Blackbirds and Blossoms Oh-La-La! Quilt-Along: The Birdhouse Blocks

This week it’s my turn to share my contribution to our Quilt-Along project, Blackbirds and Blossoms, Oh-La-La! If you have been following along with us, these pieces will complete the center of the quilt top. If you are newcomer to this fun group project, it’s certainly not too late to start. All of the instructions can be found in our Pattern Pages. Please join the fun!

Birdhouses complete our Quilt-Along.
The Birdhouses to complete our Quilt-Along.

I was given the task of designing a block for the corners of the quilt. The center floral designs seemed to call for the addition of birds. With this in mind, the idea of creating birdhouses to fit into the corners provided the perfect setting for a quartet of simple, whimsical birds. This is a super-easy-to-construct birdhouse block and it adds a nice corner element to the center floral medallion.

Here’s what you will need to make four Birdhouses:

House front: Four 6-1/2″ x 10-1/2″ pieces

House top: One 11-1/4″ square. Cut the square twice into quarters diagonally to yield four triangles.

Roof: Two 1-3/4″ x 42″ strips. Cut the strips to make four 1-3/4″ x 9-1/4″ pieces and four 1-3/4″ x 10-1/4″ pieces.

Background: Two 13″ squares. Cut each square twice into quarters diagonally to yield eight triangles.

Cut pieces for Birdhouses.
Cut pieces for Birdhouses.

Construction:

1. Sew a Background triangle to each short side of the House Front pieces, aligning the bottom edges.

2. Use your cutting tools to remove the excess Background and straighten the top edge, as shown.

Birdhouse1

3. Sew a 1-3/4″ x 9-1/4″ piece  of Roof fabric to one short side of the House Top triangle. Then use the 45-degree angle marking on the ruler to cut the excess fabric even with the bottom edge of the House Top.

Birdhouse2

4. Sew a 1-3/4″ x 10-1/4″ piece of Roof fabric to the adjoining short side of the House Top triangle. Then use the 45-degree angle marking on the ruler to cut the excess fabric, as shown. This completes the top half of the Birdhouse.

Birdhouse3

5. Join the top and bottom sections together, matching seams where the House Front and House Top pieces intersect.

Birdhouse4

6. Press the seam in the direction of the bottom half of the birdhouse.

Easy enough? Yes, of course! Please join me on Friday as I give instructions and hints for adding the Birdhouse opening as well as the birds.

Until next time, enjoy!

L1-Signature

 

 

 

 

Easy Mitered Corner Napkins, a Tutorial

It’s no surprise that my daughters know the difference between good fabric and the not-so good stuff. When my daughter Molly was ordering linens for her upcoming wedding, the choices she had for napkins were not up to her high standards. She thought it might be better to make rather than rent them. Makes sense, right? This way they will be hers to keepall 120 of them, I can’t argue with that one.

photo 1

We were both inspired by some beautiful linens at Pottery Barn and felt they looked best with mitered corners. So, off we went to the store. We were lucky enough to find a bolt of 54″ wide linen. I cut 18″ squares, making six napkins per yard.

Here’s how I made the napkins:

1.  Start at the center point of one side and press the raw edge 1/4″ to the backside (if there is one).  The corners will fold and miter more easily if you work and press in a counter clockwise direction. Note that the top right hand edge is left unpressed at this time. It will be turned and pressed after working completely around the napkin.

napkins1

2. Turn and press again. I turned these 1″ as I prefer a wide hem. You can adjust to your liking.

napkin7

3. Rotate the napkin and repeat the process, turning and pressing first 1/4″ and then 1″ to form the hem.

napkins2

napkins3

4. Take the napkins to the sewing machine and starting on one side, stitch close to the folded edge. Before reaching the corner, stop and turn the top fold under itself to form a miter.  A pin, tip end of small scissors, stiletto or seam ripper is helpful for this step.

napkins4

5. Continue stitching to the inside corner. With the needle in the down position, raise the presser foot and pivot the fabric. Continue stitching, repeating the mitering treatment at each corner.

