Even though I had cut about 1,000 pieces of fabric for this project, I was about to abandon this project. I wasn’t happy with my first efforts in the new colors. I determined I would make 4 blocks and then decide on whether or not to proceed. I am glad that was my strategy because now I like the piece.
Part of why I like it is that I see a Sawtooth Star emerging. If you cover up the center and right side with your hand and just look at the right side you will see the legs of a Sawtooth Star emerging – the part that is normally formed by Flying Geese. That secondary pattern adds a design element I did not anticipate and do not see very well when I look back at the first Stepping Stones quilt.
There is better contrast, I think, in this version, though the red 4 Patches coming together in the center are a very strong design element. Looking at the previous version, I know I will have to pay attention to the border so that the Sawtooth Stars, if I want to keep them, will not be cut off. I think that means a different border.
As an aside, I fell down the Pinterest rabbit hole and saw this same pattern done in Denise Schmidt fabrics on the 3and3quarters.net blog. I was really interested in her fabric choices. I think her version looks so great! It makes me wonder anew why the Lintott girls chose the colors they did. I really dislike the examples in their book.
I have been a little on the cranky side lately – not cranky exactly, but a bit out of sorts. I am not sure why, so I blame work.
I have really wanted to sew and haven’t been able to settle on anything that demanded I get myself to the workroom and work on the project. As a result, I thought it would be a good idea to work on a project that would really be exciting to me. I like my other projects, but don’t want them to be #1 right at the moment. I know this means starting something new and not finishing things. TFQ reminded me that sewing/quiltmakingshould be fun and not something I should do. I am taking my advice and her advice.
I dug around and pulled out two Lintott books and the two Kim Bracket books I have. I perused them to see what interested me, but was still enamoured with the Stepping Stones pattern in Layer Cakes, Jelly Rolls and Charm Quilts, pg. 72-79. I have been wanting to do this in the Bonnie and Camille fabrics (remember the test?), but wasn’t really happy with the background choices. The B&C greys are a bit depressing. I think they have some taupe or brown undertones I eschew. Bottomline: they didn’t really give me the look I wanted. I bought a solid during a binge of end of the year fabric therapy with the intention of using it as a base for the background. I still want it to be scrappy, but I should be able to use it to compare other possibilities.
One PITA is that there is a lot of cutting that has to go on before very much sewing can happen. The other PITA, which I am sure I mentioned as I worked on the first Stepping Stones quilt, is that the pattern doesn’t say that I should use light medium or dark to get the overall pattern. It actually uses the colors they used, which isn’t very helpful if the maker is using different colors. To make matters worse, the photo in the book is pretty bad and I am shocked that a great publisher like David and Charles would allow such a photo to be used in one of their books.
As I worked through those problems, I realized that I really wanted to push fabric through the machine. But I didn’t want to just sew mosaic piecing; I wanted to sew with a purpose. I wanted to sew something that would make me happy. Two goals a bit at odds with each other.
I started in anyway thinking I could always stop all the thinking I had to do to get the Stepping Stones to a stage where I could just piece. I pulled out my bin of Bonnie and Camille fabrics and started pressing and cutting and placing and looking.
An odd thing happened. I gradually moved from all Bonnie and Camille fabrics to some Bonnie and Camille fabrics and other more turquoise, scarlet and pinky red fabrics. I like the Bonnie and Camille fabrics, but the overall effect of them, for me, was not cheerful enough. They have a vintage look, which I like, but somehow the feel was too calico and not quirky enough. I think of vintage quilts (as opposed to vintage fabrics) as a bit quirky and ones I like do not have the feel of small calico prints.
I really like dark pinky reds and bright turquoises. The Bonnie and Camille fabrics have softer turquoises, tending towards light blue and a lot of orangey reds.
It is interesting how pieces evolve. I am also happy that I was able to give myself permission to use more than just the Bonnie and Camille fabrics. I know that sounds odd, but stuck in my mind was a quilt with Bonnie and Camille fabrics. Moving beyond the idea of a quilt from a whole line (or series of lines) of just Bonnie and Camille fabrics required a major brain shift. I am glad, because I am able to use some non-B&C fabrics that I really like while keeping some of the Bonnie and Camille fabrics that fit in with my new vision.
Now that you have all peeled yourselves off the floor and revived yourselves with some smelling salts and a stiff drink, I will repeat that, yes, I did some free motion quilting. Kelly, the BAMQG President is issuing personal challenges and this is the first one I have really been able to do.
I got this fabric at the EBHQ show and just decided to use it for this exercise.
