Tag Archives: piecing

Making Time

egg timerJust a short post today, almost a ‘proof of life’ post.

Last weekend I finally managed to get some sewing done, something I hadn’t been able to do for several weeks. I’m working on another friendship braid quilt, using a Moda jelly roll. I spent two weekends cutting the pieces, aiming for accuracy rather than speed. Now that I’ve started sewing, the tempo is picking up, with two braids done and two more well on the way. In fact it’s coming along so well that I’ve already had a look through my stash for border and backing fabric.

I wish I had more time for craft, but right now I don’t. So I’ll just keep doing what I can, when I can, keeping in mind that this particular quilt is intended as a gift for a birthday in January. Seven months. Should be doable. I hope.

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Getting Started on the Friendship Braids

I know from the search terms that bring readers to this blog that I’m not the only one working on the Friendship Braid quilt from the Jelly Roll Quilts book.

The braids are, as they say in the book, quite quick to string piece once you get started. I found that to be the case and was able to complete a braid within a few hours on a day when I didn’t have to go to the office.

Getting started is a whole other story though. That made my head hurt and there was some unpicking in the mix, too. The illustrations in the book aren’t quite to scale and the use of colour in those illustrations didn’t help, because it wasn’t clear to me which they were treating as a light trapezoid and which as a dark.

So I thought I’d share my photos, in the hope it might help someone else.

The outside edges should be parallel when you’re done sewing as shown by the hand drawn lines on the second photo. I eventually learned to check for that before sewing.

Lining up the pieces, with the book at hand

Pinned and ready to check

Starting the Friendship Braid

Opened up, but not sewn yet

Stash Busting Pot Holders

I have plenty of scraps and plenty of short lengths of fabric that I’ve bought on sale, some as holiday souvenirs. Pot holders are a perfect way to use up the scraps. Christmas will be upon us before we know and I actually could use a couple of new pot holders for myself. Remember the saying about the cobbler’s children having no shoes?

Until now I’ve based my pot holders on traditional 9 inch blocks, my absolute favourite being the churn dash. However, after measuring a much loved (and almost worn out) pot holder from my own kitchen I decided an 8 inch block will work fine.

About.com Quilting has these cutting instructions for an 8 inch block called Sarah’s Choice.

Light Neutral Background
Four 2-1/2″ x 2-1/2″ squares
Four 2-1/2″ x 4-1/2″ rectangles

Dark Print
Two 2-7/8″ x 2-7/8″ squares
Four 2-1/2″ x 2-1/2″ squares

Medium Print
Two 2-7/8″ x 2-7/8″ squares
Four 2-1/2″ x 2-1/2″ squares

Sarah's Choice Pot Holder

Sarah's Choice

It’s a pretty block. Just wish my points had come out a bit sharper. I’m not entirely convinced I made the right fabric choices either.

Another idea to use up scraps is piecing some strips together. This tutorial at Fresh Lemon Quilts is a great stash-busting idea that uses a seven inch block. The tutorial provides a pattern but I would take a more improvisational approach, using string piecing on a foundation block. I do wonder if a seven inch block is big enough. My hands aren’t big but I do want them to get a good amount of protection when dealing with heavy objects that are hot from the oven.

The Sawtooth Star block let me showcase this cute heart print.

Sawtooth Star with Heart Print Centre

Sawtooth Star

Leah’s Star is another block I considered. This pattern is from Quilt in a Day. She has you sew the half square triangles over-sized and trim them down after pressing them open. That’s a new approach for me. I see the benefits of ending up with a perfectly sized square, but I am also reminded of a lesson shared by an expert photographer, back in the days when that was a passion of mine. He said, “There’s only one exposure, the right exposure.” To me, the wastefulness of deliberately making an oversized block goes against the frugal tradition of quilting. The idea doesn’t sit comfortably with me.

I’m just a little too pressed for time to consider binding a pot holder just at the moment but I do concede that it gives a lovely, professional finish. Fellow blogger supermom kindly shared her very useful instructions for making hanging loops. The instructions are in the comments the follow her post about completing three hot pads. I will definitely give her method a try at some stage in the future.

Dresden Plate Doll Quilt

I had been hoping to buy myself an EZ Dresden template on my recent visit to San Diego but the shop was out of stock.

Doll Quilt with a Dresden Plate Motif, made in Autumn Colours

Tied Dresden Plate Doll Quilt

The universe provided an alternative in the form of Mikarah’s tutorial where she posted instructions on how to make your own template. Making your own template is cheaper and more environmentally friendly than flying from Australia to the United States to go buy one.

My beloved helped me with the template, after just a little begging. I drew the template on heavy paper first, and he helped me transfer the design to the template plastic.

Petals for Dresden Plate Quilt Block with the Cutting Template

Some of the Petals and the Template

I cut sixteen petals out of two orange tones from my stash, not sure whether I’d got the template right enough for them all to fit together when all the seams are in place.

First step – sew the points. I used my new long flat pins to help me with the alignment. I like using them, but because they’re so long and thin, they feel a bit bendy compared to my regular glass-head pins.The flat pins were lovely for the applique part of the project and I’ll put them aside for that in future.

It turns out sixteen petals was too many. I got a complete circle with fourteen petals. Maybe my quarter inch seam was a little too scant or maybe I didn’t cut the template quite right. Either way, it was a good experiment. The main thing I learned – I’m not sure I’ll bother making another Dresden Plate. I admire them when others make quilts out of them, but for me the effort just wasn’t worth the result.

