Getting Right to the Point . . .

. . . is not as easy as it looks.

I’m talking about the places on my red and white windmill quilt where the points of the windmills meet. Matching my points turned out to be much more challenging than I had anticipated.

Here’s why. Take a look at a complete block:

The seams in the Half Square Triangle (HST) corner blocks and in the center pinwheel are sewn at 45° angles . . .


. . . whereas the seams in the V blocks are sewn at sewn at 60° angles:


When a V block is sewn to an HST or pinwheel block, the seams don’t naturally “nest,” even when the seams are pressed in opposite directions. Accuracy in pinning and sewing is essential.

My individual blocks went together nicely. Joining the blocks to form rows and then sewing the rows together was where I ran into problems. I’m a pretty precise piecer but I found that getting my points to line up properly was not just a matter of careful pinning and stitching.

Eight seams come together where the outer points of the windmills meet in adjacent blocks. It’s very difficult to sew them together without some of the seams shifting ever so slightly. With the amount of contrast between light and dark fabrics, points and seams that are even a stitch or two out of alignment are going to stick out like sore thumbs.

The seam between Rows 1 and 2 gave me absolute fits. There was much ripping out and resewing of small sections, accompanied by much gnashing of teeth (and some unpardonable language). I finally resorted to pinning and basting two rows together, then going back to do corrective sewing on the problem points (ripping out, repinning, rebasting . . . multiple times) before sewing the entire seam with a shorter stitch length.

The horizontal seam in the center of the picture below shows two properly joined blocks:

On the back where the eight seams come together, the row seams were popped open to distribute the bulk, forming ½” square pinwheels:

I can now happily report that all of the frustration was worth it. Take a look at my finished quilt top:

Now that all of the blocks are joined, can you see the overlapping circles? You should be able to see both light and dark circles. They are illusions, as there are no curved seams in this quilt top. The quilt block is a variation of the classic Winding Ways block, which employs curved seams to form overlapping circles.

The pattern (A Midwinter’s Night by Cottage Rose) calls for borders with pieced cornerstones but I like the look of this without any borders at all. It measures 48½” x 60½”, a nice sized throw.

And I have a name for it. Because I think of the blocks as windmills, I’m going to call this quilt Dutch Treat. Some of my readers suggested I call it Coco’s Valentine, since my calico kitty seems to like it so much. Truth be told, Coco likes every quilt I make, never missing an opportunity to lounge on a quilt under construction or a finished one.

Linking up with Kelly of My Quilt Infatuation.

 

 

Posted in cats, update, Winding Ways quilt block, windmill block | 9 Comments

Filling in the Blanks

This is the final layout of my scrappy red and white windmill quilt:

Windmill Quilt final layout
The pinwheel centers were the last to go in, as they needed to be balanced with each other as well as inside their respective blocks. And it was a balancing act. First the windmills needed to be positioned so that no like red prints (which read as solids) were in adjacent blocks and then the pinwheels needed to be positioned in the same way. My other self-imposed rule was that the red prints in each pinwheel had to be different from the other reds in the same block.

Since I was working with a limited number of reds, this turned out to be quite a challenge. I wound up with two neighboring blocks with the same red in the pinwheels (not sayin’ where) but I’m not worried about it because the quilt top still looks balanced over-all.

Speaking of pinwheels, those little blocks look pretty cute from the back:

back of pinwheel block

To flatten the center where eight seams intersect, I popped two seams open, creating a teeny tiny pinwheel which no one will ever see once the quilt top is sandwiched.

The pattern I am using is A MidWinter’s Night by Deb Eggers of the Cottage Rose. I made one small but significant change to her directions which is best explained by showing you a couple of photos. Here are the first two blocks I made, side by side:

dk and lt windmill block

See how the values are reversed in the two blocks so that the windmill is dark in the left block and light in the right? But notice that the dark and light values in the center pinwheels are in the very same position.

Doesn’t it stand to reason that the values in the pinwheel should be reversed as well? I removed the pinwheel in the left block above and replaced it with a pinwheel with reversed values. Now look at the two blocks:

windmill blocks lt and dark
Doesn’t that look better? I sure think so. I’m glad this occurred to me before I sewed 20 pinwheels together the same way.

