PM/GC Quilts Skill Builder Series: Part 17 – Curved Piecing

I’ll be honest – when I first started quilting, curves gave me the willies. It’s silly, because while I wasn’t particularly good at it, I’ve sewn clothing. I’ve managed a sleeve or two that were decent enough to appear in public. I don’t know why the thought of a curve in quilting made me so nervous. After I’d been quilting about a year I decided it was time to put this silly fear to rest and I bought a Drunkard’s Path template set. I didn’t know any better so I bought the wrong one, of course – one was that was intended to be used for applique rather than piecing. I fiddled with it until I was able to cut a passable Drunkard’s Path block, sewed it, figuratively patted myself on the back, then moved on. Later I found an Olfa circle cutting and tried again. Still no love, mostly because cutting the darn things are really unpleasant if you don’t have proper templates or, even better, a die cutter. Eventually Jeanne picked up an AccuQuilt Go Cutter, I picked up a Drunkard’s Path die set, and voila! I have pieces cut to sew approximately 37 million Drunkard’s Path units. I’ve sewn five. Seeing a pattern? Oh, wait – if you follow my blog (and those who still do, thank you for either your loyalty or your laziness in not cleaning out your feed reader), you are well aware that this fairly typical in many aspects, not just quilting.

Still, curved piecing isn’t just about the Drunkard’s Path unit, which, if you aren’t familiar with it, looks something like this:

Drunkard's Path

It has many different names, depending on how you lay out the blocks. There’s the Drunkard’s Path, of course, so named because of the way the block seems to stagger across the quilt. There’s also a Peace Dove, Drunkard’s Pinwheel, Cleopatra’s Puzzle, Indiana Puzzle, I Wish You Well, and even a Turtle, among many others.

Drunkard' Path

Drunkard’ Path

Peace Dove

Peace Dove

Drunkard's Pinwheel

Drunkard’s Pinwheel

Cleopatra's Puzzle

Cleopatra’s Puzzle

Indiana Puzzle

Indiana Puzzle

I Wish You Well

I Wish You Well

Turtle

Turtle

There are other blocks that use curves, some that also use a quarter circle, such as the New York Beauty, from the most basic block to the more complex.

New York Beauty

New York Beauty

New York Sunburst

New York Sunburst

Of course there are blocks that include gentler curves like the Orange Peel, Robbing Peter to Pay Paul, and the Double Wedding Ring and its variations:

Orange Peel

Orange Peel

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

Plain Double Wedding Ring

Plain Double Wedding Ring

Double Wedding Ring

Double Wedding Ring

Pickle Dish

Pickle Dish

The Improved Nine Patch, one of my favorite blocks from the 30’s:

Improved Nine Patch

Improved Nine Patch

And the wonderfully complex Mariner’s Compass blocks, including variations like Chips and Whetstones:

Mariner's Compass

Mariner’s Compass

Chips and Whetstones

Chips and Whetstones

Curves are becoming popular again in contemporary quilting, thanks to things like Amy Butler’s Single Girl quilt and the Quick Curve Ruler from Sew Kind of Wonderful. Be sure to check out this blog, if you don’t already follow it. There are tons of incredible patterns, including some free tutorials, that use the Quick Curve Ruler. Here’s a recent quilt, Spring Fling (available as a free tutorial), that uses the ruler:

Spring Fling by Sew Kind of Wonderful – click to see the free tutorial

You can also see freeform curved piecing used in improvisational piecing like the incredible Ripple Effect II from Marianne at The Quilting Edge.

Ripple Effect II by The Quilting Edge

The point is, curves are everywhere in quilting today, and even if you have no intention of making a Double Wedding Ring or a Drunkard’s Path, you may want to apply the technique in your own unique way. So how do you do it? Everyone knows when you are sewing curves you need to put the concave side on top and pin the heck out of it, right? Only I’m not a big fan of absolute rules when it comes to quilting, so I tried several different methods and decided that, for me, the method I use depends on the degree of curve I’m sewing.

Improvisational Curves

If you’d like to try curves, improvisational piecing is a great place to start. The curves can be as easy as you’d like and they don’t have to line up with anything so you can sew and then trim to your heart’s content. The only trick is to cut both pieces of fabric along the same curve. In order to do this you need to layer them both right sides up (NOT together).