That is it.  It doesn’t get much easier. Now to decide how to fold them. Check out these fun options here. I made a few demonstration napkins using some Kaffe Fassett shot cottons. They work up beautifully and I especially like that the fabric is the same on both sides. Think I’ll be making some of these for myself. I’m sure you will agree that I deserve them!

I hope to show you the bridesmaids robes next month. It’s been pretty fun and creative here–hoping the same is true for you.

L1-Signature

Bow Tie for a Little Guy, a Tutorial

As you might imagine, with less than four months to go before the first of two big weddings, I find myself knee deep in projects. Please don’t read this as a complaint because I am loving every minute of it. It simply means that, instead of working on new quilt patterns and tutorials to share with you, I am taking this time to share some of the many small projects that are happening here at “Wedding Central” (as my husband refers to it.)

Warren

Screen shot 2014-03-27 at 1.36.42 PM

We are chipping away at the list one day at a time. However, it seems that just as soon as I cross one item off the list, another one magically appears. How does this happen?

Yesterday I made a bow tie for the little ring bearer. It is so darn cute and super easy that I thought it would be fun to share my process with a tutorial. Perhaps you would like to make one for a special little guy in your life?

Bow Tie inst.

This is what the bow tie hardware looks like; hook, eye and slider.
This is what the bow tie hardware looks like; hook, eye and slider.
Cut pieces needed for one bow tie.
Cut pieces needed for one bow tie.

Instructions:

1. Using a 1/4″ seam allowance, sew the two 2-1/2″ x 12-1/2″ pieces of main fabric and interfacing together, leaving approximately 2″ open for turning. (Note: ignore those diagonal lines printed on the interfacing.) With right sides together, fold both the neckband and loop pieces in half lengthwise and stitch 1/4″ away from the raw edges, as shown.

Main fabric strips are placed right sides together then place interfacing on top. Stitch around edges.
Main fabric strips are placed right sides together then place interfacing on top. Stitch around edges.

2. Turn the bow piece right side facing out and carefully use a tool or pencil to gently push the corners to a point. Hand stitch the opening closed. Press firmly. Also turn both the neckband and loop pieces right sides facing out, and press.

3. Getting the hardware in the right position on the neckband was a bit tricky for me at first so I will try to make this as clear as possible. Run first the “slider” and then the “eye” onto one end of the neckband, as shown.

Bow Tie 8 4. Next, fold the end (shown on the left side above) to the backside and run it through the center bar of the slider. Turn and finger press approximately 1/2″ of the raw, short end of the neckband onto the backside to secure. It should look like this:

Bow Tie 10 5. Place the “hook” onto the opposite end of the neckband, turning the short end to the backside and hand stitch in place to keep the hook from slipping.

Bow Tie 9 6. Divide the bow piece into thirds (approximately every 4″) and fold back and forth, as shown.

Bow Tie 11 7. Pinch the folded bow together at the center point and then use some heavy thread to hold it secure.

Bow Tie 12 8. Position the completed neckband onto the wrong side of the bow, pin to secure. Then run the loop around the center point of the bow, covering the wrapped threads. Turn under the raw edges and hand stitch to secure.

Note: I did not stitch through to the neckband during this step. However, the neckband will slide and you may want to tack it in place once you have determined the exact needed size for your little guy.

Bow Tie 13With a few modifications, I think this design would also work well as a headband for a sweet little girl . . . just a thought! Friday I’ll share my easy mitered corner napkins. Then stay tuned as the next project will be robes for the bridesmaids. I just purchased this lovely new fabric from Verna Mosquera’s Rosewater line for Free Spirit Fabrics. I’m getting my serger tuned up and ready to roll. This will be fun!

Rosewater by Verna Mosquera for Free Spirit Fabrics.
Rosewater by Verna Mosquera for Free Spirit Fabrics.

Thanks for letting me share this special time with you. As always, sending you my best and hoping you are finding time to fill your souls with creative projects.

L1-Signature

Bookin’ It: Another Last-Minute Gift Idea for Fabric Lovers

Remember this package from my Tuesday post?

