April 2010

More Fat Quarter Surprises

The fat quarter swap organized by Sew Mama Sew! is fabulous.  I look foward to the mail carrier roaring up the street in her little white van every afternoon, hoping that she will deliver another envelope containing a special surprise.  Today I got two (well, three actually).

From Laura in Parkville, Maryland I received “Mod Dots” by Patty Young for Michael Miller.  This modern print screams “cut me up and use me immediately.”  Laura prewashes all of her fabric and she was worried this fat quarter may have shrunk a little (doesn’t it kill you how honest and genuinely wonderful quilters are?) so she sent along this….
a little something extra.  Can’t you just see a quilt using the first piece on the front, and this one on the back?  I don’t know the name of this pattern, but when I finish typing this post I am going to find it online.  What a fabulous backing fabric.  Thank you, Laura!  I am going to enjoy using both of these.
No.  Wait.  There is more.  From Jayne in Fort Wayne, Indiana, I received
…this beautiful winter-themed fabric.  It is Hoffman California International Fabric, design #E8821.  I just love these birds.  The only problem with a fat quarter swap is — I want two yards of all of them!
Aren’t these birds sweet?  Thank you, Jayne!

Block Five

Here is Block #5 from the jelly roll quilt-along hosted by Moose on the Porch Quilts.  It is a pattern called “Chain Link.”  It reminds me of a Chinese lantern.  I have never used pre-cut quilt fabric so this project has been a lot of fun, and I now understand why pre-cuts are so popular.  Quick and easy!

The quilt world is buzzing with news of Electric Quilt’s upcoming release of version 7.  The world of virtual quilting is stepping up another notch.  Version 7 includes 79 new features.  For those of us who LOVE EQ6, we can hardly wait to get our hands on this product.  (Internet grapevine says preorders can be made at patchworkplanet.com if you just can’t wait for it’s early June release.)  Version 7 boasts improved scan capability for both photos and your own fabrics, new block tools, 120 new layouts and blocks that resize themselves when you simply drag and drop them into place on your quilt layout.  There is also the return of an earlier (and very popular) feature – the ability to design one quadrant of a block and then flipping it or rotating it to make an entire block.  Awesome!  If you quilt and have not tried this software – try it.  It is so much fun.   There is lots of built in help to get you started.  The only problem is you will have so much fun playing with the software designing original quilts, you won’t be at your machine….

Fat Quarter Swap

The first two fabrics have arrived from the Fat Quarter Swap organized by Sew Mama Sew…..

Adrienne from California sent this wonderful Kaffe Fassett.  The colors are fabulous.  I am working on a kaleidoscope quilt right now and this will be a beautiful addition.  Thanks so much, Adrienne.

This fun fabric came from Kathy in Arizona.  The background is a light buttery yellow with black filigree butterflies and wonderful purple and black bumblebees.  I will have to find the perfect place for these bees. 
This fabric looks like it could be a custom piece that you would find at Spoonflower.com.  Thanks, Kathy.  I will enjoy finding a way to use this unique fabric!

Oh, Baby! Braids!

I have finished the chevron braided strips for my baby quilt.  Five rows of chevrons with four setting strips.
It doesn’t have outside borders yet, and measures 30″ x 44″.  It is raining, dark and cold here in the San Francisco Bay area and this quilt is bright, cheerful and makes me hopeful that Spring is coming soon!
I thought I would take some time today to explain how I put this quilt together.  Braids are fairly quick to piece.  There are lots of ways to use these braided columns.  You can set them together like I have, or you can set them together without the setting strip (although I think it looks too busy), and you can also cut them into segments and sew them into four patches which can be very striking.
Thoughtful color choices will make these quilts sparkle.  Earlier in this blog I showed you photos of the mint green and rosy pink background fabric that was my inspiration for choosing these colors.  To make the colors play well with each other, pick fabrics that introduce the next color.  For instance the white daisy on pink background has a yellow center.  That allowed me to pick a yellow fabric with the white swan and pink ribbon.  I then switched back to pink and white, and then darker pinks.  It is also okay to abruptly change the color of the next piece if they are neighbors on the color wheel or complement each other.
This photo shows how I moved from pink, to pink and green floral, to green and white prints.
I also picked a dark lavendar (complementary) color which I used randomly, and sparingly throughout the quilt, to help the eye move around these pastel colors.
When I sew, if I have left over scraps that can be cut into 2″ x 4″ rectangles, I cut them up and group them together by color in boxes.  When I want to make some chevron braided strips, I pull out the colors I want to use together and, wow, it’s already cut out and ready to sew!

The next step is to lay out the column on the work table, choosing your fabrics and making the color transitions.  Stand back and look at it and see if anything looks like it doesn’t belong.  (Looking at the strip through a digital camera lens really helps to see something that’s not working.) In the photo above, the dark pink polka dot is strip #1 and the light pink dot is #2.

