Saturday, 29 July 2017

Little and large: two triangle tops

Hi everyone! Summer here in the UK seems to have departed so I can't  get out into the garden, chilly rain reminiscent of November...

Despite a few nevertheless very enjoyable social engagements (including a graduation and a wedding) and the delivery of our new greenhouse to replace the ancient falling-down one, and much coming and going of family members, I have managed to fit in a little light sewing and finished putting together the two HST tops I mentioned in my last post.

So here they are: one made with large HSTs (trimmed to 9 1/2" square), the other made with 1 1/2" HSTs (finishing 1"), hence little and large, though neither top is especially big.

First, the Vast quilt, though not particularly vast, measuring 54" x 64" (please excuse creases, I forgot to iron in my rush to get a photo before it rained again).  The size is determined by the fact that I wanted to use the Layer Cake I already had (Dapper Wovens) and to see how big I could make the quilt with negligible waste.

I really liked the Vast quilt in Jeni Baker's book (here is another version Jeni made and blogged about earlier this year) which was also made by Anna Graham of Noodlehead (see her version here), and I was all fired up to make HSTs because of the talk I was giving on Terrific Triangles.  I got maximum yield from the Layer Cake - 42 layers 10" square yielded 42 HSTs 9 1/2" square.  You can see the scraps in the last blogpost when I had done the squaring up.

Obviously I didn't make the blocks quite as Vast as Jeni, who used fat quarters: her blocks finished at 17" square. But I am happy with my version for now.  Also Jeni had amazing long arm quilting on her quilt for the book, which I could never hope to emulate, but can certainly admire.

I am currently pondering over the quilting of my finished quilt top. I love Anna Graham's straight line
quilting but the Woven fabrics are very soft and I think they would distort if over quilted. I may just quilt in the ditch to start with and then possibly add some handquilting, with perle thread maybe? Any thoughts? I absolutely love the colours of the Wovens and this is a quilt I don't expect to part with so it would be worth adding some embellishment...

The other top is also inspired by a recent book I really like: it's a variation of the Remainders quilt in Amanda Jean Nyberg's book, No Scrap Left Behind, which I mentioned last post. 

My scraps were bonus HSTs left over from the flying geese units of a quilt I made with a starter bundle of Blend fabrics from the Eternal Maker in Chichester.  Completely out of my colour comfort zone but I was drawn to them and made this quilt which featured in a magazine and which has now gone to a new home.

The colours were so similar to the scraps Amanda Jean had used that I decided it was meant to be, though I modified the method and sashed the tiny HST units in the normal way, using just one plain fabric rather than scraps.

Having trimmed all the leftover HSTs to 1 1/2" which is where you left me two weeks ago, I counted up 288 HSTs and started to join them into strips with Kona Snow (from stash) plain fabric rectangles measuring 1 1/2" x 2". But part way through the process I felt that I didn't have enough HSTs for a reasonably sized quilt.  Funny how many there seemed to be when I had a never-ending pile to be trimmed, but they don't go far when laid out for a top (unlike Vast!).

Anyway I had a bit of fabric left from the original project and I pulled out a couple more aquas and yellows and neutrals to add variety.  Because I didn't want to have to do any more trimming, and because I had been demo-ing triangle papers, I decided to make the remaining HSTs using Thangles.

I had 1 1/2" firmly in my head from all the trimming - and so I made all my additional HSTs using 1 1/2" Thangle paper - making the cardinal error (despite re-reading the paperwork several times) of forgetting that 1 1/2" is the FINISHED size of the Thangle whereas I would be wanting my HSTs to measure 1 1/2" UNfinished....

So I stitched

and pressed

and removed papers

only to find I had a lovely pile of accurate 2" HSTs..... which I then had to trim down to 1 1/2" so they would match the others. Quilter's hubris. Did I mention there had been a lot going on?

Never mind, all's mostly well that ends well. And I had only made an extra 180 HSTs to be able to set 26 rows of 18 'blocks', sashed with strips which ended up 1 1/2" finished, just slightly larger than the 1" finished HSTs.

But while we are being honest, I have to confess also that in my eagerness to get this top together I did what I would tell my classes never to do: I did not measure and cut all my horizontal sashing strips to the same length, just as for borders, and did not pin but just whacked the strips on regardless. The result is that, although the top is reasonably flat, the lines of HSTs do not line up perfectly as vertical rows. It is not very easy to see in the photos but when you put a ruler over the top it is definitely out of true.

I did measure and add my outer 3" borders 'properly' so the quilt is a reliable rectangle measuring 52" x 70", but I can't straight line quilt it as the lines would be too obviously out. I definitely need to get practising free motion quilting so I can loopy quilt this one!

My only other gripe is that I find plain fabrics/solids fray far more than printed fabrics so I am going to have to spend quite a bit of time tidying up stray threads on the back before quilting. Any of you agree this is annoying?

But that's a small complaint really: I am delighted that that forlorn plastic bag of bits and leftover fabric from an old project have been made useful and given a purpose in this new quilt top.  So I am linking to Finish it up Friday with Crazy Mom Quilts, and my thanks once again to Amanda Jean for her continuing inspiration to those of us who, like her, love our scraps!

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Terrific Triangles - and a finish to share!

