Sunday, May 5, 2019

Two tutorials - Quilts from Shirts


The original post for these quilts was just over two years ago. This set of mini-quilts was made for a family of five siblings to remember their father. I've received several questions about reproducing the design for the first and third quilts so thought I'd share that information here so that you can make one, too.

One frequent question is about how to size the finished quilt to be bigger or smaller. Both of these designs are based on an eight block by eight block grid. In other words, there are eight rows of eight blocks. To determine your finished quilt size, decide how big the finished block size will be and multiply by eight. Here are some examples:

  • 2-inch finished block = 16-inch square finished quilt top
  • 3-inch finished block = 24-inch square finished quilt top
  • 4-inch finished block = 32-inch square finished quilt top
  • 5-inch finished block = 40-inch square finished quilt top
  • 6-inch finished block = 48-inch square finished quilt top
  • 7-inch finished block = 56-inch square finished quilt top
  • 8-inch finished block = 64-inch square finished quilt top
  • 9-inch finished block = 72-inch square finished quilt top
  • 10-inch finished block = 80-inch square finished quilt top
  • 11-inch finished block = 88-inch square finished quilt top
  • 12-inch finished block = 96-inch square finished quilt top
  • 13-inch finished block = 108-inch square finished quilt top
  • 14-inch finished block = 116-inch square finished quilt top
That should cover every size from a mini-quilt up to a king sized quilt. The quilts hanging on the line are 24-inch quilts which means they have 3-inch blocks.

Here is the simple grid for both quilts. Forgive the low tech drawings. You would think that since my day job is all about technology, I would up my game but I really love the simple process of graph paper, ruler, and pencil.


Let's figure out the design breakdown for the first quilt. It is based on the traditional jewel box pattern which is made up of four-patch blocks and half square triangles.


It is a two value quilt, using dark and light fabrics. In my version, the dark is scrappy from the shirts and the light is a Bella solid (ivory maybe). If you look closer, the dark value is really both dark and medium values. I could get away with a wider range of values since my light was very light and also consistent within the quilt.



Each quadrant of this quilt is exactly the same so make one and repeat three more times. The upper left quadrant is drawn out for you. Each quadrant consists of eight half-square triangles and eight four-patch blocks. For three-inch finished blocks, each square in the four-patch blocks should be cut to two-inch squares. Here's the math for that:

    Finished block size divided by 2, then add half an inch = cut size of squares for the four-patch unit.

And a couple of examples:

    Finished block size = 4 inches
    Divided by 2 (or take half if that's easier for you to think about) = 2 inches
    Add half an inch = 2 1/2" cut squares for the four-patch block

    Finished block size = 7 inches
    Divided by 2 = 3 1/2 inches
    Add half an inch = 4 inch cut squares for the four-patch block

There are many great tutorials out there for half-square triangles, so go to your favorite or check out this one for help making those.

That's all there is to it. 


Now let's take a look at the third quilt hanging on the line. In one way this quilt is easier and in another it is more complicated.


It's easier because it has simpler units. It is solid squares and half square triangles. It's more complicated because it uses three values: light, medium, and dark. The layout is a little trickier too only because it's easy to turn one of those triangle units the wrong way while sewing the blocks together. 

Here's the grid for this one:


For the grid, L means light value, M means medium value, and D means dark value. Because I was working with shirts and had a limited colors/values available, this design was a bit tricky, but it worked out just fine. I had to be careful of placement for those fabrics that could pass for more than one value. The stronger the value, the stronger the design stands out for this quilt.

It's a busy drawing so here is the break down of the blocks you need:

    Light squares = 20
    Medium squares = 12
    Half square triangle blocks with half light, half dark = 20
    Half square triangle blocks with half medium, half dark = 12

We covered how the block size determines the quilt size way up at the beginning of this post and I've also shared a link to my tutorial for making half square triangles. Here it is again just in case you skipped over the instructions for the first design and came straight to this one.

With these details, you should be ready to jump in and make your own version of this quilt, too.

I love how simple squares and triangles can be put together to make thousands of designs. Have fun creating your own quilts and please let me know if you have any additional questions or need more details for either of these quilts.


Sunday, March 31, 2019

Eight Shirts, Three Quilts

Last fall, I made two memory quilts for a coworker who lost her brother. She gifted those quilts to her mother and her sister-in-law. You can read about those quilts here. As soon as she shipped them off she started wishing she had one of her very own. Luckily, there was just enough shirt fabric to make one so that she would have her very own quilt to keep close.


If you look closely at this quilt, you will know which of the shirts were long sleeve and which were short sleeve. It was a challenge to even get one block out of a couple of these. I am very thankful for long sleeves for this project.


I had to use the pocket front for all but one of these shirts. The pockets could have been left unquilted but she requested them stitched down so a hand or foot would not get caught and tear the quilt. It would be fun to leave them unquilted if this were going to be hung on a wall, You could keep special notes or other memories in the pockets.


