Friday 16 October 2015

My Design Process {DIY Block Design}

My friend Alyce of Blossom Heart Quilts has recently released a digital book called DIY Block Design. It's all about a topic very close to my heart - quilt maths and how you can use it to design and make quilt blocks. You might remember the Decipher Your Quilt series Leanne and I ran last year where we looked at a variety of quilt blocks and discussed how to figure out the maths behind these blocks? Alyce's book is a great resource for this kind of information - Alyce shows you how to break down quilt blocks and shows lots of methods for making some common block components. She even includes tables of measurements you are likely to need when designing and making your own blocks. It's a really well written and easy to read book, so if you struggle with the maths behind making quilts you will find it very useful. 

Alyce asked if I'd be happy to talk a bit about my design process as part of her book launch. I happily said yes, and then wondered what I could actually say! Having spent the last few days thinking very hard about this, I realised that my favorite quilts and blocks I have designed are the most simple. And they are the designs that came together very quickly, after a flash of inspiration or some kind, rather than agonising over them for weeks on end. My designs normally start as a dodgy sketch on paper, and then if they're block based I'll draw them up in EQ7 where I play around with colour. I must admit that most of my recent quilts have been designed with a lot of room to play with free motion quilting too. I love having plenty of negative space to fill with quilting! 

Inspiration for my quilts is incredibly varied. The design I'm most proud of - Misdirection - was very much inspired by the simple geometric designs prominent in graphic design in the 1960s, with bold bands of colour angled across the quilt top. This design came together really quickly - a few sketches on paper, and then drawn up in EQ7 to play with colour placement. I do find it's those quick designs that I don't deliberate over that I end up liking the most. And this is a classic example of a quilt I designed to go nuts with FMQ - I'd really like to make another version and do something completely different with the quilting. 

The block I designed for the Bee Hive Quilts - Checker - is another of my favorites. The idea behind the Bee Hive is that the blocks are great bee blocks, that create an interesting secondary design when placed together. For this block, I wanted to design something really simple but quite effective. I think the best bee blocks are those that don't take forever to make, and that are really easy to make your own with colour choice and that don't rely on lots of points matching between blocks. I think this ticks all those boxes (and if you have a look at #checkerblock on Instagram, you'll see there are some phenomenal quilts being created with this block!)

This block actually went through a couple of changes before I settled on the final design. My initial design looked like this:

But when I placed it into a quilt layout I decided it was a bit boring.

But by switching the solid coloured squares with half square triangle units and making the sashing strips darker, it became a lot more interesting. And so my block design was born!

The other really cool thing about this block (and this is where EQ7 is invaluable for designing blocks and quilts!), is that by reversing where the colours are placed it creates a completely different quilt.

It's also a fun block to play around with rotation. A quilt made from straight-set blocks looks quite different...

to one where each alternate block is rotated.

Hopefully this was an interesting glimpse into my design process. There is no way I would claim to be an expert designer (and I actually haven't been doing a lot of designing of late!), but it is a LOT of fun to play around with quilt designs and come up with something you love. 

Alyce is running some fun giveaways over the next few weeks - each week there is a different theme and you can win some great prizes by sharing your designs on Instagram with #myDIYblockdesign - check out all the details here

I hope you're all having a great week! My eldest celebrated his 11th birthday yesterday and I actually managed to get his quilt finished (at midnight the night before his birthday!!), so I'll share that as soon as I get some decent photos. 

xx Jess

Friday 9 October 2015

Block #20 Caroline Tutorial - Farmer's Wife Sew Along

Today it's my turn to share a block tutorial with you for the Farmer's Wife Sew Along, hosted by Angie at Gnome Angel. I'll be walking you through how to put together block #20, Caroline.

This block is made up of half square triangles (HSTs) and quarter square triangles (QSTs). I will be walking you through how to put this block together, along with a few tips and tricks for piecing these units so that you get perfect points.


Step 1 - Cutting

To make this block using the rotary cutting method, you will need to cut squares of fabric.

a. The smaller squares are cut at the size shown on the rotary cutting instructions for Triangle B, but rounded up to the nearest half inch. You will need FOUR squares from one fabric (shown as blue in my block) and TWO squares from two other fabrics (the green and white stripe, and the green and blue stripe shown here). This is a total of EIGHT squares.

b. The larger squares are cut at double the measurement shown for Triangle B, rounded up to the nearest inch.

Step 2. Pair up your fabrics. 

The smaller squares will be paired up as shown in the photo below. The larger squares are paired up together.

Step 3. Draw a diagonal line through the centre on the wrong side of the lightest fabric in all of your six pairs of fabric. 

Step 4. 

a. Sew 1/4" either side of the line on all pairs of fabric, by lining the side of your patchwork foot up along the edge of the line

b. Cut along the drawn line on all pairs of fabric.

Step 5. Press your seams open. 

You will have two large HSTs and eight small HSTs as below. The large HSTs will be used in the quarter square triangle units, and the small HSTs will be used to make pinwheel units.

