19 September 2011

update on the crazy

Got the place mats sewn up (at least 6 of them, that is).

I do like using that quilt-as-you-go technique for these reversible guys... makes things go so much faster. And keeps it interesting!
(both sides of one mat)

The next few days are dedicated to binding. Whew!

17 September 2011

I'm either crazy or stupid

About 2 weeks ago a good friend of mine contacted me to ask if I would be interested in donating a set of place mats to the Rose Festival Auction happening in October. The Rose Festival is one of Portland's major annual events, with a year of fundraising and organization, and about 2 months of various attractions, events and festivities culminating in a fair, festival, parades and a crowning princess.

I have a few sets of place mats already made, and I just figured that I would use one of those, but by the time I got the donation form a few days ago, I still hadn't decided on a set to use. That says to me I wasn't prepared to fall back on ANY of the ones I already have in stock. Dagnabit! Oh, and I have to have them done in less than a week!

Soooo, I sat up for over an hour in the middle of the night on Thursday with fabric combinations and selections swimming in my head, trying to figure out HOW I would get all of this done. I already had in my possession a good amount of a Valori Wells print from her new line, Wrenly

And my solution: pick up some of the green color way in the same print, find coordinates for both, and go to it! So, after over-sleeping (due to my 3-4:30am interlude) I grabbed some coffee on the go and headed down to visit Marie at good ol' Cool Cottons. And boy-howdy, she worked her magic, put my fears at ease and helped me get psyched for this unapproachable prospect.

I started by pulling together close to 8 prints for each side (color combo):

These selections eventually got edited down to 6 fabrics per side:

One of the things that Marie and I had discussed was bringing in a grey fabric with the greens, but it had to be just the right grey... and I got back to my studio, auditioned just about every grey-green, green-grey, green-aqua, grey-white (you get the picture) I found on the shelf, but then there was the hidden gem of what remains of my Jay McCarroll Woodland Wonderland squares. And it must have been meant to be, because once I cut what I needed for the project, I was left with this:

Friday afternoon was dedicated to the laundering of the new fabric, planning and cutting. I got far enough to lay out 1 set of six reversible mats, which will be sewn to the batting tomorrow.

Yes, it WILL get done. And binding on Monday is the plan.

14 September 2011

Half-Square Triangle Block

Over the last week I was working on blocks for a quilt block swap on Flickr, which I've already mentioned in a couple previous posts, the Nubees Block Swap. The block design that I came up with is a half-square triangle configuration (I've been doing a lot of those HSTs of late, I notice!).

When I posted the photos to Flickr, I was asked where I found the pattern, so I answered as best I could, but in all honesty, I pretty much just played around in my sketchbook with different HST configurations until one jumped out at me as being able to highlight 3 main colors (with some inspiration from a great ol' book I've had for years - Spectacular Scraps, by Judy Hooworth and Margaret Rolfe).

So, here is a little tutorial on these blocks (measurements are for a 12" finished block):

Start with a background fabric, plus 2-3 main colors (I chose to use prints that combine the 2 or 3 colors for the center section, then focus the middle and outer sections on one color each). You will need a total of (8) 4" squares of the background - mine is the grey solid, and (12) 4" squares of your prints - I went with 4 prints for each of the 3 sections.

Now, I will preface this whole thing with the warning that there IS a fair amount of waste in this, unless you choose to do multiple blocks with the same fabrics (in which case you will need more squares of the background fabric), or you don't mind having triangles in your scrap basket. Myself, I prefer to keep my scraps to squares, rectangles and strips, so this was a little tough for me (I actually still have a pile of all of the extra triangles from doing the swap blocks that I can't get myself to discard or cut down just yet). Alrighty, on with the lesson!

Take your squares that will comprise of the center diamond and the outside corners only (4 background pieces and 8 prints) and cut them once, diagonally.

We will be using both halves of the background squares, but only one half of each of the prints. I

Stitch blocks together in pairs, one background triangle with one print triangle, stitching along the long side.

