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)!
I’ve thought about making a hexagon quilt for years now. I even bought the Hex-n-More ruler two years ago to get started, but then couldn’t come up with the right project at the right time. However, the arrival of our friends’ twin babies and a stack of fat quarters from Birch Fabric’s Bear Camp (plus a few other fabrics thrown in) gave me the perfect excuse to make two hexie quilts—although I settled on half hexies to take into account faster piecing (the babies came quite early!) and cutting layout efficiency.
These 42″ x 54″ quilts use the 8″ half hexie size of the Hex-n-More ruler and were simple to piece row by row. I did a rough layout in Illustrator to try to spread the colors around somewhat evenly (also between the two quilts), although the final products are a little less random than planned—I didn’t do a good job of spreading around the prints, just the colors.
I mixed in a glittery gray, magenta shot cotton, and lavender Cotton+Steel polka cats into one quilt, then used the warmer red and orange Bear Camp prints paired with a solid orange (Cloud9?) in the other to make distinct, but similar, quilts for the brother and sister pair. A cluster of three solid hexies was the perfect background for machine embroidering their initials on the quilt. I originally planned to do a three-letter monogram, but couldn’t figure out how to place letters for proper readability in the cluster, so went with just first and last initial in the center.
The quilts are both backed with a gray cuddle fabric, and quilted by echoing the hexie outlines. I used coordinating, but not precisely matching thread for the quilting, as it was already on my shelf in the right quantity. The magenta version was a nightmare—I tried three different threads and a variety of needles and still ended up with skipped stitches that I can’t figure out (other projects have gone fine in the mean time). I had to rip out so many lines of stitching. I ended up leaving in a few lines of magenta that had fewer skipped stitches (and sewed a line of pink next to them), because I was at my wits’ end with ripping. Warm & Plush batting is in between (a higher-loft version of Warm & Natural), to make for very cuddly quilts.
This is the first time I’ve ever used Birch Fabrics’ fabric. They’re an organic cotton provider, but none of my local shops carry them. I grabbed the bundle from Massdrop (mixed feelings) late last year, knowing that I had a few baby quilts to make in the coming year. Overall, they’re a decent substrate to work with, but fair warning: they have very large (sometimes >1.5″!) selvages.
They’re both finished off with a new label style I made. I dropped the QR code, and left room to one side to add a personal note. I took photos prior to writing in a quick note for each baby.
I finished these up in April, but just recently had the chance to deliver them. Stay tuned for one more recent finish coming up shortly.
It’s becoming quite the thing for me to start off the year with a baby quilt for friends or family. This year’s is incredibly hard for me to let go of as it’s one of my favorite quilts to date, but alas, it’ll look cuter with a newborn on it.
I decided to do a straight-forward representation of the different shapes and their arrangement in the photograph, but wanted to inject color and pattern to make it more kid-friendly. Since the quilt is for the daughter of one of my instructors and his wife (and fellow student), I wanted to incorporate a subtle (or not subtle) nod to our discipline into the design. Thus, the colors of the shapes are the eight colors of belts in our ranking system (in no particular order). The prints are mostly small-scale, pulled from fabric I already had. I can’t get over the cute little pandas in the white stripe.
Piecing this really pushed my skills in a way I’ve shied away from in the past. I had a few rough measurements, but did a lot of the piecing improv. The central angle was nerve-wracking, but I managed it with no ripping involved, mostly by using partial seams and a lot of patience.
The back of the quilt is pieced from the super cute cat polkadots from Cotton+Steel and a strip of the colors from the front to give me the length needed. The quilt was just narrow enough to use the width of fabric, which limited the piecing I needed to do. The batting is Warm & Natural, as I had a crib-sized package laying around.
I also approached the quilting improvisationally, doing each section at a time with whatever spoke to me. Most of it was done with a walking foot, but the green section was free-motion quilted. There’re straight lines, loops, orange peels, zig-zags, serpentine stitches, and more. Each section was done in matching thread. The red binding echoes the belts of our experienced black belts in addition to providing a contrasting frame.
I hadn’t yet ordered new labels for the year with the appropriate year and qr code on them, so I used just the logo and name section from an old leftover. I’m beginning to think it’s time for something new, though I haven’t yet decided what I want to do going forward. For now, this one’s got the basics, and has already been delivered when our newest (just a few days-old) white belt made a surprise visit to say hello to last week’s class.
