Sunday, July 29, 2012

The R-burst block

This post is a part of the R-Burst Quiltalong.  This post covers the specific instructions for cutting and piecing the R-burst block.

Now that we've covered the techniques in general, let's get started on our R-burst quilt.  We are going to divide up the block like this:

Taking out the center "plus" of piecing lets us build the block from 4 mini-blocks and 4 identical strips (plus one square for the middle).  I love it when I can make my life easier.

Our first step is to make 2-square sets.  For one blue-edge mini-block & accompanying strip, you need to make:

 For one red-edge block, you need to make:

If you would prefer to work on all the blocks simultaneously, you need to make (upper number is for a 3x4 layout, and lower number is for 4x5):

Assemble your 2-square pieces into little 4-patches, and while you are at it, sew the strip, too :

Blue Edged Block

Red Edged Block
And then the little 4-patches into mini blocks:

You need 4 mini blocks plus 4 strips and a center square to make a block. 

To assemble, sew the center square onto one of your strips, then sew remaining strips each to a side of 3 of your mini blocks.  Sew each strip to the same edge of each mini block - otherwise your block may not go together.  You can lay the block out first and check your orientation just to be sure you have things right.  Sew the extra-long strip in place as shown above, then assemble the two sides and sew your center seam.  If you are using a trim-as-you-go approach, now is the time to trim up your block edges.

VoilĂ ! 

If you plan to add the optional embroidery to your blocks, I'll be posting in a few days with instructions for that.  You can still get started on sewing up mini-blocks, but don't make more than about half of them until you have your embroideries done. 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Block assembly by "chunking"

This post is a part of the R-Burst Quiltalong.  After I get some technique explanations out of the way today, I'll be back tomorrow with the specific instructions for cutting and piecing the R-burst block.

Let me start by saying, you don't need to necessarily assemble your R-burst blocks in the way that I'm about to share.  The block is just a grid of 2" squares, and you can use whatever method makes you comfortable.  You could sew squares to squares and assemble the block in strips, or you could even use fusible interfacing or wash-away interfacing to sew up the whole block in one go. 

I do think chunking has some advantages.  You don't have to buy supplies like wash-away interfacing (yikes, that stuff is a tad pricey, isn't it??), and you don't have the extra stiffness of fusible in your quilt.  For me, I can get better accuracy this way than with row-style piecing.

So how does it work?  The idea behind chunking is to assemble in quadrants or chunks rather than in rows. As an example, let's look at a 16-patch block.  We could assemble in rows, and then sew the rows together into a block:

Row construction method:  
12 seams between squares
3 seams between rows (matching 3 seams each)

Alternatively, we could assemble in chunks, then sew the chunks together into a block:
Chunking construction method:  
8 seams between squares
6 seams between sets of 2 blocks (matching 1 seam each)
1 seam between rows (matching 3 seams) 

The number of seams and the total length of stitching is the same for both methods, but chunking makes accuracy easier because you mostly match fewer seams at a time.  The more pieces there are in your block, the larger the advantage.  With our big 81-patch (yikes) block, you really see the difference. 

Trim-as-you-go Scrap Piecing
When I'm working with scraps, I like to use a trim-as-you-go technique rather than cutting everything right at the start.  It might seem like this would take a little more time since you trim repeatedly, but you only trim each edge one time.  When you get further in the block, you are trimming multiple edges in one pass, which you can't do if you cut the pieces to size individually.  Also, overall this technique gives better accuracy.

To trim-as-you-go, start by trimming one edge each of two scraps, along the grain.  If you already have a grain-straight edge that is even, score!  No need to trim.  Sew the straightened edges together.

 As you assemble, trim only the edge that is going to be put to work for the next seam.  Use the previous seam as a guide for your ruler and cut the next edge perpendicular to the seam:
Working this way takes the pressure off when you sew because the edges of your block are always perfectly even (since you just trimmed them all in one cut!)  You don't have to try to match the edges when you start and stop; you just match your seams.  On the other hand, when you piece from perfect little squares, all of your seam allowance errors and original cutting errors add up as you go along.   If you have to trim your block during assembly, your cut squares are no longer exactly the right size.  On the other hand, when you trim as you go along, you hit the reset button each time you sew pieces together.

