You Might Be A Nerdy Quilter…

…if you find yourself wanting a fabric equivalent of the Dewey Decimal system.

In other news, I’m not dead, just in the middle of trying to move house.  It rather puts a crimp on the amount of sewing I can do, especially as my craft room is in the process of being packed up.  Hopefully a more regular service will resume once we have a new house.  :)

Marsala Spice – Block Tutorial

Here’s how I made my Marsala Spice blocks, with the added bonus of measurements for a couple of smaller versions.  And then I promise I’ll shut up about this until I’ve got it quilted!  (Or at least started the quilting.)

tutorial_1904_21Here’s the basic block.  You can see that it doesn’t make the whole “interlocked rings” pattern – it just makes 1/4 of it.  I think of these as “sub-blocks” versus the full block that makes a complete ring.  Throughout the tutorial I show the largest version, but the construction for the smaller versions is identical except for the size of the pieces.

Fabric Requirements

I refer to the marsala-ish fabric as the background, the pink print as the star, and the two gold-ish prints as ring 1 and 2.  The quantities given will make one full block, so multiply up to make the size of quilt you want.

Size 1

Sub-block 12″ finished, full block 24″ finished.

  • Background fabric: 8 x (3.5″ x 7.5″), 8 x (3.5″ x 4.5″), 4 x (2.5″ x 2.5″)*
  • Star fabric: 8 x (3.5″ x 3.5″), 16 x (1.5″ x 1.5″)
  • Ring 1: 4 x (2.5″ x 9.5″), 4 x (2.5″ x 3.5″), 12 x (2.5″ x 2.5″)*
  • Ring 2: 4 x (2.5″ x 9.5″), 4 x (2.5″ x 3.5″), 12 x (2.5″ x 2.5″)*

Size 2

Sub-block 6″ finished, full block 12″ finished.

  • Background fabric: 8 x (2″ x 4″), 8 x (2.5″ x 2″), 4 x (1.5″ x 1.5″)*
  • Star fabric: 8 x (2″ x 2″), 16 x (1″ x 1″)
  • Ring 1: 4 x (1.5″ x 5″), 4 x (1.5″ x 2″), 12 x (1.5″ x 1.5″)*
  • Ring 2: 4 x (1.5″ x 5″), 4 x (1.5″ x 2″), 12 x (1.5″ x 1.5″)*

Size 3 *** UNTESTED ***

Sub-block 9″ finished, full block 18″ finished.

  • Background fabric: 8 x (2.5″ x 5.5″), 8 x (2.5″ x 3.5″), 4 x (1.5″ x 1.5″)*
  • Star fabric: 8 x (2.5″ x 2.5″), 16 x (1.5″ x 1.5″)
  • Ring 1: 4 x (2.5″ x 7.5″), 8 x (2″ x 2″), 4 x (2.5″ x 2.5″), 4 x (2.5″ x 1.5″)*
  • Ring 2: 4 x (2.5″ x 7.5″), 8 x (2″ x 2″), 4 x (2.5″ x 2.5″), 4 x (2.5″ x 1.5″)*

*: All of these background pieces and 4 of each of the ring pieces form the centre of the sub-block, and if you’re making a lot of blocks all with the same fabric then they’re easiest to piece by cutting suitably wide WoF strips (one each of background, ring 1 and ring 2), attaching the two ring strips to either side of the background strip and then cutting the pieced strip into sections of the desired width.

All seams are 1/4″, and are pressed open.


Because I was using the same fabrics for my blocks, the first thing I did was to construct the centre three squares as described above:

Then I took the remaining 2.5″ squares of the ring fabrics and drew diagonal lines in pencil on the reverse:

tutorial_1904_1(The “extra” line is so I could sew along it to make quick HST units from the scraps; you don’t have to do that if you don’t want.)  Once this was done, I applied all these pieces right sides together to their respective background units as shown:

All pieces of the same size need to be put together in the orientation shown, or the block won’t work!

That one on the right is wrong, I had to unpick and re-do it.

Then the corners are trimmed:

For each sub-block, each size of background piece needs one ring 1 and one ring 2 corner unit.  I failed to adequately take photos, so here’s a clearer example; the bits outlined in red is what we’re making:background_units

The same process of adding corner units also needs to be done with the ring 1 & 2 pieces and the small star squares.  In this instance I didn’t bother to draw a line because the star corner units are so small that you’re across them a moment after you start sewing (this is even more true with the smaller block versions).  Again, all units need to be pieced as shown below, or the block doesn’t work.

