To be a bit cliché, this shoemaker is a professional Web Developer and her child is this blog, but it was past time to launch what I have of a new design. All the content is still here, everything else is a work in progress (kind of like most of my sewing projects)!
Early in my quilting adventures, I was guilty of starting many more projects than I finished. Case in point: this quilt started life in April 2011, but a block disappeared as I was piecing them into rows and I quickly moved on to newer, shinier projects. In the 43 months between then and now, the almost-completed top and its scrap fabric have migrated from box to bin to box, apartment to house to apartment. So consigned to oblivion, it wasn’t even mentioned in the unfinished projects lists in my yearly review posts of 2012 and 2013.
I started the top shortly after buying a Jellie roll and the book Two from One Jelly Roll Quilts by Pam and Nicky Lintott. It’s made from alternating 6″ nine patches and snowball blocks, using 2.5″ strips and a background fabric for the snowball (in this case a Target cotton sheet set clearance buy). After one of the blocks went missing, I bought a charm pack of the fabric with which to recreate the stray block, but never followed through on piecing it.
The host of unfinished projects in my sewing closet has lately become mental as well as physical clutter, demanding commitment. I unboxed this one while considering co-opting the backing fabric for another quilt you’ll see soon. Instead, I finished piecing it while waiting for a different fabric to ship for the other quilt. When I opened the box, the missing block was there on top—found and again forgotten at some point over the years. A few seams, two borders (most of which were already pieced), and it was done in the span of an hour. I’m glad it was a simple quilt design; I de-stashed the book a year or two ago.
To fit the bird nest theme, I used a stashed embroidery quilting bird motif to quilt some of the snowball blocks and two of the corners. The rest of the blocks are quilted with an all-over swirl design, the borders feathered. The sheeting fabric was somewhat difficult to quilt as it didn’t glide over my machine like quilter’s cotton does, but my free-motion skills aren’t perfect anyhow. All the free motion made for quick work—it went from basted to quilted in a single evening.
And so my sixth quilt start became my thirty-second quilt finish. Working with the older piecing, I could tell how my skills have improved—small betterments became a substantial change that I hadn’t otherwise noticed. There’s also something to be said for ease of working with high-quality fabric instead of the cheap stuff this is made of.
In the end, I didn’t need that charm pack at all, although a few charms made it into the binding when I found myself short on the brown texture. Perhaps I’ll make a pillow or two to match—I still have an entire twin sheet plus scraps of the background and backing fabric. Regardless of its future, it feels great to recover the storage space and knock another unfinished project off the list.
In the realm of quilting, this is hardly an “old” project to finally finish. What’s the oldest project you’ve ever dug out of a box and finished up?
The last time I mentioned my english paper piecing project (blocks from Lucy Boston: Patchwork of the Crosses), I’d sewn together about fifteen pieces—not even half a block. That was two years ago. Unlike many of my once-mentioned (even twice-mentioned) projects, I have continued to work on this one, albeit unhurriedly.
I go through phases where I’m content basting the individual pieces to their paper foundations, and make a bit of progress that way.
Then, I go through phases of piecing some together, building blocks a bit at a time.
This is where it stands after a bit more work while we traveled to New Jersey to see family last weekend.
In another two years or so, I may even finish an entire block.
In 2012, I started a steampunk costume that never seemed to take flight. The only finished piece is the skirt stay/brooch, created in collaboration with my friend Katherine Koba (who did all the beadwork, and continues to create the mathematically-inspired jewelry in her Etsy shop).
The backstory for the character I dreamt up to costume included Ada Lovelace as her godmother, inspiring her to tool about with Babbage’s analytical engines. While the character is fictitious, Lady Ada King, Countess of Lovelace was not—she’s considered the first computer programmer, having theorized how the Analytical Engine could do calculations decades before an electronic computer was built. So, in honor of Ada Lovelace Day (the middle Tuesday of October every year), here is a post about the brooch (finally!).
With computers, everything boils down to zeros and ones—electric current on or off. Calculations are performed by circuits of varying complexities. One of the more basic is called a full adder, which we modeled this brooch after. As you might guess from the name, it adds numbers together.
