Friday, December 31, 2010

Stacking (Quilt) Blocks

Sophie's Stacks Block #3This 10 inch block (finished size) is my variation on the traditional Chinese coins quilt pattern.  Each block is unique as you decide how evenly (or not) you will stack the fabric coins.

I'm calling it "Stacks."

It's a great scrap-buster and is easily made from 2-1/2 inch wide noodles or jelly rolls.

For the January Block Lotto, we are making this block in scrappy bright fabrics–solids, tone-on-tones, hand-dyes, batiks, plaids, florals, novelties, geometric or any kind of prints with a white background.


All the pieces you need for this block ar 2-1/2 inches wide.

For one block you'll need:

10 white (background) rectangles cut 2-1/2 by 3 inches
5 different bright (focus fabrics) rectangles cut 2-1/2 by 8 inches

  1. Sew a white background rectangle to each end of each of the strips of focus fabric.  Press all seams toward the focus fabric.

    Sew Background rectangles to each side of each strip

  2. Arrange your stack--do NOT line up any of the seams ... and you won't have to worry about matching them when you sew the rows together.

    Arrange your "Stack"

  3. Sew your stack together as you have arranged it.

    Sew the strips together as arranged

  4. Trim your block to 10-1/2 inches square, making sure there is at least 1/2 inch of white background on each side of the bright strips.

    Trim block to 10-1/2 inches square
Example Blocks

Here's a bunch of stacks made by some of the Block Lotto sneak peekers--more than you would need to make even a California Kingsize bed quilt.

For a closer look at the individual blocks, check out my flickr set Bright Stacks.

Thanks to Benta, Caroline, Cathy, Debbie, Julie, Kate, Laurina, Maree, Mary Jane, Michelle, Rho and Sara for the photos of their blocks.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Adding Complexity to the Simple Tree Block

If you surfed past the Free-style Tree blocks because you thought they weren't interesting enough on their own . . . consider adding a few boughs, using the drawing with your rotary cutter technique to add some complexity and interest.  I also liked the idea of making a mix of trees with varying complexity and height.

Sophie's Trees

These are my tree block pairs for the December 2010 block lotto. They are 6.5 inches wide (to finish at 6) and 6.5, 9.5 or 12.5 inches tall (to finish at 6, 9, or 12)

The technique is a variation of my Free-style Tree blocks.  Here's how.  For each pair of trees, I started with two pieces of fabric, 8 inches wide and as tall as my target size plus 2-3 inches.  So, for the yellow/black tree pair (which will finish at 6 by 12), my rectangles were cut at 8 x 15 inches. For my 6 x 9 blocks, my beginning rectangles were 8 x 12 inches.  And for the  inches squares, I began with 8 inch squares.
  1. Begin by stacking your two fabrics evenly and making horizontal cuts.  Use a ruler so the seams will be straight (and easy), but they don't have to be perfectly horizontal.  I tended to make the top and bottom sections a little larger because I knew I would be trimming a little at the end when I cut my blocks to size. The number of cuts you make will determine how many side-ward pointing "boughs" your tree will have.
  2. "Draw" the appropriate part of the tree in each section:
    • 2 vertical cuts in the bottom section form the trunk
    • a triangle in the top section to form the top of your tree--be sure to leave a lot of "sky" at the top if you want to avoid losing the point
    • wedge shapes--shorter on the top edge than the bottom and slanted on the sides--in the middle section(s)
    Stack 2 Fabrics and Slice Draw your tree
  3. Swap the fabrics in the tree sections to create your trees.
  4. Sew the block together by first sewing the pieces in each "row."
  5. Swap top and bottom fabrics Sew rows
  6. After each row is sewn, trim the top and bottom edges even. You can leave trimming the top and bottom of the block until later.
  7. Trim edges
  8. Sew the sections of tree together.
  9. Sew rows together
  10. Square up and trim to your target block size. (For my block, 6.5 x 12.5 inches.
  11. Square up block
Click here for a look at many more examples of the "Jewel-tone Forest" quilters have made for the block lotto--if you're interested in joining us, there's still time.  The deadline is December 31.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

How to Draw a Liberated House

We're making liberated houses this month for the Block Lotto.  I know that even if you like the look of liberated or wonky houses, you might not be in love with the technique.  An alternative is to draw your house and use the drawing as a foundation for paper piecing.  Here's how.

  • When drawing a PFP pattern, remember that ALL lines must be STRAIGHT and that all lines must begin and end with a "T-intersection" with a previously drawn line.
  • Remember that a paper piecing template looks like the MIRROR IMAGE of the finished block.  If, for example, you draw a house with a door on the left and window on the right, your house block will have a door on the right and a window on the left.
Begin with a sheet of paper (or other foundation material) that is at least 1/2 inch larger than the finished size of the block you want to make.
  1. Draw a square that represents the FINISHED size of your block–for the September Block Lotto, that would be an 8 inch square. Remember when you are making the block, you will add 1/4 inch on each side of this square for the seam allowance, making a 8 1/2 " square.

  2. Draw the horizontal-ish line that will represent the top of the main body of the house and the bottom edge of the triangle which forms the roof.

