Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Framing Curved Log Cabin Blocks Tutorial

Once again, I fell off the internet.  That's life.  Especially lately.  I don't seem to be slowing down, folks.  I am making, quite intensely in fact, but stopping to blog about it seems counterintuitive somehow and when I don't blog, I don't read. However, I miss the realm.  So while I'll probably never be a regular schedule blogger, I always find my way back.  That's why there're RSS readers. :-)  Anyhoo...

Framing Curved Log Cabin Blocks:

Back in April (wow!) I posted a tutorial on making Improv Curved Log Cabin blocks.  And then I intended a follow-up on framing them. Here it is.

Grab your cabin pod, your rotary cutter, your background fabric, a straight edge ruler for squaring up, and, if desired, a curved edge ruler.  You can also freehand, and if your curves are large, you probably will need to freehand them anyway. Starch your fabrics - if you made your cabin without starch, starch it now. The larger the piece gets, the more important it is to keep a stable edge.  Bias is a tricky, shifty beast!

Cut a chunk of background fabric at least a long as one of your sides.  The width is variable and you can use strips or triangles.  Triangles work best for setting them "on point" but you can use strips and put things on point later if you choose.

** Note: This isn't a precise technique - it's based on the same principles used to make the blocks themselves, just with the goal of having straight, right-angled sides at the end.  As such, it's readily adaptable to whatever shape or size you need.  So I'm not giving exact dimensions here.   If you cut your background too narrow or too short, just add more fabric around after.  If you are using a solid, easy peasy.  I don't recommend using a fussy print that doesn't blend well at the seams.  To minimize seams, start with pieces much larger than you think you need and trim down.  Save the larger trimmings and use them to frame other pieces.

Lay your cabin pod on the background fabric so that the curve of the side is entirely on top of the background.  Using your rotary cutter (and your edge, if desired) cut along the curve of the cabin so that the cabin curve and background curve match.  Sew the background to the pod as you did for the sewing the log cabins.  Press with the seam towards the outside edge.

Cut another chunk of background long enough to cover the side of the pod, plus the new piece you've just added.  Lay the pod on the background as before but be aware of where the edge is - you'll have to angle your curve to end somewhere and you don't want it to be too sharp or straight at the end point.  Ideally, your curve will end where the top of your pod and the background fabric intersect. It doesn't always happen that way but that's what trimming and extra fabric are for!

Cut your curve as before and sew.  Press.

Repeat the process until you have background on all four sides.  Using your straight edge, square your block to the desired size, or simply trim straight.  At this point, it's easy to see if you need to add more fabric to corners or whatnot.

And there you have it.  I chose to leave my blocks irregular sizes so that I could play with the setting but have fun with it and see what you come up with!

I've added a ton of photos of this process to a flickr album so feel free to flip through if you need a little more help - I've even done some using triangles.

Okay, as usual, I have over a month's worth of blog reading to do. So I'm getting back to it starting now. :-)

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Great Sort: How I Deal(t) with Scraps

During my blogging hiatus, I was still sewing.  Usually in spurts.  While renos continued, I could only set up my space for a bit at a time, and if I got to leave it up for days!! in a row, then it was pedal to the hardwood...

In February, I had vast amounts of space to myself to fill with nothing but a makeshift studio, conveniently located near the refrigerator and coffee maker.  Also, with extra plug-ins so I could stream the Olympics on my laptop while the fabric was flying.  And flying it was!  I took the rare opportunity to spread out over two floors and organize my stash, supplies and most importantly, my scraps.  This was an "in-progress" photo of the front room as seen from the dining room/kitchen "workshop" I'd established.

Indeed. Whatever you are thinking about this photo, I agree with you.

The process took awhile.  Several evenings.  But the benefits!  I had a "eureka moment" of scrap storage idea that is incredibly useful to me (steal it if you want to) considering my lack of space and cold, cash dollahs!  Yes, necessity invented this mother of a scrap system.
Yes, the blues are out of control, as are the greys....

