Saturday, February 24, 2018

Nine-Patch Fun

The nine-patch block is one of my favorites and I've made these in all different sizes. But mostly for small quilts.

Right now I have three nine-patch quilts in the works that will be larger than the small quilts I typically make. Some of the blocks will still be small and some will be a bit larger. I'm working on these in between sashing my Dear Jane quilt. 

It feels odd making 6-inch blocks when you're used to making smaller ones. They seem huge!

These will be put together into a lap quilt using scrappy six-inch blocks alternated with light print squares. Simple, yes, but scrappy and sort of sentimental.

I'm having a lot of fun playing with my fabrics.

These are 3-inch blocks I'm making for a quilt inspired by a quilt called the Birthday Quilt in Julie Hendricksen's book Preserving History. It's a wonderful book if you love reproductions and antique quilts and it contains quite a few patterns I really want to make. I had the great idea of making a quilt for myself instead of making one for a book, a pattern or a mystery. Something simple. So, this one is going to be MY birthday quilt and just for me to cuddle up in on the couch. 

If you can believe it, the blocks in this quilt are 1 1/2" (!!!). Yes, the BLOCKS, not the pieces. Beautiful,  but that seems just a little crazy to me so I'm making my blocks 3", using 1 1/2" squares, which is still small enough. If I had to make them any smaller I'd get really frustrated and probably quit. After my Dear Jane blocks, it's not like I need even more frustration with tiny pieces. 

For this quilt, I need 240 nine patches and 240 shirting or light squares. Sounds like a lot but they stitch up really fast. I just finished my 130th block yesterday so I'm more than halfway there. I started this last November and then got sidetracked. So I picked it up again to take a break after I put together my first DJ segment. My "loose" goal for the past week has been to try to make 10 blocks every day. I've made blocks 6 days straight so that's pretty good. No pressure, I've got months to finish, but a goal is always good.  Again, it's been fun including a lot of my favorite reproduction scraps in these blocks. 

Have a good weekend! I still have to get in my 10 blocks today . . . . 

Friday, February 9, 2018

Dear Jane Progress

Finally, I had some time to sit down and start sewing my finished Dear Jane blocks together with the sashing. I've been busy but I've also been stalling because it was all a bit scary. How do I do this? Will everything fit together nicely? Or will it be a real pain to get the top assembled? What if they simply do not go together and the quilt looks awful? I went back and forth about the sashing too. The very first Dear Jane quilt I saw in person (made by Karan Flanscha, of Iowa) had cornerstones. Blue cornerstones. I liked the way it looked with cornerstones and I hope Karan doesn't mind I'm using her idea. Jane Stickle's original quilt does not have cornerstones but it made perfect sense to me.

I'm very happy with how it looks and, surprisingly, it wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be. 

This is Karan's quilt - 

I remember meeting Karan when I was teaching a workshop at a guild meeting in Iowa some years ago. My mouth fell open as she showed us her quilt. It was beautiful and I became inspired. She encouraged me to try making this quilt and has truly been an inspiration to many quilters over the years.

I'd been trimming and squaring up the blocks as I went along but I pressed and did it again as I sewed the sashing just to make sure.  I'm always amazed when they turn out to be 5" square. You have to understand, I've been doing this since 2010 and my skills and accuracy have improved since making some of the early blocks. I've used two different sewing machines. Some blocks are hand pieced, some are machine pieced, some are paper pieced. Lots of variation and so much could go wrong. I breathe a sign of relief when they measure up. If you are thinking of making this quilt, be sure to get the official Dear Jane rulers. They're essential. And the software. Don't forget about the software. I would never have finished without the Dear Jane EQ software. A big help for the rotary cutting directions and a lifesaver as I did the paper piecing. Plus, the software contains lots of other info and some great tips. It's almost like taking a class -  all the info you need is right there.

Here's how I'm making the sashing with cornerstones - I cut 5" x 12" pieces from my sashing fabric. Then I cut a 1" x 12" strip from blue cornerstone fabric. I sewed the two strips together and then sub cut that into 1" strips as you can see below. I also cut 1" x 5" strips of sashing fabric. These were first sewn to the right side of a block (see below). The sashing piece with the cornerstone attached was then stitched to the bottom of the block. Then I sewed 6 blocks together with the sashing to make a row. Remember to leave off the sashing around the outer edges of the quilt as you sew the rows together. 