In the beadwork, the inputs are splayed across the top and the results (sum and carryover) are dangling from the bottom, with the gates and intermediate results between. The smaller, purplish beads are numbers—1 or 0—and the larger orange and gold represent the logic gates—gold for AND, orange for XOR. The white beads are filler for the paths between the gates.
The beadwork is mounted on a base made from bicycle gears (we can pretend they’re from an analytical engine) that were superglued together and spray-painted. I can’t speak for Koba, but I think sizing the wires correctly was the most difficult part of this—particularly since the gears and I were in Utica, and Koba and the beads were in South Korea!
Plumleigh can’t do any actual calculations with this full adder, but it certainly is a fun accessory to wear while she fiddles with a real set of circuits solving any manner of problem.
Projects like this are just one of the myriad ways STEM sneaks into my crafting. How does it influence your hobbies?
A group of us are starting a Modern Quilt Guild here in Vermont. It’s very exciting, but also a bit drudging trying to get everything set up and official and to get the ball rolling with actual guild-type stuff rather than being all about business, business, business, and “do we want to be MQG-official?”, et cetera.
At our September meeting, we had our first demo, potholders based on the ones in Zakka Style—a great demo idea, since it shows all the steps of quilting in one small package. To encourage members to try out the skills and techniques, we’re charged with bringing a completed potholder of any type to the next meeting.
I thought I should tackle two to-do items at once and get a head start on xmas gifts, so I made a matching set for a friend. I’ve been saving a charm pack of BasicGrey Origins for almost three years now, purchased with this friend in mind. I paired it with stashed ivory linen, a brown texture print from JoAnn Fabrics (I had nothing in my stash that matched the linen and charms. Amazing!), and an embroidery from Urban Threads.
After I finished, I remembered that we said we’d do a swap at the meeting, so I made a third for that (a great time to incorporate what I learned from earlier mistakes!).
That time around, I cut the binding as a 2.5″ strip instead of the 3″ that I used for the other two, since I wasn’t entirely happy with the width. Next time, I know to use 2.75″; 2.5″ is slightly too narrow for me to machine finish cleanly.
I pieced the 2.5″ hexies by machine (not perfect, but nothing a liberal amount of steam couldn’t handle), and turned them into a pouch for better gripping (making the pretty side the won’t-get-shoved-into-food-accidentally side, which makes the ivory far more practical). All three are 8.5″ square, with a layer of Insul-Bright and low-loft cotton batting between. I do wish I’d remembered to add a hanging loop to my friend’s, and am not entirely happy with the contrast quilting on the back (which makes the un-quilted, embroidered area even more obvious).
As for the guild, join us the last Sunday of every month, 10am-noon, at Nido in Burlington!
A bit sooner than anticipated (prompted by a comment from a reader), here’s the next edition of my Half-baked Blueprint series. Remember, these are not patterns; think of them as rough outlines of the inspiration, math, fabric, and techniques I use in some of my quilts—there’s a lot you’ll have to fill in yourself. My hope is that it will inspire other quilters to play with quilt top designing rather than always reaching for published patterns.
Three years ago, I pieced the Lollipop Baby Quilt quilt improvisationally, initially aiming at creating a straight-forward Jelly Roll Race quilt (albeit with a strange non-standard roll of half-strips). Halfway through, I paused to do a few quick math calculations and chose to piece it in four sections.
Supplies for the Quilt Top
20 2.5″ x width of fabric strips
All of your strips are between 40-44″ long, with the selvages removed.
You’re piecing straight across the strips, not diagonally as in some Jelly Roll Race quilts.
If you want to piece the strips diagonally, you’ll need three (3) extra strips, 23 total.
You’re sewing the strips together with an exact 1/4″ seam allowance.
Jelly Roll Race quilt measurements are inexact by nature—the whole point is to just sew everything together and square it up at the end, if needed. Piecing blocks is largely the opposite—you need relatively precise measurements so that everything joins up correctly. To mesh the two, you need to be willing to deal with both.
The (Mostly) Inexact Parts
This is just basic Jelly Roll Race quilt making, but you stop mid-way through.
Sew all 20 strips together, end to end. You should have a strip that is at least 800″ long. If it is shorter, you need to add one more strip. If it is longer, that’s great. Most of the time, it should end up around 820″ long at this point.
