Category Archives: design

Scrappy Improv Heart Blocks

A couple of nights ago, I woke up in the middle of the night, and, in that semi slumber state when I was letting my mind wander while trying to go back to sleep, I thought of a solution to a puzzle that had been nagging me for a couple of weeks.  I love it when things like this happen.  It proves what I tell my kids all the time when they are working on something and having trouble with it: Go away and do something else.  Your brain will keep working on it even when you don’t think you are thinking about it.  This is especially true for creative endeavors like writing, but can also be true for more quantitative puzzles.  Our brains are amazing.

Now, the result of my midnight ponderings is this block for the June quilt of my do. good stitches group, aspire circle.  I wanted something really scrappy because my scrap bins have been filling up lately, but I did not just want to dig through my scraps for pieces that would “fit” in a pattern.  What I really wanted to do was use up were those little odd shaped triangle scraps and other little odd shaped scraps that are hard to fit anywhere else.  However, I didn’t want it to turn out to crazy looking, which is often what happens when you just throw a lot of scraps together.  I had been playing around with an idea to make heart blocks and, in the middle of the night, I hit upon an idea to marry the two ideas together.

The heart portion of the block is pieced using an improvisational piecing method that I read about here.  I started off by piecing together a bunch of little odd shaped blocks.

Generally speaking, I just tried to pick two pieces that had one side that were approximately the same length and then sewed those sides together.  Sometimes, I chose a few at a time like below, and sometimes I started with one piece and dug through my scrap bin until I found one that matched nicely.

Once you have a bunch of little pieced blocks, it’s important to trim them a little before going on to add more.  You want to cut off those little tails and just straighten up the edges to make it easier to keep piecing.  I tried not to add pieces that would make it look too regular because I was going for a more random look.

Generally speaking, I tried to have mostly straight edges with obtuse angles.  Once your pieces start to get bigger, this becomes more important.   You don’t want all those inside angles because it is hard to add pieces at those spots.

The goal was to get a piece that I could trim to 6.5 by 12.5 inches for each half of a heart.  When my pieces started getting bigger, I started to try to match them up a little to make rectangular-ish shapes.

For each pair of hearts, you will need two of these pieces, with some extra for the middle of the smaller heart.  The final pieces before trimming looked quite crazy!

However, once trimmed down, it looked much neater.  If your trims a big, save them.  You might need them for the smaller heart.

Once you have two rectangles each measuring 6.5 by 12.5 inches, you will need cut your background pieces.  I used just plain white.  You will need:

two 6.5 inch squares in white

four 3.5 inch squares in white

Draw a diagonal line on the wrong side of each background square.

Here are the pieces you need for the big heart.

 

Right sides together, match a large background square to one end of a scrappy block and sew on the line.  Then, sew another line 1/2 inch away from the diagonal line on the corner side.

Now, do the same with the 3.5 inch blocks in the top corners of the scrappy block.  Here’s what you will have after this step for each half heart.

Now, cut in between the sewn lines.

Do this again to the second scrappy block, making sure that the diagonal line is mirrored for the bottom of the heart.  In the picture below, you can see how I made sure I was mirroring the pieces before I got too far in my sewing.

Iron the pieces and then add the other corner block in the same way.  You will end up with two halves of a heart.

Sew the two halves together to make a big 12.5 inch square scrappy improv heart block.

Now, we will use up those odd half square triangles to make the smaller scrappy heart.  You should have 4 small and 2 large half square triangles.

You will need to trim the half square triangles (HST)  down to make an 8.5 inch square heart.

Each small HST should be trimmed to 2.5 inch squares.

Each large HST should be trimmed to 4.5 inch squares.

You will also need:

One 2.5 by 8.5 inch scrappy rectangle.

For this, I sewed some trimmings together to make a piece big enough to trim down.  How’s that for using up scraps!

For the background, you will need to cut

two 2.5 by 8.5 inch strips in white

two 2.5 by 12.5 inch strips in white

Altogether, you should have this:

Sew all the pieces together, beginning with the heart and then adding the background sashing pieces to make a 12.5 inch square block.

