Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Applique and Curves Giveaway

Giveaway Closed!
Miranda, you are our winner!  Congratulations!

This has been a crazy skill building couple of months - I think almost everyone felt stretched making the applique blocks.   Some of us have sworn never to touch the stuff again.  :)  But I realized that even though I am not great at it that applique is sure fun to do while watching my favorite shows.

Curves...I was nervous about these.  More nervous about using templates than the actual sewing.  Quilting is so precise that I figured I could never cut out the pieces as accurately as I needed to.  But again, it wasn't as bad as I thought.  I definitely see more Drunkard's Paths in my future.

If you want to try making more curved blocks check out some of these tutorials:
  1. Improv Curved Block from Sew Take a Hike:  Make 4 of these 6.5 inch blocks and sew together to make a 12.5 inch block
  2. Set In Circle Tutorial from Cut to Pieces
  3. Wonky Drunkard's Path by Needle and Spatula

If you completed all of the blocks, I think you deserve a prize.   I am offering a sample pack of 10 different Echino Nico prints.  Each piece is 9 inches square.

 You have three Chances to Win:

  1. Leave a comment saying you finished all three applique blocks
  2. Leave a comment saying you finished all three curved blocks
  3. Leave a comment saying you made an extra curved or appliqued bonus block (you can use the tutorials above or make up your own block - go crazy on me!)
Giveaway ends the morning of Friday, February 3rd.

Check out everyone's blocks at our Skill Builder Sampler flickr group!

P.S.  If you want more practice and instruction about sewing curves, check out Rachel from Stitched in Color's online Curves Class.  The class starts on Feb. 1st.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Long Arm Quilting, Again

Last week I long arm quilted Julie's quilt top at our local dealer/rental place.  It is a fun quilt with a fun pinwheel like design in 1930's reproduction fabrics.  I got it loaded on the rack without too many problems, but after the first time across with the long arm, I realized there was a problem.  I tried to be more careful basting on the second round of quilting, but no dice.  The quilt top was shifting and I had quilted in 3 small puckers.  Augh!!!!  I wanted to pull my hair out!!!  I felt so bad that Julie had trusted me with her quilt!

The third time across I decided that the top edge of the quilt that "floats" at the top of the quilt hadn't been held tight enough as I basted it to the backing.  So I pulled the sides out as far as I could on the 4th pass - I even held them tight with the side clamps while I basted - a real no no, I guess.  But it seemed to work and by the 5th pass things were looking good.  I was quilting with meanders, loops and flowers and my flowers got soooo much better as I went along.  I can't wait to quilt some flowers again!  I mixed my new and improved 5 petaled daisies in with my basic 4 petaled flowers so the quilting didn't change too much from the top to the bottom of the quilt.

 Here it is all done.  Isn't it cute?  Julie didn't even understand why I was going on and on about the puckers and out-of-control-weird-shaped quilting in parts.  I was soooo relieved.  If she is happy, then I am happy.  :)

But I have some questions for you long arm quilters out there:
  1. Are there any tricks I should know about when basting the top of a quilt?  Obviously I did something wrong.
  2. How tight do you pull the top and bottom?  I was pulling everything really tight -very paranoid about more puckers.  But the more I pulled, the more the seams along the edges would start to pull apart.  Is there a happy medium?  How do you handle pulled apart edges?
  3. On a related note, when I took the quilt off, it got a pretty crinkly look right away.  I think this is because the backing and front were pulled taut, but the batting was more loose.  I think it is a great look for this quilt, but what if I want a more flat look?  Again, how tight do you pull the top and bottom?
  4. How do you learn new skills and designs?  I want to try out new things, but am scared of messing up quilts.  Please, tell all!
I can't wait to try again!  Even though it is nerve wracking, it is so much fun.  Weird, huh?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Chicken Quilt

 When I made the bow tie block as part of the We Can Do It!  Skill Builder Sampler in July I knew I had to make a whole quilt with them.  A few months later my good friend Becca had a bouncing baby boy and I knew just what kind of quilt to make for him.

