Monday, February 28, 2011

... bits and blocks

what follows is a "tutorial" for making blocks for the march quilt for do. good stitches. please forgive the less-than-optimal photos: seattle is under an enormous black cloud at the moment and i needed to get this done today. also, forgive my less than stellar explanations. i have never done any kind of tutorial before, and my own style of sewing is of the "winging it" variety, so explaining this didn't come easy to me. please feel free to let me know if you have specific questions or if you need help with a step.

now that the disclaimers are done, let's make some blocks!

bits and-blocks fabrics

this month i want everyone to make 2 blocks that measure 6-1/2 x 24-1/2 inches each. the color palette is grey and yellow (one that i can never get enough of). for your solid background fabric you can use any solid grey of your choosing. i used kona coal, but you can use a light grey, medium grey, dark grey... whatever. just so long as it's solid and it's grey, it doesn't matter. for your bits please use yellow print fabrics, but with more of a greenish tinge (as opposed to orangish). i used several fabrics from denyse schmidt's hope valley collection, which i think are a good reference if you're not sure what shade of yellow i'm going for. but whatever, i'm not picky. your prints can also have other colors in them, but make sure they're neutral accents (meaning grey, black, brown or khaki, as opposed to red, purple or pink, etc.)

the technique for making these blocks is one i learned from the fabulous katie pedersen in her improvisational patchwork class. check out her lovely tumbling blocks pillow, which shows you what i'm going for. this is a technique that's also used in joelle hoverson's last-minute patchwork + quilted gifts in the "little bits" quilt. if you own this book (and why wouldn't you?) you should reference the technique here as it goes into more detail than i will.

solid cut

so, once you've selected your fabrics, you're going to start by cutting out blocks of your solid grey. to determine how much you need, you're going to need to do a little rough math to figure out how much to cut. i used five different print fabrics, so i cut five different grey rectangles. and because i know i will need these to ultimately make two blocks that are 24-1/2 inches long each, i will need at least 49 inches of finished length in grey, plus a generous amount added on for seam allowances. i ended up cutting five grey blocks (to go with my five different yellow fabrics) that are 6 inches high (this will be standard for each block) and 12 inches long. i figured that 5 x 12 = 60, and 11 extra inches would give me enough for seam allowance, but i was wrong. it ended up being just shy of what i needed, so i made one more small block at the end to round out my length (so maybe i should have made my grey blocks 13 inches long instead). if you use more prints than i did, your grey blocks don't have to be so long. yes, i said my math was rough. if you have a better way of figuring this out, go for it! but since a lot of this piecing is improvisational, it's hard to know exactly how much you will need. if you're at all worried, just err on the generous side and you should have enough.

and now we're done with math... whew!

solid diagonal cut

the next thing you will do is turn your grey rectangle on end and cut it diagonally lengthwise. you can cut at any angle you like, but just make sure you don't get closer than one inch to the corners of your fabric. also make sure you are cutting these blocks at a variety of angles (to the left, to the right, more angled, less angled, etc), as this is what will give your finished blocks the most visual interest.

diagonal strip placement

next, cut a strip of one of your prints that is long enough to fit into the middle of your cut grey rectangle. you can make this strip any width you like, but it needs to be wider than an 1-1/2 inches and probably no bigger than 3 inches.

diagonal strip sewn

now go ahead and sew that strip between your two grey pieces.

cut strips

next, just square off the edges and cut this block into strips in any width of your choosing. i think these blocks look nice with a variety of widths so feel free to free-form it here.

and, honestly, the tricky part is over. just repeat the above steps for your remaining grey rectangles and yellow prints and you'll end up with a whole bunch of strips.

strip arrangement

now the fun part comes. you get to arrange your strips into whatever pleasing formation you like. you'll notice here, though, that the strips won't be exactly the same height, but they should all be over 6-1/2 inches high. that's okay though, because you're going to trim them up when you're done.

strips pieced

go ahead and sew those strips together. if you're a fancy pants you can do some chain piecing, and if you're slow like me you can just sew one at a time. just make sure that the finished length for each block is at least 24-1/2 inches.

when you're done piecing these together, trim your blocks down so that they measure 6-1/2 x 24-1/2 inches.

trimmed blocks

and now you have your finished blocks!

(i know that was a lot of words for what you will come to realize is a really easy block to make. but please please please let me know if anything doesn't make sense and i can try and help you out!)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

... a soft and cozy baby blanket

receiving blanket

a friend from one of my book clubs is having a baby very soon and for her shower i whipped up this lovely little receiving blanket. the guidelines (and i do mean guidelines, there is no real pattern) are from anna maria horner and i used her folksy flannel for one side and little folks voile for the other.

flannel + voile = super cozy softness.

receiving blanket

i even bound it in a solid voile, which freaked me out a bit. it was my first time making bias binding and boy, i did not like it. obviously, i love the rounded corners and the overall effect and how easily the bias-cut binding curves into place. but cutting the strips out from slippery voile, which is also wider than standard quilting cottons, and then piecing them together to make binding, well... it kind of broke my brain.

also, i will admit, i am not a fan of cutting large pieces of fabric. i could sit around all day and cut thousands of 1-inch squares quite happily, but cutting one 36 x 36" piece of fabric made me want to jam a rotary cutter in my skull. if anyone has tips on how to make this process easier, please do tell.

receiving blanket

and though i just complained more than i should have, i still want to make a bunch more of these. (and maybe if i keep making bias binding over and over and if i keep practicing cutting large pieces i will get better and in no time, i will be a pro and then i will stop complaining about these things!) they are so soft and sweet and the perfect size for a new baby. i have a few large cuts of some beautiful cotton lawn that will also pair nicely with the folksy flannels, so i can see making at least a few more of these receiving blankets for my own little snowdrop in the coming weeks.