Once you have more than one seam, you need to make your cuts at the right position instead of just the correct angle.  Trim 2.25" from the seam parallel to where you will sew, or 1/4" more than the finished size for each square.
Make sense? 

Using Yardage
If you are assembling from strips (jelly roll or yardage) it makes more sense just to cut things to the right size from the get-go.  You also get the benefit of being able to strip piece your blocks.   If you don't want your blocks to all look identical, strip piece in sections and then mix the sections up so that each block looks different.  When you assemble, put your blocks in different orientations as well.  Once you finish, it's hard to tell that fabric A is always next to fabric B, especially if you have a lot of different fabrics in the quilt.  The quilt below is 100% strip pieced and all the blocks have identical fabric placement, they were just rotated during assembly:

You don't notice unless you are looking for it, right?  
My quilt is a mix of scraps and yardage, so I'll be combining trim-as-you-go (for scraps) and strip piecing (for the yardage) in my blocks.  It's totally fine to do that and it all works out in the end.

I'll be back tomorrow with the specific cutting & piecing instructions for these blocks.  In the meantime, any questions?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Let the Quiltalong Begin!

Our first order of business... how about a blog button?  Everybody knows that if you don't have a blog button, you aren't running a REAL quiltalong, so here we are: 

Ah, so nice.  Now that we have established our legitimacy, on to the fabric:

The quilt is made up of 2" finished squares (2.5" cut size), so the 3x4 block layout above comes out to a 60" x 80" finished size (after quilting & washing).  That's a bit on the small size for a twin quilt, with about a 10" drop on each side of the bed and a 6" drop at the bottom.  My natural tendency is to make bed quilts oversized, but this one will be going to my very young niece.  She takes up about a tenth of her twin size bed.  Her mom requested a smaller size because apparently it is hard for the little folks to manage a quilt that matches them by weight and has a lot of overhang - it keeps trying to slide off the bed.  If you want your quilt a little bigger, two good options are:
  1. Bump up to a 4x5 layout, for a finished size of 80" x 100" (generous quilt for up to a full size bed)
  2. Increase your finished square size to 2.5" (cut size is 3").  This works if you are cutting from scraps & yardage, but you won't be able to work with jelly rolls.  The finished size for this is about 72" x 98" (also good for a twin, XL twin, or full size). 
For the 3x4 layout, you need just shy of 200 squares of each color.  For the 4x5 layout, you need 335 squares of each color.  That means that you will need:

On top of that, you will need a yard of white for sashing.  

Note that you only need the total yardage in ONE of the cells above, depending on whether you are using scraps, jelly rolls, or yardage, and on the finished quilt size.  If you are using a lot of different fabrics, bump up your yardage a little and purchase in multiples of your cut square size, i.e. 2.5" or 3". 

Does that make sense?  I don't mind answering fabric yardage questions related to your personal quilt plan, so ask away!

This quiltalong will be somewhat extremely leisurely, and I will be just checking in most weeks because the blocks are all the same pattern.  Here is an outline of what we will be covering from here on out:

  1. Block construction by "chunking"
  2. Block cutting & assembly instructions
  3. Optional embroidery squares
  4. Sashing and top assembly by "chunking"
  5. Show off the finished products

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Would you like to Bee Awesome?

Edit: This bee started in August and is no longer accepting members. Check back 2nd quarter of next year, when we may be starting a second round.

I'm hosting a new modern quilting bee, one that is going to be a bit different than the usual.  This bee is particularly for people who were previously in a bee, but maybe they sorta got the shaft.  It's for your unfinished projects - the ones where you didn't quite get enough blocks, or some of them can't be used.  It's for being awesome to your bee mates, and giving them the kind of experience a bee should be.  A get-your-blocks-on-time, make-new-friends, remember-that-crafters-are-the-nicest-people-around kind of experience.