Hanging folders from IKEA.  Plastic filing boxes. Twelve different sections.  I can see all my small scraps and still pick from many different colours at once. I can also remove an entire colour, lay it open on the table, and the fold it back up and "refile" it. Plus, pretty.  (Ok, I'm not really thrilled about the plastic part but the need to keep things portable, stackable, and dust-free trumps my qualms. I also make sure to allow my fabric plenty of time to breathe on a regular basis. )

My large scraps were pressed and folded and sorted by colour ( I use a 12- colour category system: purples, pinks, reds, oranges, yellows, greens, blues, blacks, greys, whites, creams, browns, which is preferable to the old system of "stuff 'em willy-nilly into whatever container is closest").  Then I stacked them in a box with my baskets of various-sized squares.  Strings and selvedges also sorted by colour, in their own box. And then my stash, on comic boards, solids separated from prints. Battings, interfacings, etc in another.  To be fair, I do have a smaller stash than most - less than 150 yards on hand - with most of that earmarked for specific projects. I'm trying to get better at mindful purchasing, because let's face it, I simply don't have the money or the space, and fabric's only as valuable as it is useful.

Nope, this isn't all of it....

And now that everything is contained and organized, my space (which sometimes needs to be completely dismantled - hence the lack of shelves, no using wall space, and collapsible desk) looks like this.
Batting and interfacing box is actually kept in a different room...

And it works.
Scraps in action! Tiny tiny tiny....
Pouch for a swap
So does the scrap system.  And that makes me very happy.
Pouch for a gift.
Yay for tiny!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Finished: The One Less Traveled By

Whew! The Bloggers' Quilt Festival can take a lot out of you!  I think I saw them all.... And appreciated all the lovely comments back and forth.  I had a few that were no-reply which always makes me a little sad so if you didn't get a reply, that's the reason.

Anyhoo!  The Saskatoon Modern Quilt Guild had a UFO challenge.  "UFO" is always a challenge for me since I rarely have any.  I tend to stick to only a few projects at a time and frequently go full-steam-ahead until they're done.   I do have ONE long-term UFO but it's in storage and I haven't seen it in years. If it has survived the storage process, I will finish it likely as soon as it's freed.  Other than that, I don't think I have anything that has been waiting more than two years.

I did have a crap ton of HSTs rescued and salvaged from other projects (specifically ones for my sister). They've been trimmed up in little bunches of 1.5" squares at Wednesday guild gatherings for months and months.  I'm not saying people made fun of me, but more than one of my quilty friends questioned my sanity. :-)  The intent was always to make a trip around the world or something like it. So the time had come to do something with it. So I dug into the scraps and grabbed my Kona Silver yardage and went nuts.

It started with tiny but traditional,
then moved to tiny but a little more irregular,

to larger,
to very irregular....
like a set of paths not quite found by feet yet.

The quilting is.... uhm, not my best. I rushed a little in a push to meet the deadline (I have never not finished a SMQG challenge!)  I'm a little out of practice and always more convinced of my skills before I sit down to use them.  However, I more or less got the look I was going for: more tiny and structured in the wee blocks, loose and watery as it moves outward.  I'll try to remember to either leave time or to take more next project.

I added a couple of blue chunks to the binding, letting them fall wherever.  The back is unspectacular and with fading light and borrowed quilt holding help, I totally forgot to snap a picture of it.   It's most silver with a little piece of blue floral.

Approx: 68x78"
More than 650 - 1.5" HSTs salvaged and used up.  (I have about 6 left over...)  One GIANT ziploc bag no longer crowding my sewing space.  And I am content.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Bloggers' Quilt Festival: Broken Windows


So the BQF totally snuck up on me this year. It was only a month or so after the last one that I fell off the internet and while I have been making and sewing, I was feeling like I didn't have anything I wanted to enter. However, there are a few things I haven't shared yet. Like this one...

As a mini with fabrics I would never choose, this piece was a little out of the box for me. And I dealt with it a little in the box, too.  At Saskatoon Modern Quilt Guid, we had a challenge to use a bag of someone else's scraps. I got Erin's and she actually enjoyed handing over the ugliest bag of scraps ever seen in Saskatoon.  She even taunted us as she threw the bag in the mix.  Fabrics? Not modern. Colours? Non-descript.  Size? Larger than your average scrap. Hmmm.... Workable?

I embraced the messy!  I started with the batik. Some folks love 'em, some hate 'em and I'm somewhere in the middle. I use them, sparingly, and not on their own.  But this one had nice little boxes in a regular pattern, like frames.  I freehanded some shapes,  stay-stitched the lines, trimmed the excess and folded the seam allowance back. Then I backed each opening with a little piece of one of the horrid little scraps, and reverse appliqu├ęd it to the batik.

