Monday, 30 July 2012

Crooked Rail Fence Quilt Block Tutorial

I've been trying a new improvisational piecing technique each month while following along with the  Colour My World Challenge. This month was especially exciting because the colour to tackle was pink. I wanted to continue playing with straight and crooked lines, like those in the modern kitty blanket I made earlier this month.

I think this block is really fun and could easily see myself making a whole quilt in this style. I ended up liking it enough to put together a tutorial for anyone else that might want to give it a try. This block can easily be adapted to any size and shape by increasing the number or size of the stripe units, or changing the width of the borders.

Select three coordinated fabrics. I chose three of the same colour but any combination works.

Cut three strips measuring 14" by 1.5" from each fabric.  

Combine the strips into three groups so that each group contains three fabrics. Determine which order you want them in. I put the fabrics for each group in a different order, but two or all three can be the same.
Sew each group of strips together and press seams open.
You should now have three large strips that are approximately 14" long and 3.5" wide.

Make a cut across the width of the strips every 3.5". This will yield 12 pieces that are 3.5" square.
Don't worry about being ultra precise at this stage, I stacked my strips up and cut all three at the same time.

Using a ruler or template, trim each block down to a size of 3" square.
Vary the placement and angle of your cuts as much as you want. This is the fun part!

Lay out your squares, alternating between vertical and horizontal stripes.
Don't put too much thought into this part, just mix them up and lay them down.
Sew those puppies together! You should now have a pretty cool rectangle measuring 10.5" by 8".
The last step is to add borders to make this the size you want. I added a 1.5" border on each side and 2" at the top and bottom for a block that will finish at 12" by 11". Here is the result:

The thing I find most interesting about this block is that there are 5,748,019,200 possible layout permutations for every combination of three colours (6 possible strip groupings, 12 possible positions for each square, and 2 possible orientations per square). No two blocks will ever end up looking exactly the same, especially if you choose a large scale print like the olives above. I think that creates a lot of visual interest, and I look forward to using this technique again on a larger scale.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Wine Cozy Tiled with Bare Branches

A few weeks ago, Sam requested a wine bottle protector for his bicycle saddle bag. Our roads are pretty bumpy, and I want to ensure that no glass bottles shatter while he rides home. I got to apply my quilting skills to solving the problem, while at the same time practising this month's FMQ Challenge, which aims to give your stitching an overlapping tile effect.

I chose a panel of fabric with a pre-printed block on it, and stitched on some superimposed boxes, which I filled with Bare Branches, this week's featured FMQ Project design.

The busy print makes it pretty hard to make out the actual quilting, but hopefully you can see that I started with some very basic branching lines on the left, and increased their complexity until I got to something that actually looks like tree branches on the right. I used straight lines to divide the design into tiles. 

You can see those slightly better close up:

I'm not sure how well the tiles worked out. It's hard to get a feel for the overall design with so many flowers all over the place. I think I would have to give them another shot on solid coloured fabric in order to decide if I like them. I did, however, think the branches were pretty cool. 

In order to make the wine bottle protector, I cut a piece 16" by 13" out of my quilted floral panel, folded it in half and sewed up the bottom and sides, leaving some room at the top to add a drawstring. The whole thing took about 15 minutes to make.

Once I'd gotten the hang of Bare Branches, I grabbed another piece of fabric and tried to fill it with branches on a micro scale. I look forward to trying to thread-paint an actual tree this way at some point. 

I have a sewing machine question for the awesome Leah Day this week:
My machine only has a throat space of six inches. Do you think this is enough to quilt a queen sized project? Is there a rule of thumb to determine the maximum size a home sewing machine can accommodate?

Monday, 23 July 2012

What's on My Design Wall? Stop Signs!

Over the past months, I've been working on a series of urban quilt block patterns that represent life in the city. With the fire hydrant block in its final phases of testing, I've turned my attention to the second design of the collection.

Here is a sneak peek at what's coming up next:

I've experimented with different ways of piecing a fabric octagon, and I've settle on one that creates perfect corners every time. This block takes a little while to put together due to the lettering, but all of the steps are simple and there is no paper piecing required. I look forward to sharing more about this design in the coming weeks.

