…and touch down

Touch down

The quilting is done. The Birds in the Air quilt, to be known as “Liftoff” from now on (thanks P.!) is quilted. I am finished with it. Mom takes over from here to trim and bind it. She doesn’t like the look of machine binding, so she’s looking at a good 8 to 10 hours of hand sewing.

Do I love the quilting on it? No. Not really. I learned a lot, though:

  • The most important thing I learned was to think about where your needle will go in relation to seams. My “simple” idea turned out to be a pain in the butt and there are a few visible quilting lines where I don’t want them to be seen.
  • I learned (remember, this is the first quilt with this new machine) that just because you CAN wind a bobbin while you’re quilting, doesn’t mean you should. Especially if the bobbin winds unevenly without supervision.
  • I also learned that, if you are winding bobbins when you are not quilting, you MUST remove the bobbin case and unthread the machine at least as far as the little upper-downer thingie. If you do not, you will get a bird’s nest (pun intended) of thread in and around the bobbin area that takes approximately 15 minutes to remove. Each time. You’d think I’d learn after the third one.
  • Finally, I learned that standing so long causes my piriformis muscle (deep inside the hip) to tighten, which leads to compression of the sciatic nerve, which means my outer left thigh is completely numb. Time to go stretch…

Look what I made

Ironwork* blocks

Sorry for the crappy photo. Basement.

Yep, I had to go and sew up some asterisk blocks, just to see if I could. They were super easy, and I’m glad I worked out how to do it on my own before searching for a tutorial, because I like my way better! Lots of stuff on my plate right now, but there’s a strong possibility that I’ll do a quilt along for the project, to be know as the Iron Work* Quilt from here forward. (The * is a nod to the block, of course.) In looking for a photo of the window cover that inspired the design, I cam across this photo , which inspired another design:

Ironwork 2A Ironwork 2B

But I can’t work on any of these now! Today is the day to quilt Birds in the Air. (I really need to come up with a better name for this quilt. You know I love to name things!) I practiced (and practiced and practiced…) yesterday on the “new” longarm frame. Well, sort of long arm. It’s 18″ and that’s twice what I had before. It’s a little hard to get used to having all that space. I had hoped to be able to quilt some feathers, or at least feather-like flames, in the black area around the gold diamonds. I don’t know if I’m up to that yet, but at least I’ve worked out what I’m going to do in most of the other areas.


I’m very nervous.

TYSS: Turnstile fillers

The Turnstile block is a cross between a half square triangle (HST) and a quarter square triangle (QST). It’s very easy to make, with one little qualification: You can’t make just one block, and I don’t mean that in the sense of Lays potato chips (“You can’t eat just one”). You have to make two blocks at a time, and they will spin in opposite directions. (Okay, to be fair, you CAN make just one block, but the piecing will look better if you do two.) Here’s how!

There are six blocks in this quilt, two that finish at 8″ and four that finish at 4″. In the white and bright version, the 8″ blocks are blue, two 4″ blocks are blue, and two 4″ blocks are purple. NOTE: One of the 4″ blocks is not sewn completely! Watch for this in the instructions.


As I said, the Turnstile is a combination of a HST and a QST. The HST part is obvious in the construction, but the QST is important because of fabric measurements. When you create HSTs, you cut your squares at the finished size plus 7/8″ (or round up, like I do, to 1 1/4″). When you create QSTs, you cut your squares at the finished size plus 1 1/4″ (again, I round up to 1 1/2″). Because the small triangles of the Turnstile block are the same as a QST, you’ll use those measurements. Confused yet?

8″ Blocks

Two blocks in the same color
Cut (2) 5 1/2″ background squares
Cut (2) 5 1/2″ color squares
Cut (4) 5 1/4″ background squares

Draw diagonal lines 1/4″ to either side of center on the back of your background squares.

Place a background 5 1/2 square right sides together with a color square and sew on or just inside the drawn lines.

Cut between the sewn lines and press (I pressed to the dark; you may prefer to press the seams open).

Place one of the 5 1/4″ background squares right sides together on each of the HST units. Make sure the drawn lines are crossing the seam.

Sew on both diagonal lines. Since the seam is on the bottom as it goes through the machine, I prefer to sew with the seam pressed toward me so it doesn’t catch on the bed of the machine and flip back. It looks a little odd on one of the passes (see below), but because the line is there as a guide, it works fine.

Cut between the lines again and press.  You will have two identical sets of four “Y” units. This is why I prefer to two two blocks at a time – each original color square produces two of each Y unit.

Trim the units to 4 1/2″. Line up the diagonal line on your ruler with the seam line, and measure from the center point (red arrow) . Half of 4 1/2 is 2 1/4, so your center point should be where the 2 1/4″ lines intersect on your ruler.

Lay out four identical Y units, rotating each a quarter turn to create the Turnstile block. See how the corner triangles are on the outside corners? It’s more symmetrical and, to me, more attractive.

