold the first goose triangle on the wrong side of the paper with the right side of the fabric facing out. Hold up to the light to see that it is positioned correctly.

Place the background triangle for the number 2 piece about 1/4" from the stitching line. The right side of this piece will be facing the green goose segment.
Make sure that you are using a very short stitch so the paper will tear away easily. 

Sew directly on the line between pieces #1 and @2.

View from the right side of the fabric.
A little bit off? Won't matter at all.

Trim edges fairly even.

Fold the background piece back and press.

Lay the next background piece against the geese block.

Check agains the light to make sure it is accurately lined up.

Stitch on the line between piece #1 and piece #3.

Trim, fold back...

Not even? Not a problem.

Add the next piece in the same way as the others. 

Stitch, trim, fold back, press.

Continue until all the geese blocks in this row are assembled.

Trim right on the solid lines for the seam allowance.

Tear the paper away.
Sew the sections of blocks together.
Add the flying geese strip to the quilt.


I love paper foundation piecing, but it may not be your cup of tea. If you've never tried it, though, do give it a whirl. Who knows, it may prove to be a real time saver.

Happy Stitching!