Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Shakespeare in the Park - Assignment Week 1

Each week (except for over the U.S. holiday weeks in November and December) we'll have steps posted for working on different parts of this beautiful quilt. I started with a small block, Evening Star (Variable Star), so we get the feel of the fabrics we've chosen and how the pieces start to go together.

We are making Blocks Y and Z from The Creative Pattern Book. The first component is the flying geese and you can find three methods of making this here on the blog.

The first week we are making blocks with dark "sky" pieces (the small side triangles) and light (background) for your geese which is the large triangle.

Your tasks for the week are:

1. Square up your fabrics and make sure you are cutting on the grain.

2. Make 24 flying geese units with a light goose and dark sky. This will be part of 6 Y/Z blocks.

Have a good week!

Assignment Week 2

Straight of Grain - what's up with that?

One of the things I found interesting in the fabric cutting for the Shakespeare in the Park project was that the measurements were broken into 18" widths -- fat quarter size! I had not thought much about it until I realized how much easier it is to find the grain line in a piece this size! On page 25 of The Creative Pattern Book, there's some good information on why she cuts lengthwise on the grain, and I thought it might be helpful to have a little lesson on grain lines in fabric.

For all you old hands at sewing, none of this is going to be news :) but I think some of our newer quilters might not have a clear idea of how to use the grain of the fabric to improve their blocks!

The grain refers to the crosswise and lengthwise threads that make up your fabric. On the printed side it might be a little harder to determine where the threads run, so turn it to the wrong side and give a look ... from selvedge edge to edge is called the crosswise grain and
the length of the fabric is the ... right! lengthwise grain! Any cut off those two grain lines will have a bias edge to some degree.

The crosswise grain generally has a little more "give" in it than the lengthwise. If you cut a small square of your fabric and pull on the top and bottom you will see a bit of stretch, where if you pull on it side to side it is less "wiggly". The lengthwise grain is more stable and that's why it is often called for when cutting borders and sashing -- where you want the most stable pieces to frame and square-up your work.

In cutting your fabric, you want to make sure you are cutting with the grain. How?

You can eyeball it by following the threads (easier to do with a fat quarter in front of you!),
Take one ruler and line it up to a crosswise thread and one ruler perpendicular to it on a lengthwise thread and square up that end. Or you can actually pull a thread on many fabrics ... if you get hold of a thread and inch it along to pull it out, much like you were gathering
something, you will have a perfect line to follow when cutting strips.

Why is the grain so important?

Cutting your fabric squares with edges along the straight grain will minimize stretching during measuring, marking, cutting and sewing. Straight grain edges helps to ensure that your blocks don't stretch or become distorted. Triangles, without exception, are going to have at least one bias edge to them. If you make sure that the straight edge is the outside edge of the block, you will find a nicely pieced block. The method of cutting a square and then making two diagonal cuts will put the straight edge on the outside edge of the block.

That's all I have to say about the straight grain of fabric :)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Design Elements -- A Challenge for YOU!

And now for something completely different.... (but related I PROMISE!!!!) If you have completed the flying geese for the Shakespeare in the Park quilt and need something to keep you busy this week -- try this one for size!

I have recently gone back to school. This is one of the reasons for my slack in the posting department. I love quilting so much that when I was presented with the opportunity to go back to school I wanted to do something that would enhance my art, so I am going back for Graphic Design. I am learning so much and wanted to share this with you. Not only am I learning about color and value, I am learning about design.

Design is such an important aspect to art -- including quilting -- and I think we tend to overlook it sometimes. Many times we have so many things presented to us that we get in a cut and paste mentality. We fall into a feather/stipple/crosshatch rut. For me it was hard to come up with my own ideas, when I could look at everyone else’s ideas and they seemed to come so easily.

To help break us out of that rut and to help us approach design with a new eye, I present to you a challenge to look at your world and the design elements in you’re every day. When you take the time to look at the design elements around you, I promise you, you will look at your quilting differently.

Your challenge for the next week is to look at the natural elements that are around you every day and take pictures of them. Photograph what you see -‐focus on seeing things differently; a new perspective or something you haven’t noticed before. Look from different angles, different position, see the subtle and not-so-subtle shadings.