December 17_package complete

Well, if you recall, I promised to reveal the contents in today’s posting. But first a little background. I’m lucky enough to be part of a group of five creative women who meet from time to time to share our latest projects, offer inspiration (and–occasionally–moral support), and just to enjoy each other’s company. Each year we plan a holiday dinner to celebrate our friendship and to participate in a secret Santa exchange. As we’re all avid quilters, it’s not unusual for some–if not all–gifts to be items we’ve crafted ourselves.

This year, I drew Kim Butterworth as my “giftee.” Here’s what Kim found inside that package.

My secret Santa gift for Kim
My secret Santa gift for Kim

I love the idea of keeping a special book as a journal, sketchbook, or idea book, and–as Kim is a super creative lady–I suspected she might too. Rather than purchasing a decorative book from a stationer or bookstore, I thought it would be fun to create something more personal. Here’s how I did it.

You'll need a book, fabric for cover and lining, fusible web, cotton batting, a length of coordinating ribbon, and matching thread.
You’ll need a book, fabric for cover and lining, fusible web, cotton batting, a length of coordinating ribbon, and matching thread.

The cut sizes of the cover and lining fabrics, fusible, and batting will depend upon the size of the book you plan to cover. The book I chose measured approximately 6″ x 8 1/2″, with a 1/2″ wide spine. We’ll use that for our example.

Figuring Measurements and Cutting

(Tip:  Keep track of the measurements by writing them down and labeling them as you go.)

1. Double the width of the cover and add the width of the spine. To this figure, add 6″ for the book flaps and 2″ for turnover allowance. Label this measurement A. (Example:  6″ width of book x 2 = 12″ + 1/2″spine + 6″ flaps + 2″ turnover = 20 1/2″.)

2. Add 2″ to the length of the book for turnover allowance, and then add another 1/2″ for “wiggle room.” Label this measurement B. (Example: 8 1/2″ length of book + 2″ turnover + 1/2″ wiggle room = 11″.)

3. Cut the cover fabric and one piece of lightweight fusible equal to measurement A x measurement B. (Example: 20 1/2″ x 11″.)

4. Subtract 2″ from measurement A. (Example, 20 1/2″ – 2″ = 18 1/2″). Label this measurement C.

5. Subtract 2″ from measurement B. (Example, 11″ – 2″ = 9″.) Label this measurement D.

6. Cut one piece each of cotton batting, fusible web, and lining fabric equal to measurement C x measurement D. (Example, 18 1/2″ x 9″.)

No more math. Now comes the fun part!

Making the Book Cover

(Note: Construction is similar to that used for the checkbook cover I shared with you last December.)

1. Fuse the lining fabric, right side up, to the batting using the matching-sized piece of fusible web.

2. Apply the larger (matching-sized) piece of fusible web to the wrong side of the cover fabric.

3. Center the prepared batting, lining side up, over the fusible-web side of the prepared cover fabric. Starting with the two long sides, turn the cover fabric to the lining; press to fuse. Repeat for both short sides, squaring the corners; press. Clip excess fabric at the corners on the diagonal.

December 20_clipped corner 2

4. Fold the unit in half, lining sides together; press. Unfold, and then fold both ends of the unit inward 3″; press. Insert the book to check for fit.

December 20_fitting cover_1

5. Remove the book; refold the cover. Measure and mark the center of the front and back of the cover (not the flaps) for ribbon placement.

December 20_marking cover for ribbon

6. Center a length of decorative ribbon over the marked guideline, making sure to leave tails for tying. Use matching thread to stitch the ribbon to the front and back cover.

December 20_ribbon sewn7. Quilt and/or embellish as desired. I used stencils to trace and fuse Kim’s name to the front cover. An embroidered monogram, rows of decorative stitching, lace, buttons, and beads are just a few other options. Be creative!

December 20_cover KIM

8. Refold the two flaps back toward the center, lining sides together. Starting with a few backstitches, topstitch a 1/8″ seam all around the perimeter of the unit.  Finish with a few backstitches.

December 20_inside cover

Insert the book, tie the ribbons, and your gift is complete!

The finished book, shown here with my great-grandfather's fountain pen
The finished book, shown here with my great-grandfather’s fountain pen

I hope you find time for some stitching this holiday season! Best wishes . . . Darra-signature

P.S. Click here to read Jennifer’s earlier profile of Kim Butterworth, and to see some of her wonderful work.

