Category Archives: Quilting

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!

Finished Quilts

It’s done!

I was able to get the dining room table to myself for a few hours so that I could finish this up.

I think this might be the fastest I have ever finished a quilt, actually.  It helps that I only had to piece together two of the blocks!

I miscalculated the number of blocks that were coming my way, so I had a couple that had to be included on the back, but actually, I really like how these two are framed by larger pieces of fabric.  It highlights them.  Hmmm, maybe I see a kernel of an idea for a new quilt in there somewhere.

The weather has been less than ideal for outdoor photos, so I had to get some help to get a good picture.    I think he enjoyed the brief break it gave him from his work.

I was in a finishing groove, so I went on to quilt up this baby quilt that I had started early fall last year.

Lately, with my sewing, I have been trying very hard to use up what I have and this quilt used up some baby fabrics that were languishing.

I’m afraid the animals did not match the scale of the pattern, so they are a little lost, but the overall effect is ok.  There is still a lot for me to learn about choosing colors and patterns together.

On the upside, I do feel that my machine binding skills are getting much better.  I like to use 2 and 1/2 inch wide strips of fabric for my binding and that’s been helping me a lot.  A little extra to fold over the edge is just what I needed!

As soon as I can get these packed up and find the address, these are going off to a charity that supplies quilts to women and children’s shelters.  I hope they cheer someone up!

Triple Sawtooth Star Block

The past few years, I have been part of a charity quilting group called do.Good.Stitches.  It’s run by Rachel over at Stitched in Color.  There are multiple groups and they each have quilters and stitchers.  Everyone makes quilt blocks every month that the quilters organize.  This way of organizing allows anyone, even the most time pressed or beginner sewer to join a circle and sew for a good cause.  It was a great way for me to have something to sew on a regular basis without the pressure that comes with choosing colors, etc.  I have learned a lot being a sewer and have discovered some new and fun techniques in the process.

My group, the Aspire Circle just went through a little reorganization and I decided to try my hand at being a quilter this time, not because I feel especially skilled at quilting, but because they needed more quilters and I could use a little more help in developing my quilting skills.

Quilters are responsible for choosing the colors and design of their month’s quilt.  All other members make blocks and send them to the quilter of the month.  Then, the quilter assembles the top, quilts it, and sends it off to the group’s charity of choice.

October happens to be my month for organizing and it has been quite a learning process already!  My first idea was a total disaster and had to be scrapped.  Sometimes, I get myself in a situation where I try to reinvent something that doesn’t need to be redone.  Basically, I was trying to figure out how to regular piece a block that is normally paper pieced.  It’s not that I mind paper piecing (that much), but I wanted a different sized block.  Anyhow, after I basically made two blocks that didn’t quite fit together, I decided I had better do something simpler.

Then, this past week, I had two sources of inspiration for our October quilt.  First, on a quilting show on the telly, I saw a layout of a quilt with varying sizes of sawtooth star blocks, from small 4 inch ones to really big 16 in ones.  I liked the look of lots of big and little stars all in one quilt.

My second inspiration came from this leaf that I found on a walk.  I loved the vibrant veining and the color combination.  Fall colors are starting to show up everywhere now and I thought it would be appropriate for October to work with the shades of fall: oranges, greens, yellows, orangey reds, and deep purples.

I also liked how the green veins in the leaf were enclosed within the red orange perimeter and thought it would be fun to try to get a similar effect with the sawtooth stars.

What do you think?  It took me several tries, but I think I finally got the cutting list and sewing order right.  For the Aspire group, I would like two blocks.  One should be with a white background like the first picture above.  The second should be reversed, like the one below.

Please let me know if you have any trouble putting these together.  Each block should finish to a 16 1/2  inch square and use two fall colors in addition to white.  My directions below use the no waste way of making flying geese blocks, but you can use whatever method you prefer.  Also, if you want to make it scrappy, that would be fine as long as you stick with just two colors (plus white) in a block.  The photos are a bit dark as I was working on them at night and there aren’t as many as I would like.  I guess I must have gotten carried away with the sewing and forgot to take a picture of each step.  Still, I hope you can figure out the layout, but just ask if you have a question!

For clarity, the cutting list below is ordered beginning with the smallest star and ending with the largest.

