Sunday, November 29, 2015

More Improvisational Fun with Arrows

Last week I showed a quilt I made with arrows along the top, and down the right border. 
That post includes a detailed arrow-making tutorial. I had so much fun with the arrows that I made lots of extras. I set eight extras into blocks of four: 
Eureka, it's a mini recycling quilt! I also discovered that the arrow tips can line up with the central red square, as in the block above; or not, as in the block below:
Can you see the difference in the alignment? Here are the two blocks snugged up together. 
With 8 more arrows, you could wind up with a fine frenzy: 
I didn't do a lot of measuring with my first arrows, but quickly discovered that if I wanted them to chase each other in blocks of four, I had to measure. (The first part of the tutorial below repeats some of the pictures from my last tutorial, but with specific measurements.)

1. Cut the arrow tips from 3 1/4" squares cut diagonally in half.  You'll need a background color (mine is lavender), plus two tip colors (Polka dots and turquoise fabric in the upper arrowhead, navy and orange for the bottom arrowhead). 
Join each tip triangle to a background triangle. Then join two of those units together, side by side. Stitch four pairs.  

2. For the shaft, start with strips that start out 3" x 6". Each shaft needs 2 colors (one for the shaft itself - green in the image below - and another for the background - rose in the image below.) 

3. Stitch the three pieces together at the angles of your choice, as described in detail here in last week's tutorial. Cut the shaft unit down to a square that is 5" x 5". (or the width of your tip unit x itself.) 

4. Join the tip and shaft pieces. 

5. Trim the shaft edges so they line up with the tip edges. Each finished arrow should be 5" wide x about 7 3/4" long. 

6. Place the four arrows in position, pointing clockwise or counterclockwise. Cut a middle square to 2 3/4" x 2 3/4".  (It's red in my example). 

7. Fold the middle square down, right sides together, along the top left corner of the bottom horizontal arrow.

8. Stitch most of the way across the top of the center piece, but not all the way. 
9. Open the central square. It will look like this, with only a part of the red square's lower seam sewn.  Place the next arrow in position, to the left of your unit.
10. Flip the left arrow on top of the red square and the arrow below it. 
6. Stitch ALL THE WAY down the left vertical seam. 
7. Open the second arrow now that it's all sewn. 
8. Align the third arrow  - that's the piece along the top. 
9. Flip the third arrow down, right sides together, with the arrow and red square below it, and stitch in position. 

10. Align the fourth arrow, on the right. Flip it right sides together onto the arrow and the central square next to it. Stitch all the way down to the loose lower right hand corner of the central square. 
11. The only unsewn seam is the one on the lower right of the red square. Flip the red square and the upper right arrow downwards, on top of the lower horizontal arrow. Pin the right sides together. Begin stitching an inch or so before the existing line of stitching ends, overlap those first stitches, then continue stitching all way out to the end.  Here's the finished block, again.  
Of course you can play around with this idea by aligning the arrow tips with the central square, and varying hues and values, making long chains of arrows for borders, and much, much more! Maybe something for Valentine's Day? Arrows to the heart? Circular targets? Bows and arrows? Whatever you do, have fun with them! Send pictures!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Improvisational Quilt Games with Diane Hire

Here's my latest, another batik scrap quilt, hot off the sewing machine, but before embellishment.
If it seems familiar, it should, because this is the kind of design taught by Diane Hire, one of my favorite quilt authors, and a pioneer in improvisational quilting, Her books Vivacious Curvy Quilts. and Quilters Playtime - Games With Fabric, are prized possessions (no affiliation!)

A couple of weeks ago, I felt a yen to cut some improvisational curves, so I pulled out Vivacious, and started stacking, cutting, and resewing. Following Hire's detailed instructions, I came up with blocks like this:
Put them together:
Joined those: 
Used the scraps to make wonky piano key borders down the left edge, and across the bottom (an idea from Quilters' Playtime):
And made up my own game to create the arrows that go up the right side and across the top. When I was finished with the arrows, I thought they also looked like pine trees, mushrooms, circus tents, and/or  um, testosterone thermometers.
(A friend also told me she thought they looked like 'pathways to pyramids'! Love that!) A tutorial showing how these arrows were made is at the bottom of the post.

My final step was to add 92 buttons. Ta daa, here it is done. I'm calling it "Counterclockwise."
Closer. The dotted batik block on the upper left didn't need buttons!
Diane's books have directions for most of it, except the arrows, so here's my quick quilter's game for arrows.

