Designing With Scraps

This project has had a long life; I think I started it two or three years ago as a Leader/Ender project. Once I got to sewing the longer rectangle-plus-cornerstones, the seams were too long for leaders and enders–too interrupting for my blood. (Don’t worry, I have plenty of other L/E potential.)

Needing over 160 more triangles slowed me down for a while, but now I have ~25 blocks of the 65 sewn.  Not finished, because they need to be trimmed yet–I shifted the size of the triangles in the middle of the process, another hazard of long drawn out process. At first I was going to float the center squares; but later when I cut triangles the second time, I followed the directions exactly.  (Here is the tutorial for the block and you can see the blocks with black sashing. I’ve seen it with white sashing, but can’t find the link at the moment.)

I’m pondering two layouts: Straight setting

Straight Setting

Straight Setting

Or staggered.

Staggered Setting

Staggered Setting

I think I like the straight setting better, but the staggered would mask imperfections in lining up the blocks. The carpet on my design floor doesn’t make the best sashing. I’m thinking a nice bright blue.

As you might remember from previous posts,  I don’t do random. It worked best when I finally had all the triangles cut and could pick all four at once. That happened about halfway through. Before that I cut a few and attached them where they looked good. Sometimes that left with placements I later disliked. Not enough to rip them out, though.

I’ve learned some things about working with scraps in the process. I knew, in theory, to mix types and scales of prints, and usually managed to do that.I also knew to pay more attention to value than color. That, I had varying degrees of success with. There were way too many small pieces to do the black-and-white-photo test, so I tried to use my judgment. I got a nice alternating 9-patch block (second and fourth from the left at the bottom in the above photo). Some missed alternating because I misread the value of the print; others just look like I had forgotten the original plan. One problem of two-year duration is forgetting a plan.I’d intended the cornerstones to be all dark.  You can see I forgot that frequently.

Plan A had been to have medium value triangles.

Light medium triangles

Light medium

Dark medium

Dark medium

But I just didn’t have that many scraps of the same medium value that were big enough, so that got abandoned. Also, it isn’t always easy to tell how a print fabric’s value will read. Matching values on opposite corners worked fairly well as Plan B.

Dark on opposites, lighter on other two

A Plan B block

There were some block fails.–again to learn from, not to redo.

Two fails

The left one works better

The values in the left one work fairly well, though the daisy print reads lighter than I had expected. There is good scale variation, though the image of dots was repeated.  The one on the right is less successful.  Darker half and lighter bottom half don’t work as well as alternating. Plus the wood grain and green/orange dot are too busy together even though the image has changed. I think the problem is the similar values.

Another block fail

This one is just a bad mix. The two top prints are too close in scale and motif. And their values are too close to the cornerstone they surround. If I were to rip anything, it would be the upper right triangle.

More blocks

Time to get back to the sewing machine.

Linking with Oh Scrap!  and WIP Wednesday (button in side bar). And Leaders and Enders Tuesday if I don’t make any more progress.



Filed under design, quilting

Book Time: The Sympathizer

The SympathizerThe Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The setting is the end of the Vietnam war; the main character tells us early on that he belongs to the North, but works under cover with the South.

Presented as a spy novel, it is, but it isn’t the thriller one might expect. It is more an exploration of character, of times, and of the interaction between them. It has philosophical moments that are entirely in character and not intrusive, thoughts on being of two minds, on representation, and on “nothing.” The latter was interesting, but I am not sure how seriously to take it. The former makes me think that if I were still teaching, I might join this book with How to Be Both in a unit.

For me the theme of Who-Gets-to-Represent-Us? enters with the chapters about a movie script and its shooting. However, that was a ways into the novel, so I might reread to see if I missed its actual beginning. When the movie chapters appeared, they seemed an interruption, but gradually they were woven into the whole.

The plot was slow, as character explorations tend to be, slow in a good sense. There were moments where action was faster paced and it was a page turner. There was a nice rhythm between the two. We are told early on that the narration is really a “confession” to a “commandant,” so we keep wondering what the narrator did to get himself into that position. We also expect, and get, some torture scenes. They feel really long while reading them, but don’t take a large percentage of pages.

Some of the characters have names. Some don’t, but rather are identified by position and sometimes affect: “the crapulent major,” “the congressman,” “the affectless lieutenant.” It would be worth a second read to look for a pattern of who gets named and who doesn’t. It isn’t wholly major/minor characters. It doesn’t create stock characters. It may relate to the degree in intimacy with the narrator, but I’m not ready to commit to that.

It is a novel worth reading once to see how it ends; it is worth rereading to ferret out deeper meaning.

View all my reviews


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Retreat Quilts

For those who are interested in the variety from “the block” and the various orphan block tops, here is the blog post from the retreat’s official photographer.


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Lake Tahoe Retreat Has Come and Gone

The Sunshine weekend I’ve been waiting for since January has finally come, and then it has gone. Sunshine is an online guild, a Yahoo group; we make quilts for two organizations: Wrap a Smile(WAS) and Quilts Beyond Borders(QBB).

