Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Applique Flowers In Vase

I always feel that it's a good idea to build up a good selection of quilt block patterns to choose from when you're planning your next quilt.  Some of them can be patterns for the quilt blocks in the main body of the quilt and some of them can be ideas for quilt borders or cornerstones.

I think this applique flower quilt block would fit into either of those categories.  I first designed it as a quilt cornerstone but I can see it working just as well as one block in a floral quilt.

I began with a 6.1/2" square of background fabric and drew a couple of flowers on it with fabric marker.  This was just to help me get the size right so that the flowers would fit in the middle of the block.  Then I drew two flowers the same size on some pink fabric squares which were backed with fusible interfacing.

After I had cut the flowers out I laid them in place on the background fabric and sewed all round the edge with a zigzag stitch.  This was easier than I had expected - as long as you take it slowly it's quite easy to follow the curves of the petals.  You can see the back of the quilt block on the right.

For the flower stems I changed the thread colour but continued with the zigzag stitch.  I had used a fairly small stitch width for edging the petals, but I increased the stitch width for the stems and sewed the length of each stem twice:  starting at the bottom and sewing up to the flower and back down again.

So with the flower complete I just wanted to add a vase.  This is what sets this flower applique quilt block apart from other applique quilt blocks and I think it's a really neat idea.  I cut a tumbler shape from some see through organza fabric and placed it over the lower part of the flower stems.  Then I changed the thread (again!) to a colour that would match the background fabric and zigzagged round the sides of the vase to hold it in place.  I think next time I'll use a slightly darker organza for the vase to make it stand out better, but I'm really pleased with the overall effect.

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Monday, 20 February 2012

Creating Depth In Quilt Blocks

Quilt block patterns come in all shapes and sizes.  Some quilt blocks are constructed using several smaller quilt blocks together, some are simple four patch or nine patch blocks, some create secondary designs when several of them are added together - and some have an amazing three dimensional look just on their own.

This raised block quilt block is a prime example of creating depth.  It is broadly the courthouse steps quilt block with a few alterations and I love the way that it looks so three dimensional.

The quilt block begins with standard courthouse steps piecing:  a 2.1/2" white square in the middle with a cream 2.1/2" square above and below and a cream 6.1/2" strip on either side.  This is then surrounded with a frame of light brown made using two 6.1/2" strips and two 10.1/2" strips.

The next round of strips is where the quilt block pattern changes from a standard courthouse steps.  Cut a pink and a dark brown 10.1/2" strip and place a black 2.1/2" square on the right hand end of the pink strip and on the left hand end of the dark brown strip.  Sew these black squares along the diagonal and snip off the excess triangles.  You can then fold the black triangle over the diagonal seam to complete the rectangle again.  You also need a 2.1/2" half square triangle made with one pink and one brown triangle.

Sew the brown strip to the top of the quilt block.  Sew the half square triangle to the top of the pink strip and then sew the whole strip to the right hand side of the quilt block. 

Finish with a round of black strips on every edge:  two at 12.1/2" long for the top and bottom and two at 16.1/2" long for the sides.

It's the combination of the colour placement and those extra black triangles that make this block look so much like a raised block.  I think it's a delightful example of optical illusions with fabric.

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Monday, 13 February 2012

Reversible Sewing Machine Cover Tutorial

What a productive weekend I had.  The workshop that I was going to was cancelled on Saturday because the roads were so slippy so I decided to make the sewing machine cover that I've been promising myself for ages.

When I looked around for ideas I found that most sewing machine covers are for dust protection only so they are made from a single fabric.  I wanted something a little more substantial that would also protect against accidental knocks so I decided to make a sewing machine cover with three layers including batting.  Then I decided to rag the seams so that the sewing machine cover would be reversible, and I'm really pleased with the way it turned out.

The first thing I had to do was measure my sewing machine.  Mine is 16" wide (from side to side), 12" high (from the work surface to the highest point of the machine and 8" deep (from front to back at its widest point).

The sewing machine cover that I have designed has a panel at each side of the sewing machine and one panel going up the front, across the top and down the back of the machine.

For this I needed two rectangles of each fabric 9" by 13" and one rectangle of each fabric 33" by 17".  For the batting I needed two rectangles 8" by 12" and one rectangle 32" by 16".  The batting is smaller than the fabric to allow for ragging the seams.