Leave me a comment or send me an email (ruthcosta AT hotmailDOTcom) if you are interested.  Because we will be helping each other finish up previous projects, we don't need a specific number of participants, but I have in mind somewhere around six.  Modern blocks and fabrics are preferred, but not strictly required.  Non-bee projects are acceptable as long as you have previous bee experience.  If it is alright with everyone, the number of blocks for each person will be according to their needs and block difficulty, rather than being a set amount.  If you would like to participate but your plate is full right now, let me know and we might start when people are ready, or do a second round.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Rainbow X Quilt

I made this quilt about a year ago, but I sent it away without taking proper pictures.  It was for my oldest niece, and each of my four sisters contributed embroideries so that my niece could have something made for her by all of her aunts.   It even has one square (shown at the bottom of the post) embroidered by me in honor of her two grandmas. 

When I vacationed at my sister's house last week at my sister's house, I snatched the opportunity to dragged it off of my niece's bed and outside for pictures.  BTW, I'm SO jealous of my sister's 1.5 story deck and wind-less weather conditions.  I got to take pictures of a twin size quilt by just dropping it over the deck railing, having my nieces stand on the deck and hold it up, and then walking downstairs and standing in front of it.  So easy. 

The good camera would have been nice... but the point & shoot fit in our luggage.

The whole quilt (including border) is strip pieced, but I used various tricks of rotating, arranging, and offsetting so that it mostly looks random.  It helps that there are a lot of different fabrics in the quilt... I used the entire line of Fresh by Deb Strain for Moda. 

I did diagonal straight line quilting over the whole top.  I was using a tiny $90 Brother sewing machine at the time, and I needed something as manageable as possible.  I was very nervous about machine quilting over my embroidery.   I looked all around online, but nobody had anything to say about tricks or pitfalls.  I may or may not have semi-screamed a panicked "ah-eeeeeeee" the first three or four or ten times I quilted over an embroidery square, but there was never any problem, and by the end it was old hat.  I thought that the embroidery designs would be interrupted by the quilting, but that didn't really happen:

Butterfly embroidery closeup - image by Adrianne Ove (Little Bluebell)

This was the first bed-size quilt that I have made on my own, the only bed size that I have finished so far, and I think it's my favorite of the quilts that I've done.  I just love how cheerful it is, and the meaning behind all of the contributed embroidery squares.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

PTS 8 Finished!

It sure has been quiet around here, but I actually have a few finished projects that I haven't blogged yet.  I'm committed to taking pictures in natural light whenever possible, and it has been difficult to find free daylight hours for photographing them.  Free time that I do have has been spent furiously sewing.  I've been working on Pillow Talk Swap round 8, due on Friday, and several sewing commitments for the BAM guild meeting coming up this Saturday. 

I did manage to finish my pillow:

The top piecing is based on two patterns from Carol Doak's book "50 fabulous paper pieced stars," turned 45° and reworked to add an outer hexagonal ring.  Whoa... that sounds complicated.  It was really just a matter of printing it out and redrawing a few of the lines at the edge.  I do wish that I had added a bit of white border around the hexagon so that it was more clearly visible when the pillow is puffed out.  My only available pillow form was two sizes too big, though, so it is stuffed to the gills in this photo.  The edges should show more once my partner puts in a properly sized form. 

 The back is a blue stripe fabric, and the closure is an invisible zipper. 

I also gathered up a few little extras for my partner.  A card set designed by Alice Cantrell (highly recommended!), some washi tape & pens (if you are local, they have washi tape at Kinokuniya Book Store in San Jose), and a little pouch/pen case that I made from mairuru's tutorial (also highly recommended - the size & shape are very cute, and I learned a good method for boxing corners when you have a lining).  

I'm happy to say that this will be shipping out in the next few days.  This summer is shaping up to be crazy busy for me.  We just found out that my dad is having major surgery next week, so I'm trying to get things arranged so that I can fly out there for a few days.  I also just found out that my sister will be moving in with us in early September.  I'm really happy about her living with us, 'cause she & I are buds.  However, that means cleaning out our spare room... aka storage room... aka room filled to the brim with things that don't fit elsewhere in the house... yeah, it's gonna be interesting.  Anybody else in for a busy summer?