Saturday, August 01, 2015

I hardly ever plan an entire quilt before I start sewing, unless it's a direct copy of an antique. Usually I get to the border and am overcome with indecision;  that's why so many of my tops stall at this stage. Sometimes I can't choose between two or more options that all look equally nice,; sometimes I don't like anything at all for that particular top. This  isn't the same as saying it doesn't need a border, these tops look 'unfinished' but nothing appeals to me.


All throughout the making of  the Ohio Stars top I thought I would use this idea, little hourglasses turned on point. Easy, and related to the actual block. What's not to like? Except I didn't like it, the pieced units were too small (2 1/2") and the dark triangles were overwhelmed by the light patches and gold surrounding strips.


Hmm, perhaps just the hourglasses sewed together in a strip.... Better, but they still got lost amidst everything else that was going on. By the time you take the seam allowance into account there was precious little colour showing up.

I didn't want to make bigger hourglasses or use another shape- Keryn liked this solution..



Yes, it looked OK, and I will file this idea away, but it didn't fit what I wanted for this top. Rather funny really, as I didn't have a clear notion of what I DID want, only what didn't feel right. This is an incredibly annoying way to work, but sometimes it's the only way I can make progress.

Finally I decided to add a tiny piece in between the hourglasses, to sort of extend that bit of dark triangle without actually making bigger units. I liked it, even though this meant I was cutting pieces that measured 2 1/2" by 1". That little strip is 1/2" wide when sewn into the border. It's hard to believe that such a tiny bit makes such a difference to the overall look, but it does.

I wasn't happy at the thought of cutting 1" strips from my fabric, especially when I wanted a lot of variety, and while I could use 2 1/2" strips, I didn't really want to nibble away at my usable lengths. However... I remembered years ago, when I was cutting up heaps of scraps I would cut the tiniest leftovers into strips, meaning to use them for applique stems, for tiny log cabins and piecing fabrics for applique as Susan McCord did. Experience has shown me I don't really like appliqueing straight stems and 1 1/4" is the smallest I want to go for log cabin blocks.


And yet, I still had the drawer of 1" strips. It was absolutely full, but by the time I weeded out all the brown bits it was decidedly emptier. I know I keep a lot of weird sizes of scraps, but every now and then it does prove useful. I doubt I'll convert anyone else to my ways, but in this instance I was glad of that long ago decision to cut these..

Mind you, I didn't keep the scraps from these little strips- I have to draw the line somewhere. They went straight into the bin!

Now I just have to finish piecing the extra hourglass blocks and piece the borders and work out the maths for the spacer borders and cut them out and sew everything together- shouldn't take me long!


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Sunday, July 26, 2015

I've been using a variety of patches for my leader-enders recently. As I come to the end of one pile of cut out pieces, I move on to the next. I am unable to just cut the thread anymore, it feels so wrong not to have  a leader-ender to sew onto. They do build up into quite a pile of finished units, so it's worth persevering with the concept, even if it seems strange at first. Now I need to spend a couple of hours cutting out more of everything I need, and restocking shapes. 


I'm making red and light hst for a split nine patch somewhere down the track and brown hst for my brown broken dishes units, which can be used any number of ways.


Hour Glass blocks for the border of my star top


and the four patches for this block.


All these little blocks were 2 1/2" unfinished so I could sew them together in a random setting, but I won't. These are all spoken for, but it might be fun to do this with orphan bits one day.

Here's something I haven't seen before. At the supermarket I found a farm ute parked, with these three waiting for the owner to return. The dogs were treating the lamb like one of the pack, and I'm sure in his mind he thinks he's a dog. He had his own  collar and chain and was pushing the dogs around to get where he wanted to go.
Obviously an orphan raised with these two mates, and he seemed quite used to riding in the back of the vehicle too. I know from experience that orphan lambs can have a hard time adjusting to the idea of being " just a sheep"; I wonder what will happen to this chap when he gets too big to be lifted into the tray...

Spellcheck didn't like the word 'ute'. It's an abbreviation for 'utility' and is a common vehicle in Australia. (I think the American truck or pickup is  heavier and larger) The Aussie ute is a great vehicle, and Keryn and I often wish we had one, they're so useful. However Dolly and Pippi would probably rather be riding inside than chained up in the back!



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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

 This will be terribly boring visually, because all these photos look the same, but I wanted to show how I set the blocks together when they're on point. The idea of all those looong dreary rows makes me want to scream, so I join a big hunk of the middle squares together as a straight set.



This top has eight stars across and nine down, so I had  to make it a funny rectangular shape instead of a square.

Then I join the rest of the blocks into the corner triangles

and sew the bottom right hand corner to the centre first,

then the bottom left corner,

the upper left,


and finally the upper right. I left that seam to the last because it's the shortest, and I figured the top would be so cumbersome by that stage that it would be easier to deal with.

I'd made twelve stars with dark centres, quite unintentionally, and when I realised this I grouped them in the middle of the top, rather than trying to distribute them evenly throughout.

Finally! I can now take this off the design wall and start piecing the border units, which will probably take a while. I'll put up another set of blocks so I can be thinking about how to finish the next project.... Oh, I  do love moving things along like this!


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Sunday, July 12, 2015

When I said in the last post that I didn't mind clipping the dog ears on HST it reminded me of what I like to do with them.


I wrote about my bear jar here, back in 2009, and I've been filing my tiny triangle clippings there ever since. I thought he was  nearly full about three years ago, but I keep squashing the bits down and making more room. I'm beginning to doubt he can ever be filled to capacity!


It's a harmless diversion for me, and at least the bits aren't being tracked all over the house  as they were in the past. But heavens, nearly six years of sewing are represented here, I reckon it will take another two or three years to get to the brim....