Let me tell you a little about Becca.   We met when we lived in Texas and she taught me that you can stack your paperbacks two deep in the bookshelf, threw great Halloween parties and was just totally cool.  Then we both moved - thanks to blogs and facebook we kept in touch.

My pig got out -again!- dug up my flower bed and decided to take a nap!
 She blogged about keeping pigs.  Pigs?!?!  I couldn't believe anyone would keep pigs - then the idea grew on me and we bought two piglets - very crazy days.  She kept introducing us to cool books and shows.

Becca's Chickens
Then we both moved again.  She now has a whole flock of chickens and a few ducks and rabbits.  I have downsized to 6 chickens.

Becca's chickens won prizes this year in their small town county fair.  I love this picture Bec posted after their win and days before their baby boy was to be born.  It is totally her.  :)

The kids got all dressed up in their cowboy duds for the fair and their youngest girl was the star of the stick horse barrel race.  (Notice the cowboys on the blue fabric?)

My chickens even cooperated and got in the shot.
So I thought this would be the perfect quilt for her.  A classic quilt with a retro vibe and chickens - who wouldn't love it?  I pulled all of my red fabrics - it turns out I had quite a few - who would have guessed? - and started cutting.  There is a lot of American Jane in there along with a few Cosmo Cricket, DS Quilts and misc 1930's reproduction fabrics.

The chickens were raw edge appliqued on the quilt front before it was quilted.  The templates are from American Jane's book Quilts for all Seasons.  I got stalled for awhile after I ironed on the chickens because I was nervous about messing up the stitching around them, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.  The eyes were suppose to be little pieces of fabric, but I just did a wide zig zag in place until I thought it looked like an eye.

The back is an American Jane panel - can you tell I love her stuff?  - bordered with cowboy fabric.  And yes, I did have a I-can't-do-math moment when I was cutting the borders and didn't have any more of the blue fabric.  So the off centered-ness was not on purpose, but I think it looks kinda...purposely off center, you know, a real designer look...right?  ;)

 I free motion quilted it with a meandering stitch and loops and bound it with my No-Fail-Cheater-Binding.  After decorating my living room for a few weeks, I finally got it boxed up and sent off.  Becca loves it as much as I do.  Welcome Baby!  You've got a great mom and family!  Enjoy!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Blogger's Choice Fat Quarter Bundle

Edited to add:  They are now taking votes for your favorite fabric bundle over at Quokka Quilts 
- it is just for fun and won't influence who wins.  
Head on over and pick your favorite 3. 
If you are totally in love with my bundle, it is #320.  :)

Have you all seen the contest over at Quokka Quilts were you create your own Blogger's Choice Fat Quarter Bundle from the fabrics at the Fat Quarter Shop?  I must admit that I have spent way too much time picking out fabrics and have made and rejected many different bundles, but here is my final choice.  My favorite color combo of yellow and pink with a bit of a retro vibe.  I don't know how in the world the judges are going to choose the winner - there are sooo many great bundles, but I would love to make up something with these great fabrics.

Friday, January 13, 2012

23 - Drunkard's Path

This week for the Skill Builder Sampler we are going to make a Drunkard's Path Block.  I love these quarter circle units - there are so many ways to arrange them and make different designs.  Today I am going to show you how to make your own Drunkard's Path templates and you can choose to make a block out of 6 inch, 4 inch or 3 inch Drunkards Path units.   (scroll down for instructions)

Edited (4/15):  The Skill Builder Sampler will soon be available for purchase in book form!  It has been renamed "You Can Quilt!  Building Skills for Beginners" but covers the same skills with the easy, medium and challenging blocks and is a million times better than the original quilt along.  It is perfect for the beginning quilter or the experienced quilter who wants to branch out and learn new skills.  Find more information and pre-order a signed copy in my Etsy shop or pre-order on Amazon.  The Skill Builder Sampler tutorials will remain up until the book is released.  After release, some will be removed.

