Saturday, December 31, 2016

Block 44: Scrappy Strawberry Block

Here we go...the last block! I think we saved this one because we liked it--the Scrappy Strawberry block:
I had plenty of reds to chose from. Much like the patchwork pumpkin, I arranged the lights and darks to mimic a sunspot on the strawberry. My greens are a little less convincing, but I'm not going to let it bother me.

In the pattern book, the triangles of background fabric on the lower right and left were done with two half-square triangles and a solid square in the corners. That looked like too much seaming to me, so I changed it to a single triangle on each side to cover the area. It worked well to simplify the seams in the finished block.

Here are all the blocks in the virtual layout:
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Here is Kim's scrappy strawberry:
I think we used quite a few of the same reds, but her greens are quite different. (And here you can see how the pattern instructs you to do the lower corners.)

Although the scrappy strawberry was my last block, it was not Kim's! After considering layouts she was going to do with the blocks she had in 12" and 6" sizes, she discovered she needed two more 6" blocks to make it work.

The first is a variation of a rail fence block, done in the colours that our barns were painted on the farm we grew up on.
We had four barns and the trim and matching silos were each done in a different color.

Here second additional block is a 6" version of the maple leaf block done in patriotic red:
We both eliminated the "Old Glory" block that was in the book so Kim decided to replace it with this homage to the Canadian flag. It's very striking in person.

And I'll even give you a peek of our layouts:
While spending Christmas at my mom's, we had time to lay out our quilts to show each other in person. (Mine is sashed in the foreground. Kim's is in the background and she had just started adding sashing to her blocks.)

And most of the family was kind enough to take a break from the festivities to parade into the side room and check them out.

Now I am finished telling you about all of the blocks. It's a project I have very much enjoyed doing with Kim. I am eager to get the blocks sewn together and I have some ideas for a pieced border. I think I will also add some length so I have to work out how I want to do that. Our plan is still to have them finished by or on Easter weekend 2017 when we will be meeting at my mom's again.

Block 43: Summer Star Block

We are getting dangerously close to the end of the year and I am determined to finish my Farm Girl Vintage posts before the year is up.

Here is the second last block, the Summer Star Block:
By now, it's been so long since I made the block that I don't remember much about it. Looks like a lot of fiddly pieces, though. I'm not crazy about that bright tangerine colour in the quilt but it seems appropriate for a summer star.

Here are all the blocks (so far) in a virtual layout:
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Here is Kim's version of the block:
She used some lovely orange and yellow tones as well.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Sashing Through the Snow

I know I still have two more blocks to show you from my Farm Girl Vintage quilt (and yes, I'll get to it; I'll get to it). In the meantime, I have been looking ahead to the next step--sashing and putting the blocks together.

With some calculations about what it would take (I was surprised it was more than 3 yards), I realized I didn't have enough of any one fabric for all of the sashing. So, first good chance I had, I was off to the fabric store! :)

I pulled out fabrics I thought would work and then spread them out on a table in the classroom to audition blocks on them.

Some options included a classic red with white polka dots.
A soft blue with larger white polka dots.
A small print on black. Not very traditional but I thought that the blocks might really pop.
A pale orange...not a colour I really thought would click but I wanted to try something unexpected in case it worked.
I was really tempted by this busy brown print. I know it's not the prettiest option but I somehow thought it was closer to what would be available at the time. It felt more "authentic" to the 30s repro prints in this quilt.
A darker blue with the white polka dots.
And a similar blue with the smaller polka dots. Obviously I had a thing for polka dots!

After multiple comparisons, I narrowed it to two finalists: the busy brown and the darker blue with medium polka dots in white:

I made my choice, added a completely different fabric for an outer border and made my purchases.

I couldn't start cutting or sewing right away because I had to determine a layout and I had to decide how I was going to do the sashing. I like to add a strip to one side and the bottom of each block but this wouldn't help me hide the fact that my blocks vary in size by 1/2". Instead, I planned to sew a narrower strip on all four sides of each block, which would then form the right width sashing when I sewed two blocks together. (Got all that? Don't worry if you don't!)

First step is the layout:
I had to know where the blocks were going because the strips on the outside edges had to be the full width of the sashing. I laid the sashing fabric on the spare bed and arranged (and rearranged) the blocks. Yes, I know, I know...you're all happy I picked the blue sashing. Me too! :)

Once I had the layout, I did all of the calculations for how many strips I would need and what sizes they would need to be. I ended up having to cut 176 strips with 5 different dimensions.
A few of my many, many cut strips!
Then I pulled the blocks off the bed in groups that were sashed the same (such as corner, left side, bottom, etc). I added the correct sashing strip to all four sides and moved on to the next set.

