I hope to see you at Northwest Quilting Expo!
Introducing Antelope Canyon
Laurie’s Most Popular Pattern
Nature’s Jewels Block of the Month
Laurie’s 2012 Block of the Month Quilt: Ripples & Reflections
I hope to see you at Northwest Quilting Expo!
I’m so excited to share my newest design with you – Antelope Canyon. High up on my Bucket List is a visit to explore the twin slot canyons of Antelope Canyon in northern Arizona. Most of us have seen amazing photos of the swirling oranges of the narrow canyons – just do google images for Antelope Canyon and you’ll see the familiar waves and undulations – and we may not have know where they were taken. Earlier this year, my nephew Dan, a talented young photographer, was lucky enough to visit the canyons, and boy was I jealous! Instead of planning a trip to see for myself, I designed a quilt that brought to mind the feelings I’d imagine experiencing with a first-hand visit.
The semicircular design comes from the overlapping of the wide and narrow strips. Many variations are possible with this design based on the values of the fabrics used. There are 4 large log cabin-style blocks in this quilt, and if you rotate each 90°, you’ll get a large circle in the center for another great look.
This quilt is 74″ square and uses 2½” strips as well as 1½” strips. So you can use prepackaged Bali Pops from Hoffman Fabrics or any other 2½” pre-cuts.
I admit that I don’t have the pattern instructions ready yet, but Antelope canyon will have it’s premiere at Northwest Quilting Expo in Portland, Oregon, September 22-24. I’ll be one of the featured instructors there as well as having a special quilt exhibit and I’m giving a fun trunk show/lecture on Color and Inspiration. So the instructions will definitely be completed by then!!! I’ll take pre-orders by email: email@example.com. Gorgeous photo by Deb Hollister.
By now, I know some of you have finished your quilt and are eagerly awaiting ideas for how to quilt your masteriece! I know this because a bunch of you have contacted me and I’m determined to get this on my website this weekend. So, in my desire to just get this done, I’ve decided that no great philosophical text is needed about why I designed the elements the way I did. You just need photos so here they are!
If you click on the photo you can see a close-up. I apologize for the poor quality – I couldn’t figure out how to get a good close-up without the haze. Someday I’ll take a photography class (in my free time!).
I drew ideas for my quilter, Carrie Peterson, and she refined them to suit her quilting style. I provided her with a few dozen spools of thread, mostly King Tut variegated quilting thread, and she changed threads (top and bottom) for each fabric she was quilting. I can only imagine what a laborious task that was, but you can see the results for yourselves – spectacular!!!
NATURE’S JEWELS BONUS PROJECT – What should you do with all of the leftovers from making Nature’s Jewels? As promised, I’m offering a bonus project that uses leftover strips and smaller pieces that you can make with any group of fabrics – not just the batiks from Nature’s Jewels.
This long quilt can be used as a narrow runner for your bedroom dresser, to complement the quilt on the bed. It can also be used as a long, skinny wallhanging if you have a narrow wall space that needs a piece of art. Or you can make the runner and placemats as a setting for your table.
Please read through the entire directions before beginning – you’ll find suggestions for variations at the end. This is one of those projects you can make any way you want. (If you click on a photo, you can get a closer view.)
You will have different size pieces left from cutting your BOM monthly assignments. And if you cut the whole quilt at once, you probably have at least ¼ yard left from each fabric. You can adjust the length of the strips to the pieces you have.
If the strips are the full width of the fabric – great! If you have some that are as short as 5″ or 6″ inches, that’s fine too. It’s time to think about how wide you want your finished runner. Of course, if all of your strips are only 10″ long, then you’ll end up with a runner approximately 9″ wide. But if you have strips the full width of fabric, you can cut the longer strips into shorter lengths as I did. I cut each 42″ long strip into 3 pieces – 2 about 17″ long (for a runner 14″-15″ wide), and a 3rd about 6″ – 7″ long (used in the placemats).
You’ll need approximately 30 or more longer strips for the long runner. For each placemat, you’ll use approximately 10-12 longer strips, plus 12-14 shorter strips for the short perpendicular strips on the left side of the placemat. It’s nice to have extras of each length so you have choices in the arrangement of colors.
You can see in the photo 2 above, that I cut a variety of widths from each fabric. I chose to leave out the lightest fabric – the cream with dots. I thought it would stand out too much for my taste. Eventually, I eliminated the light sandy colored fabric for the same reason. In the Variations section at the end, you’ll see an option for incorporating the lighter fabrics.