1. Cut a bunch of half-square triangles (I started with 3" squares, cut in half diagonally, but any size works).  Dub one color the background, and two other colors as the arrowhead. I happened to have the lavender triangles leftover from another project. Stitch a bunch thusly: 
Ideally, the seam allowances should be pressed towards the arrowhead, but as you can see, it didn't always happen for me. 

2. Collect three strips for the shaft,each a little narrower than the top piece. (I chose about 3" wide and 6" long for each). 
3. Fold the right strip onto the middle one, good sides together, at an angle, and sew the length of the strip at the angle. 
5. Cut excess from right side of middle strip: 
6. Open up and press the right piece on the right side. Then repeat with the same color strip on the left side. Press the seams inward.
 7. Stitch tip units to base units at the narrow end of the long triangles. 
8. Open. 
Put them on the wall and contemplate. Definitely circus tents.
9, Option: Trim the excess base fabric straight across, to the width of the arrowhead. (Or angle the cuts, if you prefer). 

Now you can try them out as borders for your quilt.  My average arrow came out to about 8 1/2" x 5 1/2". If you're math averse like me, you can can always make a few arrows extra-short, or extra long, to fit your border.

Along with the arrows, I pulled out another trick that I learned long ago, although I don't remember where. I placed 3-D inserts into one corner of each block, which creates a pinwheel and furthers the circular illusion. 
These start out as the kite shape on the left side of the photo below. It's widest angle is 120 degrees,and the opposite angle is 60 degree. 
Fold in half the long way, as shown on the right side of the picture above. Then baste each one with a 1/8" seam allowances into one corner of each block, with the narrow tips facing in the same direction (clockwise or counterclockwise - just be consistent!), and the fold facing the center.  When four of these meet at the corners of four blocks, they form a 3D pinwheel! So easy! So fun! Here's another pinwheel. 
Have you played any fabric games lately?

UPDATE: Part II of this post, with a detailed arrow-making tutorial that includes measurements, can be found in the next installment, here.

Friday, November 13, 2015


I made this small piece after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, blogged here. I never thought I'd need to show it again. And so soon.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Improvising a Star Trek Villain Quilt & Tutorial

Sometimes a quilt name just jumps into your head, and won't leave. When this quilt was almost finished, it came to me: "Crystalline Entity".

For you non-Trekkers, the CE was a fast-moving giant snowflake which ate everyone and everything. (Details here). Not only that, but the 'Next Generation' episode it appeared in was even more morose and melodramatic than usual.
I didn't set out to make a giant killer snowflake. I had no idea what it was going to look like when I started sewing scraps together.

To me, improvisational quilting  means you set out on a journey - just like the Starship Enterprise - without the slightest clue where you're going. You might  bump into something meaningful, beautiful, campy, and/or murderous, but mostly, it's about the voyage.

I began by cutting a bunch of 1.5" white strips, and going through my scrap pile for smallish blue pieces. Place them on the strip and stitch.

Leave more space than I did between pieces. Press open, then trim the pieces straight, if possible.
 Next side:
 Press open. Repeat until all sides are surrounded:
If you find you have a piece missing (ha!)....
....just add it at an angle. 
Join units together. Start at the center, and build your way out. This is easy when the entity is small, but as it grows, it gets more challenging. (Just like CE!)

When adding an outer piece, I pressed one seam upward (the seam allowance below the dark triangle), then stitched the adjoining seam on my machine (the grey stitching to the right of the dark triangle)... 
 Press open, and hand stitch that lower folded-in edge in place.
When all the pieces were in position,  I tested the entity on various background fabrics. But then I decided I liked it just the way it was, with jagged edges. I pressed it to fusible batting and a white backing....
Cut away the extra....
Finished the edges with a corded edging. Here it is pre-embellishment: 
Without embellishment, it would work as a table runner as well as a wall hanging. But I threw some buttons on it, and one thing led to another...
The finished image is at the top of this post. It's about 23" across, so it probably won't consume a planet any time soon. Along with the vague resemblance to the CE, it also looks to me like someone punched a hole through a wall or a window. Here's a closeup 
In hindsight, I would say that this project went quickly from ridiculously easy to very tricky, especially around the exterior. I could have achieved virtually the same final effect by simply zig-zagging small blue scraps onto one large background piece of white. But hey, as we know from Star Trek, it's not about the ending, right? It's all about the voyage.

By the way, do you think it needs more buttons?