Monday, March 17, 2014

8 Half-Square Triangle Units from 2 Squares

Half-Square Triangle units are the basis of many quilt blocks, so it's good to know some different ways to make them. This quick method gives you 8 units at a time!

Here's the formula so you can make the size you need:
Unfinished size of unit + 1/2"  x  2
Cut 2 squares that size..from different fabrics, of course!
Example : for  a 4 x 4 units 12" block (finished) you need 3½" unfinished units (includes the seam allowance)
3½" + ½" = 4" x 2 = 8" squares to cut to get 8 HST units.

On the lighter square, draw a big X from corner to corner:
Use a pencil (not pen) and make a line you can see. This will be a cutting line later.

With Right Sides together, sew 1/4" away from both sides of both lines:
Stitched in red thread for visibility!

Cut right through the middle of the block, but do not move any pieces!
Be sure the fabric is under the ruler...edge of ruler through middle of the X....line up across any marks at the bottom.
This is just cutting, not using marks to measure anything.

Cut through the middle going the other direction:
Working at the corner of the table, you can just move to the other side.

In case you want a better visual, you just cut where the green lines are in this pic...but don't bother to draw them, just use your ruler to cut....
After these two long cuts, it's OK to move the pieces.

Now you can cut on the lines you drew:
Now it looks like the usual set up for quick-piecing HSTs

Press the units open (usually toward the darker fabric).

They should be the correct size. If not, trim them to equal the size you need.

That was fast and easy...with minimal math, all the units can be used, and the bias edges are never on the outside.

If you have some pre-cut squares, do Reversed Math (divide by 2, then minus 1/2" for the unfinished size...minus another 1/2" for the finished unit size)
5" squares = 1½"  (2½ -½" = 2" unfinished size,  for 1½" sewn in)  tiny!!!
10" squares = 4½"  ( 5" - ½" = 4 ½"  unfinished, 4" sewn in)  another 12" block standard

OK, that's more "math" than I can take in one day. 
And to you Math Majors... I do acknowledge this is actually arithmetic! (Vocabulary I know...numbers, not so much!)

Another disclaimer: (Oh, I know there are a few sharp-eyed readers...)
the demo block squares were cut 12", leaving a rather odd size of 5½" units, but this was created for a large group demo and needed to be seen from afar!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Fast Batik Clipboard Cover

It's perfectly fine to use notes while presenting a quilt guild program, but it's even better to have those notes on a pretty clipboard. Here's a tutorial for making a fast cover. It took me less than 30 minutes. You can use any size clipboard for this.

Non-plastic clipboard
Fat quarter-ish piece of fabric 
1/2 yard Wonder Under or other paper-backed fusible web

Lay the clipboard on the fabric. There should be enough to fold the sides over to meet in the center (top to bottom) and an inch extra beyond the top and bottom. Check for direction of print, if you care!
Protect your ironing board with a piece of "release paper"...either parchment paper or paper removed from a previous WonderUnder project.
Iron the fusible to the wrong side of the fabric. I just covered the entire fat quarter, because I will use the small part I trim off in another project. And I cut the Wonder Under by just laying the fabric on numbers for me unless absolutely necessary!
You could use a rotary cutter, but you'll still need scissors later!
Trim any fabric that is not fused and any fusible not on the fabric.

Save this paper and see the bottom of this post for some ways to use it again.
Remove the paper after it has cooled off. Save this paper to use for protecting your ironing board with other projects...and later on for this one! It is treated with silicone so both sides are good to go. It is handy for lots of things, and lasts through several pressings. 


Wrapping to the front
Lay the clipboard on the fused side of the fabric and wrap the sides to the front.

Fold & slide!
Fold back any extra fabric, slide your scissors in and trim. The edges of the fabric can touch or barely overlap. This side will be covered with papers most of the time, and the print will also "disguise" any wobbles. Please feel free to be as precise as you like for any of this...I'm just getting it done!
Stick your scissors between the front and back layers at each corner and snip up to the board.