Cut exactly in half, then sew the two strips together along the long side. Now, you should have something that is 4.5″ x 400″ or longer. Square up the ragged end if needed, but try to not cut off too much.
Cut in half, sew along the long side, result should be 8.5″ x 200″ or longer (4 strips tall). Square ends if needed.
Once more. Cut in half, sew, result should be 16.5″ x 100″ or longer (8 strips tall). Square ends if needed.
The (Mostly) Precise Parts
The finished quilt is just 6 squares cut from your strip set.
Cut six 16.5″ blocks off (you should have a few inches leftover—discard it, use it on the back, or in a different project), then sew the blocks together in three rows, where rows one and three have stripes vertically, row two has them horizontally.
You now have a completed quilt top.
A whole standard jelly roll can make a 48″x64″ quilt. You’ll use 40 strips. You’ll start with a pieced strip 1600″ or more long. Your finished strip set will still be 8 strips tall (16.5″), but 200″ or longer, and you’ll cut 12 squares. Just remember, not all rolls have the same number of strips, and you’ll need more strips than a standard jelly roll if you piece diagonally (46 strips total).
Rather than cut six blocks, you can cut two off of your strip set for the middle row, then sew the remaining length into a 16-strip-wide strip set and cut that in half for rows 1 and 3—this is a little less exact, but will let you use up the full length rather than discarding the remaining few inches leftover after cutting blocks. Doing it that way likely accounts for the longer length of my quilt.
Good luck with your own quilt-making!
Caveat: I donated the quilt to the Linus Project a few months after finishing it in 2011, so I’m working partially from memory/partially by working out the math and logic again in 2014. The latter has some contradictions to the original post, such as the finished size. I claimed that the original quilt is ~36″ × 51″, but my current math concludes that it should be 32″ × 48″. My best explanation is that I must have (really) sloppily measured the unwashed, finished quilt and rounded up. I feel confident that the new measurements are correct (plus or minus an inch or two to account for piecing/cutting/shrinking deviations).
It’s been a long time since I followed a quilt pattern. The last twenty quilts I’ve made have been largely or completely my own designs, or my own take on something I’ve seen. The hardest technical part is doing the math and figuring out if I have the right amount of fabric for what I’ve chosen to do, but simply believing that I don’t need a pattern was a huge initial hurdle. Remembering that hurdle, I’m starting this Half-baked Blueprint series. They’re not patterns; think of them as rough outlines of the inspiration, math, fabric, and techniques I use in some of my quilts—there’s a lot you’ll have to fill in yourself. The rail fence “Noble Blooms” quilt from earlier this year is a good place to start. My hope is that it will inspire other quilters to play with quilt top designing rather than always reaching for published patterns.
40.5″ square quilt, made from 25 8″ finishing blocks
Starting with 24 2.5″ x width of fabric strips…
Sew six strip sets of four strips each…
Cut four 8.5” blocks from each strip set, totaling 24 blocks.
Then, cut a 4.5” x 8.5” section off two of the strip sets and sew those together to create one more 8.5” block.
Alternative: if your strips have 42.5″ of usable width (after you remove selvages), you can get all 25 blocks from only 20 strips—5 blocks per strip set, and no pieced extra block. Some strips will have this width, others won’t; each manufacturer, fabric line, and even bolt varies on the total width of fabric.
Basic: Five rows of five blocks each, alternating the direction of each block.
Intermediate: use values of the strips within blocks to create secondary patterns (sketch it before piecing or use a design wall).
Advanced: solve the n-queens problem with your placement like I did to please my nerdy mind (no block is on the same horizontal, vertical, or diagonal as another of the same block set).
Go Further (optional):
Use embellishment or applique to personalize it
Add borders to make it larger
Add asymmetrical borders to play with negative space
My Decision-making Process
What caused me to make the choices in my own quilt? In this case, form followed supplies and time. I had a Rolie Polie of 23 2.5″ strips, a 54″ square piece of Minky, a stash to draw from for binding, but nothing much that coordinated with the Rolie Polie otherwise. And, I had about a week and a half to make the quilt.
