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I don’t like measuring.

A couple of questions came up about what my process of designing my latest quilt top is. The title of this post pretty much sums it up how I work.  I tend to wing it quite a bit!

It started like this…

Just a few random blocks that I made with no idea about how they would all fit together.  I liked them arranged this way, so I stuck with it and figured it was time to start doing some planning.

My clearly amazing photoshop skills lead me to this:

elda'squilt

From there, I made blocks based on this arrangement, just looking at the photo as I went along.  The most measuring that I did was to grab my ruler and put it up on my design wall to get a sense of the size that the block I was making should turn out. Admittedly, a couple of times I had to rip out a seam to add a bigger piece of fabric to a block that had turned out a bit small.   But I’d rather do that than spend tons of time measuring and cutting specific fabric sizes.  I much, much prefer to just eyeball the whole thing, while erring on the side of making each block too big.  It’s so much easier to trim down a block than have to add to it!  I also made sure that I overlapped the blocks, allowing for seam allowances, as I arranged them on the design wall.

I spent a lot of time stepping back and staring at the design wall (if you don’t have one yet, really, you need one! It will change quilting for you!) and deciding which colors to add to which block.  I make my decisions as I sew, block by block.  I love designing as I sew.  It makes the sewing feel less like the labor portion of a creative process.

This is it, now all sewn together. I made a couple of changes from the plan, but mostly stuck to it. It measures 56″ x 54″.  Since the goal is 80″ x 88″ I have plenty more to go…

Lantern Bloom Progress

From there a bit more planning was in order because the quilt does have to turn out a specific size after all…

Again, my astonishing photoshop skills where put to use. Then I printed out what I’d come up with and with a pencil and some markers (I’m so high tech!) I did some simple math and bit of color planning…

Planning1 Planning2

And now I’m just working away at making the rest of the blocks! Should be done in a few days…

Hope that you all have wonderful Mondays!

Pebble Quilting Demo

A couple of people have asked for a tutorial on the pebble quilting I’ve done.

Pebble Quilted Hexagons.

There is so much info out there about free motion quilting that I’m not going to cover the basics again, but along with those other links, I have a post here about them.

I figured it would just be easiest if I posted a little video of me doing the quilting. Check it out!

I hope that having a visual example is helpful!  I go around each “pebble” two full times and then move onto the next pebble.  Sometimes I start a third time around in order to head off into the direction I’d like.  At first I thought it looked a bit sloppy, but the big picture is the key with this quilting – not each individual pebble.  No one will notice if a pebble or two aren’t just right.

One thing to keep in mind is to keep the size of your pebbles basically the same.  Over time they can gradually grow or shrink and you want to avoid that.  Unless you choose to intentionally mix it up with the pebble sizes.

Also, wind all the bobbins you can before you get started.  You’re seriously going to be going through some thread!

Let me know if you have questions!

Tote Tutorial

Finished Garden Tote

I have a quilted garden tote tutorial up over at Sew, Mama, Sew! today. Hop on over to download the PDF. I hope you like it!

Sparks Baby Quilt Pattern

A little while back, I mentioned that I’d be posting the pattern for  the Sparks Baby Quilt. Here it finally is!  I’ve learned that writing up patterns feels like real homework to me… no fun!  But I do want to start doing it more.  I feel like the more I do it, the easier it will get.

Let me preface by saying that I hope that this pattern works out for you.  It’s the first quilt pattern I’ve written up and I’m generally not someone who follows patterns. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s mistakes and/or confusions.  Please drop me a note or comment if you have thoughts or suggestions for changes.  Also, do let me know if you make the quilt!  I would love to see your results.

Ok – here’s the pattern!

Sparks Baby Quilt

Sparks Baby Quilt

The finished quilt measures 46.5″ x 60″

Needed Fabric:

Blocks – all of mine are different fabrics, but that’s up to you!
- 20 3.5″ square centers
- 20 frame sides,  3.5″ x 6″
- 20 frame tops and bottoms, 8.5″ x 6″

Sashing – I used off white Kona cotton:
- 15 strips of  2.5″ x 8.5″
- 4 strips of  2.5″ x 38.5“

Border – I used off white Kona cotton:
-2 strips of  4.5″ X 48.5” for side border
-2 strips of  6.5″ x 46.5” for top and bottom border

CUTTING:

Let’s do the easy part first.

