Grandma’s Surprise, Revisited

It’s been two months since I worked on my kaleidoscope quilt based on the pattern Grandma’s Surprise. The quilt top was finished in 2015 but not quilted until this May. When I got it back from the quilter, I decided to add a narrow red flange to the outer border before binding the quilt. My thought was to add a wider than usual binding using the outer border fabric so the red flange would float.

Trouble was, I didn’t have enough of the red fabric left, a paisley tone-on-tone print from P&B Textiles. The search was on for a few extra inches of that print. In my last post about this project I was eagerly awaiting the delivery by USPS of the very fabric I needed, offered by a very kind quilter in Pennsylvania named Nancy. The coveted piece of fabric arrived quickly. Alas! Although it was a red paisley tone-on-tone print from P&B textiles, it wasn’t the correct shade of red.

So near yet so far . . . Nancy and I were both philosophical about it. As she wrote, “The story made us smile for a few days so it was well worth it.” The only choice left was to find a solid red that was a good match. Happily, I found it a few days later at Montavilla Sewing Center in Lake Oswego: “Scarlet” from the ColorWorks Premium Solid 9000 line by Northcott Studios. In the shot below you can see how close the solid red is to the red paisley and how well it goes with the border fabric:

Instead of getting right to work on the flange and binding, I put the project on the back burner while working on other things. Now I’m back at it, eager for a finish. Here’s a shot of the flange strips attached to the quilt:

The flanges will finish at ⅜” so the strips were cut 1¼” wide. When I trimmed the quilt I allowed for a ¾” finished binding. After attaching the flanges I decided to go with single-fold binding (rather than the more traditional double-fold or French binding) to reduce bulk at the corners. I’m in the process of tacking the binding now. Here’s a sneak peek at the first corner:

Just as I envisioned!

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in kaleidoscope quilts, update | 7 Comments

Atomic Stars

Why, hello there! Can it really be almost three weeks since my last post? The summer is speeding by much too fast and I haven’t spent nearly enough time in my sewing room. All I have to show you since my last appearance are these two little curved blocks:

But aren’t they sweet? I think of them as “atomic stars.” Finishing at 6″ square, they will either be stand-alone blocks or wind up in the center of 12″ star blocks in my current Work in Progress.

A few months ago Kristin at Montavilla Sewing in Lake Oswego designed a Block of the Month sampler quilt for me and some of my students as an optional project we can work on and share via monthly Zoom meetings until classes resume (which they will in the fall!). Kristin provided templates for the curved blocks but I wanted to see if I could get the same result using my Wonder Curve Ruler from the Sew Kind of Wonderful sisters (Jenny, Helen, and Sherilyn) and instructions from their companion book Text Me:

The four curved units that make up the atomic star needed to finish at 3″ square (so when they are sewn together they fit into a 6″ finished block). The curved units in Text Me finish at 1½”, 2½”, and 3½” respectively so I had to add a marking line to the ruler to make my block the proper finished size. My marking line is the dark pink one:

It took a couple of tries to get the points of the atomic stars right where I needed them: a few stitches away from the quarter-inch seam allowance. That way there’s no danger of the points disappearing into a seam.

The aqua floral fabric is one of my all-time favorite prints so I’m using it sparingly. It’s from Portland designer Mo Bedell’s debut line of fabric dating from 2010 called “Party Dress” for Blue Hill Fabrics.

Here’s a look at the atomic stars next to my 12″ Stargazer Lily block (subject of my last post):

Although they lose their atomic star vibe, I really like the way these blocks look on point, too:

I also like the positive-negative effect. Really, I could tinker endlessly with these blocks but the end of July is fast approaching and I want to get a couple of other WIPs finished by then. Wish me luck!

 

 

 

Posted in Block of the Month (BOM), Quilt-Along, sampler quilt, update, Wonder Curve Ruler | 4 Comments

My Stargazer Lily Block

What do you think of my Stargazer Lily Block? This is the block Lisa Jo Girodat designed for Moda’s 2021 Summer in the Garden Quilt-Along. She offered directions for a 6″ and 12″ finished block. I made the larger one and in retrospect I am glad I did. It looks like a rather simple design but don’t you believe it! This block was quite a challenge to make.

For starters, look at the center of the block. Do you see that it’s a square within a square and that the smaller square (set on point) contains two flying geese blocks? Those flying geese blocks finish at 2⅛” x 4¼”. I made mine oversize and used my regular 6½”- square ruler to trim them to the correct (but unusual) size. I wound up fussycutting the darker floral fabric surrounding the lime green triangles to eliminate lighter shades in the print; the point of that was to maintain maximum contrast with the green.

