Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Christmas in August with Benartex

Just to let you know: I am NOT a cat person, but this collection called Cat-i-tude is so gorgeous, I just may have to make an exception. What do you think of the main panel? As you can see, each of the six frisky cats is a good size to become the center of an awesome block. And, from what I know about cats, they ALWAYS like to be center stage, right?
Main Cat-i-tude panel
Now let's look at the fabrics, blocks and final project!

Cat-i-tude Fabrics (minus the panel)
And a small piece of a border print:

Catitude fabrics with border print
I was very drawn to the 6 panels of those frisky cats. I cut them out (they will finish pretty close to 10" square. My plan was to use an ATTIC WINDOW treatment using my Magical Mitering technique.

I pulled two fat quarters for each of the six panels that I thought would work best.

Blue kitty lighting up his life!
 Frisky green kitty batting at an ornament.

Another frisky kitty wanting to taste those ribbons. Yum, yum!

 Purple kitty thinks this package has her name on it.

Another blue kitty who looks bored with the entire frisky business!

Oh. I'm SO bored.
 And one last kitty who is tangled up in those red beads.
Oooooh. Beads!
I cut 3" x 15-1/2" strips from the sets of coordinating fat quarters. Two of one print, two of its companion. I am going to stitch them on in an unorthodox manner and miter the four corners of each panel without using a y-seam from the wrong side. Stay with me here.

I stitched a strip to the top and bottom of each panel, centering them. There will be 3+ inches extending beyond each panel edge.
Notice the pins in the center of the strip and panel
Sew strip as shown, ALL THE WAY TO THE EDGE OF PANEL. Go another 1/2" or so in order to see your stitching. Press seam TOWARD the panel.
Top strip sewn and pressed
Next strips (the black) are sewn BEGINNING AND ENDING where the first strips cross. Notice the + sign on the pic. That is the intersection.
Begin and end stitching of side strips at the 1/4" mark.
Press these side strips OUTWARD. Fold the side strips under as shown in each corner, creating the miter. Pin in place.

Now I'm ready to top stitch with monofilament thread. I put black thread in the bobbin in case any color "beads up" to the top. Here's one other panel with the top stitching. I know it's hard to see; that's the point!

What's that look like on the back? I'm glad you asked. You can see that I used a simple, small, short zigzag stitch. You can see the fabrics folded.

Then I trimmed away the excess. This is done for all four corners of each panel.

Now let's see them all together. I'm not sure about a border. I may just squeeze some 4" x 15" strips out of all the fat quarters used to make it pieced. But for now, here she is.

Go check out the Cat-i-tude fabrics and get ready to be inspired. Oh, and by the way. This is the ONLY time I will allow cats in my back yard. I'm a dog person. But these kitties will certainly make some child smile, won't they?

Monday, August 12, 2019

Blog Housekeeping

For some reason, Blogger will not let me comment on any comments made here. Many of my visitors come through as "unknown" with no email. I have NO WAY to get in contact with you or answer your questions.

I'm not sure why this is. It is very frustrating for me. I am NOT ignoring you. I read every single comment made. They come through as an email to me, but only a few have valid email addresses for me to reply.

I just didn't want you to think I'm an "absent landlord." It is very meaningful to have you visit and make lovely comments about my quilts and lessons.

Now for a quilt fix:

Here is a quilt I made in 1996 out of deconstructed swastika blocks. A friend gave them to me; I took them apart, and used some reproduction fabrics to make these stars.

1890s Stars
 I even hand quilted this!

 The combination of fabrics that span over 100 years. Who would have thought?

Here's another star using that plaid!

So, remember: until I can figure out how to get back to adding comments to my own blog, if you don't hear from me, I don't have your email. If you have a question, please do feel free to email me:

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Flying Swallows Quilts

I have always drawn the most inspiration from vintage and traditional quilt patterns. Flying Swallows is one of those. There are several variations of both pieced and appliqué blocks, but I'm talking about the one based on an 8 Pointed Star, as seen here by one I created in 2002 for Quilt Magazine.

