Scrappy Improv Blocks Tutorial

improv10As 2017 begins, so does the next Bee Hive Swap at the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild. The hive has eleven members, and each month one member presents a block. The other members of the hive make the block and give it to the member who presented it at the next meeting. I learned so much last time, making blocks that I wouldn’t think to make for myself, so I signed up again this year. And I was selected to lead it off by presenting my blocks at the January meeting!

I struggled to come up with a block that I liked, so I kind of came up with two of my own. These blocks are scrappy and improv-y, and the common fabric that I supplied will help to give the quilt a cohesive look. Below are instructions if you’d like to make these blocks yourself.

Materials for two 12½˝ blocks

  • Fabric scraps at least 4˝ long
  • 1 square 6½˝ × 6½˝ neutral fabric for Block A
  • 2 strips 3½˝ × 6½˝ neutral fabric for Block B
  • 2 strips 3½˝ × 12½˝ neutral fabric for Block B

improv11. Cut scrap fabric into pieces about 4˝ long and various widths between ¾˝ and 2˝. Feel free to cut these without a ruler for a more improv look. Sew pieces long edges together. Again, feel free to sew in an improv fashion, following the lines of the cut edges. Press the seams to the side, but either side is fine.

improv2a2. Continue to sew strips together. After you have 4 or 5 pieces together, spray with starch or a product like Flatter to keep the sewn strip flat.

improv33. You’ll need a total of 51˝ of sewn strips to make both blocks, but I recommend making multiple strips, rather than one really long one. See strip lengths below. Trim the sewn strips to 3½˝ wide.

Block A

improv44. Sew two 3½˝ wide scrappy strips to the top and bottom of the neutral 6½˝ square. Trim ends. Press seams to the center.

improv5As you can see, the back is tidy, but the strip seams aren’t all going in the same direction. That’s just fine.

imrpov65. Sew two trimmed scrappy strips at least 12½˝ long to the sides of the 6½˝ square. Press seams to center. Trim to 12½˝ square.

Here’s what one of my longer strips looked like before I trimmed it to 3½˝. It’s getting a little crooked already, making trimming to 3½˝ wide tricky. That’s why I don’t recommend trying to sew one strip the full 51˝ long.

 

improv7Block A is complete.

Block B

improv86. Cut two trimmed scrappy strips 6½˝ long. Sew these long edges together for the center of Block B.
7. Sew one neutral 3½˝ × 6½˝ strip to the top of the pieced center and one to the bottom. Press seams toward the neutral fabric.
8. Sew one neutral 3½˝ × 12½˝ strip to each side of the center. Press seams toward neutral fabric.

improv9Block B is complete.

Once I get all the blocks from my hive members, I plan to alternate the A and B blocks for the finished top. I can’t wait to see how the blocks turn out!

Christmas 2016: Gifts Given and Received

tattoosHappy 2017, everyone! Before I start blogging about new projects, let’s do a bit of catching up from over the holidays.

Greg and I traveled up to Wisconsin to spend time with my family for Christmas. It was fun and busy with lots of game-playing and food-making. Christmas eve day was a bit slow around the house, so I let my niece Stella open one of my gifts for her: tattoo markers!

Tattoo-U markers allow budding tattoo artists to draw images on skin. The drawings wash off easily at first, but once the images set for about three hours, it takes a bit of scrubbing to remove them.

The first tattoo I received from Stella was a lovely rainbow with purple clouds. She wrote the S in the center when I asked her to sign it.

rainbow-tattoo

For my second tattoo, I asked for one of her fancy lady drawings. She drew her with red hair just for me.

lady-tattooOther family members received tattoos of Christmas trees, video game controllers, and more. I love getting gifts for that sweet, creative girl.

We didn’t exchange names this year among the sisters and husbands. Instead we were to bring a gender-specific gift valued at about $15. Since all the females in the mix were my sisters, I wanted to make something family-centric that any of them would enjoy. After a good bit of brainstorming, I finally came upon the idea of making a mug rug featuring The Horse We Forgot.

When we were little, my dad got my sisters and me a horse named King. With four daughters, how could a horse not be a huge hit? Well, none of us really took to the horse. And he kept getting out while my dad was at work, so Mom wasn’t too crazy about him either. Before long, King got shipped off to my grandfather’s farm where he lived a happy life being ridden by my cousins.

One day when we were in our twenties, we were sitting around, talking with my brother-in-law Craig, and someone said, “Didn’t we have a horse once?” After a good bit of discussion, we were 90% sure that yes, we did have a horse at one time. Craig, of course, could not believe anyone would forget having a horse. But we had.

Since then, it’s been a bit of a running joke. So I decided to make King the focus of my sister Christmas gift. I found a paper-pieced horse pattern and tracked down a picture of King for color reference. (Note: While it appears not to be the case, King did, in fact, have four legs.)

chrissy-and-our-horseI put the block together with fabrics from my stash. And then I embroidered “Never forget” at the top.

king_paperpiecingI quilted it with some simple lines and tried to make the words pop a bit more.

king-mug-rugFor the backing, I used a cool horse print that Mom and I got during my tour of Wisconsin fabric stores in October.

king_backMy youngest sister, Jenny, ended up with the gift. Unfortunately, she didn’t quite get the joke because she had forgotten, again, that we’d had a horse.

On the receiving side of things, my Mom did a little fabric shopping for me! One of the women at the OHCraft Sew-In this year got this Carolyn Friedlander layer cake, and I was totally jealous, so I was pretty excited to open it on Christmas morning along with other fun fabrics.

fabricAnd my silent-auction-loving sister, Carrie, gave me this pretty (and super soft) cowl.

cowlIn upcoming blog posts, I’ll share with you the quilts I gave to my Mom and Dad for Christmas. (Well, Mom got a quilt top, and Dad got a partial quilt top.) Plus I’m hoping to have those quilts displayed on the super fancy quilt photography rack I got from Greg.