Friday, November 6, 2015

figuring it out

 the wonky orange and blue invasion is still going on around here. however, i am happy to report some progress! after considering what went so blah with the first block (upper left), i decided i needed to add some solid blue strips and create a few more angles, get more wonk in. also, many of my strips were roughly the same size, so i went for more variation in strip width, too.

i got right to work the next afternoon and am really pleased with the new results. after making a few blocks, i knew that original block wasn't going to fit with the rest, so i unpicked it whilst watching some edwardian farm with the girls. i reassembled with many of the original pieces and the block on the right above is the result. i like the depth of color and contrast much better now. and i got rid of that mini stripe that i wasn't loving. i've learned over the years and quilts to not use a fabric i don't like. some people can look at a fabric for it's color value and effect alone - i just can't. it's not worth being bothered by the offending fabric every time i look at the quilt. so out it goes.

 now i have 6 of the 14 blocks i need after just a few hours sewing. i'm amazed how quickly this block works up. today when i sat down to sew another block, i thought i'd time myself to see how long it was taking.

 but then i got interrupted by a dozen things - like a son working on math puzzles, a daughter who wanted to photograph all the bits she's sewn the last few days, a husband who brought soup, another little one who pinched her finger during a paper cutting spree. honestly, it was endless! my "quick" block took over an hour itself.

so this is where i am with t- 11 days til i wanted this quilt complete. that's nearly 3 of the 5 rows of blocks done. just 8 more wonky log cabins, a pieced word, some strips and we're done. for now, i'm just throwing them up on the board as i complete them. order and organization into the final layout will need to come soon.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

now what?

 so that photo looks really blue and cold. yuck. anyway, that's not my main problem at the moment. first, i have all the wonky stacked coin blocks completed. yay! and i've moved on to the wonky log cabin blocks portion of the quilt now, having finished the first of those. also good. except i'm not liking the look of this first block. not at all.

do i just need to make a few more and see how it goes? try something different with color or value placement? redesign the whole quilt yet again?

i'm not even sure what it is exactly that i don't like here.
maybe it's because of the missing contrast between the pattern fabrics and the solid Kona Windsor blue. i just don't know.

in the actual quilt, these blocks are scheduled to be in a row over and under the rows of stacked coin blocks. (see my sketch here.) maybe the way i had them placed in the first photo doesn't help me get a good idea of what the quilt will look like. but even if that's true, i didn't like the block itself when it was complete.

 the inspiration from this block also came from the same book the wonky stacked coin block came from - block party: the modern quilting bee. see, the quilt and the block are right there on the cover.

 i'm looking at this and trying to figure out what's different from the book blocks and mine; why they work and mine doesn't.

for one, they seem to use some coordinating solids mixed in and i have none. perhaps i should add in strips of the Windsor blue and see how i like that?

my blocks aren't as wonky as the book blocks, but that isn't what's got me. that can be easily adjusted. i think i'm going to have to sit down and study the photos in the book a bit and see what i come up with.

or maybe just walk away for the evening and see what it looks like tomorrow.

any ideas out there, brilliant quilty peeps?

linking up with lee's wip wednesday at freshly pieced.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


 no one tell his dad that he was taking a break from his algebra and chemistry and laying out a block for his quilt instead of sitting at a computer working on calculations or studying for his midterm.

i was taking a minute to make that peace-offering of an apron and the boy wandered in to my sewing area, looking for a momentary brain reprieve. he saw his quilt pieces and started laying strips out into a block.

i can't tell you how pleased having him involved in this process made me, but perhaps the look on my face says enough. just take that smile and multiply it by infinity. (or a google, a number he was obsessed with as a littler tyke.) i wish i'd let him lay out all of the blocks for me. watching his mind work on it's creative side, which is considerable, makes me pretty proud as a parent. talking about the process with him is so fun and i love that he's had a part in designing his own quilt now.

he would have stayed and worked up many more for me, i'm sure, but i had to be responsible and send him back to his studies when this block was completed. i hope i assembled it to his high standards. i wonder if he'll be able to pick it out of the quilt someday down the road.