Paper is between front and back fabric layers, sticking out at snipped corners
Turn the clipboard over, put a piece of release paper between the layers and fuse the fabric to back of the clipboard.
Trim the sides even with the ends
Flip it over to the front again, and with the sides opened flat, trim out a piece at each corner to make the sides even with the top and bottom.
Fuse the fronts down BUT not all the way up to the clip!
Cut the bottom corners at a slight angle, then turn that edge up and fuse it in place.

Don't worry about this...trim it off!
Trim anything that sticks out. My clipboard has curved corners, so it won't make a sharp angle.

Snip and fold as best you can
The tricky bit: Snip and fold to work the fabric around the clip. I snipped down at each side of the metal, then held the clip open and trimmed across the bottom. I could have used a helper to hold the clip open, but sometimes you just gotta do it on your own!
Put the release paper on top of the back fabric, hold the clip open, and finish fusing under and around the clip. 
Trim the back first
Angle trim the corners of the back layer like you did at the bottom, and trim out the fabric behind the back clip part that sticks up (if you have a board like this).
Turn the back fabric to the front and fuse in place. You are done!
Nobody is perfect!
OK, full trimming was not perfect! So I took a little piece of trimmed off fabric and just fused it right over this spot. If you feel the need to cover up any board parts that show through you could also fill them in with a permanent pen. The fused fabric just tends to blend in....especially if you do not point out where you did it!
Well, my friends, I now have two lovely covered clipboards and you have a tutorial! (the original one is on my Facebook page).
There is iron-on vinyl that could be used for a nice finish, or one of the fabric protection sprays. I probably won't bother with those, but you may want to keep the clipboard looking really nice if it will be used often.
Or just cover it again if it gets dirty!

I am doing a lot with fusible web right now. If you'd like some more tutorials and ideas for no-or-low sewing projects, check out Laura Wasilowsi at Artfabrik or Frieda Anderson's website.  You can see them on YouTube...just type a name in the search box. Melodie Johnson's blog also has some good tutorials listed in the side bar.

Have fun and let me know what you've been making lately!

Monday, March 3, 2014

National Quilting Month

President's Signature Blocks-- 2009

March is National Quilting Month!

And I think it is no co-incidence that it is also Frozen Food Month. So make just one trip to the grocery, and tell your family that yes, you DO have dinner taken care of!
(oh, I wish I were really that organized!)

UFOs sighted across the country

Ever since January UFOs (UnFinished Objects) have been sighted at guild meetings and on blogs across the country...maybe even the world! The beginning of a New Year always brings out a rash of Good Intentions, and my local guild is sponsoring a UFO challenge for the year.
What incredible timing! I had just basted several tops, so I was ready to go on a UFO bustin' binge. 
When we had the first Show & Tell at the February meeting I came in with five all done! Woo-Hoo!
Of course, they won't be seeing any more for a looooong time, as I'm off on other projects now. But I confess, I did enjoy that one moment of triumph.
We have an official Long List with spaces for 20 UFOs, but I chose the Short List of 8. Finishing the last 3 would be another miracle...but you never know! My true goal was to finally finish all my "President's projects".

A Plethora of Presidential Projects

I only have myself to blame...I have been President of the guild three times (2 years each) over the last 25 years (geesh, now I really sound old!). The first year of a term the president gets blocks made by the members, and if there is a second term she gets a finished quilt. So I had 3 block collections to complete.
The most recent you can see at the top of this page...yummy batiks (mostly)!
This one goes back to 1994, when I received stars in many colors:

President's Stars-- 1994
Each star is sashed with 4 different fabrics to match it's color. I was so proud that I used only my stash for that...back in 1994! Completing it now was a bittersweet task, with several of the blocks reminding me of friends who are no longer with us.
 The next time I was president, they asked what kind of blocks I wanted. I thought blue & white nine-patches would be fun...and I got a ton of them in 2001. They ended up as 3 with dark blue sashing, one with light blue (both over twin size!), and a baby sized quilt. Here is the light sashed one (most recently finished):
Blue & White husband gets a quilt at last!
Of course, I had a helper for all these projects:
Shayla O'Puss in her glory

Something new!

