Cheshire Cat?

Now you see her, now you don’t? Yes, that’s me! Two weeks ago I opted out of my own 30-day challenge, stopping at 20 days in a row of blogging. And since then was Thanksgiving, with several days of family fun. Besides that, I’ve been trying to finish some projects — don’t know if you know this, but the end of 2017 is rolling right up! (And not a moment too soon, huh? Heckuva a year, and not all in the good way…)

Right now I have three quilts in progress. Two are from my medallion class. Christmas Is Coming! needs binding attached.

The other is the bear’s paw quilt, which is still on the frame. Well, in fact, it is AGAIN on the frame. It is again on the frame because I’m having thread tension trouble on my longarm. Remember this?

This was the worst of it, but not the last of it. After struggling with getting the tension settings improved, I decided to take the quilt off the frame and putting a testing sandwich on. Prior to taking it off, I basted all the way around the edge, and also used great big stitches to baste through the body of the quilt. The basting stabilized the piece, so layers would stay put for returning to the frame later.

My test sandwich got covered with stitching. I managed to get the top and bottom tension adjusted well, but still had intermittent messy looping areas on the back. When the tension is BAD and there is looping, it’s because the tension is bad. When the tension is GOOD and there’s looping, it’s often because the thread is catching somewhere, like a rough spot in the thread path. I’ve done this long enough to know some of the places to look. (I have a long list of them, if you are interested.) I worked through all those things that I could. While it improved, it still wasn’t as good as it should be.

I called the company and spoke with the head technician. He agreed I’d done all the right things and asked me to bring the machine to the factory. Fortunately, that’s only about a half hour away from me, so I took it the same day. After two hours working with a technician, the best we could come up with was replacing an inexpensive part, the last thread guide above the eye of the needle.

Before returning to my bear’s paw project, I wanted to test it again on something small. Son’s fiancee likes seasonal decorating and I hoped to make a table runner for her for Christmas. I figured that would be a good project to test quilt. After all, if there was looping on the back, it wouldn’t matter. When used as intended, no one would see the back!

I tend to make things more, rather than less complicated. So I had to fight my instincts and make this a simple project. I made three puss-in-the-corner blocks with fussy-cut centers. (Yeah, I couldn’t go all the way to simple!) I set them on point and framed them with a border. I had a piece of appropriate fabric for the back. So I loaded it all up and quilted it.

(There is more to the story of how the quilting went and what happened next. That part of the story will come later this week.)

The last step on the table runner was the binding. I had just the right amount of just the right fabric. However, when it came to attaching it, I wasn’t sure how! All my quilts prior to this have had squared 90° corners. This also had 45° angles. Have you used them before, or other angles than 90°?

This morning I watched a video tutorial that explained how.

Here is my finished table runner.

The table runner has the edge of red binding. Underneath it is another quilt on the table.

Taking a couple of extra minutes to fussy cut the centers made these simple blocks look fancy.

Can you see the figure-8 Christmas tree stitched into this setting triangle? Another easy way to make an easy project look more intricate.

I’m off and running again. Thanks for reading! I always read comments and try to respond promptly. If I don’t get back to you soon, it’s because I’m offline. See you soon!

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Twenty and Done

Today is day 20 of my 30-day blogging challenge. If you weren’t in on the beginning of it, I challenged myself to publishing a blog post every day for 30 days. My intention was to recommit to writing, and to interacting here, because my sense of engagement had slipped and my interest was low.

It was a great experiment for me, and I’ve enjoyed it. But I’m done.

Oh, I can find plenty of things to write about. I’ve appreciated your thoughtful comments. And even though I try not to worry about stats, it’s been fun to see the increase in views here over the last weeks.

Mark Lipinski wrote about making for obligation in Quilting Arts Magazine, June/July 2015 issue. While choosing quilts for a trunk show, he realized that the stacks of quilts had been made for “fast magazine turnarounds and book deadlines, hasty class samples, or as fabric company showpieces for trade shows.” He felt they were well designed but devoid of his personality. They didn’t represent what he wanted his quilting legacy to be. In response, he initiated what he calls “The Slow Stitching Movement,” to share a newfound commitment to create wonderful, meaningful quilts.

Quilting for obligations and deadlines was not satisfying enough for him. He needed to change his approach to creating.