Friday, October 23, 2015

supremely simple child's fat quarter apron - a tutorial

lately, there were fights going on in my kitchen whenever the littlest one wanted to help me cook. she wanted an apron but didn't have one of her own. naturally, she grabbed the smallest one on the rack - a red and aqua number her just-older sister brought home from a baking birthday party about two years ago. also naturally, just-older sister didn't want her precious apron being worn and dirtied by littlest sister. hence, the fighting.

and hence the reason i spent about an hour yesterday morning putting together a small and simple apron. 

i made a larger apron out of two fat quarters for an older daughter over a year ago and referred to that post as i guessed my way through this one. really, it is so simple.

with a needed apron in mind, a few days ago, littlest sister (d5) and i rummaged through the spare fat quarter basket for a print she liked. serendipitously, later that same day i happened upon two and a half yards of cast off ribbon, that may or may not have been slightly grubby from being played with. the ribbon was a color match to the fabric selected. done and done. it wasn't 2" wide like i would have preferred, but it saved me a trip to the fabric store, where lies too much temptation and waiting in lines.

so this is all you need for a quick and easy child's apron:

  • 1 fat quarter
  • 2 - 2.5 yds of 1" or 2" wide grosgrain ribbon
  • thread, blending or contrasting

photography tip - sometimes it helps to stand directly above what you are trying to shoot, even if it's on the table and you have to balance precariously on the table and can't manage to cut your foot out of the shot. some maybe your foot is in the shot, but it's also a nice, flat aerial view of what's on the table. actually, i just wanted to show off my blue toes.

step one - prewash your fabrics 

(which i forgot to do! darn it. i even did not make the apron a day earlier because i was waiting to wash the fabrics. fail.) 

and press.

step two - cut pieces

a fat quarter is approximately 18" x 21" when squared. mine was actually 19" x 21". just go with whatever you have. measure 10" down the shorter (18") side of your fat quarter and cut it in two, resulting in a skirt piece (top) which measures 10" x 21", and another piece (bottom) which is 8" x  21". (or maybe 9" x 21" like mine.) and if you accidentally cut it the other way, you will have a skirt that is slightly less wide by 3". no big deal. don't start over.

subcut the 8" x 21" piece to get an 8" x 9" bodice piece. i fussy cut my bodice piece so i could have that bird placed on the bodice where i wanted it.

set aside scraps for another project. (or, if you're making two aprons at once, and you didn't fussy cut, you could use this as the bodice piece for the second apron!)

cut the ribbon into three pieces measuring about 56", 19", and 19" long each. i did this by folding my 2.5 yds in half and cutting, then cutting one of the pieces in half again. (you can make do with 2 yds by cutting your waist tie shorter, and making the neck ties shorter and adding velcro for the closure. see options at the end for this.)

step three - hem the bodice and skirt

i created a 1/4" rolled hem on the top and sides of my bodice piece, and on the bottom and sides of my skirt piece. to help me get a crisp and accurate fold for my hem, i used my hera quilt marker to crease/score the fabric at 1/4" and 1/2". you could use a pencil mark or just eyeball this, too.

fold the fabric along the 1/4" mark and press with the iron.

then fold over another 1/4" and press again.

starting with the side seams first, backstitch at the top of the seam, then sew the seam just to the right of the inner side of the fold (a scant 1/4" will do it). i had my 1/4" guide foot on and it worked perfectly to keep me a thread or two away from the edge of the fold where i was sewing.

do both sides and then the top of the bodice. you can select a thread that blends or contrasts. i almost always just sew with whatever neutral thread happens to be on the machine (lazy) so mine is sewn with a contrasting white thread, but that makes it easier for you to see the threads for this tutorial, so my laziness paid off.

if you like, you can attach the neck tie ribbons into the top hem seam of the bodice. see step 5 below.

step four - gather and attach the skirt

leaving yourself a few inches of thread tail at the beginning and end, sew a basting seam at the top of the skirt. do this by setting your seam length as long as your machine will allow (or perhaps you have a "basting seam" setting).

then grip the edge of the fabric and pull one of the thread tails to gather the fabric. i did this until my skirt top was about 6" shorter than it had been (now about 15" wide across the top).

this gives you a skirt that is about 3" wider than the bodice on each side.

step four - attach waistband tie ribbon to skirt and bodice

line up centers and pin with ribbon under the skirt, not on top as shown here
mark the center of your waist tie length of ribbon (mine was 56" long) and the center of the skirt with a pin. (find the center by simply folding in half and marking rather than measuring.) line up the centers, wrong side of skirt facing up and ribbon on top, and pin in place with a generous 1/4" above the ribbon's edge.

backstitching at the beginning and end, attach skirt to ribbon with a generous 1/4" seam.

if you are using a 2" wide ribbon, use a 1/2" seam allowance so there is more skirt above the ribbon. or just do this if you want a bit more room to work with when attaching the bodice to the skirt.

