Category Archives: Medallion Quilts

A New Plan for an Old UFO, Part 2

Where I left you last time was having solved the problem of setting the star points into background fabric without using Y-seams. I also showed you an idea for a quilt design using log cabin blocks. It’s pretty, but I really have no interest in making it.

This is where it is so far. At this point it finishes at 54″ square. 

The question is, what to do next? Often I begin a quilt with a center and two or three borders, designed in my mind and with scratch paper, and made directly. When it’s time to add more borders, I often switch to EQ7 for design help. It gives the advantage of trying out ideas without making them. With unlimited iterations possible at virtually no cost, there is not much downside. I did the same for this one.

Here are a couple of options, drawn in EQ7.

Original design in EQ7, 82″ square.

Original design in EQ7, 93″ square.

I like them both, but I have a pretty good idea which direction I’ll go with it.

A New Plan for an Old UFO

I’ve often boasted about not having many UFOs (UnFinished Objects, or quilt projects that haven’t been completed.) Why that would be something to brag about, I’m not sure. But it’s true, usually I finish what I start.

There is one long-time UFO, started several years ago.

There were multiple reasons for not proceeding with this. One issue was technical — I wasn’t sure how to do the Y-seams to set the points in a background. (Above they are not sewn together, just arrayed on batting to show them.) Another was that, once set, I didn’t have a good idea of how to show them off.

Almost four years ago I posted More of an Idea than a Plan. In it I showed one option for setting these star points.

I didn’t do this. I still like the idea, but I’m really not interested in making those log cabin blocks. Also, it turns out that the center resulting from the star points is bigger than I thought. Adding all those log cabin borders would make this a fairly humongous quilt. If that weren’t enough, I still didn’t know how to set the star points in background fabric.


Recently I got the star points out again. It turns out you can avoid using Y-seams if you extend the points with background fabric. The blue lines below illustrate the extra seams. The star block has six big segments, each consisting of a star point and two pieces of background fabric. Put together two star halves, and then stitch the long seam to create the whole block. Easy peasy.

The constraint I faced was not having quite enough background fabric. If you look again at the block above, you can see that the star itself is not the same width as height. The star points do not extend all the way to the sides. To make the block square, it requires “enough” background fabric to make the height and width equal. I didn’t have quite enough.

That gave me the next opportunity for problem solving. The easiest two ways to make a center square are to 1) trim it to square or 2) add borders to make it square. I had nowhere to trim; adding borders of different widths was the best choice.

The photo below shows my solution. To all four sides, I added borders of floral print on cream background. The top/bottom borders are narrower than the left/right borders.

The one-inch strip border in coral encloses all that and creates the illusion of uniformity. At least, for me it helps make the width differences disappear. That strip takes the center to 42″ finished.

The final border so far uses 4-patches on point for the edges, and broken dishes in the corners. I’ve talked before about using “easy” widths for borders, to make them divide into square blocks. This works even with blocks on point. With an edge of 42″, I divided it into 7 equal segments to have a 6″ border. 42″/7 = 6″.  Then I used the math of diagonals to find the correct block size. 6″/1.414 = 4.25″. Each of the 4-patches is a 4.25″ block. When set on point, they make a 6″ wide border.

It isn’t magic, and it isn’t mysterious. It’s just math. If I didn’t know all that and still wanted to use blocks on point, I could have made them any size and simply had them not fit perfectly. AND THAT IS OKAY!! And TRADITIONAL!!

Alrighty. This post is too long already. I’ll finish it soon with showing you a couple of options for the remainder of the quilt layout.

Spinning Star

Some projects turn out roughly the way one expects, and others? Not so much. My Spinning Star is one of those.

Earlier this year I was invited to facilitate a three-day workshop at an art center. I was honored! And excited! And I started planning a quilt project that could convey many lessons of medallion quilts, while allowing the students to create designs unique to their own tastes.

