Thursday, March 27, 2014

Alex (with Instructions)

Alexander is the name of my stepson. His birthday is on February 15 and he turned 20 this year. He lives in Arizona and visits us from time to time. This year, I decided to make him a quilt for his birthday. Very carefully, I chose fabrics and decided on a rail-fence pattern. I knew he wanted a blue quilt. So blue was essential and I added a bit of grey. I chose batiks and matching solids.

If I were to make this exact same quilt again, I would choose a darker shade of the solid grey. It seems to stand out just a bit more than the other fabrics which all seem to blend well with each other. If you are reading this and you are a quilter, you know we are always more critical of our work than anyone else.

Just in case, someone wants to replicate this design, the Rail Fence fabric requirements and block dimensions are as follows:

Fabric Requirements
  • Blue Batik - One and a half yards
  • Grey Batik - One and a half yards
  • Blue Solid - Half Yard
  • Grey Solid - Half Yard
  • Border - One yard
  • Binding - Five Eighths of a Yard (about 20")
  • Backing - 2 yards of 108" wide backing fabric. 

Cutting the Fabric/Making the Blocks

Blue Batik - Cut into strips 3.75" (3 and 3/4 inches) by the width of the fabric (WOF). You will need 14 strips.
Blue Solid - Cut into strips 2" by WOF. You will need 7 strips.
Stitch them together (using a 1/4" seam) with Blue Batik fabric on either sides of the solid blue. The strip should be 8.5"wide by WOF. Cut into squares. The block will measure 8.5"square and look like this.

Repeat the same process for the Grey Batik/Grey Solid blocks.
You will need a total of 70 blocks - 35 blue and 35 grey. The blocks are arranged 7 by 10, see picture below. Make sure that all blue blocks are arranged horizontally and all grey blocks are arranged vertically. That will give the weaving pattern in the quilt.

The border measures 4". The finished quilt measures 64" by 88" - a twin size.

Here is the quilt top, basted. It covers a large part of my dining room floor.

See, what I said about the solid grey standing out a bit too much :-(
I used Warm & Natural Batting and I quilted it on my Janome using my favorite "stitch around the ditch" method.

Here is the finished quilt.

Paul is standing on a chair holding the quilt so that I could take a picture :-)

Here is the detail of the quilting.

And here is the label - "ALEX"

When I started quilting, the size of the quilt was somewhat of a problem and made by neck and  shoulders hurt. As I was finishing the binding, the bobbin ran out of thread. It was just a tad frustrating trying to finish this quilt. And for all these reasons (FRUSTRATION and PAIN), I decided to change the name of the quilt from "Alex's Quilt" to just plain "Alex". I love Alex and he is a fine young man but he can be a challenge. 

Kids do not come with instructions. 
Aren't you glad that I am including instructions with "Alex"?

Friday, March 21, 2014

A snow perfect day

On Sunday, I got to meet a fellow quilter and blogger - Zoanna. I so enjoyed our meeting.

I picked fabrics for a friend's quilt. And she approved my choice of fall colors for a Log Cabin Quilt. Here they are.

Monday March 17, 2014

I got up to see over 8 inches of snow on my car. Since my husband can work from home, and he was "working" when I got up, shoveling the driveway and cleaning the cars was neither a requirement for him nor his priority. He was in the middle of a work emergency while he was in his jammies.

What is a girl to do? Hey, I am a big girl, and I can take care of myself, my driveway and my car. So, I did. By the time I finished shoveling and cleaning, I was in no mood to go to work. I called my boss and took the day off - PTO.

And now I could sew to my heart's content. Yippee!!!
Time for a new project. I started and finished a not so small zippered pouch. 

I had not made these bags in a while and I feel I need more practice maneuvering the zipper foot. Speaking of the zipper foot, I had the zipper foot from my old Brother sewing machine and of course the zipper foot from my new Janome. In my zeal, I did not bother to check which zipper foot I was using. It was only after I broke two needles, did I realize the folly of my ways. I found the correct zipper foot and manged to complete the assignment. Phew! another lesson learned, another day!

I still had some time left. So I finished a few things. I completed the Whirlygig Quilt.

I also completed the rail fence quilt for Alex (post coming soon).

Look at Jonesie, inspecting the quilt. No, it is not for you!!!

So all in all a terrific day. Shoveling snow was good exercise. Exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins make me happy. Happy wives makes happy husbands.  Happy husbands support their wives and let them sew and quilt in peace. Amen!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Fabric has a mind of its own...

Fabric has a mind of its own. Believe me it does. You can measure it several times, starch it and iron it and use precise cutting tools and fancy precision rulers. Yet, it will still shift and taunt you.
Don't get me wrong. All those things - rulers, tools etc. definitely improve the quality of the outcome. But there is no way of making sure that every seam will match and every line will be completely straight. Where does that leave us poor quilters? Two things are important:
1. Respect the fabric
2. Do not expect perfection.

Some time ago, I had seen a quilt pattern/block at Love Laugh Quilt and I immediately bought striped fabric. Time passed and other quilts and baby blankets had to be made. The striped fabric sat patiently. Then, I saw some more striped fabric on sale at Connecting Threads and wasted no time in adding to my stash. Inspiration struck last night - Stripes!!! Yikes!!!

So, I pulled out the striped fabrics and noticed something.