Friday, February 25, 2011

... lots o' blocks

red & pink wonky stars

i've actually been quite productive (for me) lately, and that includes some bee blocks i made for do. good stitches this month.

red & pink wonky stars

rachel requested wonky stars in pink, red and white. wonky stars are always fun to make

red & pink wonky stars

and these colors totally warm my heart.

mod mosaic blocks

i also forgot to show you the blocks i made in january for elizabeth's month. aren't these cool? there's a tutorial for this mod mosaic style block on her blog, should you want to try it yourself. it's super satisfying, especially when you get to use a bunch of scraps.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

... a pillow for the nursery

party napkin pillow

because my party napkins quilt isn't progressing fast enough, i decided to make a preview version in a little quilted pillow. and also because i cut a bunch of extra squares and wanted to put them to good use. and, hi! who doesn't love a good pillow?

Blogger's Pillow Party

and ok, how about another reason? the ever-amazing rachel, of stitched in color, is hosting a blogger's pillow party that i was dying to enter.

(*edited to add: just realized i can also enter this in the great sms pillow contest. that's killing two birds with one pillow!)

i made a quilted top with my spare half-square triangles and then followed alicia paulson's terrific pattern for her summerhouse pillows to add piping and make an envelope closure for the back.

party napkin pillow

i really would like to learn how to do an invisible zipper, but i have to admit, i just love the look of a simple envelope closure. also, i love how perfectly this bright pink piping goes so well with my pillow.

party napkin pillow

the pillow is intended for the nursery (along with its coordinating quilt, whenever i manage to finish that), and looks right at home on the rocker i am sure we will be using quite a bit.

party napkin pillow

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

... a belated christmas gift


here's one element of my christmas gift for my mom (given to her late because our family did not get to spend christmas together). i knew i wanted to give her something hand-made, and i'm glad i opened up last-minute patchwork + quilted gifts for inspiration. these coasters are super cute and easy-peasy to make.

coasters in action

i made things trickier than the pattern called for by piecing two different fabrics on each side and using some half-square triangles (half-square triangles!) which was fine, but actually bulked things up a lot with extra seams so my machine kind of choked when it came time to quilt these puppies. i spent a lot of time with my seam ripper and going back over the more difficult areas very very very very slowly. so if you look closely you can see my goofs. but i'm sure my mom doesn't care. i hope.


i love the colors (yellow, obviously) and i got to use one of my favorite fabrics from naomi ito. maybe i need a set for myself?

Monday, February 7, 2011

... a good mail week

it's been a while since i've bought new fabric. but this last week brought me the best mail ever.

new fabric stack

first off, i actually won a yard of fabric from sew, mama, sew! it's my very first online giveaway win. yay, me! (honestly, i was about to give up on even entering giveaways, so this was a happy, happy event indeed.) i selected a yard of robert kaufman metro living rings in marigold. clearly a color i can never get enough of in a perfectly simple and pleasing print. thanks sew, mama, sew!

then i got the kona cotton solids i was waiting for (ordered from pink chalk) to continue work on my party napkins quilt. seriously, aren't those colors the best?

handmade beginnings

and, through a whole other story i need to tell some other time, my amazing neighbors got me a gift certificate to anna maria horner's online shop as a wedding present. i know, right?! i went crazy and got four yards of folksy flannels, a whole stack of little folks voiles (you can never have too much, is what i say), and my very own copy of handmade beginnings, a book i've been wanting since i found out i was pregnant.

little folks voile

such welcome deliveries in the happiest of colors to brighten up these grey february days.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

... half-square triangles

party napkin quilt

so, this isn't on my list at all. but i don't care because i love it.

in the spirit of the process pledge (remember that?) i will tell you how this came about. i saw this napkin on pinterest. and, obviously it looks a lot like a quilt. but i loved the colors and had become quite smitten with the idea of making an all-solids quilt.

quilt plan

so i sketched something out. roughly. and pulled some fabric. and then realized that i wanted some brighter shades in the mix, so i added in the tangerine and bright pink to complement the papaya and carnation.

half square triangles

and then i cut and cut and sewed and sewed and cut and cut some more.


i wanted my squares to finish at 4 inches, so i cut 5-inch blocks in my selected colors, sewed them together at random and cut in half to make two half-square triangles, and then trimmed the blocks to 4 1/2 inches square. i know some people like to cut the initial blocks to 4 7/8 inches, which should leave you with a perfect 4 1/2 inch square when you're done, but these people have got to be magicians or something, because my half-square triangles never come out that perfectly. they're seriously all kinds of wonky. so i don't mind doing the tedious work of trimming them down to perfect squares when i'm done.

party napkin quilt

and then i randomly laid them out so it looks like all kinds of crazy.

i am not nearly done yet. i have some more half-square triangles to make, seeing as how i ran out of fabric half way through. yeah, i'm not so good with the planning. but more kona cotton was ordered and has arrived and i'm ready to make some more blocks so my little quilt can grow.

i had no idea what this quilt would be for when i started it, but i'm liking the idea of this being my first baby quilt. since we found out that our little snowdrop is a girl (a girl! squeeeee!) i am really in love with this insanely bright color palette for the nursery.