The aqua fabric is an older Lonni Rossi print that looks a bit like seaweed. It’s a directional print so I had to pay attention to placement when I sewed the individual triangles in their assigned spots. I wanted the direction of the seaweed to rotate as your eye travels around the block. (Think of seaweed undulating underwater.)

Finally, there are four intersections in the block where seven seams come together. I eliminated a seam at those intersections so I only had to match six. My points lined up very nicely, although I will allow that a couple of seams required some corrective sewing. A seam ripper may have been involved.

I drew Lisa Jo’s block in my Electric Quilt software program because I wanted to test my ideas for color and placement before cutting into my fabrics. In this next picture you can spot where I was able to eliminate seams in the block design:

Here’s the Stargazer Lily block in EQ with my final color placement:

I am loving the way my block turned out!

 

 

 

Posted in Block of the Month (BOM), Quilt-Along, sampler quilt, update | 3 Comments

Website, Weather, and Wonky Star Woes

If you visited my website a couple of days ago and wanted to leave a comment on my Wacky Wonky Star post, you were met with an “access denied” message. That must have been frustrating. Bloggers love getting comments so I was frustrated as well. This issue occurred as part of a process I initiated in May to migrate my website to a new server, never dreaming it would take the better part of two months to complete and that several issues involving access to my blog would surface. This latest one occurred when a firewall was added to my site at the conclusion of the migration process, blocking comments. While the issue has been resolved, it has left me feeling sorely vexed.

Or was it the heat? My previous post was published June 27 while Portland was in the midst of an unprecedented heat wave – now being called a “heat dome” – with temperatures hitting 108 on Saturday, 112 on Sunday, and 115 on Monday. That 115-degree day was roughly 40 points above our average for this time of year. Sewing was out of the question, as my sewing room is on the second story of our Craftsman-style house, which is not air-conditioned. The Dear Husband and I slept in the guest room in the basement, which usually stays deliciously cool on hot days. It was definitely not “deliciously cool” this week but at least we were able to sleep.

Yesterday it was “only” 92 degrees so I made my second attempt at a Wonky Star block. I liked it even less than the first one. Really, the result is not even worth showing here. Being a bit on the stubborn side, I was determined to give it one more go – and then I saw a new star block in an email from Moda that so piqued my interest I decided to make it instead:

This is the third block in a new Summer in the Garden Quilt-Along offered by Moda Fabrics. Named Stargazer Lily, the block was designed by Lisa Jo Girodat. It’s available as a free download (three pages) which you can find right here. I’m not going to join the Quilt-Along but I am going to make that block. Right now, in fact. It feels so much more “me” than that ole Wonky Star anyway!

 

 

 

Posted in Block of the Month (BOM), Quilt-Along, update | 5 Comments

My Wacky Wonky Star

I admit it:  I flunked the Wonky Star block. I like the idea of a Wonky Star but I am just not loving the way this one turned out. I made it a few days ago as part of a Block of the Month (BOM) project designed and taught by Kristin at Montavilla Sewing Center in Lake Oswego, the quilt shop where I teach. Of course there have been no in-person classes there since March of last year (although chances are very good they will resume in the fall).

Kristin is teaching this class via Zoom for me and some of my students. It’s a way for us to interact with each other while we wait for the coronavirus pandemic to wind down. A huge bonus is that Kristin and her colleagues at Montavilla LO give us previews of newly arrived fabric and tools, and we get to see the rotating quilts on display in the shop.

The BOM design calls for this Wonky Star to finish at 12″ square. I made mine to finish at 6″ square, planning to make four of them so I would wind up with a 12″ block. But I was so dissatisfied with my first effort that I stopped right there. While waiting for my wacky Wonky Star to grow on me (it never did), I made a different star block:

This one was made using Cluck Cluck Sew‘s pattern No Point Stars . . . 

. . . so called because the star points don’t go all the way to the edge of the block. The happy result of this design element is that there is much less bulk when the blocks are joined to their neighbors. That’s because the angled seam allowances of the star points are a good inch from the outer edge of the block.

I intended to make this block finish at 12″ square but I forgot to resize it, as it was designed to finish at 10½” square. I ended up adding a strip around the block and setting it on point so I would wind up with a block that finishes at 18″ square:

What tickles me about this block is the combination of the star point fabric featuring little fishies (from the “Kaikoura” line by Jessica Zhao for Cotton + Steel) and the outermost fabric (from Victoria Findlay Wolfe‘s “Light Work” line) featuring what look like starfish. I guess I have a bit of an ocean theme going here that may be reflected in the name I eventually choose for the quilt when it’s finished.

This block joins the one I made last month . . .