The setting was the SewReady Retreat center, and it is lovely.

sewing room

Look at those cushy chairs! Terry of WAS is planning; Penny is stitching away. Everyone else must be taking a break.

Together we finished 77 tops on the spot. However, the online community was also engaged. Not only did they contribute blocks and pieces for us to work on, they sewed along and increased the total.

Supply table

Here is one table full of supplies; there were two others. There is a bit of everything here: yardage, blocks, pieces, sorted by color, ready to be made into blocks. And beyond the supplies is the luxurious kitchen where Jeannie and Gail are making lunch.

These are the tops I made from “the block” (second from the top left). Three were finished there and the last two at home. Heidi is holding my orange quilt. I designed from pieces that were cut or from completed blocks. We had all approaches to design. Some worked with piles of similar blocks, some did random scrappy, and others worked from fabric to create their own designs.

Besides “the block,” members sent in orphan blocks; these got sashing or alternating blocks and lots of color play. [ETA link to Giraffe Dreams’ Blog where there are photos of more of the arrangements of “the block” plus stars and the square-in-a-square block arrangements.]  I did work on one set of orphan blocks. There were 8 blocks with 16 half square triangles (HSTs) and a 9th with 12.  I made the needed four HSTs and put some sashing between blocks so I didn’t have to deal with matching seams.

HST top

I’m glad someone else had made the HSTs.

Here is the view from the patio where we ate most meals.

view from patio

Officially we did not have lake view–this is “only” a bay. There were bluejays that came to beg along with bees who helped themselves to bits of egg. I didn’t know that was in their diet, though I have shared ham with them on other occasions.

And now I am working on getting back into some sort of routine.

Linking with Oh Scrap! (Button in sidebar) –there were lots of scraps as well as stash involved in these blocks.


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Tutorial for Tilted Square Framing

The tilted/tipsy square frame is a useful way to enlarge a block. Here is the sample I will use for measurement examples:

Unnamed block

Finished center 7 1/2 x 7 1/2; Unfinished block 12 1/2 x 12 1/2

Measure your center (and remember you will lose 1/2 inch to seams. Mine measured 8 inches, so it will become 7 1/2 inches finished.

You will be cutting two rectangles then cutting on the diagonal to get four triangles.

To get the width needed for the triangle, subtract the finished measurement of the center from the desired finished measurement of the block to get the needed width to add (12 – 7 1/2 = 4 1/2 inches in the example) .  (The principle here is to design from finished measurements then add seam allowance when planning the cutting.)   To plan the rectangle to cut, add an inch and a half to the finished width for seam allowance to be on the safe side, and cut a strip (6 inch strip for the example). The extra is for the loss when seaming sharp angles. There will be some trimming at the end. The very daring quilters can experiment with smaller seam allowances if you are willing to trim smaller than your desired  size if necessary. Remember that 7/8 inch is the exact amount to add to HSTs, so no less than that.

Now for the length of the rectangles. Add an inch and a half to your desired  finished block size. (For the example, the end result desired is 12 inches so I cut 13 1/2).

Cut two rectangles, then cut the diagonal to get four triangles.  About that diagonal. If you want to be able to put the pieced center on top when you sew, cut the diagonal from upper left to lower right. (If using a solid, it doesn’t matter because there is no right and wrong side to most solids. If you don’t care which piece is on top it doesn’t matter; if you cut the opposite way, start sewing on the other side.)

diagonal cut

Lining up for the first partial seam.

Lining up the pieces

Note that the STRAIGHT edge lines up with the left side of the center and the top is a straight line. Flip the center piece onto the triangle so that right sides are together and start sewing at the top corner, ending about 2 inches from the bottom of the center piece.

First seam

You will fix that hanging bit of the triangle after the third seam.  Press the seam however you like.

Now you are ready to make a complete seam with the next triangles.

second and third seam placeent

Note how you always attach the straight edge to the corner away from the previous triangle, and now it is possible to sew the whole length of the seams. Press after each seam.

For the fourth triangle, fold up the tail of the first triangle to where you stopped sewing.

fourth seam position

Now there is room for a complete seam. Sew then press. Then simply fold down the first triangle and finish that seam and press.

Use a square ruler to trim the block to the UNFINISHED size (in the case of the example, 12 1/2 x 12 1/2). Position the ruler so that the four points of the center  square are as close to an equal distance from the 12 1/2 edge as possible. (Mine are usually 1/8-1/4 off.  But it is a tipsy square, so a little variance doesn’t really matter. You will be trimming all four sides. (The photo of the example looks like the right is off by more; I don’t remember if that is a fact of the photo or the block itself, and the blockis already gone, so I can’t check.)

Don’t you love the high tech illustrations? :-)

Linking with “Tips and Tutorials Tuesdays”–link in sidebar.


Filed under quilting, tutorial

F2F August Blocks: Red, White, and Blue

As you know from past posts, I’ve been doing scrap control.  And serendipitously it was time for Foot Square Freestyle (F2F) blocks. When I read that Susan’s colors were colors I had already sorted in my scraps, I got even busier at cutting squares. I knew I wanted to do Sunny Lanes and Variable Star again, so when I could I cut the size blocks needed (2 1/2- inch square and 3 1/2-inch square).

