Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Pairing yarn dyed wovens with the Midi Bag

Cutting 2.5" squares of yarn dyed wovens from Diamond Textiles.
I've been working with fabric scraps lately. And although I love the randomness, serendipity and discovery process of improv patchwork, I also enjoy a project with more structured parameters—and one that is quick to make with a known end-result.

Enter the Midi Bag, the middle-size bag from the popular Mondo Bag series by Quiltsmart.

I've made both the Mondo and Midi bags before. They are spacious, stand on their own (they have a flat bottom), and anyone—even beginners—can be successful making one. So with an extra interfacing kit which I bought at one time but never used, I decided to put it to use with these lovely scraps of textured yarn dyed wovens from Diamond Textiles.

One of the advantageous features of a yarn dyed fabric is that there is NO "wrong side." So, if need be, the "other" right side can be used and will act like another fabric in your scrappy project.
Right side and the "other" right side of a yarn dyed fabric.
After fusing the 2.5" squares into place on the gridded fusible interfacing (BTW: this is a perfect project for 2.5" pre-cut strip sets, too), a decision about the handles had to be made.

I had a few longer strips of Diamond's brushed cottons in this color palette, but when I pulled yardage of a stripe from Diamond Textile's World Fabrics collection, it gave the bag a little more interest and the color contrast (note the blues and turquoise hues in the stripe) it needed.
Stripe from the World Fabrics by Diamond Textiles.
Had I thought to use the stripe at the onset of this bag project, I would have interjected some squares of the stripe. At this point, un-fusing and un-stitching was not going to happen. Alas, those are the twists and turns of working serendipitously with scraps.

Another thought was to appliqué a strip of the stripe to the outside. Let's audition.
Auditioning the stripe on the body of the bag.
Too much? I think so.
The handles have an inner lining of a yarn dyed woven
and the outside is the stripe.
Learn to edit, edit, edit.
And, make a note for next time.
Midi Bag with yarn-dyed wovens.
The finished bag lets the yarn dyed fabrics shine in their own glory. 

Mark this project "Complete!" and take it on the road.
Completed Midi Bag with yarn-dyed wovens from
Diamond Textiles.
If you haven't worked with yarn dyed wovens, they are easy to sew, have a rich color palette and interesting textures. Contact your local quilt shop or sewing center and ask them about Diamond Textiles. 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

De-stress with a little improv... and some tips

Lately, when I need a break from too much paperwork and computer work, I de-stress and clear my mind with a little improv piecing. Still inspired by the Choo Choo Quilters program last month, I've been "making do" and making quilt blocks with scraps and discontinued fabric swatches.
Scrappy improv patchwork blocks.
Doing research and preparing my part of the program prompted another look at improv and working with random fabric bits. I also gleaned several great ideas from my fellow presenters to fuel this rekindled fire. My guild is also getting ready to host my lovely friend, Mary Kerr, for a vintage-turned-modern workshop in April, so a little practice working with "what you have" is a good thing.

Why improv?
It takes only a few minutes to whip out a pile of scrappy improv blocks... and you (and your over-saturated brain) will enjoy the process. Here's why:
  • the strips don't have to be the same length or width—so no precise cutting required
  • points don't have to match
  • you can mix any and all the prints together in a single block
  • blocks don't even have to be trimmed or squared up
  • you don't have to think hard, just enjoy the sewing
  • you can even disregard that 1/4-inch seam allowance—embrace the randomness!
  • the more fabrics, the merrier the block. Yippee!

Chain piecing.
Improv. No stress. Gotta like it.

Helpful things I've discovered while making scrappy improv patchwork:
  • prep your scraps first: ironing the wrinkly ones and sorting by size or shape—like pulling out "logs" that can be used for log cabin blocks.
  • use a neutral thread—gray or beige—so the thread blends in with the myriad of colors in the fabrics.
  • dial down the stitch length, especially for those smaller pieces.
  • chain piecing is your friend!
  • keep a garbage bag or can close because you'll generate a lot of trimmings.
  • simple, classic quilt blocks work great for scraps because the variation in the prints and colors are the focal point, not the precise or intricate piecing.
Examples of quilt blocks that lend themselves to improv with scraps: Log cabin.
Scrappy log cabin blocks. You can start with any size unit for the center.
4-patch blocks... with improv butterflies.
Butterfly 4-patch blocks.
Another 4-patch variation. 
4-patches with diamonds.
Sashing strips can enlarge a block or compensate for variations in block sizes. 
Sashing strips enlarge the blocks.
Eat up scraps quickly with Chinese coin blocks or strips. Trim the patchwork when necessary to make sewing easier.
Scrappy improv Chinese coin blocks and strips.
Finished quilt top made entirely of fabric swatches and scraps. Sew 'em up and move 'em out!
Quilt top: 31" x 37"
Good workmanship still applies.
Just because you work with scraps or are doing improv patchwork does not mean that good workmanship gets neglected. These 4-patches illustrate spinning the seam allowances. This reduces bulk at the intersection and makes the blocks lie flat. A good habit to get into which will make the quilting step less troublesome. Here's a post from Scrap Queen, Bonnie Hunter, on spinning seams. Or view this YouTube video.
Spin the seam allowances to reduce bulk.
Give improv a try! You'll go back to computer and paperwork drudgery with a clearer head.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Working with fabric scraps and "Making Do"

What fun we had at the Choo Choo Quilters guild meeting this month! I was on the team that presented the program, "Making Do." The program provided ideas for using scraps, working with "what you have," and options for creating blocks or quilts while working within fabric limitations—whether color, size, print, or value.
Improv piecing using fabric swatches and scraps.
I was happy to contribute discontinued fabric samples and swatches that surfaced through my year-end clean-eand-purge session. I hate to just throw away good, first quality quilting fabrics—even smaller bits—so, with the help of my program team members, our guild members are going to help recycle them into cuddle quilts for our community service endeavor.

My team presented myriad ideas for block patterns, tips for working with fabric scraps and easy piecing techniques. You likely will recognize many of these classic quilt blocks—log cabin, half-square triangles, snowball, Chinese coins. They are perfect patterns for using scraps!
Scrap blocks.
After the formal presentation, guild members sorted the big bag of swatches.
Sorting scraps by size and shape.
In researching "scrap organizing systems," my team concluded that sorting "by size" (rather than by color) was recommended by a lot of quilters. This also worked well for the homework exercise we had in mind. We set up stations for small, medium and large scraps, squares, triangles and two sizes of rectangles. My assortment of swatches dictated these categories.
Choosing scraps for the community service homework assignment.
After sorting, guild members were given a zip-lock bag to stuff with scraps—with the intention of making blocks, strips or even a full quilt top for our community service project.

It was interesting to note that several people took photos of the block samples as inspiration for their homework assignment.
With digital technology at our fingertips, many quilters take notes via their cameras.
As they say, "A picture is worth a thousand words."
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