Tag Archives: Stash

Green Quilting

Over the years Jim and I have changed our living style to reduce our ecological footprint. We’ve made small changes over time, incrementally improving as we learn how to do things better. It’s meant buying less, recycling more, and upgrading to lower-energy lights and appliances, among other things.

Aside from basic daily living, my biggest environmental impact may be created by my quilting. Quilting has a cozy, natural image that belies the modern truth. From cotton production and fabric distribution, to all the steps we consumers take to complete a quilt, we make our mark when we quilt.

Cotton production uses enormous quantities of highly toxic chemicals, vast areas of land with undiversified agriculture, and fuel-guzzling machinery to plant and harvest. Post-harvest, only about 20% of US-grown cotton is processed by US textile mills. About 65% of US cotton is shipped overseas to be processed and made into something like clothing, bedding, or quilting fabric. One cargo ship, fully loaded, can carry about a million bales of cotton. The equivalent of about 11 fully loaded cargo ships will cross the seas with cotton from the US every year, one way. Much of that will be shipped back as finished products. A loaded cargo ship uses 86,000 gallons or more of highly-polluting fuel per day at sea. Then the cotton goes through incredibly toxic processing, sometimes in countries that have minimal worker-safety standards and poverty-level wages. Then it gets shipped back to me.

See my previous posts about cotton fabric production.
Cotton — Where Does Your Fabric Come From?
Cotton — What Happens After Harvest?
Cotton — Weaving Fabric
Cotton — Batik Production
Cotton — Printing Designs

Frankly, this is very disheartening to know. I have long realized that my need to quilt is a luxury that the world might not be able to afford. For now I will continue. But I will choose to find ways to reduce my footprint on the consumer end.

Here are some tips on reducing your carbon footprint of quilting.

Fabric acquisition and use:
* Use stash you already have before heading to the store or ordering online — save on delivery costs of fuel, road and vehicle use, gasoline, etc. If you need help with that, unsubscribe to all the ad emails you get. If you want something, you know where to find it anyway, right?
* Trade yardage and scraps with friends or guild members.
* Consider acquiring fabric in the form of used clothing, rather than as new yardage.
* Use your scraps in projects. More variety lends more richness and interest, anyway. Consider piecing same-fabric scraps together if you need somewhat bigger pieces. I’ve done this in a number of projects and believe me, it’s not like anyone will ever see the seams.
* Save selvage edges to use as you would heavy string or twine. I give mine to my husband, and he uses them in the garden to tie plants up.
* Consider buying American-made quilting fabric (assuming you are in the US.) There are only two brands that pop out. One is American Made Brand fabric, in 75 solids. One is Made In America cotton from JoAnn Fabrics. For all I know, they may be the same company.
* Consider buying fabric made from organically-grown cotton. These will have lower environmental impact because of less pesticide and herbicide use on the crop. In addition, other parts of fabric production have strict standards for impact. See this article on sewmamasew for more details.
* Use your own tote bags for shopping; decline plastic bags, or any bags, at the quilt shop or the chain fabric/craft store.

Books, magazines, paper patterns, and other stuff:
* Buy new (to you) books and stuff thoughtfully. Is it something you already have but can’t find? Is there a different solution than buying new? Most of my book purchases the last few years have been used ones. Can you borrow the specialty tool from a friend?
* Subscribe to digital editions of magazines.
* Unsubscribe from paper catalogs; ask all the junk mailers to take you off their lists.
* Download patterns when you have a choice. Store the pdf on your computer or a back-up drive rather than printing out.
* Recycle quilty stuff by first seeing if others will use them — donations, free table at guild meeting, friends and those in your small group, free-cycle, craigslist, paperback exchange, consignment stores, used book stores, your library. Only then recycle by putting in the bin. Last resort is to throw these items in the trash.

In your studio:
* Unplug your iron so it doesn’t continue to draw current while you’re out of the room.
* Turn off lights and TVs and audiobooks and other electrical devices when you walk away.
* Switch to LEDs. An LED lightbulb will last about 20 times as long as an incandescent and about three times as long as a CFL. They also are less expensive to operate, meaning their energy use (and your cost for it) is much lower. See the interesting chart on this page to compare. I’ve added LED lighting in my studio and am so glad I did. I have an enormous amount of light at a bare increase in energy used.
* Put your computer to sleep when you walk away for awhile. Power usage drops to about a third while in stand-by or sleep mode.
*Prewashing fabrics? I can’t tell you the impact there. I prewash, not post, so I am not washing and drying batting. On the other hand, I do iron my fabrics before use. My habits on this won’t change, regardless. I prewash partly because the sizing and other chemicals in new fabric bother me.