I decided to sew the rows together into four sections. Then I'll sew those sections together. It's a little less cumbersome for me to do it this way. As long as I don't get confused and sew the wrong sections together at the end. I keep the picture of Jane's quilt nearby so I can check every step of the way.

Snow days = Sew days. I stitched a couple more rows together yesterday and hope to finish the first of four sections today. (Don't worry, it's just a little snow. It'll dry. This quilt will probably go through worse before I'm done with it. And it looks so pretty against the white snow.)

Have a fun weekend! It's supposed to snow A LOT more here in the coming days.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Mystery Quilt - Block 2

I've uploaded a file with instructions for Block #2 (or Clue #2) for my Friendship Garden Mystery Quilt on my website and in my small quilt groups. All you do is add a border around your first block. Easy.

Then, if you feel like doing more, cut 20 squares that measure 3 1/4" x  3 1/4". We'll use these in a later step as we put the quilt together in the coming months. Make sure you put them in a safe place so you can find them when it's time. (But. don't be crazy mad like me and put them in a place so safe you lose them for 2 years . . . .)

Choose a nice assortment of prints in various colors and values if you are making the scrappy version. 

This week I found a small scrap of this pretty blue and red fabric and decided I couldn't bear to cut it up - I needed to use it to make a doll quilt from the alternate star block I gave you last month for the Mystery Quilt. You may choose to make a star for the center if you are not comfortable with applique. See directions for Alternate Block #1. 

Also, the small quilt challenge we'll be making for February is my Windowpane quilt on page 38 of Small & Scrappy.

I love this scrappy little quilt so much. It was inspired by some vintage blocks I found online. The colors were rather dull in the original but still pretty. I made mine in similar colors but added more blue and pops of pink to brighten it up. I'm hoping some of you make this quilt in red or pink for Valentine's Day. 

It's still cold here in Chicago and the lagoon at the Chicago Botanic Garden is frozen over. But it's still pretty to walk around, even if there's no snow.  

When I've had a few minutes, I've been working on some 6" nine-patch blocks for a lap quilt. That light print will be used for my setting blocks. Nothing fancy. Just wanted to use some of my favorite fabrics to make a quilt I can cuddle up under as I watch TV. This one is for ME. 

I work with small blocks so often, it feels weird to make 6" blocks. They seem so BIG. Might be a trend though : )  I sure wish I had made some of my small quilts in larger sizes. 

Of course, something tells me I'm going to have to share my blankie with the dog when it's finished. I don't mind a bit. Who's a pretty girl now that she's had a bath and a haircut?? 

Have a good weekend!

Friday, January 19, 2018

A Prairie Journey

It's almost a book! Here's the cover -  A Prairie Journey, Small Quilts That Celebrate the Pioneer Spirit. Published by Martingale, it will be released in July. I am sooo excited.

Is this cover gorgeous or what??  Blue, blue and more blue - can you believe it? Makes you kind of swoon a little. But don't get too excited yet. It's just the cover; it's still not finished. I spent the last couple of weeks going over the proof pages with a fine-tooth comb, checking the layout and illustrations to see that there are no mistakes, that everything reads perfectly and that the instructions are clear before the book eventually goes to print. Making final changes and suggestions. Then it goes to the editors who will also do this. They still need to take photos of the quilts and add them. I spent days looking for antique photos that will complement the quilts and text. It's a lot of work for a publisher and takes a lot of people a lot of time. I've been working on it myself for the past year. But it's all coming together and I'm very proud and extremely happy with it. 

A Prairie Journey is now up on Amazon and, while it's still pretty early, I see that you can pre-order copies. Read the publisher's book description - 

"Inspired by yesterday's traditional blocks and today's reproduction fabrics, the author of the best-selling Small and Scrappy returns to share more petite quilts with ties to the past. Thirteen designs whisk readers back to an era when the time-honored quilt blocks today's quilters love were just making their debut.

"Stitch projects with names such as Wagon Wheels, Crossing the Plains and Aunt Sarah's Scrap Baskets, or make a Tree of Life friendship quilt featuring blocks autographed by family members [or friends]. Vintage photos and the words of pioneer women from the mid-nineteenth century, a time when quilting offered a welcome respite from the hardships of moving westward are sprinkled throughout."

