A Swap Block for Donation Quilts

One of my quilt groups makes donation quilts about 40″ square for various organizations. The size is easy to construct and quilt at home, and is appropriate for the children who receive the quilts.  Here are the recent group donations:

We often use swap blocks for our quilts and recently decided on a new swap and I want to tell you about it. One of your quilt groups may enjoy it, too!  Here’s how:

First make a big wonky log cabin block. Our blocks started with a 5″ square, which was modified to make a wonky center.  It was then surrounded by strips from my scrap bins, and occasional strips were trimmed so they were wonky, too.

These big blocks are 21″ square (unfinished).

We cut each block in quarters, so each quarter is 10.5″ unfinished, and started arranging them to make a quilt top that would finish at 40″ square.

This was how we eventually decided to arrange them in the finished top:

And then, of course, we made 4 more:

If you decide to do this, there are only 2 things to watch out for:

  1. As you add strips, keep measuring to be sure the center block remains centered enough so that there will be a piece of it in each quarter when you cut the block up.
  2. It’s easiest if the final round of strips is considerably wider than needed so the block can be trimmed to (unfinished) size easily without running into seams.

This is a really fun way to use scraps!  If you make one, or use this for a group swap, send me a picture!

A Tale of Many Dots

A couple of years ago I bought this fabric because I really liked it:

Since it was pre-printed fat quarters (FQs), I planned to use it in a pattern designed for FQs.  I added a couple of fabrics that I thought went well with it.  Until I saw it sewn together:

I didn’t like the quilt top once I got it made, so I took out every single seam and set the pieces aside to think about.

I took out the fabrics I had added, thinking perhaps they were the problem.  That helped a little.  However, I decided the dots needed some solid mixed with them.  I took them on a shopping trip with friends and we selected a nice red-orange to mix with them.  Then I re-made the quilt including some of the red-orange.

I still didn’t like it.  And call me lazy if you like, but I was not going to take those pieces apart again!  So, with a what-the-heck attitude, I cut the new top up into circles (big dots!) using my dinner and salad plates as templates.

I pinned various potential backgrounds on the design wall and tried them out.

I think some variation of this is going to be the final design.  Maybe not the greatest ever, but nobody died, so I’m moving on!

Two Quilts for the Price of Two…

Earlier in the year I ran across this pattern and was intrigued by how different it is from any quilt I’d ever made.

Photo courtesy of Shabby Fabrics and Krista Moser

I’ll try darn near anything, so I bought the pattern and made the quilt.  I almost never buy the fabric used in the original quilt, but I did this time, which is why I say two quilts for the price of two. There wasn’t much in stash that I could use since the design depends on a large number of different colors of ombre fabric.

I love the result!  The pattern was well written and the illustrations were clear.  My only complaint is that the pattern “requires” a particular ruler.  The ruler is expensive and specialized.  I didn’t foresee a lot of use for it, so I didn’t buy it.  I improvised a template, and that worked OK.  Likely the quilt would have been easier with the ruler, but I have my limits!

Here’s a closeup of the hexies quilted by Julia Madison (with gold thread, of course!).

If you go to Krista’s website you can see several other pictures of her quilt, but be warned that you, too, may want to make it!

Here are the quilt stats:

Ombre Blossoms

The finished quilt measures 57 “x 71”

Pattern by Krista Moser, available here

Machine Quilted by Julia Madison

Fabrics are Moda ombre confetti dot metallic

There was fabric left, so I made it all into half-square triangles (HSTs) with black. That allowed so many design possibilities that I dithered for a while a long time.  This was the final decision:

And here is a closeup of the fun quilting done by Julia Madison:

I love this quilt, too.  I used my Tucker Trimmer to make the HSTs, and it is one tool I consider worth the money.  I’ve used a wide variety of tools to make HSTs, and this is my favorite.  (And no, I do not have sponsorship from Tucker Tools!)

Here are the quilt stats:

HST Tumble

Finished size 54″ x 54″

Pattern by me

Machine quilted by Julia Madison

Fabric: Moda ombre confetti dot metallic, and black Cotton Couture by Michael Miller

 

 

Lattice Quilt

This design has been around forever and I’ve seen many versions of it, some even published as patterns.Anyway, I decided to teach it as a design-your-own quilt class, since I think the size of the center squares really should depend on the size of the prints you are using.  I made a handout to help each person design his/her own blocks, so I’m sharing the details with you.  All these drawings were made using Electric Quilt 8, which allows for easy export of the picture.

