{Sunset squared}: A quilt block tutorial

Look at that, I finally made a tutorial for this quilt block!  Be warned, this is going to be a picture overload.

This is the block I constructed for the 4×5 Modern Quilt Bee in the 4th Quarter of 2011.  I’ve been intending to make a tutorial every since.

This block is composed of two separate parts: 1. the upper portion (the “sunset”) finishes at 7.5 inches x 12 inches 2. the lower portion (the squares) finishes at 4.5 inches x 12 inches.  [When I say “finishes”, I mean when it’s sewn into a quilt, the block will be 12.5 x 12.5 inches.]

The upper portion is paper pieced so we will start by making a template and paper piecing those 9 rays.  I am going to use the method of paper piecing in which you fold back the paper along your piecing lines and sew next to it rather than sewing over your lines and tearing the paper off later.  Freezer paper allows the template to stick to your fabric.

First draw a rectangle on the paper side of the freezer paper (as opposed to the waxy side) that is 12 inches x 7.5 inches.  Add another rectangle 1/4 inch to the outside of that one (12.5 inches x 8 inches) to account for your seam allowances.

On the inner rectangle, mark the center of the lower edge.

Find a protractor (ack!  math!) and line it up with the mark you just made on the center of the lower edge.  Mark every 20 degrees all the way around.

[Note: you could also mark every 30 degrees and then you would end up with 6 rays rather than 9.]

Draw lines that extend through the center mark and the every-20-degrees marks, all the way past the edge of your template.

You finished template for the upper portion of this block will have 9 rays that meet at the bottom center of the template.

Choose your fabric for the rays.  You could alternate 2 colors every other ray or select a different fabric for each ray.

Cut your rectangles of your fabric pieces for the rays 3.5 inches wide.  The longest pieces (the two on the corners) will need to be at least 10.5 inches.  I usually cut them at 11 inches so I have some extra fabric to work with.  The others don’t have to be quite that long, so just keep that in mind if you’re working with scraps.

[Assuming the rays are numbered left to right from 1 through 9, the fabric for 3 and 7 should be 11-inches long, the fabric for 2, 4, 6 and 8 should be 10-inches long, the fabric for 5 should be 9-inches long and the fabric for 1 and 9 should be 8-inches long.

Line up the fabric for your first ray with the template.  The wrong side of the fabric should be against the waxy side of the freezer paper.

Iron the freezer paper to the fabric.

Fold back the template along the line between the first and second rays.

Trim the fabric to 1/4 inch beyond the fold.

With right sides together, line up fabric for the second ray with the edge you just trimmed.

Sew the two pieces of fabric together right along the fold of the paper without piercing the paper with your needle.  

Unfold the template.  Iron the second ray open.

Iron the freezer paper to the second ray.

Fold the template back along the line between the second and third rays.

Trim the second ray to 1/4 inch beyond the fold.

Line up the fabric for the third ray even with the edge you just cut, right sides of fabric together.  Sew right along the fold without piercing the paper with your needle.

Unfold the template.

Iron the third ray open.  Be careful not to touch your iron to the waxy side of the freezer paper.

Iron the freezer paper to the third fabric ray.

Fold back the template between the third and forth rays and then trim the third ray to 1/4 inch beyond the fold.

Continue with these steps until you have completed all 9 rays.  Trim around the template.

I like to trim the bottom even with the seam allowance line and add an extra 1/4 inch on the 3 remaining sides so that I have a little extra fabric available for squaring up the block at the end.

Ta da!  Congratulations, you’ve finished the upper portion of this block.  The rest is easy.

Cut out 6 2-inch squares of fabric.  I like to use the parts I cut off the rays from the upper portion of the block.

From a background fabric, cut 2 2-inch squares and 2 2-inch x 12-3/4 inch strips (they really only have to be 12.5 inches, but again, I prefer to have the extra little bit and then trim it at the end).