This whole project can be done in 2 ways: you can piece the tops in the usual way, sewing the strips together to form the top, then layering with batting and backing and quilting. Or, you can do it as I did, in a quilt-as-you-go manner. I love doing it this way because you are essentially quilting the project as you add strips, and there’s no need to add any quilting later because you are stitching through all 3 layers. If you’ve never tried this technique, now is a great time to give it a try. The directions continue using the quilt-as-you-go technique.
For the runner, start by preparing the backing about 2″ wider than the longer strips (my strips were 17″ so I cut the back about 19″ wide by the full width of fabric (approximately 42″). Cut a piece of batting about 1″ narrower than the back and a little shorter as well(either a flat cotton or Pellon fleece works well).
In order to keep the strips straight as you add them in the sewing process, I found it helpful to mark some lines on the batting as guidelines. I used a fat Sharpie marker and a 6″ x 24″ plexiglass ruler lined up with the straight edge of the backing. Mark lines perpendicular to the long edge of the backing, approximately 4″ apart (the exact distance between lines makes no difference). Be sure to have a line about 2″ from each end.
It’s best not to do any more smoothing or the batting may shift and distort the straight lines you just marked. Pin the batting to the backing along the outside edges and between lines. This will keep the batting in place as you manipulate the project while sewing. But, be forewarned – you will need to remove each of these pins as you approach them in the sewing. Please don’t sew any strips covering the pins – it’s would be very hard to remove them!
Now comes the fun part! Take your group of longer strips and place the strips over the batting arranging the colors in a pleasing arrangement. Overlap them a little (about ½”) so you can see approxiamtely how many you’ll need, and be sure to use a variety of widths as you go. You’ll probably use about 30 strips to cover the distance, but this number may change as you sew. Feel free to rearrange until you are happy, keeping in mind that there is no perfect order and many versions can be pleasing.
Beginning at one of the batting/backing setup, place the first strip, right side UP, parallel to the marked line and selvage edge of the backing. Pin the edge closest to the backing selvage to the batting/backing.
Place the next strip over the first, right sides together (if you can tell which is which). As shown below, you can check to see that the edge you are going to sew (further away from the backing selvage) is parallel to the next marked line. (I’ve shown an alternate way to do in the Variations section – for those of you who don’t care if they stay parallel.)
Pin the strip in place, through all layers. For ease in manipulating the batting/backing, I rolled the opposite end up, unrolling a little as I added each strip.
Sew the edge furthest from the selvage through all layers. Use a stitch length that is 9-10 stitches to the inch as it is going through lots of thickness. Finger press the second strip open over the batting. Do a good job of pressing at the seam, but be careful not to shift the batting beyond the strip.
Using a basting stitch, stitch the first edge of the first strip through all layers, a scant ¼” from the edge of the strip (you can do this before you add the second strip if you want).
It’s fine to finger press the first few strips if you do a good job of it, but be sure to give it an iron pressing after every few strips are added. If you are using polyester batting, it’s safest to not place the iron directly on the batting (use a press cloth if needed).
Continue adding strips from your stack of strips in this manner, being sure to remove all pins before you sew over them. As you place each next strip, check that it is parallel to the marked lines. If the strips are shifting, just place the next strip parallel, regardless of the one under it (as you can see I did with the green strip).
When you are about ¾ of the way done, assess whether you will have too many or too few strips to complete the top. You can rearrange to add or reduce the number of strips at this point.
Give the quilt a good pressing. Now it’s time to trim the runner. You should still be able to see the edges of the backing – that is your straight edge reference point. If you can see the backing better on one long edge, start with that edge. (Sorry for the blurry photo.) Trim parallel to the batting, trimming enough so that you cut just slightly into the batting. It is important that after trimming, there is batting all the way to the edge of the fabric.
Trim the opposite long edge, PARALLEL to the long edge you just cut (not parallel to the backing of the uncut edge). This will ensure that your runner is the same width from start to finish. I used a 2-ruler method to do this as shown.
Next, trim each of the short ends, perpendicular to the long neatly trimmed edged. Don’t trim so much that you cut off the basting. You now have the runner complete except for the binding – and it’s already quilted!
On to the placemats…
I liked the idea of having a narrow pieced area where the silverware and napkin will rest. This is also a place to use your shorter leftovers. In the Variations section below you’ll see another piecing idea for this section.
