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!

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!

Donation Quilt Catch-Up

I now belong to THREE groups that make donation quilts, and it may be a bit much.  I’ve decided to focus on the group I’ve been working with the longest, both because it was the original and because we donate the quilts locally.  (I fear there’s some truth to Garrison Keillor’s quip that most donation quilts sent to other countries go to hot climates where their best use is as compost.)

I see from my notes that I fell behind on donation quilts over a year ago due to being over-committed.  Duh.  Anyway, here are my recent attempts to catch up.

I found this panel in the SCRAP BIN at a shop where I teach, so I got it for $1 an ounce! The finished quilt is 34″ x 44″.

This top was started over a year ago when I wanted to experiment with half-rectangle triangles. The finished quilt is 40″ x 48″

This was made from slabs swapped in one of my groups. I spy some orphan blocks incorporated into slabs!

This one was done for leaders and enders, and is going to have to be entitled “Nobody’s Perfect”! Finished size is 34″ x 39″

I made this after starting the blocks as a class demonstration last time I taught “Twinkle”. Finished size is 40″ x 40″

I can just hear somebody saying, “Well!  That certainly is a variety!”  It would be more efficient to make the same pattern multiple times, but I just can’t do it.

What are your favorite donation quilt patterns?

 

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!

My Quilt is in Quilty Magazine!

This quilt was designed with friends at a retreat and remained unfinished for a year while I contemplated what should go in the big.white.center.  

Eventually I decided on petals, finished the quilt, and submitted it to F&W, where it was accepted for the January 2019 issue of Quilty.  I love Quilty, so I was thrilled.  And now the January issue, including my quilt, is available at Barnes & Noble.

This is Quilty’s “glamour shot” of my quilt

Once I got going on what to put in the center, I made another version with a ring in the center and the addition of a floral border:

If you pick up the magazine but want to make the quilt with the center ring instead of the petals, e-mail me and I’ll tell you the measurements.  Alternatively, just trace a dessert plate from your collection, which is what I did 😀

Update on the Shirt Quilt

Remember this?shirt quilt

This pile of blocks barely made a dent in the pile of shirts!

And here is some of the quilt up on the design wall:

The holes are because I unaccountably made too few double 4-patch blocks.  Luckily, that was one of the easier blocks in this quilt, so it the error won’t be difficult to fix!

As you can see, both the red and the orange made good accents.  The interesting thing to me about this quilt is that those little accent blocks save the day.  There is WAY too much variety in the quilt for it to be a good design without those diagonal orange and red lines created by the tiny blocks.  They pull the whole thing together by giving it structure.

I’ll update you when I get the holes plugged 😀

A Little Break for Fun

After finishing a big project and preparing classes for the next quarter, I took a little break and used some of the scraps from the unsorted pile.  This is where scraps go before I cut them into the standard sizes I use for storage.scrap block, slabs, scrap quilt

Cheryl Arkison, who blogs at Dining Room Empire, calls this type of block a slab. Of course the idea of joining scraps as you find them has been used by many people in various ways.  I really enjoy making them in a single color, so I made a few when I had a minute.slabs, scrap blocks, scrap quilt

Of course, this didn’t make a dent in the scrap pile, but it was fun!  Has anybody out there found a way to make a real dent in the scrap pile?  It seems to me to grow and grow, with no decrease in size no matter how many scrap quilts I make!

Classes Coming Up

I’ll be teaching two classes at Studio Stitch in Greensboro, NC, this coming quarter.

First is a “Secret Message Pillow”. Go by the shop to see the sample and sign up!  That class will be the morning of Saturday, January 27, which means the pillow will be finished in time for Valentine’s Day.

scrap quilt

Scrap quilt made with strips that finish 1″ wide

Second, I’m teaching a scrap management class that will show several ways to use even small scraps to make beautiful quilts. I call it scrap management because that’s what most of us need: management of the scraps. One option is shown above.  That class will be March 24 and we will have all day to play with our scraps.

All you need to bring is the basket (dump truck load?) of scraps that have been accumulating in your studio.  Sign up at the shop and come have fun!

A Finish to Start 2018

This scrap quilt started out when I saw Tonya Ricucci’s “Lego Quilt” tutorial.  I didn’t use her method; you can see my “improvements” here.  I made changes to make the quilt easier for me to construct, and arranged the blocks a little differently, but I’m sure you can see this is based on her idea.

scrap quilt

Scrap quilt made with strips that finish 1″ wide

For 2018, I plan to set aside pieces of each quilt I make so I can have a “scrappy 2018” quilt to remember all my projects!  I named my version of Tonya’s quilt “Scrappy New Year”, and I guess the next one will be “Scrappy 2018”.  Really the pieces in this quilt are so small that every project should have enough left over to put in the quilt.

scrap quilt

Detail of Scrappy New Year

As for the 2017 version shown here, I estimate it contains 1,680 pieces. I have a friend who has beat that number by quite a bit; you can see one of her quilts, (with 5,496 pieces!) here.

Leaders and Enders–Have You Heard?

One of the best things about the blogosphere is that I get tips all the time from other quilters.

I recently learned from Melissa at Happy Quilting how I can be piecing two projects at once!  What could be better?

I’ve always used scraps for starting and ending a series of chain piecing because that gives me all the pieces at once, still without having to cut off thread tails.

The scraps used to start and end sections of chain piecing end up looking like this--pretty ratty!

The scraps used to start and end sections of chain piecing end up looking like this–pretty ratty!

Here’s an explanation of chain piecing in case you aren’t familiar with it.

To piece a second top as “leaders and enders” instead of using scraps to chain piece, I figured it had to be a SIMPLE top or I’d end up confusing things for sure!  So when one of my quilt groups decided to exchange improvised blocks (sometimes called slabs if they’re all one color), it seemed like a perfect opportunity to make the slabs while working on something else.

Improvisational piecing

This is a pile of scraps..

I’m piecing slabs from scraps and they’re improvisational, so there ARE no mistakes, only opportunities for further improvisation!  Woo-hoo!

Improvised quilt block

And this is a block improvised from scraps and cut to size!

SO, while piecing the tops I wanted to consider for the Quilt Alliance challenge…

I also pieced several improvisational slabs for friends.

Improvised blocks

Blocks improvised from scraps

Win-win!  And most importantly, it was FUN 🙂