Friday, March 31, 2017

Halo Star Medallion--Month 4

OK, it's time to tackle those Curved Flying Geese blocks.  I'm not easily intimidated, but I was a wee bit nervous about this step.  But, I can assure you, the curves can be pieced smoothly and accurately and you will be happy with the added impact these blocks provide to your very detailed quilt.  Some Tips:

1, READ ALL THE DIRECTIONS.  Use a highlighter to take note of the important steps. Read them again, before you start. NOTE: I've been asked the size of the curved arc so you can be sure your paper is printed the correct size.  Measure the straight line at the base of the "goose"--it is 1.25" finished so the arc is 1.75" wide,  UN-finished, measuring straight across the base of the "goose".

2. Yardage for Background:  I am using several different backgrounds, various tan/beige prints.  It occurred to me I'd better be sure I had enough of the one fabric I wanted to use to make the 36 Curved Flying Geese blocks.  The pattern has the background squares cut at 8"--this is oversize but makes it easy to sew.  If you cut those background squares 8", you need about 2.75 yards of background--this includes the 2" strips cut to make the "sky" triangles for each block.  I only had just over 2 yards SO I decided to see if cutting the squares 7" would work.  It does.  Now I needed 70" or just under 2 yards--success!  IF you want to be really frugal, you can cut the background pieces from a 6" square, though it will be tight.  I recommend you do the first one with an 8" square, then try a 7" square, then decide which you prefer.

3.Cut out all the pieces needed for the paper pieced curved geese.  I am using lots of fabrics from my stash.  Each curve has 8 "geese" triangles and 16 background "sky" triangles.

4. Make one paper pieced arc at a time:  I thought I could chain piece two or three at a time, but it was easier to do one at a time and kept my fabrics in the order I selected them.  Remember to use a small stitch, 1.5 for me, and TRIM SEAM ALLOWANCES TO AN EIGHTH OF AN INCH.  At first I thought that 1/8" was really tiny, and it is, but it works and really helps will all these seams.  The green Add-an-Eighth Ruler works great.  Once I got going, I could piece one of these in 20 minutes.  Make 18 this month:

5. Use good Scissors to cut the curve:   I am a huge fan of Karen K Buckley's Perfect Scissors--the serrated edges gripped the paper and fabric firmly as I trimmed exactly on the printed line. You don't want to accidentally cut into that curve you spent so much time making. These are the medium size scissors, the larger scissors would work as well. After trimming the curved edges, I removed the paper, per Sue's instructions.

6. Cut Background Squares; As I said, I found I could cut them 7" and still be successful. You decide which you prefer.  Because we are making 36 of these blocks, I took a few minutes to create the background templates from template plastic.  This makes it easy to draw the lines on  the reverse side of the fabric--I use a mechanical pencil for a smooth, fine line. I also use a sandpaper board to secure the fabric squares for easy tracing.  Fine grit sandpaper does the trick.  This board I made years ago from sandpaper squares and cardboard.  The easiest way to make a sandpaper surface is to tape or glue a sheet of sandpaper inside a manila file folder--that way, the sandpaper doesn't stick to fabrics when not in use--just close the folder. 

After tracing the squares, I followed Sue's instructions for marking the centers and the outer edges. Then I used the Karen K Buckley scissors again to CAREFULLY trim on the curved lines.  The templates include the seam allowances all around, so you are cutting precisely on those curved pencil lines. Don't trim the straight lines--we'll do that after sewing.

7. Piece those curves: when you are rested and ready for this step. I watched Carolyn Hock's show again, #2001.  She used paper she is leaving in place so did not remove the paper.  I took the paper off and had no problem using a quarter-inch foot to get the proper seam allowance:

Background shown here is cut from 8" square, most I cut 7" 
8. Make tiny snips:  There are tiny snips placed at the center of the large piece, less than 1/4" deep, and the two outer edges of the large piece. Sue has good photos of that. I did not make any snips on the skinny curved piece:

9. Use as many pins as you need: Sue pinned the seams with lots of pins.  I used 3 pins.  As Carolyn said, "keep your bum on the bottom"--this means when I joined the geese to the baseball diamond-shaped piece, the geese were on the top.  When I joined that unit to the outside skinny curved piece, the geese were on the bottom. I pinned the center first, then put a pin at the two outer edges of the curved geese.  Remember, that background is extra big so you don't pin the curved geese to the outside edge of the background, you pin it to the mark:

Sew slowly, breathe, you can do this!

