Saturday, January 7, 2012


     It's hard to know how to start this, so I will just begin with the first quilt I have been working on this year.

     The original idea came from a desire to mix the bold prints of Kaffe Fassett (and possibly a cohort or two of his) with the beautiful stripes from his collection. I thought that the kaleidoscope block would work well for this, and I had been looking for an excuse to use it again any way. So, I got on my EQ and started playing, and this is the drawing I came up with:

I'm not sure if the picture shows it well, but because my printer was low on ink, I got this slight gradation from gold/peach colors in the top left to yellow/green colors in the bottom right. I thought-what a great idea! So I decided to gradate the background using batiks. I like how when you put the stars in rows, and link them, the negative space forms ovals.

     My first step was to pull out my Kaffe Fassett prints, chose a group that I thought would go well together, and pair them with coordinating stripes. Then I cut enough for several stars from each combination, making sure I had enough of each print for the outer star points, and sewed the star centers together. I pinned each color group together with it's outside points, so they would stay organized for storage.
     You guys can let me know in your comments if I am going in to too much detail-but I get asked all of the time how I keep all of these things organized. Help my learn how to strike a balance between helpful and boring.

     Next, I arranged my stars on my design wall, balancing the lights, darks, and different colors to move you eye in a pleasing way. Unfortunately, it is hard to get a good photo of my design wall because of the big loom in front of it. (my day job is weaving rugs). That is the only wall in my house that is wide enough to put up a whole quilt.
     My friend Eleanor said this quilt had a Russian look. So I am storing that away for when I have to come up with a name for it. I usually find naming my quilts daunting, and since I often make patterns from them, I do have to invent a name for them.

     My design wall consists of 2 large rectangular vinyl table clothes tacked to the wall upside down, so that I have enough room to lay out a bed size quilt. Thank you to my good friend Mary C for this easy, inexpensive, and life changing suggestion.

     Next, I cut some pieces from all of the fabrics I had been collecting for the background.   

     Then, the real fun began. I took me 3 tries to get a gradation that I really liked.

     The tough part of this pattern is that once you have sewn the center of the stars, the whole quilt needs to be laid out to get the in between rows right. Now that it's laid out, how I am going to get it to my sewing machine in the right order? The only thing I don't like about my upstairs sewing room is it's lack of wall space. My design wall is downstairs in the opposite end of the house.

My friend Jo Beth to the rescue with another great design wall suggestion. (she has a quilting blog too and I will add the link to hers as soon as I figure out how). 

     Get a piece of insulation board. They will cut it in half for you at the store. Mine cost under  $12.00. I was lucky enough to have a white, flat, flannel sheet around. I covered the board with it using thumb tacks and staples. Otherwise you can just use some white flannel.

     Now, I can transfer my design to my upstairs sewing room a section at a time, and put it right next to my sewing machine. This is really handy at quilting retreats. If you don't have a wall you can pin into, you can just prop it against a chair.



     Normally, I would just stick the pieces to the flannel without any pins, but since I am traveling across the house and up the stairs, I used short pins to stick the patches in place for some added insurance. I have learned the hard way that if you tip the board forward a tiny bit, the pieces fall off, and I sure don't want to have to recreate all of that work. I hope you can see the pins in the above picture. I just stuck them in "pin cushion style".


     Talk about low tech. I keep the blocks in order with numbered slips of paper. I am consistent in how I number them. Number 1 is always where 12 o'clock would be on a clock. I like to chain piece, so I sew 1 to 2, 3 to 4, 5 to 6, and 7 to 8. Then I cut off the 1 and 2, and the 3 and 4 units. Press their seams open, sew them to each other. Cut off the 5 and 6 unit, and the 7 and 8 unit, press, and sew them to each other. In order to keep chain piecing, you will have to either start on the next block, or throw something in from another quilt.(leaders and enders Ala Bonnie Hunter). That will free you to cut off both units, and you can press them, and sew them to each other. When I get the whole octagon sewn together, I put 1 piece of paper with grid coordinates that will mark it's position on the quilt. I am careful always to put these on the same part of the block each time. This will prevent me from getting my blocks twisted in the wrong direction. In this quilt, I am always placing that marker on the patch that is in the 12 o'clock position. With this quilt it is particularly important to keep your blocks in the right place and turned the right way, to make the pattern. Most quilts it doesn't matter so much.

     Here are all of my finished blocks(accept for the corners), back on my design wall. I had to put them back there so when I finish all the blocks, I can decide how to arrange what will go in the corners.

     So that's all for my first blog post ever. I hope that if I keep at this, my writing and photography skills will improve with time. I'm off to sew the rest of these blocks together. See ya real soon!