Sunday, April 24, 2016

TUTORIAL: The Magic of "Floater" Borders

One of the best things I learned to do as a quiltmaker is how to make pieced borders fit accurately and easily on my quilts.  I learned this from Sue Garman, when I made her Washington Medallion quilt in 2009.  It is a great gift for me to know how to do this and I use this technique often in my work.

I will use Rajah Revisited to describe the way this works.  This quilt is the 2016 Block of the Month pattern from  It is a smaller version of a quilt made in 1841 by women prisoners being taken by ship from England to Australia.

Here is the basic idea:  The instructions for month 3 took us through the appliqued border--the light tan border with appliques on it.  Instructions for month 4 had us make the squares on point border and join those to the middle, with a very narrow "floater" border.  Those 2" finished green squares with cheddar triangles around each square were paper-pieced, easy and accurate.

To ensure your pieced borders will fit precisely to the middle of your quilt, you piece those borders FIRST, before calculating what size the "floater" or "spacer" border has to be--this is the narrow medium blue border here.  We will do some simple math to determine what size that narrow border has to be to precisely fill the space between the middle part and those pieced borders.

1.  Length of Pieced Borders:  26.5"  (2" squares x 13 = 26" + .5" seam allowance)
2.  Length of Quilt Center"  25"  including seam allowances
3.  Subtract 2 from 1:  1.5"
4.  Divide the result in half:  .75" This is the width the floaters need to be, finished size.  Add .5" seam allowance.

So, my blue borders were cut 1.25" x 25". two of those for the left and right sides AND 1.25" x 26.5", two of those for the top and bottom edges.  I sewed on the left and right blue borders and pressed toward the narrow blue border.  Then I sewed on the top and bottom blue borders and again pressed toward the narrow blue border.  All that was left to do was add the pieced left and right borders to each side then add the top and bottom pieced borders, adding a corner square to each side of those borders.  Everything fit like a glove.

NOTE: Because this quilt is square, I only have to do one set of measurements.  With a rectangular quilt, you do two sets of measurements, the left/right borders and the top/bottom borders.

I was lucky because my pieced borders turned out the correct size--after I made a few "adjustments". After piecing the first 13 squares together and pressing the seams open, it measured 26.75", one-quarter inch too large.  I looked at each seam to find two that were a little bit narrow and tightened them up--and just like magic, the border became 26.5" as it should have been.  For the remaining 3 pieced borders I paid more attention and checked the seams as I went to be sure they were accurate--no more "snugging" necessary.

If all of your borders turn out 26.75" you can still make this work just fine.  Let's try:

1. Length of Pieced Borders:  26.75"
2. Length of Quilt Center:  25"
3.  Subtract 2 from 1:  1.75"
4.  Divide the result in half:  7/8" Width each floater needs to be, finished.  Add .5" seam allowance so you cut the floaters 1 3/8".  Your ruler has a 3/8 measurement, just use it.  Now your slightly too large pieced borders will fit your center perfectly, no tugging or squishing necessary.

Here is Joyful Journey, my version of Sue's Washington Medallion--as you can see, there are many floater borders and each one was calculated in this manner so the next pieced border would fit the growing center of the quilt perfectly.  This quilt was juried into AQS Paducah 2010 and appears in the book 500 Traditional Quilts.  It was included in the special exhibit from that book at International Quilt Festival Houston 2014 and Chicago 2015 and Portland 2015.

Now you know how to make pieced borders fit precisely.  Remember, there are only three things you can do wrong in piecing a quilt top:  the cutting, the sewing, and the pressing.  Take your time, measure as you go, and press firmly.

Let's Quilt!


Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Latest Progress

While my husband is working hard on the garden beds, I've got other kind of beds to work on.

I finished The Scrapbasket Sampler, by Cheri Payne, provided on her Quilts by Cheri Friendship group on Facebook. These are 4" blocks:

26" x 46" 

As usual, I made some changes.  Her applique' on the top border was very primitive and some people did it in wool, it was perfect for that.  I used one of my favorite sayings and did a machine buttonhole stitch with thick black thread.  It was pretty fast as I used Steam-a-Seam 2 so I could draw the letters correctly and then reverse then when putting the fusible of the back side of the fabric.  On the bottom border I kept the basis design put thought to add my initials and the year on the bottom sides.  I love seeing words and dates on quilts so this was fun to do.  Some people used different fabrics for the four borders but after I agonized so in selecting the setting squares, I kept the borders all the same, a lovely mocha brown I bought in Chicago.