I am hoping to get all of the blocks sewn together this weekend. I might even get the top completed. My efforts are somewhat hampered by this constant visitor to my sewing room:

Coco on ironing board
Coco likes to make herself at home on my ironing board. She’s always very interested in what I’m doing:

Coco helping me sew
See how she has placed her paw directly on the pieces I am trying to pin? With “help” like that, no wonder I sometimes feel my progress is too slow.

 

 

 

Posted in cats, update, windmill block | 11 Comments

Color Me Cranky

Me? Cranky? Yes, because until yesterday I hadn’t sat down at my sewing machine for 10 days. Ten days! That must be a record for me. It seems there are just too many other things going on right now. Such is the life of a busy retiree — but this retiree isn’t happy unless she gets to spend some quality time in her sewing room on a regular basis.

What I needed was a little red and white color therapy, and happily I got some:

windmill pinwheels
What you see here is a jumble of pinwheels. These blocks will go into the windmill quilt I started last month.

Here are the pinwheels laid out in the order they will appear in the quilt:

windmill pinwheels 2

That hole in the third row is because the pinwheel already got sewn into this block:

windmill block 1
If all goes according to plan, I’ll post photos tomorrow of the entire quilt layout. Maybe I’ll even have some blocks sewn together. Now that would make me really happy.

 

 

 

Posted in update, windmill block | 5 Comments

I ♥ My Windmill Quilt

I’ve been longing to get back to my windmill quilt and today, after a three-week break, I finally did. With Valentine’s Day coming up next week, it seems appropriate to be working with red and white fabrics.

You may recall I’m making this pattern by Deb Eggers:

a mid-winters night quilt pattern
“Controlled scrappy” is the look I’m going for, with a mix of reds for my darks and two red-on-white prints for my lights. Here’s a light and dark block side by side:

dk and lt windmill block
My plan is to use a few additional red-on-white prints for the pinwheels in the center of each windmill block. After making the two complete blocks you see above, I decided to hold off on final selection of fabrics for the pinwheels until after all of the blocks were laid out on my design wall. I wanted to be sure the red fabrics, some of which are brighter than others, were balanced across the quilt with no like fabrics touching in rows or columns. A bit obsessive-compulsive, perhaps? Oh, maybe just a bit . . .

I decided on a 4 x 5 setting, requiring 20 blocks, and sewed the outer strips of each block, leaving the middle strip unsewn because of the missing pinwheel centers. I was having difficulty laying out the partial blocks on my design wall until I hit upon the idea of using just one V block from each windmill block.

This is what I wound up with:

windmill quilt V blocks

It’s just coincidental that laying the blocks out this way created some elongated hearts. Sweet!

Satisfied with the placement above, I laid all of the blocks out:

windmill quilt layout
I am already in love with this quilt!

 

 

Posted in update, windmill block | 6 Comments

Before and After Quilting

Oh, my — quilting sure makes a difference! Here’s a before and after shot of the windmill panel of the Junior Billie Bag I’m working on:

JBB windmill block before and after quilting
After stitching in the ditches, I quilted straight lines inside the red and gold shapes to emphasize the angles. In the black border strips I used a decorative stitch that mimics the little teardrop shapes in the fussy-cut center block:

jbb windmill block quilting detail
That’s a very subtle touch (translation: you can hardly see it) but I like knowing it’s there. I also stitched around the veins of the leaves to hold the layers in the center together.

In the other panel (which I wrote about in an earlier post) I added some additional straight lines radiating from the center circle:

17-2 JBB circle panel quilted
I also outline stitched around the red poppy and the center of the flower to hold those layers together.

Here are the front and back panels with the two sets of handles attached:

17-2, JBB panels quilted

Am I pleased with my quilted panels? I’m crazy about them! Next up: side panels with exterior and interior pockets.

 

 

 

Posted in Billie Bag, Junior Billie Bag, update, windmill block | 5 Comments

Wild about Windmills

I didn’t have to look far to find a block design for the other main panel of my quilter’s tote known as the Junior Billie Bag:

jbb windmill block
It’s essentially the same block that’s in the red and white quilt I started a couple weeks ago. I swapped out the pinwheel center of that block with the fussy-cut square you see above, surrounding it with a narrow black accent strip.

I am loving the bold look of this block, which reminds me of a windmill. (My red and white blocks with the pinwheel centers look even more like windmills; there’s a quilt name in there somewhere.)

