Friday, April 30, 2010

Reeds Free-pieced Quilt Block

Finished Block - cropped The irregular, curved shapes in this block have an organic feeling and abstracted, natural look. I see reeds, but you might see green shoots or leaves of grass.

It's a pretty simple block that offers the opportunity to work with curves, make bias edges work for you and freely cutting and piecing it all together.

To make a 7-1/2 inches square (7 inch finished size) block:

Cutting Fabrics
  1. Cut:
    One rectangle cut from background fabric that is at least 8 inches high and 9 inches wide. (My example is a 9 inch square).

    Three 1-1/2 inch wide strips cut on the bias of reed fabric. Two should be 9-10 inches long; the third 4-6 inches long.

    One 1-1/5 inch wide strip cut on the bias of background fabric, 4-6 inches long.

  2. Sew the ends togetherSew the two short bias strips together end-to-end and press toward the darker fabric.This join can be made at an angle–just be sure that your resulting joined bias is straight.

  3. Lay the background rectangle on your rotary mat, right side up. Using your rotary cutter to draw, cut a gentle curve that extends from the top to bottom.

  4. Insert a bias strip. First sew it to the side of the background with the outside of the curve. Gently press the bias reed in place–steam may help if it doesn’t want to bend to your will and lay nice and flat.

    Draw the First Reed  Insert the bias strip

  5. Bring the sewn side back to the mat. Trim the un-sewn side of the reed to create an irregular, more natural shape.

    Trim the Insert (Reed)

  6. Slightly overlap the side with the reed attached on the background and, following the edge of the reed you just cut, trim the background to match.

    Trim background to match  Sew the matching curves together

  7. Sew the matching curves you have just created together and press.

    First Reed completed.

  8. Repeat steps 3 through 7 twice more, to add two more reeds to your composition. When adding the two-color reed, keep in mind that you will be trimming the block to 7-1/2 inches square. Be sure that the “end” of the reed is within the finished block.

    Repeat for another Reed  Third insert

    Inserting 2-Color Strip  Keep in Mind the final size of the block

  9. Trim the completed block to 7-1/2 inches square and admire your composition.

    Finished Block
For the May 2010 Block Lotto, we are making this block with lime reeds on white, black or black  and white print backgrounds.  For more sewing tips, check out this blog post on the Block Lotto group blog:

Tips and Troubleshooting for the May Block

Here is a collection of some of the early lotto blocks, from Caroline, Kate, Kim and me.

Kim Hall's  Reed Block Black Background Kate's Reeds Block - B&W Background Kate's Reeds Block - Black Background
Sophie's Reeds Block - B&W Background Sophie's Reeds Block - Black Background Sophie's Reeds Block - White Background
Caroline's reeds black background Kim Hall's  Reed Block B&W Background Kim Hall's  Reed Block B&W Background
Sophie's Reeds Block - B&W Background Sophie's Reeds Block - Black Background Sophie's Reeds Block - B&W Background
Sophie's Reeds Block - Black Background Sophie's Reeds Block - B&W Background Sophie's Reeds Block - Black Background

You can see all of the blocks made for the block lotto in these blog posts.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Please Tread Lightly

Please tread lightly on the earth, on Earth Day and every day.

And, while you're at it, do something nice for yourself, too. Print Heidi Kenney's pocket-sized Dirty Dozen Cheat Sheet, as a reminder of those fruits and veggies which are best bought organic (because of otherwise high levels of pesticides) and, on the other side of the card which generally have the lowest pesticide levels.

Heidi is printing fabric at Spoonflower with those charismatic fruits and vegetables on it. I'd love to have some of it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I know why they call it Water Hammer

A strange noise invaded my environment Friday night. When it woke me up before sunrise on Saturday morning. I had been dreaming of jack hammers and, once awake, I wondered if it was possible that the crew rebuilding a parking ramp on the other side of the building could be jack hammering in the dark that early on a weekend. Unlike this guy, I wasn't smiling.

