Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Kooky Scrap Star Blocks

There are so many times a "scrap project" comes up, and in the end it has just created more scraps. The Kooky Scrap Stars may actually help you use some up! I am so excited!
This is a "sew & flip" method and wastes a bit of fabric...well, that's the good part because the pieces are not too large to start with, so you have a real chance of actually throwing them away!
(I cannot be held responsible for any trash basket diving later...in fact, I may meet you there...)
What is a Kooky Star?

It's related to the long-pointed star blocks like "54-40 Or Fight" or "LeMoyne Star" (also known as Lemon Star!). The skinny and fat triangles used for the traditional block were made famous by the late, great Doreen Speckman who called them Peaky and Spikey.
These amusing contemporary stars are similar to Jan Mullins patterns,so  if you'd like to do some more fun piecing, look for those!
The All Star Quilters made these blocks at my workshop yesterday. We like to start off the year with a "free" pattern class...the real cost is you have to donate the block you make so it can go into a charity quilt (more on that later).
Here's how you can make one, too. This is for a 12 inch finished block.

Cut 8-- 4.5" squares for the background (4 are the corners and 4 get the star points on them).
Cut 1-- 4.5" square for the center of the star
Cut 8 rectangles 3" x 5.25" (that's 5 and a quarter inches...fractions behind whole numbers are tricky to typre here!).
As you can see, the points are different because they came right out of my scrap basket. What you can't see is that the four corners are also a different white from the ones with the points! Mix it up, that's what I say!

Fold one side of a square and finger press to mark it (use chalk or pencil if you need to).
The first rectangle goes on with the bottom corner just to the right of the mark.
The top corner can go off the square anywhere down the left side. The closer to the bottom, the shorter & fatter the point will be. Don't over-think this! They can all be different!

You have to turn this around to sew it.  Aim for a 1/4" seam allowance, but it doesn't have to be precise.

Press over the first rectangle, then repeat for the second. You don't have to turn that side around.
I am sure there's a smoother process, but this is the way I learned it and honestly, I just have not bothered to figure it out. It doesn't really matter which point you sew first.

Here it is from the back. The two points don't even have to overlap at the fold mark, either!
The square is the size of the unit. Use it to trim off the extra fabric....then you can leave the square in, or trim it out, too, but first trim the points fabric to be the correct size.
These points are more traditional-like, because there actually is a method for doing this in a precise fashion (for those who do not like to cut triangles) but it involves lots of measuring & marking of where 1/4" seams cross...much too fussy for me!
Make 4 units...each should have 2 star points, unless you are designing another block. If you are, send me a picture!
As in any nine patch block, sew the units into rows, then sew the rows together. I pressed each row with the seams away from the points, as there are lots of layers there.

Well, you may notice that these are some mixed up points! I trimmed off all my sample pieces to set this up.
In fact, the rows are not even sewn, just stuck up on the board. But I will finish this, and add it to the mix.

I like this B&W star made by one  memeber, She went with the all-the-same-fabric method.
Another person was inspired to make two blocks in reverse fabrics/ values:

These go pretty fast once you get used to how those rectangles lay on the squares. Wouldn't this make a beautiful quilt, with just these fabrics?
Here's how the class ended:

I think a few starts went home, too...and many promised to make more and bring them to the next meeting.
With  12" blocks you can make a nice size quilt. Setting 12 blocks 3 x 4 we'll get two tops (I know you are counting, and there are only 22 starts here! I have one more and I'm sure there was another not up on display). With some 2" sashing and a 4" border, a 12 block quilt would be about 52" x 66". That's a big enough lap quilt for almost anyone, and a nice big quilt for a child....and about the limit most people want to quilt on their own home sewing machine!

The All Stars had a fabulously generous donation of over 500 yards of fabric, mostly juvenile prints and a lot of flannel. So we've been passing it out like crazy. Here's what was left on Monday:

The main project is quilts for children going into foster care, and sometimes those have a pillowcase, too.
Then there are quilts for Safe Harbor (teenage boys) and this year they have added Wounded Warriors' retreat in the Fall. Not to mention placemats for Meals On Wheels!
There is no shortage of places where quilts can be comforting gifts.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Pick Those Scraps & Whack Them Up!

