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!

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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.

Zippered Pouch Swap

Last night was the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild holiday party, and part of that was the Zippered Pouch Swap. We were assigned a fellow guild member to make a zippered pouch for back in October, and we received a list of the kinds of fabrics they like and ideas for a few small gifts to put in the zippered pouch.

I was to make a pouch for Natalie, who said she likes “bright colors, some Moda Christmas, Cotton + Steel, and Riley Blake.” She also likes Russell Stover Chocolate Marshmallow Santas.

zippered-pouch-swapSo I picked up some Cotton + Steel Christmas fabric at Fiberge and used the Noodlehead Gathered Clutch tutorial. The band is an older Amy Bulter fabric from my stash that I thought added a bit of festivity to the pouch. I packed the pouch with a seam ripper, a fancy chocolate bar, a fat quarter, and of course, a Russell Stover Chocolate Marshmallow Santa (which has already been consumed as of this writing).

In return, I received a pouch and goodies from Abby. Poor Abby saw my post about selling zippered pouches, and I think she may have felt backed into a corner as to what style pouch to make for me (sorry about that, Abby).

zippered-pouch-swap2She made a super cute Petal Pouch, also a Noodlehead pattern, and included pins, lip balm (which is propping up the pouch in this photo) and some great items for my hexie obsession. The pre-cut fabric squares are just the right size for my 1-inch hexie templates. And the fabric glue pen will make basting a snap. Neither of these handy items ever occurred to me, so thank you, Abby!

zippered-pouch-swap3Here’s a close-up of the pouch. I love the metal zipper and the classy leather strip she added as a pull. The purse that I’m working on for winter doesn’t have as many zippered pockets as I’m used to, so this little guy is going to be perfect.

The party was a potluck, and I brought my favorite Texas Caviar, which has an unusual, sweet dressing. Here’s the recipe for Annie and anyone else who may be interested.

Texas Caviar

2 cans shoepeg corn, drained

1 can black-eyed peas, rinsed

1 can sliced olives, drained

2 cups chopped bell peppers, mix of red, yellow, and green

1 cup chopped green onions

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup vegetable oil

1 cup sugar

1 cup apple cider vinegar

Combine vegetable oil, sugar, and vinegar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Let cool.

Combine all other ingredients in a large bowl. Add cooled dressing mixture and marinate overnight.

Drain dressing mixture and serve with Frito scoops.

Recipe courtesy of Corrie, a former co-worker

 

Zippered Pouches For Sale!

UPDATE

Thank you to those who purchased zippered pouches! The unsold ones have been shipped off to my sister Jenny who is opening retail shop in Dalton, Wisconsin. The shop is called The Fancy Tail Collective, so if you’re ever in Dalton, please check it out. In the meantime, if you’d like me to make another zippered pouch similar to these, let me know. I don’t have all the fabrics anymore, but I’ll see what I can do.

 

all-pouches_sm

Over the past several weeks, I found that I’ve had some time on my hands during the day. And my go-to activity when I have time on my hands is making zippered pouches. It’s what everyone does, right? Well, maybe it’s just me. But I did it five years ago, too. I use them for my makeup, for small crochet projects, as gifts, and more. They really do come in handy.

This time, however, I made so many—10 different ones—that I thought I’d try selling them. If you’re interested in any of these, leave me a message here, on Facebook, or e-mail me at c {dot} doyle {at} fuse {dot} net. All are made with 100% cotton fabric. And they are handmade, so they’re not flawless. Shipping is $3 or I’m happy to make other arrangements for local friends.

1. Flowers and Paperclips Pouch—SOLD

Orange and teal with white interior and two credit card pockets. Ruffled and banded on front only. Flat style; medium-weight interfacing. 8.5 inches wide, 5 inches tall.

flower-paperclip-pouch_smflower-paperclip-back_smflower-paperclip-interior_sm

2. Deer Pouch—SOLD

Gold and gray with gold interior. Flat style; medium-weight interfacing. 8.5 inches wide, 6 inches tall, 1.75 x 6.5-inch base.

deer-pouch_smdeer-pouch-interior_sm

3. Golden Pouch

Gold and red with multicolored interior. Open-mouth style; medium-weight interfacing. 9 inches wide, 5 inches tall, 3.5 x 6-inch base.

golden-pouch_sm golden-pouch-interior_sm

4. Navy and Orange Pouch—SOLD

Different fabric on front and back. Solid orange interior with credit card pocket. Open-mouth style; lightweight interfacing. 8.5 inches wide, 5.5 inches tall, 2.5 x 6-inch base.