10. First curve: I use a stiletto to hold the two edges together. Here I am approaching the pin at the center. Remove the pin just as you get to it:


11.Second Curve: this time the geese are on the bottom.  Again, I used 3 pins:

The stiletto holds the edges together as I sew, slowly:


Reverse side, press toward the background pieces, I used a dry iron so I didn't distort the piecing. Press firmly to be sure all your beautiful geese points are visible:

JUST A NOTE: Hands Free Sewing: I teach a LOT of classes and often see students who sew on Bernina machines, NOT using the knee-lift for their presser foot.  They just haven't learned how. This tool makes sewing like this so much more enjoyable--use the knee-lift to raise the presser foot as you stitch slowly, pivoting slightly as you go--this keeps your hands in place, stiletto secure to the fabrics.  The BEST advice I got with my first Bernina, 30 years ago, is to "drive" with my left foot.  It took less than a day of sewing to get used to that, but what a difference it made in using the knee-lift.  I am not associated with Bernina in any way, other than being a satisfied customer. If you aren't using your knee-lift, force yourself to learn to use it--you'll thank me later.

12. Square up those Blocks: I liked Carolyn's idea of using a ruler to square up the blocks.  I used a 5.5" ruler, and taped a paper foundation of the curved flying geese unit, minus the seam allowances, to the bottom of the ruler.  This made it easy to line up exactly where the square should be cut. I worked from the FRONT SIDE, though you could just as easily work from the back side. First cut:

After the second cut. Notice this was an 8" square of background, you can see how much excess fabric there is.  The 7" squares make less excess fabric. The excess you see here is more than 2" wide--enough to cut a few 2" squares for more "sky" squares:

13 What Could Go Wrong: in a perfect world, your curves will be precise and smooth, with no tucks or puckers.  BUT, sometimes things happen.  Here I got a small tuck on the bottom side of the first curve:

I un-sewed less than an inch of stitching and found I could easily work that slight excess fabric in by sewing on the baseball diamond side, the side you see here.  I only had to re-sew an inch and all was well.  This may happen a few times while making 36 of these.  It's part of the process, just fix it and move on. (Update: all 36 of mine are done, this happened twice.)

ONE MORE NO GOOD, AWFUL, VERY BAD THING that can go wrong: Be careful when cutting the curves--pay attention to the line you SHOULD be cutting.  There is no save for this, I had to make another entire curved flying geese arc:

Boulder! Boulder! Boulder! That's a big DAM!
Making progress:

18 blocks made and up on the design wall

I found once I got going sewing these curves I could complete a block in about 10 minutes.  It's not about the time involved but I do like to have an idea how long these steps will take me, for planning purposes...  This month you will make 18 blocks.  Next month, you will make:

18 more blocks, same size, same process. So, if you finish April early and can't stand to wait for May 1, the process for May is the same.  Also, in May, we will create the borders with these blocks, and calculate, cut and sew on the floaters needed to join these curved flying geese borders to the center of our quilt.

Let's quilt!


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Summer Class Line-Up

It's just barely Spring, but the Summer class schedule is being prepared at my local shop, Patches & Stitches, Huntsville, AL.  Just a note:  "Patches" has been serving quilters and needleworkers in Huntsville continuously for 39 years, with the SAME owner.  I think that just might be a record.  I have taught there for 29 years, since moving here.

Here is my schedule of classes for Summer 2017:

SUMMER ROMANCE, June 27 and July 11, 5:30-8:30. Requested by several students who saw this on my living room wall when they came to my Sale last year.

