“When it comes to fabric, more is better and excess is never enough.” Freddy Moran
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“When it comes to fabric, more is better and excess is never enough.” Freddy Moran
Many quilters find that joining a charity quilting group offers them both a chance to give back and work on their quilting skills. Your charity quilting group provides not only a useful service to the community, but quilterly fellowship.
But what so often dogs the charity groups I have quilted with is the ticklish issue of sourcing the group stash. Very often groups depend on donated fabric, resulting in charity stashes of small pieces of odd or old fabric. It can be a real challenge to create something attractive out of odd bits of mismatched, dated fabric. And I am uncomfortable with charity quilts looking like what they often are: scraped together with leftover, unwanted fabrics.
If you are wanting to give back by giving fabric to your local charity quilt group, consider giving them something they rarely get: large pieces of fabric (2-5 yards); up to date prints; unisex prints; coordinates (blenders and solids that complement the prints you donate); white on white prints to highlight the more colourful prints; enough flannel to back a lap quilt (5 yards); good quality thread in a muddy brown or grey that will suit all projects (ie Aurifil 1158).
When you donate from your stash, consider donating colour coordinated bundles with enough in the bundle to complete a quilt. And think about quilts that will suit various recipients: boys of all ages, men, and that hardest of all to create for, teen boys. They will appreciate the loving gift of a quilt, but no way are they going to be seen with something that features pink roses, puppies and kittens. Try geometrics in modern palettes:
Happy and blesséd quilting, all!
I began therapy sewing long before I knew what it was.
In preparation for a class at Empty Spools, given by the gracious and joyful pair Gwen Marston and Freddy Moran, I followed the advice in my class prep sheet, to produce “parts” and begin a “Parts Department”. Parts were…strips of sashing, pieced or otherwise (I pieced black and white half square triangles into strips), small blocks which for this class were probably going to be constructed along wonky lines, flying geese units, half square and half rectangle units, strip sets, nine patches, sixteen patches.
The idea was to generate a stockpile of elements and just throw them up on the design wall, composing the quilt directly on the wall. Bright, spontaneous, fun! Their books on collaborative quilting are inspiring.
Once home, I began cutting 1″ and 1 1/2″ strips off all fabrics before putting them in the stash, and in quiet moments when I wanted a bit of sewing time, or had a dearth of sewing time, I would pull out strips (mostly at random, as per Marston and Moran’s cheery advice), sew them together and generate 9 and 16 patches.
The process, it turned out, was meditative. And the pinning together of the strip sets was something I could keep in a workbag and take with me to places that required I wait and fill my time; doctor, dentist, airplane. I liked the quiet work involved in patiently pinning my strips together, and spent many hours while nursing a sick but napping relative quietly working away at this simple task; it was restorative.
That practice, and the idea of non-directed quilting led me to the delightful Rayna Gillman and her book “Create Your Own Free Form Quilts”…and another class at Empty Spools, one with the enticing title “What If?”. Rayna encouraged us to compose parts as well, this time by making strip sets in a free form way, no rulers, guided only by what colours and patterns created pleasing compositions. She too had discovered what she called “therapy sewing” while caring for her husband in his last illness. On days when she was drained, she turned to the creation of pleasing strip sets as a way to relax and regenerate. Rayna threw her strip sets into a box, and much later, when the storm had passed, returned to the box, and began cutting and resewing her strip sets into new elements. And she too recommended assembling the quilt free form, up on the design wall.
And so, in times when I am tired, but crave the comfort of a quiet bit of sewing, and the balm of putting pretty fabrics together, I turn to this simple and soothing method of creation…therapy sewing.
It can be as simple as printing off a few sheets of half square triangle papers from my beloved Triangulations DVD. I can choose two fabrics that will make lovely half square triangle elements. The act of sewing up the Triangulations sheets is simple, easy and fun. Cutting the half square units apart is a favourite tv watching activity. And also makes a nice addition to that waiting room workbag!
And then there is the lovely activity of just picking up a fabric that delights you, cutting a nice strip from it, and hunting through the stash for a great companion. THE great companion! One that makes each of the fabrics somehow more than the sum of their parts. Last week I was struggling with fatigue and anxiety….what my friend Lorna calls “the collywobbles”. Suffering from a larger than usual dose of those, I longed to sew, but my brain and heart were not up to anything involving concentration.
