In February my design wall was starting to fill up with Churning Star blocks. (Churning Stars is the name designer Jenifer Gaston gave to a quilt with Churn Dash blocks centered in Sawtooth Star blocks.) I’m combining different size Churning Star blocks in cheddar and indigo fabrics for a quilt whose layout is still in my head. All I know so far is that it will be a bed-size quilt and blocks will vary in size.
I took the blocks down from the design wall to make room for a couple of smaller projects and the stack lay untouched in my sewing room. For four months. Part of the reason is that the coronavirus came to Oregon and I moved on to making face masks. I’m still making masks but this weekend I was inspired to dig out those cheddar and indigo fabrics, get my blocks back up on the design wall, and make some more Churning Stars.
Here are my latest blocks:
The two blocks at the top will finish at 12″ square and the one on the bottom will finish at 18″ square. The blocks are easy and fun to make. I do believe it’s taking me more time to decide which fabric combinations to use than it is to actually make the blocks!
Here are close-ups of the blocks:
Those two are the 12″ blocks. The one below is the 18″ block:
Not all of my blocks have fussy-cut centers but these three do. That’s part of the fun!
I’m going to concentrate on this project and see if I can wrap it up by the end of the month. And this time I’m going to keep the blocks on my design wall until I’m ready to sew them together.
The best way to describe progress on my Churning Stars quilt is “intermittent.” I’ve not spent much time in my sewing room recently. Over the weekend, though, I did find the time to make a few more big blocks — the ones that will finish at 18″ square. Take a look:
Last month I discovered that a seller on Etsy had a Layer Cake of “Cheddar and Indigo,” the fabric line from Penny Rose Studio that launched this project. Even though it was not a bargain, I snapped it up because a) fabric from this line that came out in 2015 is virtually impossible to find now, and 2) I really wanted more of these background fabrics:
If I’m very careful in cutting up these 10″ squares, I’ll be able to maximize the number of blocks that contain the fabrics as background.
Curiously, I was able to find a lot of almost every cheddar and indigo print from the line — I started looking three years ago — but only two of the six light background prints, the ones you see on the left:
I’m especially fond of the smaller of the two background prints. Good thing, as I have plenty of it. And I have enough of the other prints to make at least one more cheddar and indigo quilt. Even though I’ve practically just begun working on this one, I’m already auditioning patterns for a second one.
Is this normal behavior (for a quilter) or am I obsessing?
I made a new Churn Dash block the other day for the quilt I’m currently working on using fabrics from the line called “Cheddar and Indigo” by Penny Rose Studio. Because these fabrics have been out for five years, I don’t have a full set of the line and am lacking light prints for the background. I’ve filled in with cream tone-on-tone prints from my stash.
Imagine my delight when I stopped by an LQS (that’s Local Quilt Shop for you non-quilters) the other day and happened upon two fat quarters of a light print from a different Cheddar and Indigo line, this one by Nancy Gere for Windham Fabrics. A perfect addition, I thought. After making my block I thought it looked just fine . . .
. . . until I put it up on my design wall in the company of some other blocks:
I had thought the new background fabric was creamy but it looked positively snowy white against the other blocks. What to do? I wondered if I could tea-dye the fabric. I’d never done it before but how hard could it be? After a bit of research on the Internet, I approached my task.
First, I found the widest shallowest bowl in my kitchen, one that was big enough for the block to lie almost flat on the bottom:
After removing the block, I plopped one tea bag in the bowl and filled it halfway with boiling water. I let the teabag steep for 90 seconds, then fished it out of the bowl when the water was a nice light brown. In went the block for a timed tea bath of three and a half minutes:
I could have let it steep longer but I wanted just a bit of color. I figured I could always dip the block a second time if it wasn’t dark enough.
After removing it from the bowl I plunged it into a bowl of cold water to which I had added a couple tablespoons of white vinegar (a tip from the Internet, intended to set the dye so it wouldn’t wash out when laundered). When the block was dry I gave it a good pressing . . .
and put it back up on the design wall:
Can you see the difference? It’s very subtle but unmistakably a better match with the other backgrounds.
Here’s a look at the block before and after:
Mission accomplished! Now I just have to tea-dye what’s left of the two fat quarters so I can make some more blocks.
. . . I could make Churn Dash blocks till the cows come home.