When I teach my Medallion Improv! class, I offer a common blueprint so the students can focus on some design principles and elements, but not all of them. With given sizes for the center block and border widths, for example, they don’t need to worry much about proportion.

For the three-day workshop, I planned to use a 16″ center block. Each student would bring their own to the first class day, to set the foundation for their own design. The first order of business in class would be to demonstrate setting that block on point. The on-point setting expands the center block both physically and visually. The 16″ space, with exactly sized setting corners, suddenly becomes 22 5/8″. It’s an efficient and dramatic way to increase the size of the project. (To see how to set a block on point, check this out.)

In order to provide an example for promotional materials, I got to work and made a 16″ block of my own. The setting triangles are slightly oversized to take the new center to 23″. Using oversized corners helps with two aspects. One, it doesn’t require perfection in placing those corners, making it an easier task. Two, it allows the quilter to trim the center to a size that is simpler to use. Using 23″ finished means I can add 2.5″ (finished) borders on each side, taking the top to 28″. That is an easy size to use.

You can see more information about how I started this in my post Medallion Process — A New Center Block for Class.

And then … the invitation was rescinded because the art center decided they needed a bigger name. (Yes, I am a bit disappointed by how that all went, but you don’t need to worry or comment on that. There are challenges and opportunities in how we deal with disappointments, too.) Immediately it was apparent that this project would not go roughly as I imagined.

At about the same time, I was working on the slide show for my guild’s quilt festival. You can find the video of A Quilt Is More Than A Blanket in this post. Though I was deep in the midst of making my red and white quilts, I realized that to show the process of making a quilt, I needed to take pix of a quilt in process! For various reasons, I didn’t think the red and white ones were good candidates for that. So onward and upward! The spinning star became a priority again.

Spinning Star. 50″ x 50″. Finished June 2017. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

The center block is made with paper piecing. The first framing border (not setting triangles) is unpieced strips. The fabric of the border repeats the dark blue, red, and black that came earlier. It also adds some lighter chalky blue for value contrast and relief. The print is supposedly an Australian Aboriginal design. The border takes the center (everything in the center so far, including the border once added,) to 28″.

This really is an easy size to use, if one is making a pieced border of square blocks. You can divide 28″ a lot of different ways, including into 7 blocks at 4″, 8 blocks at 3.5″, 14 blocks at 2″, and so on.

My original plan for the workshop blueprint was to use 3.5″ half-square triangles. There are a lot of lessons to learn with HST, and there are fun ways to demonstrate them. (Here are a few ways to look at HST.) But once plans changed, and I wanted to increase the size more quickly in order to finish more quickly, I decided to use a wider border.

I looked for inspiration in a number of places and ultimately saw a round robin quilt in Instagram I liked. It had a middle border of light bars and darker bars, arranged in a staggered way. I think the proportions of the bars were different from mine, but the idea is the same. One advantage to this design is I could make it as wide as I wanted. (“Wide” means the dimension perpendicular to the edge of the center. The two lines in this symbol ⊥ are perpendicular to each other. “Length” is the dimension along the edge.) The width is 6″, taking the top to 40″.

Running the blue bars through the middle creates a stable line, and makes the V-pattern of the staggered darks a little more subtle.

I also knew I wanted the corner blocks to echo the center shapes. Using the same blue and red fabrics from the very center, as well as one of the orange fabrics, gives a direct repeat. And using the economy block gives a less direct repeat of the center with setting triangles. (For directions on making the economy block, see my most-viewed post ever.)

With the center then at 40″, I had another easy length to divide into square blocks. I chose a 5″ wide border, this time of the HST I didn’t use before. Well, sort of. My plan was to use HST, simply made from a solid orange and the same blue Aboriginal print from before. I made 8 of the 36 required blocks (8 on each side and 4 in the corners,) and they were awful. The orange was much too much, too orange, too much orange. (NOT articulate, huh? I wish I’d taken pictures to let you see exactly what I mean.)