Therapy sewing to the rescue: I trolled through my stash (easy, since an entire wire shelving unit had collapsed, strewing half the stash all over the studio floor), and found myself drawn to this fabulous fabric, by Laura van Horne:
I needed to find a companion, and chose this batik print, something I had bought a yard of from an online fabric house, just for fun. At the time I had no purpose in mind for this fabric, but it had come in handy in a recent collage quilt class with Freddy Moran. Here it paired in a pleasing and dramatic way with Laura’s spheres (batik fabric is from the Atlantis collection by Timeless Treasures):
I liked the way these fabrics played well with others. Initially bought on spec, I decided to order a few more yards of each…they will be great stash treasures and will find their way into compositions for years to come!
Then it was time to audition and select a few more fabrics and cut a strip of each:
Sew them together into a strip set (you don’t even need to worry about straight seams):
Cut the sets themselves into strips, your choice on even or uneven…today I felt like uneven!
I recut the strips, like so:
And reassembled them into a block, in a way that pleased me:
At this point you can add more fabric, or combine strips to make the strips roughly equal lengths, or just sew them all together.
Below are two blocks made up and trimmed up..no effort to make them anything but roughly the same size:
You can just stockpile blocks made this way, and when you have a bunch, you can…..
….throw them up on the design wall and see where they take you….
…make packets and send them to friends to begin a round robin project……
…sash them in any way that pleases you and sew them together for a quick quilt…
…make them into mug rugs, or a table runner…
…overstitch in wools or colourful crochet cottons…
…post your idea!
I hope therapy sewing gives you as much comfort and pleasure as it has me…it is a great way to revisit your stash (where you will always find some forgotten gems that ignite your imagination and fuel your creative drive). Using therapy sewing units is great practice for your colour and design skills, , and in the process you create a parts department of your own.
It’s a lovely way to find refuge and regeneration in the studio.
It took me a while to finish the Flower Basket block as I have never done this block before and was hesitant to apply the handle! I have always avoided this block for that one simple reason, but finally, I have slain that dragon.
It is worth noting that many of the block assembly diagrams in the Farmer’s Wife book call for cutting and sewing triangles. Whenever humanly possible, I will avoid working with triangles and their tricky bias edges. So I looked at the assembly diagram and realized this block would go together well with squares and half square triangles….and for both the large HST which forms the basket bowl and the background space behind the handle, and for the two smaller HST’s that form the basket base and background in the opposite corner from the handle, I printed off Triangulations triangle sheets and sewed the HST’s from those. That and three squares, plus the bias strip for the handle, gave me all the necessary components. I carefully pressed the handle strip, starched well, and pinned it into place with fine pins, then appliqué’d it on with fine silk thread.
If you are new to appliqué, or want a very pleasant and thorough review, I highly recommend Karen Kay Buckley’s DVD Hand and Machine Appliqué The Karen Kay Buckley Way. It is a very clear and clearly presented instructional video, easy to follow and well researched. I can vouch for Karen Kay’s product line! I have found her serrated scissors, Perfect Circles and threads to be essential tools, although my preference is to appliqué with 100 wt. fine silk thread like YLI or Kimono Silk from Superior Threads. Get a colour chart, they are beautiful enough to frame!
My fabric choices began with a desire to have the bowl of the basket a fussy-cut flower (which I had to cut twice as I muffed the HST placement of the first one; when sewn it was upside down, sigh…). Then I toyed with choices for the basket base and handle…they look nice when they are the same colour but I liked the effect of two different patterns.
The assembly diagram for Hovering Birds also calls for legions of tiny triangle pieces. Not a chance! This block is more easily constructed from 9 HST’s (1 1/2″ finished size) and 6 squares (2″ = 1 1/2″ finished). So I pulled out my HST software, printed my sheets, and voilà!
You do have many choices for your fabric placement in the Hovering Birds block. I decided that if these were hovering birds, the background could be blue for the sky, and the birds would be red. I liked the whole Bluebird colour scheme, but found the block a bit bland with the birds all in the same fabric. So we have two cardinals at the centre!
