May 31, 2011

Modular Cathedral: single window block

Here's the first variation I'm trying on the modular cathedral window. This is a 9 inch finished block. To make it, you need:
-four 5 inch squares for the background.
-four white 4 inch squares for the curves.
-one square for the center that measures 4 and 3/4 inches (not shown, oops!)

Start by pressing the four white squares in half along the diagonal. Then lay one folded square in the corner of each background square.

Use a dab of glue or a glue stick to secure each corner of the folded white squares.

Arrange the blocks and sew together with a 1/4" seam allowance. (Midstream fabric change!)

Lay the center square in the middle of the block. Use a dab of glue to secure each corner.

Fold down each curve and pin. Starting at one corner, stitch along the curve edge slowly.

As you approach the end of one curve, raise the presser foot and coax the next curve underneath it. Lower the foot, stitch to the end of the curve and continue directly on to the next curve.

When I finished this block I realized you can hear angels singing when you see it all completed.

May 26, 2011

Modular Cathedral Windows experiment

I recently had my head cracked open by a little zipper bag from Patchwork Notes. Holy smokes. The same curves you know and love from cathedral windows, but not in a cathedral window. It made me think new thoughts about getting down with rolled bias edges.

Since I saw that photo I've been pondering the different possibilities, and poking at one in particular over and over when I get a few minutes in the sewing room. Obsessing and making messes are what I do best.

I'm calling it a modular cathedral window. The advantage of this approach is that you can have different colors across the block and even different colors within the modules. It doesn't require calculations or complicated folding. It's great for using up scraps. And because each quarter of the block is constructed individually, it's easily adapted to variations.


To make the base module you take three squares of the same size. Press two of them in half along the diagonal. Lay them over the other unfolded square, with the folded edges meeting along the diagonal.

I experimented with stitching along the module edges with a straight stitch and a zig zag and didn't like either approach. I also tried using a tack stitch in the corners where the edges met, but I don't even think that's necessary now. Instead, I am just using a dab of fabric glue to tack down the corners where they meet.

Rolling back the bias edge and stitching it down was easier than I expected. At first I did it as I completed each module, before stitching them together, but some of the rolls got into the seam allowances that way. So now I'm waiting to roll back the bias edges until I've stitched my modules together. I am not given to patience in the sewing room, so I'll admit that waiting to see the end result is hard. (Photo below prior to my glue and patience revelations)

The downside of the modular cathedral window is those seam allowances. Six layers of fabric coming together. The traditional cathedral window definitely has an advantage here. Press the seam allowances open and hope for the best.

I almost didn't show that last picture. I don't really know what a "good" cathedral window looks like so I'm not sure whether to be impressed or embarrassed with myself. Silliness. Not important. Just an experiment.

So what do you think, is it in your brain now too? I just want to keep playing with this so I'm thinking I'll post a new block using this technique every week or so. It won't have the structure of a full quilt along because I don't want to make all those decisions about size and yardage right now, but I can tell you: 9 inch finished blocks. Lots of five inch squares required. I'm buying a couple Kona charm squares packs to make it easy on myself, but I'll be cutting into yardage too along the way. I can't wait to show you some of the variations I'm cooking up. I'll start with the first block this week!

Single window block
Squared window block
Sweet garden block
Little spinner block 
Big spinner block
Flora block
Groove block

May 24, 2011

Hits and Misses

Hit: winning this awesome bag from Kristen at Kmac Quilts. Kristen is a fellow PMQG member and hers is one of my favorite blogs to read. She's talented and hilarious and she is the only quilter whose cat pictures I get excited about. You'll see why. My husband is already tired of me talking about this bag but seriously, I can't stop.

Miss: Sew Mama Sew Giveaway Day. Apparently one month warning is just not enough for me to get my act together on this one.

Hit: witnessing my daughter's first "pre-symbolic" art piece. I got to hear her narrate, "snail eye, snail other eye, snail mouth, snail nose, snail curly hair...". I am totally blown away, I had no idea she was about to do this. Last week it was still all lines and circles.

Miss: My Bernina 830 record is doing it's overheating vintage pedal nonsense again. Back on the Singer slant-o-matic and planning to trade in the Bernina towards an extended arm Juki.

Hit: Cathedral window epiphany. Serious love. Coming soon, in great detail.

May 15, 2011

At it again

This week I helped a co-worker finish her first ever quilt block. That's right: paper piecing! We are at it again with a group baby quilt and she found this paper pieced raccoon block on Etsy and I figured, why not go for it? We had several hours in my sewing room together and she totally picked it up. We did adjust the pattern slightly to eliminate some of the unnecessary details. And we used up just about all of that green and blue background fabric. I'm wondering if anyone knows what it's called? I really want more of it now!