If you used two of each Y unit (which is what you’d have with just one color square), you can still create the Turnstile block but the large triangles aren’t all on the outside (red lines added for emphasis).

Here’s what it would look like if you used all four Y units from a single fabric and put the large corners on the outside.

When you’re using a solid fabric it isn’t such a big deal, but if this were a print it might be more obvious. This block also looks nice with a third fabric forming the outer triangles (it looks like a pinwheel in a diamond). In that case you absolutely much create two blocks at a time.

Sew your blocks together as you would a four patch, then press. Here are your two blocks!

4″ Blocks

Four blocks, two each in the same color
Cut (4) 3 1/2″ background squares
Cut (4) 3 1/2″ color squares, two in each color
Cut (8) 3 1/4″ background squares

Follow the instructions above, trimming your Y units to 2 1/2″ with the center point at 1 1/4″. When you assemble your final blocks, one block should be left partially unsewn. Do not sew the final seam, leaving it in two sections.

Any questions? I know I’ve been behind on providing instructions for the blocks on this Test Your Skills Sampler, but we’re on the downhill side! There’s just one more filler block (the Variable Star, one of the most versatile and easily personalized blocks available), then five more blocks!

Quilts are everywhere

I really must go to bed (it’s after midnight and I have to work tomorrow), but I wanted to quickly share a couple of versions of an EQ7 quilt I just drew up. I can’t take credit for the design – it’s an exact replica of something a friend is building for work – but it was so quilt-like that I asked him to send the design to me so I could transfer it to EQ7. Here’s the original, in just black and white:

Logo B&W

And here are several colorways:

Logo Color 2

Logo Color 4

Logo Quilt 6

Logo Color 3

Logo Color 5

And my favorite (I’m really into these colors lately!):

Logo Color

Funny where you can find quilt designs, isn’t it?

Progress report

It’s been a very busy two weeks, full of highs and lows. Mom and I have put in about 80 hours combined on the Birds in the Air quilt. All of the blocks are sewn and she has started putting the blocks together into groups of four. Those will then be sewn into rows, then into the final top. We laid out the blocks on the floor, since this puppy finishes at 84″ x 96″ and is too big for my design wall (which is otherwise occupied by the Double Wedding Ring anyway). It’s now covered with sheets, chairs, and cutting mats to keep the cats from messing it up.

Birds in the Air blocks 2

I’m very pleased with how it looks. I’m torn about auctioning it off for my uncle’s fundraiser. On the one hand, I hope it brings in lots of money for the benefit. On the other, I hope it stays in the family. They decided to do a silent auction instead of a raffle, so I know it will go to someone who will appreciate it.

Birds in the Air blocks 1

On the low side, my grandmother passed away on Saturday. She was 94 and in poor health, so it wasn’t unexpected. It’s still sad to lose her. She accomplished a lot in her life.

A bird in the hand

The Birds in the Air quilt is moving along nicely! Mom zipped through 672 half square triangle units using Triangle Papers, then trimmed them all neatly to 2 1/2″. Next, we cut an equal number of half square triangles of the colored fabrics and sewed them together to form half of a block. Just one seam left to turn them into Birds in the Air blocks! We have to cut and sew the large black triangles and then the blocks are done. The exposed diagonal edges are all bias, so we’re being very careful when we handle these. It went quickly – I cut all of the triangles for one color, laid them out next to my sewing machine like this…

Chain piecing Birds in the Air

…then chain pieced until the units were completely assembled. I spent a good hour pressing the last two seams in front of the TV.

Birds in the air blocks

They look pretty good!

Birds in the Air progress

Mom did all of the blue and red, I did all of the green and gold. I had hoped to have all of the blocks sewn this weekend, but that may not happen. I worked all day yesterday on these – and I mean ALL day, nearly 12 hours – and I’m a little burned out on this block. So instead, I got myself reorganized on the Plain Jane and sewed four simple blocks.

Dear Jane blocks

I created a list of the blocks by location, with the color and difficulty level, then chose a dozen blocks that were fairly easy. I printed off the rotary cutting info (and a couple of foundation piecing patterns), then grouped them by color. I like to do multiple blocks in the same color – it allows me to cut more efficiently, and I can chain piece, jumping between blocks as necessary.

Dear Jane blocks

If you’re working on a Dear Jane quilt of your own, check out the Janiacs Unite blog. I’m posting my Dear Jane progress there as well – hopefully it will keep me motivated!

Edited to add:
I just discovered that the four Dear Jane blocks I completed today were done in the wrong color. I used the dark purple fabric instead of the light purple. So, either I redo them in the correct color, or I make four dark purple blocks in the light purple fabric and swap their placement. Option two sounds easier, but in the long run it means I have to remember to switch them. Will I really remember that when I’ve finished 149 more blocks? Even if I put a note on them? And can I get over the fact that they’re in the wrong place? I’m going to have to think about this…