I still liked the idea of using the HST to make Vs around the edge, but the orange wouldn’t work. I tried other ideas and other fabrics. I flipped the orange underneath to reveal less of it, and put that against another blue. Ah. Much better. However, the solid orange still didn’t work for me. Instead I cut strips of the squiggly orange stripe from the center setting triangles, and added pieces of the blue that looks like it has finger-painting smears on it. One benefit of this is I could still use all the blue Aboriginal print I’d already cut!

The completed top is 50″ square. I quilted it very simply with a large double meander in a marigold-colored thread. (The double meander is done with one very large stipple or meander across the surface of the quilt, followed by another pass back, winding and ribboning through the first pass. It’s simple and fast and looks great on a lot of quilts.)

The binding is made from the African fabric used for the red and black stripes of the setting triangles. Though the red and black were fussy cut from it, the design also includes dark blue, so it was suitable across its pattern.

This quilt did not go roughly how I expected. It didn’t go much as planned at all. But I was pleased to use it for the video, and I like how it turned out. I think it will have a special owner some day, but right now I don’t know who that will be.

 

Red and White Quilts, Part 1

My quilts are done. I am ready for the quilt show. That’s good, because it begins today!

Our show will feature more than 200 quilts, exhibited in the beautiful First United Methodist Church of Iowa City. Small wall-hangings to large bed covers, quilts of every size and color will be a feast for the eyes. The most prominent color will be RED, with our special exhibit of red and white quilts.

I have six quilts entered in the show, including two red and white ones. Both of these quilts are new this year. In 2012 I made one other red and white quilt. Believe me when I say I doubt I will make another.

Here are the three quilts.

Fire & Ice
This quilt was inspired by a photo I found in the archives of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum. You can find out more about the inspiration and my process here and here. My quilting process is described here. This quilt will be part of the special red and white display.

Fire & Ice. Approx 68″ x 68″. Based on IQSC Object Number 1997.007.0797 from the International Quilt Study Center & Museum, a quilt from 1800-1820. May 2017. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

Hibiscus Mountain
The other red and white quilt I made this year was easier and more fun. In some ways that makes it more satisfying, and in some ways it makes me “like” it more. However, I will be happy to give this quilt to a loved one. I won’t be giving Fire & Ice away.

You can read about this quilt’s process here. The design is called “Delectable Mountains,” and it is an old design, too. In the US, quilts in this style have been made since the early 1800s. I’ve also seen pictures of a red and white Delectable Mountains quilt in the Welsh tradition.

Hibiscus Mountain. 73″ x 73″. Delectable Mountains format. Finished spring 2017. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

Hibiscus Mountain won’t technically be in the red and white display, because of the colors in the hibiscus print. However, we will have the “other” red and white quilts, such as this, grouped together adjacent to the display. I’m not sure the general viewer will discern them as different.

Circles of Love
My guild has an annual challenge, and in 2012 it was to create a red and white quilt, using only red and white. I entered this quilt, which uses a wedding ring block. While the block is traditional, I designed the setting. If you look at the “points” of the large center, you can see they are shaped as hearts, to emphasize the wedding or love theme.

When I finished the top on April 15 that year, I posted in Facebook about it: “I never cried on finishing a top before. This was not fun… I don’t like the rigidity in color format. Once a block was done, it was pretty, but every other block was just the same. So there was no joy in execution… 1521 pieces. More than any quilt I’ve made. Almost all of them were triangles…”

Circles of Love, also known as the hunger quilt. A friend “purchased” it from me, giving the price to a local food pantry. It’s about 70″ square. 2012. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

As now, I declared then I’d never make another red and white quilt. I could change my mind again, as I did this spring. The strong contrast, both of color and value, make red and white quilts exciting to see. However, I really don’t like using white. It gets grimy, and it shows varicose veins, the stray threads that are unavoidably trapped when quilting. Fire & Ice seemed to take forever to complete, with one character-building challenge after another. And the quilt show drama about the red and white issue took a lot of the fun out of completing it. Whatever. It fer sure won’t be any day soon that I’ll make another.