For the above version, it’s best to start by making just one placemat. For a placemat that ends up approximately 14″ x 19″, cut a backing piece that is 17″ x 22″, and a piece of batting that is approximately 16″ x 21″. As you did for the runner, tape the backing to your table, right side down. Place the batting centered on the backing. Mark a line that is 6″ in from one of the shorter edges. This is the guide for the perpendicular strips. Mark a few lines parallel to the first, about 3″ – 4″ apart. Pin the batting to the backing. I also added a few lines in the first 6″ area, perpendicular to the first line you marked, to help me keep that are straight (you can see one of the lines 2 photos down).
Gather the shorter strips (6″ – 7″) and arrange about 12 strips along the shorter side as shown, overlapping each about ½” (above). Place about 11 of the longer strips next to the shorter as shown. I chose one of the lighter fabric strips for the first, so it would mark a clear end to the shorter section. After you’re pleased with the arrangement, gather the strips into stacks as you did for the runner.
In the same way you began the runner, pin then baste the first edge of the first strip through all layers. Keep the first marked line visible to use as a guide. Place the second strip over the first; pin and stitch through all layers. Backstitch at the end closest to the 6″ marked line. Finger press open.
Continue adding strips, pinning, stitching and finger pressing. Give it a good pressing when done. Once the section is done, place the first long strip over the edge of the shorter section. All that is important is that it’s parallel to the marked line and that you’re sure to see all the ends of the shorter strips.
Pin the long strip in place and stitch the right edge through all layers. Finger press the strip open (to the right over the batting). Place the 2nd long strip on the 1st; pin, stitch and finger press open. Continue adding strips until all are sewn (you can check to see if you have enough or too many when you are partway done). Baste the last edge of the last strip.
Give the whole thing a good press. In the same way you trimmed the runner, trim the 2 longer edges parallel to each other. Then trim the shorter edges perpendicular to the long edges. I suggest waiting until you get all of the placemats pieced before trimming so that you can make them all the same. I love to use my favorite 22″ square ruler for trimming placemats.
Bind your runner and placemats using your favorite technique. Don’t you hate when directions say that? Well, I figure if you were able to make Nature’s Jewels, then you certainly have enough experience to have decided which way you like to bind your quilts!
The first time I made this project, I used Asian-inspired fabrics and sewed them so that they weren’t all parallel. I like the irregular angles, but I found that it was still useful to have the marked lines, so you could tell it you were getting too far off straight.
To do this, start with a variety of width strips exactly as you did above. When you place the second strip over the first, just place it at a slight angle as illustrated below. Alternate the direction of the angle so you don’t get too far from straight.
Including the Light Fabrics
A fun way to include the light fabrics I eliminated would be to insert small squares or rectangles into the longer strips, at random distances from the edge of the strip. Then when the strips are placed, be sure the light bits are at random spots around the runner as illustrated.
Using Smaller Scraps
You can use the odd-sized smaller scraps to create a crazy-quilt type section to use instead of the shorter strips. Use your imagination and see what fun patchwork you come up with.
You could have one of these pieced sections at either end of the runner using more of your smaller leftovers (I like this one). What a great way to use scraps – there is no limit to the variations! Have fun!!!
Sewing and Pressing Stripsets
What could be hard about pressing the seam between two strips!!! Nothing, but there are ways to make sure the strips stay straight after pressing. Have you ever ended up with stripsets that have a subtle arch in them like this? (I’ve exaggerated the illustration to make my point.)
Or have you had a stripset that looked scalloped like this?
These can be caused by the tension not being completely correct on your sewing machine, whether you are using steam (which can easily distort), or by the way you press.
Before you begin sewing, you should do a test with 2 strips of fabric. Sew a regular seam and take a look at the stitches on the wrong side of the fabrics – they should look the same on the top side as on bottom side. Sometimes you’ll need to make a minor adjustment to your tension to make this so (adjust the top thread only using the dial on the top of the machine – not the bobbin or bobbin casing). Because there are so many variations among machine, I’m not going to delve further into this. If you need help adjusting your machine, I think you should feel free to ask the folks at your local quilt shop or sewing machine center.
Now, let’s concentrate on good pressing techniques.
In Nature’s Jewels, on page 19, step 2, you have a narrow rose dots strip sewn to a wider dark green strip. Normally, you’d be instructed to press toward the narrower strip because that’s easier, but in this case it is more important to the construction to press toward the wider strip (green).
