There’s always a new way to create a familiar block in quilting.
I learned this incredibly easy technique for making half-square triangles this weekend, and couldn’t wait to try it.
I started with two five-inch squares, put them right sides together, and pressed them.
Pressing two pieces of fabric together encourages them to cling to one another, cutting down on slippage when you sew.
Sew a quarter-inch seam around all four sides of the squares. I sewed one side at a time so that the lines of stitching criss-crossed at the corners.
Cut your squares in half diagonally once.
And then cut those two pieces in half again, as shown.
Press the triangles open, toward the darker fabric.
Be sure to cut off the “ears” that stick out beyond the half-square triangle. The top block in the photo below still has its “ears” intact.
I would recommend that at this stage, you trim all four triangles so they are the same size.
At last count, there are a bazillion different blocks that include half square triangles. Two of the easiest are this variation of flying geese. And then there’s the proverbial and always interesting pinwheel.
UPDATE: I learned this technique from guild member Jennifer Heels who added this handy equation that will help you figure out how big of a square you need to start with:
A = your desired HST size (unfinished)
B = the side dimensions (in inches) of the square you will cut from your two fabrics (i.e. 8″ x 8″)
(A + 1/2″) x 2 = B
I’ve developed a simple way to machine quilt that’s not stitch-in-the-ditch but can still be done with the feed dogs up, and the walking foot in place. I guess you could call it shadow meandering.
My first quilts were quilted in straight lines, the most difficult pattern to quilt. Boring.
Then I tripped across Lise Bergene’s book, A Passion for Patchwork, and she has all these wavy lines criss-crossing her quilts. Have I told you how much I love this book? I haven’t made anything from it, so far, but her design style inspires me.
So I started quilting in wavy lines. It’s pretty easy, actually, especially if you are wearing sticky-fingered gloves to move your fabric around. You set yourself a steady pace of stitching, feed dogs up with walking foot engaged, and while the quilt is in motion, hold your fingers in one spot on the left. The quilt will pivot around the point you set so your stitching curves.
Lift your left hand, put down your right, and do the same thing so your stitching waves in the opposite direction.
Or plant both hands on either side of your needle, and use them together to shift your quilt gently from side to side as you stitch.
You can see the results from this in the detail of my Treehouse Steps quilt pictured above.
This was fine, as far as it went, but the result looked too scattered to me. I wasn’t completely satisfied.
Then during a conversation with a quilting friend, she happened to mention how much she likes to shadow quilt—making two identical lines of quilting, most often around a particular shape in a top to emphasize it.
So what would it look like if I shadowed my meandering quilting? I’m here to tell you, I loved the effect. I stitch a single meandering line from top to bottom, side to side or along a diagonal. When I reach the end, I return to my starting point, align the outside left edge of my presser foot with the stitching I just put down, and follow that line to the end.
Most of the time, I sew only two lines together but for my Werthy Sampler, pictured above, I used three and sometimes four, using different color thread.
Now I’m shadow meandering (shandering?) with different kinds of stitches, like the wide-open zig zag I’m applying to my orphan block quilt, a detail of which is pictured above. So far, I like the slightly ruffled quality it adds to the surface. I’m withholding final judgement until I get the stitching done in the other direction so I can see if it causes wrinkling problems at the intersections.
This is quick, good-looking utility quilting that adds a level of interest to a piece. Try it. Send me pictures if you do, and I’ll post them here for all to enjoy.
Four years later, I still have a drawer full of blocks created when I sewed and wrote Teach Yourself Visually Quilting.
And truth to tell, I’ve added to them in the intervening years.
For the uninitiated, quilt blocks that don’t have a home are referred to as “orphan blocks.” Strictly speaking, these aren’t scraps because a scrap, by definition, is a single piece of fabric that you don’t need at the moment for anything in particular.
Nope, these babies were destined for a life with others like them but along the way, they weren’t needed or didn’t fit in or the project was abandoned, etc.
They can be a real challenge to fashion into a quilt that makes sense to the eye. You’d think that all you had to do was pick out blocks at random, sew them together, and you’d end up with a quilt.
Not true. In some respects, orphan block quilts can be more of a challenge than starting off with all-new fabric because the blocks don’t work with one another very well or their differing sizes call for additions or subtractions in order to fit.
I hadn’t made an orphan block quilt for quite some time when a member of my guild started talking about them. Inspiration struck, as in “I haven’t made one of those in a while. I think I’ll do that as an in-between-other-projects project.”
Like I need another project.
Anyway, I dove into the odd-block drawer, and the quilt pictured at the top came out. Right now, it’s in the process of being quilted in a way I want to share with you as the week progresses.
And now we have a theme for this week—orphan block quilts and some fun utility quilting tips.
I cut my teeth on quilting how-to books with Wiley Publishing, the folks who did my Teach Yourself Visually Quilting book and its companion, Visual Quick Tips Quilting. It was a great way to learn, and great folks to work with as well.
For consistency and probably to maintain good contrast, Wiley insisted that everything be photographed against a white background. My photographer brought a number of foam core boards to my house, where we took the pictures, and they worked just fine.
I wrote here the other day about one of my newfound loves, my Epson printer, which does a great job of scanning the smaller pieces of a quilt in a state of becoming. I’m working on a new quilt, part of which is pictured here, that’s one of four that will be featured in my newest pattern book. Now it’s too big to fit in my Epson any more.
Which brings me, believe it or not, to the hardwood floors in my living room.
My husband installed them last year, pre-finished oak. We love them. And I’ve discovered they make a great background for many of my quilts.
This particular spot on the living room floor is near the windows that look to the southwest so on a sunny day like today, I get a lot of reflected light.
And I love the warm color of the wood.
Besides, it’s my book and if I want to use a non-white background, I get to make the rules. As long as readers understand what I want them to see in my images, that’s what matters.