And what about batting?
Wow, this is a tough one, too. Polyester has the benefit of not being cotton; instead it is made from petroleum. Cotton has the benefit of not being polyester… Wool requires sheep, at about one sheep per twin-bed batt, depending on breed. And sheep require acreage, too, up to a half acre each. Compare that to cotton output of about 249 sheets per bale of cotton, and depending on location, about one bale per acre. So the number of cotton battings per acre must be many times the number of wool battings per acre, though otherwise the environmental damage is different, as well.

We also have other options. Bamboo is environmentally friendly and can grow prolifically without fertilizers or pesticides. Quilters Dream Green batting is made from recycled plastic bottles.

Without being able to do a more granular analysis, I’m not able to tell you what kind is a winner. I haven’t tried Quilters Dream Green, but it sounds like it’s worth trying. Other than that, I’ll probably continue to choose batting for each project based on that project’s needs and what I have easily available.

Do you have tips or ideas for green quilting? Please share in comments.  

Leftovers ==> Donation Quilt

I have the quilt top done, having found just the right border fabric in my stash. The background of it is blue with a touch of green, making it work well with the blues in the centers of the blocks. The olive green leaves add to that match. Also there are orangey-gold star-shaped flowers, which repeat the cheddar orange in the blocks.

I cut the available yard of border fabric into six strips, each 6″ wide. I pieced them into the four border strips needed. The top finishes at about 53″ square. It’s a nice size for a lap quilt. I’ll donate it through my guild and it might become a donation for our local VA hospital.

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This might give you a better idea of the colors:

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I also pulled a bunch of fabrics from my brown stash to piece for the back. I have blues to mix in to brighten it.

Son is gone already. We had him here for a whole 49 hours. It was too little but we take what we can get. Next week he deploys overseas for the summer. I am feeling pretty sad, to tell the truth. But that is the way of things, yes?

 

I Love Leftovers!

I’ve finished the top of my new medallion, and I have a name for it: Moonlight Waltz.  No pictures are ready yet and won’t be for a few days. In the meantime I want to share a new project made of leftovers.

It often happens that I build blocks for a border that won’t work. It’s been a long time since that upset me, as I know those leftover blocks will come in handy somewhere else. (Okay, every now and then a few find their way to the trash, just like tidbits from my refrigerator. But I am GOOD at making soup, and I’m pretty good at using orphan blocks, too.)

For Moonlight Waltz, I made 25 6″ puss-in-the-corner blocks. They are simple in design and can look clean and elegant. However, my fussy fabrics and odd color combination hit every note wrong. Instead of them (and all the alternate blocks I hadn’t yet made,) I used the flying geese border.

I had several choices for layout of these 6″ blocks. Here are some of them:
* straight setting, no alternate blocks, no sashing
* straight setting, no alternate blocks with sashing
* straight setting with alternate blocks, no sashing
* on-point setting with alternate blocks, no sashing
* on-point setting with alternate blocks and with sashing

The blocks are not suited to being set side-by-side, which means alternate blocks and/or sashing is needed. Adding only sashing would create a quilt center a little too small, so alternate blocks are needed. And honestly I didn’t even consider using a straight setting with alternate blocks. On-point setting was my initial reaction and decision.

Using a 6″ block on point, in a 5 x 5 layout, makes a center that is 42.5″ finished. (That is 6″ x 1.414 x 5 = 42.4″. With trimming the edges barely wide it will finish at 42.5″.) With borders it will be about 50″ square.

This morning I arranged the blocks on the floor in an on-point layout. Once they were spread out, I noticed the eight square-in-a-square blocks leftover from the last pieced border. They finish at 4″. I spread them out within the design. !!! That’s not bad! I had already cut two long strips of toile to use for alternate blocks, so cut the remaining of those needed from one strip. The other strip I cut into framing strips for the square-in-a-square blocks, to bring them up to size.

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Finally I cut four large squares of toile to create side setting triangles. I still need to cut the corner setting triangles.

The whole thing is ready to sew into a quilt center. I have other leftovers (fabric, not blocks) to use for borders.