Begin by placing the strips on your ironing board, just as you sewed them (right sides together), with the strip you intend to press TOWARD on top, with the seam away from you as shown below. That’s a general rule in pressing – place the piece you plan to press toward on top, with the seam away from you (so that you are always pressing away from your body).
First, press with a hot iron (I use the hottest setting with no steam), in brief (½ second) presses, in a press-lift-press-lift motion, along the seam. This will smooth out any waves in the fabric due to uneven tension or if the fabric was scrunched up on your sewing table after sewing. This press-lift technique will also make the fabric stick to the ironing board -which is a good thing. Some say that it also “sets the stitches”, but I think the clinging to the ironing board is more important.
If you have an ironing board cover that is slippery (like one of those shiny grey covers), and the fabric doesn’t cling, consider covering it with a layer of muslin or other cotton. You want the fabric to cling to the ironing board cover because this will give you a better press. So after you have done this press-lift step, don’t move or lift the fabric, because then you’ll have to do it over again to make the fabric cling.
Now, take a look at the face plate of your iron. Most brands have similar shapes: a pointy tip (which we don’t use much in quilting or it would distort what we’re ironing), then about 1″ – 2″ of straight edge (the spot we are most interested in), and the rest is a long curved edge.
When you press the seam, you need to use the short straight portion. If you use the curved edge, you’ll get the scalloped result shown above. Position the iron so that the straight portion is parallel to the seam (shown below).
Use short upward pushes, pushing the flat edge of the iron up and over the seam, insuring that there is no “valley” or overlap of extra fabric at the seamline. When I teach a class, I encourage my students to say “push, push, push” as they are pressing. Use the natural weight of the iron – no need to press down on the iron or to lift between pushes.
Use your left hand to lift up the green fabric as you move along the strips, while making sure the seam allowance doesn’t flip down (having the fabric cling to the ironing board helps keep this from happening).
Don’t worry if the strips arc up on the left – the natural tendency. Once you have given it the first go-over, you can lift the stripset up and straighten it and give it a final brief press. When I do this, I place the iron on the right edge of the stripset with my right hand, and lift the left edge with my left hand straightening it out – as quickly as possible.
Stripsets with more than 2 fabrics:
If you are to sew more than 2 strips together, it is a good idea to alternate the direction you sew the seams. This will counteract the natural tendency of the stripset to arc due to tension issues with your machine.
If you are making Nature’s Jewels, on page 30, step 2, you’ll be sewing 4 strips together. In this case, the seams are not pressed all in the same direction, so I’d advise pressing after you add each strip.
Normally, they would all be pressed in one direction, and you can wait to press until all strips are sewn. But you should concentrate on only pressing one of the seams at a time, as described below, using the flat portion of the iron. The next illustrations show what to do if they are all to be pressed in the same direction (all toward the darker fabrics).
Press the first seam so the fabric clings to the ironing board.
Push, push, push up the first seam.
Press the second seam up.
Press the third seam up.
If necessary, lift the stripset and make sure it is straight and briefly re-press.
This same technique should be used if you are making a large Trip Around the World stripset, or similar. Hopefully these techniques will ensure that you get straight, fully pressed stripsets. And don’t be surprised if you hear yourself saying “push, push, push”!
For those of you about to begin your Nature’s Jewels quilt and for those of you just curious – here is my tip about how to know which side of your batik or hand-dyed fabric to use as the face-up side.
Some quilters hesitate to call them “right” and “wrong” sides of the fabric, but the fact is, in the making of these fabrics, the wax and often the dyes are applied to one side making that a preferable side to use as the right side. So in this article, I’ll continue to use those terms, and if you prefer to think of them differently, just translate in your mind!
Some background first…there is a difference between batiks and hand-dyed fabrics. Batiks will have used a wax-resist technique to show a featured motif over a dyed background.
This could be something as simple as an all-over dot pattern, or as elaborate as large flowers, foliage or geometric designs. Dyed fabrics will not have that motif, and are more likely to look like a texture than an image.
I’m going to first show you some fabrics with obvious right and wrong sides. After that, I’ll show fabrics used in Nature’s Jewels. I’ll bet after you see a few examples, you’ll be able to tell without my help.
