Tag Archives: Free design

Playing with Color and Value Placement

Recently I showed you a block that uses the economy block as the center. It’s called “Union Square,” or “Contrary Wife Variation.”

Union Square block

I showed you two different versions of it. Here is the straight set with sashing.

Union Square straight set

Union Square or Contrary Wife variation, straight set with sashing.

What a difference it makes to remove the sashing. If you’re like me, your eye starts to focus on the dark shapes rather than on the blocks. In fact, you might start to see T blocks.

Union Square unsashed

Union Square unsashed

And one more change, putting some subtle color in the blocks’ corner patches. For me, this really blurs the block outlines.

Union Square unsashed 2

Union Square unsashed, with color/value variation

Now let’s try placing the values differently. Different colors, here, too.

Union Square unsashed 3

Union Square unsashed variation

Honest to Pete, it’s the same blocks. Putting the darkest value in the corners and their adjacent wedges takes the eye directly to them. In other words, the visual weight is where the dark values are. That is accentuated by using the pale yellow to create squares on point between the dark segments.

The lesson in this, if there is one, is that the way you see a pattern or design first is not the only way it can be done. Most of us are used to using our own preferred colors. But values can be placed differently, too. Experiment with designs to see how color and value placement changes the look.


If you’d like to see my other posts on economy blocks, the first post showed you how to make the economy block ANY SIZE with my tutorial and cheat sheet. The second showed you 17 different arrangements of the block with alternate blocks. They range from simple to fairly complex. The third is linked at the top of this post. It is on blocks that use the economy block as their center.



More Fun with the Economy Block

I keep playing with the economy block, which I first wrote about in January 2014. Apparently other people do, too. It’s my most-viewed post by far, with at least several hits every day. In fact if you google “economy block”, this is the result:

Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 9.31.52 AM

Yep. Two hundred and six MILLION results, and mine is number one. Okay, now that I’ve bragged…

The first post showed you how to make the economy block ANY SIZE with my tutorial and cheat sheet. The second showed you 17 different arrangements of the block with alternate blocks. They range from simple to fairly complex.

This week I’ve played with the economy block as the center of a bigger block. Below are two blocks. Each is sized to be 1.5 times the size of the economy block in the center. For example, with a white center below of 4″, the economy block is 8″. The points on the outside add another 4″ (2″ on each side). The total finished block size is 8″ x 1.5 = 12″.

Here is a block EQ7 calls a “Contrary Wife Variation.” I’ve also seen it called Union Square. Wouldn’t it look great as the center of a medallion quilt? 😉

Union Square block

Union Square straight set

Union Square or Contrary Wife variation, straight set with sashing.

Union Square on point

Union Square or Contrary Wife variation, set on point with sashing.

EQ7 calls this one the “Double X, No. 4” block. I think it looks a little more delicate than the one above. Also the cornerstone in the sashing helps create a wonderful secondary design.

Double X block

Double X No. 4 block

Double X str set

Double X straight setting

Double X on point

Double X on point setting

I’ve shown these in one color set, but it’s easy to imagine them in a range of colors, with more than three colors per block, or using lots of fabrics (scraps.)

There’s a lot more, but this is enough for today.

You Should Write Patterns!

I’ve written before about selling quilts, and the value vs. price problem. I choose not to sell my quilts (at this time,) because I reasonably believe that I value them far more than someone else would pay. In other words, the value to me is higher than the price I could charge. Consider a bed-sized quilt. If it takes 80 to 100 hours of my time, plus about $200 of direct material cost, plus overhead and marketing costs, plus profit, that quilt has a value (to me) of well over $2000. Will you pay me that much? If not, I’d rather give them away. (See end notes for links to my posts on this issue.)

Besides selling your quilts, another way to earn income in the quilting world is to create patterns. Thousands of quilters offer patterns, both for free and for payment. Some sell their designs through magazines or other publishers. Others market their patterns themselves.

A design, not a pattern. No yardage, no technical directions. Free here: https://catbirdquilts.wordpress.com/2014/05/25/free-medallion-quilt-design-1/

If you are interested in writing patterns, I strongly encourage you to read a couple of posts on the subject. First, from Jennifer at See How We Sew, some advice on creating well-written patterns. Second, from Sam Hunter at Hunter’s Design Studio, a discussion on writing patterns, and what might have happened when a pattern isn’t well done.