navy-orange-pouch-a_sm navy-orange-pouch_sm navy-orange-pouch-interior_sm

5. Small Striped Pouch

Chartreuse, teal, and orange with teal interior. Open-mouth style; medium-weight interfacing. 8 inches wide, 5 inches tall, 3.5 x 5-inch base.

small-striped-pouch_sm small-striped-pouch-interior_sm

6. Large Orange Stripe Pouch

Chartreuse, teal, and orange with teal interior and credit card pocket. Open-mouth style; medium-weight interfacing. 11 inches wide, 7 inches tall, 4.5 x 7-inch base.

orange-stripe-pouch_smlarge-orange-striped-pouch_interior_sm

7. Octopus Pouch

Lime green and fuchsia with gray interior. Open-mouth style; medium-weight interfacing. 11 inches wide, 7 inches tall, 4.5 x 7-inch base.

octopus-pouch_sm octopus-pouch-interior_sm

8. Navy Floral Pouch

Navy and orange floral with navy and white bottom; orange interior with credit card pocket. Open-mouth style; lightweight interfacing. 11 inches wide, 7 inches tall, 4.5 x 7-inch base.

navy-floral-pouch_smnavy-floral-pouch_interior_sm

9. Foxy Pouch

Pink, gold, and yellow with multicolored interior. 5-inch wrist strap and interior credit card pocket. Open-mouth style; lightweight interfacing. 10 inches wide, 7 inches tall, 4.5 x 6-inch base.

foxy-pouch_sm foxy-pouch-interior_sm

10. Yellow Pleated Pouch—SOLD

Yellow, teal, red, and green with teal interior. 6-inch wrist strap and interior credit card pocket. Open-mouth style; lightweight interfacing. 10 inches wide, 7 inches tall, 4.5 x 6-inch base.

yellow-pleated-pouch_smyellow-pleated-pouch-interior_sm

Hexie Succulent Garden

succlent1When I first wrote about making hexie blocks for the Bee Hive Swap, I really didn’t think I’d ever make any more. I mean, sure, it had its appeal. But that’s a lot of hand work. Then, this summer, with two family vacations and a surgery to recover from, I needed some hand work.

Even before I started the project, I came up with a name for the quilt. Since the block is named Grandmother’s Garden or Grandmother’s Flower Garden, I would make mine in all blues and greens and name it Grandmother’s Succulent Garden (succulent as in cacti, aloes, etc.). Great name! Now I had to make the quilt.

I rushed to gather supplies before my family’s trip to Michigan in July. I ordered the hexie templates from Amazon but didn’t realize how the templates were measured. The template size is the size of one side. So the templates I wanted would be 1″ hexies. I ordered 2″ hexies, thinking it would be the width of the shape, and they ended up being huge.

I looked and called around town and couldn’t find 1″ cardstock hexies, so I ended up buying some plastic templates from Joann.

hexie-templates

The plastic templates were certainly sturdy, but they were also very slippery. I had a heck of a time basting the fabric around them because the fabric would slip off center. But they worked well enough to keep me busy in Michigan.

Before my next trip, I did track down some 1″ cardstock hexies. The cardstock wasn’t as stiff as the templates I had received from Tara for the Bee Hive Swap, but they worked better than the plastic.

Finally, my mom sent me some fusible hexies made by Pieceful Patches. You fuse these to the back of your fabric, baste around the shape, and then remove the paper. The templates can be reused for as long as there’s fusible left to stick to the fabric. While the paper is thin, I did find that my finished hexies were the most accurate using these templates.

So using three different kinds of templates (!), I made hexies. Lots and lots of hexies. Well, 21 “flowers” to be exact.

succulent-2

succlent-3

succulent4

My first plan for a layout was to connect the flowers with a light fabric, so that each flower would stand out.

succlent-hexie-settingI ended up not liking that look as much as I thought I would. The flowers stood out almost too much, and I liked the way they looked in a group.

Rather than go through the pain of sewing more together only to change my mind, my dear husband created one flower shape in Illustrator for me. From there, I could duplicate the shape, change the colors, and try some different layouts.

Succulent1The first thing I learned was I couldn’t get a straight line of flowers if I wanted the edges of each one to be horizontal. (My thought with this layout is I could add patchwork of some kind below the hexies to make the piece closer to quilt size.)

Succulent3The edges would have to be at a slight angle for the line of flowers to be straight.

Succulent4Or I’d have to add filler hexies to keep the edges horizontal.

Succulent2Or if I made a lot more, I could just cluster them, and then the straightness wouldn’t matter as much.

So that’s where I am on this project. I have a name and 21 flower blocks. And I have a funny feeling that’s where it will sit for a while.