The backing is navy flannel just like the other two quilts. The first two quilts each had one of these photos on the back. This one has both! It will be easy to flip up a corner to see the picture. This photograph also shows the scrappy binding. I was not sure there was going to be enough shirt left for a binding, but there was. The binding scraps frame each of the pictures on the back.


All of the pictures are after the quilt was washed. The quilting is a simple meander in an off white thread to match the background fabric. This quilt was delivered earlier today and I could tell she was very happy to receive it.


I couldn't help but take a picture of our back yard bird set up. It's been so active lately, except when I scare them all off taking quilt photos.


Eight shirts, three quilts. So happy to have been a small part of saving these memories.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Easy Baby Quilt With Nature In Mind


 I'm going to a baby shower this weekend for a coworker who is about to be a first time grandmother. When she first told us the news, she added that she had already purchased baby items with a camouflage and a John Deere theme. 


That meant this quilt had to represent the outdoors as best I could.


This almost camo fabric was the inspiration for all the others. At first there were some bolder prints in there but they were too distracting. The subtle prints in browns, greens, and golds did the trick.


Each block includes a 5x8 inch rectangle of color and a 2x8 inch strip of background sewn to each side. The blocks finish at 7 1/2 inches square. Two inch strips of background are an added border. The quilt finishes at 39 inches square.


The quilting is a super easy free motion meander with a light green thread on top and a variegated thread on bottom. The backing is a light green stripe from one of Nancy Halvorsen's collections.

I did not have enough of any one fabric from the center to use for binding so I used two and alternated them to finish off the quilt.


Spring has decided to stop teasing us and hang around for a while. The backyard bird activity has really picked up. It's a great time of year to enjoy the birds and all things outdoors.



Monday, March 11, 2019

Modern Geometric Landscape Quilt Finish



My son has a back to nature sort of room. His bed and night stand were made by his dad from reclaimed wood. He has plants under his windowsill, and collections of shells and rocks displayed from places we have visited. He asked me to make him a landscape quilt to add some color and continue his nature theme.


I expected him to want a small raw edge applique wall hanging, only because that is what I think of first when I think about landscape quilts. Our go to resource for design ideas is Pinterest, and that is where he found this pattern. The pattern is Welcome to Colorful Colorado by Katie Larson. I purchased it when it was available on Craftsy and see that she now has it available in her Etsy shop, The Crafting Shell. I love the design, colors, quilting, and really, everything about the quilt. So I made one as close to hers as I could.


I'm normally a use what you have kind of quilt maker but in this case I invested in the solid fabrics required for the quilt. It is great to add the leftovers to my stash, too. The quilting was a bit challenging in the middle section since I used a close to matching thread for each triangle. I didn't think I would ever finish burying all those threads once the quilting was finished! It was worth it.


The back is made from two yards of text fabric surrounded by solid scraps.


Here's a closer look at the text print.


Rather than bind the quilt, it is faced. This is the first time I have made a facing for a quilt, and I like both the process and the result. I need to work on my mitered corners a little more but other than that, it worked well.


I knew this was going to hang on a wall so I had a little fun with the facing fabric. This is a Charley Harper print. Those owls are so cute. I also tried out a new hand stitch to finish off the facing. I had always used a slip stitch when hand stitching binding but because the facing is so much thinner and flatter than binding, I tried out the ladder stitch. I will definitely use it again. It makes those stitches practically invisible.


Here it is hanging in its new home. It adds so much color to his room. He is happy to have it and I am happy it is finished!



Friday, January 18, 2019

Quiltville Good Fortune Mystery - That's A Lot Of Pieces



Every year when I am in the throws of gift making for the holiday season, I get this urge to make something for me. This year, I satisfied that urge by participating in Bonnie Hunter's mystery quilt. I have participated in mysteries before, as a shop owner, when I knew the end result throughout the process. This is the first time it was truly a mystery from start to finish. I loved it.


The first step is the announcement of a color palette and estimated yardage. These colors made me think they were pulled straight from a basic crayon box. I thought about changing them up a bit but decided as a rookie I should stick with the instructions, and, these are not my go to colors when working on my own so it's great to use up this stash.


Each Friday starting in late November a new clue was issued. I liked going with the flow. All of the steps were straightforward and easy to complete. There may have been a few times where I thought, "You want me to make how many?!?!" The number of units for some of the steps was quite large but with a little Dori inspiration (just keep sewing sewing sewing), I persevered.


Each week's clue was saved in a bag. I loved the Instagram posts of participants trying to guess the end result. I did not do any of that. I completely gave myself over to the process and enjoyed every step. It was a surprise every single week.


When the big reveal finally came in mid-January, I wasn't quite ready for it. I was enjoying the drawn out pace of making this quilt top.


It took a couple of weeks to put it all together, but here it is. When the center blocks were assembled, I wasn't sure if I liked it. The outer border really pulled it all together for me. I absolutely love it now.


The thing that impresses me the most about this quilt is the sheer number of pieces. Since I went with strip sewing rather than string sewing for the orange in the blocks and the neutral borders, I was able to calculate the number of pieces in this quilt.