Take pictures of Line, Color, Texture, Pattern and Shape

Look for signs, text, symbols, color and pattern. Use both nature and man-made objects. Do not set up something, but capture the element "in the wild" so to speak. Challenge yourself with interesting compositions, experiment with emphasis through focusing the lens The trick here is to stay AWAY from the craft/fabric room. Get out there – Looking at the elements of design in your everyday world will help you out in so many ways. It will inspire you, help you out of a rut, and let you see the art all around you. Take as many pictures as you would like, but please only send me the top picture in each category. E-mail them to us at nonjay@gmail.com. Have them all in to me by Monday the 12th of October. Linda and I will pick the winner out of all the submissions Wednesday the 14th of October. As incentive for your challenge I have a Moda Honey bun and 2 charm packs for the winner. Here are some examples that I took when I had this challenge presented to me.






Good luck and REMEMBER TO HAVE FUN!!!!!!!!

Really quick note - Have to add - these have to be YOUR pictures that YOU took
No snagging pics off google!!! :)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Flying Geese - Method Three

This method will give you four flying geese when you’re finished

Let’s revisit our formula for flying geese: A finished block is half as tall as it is wide ... so a 3 width on my block will have a 1/5 height. But you can use this formula for any size flying goose It will always work for you

In this method we’re going to cut a large square and 4 smaller squares. The large square is again going to be the finished width of the block plus 1.25 . You’re also going to cut 4 smaller squares that are the height of the finished block plus 7/8".

Large block is 4.25" (3 + 1.25)
Small squares are 2 3/8 (1.5 + 7/8)

Put one small square in the upper left corner of your larger square, and one small square in the lower right of the larger square.

Draw a diagonal line through both small squares. This is your guide line/cutting line.

Now, stitch a scant 1/4 on each side of your guide line. Cut apart on your cutting line. Press open with the seams toward your little squares (the sky piece).

Now take another little square and place it on the left upper corner of your sewn piece and draw a diagonal line.

Stitch a scant 1/4 on each side of the diagonal line, cut apart, and press open.

And here's your four flying geese units!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Fabric Postcards

Have you received these little postcard gems from your quilty friends and now you want to send one back? Have you marveled at how lovely it is to receive a miniature piece of art in the mail -- instead of just another bill? This set of instructions will have your imagination running wild as you create fabric postcards for any occasion. Believe me when I tell you that there is no one method for making these little postal gems ... what you see here is just "my way" so adapt it as you wish!

First up is a supply list. On my cutting table I've gathered my Steam-a-Seam (fusible stuff), a roll of Timtex, which is a very stiff interfacing like what you find in baseball caps, for example. I also have a little supply of Halloween fabrics and some pieces that I'm going to turn into applique pumpkins. This, plus an iron and a sewing machine, and you're good to go!

The Timtex is the foundation of my postcard ... it's stiff, I can fuse fabric to it, it keeps the card nice and neat as it travels through the mail system. Some people use batting, heavy interfacing, wool pieces ... whatever works for you to give you the texture you want. I just prefer the stiffer "card". A postcard measures 4" x 6" and less than 1/4" thick -- if any of these dimensions are exceeded, you can still mail your treasure, but you'll pay more in postage. I frequently have Postal Clerks whip out their little template to make sure that my cards fit the requirements, so best to not fudge on the sizing. I'm cutting it into 6" strips and then cutting across into 4" x 6" rectangles.

I'm going to be working first on the "design side" ... that way, any stitching I do will be covered up by the fabric applied to the message/address side. I took some fabric bits and applied the fusible film to the wrong side, following the manufacturer's instructions. Remove the paper shield and place the fabric on one side of your foundation. Heat with the iron to apply it. Here's my first rectangle with the fabric on one side. I trimmed any extra fabric from around the edges.

Now I need some things to decorate my postcard. I found a picture of a spiderweb and spider in a coloring book and traced it onto the fusible paper ... also in my little stash of stuff was a paper-pieced candy corn that is just the right size for a postcard. The little pumpkins and bats (which glow in the dark, by the way -- can you see a post office employee late at night with my postcard??!!) I cut out of an apron pan or something and I've applied fusible to the wrong side of the fabric.