if you want the threads showing on the front of the ribbon to be placed more precisely/accurately, then pin well and sew with the ribbon facing up, not the skirt.

the backside of the skirt with ribbon attached

in preparation for attaching the bodice to the waistband tie and skirt, fold the skirt in half and mark the center with a pin again.

do the same with the bodice to find and mark the center.

now you are going to attach the skirt to the bodice before attaching it to the waistband.

fold the waistband ribbon down out of the way, exposing the seam allowance of the skirt behind the waistband.

line up the centers with each other and pin the bodice to the skirt.

make sure the ribbon is folded back out of the way while you attach the two fabric pieces together.
in retrospect, you could attach the skirt and bodice together first and then place the ribbon on top. but i guess i just liked it the complicated way and enjoyed the challenge of not sewing the ribbon into this seam.

backstitching to secure at the end and beginning of the seam, make a scant 1/4" seam to attach the bodice and skirt together, making sure not to catch the ribbon in your seam. (really, i'm seeing this would be easier to do the ribbon after this step.)

press the seam to the side, and flip the apron open.

working with whatever seam allowance appeals to you aesthetically, attach the top of the ribbon to the bodice. i sewed just below the edge of the ribbon.

step five - attach neck ties

i noticed on the sample apron that the neck ties were sewn into the hem of the the bodice top, but i didn't want to have the neckties in the way when i was doing my other sewing, so i chose to do this last. but it would look neater and maybe be a bit more sturdy if you did this first. to do that, tuck it under the rolled hem before sewing the hem seam, flip the tie up and over, then sew hem seam.

fold under 1/4" of the ribbon's end.

with end side of the fold down and the length of the ribbon extending off the top away from the bodice, pin the ribbon to the hem of the bodice top on the outside corner.

backstitch and sew the tie to the bodice at 1/4". for sturdiness, i actually sewed back and forth over the whole length of the tie a few times. do this for both sides.

if you'd like, you can attach velcro to the ends of the ties so the little one can put it on themselves. or you can just leave it to be tied in a bow by whoever is handy.

cut all four ribbon ends on the diagonal and treat with a fray check product to prevent unraveling during use.

and there's your cute little apron.

now go get your little person and watch her smile and giggle with delight as she puts it on:

 "mama, it's so pretty! i like to tie it like this." see, those ties are generously proportioned to a nearly-four yr old, but that's just room to grow.

 that's some sass, right there.

 with posing ideas all her own. heaven help us!

after it's been properly admired and modeled, go bake something together. maybe our favorite blondie recipe here. (which, by the way, you can use real eggs in for the egg sub. sub for the sub with the real. haha.)

that's three of them with their own apron so now the only fighting should be over who gets more cookies or who gets to stir.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

wonky stacked coins block - a tutorial

i am once again plugging away at my wonky stacked coins blocks for s1's quilt. since i redesigned the quilt, i now need less of these blocks (but more of some others). i've got 11 down, 3 to go! while i was making block #11 this morning i decided to photograph the process. i tried to be pretty meticulous in my photography of steps. consequently, there are about 40 photos in this post of a pretty straight forward block. having once been a beginner that always felt information was missing, i tend to over do my instructions. i hope it helps someone, somewhere.

here we go . . . 

well, first, a few specifications:

  • i'm making a 12.5" x 15.5" (unfinished) block
  • each block contains roughly 10 "coins"/different printed fabrics per block
  • kona "windsor" blue is my background fabric. i believe i started with around 3yds.
  • this is a scrappy quilt. i started out with 1/4yd of several fabrics that fit my color scheme and theme, as well as a few scraps from previous projects. then i just started cutting. i have no specific fabric requirements to give and i certainly wont be using all the fabric i started with. you could just as easily make this block entirely out of strip scraps from your scrap stash.
  • i did not use any standard sizes for my coin height or length, i just worked within a range, deciding as i went how big to make each coin. my lengths vary from 4"- 9", the heights fall somewhere between 1.5"- 4". or somewhere thereabouts.
  • i got my inspiration for this block from block party: the modern quilting bee
  • warning - my method makes scraps and even some outright fabric waste. you can take the time to do all the maths and make everything precise to minimize your waste, but that was too mind numbing and tedious for me. this is an organic process, not an exact science. 
  • that said, a happy medium would be to pick 3 or 4 standard sizes for cutting your coins. this would allow you to use the background fabric more efficiently.
  • now that i think about it, this quilt block could easily be made with jelly rolls of printed and solid fabrics. that would be pretty easy! it wouldn't be as wonky looking unless you intentionally cut on the diagonal, but it could be done. (hmm, the wheels are turning here. maybe another quilt idea just got born. i'm sure it's been done before somewhere but it'd be fun to try.)