I always find with batiks (with a motif), it is easier first to look for the WRONG side. The batik below is a good example. The first photo shows the wrong side. Places where wax was used – in this case in large quantities – have small splotches or spots on the motif that is obviously not part of the intended design. This just means that the wax didn’t fully saturate through the fabric.
Looking at the same area on the right side, the motif is clearer and more filled in with color.
So the clearer side is the right side – the side the wax was applied. Can you use both sides as the right side? If your pieces are small – sure. But if you are using large pieces or using it for borders where you want to be consistent on all 4 side, better to stick with just one choice – whichever you prefer (in this case the right side is definitely more attractive).
Here’s another similar example:
See all of the splotches in the turquoise motif? Now see the view of the right side.
Definitely clearer. Don’t worry about every last line or dot – some of those seen in the above photo are part of the nature of the wax and of the process. I just look for the side with fewer of the discrepancies, because I pefer the motif to look crisper and clearer.
Here’s a batik with attaractive qualities on both sides. The wrong side is shown on top, and the more yellow right side on bottom. Notice more of the blue comes through in the square motif on the bottom half. I would tend to use both sides just for fun, especially in a scrappy quilt, because they are each so interesting.
And here is a dyed fabric, where it is obvious the dyes were added to the right side of the fabric (top half of the photo), giving a richer, more intense appearance. In this case, I wouldn’t use the wrong side (bottom half of photo) at all – unless it suited a specific purpose.
OK – so now you have a pretty good idea of what to look for – more intense color and clarity of the motif. We’ll look at the fabrics used in Nature’s Jewels. I’ve used about half batiks and half hand-dyes in this project, and I’ll admit that on some it’s hard to tell which is the right side. And again – if it’s too much work to distinguish, just use the pieces as they come. Oh – I should tell you that there is no consistency as to which side is face out on a bolt of fabric. It could be the right or the wrong side so don’t use that as your guide!
I’ll start with the batiks – especially the ones with more wax coverage (larger motifs). The main leaf print is a perfect example. Both of these photos (above and below) show speckles on the leaf design – both show the wrong side.
I didn’t bother to show right side because you can just imagine that the leaves are more filled in and clearer on the right side. The same goes with the peacock feather motif below.
I chose the most obvious places to point out the speckles. But another thing to look out for on these batiks is that the overall colors of the background and motifs are prettier, richer and more colorful on the right side.
In the green filligree batik, see the wrong side then right side – look at the lighter portions of the motif. I’ll bet you’re getting the hang if it now!
Now moving on to some of the smaller motifs – the polka dots – that have less wax coverage. These are harder to tell but I think the Midnight with big dots is the easiest:
The dots aren’t clear so they don’t show on the background as well as they do in the photo below.
The batiks with the small dots are even hearder to distinguish, but the orange dot definitely has a more attractive side.
Notice how much brighter the top half is and how much clearer the dots are on the top (right side). Can you tell the difference on the cream dot below?
I like the upper right side because there is so much more color in the dots. And another reason I chose to use that side is because of the huge value difference between this fabric and ALL of the others in the Nature’s Jewels quilt. So I chose the side that bridged the gap a little better. If I had used the lighter side, the difference would have been even greater (maybe too great).
Moving on to the dyed fabrics from Nature’s Jewels, I almost always choose the side with more details. That means more value difference, more speckly places – just more interest. So that means it is usually easier to find the RIGHT side on these fabrics.
Still gorgeous, but less distinction.
I confess – even though this is one of the most amazing fabrics, I chose to use the wrong side face up because I felt that the right side was too busy for this project. The sharp lines on the right side created a false impression of a seam that I didn’t want. And in the border elements where I used this fabric, I tried to use the pieces that were the most green and the least red so that they looked different from the red squares opposite each of these pieces.
Here’s another dyed fabric in the quilt. Above you can see more speckles – more details. Below – less interest. OK – I admit it’s harder to tell on this one.
So when you do your quilt, don’t worry about it! What was more important here was the flow from one piece to the next (see the center portion of the quilt). That meant using whichever side achieved the best continuity.
And the last one I have to show if the beautiful blue Bayou dyed fabric. Both sides warmed my insides, but I preferred the side that showed more of the green mixed in.
Now that you know how to tell one side from the other, how important is it that you pay attention to the right and wrong side of the fabrics? It’s only as important as you want to make it. Here are some points to consider:
This is a subject that I can go on and on about, but I hope this is enough to let you stop wondering if there is a right and wrong side.
I’d love to hear feedback. Look for more tips soon!