Thursday, March 31, 2011

Knocking Out UFOs -- Whee!!!

Oh my, but it is SO much fun to knock out a bunch of UFOs -- as in finish them! This past weekend I had the pleasure of going to a 4-day guild retreat on nearby Galveston Island. I find quilt retreats to be wonderful because I am inspired by everyone else's projects, I learn by watching and listening to other quilters, I get to sew as much as I want, and I have the joy of friendship - all at once! So let's take a look at a few of the things I've been working on this month.

First of all, my "Borrowed Roses" quilt top was nearly finished when I left for the retreat. I just needed to assemble all of the blocks and then stitch down the corner ribbons and tassels. I don't like the corner ribbon design, so ignore what you see below; I'm going to revise the ribbons and tassels and you'll see the revision next month. I've been asked if this will ever be a pattern. Yes -- but I never publish a pattern until the quilt is finished, including the quilting, so the pattern availability is still a couple months or more off into the future. In the meantime, take a peek, below. Except for the corner ribbons, I love the look of this quilt - and the feathered swag border was amazingly simple to make! It is made in rectangular sections; the sections are sewn together into border strips - and then the ribbons and tassels are added. Getting all of those swags to line up may seem like a tough trick... but I'll show you how I did it in the next photos.

The swag border is made of three 12 by 22-1/2 inch rectangles (unfinished size). I always applique on a piece of background fabric that is larger than necessary and then I trim it down to size. But how do I trim that rectangle so that the swags line up and meet in the right place? Here's how...

  • Trace the outline of the swag onto a piece of plastic (I happened to use Sharpie markers on old ziplock bags that I taped together).

  • Tape together a bunch of rulers so that the set measure 22-1/2 inches wide -- and more than 12 inches deep. Note, in the photo, that I used the painter's blue tape because it is easy to remove when I'm done.

  • Tape the plastic with the design on it across the rulers, placing it so that the top and the left and right sides of the pattern match the top, left, and right sides of the ruler set.

  • Lay the ruler set across the appliqued swag... matching the applique to the pattern outlined on the plastic...

  • Now you are ready to cut the top, left, and right sides of the swag rectangle.

  • Once you're cut those three sides, turn the ruler set around and cut the bottom side of the rectangle, such that the rectangle measures 12 by 22-1/2 inches.

This works like magic! The last half-inch or so of each swag is left un-appliqued. In this way, the swag fabric can be folded back out of the way when the rectangles are sewn together into border strips. If there is any gap, don't worry; it will be covered up by the ribbon when it is appliqued across the intersection of the swags.

Honestly, I love this swag so much that you'll probably see it again in another quilt some day -- but my vision for the next swag is something done in color gradations, with the "feathers" each getting darker as they splay out away from the center feather.

Another quilt I'm obviously still working on is my Friends of Baltimore -- here it is, in its current state, with 9 of the blocks quilted. All these other projects got in the way this month or more would be done!

This block has a little fleur-de-lis kind of design in the open area of the bottom corners; I like little oddities in quilting.

And here is the 9th block, not quite finished -- the cross-hatching is all done, but not quilting in the ditch around all of the fruit. That will be done in the next couple of days.

The next quilt that I worked on this past weekend was an assembly job -- I had already finished all of the stars and chain blocks; my friend Cynthia and I have been exchanging sets of star blocks for the past couple of years. Each block uses a civil war fabric and an assortment of shirtings. Did I mention that these blocks are 4-1/2 inches (FINISHED size)? Oh yes! That's so that they would "fit" with the nine-patch blocks that I made to go with them.

So here is what the stars and double 9-patch blocks look like together. I love using varieties of shirtings with civil war fabrics. They remind me of my grandpa's old pajamas.

And then... when you get enough of them made, the stars and chains begin to take on a life of their own. I like how those litlte HALF-INCH SQUARES just sparkle like blinking lights in a quilt like this. Did I tell you how many star blocks and Irish chain blocks there are in this quilt? Well... Take a look! This quilt has 374 blocks in it -- that's 188 star blocks and 187 chain blocks. I paper pieced all of the stars so that I could make them 4-1/2" finished size. The Irish chain blocks were time-hogs -- they seemed to take forever, even though they were strip-pieced, because there are a LOT of pieces in each block! But the result was worth the time. The quilt measures 76-1/2 by 99 inches -- perfect for a twin bed.

The final project that I worked on at the retreat was a quilt top made using triple four-patch blocks. These blocks were from various exchanges I was involved in over the last several years. I just never got around to sewing them together until this weekend. The photo below shows only the bottom half of the quilt... the top is hanging on my sewing machine, ready to stitch onto this set. Aaahhh.... we'll just wait and see if it takes another retreat next year to get around to putting that last line of stitching in place!

I hope you are finding some great sewing time... and finishing up some things here and there. Until next month's posting...

Happy sewing!

Sue Garman

(c)2011 Susan H. Garman