Two Tea Towels = Simple Apron plus Gift Basket Ideas & Giveaway

Ahh, I’m seeing gift baskets everywhere these days. ‘Tis the season! I both enjoy giving and receiving them as they often contain some special little personalized treasures that have been carefully inserted with the recipient in mind. Having a theme gives me direction while on the hunt for items to include in my baskets.

You may remember from one of my previous posts, I mention the new spices I purchased in Portland at Penzey’s Spice Shop. I have decided to put together some holiday gift baskets for my girls that would include some of these spices along with some additional baking goodies. While on an outing to Cost Plus, I found these wonderful accessories.

Giftbaskets1

The small containers are not only adorable, but so perfect for storing spices. I love that the ceramic tops come in different colors and coordinate with the bowls and measuring cups. Some decorative labels will help to identify the spices.

Giftbaskets2

Seems that once I get on a roll, all sorts of possibilities become available. Tuesday, I found these wonderful tea towels on sale at my local quilt shop. I purchased four (two black and two blue) thinking I would do some quick hand embroidery or add simple appliqué shapes to each one. Instead, I found myself slicing and dicing to make quick-and -easy aprons. Note: I just went back today and purchased the pink and a few more black.

Giftbaskets3

Here’s what you will need to make one apron:

 Two tea towels

1/2 yard of ½”-wide elastic

Two buttons

1. Cut a 4″ wide strip from each long side of one of the towels. Since these towels have stripes, I cut 1/2″ away from the inside stripes to allow for seam allowance. You may adjust width depending on the design of your towel.

2. Turn and press the cut end of each strip and then stitch through all layers. These make the two waistband ties.

Fold, press and stitch strips in half lengthwise. Photo indicates both front and backside of ties.
Fold, press and stitch strips in half lengthwise. Photo indicates both front and backside of ties.

3. Cut the leftover piece of the first towel to measure 12-1/2″ x 12-1/2″. Fold, press, and stitch a narrow 1/4″ hem on all sides. This will be the apron bib.

Apron bib.
Apron bib.

4. On the second towel, measure 1-3/4″ in from one long side. Turn and press to the wrong side, and then stitch close to the folded edge. (Note: The folded edge should already be hemmed, so simply stitch close to the fold.) Stitch again 1/2″ from the top folded edge to form a casing. Finally run a 1/2″ wide piece of elastic through the casing. The length of the elastic will depend on the desired finished width of your apron.

Run elastic through a casing formed on the top edge of the skirt.
Run elastic through a casing formed on the top edge of the skirt.

5. Use safety pins to secure the elastic on the ends, and then insert the waistband ties into the casing on each end. Stitch through all layers to secure.

6. Finally, attach the bib top to the apron skirt with two stitching lines. Use a ribbon or leftover piece of of the towel to make a short neck band. I turned the top corners of the bib back and secured with decorative buttons.

Attach top to skirt, stitching through all layers (gathers).
Attach top to skirt, stitching through all layers (gathers).

8. You can keep your apron simple or consider adding  embellishments, such as rick-rack, pompoms, ruffles, embroidery, or appliqué. I’m heading out of town tomorrow and plan to bring these with me to add some hand embroidery both on the bib and along the bottom edge. Note: There is a leftover piece after cutting the bib top that can easily be used to make a pocket – no waste!

Giveaway-Green:RedI think this simple idea offers many possibilities and I hope you try some of your own. I have an extra set of pink and blue towels and would love to give one set away to one of our readers. Just leave a short comment by end of day Sunday, December 8th, telling us what your favorite gift basket would include and we will announce the winner in our next post on December 10th.

Happy Season everyone!

L1-Signature

Fall Garden Sachets – An Afternoon Project

Herb scented pumpkin

My herb garden is overflowing this fall. I tried planting a few new types of herbs last spring, mostly mints for making herbal tea.

They seemed to really thrive on my sunny deck. I had an abundance of Lemon Verbena and Moroccan Mint and they started to seed. They had the most amazing scent.