Flying Swallows, 2002
Unfortunately, this was part of that group of 30 quilts stolen in 2005 while I was on an 8 day teaching tour. It's kind of hard to teach and present a trunk show without your quilts, but my husband FedExed  a slide show that I was able to use (a very poor substitute!)

I have designed a few digital quilts since then for a few fabric companies. Here's one I used for Blank Quilting in 2008:

Flying Swallows using the Fun Dip Collection
Then I created one using the Jamestown Collection by Windham in 2018:

Flying Swallows for Windham Fabrics
Now, I want you to go back and look at the centers of these quilts. Notice in the first one, that black fabric resembles a crab that is anxious to jump out and bite you with its claws! It's the placement of the fabrics.

In the last two, I changed out the colors of the background for those diamonds, and now you see a pinwheel (without those crab claws!)

Last week I pulled out two unfinished Flying Swallows quilts (we all have UFOs; I just have several for each idea!). I finished the smaller one and I'm a little disappointed that those crab claws are back! Only this is an anemic crab.

Flying Swallows, 2019
I used two different colors for the "swallows", but probably should have used that red you see in the background for the center pinwheel. I'm going to try this one more time.

My diamonds are rotary cut from 2-1/2" strips in the quilts above. I have all the parts for ANOTHER Flying Swallows quilt using 3-1/2" diamonds. I took all the end triangles off the swallows units and am auditioning fabrics for the center pinwheel. I don't want another one with the crab claws.

I'll keep you posted. I'm planning to make this a new workshop, but not sure if there's going to be an interest in such a vintage pattern. Maybe I should work this up in "modern" colors - ie, solids with a Kona Snow background.

Here's a page of the way it's put together. Does it look too hard? Remember: no templates; all rotary cut AND no set-in seams.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Windham Wednesdays with Fantasy

Sometimes you see a collection that calls your name! I felt that way with Windham's Fantasy. Four color families, and yet they ALL go together. Organic, fresh, happy, no - exuberant! What do you think?

Fantasy Collection by Windham Fabrics
I started to piece some curved blocks using some of their Artisan Cottons (think: shot cottons).

Artisan Cottons
I used an older pattern I designed for Windham several years ago called Moonstruck. Just a few halves in process. More coming as I mix and match the Artisans with the Fantasies.

Two block parts using the Moonstruck templates
But as I was working on that Dresden Plate design last week using Uncorked, I realized that I could perk up my project by using a few of the Fantasy skus and one more Uncorked.

Two Fantasy and a companion Uncorked fat quarter
Now back to that Dresden design. Do you remember how I left it? You can see the whole post HERE.

Uncorked Dresdens
I finished piecing the dresden wedges, squeezed the life out of the gray background (remember, I was sent fat quarters!) and here is what I got:

Fantasy and Uncorked Dresden Descending quilt: 40" x 40"
When all you have are fat quarters, you have to get creative with your borders. Each of those strips are 10-1/2" wide (except for those on the corners). That's an easy measurement to get from a fat quarter. I loved the salmon color to accent my center fabrics.

Why did I call this Descending? It reminds me of what I did for a quilt that appeared in my 3rd book, Paper Piecing Perfect Points. I split the blocks as they "descend" in a diagonal, giving the illusion that there are more whole blocks than there are. I have resurrected this concept in quilts I'm making these days and I know you'll be seeing more of these!

Descending, from Paper Piecing Perfect Points
As they say: So much fabric, so little time! I'll never get to emptying my stash, but I'm having a good time trying!

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Cutting Hexagons for English Paper Piecing

I have been English Paper Piecing (EPP) for almost 20 years. I have used all sizes of hexagon papers (3/4" to as large as 3").

I was taught by the owner of Paper Pieces, who simplified the technique by showing me that it's not necessary to cut fabric hexagons; just cut rectangles and trim later.