Then I quilted it within a sixteenth of an inch of its life.  I started with a neutral cream colour and decided it needed red!

The binding was made from another one of the scraps. I knew it was going to be difficult and there was no way I'd be able to hand-finish it with the density of quilting on the back - I even debated ways I could get a way with leaving unfinished.  Once it was trimmed, I felt I lost a lot of the rustic, broken quality I was getting so I recaptured it by attaching the binding to the back and stitching it down unevenly along the front.

This is the first quilt I've actually hung on my walls and I'm happy with how it turned out.

Title: Broken Windows
Size: 18x11"
Category:  Small quilts?
Pieced and Quilted by me.

Thanks so much to Amy and the sponsors, everyone who stops by, and everyone who shares their work with the rest of us to make this festival so much fun! Can't wait to see what everyone's been up to!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Whirlwind of Classes and Talks

It's no secret that I've been a busy girl as of late.  I'm decent at spacing out my commitments and making sure I don't have too many things pressing at the same time. My calendar usually looks well-balanced and responsible. However, I often forget to leave room for the incidentals and unschedule-able things, like illness, vehicular issues, and Acts of Nephew, among other things good and bad. A particularly crappy inclement spring has seen more barometric changes than the weather network* and left me with less energy and fighting spirit than usual. Renovations have meant my sewing corner has moved, rotated and/or been inaccessible since January - tricky when keeping up with two guilds and two bees! And then, of course, there's been hockey. Glorious hockey. Junior, Olympic, NHL, KHL, AHL, WTH?... I will admit that while I sometimes drop the ball on keeping up in quilting blogland, I never go more than two days without checking in on the hockey blogs. In fact, I was caught at a guild meeting streaming a game during a presentation.  I was LISTENING, of course, to the presenter and looked at all her slides, but I also didn't want to miss any changes in the score.  That being said, if I'm the presenter and you are in the audience, feel free to live-stream sporting events.  Just keep me updated on the score!  (NOTE: this does NOT apply in the scholastic setting - secondary students are required to pay attention in class, even if I'm boring.  Therefore, if you by any strange chance or coincidence are a high school student who has me as their classroom teacher at any time, I will not accept any excuses of "But Ms. M..... !You said on your blog....". So there. You have been warned. Also - how did you find this blog, anyway? Get off the internet, go outside and/or do your homework, please and thank you!)

Speaking of giving talks, classes and presentations...

I had the distinct pleasure of leading a workshop on improv piecing at Saskatoon Quilters' Guild spring retreat at the end of April. I do a lot of improv piecing (crazy piecing, free-piecing, what have you) These were the samples that I made up plus more that I made during/after the workshop:
Most of my job was just to give encouragement and provide a little guidance on making such unusual pieces cohesive. Here is all the beautiful work they did!
I was a proud, proud teacher, (though truly I think an improv workshop leader is really more of a permission giver and 'can't' preventer than instructor.) They all had such different styles; not surprising since they've all been quilting for years. Having never given that workshop before, I was quite pleased with how it went. The gals gave me some great and constructive feedback, too.

At the last meeting of Saskatoon Quilter's Guild, I got to see some of their work continued but wasn't able to snap a pic. I had the privilege that night to give a talk on modern quilting. Of that, I have no photos but since no one fell asleep, I think it went well, too. Put a mic in my hand and I can talk, boy!  Only trouble?  When you're the speaker - you can't stream the hockey game...

*As one of many folk around here with climate migraines, I can say that spring is not a great time of year, especially with the yo-yo of sun/snow/sun/snow/rain/snain/snow/sun/rain we've had this go-round. If these manned missions to Mars advertised a permanently consistent air pressure in all compartments, ships and colonies, migraneurs would risk experiencing every bad thing that's ever happened in a scifi film.... Aliens, schmaliens!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Curved Improv Log Cabin Tutorial

Hiya! Yeah, I know...  How've ya been? Me...? It's been busy and chaotic with a side of crazy monkey banana pants.  More on that some other time. I'm going to ease back into the the interwebs slowly.... with a tutorial.

I'm a very happy member of Canadians Bee - a group that formed after the first round of Simply Solids.  These ladies are intensely talented and totally amazing. In fact, I'm lucky enough to be in the Saskatoon Modern Quilt Guild with 3 of them!  It was those three that I ran this block idea by and they all said they were game to try it so that's what I'm going with.

This tutorial is the basic technique and I'll add specifics for the bee in the flickr thread.