Wisconsin Fabric Fun

olivejuice1Last week was my somewhat annual fall trip to Wisconsin. The weather was gorgeous, and while the leaves had only begun to turn, the bright blue skies helped it feel very autumnal.

While I was there, Mom and I managed to work in some fabric fun. First, we traveled the hour down to Ripon, Wisconsin, and went to Bungalow Quilting and Yarn. Mom had been to the shop once before and thought it would be one that I would like. Wow, was she right!

bungalow5The house was packed with yarn and fabric. I liked that the fabrics felt very curated, like someone took time to purchase just the right ones. Most of them would be considered modern fabrics, but there were a few batiks and novelties thrown in there, too.

bungalow6 And I couldn’t help but love the Wisconsin quilt they had on display.

bungalow2Even the bathroom was a feast for the eyes, from the sewing pattern wallpaper to the bathtub filled with yarn.

bungalow3

bungalow4I was so overwhelmed by the choices (and the fact that we were a bit pressed for time) that I ended up purchasing large cuts of a couple fabrics that I like to have in my stash along with a few new pieces.

bungalow1(I put that green Lizzy House cat fabric in everything.)

Later in the week, we made our way to the western edge of the state, where our first stop was at Olive Juice Quilts in Onalaska, Wisconsin.

olivejuice2This super cute shop was actually huge inside. The fabrics, again, were primarily modern, but they had sections for Christmas prints and reproductions, too.

olivejuice3

olivejuice4

olivejuice6And they had fat quarters cut of a vast majority of their fabrics. I find I really appreciate having fat quarters available, especially when I’m visiting far-away shops, because I often don’t have a specific project in mind and just want to try a little bit of a lot of things.

olivejuice7(Although my choices do look pretty coordinated, don’t they?)

While we were there, we picked up our reserved copies of Kaffe Fassett’s Bold Blooms (a book I actually worked on for ABRAMS) because that evening we were going to a lecture with Kaffe and Brandon Mably. We even boldly interrupted Kaffe while he was working on some needlepoint there at the shop to ask him to sign it.

boldblooms

boldbloomsinterior After bumming around La Crosse a bit, enjoying the lovely day, we headed back downtown for the lecture. Olive Juice Quilts had a nice little shop set up with Kaffe fabrics and books, and we even got goodies for attending the lecture: a magazine and fat quarter.

Brandon gave a short introduction and Kaffe came on and talked about how he moved to England and got started designing. Then he narrated a slide show that included a lot of interesting inspiration photos, behind-the-scenes shots from photo shoots, and finished projects along with some that are still in the works.

Afterward there was a signing session, and Mom got another book signed. This photo was taken right after Kaffe complimented Mom on her jacket (!)—a great way to cap off fabric fun with my mom.

mom_brandon_kaffe1

Shark Block #2

Sharkblock#2Funny. I hadn’t intended to take the summer off from blogging. A few different family vacations, a little surgery, and two months have flown by.

I’m going to ease back into the swing of things with this shark block that I made for a quilt that the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild and OHCraft group are putting together for one of our members. She could use some quilted love, and she loves pirates, so a pirate quilt it is!

As you may recall, I made this block previously for a CMQG Round Robin and then turned it into a wall hanging for my niece. This time I used a few printed fabrics (although not for the sharkiest parts—the eye and mouth—which I think need to be solid), and I really liked the way it turned out. I kind of think all sharks should have word searches on their bellies.

The block is one I purchased from Craftsy. I was surprised by how easily it went together this time. Don’t get me wrong—I still had to unsew a lot of seams. But somehow the flow was better and not nearly as frustrating.

So far, the quilt also has several ship blocks that use pirate-printed fabric, a paper-pieced crab with an eye patch, and a sea turtle, and the words “yo ho ho.” Hopefully this block and all the others will help our fellow member feel the love.

Pulse Blocks

Pulse blocks

After the tragedy at Pulse in Orlando, the Orlando Modern Quilt Guild decided to use their skills and resources to bring at least a little comfort to those directly effected. The Guild is organizing an effort to provide quilts to the survivors and the families of the victims.

Each quilt will be made from heart blocks using a tutorial from Cluck Cluck Sew, and all of the hearts are to be in rainbow colors.

The goal to make over 100 quilts is a huge one, so they’re looking for assistance from anyone who can help. A member of the OHCraft group that I’m part of saw the call, and she’s working with our members to make at least one quilt for Orlando.

The first step is to make blocks, so I created three. My stash is pretty light on rainbow colors on the red and purple side of things, but I did manage to find some fabrics in other colors that I thought would work.