Basket of herbs

I decided to trim them back and dry the leaves for something . . . I didn’t know what. How about some kind of autumn garden sachet? Pumpkins? Maybe it was time for another play day.

Herbs on my deck

I gathered some supplies: leftover wool, some lovely linen, pipe cleaners, jute for trim, and some walnut shells I had purchased for pin cushion filling.

DSC00209

Let’s start with a circle, nothing perfect of course. I tend to like wonky. We will need a stem, maybe a triangle?

DSC00211

Mark some lines to give the pumpkin shape. I used this as the inside so I don’t have to worry about my markings showing.

DSC00215

Use a heavy jeans thread to baste a running stitch across each line – a knot on one end and a long tail on the other to gather things up later.

DSC00217

Run another basting stitch all the way around outer perimeter of the circle. A different color thread helps to keep track of all the different loose strings. Gather the basted circle up into a little pouch.

DSC00218

Make sure all the loose threads are on the outside of the pouch.

DSC00220

Fill the pouch with a mixture of walnut shells and crushed herbs. You could use rice, instead of walnut shells. I actually added some batting to mine also, so that I didn’t use up all my walnut shells.

DSC00221

Gather all those loose strings and pull them as tight as possible. Knot them together and poke the strings inside the pouch.

DSC00223

Look at the underside. It’s starting to look like a pumpkin!

DSC00224

Uh – oh, how am I going to do this stem? Fold the wool triangle in half, stitch it up, then turn it inside out. I use my favorite sewing tool for this – a chopstick! I keep lots of them handy with different size tips. Fold the pipe cleaner in half, and then again, and twist it to fit inside the stem.

DSC00226

I decided I needed a leaf. Add another running stitch right down the center to give it some dimension.

DSC00227

This is starting to look cute!

DSC00228

Whip stitch everything together.

DSC00229

Twist this stem into shape,  then tie a bow on and it’s finished!

DSC00234

One in linen, one in wool. I could make a whole patch full of these!

DSC00233What a wonderful fresh scent they put off. I just walk by and squeeze them every now and then!

Signature

A “Truly” Easy Way to Mark and Cut Angles

A sign posted on the window of "Quint Measuring Systems".
A sign posted on the window of “Quint Measuring Systems.”

After working with Jennifer on her challenges with the beautiful tree skirt she featured in a recent post, I discussed the issues of angles with my measuring guru, Richard Quint of Quint Measuring Systems. I learned that he has easy-to- use tools called the True Angle® and Wedge-It! which take all the math and guesswork out of marking and cutting any angle, “truly!” Using them is as easy as dialing a number and securing a wingnut.

Have you ever wanted to draw a large circle–one that is larger than a dinner plate or large bowl? Well, I have tried many times using a push pin, piece of string, and pencil. The result is a usually a bit disappointing as the circle never seems as accurate as I would like. Dividing the circle into equal slices or wedges can be even more challenging. In Jennifer’s case, she wanted to feature a pieced block within each wedge, and accuracy was important for all the pieces to fit together perfectly.

A circle can be divided into as many wedges as you like. The only thing you need to remember from your days of geometry is that a circle is 360°. With that number in mind, you simply decide on the number of wedges/slices you want within your circle.

This beautiful design was hanging above a store front in Calistoga, CA.
Look what I found decorating a storefront in Calistoga, CA!

Note: while I was traveling this past week, I saw this great design hanging above a storefront. I immediately thought how perfect it would be for my tutorial. Although it is not a complete circle, it works well. Note that there are 12 wedges in the design. To determine the angle of each wedge, simply divide 360º degrees by 12 and the answer is 30º. EASY!

If you want to mark a full-size pattern then you will need paper large enough for the entire design. Another option would be to have the pattern enlarged after it is drafted.

Please note that I have marked over my original pencil lines with a wide-line pen for visibility’s sake and the resulting lines are a bit wobbly. The measuring tools + a sharp pencil will yield thin and perfectly curved lines.

  1. Mark a centerpoint of the circle with a crossbar, as shown.

    Mark a cross in the center of your paper to indicate the centerpoint of the circle.
    Mark a cross in the center of your paper to indicate the circle’s centerpoint.