I decided to break up the exercise into 3 patterns, roughly the same size with the piece (1/2 yard x WOF): continuous boxes, flower petals and round swirly things.
Some of these are designs I learned in various machine quilting classes I have taken over the years. I did this exercise because of the BAMQG personal challenge, but also to test my skills.
Though I have not done a lot of machine or free motion quilting over the past few years, I am not terrible at it.I still have some skills and was able to get into a nice rhythm. I am not a pro by any stretch of the imagination and I won’t be firing my quilter any time soon, but I think I can do small pieces.
I couldn’t quite get the tension right, but the back doesn’t look horrendous. I will ask about adjusting the tension on the DC5100 when I go for lessons. I decided to concentrate on the look of the front, my speed and the length of the stitches.
I tried two different darning feet as well. Both came with my 9k. One is a hopping foot, which I don’t like that much, but ended up using on the DC5100. The other is a darning foot with no springs or hopping. It fits on to the shaft of the machine, screws in and is ready to sew. I prefer this foot as I can see better where I am headed, but it doesn’t fit on the DC5100 and no similar foot came with that machine. I also used Aurifil 50 wt thread. I used that thread, rather than the 40 wt, because I have a lot of colors and the color I wanted to use was available to me right at the moment I wanted it with no trips to the quilt store. I suspect the 9k didn’t like the speed at which I was quilting with that thin thread. It occurred to me later that I could have adjusted the tension, but I didn’t think of it before I switched machines.
I do free motion quilting at kind of a medium speed. I set the machine to that medium speed and that allows me to have better control over my stitch length.
One of the design elements I used was to go around some of the cups and fruits rather than just quilting over all of them. some of them, as you can see, I did quilt over, but many I outlined. I found it to be good practice in following a design.
I never like it when the quilting doesn’t follow the piecing, or fabric design, but getting a little recent experience with machine quilting, I am reminded of the ease of pantographs and all over designs.
My machine was not very cooperative, but it could have been the thread. I switched machines to my back up machine and that worked better, but wasn’t very comfortable. I don’t have an insert yet for the back up machine (traded in my Jem for a Janome DC5100) and quilting with it up out of the cabinet was pretty painful. Also, with the 9K down in the cabinet, I had no good place to put my legs and kept barking my shins.
The center of the Russian Rubix blocks has been bothering me.
The block is put together like a four patch. to build the 4 patch, you add large and small triangles to the octagons. This makes the block really easy to put together (you should still buy the pattern).
The problem is that this type of construction means that there are four seams that meet in the center creating a very distinct seam line. I have had this block up on the design wall trying to decide if I can live with the seam lines or if I need to piece the block in a different way. Sometimes I can’t see the seam lines and sometimes they scream like a neon sign.
As I might have mentioned, I decided to cut a square and try piecing the block with a solid square.
As you, can see from the photo (bottom right), the center looks great – seam free and pristine. The bad news is those weird angles with which I need to sew the other parts of the block.
Print fabric with a large or distinct pattern would not work for the background. The messed up fabric design (from cutting up a large print or, for example, dot fabric) would scream at the viewer
Low intensity or solid fabric would work best.
Piecing the block with a solid center will end up with some weird angles to sew.
I don’t know where I will go from here. I will probably try to sew more parts of this block together to see if the piecing is as bad as I think it will be.
I had a feeling about the background drama and decided to make a couple of test blocks using my top two background fabrics.
I am glad I did. A couple of observations:
the Russian Rubix blocks have a lot of seams
the seams seem to be in weird places, even though they make sense based on the design of the block
the fabrics I chose as potential background fabrics make the seams look very prominent.
In the photos, the backgrounds look like either would be fine. In real life the dots look better. The movement in the batik isn’t as good as I thought it would be.
These blocks are not difficult even though they look complex. The pattern is written so there is a lot of trimming. If you join in, definitely get the templates from Richard. It makes the cutting and trimming easy and painless.
“What were you thinking?????” is what I hear being screamed at me and you have every right to scream. No rending of garments or tearing of hair, please.
In certain respects, quiltmaking is an intellectual challenge for me. I want to know what makes the techniques tick, why fabric behaves the way it does and, often, what happens if….. The intellectual challenge in this case is to figure out how to make a Jelly Roll Race quilt not look terrible, to have some sort of control over what seems, essentially, to be an uncontrollable technique in terms of design.
In the back of my mind the little quilt voice was telling me to try the Jelly Roll Race technique again. It is hard to face that reality, but I have to. I don’t like failing at something unless I understand why and this is a mystifying technique.