Cut the sashing and border

Sashing & Borders cut out

Sashing:
15 strips of  2.5″ x 8.5″
4 strips of  2.5″ x 38.5“

Border:
2 strips of  4.5″ X 48.5” for side border
2 strips of  6.5″ x 46.5” for top and bottom border

Then, cut out the fabric for the blocks

Cut centers:
-20 centers,  3.5″ square.

For my centers I did lots of fussy cutting.   After measuring and cutting my first square, I like to then use it as a template for cutting out the rest of the centers.  Some people hate templates, but I find them helpful for fussy cutting.

Fussy Cutting

Using the template makes it easier for me to see which part of the fabric I want to cut out.  Make sure to use the same square as the template all along, and not to trim its edges as you go.  You don’t want the squares you are cutting to gradually change a bit in size.

Cut frames:
- 20 frame sides,  3.5″ x 6″
- 20 frame tops and bottoms, 8.5″ x 6″

Cut Fabric

Next, cut the fabric for the block frames in two.

I do it randomly, but first I lay them out and do some design planning before I decide which squares will be cut which way.  Here the fabric is stuck up on my (tri-colored, yes it’s just three pieces of felt!) design wall so that I see how it will all look.

Design decisions

There are a couple of things I consider before cutting the fabric for the frames in two.  I wouldn’t want to find down the road that all of my oranges have the center in the upper right.  Or all of the blocks that I want on the left edge of the quilt have centered centers. That’s wordy, but I hope you see what I mean.

Also, keep in mind that some of your blocks have a right side up (unless you didn’t fussy cut) – so you can’t flip them around later to change the position of the center.

If you aren’t comfortable cutting the frames randomly, I have broken it down like this:

Block options

8 blocks – off set top & bottom, off set sides
- Cut 8 of the 3.5″ x 6″ down to 3.5″ x 2.5″ & 3.5″ x  3.5″
- Cut 8 of 8.5″ x 6″ down to 8.5″ x 2.5″ & 8.5″ x 3.5″

When piecing these 8 blocks put:
- 2 centers in upper left
- 2 centers in lower left
- 2 centers in upper right
- 2 centers in lower right

4 blocks – off set top & bottom, centered sides:
Cut four  3.5″ x 6″ strips down to 3.5″ x 3″ and 3.5″ x 3″
Cut four  8.5″ x 6″ strips down to 8.5″ x 2.5″ and 8.5″ x 3.5″

When piecing these 4 blocks put:
2  centers higher in the block
2  centers lower in the block

4 Blocks – centered top & bottom, off set sides
Cut four of the 3″ x 6″ strips down to 3.5″ x 2.5″ and 3.5″ x 3.5″
Cut four of 8.5″ x 6″ down to 8.5″ x 3″ and 8.5″ x 3″

When piecing these four blocks put:
2 centers to the left
2 centers to the right

4 Blocks – centered top & bottom, centered sides
Cut four of the 3″ x 6″ down to 3.5″ x 3″ and 3.5″ x 3″
Cut 4 of 8.5″ x 6″ down to 8.5″ x 3″ and 8.5″ x 3″

All four of these blocks are pieced the same way.

PIECING:

Piece all the blocks, randomly or as indicated above.

Ready to peiceStep 1Step 2

Here are all of my pieced blocks:

Finished Blocks

Next, piece the sashing.

First attach the blocks to one another with the fifteen strips of  2.5″ x 8.5″ until they are put together in 5 rows.

Connecting blocks with sashingRows with sashing

Then continue by attaching all the rows to each other with the four strips of  2.5″ x 38.5“.

Sashing 2Sashing 3

Finally, piece the border.

Borders

First sew on the sides, the 2 strips of  4.5″ X 48.5”.

Borders 2

Then sew on the top and bottom, the 2 strips of  6.5″ x 46.5”.

Congratulations! You have a finished quilt top!

Finished Quilt top

From here, if you need to, check out this post for links on how to baste, quilt and bind!  Hope that you enjoyed the pattern!

Quilting

With my new visitors from Sew, Mama, Sew! I have been getting the same question quite a bit:  How do you do that “all over squiggly” quilting?  I do it on my normal little sewing machine, and you can do it too!  It’s called free motion quilting – and that pattern is called stippling.  I’m certainly no expert, and there’s lots of other info out there about free motion quilting, but I thought I’d type up a post, with all my thoughts and tips, to direct people to.