Now, for the middle section HSTs, take a slightly different approach, as we will be needing both sides of all of the 4 prints *(unless you choose to use a more scrappy approach, which I'll touch upon at the end of the tutorial). Instead of cutting the squares diagonally, just pair up a square of background with a square of print, right sides together,
and DRAW a diagonal line from corner to corner. There are many tools for this. I tend to prefer using either a blue water-soluble marker or one of the Bohn or Sewline ceramic chalk mechanical pencils.

(the marking lines are a little faint for the photos, but trust me I could see them!)

Use the pencil lines as guides for your 1/4" seam allowance. Stitch 1/4" on either side of the line.

At this point you should have: (4) 4" squares of a background and print fabric stitched together on either side of a diagonal center line and (8) triangle pairs of one background fabric and a print.

Next step, cut along the center line on the (4) squares, to get (8) more triangle pairs. Press open, with the seam allowances all going to the same side (background if you used a darker color, otherwise press toward the prints on each).

After your blocks are pressed, it's time to trim them down. They need to measure 3 1/2", and will likely need 1/16 - 1/8 inch trimmed to acheive that. The best way to trim and square up HSTs is to use a rotary cutting ruler that has a 45 degree guide line from at least one CORNER of the ruler. Line this guide up with your center seam, making sure the edges of the block extend beyond the 3 1/2" mark on every side.
Cut along two edges, then flip the block around, lining up the trimmed edges exactly to the 3 1/2" guides on the ruler. Trim the other 2 sides.

Now for the fun part! Lay out your blocks on the table, keeping your 3 sections separate - (4) HSTs making up the center diamond, (8) HSTs making the faux flying geese sections surrounding the center, and then (4) corner blocks. We will be making a block that is 4 rows of 4 blocks each. If you picture it in quarters, have all of the print fabrics pointing in toward the center. Play around with configuration until you land on a combination that feels balanced. Lay out the blocks with the final orientation on your sewing table.
You may choose to leave the blocks laid out as such, as you start piecing your rows across, but I like to make tidy piles, so that I can work on more than one block at a time (again with the chain piecing love!) I just stay consistent with how I stack my blocks, going from left to right, top to bottom.

Sew your blocks together into the horizontal rows, then press. For this swap I chose to press my seam allowances open, which allows the recipient more flexibility in putting his or her various blocks together. For myself, I would choose to press seam allowances to one side, alternating directions on each row.

Then piece your rows together, matching up block corners at the seams. Anyone who knows me in real life knows that I am not much of a gadget person - I have the basic tools and use them to the best of my ability and advantage. HOWEVER, I will say that I LOVE the Clover fork pins for matching seams and points.

Press seams (open) and VOILA!

*Coming back to that scrappier look... to do something like this guy:
...the only real difference will be in the number of print fabrics you start with - 16 total instead of just 12. And you will begin by splitting ALL of your initial 4" squares diagonally before stitching, since you won't need both sides of any of the print fabric (for just a single block).

Whew! I hope this doesn't leave anyone with more questions than they began with!! Have fun and do me a favor by leaving me a message if you try this tutorial and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping in!

a quick baby quilt (or wall hanging)

The other evening I was paging through my sketchbook so far this year and landed on a page for a really simple crib-sized quilt that I penciled in May. I had played with the design in EQ7, as well as typing out instructions a few weeks ago. Here are some of the theoretical sketches from the EQ program:
So, I decided that after finishing my last 2 blocks for the Nubees Block Swap I would try my hand at bringing this quilt to fruition. And if you are going to do one, why not do two at the same time?? I decided to make one as a baby (or kid's) quilt, and try the other one as more general, using a print from Amy Butler's Soul Blossom line.
I managed to choose the fabrics from my stash (only 4 per quilt top), cut and piece both quilt tops in one afternoon. Boy how I love chain piecing! I'm definitely looking forward to doing more of these, perhaps sticking to kids' quilts and bringing in more brights, like that second illustration above. But it was certainly nice to start and finish a top in one day! It's been a long time since I have done that, or even started a new project at all besides the individual block swaps. More to come, indeed!