For each rectangle, lay one fabric with right side down, then the batting and then the second fabric with right side up.  Quilt the layers together.
Lay one of the small rectangles in line with one corner of the large rectangle and pin along the 13" edge.  Manipulate the fabric of the large triangle to create a corner so that you can continue pinning the next edge of the small triangle along the same edge.  Continue until three sides of the small rectangle are pinned all along one edge of the large rectangle, as shown in the right hand photo.

Sew the seams that you have just pinned using a 1/2" seam.  Snip into the seam towards the stitching with a sharp pair of small scissors, taking care not to cut the stitches.  I snipped at roughly 1/8" intervals.  This gives a fringe which with time (and washing) will become quite silky.

Add quilt binding as for a normal quilt and you have a sturdy sewing machine cover that can be turned whichever way you want, depending on which fabric you want to see.

It's often easier to follow on video:

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Friday, 10 February 2012

Hourglass Scrap Quilt Block

I can't think where this week has gone.  I began the week trying to organise my fabric stash before it grows and has so many babies that it takes over the house altogether.  The trouble was that I kept getting sidetracked with ideas for ways to use the stash:  there are so many quilt block patterns out there that are ideal for scrap fabrics.

This one is called Hourglass and it just screams out for lots of lovely different fabrics.  I used a light background and chose red for the hourglass part of the quilt block and then just used lots of different fabrics for the rest of the block.

The entire block is made using half square triangle units only.  If you have enough fabric you can make several half square triangle units in different fabrics and then spread them around the blocks.  The photo shows the basic patchwork squares that are used in every block.

Once those squares have been laid out you can use any fabrics to fill in the other parts of the block and create a real rainbow of colours.  It's a lovely block and I can't wait to keep going and make enough of them for a quilt.

Of course once I had started playing with quilt block patterns I couldn't stop.  This one is called cake stand although it looks pretty much like all the basket quilt blocks, so I couldn't resist putting some floral fabric in to make a flower basket.

I did manage to make quite an inroad on my stash as well as playing with quilt blocks, so it wasn't totally a wasted week.  I now have designated boxes for 2.1/2", 2.7/8" and so on - I suspect that it won't take me too long to fill them.

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Friday, 3 February 2012

Coffee Cup Coaster

There are some quilt blocks that are meant to depict something in particular like a cat or a barn ... or a coffee cup.  Some of them are highly stylised and it's a bit difficult to work out what they are.  Some of them look too complicated, so I decided to design my own coffee cup quilt block to be used in a coffee cup coaster.  I considered applique but then decided to piece the whole block.

I began with the cup itself and used a 3.1/2" brown square with two 1" blue squares placed in the bottom corners.  Sew a line along the diagonal and then the top triangle of the square can be folded down to give some shape to the cup.

The handle was a bit fiddly but not difficult.  Sew together 1.1/2" strips of brown, blue, brown and cut a 1" strip from this panel to make the first part of the cup handle.  Sew a 1" by 3" strip of brown down the right hand edge of the brown, blue, brown strip and you can see the shape of the handle now.

Cut two 1.1/2" by 1.1/4" blue rectangles to go above and below the handle.  Place these two rectangles so that the 1.1/2" is horizontal and the 1.1/4" vertical.  As you can probably see, I wasn't as careful as I could have been and the handle doesn't lie completely straight.  Oh well, I'll know for next time!  On the left hand side of the cup, sew a blue strip 3.1/2" by 1.1/4".

Making the saucer is an absolute breeze after coping with that handle!  Cut a brown rectangle 5.1/2" by 1.1/2" and lay a 1.1/2" blue square on each end.  Sew the diagonal and fold the top triangles down as for the base of the cup and sew the saucer to the cup.

In order to frame the coffee cup, choose any suitable fabric and cut two 5" by 2.1/2" strips for the top and the bottom.  Cut two 7.1/2" by 2.1/2" strips in the same fabric for the sides.  That's the top of the coffee cup coast complete.  It measures about 8" by 7.1/2" at this stage.  Cut the wadding and backing fabric to suit and layer:  wadding, backing with right side up and patchwork with right side down.

Sew round three and a half edges, leaving a gap to turn the coaster right side out.  After you've pushed the coaster through the gap, gently push out the corners and then turn under a small hem across the gap and top stitch all the way round the coaster.

It's relatively easy to make the coffee cup quilt block and I think it makes a really distinctive coaster - great for gifts.

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