Then I cut out the appliques, remove the protective backing and arrange the pieces on my postcard. One of the reasons I really like Steam-a-Seam is that it is repositionable before you press it into permanent place. It's good for me because I frequently go between upstairs and downstairs carrying my little projects and this way the pieces don't blow off.

Up in my sewing room I rummaged through my thread boxes and found some great funky thread to use on my postcards. Then I had an idea that I could write a little message with thread using the letters on my machine -- a feature I've never used! So, I programmed in BOO and HAPPY HALLOWEEN and did some decorative stitching on a few of the cards.

To finish off the applique pieces, I'm using a great orange thread (Superior Bottom Line is my best friend) and just stitching a little buttonhole stitch around the pieces. The fusible will keep it pretty well in place, but the extra stitching around it really sets it off. You can use any stitch you have -- zig zag, satin stitch, even leave it as a raw edge piece! With the top finished, I have two more steps.

First, I need to apply the message/address side to the postcard (which is going to cover up my stitching, too).

I'm using bleached muslin for these cards -- use anything you have that is light enough to write on. I've used unbleached muslin, pastels, batiks, etc. -- whatever you have at hand. Apply your fusible to the wrong side of your backing fabric and then cut into 4" x 6" pieces. Press it into place on the back side of your postcards.
And now for the final touch -- your postcard "binding" ... today I'm still using my decorative threads and decide to do a close zig zag all around the edges of my postcard. This is doing two things -- first, it's giving my "art" a frame, and second, it's ensuring that all my layers are securely joined and ready for travel. Next step for you -- write a message and address it, take it off to the post office and send it on its way!!

Hope you had fun making these postcards!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Flying Geese - Method Two

Method Two - Cut four/sew one

This method cuts 4 goose pieces (large triangle) and 8 sky pieces that are then sewn one at a time.

You will need one square cut the size of your desired width plus 1.25" for the geese and four squares the size of the finished height plus 7/8".

Cut the large square into four triangles by cutting diagonally both ways. Cut your small squares in half diagonally.

Because I’m working on the Shakespeare in the Park quilt, I want my large square to be 4.25" and cut into four triangles to make a 3" x 1.5" finished (desired finished width is 3" + 1.25") block and my little squares are going to be 2-3/8" (desired finished height is 1.5" + 7/8").

Take one small triangle and line it up face down with the left side of the larger triangle and sew a scant 1/4" seam. Press open.

Take your second triangle and place it face down on the right side of the larger triangle and sew a scant 1/4" seam. Press open.

Your flying goose should measure 3.5" x 2". Again, make sure you have the little 1/4" seam allowance where the triangles meet. If you don’t then your seams may be off a bit – measure them!

Tip No. 3 : Since your triangles have bias edges, handle gently so they aren’t stretched out of shape.

Tip No. 4: Be sure to read what Judy says in her book regarding the little tips sticking out all over! You'll be glad you did!

Flying Geese - Method One

This method uses rectangles and squares to create the triangles.

For your cutting: The goose (rectangle) should be the finished length you want plus 1/2".
The sky (little triangles) we’re going to cut squares that should be half of the length of the finished goose plus 1/2"

Because I’m working on the Shakespeare in the Park quilt, I want my rectangles to be 3.5" x 2" to make a 3 x 1.5" block and my little squares are going to be 2".

Cut rectangles 3.5" x 2" Cut squares 2"

Take one square and lay it face down on the left side of your rectangle, aligning it with the sides and top. Stitch diagonally from the inside corner of the square to the outside corner of the square. Trim the excess fabric away and press open.

Take the second square and line it up on the right side of the rectangle, and again, stitch from the inside corner to the outside.
Trim the excess fabric 1/4" away from the stitch line and press both sides open.

There! You’ve made your first flying geese block!

Tip No. 2 : There should be 1/4" of seam allowance where the two triangles meet (see where the tip of the scissors are pointing in the photo). If there is less, you may cut off the point of the goose when joining the next parts.

And what about those cute little "waste" triangles that you cut off (that will also multiply like crazy when you're not looking!)? turn them into half-square blocks and then pinwheels and before you know it you have a table runner or little coffee table mats, or aim big for a wall hanging!

Come Fly With Me!! or How to Make Flying Geese ...