Sew the squares together with a 1/4-inch seam allowance, creating a 2-inch wide strip.  Make sure the two squares from the background fabric are on the ends of the strip.

Sew the three 2-inch strips together with the pieces strip in the middle of the two background fabric strips.

Sew the top portion to the bottom portion, taking care as you go over the middle, which will be rather thick from where all the rays came together.

Trim your block to 12.5 inches, square.

Voila!  Sunset squared!

Skill Builder Sampler Catch-up: Curves

Way back last summer, I started playing along with the Skill Builder Sampler, hosted by Leila at Sewn.

The point of this series is just as it sounds: building skills.  Quilting skills to be exact.  Every week, a new block is posted, and every forth week is a catch-up week.  The series was set up so that after a year, we will have a collection of 36 sampler blocks to make a large quilt or several small projects.

I was keeping up really well through the half way point, and even won a little fabric prize in a random drawing for completing all the blocks to that point.  Then, my Skill Builder Sampler had to take a back seat to other projects and other things.

Meanwhile, our host herself ended up taking a hiatus.  She mentioned she wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t stand the smell of her iron.  Yep, she’s expecting a baby, and has now made it through the 1st trimester yuckies and is back posting skill building blocks.  The timing of the break worked out for me because it allowed me catch back up.

Our skill building sewing curves included the flowering snowball block.  The block was not intended to have a border around it.  However, it used a template, and I guess mine printed smaller than it was supposed to and I didn’t check it, so my block ended up too small.  So I added a small border.  But I must have been tired and my “quilt math” got turned around in my head so my block was only 12-inches instead of 12.5.  Grrrr …  Instead of taking out all the seam, I just cut off the 1st set of borders, which made my block even smaller and the borders even bigger.  Phew!  Glad to have that done with!!

This is a drunkard’s path block.  I wonder why it is called “drunkard’s path”?  Because drunks can’t walk in a straight line?  Ha!  Anyway.  We practiced curves and making our own templates for quilt blocks.  It actually came together pretty easily.

And finally, the curved 9-patch.  This one (unlike the first block I mentioned in this post) actually was supposed to have a border.  This one also required a template, but we don’t currently  have a printer and I wanted to get started, so I just made my own template to the correct size rather than waiting until I could print the template.  Amazingly, the sizing actually worked out!  Really, I’m amazed.  (I did leave myself a little wiggle room for trimming) I like the block and how it turned out, but I’m less than satisfied with my color choices here.  I think that two prints are too busy next to each other, and were I to do it again, I would make the curved outer edges with a solid, or at least with a much lower contrast print.

I shall have to get a picture of these curve-y blocks all together to show you, but for now, the individual shots will have to suffice.

A little finish for Sarah

I’ve been trying to clean up my sewing “to do” list and check off some things that have been hanging out on there.

My friend Sarah had asked me to make her a changing pad that matched her diaper bag, and I finally go that finished up.  I decided to make an absorbent pad because I feel the waterproof sort just let accidents slide off and all over baby.  This one can just be thrown in the wash if it happens to get piddled upon.

It’s 3 layers of fabric: the pretty gray print that matches Sarah’s bag, a layer of terry cloth, and an inner layer of an absorbent material that’s used in some cloth diapers.  The three layers make it nice an cushy for baby to lie on.

It folds up for travel and closes with a cute little button and elastic loop.

Pink Castle Fabrics Bundle Contest

Back in January, one of my first posts on this little blog was a fat quarter bundle I created for a contested hosted by the Fat Quarter Shop and Kokka Quilts.

While my fabric bundle didn’t catch the eye of the judges, I still enjoyed the process of looking through the fabric at that shop and picking out a selection that appealed to me.

Now, there is a similar contest hosted by Katy at I’m a Ginger Monkey and sponsored by Pink Castle Fabrics.

This time around, I was inspired by this living room I pinned on Pinterest awhile back.  I just love the contrast of the dark purple and yellow grounded by bits of green and gray.

