Friday, December 31, 2010

Making scrappy blocks

Well, I made some more scrappy blocks today, and as so many of you have commented on the blocks in one way or the other, I thought I'd share my method (such as it is - there's nothing very formal about it!)

The very first thing I do, which I have no photo of, is grab a handful of scraps and sort them into piles - larger scraps to file elsewhere, big strips (again, these go elsewhere) small strips, small scraps (2-3"), very small scraps (1.5" or so) and impossibly small scraps (which go in the bin straight away). I then grab two small scraps - many of which are triangular or irregularly shaped - and join them together. These here are a little larger, but I didn't think to take photos until today, and most of the small scraps are gone already (yeah!!):

As long as the pieces I have joined have a nice straight edge (just one - I don't worry about the rest for the time being) I don't bother to trim them, I just press them open and attach another scrap straight away (I usually chain piece these, otherwise it's way too annoying back and forth to the ironing board and cutting board).

Like this. This is now three pieces together. Now, I could attach another piece along one of the straight edges, perhaps like a log cabin, but that's not my aim - I want scrappier and more irregular than that, so at this stage I will usually trim one of the sides somewhat diagonally to create a more interesting attachment point - like this:

The offcut gets thrown out, unless it's quite large, in which case it goes back in the pile of pieces to be sewn. Sometimes I will add a fourth piece in a similar fashion without trimming diagonally:

And sometimes, instead of adding a new, fourth scrap, I will attach two pieces together at this stage, and get something a bit like this:

Now, obviously, that has no straight edge, so I need to trim it. How you do that is up to you. You can be quite frugal and trim straight and near an edge, or you can be a little more liberal if you like. I tend to trim a bit more liberally, as it gives a funkier block:

Don't forget, I am usually working with a whole pile of scraps at once, not just one, and many of them are at different stages in the process, so I tend to alternate between sewing two pieced units together and sewing a pieced unit to a new scrap. And sometimes, if I have them, sewing two new small scraps together to make a new starter. After a while - 20 or 30 units - I take them to the ironing board to press, then the cutting board to trim.

Here you can see I've chosen to join this piece to another piece of a similar size and then cut the straight edge across the top. I don't get TOO worked up about size matching, I just want something approximately right, so there's not too much wastage.

Sometimes, I will go to trim a block and decide that it looks too much like a log cabin (good in their place, but not what I'm aiming for here):

Or just too boxy, or the pieces are too big:

I solve these problems by slicing the block in half somewhat randomly across the diagonal:

And then putting the halves back in the pile to be stitched. As it happens, I didn't actually sew these two together, but you can see how much more interesting they would be joined to one another than as part of the same blocks as their respective other halves...

Sometimes a block is a little unbalanced or has a rather large (in proportion to the other pieces) piece on one side - I might trim it a little unevenly to compensate for this. Also, the angled cut will make the subsequent attachments more interesting.

Sometimes, a block gets really big in one direction

and needs a little adjustment:

Here, both halves will go back in the pile to have more added (the left half is almost, but not quite, big enough to cut a 4.5" square from).

When it comes to trimming blocks from your larger pieces, you can do it however it works best for you - you can be very frugal and cut extremely close to one or two edges, which maximises the size of the offcuts - sometimes I do this, but sometimes I like to tilt the block more and just have more throw-away bits in the end.

With this block, I think all the offcut pieces were too small to use, except for the top one, which went back into the sewing pile.

This piece was cut more from the middle and less from an edge, but again, several of the pieces went back into the sewing pile - certainly the two side ones, can't remember about the top and bottom.

It doesn't matter if your pieced unit is quite a bit bigger than the square you plan to cut from it, as that simply produces larger offcuts, which go back into the sewing pile:

Sometimes, the offcut pieces produce the nicest/most interesting blocks,as you get lots of little tiny pieces in the blocks which you couldn't possibly otherwise sew - for instance in the blocks above and below:

Sometimes the pieces are a little larger, but they still all look nice.

Surprisingly, the seams aren't as bad as you might think - if you are careful to press them flat at each stage, they don't usually get too lumpy in the middle.

In terms of colour matching, I don't. I try to be as random as possible - simply taking the first piece of the right size to add to whatever I'm adding to. I do make some exceptions to this rule, trying to avoid adding a strip or piece of a given fabric directly to a block with another large piece of that fabric (I don't worry about this when joining two pieced units, just when adding new scraps to pieced units). I also try to avoid putting lots of black or white in one block as it tends to stand out.

One of the joys of scrappy blocks is that fabrics you would never dream of putting up next to one another actually look fine in a scrappy block.