Quilting

First off, I want to mention that it’s not that hard. I feel like before I did any free motion quilting, everything I read about it scared me off. People made it sound like it was incredibly tough to master.  But it’s not.  It takes practice, but beyond that, it’s something that anyone can do.

The nuts and bolts: you use a darning foot on your machine, and you put your feed dogs down.  From there, practice lots on quilt sandwich scraps before diving into your first quilt top.

Other things that help:

- Always set your needle to stop in the down position so that you can stop and start as much as you need to.
-The key to even stitches is to find the balance between the speed you move the quilt and the speed of your needle.
- For me, going fast makes my stitches more even – but from what I’ve read that’s not the case for everyone.
- If you run out of thread in your bobbin in the middle of your quilt, just keep going from the same spot, making sure to sew a few locking stitches over where you left off.
- I check that the back of the quilt looks right A LOT. Tension problems often don’t show on the front.
- If you’re quilting a big quilt, having a table to your left to hold the weight of the quilt is incredibly helpful. You can see what I mean in this photo.

Quilting

Beyond all that I’ve mentioned, there is an amazing flickr discussion here that gives you all the tips and tricks you could ever need. And Amanda Jean put up a GREAT video tutorial here. Both of those helped me a lot.

The other question that I’m often asked is how I organize my quilting… meaning, where on the quilt do I start and how do  I work my way through the quilt.  I have an incredibly tough time explaining it in words, so I did a drawing for you! Here it is:

How I Quilt

I hope that’s clear! I don’t start in the middle as is often suggested, but this seems to work for me. The first couple of quilts I stippled would get some yucky puckering in the back but now I pin LIKE CRAZY (I mean, I think I might OVER pin!) when I’m basting and that problem has stopped.

Quilting has come to be my favorite step of quilt making. I still get a thrill every time I sew over a seam and “unite” the quilt top a bit more. I love watching it all come together. It’s so much fun!

Sew, Mama, Sew! Doll quilt sew along

Today part 1 of my 4 part doll quilt sew along of this little quilt is up over at Sew, Mama, Sew!

Completed Quilt

Maybe you’d like to join in? Would love it if you did!  Drop me a comment if you’re sewing along – I’d love to see what you all make!

My favorite quilting resources

First little glimpse at progress on the commissioned coin quilt.  Just the binding left to go!

Quilting on Coin Quilt

I’m really no expert, but I’ve been asked by some people about the various steps of making a quilt, and as I’m completely self taught (I’ve learned everything from blogs and books!) I thought I’d put all of my favorite tutorials/posts in one place.  I’ve read a lot of blogs about the process of making quilts and to me, with these specific posts, anyone can make a quilt.  I’m proof of it because this is how I learned!

In terms of making the quilt top, to each their own!  That’s where it’s all about taste and design.  The one thing I am not is a perfectionist, so I’m not all about perfect piecing.   I’ve gotten better with practice and this is a great place to read about the details, from cutting to pressing

http://quilting.about.com/od/piecingtechniques/Piecing_Sewing_Methods_for_Quilters.htm

Sizes of different quilts and different adjustments can be found here:

http://www.amishcountrylanes.com/Pages/QuiltSize.shtml

For basting layers of the quilt:

http://crazymomquilts.blogspot.com/2007/09/one-way-to-baste-quilt.html

For quilting there is lots to be read but I’m personally a free motion quilter.  I love this discussion on flickr.  It’s filled with lots of specific tips from different quilters.

http://www.flickr.com/groups/quilts/discuss/72157604324619530/

And this post with a video is amazingly helpful!

http://crazymomquilts.blogspot.com/2008/03/free-motion-quilting.html

Once you’ve quilted all that’s left is the binding and this is a great tutorial:

http://heatherbailey.typepad.com/photos/continuous_quiltbinding/index.html

And then your quilt is all done!!  I’ve made many quilts simply by following all of these directions.  I’ve never had another quilter see how I do any of my work so there’s a good chance they would look on in horror at my methods, but in the end, I always end up with a pretty quilt, so I don’t worry myself too much with that!  I have so much fun making my quilts and that’s what matters!

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