I am linking up with Quilting by the River, Fabric Tuesday and WIP Wednesday.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Loopy Care Bears Blanket Revisit

I introduced this blanket a few weeks ago to show off my Loopy Lines quilting, but I had to wait for proper sunshine in order to get good photos of the patchwork. Now that it has been passed on to the adorable littl'un who inspired it, I am finally ready to reveal the finished blanket for TGIFF!

I couldn't pick just one print for this little girl's blanket, so I decided to combine some 6" squares of my favourite kiddie prints. My inspiration colours were girly pink and Disney's Bibbidy Bobbidy Blue. The fabrics I chose may not exactly match, but they do create a sharp contrast that I hope makes it interesting to curious young eyes.

The blanket is entirely made out of flannel to keep it lightweight for summer, and the size was actually decided by the amount of Care Bears flannel I'd been saving. I received this fabric from my aunt who is no longer sewing and gave away most of her fabric stash. These are vintage bears from the eighties, before they started making them "thin". (Though not actual branded Care Bears since they are missing their tummy symbol.)

I feel the need to point out that bears actually need their body fat. They hibernate! The new Care Bears wouldn't make it through their first winter... nor would the new My Little Ponies.

Kid's items are the most fun to make, because there is no limit to the cuteness you can put into them. I love the way this blanket turned out, and I've already got pictures for the fridge of an adorable budding Care Bears fan playing on it.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Breaking the Label Rules

A few months ago, I took a course on label making at my local quilt shop. It focused on the different options for integrating a label into a quilt, and guidelines for having them displayed in a show. We also learned about the materials you would use to do this, and made a hanging sleeve. Finally, we made a sample label, followed by a pillowcase to put it on.

This label was made using archival quality ink on high thread count fabric. The text was first printed on a sheet of paper in 16 point font and then painstakingly traced letter by letter onto the fabric using a lightbox.

Once the ink had been heat set, we sewed on a thin binding to hide the raw edges. The completed label was to be sewn by hand into the pillowcase.

The fact that I still have this label lying around, months after giving away the pillowcase, pretty much sums up how I feel about this labelling method.

My quilts are not being entered into shows, so in theory I don't see the harm in writing directly on them. In fact, the option that I find most interesting is to completely integrate your label by making a small white square part of the piecing, and then writing on it. However this isn't always practical.

I would like to identify each of my animal rescue blankets with a label allowing the families who adopt the cats to read their story. Since the blankets are flannel it isn't possible to write directly on them, so I've adapted Leah Day's quilt tag method to suit this project.

I used freezer paper to stiffen the fabric, and a Pigma pen to write my message. Considering that I wrote this freehand instead of using a printed template, I think it turned out very clear and well centred. To finish off the label I just pressed the edges back and sewed it to the back of the blanket with my sewing machine. I will go back at the end of the project and fill in the missing information on the first line ( #10 of  ? ).

By sewing it on this way, the thread outline will show on the front of the blanket, but it saves a lot of work and in this case I sincerely don't think the cats will mind. Here is a look at the back of the blanket with its tag.

Writing on fabric always takes longer than I think it will, but now that I've got the first label done, and it looks good, I'm a little bit more motivated to start making labels for the nine other blankets.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Opinions from the Kitchen: Summer Fruit Salsa

Until recently, when I thought of salsa, there were always tomatoes involved. This summer I discovered  fruit salsa, and I'm not sure I could ever go back. Over the past two months I've gone a little crazy and tried pineapple, mango, mango strawberry, mango peach, and pineapple mango. They were all delicious, and had no problem holding up to pork, chicken and seafood in an enchilada.

The main salsa ingredients are the same for any fruit, and for a great starter recipe I recommend referring to this one from The Pioneer Woman Cooks. The best advice I can give to someone trying this for the first time is to make sure your fruit are ripe enough to be sweet. A salsa made from under-ripe ingredients won't have much flavour.

Once you've made this and become a confirmed addict, you may get the urge to try a few modifications. These are my favourites so far.

Pineapple and Red Pepper Salsa

This version uses a pineapple and a sweet red bell pepper. I increased the amount of lime juice, and used a habañero pepper for heat.

