And thanks to Hobbs for providing the battings we are using in our projects this year.
And thanks to Hobbs for providing the battings we are using in our projects this year.
The March challenge for the 2018 Island Batik Ambassadors was to try a new Technique. Most of us are longtime quilters, instructors and/or designers, so for many of us, the hardest part of the challenge was to come up with a tool or technique we haven’t already tried! Fortunately, I had a couple of tools designed by Phillips Fiber Art that I had not had time to play with yet – The Gems 5 & 10 and Gem Star tools.
I started thinking about what sort of project I could make with the pieced and appliqued 5-pointed stars these tools make. I was surfing the internet in search of inspiration when I came across Diane Harris’s posts about a class she was taking on improvisational quilting. My muse tapped me on the shoulder and reminded me that the President’s Challenge theme I had chosen for my quilt guild this year is Wing It. “We can answer two challenges with one project,” says he.
“Improvisation. Make it up as you go,” I replied. “How hard can it be?” That was in early March. It’s now mid-June and I have just put the binding on. So there’s your answer. Here’s the rest of the story:
We began with the fabric pull. I started with the collection of basics supplied by Island Batik. I chose a dark green for my big pieced star. I also decided that I had to use this yellow and magenta blend because…well, to be honest, since I had little confidence this project was going to turn out, I wouldn’t be too upset if, in the end, I felt like I had wasted it. Then I pulled out my bag of Island Batik scraps and came up with more greens and pinks, and decided to add a copper-brown print from the basics.
In the end, I didn’t use the three lightest greens or the light pink, but at this point I still didn’t know what I was making. Better to have too many colors than not enough.
First came the pieced base. I made one large dark green star with the Gem 10 tool. The instructions that come with the tool are well-illustrated. In a nutshell, you sew stripsets, then use the tool as a template to cut wedges. There are five wedges with the darker green, and five mirror-image wedges with the slightly lighter green. Two wedges make one star point wedge.
So, we start with a pieced 5-point star.
I have to say, the tool is terrific and easy to use. It makes a very large star, but there is also a Gem 10 Junior tool available if you want a smaller project. But I digress.
As it happens, the piece is a decagon shape. It works great for the several patterns Phillips Fiber Art has designed for the Gem 5 & 10 tools. However, my Muse and I had decided we wanted a square wallhanging.
At this point, Muse left the studio. I hate it when he does that.
After several hours of thinking, slicing, patching, piecing and trimming up, I had a square-ish base piece. I couldn’t say I was happy with it, and frankly, I was feeling more than a little stressed out because I didn’t even know which side was top, bottom, left or right. I had no clue where I was going with this project. Finally, I convinced myself that if I didn’t love it, at least I didn’t hate it, and it was time to move on.
Making the applique stars with the Gem Star tool was the most enjoyable part of this project. There’s a clever little trick for getting those points so pointy, and the only difficult part of the whole process is getting the center to match up. Most were oh-so-close, but this gold one is dead-on perfect.
When these stars are finished, the edges of the points are turned under already, so it’s a simply matter to applique them down, whether you you want to hand-sew or machine-sew them.
I didn’t have any idea how many stars I needed or where they were going to be placed, so I just started making them in several sizes. In the end, I made more than I needed. The extras may become Christmas ornaments.
Quilting is very simple on this piece. I stitched 1/4″ inside and outside the perimeter of the large pieced star, then echo-quilted straight lines in the gold background, and straight lines across the magenta corners.
Using my quilting guide bar, and my seams as a pivot point, it was easy to make straight, evenly-spaced quilting lines. I sewed a 1″ spaced line, then two 1/4″ lines, then 1″, two 1/4″, repeating until the space was filled.
Next decision: Where to put the applique stars. If I hadn’t been so far beyond deadline at this point, I would have enjoyed playing with the possibilities. Here are a few of the options I liked:
The more I played with the stars, the more I felt something just wasn’t right with the base piece yet. It was the gold areas. After stewing over it for a few days, Muse resurfaced and suggested I add a few lines of quilting that might actually be visible in the gold areas.
It’s amazing how just a little detail can make such a big difference.
