Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Five Tips: Choosing Fabric for a New Quilt

Today, I'd like to share more about my process of selecting fabric for a new project. There is no one size fits all formula for this so it is simply how I chose fabric for this quilt. Just like all things in life, being comfortable with fabric selection takes practice. For some, it is a very intuitive process while for others, it is much more defined, meaning there is much more thought put into value, scale of design, complementing colors, contrasting colors, and other "formulas" for getting just the right mix of fabrics for a project. I like to think of my process as a little bit of both.

Tip 1: Almost everything in life gets better and easier with practice, including choosing fabric for a quilt.

Here is the block design planned for this quilt. It finishes at 12" so the smallest square is 4". Always consider the size of the pieces to be used in a quilt when selecting fabric. Large scale prints will be lost if cut small (and sometimes that is the desired effect) while small scale prints might be lost in a large cut.

So much of fabric selection is personal taste. In the end, it is what you like that matters so try not to feel confined or restricted by what you believe you are supposed to do. Have fun. Experiment. I usually encounter a surprise or two with all of the quilts I make.

Tip 2: Consider the size of the block and the size of the pieces within the block when selecting fabric.

For this project, I knew I wanted to make a bold baby quilt. The starting point for this project is three large scale print fat quarters.

They were part of a larger bundle but I wanted to stretch my fabric selection muscle a little and try to add some pieces that were outside of the fabric collection. This is the first attempt.

These were pulled late at night so I took a quick picture and emailed it to myself. While at work the next day, I pulled this picture up on my computer monitor so I could study it throughout the day. At the end of the day, I marked my decisions and emailed it back to myself so I could play some more at home.

Why did some of these get kicked to the curb? For the tone on tone blue/teal fabrics, I decided that one was enough. There was no benefit of keeping the others and the one on the upper left was leaning a bit too much to the green side of teal anyway. The top center print, while great for color, was a large scale print that seemed to compete with the three main prints for the project, so out it went. The creamy print on the right...a bit too creamy. The bottom right print had a sketched feel to it while all the other fabrics had clear, clean designs so it just wasn't a good fit. The bottom comma print was too dark. The orange on the left was a bit too neon. It is actually a print that was part of the original fabric bundle but the boldness of the three main prints was enough for this project.

At this point, one of the things I thought this project needed was more light fabrics.

Tip 3: Rather than choose all of the fabrics in one sitting, walk away for a while. You will often be freshly inspired when you revisit your selections.

After another evening of adding and taking away, this is the final pull of fabric.

One thing to remember...what looks good as a collection of fabric may look far different once the quilt making begins.

Tip 4: Be willing to add or take away fabric as a project progresses.

Here is the beginning of the quilt layout. I had already spent time moving the focus prints around and was happy with their locations. The next step was to choose the fabric to go with the focus print in each block. None of the pieces are sewn together. It is on my design wall, which is an insulation board covered in flannel. The pieces stick to the flannel fairly well so it is easy to move things around.

The last block on the second row doesn't even have anything with it yet. After spending a couple of hours working on it, I decided to leave it overnight (it was getting late) and look at it with fresh eyes in the morning.

After another hour or so of playing the next morning, the layout was complete.

Let's look at them side by side to better show the differences.

What changed? There are two big changes that happened while laying out the blocks. First, the dark green tone on tone print was added. This was a surprise. I was so determined to keep this quilt light and whimsical that I would not even consider any dark colors. At first, before even cutting into this fabric, I pinned the dark green fat quarter randomly to the design wall and stepped back. It instantly added just a touch of warmth to the project. The second surprise was that I cut back the number of light prints in the project. All the variety seemed to make it too busy. In the end, there is only one light fabric in the quilt and I love the way it looks.

Here are the fabric pulls side by side. The first shows what I thought would be used in the quilt and the second shows what actually was used in the quilt.

In the final version, six of the fabrics are from the same collection. Five are from my stash. I am happy with the mix.

When making simple, large scale blocks, it is a good idea not to piece each block until the final layout is determined if possible. It was tempting to pair up the fabrics in advance and then figure out the block layout. Sometimes that works out and sometimes it doesn't. It can be frustrating to keep changing the layout to keep too many things from being too close together only to find you have created another problem. It becomes sort of like trying to solve a Rubik's cube puzzle.

Tip 5: For simple, large scale blocks, consider the entire quilt top rather than just one block at a time.

Once the design was completed, the quilt top went together quickly. I hope to share a finished quilt and a tutorial for making it on Friday.

Other posts of interest regarding fabric selection:
Patchwork Prism - A Finished Quilt
Scrappy Strip Quilt Progress - Choosing a Layout

Linking up with WIP Wednesday over at Freshly Pieced.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Practicing on the Treadle Sewing Machine

This is my grandmother's sewing machine. My mom had the cabinet restored and I am very fortunate to have it in my home. Recently, mom and I decided to use this machine to sew together a quilt top with blocks made by my great grandmother.

Before Mom and I get too far into putting together the blocks from my great grandmother, we wanted to get some practice in on the treadle machine. Fortunately, my husband knows a lot about sewing machine care so he put the belt on, oiled it up in all the right places and made sure it was ready for us. She came over on Sunday for lunch and then we got started with our sewing.