12 September 2011

Almost official

SURROUNDED BY SCRAPS is on its way to becoming an official entity in the state of Oregon. As y'all have been privy to, it has a place of operation, and now a PO Box. This afternoon I filled out the form to register a new business entity in the form of an LLC in Oregon, and hopefully I did it without any mistakes. I'm tingling with excitement!

10 September 2011

one bee continues, and a new swap begins

This month for the Seams Perfect bee on Flickr, Brianna switched things up a bit. She sent each of us some bits of fabric that she's been collecting over time. Her goal is a bedcover for the future guest room in a house she has not yet moved into, and she wants to play with negative space between the blocks. Because of the open-ended finished design, she merely made suggestions on the block style (square within a square) for coherence, but asked for different sized finished blocks. My initial intention was to make 3 different blocks, one of which would be on the smaller side of things, but somehow the smaller one grew so I could get the right combo of prints and colors, and I ended up with 2 blocks between 14" and 16".
The outer border seemed a little weak to me, so...
Now, on to the new swap I've joined. This was a hard decision for me, only because I feel like I have had some bum luck on the last couple of swaps in which I've participated. For the I *heart* the '80s swap I believe that I am the only member remaining who has NOT received her item. And the ship date was August 1st. The last communique I got from my swap mama indicated that my partner dropped the ball on tracking the package (though I am honestly dubious). And so it goes. The previous swap I participated in through Flickr I felt was kind of lazily administered. I got my item, and though it's nice, it's not a great fit, and there was a detail about the pairings that I thought was less-than-thoughtful. Even in real life swaps I've gotten the short straw - my guild did a block swap, where we were to finish a small item for the original designer to be returned to her. That was in May, I think. No sign of that one, either. But THIS swap is new, with a short turn-around, and from what I can tell a very attentive and vigilant administrator. the Nubees block swap is a one-month commitment, with hives of 6 members each. You work from your own stash, choosing one uniform block design for the month, and conforming the colors to your hive mates' preferences. For example, one of my hive mates wants to do a (relatively) traditional Christmas quilt sampler, so this is the block I made for her:
Another of the hive mates is doing a housewarming quilt for her son, for his first apartment, and wanted to go with black, red and white modern look:
I've gotten 4 of the 6 blocks for this month done (6 including myself). Here are two more:
I'm having fun (as I tend to do with these block swaps / bees) and am happy to have a chance to participate this month, but we'll see what next month brings. Hopefully better success with swap items than I have had the last few months.

More Jay McCarroll blocks

Earlier this week I managed to make two more of my wonky flying geese blocks with the Jay McCarroll Habitat challenge fabric. One I like more than the first, the other is, well, alright.
I think that finding the right contrast is key for this block design. And it's tough to actually see how they will combine until it's all together. Here are all 3 together:

05 September 2011

do.Good Stitches for Sept.

This month for the Bliss circle of do.Good Stitches, Carol, a.k.a. Orangebird242 requested a completely new kind of block to me. She requested blocks using a log cabin construction, but the logs are to be made using a strip-pieced fabric. Carol guided us to a blog entry by Joan, a.k.a. Wishes, True and Kind to get the pieced fabric swath together. This is how mine turned out:
Our fabrics are to be all solids, in medium to dark blues, greens and purples, EXCEPT the center squares, for which we were asked to use a contrasting color, and could incorporate a simple print. So, I started by slicing off a few strips from my pieced fabric
and then applying them to my chosen centers, going around, just like a regular log cabin block.
Until I ended up with 3 blocks, each approximately 8".
I decided to send the section of the pieced fabric that I did not use back to Carol, in the hopes that she might be able to use it if she needs to build out more blocks than what is received in the group. This was an interested technique for using up left-overs (though I actually had to cut strips from yardage for this particular project), but I'm not sure if it's one that I'll try again - only time will tell, I suppose.