So, if you've been thinking about doing something similar, perhaps this will help you on your way - happy scrapbusting and Happy 2011!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

More stay at home robin progress

This is my second piece for the Stay at Home Robin - I've added the two sections down the left hand side. I don't really like the dark/light balance on this piece, but it will get better in January!

And I'm still working on my scrap blocks - 5 more completed blocks today, along with a large pile of partials and almost nothing left in the basket at all...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Stay at Home Robin Update

Today I did a little work on one of my Stay-at-Home Robins - the other one is on tomorrow's list. First, I tilted the bottom left rectangle, which makes me much happier (they needed to either be both straight or both tilted, not one of each).

Then, I added the December blocks (round 6) to the left hand side:

I also was very sneaky and added the January blocks, but you can't see them until January. I know, I'm a tease!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Cross-stitch

At the start of the holiday season, I did get out my Christmas nemesis and I even stitched a bit on it (the wings on the red angel). But then I got sick with a horrible flu and even when I felt well enough to sit upright on the sofa and watch telly and stitch, that one hurt my head too much, so I needed to grab something easier and less headachy. I have now finished this (and even framed and hung it - how's that for efficiency?) so perhaps before the Christmas stuff goes away I shall have a bit more of a go at the angels piece. It's become so much of a tradition that I couldn't really finish it ever anyway, or what would I have to complain about each year?

I've made more block lotto blocks today as well, though I still can't show them - and some more scrappy blocks. Nearing the bottom of the scrap basket even more now - hopefully a few more days will have it completely empty. Not that that state will last long, of course.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Nearing the bottom

Well, as of today, this is what's left in my scrap basket. I will be making some more scrappy blocks with these in the hopes of getting through them, but the end is in sight. When I decided it was time to do something, the basket was full to overflowing, even after some judicious compacting... To give you a sense of perspective, I would say this basket is about 15" deep and at least 12" across. It's not a small basket!

Before you get TOO impressed, there are still scraps left, but they are more useful scraps - this basket has larger scraps - being things approximately 3 inches square and larger (though I have trimmed all those bizarrely shaped pieces to be square or rectangular, which will help when I need quick pieces for projects). [The bottom basket just has fabric which needs to be put away into my boxes for storing F8 size and up by colour - that stuff was never in the scrap basket.]

I have a box of strips (this box was about 2/3 full before) - strips here being anything which is a) at least 1.5 inches wide and b) more than twice as long as it is wide.

And of course, I have some blocks - I have 30x6" (finished) blocks and 49x4" blocks - I am still making the 4" blocks, though - I like doing them better than the 6" ones, though the latter may prove to be more useful in the long run.

I also made some other blocks today, which used some of my strips up - but these I can't show as they are for the January block lotto - I had the sneak peek this month... I'll try to remember to show them come January!

Saturday, December 25, 2010


This lovely Christmas bunting is a nice, quilted creation, but not mine - it was a gift from my BQL (British Quilting List) secret santa. Isn't it nice? Next year I think I will hang it in the dining room, but this will require a hook or two, so it's not happening this year...

Happy Christmas everyone!

Friday, December 24, 2010

More Stars

Part two of the Oh My Stars BOM today (the December part) - from now on, I most likely won't be doing two parts two days running, but I had to catch up, as I started late. Probably no sewing tomorrow (maybe some cross-stitch while watching Dr Who), so Happy Christmas to all out there reading...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Oh my stars

This is the start of a new project - it's a block-of-the-month online, and it's all Julie's fault. See, I was finally catching up on some blog reading and I noticed she was doing this BOM from Planet Patchwork, and after having a look at it, I was intrigued.

Rather oddly for me, I am not doing it in the black and jewel-tone colourway that it's shown in (which would be something I'd gravitate towards normally), but because I am feeling both scrappy and Christmassy at the moment, I decided I'd do it all in assorted Christmas fabrics, of which I have a smallish stash - more than enough for this project, though admittedly, lots of blues, a fair few greens and not so many reds. Which is fine. I'll do the backgrounds in different cream-on-creams and it will all tie together. I don't have a Christmas quilt, so it seemed a good choice.

The block above is actually the unit from November; I will have to do the unit from December in the next few days - not a problem, as I will have plenty of time to sew over the next week or so (hurrah!).

I've also made some more scrappy blocks (these are 6" blocks) - some the other day and some today while doing the Stars BOM - I was using them as enders and leaders. I think I am maybe, finally, beginning to notice a little difference in my scrap basket - though whether this is because of actually having used scraps up or whether it's because I have been separating out the larger scraps and piling them up on the corner of my sewing table to save for other projects, who knows. I rather suspect the latter...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

More scrappy blocks

Finally, some more sewing. Thought I'd never get another chance! Did some more of the scrap blocks - at both 4" and 6". Still no visible dent in the scrap basket, though...