One aspect Sam mentions is how well pattern-writing pays. Or not. If you want to make income from your patterns, this is a key piece of data.

Whether you write one pattern for pay, or write them full-time, it IS a business. Several months ago I had a frustrating experience when I decided to buy two patterns from a designer’s website. The process didn’t go well. Multiple attempts to contact her — by email and phone — went unanswered for many days. Her eventual emails to me blamed me, rather than taking responsibility for a glitch in her website. Finally she whined that sending out the problem pattern by mail (which I had not demanded) would cost her another $5. I told her that if that was all it cost her to learn a good lesson in customer service, it was a cheap lesson. She is talented at design but her business skills were lacking.

Another aspect of designing and pattern-writing to consider is copyright law on patterns. It can be very hard to protect your work, and the law isn’t clear on where the lines are drawn. If you’ve ever looked at a quilt and thought, “I don’t need to buy the pattern for that. I can draw that up myself,” you know what I mean. (If this concerns you, I’ll leave it to you to investigate for yourself. Copyright law is not my area of expertise.)

Now and then I’m asked to provide a pattern for one of my quilts. It’s a tremendous compliment and I take it seriously. But while I love to design, I’m not interested in writing patterns. The reasons are partly due to my personality, and partly because of my quilts.

First, to create a pattern and be sure that it provides good instructions, a pattern should be tested. Because I design as I go, I would need to make two quilts of the same design, with the second one as a test of instructions written only after the first was finished. I don’t want to make duplicate quilts. I want to make original quilts. So recreating a design, even for pattern testing, is not very interesting to me.

Second, in general, my quilts are complex. Writing accurate instructions would be time-consuming and difficult, and would suck all the fun out of quilt creation for me. Instructions you would get would be lengthy and difficult, and might well suck all the fun out of creation for you, too. Both of us would lose.

Third, and most important, I don’t want to help you make my quilts. I want to help you make your quilts. Your fabrics are different from mine, your vision is different from mine, you might have a specific purpose for your quilt. If you want to make your best friend a quilt loaded with friendship stars, by all means you should! If you have a wonderful piece of embroidery, or a great big print you’d like to use as a center block (Kate…), you should.

I can help you with that. But I can’t help you make your quilt your way AND tell you how to make my quilt my way. It’s a choice.

We are more powerful when we create from our own vision. For many people, it is harder to do that than to use someone else’s design and instructions. But I know from personal experience, and from feedback from my students, that original creation is incredibly rewarding. It feeds confidence and seeds more ideas for future work. Those seeds sprout and grow in unexpected ways. Here as elsewhere we reap what we sew.

If you’d like to read my posts on quilting as a business, you can find them here:

Quilting for Pay — The Longarm
Conversations with Artists
Price vs. Value of a Quilt, Part 1
Price vs. Value of a Quilt, Part 2
You Should Write Patterns
“It Feels Weird Asking for Pay”
Pay for Quilters (And other Crafters and Artists)
You Should Sell Those: A Play in Three Short Scenes, With Commentary

Cotton — Where Does Your Fabric Come From?
Cotton — What Happens After Harvest?
Cotton — Weaving Fabric
Cotton — Batik Production
Cotton — Printing Designs

Free Design #3 | The Commissioning Quilt

I have shared this quilt with you before. In honor of Memorial Day, I am posting it again. It’s a quilt I made in May 2013, to thank a friend of our son. The friend had flown from Seattle to be with us for our son’s Air Force commissioning ceremony. In fact, as a retired Airman, the friend was part of the ceremony, conveying our son’s first salute.

The finished quilt measures 54″ square. The pieced border makes it look more complex than it actually is. The center consists of 4 Ohio Star blocks. Each outside border strip includes 7 hourglass blocks. If you have consistent 1/4″ seams, the borders should fit well with little adjustment.