Here’s the latest windmill block with black border strips added to size it for my Billie Bag:

JBB windmill panel

I’m mulling over the quilting possibilities. Maybe straight line quilting in the windmill block and free motion meandering in the black background strips?

Just for fun I positioned the block on point on my design wall (and cropped it here so it would be framed in black):

Camera Uploads8
Striking, yes? It reminds me a bit of a Maltese cross. Wouldn’t it make an interesting quilt? Oh for another lifetime to make all of the quilts that are in my head!

 

 

 

Posted in Billie Bag, Junior Billie Bag, update, windmill block | 3 Comments

Here We Go Again . . .

Last year I taught the Junior Billie Bag class three times and made three bags. (You can see them at this link.) Now I’m teaching the class again and — yep, working on another bag myself.

This is the first of two quilted panels for my current JBB:

2017-01-22 12.26.51
As much as I enjoy making these bags, I really don’t want to make one every single time I teach a class. I like to begin each class with a “deconstructed Billie Bag” to show my students how each element goes together. Then as the class progresses I’m able to demonstrate construction techniques and share my tips. At the end of the class I have a finished bag along with my students.

What might work instead is to have a partially constructed JBB on hand as a teaching tool. Then I wouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel every time. That said, I love these fabrics so much I can’t imagine not finishing this one. Look at these three fabrics from the Scarlet line designed by Pamela Mostek for Clothworks:

2012-10-29 02.58.10

They’re not new — they’ve been in my stash since 2012. Every so often I would get them out and — I admit it — fondle them, thinking about how they might be used in a quilt. Inspiration on a quilt design is yet to come but in the meantime I’m using some of the yardage to make the wonderful quilter’s tote designed many years ago by Billie Mahorney.

The panel design is my own. I centered a poppy in an inset circle and sewed black strips all around to bring the panel to the proper size, adding red flanges for more drama. The directional gold print surrounding the center poppy is a Joel Dewberry design from another line. It looks like it was meant to go with the other fabrics.

I’ve pulled a few other fabrics from my stash for interior and exterior pockets:

2017-01-025
Don’t you think the fabrics have an Arts and Crafts vibe? The Joel Dewberry print is directional and I’m having a bit of fun with that.

Now I have to decide what to put on the other panel. Oh, the possibilities!

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Billie Bag, Junior Billie Bag, update | 7 Comments

Too Clever by Half

Which is to say: not very clever at all.

I’ve been humming along on the blocks for my latest project, a variation of Winding Ways using red and white fabrics. As I showed you in my last post, I’m working from a stack of V blocks made up of four reds and a couple of light prints:

V blocks

I figured that pairing all of the reds with both of the lights would give me a lot of variety when it came time to arrange the blocks on my design wall. But a funny thing happened when I started playing with the blocks. I had a stack that didn’t work at all! How did that happen?

Had I really thought about it before running off in high spirits to my sewing machine, I would have figured it out.

Look at a dark block. You see that the toile print is in the star points of the V blocks and the red fabric is on the outside:

windmill block 1

Now look how a light block has the vine print in the V of the V blocks and all around the outside:

windmills block 2
When you put the blocks together in their proper order, with the light and dark blocks alternating, the vine and toile fabrics should alternate, too, like this:

Windmill blocks 3x3

In other words, the V in the light blocks should always be the vine print, never the toile. And the star points in the dark blocks should always be the toile print, never the vine. I made several blocks that were the exact opposite.

(Just to be on the safe side, I’m going to make the center pinwheel blocks last. They’re going to be a bit scrappy and I sure don’t want to wind up with identical pinwheels in adjacent blocks.)

You know that carpenter’s saying “measure twice, cut once”? My dear friend Colleen, also a quiltmaker, modified that saying to “think twice, measure twice, cut once.” I should have followed Colleen’s advice. Instead I have a set of blocks I can’t use in this quilt.

Although I will never get back the time spent cutting, sewing, and trimming those extra blocks, there is a bit of a silver lining: they can always be used in another quilt or perhaps a table runner. Or on the back of this quilt. One thing I can assure you: they will never wind up as orphan blocks. I’ve invested entirely too much time in them.

 

 

 

Posted in update, Winding Ways quilt block, windmill block | 6 Comments

Snowed In!

