Variation on a variation

Mom was looking for a new project to work on, so we flipped through magazines and books looking for inspiration. I came across a lovely possibility in Fons & Porter’s Best of Love of Quilting magazine (also found in the August/September 2009 issue of Love of Quilting). It’s called Granny’s Stars, and you see a beautiful version here, in colors that are very true to the original quilt pattern.

Of course, I hate to follow patterns. Applique isn’t really my thing, either. As I looked at the photo in the magazine, I realized that one relatively small design element increased the difficulty level, and with a teeny little change, almost unnoticeable in the finished design, it became a much easier project.

In the process, I did some searching to try to find if there was a traditional block in this design. I found a block from 1936 that is almost identical to Granny’s Stars, called Arrowhead.

Here’s an EQ7 illustration of Granny’s Stars:

And an illustration of Arrowhead:

And an illustration of my slightly revised block:

Side by side – see the differences?

This variation allows you to use the basic components Jeanne and I have covered so far in the Skill Builder Series to create the block. If you can make a nine patch, flying geese, and quarter square triangles, you can do this block. If I had to put a skill level to it, I’d call it Adventurous Beginner.

We decided this quilt would look good scrappy, and we chose colors based on what we thought the recipient would like. Here’s an illustration of the whole quilt in the chosen colorway:

It’s pretty traditional, but the large (16″) block could easily accommodate more contemporary fabrics. Here are some illustrations:



Mom’s working away at this – here are her blocks so far:

Hug Quilt in Progress

It’s very difficult to take photos of items on the design wall. Here’s why:

Design Wall-way

Yep, we have a design “wall-way.” (Get it? Wall + Hallway? I crack myself up.) And you may recognize these blocks –

Test Your Skills Sampler so far

I actually have nearly all of the blocks done so far for the Test Your Skills Sampler. I have to make two more and then I’ll be caught up. Funny that I’m behind on making blocks for MY OWN quilt along. This weekend I made 21 blocks. Yep, I was that far behind. Not good.

Did you get any fabulous Black Friday deals? My mom braved the crowd at JoAnn Fabrics and scored this full roll of Warm & Natural batting.

Batting Score

It’s regularly $520 (that’s 40 yards at $13 a yard!), but she had a 50% off coupon, plus a 20% off your total purchase coupon (or was it 25%?), so she paid about $200.

As you can see at the bottom, Buttercup thinks it’s a giant scratching post, which annoys me to no end. I need to put it up, or at least wrap something around it. In the meantime, she also uses it as a place to nap…

Buttercup and the Batting

…and a step toward the top of the bookshelf – and the toy mousie residing there!

Buttercup with Batting

Isn’t she ‘dorable?

Buttercup with Batting

I know, that cat has me wrapped around her extra toes.

TYSS: Diamond in a Square

Okay, back in the saddle!

The next block for the Test Your Skills Sampler is the Diamond in a Square block, sometimes called Square in a Square. For the sake of clarity, I’m calling it Diamond in a Square to differentiate it from the popular log cabin variation that’s also called Square in a Square.

If you’re following the White & Bright layout, this block contains an assortment of fabric, ending with the background as your final round. The block finishes at 9″ (9 1/2″ unfinished).

This block can be frustrating if you have trouble with accurate 1/4″ seams. The Skill Builder Series post about this component provides two different methods, one using triangles and the other using squares. Unfortunately, the one using squares only works for a single round with a plain center. Multiple rounds and pieced centers just don’t work.

Traditional Method

I’ll be honest, I took the cutting instructions for this block directly from EQ7, and I don’t understand the logic behind some of the instructions. Everything works properly, but I can’t explain why sometimes it has you cutting squares in half diagonally once, and sometimes you cut them in half diagonally both ways. I decided to just go with it, since calculating the sizes manually was overtaxing my brain.

Cut (2) 1 5/8″ background squares (or cut 1 3/4″ squares and trim later)
Cut (2) 1 5/8″ color squares (or cut 1 3/4″ squares and trim later)
Cut (1) 3 1/2″ color square, then cut in half diagonally BOTH ways
Cut (2) 3 1/8″ color squares, then cut in half diagonally ONE way
Cut (1) 5 3/4″ color square, then cit in half diagonally BOTH ways
Cut (2) 5 3/8″ background squares, then cut in half diagonally ONE way

Sew the 1 5/8″ (or 1 3/4″) squares into a four patch and trim to 2 3/4″.

Following the assembly instructions in Method 1 of the Skill Builder Series post, add each round of triangles. Be careful not to stretch the fabric, and sew accurate 1/4″ seams. Trim the points that stick out at each side before sewing the next round. (The points are often called “Bunny Ears” for obvious reasons!)