Instead of the most common way to border a block (sewing strips on opposite sides and then sewing strips on the remaining two sides), I decided to sew on the strips rotating around the block. This way the sashing didn't dictate a vertical or horizontal vibe to the quilt and all the blocks would be the same.

Here's how I did it in this quilt:
Start with a bare block.
Place the first strip on the block, matching one end of the strip to the edge of the block. You then have to start sewing in the middle of the edge somewhere and sew a partial seam. You can't start sewing at the start of the seam.
And you get something like this. You may note that the top edges are not exactly aligned. I "overshot" the edge on purpose and then cut it even with the block edge after it was sewn. It's much more accurate than trying to match up the raw edges. (It shouldn't work that way, but it does.)
Then, since the lined up edges were on top, you rotate the block clockwise and add a sashing strip to the edge of the block and the edge of the first sashing strip. You can sew the whole seam this time.
 This is the result.
Rotate the block in the same direction and add the third strip, same as the second.
Three sides done, one to go!
Rotate the block one more time in the same direction and add the fourth sashing piece. I went ahead and pinned back the loose part of the first sashing strip to make sure it wouldn't get caught in the seam.
And now it looks like we're done.
But of course we're not, because the first strip is still only half sewn!

But now that the fourth strip is in place, we can flip the first strip so it is right-sides-together with the block and sew the remainder of the seam.
And now we're done!

So far, I have finished all four corners, the four 12" blocks (which needed yet another size of sashing strips), and all of the outside pieces. (Hmm...it almost sounds like I'm putting together a puzzle!) All of the blocks on the outer edge needed thicker strips on one or two sides. By only working on blocks that were oriented in the same way and by adding the wide strips first, I was able to keep track of what I was doing.

Now I have only 14 interior blocks to go and they have the same four pieces on all four sides. I'll just have to continue to make sure that I rotate the sashing in the same way and that they get back into the layout right-side-up (as in not up-side-down).

After that they will all get a good pressing and then be cut to size. I made sure the sashing was sized for the smallest square and that means I'll have to cut most of the blocks down--the price to pay for being able to assembly-line sew this step. It also means I'll be able to make sure each block is centered in its section no matter what size it is.

Also, I have one more surprise in the setting of this quilt that this method of sashing allows for! :)

Friday, December 9, 2016

Nine Patches

If you work on something steadily, eventually it has to get done...even if it's 225 nine patch blocks! That was a task better done by breaking it into smaller groups and taking it one at a time.

But as I got closer to being finished, I was getting more excited about laying out this quilt. I was looking forward to figuring out how to put all these colours and patterns together.
When I was finished all the blocks that I was going to hand sew and was left only with blocks containing batiks, it was time to pull out the machine.

Instead of moving into my current sewing room (and away from the woodstove and the TV), I moved the sewing machine onto the coffee table and sewed from the couch. No, Troy doesn't get to use very much of the living room but that's why we built him a shop, right?

So I sewed and sewed and sewed and couldn't stop working on these blocks. And then one day I was done. 225. Well, if I counted right before. I didn't recount them.

At that time, I was still working long hours and had other stuff going on so I promised myself that I would get to lay out these blocks over Thanksgiving weekend. On Sunday, I got started:
I think it was going ok. You can see that it's lighter in the middle and gets darker toward the edges. Although I don't think you can make it out in the picture, but it's also organized by color (other than red). The blues are in the top left; yellows near the bottom; oranges going to the bottom right; pinks and purples in the upper right.

But my design wall is just not big enough. There are only 14 rows top to bottom and less than that side to side--I need 15 going both ways. Plus I need room to spread out the blocks that aren't in the layout yet so I can see what I have. I could possibly do that on the floor, but not where this wall is located. So I admired it for the rest of that day and pulled them all down--more or less in order so it hopefully will be less work to start next time.

I'm thinking I may take it to my church and lay it out on the floor there. Not as good as a wall, but better than what I have here. You don't think anyone will notice all the little thread tails that will be left behind, do you? :)

Monday, December 5, 2016

Nocturne Star Quilt Top

As soon as the pressure of finishing the haunted house season was over (that is, Thanksgiving weekend), I cast around for some quilt projects I could sew on. I was done all the Farm Girl Vintage blocks and I felt up to pulling out the machine.