Sunny Lanes

Sunny Lanes (The block is really square, but the photo wasn’t)

The pattern is so scrap friendly that it was great fun. I started out thinking one block red squares and blue triangles and another the reverse, but I didn’t have that many usable scraps, so combined them into one. One modern fabric in the batch, Domino Dot from Violet Craft’s Waterfront Park. Most are from the 70s. The red with black flowers and yellow centers that really stand out like dots (lower left) may be older. Or it may be just one of those perennial prints that we used to see over and over. What a change now, the variety in the limited editions that are offered each season!

I had just a small strip of Bridgetown from Waterfront Park and cut my 6 1/2-inch squares so that each had at least one whole bridge in it.  Variable Star, with its large center, just asks for either a big print as this or some piecing as I did last month.

Variable Star

12 1/2 x 12 1/2

I had hoped for eight different reds but had to make do with six. These two blocks are repeats from last month. I don’t think everyone’s color selections will work on these blocks. For example next month’s request is for black and white and an accent color.  That one doesn’t spell “traditional block” in my mind.

In my scraps, I found the center of the next block already assembled. I had to figure a way to get it to 12 inches.

Unnamed block

12 1/2 x 12 1/2

I have no idea why the two sides are not made up of squares–probably I didn’t have enough fabric. Too bad I didn’t write notes or keep a  quilting journal. I’d like to know what I was thinking. I considered various means of framing to enlarge it and finally decided on this tipsy look. But I had forgotten how to do it. So I cut out a piece like the center and various triangles till they fit and made a square.  I think it could be done with any size to make any size block, though one wouldn’t want the center to be disproportionately small and dwarfed by the frame. (I think I’m going to work on it with orphan blocks for doll quilts–if it works you will see them here.)

I’m planning to do a tutorial for the tipsy framing sometime next week. But for now I am packing to go to a quilting retreat at Lake Tahoe. If I can get to a computer, I’ll link to Oh Scrap! (button in the sidebar).

My blocks for last month are here. I’ve added a tag for F2F that will make it easier find them all as the year progresses.

The F2F button in the sidebar leads to the most recent post; Click F2F in the sidebar and look for a gallery hot link. There is one in the August 10 post. Then scroll through the various months. There are already quite a few interesting blocks there.


Filed under quilting

A Well-Timed, Scrappy Block of the Month (BOM)

Recently I swore off of Block-of-the-Month projects because they take time from my big projects. But they are so much fun and so tempting that I am back. My local guild sponsors a BOM that appeals to me more this year than they usually do, and you’ll see why in a minute. Every year one pattern is selected that is varied somehow each month. Last year it was by modifying the pattern in the center of the Variable Star block as well as color. This year it is a very scrappy block. (Do you begin to see the appeal?) And each month the blocks one makes are entries into a raffle for all that month’s blocks. Could be fun to win!

So I made two for August–two chances to win.

August BOM

The BOM chair found the pattern, “Scrappy Byways,” on Corey Yoder’s blog Little Miss Shabby, and obtained permission to use it. (The blog is licensed under Creative Commons for non-commercial, no derivatives.) I tried to find the page to link to her discussion of the block, but can direct you only to her blog–her search feature wasn’t cooperating.

As you know, I’ve been working on scrap control. I had quite a few 2 1/2-inch squares, plus I knew there were some from previous spurts of scrap control and mini-charm packs I’d gotten in various SWAG bags. I decided to sort the pile I had accumulated, put them away and at the same time pull what I had for the whole year’s color selections. Then I’d know what I needed to look for in the scrap bin to fill out the 20 needed for each block.

August and two other months are totally scrappy. September is blues, October is oranges and purples, and December is reds, etc. I made a pile for each month and started. The months with single colors got first choice when their color showed up; the squares that didn’t resolve to one color went to the totally-scrappy pile as did three of each when I had multiples of a color that had gone to a specific-color month. I didn’t want duplication in a single block, though chances are there would be some in the whole quilt.

I would never take the time to go digging through my fabrics each month and cut 20 single squares to make a block; however, with the pile of squares already cut, and the list for the year, it was just one afternoon of sorting and selecting. So it was quite timely, my spurt of scrap energy and the BOM announcement. I have all but two or three for most months. Pinks and pastels are sparse, so I’ll be concentrating on them as I cut more scraps.

Because it is a raffle and one person will assemble all, there are some rules, one is to “spin” the seams. I’d heard of that technique before to make flatter blocks, but hadn’t thought of the second advantage: The seams will be right for assembling the blocks in an allover design if everyone spins them all clockwise. So the four-patch blocks are spun and the outer edge seams are also.  It seems just as fiddly as pressing seams open to accomplish the same thing. However, it does allow for the technique of nesting to make corners meet. I will, of course, do it this way for this project; time will tell if I am a convert.

Linking with Oh Scrap! (button in sidebar).


Filed under quilting