There are so many things to do with Flying Geese – great borders, wonderful sashing, stunning by themselves, the possibilities are really limited only by your imagination. And they’re pretty easy to do, if you take a few minutes to be really accurate in your cutting and sewing.

Flying Geese are also special because you can make them any size you want, without a lot of math involved, There’s a simple formula:

The finished width of a Flying Geese Block is always twice the finished height ... in other words, a 4" wide finished block will be 2" tall.

There’s a variety of ways to make these blocks and I’m going to show you some of them today. If you really want to eliminate some work, you can always use the Gridded Geese at Planet Patchwork, or you might like to try the Flying Geese Ruler by Lazy Girl Designs (there’s a demo on how it works here http://www.lazygirldesigns.com/blog/?p=273)

But my goal here is to show you a few methods that I know to be accurate. If you are working on Judy Martin’s Shakespeare in the Park quilt pattern, then you already know that you are going to need a million flying geese (well, not really that many – but a LOT!).


Tip No. 1 : Remember that a finished flying geese block will be half the height of the width.

So go get yourself some coffee and some chocolate, and let’s get started.

Method One - Cut One/Sew One
Method Two - Cut Four/Sew One
Method Three - Cut One/Sew Four

Friday, September 18, 2009

Five Keys to SITP Success ...

Right from Steve at Judy Martin Books! Thanks for the tips, Steve and Judy!

Let me share just a little about Judy's perspective on making quilts. She believes there are 5 keys to making a quilt go together perfectly.

The first is to start with an accurate pattern. If the math behind the pattern is solid, then when you accurately cut and sew the pattern, it will fall together easily. Shakespeare in the Park is an accurate pattern.

Second, you have to cut accurately. That means carefully lining up the ruler and carefully cutting along the edge of the ruler without having the ruler slip. For most of you I doubt if it's an issue, but I mention it because nothing else matters if you're cutting your 3-inch squares 2-7/8 inches.

Third is trimming points so you can accurately align neighboring patches. The trims at the points should be even with the ends of the neighboring patch when you place them face to face for stitching. The templates in the book have the trim lines marked on all the pointy patches.

Fourth is pinning joints. Judy always pins borders, bindings, and block rows at every joint. It doesn't matter how well you align things if those things get out of whack as you sew them. If you sew a triangle (with points trimmed) onto your Virginia Reel block, and it extends beyond the block, you may be stretching the bias. If you pin the triangle to the block so the trims align with the block, you will see your results improve.

Fifth is getting the seam allowance perfect. This is probably the hardest of all that I've mentioned, but it is the most important.

If you start with an accurate pattern and have mastered the four keys that follow above, it's not an exaggeration to say that you can make ANY quilt you desire.

Good luck to you all.
(Reprinted with permission.)

How ro make an accurate quilt block

The two most important parts of the whole project are accurate cutting (measure twice, cut once), and making sure your seam allowance is a scant 1/4".

Some folks like to cut pieces a bit larger to give themselves a bit of fudge factor, which is totally fine ... my thought is to strive to get your pieces cut absolutely accurately. I find I am much more accurate when I am focused on one thing, relaxed, and paying total attention to what I am doing. I don't like to redo things or try to figure out how to fix things -- at least in my quilting :) In my kitchen it's a totally different story.

How do you attain a scant 1/4" seam? by measuring over and over until you get it right. A scant 1/4" generally means 1 or 2 threads less than 1/4". The thought might occur that it's only off by 1/16" which by itself would be no big deal. But what if there 8 seams trying to go together. OOOOPS now you have a 1/2" differential and your block really can't come out the right size.

Don't trust that your 1/4" foot really IS 1/4" -- test it out and measure it. Then mark your machine so you know every time where your seam allowance should be. There are many products on the market that make a little barrier you can put your fabric up against, some people put a line on their machine ... I have a strip of blue painter's masking tape on my machines.