Again, the seams are trimmed to 1/4″ and pressed open.  The sub-blocks can now be assembled!

First, join all short ring unit to the large star squares, like so:

Then join these new units to the longer of the background units, making sure to match the ring colours:

Set these pieces aside for now. We’ll need them again after the centre is complete.

The centre pieces and their arrangement.
The centre pieces and their arrangement.

To make the centre, take the strips of three squares (ring 1 – background – ring 2) and all the longer ring strips of the same colour (in my case I used all the light-coloured ring strips) and join them with a partial seam, as shown (up to the second seam works well):

The end of the long ring strip must be lined up with the square of the same colour, the star unit corner should end up pointing away from the middle three squares, and all units must be constructed identically.  Once the seams are sewn, the end of the seam can be pressed open.  Don’t press the whole seam yet, it makes life awkward later.  Up to the first perpendicular seam is fine.  (Note:  I’m assuming here that all seams are pressed as you go.)

Then, join the short background piece with the other ring corner unit to the end of the centre unit, as shown:


Then take the second long ring strip, and join it all the way across the centre unit:


The second short background piece can now be attached:


And finally the partial seam can be completed to finish the middle unit!

Lastly, attach the side units that we made earlier to create the interlinked look:

Try to make sure the ring pieces of the same colour line up to enhance the illusion.

Tah-dah, you’ve completed a sub-block (or, hopefully, four sub-blocks)!  These can now be joined, matching seams where necessary, to create the final full block.  This pattern is pretty chain-piecing friendly, so although the middle section is a bit fiddly, it comes together surprisingly quickly once you get into a rhythm.

Other Thoughts

The largest version of this block (and I suppose the medium version, too) could be done with a jelly roll if it contained duplicates (e.g., 40 strips of 20 fabrics, 44″ long).  One 12″ sub-block requires approximately half a jelly roll strip (20.5″ in total) per ring colour, so making one complete ring would need two identical jelly roll strips (blue in the example), plus half of four other jelly roll strips (red, orange, yellow, purple in the example).


I haven’t tested this myself as of yet, but am interested in seeing how it might work out!  Maybe I’ll try it once I’ve had a bit of a break from making these blocks (and when I have a suitable jelly roll to play with).  If you make something using this pattern, I would love to see it.  :)

2015 Pantone Quilt Challenge: Top-Only Entry

2015 Pantone Quilt Challenge: Marsala

Life happened and I didn’t get to quilt my Marsala top(s) yet.  Heck, I only just managed to get some last much-needed fabric for the back yesterday.  But that’s ok, I’m really happy with my top and would not have wanted to mess up the quilting by rushing and trying to get it done by today.  So here it is, Marsala Spice is my official entry for the 2015 Pantone Quilt Challenge!


spice_1804_2 spice_1804_8 spice_1804_3

Tah-dah!  :p

Quilt stats

  • Size: 72″ x 72″
  • Material:  Assorted 100% cotton fabrics, including an over-dyed solid
  • Pattern:  Own design (watch this space for a tutorial…)

A reminder of my original design:


More info on the Pantone Challenge can be found at On The Windy Side and play crafts.  Thanks guys, it has been awesome fun working with a colour that I would probably never have tried otherwise.  :D  No, honestly, I’m serious!  ;)

2015 Pantone Quilt Challenge: Top(s) Finished!

2015 Pantone Quilt Challenge: Marsala

Marsala Spice Topspice_1804_2

Yay!  It’s not completely as I envisaged it, but it’s ok.  No idea whether I’m going to get it quilted in time, but if I don’t I’ll just enter it as a top only.  If nothing else, I really like how the block came out in  large quantities (and large sizes).

Obligatory close-ups/gate picture:


I’ve started putting a back together for it, using some spare blocks and the un-dyed fabric I bought:

spice_1804_1The centre is together now and I’ve started adding the necessary borders, only to discover that I fluffed my calculations a bit and I’m short on two sides.  Argh.  :(  Back to the fabric shop on Monday, I guess!

A Marsala Side-Project

While I was making the Marsala Spice blocks I ended up with a pile of HST units needing a home, so I pieced them randomly together:


Then, because I wanted to test out a possible idea for another quilt, I stacked pairs of blocks together and cut them up again, then skiffled the bits about to make two new “fractured” blocks:


They trimmed up nicely to 5″ square and made 12 new blocks in total, to make this:


It’s an interesting effect, though quite difficult with HSTs of this size and density; the reverse is a nightmare of seam bulk.