Free Curve A

Using a rotary cutter, slowly cut a gentle, flowing curve, making sure that you’re cutting through both layers of fabric.

Free Curve B

Flip the pieces right sides together and place one end under the needle. Hold the top piece of fabric and gently ease the edges together as you slowly sew.

Free Curve C

While you could certainly pin this, I think the long, gentle curves are excellent for the no-pin method. You can clip the curves when you’re done if you’d like, but if the curve is gentle enough it isn’t necessary.

Free Curve D

Shallow Curves

A while back I posted a short video of how I sewed the shallow curve of the melon portion of a Double Wedding Ring. I laugh at myself every time I watch it – to quote my original post:

By the way, I don’t lisp. Not that there’s anything wrong with having a lisp, but something went funky with the sound on this and my S’s sound thtrange. Here’s the video:

So the funny part is, I managed this all by myself. Think about it – how do you hold a camera to record a video, and use both hands for the demonstration? Answer: You find the last remaining wire coat hanger in the house and bend it into an odd shape that both fits over your head so it hangs around your neck AND holds the camera in exactly the right position. Well, I’m nothing if not resourceful.

Tight Curves

Since I have so many Drunkard’s Path units already cut out, I’ll show several methods using that block. You’ll notice in a couple of these photos that the two pieces do not appear to line up properly – I don’t know why that is. They seem to come out okay, and they were cut with the AccuQuilt 3 1/2″ finished die, so I’m not going to worry about it.

Method 1

First I tried the method that most people advocate – concave side on top, pin like crazy. Align the center point on both piece, right sides together, make sure it’s straight, then pin the center point.

DP1A

DP1B

Align both outer edges and pin each side.

DP1C

DP1D

Finally, find the center between the pins and pin, then again, and again and again…

DP1E

Sew the standard 1/4″ seam, removing the pins as you get to them. Go slowly and tuck the top layer out of the way to avoid sewing a crease into the seam. You may need to stop occasionally and lift the pressure foot to adjust the fabric. This is where a needle down option on your machine is helpful.

DP1F

Carefully clip the seam allowance along the curve. Don’t cut the thread! Clipping the seam allowance will help it lie flat when you press it.

DP1G

I am usually a press-to-one-side girl, but curves are one time I prefer to press the seam open. If you look closely you can see how clipping the seams helps it stay flat. On the red side, the clips spread open a bit and on the yellow they overlap at the edges.

DP1H

Well, it isn’t the most perfect of Drunkard’s Path blocks, but it isn’t a bad starting point. You may notice the top edge is a little crooked. (Also, you generally aren’t on grain when using a die cutter, resulting in a lot of thread ends that stick out. Of course it doesn’t help that these piece have been lying around for six or eight months.) The crookedness stems from taking too much seam allowance on that side. Maintaining a quarter inch seam is one of the more challenging aspects of curved piecing.

DP1I

 

Method 2

In the second method, I still put the concave side on top but this time I didn’t use any pins. Line up the one edge, right sides together. It will look strange because the curves swing away from each other when they’re right sides together.

DP2A

Sew slowly…

DP2B

…gently easing the two piece into place. Hold the top fabric and lift it so you can see the edge of the bottom fabric. Carefully pull the top fabric to the left so the edges line up as they go under the pressure foot.

DP2C

When you get to the very end use a pair of tweezers (these bent ones are wonderful) to grip both layers and guide them under the foot.

DP2D

This block went faster because there was no pinning, but you can see there’s a little flat spot where I didn’t ease them together quite right. While the start and end line up, it’s still a little crooked like the first one was. With practice, I think this could work well, but if I want a smooth curve the pinning seems to work better.

DP2E

Method 3

This time around I did not pin, but I put the convex piece on top and the concave piece on the bottom. Proceed exactly as in method 2, sewing slowly and easing the two fabrics together. As in the video above, I found this easier because I could see both edges, where in method 2 I had to keep lifting the top fabric to see the edge of the bottom fabric.