Those two lines of magenta quilting were just what this piece needed to pull it all together.
Note to Muse: It would have been easier if you had suggested it before I appliqued the stars down. Just sayin’.
So, is it finished now? I don’t know. Hence, the title – Am I There Yet?
After all, if you don’t know where you’re going, how do you know when you’ve arrived?
The June challenge for the 2018 Island Batik Ambassadors is to make a Modern-style quilt. This is proving to be a bigger challenge for some of us than for others. Personally, I consider my project, The Highland 9-Patch, a “splendid failure.”
You see, I had purchased a copy of fellow ambassador Carole Lyles Shaw’s book Madly Modern Quilts. I’ve always loved the 9-Patch, so her “Fractured Disappearing 9-Patch” project really appealed to me. Check Carole’s blog post and you’ll see how she works her magic.
It seemed simple enough… make a 9-patch, slice it up, sew it back together, slice it again, insert a strip, and voila! Nope. Didn’t happen. My muse likes to know where a pattern is going before we begin construction, and having just spent months trying to work through an improvisational project, he would not cooperate. So we compromised, my muse and I, and came up with the Highland 9-Patch. It’s still sliced and spliced, but looks nothing like Carole’s.
I did begin with a 9-Patch. Mine has an 8″ square of navy blue in the center, 9″ squares of a bright green in the corners, and the side “squares” are actually 8″ x 9″.
Then I added a 2″ border all around the block.
Next, I sliced the block vertically 2.5″ outside the center seam on both sides of the center squares…
…and spliced in a 1″ strip of navy blue.
Then I did the same thing, slicing and splicing in 1″ horizontal strips.
After that, it was a simple matter to add wide borders of the background fabric. My friend Kathy at the Creative Needle quilted it in an all-over leafy pattern, and I bound it in navy.
The Highland 9-Patch is 56″ x 72″, so it’s a nice lap-size quilt.
I began quilting in the early 1970’s, so I have pretty much seen it all, as quilting has developed from a scrap craft revival to a celebrated artistic genre, from Grandma’s hand-quilting frame to computerized longarm quilting machines in nearly every quilter’s studio. I have to admit, I dismissed the Modern Quilting Movement early on as a “fad”, but I’ve always loved big, bold, graphic art, and since it seems Modern Quilting is here to stay, I’m in!
Check out the Modern Quilts my fellow Island Batik Ambassadors are making:
Quilting Affection Designs
Actually, this post is on time. It’s still May, and this month’s Island Batik challenge is “Playful Pillows”. I stuck with the Hourglass, or Quarter-Square Triangle (QST) units I used in my quilt “Plenty of Time.”
I decided it would be a good opportunity to do a quick tutorial on one of my essential rotary cutting tools. The Tucker Trimmer® makes constructing accurate quarter-square triangles a breeze. For the record, I am not affiliated with Studio 180 Designs, just an enthusiastic devotee of the Trimmer and several other tools Deb Tucker has designed.
To make the Time Shift pattern, I started with four 4.5″ squares each of blue, green and cream Island Batik fabrics.
Note: The Tucker Trimmer formula is simple: Take the finished size of your QST, and add 1.5″ to determine the size of your beginning squares.
Cut each square diagonally twice, to make four triangles from each square.
Rearrange the triangles and sew into three combinations as shown. Make four of each combination.
I press my seams open. Press to the darker fabric if you prefer.
These squares are just a bit larger than we need, so we will use the Tucker Trimmer to trim them down to size. (I’m cutting right-handed. The tool comes with instructions for left-handed cutting as well.)
Lay the Tucker Trimmer on your square, with the solid diagonal line along the SW-NE seam line. I’m cutting 3.5″ QSTs, so you’ll notice I have the dashed diagonal line labeled “3-1/2″ lined up with the NW-SE seam line.
The left and lower edges of my square extend just a little beyond the 3-1/2” dashed vertical and horizontal lines on the Trimmer.
Trim the right and top edges.
Now rotate the QST, and lay the tool down again, aligning the same diagonal lines with your seam lines.
Notice that the left and lower edges now line up with the 3-1/2 dashed vertical and horizontal lines.