Thank goodness for YouTube. The bobbin is a long bobbin set inside a shuttle, similar to this one.

We were able to thread the bobbin and the machine, and insert the bobbin in the shuttle, but could not figure out how to put the shuttle in the machine. These videos saved the day:
Once set up was complete, the sewing worked fabulously.

After a while, the light through the window was a bit much so we turned the machine to the side. I love watching my mom sew. She remembers making clothes on this machine as a teenager. I used a piece of painters tape to mark the 1/4" seam allowance for her.

I was really impressed with the stitches. They are a bit small but very even and the tension is just right.

Every now and then, a little bit of thread would bunch up on the back, but it never impeded sewing and still holds the seam together just fine. It may be happening on stops and starts so we'll check that out next time we sew.

This is the uncropped version of mom sewing. I love the contrast of my youngest son in the background playing computer games. There have been just a few technology changes over the two generations.

The sewing machine is set up right in the spot where our Christmas tree usually stands. I told mom we had until the end of November to get that quilt top put together. I believe we will share a number of Sunday afternoon sewing sessions over the next few weeks.

Related posts:
Treadling Away
Works in Progress - Treadle Piecing and Machine Quilting 
Quilt Blocks from my Great Grandmother

Friday, September 25, 2015

Evan's Guitar - A Finished Quilt

This quilt top has been around for more than five years waiting to be finished. It is named after my oldest son, who in his teenage years decided he was going to take up guitar. Electric bass guitar to be exact. Being one to encourage all musical endeavors, he received his very own guitar and amp for Christmas. He might have played it three times in total. His rock and roll fantasy was short lived. Even though he is grown and lives away from home, that guitar still sits in his closet. We will see if either of his younger brothers get the urge.

I loved making this quilt top. It was fast and best of all, this is my favorite color palette. I had it up on the design wall for a while, thinking about how quilt it.

At first, I was determined to quilt something in each block, going for the yin yang impression given by the blocks themselves. However, the fabric in each block emphasizes that enough so I went with an overall design. There are three rows of three squares set on point. Each square is three concentric squares. The squares overlap each other creating a plaid sort of design.

I also tried changing out the thread so that every other square is dark thread and the remaining ones are light thread. This was supposed to help each square stand out on it's own but with the fabrics being so busy, it didn't really work. The texture shows far more than the different thread colors.

The inner border is quilted with free motion circles and the outer border is free motioned in a dark brown thread meandering all around the guitars.

The backing is a print by Carla Miller. I have been saving it just for this quilt. The binding is a solid dark brown.

This quilt is a keeper and will be perfect for keeping us warm as the temperatures continue to cool this season. It is lap size measuring 53" x 46".

Linking up with Finish It Up Friday over at Crazy Mom Quilts.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

How To Make A Shadow Block Mini Quilt

Earlier this week I shared my latest quilt finish, a Shadow Block Mini Quilt. Today, you can make one, too. One very important thing to keep in mind with this project is that the smaller the project, the more important it is to be accurate. Be extra careful with your cutting and check to make sure your seam allowance is an accurate 1/4". If you do those two things, your project will come together perfectly.

Fabric requirements:

  • Focus fabric - Twenty 3" squares
    A charm pack (an assortment of 5" squares from a single fabric collection) is a good way to bring variety to the squares, or, if you have been quilting for a while, you can probably find a nice assortment in your fabric stash. If you wanted to cut the focus squares out of the same fabric, you need a quarter yard or fat quarter.
  • Shadow fabric - 1/4 yard or fat quarter
    This fabric should be a solid, medium value neutral. The finished quilt shown uses a tan, but a gray, or even khaki green would work for this. As long as there is contrast with the background, it should provide the right effect.
  • Background fabric - 3/8 yard light solid fabric
  • Backing fabric - 5/8 yard
  • Binding fabric - 1/4 yard

Cutting for the quilt top:

  • Focus squares
    • Cut twenty 3" squares
  • Shadow
    • Cut twenty 1" x 2 1/2" rectangles. 
    • Cut twenty 1" x 3" rectangles.
  • Background
    • Cut forty 1" squares. 
    • Cut twenty 1 1/2" x 3 1/2" rectangles. 
    • Cut five 19 1/2" x 1 1/2" strips.
      These strips form the sashing between each row of blocks. You may want to wait until your rows are sewn together before cutting these strips. That way if your seam allowance is off a little, you can cut these strips to the length of your rows.
    • Cut two 17 1/2" x 1 1/2" strips.
      These two strips will go on either side of the quilt top once everything is sewn together. Again, it might be a good idea to wait and check the width of your quilt for greater cutting accuracy.


 Make the blocks:

Each block needs one 3" square of focus fabric, two 1" squares of background fabric, one 1" x 2 1/2" rectangle of shadow fabric, and one 1" x 3" rectangle of shadow fabric.

First, stitch the background squares to the shadow fabric. Press the seam toward the shadow fabric.

Next, stitch the shorter shadow fabric and background strip to the side of the focus block. Press toward the focus block.

