December 21, 2015

Merry Christmas to all!

Santa stopped by our booth at Quilt Festival in Houston when retired firefighter Steve Bradford asked me to autograph one of my books for him. When I showed the photo at the office, Patti said, "Wow! Santa got a picture with the real Marti!" LOL

Photo courtesy of Brenda Asmus, who, we hear, is on Santa's Nice list

Wishing you all a happy, healthy new year, filled with lots of fun sewing and quilting experiences. I'll be back with two more template conversion charts for the Farmer's Wife 1930s Sew Along on January 4!

December 16, 2015

Chart 24: Autumn, Block #9 in the Farmer's Wife 1930s Sew-along

Woo hoo! 

We have completed over one-quarter of the 99 blocks for the Farmer’s Wife 1930s Sampler Quilt!

The Autumn block is like a tiny little medallion quilt. You make the center of the block first and work out. Check the sizes as you go along. The irregular 9-patch center should be the exact size of B-10. After you add the corner triangles, confirm the new square is correct size with B-8.

Using the templates to cut the exact size and shape needed is great! Using the templates to true-up sub-units as you sew along is a bonus.

My Autumn Block

Click on the image for a larger view. Click the link to download the Template Conversion Chart for Autumn:

In addition to our template conversion PDF download, you will want to read Gnome Angel's tutorials for these blocks.

We’re Taking a Break

If you are thinking about or planning to do our 8-1/2 inch mystery quilt blocks and haven’t started yet, now is the time.  Look at my November 2 post (Chart 11) for the first four blocks and on November 11 (Chart 14) for Nancy -- here she is at 6 inches for the Farmer's Wife 1930s quilt and 8-1/2 inches for our mystery quilt. The small block makes 8-1/2 inches look huge, doesn't it?!

Click on the photo to see a larger view.

Just for good measure, here are two more 8-1/2 inch blocks for the mystery quilt. How many more there will be is still a mystery.

For the 8-1/2 inch Ava block, cut the * squares the same way you did for the 6-inch Ava block, substituting template B-14 for D-29. (See Chart #19.)

December 14, 2015

Chart 23: Priscilla, Block #86 in the Farmer's Wife 1930s Sew Along

When a block isn't "template friendly" it doesn't always mean I'm going to substitute a new block that is easy to cut with templates. There are several blocks like Jewel and Priscilla that have very few pieces and are easy to cut and sew by hand or machine, just like the farm wives did in the '30s.

When I was arranging the order of the blocks, I decided to sprinkle in the "not template friendly" blocks so they wouldn't pile up at the end of the Sew Along.

Jewel (Chart #15, 11/16/15) had asymmetrical mirror-image pieces that led me to talk about cutting out a blouse front. That led me to dress patterns, and that made me think about what to do with dress patterns, and we included our first DIY with dress pattern tissue.

Priscilla is also an easy-to-cut-and-sew block, which again makes me think of garment sewing. That means this post has another idea for repurposing dress pattern tissue, and it's even easier than the first idea we posted.

Gift wrapping has never been one of my strengths! When open-top decorative gift bags with lots of tissue paper pushing out of the top appeared, I was fully on board, not to mention relieved. I'm just sorry it took me this long to think about using dress pattern tissue!

My Priscilla Block

Click on the image below for a larger view.

Click the link to download the Template Conversion Chart for Priscilla:

In addition to our template conversion PDF download, you will want to read Gnome Angel's tutorials for these blocks.

The Farmer’s Wife 1930s Sampler Quilt: Inspiring Letters from Farm Women of the Great Depression and 99 Quilt Blocks That Honor Them by Laurie Aaron Hird for Fons & Porter/F+W

December 9, 2015

Chart 22: Setting Triangles and Cat, block #22 in the Farmer's Wife 1930s Sew Along

Looking Ahead

Pick from Three Tools for Cutting the Setting Triangles!

You may even already own one of them!