A word of advice: when heading to retreats, give yourself plenty of time to pack and consider projects. I waited until the last minute and only had some half-baked ideas. One of those was finishing up my 2013 Saturday Sampler projects in some way. I considered how to do so before leaving for the retreat, but rather than sketching something out, I just wrote down a few measurements and required materials, then tossed the box containing the finished blocks in with everything else I was taking. That’s the obscure way of saying that this quilt is nothing like what I’d planned, but hey, it’s a finished project!
Cotton’s Etc. in Wampsville, NY ran this sampler back in 2013. I only attended for four months before we moved to VT, so I wasn’t working with much for this quilt. I went to the retreat with the four completed 12″ blocks, a half-yard of supposedly matching white, and low-loft cotton batting pieced together from scraps.
On the Saturday of the retreat, we took a quick road trip to a local store running a moving sale, and picked up most of the rest of what I’d need—a yard for borders that coordinated pretty well, and 1.5 yds of lovely cuddle backing. The gray binding came from my stash at home.
I realized after I pieced the top together that my notes mentioned putting all four blocks in a row with lots of negative space to quilt that would read a lot more modern. Oh well. Instead, I put together a very basic, traditional sashed and bordered layout to turn the blocks into a 44″ square quilt. I’ve no current plans for it, but it’ll likely be a baby gift or charity donation sometime in the near future.
I put the quilt sandwich together at the retreat, then brought it home to quilt. I should have redone the basting before starting to quilt, as I cut corners at the retreat since I didn’t have a big space to secure the backing and batting to. I managed quilt it without too many tucks or bubbles, but it’s not my best work. The quilting is all straight-line with a mix of 40wt Gutermann (in the blocks) and 28wt Aurifil (borders and sashing). Some of the bobbin is a white 40wt poly Gutermann, and possibly even a bobbin-weight white cotton because I was scrounging around for the last bobbins and spools of white thread I had to use on this. I tried to do a wider-than-normal binding, but messed up the corners. Then, I did my worst machine binding attempt in recent history (possibly ever), resulting in an extra row of stitching all around.
The blocks are Snails Trail, Rolling 9-Patch, Rope & Anchor, and Hummingbird. The sampler was the ‘modern’ color-way option from the shop—which really just meant bright fabrics and a solid background as opposed to a country-ish food-themed fabric (if I recall correctly). In the intervening 3.5 years, I can’t remember what made me do it, but I made the green block with the back side of the fabric up, so it’s a little less vibrant than the others. I wish I knew why. I’m also not happy with the block placement—there are two fabric patterns, and I wish I’d alternated them rather than put them next to each other. Additionally, the whites are off between the blocks and sashing, which is doubly annoying since I purchased that specifically from them as coming from the same bolt of fabric.
In all, it’s not the best example of my skills, but I think that sometimes that’s okay. Regardless, it’s a candy-sweet quilt that I hope someone will love to cuddle under.
I started a double wedding ring quilt in the summer of 2012 as part of a local quilting group in Utica. At the time, I was still enamored with using all types of fabric for quilting, so I paired some Valorie Wells Cocoon with poly satin and a linen blend. After finishing three rings from a Double Wedding Ring pattern published by Free Spirit, I decided that was enough of that plan, and packed it all away. When I needed a baby quilt for another little girl this summer, I had the perfect excuse to pull it back out and cobble a new design together.
In addition to the three finished rings, the storage box contained a yard of a purple print, a yard of the butterflies print, two 6″ charm packs, a fair number of other charm squares cut into fourths, a quarter yard each of the five poly satins, and a ton of the linen blend. If I recall correctly, once I’d given up on doing an all-over double wedding ring quilt, I decided to do a somewhat complicated (and large) medallion quilt with the leftovers, but then put that off as well. This time around, I wanted something simple and baby-sized. Her sisters were recipients of the Impressions Baby Quilt (coincidentally started around the same time as this DWR) and Noble Blooms, both of which were around 40-45″ to a side, so that’s what I aimed for here as well. The length was easy—the rings were 40″ long—so I just had to worry about width.
After thinking about it for a couple of days, I decided columns of charms on either side of the centered ring applique strip would work well to finish this off. To tie it in to the shapes in the rings, I sliced off the edges of the charms at an angle for a trapezoid shape, which still stacks well if you flip them around back and forth. I meant to have the strips on the edges be reversed (long edge of trapezoid to long edge), but pieced them incorrectly. I decided to leave them as is. I could have paid better attention to pattern placement within the strips as well, but in this case done is better than perfect.