Bonnie does not allow counts and quantities to be published about her mystery quilts since they are converted into patterns for sale once the mystery is over. However, I don't think this number gives anything away. There are 2,936 pieces of fabric in my quilt top. Had the mystery been introduced as... join us in making a quilt with more than 2,900 pieces... I never would have joined in. A little bit every day made this happen. And even better, every single piece of fabric in this quilt came from scraps that I already had on hand.


It will be a while before this top is quilted, as there are a few ahead of it in line. One funny thing is that I hadn't been able to really see the finished top until I took these pictures. I have found two pieces turned the wrong way so far. Maybe I'll fix them before quilting and maybe I'll leave them for character. I have plenty of time to think about that.


I will definitely be joining in again next year. Thank you, Bonnie, for a fun initiation into the mystery quilt world.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Making Stockings for a Growing Family


For the first time in three years, all of my children will be together. That is the best gift I could ever receive. It was time to add to the stocking collection so that everyone would be included.


There was a point in time when I thought I would make everyone a cross-stitch stocking, but quickly realized that was going to take more time than I had available. I still have the beginnings of those somewhere and add a few stitches every now and then. Instead, we went with inexpensive, crafty stockings that could uniquely represent each family member. This is where we started in the mid-1990s. Erica was old enough to hand stitch the face on to her flower.


These are all constructed using inexpensive craft felt. Once I decide what should be represented on a stocking, I search for free clip art or photographs to mimic. Typically, I enlarge and print the picture, then use tracing paper to draw and cut all the pieces. For the original stockings I zig zag stitched around each piece, but now I use a simple straight stitch around the edges to hold the pieces in place. The edges of the stocking are both straight stitched and zigzag stitched for strength to hold all the goodies that will be placed inside for Christmas. Beads and sequins are hand stitched down depending on the level of bling desired. These are easy to make and fun to include family members in the process.


In 2000 and 2003, two more children joined us. We've enjoyed our six stockings for many years.


Erica has her own family now. This will be their first Christmas at our house. Zack and Amelia needed a stocking. Amelia turned two last September. We haven't had little kid excitement at Christmas for quite a while around here!


Evan got engaged just a month ago. They live on the beach and Gabi loves her birds.


My mom recently mentioned that she did not have a stocking so I made a pair for her and her dog to hang at her house, too.


It's going to be fun to watch our family continue to grow over the years. This project is the last of my "must finish before Christmas" sewing. Now, I can slow the pace and enjoy time with family, time by the fire, and the peace and joy of the season.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Inspired by a Painting - A Quilt Gift


Sometimes a quilt takes time to evolve. This is one of those. Last year, we went to visit my son and his girlfriend. This was the first time I had met her. She is an artist and had a painting on the wall in their living room that I was really drawn to.


This was from a college class where the assignment was to paint something using only circles. I wanted to use the colors in this painting to make a quilt for them. The mixture of colors in the painting made me think about batik fabrics first, so a stash busting I went. In my head, I was going to do a literal translation with the color placement.


I did not have enough in my stash for that to work out and for some reason, I was sticking closely to the darkest of colors in the painting.


The next iteration had a few more medium tones added in and then came the experiment with pops of color. I had to look at this one a few days and finally figured out that it was because there were too many short scraps and no continuity of color anywhere. This was just too chaotic.


Then I finally got around to adding some lighter colors (honestly, the critique of my family is what it took to convince me to add the lighter colors), took out anything that was too floral or leafy, and continued to debate about whether or not to add the pops of color. There were other sewing projects mixed in to this process, but I bet this had been on the design wall for a month or more at this point. We went out of town for a few days.


This is what I came home to. I think our cat had a little bit of fun while we were away. It was time to start sewing or else this project was never going to be finished.


It wasn't until I started looking at this quilt vertically rather than horizontally that I thought maybe it was going to turn out okay. Maybe I would like it a little. To help it along even more, I decided to back it with a plush minky in navy. This was a first for me so I was nervous about quilting with a thick fuzzy backing.


I did a bit of reading for tips and learned that extra basting and using a larger size needle were essential to successful quilting. I use 505 basting spray for layering quilts and I was extra generous for this project. Both tips were very helpful. I kept the quilt design simple, using a large meander and then a rough outline of each triangle.


I knew there was no way I could accurately stitch around the outside of each triangle so intentionally went wonky with them. You can see a tiny bit of fuzz coming through on the lightest of the fabrics. That all but disappeared after the quilt was washed.



Here's another peak at the quilting.


The quilting shows up nicely on the back, too. I love the plush coziness of that backing.


The binding is machine stitched and is a lovely midnight blue batik. The girlfriend of a year ago is now a soon to be daughter-in-law. They were engaged last month and are planning a small spring wedding. I love my growing family.


The weather has been dreadfully wet and gray so I never got any great pictures of this quilt. It is now all wrapped up under the tree for them to open when they pass through on their way to visit other family this holiday season.


While this quilt is not at all what I pictured in my head when I first started making it, it evolved into a warm and cozy gift that will always remind me of the first time I met my soon to be daughter-in-law.

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