Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Plan B - My pillow for March FMQ Challenge

Em, of Em's Scrapbag, calls it a Plan B when you use blocks made for a different purpose in a new project.  I like that.   Here's my Plan B pillow, made for the March FMQ challenge.

March Pillow for FMQ CHallenge

And here's how it started.

The ideaAfter a demo and presentation of improvisational piecing at the Modern Mini-group, I wanted to try something more abstract than my usual.

At the time I had just finished Jenny's Welcome Spring stitchery design and thought I could improvise some borders, so I gathered some fabric scraps that would coordinate.

After playing around a bit, I had created a border that I thought looked interesting on it's own but ... absolutely horrible next to the stitchery.

I considered (and dismissed) a few ideas for using the improvised strip with the stitchery.



My Improvised Border   Ugh


Plan B

And then, Plan B was born.

I put a simple print border around Welcome Spring and combined my improvised border with another fabric and use it was the background for the March FMQ challenge.

I chose option #1:

Use the free FMQ tutorial provided by Patsy, from the 2012 FMQ Challenge, to create a FMQ Pillow adapting her border approach to your pillow design.  To clarify, you get to decide the number size of your pillow, the number of borders you wish to use, as well as which of the designs Patsy shared in this free tutorial, as you feel appropriate.

It was suggested that we sketch out our plan and practice first, but since this was my Plan B (and dangerously close to the end of the month), I just went for it.  Here are photos (front and back) of the quilting, before it was assembled into a pillow.

Quilted - before assembly into pillow

Quilting from the back

Monday, March 30, 2015

Making String Binding from Small Scraps

Ready to useAmi asked for a tutorial of how I was making the string-pieced binding.

Bonnie wondered why I was using such small pieces when–as I also mentioned in email to others yesterday–there are faster and more efficient ways to make it ...  though, to be honest, this 9-plus yards of binding came together pretty quickly.

I decided to post about my process, answer the questions and ... have a reminder for myself, if I ever want to do this again.

My initial inclination would be to make wider string yardage, like this, and cut the binding strips (on a bias) from it, just like any other fabric. The diamonds that make up the string stars themselves were cut from fabric I made in the same batch as this, during a stash/scraps clean out.

Last year, I made more string fabric yardage (in a more narrow color palette, using width-of-fabric strips) for my Feather Bed quilt.  (I know there's a photo on my blog of that fabric, but cannot find it). It really is the best (and fastest) way to go ...

But since I ONLY needed enough string fabric for a binding, I got the idea to pull strings from my bins of small scraps.  Most of those are smaller than a 10 inch square.   At first I thought I could make a "double wide" piece from which I could cut two binding widths, but ... I soon realized that when those strips are put on a 45 degree angle that an 8 inch strip, with triangles cut from each end to create the angle, resulted in something around 4 inches wide.  My plan was for binding cut at 3 1/2 inches wide for a 1/2-inch wide double fold binding.

If you can make a wider piece of binding fabric using cut yardage or precut jelly rolls, I recommend you consider doing so. 

Being fully committed to using my smaller scraps, here's what I did.

I cut a pile of strips approximately 8-inches long in varying widths. The wider the strip, the longer the strip will need to be–more on that later.

Sew strips off-set I didn't exactly put them in a paper bag (to randomly pull them out and add them), but my process was similar.  I dumped them in a pile on my table next to the sewing machine and randomly grabbed and added, usually only choosing to which end of the pieced strings I'd add it.

To begin,  align two strips along their long edges and offset on the left edge. Sew them together and press.

Now, using a ruler, cut this 2-unit piece into the shape and size.

Align the 45 degree angle line on the ruler with the bottom edge of the bottom strip and cut the angle on the left side.

Then cut the strip to slightly wider than the desired width.  For my 3 1/2-inch wide binding strips, I cut mine at 4-inches.

Use ruler to trim at 45 degrees 45 degree angle
Trim to 4-inches wide Trimmed with angles defined

Once you have established the angle, all you need to do is add a strip, sew it on, press and trim.  When you add a strip, you align it on the left side, with the extra width on the right, like this.

Adding the next strip

As you continue to add the strings, you will see the how and why of "the wider the strip, the longer it needs to be." If a wide strip isn't long enough, you could end up with something like this, where, after it is trimmed, the point of the angle on the right side looks "chopped off."  If this happens, just trim it parallel to the seam. 

The wider the strip ... Even the edge

When you start, it seems like it could take ... forever.  I started with 5 pieced binding strips, so that I could chain piece them--making it a little faster.  I also thought that if I made them each approximately 2 yards long,  which wouldn't become too unwieldy and could be be folded into quarters to trim to 3 1/2 inches before I joined them together. 

When my chain-pieced strips became long enough, I would add a strip to one end, then pull the other end around and add a strip there as well.   I am a few inches shy of 6 feet tall (2 yards), which made eyeballing my progress easy: waist-high, shoulder-high, eye-level, over-my-head, done.