I struggled with creating this fabric bundle a bit because I wanted to build it around a focal print, but I couldn’t really find anything that was co-dominated by my color choices.  Instead, I chose a solid in each color from the palette and then filled in with co-ordinating prints, trying to be conscious of including a range of tones within the color choices.  Admittedly, pairing purple with yellow might be a bold choice, but I think these would make a fantastic, vibrant quilt.

Purples: Free Spirit grape/Moda ditzy daisies/Joel Dewberry Aviary2;
Yellows: Free Spirit saffron/Michael Miller ta dot sunny/Heather Bailey Bijoux;
Greens: Kona cactus/Riley Blake fly a kite dot green/MM vintage ironwork leaf;
Grays: Free Spirit nugray/Moda cross weave gray/Lotta Jansdotter small spring buds


Be Free Bees: Nichol’s addition finished

My addition to Nichol‘s block for the free form robin has been completed and mailed off to the next person who will work on it.  It was nice to check that off my “to do” list, which is way too long, and which I am trying to check things off faster than I add to them right now!

Here’s where I started:

And this is what I sent off:

Last week, I talked about my creative process and how I get from “A” to “B” when working on a project like this.

At that point, I had completed four of those New York Beauty blocks.  I since finished another four.  Here they are, all together.  I’m really proud of these “beauties” because they are paper pieced, which is a more advanced quilting technique (I think) and they have curves, which can be tricky.  Not to mention, these blocks are only 5.5 inches square, so those inner curves are pretty tight.  They are not perfect by any means, and you can see that they don’t all lay perfectly flat, but I love them nonetheless.

When I last talked about this project, I was in the process of thinking about the layout of my addition and whether or not to add a border to the inside of the bits I was adding.  The consensus of the few comments I got here and on flickr was that the border would be a nice addition, so I added a small, solid border in an orange-red that I used in some of the blocks.

Originally, I had planned to add my blocks to the top and right of Nichol’s quilt, but I got turned around when sewed on the first piece (this is what happens when you sew late at night) and rather than take out the seam, I just moved the positioning.

The beauty of this free form group project is there is complete freedom to do whatever works.

This is my favorite part of my addition.  I love how the yellow with the blue points changes place in the adjacent block to blue with yellow points.  The points don’t line up precisely, but I think that will be hardly noticeable in the finished project.

I’m looking forward to seeing what becomes of this project as it grows over the next several months and I wonder how my little starter piece is doing …

How to design a quilt block

Okay, so “how to design a quilt block” is maybe a little too general.  What I’m actually going to tell you is how I designed the block I’m making for the current quarter of the 4×5 Modern Quilt Bee.

I talked about how this online quilt bee works last quarter (before I moved all my sewing related posts over here), which was my first participating, but here’s a quick refresher.  I’m in a group with 5 other ladies (men could play, too, but quilters tend to be women).  We each indicate our color choices and a background color (usually white, ivory, gray, black).  I make 5 quilt blocks of the same design, using the specific color choices of my group members in each block.  They, in turn, do the same, and I receive 5 quilt blocks of different designs, all in my chosen color scheme.  Four times a year, the deadline occurs and then the groups change.

This time, I started out sketching two possible block designs.  

I love the stars.  And I thought I was being all clever and original with the 3 different sized stars in the same block.  Ha!  As we were chatting about our blocks in the group forum, Sarah mentioned that she was thinking about stars for her block as well.  She had already picked a star block.  It’s published in a book called Modern Blocks.  It’s called Stargazing.


Yeah, pretty much the same block I drew.  As I don’t ever recall seeing it before I drew it, I’m not as clever and original as I thought I was, it seems.

Anyway.  On to Plan B.  The stacked bricks design.  But I didn’t really like that little rectangle-in-a-diamond on the left of the above drawing.  So I kept playing with that concept.  That resulted in a couple more sketches.

