Monday, September 29, 2008

A Finish, At Last

I completed this mock barjello this weekend. Choosing how to quilt this design was a challenge for me, as I don't follow markings at all well, but stitching just the columns of piecing just was not enough. I decided to so some diagonal stitching to emphasize the design, which got the quilting close enough together to wear well and it didn't have to be marked. It is about 32 x 44" in size.

This little quilt was made of a strip of a pre-print and some blue print, both donated to our quilt group. I had 8 squares, so made the last one by sewing two end strips together. I had a lot of distortion in my top, so did some fre-motion quilting after outlining the central shapes, and then bound it in the matching print. This quilt finished at slightly under 30-inches, just right for the NICU where it will be donated. With a dot print flannel back it will be soft and cozy.

I was the recipient of a box of carefully hand cut 3-inch squares and some strip sets started by an 90-year plus dear woman who was dedicated to humanitarian service. Her sister gave me the pieces, and I tried to complete a project that was worthy of all her careful cutting, piecing and pressing. I completed this quilt top by piecing a few more strip sets to complete the design. The top is now ready for basting and the future machine quilting.

In our area we once had several clothing factories and their cutaway fabric was sold in outlet stores. I believe these pieces came from JoLene Co., or Mini World. They are mostly light-weight poly blends, so require careful handeling.

As is almost always the case, there were pieces left over, so in Cookies and Milk style, I created two more 30-inch square baby quilt tops. I'm starting to get frightened now, because at the end there was only 1 piece of the red dotted print left! This is the 3rd time in 3 months this has happened. But I didn't let it go to my head. I started a 4th quilt with the leftovers, ran short of 2 pieces, so far, but used a close substitute, and need to go to my stash now for another two reds to complete this top. I found some red dot factory scrap from JoLene Co. in the quilt room today, so need just a few squares of red to finish up. I'n sure I will find something without leaving too many leftovers that will require a 5th quilt!

From a distance the quilt looks like a checkerboard, but close up you can see diagonal rows of prints in the piecing. I will use the red dot from the quilt room for binding as it is in 45" strips and the same weight as fabric used in the quilt, even if it is not an exact match. Now, even though I have completed two projects, I have worked myself into four more--and that does not count the rail fence variations which I will post about another day. I'm told"It will all come out in the quilting."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Try Again

A friend suggested that my description of how I prepared my freezer bags for the sorting and short-term storage of squares as I cut my scrap fabric was not very clear. I'll try to give better illustrations this time.

When I stitch two bags together, the top edge of the front bag is placed directly below the zipper seal of the back bag, and then I stitch the two together. This staggers the bags slightly, and leaves the zipper area of both bags clear so they can be sealed shut if necessary.

Here several bags are joined together, each in the same manner. I only do a few together, 4-5 at the most, doing several sets to accommodate the number of sizes of squares and values I sort When the bags are staggered this way the lanels on the top of the bag are easily read and it is simple to insert the correct size and value into the bag. Several sets of bags can be placed in my shoe box and because of the way they are sewn I can place them under each other in a row so all the labels can be seen when the box is opened.

I've had to spend a couple of weeks as caretaker preparing for and following surgery of a family member. I've been in withdrawal not being able to cut and sew for such a long time. I started work on another rail fence top, #4. amd it is truly a "Grandma" quilt, using mostly calico style prints. Here's a start. Gotta cut more setting fabric before I can go farther. Again I am using 2 x 5-inch rectangles which gives a 4-1/2-inch finished block.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Cutting Fabric Again

I am on my 3rd rail fence variation now, and as I discovered a box of scrap falling out of the garage (through the broken door which won't go up or down which needs repair immediately) which needed to be rescued, I ended up with more "stuff" to cut up. Scraps from someone's dressmaking project gave me enough pieces for the center of a set of rail fence blocks, so this will lead to a whole new variation.

I thought I would share my cutting table area storage and sorting system for scraps which allows me to quickly put away the random squares that are cut from leftovers from shape cutting.