For you fellow fabri-holics out there, that blue fabric has been in my stash for 3 years. No idea why I bought it, aside from it was just pretty. The Honeysweet collection did not have a sufficiently quiet background in their blue-green colourway, so I trolled through my stash. This is not a colour I have much of, but thanks to that acquisition so long ago, I found I had the perfect piece. This happens to me all the time now…some obscure stash item I bought just because it appealed turns out, often years later, to be the perfect solution to some quilt design dilemma. Yay!
I find Etsy a great source of interesting, hard to find and unique items and have recently bought original jewelry, an oil painting (bumblebees, so beautiful!), and a yard of a very hard to find fabric I fell in love with and first spotted in a Pinterest pin.
I really liked this fresh, modern fabric. Enjoy!
As I have completed both a difficult block and an easy block, what would come next? I decided to let the Fates decide, and printed off all 109 remaining paper foundation patterns, shuffled them up and pulled one from the pile.
As luck would have it, #50 was the block drawn, the charmingly named “Honey’s Choice”.
Turns out, Honey’s Choice presents some interesting design choices! Look at these two versions, below:
Both are correct, but point out a particular problem with this block layout: the pinwheels that you place at each corner can “leak” into the centre crossbars if you are not careful with fabric and colour selections. That does give the block a more modern look, but to keep the design defined, I decided to use different fabrics for the pinwheels and the crossbars.
I looked at the paper pattern and realized I would be more comfortable just making the four pinwheels and cutting the crossbar rectangles and centre square. My comfort derived from my use of the Triangulations CD by Bear Paw Productions. This software generates sheets printed with sewing lines and cutting lines, such that you can make multiple Half Square Triangles very rapidly and very accurately. I love it and use it all the time (it is fab for making HST based borders etc., where you need to generate tons of HST’s).
To use the sheet, you cut your two HST fabrics to the size of the sheet (copy paper size), lay them right sides together, and pin the sheet to the fabrics:
It is worth noting that I decided to use a slightly different fabric for the centre square, rather than just repeat the background I used for the pinwheels. Both are a tangerine on buff print, but I wanted a bit more “presence” for the centre square, giving it a bit more weight and definition.
Whew! Not too hard to do, but again, you have to work to line up your seams properly and get those points to come out nicely. Lots of starching helps!
No need to paper piece this one! Just cut accurately and mind where your seams intersect. I cut my three colours into strips first, then cut the unit pieces off the strips.
As usual, I “assembled” the units in position on my sewing machine side design wall…that way you can sew the units together, put them back in position, and so on. This keeps you from sewing the wrong things together!
I had intended to make the centre square out of the background fabric, but in the end I went for the punch of cherry red. Below is a preview of what the block would look like with the background as the centre square.
Which do you prefer?
Now that I see them up as photos I think I should have gone with the background fabric as the middle square!
I leafed through the Farmer’s Wife book, searching for an appealing block to begin with. It would have been more logical to begin with the easier blocks, ones with few pieces and straight seams, no points, but those are (by and large) less attractive blocks. On page 51 I found the Peaceful Hours block, assembly diagram on page 192.
Peaceful Hours is lovely, but it is very difficult.
Unfortunately, the pattern for this particular block contains errors. To get the correct paper pieces, you must ditch pieces B and F, making instead two copies each of pieces H and C.
Even with the correct paper piecing pattern in hand, this is a very confusing block. I had decided to make the block in three fabrics, a green dotted background, a red floral for the centre and corners, and a contrast green print for the star rays. I printed out my pattern, sorted the units and labelled each section with sewing order and the fabric designation: bg for background, contrast and (stupidly it turns out) corner.
Alas I found the default printed sewing order was not always the same and muffed a couple of intersections before I realized I had to re-label the pattern pieces for each unit to ensure correct sewing order. This really matters in foundation piecing!
I use Judy Mathieson’s method of paper piecing, in which you do not sew through the paper, but fold the paper along the seamline and stitch beside that. It is nicely explained in her own books as well as in The Experts Guide to Foundation Piecing, and in Episode 707 of The Quilt Show. I find Judy’s method is accurate, easier for me to get right (I struggle with cutting the right sized piece of fabric for each area as I can’t easily think upside down and backwards), and I love that you do not have to rip off the paper, which I find hard on my fingers and on the seamlines!
