Scraps Happen, Part I

When I mentioned recently that I was making a basket to hold scraps as I work on a project, my blogging friend Elizabeth asked how I decide what to do with the scraps.  This first post will be about how I design scrap quilts; the second in the series will be about how I use inspiration from other quilters; the third will be about how I modify published patterns for scrap quilts.

My first improvised scrap quilt was made close to 20 years ago.  I absolutely just starting sewing scraps together and kept it up until I had a collection of blocks.  The scraps were all from an Amish-style quilt I had made, which kept the blocks cohesive.

improvisational blocks

I then added 2 shades of yellow for sashing.

improvisational quilt

Nothing Is Wasted, my first improvisational quilt, 2001-2002

Using scraps from a single project is one way to be sure the scraps all play well together, assuming the fabrics were well coordinated in the original project.  After making the quilt below for Modern Quilts Unlimited with some yummy Cotton Couture fabrics provided by Michael Miller…

quilt photo

My Zippy Star Quilt and Pillow as shown in Modern Quilts Unlimited, Summer 2014

I started sewing all my tiny scraps together and added a tiny paper-pieced star to make a donation quilt for the Quilt Alliance annual contest:

scrap quilt

Confetti Star, 20″ x 20″, 2014.  Some of these pieces finish less than 1/4″ square

I then started combining scraps of a single color to make blocks.  I called them “slabs”, since the idea of making single-color scrap blocks came from Cheryl Arkison (though hers are much more orderly than mine).  Here is one example of a quilt made from these single-color blocks:

On at least one occasion I decided a collection of yellow and orange scrap blocks were booooring, so I cut them up and inserted some bright blue before combining them in a quilt:Improvisational quilt, orange and blue quilt

Sometimes I am “forced” to design a new quilt because the scrap bins are overflowing.  When the strip bins got out of hand last spring, I designed this quilt.  The idea of putting a circle in the alternate blocks came from my friend Jerri.  The triangle blocks were because I have a 60 degree triangle ruler 🙂

Machine applique of these circles was done after the quilting, so there was no need for further stabilizer

On another occasion, some friends and I had way too many 2.5″ blocks, so we developed these blocks and set them on point.  That quilt hung around for a long time “needing something”.  Eventually I added a central motif, and here it is:

The petals were fused on with Heat’n’Bond, and then I buttonhole stitched around them

Another design process I like to use is to simply fill a piece of batting with scraps.  For the table runners shown below, I selected a group of fabrics for the top and a piece of backing fabric about 6″ longer and wider than the finished runner.  I spray basted the batting to the backing, then started filling the space on the batting with pieces of fabric from my collection. I didn’t sew them down until I had a whole section done, since this type of designing involves cutting off bits here and there to keep edges even.

modern table runner

Here is one of the samples for my improvised table runner class

improvisational quilt

I have taught this method as a class, but it proved to be too unstructured for some people, who really just wanted to make my runner.  I continue to use the method for myself but have not attempted to teach it to others again!

So, in response to the question of my process for designing scrap quilts, it’s really just “by the seat of my pants”.  I do start with a collection of fabrics I like together, but otherwise it’s sew first, plan later.  What I’m not showing, of course, is all the “fizzles” that got thrown out along the way!

Please stay tuned for Part II, scrap quilts inspired by other quilters.  And go visit Elizabeth, who inspired this post!

Another UFO Bights the Dust!

I’m making a concerted effort to get rid of more UFOs (UnFinished Objects) this year. Of course, the real challenge is to avoid creating new ones!

This is the third time I’ve made the Lombard Street pattern by Sassafras Lane Designs.  This shows how much I love the design–usually I make any pattern only once.  Here are the previous quilts:

And here is the completed UFO, ready to be donated at the next retreat with my donation quilt group:

Quilt Stats

Pattern: Lombard Street by Sassafras Lane.  This is the smallest of 3 sizes.

Finished size:  39.5″ x 43.5″

Fabric is scraps for the triangles and solid from stash for the background and binding.

Pieced by me, though it took over a year.

Quilted by me.

If you want to make one, you can get your own copy of the Lombard Street pattern here.

Serendipity Quilt

I love this quilt because it gets rid of both a UFO and some scraps!