DP3A

DP3B

Unfortunately, this one wasn’t quite as neat as the other, and it didn’t line up quite right. The curve was a little smoother, however.

DP3C

Method 4

Finally, I pinned with the convex side on top and the concave on the bottom. As in method 1, line up the fabrics right sides together and pin at the center.

DP4A

Pin both outside edges, then at the halfway point on each side. I didn’t pin any more than this – for this small piece, I felt like all that extra pinning didn’t help me that much.

DP4B

With the convex side on top, the pinned unit curved up. Rather than force it flat, I just let it curl as I fed it through the machine. As always, sew slowly and remove the pins as you go.

Note: Some people are comfortable sewing over the pins. I used to be one of those people, but I’ve bent too many good pins and I’m always nervous that I’ll damage or even break a needle. Since I’m sewing slowly and stopping frequently to adjust the fabric anyway, I might just as well remove the pins before sewing over them. 

DP4C

The finished block, as with all of the others, is not quite perfectly aligned. It was a little awkward to sew and though I didn’t, I was worried I’d sew in a crease because I couldn’t see the excess fabric on the bottom. This was probably my least favorite method.

DP4D

So here are my four blocks.

Drunkard's Path All

Clockwise from the top left, they are lightly pinned and convex on top; no pins and convex on top, no pins and concave on top, and heavily pinned and concave on top. None are perfect, but all are reasonably good. With practice, I’d definitely improve. HOWEVER…

As you well know, I prefer cutting larger and sewing then trimming to size. Could I do that here? The answer is yes, but you have to be very careful and pay close attention. The problem is you need to be able to align the seams and trimming become a bit of a challenge. Pivot it too much either way and the seams don’t align. Also, if you’re using a die cutting machine you can’t adjust the size you cut so you have to adjust the finished size if you want to trim. Make sure the finished size won’t throw off the rest of your project if you’re going to do that. Here’s how to trim:

The block is supposed to finish at 3 1/2″, meaning the sewn unit should be 4″. I’m going to trim them all to 3 3/4″ so the blocks will finish at 3 1/4″. First, determine the measurement you want your “points” to be at – the seam line. This will be the same on both sides. I chose 1 1/4″ from the outside.

Place a ruler on your block, lining up the 1 1/4″ mark with the seam on both sides (blue arrows). Make sure all four sides fit within the lines you’ll use to trim – in this case, the outer edges and the 3 3/4″ marks on the ruler (blue line). Hold the ruler firmly in place and trim the two sides.

DP Trim A

Turn the piece around and put the 3 3/4″ mark on the corner you just trimmed (orange arrow). Check that the seams still line up correctly on both sides (blue arrows) and trim the other two sides.

DP Trim B

Here are the four blocks after trimming. Better, hmm?

DP Trimmed

So if you’d like to give the Drunkard’s Path a try and don’t have a plastic template or special tool, here’s a template you can print: Drunkard’s Path Template

I think this is where I’m going to stop – though there is a lot more to talk about in curved piecing, this post is long enough! Are there any questions you’d like addressed if we do another curved piecing post? Do you have any tips or tricks you’d like to share about curved piecing?

PM/GC Quilts Skill Builder Series: Part 16 – Y Seams

For some reason, I’ve always been a little afraid of Y seams, but they really aren’t all that awful. A Y seam is exactly what the letter looks like – a place where three seam lines intersect. Believe it or not, Y seams are actually quite easy if you hand piece. They really aren’t much different than a regular seam. To machine piecers it seems more difficult because we are accustomed to just pushing the fabric through the machine, trusting that our quarter inch foot or guide will line up the seams correctly. Everything is flat when it goes through the machine on “regular” seams, but with Y seams you need to fold fabric to get the excess out of the way before sewing.

Some quilter have had success breaking blocks with Y seams into smaller components, piecing half square triangles so the same fabrics are next to one another. This gives the same appearance as a Y seam, but with an easier construction technique. The well-loved Swoon quilt pattern by Camille Roskelly (pattern available from her shop, Thimble Blossoms) is very similar to an old block called Star of Bethlehem, circa 1931 from Prize Winning Designs (Quilter’s Album of Patchwork Patterns, page 289):

There are some slight changes in color placement and she removed the corner triangles, but the biggest difference is that some of the shapes have been changed slightly so they can be cut in half and pieced as half square triangles and flying geese. To illustrate the slight difference in shapes, here are the two blocks side by side. On the left is the Star of Bethlehem block recolored to match the Swoon layout. On the right is the Swoon block. Both blocks are shown without seam lines.