Like a bad habit, I just can't stop making Mystery Quilts....and then not being able to show them to you before teaching the class!
I think if I were having a quilt personally designed for my group, I would be upset if it were shown all around. And wouldn't you hate somebody to say, "I know what your guild's Mystery Quilt looks like! But you have to wait!"
Well, I just had to go ahead and make the scrappy version of  "Florida's Brightest Jewel" (for St. Andrew Bay Quilters...visit their show February 12 & 13 near Panama City FL!). And though I can't show it to you yet, I can tell about choosing the scraps!

My challenge was to limit myself to my scrap container...that was really interesting! I did not know I had so many "vintage" ones (well, they are from the last century!). These are some of the Darks, or at least some that turned out for the audition process. Just like "A Chorus Line", many of them did not make it!
Let's look at one, that large piece toward the right:

Wow! A deep purple background (or aubergine, for the color-name lovers!) with golds and minty greens and even deep red. You can see that a square "fussy cut" from just the gold branch areas could be Dark...but one cut from the bouquet would be Medium.
I don't fussy cut scraps unless I have a huge reason, so this guy was told thank-you for coming in, but we cannot use you at this time!
Though I could have just cut it up into squares anyway and picked out ones that would work...if there were any!

Next came the Mediums:

There are many eternal questions, and one is "What is Medium?"
It's lighter than Dark, and darker than Light, of course!
Which means totally dependent on what the other fabrics are! This is why I often like to start fabric selection with my Background. It is usually the lightest fabric, so I work my way from there. It also allows me to use some fantastic color that gives the quilt power...like bright yellow!
For this one I chose a very bright white (oh, so plain! Not even a tiny dot or sprig printed on it!!!) so the Mediums could be almost anything.

Cutting scraps involves some ironing. This is a good time to use some scented water or starch spray, just because you are worth it! It smells nice, to help you avoid ironing fatigue, and the wrinkeld scraps benefit, too.
If you have a secondary motivation...such as trying to get rid of scraps***...I recommend cutting as much as possible from a piece, even if it's not for the project at hand. That way nothing returns to the scrap basket. Keep whatever strips, squares and rectangles you can cut (OK, you may also cut triangles, if you like) in a shoebox or a labelled container already collecting a particular size.
That is how you make your own 2.5" "jellyroll" collection, since so many patterns are based ojn that size strip now.

I needed a 4.5" square from this Dark scrap, so I placed the ruler with the 4.5" lines at least a quarter inch inside the fabric.
When I cut across the top and right side, I will have 2 clean sides for a square.

Here I have turned it around, matched the clean (straight) sides to the 4.5" lines of the ruler, and when I trim off the rest it will be just right!

I have a trash bag under the cutting table so I can just scoop or swish the trimmings off the edge.
And you can see I am cutting the rest of that scrap into some nice usable pieces...pre-cut pieces for another scrap quilt!

Some scraps look great but have a little problem. If you are a scrap lover, you will have encoutered this many times:

That's what happens when you cut a square out of a corner and then throw the fabric back in the scrap basket!
Since I am attempting to not put anything back, I will be whacking this pink stripe up as much as possible.

My first cut was just even with that nip...and look, 4" wide...or is it? I'll leave it up to the mathemeticians in the group to figure out all the ways that can be cut further!

Actually there was still a ragged side to clean up, and so I cut this to 3", the widest strip I collect. Anything less than 1"wide goes into a bag and I use those for tieing up gifts.
When I am completely cutting up a piece of fabric, I start with the largest shape/ strip I can get (I have my own standard usable sizes), then move down to increasingly smaller sizes.
Or whatever I think I will use most! I don't want to be too rigid, but I do enjoy having a system of some sort to work from.

I hope if anyone ever reaches the end of their scrap basket, having used up everything, you will let me know immediately! I will send a doctor right over, if it's not too late.