I bought one of the Hoffman Bali Pops at PIQF (or shortly after, perhaps). I think that the first thing that makes a Jelly Roll Race more successful is to buy one with batiks. Batiks blend together really nicely and they have a depth that is subtle. I really liked the calming colors of this particular combination. I am not much of a beige person, but I was ok with the beiges in this collection, because they tended towards yellow or gold and went with the other the fabrics very well. I would buy this collection again. In fact, working with these colors and fabrics made me ask myself why I don’t buy more batiks. I don’t know if I could find the stock numbers of this particular collection and buy them all, though I suppose it is possible. I need to just buy more batiks.
TFQ was here and she arranged all the strips for me. It was very helpful, because I didn’t think to do it before hand, but really needed to do so.
Why I say I lost my mind is that this type of quilt is a pain in the neck. I forgot how much thread this technique uses and how long the seams are. I went through at least 2 bobbins of Aurifil! Ironing the piece was stultifying! This technique is just plain tedious.
We did cut half of the strips in half, which made the process more tedious. I can’t say whether it made the top more interesting or not. I need more data to decide on that point.
I do think I had some success with this quilt top, though, so some tips:
Use batiks or blendy fabrics.
Arrange all the strips in the order you want to sew them. I suggest placing the same fabrics next to each other, so they don’t end up on top of each other.
Add 2.5″x2.5″ square to the end of each strip. It adds interest to the quilt and helps move the eye around the design field.
When you fold the first long strip in half to sew the halves together to start stacking the strips, don’t be afraid to adjust the strips so that the 2.5″ squares don’t butt up against each other right off the bat.
Keep all the strips on the machine in one long chain until all the strips are sewn together. The way I did it was to sew the 2.5″ square to the strip, do the same for the next one. Continue. As soon as convenient, sew strip 1 to strip 2.
Iron seams open, but fingerpress first. This method creates less bulk
Optional: cut the long strip into lengths of about 63″ and arrange them the way you want and then sew them together. TFQ’s idea was to sew a few strips together see how it was going and then rearrange them before sewing them all together. Good advice I didn’t take.
I may try this again despite the tedium of the long seams, because I made my husband do some math (will see about making it pretty and posting it sometime) to try and figure out how to keep like fabrics from butting up against each other as the rows are sewn together.
I was still not quite ready to start this project, but I did need to decide on the background.
These two Sawtooth Stars are 4.5″ each. I used the Philip Jacobs print for the center and a couple of different background possibilities.
I really wanted the leaf print (right) from Simply Color by V&Co to work. I really like that print and wouldn’t mind having yards of it around. It would work with some of the solids I have chosen for the project, but, as you can see, with prints it would be a problem. I want the stars to be crisp and this print, sadly, makes the stars mushy.
I’ll put it on the back.
This conclusion meant that I needed to use the square dot print. I like it very much. It wasn’t what I expected to use, but I think I will like it. I wanted to do some more tests with some of the different fabrics, but the way manufacturers go through fabric lines, I had to get it quick before it was gone. The place I wanted to buy it was out, sadly ($4.20/yd!), but I found the amount I needed and am waiting for it to arrive.
I finally made the second block for the Stepping Stones test (note: when I say it is a test that means it cannot, yet, be a project). I introduced this project test in a previous post.
I finally finished the second block and it helps me see the pattern starting to emerge. It is very clear to me that the flower print with the grey background is not going to work. It muddies the line between background and the big red blob of squares that will end up center the diamond formed by the half square triangles. I like that print, but I’d like the lines to be a bit clearer than the previous Stepping Stones quilt.
I have to be clear with myself that the pattern truly emerges when the whole quilt can be seen. a few blocks just doesn’t do the thing justice.
The center of this piece has been on my design wall for a long time. I made it to try and get my head around sewing diamonds together for FOTY 2010. I didn’t feel like I could toss it even though it isn’t my best work.
Eventually, I decided to use it to test my idea for the border on the Original Bullseye. After some thought, I decided not to use my idea for the Original Bullseye, but I decided to try the border on the Test Piece anyway.
I used some fabric that I didn’t really care about for the border. I modified the directions from an old QNM article (hand applique’ was not going to happen on this piece) and went to work. I got surprising results. The surprising part was that I finally became with one mitered corners. I finally understand the ins and outs of creating a mitered corner. I have known, in a theoretical way, how to do it, but this was the first time the process and theory really made sense to my brain and hands together.
This is no masterpiece, but it does prove that quiltmakers can learn something from every piece. I find it somewhat freeing to not care about the overall piece. I have cared about each specific element or technique or process, but not the whole piece. The point of this piece is learning.