This is a very flexible technique and can be used as you wish.   For a traditional(ish) log cabin, alternate light and dark fabrics.

Here we go!


You might need these supplies in addition to your regular sewing gear:

5 or more various fabrics in your chosen colour palette:  This technique can use jelly roll strips easily enough but  you can use wider. You can also use scraps.  I started with a 3" square in the middle and some of my outer strips were roughly 3" but it's not exact, nor does it need to be.  You can go smaller or bigger.  Add more rounds as you please.  I made two different blocks in my examples.  I used yellow for both centers (A), then in one B&D were dark colours, C&E light.  The other block had B&D light colours with C&E dark. 

Rotary cutter: This would be a tedious process with scissors.

Starch:  This is handy for sewing curves.  If you give your fabrics a light starch before you cut the curves, I find they cut cleaner, sew smoother and lie flatter.  I forgot to starch my fabrics at first and had a little wrinkling - which will all go away once I quilt the sucker but once I remembered to starch, everything went a lot smoother.

A curved edge:  I used the Quick Curve Ruler and the old "no-ruler-eyeball-it-freehand" method for cutting the curves but you can also use a pie plate, an oval casserole dish, , a french curve, an old charger from your Christmas table settings that you've since decided you hate....or nothing.  It doesn't have to be a perfect circle or oval - it just needs to have a curved side you can put against your rotary cutter.  It doesn't even need measurements!  But it's easier to use if you can see through it.

1/4" foot:  I find it tons easier to piece curves without using pins by using my 1/4" foot.  We'll get to that later...


1) Choose a fabric for your center.  For ease of instructions, we'll call it Fabric A.  I used a 3" square here but you can also use a rectangle.  Measurements aren't important here - since you'll be cutting away the edges, having perfectly straight cuts to start with isn't necessary.

Take a strip of your next fabric (B)  - I used a roughly 2.5"strip - and layer your center piece over it just a little - right sides up.

You can trim the needed bit off the strip so you're working with smaller pieces. There should be a slight overlap.

Place your curved edge (or use your fabulous sense of freeform adventure!) on the overlap.  The only thing to be aware of here is that the curve should start where the two fabrics meet at the edge on the bottom and end where they meet at the top.  At all times, the curve should pass through BOTH fabrics.  This way, you make a matching pair of curves.

Fabric A curves out and Fabric B has a nice dent for A to fit into.  Remove the excess fabric so you're just looking at out-curved A and in-curved B.  Place them right sides together, matching at the top of the curve.

2) Using your 1/4" foot, place your RST curves underneath your presser foot and take a few stitches.    I like to put the out-curve on the bottom and the in-curve on the top. Then holding your fabrics apart as you sew, guide the bottom piece with your right hand and the top piece with your left hand, bringing them together using the 1/4" fence as a guide.

Try not to pull or stretch as you sew.   There are a couple of videos on sewing curves without pins out there if you need to see it.  This one is great!

3) Press to the side of least resistance - in or out, depending on your fabric.  There isn't a bulk issue here so direction isn't important. The seams lay fairly flat if you use the no-pins method.

4) Lay down another strip of B.

Layer your A/B center unit onto the B strip, keeping the B part of the A/B centre at the bottom.  In order to keep the traditional log cabin look coming through in this modern version, always orient the center piece so that the strip you just sewed is in the same position.  Always on the top  OR always on the bottom.  You choose - just keep it consistent for each pod/block.

Make your curved cut same as you did in Step 1.   You can play around with angling your center so that the width of the strips changes from piece to piece. It can be wider or narrower, sharper or softer curves, whatever appeals to you.  The idea is that this will take on its own shape and not be uniform. Each little cabin will be unique.

5) Sew your curves same as in Step 2.

6) Repeat the steps using Fabric C, then again with each D and E. And beyond if desired!

When it's the size you want, use your curved edge to curve up the sides.

You now have a log cabin pod!

Coming next month, once I start getting bee blocks in the mail, I'll do another tutorial on how to frame them out into full blocks.  Hint:  It's very similar to what we've just done here but with larger chunks of fabric and squared outside edges. :-)

Let me know if you have questions or if you try this technique out!  I will get back to you as soon as I can (which is right after I catch up on a great deal of back emails and blog reading!)  Please make sure you're not a no-reply blogger or I can only answer questions in the comment thread.

Thanks for reading - hope you enjoy it!