. . . and wrote about here. Hmmm . . . does that floral fabric on the outer edges of the block remind you of sea anemones?

Anyway, I want you to know I’m not giving up on that Wonky Star block. Making the No Point Stars block has given me an idea of a different way to approach it. My goal is a star that is wonky, not wacky wonky.

 

 

 

Posted in Block of the Month (BOM), Quilt-Along, sampler quilt, update | 2 Comments

“Just So”

In my last post I promised to explain my method of getting the narrow accent strips on my kaleidoscope blocks to line up just so:


In this example I’m starting with a 45˚ triangle cut from a 6½” strip of fabric using the Marti Michell Kaleido-Ruler . . .

. . . but this technique will work with other sizes of triangles and strips.

Eight of these triangles (from a 6½” strip) sewn together result in a 12″ kaleidoscope block. With the addition of the narrow and wide accent strips, the block will finish at 15″ square:


The narrow accent strips finish at ⅜”. This calls for ⅞”-wide strips, to allow for ¼” seams on either side but I find it difficult dealing with strips less than in inch wide, especially when it comes to pressing. For this reason I cut my strips a quarter of an inch wider — 1⅛” — and trim them to size after sewing them on to the wider accent strip.

So:  my narrow accent strips are cut 1⅛” x WOF (width of fabric). The wide accent strips are cut 1¾” x WOF. The narrow and wide accent strips are sewn together with a scant ¼” seam:

Before pressing the seam open, the strip is subcut into five 8″ lengths:

(I need eight of these strips for one kaleido block so a second strip set is needed.)

Why do I subcut the strip set before pressing? Because it’s extremely difficult to press a seam on a 45″ length of fabric without creating a curve. By cutting my long strip into shorter pieces, I can carefully press the seam on each piece open using just the tip of my iron without much distortion:


The next step is to trim a quarter inch off the narrow strip. I do this by aligning the ⅝” line on my ruler with the seamline . . .

. . . and trimming the excess quarter inch:

Now I can chain piece the triangles to the trim pieces, centering each triangle on its trim strip:

 

I press this seam open as well, taking care to use the point of the iron (no steam) and not letting the iron touch the bias edges of the triangle:

Note that with both seams pressed open, the seam allowances on the narrow trim overlap each other slightly.

Now I can lay the Kaleido-Ruler over the triangle and trim the right side:

I’m cutting this one on a rotating mat, which means I can turn it around and trim the other side just by moving the mat. If you don’t have a rotating mat, it’s very easy to butt up a second ruler right next to the Kaleido-Ruler . . .

. . . slide the Kaleido-Ruler out of the way, and make the second cut.

Here’s the trimmed triangle:


Now to sew it to another triangle! Here’s how I pin the two triangles:

After lining up the seams on the two triangles, I place pins to hold the seams in place. Note that the points of my pins are toward the outside edge. When I flip the triangles over and pull one side back from the edge, I can clearly see that the trim seams on my triangles match exactly:


I can repin if necessary (and sometimes must) to make sure the seams are properly aligned.

When I’m ready to sew the seam — starting from the wide end and going toward the point — I can pull each pin back slightly so that the point is not in the seam allowance, leaving the pins in place until the seam is completely sewn.

The seams are pressed open — again without steam and again using just the tip of the iron to nudge the seams open:


Once the block is complete and I’m satisfied my center points match, that’s when I move the iron setting to steam! I sometimes use a bit of starch or starch alternative (like Mary Ellen’s Best Press) to make sure my finished block lies nice and flat.

I hope you found this post helpful! I’m going to add it to my Tutorials page as a companion piece for my Season to Taste pattern.

Thanks for stopping by — and happy first day of summer!

 

 

 

Posted in home dec, kaleidoscope quilts, table runner, tutorial, update | 5 Comments

Winterwood

Here’s the completed quilt top of my winter version of Season to Taste:

It measures 18½” x 55½”.

Season to Taste is a kaleidoscope quilt pattern I created in 2014 with the idea of making one wall hanging or table runner representing each of the four seasons. You’ve seen my spring, summer, and fall versions before on the pages of this blog. I’ll post a photo of all four when I get this last one quilted.

My winter version will be called Winterwood in a nod to one of my favorite songs, written by Don McLean. You may be more familiar with his blockbuster hit “American Pie” from the album of the same name. “Winterwood” is from the same album which was released in 1971. Oh my! That means it’s 50 years old this year.