The release date is July 16. I will probably begin taking pre-orders for signed copies sometime in May. (Just so you know, it will likely be a little cheaper on but the books are not signed if that matters to you.) Please check my website or Facebook page occasionally as we get closer to the release date and I will put any updates there. 

As you can see, my Welcome Home Mystery Quilt from last year is included. This is why I never posted my finished version. I wanted to surprise you. 

*   *   *

I hope some of you are already finished or on your way to making the first block of our NEW Mystery Quilt for 2018 - Friendship Garden. The next part is easy and will be posted in my small quilt groups and my website on or about February 1.

Have a great weekend! We're expecting a warm up and I'm afraid all of our snow will soon be gone. You know how I love the stuff . . . .

Friday, January 5, 2018

Mystery Quilt Sew Along

I'm starting another Mystery Quilt Sew Along this year. It's called Friendship Garden. The first block is an appliqué design. You can read about how the sew along will work by visiting the Mystery Quilt page on my website or going to the files section in my Yahoo group or Facebook group and clicking on the link called "Welcome to the Mystery Quilt." Then, download the first block.

Yes, it's applique! I took a poll and some of you said you wanted to do some applique this time so here you go.

Pretty simple but be warned, the pieces are small, so take your time. My leaves are slightly wonky. But it's finished.

Around the first week of each month through June, you'll get instructions to make another part of the quilt. Those blocks will be pieced, not appliqued, and posted on my website and the Yahoo and Facebook group file pages. 

I'll be sewing along with all of you and, if you keep up, your quilt top will be finished by summer. You can take the rest of the year to finish. I hope you will sew along with us! Our group members will be sharing their progress as we go along and that's a good reason to join the groups. Just click on one of the group links on the side of the blog to join in the fun. Please remember to read the files and patterns before you begin so you have all of the info you need. Also, it's helpful to read the messages posted in the Facebook group about the Mystery Quilt if you have any questions. It only takes a minute to scroll down through the posts. You may find that the questions you want to ask have already been answered. 

Beginners are welcome. This is a no-pressure, sew-at-your-own-pace project. If you don't like appliqué, no worries -  there is an alternate pieced block for you to substitute. The rest of the quilt will be the same. Choose your own colors and fabrics from your stash or scraps. I am making mine scrappy using some of my favorite reproduction scraps but the quilt would also look great as a two-color quilt or done in modern prints. Or, try wool for the applique. 

If you missed the Mystery Quilt for 2017, you'll be happy to know that I included it in my next book, coming out in July.

We'll also be working on small quilt challenges from my Small & Scrappy book during the first few months of the year. After the Mystery Quilt is finished, we'll make some quilts from the new book. There are a few really sweet appliqué quilts in that book so maybe now is the time to learn how to do appliqué if you've been procrastinating. Try visiting YouTube to see some applique tutorials. 

Here's the small quilt for January - Crow's Foot doll quilt on page 34. It's fast and easy and a nice little project to display for Valentine's Day. Or, make it in different colors.

Looks like it will be a good weekend to stay in and do some sewing. In addition to taking down our Christmas tree and decorations I need to do some other cleaning up since my sewing table got a little messy around Christmas. Also, look for some scrap bags for sale on my website next week if you're interested in picking up some of my random reproduction scraps to add to your own scraps for the blocks in your quilt. I'll be cutting some of them up this weekend.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy Quilty New Year

I'm so glad to see some of you were inspired by my attempts to get my scraps in order for the new year. Nothing like a clean slate. It will all be worth it when you feel like beginning a new project. Hope it's my Mystery Quilt, which we'll begin soon.

I cannot believe it's almost 2018. All in all, I have to say 2017 was quite a hectic year. I worked really hard and there were many ups and downs. My next book will be published by Martingale in July. I'm very excited about it. This is the best one yet. I know I always say that but this time it really is, LOL. They sent me a sneak peek of the cover recently and it's absolutely wonderful. I know you'll love it as much as I do, and the entire book as well. I'm expecting to get the sample mock-up pages next week and look them over before they do the final edit and the book is prepared to go to print. I'll share more with you when my publisher says it's okay. Yes, I know, it's a very long process to get a book from idea to reality, but oh it's all worth it. If you still haven't had a chance to pick up my last book, Small & Scrappy, I hope you do that soon so you can join us in more of the monthly quilt challenges we'll be doing from that book in the first part of next year. There are some cute little projects inside.