I did enjoy tying the quilt sandwich and I like the effect so I think I’ll do that again. I also enjoyed machine appliqueing the blades to the background fabric, even though it was a bit fiddly. I used my sewing machine’s blanket stitch for the central bright orange element and a narrow zig-zag around the outside.

This will be a doll quilt for a future swap, most likely. It’s the perfect size, at 15 inches square.

Simple Construction – Oh Really?

Cover of Feb 2011 American Patchwork & Quilting

Feb 2011 American Patchwork & Quilting

I picked up the Feb 2011 issue of American Patchwork and Quilting on my travels because I was drawn to the quilt on the cover, designed by Sandy Klop of American Jane Patterns.

It’s designed to be cut from 21/2 inch strips, complemented by muslin spacers – 240 of them, as 21/2 inch squares. I’m still thinking about making it, but I’m wondering if it really a beginners level design, as stated. I’m wondering how to efficiently get all 29 rows together correctly without having being up and down from my design floor after every seam. Plus, I don’t really want a work in progress on the floor for weeks or months.

Strip Layout for Row by Row Quilt

Strip Layout for Row by Row Quilt


Any suggestions? I could mark each piece of fabric as a1, a2, a3 etc using masking tape but surely there’s a better way.

Please share your handy hints by leaving a comment.

Update: The ever-reliable experts on the Quilting Board had two brilliant suggestions.

1. Cut the fabric and place it in labelled baggies baggies in order of sewing. Label the baggies and the rows.
2. Take a photo of the layout before you start, to use as a reference later.

I’m about to Take the On Point Plunge

The About.com:Quilting site’s pages about the modified Dolly Madison Star block have a couple of example quilts, one of which was set on point. It has a vitality that I love. Today I made 13 nine patch centre squares to get that one started. The quilt I envision will be in purple tones, some bright, some less so. I scored two lots of background fabric in pale purple tones in the Spotlight remnant bin a while back (another bargain purchase) and I’d had in mind to use them in a purple toned quilt for a while. I’d also had in the back of my mind that I really need to learn to set a quilt on point. That’s really just a fancy word for on the diagonal, but the term sounds balletic to me. I don’t think it’s going to be all that hard – the two main challenges will be assembling the quilt in the right order and cutting the half squares and quarter squares the right size.

Fabric from my Purple Stash and Nine Patch Blocks

The Purple Stash and Nine Patch Blocks for the modified Dolly Madison Star

I enjoyed the modified Dolly Madison Star block for the table runner so much that it called out to be made again. Never mind that the table runner still needs to be trimmed, quilted and bound or that the tumbling spools quilt is waiting for its sashing.

The teeny nine patches in the centre of the modified Dolly Madison Star block are a bit fiddly as they start life as one and one half inch squares but they’re cute and after a while piecing I found myself having a good rhythm. My rhythm was better than my counting though. I initially cut enough squares for 13 nine patch blocks, then miscounted and only made up 12. I really wish I would learn to count.

Braided Table Topper

I have been confined to quarters, as it were, for the weekend, suffering a heavy cold. I was unable to accompany my beloved to Sydney for what was supposed to have been a fun weekend getaway. Flying with blocked ears is a pretty silly idea (I know from experience), so I sent him away by himself, with instructions not to talk to any strange women.

Being confined to the house (except for a quick trip to pick up some essential supplies, more of which later) I spent way too much time reading the Quilting Board.

Green-toned braided Table Topper with a Central 9 inch Star

Braided Table Topper for Christmas

There was a thread on the board that directed me to a free pattern for a braided table topper. I am a fascinated by braided designs and I decided to give it ago, as a practice piece for the friendship braid quilt and so I could have it ready as a holiday gift. I had planned to use a Christmas print left over from last years sales, but I decided the red in that fabric was just too harsh to use on this project.

Braided Table Topper under Construction

Braided Table Topper under Construction

I decided a star would be the ideal thing for the 9 inch centre block and picked the Dolly Madison block from the ever faithful About.com:Quilting site. Of course I messed with that pattern just a bit. The nine patch blocks are gold on ivory and a partridge in a pear tree print. Well, that’s how I interpret it anyway.

I must also mention my quick trip to the shops. I needed chicken stock from the supermarket, which happens to be located in the same complex as the Spotlight fabric and party supplies store. I decided to whizz through Spotlight to check if they had any bargains. They did!

The remnant box had a package containing about a metre of aqua toned 100% cotton quilting fabric and roughly two metres of a black and ivory print, priced at $2 for both. I had seen the blue fabric on the bolt in the quilting section but didn’t like it enough to buy it there. But I liked it more than enough at $2. I’m sure we learned about that price value equation in Economics 101, though I seem to recall that Economics 101 had a notion of a rational man.

The check out story at Spotlight was ludicrous (nothing unusual there) with two checkouts in operation but both involving lengthy refund processes that meant neither line was moving. In line in front of me was a tall, reasonably good-looking six-foot-something twenty-something man holding spangly false eye-lashes, fishnet stockings and a fake moustache (bad fashion call on that last item.)

In my 20’s I would have been far too shy to talk to a 20-something alpha-male type. Now, in my 40’s I teased him until he blushed. Middle age has its compensations.