2. Decide the length of the radius of your circle. Starting at the centerpoint, use the True Angle tool to mark a line this measurement. My circle has an 11″ radius.

Mark a line the radius of the circle.
Mark a line the radius of the circle.

3. Insert your pencil into the crossbar that comes with the tool to mark the circle.

Marking a circle is easy and accurate.
Marking a circle is easy and accurate.

4. Next, dial the True Angle to 30º and secure the wingnut. Also, attach the  Wedge-It! to the bottom edge of the tool to lock in the angle.

Dial the True Angle to the desired angle size.
Dial the True Angle to the desired angle size.
Secure the Wedge-It to the bottom ends of the True Angle.
Secure the Wedge-It! to the bottom ends of the True Angle.

5. Now that the angle is set, use the edges of the True Angle to mark the outlines of the wedges from the circle’s center point.

Note the position of the True Angle at the centerpoint of the circle.
Note the position of the True Angle at the centerpoint of the circle.

6. Travel around the circle to mark the remaining lines of the wedges.

Shows one half of the 12-wedge circle.
Shows one half of the 12-wedge circle.

7. Now the design fun can begin. Your choice: cut fabric wedges or subdivide each wedge into smaller shapes, as shown. The possibilities are endless.

Use angle angle to subdivide the wedges. Just have fun with this.
Use angle angle to subdivide the wedges. Just have fun with this.

8. The added bonus of these tools is that they are also perfect for cutting the fabric shapes. Note that the Wedge-It! provides a lip at the bottom edge to secure it to the cutting mat and prevent slipping.

Accurately cut fabric pieces.
Accurately cut fabric pieces.

These tools provide many useful applications for designers, sewers, and quilters. Many of the difficult-to-piece angles can easily be paper pieced.  All you need to do is mark all of your shapes and then photo copy them to make your paper patterns.

To read more about these tools, visit the Quint Measuring System’s website. They are available at quilt and sewing stores, but if you shop online visit Compound Miter and click the Quilting Rulers and Templates icon for the product line. (Your significant other might do some equal opportunity shopping at the website as well.) Note: the True Angle comes in a variety of lengths up to 96″ long, perfect for larger project.

Many thanks to all of you who took the time to share your thoughts on my wedding quilt dilemma. You’ve given me so much wonderful advice and so many helpful ideas. To answer a few questions: the girls will not be having a double wedding and neither of them quilt. I believe I will be asking my girls for suggestions on color and design. I will definitely keep you posted as I begin working on the quilts, and I will be sending some of my favorite appliqué supplies to giveaway winner, Sharon Kisel.

Hope you are all enjoying the end of summer. Until next time, happy creating everyone!

L1-Signature

New Quilts –and Other Updates–from Previous Darra Posts (and a Giveaway)

1-Giveaway IconIt’s hard to believe that by early next week, the first half of 2013 will be history. (Wait!? Didn’t we just take down the holiday decorations?) On the plus side: the halfway mark seems a good time to update you on a few of my previous posts with news and new quilt photos. Here goes:

The popular Edyta Sitar of Laundry Basket Quilts
The popular Edyta Sitar of Laundry Basket Quilts

Update #1: One of the quilts that inspired my recent two-part post (April 9 and April 12) on the zigzag or streak of lightning set (and that encouraged me to finish my own in-progress, zigzag-set Churn Dash quilt top), was a quilt I spotted on Pinterest. It was designed by Edyta Sitar, of Laundry Basket Quilts, and I fell in love with its dainty 3 1/2″ Basket blocks and zigzags in alternating colors. I intended to contact Edyta for permission to include it in my posts, but Last-Minute LuLu that I am, I cut my deadline too close. Still, I couldn’t get that quilt out of my mind.

After playing a bit of email tag, Edyta and I did finally connect, and she’s pleased to share her quilt with our See How We Sew readers. Little Baskets is an outstanding example of my favorite set from one of today’s most popular and talented designers.

