Friday, April 29, 2011

Fun with Zippers

When I read on Linda's  Stray Stitches blog that today was National Zipper Day, I thought it was  a good day to blog about my own recent adventure with a zipper.

View of Zipper

This is a small candy wrapper style bag (coin purse sized), made from folded paper, complete with a sewn-in zipper.  I made it last week.  I seem to be cursed with a fascination by how things are made and after seeing some interesting bags, I wanted to learn how to make my own.

Debbie Jo's Candy Wrapper BagsA couple weekends ago, I went to Market Days in Gruene, Texas.  The trip was an excuse to check out the area--a company near there had contacted me about a possible job and I had no frame of reference for thinking about moving in that direction. (My contract gig ended last month and I am once again on the job hunt.)  One of the interesting vendors there was Debbie Jo who was selling these cool bags in various sizes, made from folded, laminated wrapping paper which are cut and folded like candy wrappers.

The photo shows a couple of Debbie Jo's bags that were hanging in her booth.

I loved the feel of these bags--the "fabric" was not only interesting, but seem to have so much structural integrity.  There were no gaps or holes and even though there was no fabric lining, the zipper was beautifully sewn in with what looked to be a pretty pick stitch visible from the inside.

In addition to her finished bags, Debbie Jo also sells kits and has an instructional DVD–the link will take you to her Etsy shop–so people fascinated with learning how things are made can make their own.

Although I wanted one of those large size bags, I also thought it would be fun to choose my own paper (or possibly print or my own) and so, to learn the technique, I bought the smallest kit along with the DVD and made this little bag.

Candy Wrapper-style Coin purse Zipper stitching detail

I was warned that sometimes smaller is more challenging ... but, even if my finished little back is imperfect, I think I got the basics and will try a larger one this summer.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Circle Game

CirclesIt didn't feel like much of a sew-in, but there was some (hand) sewing–if the running stitches in the seam allowance of all those circles count– and at the end of the night I had prepared these 40 circles for machine appliqué . . . it seems a little less impressive in the morning light ;-)

I am using this method for the circles: Preparing Circular Elements for Appliqué

No, I did NOT decide to add appliqué to the sampler quilt, these circles, along with the leaves that will turn them into "flowers" will be going onto the setting triangles for Road Trip to the 30's, my BYOS quilt made from feed sacks.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

One More Border?

Handmade by Heidi Tomorrow night is the Friday Night Sew-in in Blogland.  (Follow the link if you want to learn more or play along.)

I plan to finish up the Lotto Block Sampler--not sure if I will add a narrow cream border and call it done, add a final plain border (I'm thinking purple, but could be under the influence of the color of the month for the Rainbow Scrap Challenge).

I put it on the bed to see if that perspective would provide any insight.

The sampler-in-progress 

Is it wrong to make the quilt just a little bit bigger so it will fit on the bed . . . even if my original intention was NOT to make a bed quilt? And what about those big white spaces I've created around the outside of the quilt.  Does the quilt seem to need some appliqué or should I leave those quiet spaces alone, knowing that when the quilt is quilted, they won't seem so empty?

Grace "helping" againDid you notice the tail in the photo above?

Probably the only thing Grace enjoys more than admiring quilting fabric or sewn blocks is helping to make the bed.

She seemed to think that the new quilt would make a great bed cover . . . she even held on tight to the in-progress top when I tried to take it away.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Quilt Speaks

My best laid plans to add some plain borders to the Lotto Blocks sampler quilt and call it done were foiled by the quilt–it kept insisting that I needed to more gracefully terminate those Knot and Chain blocks ...

Adding border blocks

. . . and so I pieced some half blocks–technically 60% blocks–and cut some plain rectangles.

Maybe the quilt was right. I think it IS better. 

(Yes, at the bottom of the photo, the quilt is crumpled like that because I had to chase Johnny out from under it.  Grace was watching from a nearby chair and waiting to see if he was going to get into trouble ;-)

You can check out the other design walls (floors, tables, etc) by following the links at the bottom of Judy's Patchwork Times Design Wall Monday blog post.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Ruby McKim's 101 Patchwork Patterns

I was poking around looking for a copy of Ruby McKim's original book, One Hundred and One Patchwork Patterns and found that an online version has been created at the website
by the youngest granddaughter of Ruby Short McKim, Merrily McKim Tuohey.

It's fun to read through the introductory sections on quiltmaking and notice how much has (or has not) changed in 80 years. 

You can download all the patterns--templates are provided for ALL of them.  Since the advent of the rotary blade and rulers, the modern quilter probably wouldn't use templates to create most of these blocks, but it's a great resource for hand piecers.

I think the Strawberry block would be fun to handpiece (and easier than machine sewing it).

Purple Progress

LeftoversIt seemed like this ball of leftovers from cutting purple triangles from my scraps would be all I would have to show for my progress with the purple portion of the Rainbow Scraps Challenge.

Purple blocks . . . until I got inspired last night and sewed together 8 more blocks for my very scrappy quilt.