Click photo for a larger view.

If you are using the quilt layout in the Farmer's Wife 1930s Sampler Quilt book, this is a good time to decide on the setting triangles for the blocks. Cut 12 or 15 and put them up on your design wall to make sure you like your fabric selection. Then you can start sewing the triangles in place as you finish each block. You'll be ready to arrange the blocks into a pleasing layout when you want to.

1. Back in August 2015 when I wrote the first list of potential tools, I recommended the Small No-flip Diagonal Set Triangle Ruler #8105 for cutting the setting triangles. It was the obvious tool to recommend — it is designed specifically for cutting setting triangles for blocks from 2-1/2  to 10 inches square.  (Click the diagrams for larger views.)

2. Later, I realized the Flying Geese Ruler also has a line that is perfect for the triangle. The line to align with the fabric is actually the seam line of the largest triangle. It has nothing to do with setting triangles, it just happens to be the right size triangle needed for setting this quilt.

3. Just recently I discovered that the outside dimension of one of our newest tools, the Multi-size Half-Square Triangle Ruler, is also the exact size needed for the setting triangle. Ignore the printed lines and place the hypotenuse on the straight edge of the strip to cut full size triangles.

No matter how you cut the triangles, remember to cut the strips on the lengthwise grain parallel to the selvage. The strips should be 4-3/4 inches wide when you cut the triangles with any of these tools. The engineered corners create a “dog-ear free zone” and make lining setting triangles up with 6-1/2 inch squares so easy.

The Next 3 Months

January's template conversion charts will still feature Template Sets B. D and N.

In February, we'll work with blocks designed on a 5 x 5 grid. The Set S templates were actually developed to cut 6 inch blocks designed on a 5 x 5 grid! Remember, the cut size for squares in these blocks are 6 inches divided by 5 + 1/2 inch. Set M (the big sister of Set S) was developed to cut 12-inch blocks on a 5 x 5 grid, and a few pieces from Set M are used in these blocks. We have always offered a special price when you buy Sets M and S together because of their special relationship.

In March, we will make a group of blocks that uses the 3/4 inch and 1-1/2 inch Log Cabin Ruler #8037. I’ll show you how to use it to advantage with strip techniques for the 3/4 inch checkerboard sections of several blocks. You can also use it to make a great 6-inch Log Cabin block, not to mention larger blocks for wonderful Log quilts.

And Now, Today's Block: Cat

Flying Geese, Nine Patch, and Pinwheel are among the sub-unit names that are almost universally recognized by quilters. The sub-unit featured in Cat is not as frequently used, so the name may not be as universally used, but I call this pieced triangle unit Bird in the Air When there are more than four triangles in the pieced triangle, I call it a Birds in the Air unit.

This has nothing to do with making the block, but I chuckled when I saw that Cat was the name given to this block full of Birds in the Air!

If you made Alta (Chart 13, 11/9/16 blog post), my template-friendly substitute for Aimee, the four corner units were bird-in-the-air sub-units. The only difference is that these triangles are smaller than those in the Alta block.
Here's a photo of my Cat block. Click on the image below for a larger view. Click the link to download the Template Conversion Chart for Cat:

In addition to our template conversion PDF download, you will want to read Gnome Angel's tutorials for these blocks.

The Farmer’s Wife 1930s Sampler Quilt: Inspiring Letters from Farm Women of the Great Depression and 99 Quilt Blocks That Honor Them by Laurie Aaron Hird for Fons & Porter/F+W

December 7, 2015

Chart 21: Perfect Grainlines and Malvina, Block #55 in the Farmer's Wife 1930s Sew Along

Living in a Perfect Grainline World

In a perfect world, every piece in every patchwork block would have an obvious best grainline cutting position on the fabric. Needless to say, we don’t live in a perfect world or even a perfect grainline world. It is easy to list grainline guidelines. When possible, you want the lengthwise grain of the fabric:
  • On the outside edge of the piece,
  • The outside edge of the sub-unit,
  • And, on the outside edge of the block.