I can find plenty of topics to write about, just as I can find plenty of quilts to make. In truth, though, quilting and writing for obligations and deadlines is not satisfying enough for me. Writing every day for a challenge such as this creates an artificial goal. The goal, and of course I defined it for myself, is to write and publish. The goal is not to write and publish something meaningful to both me and those who might read it. In school we called that “busy work.”

Writing for the 30-day challenge has been useful. It does remind me of the pleasures of writing. But that achieved, it’s time to withdraw from the challenge, and to commit instead to creating something wonderful and meaningful. Next time I post, it will be because I have something I’m excited to share. That’s not to say all the things I post will be legacy pieces, but it won’t be busy work.

Thanks as always for reading. Happy Thanksgiving. 🙂

 

 

Two Ways To Make Flying Geese

One of the reasons I love flying geese blocks is they can be made almost any size. Blocks that are on grid are less adaptable for sizes. For example, regular 9-patches are on a 3-grid (3 rows by 3 columns) and are most easily made in sizes that multiply easily by 3, such as 6″ finish with 2″ patches, or 7.5″ finish with 2.5″ patches. For a harder one, bear’s paws are on a 7-grid, so are most easily made in sizes like 7″, 10.5″, or 14″. But geese are ungridded. (Half-square triangles and hourglass blocks also can be made any size.)

There are a variety of ways to make geese, but I only use two of them. One is the stitch-and-flip method. With this, the base (goose) is cut the size of the finished block, plus 1/2″ each direction for seam allowances. For example, if you want a block that finishes at 3″ x 6″, cut the base as 3.5″ x 6.5″. The background (sky) is cut as two squares, both half the length of the finished block, plus seam allowances. Using the same size block, cut two pieces that are 3.5″ square. Pat Sloan shows how to put these together to make a perfectly sized flying geese unit.

The method works great. However, you do have waste triangles of fabric cut off. Some people make good use of them and convert them into half-square triangles for other purposes. I do not. For small flying geese, throwing away the waste doesn’t bother me much. For larger ones, it does.

The other method I use is the four-at-a-time method. Why choose this one? The process allows more efficient use of fabric, because there are no waste triangles. For me, the disadvantage is I have to be more careful of my seam allowance. To adjust for that, I check sizing on the first set I make. If I need to trim slightly, that means I need to use a slightly bigger seam allowance, perhaps only a thread width bigger. (See the tip below for trimming your flying geese units.) Even so, it’s a great way to make a lot of geese quickly and with no waste.

Here is a video that clearly explains the process, as well as a link to another set of instructions from Connecting Threads.

For each FOUR geese units, use 1 large square and 4 small squares.
Large square = finished length of unit + 1.25″
Small square = finished width of unit + .875″ (that is 7/8″)

Example: for four flying geese units finishing at 3″ x 6″, cut 1 large square (the geese) at 7 1/4″, or 7.25″. Cut 4 small squares (the sky) at 3 7/8″, or 3.875″.

Draw a diagonal line across the wrong side of each small square, corner to corner. Arrange two of them right sides together in diagonally opposite corners of the large square, with the drawn lines meeting in the middle. The small squares will overlap a little. Pin them in place. The photo below is a little murky. The small squares are of dark blue, with wrong side up.

FG 1
Stitch from corner to corner, a scant 1/4″ away from the drawn line. Then turn around and stitch the other direction on the other side of the drawn line.

Cut on the drawn line between the two stitching lines. The video shows using the rotary cutter and ruler, but scissors work fine.

FG 3
Press toward the sky squares. You end up with two pieces shaped sort of like a heart.

FG 4

On each of those pieces, pin another of the small squares with the drawn line running from the corner through the “cleavage” of the heart. Sew 1/4″ from both sides of the drawn line, as you did before. Cut apart on the drawn line, and press toward the sky triangles.

FG 5

What is the difference in fabric used for the two methods? I’ll use this example, with flying geese units with finished measure 3″ x 6″. To make FOUR units this size:
Stitch-and-flip requires 4 (units) x 3.5″ x 6.5″ = 91 square inches of the base fabric, and
4 (units) x 2 (per unit) x 3.5″ x 3.5″ = 98 square inches of the sky fabric.

Four-at-a-time requires 7.25″ x 7.25″ = 52.5625 square inches of the base fabric, and
4 x 3.875″ x 3.875″ = 60.0625 square inches of the sky fabric.