Star of Bethlehem block recolored Swoon block

If you look closely, the blue house shapes in the four corners of the Swoon block are narrower than the ones at the top/bottom/left/right. Also, the pink diamonds aren’t exactly diamonds, and the center star is a slightly different shape, with the points coming in farther and the white triangles between the points being slightly different sizes. The difference is very subtle, and both blocks are beautiful. This is a great way to make a complex block more accessible. But, you know, this post is about Y seams…

Y seams are used in a lot of 8-pointed star blocks like the Star of Bethlehem, LeMoyne Star, Carpenter’s Wheel, Lone Star and Feathered Stars.

LeMoyne Star

Carpenter’s Wheel

Lone Star

Feathered Star

They’re also used in the optical illusion called Tumbling Blocks:

Tumbling Blocks

And of course, the hexagon and it’s many variations, including those created with diamonds and triangles:

Hexagon

Pieced Diamonds Hexagon

Quilts that have an overall pattern that can’t be broken down into squares or rectangles all use Y seams. One of my favorites is a design called Jack’s Chain or Rosalia Flower Garden, made of nine patches, triangles and hexagons. This is a challenge to draw in EQ7, and I wasn’t having much luck. Fortunately, Marjorie at Quilt Design NW is smarter than I am, and shared an EQ7 file for the pattern. Here is my colored variation:

Jack’s Chain

I even found this design requiring Y seams on a tissue box! Wouldn’t it make a great quilt?

Tissue Box quilt

Construction

The example I’m using is my LeMoyne Star block from the Test Your Skills Sampler. The TYSS post will follow this one within a few hours, and will contain the complete cutting and piecing instructions for a 12″ finished LeMoyne Star. This post will focus only on the Y seam.

There are two tricks to Y seams. The first trick is knowing exactly where the seam line is. Oh, obviously it’s 1/4″ from the edge of the fabric, but with the long points of a diamond, there’s a little extra fabric. Most instructions for Y seams have you put a dot at each corner indicating where you should start and stop sewing.

LeMoyne 23

You may find it even easier if you draw the complete sewing line on the back of the fabric. This way you can see exactly where the lines intersect. This is especially true when working with non-90 degree angles (anything other than squares or rectangles).

LeMoyne 10

Second, you don’t sew from edge to edge – instead, you sew from seam to seam. In other words, you start sewing where your seam line intersects with the adjacent seam line, and stop when you meet the next seam. If you marked your starting and ending points with a dot, place your fabric under the presser foot and drop the needle through that dot, then sew to the ending dot.

LeMoyne 27

If you marked complete seam lines, drop you needle where they intersect and sew to the next intersection.

LeMoyne 18

One part of sewing Y seams that confounds people is how to get the fabric you’ve already sewn out of the way. Be patient. Slow down and just ease the fabric to where it needs to be. Try not to sew over any seam allowances, since that will make it easier to press the seams later.

The first two thirds of the Y seam are easy. It’s that last one that requires fabric to be folded out of the way. In the example below, I’ve already sewn the yellow and green fabrics together, and the blue to the green at the left. Now I need to get that second blue edge right sides together with the yellow edge.

LeMoyne 16

First, I flipped the blue fabric up and folded the green and yellow fabrics so they were right sides together.

LeMoyne 17a

Next I pulled the blue point down and to the right so it lined up with the yellow point. I pinched the blue/green seam and pulled it to the left as the blue point came down.

LeMoyne 17b

You can see in this last photo that the green fabric is folded between the layers.
LeMoyne 17c

All that’s left is to sew the last seam from point (seam intersection) to point (seam intersection). Drop the needle through the dot or seam intersection, then put the presser foot down. It is important here that you are only going through two layers of fabric, NOT the fabric that is folded out of the way. If you can manually roll the needle down, you can feel more resistance if there is extra fabric. This is one time when an automatic needle up/down button works against you. Sew to the next intersection.