Local pundits are calling it “Snowpocalypse” — the epic snowfall on Wednesday that pretty much shut Portland down. We can go years without snow in winter but this season it has already snowed four times. The temperatures aren’t rising enough to melt the snow so we are stuck with it for a while.

What a great excuse to hunker down and get some sewing done! This is what I’ve been working on:

windmill block 1

windmills block 2
Aren’t those pretty blocks? They remind me of windmills. The pattern is A Mid-Winter’s Night by Deb Eggers of the Cottage Rose Quilt Shop:

a-mid-winters-night-quilt-pattern
The pattern is a reworking of the classic Winding Ways block with a pinwheel in the center. If you look carefully at the quilt pictured on the pattern cover you can see overlapping light and dark circles. The circles are illusions, as all of the cutting and stitching lines are straight. I believe the Winding Ways block is traditionally made with curves resulting in a four-patch block. The method I’m using here results in a nine-patch block.

Working strictly from my stash — I couldn’t have driven to a fabric store in this weather even if I’d wanted to! — I pulled out some red tone-on-tone prints that read as solid and a couple of white-on-red prints.

Now I’m making my way through my little piles of V blocks:

V blocks
The pattern calls for the Tri-Recs rulers, which I own, but I am getting great results from the V Block Trim Down Ruler by Deb Tucker. I resized the block from 9″ to 12″ so the units you see above measure 4½” square. With the V Block Ruler you can trim down blocks for 11 different sizes ranging from 1½” to 6½”.

I may add another red for more variety in my darks. With the exception of a few small pieces in my scrap bin, I’m limited to the vine and toile prints for the lights. I’ll save the smallest pieces for the center pinwheels.

While I am happily ensconced in my sewing room, Coco is keeping tabs on the weather from her perch above the plantation shutters in the master bath:

Coco Jan 2017

The icicles start to melt in the morning sun but refreeze when the sun moves out of sight.

This is our back yard as seen from the kitchen door:

Jan 2017 snow backyard

This is the view from the front porch:

Jan 2017 snow out front
You can see why I have no desire to drive anywhere. And freezing temperatures are expected for the next four days!

 

 

 

Posted in cats, update, Winding Ways quilt block, windmill block | 14 Comments

Back on the Scene: My Little Neighbor

It’s been a while!

When last we encountered My Little Neighbor on the pages of this blog, she had finished piecing the back of her scrappy 9-patch quilt:

2013-10, MLN with quilt back
That photo was taken in October 2013. A few weeks before she had completed piecing the top:

2013-9, MLN with her 9-patch

The 9-patch blocks were sewn by hand in the summer of 2012 when MLN was 10 years old. She was recovering from a broken foot and needed something to work on while keeping her foot (which was in a cast) elevated. Click here to read the very first post about her project.

The sashing strips and borders were sewn by machine after My Little Neighbor was mobile again. The plan was for her to quilt and bind the top herself. To that end I asked Nancy Stovall of Just Quilting to baste the layers together on her longarm machine using water-soluble thread. I knew it would be easier for MLN to guide the quilt under the machine if she didn’t have to stop to remove safety pins; the basting thread would vanish the first time the quilt was washed.

The basted quilt sandwich came back from Nancy but MLN was busy by then with school and other activities. A year passed. Then another. Then one more.

I waited patiently, knowing that at some point My Little Neighbor would come back to her quilt. Sure enough, there was a knock at my door a few weeks ago. By this time I had discovered the joys of having someone else quilt my quilts so I suggested to MLN that we send hers off to be quilted.

My friend Sherry Wadley, a professional longarmer, loaded the quilt onto her machine (even though the layers had already been basted) and quilted a charming floral motif that echoes the flowers in the quilt. I took out the basting in this one block to give you an idea of what the overall design looks like:

mlns-quilt-detail
Here’s a glimpse of the back:

mlns-quilt-back-detail
I sewed the binding on the quilt so all that’s left for MLN is to hand-sew the folded edge of the binding to the back and add a label. She came over a few days ago for a lesson. I showed her how to pin the binding to the back to cover the line of stitching and how to navigate the corners:

mln-binding-detail

She got the hang of it right away:

mln-binding
My Little Neighbor is now 14 and in high school. She’s also 5’6″ tall. I think My Young Neighbor is a much more accurate descriptor, don’t you?

 

 

 

Posted in My Little Neighbor, update | 5 Comments