Take piece #2, the light pink, and place it right sides together with the base of piece #1, as shown here.

Sew a 1/4″ seam down the right side of piece #2 (the light pink).
Press the seam, and take it back to the work table.  It is important to press these each time, even if it is finger pressed, because each seam you make builds on the last seam. 
The white daisy fabric is piece #3.  With pieces #1 and #2 lying right sides up, place piece #3 right side down on top of them, as shown below.
Sew a 1/4″ seam down the right side of piece #3, just as you did before.
Press the seam open and return to the worktable.
Add piece #4 from the column to the right side of pieces #2 and 3.  Sew the 1/4″ seam down the right side of the piece, as before.   Press open.
Keep adding strips and repeating the above process until you have a column of strips in the length you desire.  The upper “V” ends of the column and the “V” point at the bottom will be cut off when you add the borders, so allow some extra length for that.
Do not cut off the outside triangle edges until after you join the columns or sew on a setting strip.
For my quilt I chose a setting strip made of solid mint green and a bright pink with tiny white polka dots.  The green strip is 1 1/2″ wide and the pink strip is 1″ wide.  I sewed them together and then put the setting strip right sides together with the chevron column.
The setting strip is placed right at the base of each “V” where each of the strips meet, leaving the triangle ends of each strip above the setting strip.  Pin the setting strip on from the top of the column to the bottom.  Sew a 1/4″ seam the length of the strip.  Press open. 
Place the setting strip right sides together with the next chevron column and repeat the above process until all the settings strips and columns are joined. 
With just a little practice you can master this very easy piecing technique.  But beware, these quilts can be addictive!  Give it a try!

Fat Quarter Swap!

Over at SewMamaSew.com they are having a theme month with lots of tutorials and photos of fun, modern quilts.  They were organizing a fat quarter swap so I signed up for two.  I will be trading a fat quarter of fabric with two groups of women.  (A fat quarter is a piece of fabric 18″ x 22″ inches.  It is a quarter yard, but is cut as half of a half-yard, instead of a long skinny 1/4 yard cut.)  My swap partners are all over the U.S. and two in the United Kingdom.  I participated in one of these a couple of years ago and it was fun to wait for the mail and see what surprises came out of the envelopes.

I went to the fabric shop today to pick out my swap fabric.  It was hard to choose.  I wanted something I would love to receive, so I picked these:

This is “mille fleur,” from Alexander Henry Fabrics.  They were just putting this on the shelf when I walked in the store, so it is a brand new release.  It has an Asian flavor to it, but it is very modern and fresh.  I love it.  With all those shapes and color changes it will be fun to use.
This one is “A Breath of Avignon,” designed by Sandy Klop who lives here in my hometown of Walnut Creek, California.  Sandy designs under the name of American Jane and this fabric is printed by Moda.  It has been fun watching Sandy progress from quilter, to professional long-arm quilter, to pattern designer, teacher, and now fabric designer. This design is fresh and vibrant.   All the fabrics in this collection are very pretty and it was hard to choose one.    I hope the quilters I send these fabric to will like them as much as I do. 

Block 4

Here is block number four in the Moose on the Porch Quilt-along.  There was a strip of fabric in this collection that I thought I would never use – big, wide, multi-colored stripes with random scallops.  This block is perfect for it! The little three inch steps allowed me to fussy cut the stripes so they look like solids.

Design Wall Monday – Braids

Hate to throw away scraps?  I do.  If a fabric scrap is at least 2″ by 4″, I cut it into a 2 x 4 inch rectangle and put it in my “braid” box, organized by color.  I find French braid quilts to be a fun exercise in color.  I recently found this fabric in a little home decorator fabric shop.  Isn’t it cute?  This will be the backing, and maybe in a border on the front.  I took these photos in the evening and the light was terrible so I apologize.  The green is a minty green and the pink is dark.

What a great fabric for a baby quilt!  Out came the “braid box” and these are the fabrics I picked.
A few hours at the machine, and bam!  Braids.
I still have at least two more rows to sew because these shrink up in size considerably when they are sewn together (this is just a cross-section, the braids are about four feet long).  In looking at this picture, I also see that I have a couple of fabrics occurring in the same spot in the row, so I will have to fix that.  More about braids tomorrow….

Block Three

This is block three in the Moose on the Porch sew-along.  The pattern called for four different fabrics, one for each quarter, with alternating centers, but the fabric line I am using, “Objects of Desire,” doesn’t lend itself to that many combinations so I just used two.  Very cheery, but I need to stop using so much of this green polka dot.  I have used it in two of the three blocks I have made.
Sew, Mama, Sew! is doing a great online program this month featuring quilting tips, techniques, patterns and a quilt of the day.  Every day in April will feature something new.  Check it out.