Saturday, November 27, 2010

Class 150 - working with Four Patch blocks

Over the past few weeks, I've been working my way through the opening lessons in Class 150 - Base Grids, Grid Sizes, Drafting and Mock-ups.  I utilized those skills (along with the valuable table on log sizes in Class 140) to enlarge the log cabin quilt to baby play mat size rather than table topper size.  Conveniently, the carpet in my office has 3 inch squares, so I could measure off approximations of how big the quilt would be using various size logs.

Last night I was moved on to lesson 6 - the four patch blocks.  This first involved locating the bag in which my sampler is stored - though while I located the bag for the fabric, the sampler itself appears to be AWOL. Fortunately I don't actually need it until I reach the Sophomore year, so I have time to figure out where I've stashed it.

I'm actually quite pleased with the way my four patch blocks turned out.  I did first attempt to fold the seams so that they would be on the darker fabric as is generally done and it just wasn't working the way it should - so when folding the seams towards the lighter fabric, I realized that the reason you get little four patches at the center of each block is that a few stitches are released to open those seams.  The blocks did open better for me when I first used my fingernails to set the seams since I wasn't pressing them to one side first. Otherwise they didn't press all the way open and had to be re-pressed.

Butting the seams to initially create the four patch blocks, it was easy to do as suggested to let the seam allowance lead in to the presser foot. Once I moved on to joining the four patches into eight patch blocks, I could not figure out how to do that again - looks like the seams didn't let me do it again - so had to be careful to butt them before feeding them in.

I did stop to check and trim the widths of the strips and blocks and happily had very little trimming to do along the way.  Finally, it was time to join the eight patch blocks together to create the 16 patch blocks.  I only had to undo one seam - as I managed to twist the alignment for one of the eight patches - and then had to redo the same seam as I didn't do a good job butting the seams together the second time.  Once again, the twist to open the center point seams worked out nicely - and I finished the evening measuring the blocks to be sure that they came out correctly.  The blocks are now safely bagged with the remaining material waiting for the next steps.

Dr. Seuss Log Cabin

Done - and I'm quite pleased with the way it came out.  Switching to the red with white dots for the final logs was definitely the right decision.

So what did I learn from this project?
  • My trimming can still use some work - mostly in the area of not letting the ruler slip as the best measuring job can go astray when the ruler shifts ever so slightly - step one is to move more slowly. Step two is to spend the extra time to rotate the block rather than try to trim across the top.
  • Using a directional print - such as fussy cutting the faces/characters, means that one should plan ahead a little more.  If I were to do it over again, I'd rotate the faces in each subset of four rather than have all of them oriented the way the Lorax is here.  Also - the blocks that have the red stripe at the base of the character stand out better than the ones that do not as those blend into the light logs.
When I trimmed the last logs and squared up the blocks, my logical method failed me. Instead of trimming the red/white dots to 1.5 inches, I trimmed so that the finished block would be the required 10.5 inches.  Somewhere in there though, at least one of the other logs or perhaps the center block didn't get trimmed correctly as a few of the blocks have narrower logs than others, which leads to a little wonkiness on the final assembly.  A better way to do this clearly would have been to trim the red logs correctly and then square up the block.
 Once I finished squaring the blocks, I tried a couple layouts to find the "just right" one.  I quickly confirmed that I didn't really care for the first one - with the four faces of each set clustered together.  Then moved on to a traditional diagonal strip - and while I do like it (and this one is Gus's favorite), I don't feel like it does justice to the characters.

So I moved on to the winning combination. Then also added the striped fabric which I had cut originally for the outer logs on each block.  I thought about using it as sashing - which would have worked for the first layout, but not so much for the final choice.  Unfortunately the strips are a bit narrow to use for the binding, but I think I will use them as a small border and then bind with a solid red.  The backing for this quilt is going to be primarily the black & white scatter print with red accent pieces as early on, babies are drawn to red/white/black combinations.

And let me just say - thank goodness I took a picture of my design as I sewed the first four blocks wrong and had to remove those seams and rearrange to get them going in the correct direction.

Gus then helped to model the final for now product - it is now safely stored with my other works in progress until I reach the lesson on borders.