My favorite thing about making this is that you essentially can make two blocks for not much more effort than making one.  I must admit to feeling a little proud of these blocks and they were such fun to make.   I still have a lot of scraps, so more of these might be in my future.

For now, I am really looking forward to seeing what my friends from the aspire circle will make with this method.  It should be a fun and cheerful quilt!

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Clearing Up

Happy New Year to you!  I hope that you had a wonderful break from your normal routines.  We sure did enjoy ours.  It was very full of baking, travel, and spending time with good friends.   Now that it is over, I can feel just how good it was to take a break from the everyday work of our regular lives.  We really needed that physical and mental break!

Also, now that I am not a crazy person who bakes every moment of every day, I have really enjoyed revisiting my other hobbies: quilting and knitting.  On the quilting front, I was able to get my charity quilt for do.good.stitches organized for machine quilting.  I’m doing simple straght-ish lines because my machine is really basic and doesn’t really do free motion quilting that well.

I do really love all the blocks that came in for this quilt.  I’ve got all the horizontal lines done and just need another afternoon or two to get the vertical ones done as well as the binding.  The only trouble is that I really need to do the quilting on the dining room table in order to be able to have enough space to move it around.  Unfortunately, the dining room is also the most used space of the house!  Well, maybe I can convince the boys to go somewhere else to work for a day or two if I give them enough chocolate!

This week, I also took an afternoon to take a hard look at all my knitting projects and my yarn.  I took out every work in progress and asked myself if I really liked the yarn and wanted the finished product.  After ripping out three projects, I was left with a few that I felt could be finished rather easily and quickly.  A couple of dedicated knitting evenings meant that I had a handful of things that needed a bath.

Clockwise from the top right are: Fraxinus from Ysolda’s 2016 club, Mareel from Knitworthy3, an 1898 hat that I gave to the husband for Christmas, a cowl that I made from a blanket strip from Blanket Statement, and in the middle is a really old Andean Chullo hat that just needed its crown finished.

I’m really happy with all of these, except for the Llama hat.  After blocking, it turned out too big for anyone.  I started that hat years ago and let’s just say that my stranded knitting skills have greatly improved since then and I am not happy with how uneven it looks.

My happiest finished object of the bunch has to be the cowl I made from the unfinished blanket strip.  Oh, how I love blankets, but Oh, how I hate to knit them!  I thought maybe a club knit along atmosphere would help me with that, but alas, though the spirit was willing, other projects were just more interesting.  As I was holding it in my hand, wondering if I should rip it out, the thought of turning it into a cowl suddenly came to me.  It was just the right length.  Eureka! Fifteen minutes later, I was sewing in the ends and giving it to my older son who expressed an interest in it.  I just love it when things like that happen.

With my Mareel shawl, I was able to use the new blocking pads and wires that the husband gave me recently.  They worked like a charm!  Blocking shawls is not always my favorite thing to do, so anything that makes it faster, more accurate, and easier is great in my book.  I especially like the fabric that has 1 inch grids that came with the blocking mats.  With that underneath the shawl, it was easy to make the points symmetric–something that is always challenging to do with a shawl.

Oh, and I almost forgot!  I did manage to finish a secret sweater project for the husband for Christmas.

I designed the sweater as I went along, but couldn’t really talk about it here because it was, you know, a surprise.  The most challenging part of the sweater was sewing in the zipper along a steeked opening.  I used a sewing machine, which has a tendency to push stitches along as it sews, so even though I basted in the zipper, I had to redo it to make the colorwork pattern line up properly.

Also, I am worried that the steek will start to unravel as the garment is worn, even though I reinforced it with two lines of sewing–time will tell!

Overall, I am happy with it, though there are a couple of things I would do differently if I were to do it over again.  The collar does not quite come up far enough and it is also a bit tight when fully zipped.  He’ll just have to go for a casual, partially zipped look when he wears it!  The important part is that it fits, which is always a worry when one is knitting a surprise sweater.

What about you?  Have you been doing any organizing or clearing out?  I’ve got some more to do in my sewing room, but that will have to wait for another day.  I’ve got a little startitis to work through.