Christmas finishes

A couple of special Christmas present finishes today:

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First up, this adorable gnome pillow! The pattern is by Kristy at Quiet Play (maven of all things paper piecing). I actually first spotted it last week when Amanda at What the Bobbin? posted a test block she’d done for Kristy. I told Amanda I was in the market for just such a pattern and the next thing I knew Kristy sent it to me! Quilt friends! Gotta love ’em.

The gnome pattern isn’t available yet but you can find many other adorable paper-piecing patterns in her shop.

I used this great Anna Maria Horner print on the back.

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A couple of little procedural tidbits you might find useful:

  • I implemented a couple of straight-line quilting tips Rachel at Stitched in Color posted last week:
    • start by quilting a loose grid and then gradually fill it in 
    • increase the stitch length to 3-4

She had other fantastic tips but those are the 2 that were new to me and that I specifically tested on this pillow. Now, obviously, a pillow is rather easier to quilt than a large quilt. But nonetheless I think my quilting results were improved and I’ll definitely be trying these tips again on a larger quilt soon.

  • I’ve been using 2 1/4 inch binding (rather than 2 1/2) when I do small projects like this and I think it’s rather nicer. It’s a small difference but I like it.
  • Purely hypothetically, a “friend” told me that if she (hypothetically) bled on this pillow it came out with a little scrub by a cold, damp cloth sprayed with Shout spray n’ wash. Purely hypothetically because I of course would never bleed on one of my projects. Ahem.

It should come as a surprise to no one that I also made another Noodle-head divided basket. I know. I love these!

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I switched it up a little this time by using different fabrics for the front panel and pocket (last time they were constructed from the same fabric) and by using different fabrics on either side of the divider. You can see my previous version here.

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I used mostly Anna Maria Horner fabrics because the recipient is a bit of a fan.

Once again, I lined the pocket.

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I don’t know why I get so much joy out of that little detail.

I won’t be spending much time on the computer for the next couple of weeks, as I’m sure you guys won’t be either. I hope you have a very blessed holiday season and I can’t wait to sew with you again next year! In particular, I am very excited for you guys to quilt-a-long with me!

Here’s a recap of the schedule:

  • November /December – fabric requirements & selection
  • January 6 – cutting
  • January 13 – assembling the HSTs and hourglass unit
  • January 20 – assembling the strips
  • January 27 – piecing the X
  • February 3 – adding the top and bottom borders
  • February 10 – quilting & finishing
  • February 24 – final link party celebration (with at least one giveaway, possibly more!)

See you next year!

(Linking up with Crazy Mom and, appropriately, Kristy at Quiet Play for her Paper Piecing Party).

My favorite finish so far

I love this quilt.

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As soon as Rachel started posting sneak peaks of the projects for her penny sampler class (now available as an ebook), I knew I would be first in line.

I learned a lot of new skills and honed some others.

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But what surprised me was how much this project changed the way I think about all of my projects. (I wrote some of my initial thoughts about this here.)

I wanted to understand why I love this quilt so much, and why I didn’t tire of it during the process. Certainly some of it has to do with the sampler nature of the quilt. Each week brought different challenges and experiences. And then there’s the fact that I used just under 100 different fabrics. That kept it interesting – always something new to look at and enjoy.

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But I don’t think it’s just that. I think I enjoy challenging, complex quilts. Quilts that you don’t let anyone touch for a year after you finish it. True present-day heirlooms.

In 2014 I really want to choose my projects carefully. For me, I think a little extra planning and deliberation are worth it. I’d rather make fewer quilts, but really love them.

My color scheme developed quite a bit over the course of the project. It started here:

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Various shades of teal and aqua and pool blue. A touch of purple.

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I thought my accents would be the pink and orange fabrics on the right.

Over time my pinks and oranges softened to peach and I added more purple.

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I didn’t realize it at the time but now I’m certain I was influenced by this post about peach and jade. So pretty together, especially against the white background with just a little black here and there. I didn’t set out to make this my color scheme, but I loved it so much that I started buying a lot of peach fabric… and then just started adding them to the quilt!

About 1/3 of the 100 fabrics I used are Anna Maria Horner. I think that helped to ground and focus the color scheme.

I challenged myself in this quilt to avoid solids almost entirely… unless absolutely necessary or beneficial. The reason being that many of the quilts that have made me gasp aloud with delight this year have been made without solids (off the top of my head: Sarah Fielke, Sarah @ No Hats and Jess @ Elven Garden).

The citron is the only true solid in the quilt. It caught my eye at a quilt shop and somehow ended up in my penny sampler stack. I used it to create a “lights on upstairs” effect in my little village. (By the way, how amazing would a little village tree skirt be?)

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Otherwise the fabrics that appear solid are actually quilter’s linen or Architextures crosshatch. Up close that little bit of visual texture makes a difference.

I kept the back of the quilt simple, but I used one of my favorite Anna Maria Horner prints to make it special.

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I like to think of it as “the dark side;” a little surprise when you lift the corner and peak underneath. It’s hard to see in this photo, but the side panels are a thin black and white stripe.

I chose my quilting design and binding with complete disregard for the backing because I don’t consider this quilt to be necessarily reversible. I outline quilted all of the “picture” blocks and diamonds and put a cross or X in most of the others. It took a while! But I was concerned that anything else would take away from the beautiful block designs and fabrics. (Except maybe hand quilting, as Laura of Little and Lots plans to do with her gorgeous Christmas version. If I didn’t already have a big hand quilting project going I would definitely have done that).

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I really wanted to use this stripe as the binding, but I was worried about how it would look with the backing fabrics. I decided not to let that stop me, but in the end I think it actually isn’t too bad even on the back. Perhaps even mismatched fabrics look like they belong together once they’ve been sewn?