The Churn Dash really is one of my very favorite traditional blocks. It’s right up there with stars of any kind — note the Sawtooth Stars above. Last year I spotted a quilt called Churning Stars in a book by Jenifer Gaston (Primitive Style) with this combo of Churn Dash blocks inside Sawtooth Star blocks and was instantly hooked.
I made a couple of test blocks back then, dipping into my collection of cheddar and indigo fabrics from Penny Rose Studio. Then nothing until Quilt Camp in November, when I made a few more blocks. Since then I’ve picked up a few fabrics from other lines to add to the mix.
I stole a few moments last week to make a handful of blocks, all destined to be part of a bed-size quilt. I’m not working with a pattern. I’m just making blocks in different sizes, ranging from the 3″ blocks you see in the upper right corner to the 18″ block in the lower left corner. I’ll play around with them on my design wall when I have enough to make a quilt.
With a new Junior Billie Bag in my sewing room and a coordinating tool caddy, it was just a matter of time before I gave into the temptation to complete the suite of accessories. Pictured with the tool caddy below are a scissors case, a rotary cutter coat, and a fabric box:
I love these fabrics and colors so much!
You can find picture-heavy tutorials for the scissors case and rotary cutter coat under the Tutorials link at the top of my home page . . . or you can just click on this link.
Speaking of Junior Billie Bag accessories, I forgot to show you the tool caddy I made recently to go with the JBB completed last spring for a class I was teaching:
My friend Cheryl S. was the surprise recipient of this JBB and tool caddy when we were together at Quilt Camp earlier this month.
I’m so ready to shift gears! There’s a new-ish project I’m eager to get back to as soon as I finish up a couple of ongoing projects. And as my twin sister Diane keeps reminding me, the newly remodeled kitchen won’t be complete until I make those valances . . .
I put the finishing touches on my latest Junior Billie Bag yesterday. Take a look at #10:
I can’t decide which view I like better! The block on the left is a Sawtooth Star with a Churn Dash in the center. The block on the right features an inset circle set off by a narrow flange. It’s hard to see from the photo that I used a variegated thread of blues and greens to quilt lines radiating from the circle.
I’ve used both block designs before in other projects (including other Junior Billie Bags) because I really like to make them.
Coco the Cat Inspector approves:
She found it so comfortable that she actually took a little catnap, which is why I don’t have a picture of the inside pockets to show you just now.
This JBB is one that I’m keeping for myself. It’s already loaded with my favorite rulers and other essential tools, as is the coordinating tool caddy I made from the Travel Case pattern from p3designs.com:
I made a few modifications, including the addition of a fourth pocket.
This is what it looks like closed:
I keep it in a plastic brochure rack so that it is always upright, with my smaller tools right at hand.
Still to come: the other accessories I like to make with each Junior Billie Bag, including a rotary cutter coat, a scissors case, and a 4″ square fabric used as a thread catcher.
A rather cryptic title for a blog post, I know, but regular readers know what it means. My latest Junior Billie Bag in-the-making has gone three-dimensional:
As I’ve mentioned before, this is my favorite part of the process, when a series of flat panels like this . . .
. . . and this . . .
. . . and this . . .
. . . are transformed into the quintessential quilter’s tote known as the Junior Billie Bag.
Junior Billie Bags (JBBs for short) have been a frequent topic on my blog since I started teaching Billie Mahorney’s design three years ago. I have been asked many times about a pattern for this tote but Billie, who owns the copyright on the design, never wanted to create a pattern.
Teaching her design in a hands-on class is by far the best way to go because I can share tips and techniques that have come to me through experience and also troubleshoot problems my students may encounter, just as Billie did when she was teaching. I’m so sorry that quilters across the country and beyond who have seen pictures of various JBBs on my blog don’t have the opportunity to create one of their own.
As I was snapping photos for this post, a little white paw made its way into the frame:
In my last post you saw one of the front/back panels of my current Junior Billie Bag under construction. The second panel is now done. It’s the one on the left in this photo:
I love the look of the small Churn Dash block inside the Sawtooth Star block. I first saw this combination in a quilt by Jenifer Gaston called Churning Stars and liked it so well I used it on my most recent Junior Billie Bag. (Someday I’ll make an entire quilt from this block design but that’s on the back burner for now.)