Here is the basic block:

The only trick is to make the block square.  The center is a rectangle, and the size of the side strips has to make the block square.  So, for example, if you cut a center rectangle 3.5″ x 5.5″ (to finish 3″ x 5″), your side strips need to be cut 5.5″ x 1.5″ each so the block (unfinished) will measure 5.5″ x 5.5″ and the finished block will be 5″ square.  Whew!

Actually, it’s easy.  We all drew our blocks (finished size) out on graph paper and remembered to add 0.5″ seam allowance in each direction before cutting each piece!

When the blocks are made, lay them out in a row, alternating directions. This forms the lattice. Two rows look like this:

And when a border is added, all the blocks are “closed” and you have a complete lattice.

And yes, the outer edge will vary in width after the addition of the border.  That’s all part of the fun. The blocks appear to float as they alternate directions.

You can vary the look of the quilt considerably by changing the proportions of the lattice and the central rectangles:

I think this design works especially well with a collection of related fabrics, and one woman brought Christmas fabrics to class:

Another brought fabrics with a camping theme:

This is an easy quilt.  It can be chain pieced easily and the blocks can be trimmed before joining if necessary.

Now, go make one and send me a picture of it!

Scraps Happen, Part III

There is no shortage of patterns for scrap quilts, and often I start with a pattern I’ve found somewhere and modify it to suit me.  I have notebooks full of pictures from magazines and photos I’ve taken of vintage or show quilts, so I use those for inspiration.  Here is a quilt I made by modifying a pattern from a magazine I’d been saving for a long time:

You can find the original pattern for this quilt by going to AllPeopleQuilt.com and searching for the “trail mix” pattern

The above quilt was made from my husband’s old shirts–whether that counts as scraps or yardage is a matter of opinion 🙂

I have some favorite scrap patterns I’ve used repeatedly over the years.  This one, which I learned from Barbara Lenox many years ago, is intended to be made at the end of the year using scraps from all the projects you made that year.  I love that idea and have made several of these.  You can see my post explaining the basic block here.

Another favorite quilt pattern is Junk to Jems, by Linda J. Hahn.  Here is my version which has been modified a fair amount from the pattern.

One thing I love about this pattern is that it is possible to make the elements of each block then re-arrange them so that there are several different variations on the same block.  So yes, my version is not quite like hers.

Augusta Cole is another teacher whose scrap quilts I admire, and I have made several from her Snappy Scrappy Stars pattern.  This makes a great leaders-and-enders project for me and I often use the blocks in donation quilts.

This is a leaders-and-enders project from Augusta Cole’s Scrappy Snappy Stars pattern

Of course, often a quilt starts as a pattern and then veers off course (surprise!).  The quilt below started as a way to use both a linen background and a group of fabrics I had in small amounts.  The original pattern is one of Karla Alexander’s stack and shuffle designs, and you probably can see that if you know the pattern.  This is my variation.Alison Glass fabrics quilt

And finally, even when I buy fabric for a quilt, I often buy fat quarters, which pretty much guarantees a scrappy look.  And I don’t really like making the same block twice, so often I make a variety of blocks for a single quilt.  Here is one last example of a quilt made from a fat quarter bundle, though it appears scrappy.

The pattern is Bermuda Sunset, another one by Linda Hahn.

A friend who is a writer mentioned the other day that her stories sometimes take on a life of their own and lead where she didn’t expect to go.  She asked if my quilts do that, too.  Absolutely!  Start out headed for A, end up at Q!

It’s all good. 🙂

Scraps Happen, Part II

Many of my scrap quilts are inspired by other quilters.  I still find it useful to start with a collection of fabrics I think “go together”.  In that regard, I do NOT worry about color per se, though I recognize that color is a big “bugaboo” for many quilters.  I do find it useful to decide at the outset whether the quilt is to be bright or muted colors, but beyond that I don’t worry much.  And of course I break that rule sometimes, too.

One of my first inspired-by-others adventures was a series of quilts I made after reading Gwen Marston’s books.  I just love her aesthetic, and wish I had been able to take a class with her while she was alive.  Here is a quilt I made for the Quilt Alliance annual contest a few years ago, based on Gwen’s published quilts:

improvisational quilt

“Gwen Visits the Farm” is a quilt I made for the Quilt Alliance contest; the black fabric has words representing animal sounds such as “quack”

I also used a collection of Cherrywood scraps to make this quilt based on Gwen’s “liberated log cabin” idea:

improvisational quilt

Cherrywood Toss, 59″ x 61″, 2016.  My favorite part of this was making the background out of a mixture of dark colors.