In the fabric on the left, the stripes are not quite straight and parallel - they curve ever so slightly and waver. If the pattern you are looking to make requires (rather) precise piecing of blocks, this fabric won't work. It is cute and the bright colors might work well for something else. Oh well!
In this picture on the right, you can see that the lines on the fabric match the lines on the ruler - this is just beautiful. And this fabric, although the colors are not as bright as the first one will be my choice for making (trying to make) the near-perfect blocks with well-matched seams.

Why are these striped fabrics different? The analytical mind in me would not rest. And then I had my Aha moment - in the first fabric the stripes run selvage to selvage (bad idea) and in the second fabric they run along the length of the fabric!!! Yippee. I had actually figured something out!!!

When precision is important, make sure the stripes run along the length of the fabric. When buying fabric online, make sure that the stripes on screen look vertical (they will appear horizontal if they run from selvage to selvage). And when you are cutting the striped fabric, you will be better off to cut along the length of the fabric to maintain integrity. This is what I mean by "Respecting the Fabric"

I tell you, there are pitfalls of being self-taught, but then I do like my AHA moments!!! And speaking of AHA moments, spring came to my backyard, even if it is Fabric Spring!!!

Ideas are going to spring from my brain on to the cutting mat and the sewing machine - the fabric colors are the seeds of inspiration...

And here is one inspiration to begin the Spring Season!!!


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Quilt Layout - Half Log Cabin

Every now and then (often), I will see a block or a quilt and think - ooh that would be nice. How can I make that? Can I use jelly rolls? How big a quilt would that make and how much fabric would that require?
Well, to answer all those questions and more, I open a blank excel page and start filling the boxes with color. And then...

Let me stop rambling and just show you the picture and you will get it.

Here are the step-wise instructions.

I am going to make this using jelly roll strips, so all widths are 2.5" and the lengths are shown above.  I divided the blocks into sub-blocks (A through H) to ease the construction process. For example - B and C sub-blocks are varying lengths of white strip + dark blue strip. So, it makes more sense to stitch first and cut later.

Construction of Blue Block
A - Stitch together a white strip with a light blue strip and cut into 2.5" sections.
B & C - Stitch together a white strip with a dark blue strip and cut into 4.5" section (B) and 6.5" section (C)
D - White strip 8.5" long.

Construction of Yellow-Green Block
E & F - Stitch together a white strip with a yellow strip and cut into 2.5" section (E) and 4.5" section (F).
G - Stitch together a white strip with a green strip and cut into 6.5" sections.
H - Green strip 8.5" long.

You will need one jelly roll of white and one jelly roll of color (trust me I have done the math). Use any colors you like. There are a total of 80 blocks (40 blue, 40 yellow-green) arranged 8 by 10. The finished quilt includes 5" borders and measures 74 by 90 inches, so a twin size.

If you like it, please leave a comment. And if you can think of ways to improve this, please please please leave a comment and tell me how.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Whirlygig Tutorial

Whirlygig is a simple but beautiful block that is perfect for baby quilts.

I had several charm squares left over from previous quilts. I decided to make whirlygigs. I also decided to document each step and I took a lot of pictures, one for every step. I hope that when some newbie quilter stumbles upon my blog, they will be encouraged to try this block.

You need four charm squares (two of each color and background) to make one whirligig block. Think of it as a modified four-patch. the instructions below show you how to make two whirlygig blocks.

Here are the steps in making whirlygigs:
1. Take four background charm packs. I had white on hand. You can use any solid neutral.
Place the charm packs on your cutting mat aligning them with the lines on the cutting mat.

2. Place four color squares on top of the white squares.

3. Now place your ruler in a way that connects the 2" mark from top left corner to the 2" mark from the bottom right corner. Using your rotary cutter, cut along the ruler. I am using the triangle ruler because it is small and easier to work with than the 6 by 24.

4. Cut all four

5. Switch the pieces on the right side. Move the color to the bottom and bring the background to the front.

6. Now the white left is matched with color on the right and vice versa.

7. Flip the fabric pieces on the right over to the left, carefully aligning the cut edges.

8. Repeat for all color+background sets and arrange them in a neat stack, ready for chain piecing.

9. Chain piece :-)

10. Iron to the dark side.

11. The restitched squares will look like this. This is the basic block - 4 of these will make the whirlygig.

12. First arrange the top and bottom piece, just the corners touching.

13. Now add the pieces to the left and right, completing the pinwheel or whirlygig.

14. Once again, flip the right square over the one on the left. 

15. Chain piece :-)

16. Iron to the dark side. The resulting piece looks like this. Reorient the piece to make the whirlygig shape.

17. Place a pin to match the seams and stitch it using a 1/4" seam.

18. Once finished and ironed, you will need to trim the whirlygig square.  The finished square will be 8.5"

  • To make 35 whirlygigs you will require 70 color and 70 background 5" squares.

  • Arrange whirlygigs 5 blocks by 7 blocks. Add a 2.5" border.

  • The finished quilt top will measure about 44" by 60"

See what I got after I trimmed all 35 of my whirlygig squares.

But I also got this

I used strips from a black jelly roll to add borders. I wanted a simple border so that the colors of the whirlygigs could be the star.

A close-up picture of the whirlygigs - they look like little pinwheels in the breeze.

Finished quilt top waiting for backing, batting, quilting and binding. Ooh, don't forget to add a label.

Here is the finished quilt. I decided to call this one - "Hello Spring" 
Hope the weather Gods will be pleased!!!

If you have any questions, please ask me. And thank you for stopping by.