After I woke up and poked around a bit, I realized it was coming from somewhere in the building but it wasn't anything inside my apartment. When the Property management office opened, I went downstairs and asked them to help.

I won't bother you with the details of the unreturned phone messages and promises made (and apparently abandoned) by everyone on staff here over the past five days. If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know that the design fault which causes my 6th floor loft to flood whenever there's a big rain has still never been fixed . . . nearly a year later and that's pretty typical of "property management" here.

Over the last five days, the noise became louder and louder and unfortunately, was loudest exactly where my bed is. I've been getting less and less sleep until last night, it was so loud that I couldn't sleep at all. Extended sleep deprivation definitely makes you grumpy. When the office opened this morning, I went down and YELLED at them to fix the noise in the loft directly above me ... which coincidentally has been left vacant since the first flood because "it leaks." After my hissy fit in the building office,  I walked to the coffee shop for some caffeine–there was no way I could get through the day without it–and some peace and quiet. While I was there, the office called and told me that "the water hammer" was broken in the unit above mine and that it has been fixed and the AC turned off.  I came home to a blissfully quiet loft and am looking forward to bedtime tonight.

By the way, "the water hammer" isn't really a piece of plumbing hardware to be fixed, as the person who left the message for me explained, it's a specific plumbing noise. if you're curious or if you start hearing jack hammer sounds from your pipes, you can read about it on the How Stuff Works site, here: How To Stop Water Hammer.

So, what did I do all night for the past 5 nights when the noise was so horrific I couldn't sleep?  I've been devouring mysteries.  It's a good thing I live so close to the library, because I've been returning and picking up every day but Sunday.  I caught up with the latest adventures of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum (2 books), Marcia Muller's Sharon McCone (3 books) and one from Robert Parker's Spenser.  I particularly enjoy the last two series because their characters live in cities in which  I have lived–the San Francisco Bay Area and Boston.

My reading got me wondering if there are any light mystery writers who have series based in Dallas.  I could have checked on Google, but I thought it would be faster to just ask, when I was at the library. I somehow imagined that people from Dallas who worked with books would know that kind of thing.  The lady at the information desk ... Googled, then called upstairs and asked, then sent me upstairs to a man who had ... Googled and found a university site that had a list of mystery writers whose books take place in TEXAS.  I confess I was disappointed.  I really expected one of the three librarians I talked with to come up with a personal recommendation. But I took the printed list, wandered through the books and came home with two books set in mythical Kickapoo, Texas (mythically an hour away from Dallas) by Paula Boyd, who reviewers have compared to Evanovich. While Jolene Jackson was entertaining, her series seems to stop at three books and she wasn't quite what I was looking for ...

I doubt I'll need it tonight, but today, I returned the last published adventures of Sharon McCone, Locked In, and picked up the first in a series by William Manchee, who, according to one of the promotional blurbs on the back of the book, could be Dallas' answer to John Grisham.  We'll see how it goes . . . I'm still looking for that personal recommendation ;-)

The other thing I did when I couldn't sleep was post some block instructions for a couple of wanna be Lotto Blocks that we never used.  If you want to take a look, check out:

Quartered Star Quilt Block Pattern
Free-style Tree Block

After I get some sleep and can think straight again, I'll be back with something much more interesting than this stream of consciousness . . . and photos ;-)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Quartered Star Quilt Block Pattern

Quartered Star Block (cropped)Here's another block I had planned for the block lotto that didn't make the list. I still love it, for the friendship star in the center and the ribbon effect when the blocks are put together in a straight set.  I think it has all kinds of scrappy possibilities.

According to Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Blocks, this block was first publishedwith the name Quartered Star, in 1978 in Michael James' The Quiltmakers Handbook, but I've also seen it referred to as the Ribbon Star.

Whatever you call it, I think it offers great possibilities for playing with color and value. For the block lotto, I had originally thought of a constant of dark blue for the star in the center, medium blue in the corners and quilter's choice of lights–I used pink in this sample–for the "ribbon." But don't let my ideas of color hold you back from making this block your own.