The most important of these guidelines, especially when making 6-inch finished patchwork blocks like we are in the Farmer's Wife 1930s Sampler Quilt Sew Along, is to have straight lengthwise grain on the outside edge of the block. The reason I say that is, typically, a finished block may lay around and be handled and finally manipulated a bit when being sewn into a quilt. The more stable the edges are, the less likely you are to distort it along the way, the flatter your quilt top will be, etc.

The next most important grainline position is the outside of the sub-units. Sub-units are also often subject to more handling, pressing, laying around.

If you want the outside edge of the sub-units to be on the straight grain, you have to identify or locate the sub-units. The Farmer’s Wife blocks are divided into sub-units on the block pages in the book. However, many blocks can be divided into more than one set of sub-units. Malvina is a perfect example. Look at the sub-units on page 214 in The Farmer's Wife 1930s Sampler Quilt book. The edge of all 12 pieces on the outside of the block is the hypotenuse of a 90° right triangle. It is easy to cut them on the straight grain.
However, the remaining 16 right triangles that are the same size and cut from the same fabric are sewn into square sub-units and we grainline geeks would want to cut those triangles with the legs on straight grain.

This is a Great Place for Compromise…

It is a real nuisance to cut the same shapes from the same fabric on two different grainlines and keep track of them. Naturally, there are times I have felt it was worth the effort and I have done it, but that was usually with bigger pieces for larger blocks. I did not think it was worth it on this 6-inch block, but I took a second look at the arrangements of the sub-units and decided to make different sub-units.

You will see on our Template Conversion Chart PDF that by making different sub-units, we could cut all of the triangles with the hypotenuse on straight grain -- and because we made different sub-units, the sides of most of the sub-units were also on straight grain. In addition, the four-patch unit in the center has straight grain on the outside edge of every piece, so where the squares are joined to the hypotenuse of the extra triangles, they will provide stability.

And Maybe Extra Starch

When you know you are compromising grainline cutting decisions, you may want to use more sizing or starch to stabilize pieces. We don’t recommend real starch unless you know you will finish the top, have it quilted and then wash the quilt to remove the starch in a timely manner. Many bugs love starch!

Remember, Design Overrides Grainline

Regardless of how much I stress grainline, I also say design always overrides grainline. Things like fussy cutting or the use of stripes or other directional fabrics to add a desired design element would be examples of design overriding grainline. When you make that choice, just take extra special care as you handle the pieces.

My Malvina Block

Click on the image for a larger view. Click the link to download the Template Conversion Chart for Malvina:

In addition to our template conversion PDF download, you will want to read Gnome Angel's tutorials for these blocks.

On a Personal Note

In the Farmer's Wife 1930s Sampler Quilt book, the letter that goes with the Malvina block struck a chord with me. The writer was proclaiming the enjoyment the family shared around the radio. Radio was important in my childhood home, too, as it wasn't until I was a sophomore in high school that Dad surprised the family with a television set. Radio was also special to our community of Mitchellville near Des Moines, Iowa. We were proud to be the home of the powerful 50,000 watt WHO AM radio tower. WHO could be heard from the Rockies to Pittsburgh and from Canada to the Gulf Coast.

I'll never forget the year mom got a new electric stove. When she turned on the left back burner, we heard WHO radio! It always intrigued me that we couldn't hear the radio on any of the other burners!

Our house was right beside the main road between Des Moines and the WHO transmitter. There is a famous family story about a WHO sportscaster who stopped at our house for directions and chatted and had a glass of water before going on. Because the sportscaster was the radio voice for major league baseball all over the Midwest, he was quite the celebrity. Later, when the Midwest sportscaster became a Hollywood actor, mom and dad repeated the story. When he became president of the United States, we joked about putting up a billboard at the farm that said Ronald Reagan drank water here!

