WIP-Gingham Quilt

I spent the better part of the evening last night researching potential blocks for my gingham quilt–got to get that done so I can move on to other summer projects.  Here’s a slideshow of my Work In Progress: Gingham.  I’m going to make up some samples today to entice you to comment on the Gingham Giveaway Day.  It’s a week away!

WIP–Freshly Pieced

Imagine Lee’s Logo here from Freshly Pieced Fabrics. Because of the vagaries of WordPress slide shows, if I put that image in here it will show up as one of the slides–so, please forgive that it’s not here, yet hop over to her blog to see other great Works in Progress!

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As you have probably figured out by now, gingham is a strong graphic print that has its Own Thing To Say in a quilt.  So after working with these prints and blocks (digitally, using my QuiltPro program) I think lots of white makes gingham really shine.  I also like minimal seams, for as Roberta Horton noted in her seminal book on working with plaids, Plaids & Stripes, the more seaming done with a check, plaid, or gingham, the busier the design will be.

I think any modern-type design could be used successfully, as many of them are based on simple shapes (think: squares, rectangles) with minimal piecing.  One example of this is Lee’s of Freshly Pieced Modern Meadow quilt here or Mod Times here.  Ashley’s quilts (of Film in the Fridge) trend towards this variety and some examples that would work well are here and here.  And who can’t find a quilt to love over at Red Pepper?  Her latest quilt here would look really beautiful with a pop of gingham in those centers, as would her version of flying geese here.  So I think ginghams, although indicative of an earlier, more nostalgic time, could adapt to the modern life easily.

Hope I’ve given you some ideas for a quilt block or two, or even a quilt.  And check back next week for the Gingham Giveaway: three different sets of fat quarters (that also include a full half-yard of Kona white)!

Quick Quilt

Summer Treat Block Tutorial

This is an OPQuilt Quick Quilt, as the block (even with unpicking my mistake) took me about 1 hour. But I sew quickly.  Your actual time may vary.  (Aren’t I supposed to say this kind of stuff?)

Each block has three colors: main color (color A), white (color B) and accent color (color C).
Cut 4-1/2″ squares–5 of color A (shown here as aqua)
Cut 4-1/2″ squares–4 of color B (shown here as white)
Cut 2-1/2″ squares–8 of color A (shown here as aqua)
Cut 2-1/2″ squares–12 of color B (shown here as white)
Cut 2-1/2″ squares–12 of color C (shown here as yellow)

Now ready, set, sew by propping up your sewing machine on door stoppers as the angle of your machine makes you less tired.  I learned this at a quilt show, which is why it’s always a good idea to take classes once in a while.  You can’t learn everything on the internet.

You need some way to mark the diagonal lines.  Of course, you can eyeball them, but if you’re like me, your straight-stitching skills go out the door.  This is called a Quick Quarter tool, and you can find it at JoAnn’s.  Often I’ll use a template with lines marked that affixes to the bed of the sewing machine, but I just went with this for one block.  That latter-not-shown gizmo is called “The Angler” and is worth every penny of the eight bucks it cost.

Align the outer edges of the small square with the large square and stitch just to the side of the pencil line, moving your needle towards the outer corner.

You can see it in this photo here.  My stitching line is not ON the pencil line, but towards the outside edge by a couple of threads.  This allows you room for the fold, and so it won’t distort the shape of this smaller unit in your block.

Sew on as many of these corners as you can, as it saves time to do a bunch of sewing, then a bunch of ironing/pressing, then a bunch of trimming.  But I’m sure you already knew that.

This is the part where you should turn off your music or that novel you are listening to, because you have to think CAREFULLY about what part should be cut off.  I remember it by placing the ruler over the part I want to preserve, then lining up my ruler.  I then cut 1/4″ away from that stitching line.

Yes, you are making a bunch of snowball blocks.

Keep trimming.  Love how the white looks pink.  But, it’s white.  After trimming, head to the ironing board and press the snowball corners away from the center of the larger square.

Unit #1 is done, all four of them.  Set them aside.  And yes, I press my seams to one side.  It’s not a gospel with me, this press-seams-open business, like it is with some modern quilters.  If it is with you, have at it.  I prefer them pressed to one side because I own several old quilts, and they are still sturdy  although worn, and I haven’t had to sew any seams back together from popping apart.  Since pressing to one side works for me, I’m sticking with it.  I believe the thinking it that they look “flatter.”  Judging from the appearance of my older, worn quilts, um . . . that’s really not an issue after a few years.

