Thursday, February 27, 2014

99 Bottles!

This quilt is named '99 Bottles' from the book ScrapTherapy, Scraps Plus One! for a very good reason. There are nearly 500 9-patches that finish to 1-1/2" square in the blocks. The whole 9-patch is 1-1/2"! That means that each little, little piece is 1/2". Otherwise known as 'itty-bitty!' When I first made the quilt, I never really intended for it to become a pattern. I thought, 'who would ever want to make this?'

Turns out, a lot of people do! And so this past Saturday I headed to Watkins Glen, New York. Hosted by O'Susannah's Quilts & Gifts, where about 40 of us worked on the quilt in and all-day workshop. And it was SO much fun!

I love the 'before' picture of the room. It looks so calm and orderly. But not very lively.

Then quilters fill the room with sewing machines, colorful fabric, laughter, and camaraderie. And everything comes to life!

Yep, there they are 1" squares. . . really!

But, you know me! I've got a make-it-more-fun demo for everything! (My demo table looks a little chaotic right now - not unlike my sewing studio!)

Of course, all this creating makes a quilter hungry! After some wonderful homemade soup, we were treated to yummy brownies, served with a smile from Sandy!

Some happy quilters. . .

. . . and some little ta-da moments. . .

. . . and some really big ta-da moments!

What a happy day!

By the way, everyone at the workshop got to sample the newest ScrapTherapy tool--the Mini Scrap Grid! Printed fusible interfacing printed by Quiltsmart! It makes those little miniature 9-patches so much fun! And SO much easier! This stuff is addicting! It's different from the standard grid interfacing--the folding lines, sewing lines, AND cutting lines are all there!

I've been whipping up little scrappy mug rugs like crazy! Aren't they cute?? The whole thing is 5" square.

Now, before you go looking for the interfacing or the patterns in my online store . . . they aren't there just yet . . . but they will be! . . . it's that new! You're getting a little sneaky peek at some new projects coming your way soon . . . VERY soon!

In the meantime, do me a favor, and mention the ScrapTherapy Mini Scrap Grid at your local quilt shop! They might like to have it handy for your next visit! Tell 'em to drop me a line or check with their favorite distributor. You are gonna love it!

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Quilty Geometry Lesson

Math. It's everywhere.

I have always loved math. As a quilter, math seems to come up all the time.

This past week, my niece, Karen, had a problem. The pattern she was working on had a mistake. Her half-square triangles were cut according to the pattern, but they were too big. Since she's still new at this quilty thing, we texted back and forth and figured out the problem, but I thought you might be interested in how I explained the math to make half-square triangles.

Most of us quilty-types learned that you can easily make a half-square triangle by cutting a square, then cutting that square in half along the diagonal. You get two with every cut!  Usually, you then sew that half-square triangle to another one to make what I call a half-square triangle unit--two half-square triangles sewn together along the long bias line of the diagonal cut.

Things start to get tricky when you have to figure out the size of the square to cut.

Early in my quilty life, I learned that you take the finished size (the size without seam allowances) of the half-square triangle unit and add 7/8" and that's the size to make the square. But do you really, REALLY understand where that 7/8" came from?

Hang on to your seats, this might be a bumpy flight--it all boils down to . . . the Pythagorean Theorem. Yes, we're taking a trip in the way-back machine and making a visit to high school geometry class!

Don't be concerned if this math stuff is like a foreign language. In the Wizard of Oz movie classic, even the Scarecrow didn't get it right. Once he got his brain from the wizard, he proceeded to botch the Pythagorean Theorem, not once, but twice. He talks about an isosceles triangle, when it's supposed to be a right triangle. And he talks about square roots, but it's squares (multiplying a number by itself) we need. So, you aren't alone if this stuff confuses you! You have good company!

So, let's see if we can make this make some sense--in quilty terms.

First, let's make a couple of half-square triangles. I want them to finish to 5" square, so, following the generally accepted rule, I add 7/8" and cut a couple of 5-7/8" squares.

These two squares cut on the diagonal will yield two half-square triangle units that are 5" square. Notice the tip of the triangle, 5-7/8".

Some may prefer to leave the square uncut. Still, you start with 5-7/8" squares.


Sew 1/4" on both sides of the line, then cut on the line.

You can see that my seam allowance is 1/4" . . . We'll refer to this down below. So, don't forget this spot!

The half-square triangle unit, before it's pressed. . .

I like to trim off the points (circled) before I press the seam to one side. Notice the size of the triangle after trimming the points, is 5-1/2"--that's the unfinished size of the triangle unit.

Here's a close up of the trimmed point--I like to trim them to remove bulk, and because I'm a tidy-butt. Goes with the fondness for math.

Once the seam has been pressed--I prefer to press to one side--the unit is 5-1/2" square (red arrow). So my planned 5" finished size is right on track.

Hold on. Let's rewind the tape a couple of steps. Before we trim the points off, let's take a closer look at that corner.

If I draw a tiny green line perpendicular to the seam, I'm creating a itty-bitty right triangle, a triangle that has one 90˚ angle. That 90˚ angle is between the sides labeled 'a' and 'b'. 'C' is the hypotenuse of the triangle, it's the longer side, opposite the right angle in our itty bitty triangle.