The picture shows a narrow final border. I drew this to represent the binding. It is not included in directions below. I drew this design in EQ7 with 4 fabrics. According to the software, the yardages are as follows:
A: 1 yard white
B: 1.5 yards light blue
C: 1 yard red
D: 3/4 yard dark blue

I used yardage from my stash and did not measure this for accuracy. The methods I use for cutting may make differences in this, and your yardage may vary.

The center blocks measure 15″ square, finished. In the basic 9-patch format, each patch measures 5″ finished. Sashings are 3″ wide. The narrow border is 1.5″ wide. The outer pieced border is 6″ wide. Some people can use this and figure the rest themselves.

These directions are for the rest of you. I made the hourglass blocks in the Ohio stars and in the border using the “cut twice diagonally” method. If you have another method you prefer, perhaps using strips, feel free. The cutting instructions here use my method.

A Fabric (White)
16 5.5″ squares
4 6.25″ squares
8 7.25″ squares
With the 6.25″ squares and the 7.25″ squares, cut in half carefully and completely across the diagonal. DO NOT move the fabrics after cutting. Now, cut again across the other diagonal. You will have 4 triangles from each square.

B Fabric (Light Blue)
12 3.5 x 15.5″ strips
8 6.25″ squares
8 7.25″ squares
Cut squares twice on the diagonal, as above.

Tip: When cutting sashing strips, I cut strips along the selvage, as it is more stable and less likely to distort for size when sewing. When sewing sashing to blocks, I know the sash is the correct size, and can adjust better for the pieced block. I also pin about every 2″, using thin pins. 

C Fabric (Red)
4 2 x 39.5″ strips, cut along selvage as above; you might need to piece these for length
4 6.25″ squares
7 7.25″ squares
Cut squares twice on the diagonal, as above.

D Fabric (Dark Blue)
4 5.5″ squares for block centers
9 3.5″ squares for cornerstones
4 2″ squares for border corner blocks
7 7.25″ squares, cut twice on the diagonal, as above
2 6 7/8″ squares, cut ONCE on the diagonal

Use a 1/4″ seam allowance for all sewing.

Sew 16 5″ finish hourglass units, for Ohio star blocks. Each hourglass unit will have 1 A triangle, 2 B triangles, and 1 C triangle. You will have 4 pieced units per block. Complete the Ohio stars as 9-patches.

Sew 28 6″ finish hourglass units, for the border. Each hourglass unit will have 1 A triangle, 1 B triangle, 1 C triangle, and 1 D triangle. You will have 7 units per border side.

Sew 4 6″ corner blocks. Each corner block will have 1 A triangle, 1 B triangle, and 1 large D triangle.

Assemble the center blocks with sashing and 3″ corner blocks.

Attach the narrow strip border with 1.5″ corner blocks.

Assemble the hourglass units in strips of 7 per border. Attach the first 2 borders on opposite sides. Attach the 6″ corner units to the last 2 borders. Attach these.

Check the post called The commissioning quilt for another variation using a different center block and different colors.

You are more than welcome to use this design. (Don’t sell the design — that would be stealing!) If you have questions about construction, do feel free to ask and I’ll help you however I can.

Visiting a Quilt I Made

I’ve given away a lot of quilts over time, and most of those I’ll never see again. Even when they go to loved ones, I don’t always have the opportunity to see them, for various reasons. Right now, though, I have the pleasure of visiting one of them. And with that visit I can see it is well-loved.

In the fall of 2012 I made a quilt for each of Jim’s siblings. There are eight of them, and I wanted each different and suited just to that person. This one was for a younger brother and his wife.

It’s been loved since I gave it, with a little sun-fading and evidence of being washed. I’m so glad it is being used, rather than stored in a closet somewhere.

The block is a variation on an Ohio Star and is easier to do than it might look. The star points units don’t have fancy seaming. They’re just hourglass blocks that have been trimmed. You can find some photos of other uses for the blocks and directions for making it here.

Here is the same quilt design but using a standard Ohio Star block. I gave this quilt to a friend of my son’s on the occasion of Son’s commissioning in 2013.

You can find the pattern for it here. Note there are a few differences in placement of fabric. And if you want to make one using the star block from the top quilt, make that block instead. They both finish at 15″.