Rail fence blocks can be arranged in any number of ways. Since I had four distinct color and value groups (brown, pink, green, beige) with an equal number of strips in the roll (more or less), I was inspired to make all of my strip-sets with one strip of each from darkest to light. Because I could only cut four blocks from each strip set, I had to add one additional strip from my stash to the Rolie Polie, and piece a block together from two half blocks to make 25. As I mentioned above, the layout of blocks was mostly to appease my problem-solving mind (although I deviated with the planned layout for the half-and-half block and another spot where I flipped a block when sewing rows and didn’t want to rip).
I wanted to personalize it, since the recipient’s sibling’s quilt had her initials in the quilting, so I chose to applique her first initial and a crown (playing off the meaning of her name) in one corner, using one of the few FQs in my stash that matched the other fabrics. You can download a printable version for your own project (if you want a curly, be-crowned ‘G’).
Quilting possibilities are only limited by your imagination. I used a large-scale, all-over flowery free motion motif based on the flowers in the fabric for two reasons: it could be done quickly, and was a good project for me to play with free-motion on. I chose to use a cream-to-brown variegated thread because it was the best match in my stash, but also because it blended the quilting into the varied colors of the fabrics.
Because I worked with 2.5″ strips, the math on this was simple. But, that didn’t mean everything went to plan. I didn’t measure the width of the strips, so I couldn’t cut my planned five blocks from each strip set and had to improvise by finding a 24th strip (actually, two 21″ strips from a fat quarter) and piecing a block together from the leftovers of other strips sets. Sure, it meant reevaluating the block layout I’d planned initially (as well as choice of binding, as I’d planned to use the leftover strips and that fat quarter as the binding), but in the end, I am pleased with the final quilt (and, I like the solid binding far more than I think I would have liked the original plan). In the blueprint above, I went with the assumption that you might also run into this issue.
In 2012, I participated in a monthly sampler group at one of the quilt shops in Utica. I kept up with the block piecing during the course of the sampler, but they’ve been languishing in a box ever since. I lost track of both the number of times I’ve sketched layouts for the twelve blocks and the layouts I liked, so the blocks sat unset and out of mind. Then, a need to carve out sewing time amidst wedding planning grew, culminating in a strike of inspiration for a simple layout for these blocks. So, out they came!
Although the layout eluded me, I knew I wanted to riff off the idea of road trips and asphalt. I gathered additional fabric for the quilt as I traveled that year, picking up the grey texture from Downtown (Windham Fabrics) along with white and yellow batiks to fit the road markings and asphalt idea. I realized later that there wasn’t nearly enough of the grey texture, so I purchased a length of Crackle (also Windham Fabrics).
The final layout mixes those two grays and a third mottled gray fat quarter from my stash in an arbitrary arrangement pieced to get the lengths needed from the fabric I had on hand. The chunks of different shades remind me of the patched roads in central Missouri that I spent so many hours on during summers of my childhood. While some kids played the “don’t step on the black tiles of checkerboard floors” game, I played the “don’t let my feet touch the floorboard over the clay-red road sections” game to amuse myself when the four of us were packed in the back seat of a Honda Prelude en route from Kansas City to the Lake of the Ozarks.
It took another few months before I had a chance to quilt it. The quilting is a mix of stitch in the ditch and free motion. I took inspiration from rumble strips for the road markings, tire tracks in the open spaces, some filler “cracks”, and free-motioned lines to fill in the rest of the space. The blocks are stitched in the ditch to not obscure the colors with the dark gray quilting thread (don’t look closely at my attempts to free motion stitch in the ditch with contrast thread, please!). Fairfield Quilters 80/20 batting provided a good quilting surface (and was the only thing I had to go out and purchase in 2014 to complete the quilt).
The backing started life as an XL twin duvet cover that I bought on clearance at Target a few years ago. I was disappointed when I unpackaged it and found that it had a gray back rather than the print on both sides. Even with the accompanying sham, there wasn’t enough printed fabric to piece the full back, so I left one of the seams in the duvet and called it good enough. Its origin seems quite fitting to the theme considering that I now have to road trip to shop there (oh how I miss thee, my clean, organized, red and white homie). Of course, the print fits too, considering the reliance on cassette tapes if one planned to have any music on those central MO trips.
It’s bound in a white batik that I bought intending to use in one of the other possible top layouts. I tried a new method of machine binding (sew to back, flip to front, secure), and am insanely happy with how it turned out. It’s almost perfect.