Enter Pythagoras, the Ancient Greek mathematician. The Pythagorean Theorem states that the sum of the squares of two sides of a right triangle is equal to the square of the hypotenuse.

Or: a-squared + b-squared = c-squared

Going back to that picture I told you to remember, the one where I'm measuring the seam allowance, we know that a= 1/4" or .25"

We also know that 'b' is the same as 'a'--maybe, 'know' isn't the right word, for now, take my word for it.

SO: .25(squared) + .25 (squared) = c (squared)

When you multiply .25 by itself, you get .063, Do that again and add the two numbers together:

.063 +.063 = .126

SO: .126 = c(squared)

(Almost there!) Now take the square root of both sides of the equation (It's a simple button on most calculators) and the result is 'c'

OR: .355"

That's how long 'c' is in the photo above.

So what? If you state 3/8" as a decimal (divide 3 into 8 with a few more clicks on the calculator) it's .375

Add back 1/2" or .5 for the seam allowance to the number we calculated above:

.355 +.5 = .855 

(We already know that .375 + .5 = .875 in other 'words,' 3/8" + 1/2" = 7/8")

TA DA. That's where the 7/8" (.875")comes from! Well, maybe not exactly, but it's dern close!

(Did I lose you?)

Of course, the right isosceles triangle (also known as a half-square triangle) isn't the only triangle in the quilty world, but that's enough math for today. Don't you agree?

I don't know about you, but I have some sewing to do!

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

My Favorite Technique

Furling. It has lots of different names: popping, twisting, twirling. I call it furling, because that's the term I learned when I first started using the technique. And that was on the second or third quilt I made over ten years ago now.

It's used in Chopped.

And in Amber Waves.

To make a 4patch, for example, you sew two 2patches, press the seams to the darker fabric (usually), place the 2patches right-sides-together so the seam intersections 'nest' or meet in the center, and sew the two patches together. Press the longest seam to one side or the other, and the center often has lumpy-bumpy spot where all the seams stack up.

Furling involves removing the last two or three stitches from the 2patch seams that are between the longer 4patch seam and the edge of the fabric--where the seam ripper is pointing.

Then place the 4patch right side down on the ironing surface. Notice the 2patch seams (the solid line arrows) are pointed in opposite directions. The dotted line arrows show how to press the last seam--the top half to the left, and the bottom half to the right. . .

So the seams rotate around the center, in this case in a counter clockwise direction, and only the very center of the seam is open. One downside of furling, is that you have to loosen up on the 'always press seams to the darker fabric' rule of thumb.

From the front, the seams appear to rotate in the opposite direction, clockwise. More importantly, the center is perfectly flat.

Some might argue that furling weakens the seam. I can't say that I've ever experienced a problem with seams coming out. The rest of the seam is locked in because the longer seam remains intact.

Furling can be a little confusing. For these two 4patches, the seams appear to be in the same place, but the seam on the 4patch to the left was sewn with the white fabric heading into the sewing machine first. The 4patch on the right was sewn, lavender fabric first. No big deal, right? A 4patch is a 4patch after all . . .

. . . However, notice that, when furled, the seams rotate in opposite directions. Okay, no biggie, unless these two 4patch units will be sewn to each other, then the seam intersections where the two blocks meet won't oppose, creating a new lumpy spot.

When the 4patches are sewn the same way, in other words, always the white first, or always the lavender first, the seams will furl in the same direction, block after block . . .

. . . regardless of the orientation of the block. Notice the position of the letter A in the lavender square in the block above and the block below. It's the same block, just rotated 90˚, and the seams still intersect nicely where the two blocks meet.

With all this wonderfulness, what could possibly go wrong? Well, if the original 2patch seams aren't nested nicely when the 4patch is created, the seams won't furl.

A 'harmless' little gap in the center of the four-patch, and . . .

Even the smallest overlap, could wreak havoc on best-laid furling plans.

Furling isn't just for 4patches. As long as seams within rows alternate, each intersection can be furled. Like this 9patch.



Furling is especially nice when lots of seams converge in the middle. Like a pinwheel.


And when hand-piecing, since you sew point to point, not over intersections, the seams can create complex patterns twisting one way and the other on the back of the block.

Sorry, you're not allowed to see the front of this one just yet. It's a pattern in the works. Hand pieced. I can't wait to show it to you; it's gonna be a beauty! I'm using Inklingo to make the hand-pieced blocks. Inklingo is my FAVORITE technique for piecing!

What? You can't expect me to have only ONE favorite, can you? *wink-wink!*

Happy Stitching!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

My Flaky World

The ground hog's predictions are coming true, so far. . . .Winter isn't quite done with us yet. 

The river birch in the foreground seems content to wait awhile before showing any signs of spring.

Snow-covered, evergreen branches.

The snowflakes seem to cling to the pine needles, softening them.

In a few months, a hummingbird feeder will hang from the red cap. It'll be abuzz with activity then, but it's pretty quiet right now. As is the bluebird house on the tree trunk.

Indoors, the bulbs I planted a couple of weeks ago continue to progress toward Spring!

Thinking ahead to next week, I'm going to discuss one of my favorite quilty techniques. Do you have a favorite technique? In a sentence or two comment on this post with yours.

In the meantime, 

Happy Stitching!