The first one was too cluttered.  The second one also wasn’t making me very excited, but I can’t put my finger on exactly what about it turned me off.  I kept playing and sketching and ended up with the concept of two rows of bricks “moving” in the same direction, and I added a little separation between each brick.  And now they look like stair steps to me.

The next page in my notebook is completely unrelated; I just threw in another possible design.  Looks like a patchwork river to me; I may revisit this idea later.

And, we’re back to the double staircases.  I drew out the design again, this time trying to figure out what would work in terms of size and placement of all the pieces.  I had to determine how big I wanted the “steps” (width + height), how much I wanted them to overlap with one another, how much background fabric I wanted separating them both horizontally and vertically, etc.

Okay, now that I’ve determined my proportions of all the parts, I now have to figure out the best way to cut out the fabric and put it together.  I spend the next four pages working on that.

Finally, I arrive at the cutting layout here, on the left.  Ta da!  (see how I even put a star on the page?  A star.  Like a 2nd grade spelling test.  I gave myself a star.  Good job … me?  *rolls eyes*.  I digress … )

And after all that, we get to: the manifestation of the design in fabric.  Hooray!

In this particular design, the block is the same right-side up and upside down.  The spacers of background fabric are below the bottom 4 rectangles of color and above the upper 4 rectangles of color.

I’m already thinking about a variation of this block into a whole quilt design where the spacer of background fabric is always on the bottom, for example, and then the steps will continue to climb without interruption across a whole quilt.  Perhaps a rainbow of stairs?  I’m thinking this would be a great project to use those color wheel charm squares I’m expecting.  It just so happens that the stairs are cut at 5 inches wide, the exact width of a charm square.

Little stack of squares

Or maybe that should be BIG stack of little squares.  Five inch squares, 280 of them.

Why, oh, why do I have a stack of 280, 5-inch squares of fabric, all in the red-orange color family?

Because I’m going to trade them as part of a fabric swap!  It’s like trading cards for the fabric lover.  Kati at from the blue chair organized a monster 5-yard color wheel charm swap.  I realize that last sentence may not make sense at all, but I’m pretty excited about it.  Apparently, 55 other people are really excited about it too because the available slots for this swap filled up in five minutes.  Five minutes!  It’s a fabric craze!

I need to give a quick shout-out to Lyanna at Purple Panda Quilts because she signed me up for the swap since I was in Chicago and didn’t know if I would be able to log on when the swap opened.   Without her, no collection of fabric trading cards for me!

A charm square is a pre-cut 5-inch square of fabric.  Fabric manufacturers often produce a charm square pack of a particular fabric line so you can get a little taste of the entire collection.  These little squares are great to use in patchwork and quilting.

In this color wheel charm swap, there are 56 participants.  Each person was assigned a particular color and purchased 5 yards of fabric in that color group.  We cut them up into charm squares and mailed them off to Kati.  I, obviously, was assigned to the red-orange group.  The directions were to purchase 4 prints and one solid in your assigned color.

Kati has the massive undertaking of sorting 280 YARDS OF FABRIC into 56 different packages and putting them back in the mail.  Yikes.  I think I may need to send her a thank you gift for all that work.  Phew!

Some time next month, I will receive a package with 280 charm squares, five total yards, in all colors of the rainbow, plus black and white.  It will be like Christmas in April.  Hooray!

My creative process

The free form quilt bee in which I’m currently participating is great for working on my creativity.  Because the whole idea of this group project is “anything goes,” it’s a great exercise to really allow myself to explore creatively through fabric.  This is only month 3 of 8 and I’m already having a great time with this project.

For the month of March, I have Nichol‘s quilt to add to.  I thought I’d take you through what’s been going on in my mind as I work on her addition.