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Bits & pieces

Today I had one of those days (all too rare) where I didn't actually have to do much of anything. We aren't putting up the Christmas tree until next weekend, I finished (more or less) my Christmas shopping yesterday, no one had any social engagements they needed to be ferried to or from, and the house is (reasonably) clean. So, I put some beef stew in the slow-cooker for dinner, played on the computer for a while, then did some sewing. In the afternoon, I hung out, played a game with the kids and mucked around. Lovely!

These wonky log-cabin roses are a gift for a friend, off in the post tomorrow (or sometime soon). While rooting around for reds, pinks and greens for these, I decided my scrap basket was in a complete state (not to mention, very full), so I decided to make some scrappy blocks - these are 4" blocks, which I will probably sash in black or white when putting together in a quilt, but they are a nice way to use up small scraps - I just sewed together whatever came to hand, based solely on compatible size (rather than colour or pattern), then trimmed them down to the right size. Some have quite small pieces if they've had the trimmings of another block incorporated into them!

Needless to say, it's made almost no dent at all on the scrap basket, but I do intend to make some more. Perhaps lots more, who knows. They do provide a quick thing to turn to when there's not much sewing time, a state which I anticipate will occur quite a bit between now and Christmas.

I've also finally pulled out my Christmas cross-stitch - later this week I'll try to remember to show a photo of where it was at the end of the season last year, and what I've done so far this year - but I have to save something for those busy nights when no sewing has been done!

Friday, December 03, 2010

More trees

Another snow day, more trees. Works for me.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Snow day

No school today due to snow, so I did manage to sneak a little sewing time in. First, I attached a binding to the Christmas tree skirt - not very interesting photographically until it's sewn down, so I didn't take a picture of it. Then I made a few blocks for the December block lotto. These are good fun, and I intend to make some more before the end of December. Possibly tomorrow, who knows.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Xmas tree skirt

Quilted this today as I decided that if it was really going to be a Christmas present for my friend this year, it was probably about time I actually got to work on it. Just a simple meander, as it didn't really need more. I have since cut a hole in it to make a gap for the tree and now, just have to bind it. I suppose I will have to make bias binding rather than my usual (and easier) French Fold - but as I have to go around a quite tight circle, I've not much choice. Grumble, grumble.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A few heart blocks

For my bloggy friend Shirley in New Zealand - her group is making quilts for the families of the miners killed in the recent explosions there.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

2011 Birthday ATC Swap

Over the past two years, I have hosted a (mostly) successful swap of ATCs (Artist Trading Cards)* - any medium, not just fabric or even mixed media. I had a lot of fun with this (as did, I hope, many of the participants) and I intend to run another round next year. Here's how it works:

I'll take somewhere around 30 participants so that we average around 3 ATCs per month, which shouldn't be too much of a burden for anyone.

Each month, you will be expected to send one ATC (in any media, on any theme, must be your own creation, can be something you made earlier) to each of the participants whose birthday is that month (any time during the month is fine). I will send a reminder each month to help you out. Also, there is a yahoo group for the swap, which you will be expected to join in order to take part (very low volume of messages, mostly used for acknowledgements, lateness apologies and posting reminders). In turn, in your birthday month, you will receive ATCs from everyone else. Easy as that.

If you are interested, send me an email to katelnorth at yahoo dot com (or leave a comment here, but if you do that, be sure I can contact you - comments set to no-reply are hard to respond to, unless I have your email address already for some other reason). I'll need to have your full name and postal address (but don't leave that in a comment) and also, your birthday (I don't need the year!).

*ATCs are 2.5x3.5" creations; they can be made from virtually anything, the main rule is that you are not allowed to buy and sell them, but must swap with other artists to increase your collection...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cross stitch progress

Not much to show this week, other than some progress with the garden cross-stitch. Another busy weekend, with no real sewing time - maybe next week! The cross-stitch is coming along nicely, though. Perhaps I will finish it before I get in the mood to get out something seasonal - probably not, though. Still, it will make a nice piece to come back to in January when I need something refreshing and spring-like...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Robins, red & white blocks

Here's my fifth round for the Stay at Home Robin - I added a 4x6" and 4x7" block to the bottom of this piece - I am thinking I might take the left-hand one back off and add more black, then turn it at an angle. Either that, or straighten out the right hand one - I really don't like the balance much. I'm also not that crazy about the colour of the left-hand rectangle - too close to the colour of the bottom of the flying goose above it.

And here's the addition for the Japanese taupe one - hard to see in this photo as both are very pale in colour, but they are quite different.

And these are some 8" (8.5" unfinished) red and white blocks which I made for my friend Clare, for Quilts for Leukemia. Now to get them off in the post to her for her challenge...