Trim the right and top edges.
You now have a perfect 3.5″ QST, with no dogears to trim later!
Trim each of your QSTs.
Lay your QSTs out as shown. Sew into three rows, then sew the rows together into a block.
Your block should be 9.5″ x 12.5″.
I had a 16″ pillow form, so I added 2.5″ x 9.5″ (cut size) strips to the ends of the block, and 4″ x 16.5″ strips to the top and bottom.
I did not quilt this pillow cover, in the interest of time. I may go back and do it later.
For the back, I cut two 12″ x 16.5″ rectangles of the cream fabric. I hemmed on long edge of each rectangle, the pinned them wrong-sides-together, to the pillow top, so that the hemmed edged overlapped. I sewed all the way around the perimeter of the top, then trimmed the corners and turned it right-side out and stuffed the pillow form inside.
The fabrics used to make the “Time Shift” pillow cover were provided by Island Batik, and the thread was provided by Aurifil. Hobbs is also a sponsor of the Island Batik Ambassadors. To see what my fellow ambassadors have been up to this month, check out their blogs:
Quilting Affection Designs
In the case of this 45″x 54″ quilt/wallhanging I designed for Island Batik’s “Looking Back” challenge, the title is sadly ironic.
You see, I began designing this fun little quilt a few months ago. The challenge was to take a vintage quilt pattern and use it as inspiration for a modern style quilt. I chose the traditional “Hourglass” block, also commonly called a quarter-square triangle. This pattern features 3″, 6″ and 9″ Hourglass blocks, and I titled the pattern “Plenty of Time.”
In mid March, my life was turned upside down, when my mother was diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer. My weekends, usually my quilting time, were suddenly spent sitting by Mom’s hospital bed, and the top for this quilt was sewn during the few evenings I had to myself in a hotel room. The doctors had told us we might have up to six months. As it turned out, we had just six weeks. We said our goodbyes on May 15th.
For the last week of her earthly life, I slept in a recliner next to Mom’s bed at Peace Hospice in Great Falls. One night I dreamt of her passing from this world into the next, and into the welcoming arms of my grandparents and a host of friends and family members who have gone before.
I have tried several times to change the title for this quilt, but it won’t let me. “Plenty of Time” just seems right.
Thanks to Island Batiks for providing the fabrics. I used a package of 5″ squares, and the “Stash Builder” bundle of 5″ x 21″ strips, cut into 5″ squares, plus a few larger scraps and yardage.
The quilt was sewn with thread provided by Aurifil, and quilted by Kathy Brown at the Creative Needle in Shelby MT.
Batting provided by Hobbs.
Want to see more great quilts inspired by vintage quilts? Check out the blogs of my fellow Island Batik Ambassadors:
Quilting Affection Designs
“Mini Love” is the theme for my second project as an ambassador for Island Batiks Fabric. For this project, I wanted to make a mini quilt, which is usually defined for competition purposes, as a scale model version of a full-size quilt pattern, usually a scale of 1/4″ = 1″. That means a miniature version of a 12″ traditional quilt block would be just 3″ square.
Believe it or not, a miniature quilt block is harder to make than a full-size block, because while accuracy is important with a full-size block, it is crucial in a mini block. By their very size, mini quilts invite close inspection.
For my mini quilt, I chose a version of the Ohio Star, and chose to celebrate the Irish portion of my DNA by using greens and oranges from the “Stash Builder” collection of 5″ strips that was included in the lovely box of fabrics that Island Batiks sent me. I’m using Aurifil 50-wt thread, courtesy of the company, and Heirloom batting provided by Hobbs.
I have a friend who likes to count the number of pieces in a block, and she would be quick to point out that there are 29 pieces in each of these mini Ohio Star blocks. I prefer to think in terms of units. Each block has four quarter-square triangles, and four half-square triangle units with a little accent corner. Plus, of course, the center square. It seems not quite so intimidating. Still- that’s a lot of pieces.
There are nine blocks in this quilt. When I have blocks with those accent corners, I will usually carry that out into the border. To do this for this mini quilt, I cut sixteen 3.5″ squares. I added orange on two corners of twelve of the squares, and one orange corner on the remaining four.