LeMoyne 18

Y seams can be bulky, so one way to reduce that bulk is to spiral press, “splitting” the seams where they intersect. As long as you did not sew to the edge of the fabric, this is easy. Just press each seam from the intersecting point to the edge. Each one should go in the same direction, as if you pressed in a circle. Once the main seams are pressed, you can press the center, which has a tiny bit of the right sides of each fabric exposed.

LeMoyne 19

Well, that’s how you do a Y seam! Any questions? Any tips that you’d like to share if you’ve had some experience with Y seams?

TYSS: Variable Star fillers

The Variable Star, though a block in its own right, is also a great base for other, more complex blocks simply by filling the larger center square with another pieced block. You can also piece the corners for further interest. Here’s a sample of several different variations, with different blocks in each center. The bottom left and bottom right corners show what you can do with pieced corner and color placement.

Variable Star Samples

For the Test Your Skills Sampler, we’re using the basic Variable Star block in three different sizes as fillers. You’re going to make two 8″ finished (8 1/2″ unfinished) blocks, three 4″ finished (4 1/2″ unfinished) blocks, and three 4″ finished blocks with the center filled. If you’re following the white and bright version, the 8″ blocks are blue, the 4″ empty center blocks are orange, and the 4″ filled center blocks are each their own combination of colors – the star points (flying geese) are the same within one block, and the center square is a different fabric. All three filled center blocks are different combinations.

Variable Star2  Variable Star   Variable Star3

The basic Variable Star is just an uneven nine patch block where four of the patches are flying geese. As before, the Skill Builder posts provide detailed instructions to create flying geese units, so choose your favorite flying geese method from the posts linked below. There are two block sizes, 8″ finished and 4″ finished, and the measurements for flying geese units for both are below. The cutting and assembly instructions for completing the block are at the end of the post.

Skill Builder Series: Part 8A – Flying Geese

Skill Builder Series: Part 8B – Flying Geese

Method 1: Large and Small Squares

Skill Builder Series: Part 8B – Flying Geese
This is my favorite method for creating flying geese. It doesn’t waste fabric and you sew before cutting so bias edges aren’t an issue.

8″ finished blocks (make 2)
This block requires four 2″ x 4″ finished flying geese units. For each block, cut:

(4) 3″ squares for star points
(1) 5 1/2″ square of background fabric

4″ finished blocks (make 3 identical, and 3 in assorted colors)
This block requires four 1″ x 2″ finished flying geese units. For each block, cut:

(4) 2″ squares for star points
(1) 3 1/2″ square of background fabric

Method 2: Traditional

Skill Builder Series: Part 8A – Flying Geese
Although this is the traditional method for assembling flying geese, it can be tricky, especially since you’ll be working with bias edges. If you’d like to try it, I still recommend cutting your pieces slightly larger and trimming the finished units to size. For this method, you need:

8″ finished blocks (make 2)
This block requires four 2″ x 4″ finished flying geese units. For each block, cut:

(4) 3″ squares for star points, cut diagonally once
(1) 5 1/2″ square of background fabric, cut diagonally both ways

4″ finished blocks (make 3 identical, and 3 in assorted colors)
This block requires four 1″ x 2″ finished flying geese units. For each block, cut:

(4) 2″ squares for star points, cut diagonally once
(1) 3 1/2″ square of background fabric, cut diagonally both ways

Method 3: Rectangle and Squares

Skill Builder Series: Part 8A – Flying Geese
This method is best if you’d like to create some extra HSTs or don’t mind wasting a little fabric. It is the easiest method, but the most wasteful.

8″ finished blocks (make 2)
This block requires four 2″ x 4″ finished flying geese units. For each block, cut:

(4) 4 1/2″ x 2 1/2″ rectangles of background fabric
(8) 2 1/2″ squares of star point fabric

4″ finished blocks (make 3 identical, and 3 in assorted colors)
This block requires four 1″ x 2″ finished flying geese units. For each block, cut:

(4) 2 1/2″ x 1 1/2″ rectangles of background fabric
(8) 1 1/2″ squares of star point fabric

Method 4: Dimensional (One Seam)

Skill Builder Series: Part 8A – Flying Geese
This is a fun method for creating flying geese, but it adds a lot of bulk at the center and you will have flaps of fabric that you need to either sew down or be careful not to catch in the presser foot when you quilt it. I especially do NOT recommend it for very small flying geese units, and it is not a good choice for the 4″ finished blocks, though I have provided measurements below anyway.

