Friday, February 28, 2014

Steam Punk Blocks


For years I've wanted to make an airplane propeller quilt. Is it because of the curves? Or because, having sons, I am always looking for masculine patterns? Or because my grandfather loved to take us to the airport to watch planes? Not sure; but it's perennially attractive. Jeannette Bruce of Gone Aussie Quilting posted an invitation to join the Steam Punk QAL Flickr group last year. And guess what Steam Punk looks like? Yes! A propeller. So I joined and thoroughly enjoyed all the fabric combinations everyone made but... I had so many UFOs to finish first. This week I've finally started.

These nine-inch blocks resemble airplane propeller and are made with strongly patterned prints.
My first completed Steam Punk quilt blocks

The pattern by Australian Jen Kingwell came from Amitie Textiles. It arrived in the US less than a week after I placed my order. (Wow! Very quick.)

Then with unusual wisdom, I had a set of templates made by Rodney Shimogawa in Woodinville, Washington. His Etsy shop is Customplastic. What a meticulous craftsman! They are perfectly made with the template letter and a quarter-inch seam allowance etched on each thick acrylic template. And they arrived within a week, too! Honestly, I could rave for paragraphs about the templates. Why haven't I used them before? It just takes a small rotary cutter to cut around the curves.

My third super-smart idea was to order Bigger Perfect Circles by Karen Kay Buckley from Amazon. (I usually choose the hardest way. Can you tell I'm thrilled with all this uncommon brilliance?) The smallest template in this packet is the finished size of Jen's center, 2.25". So I cut the circles with the thick acrylic templates then I sewed a wide running stitch on my machine (everyone else does this by hand) and gathered them over the Perfect Circles. See this YouTube video by Karen Johnson for directions. And they are... perfect!

Here's what I learned sewing these first blocks. Curved pieces and odd angles mean the ends do not line up. If you're accustomed to squares this can throw you off. Pin liberally.

Sewing the propeller

1. Pin it! For the propeller, propeller edge and corners, fold the pieces in half and crease the center. Then mark with a pin and match the centers.

Mark the center of these pieces with a pin

2. Pin it! For each curve, pin the centers together first.

3. Then use a pin at the seam line of each edge. Notice that the fabric edges on the "straight" sides don't match up. They won't. Just make sure the corners of the seam line do.

4. Once you have a pin straight through the corners, use another pin to hold it in place.

5. Then pin halfway from each side and the center. Add more pins to help keep the back from pleating. I prefer to sew with the concave side down against the feed dogs and the convex side up. Do what works for you.

6. When both curves are sewn, gently press with a dry iron or finger press.

Pinning & sewing sequence from left to right.
Use the same process for both curves of the propeller edge.

Sewing the propeller to the background wedge.

7. The propeller and the background wedges are NOT the same angle so the ends do NOT match up. Pin it! Put a pin in at the sewing line of the propeller center and then through the sewing line of the background center. Look carefully at the arrow at the top of the photo below. There is a little "rabbit ear" where different angled pieces join.

8. Put a pin in at the sewing line of the propeller edge. It should be along the arc of the propeller edge. Then pin through the sewing line of the background edge. Look at the bottom left arrow to see very slight "dog ears"... not a long as the rabbit ear ;-). The top fabric in the example on the right is bent back a bit. Sorry.

9. Sew from center to edge to keep center from shifting.

Pin the propeller wedge to the background wedge.
Notice narrower width of the background wedge.

Sewing the propeller together.

10. Since the propeller and background wedges are different sizes, you can't butt the seams together when joining pairs.  (Yes, together they form a 90 degree angle but each one is NOT 45 degrees.) Pin the center seam line of one to the same point on another. Then pin the outside edge at the seamline. Notice they don't quite match up.

11. Add more pins to the side and sew from center to side.

12. Repeat for the other half of the block.

13. Finger press the seams in one direction.

14. Pin the centers at the point where the wedges meet. Then pin the edges. Sew from side to side.

Top left: Wedges are not the same angle.
Bottom left: Pin by matching seam line intersection points.
Right: Sew halves together, carefully matching center.