I'll be doing a workshop for The Art Center on May 17. "Fabric Art Without Needle & Thread" is for artists who might like to use some fabric, but don't want to sew.
It will be interesting to work with non-quilters. I'm thinking of it as a "play-shop" more than a workshop. I'm supplying all the materials so they can learn by making a collage, without having invested in stuff they may never use again.
Stay tuned for more info on that!
As usual, I had to do something quick for a promo...
Two fused collages
So...what have you been creating?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Secrets of the Log Cabin Block

It's no secret that now I have a lot of scrappy strips!
Having a first project planned is a good way to easily switch from one huge activity (stripping my scraps) to another (actually sewing!). So as I was cutting the Pink fabrics, I decided to make a Pink & Brown Log Cabin quilt...and those strips went into a separate box, right from the beginning.
Better than a jelly-roll!
Log Cabin is the first pieced block I ever made...a good story for another time...and one I have often returned to. It's just strips, great scrappy or with planned colors, and can be arranged to create a wide variety designs: Barn Raising, Streaks of Lightning, Stars...even the sets have names! Any design you can make with Half-Square Triangle units can be done with Log Cabins.

The Truth About Log Cabin Blocks
It looks easy but it isn't!
If you've made this block, you know what I mean: All the strips are the same width...the seam allowance is 1/4"...why do they come out wrong?
The size is wonky, the strips are all mixed can such a simple block not work?

Why, Oh Why?
It's because this block goes "round & round" from one side to the next. That pulls it out of square.
This is the same reason you don't put your borders on from one side to the next (do you?). Sewing borders on two opposite sides, then measuring through the middle and sewing the other two, will keep your quilt straight.
But the Log Cabin has to go "round & round"! 

How to Make It Work
One fix is to cut all the strips to the length they will be in the block...that works well, especially if all the blocks are colored the same, all the strips are the same length to start, and you keep everything in order.
I'm working very scrappy here (besides being immensely lazy). So I like to sew the strip on and then cut off the extra.
Let that strip hang out!
You can just chop it off with your scissors BUT give it a bit of extra...DO NOT cut it off even with the block edge because it will never end up square! I know it looks like it will, but it just won't.
You can see the extra bit, so when you line up the next strip don't use that part to match the raw edges.

Go ahead and sew 2 Lights and 2 Darks to complete a round, which makes the block look like a square. Don't count the center square, just the sides you sew on.
I made a Trimming List of the raw-edge sizes for each round. These are 2" wide strips, so my list was:

First Round- 5'
Second Round- 8"
Third Round- 11"
The finished block is 10.5", an odd size, but they only need to match themselves.
You can make blocks any size you want, wider or narrower strips, several more rounds.....figure your Trimming List by adding the finished size of each piece (include the center) plus the 1/2" seam allowance which is already there on the outside edge.
Here's how to trim:
First trim two sides...
This is my second round, but it works the same for each round. Just do this by in the middle, most of the seams pretty much parallel to the ruler lines, the edges under the ruler (light sides here) at or slightly beyond the Trim List (raw edge) size lines. Trim the excess on the right and top.
(Lefties! I love ya'! This is actually something you can just reverse "right" to "left" and it will work).
...then rotate and trim the other two!
Rotate the block so the trimmed sides are under the ruler...line them up exactly with the Trim List size lines, and then cut. Sometimes I like to mark the final size corner with a bit of tape, but didn't here.
Trimming at each round will help correct for the "not perfect" seam allowance. 

More Secrets!
Just two...I know you're ready to quit reading and start sewing!

1) Be consistent! It doesn't matter so much how you sew this block as that you do the same way each time: Light OR dark goes on first; last strip sewn on goes TOWARD you or AWAY; block OR strip is on top when sewing. This will keep the strips going around in the same direction...clockwise or not, they all do need to go the same way. And this keeps the direction from changing in the middle of the block!
Not being consistent will create many artsy or odd blocks...that's another choice, for a different quilt.

2) Press the seam before trimming. Open or to the side is your choice, continuing to be consistent either TOWARD the center or AWAY. If you have scissor-cut the excess strip length, this is where trimming evens it up to be exactly square (if it isn't already hidden in a previous seam allowance).