For this size example, stitch-and-flip requires substantially more of each fabric, compared to the four-at-a-time method. While that might not seem like much, if you need a lot of geese, it adds up quickly. I don’t always have that much more fabric available. Note that different sizes of flying geese will have different outcomes on this calculation, because of the proportion of the seam allowance compared to the rest of the unit.

One more alternative is to create the effect of flying geese using half-square triangles. Instead of 32 flying geese, I could have used 64 half-square triangles. I chose not to do this because I wanted the toile of the base fabric unseamed.

A trimming tip: if your geese are slightly too big and need to be trimmed, make sure you leave the point, or “beak,” intact. Trimming at the bottom, along the “wings,” will be less noticeable.

Do you use flying geese in your quilts? Do you have a favorite way of making them? Questions or comments?

My Best Advice on Using Half-Square Triangles in Borders

I could call this a rule, but that would be silly, wouldn’t it? 🙂

Here’s the advice: when using half-square triangles as your border blocks, try them multiple ways before choosing.

Why? Because setting them with different line and value orientation changes the appearance significantly. It’s worth taking the few minutes to audition variations. This simple illustration gives 4 different ways to arrange them.

Here are some examples from a little quilt I made in 2014. They aren’t sewn together yet, hence the wonky look on some of the pictures.

There are still other ways to try these, too. Other than the first one, they all have the dark value close to the center. Try them with the light side against the center for a different look. Also, they aren’t shown with changing orientation, similar to the right side of the illustration at the top of the page. In other words, there are at least eight ways to use them, and that assumes that you pattern them the same on all four sides.

Here are some examples from my quilts. First, Marquetry. Note that two of the borders use HST, but with different arrangement.

Another one is Bird On Point. Closest to the center, the HST run around in one direction. In the middle blue-and-blue border, they’re positioned differently to create movement in the other direction.

And one more, Black Sheep Manor. This also has HST in two borders. In the one around the center block, the triangles “spray” outward symmetrically. In the middle border, they have changing orientation for value and line.

I could go on, but I’ll bet you get the point. 🙂

Do You Use Solids In Your Quilts?

Do you quilt with solid fabrics? If so, do you create quilts from all solids, or do you mix them in with other fabrics?

The question arises from a comment on my recent post about quilting rules. The comment (from my sister) said one of her rules is no solids. Huh.

I don’t use solids a lot, and in truth prefer tone-on-tone prints. I think they offer more depth and interest, while solids can read rather flat. But solids have a long history with quilting, from the classic red, white, and green quilts of the early 1800s, to the Amish, to contemporary quilting.

When I do use them, it’s typically as one more source of color in a quilt with many types of prints. However, I have made a couple of quilts that were of only solid fabrics.

Daughter’s medallion in solids. 2014.

Branching Out. 2015. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

A question often comes up about solid fabrics sold at chain stores, like JoAnn Fabrics. JoAnn’s sells solids under two or three different labels. One label (brand) is Kona Cotton Solids. Are Kona solids at JoAnn’s the same as Kona solids at a quilt shop? If you buy something called “Kona” at the quilt shop, it also will show the maker as Robert Kaufman. JoAnn’s doesn’t say that.

Who makes JoAnn’s Kona solids? Are they made by Robert Kaufman or some other manufacturer? Are they Robert Kaufman second-quality goods?

Bonnie Hunter’s Quiltville blog addressed this question in 2014. Bonnie and Robert Kaufman answered definitively. I encourage you to read the whole answer provided by Robert Kaufman. However, I’ll summarize here:

  1. Robert Kaufman makes ALL Kona Cotton Solids, regardless of retailer.
  2. ALL Robert Kaufman Kona Cotton fabrics distributed are first quality. Seconds are destroyed.
  3. If you find fabric labeled as Kona Cotton Solids that appears to be of lower quality, the company would like you to mail them a sample.

Where should you buy your Kona Cotton Solids? Many of us like to patronize our local quilt shops, ensuring their success to keep them in our communities. Many of us like the coupons and sales offered by JoAnn Fabrics, or the convenience of shopping various vendors online. As with most of the rest of my fabric purchases, I will continue to buy at JoAnn’s now and then, and make sure I support my local shops, as well.