One help to me in piecing intricate blocks is the little design wall I have at my sewing station. I put the completed pieces up on the design wall as I work:
In spite of trying to be careful, I confused my own labels and managed this blooper:
And had to do those units over again. But finally, it was time to put the bits together. In sewing the sub-units together, you must very carefully match seam lines and points, and be very careful that your seamline goes where it needs too. This is one block you may want to baste before you commit to a fine sewing line…it is very hard to get things to match up precisely. I pin with Clover extra fine quilt pins, which are very fine, rather delicate (you bend a lot), but can hold a seam without distorting it very much. Working very carefully, I finally got the block together. It is not perfect, but it is pretty good. Good enough!
This block will have to be blocked and re-starched (I use spray starch on all my fabric, which is washed and dried before starching and pressing) before assembly. There are just so many little pieces it gets wonky very quickly.
I am not entirely happy with my fabric choices, which ended up being a little busy. If I had to do it again I would choose a tone on tone red print for the centre and corners, as I do not like the busy-ness and in particular the way the green areas of the red print leak into the green contrast star points.
In spite of those quibbles, I think this block will look very pretty in the final quilt, in which I will set the blocks on point. It makes them come alive somehow!
On to the next block, something very easy this time!
Captivated as so many of us have been by The Farmer’s Wife Sampler Quilt by Laurie Aaron Hird, I bought the book, the CD, and joined the Yahoo group! I have been hunting around for a while now for a theme, a colour-way, an inspiration for the elements of this quilt, which is eminently customizable.
Finally, I found the Honeysweet fabric collection by Fig Tree and Co. for Moda, which arrived in stores only recently (October 2013). Nostalgic, romantic, floral, but in contemporary colours, I like its brightness, cheeriness and warmth. I will be adding coordinates from other sources where they work. Follow along!
The first block I will do, and for which I have chosen the three fabrics you see pulled in front in the photo above, is the lovely Peaceful Hours. I have paper pieced a few of these, thanks to the paper piecing files at the Yahoo group. I cannot imagine piecing this freehand. There are just so many small units to make, so many opportunities for error to creep in.
Follow along, and wish me luck! I will also cross post the images to my Pinterest board.
There is a time for every purpose under heaven…and fall is the time for Buttertart Squares.
As delicious as buttertarts, but much easier to assemble, prepare and serve! I was raised on buttertarts, that Canadian staple, and thought nothing could ever beat the warm, Northern Lights aglow experience of a steaming mug of good tea washing down a sweet and salty buttertart.
But when the Mother Corp (CBC for you infidels) ran a Bars and Squares contest, I discovered, among many other deliciousnesses, the concept of Buttertart Squares.
The worthy website CBC ran for years with all the winning recipes and runners up is long gone, but lo and behold a cookbook appeared out of the firmament. Out of print these many years, but a treasure. Below is the recipe from “Great Canadian Cookies, Bars and Squares”. I have switched it up a bit, and you can fiddle with the type of brown sugar or the proportions of nuts and fruits.
Thankyou very much to Canadian heroine Clo Carey for entering the contest!
Make. And enjoy!
Buttertart Squares by Clo Carey, makes 3 dozen squares
1/2 c. butter
1 c. flour
2 T. dark brown sugar
1 1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. oatmeal
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. vanilla
1/2 c. raisins, or currants, or dried cranberries, or dried cherries
1/2 c. chopped walnuts or pecans
-Preheat oven to 350oF
-Base: melt the butter and mix with flour and the 2 T. brown sugar. Press into a greased 9″ square pan and bake 350oF for 15 minutes until very light brown.
-Topping: Beat the eggs together till blended, then mix with all other topping ingredients and pour that mixture over the baked base. Bake again 20 minutes.
Cool and cut into squares. Recipe can be doubled (oh, behave!).
Adapted by Clo froma recipe submitted by Donna Wheeler to Bless this Food, a cookbook published by the Leaside Presbyterian Church, Toronto.