I think this might be alliteration week. First, Food Fabric FQs and now Twirling Triangles Test.
I got the Pyramid Ruler from Fons & Porter and decided, once I started sort scraps for various scrap projects, that it was time to use it.
Last weekend, one of the tasks I did was try making the Twirling Triangles patches. First I cut a strip from Kona Snow that was 4″ wide. The strips had been sitting around for a little while.
Then, I went through my scrap basket and cut pieces that were 4″x5.5″ and carefully sewed the squared scraps to the strip. Frankly, 4″x5.5″ isn’t exactly a scrap and that became apparent as soon as I started trying to cut pieces. I don’t have a lot of scraps that size. Why would I?
Once I had sewn patches to the strip, I only had to cut the Kona Snow strips to make the strips sets above. The size of the commercial printed fabric patch meant that I didn’t really have to measure. I just used the printed fabric as a guide.
The Fons & Porter Pyramid Ruler is very easy to use and that trimmed corner on the top is awesome!
Here are the test pieces laid out. This ‘block’ is about the size of a dinner plate!
I think the patches are too big, because they make blocks that will be enormous. I think I will cut them down.
I think I have pretty much decided to cut these wedges down to the size shown above. I believe the strips will have to be cut 4.5″ wide and the scraps will be cut 4″x4.5″ wide. I think it will be easier to use scraps with these sizes as well. I haven’t actually done any cutting, but will do it soon. There is always more fabric, right?
I spent some time yesterday working on the test piece. I wanted to get into the groove of sewing diamonds again. The Eye Spy feels like a long time ago. Now I think I have a better idea of the sewing, though matching the points and sides of the diamonds proved challenging. I found a book that had some tips and will take a look at that before I start the piecing.
The left hand corner section of the above photo is pieced. You can see the piece getting smaller as I piece it. There are two diamonds in the machine, which is why there is a big white space in the photo.
Aside from matching the points, I also had some trouble with the border diamonds and corners. As a result, I think I will start in the center and piece outwards. I’d like to piece the diamonds in chunks and it might work better to start piecing them in groups of four. I’ll try it and see.
I didn’t measure the finished diamonds, but you can see the significant change in size. It will be interesting to see the big piece develop.
To give you another view, I have overlaid the patch/unfinished diamond on top of the finished piece so you can see the difference.
Since I am thinking about going out and actually buying special fabric for a project, I thought it might be a good idea to test the pattern to see if I liked it. Since I finished the top and back of the Blue Janus quilt this morning, I thought it was something that I could manage.
I dug out the directions and went to work. I can’t say I was enamored with the directions from the Moda Bakeshop. It really too me a long time to make one block and I had to follow the directions step by step, because there weren’t cutting directions for one whole block at the beginning of the section where the star starts.
I redrew the block in EQ7 just to see what it would take to make some straightforward cutting directions. I can see why Charlie Scott used some fancy triangle tricks. I created rotary cutting directions in 12″ and 9″ (both finished) sizes. These blocks use quarter square triangles and the triangles need to be cut weird sizes, which I know nobody likes. Still, my directions are a lot more straightforward than those on the Moda Bakeshop page. You can cut the quarter square triangles slightly larger and then cut them down to the normal size. I hope you will be able to click on the numbers above and download the rotary cutting directions.
I am going to make another one using my directions and let you know what happens. I am not knocking Charlie Scott. I love the free patterns out there and have a really difficult time following them. I will probably put some borders on the one above and send it to Anna Maria Horner for the Rainbow project.
I have had a Sandy Gervais Merry and Bright Jelly Roll for a long time. This past weekend, I decided it was time to take the fabric strips and make the It’s a Wrap quilt. I had some other things to do, but I spent a lot of time just sewing and learning.
It was a somewhat strange experience. First, someone said they couldn’t believe I was using a Jelly Roll. I was hesitant to tell them about the pattern. I did tell her for shock value and I thought she would keel over. Sometimes, I think, by limiting choices, a quiltmaker can focus on other elements of the process. That is what I was doing, even though I didn’t start out with that intent.
One thing I learned is that there is value in trying things out: different fiber content, different construction techniques, different tools, etc. Having a pattern and the fabric choices taken care of gave me fewer decisions and I could focus on learning the pros and cons of the Jelly Roll.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Moda Bakeshop offerings are a brilliant marketing scheme. My biggest confusion with the one Jelly Roll I had was that many of the pieces were cut off grain. Nadine Ruggles mentioned this in one of her blog posts, but I got to experience it first hand. This means that my strips weren’t straight, but bowed – tending towards Cs and Ls rather than Is. This phenomenon was frustrating, but I also learned a lot about strip cutting and grain. I know that I need to line up the selvedges and trim the sides to make a straight cut. Seeing the bow in the the Jelly Roll strips made me understand (in an embedded in my mind sort of way) what cutting off grain does to strips.
