Category Archives: Sewing
Last night, I heard from our backyard the first spring peeper peeping. He sounded a little slow and lonely with no one answering him, but he made me feel hopeful. Signs of spring are popping up and this long winter will soon be behind us.
I haven’t been doing a lot of sewing the past few months, but I’m on the schedule for my do.good.stitches charity quilting group to plan the quilts for April and May. So, this week, I thought I should probably get working on some plans! Naturally, I started with the last quilt that I organized, way back in October! At some point, I had pieced all the blocks together to get a top, but it needed a back. I had a few extra blocks that I decided to try to incorporate into the back, which meant that I needed to piece the back. It took awhile, and lots of pieces, but I did manage to get it done and sandwiched with some batting.
I am very pleased with the front. As for the back…well, I’m not so happy with that. I think the quilt blocks kind of get lost in all the different fabrics I used, but I’m going to leave it alone.
I didn’t have time to quilt it this week, but I hope to get to it in April sometime. It would be good to finish because I’ve got two more charity quilts that will be coming in for me to assemble in the next couple of months. I really needed to get those planned first.
The first block I planned was inspired by the book, No Scrap Left Behind by Amanda Jean Nyberg of the blog CrazyMomQuilts. In the book, she makes a scrappy rail fence quilt that I thought would be a great way to use up some of those strip scraps that everyone has in their scrap bins. I pulled out a bunch and cut up strips that were 5 inches long and anywhere from 1 to 1.5 inches wide. As it turns out, most of them were blue or pink, so I decided to go with that for my color scheme.
Once sewn randomly together, I trimmed them down to 4.5 inches by 12.5 inches long. Then, I paired two of them with a white print of the same size to get this.
For my quilt group, I am asking for three of these 12.5 square blocks.
For my next quilt block, I really wanted to used up some scrap half square triangles that I have been collecting for awhile. Whenever I have a block that calls for sewing two squares together and then trimming them, I always sew another line a half inch from the original line.
Then, after trimming, I get a lot of these little half square triangles.
This is just a small sampling. I actually have a bin half full of them. Many are small, like this, made from sewing 2.5 inch squares. Some are larger, though. I picked out some that I had in sets of 8 and decided to sew up some sawtooth stars. For the center, I also pulled from my scrap bin.
These little stars measure 5.5 inches, finished. I have long been inspired by Lynn Carson Harris, who also wrote an incredible quilt book about using scraps called Every Last Piece. Her Stardust quilt has always captivated me. For my second quilt block, I thought we could do something similar, but on a different scale and more improv-like. I had been looking for ways to use up some low volume scraps, and I thought it would be fun to combine those scraps log cabin style with these scrappy sawtooth stars.
I just started pulling out strips of those low volume scraps and started sewing without much of a plan, not really bothering if the strip was too long or if it was a true rectangle. It helps to iron and trim after sewing on each strip. This resulted in some slantiness, but I decided that I liked that. Halfway through, I also decided they would probably be more visually interesting if the stars were offset from the center.
I trimmed these blocks to be 14.5 inches square. I found from my Trip Around the Garden quilt that 24 of those sized blocks make a nice twin size quilt.
I’m asking everyone in my group to make at least two. The stars can be any size, as long as it is not bigger than 6 inches. I want there to be a lot of negative space between the stars. I kinda went a little crazy and made four because they were just that much fun. With the number of half square triangles in my bin, I could make a lot more, but I ran out of low volume scraps.
Well, I hope everyone in my group enjoys making these blocks. I can’t wait to see all the blocks I get and how they look together.
Have a blessed Easter, everyone!
Hi everyone! I can’t believe it is October already. Time seems to be flying by this year. It’s already fall. Fall is really my favorite season of the year because it is such a huge relief after the heat of the summer to have cool weather. I love the crisp air and the changes in color and light during this season. The evenings seem cozier because the sun is going down earlier. I start to think about baking things all the time because the house is finally cool enough to turn on the oven. However, that did not happen last week. Last week, we had a heat wave in which temps around here in New England reached almost to the nineties and we had our air conditioners on every day. That wasn’t very fall-like weather! I think the heat got to me because when I remembered that October is the month for me to plan the quilt for my charity quilt, I turned to bright summery-springy colors instead of autumn.
This month, I really wanted to keep things simple because I just don’t have a lot of time right now to do anything too complicated. I also wanted to try this technique of making trip around the world blocks. Basically, you sew strips of fabric together in a tube, slice them, and then rip out one seam in each slice to create a block that has a diagonal pattern to it. When you put them all together, they can make a nice all over repeating pattern. If that didn’t make sense, I’ll show you step by step.
First, you will need 7 strips of fabric, each 2.5 inch by 18 inches long. For my Aspire Circle friends, I am requesting:
1 strip of white
2 strips of pink
2 strips of green
2 strips of yellow
Arrange them like this: Pink, green, yellow, white, pink, green, yellow
Using a Scant 1/4 inch seam sew them together along their length. The last seam, you will sew the first and last strips together to get a fabric tube. Pay attention to your scant. If you are off a little, the accumulation of all the seams will make your block too big or small if the seam allowance is not just shy of 1/4 inch. Ask me how I know.
Now, line up a bottom seam with a line on your cutting mat and trim a little off the edge to make it nice and straight. Then, you want to cut 2.5 inch strips. You should end up with 7 identical strips, each in a tube and two little trimmings to just throw away.
Now, here’s where it can get a little tricky. You’ll need to make sure you go in the same direction when opening up the seams for each strip. Pick one strip and open up a seam next to the white block. Lay it on your work surface so that the white block is at the top. Then, look at color at the bottom of the strip (pink). Rip the seam that will make that color the top of your next strip (between the pink and green).
Continue in this way until you have 7 nice strips making a diagonal pattern on your table.
Next, you should iron all your strips, one at a time, with seams alternating directions. This is important for creating those nice nesting seams. Basically, I took every other strip to my ironing board, ironed them all at once in the same direction, and then put them back in the proper sequence. Next, I took the remaining strips and ironed them in the opposite direction. Nesting seams are not only nicer for quilting. They also make it easier to sew the strips together because your machine doesn’t have to sew through 4 layers at once.
Lastly, sew the strips together in the same order as your layout. You should a have a nice diagonal sequence of white blocks on the center, with other colors forming diagonals on either side. The block should measure 14.5 inches square.
The white blocks will create a nice diagonal effect when they are all together. Friends in my sewing circle should make at least 2, but 3 would be awesome! I think this will be a cheerful quilt and hope that it will brighten up the day of the person who gets it!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?