With a little luck on sewing time, the quilt top will be done by the end of the weekend. However first priority today and tomorrow is spending time with my son, home for a couple days of leave.

🙂

Math Is AWESOME!

Yes, awesome, inspiring feelings of awe; magnificent, amazing, stunning. Math rocks!

I truly enjoyed creating Untied, with its free-form, no math construction. Though I used a ruler for parts of it, it wasn’t because the outcome depended on the measurement. Instead, at those instances I was only interested in straight, and sometimes parallel, lines.

20160401_182836However, I love the challenge of a technically difficult quilt, too. For a change of pace, I began a brand new project. The inspiration for it is a piece of fabric I bought several years ago. It’s a fussy historical print that I’ve always loved. However, it’s fussy and historical, and the colors are just off, all of which have made it hard to use. If it is cut into small patches, the impact of the print disappears, but large pieces would require designing just for it. So I am.

I started by pulling from stash, which is how almost all my quilts begin. I pulled all the blues that could work with that print, which meant they had to have a tinge of green and a little grey. It’s the color I learned as French blue. As it turns out, I don’t have a lot of blue with that, and all of it is in scraps or small pieces, other than the inspiration print. We’ll see how far I get before needing to buy something.

Burgundy reds, creams, browns, and cheddar oranges also came out of stash, including from my scrap drawer. I’m trying to commit to using my scraps more effectively. They come in handy, as I’ll explain later.

My center block is 18″ finished. I knew I wanted to turn it on point twice. The method is exactly the same as used for the economy block setting. This is also called “square in a square.”

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And this is where the first round of harder quilt math comes in. (It’s not very hard, just a thing to learn, or store so you can look it up.) As noted in the linked post, when setting a square on point twice, the finished size of the resulting block is twice the dimensions of the initial finished square. For my 18″ block, I would end up with a 36″ center, once trimmed and finished. (See below for the calculation and reason why.) 

What a great way to quickly increase the size of a quilt!

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After trimming, I added a 1″ border all the way around, taking it to 38″ square. That’s an odd size.

Options for a 36″ Edge
Most quilt blocks are square, or are rectangular with length twice the width, like flying geese blocks. I typically divide a border length into a number of equal increments to find how many blocks could fit along the edge. For example, if I put a block border directly along the 36″ center, I would divide 36 in various ways to get possibilities. Let’s start with whole inches.
36/18 = 2. I could have 18 blocks measuring 2″.
36/12 = 3. I could have 12 blocks measuring 3″.
36/9 = 4. I could have 9 blocks measuring 4″.
36/6 = 6. I could have 6 blocks measuring 6″.
But remember we could also go to half-inches, such as
36/8 = 4.5. I could have 8 blocks measuring 4.5″.
36/24 = 1.5. I could have 24 blocks measuring 1.5″.

You can see there are actually infinite variations, though I like to stick to the ones that are easy to construct.

Options for a 38″ Edge
But I didn’t want to put a block border directly against the large center. I wanted the hard line of a narrow border before anything else, to contain the pale toile. That gave me 38″, which is harder to divide nicely than 36″.
38/19 = 2. I could have 19 blocks measuring 2″, but this was too narrow to work well with the proportions of the center. And 19 is a prime number, so I couldn’t subdivide it into whole numbers.
I could shift to fractionals, such as
38/8 = 4.75. Sure… This actually would work fine with something like HST or hourglasses.

My go-to blocks are half-square triangles and hourglasses. I don’t want this quilt to look like others I’ve made, so it’s good to try something different.

Then I had a thought, a math thought! What if I divide 38 by 1.414? (That actually was the first thought. Then I thought…) If I turn blocks on point rather than set them straight, I would need to know the number of blocks using the math for the diagonal.

Here’s the concept. The picture below shows a triangle that is 1″ on the vertical and horizontal sides. The diagonal measures 1.414″, which is the square root of 2″. (Check with your calculator if you don’t believe me.)

Sq_rt_of_2 Pythagorean Theorem
For a right triangle, the square of the length of the diagonal (hypotenuse) is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides. We often see this expressed as a² + b² = c². To find c, take the square root of c².

In the case to the left, a = 1; b = 1; c is the square root of 2, or 1.414.