Step 6. Making the QST units

Take both your large HSTs, and draw a line diagonally through the centre on the wrong side of one of these. Pair them up so that the sewn seams on both the HSTs are lined up and you have different opposite fabrics paired either side of the seam as shown below.

You want to make sure these seams line up accurately along the line, so you get a really nice point in the centre of your block.

You can use a floating pin to help do this - push a pin exactly through the centre of the top HST.

then carefully lining up the edges of your two blocks, push the pin through the bottom HST, making sure it goes straight through the centre of the seam. 

Pin these together and sew either side of the line. 

 Cut along the drawn line, and press your seams open.

You will need to trim these QST units down to size. Look carefully at the photo below to see which points you will need to line up on your ruler to trim these blocks accurately. When these points are lined up, trim the right hand and top sides of your QST unit.

Turn your QST around so the trimmed sides are at the left and bottom. Follow the photo below to see which points to line up on your ruler, and again trim the right and top sides.

7. Trimming the HST units

Look carefully at the photo below to see where to line up your ruler on your HST blocks to trim them to size. You'll be lining the 45 degree line on your ruler up with the seam on your block. Position your ruler as shown, and then trim the right hand and top sides of your HST.

Turn your block so the trimmed sides are on the left and bottom, and follow the photo below to line up your ruler. Again, line up the 45 degree line on your ruler along the seam. Trim the right hand and top sides.

8. Make the pinwheel units

Take your eight finished HST units and arrange them in pairs as shown below.

 Sew these pairs together. I find by starting the seam at the end where the points join, I get my seams to match better. Press your seams open.

Next, sew the pairs of HSTs into pinwheel units. Pinning the seams as below will help keep the centre points aligned.

If you look at where the seams will match from the side, you can check that they're aligned properly. 

10. Sew your QST and pinwheel units into the block. 
Arrange your QST and pinwheel units as shown below. 

Sew them into pairs, pressing seams open.

 And finally sew the pairs together, using the same pinning technique as shown in step 9 above.
Press you seam open!

I actually made two versions of this block - I am learning so much about fabric placement by making these blocks! I definitely prefer the blue/green version, but I think this red/white version will make it's way into my quilt as well!

This tutorial is part of the Farmer's Wife 1930s Sew Along, hosted by Angie of Gnome Angel and the Fat Quarter Shop.

If you would like to join the sew along, you can find the book here:
The Farmer’s Wife 1930s Sampler Quilt: Inspiring Letters from Farm Women of the Great Depression and 99 Quilt Blocks That Honor Them by Laurie Aaron Hird for Fons & Porter/F+W; RRP $28.99 – Click here to purchase.

xx Jess

Wednesday 7 October 2015

Tula Pink Giveaway - and a Tula Quilt Finish!

I've been starting new projects at a ridiculous rate over the last few weeks - so I currently have six projects in various stages of completion that I'm actively working on. This is a bit ridiculous even for me, so I'm thrilled to say I have something that's actually finished to share today :oD. I'm especially excited that this quilt is finally finished. I started making it almost three years ago, when Tula Pink's Birds and Bees collection first came out. And I have a really awesome giveaway at the end for all of you Tula fans!

The pattern is the Colour Block quilt, designed by Tula Pink for her Saltwater collection. It's a really nice pattern to use larger scale prints, and it is one of those really clever and simple patterns to make. I chose kona solids for the background, in colours that would blend well with the prints. This quilt top has been sitting in my to-finish pile for a few years, wanting to be finished. The size (84" x 96") was what made me hesitate to quilt it - so when I was given a frame earlier this year I decided this would be the first quilt to go on the frame.

And the last as it happens, for a few reasons. When I set my machine up on the frame, I realised I only had about 4" of quilting space at any time, which meant my options for quilting were fairly limited. I decided to go for dense organic straight lines, and I adore the texture. The other negative while I was using the frame was the number of thread breakages I had while quilting. I'm pretty sure I was just expecting too much of my machine on the frame, and expecting it to stitch faster than it's capable of. The other thing that might have played a role is the fact that I used a high thread count flat sheet for the backing fabric. Whatever the reason, I haven't used the frame since!

I used a whole bunch of Aurifil 50wt threads to quilt it - many of them are variegated from Tula Pink's first collection for Aurifil. I love how the thread blends in some areas, but contrasts a lot in others (especially on the darker fabrics.) I'm yet to wash this one, but I'm a bit excited to see how it crinkles once it's washed.

I promised a giveaway today, and it's a pretty amazing one! The Fat Quarter Shop have offered a bundle of Tula Pink's latest collection Eden, in the Lotus colourway. I LOVE the colours in this bundle - they're a little different from Tula's usual shades of green and blue.

If you'd like a chance to win this bundle, please just leave me a comment and let me know what you'd make with it (or if you'd just stash it like I would!!) That's it, no hoops! The giveaway is open to everyone, and comments will close next Wednesday 14th October at 8pm AEST.