Also, I hope some of you had fun with all the events and swaps we held in the small quilt groups this past year. There will be more fun coming up in 2018 so you should join us (see group info on blog sidebar). We'll begin another Mystery Quilt sew along the first week in January, there will also be monthly challenges and our annual small quilt swap in spring, a signature block swap and probably another charm square fabric swap later in the year. (Maybe another retreat?) I hope some of you join in and participate in our online group events. It's a great way to make new quilting friends and keep in touch with the "old" ones.

I've been working on the new Mystery quilt pattern of the month and if you check back here in a couple of days, I'll have more info for you. I hope to have the first pattern available for you on January 3 or so.

My best wishes to all of you for a happy, healthy and quilty new year! Now go and finish cleaning up and organizing your scraps so you have a nice head start on a successful quilting year . . . .

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Storing Your Scraps

There's a brand new year looming and that means lots of new quilt projects. We're starting a new Mystery Quilt in January so I have to stay organized. Don't let disorganization keep you from creating. Often, it's just a matter of taking the time to do a little planning first. Some of you may have time now that the holidays are almost over to work on organizing your fabric and scraps and that's a good start.

I always hear quilters say they have waaaay too much fabric and they need to stop buying more. I've decided that, for me at least, buying fabric isn't the problem. It's finding a solution for storing it. Buying new fabric is a good thing if it makes your heart flutter and fills your mind with inspiration. Buying and collecting fabric is part of the reason we love to quilt. If you had only 10 fabrics, and were forced to use those same prints over and over and over, would you feel the same way about quilting? I'm guessing you would not. All of your quilts would begin to look the same. Color variety and new prints = inspiration. It's inspiration that jump starts our creative impulses.

So, if you find that you have an overabundance of fabric and that's driving you nuts, then think about some solutions to storing it all. Some quilters organize their fabric according to size - strips or squares. The most effective way for me to organize is by color, in drawers or bins. Larger cuts of fabric go in wire drawers.  Scraps or smaller cuts go into drawers or bins according to color. This means a separate place for each color if you have the space. If you usually work with many different types of fabric, such as batiks, reproductions or novelty prints, then this may not be practical. A better solution might be to sort them according to color in different containers, drawers or on separate shelves set aside for the various types of fabric. You should organize so that your fabric is fairly easy to access if you suddenly have the urge to begin a new project. 

The best method is the one you will keep up. Clutter makes it difficult for me to create and it can be a huge visual distraction as well. I try to clean up the fabric and scraps I use and put them away as soon as I finish a project. If my cutting table is clean and my scraps are already organized before I begin a new project, everything flows a little better.

Scraps and smaller cuts of fabric go here. 

Here are some other tips:

--  Get rid of unwanted fabric or unusable pieces. Just because someone gifted you with her old fabric, it doesn't mean you are obligated to keep it. Pick through and keep what you will use and then donate the rest to a school or charitable organization that may be able to put it to good use. Don't be afraid to "donate" some to your trash. Not all fabric is sacred. Except for the pieces you absolutely love, get rid of it. Don't kid yourself -  if there's any doubt in your mind, you'll probably never use it. 

--  Find a storage solution that allows you to simplify the sorting process and gives you access to it when you need it for a project. 

--  Be flexible and don't beat yourself up if you don't have time or can't get a handle on it all at once. If you know you work better and can be more productive if you're organized, then remind yourself of that from time to time. Taking even 15 minutes to organize a little bit or clean up your cutting or sewing table before you sew can make a big difference. It does not have to be perfect, just try to make a dent in it. I have a tendency to get bogged down by messes and I discovered that this is why I get stuck if I'm trying to create. It may work the same for you. If I find that I'm not eager to start something new I ask myself - what's holding me back? Usually it's the mess. I always make a mess when I create. Most of us do. But I find that if I hold onto that mess for too long, it holds me back and "messes" with my head. If I clean it up even just a little bit, my head clears and I find I have a fresher outlook.

If you're overwhelmed by your scraps, take a little bit of time to organize them. If all you can do is sort some by color and place into bags, do that for 15-20 minutes. Try sewing a little something from those scraps to begin the creative flow. Nine patches, whatever. Something happens when we do this. It's fun and relaxing and if you were feeling a little stuck, you'll be surprised at how sitting down to play with fabric encourages your creativity and motivates you to make something.

 Soon, I'll blog about making some little scrappy quilts with all of your organized fabric. 


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