If you wish to cut the triangles larger, you may. Be sure to trim after EACH round is added, otherwise your block will be a mess!
After adding round 1 of the triangles, your block should measure 3 5/8″.
After adding round 2 of the triangles, your block should measure 5″.
After adding round 3 of the triangles, your block should measure 6 7/8″.
After adding round 4 of the triangles, your block should measure 9 1/2″.

Alternate Method

If you struggle getting the accuracy you want using the traditional method, you can also foundation piece the block. You will have to make the center four patch separately (not foundation pieced), and then pin or fuse it to the center of the foundation. Triangles are easily added from there. If you are familiar with foundation piecing, it’s simple to draw the block on your own. Draw a 9″ square (use newspaper or a cut up paper bag if you don’t have larger paper), and find the center of each side. Connect the center points, then find the center of each of THOSE lines. Connect those center points, and repeat two more times. Add 1/2″ seam allowance to the outside of the block.

For those of you who have not tried foundation piecing, wait just a bit. Both Jeanne and I will be posting instructions on foundation piecing before too long.

Be patient with the piecing, remember to sew scant 1/4″ seams, and you should be able to create this block. If all else fails, set it aside and we’ll work it out with foundation piecing later!

Let me know if you have any questions!

Another cool thing I found in a blog

I just happened upon the coolest thing I seen yet for organizing and coordinating solids. You may be fortunate enough to have a Kona Color Card (they’re awesome!!), but you can also build your own reference “deck” with fabrics you own or with purchased charm packs. Check out this post on the blog Thought and Found.

She used heavy card paper to create her own templates and she’s giving away a set of the cards. She also provides a link to a PDF file you can purchase – be sure to check it out, because her price is really reasonable considering they list not only the name, number and manufacturer of the color, but a little color chip as a reference guide. You have to print them and attach your own fabric swatches, of course. She points out a couple of key advantages to this method – larger swatches, and the ability to place swatches next to one another to see how they look together.

You’ve seen my stash, you know how I looove to organize, so you can imagine how excited I am about this idea.

P.S. – I am 43 years old. Yes, I use the word “cool.” Just be thankful I didn’t call it “bitchin'” or “like, totally awesome.” That’s my era.

We interrupt this blog for an important message

Okay, I had a little chuckle over that title. I mean, it’s an interruption of an interruption, really.

Anyway, a new-ish reader (and recent winner of a drawing that I did finally send out over a month late – bad Sandi!), is half of a nifty duo whose blog I’ve been following as well. abigail*ryan offers a beautiful line of textiles and homewares – items crafted from cotton and linen, decorated with the most delicious line drawings of flowers. Today they announced a limited edition run of 200 pale pink tea-towels to raise money for Breast Cancer Care.

I’m not suggesting you buy the tea towels because abigail*ryan will donate a portion of the proceeds to a good cause. I’m suggesting you buy the tea towels because they’re gorgeous! And then you can pat yourself on the back for supporting a great cause.

Photo shamelessly borrowed from the abigail*ryan blog

abigail*ryan is based in Belfast, Northern Ireland, but they ship internationally. I’ve been lusting after the towels for months now, and I finally broke down (a bit of overtime pay in my pocket certainly helps!) and placed my order.

Check it out!

Satisfaction

It’s amazing what a different a clean, organized space makes in my emotional well-being. Here are photos of the fabric stash area before moving it. This is by no means the extent of the stash, just the largest portion of it. There were also several large wire bins overflowing with scraps and two totes of fat quarters stashed in the back room.

Before

Notice the balance ball? Never use it. Three weeks in and I haven’t used the new quilting machine. The pattern and spray starch on the floor? Never use them. Buttercup doesn’t even use the scratching post. See that enormous pile of fabric on top of the wire drawer unit? It’s so heavy that the plastic top has sagged so I can’t open the top drawer. Pitiful.

Unfortunately, things must get worse before they get better. Here’s Day 1:

During 1

During 2

During 3

It gradually got better, despite my best efforts to sabotage the cleaning blitz by hauling out the scraps and sorting them into bins. Finally, today, this is what the stash looks like:

After 1

The larger pieces are all folded uniformly, sorted by color and value, and placed neatly on the shelves. The dresser next to the bookshelf is topped by totes full of scraps, also sorted by color.

Inside the small dresser…

After 2

Are fat quarters and “large” small pieces of fabric, also sorted by color. Basically this is anything more than 6″ wide and less than 1/2 yard.

This is the length of the room from one end. There’s more space around the corner to the right at the far end.

After 3

My sewing table has a fold out section that seats another person, and an old vanity minus the mirror is adjacent to the sewing table, creating a space for 3 people to sew and chat.

