Sunday, August 9, 2015

Improv String Quilt: A Beginning

Ah, pride goeth before the fall! I've made several string quilts over the years including a queen size Strips and Curves so this one should be a breeze. How hard could it be? [Pretty hard as it turns out.] This quilt frustrated me all month until I finally just started cutting. After all, this is a learning experience and we are meeting to discuss this score in a week. What's the worst that could happen? More pieces for the scrap bag.

I pulled fabric, divided them into three piles and started cutting the first group. Soon I recognized some problems.
Original fabric groups
Much of my fabric is less than forty inches wide. Some are fat quarters; others are leftovers with "interesting" holes. I sewed short lengths together but ignored how long they finished (36 to 60 inches).  This mistake created a very uneven bottom that made it hard to judge how long the next strip should be. Eventually I went back and cut all the strips a more uniform length.  It seemed like a minor point in the book, but it made sewing the strips so much easier. Next time I'll decide on a length before cutting strips.

Part of Group 1
I'm not sure if Sherri created wide string sheets but I am wary of them. The very wide string sheets created for the Strips and Curves quilt quickly became long and unwieldy. This time I limited sheets to 40" or less (by the 40" width of fabric for a length.) My experience with Floating Squares taught that reserving some fabric components makes it easier to put them together in the end. I hope shorter sheets will both make it easier when they are cut across and increase the diversity of the strata. Each smaller sheet can be rotated or sewn to the others in a different order. A few single strings are left to join these smaller sections as needed. [We'll see how this works. I haven't reached that step yet.]

As pairs of strips are sewed together I pinned them on the wall to keep them neat.
My other problem is simple math... and the fact that I didn't do any ahead of time. This is freehand cutting but still I want forty inches of strips. Forty strips are needed if they finish 1" each; twenty strips if they finish 2" each; twenty-nine if they finish 1.5". So 20-40 strips should be enough. How many were cut? Over 150 of this first group alone. [This is how I always end up with large quilts.]

I've decided to divide the second set of fabrics into two subsets and discard my original third set (the blues and greens at the bottom). This time I'm going to count.

Two sheets of Group 1 fabrics
As usual, my fabrics range from the 1990's to last week. The green, yellow and brown print to the right of the beige and white plaid (about eighth from the left) is the oldest. I used the tiniest amount to make shoes for my sons in this quilt. It's been in the stash ever since because... I have no idea. Time to use it up.

Linking up with Scraptastic Tuesday.

Enjoy the day,

27 comments:

  1. I love a string quilt. Making them and looking at them. I have the strata book, and never read it but want to. There is just something about all the visual patterning and color change of strip quilts. And endless variety really, varying color or width of strip, placement, etc. LeeAnna

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    1. Me, too! It's simple but has more options than almost any quilt. My widths are pretty uniform this time but I'm thinking about another one with varied widths.

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  2. Can't wait to see what you do with this when its all pieced together. I too am absolutely determined to use up my stash. I took one whole collection old Moda and cut every bit of it into 3 inch strips, all where different lenghts, then I pieced the ends to make in ONE super long strip, laid them on the cutting table and cut them to the width I wanted. It is more of a traditional brick look, but was really easy. Your strips will be much more interesting. Keep us posted.

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    1. I used to believe I needed to keep some to have a complete stash but my opinion is changing. Sometimes you just need to turn it over. It's too good to waste and keeping it on a shelf forever is a waste. Your strips sound like a jelly roll race. I've never made one but know some people who have. That would have been smarter than the way I've done this.

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  3. I've never tried a strip quilt, but it's definitely something I'd like to explore. As always I love your mix of fabrics and am interested to see how this progresses (and whether it ends up as a monster-sized top or something more manageable!)

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    1. They are always fun for me. I like the unexpected manner the fabrics come and go. There's always another way to put them together, too. Yeah. I may be channeling "The Monster Book of Monsters" into a quilt. Wouldn't Hagrid be proud?

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  4. I was wondering about that when I read through the score. A lot of my stash started out as a fat quarter.:) You made me smile with the extra strip cutting and large quilt comment. I can sympathize with that!

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    1. Unless you plan to cut the final sets lengthwise, I think I'd use the most common length you have. My scrap bag is overflowing again; it doesn't need more strips!

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  5. I'm enjoying all the color and your thinking process, thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thanks, Janie. I find that writing my thoughts helps me clarify them.

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  6. You have committed to a big quilt here and already are planning another ! Spoken like an addicted quilter! Thank you for linking up to #scraptastictuesday

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    1. I know you're quilt plans include several future quilts, too, Fellow Addicted Quilter! Thanks for hosting Scraptastic Tuesday.

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  7. Strip piecing is a fantastic way of using scraps. I love it, and I love your work.

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    1. It does use up scraps. Some of these are but some are cut from yardage. Admittedly, most has been hanging around for a while. Thanks for writing.

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  8. Lovely free string work --enjoy seeing it coming together. (That Ruth MacDonald quilt you made is gorgeous--I have been a huge fan of hers, too; and have a couple of her books)...hugs, Julierose

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    1. Thanks for both compliments, Julierose. Ruth was/is a monumental quilter. She influenced a couple of generations of us.

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  9. Interesting. I think the only string quilts I have made were from pieces from the string pile...all leftovers. I don't remember ever cutting anything for a string quilt. I'll be interested in seeing what you do with your strings or is it strata?

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    1. You are so restrained. I start with leftovers but then... oops. How did that piece get cut from the yardage? These strata (much better name; so geologic) are filling me with ideas. I guess it's a good thing I cut so many.

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    2. Hah.. yes, definitely, restrained is my middle name. My left brain talks to me way too much. But maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks. Maybe...maybe...

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  10. This will be a fun quilt. I'm quilting a string quilt now but I've never worked with such long strings. It's always interesting to try something new, isn't it?

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    1. It is. Strings and scraps are always great quilts. You start off feeling so virtuous using up the leftovers, then remember where you previously used the fabric and finally are overcome with excitement at the beauty of the random placements.
      In hindsight, the long strips are overkill unless you plan to use them lengthwise in a quilt.

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  11. I was really excited to see how you've been getting on Ann, what a great start! Mine are going to be a maximum of about 40" wide too - I think I've only got one piece of fabric that's more than a metre in length anyway and that's waiting to be made into binding for another quilt... I think I need to start pulling my finger out with this quilting malarkey, but piecing is just too much fun lately! It's wonderful to see your 'sheets' Ann, great fabric choices as usual, so different from mine - but that's the beauty of them. I'm excited about the next step, are you?

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    1. Hi, Stephie. It is fun to have online friends working through the same text. How different they each look; not only because of the colors, but taking the time to interpret a theme individually is quite interesting. I have at least three string quilt ideas floating around in my head. But I also have a small pile of quilts to finish soon for friends. I like getting them quilted, bound and in use. I'm heading over to read your post.

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  12. It just amazes me Ann, how you can take so many disparate fabrics and meld them into one fantastic new fabric. I love string pieced quilts and it will be fun seeing where you go with this!

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    1. Thanks, Lara. I'm having a blast. Lots of ideas so perhaps it's good to have extra strings.

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