The Farmer’s Wife 1930s Sampler Quilt: Inspiring Letters from Farm Women of the Great Depression and 99 Quilt Blocks That Honor Them by Laurie Aaron Hird for Fons & Porter/F+W

December 2, 2015

Chart 20, Daffodil, Block #26 in the Farmer's Wife 1930s Sew Along

Whenever I see daffodils, I’m carried back to a special moment in my life and I relive the same great feeling.

Image © 2015 by Holly Lammons Craft
Used with permission (Thanks, Holly!)

In case you don’t know, we live in Atlanta, Georgia, a beautiful southern U.S. city with a very mild climate. However, the first 30 years of my life were spent with long cold winters. When my husband was considering a job change, we were living on the lake effect side of Cleveland, Ohio -- the East side, where the winter winds blew across Lake Erie before dumping ten times as much snow on our side of town as on the West side.

Richard was actually considering two jobs— one in Atlanta and one even further north than Cleveland with longer, colder winters than even my Iowa upbringing! I dutifully said, “Whichever job you think will make you happier, honey, is okay with me.” I even meant it! We were invited to visit the northern town at the end of May. The locals were very excited because the daffodils were blooming and it might get up to 72°F that day. I shivered in my jacket, unimpressed— well, impressed, but maybe not the way they expected!

Soon the decision was made and we moved to Atlanta in August, Atlanta’s hottest month. However, it was so much like Iowa’s hot humid August days I felt right at home! Fall came and it was long and beautiful. In December it got chilly. We occasionally get snow in Atlanta, but there was no snow during our first Atlanta winter. Before I knew it, February 14, Valentine's Day, appeared on the calendar, and guess what I saw? You guessed right if you guessed daffodils! I never see daffodils without feeling excited again that we ended up living in Atlanta and not the land of long, dark, icy cold winters!

So, of course I want a Daffodil block in my quilt, even if it isn’t template-friendly! I fused my flower and leaves onto a single 6-1/2 inch background square. The edges are finished with a machine blanket or buttonhole stitch. You can expect 4 or 5 more blocks featuring these methods.

My Daffodil Block

See the white areas on the back of my block? I was sure the package said "Tear-away Stabilizer" when I nonchalantly put a layer under my fused daffodil.  I spent too much time tearing, picking and saying bad things before deciding the remaining stabilizer doesn't show and won't rot, so it is staying!

Click on the image for a larger view. Click the link to download the Template Conversion Chart for Jewel:

In addition to our template conversion PDF download, you will want to read Gnome Angel's tutorials for these blocks.

Shades SoftFuse

I only use Shades SoftFuse, a paper-backed fusible web product, when I do fusible applique. It is easy to use and results in such a soft hand that you can even hand quilt through the pieces if you want. Shades SoftFuse Premium™ doesn’t add any stiffness to the fabric, and I always do an edge finish. Ask for Shades Premium SoftFuse at your local quilt shop or click to visit Shades SoftFuse online.

Stacy Michell of Shades Textiles demonstrates how to use SoftFuse in this 7-minute video:

Yes, we are proud to say, Stacy Michell is our daughter!

Use SoftFuse for a Great Binding Trick! 

In a December 2012 blog post, I explained how we use SoftFuse for what I call The Unbeatable Quilt Binding Trick. We bind all our quilts this way! Here's a link where you can read all about it:

Speaking of Daffodils…

In 1987, Jim Gibbs began planting daffodils; he has continued to plant thousands of them every year since. It's an easy day trip from Atlanta to walk the residential estate gardens of Gibbs Gardens, about 50 miles north of Atlanta in Ball Ground, GA. The almost 300-acre property includes ponds, waterfalls and bridge crossings in beautiful garden tableaux that change with the seasons.  

Daffodils at Gibbs Gardens, Ball Ground, GA
Image © 2015 by Holly Lammons Craft. Used with permission.