In fact, the diagonal of every square is 1.414 times the length of the side. So
length x 1.414 = diagonal
1″ x 1.414 = 1.414″
2″ x 1.414 = 2.828″ or close to 2 7/8″
3″ x 1.414 = 4.242″ or close to 4 1/4″
4″ x 1.414 = 5.656″ or close to 5 5/8″
and so on.

That also means that if I know the diagonal of a square, I can find the length using
diagonal/1.414 = length. For example
6″/1.414 = 4.243″, or very close to 4 1/4″.
38″/1.414 = 26.875″. Hooray!!

Huh? Why is that good? 26.875 is very close to 27, which is a very easy number to use. For instance,
27/9 = 3.

I could use 9 blocks measuring 3″, turned on point. (There were other options, too, such as 6 blocks at 4.5″.)

3 x 1.414 = 4.242, the diagonal of a 3″ square, and the width of a 3″ block when turned on point.
4.242 x 9 = 38.178, or very close to 38″.

So if I use 9 3″ blocks turned on point, I’ll have the length needed for a 38″ border.

(And to review the concept in another way, let’s go back to the 18″ block. When I turn it on point twice, I’m doing this:
18″ x 1.414 = 25.452″
25.452″ x 1.414 = 36″.
This is the same as 18″ x 1.414² = 18″ x 2 = 36″.) 

I chose to use the historical print and other blue scraps as the 3″ finish squares. For the background fabric, a light background would give good value contrast for the blues so they stand out well. I picked a pink and tan print on pale cream. The pink works because the reds have a pink cast. Right now I’m still working completely from stash and scraps. I was able to cut most of the setting triangles from a couple of larger pieces, but for the last few I had to sew scraps together to cut patches.

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Can you find the seams where the setting fabric scraps had to be sewn together?

With the on-point border added, my current center is 46.5″ finished, another weird number. I plan to add an unpieced strip next, but I haven’t decided its width. I could add a strip to take it to 48″, 49″, 50″… So the next design decision, really, is the border after that, which will determine the width of the strip.

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I feel really fortunate to have the math skills as part of my craft toolbox. You can make beautiful quilts without knowing how to do any of this, but knowing increases the options open to me. Math is awesome!

Busy But Quiet

Truth: the political campaign renders me downright inarticulate a lot of the time. Or perhaps more accurately, I articulate my frustration, disgust, and dismay quite well. But it doesn’t seem to leave me a lot of words for other things.

I’ve been busy with quilty things but not posting much. Right now I have Connected on the frame. It’s about halfway through being quilted, but we hit another tension glitch the other day. Two hours of unstitching was the trade-off for about ten minutes of quilting with bad tension. It’s a shame but it’s not fatal. As my friend Lisa says, no one died and no one went to jail, so it’s all okay. Progress was halted but will resume soon, perhaps tomorrow. I think Jim and I are both eager to finish this project and send it to the new owner.

Besides that, I’ve been working on a project that excites me, but it’s hard so sometimes slow. (Imagine saying “it’s hard” with the whiny, complainy voice of a 13-year-old. That’s the kind of hard it is.) It’s a medallion quilt centered with a large-print African fat quarter I bought a year ago. I’ve added and subtracted and moved borders from sides to top and bottom and improvised and cut carefully and … now I’m working on borders that need to wait until other decisions are made. And man, it’s hard! But it’s fun and keeps my brain working. For now, I’ll keep the progress to myself. As for its process, this is designing one step at a time, where the steps are dance steps, sometimes forward and sometimes backwards, in heels. 🙂

A third project is for my small group. I’m delighted that my group decided to do a round robin again this year. Our March meeting is Monday. We’ll pass the center blocks at that time. We agreed again this time to have no real rules, just guidelines. With that, the center block should finish between 9″ and 12″. Mine is a 12″ block.

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I never know how colors will translate between real life and your screen. The background color is a celery green. The print points have blues and greens on a black background. The center orange strips are quite vivid, the color of a bright tangerine peel.

I’ve decided for this project, for all the rounds I add to my groupmates’ projects, I’ll try to work from my scrap drawer. When that fails me, the next option is pieces from stash smaller than a fat quarter, and then from larger if needed. Only as a last resort will I buy. Since we all have different tastes in fabrics, I know buying might happen. But my creativity is engaged most when I have constraints. This constraint will force me to look at my scraps a little differently.

How are you all doing these days? Feeling frustrated with current events, too? Making progress on projects?