Then stitch the remaining shadow and background strip to the top of the block. Press toward the focus block. Your finished block should measure 3 1/2" square. Check each block and trim it to size if needed. Or, adjust your seam allowance if the resulting block is too small.

Once you have made a couple of test blocks and are pleased with the result, you might want to try chain piecing some of the parts to make it go together faster. Chain piecing is when you have lots of similar piecing to do so rather than starting and stopping for each one, you stitch one right after another without cutting threads.

It can also help with pressing. I chain pieced all the squares to the shadow rectangles. The connecting parts helped my pieces stay flat and secure on the pressing surface. It's hard to wrangle a tiny one-inch square for pressing. Once I had them all pressed, I cut the units apart and continued to the next step.

Arrange Blocks and Add Sashing:

Once you have twenty blocks made, lay them out in four rows of five blocks, switching them around until you are happy with the arrangement.

I tried to do the arranging at the beginning but discovered it was too hard to keep them in order while the blocks were being assembled. You can see where I had already made two blocks to check my accuracy before playing around with the layout. I ended up arranging them again after all the blocks were made.

When you arrange your blocks, make sure the shadows are all facing the same direction. The next step is to add sashing between the blocks. Each row of five blocks will need four 1 1/2" x 3 1/2" background rectangles sewn between. Press the seams toward the sashing strip. If your seam allowance has been accurate throughout the project, each row will measure 19 1/2" long. It is okay if it doesn't. Just make sure to adjust the length of the long sashing strips as needed.

Now stitch long sashing strips (the 1 1/2" x 19 1/2" background strips) between each row, then to the top and bottom of the quilt top.

The last step is to add the remaining two background strips (1 1/2" x 17 1/2") to each side of the quilt top. Your top is finished!

Cut your backing fabric a few inches bigger than the quilt top. Layer the top, some batting, and the backing fabric and get ready to quilt. There are a million ways this top could be quilted, but I really wanted to emphasize the shadow on mine. It is heavily quilted with free motion straight(ish) lines sewn on each one. The only other quilting is straight lines along the edges of each block, both horizontally and vertically.

There is no quilting on the focus blocks so they will stand up just a little more than the rest of the quilt top. Once the quilting is completed, trim and square up the edges and add some binding. I am finally getting the hang of machine binding so that is how the sample quilt is finished.

This quilt is fast and fun to make.

If you make this quilt, I would love to see how yours turns out.

Please leave a comment or drop me an email if you have any questions.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Shadow Blocks Mini - A Finished Quilt

This weekend's project was a fun mini quilt featuring Kaffe Fassett prints.

The idea was to make each print appear to have a shadow or to be floating on the background.

Here is the top before quilting. To help the shadow recede more, the darker fabric around each block is heavily quilted while the rest of the quilt is more lightly quilted.

The quilting gives the back a lot of texture.

Each block finishes at 3" square. The focus prints finish at 2 1/2" square. Overall, this mini quilt finishes at 17 1/2" x 21 1/2".

The binding is a neutral print and includes both the background and shadow color.

The binding is machine stitched.

I love how it looks hanging on the wall. It would also make a great table topper.

This was a fun project to make. I will be posting a tutorial for how to make this quilt later this week.

This quilt is available for purchase.

Friday, September 18, 2015

A Fall Skirt

This past weekend, I made a quick stop by my local quilt shop. In addition to a few quilty purchases, I also picked up this pretty batik from the sale shelves. My wardrobe needs a few additions for fall, and at $7 a yard, it was also a great bargain.

Sassy Skirts by Cindy Taylor Oates is my go to book for skirt making. There are lots of variations in the book but I confess that I have only made the simple A-line, elastic waist version. That is mostly because I tend to wear busy print skirts with solid tops so most extras in the sewing pattern end up getting lost in the busy print of the fabric.

There is only one pattern piece which is used to cut the front and the back of the skirt. I always make french seams on the sides to prevent ugly fraying over time as the skirt is washed and worn. To make a french seam, sew the wrong sides together first using a 1/4" seam. Press the seam allowance to one side. Then turn the skirt so that right sides are together and stitch a 3/8" seam. The 1/4" seam is caught inside the 3/8" seam so no raw edges are visible.

Then press under a 1/4" on the top of the skirt, and press again 1/8" wider than the elastic you will use in the waist band. The pattern calls for 1/2" elastic but I like mine wider so I used 1 1/4" wide elastic and pressed under 1 3/8" to form the waist band. Stitch it down near the edge leaving an opening to insert the elastic. Once the elastic is in, finish stitching down the waist band. I love how fast this goes together and how neat and finished it looks.

In the same way the waist band was pressed under, turn under and press for the hem. 1/4" first, then whatever width you need to make the skirt the right length for you. If this is more than a couple of inches, it would be better to cut off some of the length and then turn under the hem. I like to top stitch the hem and added three rows for this skirt.

This skirt is a little longer than what I usually make but is a good length for fall and also looks pretty snazzy with my boots. It's almost boot season! From start to finish, this skirt took a little more than an hour to make. What a fun way to spend a sewing evening.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...