  3. On the bottom half of your drawing, add two vertical-ish lines that will define the left and right sides of your house.

  4. Draw a line between the two lines in step three which will define the top edge of your door and window.

  5. On one side of your house, create the door by drawing two lines that begin at the line in Step 4 and end at the bottom of the square.

  6. On the other side of your house, create a window by drawing two more lines that begin at the line in Step 4 and end at the bottom of the square.  Then add the horizontal line between them to define the bottom of your window.

  7. Define the roof by drawing two, intersecting slanted lines.

  8. Now, number your template with the paper piecing order:

    1 - window
    2 - space beneath window
    3 - house section beside window
    4 - house section on the other side of window
    5 - door
    6 - house section beside door
    7 - house section above door and window
    8 - sky on one side of house
    9 - sky on the other side of house
    10 - roof
    11 - sky on the side of roof which does NOT extend to the top of block (MISNUMBERED as 12 in the drawing below)
    12 - sky on the other side (MISNUMBERED 11 in the drawing below).

Remember that the block you piece will actually EXTEND beyond the square 1/4 inch for the seam allowance. I usually cut out the paper pattern adding the 1/4 inch on each side of the square to make sure I DON'T FORGET.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Let's Grow Roses

Modified "blocky" roseYou may know this as block as a Liberated Rose, a Log Cabin Rose or just a Wonky Rose . . . any and all those adjectives apply. Here are my notes for how I construct this free-pieced block.

When choosing fabrics for this block,  more is more.  For the August Block Lotto, the guidelines specify that you must use at least 3 different fabrics for the rose, but no one need stop at three.  This is a great opportunity to use small or odd-shaped scraps.  I started with a piles of scraps, sorted by color to make rose blocks for a border of a quilt in progress.

In this block, we are creating an abstraction of a living, growing flower.  Although there are exceptions, most real roses grow in colors of closely related shades and my recommendation (a requirement for the Lotto) is that all the fabrics in the flower should be variations of the same color.

Another characteristic of this block is that we're creating the illusion of curved petals around a center, using only straight lines and straight seams.  As you make the block, you'll need to play with angles and colors to create a block that says, "rose" when you look at it . . . and not "log cabin."

Making the Block

Begin with a non-square
Begin at the center with a non-square. I like triangles and pentagons, though the angles and sides do NOT need to be the same. Four-sided squares and rectangles may exist in nature but rarely in the center of flowers.

If you begin with a 5-sided pentagon-like center, avoid any square cornered "house" shapes.

Adding "petals" to the center
Add strips in log cabin fashion, by starting on any side, then adding to the next adjacent side, working your way around (which direction doesn't matter–just keep moving around the block in the same direction).

A good reason for add the strips in a consistent way around the block is that it gives you an opportunity to create the illusion of curved petals by using the same fabric on 2-3 adjacent sides ONLY. Few roses look like bullseyes, so avoid using the same fabric all the way around the center. 
Some example blocks in progressWhatever the shape of your center, after you have added all but the last log on the first round, you can always tell where the next log goes by looking for the side that has 2 seams intersecting it.  In the two blocks in progress here, the one on the left was made correctly and you can see that the next log will be added to the lower left side.  I lost my way on the block on the right, as evidences by the bottom edge which as three seams intersecting it.  Ooops.  If you goof, it's not fatal, just pick a direction and carefully add the next round of strips.

About Petal/Log stripsThe strips (or logs or petals) that you add do not need to be carefully cut . . . and in fact will look more organic if they are not a consistent width.

Use up your odd-shaped scraps, off cuts. If you add straight (even width) strips, consider trim them at angles after they've been sewn to the block so that your rose block grows in an irregular, organic way.

Also feel free to trim the block-in-progress if the shape starts to look wrong to you.  I thought the block below was looking too oblong, so I chopped it.

Too Elongated Trimming a block in progress

As my blocks grew, I found it useful to have a reference for the target size. These blocks are 9 1/2-inches (to finish at 9 inches). If you have a square ruler that's the size you need, great ... otherwise, a paper template will do. I repurposed the cover of a magazine, trimmed to size.

Create a Target Using the target template

When you decide your rose is finished, lay it on the template to decide on it's orientation and add green fabrics to make the block square. Trim to size and you're done!

Rose with "Leaves" added

Always keep in mind that you can, at any point in the process, re-shape your rose. After I finished the block on the left, I thought it looked too blocky and so I added some more angles at the bottom and filled the space with green.

It's never to late to trim Modified "blocky" rose

Here's 20 of the rose blocks made by Andi, Caroline, Ginny, Kate, Kathie, Kim and Pat

Kate's Rose 
#9Kate's Rose 
#8Kate's Rose 
#7Kate's Rose 
Kate's Rose 
#5Kate's Rose 
#4Kate's Rose 
#3Kate's Rose 
Kate's Rose 
#1Pat's Rose #2Pat's Rose #1GInny's Rose 
Rose #1Kathie's 
Rose #2Kathie's 
Rose #1Kim's Rose #1
 Rose #2Kim's Rose #3Kim's Rose #2Caroline's
 Rose #1