Glad Creations pattern

LEARN TO QUILT THIS WEEKEND, June 23, 24, 9-4 and Sunday June 25, 12-4. For beginners, something entirely NEW, a "soup to nuts" class, the idea is they make the top Friday and Saturday and start the quilting on  Sunday. Fabric kits will be available if they choose:

My personal design, Italian Shoo Fly #2
QUILTMAKING 202--Feathered Star, June 10, 9-4. Continuation of QM 202 offered now, this is a 12" non-paper pieced Feathered Star. For those who want to improve their skills and aren't afraid of a bit of a challenge. The other 5 blocks shown here are taught in Quiltmaking 202--The Next Step, currently being offered in this Winter 2017 schedule:

SCRAP MONKEY, June 13, 5:30-8:30. A fun way to use up scraps and make Monkey Wrench blocks. This sample was made as a gift for me by my friend, Ellen, and is a favorite of mine:

TRAVELING PROJECT: Handwork Made Easy. night class June 20, 5:30-8:30 OR day class June 16, 9-noon. I always have handwork ready to go with me on trips or when I want to slow-stitch. This is English Paper Pieced with diamonds. Students can create these tumbling blocks OR star blocks. Options for the borders will be taught. Don't leave home without a project:

WORK FASTER, NOT HARDER: speedy ways to do LOTS of things in quilting. A brand new class based on the two hour Open Studios presentation I'm giving in Chicago next week:

BEAUTIFUL BORDERS AND BINDINGS. August 8, 5:30-8:30. Every two years, a few months before our guild quilt show, I offer this 3 hour lecture/demo class on how to improve your finished edges, an important step that really creates a top-notch quilt. Students are invited to bring works in progress for suggestions and learn lots of tips to finish their quilts beautifully:

Obviously, I love to teach and am always thinking of new classes or how to improve the much-loved classes.  I hope to see YOU in class.

Let's Quilt!


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Working, Teaching, Creating

I've been having a great time making Curved Flying Geese for the Halo Star Medallion Block of the Month:

I can't show you mine yet, but April 1 the next Blog post of tips will appear--they are NOT AS HARD as I feared, in fact, they are FUN to make.  And what an impact they make in this quilt!

The Smitten Class I started a few weeks ago finished up yesterday.  Here are the wonderful blocks the students have created:

Leigh's soft, subtle Australian-feel set of blocks

Joan's Christmas blocks

Pat's bright, scrappy blocks
Susan's bright, very happy blocks
They had fun and even though each still has work to do, they are happy with their progress and eager to get their quilts made.

I've kept up with the Long Time Gone Sew-A-Long, two weeks, two different blocks. This is a Jen Kingwell pattern and I am using lots of leftover fabrics, mostly brights and black and whites:

10" Bowties

10" Bowties

12" Squares in a Square Stars

I signed up to participate in Lori's Humble Quilts Quilt Swap, her fourth, and the quilt I am gifting to a quilter is ready to ship as soon as I sew on the label. It will be mailed Monday to someone who doesn't know it's coming.  The deadline is May 1 so I am way early. I hope the recipient likes it:

Pattern is by Lori Smith, 16" x 20", 2" blocks
Yesterday I basted the Ohio Stars quilt so now I am eager to start quilting it. I plan to do some decorative designs in the open spaces and some ruler work in the larger stars:

Let's Quilt!


Thursday, March 23, 2017

"X" Marks the Spot

NOTE: this was originally posted in March 2014. Still good info...

I taught a fun class last night, the "X" block from Sharyn Craig's book, Layer 'em Up. It's a sort, cut, shuffle, and sew process that creates 6 blocks quickly and all six are different.  The book is available here along with a link to a video of Sharyn showing the process.

Sort, light to dark


After first cut, before the shuffle

After the shuffle, ready to sew

Chain, Chain, Chain

Press, press, press
Modern blocks

Reproduction blocks

Beautiful blocks
Susan C with her first completed set of blocks

In less than 3 hours everybody clearly understood the process and had their first set of 6 blocks done.


FAT "X"               2" finished           Place ruler on 1.25" mark, corner to corner
NORMAL "X"  1.5" finished          Place ruler on 1" mark,  corner to corner
SKINNY "X"       1" finished          Place ruler on .75" mark, corner to corner

BONUS:  this block is adorable made very small.  Use 5" Charm squares and place the ruler on the 1/2" mark, corner to corner.  The "X" is 1/2" finished and blocks are 3" finished:

SHUFFLING STEP:  move the first two center squares, Fabrics 1 and 2, to the bottom, Fabric 1 is now under Fabric 6. Then move Fabric 1 "X" to the bottom of each stack.  You now have 6 completely different blocks.

This is a great project for a swap--since each block can be trimmed to the perfect size, since everyone has their own personal 1/4" seam allowance.   Here is my class sample, made from blocks swapped with 5 other quilters:

Let's quilt!