Making the Template:

This is what we want to end up with:  a template for the inner circle and a template for the outer section.  The inner circle looks much larger than the outer section, but....

 ...if you slip it under the outer template so that the sides line up, you will see that they overlap by 1/2 an inch.  That gives each piece a 1/4 inch seam allowance - perfect!  It looks odd, but it works.

 So let's get started.  Decided what size you want your finished Drunkard's Path unit to be.  Mine were 6 inches square.  Add 1/2 inch to this measurement and cut out a square of card stock with those dimensions (6.5 inches).  I outlined the seam allowances so you could see them, but that isn't necessary at all.

Next, decided where you want the pieces to meet and draw a line - this is the seam line not the line for the template. I thought that a line 1.75 inches from the top and 4.75 inches from the bottom looked good.  Place the compass in the corner of the square and mark the seam line.

 Next measure down and up .25 inches from the seam line - these are the seam allowances for the templates. The outer section template needs a 1/4 inch seam allowance below the seam line.  The inner circle needs a 1/4 seam allowance above the seam line.

 Mark those lines with the compass.   There is no way we can cut this one piece of paper to make both templates, so grab another piece of card stock to make the inner circle template.

 You don't need to cut the card stock into a 6.5 inch square.  To determine the size of the inner circle template, take the measurement from the bottom corner to the seam line and add .25.  My seam line was 4.75 inches from the corner.  Add a .25 inch seam allowance for this and I get 5 inches even.  My inner circle template needs to have a radius of 5 inches.

 Mark 5 inches on each side of the template and then mark the curve with the compass.  This is the template for the inner circle.  Cut it out.

 Cut the original template along the line that is a quarter inch below the seam line - this is the outer section template.  The circle we are cutting out has a radius of .25 less than the seam line.

To recap:
  1. Decide what finished size unit you want and add .5 inches
  2. Cut out a square of card stock that size
  3. Decide where you want the seam line.  Measure the distance from the corner of the unit to the seam line, let's call this measurement X (feel like you are back in school?).
  4. On a separate piece of card stock mark X + .25 on two sides of the paper.  Join these line with the compass.  This is the inner circle template.  Cut it out.
  5. On the original piece of card stock, make marks .25 inches below the seam line.  Join these marks with  the compass.  Cut along this lower line to make the outer section template.
 You Can Do It!  :)

Square up a corner of fabric, place the outer template on it and trace.  Repeat and cut 4 outer sections.

Trace the inner template and cut out four pieces. 

Pin one corner of the inner circle to the corner of the outer section as shown.

Pin the other end to the other corner and shape into a C shape.

Pin the center of the curve.  You could mark the center, but that is a lot of work.  ;)  Not really, I just hate marking.  To find the center without marking, line up the corner of the outer section and the corner of the inner  circle as shown.

Look at the top side.   The inner circle will peek out past the outer section.  That is the center of the curve.  

You want the lowest part of the outer section to line up with the highest part of the inner circle.
Wiggle the inner circle down by rubbing your fingers together until they are even.


Work your way around the circle pinning very regularly.

Outer section on top, sew along the edge with a scant 1/4 inch seam.
Slow and steady and watch for puckers.  Repeat for all 4 sections.

Play around with the arrangement.  So many options.

But I chose this one.  Sew the units in the top row and bottom row together.  
Press seams to opposite sides.

Sew both rows together and press.  You did it!

Then you start thinking of all the cool arrangements you can make with more units and you decide to make a block with 3 inch finished units instead of 6 inch finished units.

 Make the template (3.5 inches square) and cut out 16 inner and outer sections.

 Sew as shown before - the curves are tighter and more challenging.  
I found my seams got too scant and I needed to trim the edges of the units to square them up to 3.5 inches.
Play, play and play some more with the arrangement.

 Then join the units in rows, and finally join the rows.  Some of the seams get a bit bulky, so I ironed the bulky seams open.
 There you go!  

Two options for your Drunkard's Path block.