Friday, January 8, 2010

Quilting without the book!

I'm in serious home decorator mode right now.  Good thing my favorite LQS had some fun sales right before the holidays!  I bought several prints from Lila Tueller's Santorini line and also Pamela Mostek's Piccadilly line and decided they would go in our guest room.  I wanted a fun, girly room-but I didn't want to actually have to look at it every day.  So voila, my guest room idea is born!

While I was at the quilt shop, I browsed around for a pattern idea.  I had no plan in mind when I started buying the fabric, so I bought 3/4 yard cuts.  I ended up with 11 prints, and that's when I found the pattern (minus the flower applique).  It had all of the right conponents:
large blocks to showcase the huge florals
simple piecing
non-traditional design

The only problem was that the pattern came in a book, and I did not need any more quilt books in my house!  Plus it was pieced in a very time-consuming method.  So I decided to take the design idea and make my own technique. :)

Here's what I started with:
3/4 yard cuts of 11 prints
2 yards of an accent fabric (minimal print is best, I used a brown tone on tone)
Optional: Big cutting mat (36" is what I used), 24" long ruler

I wanted a queen size quilt with a decent amount of drape.  After lots of longhand math, I came up with an 8x8 basic design that would end up making a 92" square quilt.

*Cut the 3/4 yard pieces into 11.5" squares.  For a total of 64 squares, I needed 6 squares from 9 of the prints and 5 squares from 2 of the prints.  Or to make it easy, cut 6 squares of each print and you'll have 2 extras at the end!

*The accent fabric needs to be cut in 1.5" strips.  For a queen size, 8x8 setting, you'll need about 1472" in length of 1.5" wide strips.  If they are cut from selvedge to selvedge that means about 35 strips.  I pieced mine with a 45 degree angle to hide the piecing.

*If you're worried about how the blocks will be arranged, lay them out before you piece the rows.  I didn't lay mine out-I just started piecing!

*Piece 8 rows of 8 squares

*Lay out the rows in order BEFORE you press any seams.  Once they are in the right order, label them like so:

Here's what my labels mean:
6 is the row number
Up/down arrow tells me which way to press my seams (I stagger the seams on my rows to reduce bulk)
Left/right arrow tells me which side of the row I'm going to cut apart to add the accent fabric strip

To decide which side to add the accent strip, I had to study the original quilt for a bit.  I also realized early on that this works best if you have an even number of rows in both directions.  To start with, the accent strips on the outermost blocks should be closer to the inner edge of the block than to the binding.

*Press all seams up/down (DO NOT IRON ON THE MASKING TAPE!!)

Now comes the fun part-adding the first strips!  This works best if you have a large (36" or so) cutting mat and a long ruler (mine is 24" long).

I decided to set my strips so that they were 2.5" inside the block.  So, in a set of 2 strips, they are 5" apart.

To do this, I cut my rows apart 3" in from the raw edge on the right/left side depending on my arrows. That takes into account the quarter-inch seam allowance from the strip and the quarter-inch seam allowance when piecing the rows together.

To make the cut, I lined up the raw edge of the row with the 3" mark on the ruler and started cutting.  For the long rows like I had, this involved cutting, moving the fabric, repeat until the entire row is cut.


It worked best for me if I cut all of my rows, kept them laying together, and then pieced all of my accent stripes.  It saved a lot of time over cutting, piecing, cutting another row, piecing.....

To attach the accent strips, I first attached them to 1 side of the row (wider piece or narrower, although I did find that it was better to attach them to the narrower pieces).  The most important thing to remember is to attach it to the freshly cut edge!
Once the accent strip is sewn on one side, press to the accent strip.
I don't cut my accent strips down to the length of the row.  Once the seam is pressed, I trim the accent fabric even with the block edge.  I save fabric this way, because I can take the remainder of the strip and piece it with some more strips for the next row!

To complete the row, you'll need some patience and lots of pins.  I don't usually pin-I use a walking foot and wing it!  But for this, pins are necessary.