Here is what arrived in the mail:

Part of this group project is a project journal.  We each included a small journal with our starter block and the intention is that each person who works on this quilt will share a little something about her process, what she added, what inspired her about the quilt.  This is what I wrote in Nichol’s journal:

First impressions: the quilt looks really “fresh.”  I think the yellow + green additions really amplify that.  I’m tuning in to the theme of curves a little bit: the arch of the butterflies’ wings, the little circles in the first fram around the center butterfly, the centers of the flowers, the bicycles tires.  Not to mention Bernie’s lovely curved addition to your project.  

Perhaps 3 quarters of a circle around one of the corners, some circle appliqués along the side … 

My first step was to pull some fabric out of my stash that I thought would coordinate with this project.  When working on something like this, that also sometimes means purchasing a little bit of fabric if there’s something I think is missing.  In this case, though, I had everything on hand.

When I was thinking about circles, I thought perhaps some sort of arch would be a nice addition.  I had Katie‘s mini quilt in the back of mind.  Then I decided to try a New York Beauty block.  There has been a lot of recent chatter in the blogging-quilting community recently about a New York Beauty quilt along (every one makes a block, with a different blogger hosting a new block each week) and I was definitely inspired by a few different blog posts relating to those blocks.

The New York beauty blocks are paper pieced and thus a touch more difficult/time consuming than a “normal” quilt block (that’s relative, of course), so I originally thought I would just do one in one of the corner and then complete my addition along two sides with something a little easier to construct.

Then, I thought perhaps I would do three New York Beauty blocks to surround one corner.

Then I got sort of carried away as I was cutting them out and ended up with the pieces for eight!  Hmmm … so, I suppose this idea has evolved into all New York Beauty blocks along two sides.

I have completed 4 of these lovlies so far.  So, I’m already half way finished with my goal number.  I did stay up until after midnight last night finishing “just one more,” though.  Oops.

I’m a little bit in love with how they look all together as a completed circle and I will have to keep these blocks in my mind for something for myself or another project in the future.

As for the addition to Nichol’s quilt, it’s looking like this so far.

I think I might add a solid border before I add the New York beauty blocks.  What do you think?  Border or no?  Two sides or all the way ’round?

One thing, one week challenge: Ruffle skirt

It’s been a little quiet on the sewing blog.  We were out of town, so no sewing.  And since we’ve been back, I’ve been working on some things, but no finishes.  I suppose I could just show you what’s in the works, though (except for the secret. project.  I can’t show you that yet.).

A few weeks ago, I told you I was going to make a ruffle skirt for Sierra and asked for your thoughts regarding the coordinating fabric.  After considering the input, I ultimately decided to use: none of the above.  I know, the indecisive creative mind at work.  I was finally ready to get going making that skirt I had intended for months and months.  And then it sat in my sewing room for three more weeks.  Sheesh!

Last week, Amy posted another One Thing, One Week Challenge and I set my challenge to finish this skirt.  So, when did I finally finish it (with challenge finish deadline of today)?  12:28 this morning.  But!  It is finished!

Amy's Creative Side
Since I know you’re just sitting on the edge of your seat to see how it turned out, without further ado: Sierra’s ruffle skirt!
I ended up using this print by Carina Gardner.  While I do love the other fabrics I paired with it (the reason I own them!), I wanted something a little more spring-y or summer-y, and all but one of those were pretty dark.
Sierra put the skirt to the “twirl test” and … it passed!
It’s also great for stalking birds.  With an insect net.  She did not catch any birds.  She did catch a pinecone.

Connections: One more mei tai

My friends received one of my mei tais from a mutual friend as a baby gift.  They loved it so much, they asked me to make one for his sister.  And she liked hers so much, I have now made one for her sister.  I’m thrilled to hear that babies are being loved in these carriers that I’ve made and that mamas and daddies enjoy them so much they want to share the love.

This one has a pretty green floral print from Moda Basic Grey and brown twill straps.

The reverse side is a Hoffman batik.  I am loving these hand-dyed look batiks from Hoffman Fabrics.  They have such an interesting quality to them, and they come in so many colors.  I own a yard of one that looks like a sunset.  I can’t wait to create something with that!