making a coin strip

you can easily make 4 - 5 coin strips of the same printed fabric at a time from just one width of fabric (wof - selvage to selvage) strip and a bit of chain piecing.

press your fabric then fold it selvage to selvage, wrong sides together, and square off.

decide how tall/high you want your coin to be and cut one strip from selvage to fold, making a wof  length strip. (in case you missed it, i cut my coins anywhere from 1.5"-4" high.) the one pictured is 3" x wof.

next, subcut the strip into coins that vary in length from 4"- 9". you can make all your coins from this fabric of a similar length or mix it up. at this point, i only needed 5 more blocks, so i was only making 4 coins per fabric strip. the leftover piece was set aside for future use elsewhere.

since my fabric strip was folded in half, wrong sides together, i only had to make 2 cuts to get 4 coins.

this is an overview of what the cutting process looked like laid out on my cutting mat.

now let's cut your background pieces for your coin strip.

note - since i was making lots of strips at the same time and each strip used some background fabric, i just kept the piece of "windsor" on the side of my cutting mat and pulled it over into action whenever it was needed.
cut a wof -length strip the same width as your coins. here, that's 3" wide by wof.

the coin strip needs to be a minimum of 12.5" long, and a seam allowance needs to be worked in (.5" per seam), so the total length is really 13.5". subtract the length of your coin (here 5.5") from 13.5" (here 13.5" - 5.5" = 8") and divide that number in half (here 8"/2 = 4"). this is the minimum length of background piece you need to cut from your strip. i usually add an inch or two to the minimum length to give myself some room to play with. i don't want each coin centered in the strip so by adding wiggle room, i give myself the ability to slide the coin to the right or left within the block.

as you cut, pair up a set of background cuts with each coin. you will need two background pieces per coin and consequently might need two background strips to cut from. just cut another like the first if it's needed.

when each coin has a pair of background pieces, move to the sewing machine and begin chain piecing.

using a 1/4" seam allowance, attach a background piece to the right side of each coin. don't cut between coins, just sew a stitch or two then add in the next one.

as you sew the right side piece on, lay the other background piece off to the side for round 2.

when your right sides are all sewn, clip the thread to detach from the machine.

at this point, finally succeed in smacking that really annoying mosquito that has been buzzing around and biting you because you left the sewing room doors open to the lovely weather outside. gotcha! now get back to your sewing in peace. (tracy, this was for you!)

turn the chain pieced coins around and attach background pieces to the other side of your coins. you can grab any old piece from that pile you set aside, just as long as it will give you a total length of 12.5" minimum. really, if you cut all the background pieces slightly over the minimum length, this shouldn't be an issue. but if you are using scraps left from previous blocks, it might be. (more on that later.)

when all your coins have a background piece on each end, detach from the machine and cut them apart.

lay them out on the ironing board for some chain pressing.

remember to "set the seam" by first giving a quick press to the closed seams as sewn together.
then go down the row, opening one side and pressing.

when each is done, move down the row again and press open the second side.

now you have a lovely set of coin strips for building your blocks.

at this point you can create sets of coin strips with several fabrics. most of my blocks used 10 coins, give or take one. you can either make several different sets at once or you can make a set, attach one strip to your block, then make the next set, attach another strip until you've built the whole block. it's up to you. i did a combination of both. after you've done your first block, you will already have a whole set to work with. you can either just use those or you can add more into the mix, too. i used about 20 different fabrics myself.

if you make all your strips sets before assembly, you can line up piles of your strip sets and get ready to sew your blocks.

block assembly

start with a strip that has been cut to the block's width of 12.5", with maybe a little bit of wiggle room built in by a few threads or so. take your next strip and decide where you want the coin to fall in relation to the previous coin. as long as the strip you are adding either meets the edge of the previous strip or goes past it, you are good.

now you can either lay out a few strips at a time or just add one strip at a time as you go.

take your base strip and the next strip to be added. place them right sides together, matching long edges together as well as possible, and attach with a 1/4" seam.

press open.
all my seams were pressed to the side but i wasn't particular about which side i pressed toward. none of my fabrics were excessively light, so i wasn't worried about show-thru. mostly, i pressed toward the new strip.