Anyhoo, the HST have taken a backseat again and I've moved on to setting a long term project into a top. Last year in March I started playing around with Ohio stars, and I've been steadily making them over the last 15 months or so.

I've made enough of the green and cream ones seen in that post to make a full size quilt, and I had nearly enough of the ones with the dark background. My inspiration for that idea was a quilt


 found in this book, American Quilt Classics by Patricia Cox.

I think I was inspired by the fact that we had a half bolt of a Jo Morton fabric that I thought would be perfect for the setting squares.


So off I went, madly making stars, and then was slightly disappointed to find that the fabric seemed to suck all the life out of the other colours.


I really wanted to use this particular  material- we had lots of it! In desperation I kept using deeper and darker colours so that they would stand out against the fabric, and I became more and more dissatisfied with how it was looking. It's amazing how long we cling  to some ideas, even though they're obviously not working.

Finally I realised "Just get rid of that fabric!" and I started to search for the 'perfect' setting material. The first fabric was too brown, so I've been buying fat quarters of all sorts of yellowy caramel,  yellowy tan, yellowy brown in hopes of finding "The One". Keryn will bear witness to how much angst has been involved in this; she is heartily sick of the Star Sagas and can hardly wait to see this in one piece!

Finally, I tried this, without much hope, and when I laid the stars on it everything just settled in to place.

I never would have picked it in the first place, and if I had access to more patchwork shops I still might have found something better. But it's good enough! The top has four more seams to sew, and I can start whining about the border choices, that should be fun...



Recently I was going through an old Quilt magazine when I saw this photo. Could it be... yes there is the same pink and red star on the right hand side. The setting fabric looks completely different, and there is no border at all. Mine will have at least one, just not sure what at this stage... Stay tuned!

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Tuesday, July 07, 2015

 Dianne asked what ruler I use to cut my triangles. It all depends on the scraps I'm using I suppose.


Recently I went through the 2 1/2" strip drawer and weeded out some shorter lengths to make a bit of room. I cut these up using the Easy Angle, which makes quick work of this chore. I cut a heap of light strips too, but I obviously need more...

They get stacked on a small tray and that lives on a shelf next to the sewing machine, just in case I need an emergency leader-ender pair. (I usually have some specific project for a leader-ender, but I've been known to run out of cut pieces.)

If however, the scrap isn't a strip or is an odd shape, I really love using the ScrapSaver by Judy Hopkins.

 Sadly, Judy died in 2011, but it seems that you can get the ScrapMaster which is almost the same from here. I get a lot of gifted scraps, and I've used this over the years to easily cut them into usable shapes.

These were some triangle offcuts from a TriRecs ruler or something like that, so the angle wasn't 45 degrees.

By placing the ruler over them I can see that I can cut a 2 7/8" triangle with a little bit to spare.
I make the first cut along the edge of the ruler,


then I turn it around and reposition the corner of the ruler over the scrap, making sure that the 2 7/8" line is on the previously cut edge


 and cut the 90 degree angle.


Sometimes I think a scrap is too small to use, but I can see straight away whether I can get a certain size triangle from it.

Dianne also mentioned the dog ears, but they don't worry me. When I've sewn and pressed a heap of triangles I get a cup of coffee and a small pair of  sharp scissors and by the time I've finished my drink I've trimmed all the pointy bits off. I don't like making HST oversize and cutting them down- I find that I sew accurately enough (after thousands of seams!) to get the results I want first time around.

 (But if the cutting down works for you, that's fine too. We all have our own methods of working...)

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015





When I don't have much idea of what to sew, or I've reached a stalemate in a current project, I often just make HST, on spec. I cut a lot of scraps into this triangle shape, so there's always plenty on hand and it involves nothing more strenuous than matching two fabrics together,


I have a container of 2 1/2" ones, and another of 2" finished squares.


I began sewing Broken Dishes units with the 2 1/2"  pile and have amassed quite a box full.


I then sewed some  into 12" squares, using nine of the smaller blocks. I love the rich colours I'm using, and so far I feel no urgency to rush ahead and make heaps of them. At the moment I'm happy to just potter and plod along whenever I feel like it.

I used 2" HST to make this smaller block, containing just four of the broken dishes units,

and tried some pinwheels too, just for a different effect.

I'm not looking to finish anything from these blocks yet, I'm just playing with possibilities.

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Friday, June 26, 2015

A few posts ago I showed some bright scrappy HST that I'd been sewing. I'd been using these as Leader-enders for quite a while, so there was a satisfying pile of them, ready to turn into something. I decided to make these star blocks, and as each one takes 16 HST, and the finished  block only  measures 6 inches I knew it wouldn't be very big. A nice cot quilt that I could whip out easily.


The blocks went together fairly quickly, I chose the sashing and set them into a top, and then I had The Bright  Idea. What about a pieced border?

Yes, a few more of those triangles around the edge should do it...
or what about a double row of them...?


Hmm, have to work out the measurements and get them to turn the corner somehow....

Such a good idea at the time, and I think the result is worth it, but oh my giddy aunt, the extra sewing this entailed! Another two hundred or so HST had me chopping up lots of light fabrics and more of the brights and stitching solidly on this border for many hours.

That's the trouble with leader-ender projects, at certain times they just take over and I become obsessed with finishing them. The idea of slowly piecing the border triangles over the next few months just wasn't an option. I wanted this done, Now!

I couldn't take a good photo of this top for some reason, what looks like red fabric is actually a hot pink that my camera couldn't capture. These bright colours are so not my style, and yet I enjoyed working with them. Now that I'm done with this, it's back to the softer reproduction fabrics I love, browns and greys and cream. At least I've proved I can step outside my comfort zone occasionally...

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