I kept seeing the star in this block and didn't realize–until I looked it up in Brackman's Encyclopedia this morning–that the block is Broken Dishes.  It was first published by Ruby McKim in One Hundred and One Patchwork Patterns in 1931 (and republished by Dover in 1962)

I am really liking this variation, where the placement of dark and medium triangles create the star.

I was chatting with a friend last night and mentioned that I have NEVER cut all the fabrics for a quilt before I begin sewing--she is making a quilt using a kit and did all her cutting up front.

The quilt I will make from these blocks is my best example of why not.  There will be more than THREE THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED triangles in this thing when it's done . . . and there's no way I could ever have endured that much cutting, cutting, cutting.

Do you cut everything you need for a quilt before you begin? Am I a quilting odd-ball because I like to mix up the cutting and sewing (and leave myself options if I change my mind along the way?)

After I finished these purple blocks this morning, I couldn't resist combining them with some of the blue, red and green blocks.

25 Blocks

I'm not sure if I will arrange them in an organized way, but am thinking that if I decide to do so, it would be a good idea to work on the layout so I know before I get there, how many of each color I'll need.

What do you think?  Trip Around the Broken Dishes?

Check out the links at the bottom of  this post to see what other quilters are sewing for their rainbow scrap challenge. 

Sunday, April 03, 2011

My Feline Helpers on the Design Floor

Arranging Blocks ... with Grace HopperLast night, I put together the sampler and alternate blocks ... and I had help.

While Johnny was the first to discover me working on the design floor, Grace–a true lover of textiles–was the most persistent in helping me put the blocks together. That girl loves fabric.

Johnny just wants to be my priority, whatever I am doing . . .

Arranging Blocks ... with Johnny B.

I did manage to get the blocks together and am now thinking about borders.

Sampler Quilt in progress

(If you're wondering, I really don't like those two yellow blocks one atop the other either ...  I'm sure I must have flipped something when I was assembling the blocks, but I've decided I can live with it.) 

Taking the photo of the in-progress quilt was not without its challenges because Johnny insisted I needed his help as you can see here, here and here. I would chase him off the top, but as soon as I stepped onto the step stool for a better perspective shot, he ran back in ... even when I convinced to stay off the top, he insisted on getting himself into the frame.

Grace Hopper showed up fashionably late–she'd been napping in the closet–and missed her close-up.

Edited on Monday to add if you want to see more design floors, walls and other work in progress, head on over to Judy's blog and see what everyone else is up to.

Saturday, April 02, 2011


That 30's Thang blockThe color of the month for the Rainbow Scraps Challenge has not yet been posted ... but the background color of on the blog has recently been updated to a nice shade of purple, so I took a leap of faith, pulled out my purple scraps.

After making all those green and cream alternate blocks, I realized I was missing a couple of the lotto blocks we made in 2006. This one is from Quilter's Cache and is called That Thirties Thing.

For the lotto, we made these paper foundation pieced blocks in red, white and blue and I used the pattern to create a flickr photo tutorial of paper piecing.

I like it as a shaded monochrome ring, too.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Block Lotto Synchronicity in Red & White

Red & White quiltWhen a quilter walks through almost any quilt show, they will see quilt designs they (or friends) have made and designs that they want to make.

A couple of the quilts reminded me of block patterns that we have made for the Block Lotto ... or would be making in April.

We made a liberated version of the "asterisk" blocks in the quilt at the top of this photo last summer, called Fireworks.

Red & White quiltThis quilt based on the block pattern known as The Clover Blossom was fresh in my mind when I was in New York for the exhibit last weekend because I had been looking for a documented name for a simplified design that Kate had suggested for the Block Lotto.

Kathy's Modern Clover #1I thought The Clover Blossom block was probably it's closest documented relative, so I suggested the block name, Modern Clover for the much simpler block.

I put together directions for making a 6 inch (finished size) version here:

Modern Clover Quilt Block

And here are some of the blocks I made for our scrappy color-way this month.

You can see many more lovely, scrappy examples of this block on the Block Lotto blog.

One more bit of Block Lotto synchronicity . . . in March 73 quilters made 436 red & white D4P blocks.  I don't know if they were influenced by the Infinite Variety buzz or if it was just a fun block in a classic color combination . . . but this represents a record number of lotto blocks made in one month.  NINE winners will be receiving at least 48 blocks--a great start on a red & white quilt for their own collection.  I think Joanna Rose would be happy with our success.

Someone recently shared a link to this video of the Infinite Variety exhibit and it seems like a good place for me to (finally) stop posting about the show.

Modern Clover Quilt Block

Sophie's Modern CLover #1When Kate sent a drawing of this block to me, I didn't realize it was a Kate original and went looking for the name of the block.  The closest block pattern I found (in Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns was The Clover Blossom . . . and so I dubbed Kate's simplified version the Modern Clover. Because of my research, I immediately recognized The Clover Blossom quilt at the Infinite Variety exhibition.

Kate's block is easily assembled from 4 units--three Half-Square Triangles and a Stem.
  • The leaf units are made from green and cream fabrics.  You'll need two leaf units.
  • The bloom unit is made from two shades of the same (non-green) color. You'll need only one of these.