Here are all the blocks. There was supposed to be a bat too, but that friend just had her third baby and appliqueing a quilt square is waaaaaay down on her list. The theme for this group quilt is "nighttime creatures". There was some concern that with this theme the quilt would be "too dark" and as it turns out, all the squares are very night-like. I think it will work though. As with past quilts, the members bring me not only their completed square but also their scraps, which I then use in constructing the quilt. Having the scraps really ties it all together and seems to cushion us from the cacophony that could result from having no predefined color scheme.
I've put together several baby quilts for/from this group of friends, but I've never blogged the process. Having just seen all the squares together for the first time on Friday, I want to sort of document the path I go down with these. So far I've played with the blocks a bit to get the arrangement that seemed to balance the various colors and values around the quilt. The only thing I'm not sure about is that the moth and the dragonfly are each flying, one above the other, at exactly the same angle. Too weird? Next I have to figure out what to do for the missing square. I'm thinking a scrappy variable star on that solid blue. Star, nighttime, it seems like it should have at least one star in there. Maybe stars in the corners too?

I still have some strips hanging around from the Cascade quilt and on a hunch I pulled them out. They really sing with these blocks. So the plan right now is, sash the blocks in white, and construct a scrappy string border. I think the border will alternate the solid blue strips with scrap strips from the block fabrics. I hope this comes together quick! (Quick in my house is two months, so I think Project Modern round 3 is out of the question, too bad but kind of a relief). I hope to have some progress to show on this in a week or two.

May 06, 2011

Shadow Seams Log Cabin experiment

I may have seen one too many quilt-tops-in-sunny-windows pictures. They always make me gasp. Jen just did one here. Wow.

I tried to get that without the sunny window.  What I used is a simple stained glass technique. And with Susan Beal putting log cabins in my head, I couldn't ignore the fact that a log cabin would fit the bill perfectly for a pattern-free block that could be built easily with this technique. Susan's bohemian mixes of fabric are fresh in my mind, which may be why my fabrics are such a joyful jumble.

So to do this you'd want to choose your fabrics and cut them into strips the width you desire. I tried to choose fabrics that had a luminous quality to them, like the sun might be shining through them. You also need a shadow fabric that's darker than the others. I chose a muted eggplant. Cut this fabric into strips 3/4" wide.

Set aside a few pieces of your prints to use for the centers of your blocks. Then prep: sew a shadow strip to each of your print strips using a 1/4" seam.

Now choose a center piece for your block. This starting piece should not have a shadow strip on it. Sew one of the prepped print strips to one side, along the shadow edge, using a 1/4" seam. Trim the edges even.

And work around the blocks. Every strip you add is being sewn along the shadow edge. 

My squares were two tier, ending up around nine inches. If you start with a consistent size for your strips and center pieces you will get a consistent finished size for the log cabin blocks. But I think you know I don't work like that at all.

So that's my latest experiment. Sewing things together with 3/4" strips between them. I only sort-of achieved the effect I was going for but I do like how they look! I think I needed a different, (slightly lighter?) color for the shadow strips. I'm sure I'll play around with this some more. It was fun.

May 04, 2011

Free Motion Quilting Tips: Faux Meandering

I wanted to mention some designs that can be used instead of meandering, but with a similar effect. Sometimes meandering feels overwhelming for new quilters, and a simpler pattern is needed while learning to coordinate the hands and the stitching speed.

These patterns require fewer decisions to make as you quilt, so if you want a simple non-meandering pattern for your next quilt, check them out. Worked in a low contrast thread they give off the same initial impression as meandering on the finished quilt, but can be worked straight across the quilt in rows. You can use strips of masking tape laid across the quilt to help keep your rows an even height as you work across.


Lazy Eights


May 01, 2011

Free Motion Quilting Technique: Print Tracing

I've been thinking lately about the things I love the most about quilting, and it comes down to two things: experimenting and free motion quilting. I've been missing the free motion quilting talk on the blog lately. So today starts a new rash of it. You've been warned!

So, do you think I have the drawing skills to freehand this little vignette? No, I do not.

Am I crazy enough to carefully trace it onto my fabric and then stitch it? No, I am not.

Do I have some fabric from Thailand? And did I sneaky-stitch along the lines of the print from the back? Yes and yes!

My words of advice about this technique:
  • Choose a big print. If you think the print you're considering might be too small, it's too small.
  • Avoid very frilly flowers and really detailed leaves. The little veins on these leaves were a pain.
  • Make sure your tension is great before you start. What's on the bottom as you stitch will be what's on the top afterward!
  • Try to stitch with a thread that contrasts with your print so you can see where you've stitched. I wanted a dark thread on that light green fabric but it made it hard to see where I'd already been while I was stitching.

Print tracing is kind of fun and can be a good beginner exercise because the design is laid out for you, allowing you to focus on the speed and the movement of your hands.  Just don't take it too seriously. Consider the print as a guide for your stitching. You aim to follow the pattern but you won't always hit it. That's ok, you won't be able to see the print on the front and so you won't be able to tell where you did and didn't follow the lines.