It took me a while to decide how to quilt this little gem. I decided to trace around the octagons in each block, and crosshatch the border, using the star tips as my starting points. To keep my lines straight, I used a square ruler, with the diagonal line placed along the border seam, drew a very (very) light line with a #4 drafting pencil.
When machine quilting, I adjust my stitch length from 2.5mm to 3.0, and loosen my top thread tension just a tad.
After quilting, I added a binding that was similar to the fabric in my center squares, and here is “Indiana Irish,” celebrating my family roots in the Emerald Isle and the Hoosier State. This little treasure will be hanging in the kitchen while the corned beef and potatoes are cooking on St. Patrick’s Day.
Check out the blogs of my fellow Island Batik Ambassadors:
Quilting Affection Designs
Our next challenge: “Try a Technique”. I’m looking forward to that!
You learn something new everyday.
The first of the monthly challenge projects for the 2018 Island Batik Ambassadors was to make a mug rug celebrating Galentine’s Day. That is not a typo. Galentine’s Day is an actual thing. Inspired by a character on the television series “Parks & Recreation”, it is a day set aside to celebrate our female friends.
For future reference, Galentine’s Day is February 13th.
Island Batik sent me a pretty little bundle of five pink, red and neutral fat quarters to use in my mug rug, and I promptly set three of them aside and broke open the Stash Builder package of 5″ strips. I decided to make an 8″ hexagonal block that I designed to teach the Sidekick® tool designed by Julie at Jaybird Quilts.
The feature I like…no, love…about the Sidekick is that your triangles have a flat top, which (Fig. 1) makes them easy to line up for stitching. No trying to eyeball that perfect 1/4″ notch. If you press your seams open (Fig. 2), you have a dog-ear that also helps (Fig 3.) in positioning your pieces.
For this mat, I cut 24 1.5″ triangles from the off-white dotted fabric and a dozen 1.5″ triangles from the beige and green print. I also cut six 2.5″ triangles of a multicolor print, and six light pint and twelve dark pink 1.5″ diamonds.
Setting aside the larger triangles, I sewed six of each of these pieced units.
Notice the difference in the top two units. In one the darker triangle is to the right of the dark pink diamond, and in the other, the darker triangle is on the left of the diamond.
Then, those three units are stitched to the multicolored triangles to make six matching triangle segments.
You can trim those dog-ears off now if they bother you. If they don’t shadow through the fabric, I just leave them be.
Now you can sew the segments together. Sew two half-hexagons, with three segments in each one, then sew the halves together to complete your hexagon. At this point, it measures 8.5″ top to bottom.
Layer your top, batting and backing. I used a little corner of the 80/20 Heirloom batting Hobbs sent me in this project, and quilted it with the ecru thread provided by Aurifil.
I quilted 1/8th inch around the outside of the lighter pink center star, and the larger multi-color star, then inside the beige and green diamonds on the outer edge of the mat. I also decided to go back and quilt inside the center star.
I was able to use the inside edge of my machine’s 1/4″ foot as my guide.
I used a 2″ folded binding in the beige and green print to finish my Galentine’s Day mug rug.
One project down, thirteen to go! Up next: Mini Love. In fact, a few of my fellow Island Batik Ambassadors have already begun posting their mini quilts.
Follow the links below to visit their blogs.
If I thought I was busy in 2017 – and I was- 2018 is going to be a continuous “mad dash to the deadline.” No, no, don’t feel sorry for me. It’s my own fault. I tend to dive headlong into design opportunities especially when there’s company-supplied fabric involved. And so, when fellow designer Cindy Wiens mentioned the Island Batik “Ambassador” program, I had to check it out…and apply…and they accepted!
First, they sent me some nifty artwork to display proudly on my blog:
Next came an email from FedEx that my first (there will be two this year) shipment of fabric was on its way. Another ambassador pointed out that the package weighed 22lbs. Holy Cow!
On the way home the other evening, I stopped for Chinese take-out. This was the fortune in my cookie:
I arrived home to find a very large box on my doorstep.