Maybe you can join me August 23 in Arlington, Texas, for an exciting class on English Paper Piecing with the Original Sewing and Quilt Expo! You can see all 5 of my classes HERE.

This is a 3-round GFG block. I thread basted NOT through the papers but in each of the folds. No need to take out the basting; the folds remain nice and crisp. But I used fabric rectangles and it's time for me to trim each of those hexagons to reduce the bulk (and to get to the papers!)

Grandmother's Flower Garden with fabric about to be trimmed
Here's what it looks like after trimming. You can see more steps in my April post.

Block trimmed
I should have punched a hole in ALL of those papers, because that makes it easier to pop out the hexagon papers.

I could have saved myself a big step by cutting fabric hexagons at the beginning. But the thought of cutting all those hexagons (4-6 cuts per hexagon) was too depressing - until I remembered my own trick of how to cut hexagons from strips (not my original idea, but I love to pass it on!)

1. I always use a 3/8" seam allowance for my EPP hexagons. I calculated the approximate height of my FINISHED hexagon (1-3/4") and then added 3/8" twice (3/4"). For a 1" EPP hexagon, that's approximately 2-1/2" FOR THE FABRIC. I cut a 2-1/2" x wof strip of my blue floral as shown below.

Cutting a long strip
2. I will be using a standard 60 degree triangle to cut my fabric hexagons. I fold my 2-1/2" fabric strip in half along the LENGTH as shown, wrong sides together. Now, a little more math. This math is NOW based on the finished height of the FABRIC. We all know that a hexagon for EPP is measured along a side, from point to point. Just suspend that thought for right now!

The formula for cutting hexagons this way is: 
  • What is half the finished height of the hexagon? (because you are cutting the fabric folded in half). 1-3/4"
  • Add those seam allowances (3/8" twice) and we get 2-1/2" for the fabric cut. A 2-1/2" strip of fabric will finish to 2", so we need to find HALF OF THAT. 1" is half of 2".
  • Find that horizontal line on your ruler (in this case, "1")
  • Align the 1" horizontal line with the RAW EDGES of your folded strip
  • Note the fold of the strip is at the bottom (this does make a difference!)
Aligning the 1" horizontal ruler line with raw edges
3. Cut along both sides as shown below:
Cut fabric on both sides of ruler
4. Open up fabric, and - MAGIC!
Quick cut fabric hexagon for EPP
5. Several hexagons. Do NOT flip-flop the ruler. Always have the fold of the fabric at the bottom. There are little waste triangles of fabric from cutting.

Keep cutting along the strip
6. Now attach your papers. I like to punch a hole in the center of my papers for ease of removal.

Hexagon paper centered with 3/8" seam allowance around all edges
 Punched holes allow for pinning to secure in place for stitching.

Pin through punched holes
And several from one strip. Remember, instead of guessing, you are able to use a ruler and with only two cuts get all sides of that hexagon cut! No sloppy, random cutting with scissors.

I got all of these from one 2-1/2" strip!
If you are nervous, PRACTICE on construction paper or other waste paper. Then when you get your numbers right, go for the fabric!

I cut kits for my students of various sized hexagons, diamonds, and jewels. If you're in the Dallas/Arlington, Texas area in the 3rd week of August, come join me in my EPP Class: English Paper Piecing with Hexagons and Diamonds. August 23, 8:30 am to 11:30 am.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Cookie Cutter BOM: The Butterfly

Here we have block #2, the Butterfly. This is a bit more complicated in cutting out with all the ins and outs of the curves. Here's one of several quilts made and published. This was made using Anna Griffin fabrics and appeared in Quilt Magazine, 2006. The quilt pattern as shown is available in my Etsy shop!
Romantic Butterflies. 2006
As I shared last month with the Heart Block, you trace a LEFT side and a RIGHT side using the template. I use freezer paper as my template material. Here I show some red fabric (peeking out from under the freezer paper) that will be stitched to the black batik rectangle on the left.

The little cutaway can be used as another design element; don't throw it away!