Also, taking a cue from my friend who makes a small art quilt each week, I made these 3 quilts based on lessons in one of Gwen’s books:

I continue to learn from the quilters I consider “the best” by making quilts inspired by their ideas.  A recent one was inspired by Maria Shell’s tutorial on improvised flying geese:

The colors of the quilt blended with the colors of my chimney, where I stuck it up to be photographed

Of course, not all such experiments are particularly successful.  I love Freddy Moran’s aesthetic, but this table runner based on her ideas didn’t turn out very well, in my opinion.  I expect to make more things using her ideas, and they’ll improve 🙂

I designed and made this runner for a guild challenge

Since, at this point in my quilting career, most of my fabric collection is scraps, there will be many more scrap quilts to come!  Next week I’ll discuss how I use scraps in quilts made from patterns.

 

 

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!

Current Series: Blue Ridge

My first Blue Ridge quilt just returned from the Vermont Quilt Festival and will next go to the Asheville Quilt show.

art quilt

Meanwhile, Maria Shell published a tutorial on how she makes flying geese blocks for her quilts, so of course I had to try it.The result is Blue Ridge II.

The colors of the quilt blended with the colors of my chimney, where I stuck it up to be photographed

In case a viewer doesn’t get why there is a red triangle among the earth-sky-water tones, I backed the quilt with cardinal fabric 🙂 The fabric is from Cotton + Steel in 2018, before they left RJR.

The quilt is faced using the technique from Terry Aske’s tutorial, which worked very well.  Here are the quilt stats:

Blue Ridge II

  • 28.5 inches wide, 26.5 inches tall
  • The fabrics are batik scraps left from other projects
  • The backing is from RJR, a Cotton and Steel fabric from 2018
  • The piecing was inspired by Maria Shell’s tutorial on flying geese (link above)
  • The facing was done using Terry Aske’s tutorial (link above)
  • Quilt was pieced and quilted by me.  The batting is Quilter’s Dream Cotton, Request loft.

 

 

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?

Kraft-Tex Appliqué ! Woo!

Appliqué and I have a love-hate relationship.  I love the look of appliqué sometimes, and I’ve tried several methods, from needle turn to fusible and most things in between.  No method is perfect.

And just to show that I really have tried, here are some samples:

Machine appliqué of these circles was done after the quilting, so the backing and batting acted as stabilizer

The petals were fused on with Heat’n’Bond, and then I buttonhole stitched around them after doing the rest of the quilting, again eliminating the need for stabilizer

The snowmen and noses were a combination of fusible appliqué and Eleanor Burns’s appliqué with fusible interfacing.  I have washed this and it held up fine.

Sunbonnet Sue

Sunbonnet Sue Visits Quilt in a Day was done with Eleanor Burns’s method using fusible interfacing to produce turned edges

So, when I wanted a space alien to go on a quilt recently, I gave the appliqué process some serious thought.  This fabric is part of the background for a wonky star quilt I’m making, and I wanted one block to be a space alien to go with the theme.

Unfortunately, I have not saved the selvage from this fabric, so I don’t know who made it

Then I had an idea (drum roll, please).  The folks at C&T recently asked me to be an ambassador for Kraft-Tex, and since I was already a Kraft-Tex user and had blogged about it 3 times, I agreed.  They sent me some free Kraft-Tex!

I chose Marsala, Denim (hand dyed and prewashed), and natural prewashed for my free Kraft-Tex

Actually, I had already bought this black Kraft-Tex for another project, but I just want you to know that, for the first time ever, I have accepted a donated product for use in my blog.

I’ll have a tutorial on this whole quilt when it’s finished, but here’s an overview of how I used Kraft-Tex to avoid traditional appliqué .  I cut out the alien’s head using one of my circle cutters and attached it to the block with washable glue stick. Then I cut the outline from black Kraft-Tex and put it over the raw edge, with the raw edge kind of centered underneath.

Here is the alien on my design wall

The eye stalks and eyes were cut from Kraft-Tex and all the Kraft-Tex was glued down with the same washable glue.  That all worked well.  I then machine-stitched near the edges of the Kraft-Tex using a size 70 needle and matching thread.  Voila!  I didn’t have to fool with fusibles, bias strips, or much of anything at all.

Kraft-Tex is washable, and I’ll be interested to see how it does in this quilt.  It is stiffer than fabric, but I think that will be OK given the small amount I used on this twin-size quilt.

I can especially see using Kraft-Tex this way in art quilts very soon!

I’ll let you know how this all turns out!