Close up of the Green Eggs and Ham panels

Monday, November 22, 2010

Wow - what a weekend...

I'm not so sure I've been this productive in awhile.  After the successful cutting and pressing and sewing of Friday, I followed up with a few hours each on Saturday and Sunday.  The Cub Scout/Boy Scout event turned out to be one in which I did not have to stay out in the woods for 6 hours.  So I headed home and added another set of logs to my blocks.  After burning myself on my iron (fortunately just a first degree - matches the one I got from the oven on Friday) and then cutting myself with my rotary trimmer - YEP it is sharp, I decided someone was telling me to go pick up my son (that and the phone call from one of the leaders that they were winding up a little earlier than planned).

Sunday morning Gus and I headed out a O'dark 30 to his Select team hockey game in Greensboro.  The Sharks played a really good game, but unfortunately lost 3-2.  We played the same team a week ago and won 4-3 in another closely matched game.  I manged to get another hour of quilting in, which allowed me to get the next two logs sewn on, though the second was neither pressed nor trimmed before we headed out to the second hockey game.  Sharks won handily (the House team) and Gus scored twice - first time he has scored multiple goals in a game. His lifetime total goals now numbers 7 and he has 6 assists I think.

After coming home and finally getting a wired child to bed, I headed back to press the last set of light logs.  I then decided that I absolutely did not like the third dark log I chose - and since the third light log was in place, there was not really an option to just have two sets of logs (no way was I going to pull out 32 seams).  Mike agreed that the stripes were just too busy. So I pulled the red with white dots that I intended for use on the back, and cut 8 strips.  Though the logs won't follow the pattern of gradually getting darker as you move your eye from the center, there really isn't much traditional about these blocks. I got the first set attached and they are waiting to be pressed - hopefully before I start cooking our Thanksgiving dinner (must go shopping).

A note on the strip piecing of these blocks - I made this larger than the instructions in the book - 10 inch blocks instead of 8 inch blocks - and spent some time using an excel spreadsheet in order to calculate the new yardages since the ones in the chart provided were for the 8 inch blocks.  One thing I did learn is that it pays to cut an extra strip, especially for the outer logs - fortunately I had carefully laid the fabrics to one side so I didn't have to start from scratch on squaring the fabrics.  While the math worked out that I'd have enough inches for each of the logs, the reality is that one also needs to figure out how many logs you can get from the 42 usable inches. For the red with white dots, I ended up cutting the strips so that I would remember to use for two of log 1 and two of log 2 in that set as it was not possible to get four of log 2 from a single strip. Fortunately I figured it out before wasting fabric.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday Night Sew In

The men of the house have gone out for Pizza and to see Megamind.  My grand plan worked.  Trans Siberian Orchestra is playing and I'm cutting and pressing the next project quilt - as well as gradually pressing the nine-patch blocks for the nine patch challenge.

Pictures later as I don't want to lose momentum.

Okay - I'm back. Very successful evening. The guys had fun at the movie and I had fun with fabric.

This next project is a log cabin quilt - I cut all of the strips tonight and then fussy cut 16 centers.  I'm using the Dr. Seuss fabric by Kaufman - the back will be the black & white print with the red dots on white. 

I cut four Hortons, four from The Cat in the Hat (lots of Things 1 & 2), two from Sneeches which is my favorite Dr. Seuss story, the Lorax, four from Green Eggs and Ham and a fox which I think if from Fox in Socks. I completed the first set of logs, there will be three sets altogether.

Between cutting, starching and pressing, I also pressed most of the 9 patch challenge blocks that I finished over the last week.  The next step for that project will be to square the blocks - lots of trimming to go, and I do need to finish some of the lingering blocks.

Hopefully I'll get more sewing time this weekend - though we do have a Cub Scout activity all day tomorrow and two hockey games on Sunday.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Continuing the 9 patch challenge

I really like the color combination and possibilities
Throughout the week, hockey got in the way a bit. Though I did spend Tuesday night cutting the rest of the strips into 3 inch rows of 3 blocks and Thursday I grouped the rows into threes in order to be ready to sit down and sew. I really like chain stitching!  I also finally figured out how leaders/enders work in the chain stitching, at least the way I am conceptualizing, so I'll get my squares ready for the dragon border soon to try to get as many of those put together while working on the next QA project.