I had this great backing fabric with all the color names you can imagine written on it, and I had just finished backing a quilt with it. Did NOT want to put the scraps in a scrap drawer if I could help it–those are overflowing!

Blocks finish 6″, so this is an 18″ square section to show fabrics

At the same time, I had these great little sew-and-flip stars from a block swap and needed to do something with them. Serendipity!

Here is a single block showing the quilting:Here is the finished quilt:

QUILT DETAILS

Name: Serendipity

Finished size: 42” x 42”

Alternate blocks are Windham Fabrics Modern Hand fabric

Sew and flip stars from a group swap

Designed, made, and quilted by me

Little Green Man Quilt

This block has been floating around on Pinterest for some time, and I really like it so It’s been on my to-do list.

This is a copy from Pinterest, where the block has been widely shared without attribution

I don’t like to borrow things without attribution, so I went in search of just who designed this.  Luckily, my friend Elizabeth was in a bee that used this block, so I learned from her blog that the block was designed by Kylie Kelsheimer.  A friend of Elizabeth’s located the original post for her through the wayback machine.  You can find Elizabeth’s post about all this here (you’ll have to scroll down quite a bit) and the original pattern here.  I see from Elizabeth’s latest post that the pattern is now available through PayHip, but that was not the case when I first investigated it a year ago and started this project.

Which brings me to why I changed it all up.  The original block is small and paper pieced–not my style!  I wanted to make it big and make the stars wonky.  Therefore, the instructions here are NOT for Kylie’s block, though the idea is based on her original block as noted above.  In fact, the block as shown on Pinterest is really 4 blocks, each rotated so that they fit together as shown in the pin.

I drew the block with Electric Quilt so that it finishes 18″ square.  Here it is showing fabrics.

My wonky star block, drawn with Electric Quilt 8

And here is the base block in case you want to make it yourself:

Star base block, drawn with Electric Quilt 8

Here is my tutorial on making sew-and-flip stars, in case you’ve never done it before.

As you can see, I substituted my Little Green Man for 4 of the blocks–those would be the 4 in the lower right-hand corner looking at my layout above.  You will see that I rotated the blocks various ways, which is how Little Green Man ended up in the lower left corner after I substituted him in the lower right.

You can find my instructions for making the LIttle Green Man here.

And here is one of the finished wonky star blocks.

The finished quilt:

QUILT DETAILS

Little Green Man

Finished size: 54” x 72”

A variety of fabrics from different manufacturers

The pattern is outlined in the blog above, but is not available commercially

Quilted by Julia Madison, except for the Little Green Man block, which she left for me because I wanted to avoid any extra holes in the Kraft-Tex I used for applique.

Now, does anyone else recall the “Little Green Man” song from the 1950s?

Meet Cheryl Brickey of Meadow Mist Designs

You already know that I took an excellent class with Cheryl Brickey at the North Carolina Quilt Symposium recently.  She kindly agreed to an interview, as well.

Cheryl and me with the partially completed quilt I designed and made in class

Cheryl has written a book and numerous patterns; all are available on her website.    She is an engineer and works 3 days a week writing patent applications for high-tech textiles used in things like tires and military applications.  On top of all that, she has two children and a very busy life, so I asked for her top time management tip.  Her answer: “Don’t have any [time].”  She explained that, because her time is so limited, she knows exactly what she needs to do when she enters her studio and gets right to it.

Cheryl’s book, which she wrote with her friend Paige Alexander

Cheryl started quilting when her children were small.  She had always been involved in crafts, but started making quilts because it was something that “stayed done”, unlike the dishes, the laundry, etc.  I think we can all understand that!  She says she read somewhere that a woman should do something every day that can’t be undone.  Both she and I have searched extensively for that quotation without finding it, so I think we’ll just attribute it to Cheryl!  Anyway, quilting meets that need for her.

Cheryl identifies “modern traditional” as her style of quilting, and you can see what she means from the pictures below of some of her designs.

Samples for Cheryl’s class on minimalism in design

She blogs at Meadow Mist Designs, where she has just announced her next free mystery quilt.

Click here to be taken to Cheryl’s blog, where you can read about her mystery quilt

This mystery quilt will start in July of this year and run through April of 2020.  She will post a new set of directions the first Thursday of each month.