Still, I’m thrilled with how these turned out, and I’m proud to enter them in our show. And now, on to the next challenges and opportunities.

Stuck in the Mud? I Guess Not.

I’ve felt stuck, unable to move forward or back, not even really spinning my wheels as the wheels aren’t turning. My red and white Fire & Ice quilt has been my major endeavor so far this year, and it’s still not done. Because of that, it feels (feeeeeeeeeeeels) like I don’t have anything to show for my year.

Not true.

In fact, I’ve done a few things I’m pleased with. Kim’s Bright Garden is one of the highlights so far. The real highlight is she loves it, and Son loves that she loves it. 🙂

Kim’s Bright Garden. 71″ x 71″. Finished March 2017. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

Another finish, which I don’t think I’ve shared with you, is a mystery quilt I made with my small group. The instructions called for strip piecing, but I wanted to use scraps. To find out if that would work, I looked forward in the directions, ruining the mystery but likely improving the quilt. For this I used all the bright pink, orange, green, and purple scraps from my scrap drawer, along with yellow background fabric and a pretty piece for the border. I donated this for my guild’s quilt show (June 2 and 3) silent auction.

Mock Irish Chain mystery quilt. Approx. 50″ x 70″. Finished spring 2017. I’m not sure who took the photo to promote our quilt show.

Early in the year I decided to make a pink and brown quilt using the Delectable Mountains design. My original intention was to make it the “easy” way, using large half-square triangles to create the jagged blocks. Because those blocks are not square, the construction confused me a bit and I opted to make them the old-fashioned way. The method suited the old-fashioned colors, as did the heavy feathering I used to quilt it. I did post a photo of the finished top, but not after it was quilted.

Delectable Mountains. 61″ x 61″. Finished spring 2017. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

After making the pink and brown Delectable Mountains, I still wanted to create the design with the HST method. Googling images showed me how other people managed the problem of non-square blocks. Simply, they used small spacer blocks to adjust the sizing. Because my guild is having a special exhibit of red and white quilts, I decided to make the quilt again with the HST method. (Very long, not pretty story of why this quilt won’t be in the special exhibit. My nose is a bit out of joint, but it will heal, I suppose.) I don’t have a photo of the finished quilt yet (but it is done!), but here is the finished top. (And you can read more about it here if you wish.)

Hibiscus Mountain. Unfinished top. 73″ x 73″. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

In addition to these four finished quilts, I have three going that are not quite done. The biggest project by far is Fire & Ice, my other red and white quilt. (This one will be in the special exhibit, and even that is part of the long, not pretty story. UGH.) It is done with the exception of the binding and hanging sleeve. Today’s number one priority is to get those attached so the hand-finishing can commence.

Besides that, a niece has fallen in love with the muslin mock-up, which I created specifically to test quilting for the Fire & Ice project. It also is done except for binding. I’ll finish it and send it along to her.

Finally, I began a project with a paper-pieced spinning star. The top is done, the back is made, and the batting is cut. It’s loaded on the longarm frame now, and I hope to quilt it tomorrow and finish it before the end of the month. Here is the star center.

Along with all the quilting (it will be seven projects finished by mid-year,) I’ve put in a lot of time for other guild projects. I’m a little worn down by it all. My brother jokingly suggested that my next six quilts be constrained to red and white, to see how well I can work within the limitations. I told him that certainly is an idea, but “My next 6 quilts, whatever they are, will be with a joyful intention. That will be my constraint.” While all these quilts have been valuable to me for their lessons, it’s time to shift back to happiness in my quilting, as I found with Kim’s Bright Garden and Hibiscus Mountain. The joy is where the power is.