The construction of this block is accomplished by using partial seams, a useful technique for any quilter's repertoire. 

To make the 6 inch (finished size) block as shown:
  1. Cut four 2.5 x 4.5 inch rectangles of light (ribbon) fabric, four (corner) 2.5 inch squares of medium blue and five 2.5 inch squares of dark blue (star) fabric.
  2. Begin by aligning a dark blue square (star fabric) with the right end of a rectangle (ribbon fabric), right sides together.

    Choose & Cut Fabrics Snowball-style corners

  3. Draw a line from the upper left corner of the square to the lower right.  Sew on the line.
  4. Trim 1/4-inch on the outside of the seam

    Draw the Sewing Line Trim

  5. Press the seam (toward the blue/star fabric) rotate the rectangle 180 degrees and repeat, adding a medium blue (corner fabric) triangle.  Be sure to always draw the line in the same direction (upper left to lower right, when the rectangle is horizontal like this.)
  6. Once again, trim 1/4 inch on the outside of the seam, press open (toward the medium blue/corner fabric.)

    Press and Repeat Trim Again
  7. Your rectangle should look like the unit below on the left after adding triangles to each end.
  8. Make 4 identical rectangles.  Then, you're ready to assemble the quartered star block.

    Finished rectangle unit Make 4 Rectangles
  9. Lay out the rectangles around the last dark blue *star fabric) square as shown below on the left.
  10. Sew the center square to the rectangle above it.  Start the seam where the two ends are aligned and sew ONLY 1/2-to-2/3 across the small square.  Press the partially sewn seam.

    Lay it Out Seam #1 - a Partial Seam
  11. Add the rectangle on the left to the end of the two blocks partially sewn together.  Press.
  12. Add the rectangle on the lower left.

    Seam #2 Seam #3
  13. Add the last rectangle, to the lower right.  Then go back to the original (partially sewn) seam and complete it.  See how easy partial seams can be?

    Seam #4 and back to Seam 1

    Your block is done!

    Quartered Star Block

Free-style Tree Block

Four Tree BlocksI confess this idea was a Block Lotto idea reject–I liked it. but the feedback from a  couple of people from whom I solicited an opinion was that they thought it was  too simple.

Personally, I still like it and it may appear in the block lotto rotation one day . . . but in the meantime, I couldn't think of any reason not to share the block tutorial. As you might guess from my sample blocks, my original thought was to create a psychedelic forest using pairs of black and bright fabrics.

The measurements in these directions will produce a pair of 6 inch (finished size) block. The block really IS so simple that you could adapt them to produce any size and proportions you need–just start with something that is a couple inches larger than the finished size you want to produce, whether it's a smaller or larger square or a rectangle, tall and skinny or short and wide.  You can also probably imagine how to add complexity to these trees. Think of this simple block as a jumping off point to create a liberated tree . . . or a whole forest of your own.

To make a pair of 6 inch (finished size) blocks:
  1. Begin with two 8-inch squares of fabric
  2. Stack the two squares on top of each other, right sides up.  Make the first cut at least 1-1/2 inch from the bottom.This will define the bottom of your tree.

    1. Start with two squares 2. First Cut

  3. In the bottom section, make two vertical cuts near the middle, at least 1-1/2 inches apart, to create the tree's trunk.
  4. In the top section, make two angled cuts to form the tree shape.  Cut the first one, then pull the sky piece you just created out of the way before making the next cut.

    3. Make two vertical cuts 4. Make two angled cuts
  5. Swap the top and bottom fabrics for the tree and trunk
  6. Assemble the top and bottom units.  Trim even and join top to bottom.
  7. 5. Swap Fabrics 6. Sew and Trim
  8. After you have assembled the block, press and square up to 6.5 inches. Your two blocks will be identical with opposite fabric placement.

    Casual Trees

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