Lastly, measure each step of your block for accuracy. Then you can catch any discrepancy before you have a whole block put together and find it's the wrong size. If your block is not the right size, 99% of the time it means your seam allowance is incorrect. So, give these hints a whirl and see how your blocks do :)

This quilt has a lot of angles and seams and pieces that are all made to go together perfectly :) For me, it means I have to work a little more diligently than I might for, say, a Yellow Brick Road quilt, or something else with larger pieces that can be fudged a little. This quilt is a work of accuracy and I believe at the end of the project you will find that you have developed some new skills in the cutting and piecing of your quilts!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Shakespeare in the Park - fabric requirements

I know that many of your are anxious for your book to arrive so that you can figure out what you need. If you're hoping to pull from your stash, here are some basic fabric requirements for each size of the quilt. Please note when making your color choices that each version of the quilt has the darker color in triangles around the entire outer edge. This not only brings the eye into the quilt, but effectively makes it a "border". So no matter what color choices you make, be sure to think a bit darker for the outer edges.

The smallest is the lap size/baby/throw/wall version ... it measures 59 1/2" square.

Background fabric - 9 fat quarters
Primary dark color - 18 fat quarters
To add a third color, you will need 12 fat quarters of the primary dark and 6 of the third color.
To add a fourth color, you will need 12 fat quarters of the primary dark and 3 each of the third and fourth colors.
For example, black, white, red and gold ... black 12/white 9/red 3/gold 3

The middle size is the twin size which measures 76 1/2" x 93 1/2"

Background fabric - 22 fat quarters
Primary dark fabric - 22 fat quarters
Dark fabric for side triangles - 7
To add additional colors, I would suggest at least 3-5 fat quarters each of your contrasting colors.
For example, my lime and turquoise combinations from the photo below will have a cream background (made up of an assortment of creams), and I will be using both turquoise and plum as accent colors. I have an assortment of limes totaling 5 yards (20 fat quarters), 2 yards of my fossil fern in turquoise and lime (8 fat quarters), and a smaller pile of 10 fat quarters in plums and turquoises. My fossil fern in turquoise and lime will also be my fabric for the side triangles.

The largest size will be the queen sized, which I'm calculating measures about 93 1/2" square. Math isn't my first language so if anyone else has the exact measure figured out, please share it! Making up the queen size is adding another extra row width-wise and you'll need another 25% of your chosen fabrics ... so 5-6 additional background fabrics and 6-8 additional fabrics.

Hope this helps as you get ready for this great project!

Shakespeare in the Park - fabric selections

In our previous post about colors, we showed you ideas for a monochrome Shakespeare in the Park -- I know many are choosing the blues and whites or blues and creams. GREAT colors!! For those who might not have the book yet, the quilt is made up of 5 different blocks. One of the blocks is a Snails Trail and all of those blocks are made with the light and dark fabric always in the same place. The other four blocks, however, alternate with the light as the background sometimes and the dark as the background at others. This gives us lots more opportunities to use a selection of colors if you want to venture away from a two color quilt.

I spent a few minutes up in my sewing room playing around with some fabrics and thought you might enjoy seeing some different combinations. Click on the picture to see larger versions. If you'd like to show us your fabric selections, just email me a photo and I'll post it here!
Here's a beautiful combination from Donna in New Hampshire ... love that teal with black!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Let's Talk Color - Part 2

If you've done your homework, you now have a good idea of the colors in your quilting stash, and you have actually thought about how the colors make you feel -- why that is your very favorite yellow or green or blue!

Now we're going to put some colors together. If we start with a single color and we want to stick with that, we are creating a monochromatic piece ... By definition, all shades and tints of a monochromatic scheme are going to go together. A monochromatic scheme is easy to manage, and can be peaceful and soothing -- but it can also be boring without the right "sparks" of your color. If you want to make a monochromatic quilt, be sure to include a wide variety of reds to keep the interest going in the quilt. Here are my strips ready for a red and white quilt and a blue and yellow quilt. Note the variety of shades and how they span the red section of the color wheel.

Imagine what would happen if we added a bit of the complementary color to this quilt! The complementary colors are colors that are directly opposite each other on the color wheel. So for the red, green is it's complement. If you don't have a color wheel handy while you're shopping, take your primary color (red in this case) and stare hard at it. Now close your eyes really tight squeezing them shut and you will see a green spot -- the complement. Try this with a couple of other colors -- you will always see its complement using this little trick. Two of my favorite complementary color schemes are blue-green/red-orange (rust and teal) and yellow-green/red-violet (lime green and plum) ... talk about sparkling!