3) Chain-piecing is wonderful for these blocks. You really MUST press before trimming each "log" with this method. If you keep adding blocks until the strip is filled, the blocks start out the same, but eventually, as new strips are added, you end up with blocks at many different stages (rounds and values). See #1 above!

Very scrappy blocks are pushing the value placements!
Color choice can be a whole big deal, but I'd like to mention just a couple thoughts.
Quilt mythology has it that the center square is red for the warm hearth, or yellow for a candle in the window to guide someone home. You can make it whatever color you like, but its value will increase the amount seen on one side or the other.
I tried to stick just with using values, so the Pinks are both light and dark, as are the Browns. When using 2 colors, some people like to keep them on separate sides.
If you look at antique quilts, what seems "Pink & Brown" is usually loaded with additional colors. I think a touch of blue keeps it from being boring. For a scrap quilt, choosing prints that look mostly the color you want will naturally bring in additional bits of color to please the eye.

Well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it! There are lots of other ways to build a Log Cabin, and I'd like to hear your thoughts. too. 
And, of course, if you just want to avoid the whole "round & round" issue, you can make the block called Courthouse Steps...adding the strips to opposite sides!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Stash to Strips!

A new 14" ruler! It's great for cutting scraps.

It started with the innocent desire to donate some fabric to the guild's annual sale, and quickly escalated into a massive Stash Reduction Project!
I had a basket of yardage that had been in the closet for a year. Giving it away would be the perfect anti-Pack Rat move, if I could only not look at the contents. But you know I did!

Now, the best way to overcome that Pack Rat urge is to donate items, because you are not throwing them away. They are just going to someone else who will love them. At least, that's what I tell myself, and works briefly.

So when I saw some fabrics in the basket that I liked, I cut them into 2.5" strips to make a pre-cut package for the sale.
That's where I went wrong. I decided, since I was giving away the yardage, the orange cut strips would make another nice Halloween style Quirky Bits (since DeLuna had bought the first one I made last year). So then I needed to cut some more while I was at it! There are plastic drawers of fat quarters and similar scraps that I had not looked at in quite awhile, so I figured the orange drawer was ripe for stripping!

You might be surprized how much fabric can fit in a 11" x 13" drawer...or maybe not!
Before I knew it, I was stuck in an obsession that had to be taken all the way...through the oranges, the browns, the purples and the greens...through the reds and all the way to the big Blue box!
And then, there was a box just labelled "Fat Quarters" (no colors), meaning I had started stuffing them into that box because all the sorted containers were full!

And even more can fit in a bigger box!

Oh, the big Blue box? Yeah, that one was under-bed storage size.
Or, as so many of us will understand, more than large enough to hold a cat.
Nothing collects cats like an open box of fabric! Shayla says, "It's mine now!"
But she's wrong.
All these pieces had to be ironed and folded back on-grain. Then cut and tossed on a stack: 2.5" or 2" or 1.5". Being innumerate, I randomly chose those widths. Then I attempted to be ruthless...
and did OK. I only have one large box left now with pieces I just couldn't bear to cut up!

The 2.5" strip pile.
It took 10 days. but finally I stopped. I had to swear to Cherry-Cherry I would not even peek in another box.
Yes, there are other boxes. And there is all the "real stash" on the shelves. That doesn't include the batiks, either. I am one fabric addict for sure!

At least I have learned that organization (some amount...) increases the probability of using these things, so the strips had to go into boxes. I chose to make them Light and Dark, letting the poor Mediums fall where they may. Just one width to a box. 
A piece of foam core makes a nice divider between Lights & Darks.
I even ended up with a couple of empty boxes!
And decided on my first project to use the strips: A Pink & Brown Log Cabin from 2" strips. Anything I thought I would use for that went into its own container. It's so nice to sit down and just start sewing, now that the cutting is done.
Ready for some mental health sewing!
I confess...the original scrap strips just went into the boxes with all the others.
But I did generate a GIANT scrap bag** for the guild sale, plus the basket of yardage. I'm putting those in my van today, because the sooner they are gone, the better the chances they will stay gone!