The problem came in with the blue speckled fabric.
I made three sets with the speckles on the outside.
One slight hitch, which may send me back to Thimble Pleasures this weekend was finding that I suddenly have a plethora of strips with dark middles, and not enough with dark corners. I can see exactly where I went wrong when I was constructing sets - and I'm not sure if I got two strips mixed up while chain stitching or if I just was not paying enough attention.  I think I can fix it without the extra trip for another quarter yard of fabric...

I think I mentioned that I've decided to use the blocks in two lap sized quilts rather than one Huge quilt as I'm not ready to face wrestling a Queen sized quilt through the quilting process. This way I won't be scared to finish the project. I've got enough apprehension as it is about starting to actually sandwich and quilt some of these projects.

My new iron arrived. I purchased one of the Classic style Black & Decker steam irons with as few bells and whistles as possible. I did not want anything digital as that is just one more item to break.  So far I'm very satisfied with the weight and I can see an improvement in some of my pressing.  The blocks I finished last week have not yet been pressed as I'm saving that pleasure for when I'm in the mood to steam.

My helpers are also quite attentive to the process, and I am careful to keep curious noses away from hot irons.
I've been looking at lots of 9 patch layouts and had initially thought about doing a disappearing 9 patch, but I think I'm heading for something with clusters of blocks and sashing.  Nothing too complex.  Far in the future, I'm thinking that this will be quilted with wavy lines given the dolphin theme in the quilts to invoke thoughts of the sea.

 By the end of the weekend, I should have many more blocks ready to press!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A 9 patch challenge...

Almost to the half-way point.

My local quilt store - Thimble Pleasures - issued a challenge - 1 9 patch/day for September - November and there will be a gathering in December to assemble the quilts.  Part of the challenge is to get you sewing for 10-15 minutes a day. Unfortunately, due to my wild travel schedule in September-October, I am a little bit behind, but have plans to catch up.  I think another goal of the project was to help people reduce their stash, and reduce their scraps or pre-cut blocks. However, I am on the stash building side, so have used this as an excuse to add a few fabrics to my collection - and further build my stash. 

When I came home from Denmark & Cameroon and unpacked, I got overwhelmed by the volume of fabric on my sewing table, a place I had pledged to keep clean as it is in the corner of our bedroom.

Sunday I started tackling the problem.  I did three loads of fabric, with a color catcher to prevent tragedies, to catch up on the fabric that is in the queue for the next projects (the Log Cabin and the table runner are washed, pressed, starched and ready to go).

Monday I opened up my new iron and re-pressed blocks that ended up wrinkled at the bottom of the pile and starched and pressed the fabric that was washed on Sunday.  Gus griped about the starch while I was working as he planted himself next to the ironing board to do his reading.  We then played part of a game of monopoly (I'm being whomped at the moment - he owns both Boardwalk and Park Place, fortunately hasn't started building on them - though that doesn't seem to be a problem for me yet as I keep landing on Go to Jail - but I digress) while I continued to press fabric.

Tuesday I ignored the call of the fabric.

Wednesday I re-pressed the strips that are waiting to be transformed into 9 patch blocks as they got crushed too, and straightened and pressed 3 more fabrics for my 9-patch project - while listening to Gus read.  We then took turns reading aloud - me from Rick Riordan's The Red Pyramid and Gus from the Magic Treehouse - Afternoon on the Amazon.

Thursday - cut what should be the final 21 strips needed and pressed them flat. Friday I hope to match up all of the cut strips so that I can sew the together and then cut again.  Did learn that cutting height makes a difference. I was cutting standing at the ironing board last night, and while it is not as stable as I'd like, it was much easier on my body to make accurate cuts.

I bought the dolphin batik because Gus's school mascot is the Dolphins.  I then added some solids in teal, royal and purple and branched out to other batiks with varying intensities of teal, blue and purple.  I'm thinking about using white sashing between the blocks and probably a white or light blue back.  It will be interesting to see how this one comes out as I am doing this without a set pattern.