if some of your strip edges are rather "organic" and aren't exactly even, (most likely to happen when you use scraps), you can either trim them or match them up the best you can with the new strip and turn the shorter side up while sewing so you can see the strip you're using to guide the 1/4" seam.

in this case, my background piece on the left side of the bottom coin strip is taller than the coin section. i put that piece on the bottom so i could use the straighter, more even piece (on top) to guide my seam allowance.

while it's not necessary to trim up the edges after attaching each strip, do give the block a trim every few strips so as to keep it in check and nicely squared. use the base coin strip, which was cut to a generous 12.5", as the guide for trimming. set aside the extra pieces you trim off for use on future coin strips.

flip the block over and trim the opposite side as well.

this was the point where i remembered that i own a 12.5" square ruler and i could use it to square my blocks. genius. of course one isn't necessary, but since i own one it was stupid not to use it.

do this every few strips and you'll keep things pretty square. also, if you are working close to the minimum length requirements, this will keep you from getting a nasty surprise when you go to suare up the final block and discover your block was leaning slightly and now some of the strips are too short. that can be fixed, but it's better to avoid it up front.

how to make a coin strip with scraps

those leftover pieces you've cut off the ends of strips as you square your blocks can be used to make more strips. pair up a coin piece with two spare pieces that are near it in height and are long enough to add up to 12.5" (finished) or more.

here i have a green coin piece that's about 8" long and 2" high. i selected background scraps that were 2" x 2.5" and 2" x 4.5". don't forget to account for the seam allowances! the pieces will loose a collective 1/2" at each seam when sewn together so make sure before sewing that they equal a minimum of 13.5".

sew together and press open.

and this is the point where my iron's bladder leaks water everywhere because i unwittingly ruined it by leaving the water in the iron between uses. apparently it's not suppose to be stored that way. who knew? (well, after i read the manual to see what the problem might be, i did.)

add some wonky to the block

so far with this block my seams are pretty straight. but if you have a piece that isn't straight or if you just want to add in some slanting wonkiness, go for it! you do this by trimming the top of the most recently added strip at an angle before you add the next strip. since the green fern scrap-pieced strip i had added was not even along the edges, i decided to trim it at an angle.

it's not lying exactly flat, so it doesn't look straight, but it is. you can see that it's definitely at an angle now. go ahead and add the next strip, making sure that all edges of the new strip surpass the edges of the wonky cut strip. after you add the next strip, square off the top of the block as well as the sides.

finishing the block

since we're not using exact measurements, you have to approach the last strip in the block a little more mathematically than the others. when you are close to the height of 15.5" for the block, measure precisely how much fabric you have left to add.

pairing my 12.5"  square ruler with my 3" x 18" ruler gave me exactly 15.5" along one side, which made seeing what size strip i needed to add really easy. you could just measure with whatever you've got, but this was pretty convenient since i had the rulers.

i am lacking about 1.75". don't forget to add in 1/2" for the seam allowance. if you don't mind trimming waste, you can size your strip generously and then trim it down after everything is attached.

and somewhere i went wrong. looking at the above photo, i think it's because i was only looking at the very edge of that piece, which, in the photo, is quite clearly not cut straight. after i trimmed, it was obvious i was 1/4" short at one end. darn it! but now i can show you how to fix it.

assess how big your patch needs to be, and add on for the seam allowance.

i didn't want to do a bunch of finicky math and measuring, so i simply picked a piece that was well oversized, knowing i could trim it down. i picked a scrap that was long enough to surpass the short section by about an inch and was far wider than needed. i saved all trimming for after attachment.

i aligned the scrap with the block, letting it hang over just a bit on the right edge, and making it square with the top corner. (i should have photographed it from the other side - sorry) then i attached it with a 1/4" seam, pressed open, and square it off.

you may notice my scrap patch doesn't extend all the way to meet the top edge. i probably could have avoided that by angling the patch piece a little better, but that will be sewn into the seam allowance when this block is attached to another on top of it. or it will be sewn into the binding. either way, it doesn't matter.

and there you have a 12.5" x 15.5" wonky stacked coins block.

you can either group several of these blocks together for a quilt (my original plan) with wobbly columns of stacked coins. or you can use them in conjunction with other types of blocks for a more varied quilt (plan b). whatever you choose, have fun with it.

linking up with lee's wip wednesday at freshly pieced
and lorna's let's bee social at sew fresh quilts