Today we got the 20th block from The Splendid Sampler.  Here are the first two rows assembled:

So far I have changed or eliminated three of the blocks--my goal is to get this done fairly quickly each day--new blocks are provided each Thursday and Sunday--at the end of 50 weeks we'll have 100 six-inch blocks.  There are over 80 designers so some of the blocks feature embroidery or other hand-stitching I don't want to do on this quilt.

I'm also keeping up with Circa 2016 from Temecula Quilt Co.  Each Friday there is a new bit of  instruction.  See my center here.  Fortunately, there are only small blocks to do right now, two a week.  But as we will need 120 half square triangles that finish to 1.5" at the end, I'm working on those now--they make the perfect leader/ender project:

Now it's time to get Rajah Revisited caught up before the May instructions appear.

And I'll end by sharing the doll quilt I received this week from the swap hosted by Lori at Humble Quilts. It came to me from Kim A. in Kansas City, MO:

20.5" x 24"

This is a great collection of reproduction fabrics--I found it amazing that Kim only used one fabric I have in my stash, a purple print--odd, since I have a substantial stash of these kinds of prints.  Thanks, Kim and Lori!  Here is the one I sent to Roni H. in Tarpon Springs, FL:

20" square, I think

It's fun to share this little quilts with others in different parts of the country and world!

Let's quilt!


Monday, April 18, 2016

Spring Garden

Most of us love Spring, except maybe those who really suffer from allergies.  Here are a few shots taken today in our garden--I get the camera out the day I first see a water lily bloom:

I do love irises and have lots of them.  My husband wants to pull them all out because they spread.  So far I am winning this battle but it's tough.

I'm doing lots of quilty things so by the end of the week I should have the first two rows of The Splendid Sampler assembled, the Scrapbasket Sampler assembled and perhaps the applique' done on it, and I might even have some of the Rajah Revisited paper pieced border underway.

Let's Quilt!


Monday, April 11, 2016

Recovery Day

Just like the employees of Quilts Inc. who travel and work at our Quilt Festival and Market shows, I take a "recovery day" the day after I get home.  It's the day to do laundry, check and process mail, pay bills, read all the newspapers that piled up, sleep in, watch a TV show or 2 I missed, and generally come back to real life after 6 days in a hotel and convention center.

This morning I slept in until 6:15--all the things I wanted to do were calling me.  Here's a little recap of International Quilt Festival Chicago.  The photos aren't mine as I took hardly any, these came from our Facebook page and a few friends:


Almost Amish by Tamara Watts McPhail quilted by Linda McGhee

This is a kit quilt that I've always liked.  This one was very well done and I enjoyed looking at it.

Elaborate Quilts:
Out of Africa by Barbara McCraw
Artistic Quilts:

LOTUS by Koh Jaesook
Modern Quilts:
Quilt for our Bed by Laura Hartrich

Many Special Exhibits:
Magna Carta Special Exhibit

One of my Favorite vendors of antique quilts:  Pique'

My other top Favorite vendor of antique quilts:  Cindy's Antique Quilts
Fun Events:  Iron Quilter Challenge
Catherine and her Team and their quilt

Catherine Redford celebrating her win of the Iron Quilter Challenge

A Touching Ceremony was held to present Quilts of Valor to two Veterans:

Those photos give you just a hint of all the great quilts, special exhibits and vendors you will find at Festival.

I know it was April but this is Chicago and we did have snow a few days--nothing that stuck around but the Texans sure had fun seeing it come down.  The locals just laughed:

 In addition to my regular duties in the Education Office, I was asked to present four Open Studio sessions on the show floor.  We have four "Studios" set up:  Quilt, Stitch, Embellish, and Paint. Throughout the entire show, each of these has a presenter demonstrating a technique, method or project in these areas--these are two hour sessions. Folks can move from one to the other or stay for all 2 hours with only one.  It is located at a prominent place on the show floor and, best of all, it's FREE.  I love doing this and must say I was thrilled with the response to my presentations.  

Here I am discussing Artist's Trading Cards--we did an Education Office swap in 2004 and I had 47 great cards to show--frrom simple to elaborate, artistic or quilty, each is a small piece of art that is a reminder of the maker--each is signed and dated and most were 2.5" x 3.5", the usual size.  