For the 4 1/2 inch star 

Color A (or white for reverse):

One 2 1/2 inch square for the center

Four 1 7/8 inch squares for star points

White (or Color A for reverse):

One 3 1/4 inch square for geese

Four 1 1/2 inch squares for the corners


For the 8 1/2 inch star, you will need

One assembled 4 1/2 inch sawtooth star

White (Color A for reverse)

Four 2 7/8 inch squares for star points

Color B (White for reverse)

One 5 1/4 square for geese

Four 2 1/2 inch squares for corners


For the 16 1/2 inch star, you will need

One assembled 8 1/2 inch star in a star block

Color B (White for reverse):

Four 4 7/8 inch squares for star points

White (Color B for reverse):

One 9 1/4 inch square for geese

Four 4 1/2 inch squares for the corners.


Assembly:

Beginning with the pieces for the 4 1/2 inch star, make 4 flying geese blocks as follows.

Draw a diagonal line on the wrong side of each of the 1 7/8 in blocks.

Take the 3 1/4 inch square and lay two 1 7/8 inch blocks in opposite corners, lining up the drawn lines like this.

Sew a line 1/4 away on both sides of the drawn lines.

Cut on the line.

Press the seam towards the colored side.

Place another 1 7/8 inch square in the remaining corner of each piece, with the line going in the other direction.

Sew, cut, and press as before.  You will have 4 flying geese blocks that measure 1 1/2 inch by 2 1/2 inch.  Check this and do any necessary trimming before going on.  I like to trim those little triangles that stick out.

Sew the block together, trying to press towards the color side as much as possible, if you can.

Next, get your pieces for the 8 1/2 inch block.  Make four flying geese blocks in the same way as before but this time you will use the 5 1/4 inch block and the 2 7/8 inch blocks.  The finished geese should be 2 1/2 by 4 1/2 inches.

Assemble the 8 1/2 inch block as before.

Lastly, add the final layer by making four more flying geese blocks with the 9 1/4 inch square and the four 4 7/8 inch squares.  These blocks should measure 4 1/2 by 8 1/2 inches when done.

Assemble the final block together, press,  and admire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s All Getting Away

Well, it seems like every time I blink, two weeks passes by.  How does this happen?  I don’t know, but I hear it happens to everyone, so I am trying not to let it get to me.  There’s a lot happening around here and most of it is good, I think.  Here are some things I have been working on, in no particular order.

First: Knitting. The last time I talked knitting, I was trying to decide what to knit while watching the Olympics.  I ended up deciding on a sport weight pullover called Polwarth by Ysolda Teague.  Out of my stash, I dug out some sport weight yarn called Brigantia by Spirit Trail Fiberworks that is a polwarth and silk blend.

After doing a quick gauge swatch, I cast on during the opening ceremonies and attempted to do brioche stitch for the first time while watching.  For the most part, I did not find the brioche stitch all that challenging, but the little triangle gave me some trouble.  The shaping directions for the triangle were a bit confusing, but I muddled through.  I think it looks pretty good, but not perfect.

The rest of the sweater is mostly stockinette stitch, which is great for watching sports.  Unfortunately, by the time the second week came around, I was growing bored with it and for some reason, the track and field events were not holding my attention as well as the swimming in the first week.  Despite my ennui, I plodded ahead and by the end of the closing ceremonies last night, I had finished all but half of a sleeve.

Even though I did not finish, I am pretty happy with how much I got done, considering I really only knit while watching the olympics.  The last half sleeve should only take another night or two of knitting and then I’ll have a new sweater!

Second: Baking.  Blueberry season is pretty much over (sad face) and peach season never arrived up here in New England.  A couple of frosty days in February and March killed almost all of the peach crop in the New England states.  We’ve had to rely on the grocery stores for our peaches (another sad face).  Last week, I was able to score a bunch of organic peaches that were pretty good and was really happy to make these peach buns.

I have waited two years for this peach bun.  It brings back so many happy MD memories that make me homesick, but it doesn't feel like summer unless I make them.  #breadbakingday #crumbtopping #peaches #missingmd #nopeachpickingthisyear

These are my version of the traditional Baltimore Peach Cake and to say that we love them would be an understatement.  Since I posted this picture on Instagram, I’ve had a few requests for a recipe.  It’s really something that I have cobbled together over the years by combining a brioche recipe and a crumb topping recipe.  All you need is a good brioche recipe (here’s one if you don’t have one) and your favorite crumb topping recipe.  Combine those with peaches and you have a wonderful fruity breakfast or afternoon snack bun.  I froze a bunch of blueberry ones, which I think will be good.  The peach ones do not freeze well and are best eaten within 24 hours, just so you know.