I thought of the squares for my Nocturne Star quilt. I laid them out in early June:
I changed the layout slightly after this picture, but that was basically it. I wasn't sure what I would find when I opened the box--I wasn't looking forward to laying them out again trying to match what I had before.

And lo and behold, before taking the blocks off the wall, I labeled them so I would know how they went together!! I was so grateful to June Christina for doing that for me!!

I sewed all the seams in one direction without cutting the thread in between blocks.
See the orange sticker? They didn't stay on very well when
I started moving the quilt around, but they stayed on long
enough for me to be able to put the blocks together.
Not only are all the blocks held in position to sew the seams in the other direction, but you can also examine the quilt top before you sew them. I laid it out on my bed to check for misplaced or rotated blocks.
Vertical seams are sewn. Horizontal seams still
need to be sewn.
I had the added bonus of having my sister visit the same day so she could see the quilt in progress. I didn't find any errors, so I went ahead and sewed the rest of the seams. As I recall, I had them done by Friday evening of Thanksgiving weekend.

Then I took out the extra strips from the top and others I cut to use in the border. I sorted them by value (light/dark) and then sewed them end to end in strips long enough to fit the quilt edge.
I started with the lightest colours to match the background of the quilt center and then worked darker toward the outside. When I was done,  I stepped back and it looked just like I pictured it! Happy success.

Here is the entire top:
I am hoping to quilt it in early 2017. Before then I have to come up with a back. I'll look through the leftovers and see what's there.

My plan is to take it to a local shop that I found out has a long arm machine you can rent time on. It would be so exciting to get it quilted in an afternoon!!! :)

The top is 92"x100" and Troy will be happy to finally have a blanket that is wide enough to go over the sides of the mattress! (We're making do right now.)

The last few people to whom I showed the quilt (or pictures of) asked me what I was making it for. I.e., who was I giving it to? Um, me. In my head I was thinking, "Back off from the quilt...it's mine and you can't have it!"

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Block 42: Patchwork Pumpkin

Just a couple blocks left!! Are you going to miss this project? Because I sure have missed having these little blocks to sew after they were done.

The Patchwork Pumpkin block was well-named because it had a lot of little pieces to put together! I did manage to amass a lot of orange squares and set about arranging them:
Here they are sewn together:
And so I had the body of a pumpkin.

When I went to add the stem and leaf section, I couldn't help but notice that it was quite a bit shorter. (I didn't mark the 1/4" seam on all the squares and I guess my seam ran a little narrow. So the block ended up noticeably bigger than the others.)
I couldn't just cut off the pumpkin body unit because it was hand-sewn and all the seams would be compromised. So I decided to add a piece to lengthen the top section.

I found a scrap of the background fabric that would do nicely:
I sewed it to the leaf unit and then the top piece was plenty long enough to fit:
After I sewed the horizontal piece, I cut off the excess and had a nice square block:
Of course, this "solution" results in this block being bigger than the rest but since I'm going to be sashing all the blocks, I figured I could fix it at that stage.

I have to say that this circle of orange with its pattern of light and dark squares makes me very happy!

Here are all the blocks in a virtual layout:
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Here is Kim's pumpkin:
Isn't it pretty! She also put thought into where the light and dark squares were placed.

These may be the two most similar blocks we have! It's hard to vary a big block of orange, but I'm sure if I posted the two of them without labeling them, you would still be able to pick which went in whose quilt!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Block 41: Egg Basket

Despite the delay in writing posts, my sister and I did keep on schedule with the Farm Girl Vintage blocks and all of them are done! Up today is the Egg Basket block:
I couldn't resist using chicken wire for the background fabric.

Here's the back if you're curious:
I ironed the majority of the long seams open. It not only helped with managing the bulk of the seams but made the front smoother as well. I'm not crazy about how the green and red triangles at the top of the basket were pieced. I repeatedly decided to eliminate the seam in the middle of the green pieces, but then when I asked myself how, I would just get tired. I didn't want to cut and piece triangles together. Paper piecing would have worked, but it didn't seem worth all the effort. So, in the end, I just followed the instructions.

I'm not really crazy about basket blocks. I don't know why. But I had an idea to personalize this block and make it more my own. Since it was supposed to be an egg basket, I appliqued some eggs to the block:
Pretty cute, right?
Here are all the blocks so far in a virtual layout:
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Here is Kim's block:
She used a striped or plaid fabric for the basket to represent wicker--pretty neat!

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