Sewing Stations

Here’s where I sit:

My Sewing Desk

There’s another old vanity against the wall for a fourth person, flanked by that (completely cleaned out and reorganized) wire basket unit and two bookshelves full of quilting books and magazines.

After 4

Even my desk is clean.

Mostly.

Buttercup is happy that everyone is gone. She’s a hissy, pissy little thing, desperate to be included but defensive when someone actually approaches her. Or, you know, looks at her. Or she looks at them. Whatever. She hisses and smacks at them with her paw, claws retracted so no damage is done. I wish they could see her when she climbs over my arm at the keyboard and wedges herself onto my lap. The better part of this post was written like this:

Cat Computing 1

Cat Computing 2

Cat Computing 3

Cat Computing 4

And by the way…

Practiced

…yep, definitely feeling satisfied.

Organization blitz

As I mentioned a few weeks (?!!) ago, a group of us purchased a nearly new Viking Mega Quilt 18-8 on a 10 foot frame. It resides in our basement, which meant we needed to do a little rearranging. Fortunately there wasn’t a lot to move; unfortunately the one thing that had to move was a 4 foot x 8 foot bookshelf that held most of my fabric.

Mom had the bright idea of refolding all of my fabric. Yes, it sounds like busy work, but they way I had been folding it didn’t allow for the best view of the fabric while it was on the shelf, so it was harder to find things. Mom and her sister, Mickey, spent most of a day folding while I pulled fabrics off the shelves, re-sorted what they folded, moved the shelf, and put it all back on. Don’t feel too badly for them – they did it in front of the TV watching a football game.

Moving the bookcase required moving couple of smaller pieces as well. The great re-fold had a new rule – nothing less than half a yard went back on the shelves. I folded the remaining fabric and sorted that as well (okay, MOST of it – I lost steam in the last few days). All of this organizing prompted me to pull out all of my scraps (formerly stuffed into three big wire baskets) and sort that as well.

We have quilting day today, so the last few bits need to be put away, but I’m feeling pretty good about the state of the basement. I’m fortunate that we have such a fantastic space for sewing. Mom’s sewing room is upstairs, and the basement is my domain. My computer and TV are down here as well as my sewing space.

However, with just a tiny bit left to do in the basement, what do I do instead?

This:

Yes, I sat down at the computer and became so disgusted with the keyboard:

That I popped off all of the keys, put them in a lingerie bag, and threw them in the dishwasher.

I vacuumed the keyboard then attacked it with Q-tips, a paper towel and rubbing alcohol. It was truly disgusting. Now that it’s all back together, I feel like I have a new keyboard again. If you decide to do this, it’s a good idea to take a picture of the keyboard first!

After the keyboard was cleaned out, I went back to the final straightening up in the basement. I am pleased to announce that everything was put away where it belongs, not just crammed into a tote and thrown in the back room. There’s a real satisfaction to knowing that.

More photos to come!

Exhaustion

I need to apologize for the long delays lately in the Test Your Skills Sampler posts. Things have been crazy busy at work, and I just haven’t had the time, energy, or focus to do the posts justice. We have a quilting day coming up this Saturday and the basement/sewing area is a mess thanks to our new toy which, by the way, still hasn’t even had a practice piece loaded! Last weekend I was able to “relax” by working on the basement, and it’s almost in shape for company. I hope that I’ll do better with the sampler posts, but realistically, it may still be slower than I would like. My original schedule (fortunately, not shared publicly!) would have had the quilt finished before Christmas. I don’t see that happening, unfortunately. Most of the blocks so far already have the guts of the instructions written. After a couple more posts, Jeanne and I will have to get back into Skill Builder mode and those posts take much, much longer.

Also, I feel like lately most of my posts have been about the sampler or the Skill Builder Series, and I feel like the blog is getting impersonal. I don’t want that.

I once read that there are three kinds of perfectionists: those who expect themselves to be perfect, those who expect others to be perfect, and those who think others expect them to be perfect. I’m all three. It leads to some really stupid behavior on my part. When I don’t feel that I can accomplish what I want as well as I want, I shut down, walk away, and worry about it. I work that (often very small) thing into a giant problem. It’s a cycle – I worry about it so I avoid it so I worry more because I’m avoiding it and that makes me worry MORE…

Sometimes it’s like a big curtain comes down in my brain and I literally cannot think. I spin my wheels and get more and more frustrated and angry. The healthy thing to do would be to pick up a sewing project and focus on that for a while instead. Unfortunately I’m more likely to plunk down in front of the television and watch whatever is on the DVR for a few hours.

I generally try to keep my posts here positive and quilt-focused. I’m trying to get back to that, but I just wanted to explain a little why the blog has been lifeless lately. Thank you for your patience.