Third: Sewing/Quilting.  Gift quilts are so tricky to sew because I can’t show any photos anywhere until the recipient receives it and then sometimes I just forget.  So here are two small ones I have finished in the past year.  The first is a baby quilt for a dear friend.

If the fabrics looks odd, it’s because 13 different people went out and picked a fabric to represent themselves and sent them to me to put together a quilt.  It was really fun to see what everyone picked and a fun challenge to figure out how to put them together in a quilt.  I just realized I don’t have a photo of the whole quilt, but that’s ok.  I love that it is being used by that cutie pie!

The second quilt is for my dad that will go well with in his log cabin in the woods.

He picked out the fabric a couple of years ago and I finally got it finished (almost-I was a week or so late) in time for his birthday last month.

I made the front and back different so that it could be displayed in two different ways.  It was more work that way, but I like the way it turned out.  Hopefully, he does, too!

I’ve also finished another couple of blocks from my craftsy block of the month class.  Sewing progress was minimal the last couple of weeks because of the heat and all the knitting I was doing.  I’d like to get back to that and finish off the blocks for the class and then get back to sewing the Splendid Sampler blocks.

Fourth:  I have a bad case of wanting to start lots of new projects.

Today, I plan to cast on a mystery knit along shawl by SusannaIC using the yarn above, and I want to join in on the Fringe Association’s Top-down sweater knitalong.  That last one might just take more brain energy than I have right now.  There are about five other sweaters I would like to start as well as a couple of other little things. Oh, if only there was more time in the day!

What do you want to work on today?

One Cool Day at a Time

So far, this has been a really hot summer.  We were told when we moved to New England that it is normal here for houses not to have central air conditioning.  Why install an expensive air conditioning system when it will only be used for a few weeks out of each year?  Well, all I have to say is that we have most certainly wanted/needed air conditioning for more than a few weeks so far this summer and the summer is far from over.  Although we have some window AC units, we are not able to cool every room in the house with them which means some rooms are pretty much being unused during the hot days.  One of those rooms contains my sewing/quilting supplies.  As a result, even though I usually sew quite a bit over the summer when our daily schedule is lighter, I have not been sewing much lately, except on days when the temps don’t reach 80 degrees.  Those days have been few, but with much relief, we have had several this week.

This past weekend, as soon as the highs dipped below 80, I started sewing.  Right now, I am working on getting caught up with Amy Gibson’s Sugar Block Club.  She releases one block pattern a month.  I abandoned the project back in March when the kitchen renovation took over our lives.  Here finally is April.

May

June

And today I finished July.

My goal is to combine these blocks with the blocks from her free Craftsy Block of the Month class from 2012 to make a new Queen sized quilt for the guest bedroom.  As long as the weather is cool and my schedule stays uncluttered, I’ll be attempting to make a block a day until I am caught up.  The blocks are fun to make and there is a good deal of variety, so it does not get boring.  I also like the scale of the blocks.  They are not so small as to be fiddly, but also not too big and cumbersome.  I’m trying to use scraps as much as I can as I feel they have been getting out of control lately.  Hopefully, this will not make them look odd together?

Of course, the forecast is calling for another hot spell, so I’ll have to find something else to occupy my time for a few days.  Maybe this will help.

 

There are two days left to decide what I am going to knit during the Olympics and as usual, I am in the throes of indecision.   Should I knit a sweater, a shawl, or socks? It has to be easy enough to knit while watching the Olympics, so I dug out all my worsted weight and chunky yarn, but now I am concerned that it will be too hot to knit something chunky in August.  Maybe a lace shawl would be better?  But lace can be complicated and the last thing I want is to lose my place in a chart while watching the swimming finals.  I could just knit plain socks and see how many I can churn out over the course of 17 days.  I did this with mittens four years ago.  Hmm.  The only thing I know for sure is right now is that I will be casting on something new during the opening ceremonies on Friday.  What about you?  Do you knit or craft while you watch tv?