Little Baskets by Edyta Sitar/Laundry Basket Quilts
Little Baskets by Edyta Sitar/Laundry Basket Quilts

The story doesn’t end there. Little Baskets is available as a pattern, and we’ll be giving one away to a lucky SHWS reader. Leave a comment by noon Thursday, June 27, telling why you’d like to add this pattern to your library and we’ll announce a winner in our Friday, June 28 post.

Cuddle Me Quick coverUpdate #2: Last September, I posted a “sneak peek” of Rubber Duckies, one of 11 baby-quilt patterns in the book, Cuddle Me Quick, which I co-authored with my friend, Chris Porter. Recently, in need of a quilt to welcome a friend’s newborn daughter, Chris remade Duckies, switching out the blues and blue greens of my original for a sweet pink palette, and introducing gray prints for a very current color scheme. I love it, don’t you?

A pink version of Rubber Duckies, made by Chris Porter from the book, Cuddle Me Quick; photo by Neil Porter
A pink version of Rubber Duckies, made by Chris Porter from the book, Cuddle Me Quick; photo by Neil Porter

Update #3: I’m really excited about this next one! As I write this, the current (August) issue of The Quilt Life magazine is just hitting mailboxes, quilt shops, and newsstands. The theme of this issue is Playtime, and it features an article (on page 40) about my 30-minutes-of-creative-play pledge. The piece includes over a dozen of my little 3″ x 5″ collages (some not seen before in my SHWS posts), and two larger pieces, including one on the table of contents page.

The new (August 2013) issue
The new (August 2013) issue

To complement the article, The Quilt Life is running a simple tutorial via its website that shows you how to make and finish the basic 3″ x 5″ background “canvas.” Here’s the link for the download. Of course, in preparing the step-by-step photos, I needed to make a new collage.

Cherries Jubilee (3" x 5") by Darra Williamson; tutorial on The Quilt Life website
Cherries Jubilee (3″ x 5″) by Darra Williamson; tutorial on The Quilt Life website

I hope you’ll check out both the magazine and the website tute. These little collages are great for trying out new designs and techniques, and can lead to bigger things.

Cattails (7 1/2" x 10") by Darra Williamson; a slightly larger piece inspired by one of my 3" x 5" experiments
Cattails (7 1/2″ x 10″) by Darra Williamson; a slightly larger piece inspired by one of my 3″ x 5″ experiments
Larger still: Sunflowers (7" x 20" approx) by Darra Williamson; private collection
Larger still: Sunflowers (7″ x 20″ approx) by Darra Williamson; private collection

Update #4 (sorta): From time to time, my thoughtful husband emails me an image to brighten the start of my day or week, to make me smile, and/or to inspire or simply delight me. This past Sunday, I found the photo below waiting in my morning email. It was taken in my neighbor’s garden, where the artichokes are flowering. Although not an update on one of my posts, I think it’s a perfect complement to that lovely purple door in Laura’s Friday post. (Plus, purple is my favorite color!)

Cathy's artichoke flower; photo by Brooks Sheifer
Cathy’s artichoke flower; photo by Brooks Sheifer

That’s it for now. ‘Til next time, happy stitching!Darra-signature

Putting It Together: Assembling the Zigzag–or Streak of Lightning–Set (Part 2)

Unknown, quilter. Variable Star. 1870. From Rutgers Special Collections and University Archives, The Heritage Quilt Project of New Jersey, Inc.. Published in The Quilt Index, http://www.quiltindex.org/basicdisplay.php?kid=4A-7F-31F. Accessed: 04/15/2013.
Unknown, quilter. Variable Star. 1870. From Rutgers Special Collections and University Archives, The Heritage Quilt Project of New Jersey, Inc.. Published in The Quilt Index, http://www.quiltindex.org/basicdisplay.php?kid=4A-7F-31F. Accessed: 04/15/2013.

As I promised in my Tuesday post, today I’ll show you how easy it is to assemble the rows for the zigzag (or streak of lightning) set. A couple of things to keep in mind before you begin:

You can make either an odd or even number of rows for this set. I typically prefer an odd number, but I’ve been known to make an exception.

To stabilize the rows–that is, to avoid stretching and distorting as you stitch and press them–you’ll want the straight-grain edges of the setting triangles to fall on the row’s outer edges. For this reason, you’ll use quarter-square triangles to fill in the side, top, and bottom edges of the even-numbered rows, and also to fill in the side edges of the odd-numbered rows.

Quarter-Square Triangles_Cutting

You’ll use half-square triangles to fill in the top and bottom edges of the odd-numbered rows.

Half-Square Triangles_Cutting

Because the alternating rows are staggered, and also because of the way you’ll cut the pieces, you’ll want to avoid stripes, plaids, and other directional prints for the setting triangles in the zigzag set. Although I love the fabrics on the left in the photo below, they’re not the ones I would choose here. The subtle, random, and tone-on-tone prints on the right are much better choices.

Fabrics on the left - not the best choices for the zigzag setting triangles; fabrics on the right - good choices!
Fabrics on the left – not the best choices for the zigzag setting triangles; fabrics on the right – good choices!

If you like the 6″ (finished) Churn Dash block that I’ve used for the samples in this post, you’ll find a bonus tutorial  in the Pattern Library. This “bonus” includes the cutting and assembly instructions for the block, as well as the size squares you’ll need to cut for the quarter- and half-square triangles that will finish the rows for this or any 6″ pattern. If you’re really curious, the tutorial also tells you how I figured the sizes of those squares so you can set any size block in a zigzag set. 

Now for the row assembly!

Even-numbered rows:

1. Turn the blocks on point with corners touching to make a vertical row. Fill in the sides, top, and bottom with quarter-square setting triangles.

Churn Dash_layout_Q square_3

2. Sew each block between two setting triangles as shown; press the seams toward the triangles. Repeat for all the blocks in the row.

Make sure those triangles are turned the right way!
Make sure those triangles are turned the right way!

3. Sew the units together; press.

Churn Dash Q Square sides sewn

4. Sew 2 quarter-square triangles together along their short edges as shown; press. Make 2 and sew them to first and last blocks to finish the row; press.

Churn Dash Q square top sewn

Odd-numbered rows:

1. Turn the blocks on point with corners touching to make a vertical row. Fill in the sides with quarter-square setting triangles. Fill in the top and bottom edges with half-square setting triangles.

Churn Dash H Square layout

2. Sew each block between two setting triangles; press the seams toward the triangles. Repeat for all the blocks in the row. (Note: For first and last blocks you’ll be sewing one half- and one quarter-setting triangle to the block.)

3. Sew the units together; press. Sew the remaining half-square triangles to the first and last blocks to finish the row; press.

Churn Dash H Square sides sewn

Once you’ve made the desired number of rows, it’s time to sew them together.

Joining the Rows:

1. Use an erasable marker or pin to mark the midpoint of each (side) quarter-square triangle.

Churn Dash rows pinned close

2. With right sides together, carefully pin rows 1 and 2 together. Start by matching the ends, and then the corners of the blocks with the marks or pins that you placed in the adjacent row. Add more pins as desired.

3. Sew the rows together. (I like to sew this long seam using a machine-basting stitch; once I’m sure that I’ve made all my matches and haven’t lost any points, I restitch using my regular stitch length of approximately 12 – 14 stitches per inch.) Press the seams open between the rows to distribute bulk.

OK, you caught me! if you look closely, you'll see that I haven't really stitched these rows together yet. See the note at the end of the post for an update.
OK, you caught me! if you look closely, you’ll see that I haven’t really stitched these rows together yet. See the note at the end of the post for an update.

4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 to sew the remaining odd- and even-numbered rows together in pairs; press.

5. Sew the pairs together; press. If applicable, add the last odd-numbered row; press.

Yippee! You’ve done it!

Note: I have big plans for the Churn Dash quilt you see in progress here. Later next month, I’ll be heading to the foothills with my friends, Alex Anderson and Joen Wolfrom, for our annual getaway. I plan to bring the rows along, assemble them, and add a nice, scrappy, pieced border. I promise to show you a photo of the finished top when I return.

Getaway coming: It won't be long now!
Getaway coming: It won’t be long now!

My thanks to The Quilt Index  for their assistance in securing the image that opens this post. That’s it for now. ‘Til next time, happy stitching!

Darra-signature