When I got close, I actually stopped to measure the quilt and figure out exactly how much binding I needed–328 inches, which is a little more than 9 yards, so I stopped before I reached my 5 strips over-my-head or 10 yards goal.  And a funny thing happened when I sewed it to the quilt–a binding miracle: it was EXACTLY the right size.

I started hand stitching down the binding last night while I watched television.  I truly AM a SLOW stitcher and have a ways to go.  It's now rolled up in the basket in the den waiting for me to return.

In the den

I probably used more clips to hold the binding in place than usual because of all the seams in the string-piecing. Every seam in the binding has a clip to keep it under control.

Since I cannot (yet) show you what's on my Design Wall (a super secret Cotton Robin project that won't be revealed until summer), I am sharing my process from work table and basket.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

This happened ...

I've finished quilting the string star quilt ... and decided it needed string binding.  And so, last night,  I started making the 10 yards of it I'll need. I didn't get very far ...

Making String binding

The binding made so far is on the left, the strings I have cut from scraps so far are on the right.

The "strings" for the binding are a bit wider than I used in the stars (to try to keep the thickness of all those seams to a minimum).  I will continue cutting strings from my scrap bins and sewing them together with a goal of spending my Sunday evening Slow Stitching down the binding.  Wish me luck!

Here's a peek at the quilt after it was washed–lint (from the exposed batting) and all.

After washing

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Spring Arrives in an Instant

It seems no matter where I have lived, when Spring arrives, it does so in an instant, like someone has flipped a switch somewhere and suddenly everything starts turning green and growing.  Despite my allergies to just about everything around here, I had to be outside in it–it was worth it ... though I am paying for it today (sniffle, sniffle, sneeze).

Yesterday, I enjoyed an afternoon coffee break on the roof deck ... and was surprised and a little startled when I noticed the snow-capped mountains in the distance ... apparently all that snow doesn't melt in an instant :-)

snow-capped mountains

Friday, March 27, 2015

March's Lovely Finish

The Oak Leaf quilt top been finished for a while, but I realized I never blogged about it before now.  I'm adding it to the list at the Lovely Finishes party.

Finished Oak Leaf Quilt Top

My goal was to make the additional blocks I needed and to decide on a setting.  I really liked the leaf blocks lined up like marching soldiers, so I went with a simple arrangement with sashing and borders in the same color as the background.  I am still thinking about quilting design (and thread color!) for this one--realistic oak leaves and acorns or something geometric with more triangles? 

Adventures of Outdoor Quilt Photography

At the neighborhood playgroundThere's a new playground in my neighborhood and lately, as I drive by, I keep thinking of taking my finished charity kid's quilt there for it's closeup. See that rope/climbing structure? I thought I'd find a way to place/hang the quilt on that.

I brought clips and pins, but nothing worked.

Failed Idea

The wind picked up so throwing it over the top of the monkey bars turned out to be similarly unsuccessful. 


Another failed idea

The quilt seemed happiest (and least likely to blow away) on a picnic table or bench. 


Playground bench

I'm really happy with my choice of the skinny red binding.   For those who like to see quilts flat and square, here it is, pinned to the design wall.

Finished Kids Quilt

Can I get a Whoop whoop, for at least trying to take photos on a windy morning at the playground?

I'm also joining the lists for:

Richard and Tanya's Link a Finish Friday
Fort Worth Fabric's Fabric Frenzy Friday
QuiltShopGal's Creative Goodness Linky Party
Simply Pieced's TGIFF

And how about a couple more photos of my playground photography adventure and some signs of spring around the neighborhood?

As a picnic table cover? Things are beginning to looks like spring
Signs of Spring Cool Stuff?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Practice, Practice ...

The saying goes that practice makes perfect. I'm not sure that's exactly what's happening with the quilting of the golden oldie UFO string stars quilt.

Practice, Practice

Once committed to a couple of ideas, I kept going ... like with all that pebbling.  Now, I find myself still quilting practicing. I'm adding those parallel lines around the outside edge now. All that will be left is adding something in the red border in a different color thread (because I couldn't cover it in more of the teal/turquoise variegated thread.)

I'm not sure my pebbles have improved, but I'm a lot more comfortable using rulers now.

Updating to add a link to Angie's WIPS Be Gone list–this golden oldie UFO definitely qualifies–and to Lizzie's Free Motion Mavericks

Monday, March 23, 2015

Waiting for Inspiration ... on the Design Wall

Here is what's on my design wall today.

Design Wall - March 23, 2015

I have a plan for the blue star block (the first of a bunch made with the QOV mini group last week); the rest is there waiting for a plan to use them in Quilts of Valor projects.

For me, the design wall is not only a place to arrange and audition during the making of a quilt, but also a way of creating a focus of something I need/want to work on.  

Check out the other links for Design Wall Monday to see what quilters are working on and how they use their walls.
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