It’s backed with a dimpled cuddle fabric—I wanted to be consistent with her sisters’ quilts rather than use the cotton yardage I had leftover. In between is Soft ‘n Crafty 80/20. The rings are a bit loftier because they’d already been quilted to a layer of batting back in 2012.
Most of the quilting is straight line (and echoes of the rings). In the center of each ring, I used a machine embroidery quilting design for feathers. It looks okay on the front, but I’m a bit unhappy with the back of those sections due to the heaviness in the center. I considered much more intricate quilting, but didn’t want to squish the cuddle background too much. I used a pale pink Aurifil for all the quilting—it’s a nice contrast in the grey areas, and blends well into the colorful parts. (Also in the box of supplies—color matched rayon embroidery threads I’d intended to quilt with—those definitely wouldn’t have held up to use!) It’s machine bound in the purple yardage I had from the line.
As I did for her sisters, I made a stuffed animal and doll quilt to go with the baby quilt. The stuffie is made from backing leftovers using my trusty copy of Simplicity 2613. The 16″x18.5″ doll quilt used up the quartered charm square scraps (trimmed down to 2.5″ squares) and 2.5″ strips from the butterfly print. It’s backed with the pinstriped linen blend and bound with the same purple as the quilt.
It’s nice to cross another project off the “in progress but more or less abandoned” list and lighten my stash a bit! Plus, I’m glad that the new baby has a quilt just like her sisters do, even if it was a few months late this time around. Now to wash it and send it on its way! (Speaking of washing, please forgive the fact that you can see blue markings in some of the photos from where I marked to center the embroideries.)
Just as 2015 kicked off with a baby quilt, so has 2016. The recipient of Disappearing Seven Wonders is now a big brother to a baby sister who needed her own quilt.
After pulling out a bundle of Pear Tree and coordinating fabrics a few months ago, all progress stopped. I couldn’t settle on a design for the quilt. Then I came across the Into the Wild pattern and was inspired to cut into the stack. I wasn’t incredibly faithful to the pattern (although it was great visual inspiration), but I like how it turned out with the fabrics I used.
The most obvious change to the pattern was adding a square in a square (in a square) to the center, highlighting a motif from the eponymous print in the line. I also added in a few more half-square triangles where the original pattern had squares, and dropped the top and bottom rows in favor of a square quilt due to the amount of fabric I had.
It’s backed with blush-colored, star-embossed Minky, using 70/30 Cotton/Poly blend batting in between. The batting is a bit higher loft than I normally buy—I bought it a few months ago for a different project, but decided to use it for this quilt instead, knowing that the high poly content works out fine with the polyester cuddle fabric. It gives the quilt a good texture in the looping quilting.
I quilted it with pink 40wt Aurifil in alternating free-motion patterns, building out from the center. My ability to free-motion stitch in the ditch has not improved since my first attempts, from what I can tell, but my consistency with feathers has improved. It’s bound in a textured green print. I’m very happy with how the quilting stands out on the back.
After a few months of not sewing (much), it was nice to jump back in with a relatively simple quilt. I hope it keeps the baby warm through her first winter and beyond.
The embellished fabric bin I made two years ago has been taunting me to use the remaining fabric from Thomas Knauer’s Savannah Bop line that was sitting inside of it. Even after using strips to make the 1 + 1 = 4 charity quilts and the bin, I had about 1/3 yd. of each print in the line in my stash. Finally, the need for another baby quilt gave me reason to pull it out.
I settled on the idea of a puzzle—because what is quilt pattern design if not a giant puzzle to solve? As tempted as I was to throw in solids and a yarn-dyed once again, I decided to use up most of the prints in the line and only added in the Michael Miller Kryptonite solid for a bit of contrast. (Here’s my tutorial on how to make the puzzle block.)
Then, because the design needed a little something more, I appliqued on a few extra puzzle pieces to fill in the negative space. I especially like the one on the top corner that wraps to the back of the quilt over the binding. (I posted a description of my process back in February.)
I free motion quilted this all over in a loose meandering pattern, using a Gutterman green that matches the Kryptonite. The back is Minky Cuddle Pine Ridge in Olive. I tried out Pellon’s Eco Batting this time, a 70/30 cotton/poly blend. It’s bound in Kona Sunflower.
This has been a slow year for me, quilting wise (at least considering I don’t have wedding planning to blame). I finished the quilt in February, but just now got around to photographing it and dropping it in the mail. It’s my only finish yet this year, but that should change soon.
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.
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.