Pulse orange

Pulse green

Pulse blue

I hate there are so many victims of violence like this that need comforting, but I’m glad to be able to be a small part of that comfort effort.

Hexie Swap Block

Hexie step 5

Here we are at another month, and that means I’ve worked on another swap block for the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild! I really do like this hive structure for the swap (read more about it here) because I’m getting to try blocks and techniques I truly would not have tried on my own. This month that block is Grandmother’s Flower Garden and the technique is English paper piecing.

Tara was the Queen Bee for June and she provided everything we needed to make her block: instructions, the paper-piecing templates, and even the fabric! I just needed to add thread and stir.

Hexie step 1

The thing is I had never done English paper piecing before. I knew in theory what to do—fold the fabric around the template shape and then hand stitch the fabric hexagons together. So I did what I always do when I have to try something new: I put it off . . . and complained to Greg about how much work it was going to be. Then Greg said, “Well, what can you do to make the process easier?” And since I hadn’t started it yet, I didn’t really have an answer. So I had to stop complaining—at least to Greg.

I finally cut the jelly roll strips I received into 2.5-inch squares and thread-basted the fabric to the templates. To do this, I folded the fabric over one side, took two small stitches to hold the fold, then made running stitches to get to the next side. There I folded the fabric, took two small stitches, made my way over to the next side, and kept going. The basting took longer than I thought, and I was really having a tough time seeing why people liked this technique.

Hexie step 2

With all my pieces basted, I started to arrange the block, but the large dotted fabric I received was throwing me for a loop. Some pieces were primarily gray and others primarily light green, so they didn’t look very cohesive when I placed them randomly.

Hexie step 3

So I made the bold decision to arrange them like a pansy face. I preferred them that way—I hope Tara does, too.

Hexie step 4

Once I started piecing the hexagons together, I did understand the appeal of the technique. The methodical hand sewing was quite fun, and it went quickly, too.

Hexie step 5

Tara asked that we leave all the templates in the fabric so that she can remove them when she’s ready.

I feel a little bad that Tara is receiving this piece with all my beginner’s mistakes. My corners don’t all meet, and it’s not exactly flat either (as you can see by the giant shadow on the left). But I am glad I gave this technique a try, and I may buy my own set of templates to have around for when I need something to work on by hand.

Happy House Swap Block

HappyHouse1As I mentioned last week, April is my month to bring a block to share in the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild Bee Hive Block Swap!

It was kind of a lot of pressure to think of a block that people in my hive would like making, that wouldn’t be too hard, that didn’t need to be super accurate, and that I would like to work with later to make a finished project. I searched online for what others had created for block swaps and searched through my books of blocks trying to get ideas.

For some reason, I kept getting drawn to house blocks. I’d never made one before and never really thought about making one before. But there were a couple of house blocks that repeatedly turned up in my searches. I finally decided on this block from the Bloomin’ Workshop blog that she calls Manor House. She had made it for a random sampler quilt-along, and I liked that it was simple and yet still cute.

So I made up the block above by pulling fabrics from my scrap bin. It was fun looking for bits that were large enough for the house and still went together. In the process of making the block, I was also trying to figure out the parameters I wanted the members of my hive to use as they made their blocks. After making this block, I decided I wanted everyone to use a low-volume fabric for the sky.

Next I decided to make a block with a more monochromatic house.

HappyHouse3Surprise! That house turned out to be orange. With this block, I decided that the members of the hive could use some solid fabrics, but I didn’t want any house that used only solid fabrics.

I was having so much fun making these, that I tried another one.

HappyHouse4This time I used a sky color that wasn’t gray. So with this block I decided that I wanted the sky fabric to have a white background, but it could also have any low-volume color with the white.

And, honestly, I just couldn’t stop making the blocks. I found that it was easy to find pieces for the house and chimneys from my stash bin, but I needed to cut into my yardage for the sky and most of the roofs.

HappyHouse2When I looked at all my blocks together, I realized they were all just really happy looking. So I decided I wouldn’t restrict the hive members to any colors for the houses; I would just ask that the houses look cheerful.

My final instructions to my hive members are:

Please make one Manor House block from the Bloomin’ Workshop blog. Click here for link.
Follow her instructions for creating the block. I found it very handy to print out the block illustration with measurements that she includes in her post.
Special requests:
Use a white background low-volume print for the “sky” pieces.
Use prints (or prints and a few solids) for the house that result in an overall cheerful look.
HappyHousesI hope everyone has as much fun making this block as I did. I’ll get the blocks from my hive at the May meeting, and I’ll show you what they came up with then!