8″ finished blocks (make 2)
This block requires four 2″ x 4″ finished flying geese units. For each block, cut:

(4) 4 1/2″ x 2 1/2″ rectangles of background fabric
(8) 2 1/2″ squares of star point fabric

4″ finished blocks (make 3 identical, and 3 in assorted colors)
This block requires four 1″ x 2″ finished flying geese units. For each block, cut:

(4) 2 1/2″ x 1 1/2″ rectangles of background fabric
(8) 1 1/2″ squares of star point fabric

Assembling the Block

Once you’ve created your flying geese units, you need to put them together into the blocks. You’ll need to cut additional squares for the corner and center piece of the blocks:

For each 8″ finished block (make two)
(1) 4 1/2″ background square for the center
(4) 2 1/2″ background squares for the corners

For each 4″ finished empty centered block (make 3)
(1) 2 1/2″ background square for the center
(4) 1 1/2″ background squares for the corners

For each 4″ finished filled centered block (make 3)
(1) 2 1/2″ “other” fabric square for the center
(4) 1 1/2″ background squares for the corners

To assemble the blocks, lay out the pieces in order, matching the illustration above. Assemble the block just like any other nine patch, making sure you turn your flying geese units so they create the star points. See this Nine Patch Skill Builder post for details. You may also want to review this Quarter Inch Seams Skill Builder post. If, like me, you prefer to press your seams to one side, press toward the plain squares. Press the top and bottom seams toward the center.

On wedding quilts

I seem to be feast or famine when it comes to quilting, and we’re definitely in a feast period. In addition to the Botanicals project and the baby quilt, Mom and I have two wedding quilts on the docket. Fortunately one wedding is in June and the other wedding is next year, so neither will be rushed. The first wedding quilt is for my cousin, a math professor in the University of Wisconsin system. Oh, it’s for her fiance as well, but I’m using her mathematical background as inspiration for the design. I looked around for ideas, starting with a riff on the Shakespeare in the Park pattern by Judy Martin. Have you seen this? It’s a combination of the Snail’s Trail block and a star block. I played with different stars and came up with this in EQ7:

Shakespeare in the Park Broken Star

While I love this quilt, I think the math connection is weak. However, I strongly encourage you to pop over to Judy Martin’s Pinterest board of quilts made by other people from her patterns. I hadn’t realized how many of my favorite quilts were designed by Judy Martin!

Next I moved on to the Rolling Waves pattern by Jane Koelker, first seen in the August/September 2008 issue of McCalls Quilting. Here’s my EQ illustration:

Rolling Waves

The math aspect is a little stronger and I think my cousin would get a kick out of the optical illusion of movement, plus it’s a pretty simple quilt to make. However, I wanted to see what else was out there, preferably something more strongly math related. I came across fractals and was intrigued. Now, the word was coined in 1975 so it didn’t make its way into schools until well after I graduated, but it’s taught in grade school now. I dug a little further and found some incredible images of fractal at the Fractal Science Kit website in the gallery pages. Specifically, I found this. It inspired me to draw it up in EQ and, with some modifications, got this:

Fractalish

I’m calling it “Fractalish” because it isn’t quite mathematically correct, but both my mom and my aunt like it, so that’s what we’re going with. It’s going to be big – 110″ square, but it isn’t actually all that difficult. The way I wrote it uses both half square triangles and flying geese, but it would be more fractal-like if it was constructed entirely of half square triangles. I can see a pattern in the future, and that’s another reason why I chose it – there’s just something about not following someone else’s design that makes it more fun for me.

Quilting marathon

This is the most productive – for quilting – weekend I’ve had in ages. Saturday was Stitch & Bitch, though the weather and other commitments meant that there were only three of us here. It worked out well because we did more stitching and less bitching. The other kind is fun, but we’re talking about productivity today.