The little orange habañero packs more flavour and heat into a smaller pepper and I prefer it to the jalapeño when used with fruit.

I also added 4-5 cloves of finely chopped garlic. Don't be afraid to throw garlic in with the fruit, it will add a lot of depth once the flavours have blended.

Pineapple Mango Salsa with Avocado

Are you serving this to a large crowd, some of whom may not like too much spice?

One solution is to throw in a chopped avocado. You still get the flavour from the peppers, but the richness of the avocado will tone down the heat quite a bit.

In this one, I combined half a green bell pepper, one habañero pepper, and a pinch of dried crushed red chilies. And, of course, some garlic.

Once you've made this a few times you will notice that there's quite a difference in taste between the jalapeño, the habañero and the red chili pepper. Try them in different combinations to figure out which of their subtle flavours most suits you. These salsas are fat free and contain no processed sugars, so enjoy testing the recipe with as many fruit as you like. For a healthy alternative to corn chips, I would recommend brushing some points of pita bread with lime juice, sprinkling them with kosher salt, and toasting them briefly in the oven until they crisps up like chips. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Modern Quilting for Animal Rescue

My previous post for the quilt along with the Free Motion Quilting Project focused on the assembly of my modern style blanket, using mismatched fabrics and wonky square blocks. I also stitched some large scale lines over the surface to divide the blanket into sections for the next step.

This week's exercise was to fill in each of those areas with a different quilting design to complement the ad hoc piecing. I used six different designs, and the three that turned out best were zippling (left), circuit board (centre), and good ol' stippling (right).

Even the stitching that didn't turn out quite as well on its own did end up looking all right as part of the overall design. There is so much to look at that no single area really stands out. I think the visual impact of this technique would translate well to a larger scale - I am keeping it in mind for future bed sized blankets. 

This is the tenth completed blanket in my Snuggles Project series. It will be donated to abandoned cats at a local animal rescue organization at the end of the year. Here is an overall look at the finished project:

Since my blanket is a mini, I used the extra time this week to finalize the first pattern of my Urban Quilt Block series. It is now ready for testing ahead of its release through Craftsy, and I am offering up the opportunity to be a pattern tester!

What does this involve? As a tester, you would be making a quilt block from this pattern at some point over the month of July and providing feedback about your experience. Sharing your creation through a blog or social media is welcome (but definitely not required), and best of all you would be the first person with a fire hydrant to quilt!

The block is composed of about 40 individual pieces and will take a few hours to put together. It finishes at 14" by 12". If you're interested, let me know in the comments below. If there are many awesome volunteers, I will let Mr Random decide.

Update: the fire hydrant pattern is now available HERE!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Modern Mini Blanket Ready for Quilting

In the first step of the Modern Quilt Along with the Free Motion Quilting Project, I cut out some flannel squares to make a mini blanket. This week, I turned those into wonky square blocks by adding some borders and trimming them down at random angles.

The technique involves cutting away a fair bit of fabric, which is not something that I normally do. I'm a stickler for precise cutting in order to get the most out of every single inch of fabric. I felt a little bit bad for wasting some, but the blocks did turn out to be adorable.

Having a helper in my sewing room made those blocks rather difficult to photograph however... this kept happening:

This will be a donation blanket for rescued cats, so it's a good thing Sigmund is there to test it out at every step. I sewed the blocks together pretty randomly in the order that I was able to get them out from under the cat, then added some extra navy blue until I got to the size I wanted.

I really love how this turned out! This technique would make a really interesting bed quilt and I may revisit it on a larger scale later on. In the meantime, I look forward to seeing what my fellow quilters have done with it.

The second part of this week's exercise was to put the blanket together and divide it into sections with some large scale lines. Being used to quilting one small area at a time, I found the fast movement of this big design a little bit more challenging. There are definitely some wobbly spots, but I don't expect them to show much once the empty spaces are filled.

There was one block left from the front of the blanket, which I used to give the back a little bit more interest. The rest is solid navy blue, to allow the stitching to show up clearly. From the back, the overall design looks like this so far: