Saturday, January 21, 2012

Designing Templates

I have a tendency to want to do things myself: partly a desire to understand all parts of the creative process and partly being cheap.  If I can easily draw it, I won’t buy it.

On Flickr, a contact, who is part of a swap we are currently both in, posted pictures of a really cool bordered star.  I asked her where she got the pattern, but she had drafted it herself, based on something similar she had seen and did not have it electronically.  She thought I could probably make one.  Not sure if it was a compliment or a challenge, but I bit.

Another Flickr participant is Bad-Skirt Amy.  From her I had the idea of my last entry regarding drunkard path log cabins.  She has done other stuff and tends to use WORD to create the templates.  While I have and know how to use AutoCad, a computer drafting program, I was intrigued.
WORD includes the ability to draw a variety of shapes, including squares, rectangles, a variety of triangles and lines.  Since much of quilting uses no more than these shapes, you can draw most anything.  Since most patterns are repeats of mirror images, you can then flip and rotate the image.  That ensures that everything matches at the seams.   It is also easy to control size and create templates for several sizes of blocks.  When you are done, you can save it as a PDF, which keeps things from changing.

My first star came out okay, BUT, it wasn’t right.  I thought the inner border too narrow and then I realized that where the star fins met vertically and horizontally the angle was different from the where they met at the diagonal. However, anything symmetrical that is repeated often looks just fine, so if you want this template, it can be found here.

I fixed both problems and made a second block.  Much better.  The inner border wasn’t quite equal both ways, but that was a quick fix.  If you want the pattern, here’s the link.  It will create a 12”block when finished.

With templates, I always recommend that the outer edges be more than the normal ¼” seam allowance – it gives you something to trim in case something went a bit wonky.  So I have drawn in the extra on this second block. With paper piecing, fabric biases are largely ignored and the likelihood of some things stretching is higher. 

Also, refer to my tutorial on printing out PDF files - Adobe Reader usually want to shrink to fit, when scaling is not really wanted.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Drunken Log Cabins

Even though I have only been quilting barely over 2 years, I am impressed how many scraps I have already  amassed.  They are good for appliqué, funky adlib borders, bottled rainbows ,  miniature quilts (not my thing) and patterns like log cabins.

There are a variety of log cabins, from the traditional, through pineapple, through wonky.  However, while cruising around in Flickr, I found another take that creates something like a Drunkard’s Path. The maker was trying to recreate the Subway quilt made by a respected Japanese quilter Kumiko Fujita.  She figured out the pattern and drew it using the table function in Word.  Well, I can do that.  So I did.  What fun!  Basically, the logs of one half of the block are half as wide as the other side. I didn't make it nearly as fine as her's, but I think it works anyway.  Somewhere in her blog is a discussion of how fine you might go to create the roundness.  The center block in hers was one of the wide colors, but I chose to use a half square triangle.  It’s easily paper pieced (I did it with freezer paper, as usual!).  My pattern creates a 6 inch quarter block plus ½ inch seam allowance.  This link will get you to the PDF file, if you want it. 

 Basically, pick 2 color families and then values within the family from your scrap heap.  Piece four quarters either going light to dark or dark to light in values. Then play with arrangements.

 I liked the cross arrangement for my first block best, but may mix the arrangements up.  I basically intend to make these as I collect a lot of some colors.  When I have enough, I’ll put them together in a quilt.  It’s really fun and quick!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Castle in the Air

Castle in the Air
I am part of a row robin that is just getting started.  That means all the members in the group – we are 7 – makes a row of 48”in length.  Then the row is sent to a member and that member adds a row.  Until it has made the rounds.  Everyone ends up with a unique top.  Additionally we make an extra block that is signed and dated.  This block will be incorporated into the back and documents who contributed to the quilt.

So I selected Castle in the Air as the pattern.  I figured it was an easy pattern, should someone decide to replicate it.  It seems at least one member in the group is a beginner unsure of her abilities.  Since it is a 9 patch based design, almost any other such design should work well with it.  I’m curious what my top will look like at the end!

The basic pattern is found here.  However, I found some of the measurements a bit too stingy and I have another way to piece it that is easier.  So I thought I would share that with you here.

This pattern uses three colors.  I used green, yellow and a print.  I will call them colors A, B and C respectively.

You will need to cut the following pieces:
For the center block: one 4 ½ by 4 ½ inch piece of color A and four 2 ⅜ by 2 ⅜ squares of color B.
For two of the corners: one 5 by 5 inch of color A and one 5 by 5 inch of color B.
For the other two corners: one 5 by 5 inch of Color A and one 5 by 5 inch of color C.
For the middle side blocks: one 5 ½ by 5 ½ inch blocks of colors A and B and one 5 by 5 of color C.

To make the center block:  
Rights sides together.  Align one of the small squares on corner of the large square and sew the diagonal (best to mark this first) from the middle of one of the large square sides to the other.  Trim the outer part to ¼ inch and press the seam open.  Repeat for all four corners.  Trim this snowball block to 4 ½ by 4 ½ inches.
Snowball sub block: trimming the corners after sewing
Snowball sub block completed

To make the corner blocks: 
Right sides together.  Lay the lighter colored square on top of the darker (Colors A and B).  Mark the diagonal and then mark a ¼ inch line either side.  Make sure you account for the marker width and needle width when marking and sewing so that your seam is truly ¼ inch away from the diagonal!  Cut along the diagonal and press the seam open.  Trim the two half square triangles to 4 ½ inches square, making sure the diagonal seam ends cleanly at the corners.  Repeat this with the blocks of colors A and C.
Corner block: diagonal and sewing lines marked.
Corner block trimming to 4.5 inches.
To make the side blocks:
Using the same technique as for the corner block, sew ¼ inch away from the diagonal line using the 5 ½ inch square blocks (Colors A and B).  Trim these two half square triangles to 5 inches square.  Lay the 5 inch square of color C right side up and one the half square triangles you just made on top, right side down.  Mark the diagonal that runs perpendicular to the seam.  Mark the ¼ inch seam lines either side and sew.  Cut along the diagonal and trim this quarter square – half square combination to 4 ½ inches square.
Marking the diagonal and seams for the side blocks.
Lay out the blocks according the pattern shown in the picture at the beginning of this post.  Sew the blocks together in rows and then the rows together to form the blocks.  Be careful to match seams and to sew just outside of the points as needed.  Trim the final block to 12 ½ inches square, making sure you leave about ¼ inch space at the outer points.

Here's what the row looks like:
Castle in the Air row
With respect to pinning, I have discovered a neat pin that makes this much easier to do: Clover double pins.   They are pricey, but you really only need them at the places to be matched. Use regular pins for in between.  I imagine you could go halfsies with someone and still end up with plenty of pins.  They are made of steel, so you really don’t want to hit one while sewing, but they hold the match point firmly and totally worth getting.