15. Unsew the middle inside the seam line and finger press in the same direction as the seams.

16. Press gently.
Unsew the center and spin it. Press seams in one direction.

I hope this helps as you make these delightful blocks.

Edit: Here are two later posts. First a revised construction idea and next the finished quilt.

1. Having trouble sewing the block to size? Try this.
2. Finished Propellers and Planes quilt.

Enjoy the day!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Scrappy Trip 2

There were a few leftover squares in the scrap box; leftover colors, too. But I wanted to use them up, so I sorted by the number of identical squares... 8, 7, 6... Rows were chosen by which set had the correct number of squares. I wasn't sure how good it would look. But here it is.
A small quilt of nine Scrappy Trip blocks is bordered in pink and white.
Scrappy Trip baby quilt with mock eyelet border
Years ago I made a border like this and thought it might work here as well. I measured an old piece of eyelet to recreate a pink ribbon threading through it.
Eyelet Border design
Ideally the inner and outer strips should be the same width but I may scallop the edge. A wider outer edge leaves that option open while I decide. What do you think? Also I may make a bow of the remaining pink for the corners.

Here's the top without a border. Isn't it interesting how a simple border changes a quilt?
Scrappy Trip without a border

Enjoy the day!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Rayna Gillman Workshop Results

Oh, what a lucky break! Somehow I discovered that Rayna Gillman was speaking at the East Bay Heritage Quilt Guild in Berkeley last summer. Although not a member, I snagged the last spot in her workshop.
Blue, black, white, chartreuse and yellow fabrics are pieced into a blue-black batik to make this small quilt.
My quilt from Rayna Gillman's workshop, 24" x 22"
Rayna encouraged us to bring fabrics that had been languishing or that we found challenging. And I had a perfect example. My dear friend, Catherine, gave me this beautiful Java batik in yellow, blue, black and white. She'd stored it ten years but was never able to cut into it. Foolishly, I was certain I'd use it very soon. That was twenty years ago.

Original batik I wanted to use in the workshop
I finally cut a bit off but as you can see, I had no real vision of how to use it. I guess I thought I could place it wholesale on the design wall and mess around the edges. Hopeless! Although it looked wonderful in the morning (when no one else had anything up) by the end of the day it was a mess. Still, it was so enjoyable to watch other quilters develop their pieces. Isn't the interaction with others and the privilege of watching their creative process one of the the most stimulating parts of a workshop?
Modules completed at the end of Rayna Gillman's workshop
At the end of the day I happily rolled it up, took it home and put it on the wall there. I cut up more fabric, moved pieces around but finally took it down. Then last week Bron encouraged me to bring the pieces over and lay them out again. This time I could see the problems - parts needed to come out, sections needed to be unsewed and the entire piece should be smaller. Reading the book helped.

So many more ideas are running through my head now that this one done. Even another idea involving the batik!

Enjoy the day!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Woo. Pig. Sooie! Another Finished Quilt

When my son attended the University of Arkansas I made a quilt in his college colors. In fact I made enough blocks for two quilts thinking the second set would work for a Razorback friend. Of course, he graduated several years ago but... (insert various excuses here.)

I finally pulled the blocks out again. Exactly 63. Most log cabin layouts have centered designs which use an even number of blocks. Where was the 64th? However, sixty-three makes a seven-by-nine quilt: off-center but appealing. It just needed a border.

Another year passed until I was ready to piece it. Gwen Marston's liberated variable stars looked like just the ticket to perk up this quilt. They were fun and relaxing to make since you don't worry about the star points. I like this one better than the first one. (Don't tell my son!)
Red and cream log cabin set in an off-centered barn-raising style with a border of red variable stars.
Razorback 2 quilt finished

The open spaces in the border gave me room to write the recipients' names, college, graduation year. My favorite is the college yell!
The Razorback yell, "Woo, pig. Sooie!" is embroidered on the border of the quilt.
Razorback yell
Here are the fabrics I considered for the binding: dark brown, white, tan with dots, dark red, black with white lines, and white on white.
Binding choices for Razorback 2
In the mail today. Off to the East Coast. Woo, Pig. Sooie!