For the April 2011 Block Lotto, we will be making a 6 inch Modern Clover block from 3 inch units, using green for the leaves and stem, cream background and two shades of any non-green color for the blossom.These are finished sizes, the units, before they are sewn together should measure 3 1/2 inches and the block will be 6 1/2 inches before it is sewn into a quilt top.


Known as half-square-triangles (HST, for short) or triangle squares, there are a lot of ways to make this useful building block unit. Once you find the method that works best for you and become confident making them, you'll be amazed at the quilt block patterns that you can (easily!) make.

The method you use may be influence by the number of HST units you need to make from the same pair of fabrics. If you decide to make a bunch of clover blocks with the same background and leaf fabrics, you might want to make all those units in one fell swoop using Thangles or Triangle Paper or a similar commerical product.

Making many HSTs

Using Thangles, you begin with strips of fabric that are 1/2 inch wider than the finished size of your HST unit.  For example, for our 3 inch units, you would begin with 3 1/2 inch strips of your two fabrics. Read about How Thangles Work on their web site.  Triangles on a Roll is a similar product.

 With other sew-on-the-line products, you begin with two rectangles, place the printed paper (or lightweight non-woven interfacing-like product) on top, pin in place and sew on the dotted or dashed lines and, after all the seams are sewn, cut on the solid lines to create a bunch of HST units.  You can download and print free gridded paper from Block Central. Using their 3-inch HST paper (finished size), you would begin with two 8-1/2 inch squares of fabric to make 8 HST units--enough leaf units for four blocks.  As with anything you download, always be sure to measure the 1" arrow to make sure your computer did not "scale to fit" or otherwise chances the dimensions. Commercial products are printed on larger than printer-paper sized sheets--you use larger rectangles of fabric and produce more HSTs at a time.

Making 1 or 2 HSTs

One way to make Half-Square-TrianglesFor the most common method for making a pair of HST units, you begin with two fabric squares that are 7/8" larger than the desired finished size.  Many quilters will cut the squares 1" larger because it's easier to measure and you can trim afterward. This method is described nicely on the About Quilting site here:

Quick and Easy Half-Square Triangle Units

If you have a fabric cutter, you can easily cut one or two triangles from some smallish scraps to make HST units. (FYI, this is not a product placement, I actually bought and use that Go! baby, but can't compare it to anything else ... )


Fabrics for Step unit
For a 3 inch (finished size) stem unit,

One 3 1/2 inch square of stem fabric (green)
Two 3 1/8 inch squares of background fabric (cream)

Align fabric in a cornerAssemble the stem
  1.  Place a smaller background of background fabric on top of the larger square of stem fabric, right sides together, with one corner and adjoining edges perfectly aligned.

  2. Stitch
  3. Draw a stitching line from corner to corner on the smaller square. For a bonus triangle, draw a second line, parallel to the first, 1/2 inch away (toward the aligned corner).

  4. Stitch on the drawn line(s).

  5. Cut between the stitch lines . . . or 1/4 inch away from the single stitch line if you don't opt for the bonus triangle square.
  6. Press.
  7. Repeat steps 1-5 with the second smaller background square, placing it so that it is aligned with the opposite corner and other two sides of the background square.
Cut between the lines Press Repeat with second small square


Lay out the four units for your Clover block. Looking at it in an on-point fashion, keep the LIGHT fabric (in the blossom HST) on the LEFT. If you used different leaf fabrics, then place the LIGHTER leaf on the LEFT. If the leaf fabrics are the same, but the backgrounds are different, place the one with the LIGHTER background on the LEFT.

Sew the units together like a four patch, first in pairs and then press.

Block Layout Sew as a 4-patch

Sew two pairs together and you are done.

Modern Clover block


These blocks were made by Karen, Liz, Maree, MB, Pat, Susan and Wendy.

Karen's Modern Clover #1 Susan's Modern Clover #1 Karen's Modern Clover #4 Maree's Modern Clover #2
Pat's Modern Clover #2 Pat's Modern Clover #1 Maree's Modern Clover #1 Karen's Modern Clover #2
Karen's Modern Clover #3 Karen's Modern Clover #7 Pat's Modern Clover #2 Pat's Modern Clover #3
Pat's Modern Clover #5 Karen's Modern Clover #5 Karen's Modern Clover #6 Pat's Modern Clover #4
MB's Modern Clover #8 Karen's Modern Clover #8 Pat's Modern Clover #9 Pat's Modern Clover #6
MB's Modern Clover #7 Karen's Modern Clover #9 Pat's Modern Clover #7 MB's Modern Clover #3
Sophie's Modern CLover #1 MB's Modern Clover #4 Karen's Modern Clover #10 Pat's Modern Clover #8 
Liz's Modern Clover #1 MB's Modern Clover #2 MB's Modern Clover #6 MB's Modern Clover #9
MB's Modern Clover #1 Wendy's Modern Clover #1 MB's Modern Clover #5 Kathy's Modern Clover #1
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