First corner is on, so lay out the next set of stitching.  I put the yellow square opposite on one of my squares, to remind me that only one has all four corners that are yellow.

Stitch, again staying a few threads to the outside edge of your pencil lines.  Chain stitch as many as you can together.  I found that by focusing on my end point and going a bit faster speed, my stitching line was straighter than if I obsessed about staying next to the pencil line.  Aim for a straight seam, as my college Clothing and Textiles professor used to say.

See that thread cutter on the back of the machine that you sometimes use?  Use it now, letting it cut your sewn units apart.  Quick! and easy.

Keep sewing. Keep trimming.  Keep pressing.  Repeat until all the snowball corners are on all the blocks.  Give these units another final press if you haven’t done so already.

Now eat your vegetables, by taking time to true up all the units.  I learned long ago that by truing up the inside units, there is less distortion in the final block (and usually I never have to true up those).  If you are a newbie quilter, it simply means to lay a ruler over your block/unit and trim off those slight edges that don’t belong.  I also take this time to get it back to “square” by checking the diagonal and making sure it runs from corner to corner.

All the units are trimmed up, and I laid them out next to my “pattern,” a print-out of the block.  Now sew the first row’s units together, then the middle, then the last row.

To make sure those intersections line up, stick a pin through them (top photo).

Straddle that pin on either side with two other pins, then remove the placeholder pin (bottom photo).  It shouldn’t shift now under the needle.

This is how I pressed my seams (seen from the back).  I like to be able to nestle the seams together by feel, so one has to go one way, and one has to go the other.  Now pin the rows together, then flip over the block and check them.

Otherwise, if you are like me and are talking to your mother and wishing her a Happy 84th Birthday, you’ll sew them all together incorrectly.  A nice block to be sure, but not the one I’m trying to make.  Unpick.  Re-stitch.  Then give it a good pressing.  How did I press these last seams?  Towards the middle.  Often a seam will make its will be known by how thick it is, or how many intersecting seams it has.  Just be consistent.  I do admit that if it’s a really pesky, lumpy intersection, I may press just that part of it open, leaving the rest of the seam pressed to one side.  Experiment, but remember you are making these quilts to last.  And last and last.

And that’s it!  Now make 11 more, throwing in a random darkish patch here and there to keep the eye moving and give it some interest.  Or not.

Happy Summer Sewing.  Now I’m off to figure out my gingham quilt!


Cleaning Up the Study/Happy Memorial Day!

What my sewing study looked like at the end of the semester, after I’d posted grades.

Way leads on to way. . . getting worse.


Before I exploded the room, I was working on a little quilt design for a quick summery treat.

Here’s the quilt.  It’s titled Summer Treat, but when I was working on it I called it Ice Cream Treat, as those colors look like you could lick them. I threw in a couple of purple triangles just to make things interesting, for I believe that every quilt should have a full range of lights-to-darks.  Just like any good photograph.

Here’s the block.  Since it’s a 12 inch block, this should go together quickly.  I’ll post some templates tomorrow and hopefully a shot of one of my refreshing Summer Treat blocks.  Now that my study’s all cleaned up, it’s time to pull out the fabrics and put that clean space to use.

Happy Memorial Day, or Decoration Day, as my mother calls it.  She and Dad have already started putting flowers on the graves of those relatives who have gone before, adding another one or two each year (everyone gets buried near them–kind of our psychic home away from home).  I appreciate that they honor the original meaning of the holiday, and it makes me think about my grandmothers and my one grandfather who I knew best.

We’ll be heading out to the main street near our house to cheer on thousands of motorcyclists for Rolling Thunder West Coast, an homage to Rolling Thunder, East Coast.  We saw that one when we lived in DC–so many bikes came over that bridge on their way past Lincoln’s Memorial and on to the Mall.  Last year for West Coast Rolling Thunder we had about 4,000 bikers and I waved my little American flag and hollered.  It was great.

Barbeque for us?  Maybe.  Or maybe we’ll just go out for a burger and let others do the grilling for us.  But I’ve already picked up the strawberries for our Summer Strawberry Cake (recipe on my cooking blog).  That’s they beauty of all the children grown–life’s a bit more flexible around the edges.  And of course–some sewing in my nice clean study.

Happy Memorial Day!


Finally, a Wednesday

Finally?  Doesn’t Wednesday come around each week?  Well, yes, but today was the day I gave my final, and I came right home and graded the essays.  Then it’s stew over the grades, which is going on in the background.