**10 pounds of scraps, covering a 30 year collection...not all my scraps, just the ones I could let go of!
It fills one of those pop-up laundry bags.
Yes, C.C., I am one sick puppy for fabric!
And, no...I am not cutting everything into strips. The yardage is safe.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Potholder Time Again!

Patchwork Pie is back, and today it's all about POTHOLDERS!
They can be as artistic as mini-quilts, or just slapped together utility items. They are the perfect gift, of all...the most wonderful therapy in the world!
A pile of batted-up potholders!
I had a nice collection of batik scraps from a quilt I'd made for a class at the Campbell Folk School (it has been shown in their ads for the last year in every issue of Quilting Arts magazine...yes, these very scraps!). I also wanted to make a house-warming gift for some special friends out in Washington state, so a project was born!

This is a NO NUMBERS project, as in I didn't care if anything was the same size, and I certainly did not want to take the chance of doing any math!
Here's how I did it:

Rulers in this post are used only as straight edges...ignore those numbers!
1 )  After sewing some log cabin-ish blocks (with no regard to length, side, or direction of the "logs") I put each one on top of two layers of cotton batting and cut everything even all at once. In fact, you can just fold the batting (also scraps!). Measure by eye, not numbers!
 It does not have to be perfect or at right angles or anything at this point.

That's a fold along the bottom, another opportunity to just cut everything at on time.
2)  Batt not big enough? Just zig-zag some scraps together! Use a very wide stitch going off the batting layers, and lengthen the stitch. Or butt two pieces together and zigzag where the edges meet.
Two layers stacked

3)  These potholders are made to be used. And by "used," I mean "abused", as in grabbing them for any kitchen task. So I like terry cloth on the back! An old towel is terrific (also for inside instead of batting) but I didn't have one, so I had to visit The Big Box Store. But I had a 40% 0ff coupon, of course!
Lay the batted potholder on the terry cloth and just cut around it, free hand if you want!

Most of the potholders had more terry cloth around the edges at this stage.
4)  Time to quilt the layers together! If you care, match the bobbin to the backing. I had a nice blue King Tut thread for the top that looked OK with all the fabrics.
My favorite utility stitch: long wavy lines, with the machine set as you always do for regular stitching! You move the fabric back and forth for the wave.
You could do straight lines or anything your heart desires!
It doesn't need more than an X!
The extra backing means you don't have to worry about the layers matching!
5)   Trim from the, I don't care what size it is, just make it look good. The binding will be easier with square corners (use bias binding if your potholder is round!).

6)  Here's an all-by-machine binding using straight grain strips cut 1 1/2". OK, so that's a number. I like to cut strips I can use for other things if there are any leftovers, but actually, in this case, the strips could be anything that looks like it's 1 1/2"!
By eye, fold & press one long edge of each strip to the wrong side, about 1/4"-ish. No, I do not know how many strips, or how long or whatever...cut cut & press some. This will use up scraps and encourage experimenting with various colors as you run out of each one you thought was ideal!

7)  Lay the strip on the BACK, right sides together, with the folded edge up and raw edges matching.
Just sew the strip on, and cut it off at the end...or chain sew the next potholder on until you run out!
8)  Do two opposite sides. Then wrap the binding to the front and topstitch it down, very close to the fold. You need to finish two opposite sides before doing the other two sides.
Read the next step!
9)  When you bind the other two sides, start and stop each strip by wrapping the end around to the front. The stitching will catch that part as you sew along the edge. Stop before you get to the corner, trim about an inch more than needed, and wrap that extra to the front (see pic below!). Finish sewing the side. When you bring the binding around to the front, the wrapped ends will cover the corners.
Wrapped end is underneath
10)  Topstitch through all the layers to finish. It doesn't have to be perfect. It will still be pretty and fun in the kitchen...until it's used up and thrown away (but that's after it has been washed several times) (unless you get it too close to a burner and...well....).

11)  I ended up with 9 potholders!
And not one of them the same as another.
Won't this be a fun & useful gift?
Long-time readers of Patchwork Pie will see that my design wall is still covered with threads!
PS: Inquiring Minds will want to know: any side is about 6--8".
Yes, that would be "about potholder size"!