Related posts:
Liberated Variable Stars
Block Piecing Tutorial
Ready to Quilt
Razorback 2 Quilt

Enjoy the day. Ann

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Razorback 2 Quilt: Log Cabin with Variable Star Border

I'm almost through with quilting! It's named for the University of Arkansas mascot since it's for a pair of alumni. While printed fabric doesn't show quilting as well as solid fabrics, straight lines on the red diamonds look great.

The feather is a new method for me. It's a gentle C-curve that just touches the previous feather and then it echoes back to the spine. It was very easy. While planning the stem I realized that any narrow design will work in that area. Since I FMQ spirals best I added those.
The quilting is a simplified feather of gentle c-shapes surrounding a stem filled with spirals.
Feather and Stem quilting detail
I chose Leah Day's FMQ Project Tangle of Lights for the border. It's more open than many free motion designs and the starlights complement the variable stars. The quilting is about the same density as the rest of the quilt too.
Free motion quilting starlights and loops in the border complements the variable stars.
The border is quilted with Tangle of Lights. Notice the fine line of quilting that holds the edge of the border in place.
Do you see the line of black thread at the edge of this quilt? It's helpful to stitch a straight line 1/16" from the edge of the quilt before quilting to hold the top in place so the edges don't catch on the presser foot. It keeps the border from developing tucks. I usually sew this in a matching thread but wanted everyone to see it in this photo.

Hopefully the binding will be done this weekend.

Enjoy the day!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Northern Elephant Seals at Ano Nuevo

Want to see elephant seals? Head to Ano Nuevo State Park on the Pacific coast between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz. Can you guess how elephant seals got their name? (See photo below.) Can you guess how the park got its name? (Spaniards, New Years, 1603.)

From mid-December through March Northern elephant seals come here to give birth, nurse and mate. I took a three-hour docent-led hike 2-3 miles over coarse sand and dunes 30-40 feet tall. Juvenile males frequently rest a mile or more inland while bull seals protect their harems closer to the shore.

This young male unsuccessfully attempted to 'get a little loving' from a loudly objecting female. She'd just given birth to the pup in the foreground. See that sand cloud in the background? Seals cool themselves off by flipping sand on their bodies. (Lots of sand flew the day I visited.)
A female elephant seal rejects the attentions of a young bull after giving birth to the pup in the foreground.
Bull, female and newborn elephant seals
Birds are the surest indicator of birth. They hover in anticipation of the afterbirth. Hey, it's very nutritious. (Yeah, yuck anyway.)
Seagulls fight over the afterbirth of elephant seals. Black newborn seal is in the foreground.
Seagulls signal seal birth
Males come ashore first and carve out territory. When the females arrive, the mature bulls fight to keep others away. This gives the females time to give birth although the pups may not be his. His reward? He gets first chance to impregnate the new mothers.

Why do females put up with this? Elephant seals have the most extreme dimorphism of any mammal. Not only do males develop a distinctive proboscis (nose), they grow to be two or three times as heavy. Successful birthing frequently depends on a dominant, two-ton male fighting off less patient juveniles.
Grizzly skull is significantly larger than the female elephant seal's but the male elephant seal skull is more than twice as large.
Grizzly bear skull on the left compared with female and male elephant seal skulls on the right. Grizzlies have molars to chew their food; seals don't.
The females nurse their pups for 28 days then head back to sea to eat and rebuild their fat reserves. (Except pups, no one eats the entire time they are ashore so seals can lose 40-50% of their weight.) They mate before leaving shore but delay impregnation until they regain their weight. Eleven months of pregnancy but only eight months gestation.

Scientists track elephant seal movements, recently even adding transponders near their jaws to determine when and what they eat. (Mainly small fish.) Like moose, the sexes separate after mating with males following the coast north to the Aleutians and females heading straight west as far as the International Date Line. Doesn't she look like she has a headache? I was glad to realize these devices are only temporary.
Dozing in the sand, this light brown female has transponders glued to her head and back which will come off when she molts in the summer.
Transponders glued to this female will come off when she molts in the summer.
Enjoy the day! Ann