While I never usually list all the quilts I want to do, I do like this kid’s approach to his summer.  Some small ideas and some big ones.  I especially like the “attend an outdoor play” and “s’mores.”  I have listed things before on this blog, and it’s pathetic how few of them get done.  But here goes:

I admire those who have a quilt-in-progress to show, but I finished mine!  See yesterday’s post.  Head back over to Lee at Freshly Pieced for more wonderful Works in Progres.

Quilt Shows

Bloggers’ Quilt Festival

A long long time ago, back when little girls wore Mary Jane shoes and babies wore white high-top leather lace-ups, and Easter hats were required when wearing dotted swiss voile dresses, there were four little girls.  This story is about the two youngest: me (the baby girl) and my sister Susan, (standing next to me).

My two older sisters were, well–older, which meant that Susan and I were left to our own devices, desperately seeking to be older ourselves, to crack that inner circle of mystery and intrigue that belongs to older women.  Even if they were four and six at the time.

New Journeys

Fast forward about 55 years.  And to a 60th birthday for my sister Susan.  I thought it was quilt-worthy, to finally obtain that title of Older Woman, but not in the feeble, grandma-hunched-over sort of Older Woman.  More like the energetic, full-professor, world traveler, amazing knitter sort.  And my sister Susan is all of those.

So I made her a quilt with the block pattern of Crossed Canoes, because it holds many meanings for her.  Not only has she canoed/portaged/survived the Boundary Waters of Minnesota multiple times, she is a steadying sort for her husband as he faces a battle for newly-diagnosed cancer.  I titled it New Journeys, because at age 60, she is heading into a new kind of boundary waters, slipping into a different kind of journey at her age of exploring new horizons, managing new experiences, and always, learning to read the surroundings for how to thrive.  She will excel at that last one, as she always has.

I told my sister Cynthia–that next little girl up the line in her Easter dress–that I was making Susan a quilt, and did she want to contribute?  She did and I was glad, for then this quilt can be a hug from both of us in days to come. Bon Voyage and Happy Birthday!

New Journeys, back

Here’s the block.  It’s not to scale, but supposedly the PDF file is (click here: Crossed Canoe 10).  I chose to make my canoes a little wider than longer, as I wanted to showcase the French General fabrics (plus a few others from my stash).  My block measures 10″ square and the quilt is a nice “hug” or lap quilt size.  I hope Susan gets many hugs from it!

Click *here* to return to Amy’s Creative Side: Bloggers’ Quilt Festival 2012 to see other amazing quilts (and read some very cool stories).

Quilts · Something to Think About

Gingham Dresses

A few years ago, my granddaughter wore this Dorothy blue-gingham dress for trick-or-treating, a gift from her grandmother on the other side of the family (and a hand-me-down from her older sister).  A classic.

A couple of years later, her younger sister wore it on her trick-or-treating forays, and the youngest granddaughter from that family will probably wear it also in a couple of years.

What is it about this blue gingham dress?  What is it about gingham?  Since I’ve been on an gingham jag, several have left comments that indicate there’s a certain nostalgia for this fabric.  It seems to be associated with childhood, easier times, a dress that had lots of gathers, a dress with a big bow in the back.  Gingham always looks crisp, clean and fresh.  Gingham just has that certain something that reminds of us when we were children, of when staying out until after dark was a delicious treat as we played Hide and Seek, or Red Rover-Red Rover.

Gingham was for dress-up occasions, like Easter Sunday.  There’s an old home movie of three of us sisters all decked out in gingham dresses, with white rickrack along the neckline and armholes.  Mine was pink, Susan’s was blue, Cynthia had a large gingham on in a blue color and Christine, my eldest sister, was apparently too old for gingham as she wore a simple shift.  The quality of the movie was spotty, as home movie cameras were a new thing, the focus flitting as from person to person.  (My parents were just trying to learn this new technology, only they didn’t call it that–it was a great new invention!)  But gingham is ageless, and like Simone, in the earlier posts, when we throw on some gingham it carries with it not only its history (back to England) but also our particular group of memories and associations.

For me, it will always be that pink gingham dress, flounced and tied with a big fat bow at the back, worn on hot summer days.  Or the backing for my second son’s baby quilt–the large blue check a counterpoint to the colorful sashed nine-patches.  Or the flip side of my daughter’s baby quilt, those pink gingham checks making her soft skin glow in those few baby pictures I have of her.

Or perhaps, after this, it will be this summer, with its events and hot days, as I cut and sew new memories with new friends.  Come and sew some gingham with us!