Please make sure you are NOT A NO REPLY BLOGGER - I have had lots and lots of no reply comments lately, so if I haven't replied to you it means I can't. If you're a no-reply blogger I have no way of contacting you and you will not be eligible to win this bundle :o)

I hope you're all having a wonderful week!

xx Jess

Friday 2 October 2015

Farmers Wife Sew Along - Week 1 Roundup

You might have noticed a not-so-little event kick off this week - the Farmer's Wife 1930s Sew Along, hosted by Angie of GnomeAngel. Angie has been working tirelessly for the last several months behind the scenes organising this sew along - and she has done a phenomenal job. Angie has thought of literally everything needed to make this sew along work smoothly, I absolutely take my hat off to her for taking on this massive year long project.

Angie has teamed up with Marti Michell and a bunch of bloggers (including me!), and we will all be sharing block tutorials for the 99 blocks over the next twelve months. It's a bit exciting to be honest - the Facebook group has hit almost 4000 members (!!), so it's definitely the biggest blog event I've participated in. The first three blocks were released this week - and there are tutorials by Angie as well as a couple of the guest bloggers. I've even managed to make my blocks for this week - I'm not sure I'll keep up over the whole twelve months, but at least I'm off to a good start! I've decided to use my stash of Suzuko Koseki prints for my quilt, along with a bunch of other coordinating prints as needed. It will be quite unlike any quilt I've made before - it's already an eclectic mix of prints.

Angie has organised the block schedule so we will be working from easiest through to hardest rather than working alphabetically through the book. So the first block - #12 Becky - was quick and easy to put together. I'm still not entirely sold on this block - but I'll wait till I've made a few more before I decide whether to remake this one or not. You can find the tutorial for this block by Angie, and tutorials for Becky (#12) and Bonnie (#16) by Lucy at Charm About You and Melissa at Oh, How Sweet. Co

The second block - Bonnie #16 - was another quick and easy make. I'm really happy with this one - not my normal choice of colours, but it's nice to make a soft and pretty block one in a while :o) 

The third block - #8 Aunt - was a wee bit more complicated, but way more simple than some of the blocks to come ;o). I ended up paper piecing the centre part, and then rotary cutting the 'borders'. I actually changed the outer fabric in this one, as I wasn't happy with the first version. Angie has put together a tutorial for this block, along with the uber talented Jodi of Tales of Cloth (whose block is spectacular!!) This is my first version...

I'm much happier with how it looks now!

I'm really glad I'm participating in this sew along - I actually have the first Farmer's Wife book but haven't made a single block. I'm definitely the sort of person who needs a sew along to keep me motivated with this kind of quilt, and I'm really hoping I'll keep up over the next year. I don't have a great track record with finishing QAL quilts, but I'm determined to get this one finished!

xx Jess

Friday Fabric Finds

Welcome to Friday Fabric Finds, where I share what's new and shiny in my sponsor's shops, along with any sales or specials they have running. And there are a LOT of sales on offer this weekend!

Polka Dot Tea have a huge range of gorgeous fabric in stock right now - including the full collection of Tiger Lily by Heather Ross. I'm a huge HR fan, and this collection definitely doesn't disappoint - so much fantastic fussy cutting potential, and Heather's classic mix of soft and saturated colours. There are even some gorgeous low volume prints in there!

At Sew Me a Song, Becca has a huge range of fabrics on sale - over 100 fabrics are 25% off and the clearance section (50% off) is very well stocked too. I'm a bit obsessed with teal fabric at the moment, so this gorgeous stripe really caught my eye - how good would this be for binding? I've actually been sewing with this one today - it made its way into one of my Farmers Wife blocks. I'll be sharing the tutorial for that next Friday!

Frangipani Fabrics have 25% off all Amy Butler, Anna Maria Horner and Kaffe Fassett fabrics from now till the 5th October. This includes some beautiful fabrics, including AMH's Folk Song collection and Violette from Amy Butler. The sale ends on Monday, so get in quick!

Pink Castle Fabrics have just received Elizabeth Hartman's debut fabric collection - Rhoda Ruth - for Robert Kaufman. I am a massive fan of Elizabeth's patterns (and have been teaching several of her patterns at Frangipani Fabrics over the last few months) - and I'm a bit besotted with this collection. Elizabeth's sense of colour is just so good, and these are the kinds of prints I'd use time and time again. 

Pink Castle also have a couple of sales running this week - you can take 20% off all books and magazines this week with the code BOOK20. Not only that, they have drastically reduced lots of sale fabric - you'll find a tonne of stuff in there for as little as $4 per yard. Time to stock up on some quilt backs perhaps?

Last but certainly not least, the Fat Quarter Shop are offering 20% off all Cotton and Steel fabric. Again, you'll have to be quick, as the sale ends on Sunday 4th October at midnight CST!

Happy shopping!

xx Jess