Mom working on Botanical BOM

Mom finished testing the last of twelve blocks for the Botanicals BOM. Well, she tested the first draft of the pattern. Let’s just say I’m rewriting it. Fortunately, the overachiever is making two quilts, in slightly different colorways, so she can test the rewritten instructions as well. Later today I will post the instructions for the first block.

Mickey was working on her project, a five yard bundle that she picked up either the Quilt Expo in Madison or the International Quilt Fetival in Chicago/Rosemont last year.

Mickey pressing

As for me, I started working on a baby quilt for a co-worker. She knows I’m making it, and since that’s the case I asked her for input on fabric choices. She shared photos of the nursery and bedding they have: soft brown walls, white beadboard and woodwork, and bedding with peach, pink, turquoise, raspberry and orange. I had no idea where I wanted to go with this, so I looked through my EQ files and came across an illustration of a Kaleidoscope quilt I worked out for someone.

Kaleidoscope

I liked it and decided to stop looking and start sewing. I cut a few 60 degree triangles thinking they should work, though I was at least smart enough to only cut about 40 triangles before testing.

Baby Pyramids in progress

(By the way, the color smears on the table are fingernail polish. It works for me.) When I sewed a test block, I found that the triangles would NOT make a Kaleidoscope block. Well, duh. Of course they wouldn’t. Do NOT go thinking you’re smarter than the EQ rotary cutting instructions. Still, I kind of liked the look of the 60 degree triangles so I drew up a new EQ project, this time using the Thousand Pyramids technique.

Baby Pyramids

Bingo! That’s perfect. I used the Kaleidoscope idea of making squares/hexagons that are two alternating fabrics, but the effect is more subtle in the Thousand Pyramid design. It was surprisingly easy to construct – I took photos for a future tutorial, in case anyone’s interested. But here’s where the marathon part came in: I worked on this quilt from about 10:00 am Saturday until 2:30 am Sunday morning, then again Sunday from about 11:00 am until 9:30 pm that night. I finished both the quilt top AND the back, which I’m also quite proud of. I’m home sick today and I may put it on the frame and quilt it if things go well. I may actually finish an entire quilt, concept to binding, in three days.

Because I’m so close to completing it, I’m not sharing a photo of the top and backing just yet. Instead, here’s a little sneak preview. Maybe later today I’ll have the full reveal!

Baby Pyramids sneak peak

Botanical BOM Intro

Botanicals BOM by Piecemeal Quilts
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For the past, oh, six years or so, a group of quilters has been getting together at my home once a month to sew, eat, and chat. We call it Stitch & Bitch, and if you’ve been following this blog, you’ve seen photos of the ladies and their projects. Every couple of years we do a block of the month project. The first one was stars, the second baskets, and the latest is plant themed blocks. Because I am a freak and enjoy the calculating side of quilting as much as the creating side, I’ve taken on the task of choosing and writing the block instructions for everyone. Okay, who am I kidding – the real reason is because I like telling people what to do, and this is a socially acceptable way to do that.

Anyway, the Botanicals BOM stalled about 3/4 of the way through because I chose a block that didn’t work at the size we were using. I had a little meltdown and stopped even looking at the blocks for a year. Yes, twelve full months have passed since block 9 gave me fits. Yesterday and today, however, I finished the remaining blocks (there are 14 all together because a couple of the quilt layouts require extra blocks). Because I didn’t want another sampler quilt languishing, unfinished, on my blog (Test Your Skills Sampler, anyone?), I have hesitated to share the blocks for the Botanical BOM on the blog. Now that all of the block instructions are written, I think it’s safe to do so. That said…

Botanical BOM 1 Botanical BOM 2 Botanical BOM 3
I’m providing three setting options here, ranging from a generous lap to a large king size quilt. Of course you can do anything you want with the blocks! The second setting requires five extra blocks – four pineapples in the corner and a Tree of Life in the center. If you click on the image, you’ll download a PDF that shows the illustration as well as the fabric requirements. The grayscale fabric requirements are for the setting, and the color fabric requirements are for the blocks. The color requirements, especially, are guidelines. I used eight colors, but you may choose to go scrappier.