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This quilt will live in my guest room, but it’ll be a while before I let anyone sleep under it.

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(It should go without saying that I’ll be obnoxiously linking up with every link party that remotely applies: Finish it up Friday, Paper Piecing Party, TGIFF, ASWC).

Tutorial: Cut a yard of fabric in a flash

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Have you ever done a swap?

There are all kinds of them out there! People swap fabric (of course) but also finished blocks and even finished projects (usually small projects like mini quilts, bags, etc).

I recently joined an Anna Maria Horner charm square swap on Flickr (it’s full now but I’m willing to bet there will be another round soon). We each send 2 sets of 56 charm squares (5 inches) of 2 fabrics and get 2 sets of 56 different fabrics back.

I ordered some of AMH’s 2 new lines Dowry and True Colors.

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(BTW, don’t be confused if you search for True Colors at your go-to fabric sources and find multiple lines coming up under that name. It’s actually a new collection of several lines by several Free Spirit designers- all basics intended to blend with each designers’ individual typical palettes).

When I made this order I ordered an extra yard of 4 different prints for my contribution to the swap (I signed up for 2 slots, so I have to send 4 sets of 56 charms).

What’s fabulous about this is that it’s incredibly fast to cut 56 charm squares from one yard of fabric. It would take way longer to go through your stash and cut 56 charms from 56 different fabrics (if you even have that many!).

As I was cutting these charms yesterday I was thinking about my cutting tutorial from my Your 1st Quilt series. I didn’t discuss cutting multiple pieces at a time because I honestly don’t think that’s a good idea for beginners. But just in case some of you might benefit, I thought I’d do a really quick tutorial on how I cut a yard of fabric if I’m fortunate enough to need a lot of one particular size cut.

I should give credit to Camille Roskelley’s excellent first Craftsy class. I do it a little differently, but this is definitely inspired by her method and I highly recommend her class. She has a second class out now that I’ll definitely be checking out.

A yard of fabric in a flash:

1. As always, starch and press your fabric first.

2. Now hold your fabric selvedge to selvedge so that it hangs straight and place it on your cutting board. (I explain this fully in my introductory cutting tutorial here.)

3. Line up a line of your ruler with the bottom, folded edge of the fabric. Create a straight, fresh edge on one side.

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4. Working from your new fresh edge, cut into 5-inch strips. To line up your ruler with the folded edge you’ll have to rotate the board or go to the other side of your table.

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Each time make sure you are getting a good 90-degree angle. Sometimes you may need to create a new, fresh edge if that angle somehow gets off.

5. This is where it gets fancy! Carefully lay out as many 5-inch strips as your cutting board and ruler can handle. I have a large board but only a 24 inch ruler. My setup can handle 4 strips at a time.

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You’ll line the strips up using the lines of the board, but use your ruler to measure and cut.

5. Create fresh edges again by cutting off the selvedges.

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Then rotate the board and cut your strips into squares.

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Frequently double check for 90 degree angles on all corners.

If you are having trouble with the ruler slipping at the end, try pausing to move your hand higher up the ruler. I usually move my hand half way through a long cut like this. You may even want to move it twice if your ruler is particularly wild.

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When you get to the end you’ll have 56 charm squares and some small scraps left.

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I do not like to stack multiple strips, even though that would make this even faster. I have not had good results when I’ve tried that, so I don’t do it.

Accuracy is more important than speed, so check your accuracy often. If you are not getting good results, you may need to change your cutting blade or simply try different methods until you find one that works for you. This is the method that works for me!

Penny sampler: last update before the BIG finish (I promise)

I have been hard at work sewing the final stages of the penny sampler quilt top. (You can see my most recent previous post here).

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It occurred to me that it won’t be quite as exciting to show you the finished quilt if I show too many pictures now that assembly has started, so I’m only going to show a few sneak peaks and ask for some backing advice.

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Is it totally OCD that I plan to take the time to count how many fabrics I used in this quilt? I’m curious! It felt like a lot, but that may be because I was cutting from yardage (mostly half yards) and not scraps. Interestingly, it wasn’t until the very end that I ordered anything specifically with this quilt in mind. Most of it has just been pulling anything aqua, teal, purple or orange from my (overly) copious recent fabric orders. At the end I did need more white quilter’s linen (which is not linen, by the way, it’s normal quilting cotton with a linen-like tone-on-tone print) and the white Architextures crosshatch. I used almost no solids in this quilt, but I reluctantly admit that this quilt needed at least a teeny tiny bit of negative space to provide structure. Rachel’s design includes sashing that forms a cross that I didn’t want to lose in the chaos. Almost every other background besides that sashing is a print.

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I’m going to keep the back really simple, because let’s be honest the party’s in the front on this one. The back is not likely to see the light of day, but of course I want to know in my head it’s pretty. And on the off chance I ever allow anyone to sleep under it I’ll want them to enjoy the back.

I love using beautiful large scale prints on my quilt backs so I’ve been stocking up on yardage whenever I see a sale on fabric that fits the bill. I pulled these 4 Anna Maria Horner options because #1 I’m completely in love with AMH lately and #2 there is A LOT of AMH on the front so it seems appropriate.

My plan is to use the WOF (width of fabric) of one of these prints down the middle and then fill out the edges with something subtle. That’s kind of my go-to backing plan because it avoids any complicated pattern repeat alignment.

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I’m leaning toward one of these choices but I’m not going to tell you which because I don’t want to sway your answers. I’m curious what you guys will think!

Ok, I promise the next time you see this quilt it will be quilted and bound!

Linking up with Quiet Play’s Paper Piecing Party since most of what’s new here is paper piecing.