A few tips to pinning the rows back together:
-Lay the piece with the accent strip on top of the other piece, right sides together.
-Use your finger nail to feel the seams on the underneath pieces.
-Pin at all seams.

The goal is to keep all of the seam lines matched up, even though there's now a 1" strip running down the edge of the block.

Sew rows back together.
Press seam toward accent strip fabric.

When all of the rows are reassembled, sew the rows in the order you labeled them earlier.  Seams can be pressed in either direction.

Here we are, 1/2 way done!

I almost stopped here.  I probably would have, but I needed the extra 8" in width that I gained from those accent strips.

Here's where I started to get a bit scared!  I had a lot of time invested in this quilt....and I was going to cut it back into pieces??  *gulp*

To start with, figure out where you made the cuts for accent fabric earlier.  I made mine 3" from the raw edges of the rows.  For the following cuts, I will be making them 2.75" in from the seams.  This gives perfectly square intersections.  If rectangles are more your style, try using a different width.  Tho I'd recommend giving it a try on paper before you pick up the rotary cutter! :)

Line up the ruler with the seam, and cut!  I went slooooooooowly (and I still goofed, but I'll get to that later!).
And again, I had to line up the ruler, cut, move the fabric, repeat until the entire length of the quilt was cut.

Again, I cut all of my pieces and then sewed all of the accent strips.  I didn't have any markings telling me where to cut this time, but since the top was all pieced together I knew that the strips in the outer blocks would be placed closer to the seam than to the raw edge.  I did have to remind myself that each row only had 1 cut.  I nearly cut one of the first few rows 2.75" in from each seam.  Yikes!!

Just as last time, attach the accent strips to one side of the row and press towards the accent fabric (I also trimmed down the length of my accent strips at this point).  It may be easiest if you leave the top laying out in order while you're placing the accent strips.

To reassemble the top, again place the pieces with the accent strip on top.  Feel for seams with your fingernail, and pin at all seams (there will be considerably more pinning than with the first sets of strips).

Sew the seams, press toward the accent strips, and reassemble the top strip set by strip set!

Now here's my little secret.  I cut one of my rows at the wrong place!  It's not incredibly obvious in the photo, but it's the second set of stripes down from the top.  Here's what happened: instead of cutting 2.75" from the seam, I cut 1.75".  I nearly started to cry.  But I was already half way through cutting the top, and this method  isn't really conducive to fixing errors like that.  So I chose to roll with it.  I did want to try to keep things uniform, so I kept that set of strips 5" apart.  To do so, I made the adjacent cut 3.75" in from the seam to make up for the 1" short on the other cut.  I'm not in love with the error.  But I'll live with it.  And hey, it's the guest room-I don't have to look at it every day!

To finish it, I think I'm going to quilt parallel lines in just one direction.  I just realized that this is really easy to do on the quilting setup that I have.  And I can quilt it pretty densely, so it has that sweet puckery feel that only handmade quilts are capable of.

My goal is to have this quilt finished, along with the curtains, an accent pillow, and the walls painted before my mom and stepdad visit for my mom's birthday.  I have less than 3 weeks-they're coming the weekend of January 23rd!!  We started taking down the ugly, yellowing wallpaper in that room tonight.  It's mostly coming down in sheets, so that's a bonus.  And I bought the paint.  Now we just need some extra energy in the evenings.  Oh, and a nanny so that I have time to sew. ;)

I'll post again when the quilt is complete.  Or when the room is complete.  And now I'm off to peel more wallpaper (it's just so darn satisfying!).


Jennifer Blosser said...

Love the guest bedroom! I used some of that yellow fabric with the pink and purple flowers on it in a quilt that I am teaching at my local quilt shop. Isn't it great! A shameless plug . . .

I am also in the siggy swap over at P.S. I Quilt! Can't wait to get your block!


SmY said...

You saved the day! I have been looking for a quilt to make for my husband using the fall colors he loves and I have collected. I think this will be PERFECT!