If you’re interested in seeing other settings and colorways, check out my Botanicals BOM Flickr set. By the way, the green, white and pink illustration is the setting I hope to make out of mine. At this point I can’t find my EQ file for it (hopping between 4 computers makes it difficult), but as this progresses, don’t be surprised if instructions for that setting pop up as well. Also be sure to check out the Botanical BOM quilt top made by Jeanne of Grey Cat Quilts. She took the EQ7 file I started with and went to town with it, adding several more blocks, and setting it in the most wonderful setting you can imagine. It’s massive and just beautiful.

Here is a list of block posts so far:
Block 1: Tangled Briars

If you’re a Flickr user, I’d love to see what you’re doing with these blocks. Feel free to share photos of you fabric selections, blocks, tops, quilts, or other projects made from the Botanical BOM in my Piecemeal Quilts Projects group.

I will post the first of the block instructions later this week, and after that the block instructions will go up on the first of each month. Please let me know if you have any questions. I’m back into blogging, but that doesn’t mean I remember everything I’m supposed to do!

Lazarus, anyone?

I am here! I feel good! I want to BLOG!

It’s been a challenging few months for me, for no reason that has any real weight. I mean, my life is pretty good. I have a good home, people who love me, a decent job, good health, a fabric stash to die for, and cats. Despite all of that, I still have bouts of four-year-old-itis, as in “I don’t want to and you can’t make me.” I’ve felt it lifting in the past couple of weeks, and I’ve pottered around in the background of the blog, working myself back into it. I went through the Resources page and cleaned up all of the links, removing those that were broken and unfixable, and adding a few more resources, especially in the fabric designers free patterns section. Parts of it were rather outdated, since I started that page over five years ago and a lot has changed. Still, there’s a lot of good info there, so check it out if you haven’t already.

Another change I made was cleaning up the many pages I have. I removed the main My Quilts heading and moved that and the sub pages under About Me. Those pages will need further editing, but I’ll leave them along for now because I have more interesting things to do.

Interesting thing #1: I’m adding an EQ Projects sub page under the Patterns page for EQ project files. One of the awesome things about Electric Quilt is the ability – even encouragement – to share your files with other EQ7 users. It allows us to play with the coloring of a quilt quickly and easily, or add or remove blocks for a larger or smaller quilt, or change the layout, or change the size of blocks and have the program calculate yardage and rotary cutting instructions in the new sizes. If you’re an EQ user, be sure to check out the page! All of the EQ project files are free for your use, and a few of the projects also have links to instructions that I’ve written. Not all of the project files are linked yet, but they’ll be there in the next day or so.

Interesting thing #2: Kelli just sent me an email through the blog (when I say “just” I mean I was literally in the middle of writing this post!) asking if we had more Test Your Skills Sampler instructions available. I promised her I’d finish it by my birthday on April 23. Are you laughing? Stop it! I really want to finish this, and there’s only a little bit left to do. It’s kind of embarrassing. No, it’s a LOT embarrassing.

Interesting thing #3: I’ve mentioned before that I wrote Block of the Month projects for the Stitch & Bitch group that gets together at our house every month. We were working on a Botanical BOM that, like many other quilty-related things, stopped progressing for a year. Yes, I wrote a YEAR. It’s been a long, dry spell, folks. Anyway, after a few gentle prods from my cousin Sharon I finally sat down this weekend and finished all of the block instructions, as well as notes for finishing the quilt in four different settings. I haven’t written the setting instructions yet, but the rest is all good to go, completely written, PDF’d, finished. All of the blocks are traditional blocks with a plant theme (hence “Botanicals”), and all are in the public domain, so I am going to share the BOM on the blog. It will be a true block of the Month, with instructions posted on the first of every month starting today. Yes, the SECOND of February. What? I’ll include instructions for all four, possibly five, settings chosen by the members of our Stitch & Bitch group, and I’ll post illustrations of those settings on the first post with fabric requirements.

Wow, no photos so far. Kind of sad. So here are some pictures of my cats:

Grumpy Buttercup

Rugen's Tongue