Cheryl says there is a non-mystery option, and about 25% of those who sign up for the mystery quilt elect to get a picture of the finished product from the outset!  (This meets her “engineer need”, she says.)  The only caveat is that those who elect to see the design from the beginning have to keep the secret so as not to ruin it for others.

Cheryl was a delight to meet and interview.  Her workshop and lecture were very well organized and presented.

Here are two of my favorite patterns from Cheryl, because who can resist pretty pictures?

You can check her out here.

North Carolina Quilt Symposium

I recently spent 2 weeks mostly doing quilty things rather than cooking, doing laundry, hanging on the internet, etc. The time ended with the North Carolina Quilt Symposium at Lake Junaluska, NC.

View from the hotel at Lake Junaluska

This was one of the best events I have ever attended in terms of the quality of instruction. The friends who went with me agree, so it wasn’t just me in my little bubble 🙂

I took a class with Cheryl Brickey (see her website here), who was a wonderful instructor and showed us her personal method of designing modern-traditional quilts using EQ8 (Electric Quilt).  I have used EQ for ages (OK, since EQ5, and they are now up to EQ8) but she showed me some cool new tools I had never discovered.

Cheryl and me with the partially completed quilt I designed and made in class

My second class was with Lyric Kinard.  (Her website is here.)  I learned a lot about creating portraits in fabric.  Here is one that was done for practice at the beginning of the class.  It’s supposed to be the woman who was sitting across from me, but I did not take a photo of her for comparison 😀

This was just a quick practice piece; I promise the woman didn’t really have blue skin!

Lyric went on to teach a much more elaborate and realistic way to do a portrait in fabric, but mine isn’t even far enough along to show.  The whole class was useful and Lyric is an encouraging instructor.

The details of next year’s NC Quilt Symposium are not finalized, but if you want to know more about the symposium and what was available this year, visit the website at NCQSI.org.  I hope to see you there next year, especially, because I have agreed to help recruit teachers!  Come join the fun!

I was able to interview 3 of the teachers at NCQS, so look for posts about them coming up in the next few weeks.

I Dislike Quilt-As-You-Go

Quilt-as-you-go (QAYG) has been around at least since the 1970s, and I have tried it in several forms.  Back when I wanted to use high loft batting, I made this quilt in sections and joined them using Georgia Bonesteel’s method.  The backing seams were sewn by hand.  It worked out fine, but that was a lot of hand stitching.

Queen size quilt made by qultl-as-you-go method

Jewel Box, queen size, made in 2003

More recently I read about using thin batting so pieces can be joined with batting in the seam.  Unfortunately, this method suggests quilting the front pieces WITHOUT backing, then tacking on a back after assembling the front.  That means most of the quilting is hidden from the back; the only thing that shows is the stitching used to attach the back over the actual quilting!

I’ve also seen QAYG done by using batting rather than batiste as a base for string piecing.  This means no quilting shows on the front!

The more I read about QAYG methods, the more I didn’t care for any of the options.  I decided to re-visit it anyway because students had asked for a QAYG class.  I chose the string piecing on batting option, but made the blocks with the backing included so the quilting would show on the back.

Back of quilt, showing quilting lines

The quilting is meant to show on the back, though white thread on white fabric doesn’t show much!

I kind of liked the triangles arranged like this on the design wall, but decided to save this option for when I can make the whole thing look 3-D by careful placement of color.

Here is the front of the finished quilt:

After joining the triangles with seams that included front, batting, and back, I covered the seams in back with fabric strips.

The result was awfully bulky.  Next time I may just settle for the “new” method that doesn’t show much quilting on the back.

Well, another lesson 😀  The next attempt will be closer to perfection!

Current Series, Parts 4 and 5

I’ve been making a series of improvisational blocks from a bundle of fat eights and a single solid blue fabric, which is intended to tie them together visually.

Each set of 4 blocks has a theme, such as triangles from a strip set in this one

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

and random arrangement of free-cut squares in this one.

All blocks are 6-1/2″ in one dimension to give them some chance of fitting together eventually!
Set 4 had the theme “log cabin”, and I am fond of little lines in my designs, so it had some of those, too:

“Lines” was the theme for set 5:


Despite using a bundle of coordinating fat eighths and a unifying solid, I think these are getting to be too diverse to go together well. I’ll try to attack that problem in the next set. Please stay tuned, and share any suggestions you may have!

 

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…

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 🙂