I don’t have a Jelly Roll book, but I would like to know if they address that problem in the directions of the various projects. Nothing was said on my pattern.
The things I liked about the Jelly Roll:
I got a little taste of a number of different fabrics. I could do this by cutting a strip off of fabrics that I buy (on grain, of course) and saving them for a future project.
I like working with full lines of fabric just to see how the designers patterns work together. A whole line of fabric is like a complete painting to me. I get a lot of joy out of working with a designer’s creation.
The strips were already cut, so I could take my small cutting mat down to the coffee table and cut and watch TV. If I cut a bunch of strips on ‘spec, I could do this as well.
I didn’t have to decide how many yards of each to buy.
I had a limited palette to work with.
I like the fabric and a Jelly Roll was just enough to satisfy me, especially since the only reason I buy Christmas fabrics is to make gift bags.
I saw this quilt on a blog called Sister’s Choice Quilts. She also used the Merry and Bright fabric line. I have always loved the Chinese Coins pattern and the combination of Chinese coins and 4patches make this a winner. I love seeing the same fabrics in different patterns and similar patterns in different fabrics. That concept is one of the things I really like about quiltmaking.
These are the fabrics that I started with. As I was cutting the FOTY pieces, They fell together and, as I said, I wanted to do something calm and quick-ish with them. I still like the fabrics together.
Here are all the pieces cut out and ready to sew. The contrast between the two photos (first photo above and the photo directly above) is striking. The photo of the cut pieces does not convey the look I was seeking at all. I think the dots was the right background choice from among the three I pulled, but I think the background strips should have been thinner.
Above is one pieced block.
Above are 6 completed blocks. I decided that these blocks are the sum of the Hop Skip and Jump blocks I will make. I am not getting the look that I want with this pattern. The blocks are pretty small and I would have to make at least 24 more to get a lap quilt. This is more of utilitarian quilt pattern and I am not interested in making it as a wall hanging. I enjoyed the sewing, but when it was time to cut more pieces I couldn’t face the work and decided to cut my losses. Perhaps I will make someone some small placemats since I didn’t sew the blocks together.
I decided to work on the Hop Skip and Jump pattern by Denyse Schmidt (Denyse Schmidt Quilts book) as my next project right now. I rarely sew from patterns, but this one seemed like a good one to use with the blues that I had weeded out from my new fabrics. I had thought of modifying the pattern so that there were no curved pieces, but I didn’t. I am not afraid of curved piecing (note Flowering Snowballs/Cross Blocks), but each of the 16 pieces required for each block must be cut out separately. It is an arduous task, but I am into it now and will just continue on.
One problem I already had was with the copy place. The pattern directs the maker to enlarge the pattern by 400%. I have terrible problems with office equipment, copiers in particular, so I went to an office shop and they offered to do it for me. The girl couldn’t get the entire pattern on an 11″x17″ sheet of paper. She asked me at one point if it would be a problem to have the top of the pieces cut off. Finally, I told her she could reduce the size slightly and that seemed to work. It doesn’t bother me to have slightly smaller blocks. I can make a few more with no problem.
For once I have cut all the blue pieces for 6 blocks before I have sewed any of them together. I haven’t decided on the background yet, so I haven’t cut background pieces. I thought I had just bought a white on white that I would use, but I can’t find it so either it was my imagination, it is hiding from me or it isn’t washed yet.
This is my favorite. The background is a very cheerful dot print where the dots are irregular and a variety of different colors. I am all about cheerful, you know. 😉
The above is my second favorite. I don’t have enough of this particular black on white print, so I would have to use a variety of different black on white prints with the same weight/ratio of black to white. I wouldn’t want it to be too overly black.
I really wanted a very calm looking quilt, thus all the blues. This background is one of the P&B New Basics from 2000. I recently bought a yard of it and have at least a fat quarter somewhere else. The problem is that it is very close to some of the value of the other fabrics so the pieces blend together. I think they blend together a little too much.
There are a couple of factors for the background: one is that it has to have the look that I want. Another is that I have to have enough of the chosen fabric to use as a background. The bottom line is that I want this to be a quick quilt. I don’t want to spend weeks on picking the background. I also, however, don’t want to hate it when I am halfway through the sewing. I am happy to hear what you think.