This fun shot was posted on the International Quilt Festival Facebook page and is from my session on Hexie Stars--either by hand or by English Paper Piecing--I demoed both methods.  There were lots of people interested in this, at least 20 and as many as 30 at one point.  The free pattern is available at Nellie's Niceties.

I wish I had a shot of the two sessions I did on String Pieced Stars--Use Your Stash.  I presented this one twice and each time it was mobbed--there were 40 people there most of the time.  I found out I have "groupies"--one lovely lady told me she was so happy to see my name back on the schedule as she wanted to see string piecing again.  Many of them thanked me personally for all the tips and info and I got a round of applause when  it was done--what a pleasant surprise!  We do have fun in class. I'm already working on ideas for String Piecing projects for next year:  last year it was blocks, this year stars, come back next year for new and exciting projects.

12" String Pieced Lemoyne Star

I promise to do a Tutorial here soon on this String Pieced Star--for now, the Template Set I used is  Marti Michell's Perfect Patchwork Templates, Set E, The Eight-Pointed Star Set. One woman came back to tell me she had found them at a vendor on the show floor--I wish I had known which one because they would have sold out for sure.

Let's Quilt!


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Retail Therapy

Had a few minutes today to look for fabric for a small quilt I've been working on:

The squares in the front are the ones I wanted to find friends for.  The fat quarters and the one yard piece the are sitting on will, hopefully, play nicely with the blocks and those other setting squares.

My Open Studios session on String Stars was a big hit,  The two hours flew by and started off so well when one lady on the front row said "You made that wonderful red and white quilt. I was so happy to see you were back here again, I wanted to hear this class again."  I had more than 30 people there, they pulled over seats from the other sections, there was much laughing at all the appropriate places, and, at the end, they all applauded.  Quite a good performance.  I do this one again Saturday and two others, one tomorrow, one Saturday morning.

Busy days: today I also monitored all of today's classes.  I will do that again Friday and Saturday. Saturday night we pack up the office and all fly home Sunday. We next meet up again at Spring Market, Salt Lake City, next month.

Let's Quilt!


Monday, April 4, 2016

Before and After

Most of this post won't be about quilting so skip to the bottom if you don't care for gardening.

This is what happens when you go to the Home Builders and Remodelers Show--you always find something you "have" to do to your house.  I didn't want to go but with a retired husband now, we're figuring out the new "normal".


Left corner

Left Center

Cherry Tree in all her glory
Messy, messy, messy.  Sixteen years of growth, some not in the right places, just messy.


When it warms up, I'll put two big flower pots at the base of the steps.

I plan to add 3 more Drift Roses on this corner and we're adding a large birdbath near the corner too.

I must say it looks pretty bare to me right now.  We were able to save some of the shrubs and irises to move to other parts of the property.  It kills me to dig up perfectly good plants and throw them out but that's what happened.  I had to fight my husband for everything I kept.

While all the digging and planting was going on, I made quilts.  Here is my current BEFORE:

This is My Scrapbasket Sampler by Cheri Payne, a Facebook project.  I'm still not sure I like my setting blocks or the actual layout.  There is some applique' and borders yet to be provided--we won't get those until next week.  This long skinny layout is unusual and I might change that.  Will wait to see what Cheri provides next.  And I might buy a fat quarter or two in Chicago for those setting squares.  

I'm off to International Quilt Festival Chicago tomorrow morning, where I will work in the Education office and teach four sessions of Open Studios on the show floor--String Pieced Lemoyne Stars, Hexie Stars, and Artist Trading Cards (ATCs)--Baubles and Beads.  If you're there,  check the schedule  for Open Studios and come on by--it's FREE and full of great info provided by lots of teachers.

Hexie Stars

String Pieced Lemoyne Star
ATC by Mariette found on Pinterest

I'm sorry this is not one of my ATC collection pieces--they are now packed in the suitcase.  But Google Artist Trading Cards and find many links, images, and videos on the process of making these little baby art pieces, generally 2.5" x 3.5".  This is a great project for a group of friends to do together--it doesn't take a lot of any one thing but the more beads/baubles/photo transfers/ephemera/etc. you have, the more amazing your cards will be.  The idea is to make a bunch and swap with other artists.  That's where most of mine came from and I'll show them next week when I get home.

Have a great week, and let's quilt!