Cutting out Butterfly using freezer paper templates
Here is another quilt made using 5 butterflies and four plain alternating squares. It's somewhat dark, but I think you get the idea.

Butterflies by my friend Jan J.
Now, back to my batik Butterfly block:

10" Butterfly Block for the Cookie Cutter Sampler
Remember, you can start at the beginning with the Heart block and also add the Dreidel block.

Here is the Sampler quilt again:

Cookie Cutter Sampler
Remember, the Butterfly Block is free for the month of August only. After that, it moves to my Etsy shop. Please don't photocopy or share the pdf in any way with others. Just share the link!

Monday, July 29, 2019

Lone Star Quilts

I just returned from 3 days of teaching at the Quilt Odyssey in Hershey, PA. It was their 20th anniversary and my 3rd year of teaching with them. I thoroughly enjoyed my time (I love teaching) and especially enjoyed my students. I learn so much from them - it's not a one way street!

Here is one of my two teaching samples. I made this in early 2009 from a Blank Fabrics collection called Holiday Splendor. The center Lone Star is a whopping 35" square! The quilt is 50" x 50"

Holiday Splendor Lone Star
I set in those floral print squares and triangles (and I teach that as one of two methods). I didn't want to break up the print with a seam. But 95% of the time, when I make quilts like this, I split those outside background pieces.

Then I took another collection of blues and made a second Lone Star. This is all rotary cut strips sewn into sets of 3 and then cut into 45 degree 3-patch wedges. NO templates! As you can see (if you look closely) that I split up those blue background pieces for ease of construction. No y-seams here.

Blue and green Lone Star
But, then I got the crazy idea of using bias strips in all the background sections. . . AFTER I put the borders on! Quite a bit of ripping and tearing (and some grunts and groans). I had to open up the seams to insert the 16 bias strips and then stitch things back up, but it worked. (Not a great picture for the colors; the photo above is the true color.)

Lone Star with bias detail
I got this idea from a vintage quilt I saw. Nothing new under the sun, is there?

Then one of my students shared a photo with me of her quilt in process. This class is called ONE Day Lone Star. That's because most students can get their Lone Star center put together in one 6 hour workshop. Here is what Lisa G. shared with me yesterday.

Lisa G.'s Lone Star with bias strips (in process)
And then this morning she sent me this pic. She wanted to add an extra appliqué touch in those corner squares. Off the chart gorgeous, don't you think?

Corner detail of Lisa G.'s Lone Star
In a class of 18 students, there are always those who "stray" from the pattern and create innovative elements. This was one of them. And then there was Susan H., who has a background in costume design. She is afraid of NO fabric, NO sewing technique. She just knows where she is going and enjoys the ride.

She wanted to put a miniature Lone Star in those corner 11" squares. Not a problem. She figured it out. Used 1" cut strips and this is her creative solution to otherwise plain background squares.

Please note: This Lone Star is a miniature! She is making four of these, one for each corner!

Susan H.'s miniature Lone Star
I brought several other Lone Star quilts to share with my students. Some had the diamonds composed of only a single piece of fabric. Several used two pieces. I've shared these in past blog posts.

Lone Star made with 8 single fabric diamonds
Two large table mats using 8 single fabric diamonds
The next two quilts were the basis of my workshop, Big Block Lone Star. The centers are a whopping 29" square!
Big Block Lone Star (29" center)
And this one was in my second book, Supersize 'Em Quilts. Center block is 29" x 29".

EZ to be Green

This also was in my Supersize 'Em Quilts book (Martingale, 2009).
Farmhouse West Stars. 19" blocks

And another single fabric diamond star.

Single star
And one last one. This appeared in the Keepsake Catalog (I designed and sewed it using Windham Fabrics.) Storybook Lone Star.

Storybook America Lone Star
The Lone Star remains one of the most beloved of all quilt patterns. Being able to avoid those set in seams for the corners and side triangles makes it doable. And using strip piecing instead of templates makes it VERY quick! Hope you enjoyed the show.