In the center of the Churn Dash in the photo above is a fussycut square from my focus fabric, a vibrant floral print from In the Beginning Fabrics. You see much more of the floral design in the first panel, which features an inset circle framed by turquoise flanges.
I used the same floral fabric to make two small pockets that go on the outside of the bag on one of the side panels. Those are on the left in this photo:
The other glimpses of fabric are some of the interior pockets. This bag has lots and lots of pockets! It’s been fun diving into my stash to audition these fabric combinations. The most difficult thing is making decisions about which fabrics to use. You may have noticed I like to combine batiks with woven cottons.
The next time you see Junior Billie Bag #10, it will be three-dimensional. I hope you’ll check back soon to see the transformation.
Do you ever start a quilt without having a firm plan in mind? It’s a tendency of mine. It seems I am always making test blocks and then deciding to proceed with a quilt without knowing what the finished product will look like. I just start making more blocks willy-nilly until a plan emerges.
Such is the case with my newest WIP (that’s Work-in-Progress for you non-quilters). Starting with my stash of cheddar and indigo prints from Penny Rose Fabrics and the Churn-Dash-inside-a-Sawtooth-Star block that Jenifer Gaston created for her Churning Stars quilt, I made 12″ and 18″ test blocks, subject of my last post. Where to go from there? Should I add some 9″ and/or 6″ blocks to the mix? Might be fun to play around with that.
When the bundle of fat quarters I found online arrived the other day, I got busy cutting 12″ squares from the cheddar and indigo prints:
Why 12″ squares? For the star points in the Sawtooth Stars, I’m making Flying Geese units using the method that calls for two different size squares and yields four Flying Geese units. A 12″ square is needed for the 18″ blocks and it’s also the largest to be cut from a fat quarter so I figured I’d better cut them first. After I had cut all the squares you see above, it dawned on me that I probably don’t want that many 18″ blocks. Oops.
That’s what happens when you don’t have a plan. Well, all is not lost. I can cut those squares into smaller pieces to use in smaller blocks. And I have enough fabric for two quilts anyway. One of the benefits of having an ample stash, right?
You probably know from my previous post that I’m going for a “controlled scrappy” look with my cheddars and indigos. Because of that I decided to make a bunch of Churn Dash blocks and a bunch of Flying Geese units for the Sawtooth Stars but wait to combine them into blocks until I can play around with the components on my design wall. That’s my current plan. If you can call it that.
For now I’ve made a couple Churn Dash blocks and Flying Geese sets in two sizes. The Churn Dash blocks measure 6½” and 9½” square, as they will go in the center of blocks that finish at 12″ and 18″ square:
The Flying Geese units below are half sets (i.e. there are actually four units in each set, not two) as I wanted to combine parts of four sets in one photo. The large units measure 4½” x 9″ and the smaller ones 3½” x 6½”:
The cheddars in this photo are not from the original fabric line but rather fabrics from my stash that I want to include in the quilt.
This WIP is destined to become a WISP (Work in Slow Progress, an acronym I learned just the other day) as I really must turn my attention to some other projects. Because these Churn Dash blocks and Flying Geese units go together quickly — and are fun to make — I’m going to make a few whenever opportunity and inclination coincide.
When I confessed in my last post that I was tempted to drop everything and start a new project, my friend Vickie responded at once with these words: “Resistance is futile. Give into the temptation.” Thank you, Vickie! All it took was that bit of encouragement for me to abandon my current quilting projects — only temporarily, you understand. I spent a delightful few hours Sunday afternoon petting my stash of cheddar and indigo fabrics, playing with possible fabric combinations, and finally making a couple of blocks using Jenifer Gaston’s Churning Stars block design.
I already knew Jenifer’s block was a winner. I tested it a couple weeks ago for the Junior Billie Bag I’m working on and couldn’t wait to make some blocks for an actual quilt.
Most of the fabrics I’m working with are from the “Cheddar and Indigo” line by Penny Rose Studio, a division of Riley Blake Fabrics. It came out in 2015. Here’s the entire line:
I had eight of the fabrics: four of the cheddars but only two navies and only two background fabrics. How perfectly providential, then, to find a complete fat quarter bundle for sale last weekend on eBay! It was not a bargain but I snagged it anyway. With a full selection from the line plus a few fabrics pulled from other sources I’ll be able to make what I call a “controlled scrappy” quilt.