If I move out of the red zone even more I can turn this into an analogous color scheme by moving into the red-violets and the red-oranges. By doing this, I've also opened up a whole new arena for my complementary colors! But use some caution here that you don't end up with a quilt made up of six bright colors -- In addition to choosing the dominant color, be sure to vary the saturation levels and your values to obtain a pleasing combination.

For Shakespeare in the Park, I've heard many color combinations being tossed about, all of them striking! The particular set of blocks that make up this quilt lends itself beautifully to monochromatic, complementary as well as analogous color schemes. For my quilt with the lime green, I'll be using a wide variety of greens, a smaller amount of the red violets for punch and a cream background that is made up of, again, a wide variety of neutral creams. Think of this as a controlled scrap quilt! If you're using a batik or multicolored hand-dye, you might want to choose the complement to one color to add the punch. The batik or multicolored fabric will cut into a variety of hues and values so no need to add additional fabrics to make it variety.

Click here for a color scheme designer program where you can test your color choices -- or maybe make some new ones!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Let's Talk Color - Part 1

There's a lot of buzzing going on related to choosing colors for a quilt. And while a lot of our friends are planning on fabrics specifically for Shakespeare in the Park, we thought that a bit of info on colors might make choices easier. Choosing colors is the one thing I hear quilters say most often -- "I don't know how to put colors together." My own experience with colors began during "art class" years, and what I learned there has been applied to how I use colors in my quilts. Not that I still don't get that awful combo (believe me, it happens), but for the most part I end up happy with colors.

Let's start with the basic color wheel. Colors are divided into "warm" and "cool" colors with the colors on the right side of the wheel being dubbed warmer than the cooler ones on the left side of this wheel. We probably all know that the primary colors are red, blue, and yellow, and that all the other colors of the rainbow (and the color wheel) are made up of these colors. We add white and black to the colors to change the saturation of the color, essentially "graying" the color. If we take our primary colors and begin mixing them together, we come up with secondary colors ...

Yellow and Red = Orange
Blue and Red = Violet
Blue and Yellow = Green

Now we're going to mix up some more colors, and we will have our tertiary palette and can begin to choose fabrics. The tertiary colors are a primary color (red, blue or yellow) mixed with a secondary color ... and we now have red-orange/yellow-orange, blue-violet/red-violet, blue-green/yellow-green.

All the colors you see on the color wheel are in their purest form -- they are hues. When we begin to lighten or darken them using white and black, we are changing the saturation of the color. Add enough white to red and you have the palest pink ... which is still a red color, but you have changed the saturation and the value so it is the lightest on a value scale.

The value scale runs in black/grey/white ... the deepest values are at one end and the palest values are at the other end of the scale. In between the colors are called midtones. The saturation of the color in your fabric shouldn't be confused with the value of the fabrics you're putting together. One way to get a good idea of the values of the fabric you have chosen is to take small pieces and tape them onto a piece of paper and put them on a black and white copier.
A quicker way is to take digital photographs of your fabrics in black and white so you can instantly view the value scale you have chosen. By doing this you are removing the color/hue and will be left looking at your fabrics in terms of value -- light, dark and midtones. A striking quilt will have all three levels ... a really nice quilt will have at least two values, and a boring quilt will have only one value -- nothing to make the eye move around. Zee, one of our readers,
just took a black and white photo of a quilt she was putting together and realized she had to move some blocks around to better distribute the values.

The colors we choose, whether in decorating a room, buying our clothes, or selecting fabrics for quilts, are not arbitrary -- we are attracted or repelled by colors that hold some kind of personal meaning to us. Here are some brief explanations of the meanings of some colors ...

Red = energy and passion
Orange = happiness and courage (and why do we shy away from orange in our quilts?)
Yellow = wisdom and intellect
Green = growth, abundance
Blue = tranquility, trust (most popular color in quilters' stashes -- how about yours?)
Indigo = knowledge, power
Violet = spirituality and strength
Pink = friendly, loving
Brown = order, dependability
Gold = illumination and wisdom
Grey = dignity and self-control (no wonder there's none in my stash!)
Lime = possibilities and perception (my stash overflows with lime!)
Blue-Green = heart
Black = protection and independence

Your homework: Spend some time with your stash evaluating the colors you collect and how the color relates to who you are. Do some sorting by saturation and value. Think about how you are feeling when you have each of your colors in your hands.