Sunday, May 24, 2015

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to this Quilt

I did a pantograph on a customer’s quilt one day last year and I fell in love with her quilt top.  This is a common thing that happens to someone addicted to fabric. I love scrappy quilts and I am happy to adapt a pattern I see to something that so readily uses what I have a plethora of.
I have made 3 long cabin quilts with 2” strips and I am so enamoured with that pattern and how much scrap fabric I use making the pattern that I have a 4th log cabin quilt precut and in a tub to go to a quilt getaway in July.  That will be another story for another day. Since I have made so many log cabins, the 2” strips are getting short (in length, not in abundance) and I needed to find a pattern to use the smaller pieces that litter the tub.

I opened up the trusty EQ7 and designed the 36 patch square block which is framed with a solid fabric.  The charm of the customers quilt was that the scrappy squares are framed with different solid fabrics.  All were sashed with narrow white strips which made the scrappy squares pop.

My designing session resulted in a nice paper with a printout of my quilt top in black and white.  I needed 63 blocks for this top.  I spent several weekends pairing small strips into groups of six that would get sewn into a group of six and sub cut into 6 rows of 6 blocks.  I put 6 different sets into use pulling one strip set from each to make a block and had 5 strip sets left over to mix together into other combinations.  Because I needed 63 blocks I needed 63 sets of 6 strips.  Clear as mud?  Of course I did not photograph this process because it didn’t occur to me I would screw something up and need to tell you about how I overthink things.

I made the 63 blocks and then dug through my glorious stash looking for enough plain fabric to make 63 frames.  A width of fabric strip could net me frames for 2 blocks so technically I needed 32 colors to get a good mix.  (I had that!). I messed up a couple of frames cutting off the selvedge. Lesson #1:   I did not have enough fabric to make two frames if I cut off the selvedge.  

I am merrily sewing frames to blocks and happy I was so far along on the sewing of the quilt top and started thinking (the brain freewheels when I do mindless tasks) about how big each block is and I did the mental calculation and realized 63 blocks was going to make a humongous quilt top.  Hmmm.  Where did I make the miscalculation? My top would be 9 rows long and 7 rows wide and would make a twin.  That was my goal.  9 x 12 is 108 and this is without the 1” sashing! 7 x 12 is 84. Right there is a queen and I didn’t want that. I wanted white sashing too! I looked up my pattern in the EQ program and see I have blocked out the pattern of 12” blocks using a 9” setting tool. OY. At least that problem is solved.  I see where I made the mistake.  Using less blocks is a good solution and the extra 6 give Pattie plenty of throw-away options in her laying out the top.  

The rejects went on the back.

Yesterday I sewed the rows together, found a fabric to use for backing and sewed the extra blocks into it and even had time to load it onto the frame.  Today I quilt!  I love getting to the end.  My brain is already on the next quilt.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sewing and Thinking

I was thinking this morning as I was sewing on the itty bitty spool blocks how much my sewing style has changed over the years; in large part to Bonnie Hunter and her organizational suggestions as well as my penchant for not throwing little pieces of fabric away.
In my mind I was comparing sewing to driving.

When I was young I drove my car fast.  I loved the feel of moving through traffic and getting where I was going.  When I started sewing back in the last century I was always hurrying to get the blocks done so I could put the quilt together and move onto the next one.  I hand quilted in those days and I did enjoy the slow process of that.  I made many tops in my first few years and like other hobbies, I was inundated with my productivity.  Purchasing the longarm was a means to an end.  It was a new job to move onto when the weaving job was no longer an option and it kept me from being buried alive under pieced tops.

I liked making quilts with big blocks.  They could be simple or intricate, but big was always my end result.  The bigger the block the less it took to make a quilt.  It didn’t take any less fabric, just less blocks.  It’s a mental thing for me.  It is like the mental thing of getting half done with the pantograph quilting.  After the half way point it seems I zoom along to finish the quilt.  Up to the half way point it is like wading through mud. I feel like I’m never going to get done.

I find I have slowed down while driving. I don’t speed.  I look around at the scenery and enjoy seeing the things out the window.  I even feel sorry for the people who are rushing past me trying to get to work and I’m in their way.

The tops I make now are more intricate.  The pieces I use are small and it takes many to sew together to make a block.  I even like using narrower strips and find using 2” strips and 1 ½”” strips more to my liking.  I would never have thought when I made those big blocks years ago that I would find the same kind of joy piecing blocks from small pieces of fabric and not feeling like I was going too slow getting the process finished.

Now it seems I get to the edges and don’t want to put the borders on.  Quilt tops languish for months while I decide what to do for a border.  I do get them done.  I feel guilty when several are waiting for borders and I will take a weekend to do that tedious job.  I find my fun this day building blocks.  Lots and lots of blocks!
The pattern I’m working on as a main project is called Spoolin’ Around and is one of Bonnie’s patterns from her book More Adventures with Leaders and Enders.  I had printed out the instructions when she had offered it as a challenge on her blog.

The last project sits in a stack of sewn rows and sewn sashes waiting for me to pin them together tonight when I sit and watch tv after my day is done.

The spools are just cute.  I love these, but realize the futility of thinking I am actually using up fabric.  There is no obvious dent in the tub of strips.