Gosh, nearly 3 weeks since I got back from Italy.  I had a great holiday and will show you some quilt related holiday snaps in my next post.  However I thought it was about time I posted something sewn by me rather than by all the talented people whose work I have been admiring recently.

So, on Friday last week I gave a talk/demo to a lovely quilt group near Horsham, West Sussex and the theme was triangles, with an emphasis on half-square triangles but a nod to the other sorts. This was a great opportunity for me to pull out all my triangle quilts made over the last n years. And to start a few new triangle quilts, just in case I didn't have enough to show...

I particularly wanted to demonstrate the methods I have come to favour for accurate HSTs, which have made making triangle-heavy quilts a pleasure rather than a pain. The choice for me nowadays is between making HSTs slightly oversized (so I never have to measure and cut n-and- seven-eighths) and then trimming to size with the Bloc_loc square ruler, OR using triangle papers such as Thangles or Triangles on a Roll.

Which method I use for a particular project depends on the size of HST, how many I need of each fabric combination, or whether the HSTs are being made from offcuts from a method such as stitch and flip eg the corner scraps from making flying geese by this method, which I hate to throw away.

So here are some examples of what I mean: this week I trimmed HSTs I made last week by the conventional method of stitching 1/4" either side of a drawn diagonal line.

I had a layer cake of Dapper Wovens which I wanted to use to make a variant on the Vast quilt from Jeni Baker's lovely book on HSTs, appropriately called Patchwork Essentials:The Half-Square Triangle. The fabric is quite soft because of the weave and I definitely didn't want to risk distortion, so stitching on the diagonal before cutting was the best option to preserve the bias edge as much as possible.

I paired two 10" squares, and drew my diagonal line with a yellow Chaco-liner as pencil didn't show up and pen dragged too much on the soft fabric.  Having stitched either side and cut on the line, I then carefully pressed the seam allowance open and used an ordinary square ruler with a diagonal line to trim.  I just happened to have a 9 1/2" square so that fitted perfectly and there was very little waste. The scraps are so pretty I had a hard job throwing them away but there are limits!

Next week I hope to lay out and stitch this quilt together.  NB Since starting to write this I have done so but don't have a decent picture, so I will have to keep you in suspense a little longer!

Filled with renewed enthusiasm for HSTs, I dug out a plastic bag of offcut HSTs from when I made this quilt called Sweet Beginnings (the larger quilt shown part way through the post). The flying geese for the main blocks were all made by the stitch and flip method, but I loved the fabric so much I couldn't bear to chuck the scraps.  However the leftover triangles were quite small and the HSTs definitely needed to be trimmed before use. 

I put on an audio book and spent an evening with the 2 1/2" Bloc_loc square, trimming to 1 1/2". Yes, I know the HSTs will only measure 1" finished when they are sewn into a quilt, but they are really cute. I think I will make a small scale version of Amanda Jean Nyberg's Remainders quilt from her new book, No Scrap Left Behind: I know just how she feels about scraps!  Watch this space.

What about the promised finish, I hear you ask?  OK before I went away I had decided to 'use up' the final final scraps from the Wedding Stars quilt I made two years ago. (This post shows the quilt I made with the leftover nine-patches). This time I wanted to use the leftover quarter-square triangles used for the Ohio Star points, and a while ago I pieced all the remaining bits into QSTs, and chopped up odd leftover squares to make a few more. 

I trimmed the QSTs using this brilliant ruler from Marsha McCloskey, the Precision Trimmer, which I bought many years ago (it is still available on her website here).  It is so accurate and the fine lines cross over in the middle so it is really easy to line up for QSTs.  Ordinary bias square rulers can be used but you will need to note where the centre point is to line up each time.

Having started to trim, I belatedly realised that I had used two different sizes of squares to make the QSTs and now I had two sizes of hourglass units which didn't fit together... I didn't want to 'waste' fabric by trimming the larger hourglass units down to the smaller size so I was faced with a bit of a dilemma.

What to do to rescue the situation? First of all I put the blocks away for a few weeks in deep disappointment, but you will recall that I went to the quilt show in Nantes in April and enjoyed seeing the old Dutch quilts featured in Petra Prins's new book (see this post: the Dutch quilts are towards the end).

Many of these 18th and 19th century Dutch quilts are made from lots of HSTs or QSTs, and sometimes they mix different sizes, with one size in the middle and borders of a different size. So I decided to copy our quilting forebears and make a simple medallion with 3" hourglasses in the centre and 4" hourglass blocks around the edge.

A small spacer strip (1/2" finished) was required to make it all fit, and I found the stripes for the spacer strip and binding and the two backing fabrics (joined, of course, in the spirit of making do) in my stash.

I finished the quilting in time for my talk but hadn't time to stitch down the binding so I am claiming the finish today for Finish it up Friday with Crazy Mom Quilts.  Altogether a very satisfying conclusion to the journey with challenges and disappointments overcome.

The quilt measures a shade over 52" square and is simply machine quilted with straight lines on either side of the seam lines to avoid the bumps where the seams butt together. The quilting is quite dense but I like the texture it gives the quilt.

There are 63 x 3" hourglass units in the centre of the quilt, set in 9 rows of 9, and the border contains 120 x 4" hourglass units set in 3 rows all the way around.

I hope you have fun challenging yourself to use your scraps this weekend, and don't despair if you hit a difficulty: part of the fun of making is in finding a solution, even if it takes a little while and a bit of lateral thinking!