In my next post I’ll explain my method of getting the narrow accent strips (they finish at ⅜”) on my triangles to line up just so:

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in home dec, kaleidoscope quilts, table runner, update, wall hanging | 3 Comments

The Carrot and the Stick

Here’s the carrot:

I’m eager to sew these triangles together into the second block of my winter version of Season to Taste. I made the first block a month ago:

Sewing is on hold for now, though, because of the stick:

You’re looking at one upper corner of my sewing room closet shortly before it underwent a transformation. I hired a master plasterer to repair the ceiling and upper walls, which have been in this sorry condition for — well, let’s just say it’s been a while.

After living in our 1913 Craftsman house for 40 years, I had completely filled this 3½ x 7½-foot closet. It was, in my sister Diane’s words, “crammed to the gunnels.” Stacks of fabric on three upper shelves. Storage carts, plastic bins, and a garage sale dresser along the lower walls . . . you get the picture.

After emptying the contents of the closet into the spare bedroom (which I laughingly call “the Annex” because it has evolved into a second sewing room), I proceeded to peel off the ugly plaid wallpaper on the lower walls:

See that green paint? That’s a piece of plywood that was nailed onto lath strips behind it and then wallpapered. The plaster job suddenly loomed larger.

On this wall you can see how the previous owner used leftover strips of wallpaper to finish papering the wall:

The plaid strips didn’t match, of course. This would have driven me crazy had I not blocked the offending view with the contents of the closet.

Fortunately, master plasterer Steve and his assistant Corey were willing to tackle the lower walls along with the upper walls and ceiling. It took the better part of a day for them to work their magic:

I decided to paint the closet myself to save money — having the lower walls replastered  added considerably to the cost — and also time. Most house painters are booked out weeks ahead and I was oh, so anxious to get everything back into the closet. I promised myself I wouldn’t sew a stitch until the painting was done. Ah yes, the carrot and the stick. It was time to get to work.

Here’s one side of the closet primed and ready for another coat of paint:

It took me two days to prep and prime the closet. Getting thorough coverage was a challenge as the plaster absorbed paint like a sponge. But I prevailed, and I must say: it’s already looking pretty good!

Here it is all done with the two short shelves back in place:

Before refilling the closet, I took the opportunity to edit its contents while they were still in the Annex. Several stacks of fabric and notions have been set aside for donation.

Now when you open the door to the closet, here’s a glimpse at what you see:

Sure looks better in there!

If you’re looking for me today, you’ll find me at my sewing machine. I think I’ve earned it, don’t you?

 

 

 

Posted in kaleidoscope quilts, update | 10 Comments

That Toddlin’ Town


Now that I’ve finished making this traditional Chicago Star quilt block, I can’t get the song “Chicago (That Toddlin’ Town)” out of my head. It reached the pop charts in 1957 when Frank Sinatra released his version but the song is much older than that. The sheet music was published in 1922, with music and lyrics by a fellow named Fred Fisher.

Nobody seems to know what “toddlin'” means. Apparently a dance called the Toddle was popular at the time the song came out but to toddle can also mean to saunter. No matter. Sinatra sings it well.

The quilt block is even older than the song. Directions for the Chicago Star were published in the late 1800s by the Ladies’ Art Company, a mail order catalog for quilt patterns. I was amazed to learn the company was in business from sometime around 1895 until the 1970s. If you happen to own the third edition of Barbara Brackman’s Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns published in 2020 by the Electric Quilt Company, you’ll see a version of Chicago Star on page 203.

When I saw the square-in-a-square design in the center of the block, I knew I’d put a fussycut image in the center. I especially like how well the image plays with the background fabric, a print from Victoria Findlay Wolfe‘s 2017 “Light Work” collection for Marcus Fabrics.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this block but I’m having fun.

 

 

 

Posted in update | 7 Comments

To the Rescue

Map Courtesy of Google

I have been saved by a quilter 2500 miles away! Nancy L. of Irwin, Pennsyvania read yesterday’s post in which I wrote about my delight at finding an online quilt shop in the Midwest that had a piece of older fabric I needed to finish a quilt project. My delight was supplanted by disappointment when the shop notified me it didn’t have the fabric in stock after all. When I woke up this morning and looked at my email, there was a message from Nancy telling me she has a third of a yard of this fabric that she is willing to send me. Oh Happy Day!

Not only is the fabric already in the mail, Nancy even sent me the tracking information! If the US Postal Service does its job, those precious inches of currant red fabric will be in my eagerly waiting hands by Friday. I could have made do with another cut of fabric but I had my heart set on using the same red that’s in the center of this kaleidoscope quilt:

Quilt begun in 2015 in a class taught by Joyce Gieszler. Pattern: Grandma’s Surprise

The piece that Nancy is sending me will be used as a narrow flange between the outer border and the binding. Thank you, Nancy, from the bottom of my heart.

Aren’t quilters the best people?!

 

 

 

Posted in kaleidoscope quilts, update | 8 Comments