First was this little bundle of five fat quarters for my first project, a GALentine’s Day mug rug. GALentine. I’d never heard of it, but it’s a thing. More about that when I post the project this weekend.
There was a twin-size cotton batting from Hobbs. It’s wonderful stuff – and I’m not just saying that because they gave it to me.
And there was a queen-size Thermore, Hobbs‘ super-thin poly batting. This should be perfect for my mug rug and other small projects.
Yes, Auri-philes, that is six spools and one huge cone of Aurifil threads. I’ll share the brochures, but not the thread!
Island Batik calls this package a “Stash Builder”. It contains five rolls, and each roll has four different 5″ wide strips of various prints. Imagine the possibilities.
Next came this collection of fat eighths, plus a couple yards of a coordinate. This collection is called “Mountains Majesty.”
Here’s a side view of the Mountains Majesty bundle. My muse thinks he has an idea for this collection.
Then I found this lovely rayon scarf and a couple yards of this aquamarine color rayon print. I’ve never worked with rayon, so this will be an adventure.
There were several yards from Island Batik’s “foundation” collection.
Island Batik‘s collection of 42 10″ squares is called a “Stack”. This one is called “Northern Woods”, and it was accompanied by two coordinates.
And then there was this:
I haven’t opened it, because I am under strict orders not to show the contents to anyone yet, and, well, I know me. I do know this much – it is full of brand new Island Batiks that will be introduced to shops at Quilt Market this spring, so they will be arriving at your local quilt shop this summer.
I am proud to be one of the 45 Island Batik Ambassadors for 2018. Each of us will be posting projects on our blogs monthly. Most have already posted their GALentines projects, so grab your favorite beverage, and prepare to be inspired!
A while back I scored a leftover piece of a pretty holiday bird print, and was able to fussy-cut several 6.5″ squares from them. There aren’t nearly enough for a quilt, so I tossed them into my bin of 6.5″ squares to await an appropriate pattern. One evening I was playing with ideas for simple blocks that would appear to interlock. I came up with these two. One is not quite a Square-in-a-Square, and the other is not quite a Sawtooth Star. Here’s how I made them:
BLOCK 1 – Not Quite a Sawtooth Star
For a 10″ (finished size) block, you will need:
Center: One 6.5″ Focus Print
Starpoints: Eight 2.5″ squares
Background: Four 2.5″ x 4.5″ rectangles, four 2.5″ x 3.5″ rectangles, four 1.5″ x 2.5″ rectangles.
Step 1: Use the Stitch-and-Flip method to make four Flying Geese units from the 2.5″x 4.5″ background rectangles and 2.5″ squares.
TIP: When making Flying Geese, always stitch from the center of the rectangle toward the outer corner. This prevents your machine from “eating” the tips of your corners.
Step 2: Sew the 1.5″ x 2.5″ background rectangles to the ends of two of the Flying Geese units, and sew these to the sides of the center square. Sew the 2.5″ x 3.5″ background rectangles to the ends of the two remaining Flying Geese units. Sew these units to the top and bottom of the center square.
BLOCK 2 – Not Quite Square-in-a-Square
For a 10″ (finished size) block, you will need:
Center: One 6.5″ fussy-cut square
Triangles: Eight 2.5″ squares
Background: Four 2.5″ x 3.5″ rectangles, and four 2.5″ x 5.5″ rectangles.
Step 1: Use the Stitch-and-Flip method to put colored corners on lower right corner of half of your background rectangles, and on the lower left corner of the rest.
Step 2: Sew the rectangles into pairs. Sew the shorter pairs to the sides of the center square, and the longer pairs to the top and bottom.
So now I have two blocks without proper names…though, I’ll admit that “Not Quite Sawtooth Star” and “Not Quite Square-in-a-Square” are kind of growing on me.
Where am I going from here? The plan is to make 10 star blocks and 10 diamond blocks, all with a bird print in the center and put them together in a solid alternating pattern, add a 2″ border, bind it in a woodgrain fabric and add it to my Thrifty Quilter trunk show. Unfortunately, I only have one more 6.5″ square with realistic looking birds on hand, so it will take a while to collect enough blocks for this one.