I have sewn with a 3-step zig-zag stitch a few zip-top freezer bags. The top edge of the first is sewn to the area right below the zip seal on the second bag, the third bag is sewn the same way. This way the tops are staggered, and the labels on the top of each bag are easily seen. I only do a few in each segment so the row of bags does not get too long. The freezer bags are more heavy duty and last much longer. and the tops can be closed if needed. The rows of bags are placed in a plastic shoe box with a sturdy snap-on lid which keeps everything from spilling all over if it gets turned over.

As I am cutting fabric into shapes I cut the remainder of the scraps into usable squares so that it is all cut up. I put the cut squares into my marked bags in the shoe box, sorting the dark from light of my smaller squares because they are harder to pick up and value sort later. When the bag/s get too full for the lid on the box to fit tightly, I remove the cut squares to larger shoe boxxes that hold only one size square, or to a pull-out drawer which also contains only one size square. Then my bags are ready to be refilled again, and only the shoebox with the plastic bags needs to be in the area where I do my cutting.

The other box shows the 2 x 5-inch rectangles I have been cutting for the rail fence quilts that I have been stitching. The scrapbook paper storage boxes have good snap-on attatched lids and stack well, so have een invaluable in helping me store cut shapes for specific designs. The blue print pieces I cut for the next rail fence variation are shown in the front of the box.

Quilt Room Scrap Barjello

I was asked an interesting question this week. The group was working on another variation of a mock barjello quilt, and I was asked if the design couldn't be created with strips. This was good thinking and deserves an honest reply. The strip segments that were sewn together in the first picture shows the sequence of pieces that were sewn. A floral print, a green print and then a pink stripe were sewn together, then four of these segments sewn together , and we pieced to the top and bottom what was needed to complete the strip segment in the sequence of fabrics required to maintain the design.

Although a little difficult to see, the first strip is constructed with 15 full rectangles which were cut 2-1/2-inches x 4-1/2-inches. The second strip is constructed with 14 full rectangles, and begins and ends with a square cut 2-1/2-inches . The odd-number strips are all 15- rectangles long, and the even-number strips are 14-rectangles long with a square starting and ending the strip to even out the length. The sequence of colors in each strip is determined by the movement of the color in the design. Yes, it would be simple to cut a 4-1/2-inch strip of the three colors and seam them, then cut them into 2-1/2-inch segments and the three-color sequence would be more easily constructed. Therefore, the answer to strip-piecing is easy. Now to our quilt....

The floral pieces came from some pre-cut 5-inch squares that someone years ago had packaged and sold as quilt pieces. They were probably die-cut from some factory scrap by some industrious person. They were donated to the quilt room years ago and through the years they have been used for a variety of quilt designs. There was little waste of them for the mock barjello as the squares only needed to be cut in half and 1/-2 inch cut off the top. The stripe I selected I cut in 2-1/2-inch strips and cut the lengths so the stripes went across the piece instead of up and down. The position of the stripe is not as noticable with this direction as it would be running the other direction when the seams of two stripes meet. The gren print was from yardage, and could be cut in either 4-1/2-inch or 2-12-inch strips and cut to the required length. This quilt could not possibly have been strip-pieced in the traditional method simply because of the "scrap" fabrics that were being used to construct it.

Since the beginning of the year I have created several variations of this design. I have kept the size of the pieces consistent (not so hard to remember the size I am using when cutting a lot of scraps into different sizes for different quilts) but I have varied the ways I have used prints and background fabrics. There are no rules for the sequence in which to move the colors "up" or "down" or how many colors to use. I just decided that 15 rectangles down and 21 across made a nice size lap quilt for a child, and by making it this size I did not have to piece backing fabric.

I made a baby-size quilt of the leftovers which was 10 rectangles long and 17 rectangles wide. I made the design sequence different by dropping the color rows one more rectangle which gave more variety to the design. Would you believe it--I only had one stripe rectangle left after the piecing. However, with more packages of the floral print available, more quilts will be created using different colorways and designs to add variety to the mix. More quilts coming!