*** DISCLAIMER:This project did not even make a noticable dent in my scrap container. No matter what I suggest, I really do not think it is possible to get rid of ALL your scraps by using them. I would be happy to just reduce the volume occaisionally. At one time I was able to give some to CherryCherry, but I warned her that my scraps are "known breeders" and would multiply on their own. I cannot give her any more...she now has several scrap containers!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Scrap Quilt Mystery Challenge

It's the same sad story:
I have designed...and completed the top...of my first quilt this year!
But, it is a Mystery Quilt, so I can't show it off here!
I was so happy with this one (and I know the St. Andrew Bay Quilters will be, too when we make it in March!). It's called "Florida's Brightest Jewel",  a reference to St. Andrew Bay.
Yet the whole time I was making it, I kept thinking what a great scrap quilt it would be! So I am challenging myself to make it again, totally out of my scrap container:

This is my current scrap container, meaning it's where I put the scraps I am making now.
The Infamous Overflowing Scrap Basket is basically a prop for my lecture, so I can't really use those up, can I?
I love this trashcan style of container with the swingy flap lid. Wouldn't it be even cooler if it were transparent???
But I guess nobody wants to see their actual trash!
Not even inside a plastic bag.

My task now is to sort the scraps into DARK and MEDIUM. I'll use white for a background, all the same fabric, to give some unity to the scrappiness (though I could make that scrappy, too...the idea is to keep the values different enough so the block pattern can be seen. I know I do not have that many very light fabric scraps!!!).

When I sort the scraps, I may find that I have a huge number of one color (blue or purple would be likely for me...what's your favorite color?). If so, I may replace either the DARK or MEDIUM pile with that one color.
The idea there is to keep the same thing in the same place on the block pattern (value OR color).

So now I'm back to the studio to press out the wrinkles....no, let's be honest, those scraps will need to be ironed....and discover what I really have to work with!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Resolutions Already Unravelled!

Just like going on a diet and worrying about when will you finally eat a candy bar, New Years resolutions create a sense of forboding. Just how long will they last?
Well, I got all that anxiety over with immediately by totally blowing every good intention!
At the end of December I was committed to starting the New Year with a clean desk.
This is the result:

At least I have a nice hot cup of coffee. And an Internet connection.
Sometimes I just set a goal of getting rid of one Post-It note.
Then 2 more take its place!
Alright...what about that traditional Clean Up the Studio/ Sewing Room on New Year's Day that I have posted about in previous years?
That's right:

A complete shambles!
That 3-D Christmas piece on the design wall is one of my Mother's UFOs. She passed away six years ago, and I did not finish it this year....things are not looking so good here!
Yet what do I see? A cheerful, colorful new plastic item!

Nothing says "Hope for the New Year" like a new plastic container! As though purchasing organized storage really will solve my problems...yet, it does provide a momentary thrill, and costs less than a pair of shoes.
This little fella came from the Dollar Tree. I think it would like to sit near my sewing machine, or maybe on the cutting table, and collect a particular sort of scrap...maybe batiks!

Since I wasted no time in throwing away all my resolutions, I was free to go fabric shopping, which is really the best thing to do for the New Year. And there's a new quilt shop in town!
It called Ladybug Quilt Shop, and is conveniently located all the way across town...but close to my car dealer! I have to go there for oil changes until I "earn" my free set of new tires, so a fabric fix on the return trip will be just what the doctor ordered!
I got some nice fabric:

Periwinkle Fairy Frost!

I love reverse-values of black and white prints!

Ummm...not the best pic of this batik. Cherry-Cherry challenged me if I couldn't use it right away she would take it. So I used it for the background in the Mystery Quilt I just designed!

Cherry-Cherry bought this fabric. (I said I thought I already had some, and indeed I do. So I took this picture!) Watch for a future post on using Inktense pencils with this sort of print.
I bought one more fabric, which CC just hates (so scroll down really fast, CC!):
Can you believe this?
Yes, it is SKUNKS! I could not resist, because my sister once had a pet skunk. ...Spunk the Skunk.
Just be glad I do not know how to embed YouTubes, or I am sure there would be one of Louden Wainwright here, singing  "Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road", one of his finest recordings.

It's cold here in Florida (and everywhere else, too, in this hemisphere!) and I think I should end on a happier note, and especially a prettier picture:

Sweet, sweet Shayla, who has been enjoying the batik catnip bags I made for her. I thought the tightly woven batik would hold up to teeth & claws...
I was wrong!
Next time I'm using two layers!
Despite my continuous lack of sticking to any resolutions, it has been a good year so far...already one top made!..and I am looking forward to a wonderful time in this new decade, quilting 24/7!