Making a Strip Set

I was excited to get Maria Shell’s book Improv Patchwork a while back, because I’m an admirer of her quilts.  (This picture of the book is from her website, where you can order an autographed copy of the book.)

I first encountered her work when I saw this quilt:

Maria Shell

No Borders Treasure Map, by Maria Shell, from her blog

The quilt above appeals to me because I am OVER all the plus quilts that have been everywhere for years now, and Maria’s quilt is a fun allusion to the plus sign without being the same-old-same-old.

I read Maria’s book as soon as it arrived,  She has lots of suggestions, including making strip sets and cutting without rulers.  Just for starters I made a strip set.

I based the arrangement of strip sizes on the first few bars in the bar code for the word “quilt”.  Yes, I’ve done something similar in the past when I used a QR code from Planned Parenthood of the Greater Northwest’s condom campaign to make this quilt.  This time, with the bar code, I didn’t even try to get the whole code in, or to make it scan.

I like it!  What I don’t know is what I’m going to do with it!  It seems to need to incubate for a while.  Any suggestions?

To be continued…

A Travel Sewing Machine

As I was carrying my sewing machine up the steps a few weeks ago, it occurred that the price of repair for my shoulder (if I hurt it, which I haven’t yet) would be a lot more than the price of a lighter sewing machine for travel. Of course, I have a wonderful rolling travel case for the heavy machine, but that case doesn’t do stairs.

I considered for quite a while, since it seems to me that my home already contains enough “things”. I decided that, since I’m planning more sewing travel in the coming year, a lighter machine was worth the investment.  (A little more self-justification: I was the only serious sewist I know who owned only one machine!)

After some research, I settled on a Bernette 33, which is made by Bernina and sold by my Bernina dealer.  It is just what I was looking for:  smaller, lighter, with no computer parts to worry about.

Bernette 33, my new travel companion!

So far it performs just fine.  I’ve mainly used it for piecing, since that is most of what I do when I go to sewing gatherings or teach.  It certainly doesn’t feel as sturdy or sew as smoothly as my Bernina, but I think it is “just right” for travel.  And the price was right, too.

Of course I made it a cover to match the bag that carries its accessories:

This fun fabric came in prints of two sizes, so I had one of each to use

How many sewing machines do you own?

 

Twinkles All Around

Twinkle is an attractive and easy quilt by Swirly Girls Design, and I taught it recently at Studio Stitch in Greensboro. We used the Tucker Trimmer for the half square triangles (HSTs) and everyone seemed to have a good time.

First, here’s my shop sample in a glamour shot:

Twinkle, a pattern by Swirly Girls Design, was made because I had some fabulous leftover fabric

Then, here are some of the wonderful blocks made by the people in class.  I’m sure I took more pictures, but apparently my camera quit part way through!

This one was two-color instead of scrappy and it worked quite well

BJ got several blocks made. Look closely and you can see the astronaut near the upper right corner

Arranging the stars on a design wall before sewing them together was very helpful–I don’t think anybody made a mistake!

And a few more for good measure!

Isn’t it fun to see everyone’s individual choices!

My next class at Studio Stitch is basic binding on March 14.

Current Series, Parts 2 and 3

In our “first exciting episode” about this series, I showed the fabrics and the first set of improvised blocks, which were based on triangles cut from a strip set…

For the second set of improvisational blocks, I set these rules:

  • Start with a strip set
  • Cut and recombine the strip set in random ways
  • Continue to do the final trim so that each block is 6.5″ wide; any length is OK

Here are the blocks:

I wasn’t crazy about these and decided to return to a more planned approach with the next set.  The rules for it were:

  • Start with a strip set
  • Recombine it into loose grids
  • Keep to 6.5″ in one dimension for each block.

I’m marginally more satisfied with these, but that 3rd block in this set makes me think that the next set will need some diagonal lines.  Stay tuned!  And thanks for visiting 🙂

Thrift Shop Finds

My friend Tierney occasionally blogs about fabric she’s found in thrift shops and I’m always envious 😉 The good news is that I recently found a new (to me) and really good thrift shop. (Better news: it’s near an excellent bakery. Oops!)

A recent trip yielded 3 flat sheets, all in the same floral print.  They seem to be twin size.

I think they will make wonderful backing for some quilts!  Back in the day before there was much wide fabric available, I usually bought sheets to back my quilts, so this is a great throwback!

On the same trip I found these pewter buttons, which I believe to be good quality because they have detail on the back, not just the front.  I will use them to decorate a quilt at some point.

Oh yes…cinnamon rolls, sticky buns, and cookies 😀

A New Series

I’ve made quilts in series before, including this series of 12″ square quilts inspired by Gwen Marston’s work and the refrigerator quilts by Bev Mannes.

This experiment led to a larger quilt in the style of Gwen Marston:

improvisational quilt

Cherrywood Toss, 2016.

And this small quilt, made for the Quilt Alliance annual contest:

improvisational quilt

“Gwen Visits the Farm” is the quilt I made for the Quilt Alliance contest

Although I didn’t think of it as a series at first, I’ve made a many-years-long series of scrap quilts, including these:

More recently, I was inspired by an article by Jill Jensen in Quilting Arts Magazine. You can find a similar article here on the Quilting Company blog.  I also bought a new (to me) book:

art quilt book

Visual Guide to Working in a Series, by Elizabeth Barton

It’s an art quilt book, but I consider all my quilts art, including the bed quilts.

I decided to make a series of blocks rather than a series of quilts this time, trying out various improvisational techniques.

I plan to use this collection of fat eights from Cotton & Steel:

After auditioning several options, I selected royal blue for a solid to go with them.  It’s in the upper right corner of the picture.