The final piece was a custom label I designed as we worked on the blocks and printed on one of my Spoonflower label orders last year. Throughout the course of the sampler, I found the community of quilters in Utica that I was so sad to leave. I hope I can find one here in Burlington soon. Just don’t tell them that the duvet cover backing is polyester (another thing I didn’t realize when I purchased it). That should stay our little secret.
It seems like I just put the finishing touches on my last quilt, but here it is the end of May and I haven’t touched a bit of quilting cotton (or quilting linen for that matter) in the six weeks since I completed it.
It’s going to be a quiet summer around here; I haven’t spent much time in the sewing room and that won’t change any time soon. To some degree, it’s lack of inspiration. I have plenty of unfinished quilts that need work, and ideas for new ones, but none are screaming at me to work on them.
I have played with knit fabric a little bit, and learned that my collection of washi tape makes for great pattern weights. The dress was actually completed in one four-hour session last weekend and worn this week, however I haven’t yet taken photos.
A couple of iterations later, I’ve fitted a modified Simplicity 2890 to me and have the busk and bones on order. Don‘t get too excited. I have nothing to wear it under, and nothing planned. I just felt like making a corset.
Even if I had a burning desire to work on any of my current quilt projects, plenty of things outside the studio have devoured my time. I taught a class for the local chapter of Girl Develop It, which aims to get more women involved in programming and development.
I’ve been arranging flowers. And designing stationary.
Really, a multitude of things, so this may be the Summer of No Quilts (title case assures proper gravitas). Have no fear as I assure you there are plenty to come this fall and winter.
In the month’s time since I last posted, my friend Katherine awarded me the Liebster Blog Award. Hers has been a staple of my RSS feed for many years now, with an eclectic mix of posts about jewelry (she makes fabulous math-inspired things, including the beadwork for my Full Adder brooch [unblogged] that is the only completed part of that steampunk costume I was going to make); feminism (and women in STEM, a subject obviously dear to my heart); book reviews; writing; being an ex-pat first in South Korea, now in Sweden; and nerdy things (among other topics).
I may one day have the time to fulfill the rules of the award and comb my RSS feed for other small blogs worth reading (I’m sure there are many, I just don’t keep tabs on how popular they are), however today is not that day. Regardless, it’s much appreciated, Koba.
My very oldest (and dear) friend’s three-year-old son is my most dedicated fan (of the quilts, at least). I’ve mentioned the love he’s given the quilt I made for his birth quite a few timeson here. While his newborn sister can’t bear the distinction of receiving the first quilt I ever made, I wanted it to be special too—so, she’s receiving the first quilt I’ve made with Kokka fabric. Okay, maybe that doesn’t sound special to you, but I’ve lusted after many Kokka fabrics and this quilt finally convinced me to buy some.
It all started with an FQ of Nursery Versery, but in the final top there’s only one print from that set (the patchwork print). The back is pieced, and includes a big chunk of the mouse print from that line. The stuffed giraffe and doll quilt that I gifted at her shower were also made with those prints.
When I was shopping around (there are two shops around here that carried the line!), I fell in love with the design of a print in Comma that was conveniently placed next to Nursery Versery on the shelf.
However, I couldn’t figure out how to turn that layout into a quilt top using the prints I’d purchased in the Kokka FQ. So, I pulled more prints from the shop in a complementary color scheme. Those ended up comprising the top of the quilt, paired with Essex Linen.
I drew up the 12″ block in Illustrator, then printed it and created templates. Another first: I’ve never made a whole quilt top that required templates to piece the blocks. My technique leaves much to be desired—there are more lost points than there are good ones and the whole top was a little wobbly before quilting. But, I’m happy with the final outcome even if it has flaws.
I planned to do an all-over swirl like I did on the coordinating doll quilt, but had to work around a broken FMQ foot. Limited to my walking foot and a floating embroidery foot (which worked better than expected), I let the quilt talk to me and it turned out even better than I expected. Pellon Nature’s Touch batting gives it a good weight and drape.
The 48″ square quilt is bound in a Denyse Schmidt print and topped off with a label. I hope she loves it as much as her brother loves his.
If she doesn’t love it (and if her brother doesn’t steal it), Moof is always willing to take it back.