Saturday, February 11, 2012

Organized Random - Coaster Style

After making this heart garland a couple of weeks ago, I had lots of leftover charm squares.

I believe it has become my destiny to make a coaster set for every month of the year. My family enjoys it and coasters are such a fun, quick project. If you'd like to make your own coaster set, or any other charm square project, you can grab a charm pack from my Etsy shop. Shipping is free until February 14 if you use the code SHIP4FREE when you check out!

This coaster set is great practice for designing a project with random fabric placement. Being random is often a challenge for me and many of my sewing friends. I decided to make these coasters in a log cabin style.

Select one square for the top and one square for the bottom of each coaster. I'm making nine coasters (eight for home, one for work). Set aside the fabric for the coaster bottoms...we won't need that for a while.

First, cut a 1 1/4" strip from each side of each charm square. Your first cut will be 1 1/4" x 5". Set the strip aside. Rotate the square 90 degrees, then cut another 1 1/4" strip. This one will be 1 1/4" x 3 3/4". Set the strip aside. Rotate 90 degrees. Cut a strip. Set strip aside. Rotate. Cut. This last strip should measure 1 1/4" x 2 1/2". The square with all its parts should look something like this.

Cut each of your coaster top squares the same way. Feel free to stack your squares and cut more than one at a time. After they are all cut, make a stack for each cut, putting the fabrics in the same order for each stack. Be sure to mix them up so that the whites, pinks, and reds are evenly distributed through the stack.

The squares at the bottom of the picture are spread out so that you can see the order of the fabrics in the stack. Here's where the organized part of random comes in. Leave the stack of squares alone. They will be used as is. For the shortest rectangles, take the top strip off and set it above the stack. For the second stack of rectangles, take the first two strips off and set them above the stack. Third stack of rectangles, take three strips. Last set, take four strips.

Now slide all of the strips that have been placed above each stack to the bottom of the main set of strips. You have officially randomized your coasters in a very organized manner. You will see this technique used in quilt patterns as well. Karla Alexander has some very good books using this technique.

Now that all the cutting is finished, let's sew! Sometimes it is easier to lay out the block in the way that it will be sewn. First, sew the short strip to the square. I used a very scant 1/4" seam. It is probably more like a 3/16" seam allowance. Press the seam toward the strip. Rather than finishing one block at a time, it is faster to complete one step for all the blocks before moving to the next step. Do your best to keep the sewn pieces in the same order so they will be ready for the next step. If you get them out of order, it's not a big deal. Remember, we're going for a scrappy, random look. Here's how it should look after the first step.

Now, add the second strip to each block. The second, third, and fourth strips are longer than the block they are being sewn to. It is okay. The extra fabric will be trimmed off after the block is completed.

Continue around the block, adding a strip with each step.

Once the coaster tops are finished, trim the excess fabric away and square up the block.While I like the result, I thought they  needed a little something more. I added an extra 1 1/2" strip of solid red Kona cotton to two sides of each coaster. I squared each coaster top up to 5". The coasters were layered, sewn, turned, and quilted in the ditch.

Each back is pink. These cute coasters can be used on either side.

This project was finished just in time to use this year. While they won't be out long, they will be enjoyed for many years to come.

Though I'm a few days early, Happy Valentine's Day!

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