Someone asked how many Thrifty Quilter quilts I am working on at any one time. Right now, I am actively working on five. Here’s how I keep them straight:
I have a large zip-lock plastic bag for each project. On it, I write the title of the quilt, and the number of blocks I need to make the quilt. I also keep a running tally of how many blocks I have completed for that quilt.
Inside, I put a copy of my pattern sketches, any completed blocks, and any background fabric I have for that quilt. Then, each time I add a block or two to the bag, I add a mark to the tally line on the front of the bag, so I can tell at a glance how close I am to having enough.
My quilty resolution for 2018 is to finish one UFO for each new project I start…and to finish the new project as well. I know I will fail on the UFO pledge, but we’ll see how close I can come. This year, I already have another Moda Bake Shop project, two magazine quilts, my National Quilters Day pattern sample on the to-do list. It helps that they all havd dealines. I have also signed up for TWO block-of-the-month programs. (What was I thinking?)
Oh wait, it gets better: I have been named an Island Batiks Ambassador for 2018.
That’s 13 more projects! Thankfully, most will be smaller projects. I’m waiting for my first package of Island Batik fabrics now, and my first two projects will be posted here next month.
It’s going to be a busy year here on the blog, so if you haven’t already, click the “follow” button, so you don’t miss any of the fun!
Here we are, days away from putting the wraps on another year, and if you judge by the number of blog posts I’ve produced, you’d think 2017 has been a slow one in the studio. You’d be wrong, too. I’ve kept track of projects started and completed this year. I started 28 quilts, wallhangings, and smaller projects, and actually completed 24 of them! It helped that most were on a deadline of some sort. Along the way, I also managed to produce 10 blog posts. My goal was one a month. This is #11, which means I have until the end of the week to come up with one more, and if I add “on average” to my original resolution, I can check it off.
I am participating in the “Best of 2017” link party, hosted by Meadow Mist Designs.
Note to self: Spend some time looking through Cheryl’s patterns. There are several that are begging for the TQ treatment.
For those of you visiting “Seams Like a Plan” for the first time, my name is Anne Wiens, and I am a radio announcer by day, and in my precious spare time, a quilter, instructor, pattern designer and author of the book The Thrifty Quilter: Make (Nearly) Free Quilts with Leftover Fabric, which explains my system for taming that mountain of fabric scraps we all have by pre-cutting them into six usable pieces…and then actually using them. Two early blog posts (this one and this one) sum it up pretty well.
You’re welcome to wander through the archived posts at your leisure, of course, but here are the 5 posts I consider my best for this year, presented in no particular order:
May 3 – “Plays Well With Others”
This post features a block I contributed to Quiltmaker magazine’s “100 Blocks” special issue series. I honestly didn’t love the Showcase block…until I started putting it together with some of the other blocks in the issue.
August 9 – “Call Me Chef”
This summer I began producing patterns for Moda’s “Bake Shop” blog, using their pre-cut collections. “Big Sky” was my first, and to celebrate, I published this post exploring twelve more blocks made from half-square triangles.
September 14 – “Making the Case for Quilt Bibs”
My second Moda Bake Shop pattern, “Stargazer” had a 30’s vibe and a 4″ top border that gave me an opportunity to present a little history lesson about quilt “bibs”, also known as “whisker guards” on my blog.
November 12 – “Around the Block”
My contribution to the latest Quiltmaker’s 100 Blocks issue is “Starshine”, and in this blog post, I toyed with color placement, and presented three ideas for turning the block into placemats.
June 4 – “Born to Be (Not Quite) Wild”
There are scrap quilters who can throw pieces together and come up with an amazing quilt. I admire them, but I am not one of them…yet. My friend Diane (a.k.a. Stash Bandit) inspired me to give it a go with one of her quilts, which we dubbed “Wild Abandon.” I tried…and did not succeed. But I did get a new block out of it, so that’s a win in my estimation.
So there you have it – my 5 favorite Seams Like a Plan blog posts for 2017. Hopefully, I’ll have more to choose from in 2018. That’s the plan, anyway.