Here are the first 4 blocks.  My theme was triangles, and I started by making a strip set:

I trimmed each block to 6-1/2″ wide; the length is random

I’m going to make a set of blocks every month until I either get tired of it or run out of fabric.  To be continued 😉

Another Scrap Class

Here are some pictures from the recent scrap quilt class.  The block is directional, so it is considerably more difficult to get right than it looks!  Nevertheless, everybody got it right by the end of the day.  Here are a few of the blocks with their makers:

Gail chose the more challenging smaller size and still was the first to finish a block!

Here are a few of the larger blocks:

Sorry I got the glare on the glasses, but the block is beautiful!

This woman made a small block, too!

Love those bright colors!

My next class at Studio Stitch in Greensboro is Twinkle on Thursday, February 21:

I looove this quilt!  Join us if you can!

An Experiment in Quilting on the DSM

I’ve quilted a number of quilts, large and small, on my home machine (Domestic Sewing Machine, DSM) with the variable results that might be expected 😉 I now do mostly small pieces and send the large ones to long arm quilters.
Then last fall I saw this quilt by my friend Diane Ramsay.

Detail of Dutch Holiday by Diana Ramsay

In addition to thinking it is a wonderful quilt, I particularly liked the grid pattern of the quilting. So when I needed to quilt fabric for a project recently, I gave it a try.

First I spray basted the fabric really well.  It’s small, only about 13 x 18 inches, so it was pretty easy to spray baste.  I then marked a line with 1″ painter’s tape and quilted along both edges of the tape. tape guide for machine quilting

The rest of my lines were spaced by simply moving the tape every time.  Again, the piece is small, so I only needed one length of tape for all the lengthwise lines.  The layers were basted tightly enough that there was minimal shifting, but I did alternate directions as I quilted the lines.

After doing all the lengthwise lines, I put several evenly-spaced lengths of tape crosswise and quilted on both sides of them, moved the tape and quilted some more, etc.  I was greatly relieved to see that there was no puckering where the lines of quilting crossed.

The quilting doesn’t show up much on that busy fabric, so here’s a picture of the finished back:

This was very successful, primarily because it was tightly basted, I think.  Has anybody else tried this?  Any advice?

 

Bag With Kraft-Tex Base

A while back I made a bag for carrying stuff to guild meetings and used some scraps of Kraft-Tex to reinforce the base. I have enjoyed that addition, both because it helps the bag stand up on its own and because I don’t have to worry about putting the bag on the floor.

Kraft-Tex for bags

Then recently I saw this Alexander Henry fabric and of course I was forced to buy it 😉

Alexander Henry fabric showing melodramatic “sewing woes”

I decided to make another tote bag using this tutorial from Bijou Lovely Designs, Holly DeGroot’s blog.  Her tutorial includes the free pattern, so go make it if you want to.  Her instructions and illustrations are excellent.

Here are my modifications for making the base of Kraft-Tex.

Holly’s instructions used the same fabric for the bag lining and the base, so of course I didn’t do that.  I cut the Kraft-Tex base 1/2″ narrower (top to bottom measurement) than Holly’s instructions, because the base on her bag is joined with a 1/4″ seam and then pressed back.  I just appliqued the Kraft-Tex to the bag.  Naturally, that required clips rather than pins–don’t want holes in the Kraft-Tex!

You can see that the fabric wasn’t printed entirely straight; the other side was straighter.  Luckily, this bag is for fun.

You can see my top-stitching here. This is the straighter side 🙂

When it came time to press the seams open, I just folded back the seams that contained Kraft-Tex, then ran the handle of my scissors along the seam to crease the Kraft-Tex into place.

You can also see where I stitched around the edge to hold the Kraft-Tex in place before assembly

The seams were not as bulky as I had anticipated, and gave me no trouble.  The only difficult part was turning the bag right-side-out through the opening in the lining.  The Kraft-Tex was a little stiff for that, but not too bad.

The Kraft-Tex stood up but the bag sides above it drooped

When I got the bag done, the Kraft-Tex part was great, but the rest of the bag was limp despite interfacing.  I took the bag for a shakedown cruise when we went to the big city Saturday, and it was a pain to get things in and out of it because the sides collapsed.  So…

I took out the top seams, inserted pieces of Peltex cut to fit, and stitched all around them.  They needed to overlap the Kraft-Tex a little to make the whole thing stand up.

That makes this “Holly’s bag with significant modifications”, but you can still get the measurements and construction details from her blog.  I like the bag now, and it is a good size.  Next time I’ll use Peltex from the get-go, probably still with the Kraft-Tex.

My Year in Scraps

When we lived in Pennsylvania, I learned this quilt block from Barbara C. Lenox. As she made her quilts, she cut her scraps from each project into the sizes needed for this block.  She saved the scraps and assembled them into blocks, and then a quilt, at the end of the year.  She called this her “Sourdough” quilt.

Sourdough block, taught to me by Barbara C Lenox

I can’t find her online now except, of course, for those creepy websites that want to sell you information on any name you put in (e.g., “get Santa Claus address, phone, arrest record…”).

I’ve made numerous quilts using this design.  As with all diagonally split blocks, this one allows for many interesting arrangements of the blocks.

The block is a great way to learn about color and value, since the design shows itself through contrast in value, regardless of color.  And sometimes things that worked fine as a dark or light in one context totally fail in another.  

Patch 1 and Patch 2 in the picture above worked fine as a dark and a light when I put them together in a single block.  But when I put them together with the other blocks, the turquoise was too bright to play well with the other dark values.  It’s common for yellow, red, and orange to have trouble being dark values, but the turquoise was kind of a surprise!  I’ll be re-making that block.  Another learning experience 😀

I’m teaching my version of this at Studio Stitch on Saturday, January 26.