I was thinking of turning it into a cushion or maybe adding the blocks to the back of the main quilt, but those seams would make it rather less than comfortable.  It’ll probably be a wall hanging, assuming I don’t break ALL the needles trying to quilt it.  :s

More info on the Pantone Challenge can be found at On The Windy Side and play crafts.

Also linking up with Can I Get A Whoop Whoop!TGIFF at Quilting in Amsterdam and Oh Scrap! :)

Birds of a Feather – Finished!

plus_1104_1The quilt for my cousin’s newest little girl is finished.  :)  I’m quite chuffed with it, especially with how quickly it got done (though it’s pretty straightforward, as patterns and quilting go….).plus_1104_2

It’s bound with scraps left over from making the top.

plus_1104_3Here it is with its “brother” and “sister” quilts.  :)  (Apparently I really like yellow for baby quilts!)

Linking up (FINALLY! Don’t ask….) with TGIFF over at Sew Fresh Quilts.  :)

Baby Quilt – Birds and Pluses

plus_0404_9I was thinking of listing this as my entry for A Lovely Year of Finishes for April.  However, my cousin had her third baby (a little girl and the future owner of this quilt) yesterday and the quilt went from being separate squares all over the floor to pieced, basted and quilted in the space of a half a day.  (I’d had the squares cut for some weeks now, but it kind of got sidelined thanks to Marsala Spice demanding lots of floor room.)  Entering it now, when it only needs trimming and binding, seems a bit cheesy!

plus_0404_2The back is That Number Fabric, courtesy of Ikea.  I’d bought some on a whim when I was there a few months ago, and was glad that I had!

plus_0404_7The quilting was done with two variegated cottons from YLI – yellow tones in the needle and pretty variegated pastels in the bobbin – pretty for a little girl; I used the same thread on her sister’s quilt.plus_0404_8It’s not wildly elaborate, as quilting goes, but for babies I’m thinking simple is good – I’m not sure they appreciate heavily quilted, so-stiff-you-can’t-bend-it quilts!  But the Pfaff ate it up in no time – it loves to be presented with a nice long length of fabric to chew through.  I didn’t bother to mark or anything, and didn’t find I needed to.

I’m thinking of calling it “Birds of a Feather”, thanks to the three different bird prints in it:

The one on the left is from a bundle of cute fabrics my sister gave me for my birthday last year, and the the one in the middle was on offer in John Lewis.  And those chicks and eggs are perfect for an Easter baby, I thought!  :)  I’m quite proud that, other than the wadding, this quilt was made completely from my stash – I didn’t buy any of the fabrics for it “specially”.  (This is a thing to be proud of, yes?  *hopeful face*)  Next I’m going to rootle around and dig out any left-over fabric from the top to make a pieced scrappy binding, and then I just need to find time to go deliver the three quilts (brother and sister quilts are here) to their new owners.  \o/

Patchy the Easter Bear

My niece is a bit too young for Easter eggs, even if she didn’t have a dairy allergy.  I decided to finish off the teddy I was making for her instead.bear_0304_1I started him before Christmas, and did quite well on piecing the basic squares, but then stalled on construction.  He’s made from most of a flannel layer cake with accents of normal quilting cotton.  I lined him with interfacing because the weave of the flannel is very loose and stretchy and I wanted to give him more support.  I didn’t actually know how best to handle the flannel, so I used a 1/4″ seam allowance, but I should probably have used 1/2″.  The nappy-looking panel is actually a pocket.  His muzzle was a happy accident – I only realised the same fabrics were opposite each other on the two front halves after I’d sewn them together.  His eyes were done on the machine with a decorative stitch and his nose and mouth are hand-stitched.

bear_0304_3He’s quite a big chap!  I stuffed him by shredding up some fluffy polyester wadding I bought some years ago, before I actually knew what I was doing quilting-wise.  Patchy must have been very hungry; he ate almost all of it.  Thank goodness, too – I’d bought something like two metres of the stuff and it was otherwise kind of useless.  I have about enough left to make a wall hanging, which is about the only other thing it might be good for.


Linking up with Can I Get A Whoop Whoop and TGIFF!  :)

A Busy, Quilty Weekend and Month

Sewing, Stashing

So, March eh?  It felt like it flew by at a million miles an hour, but at the same time it felt like forever.  What’s with that?  Skimming back over my posts for March, it seems like I’ve managed a lot this month, including making a birthday presentfinishing a major project, playing with triangles and making progress with my Marsala Challenge quilt, so I’m pretty pleased with this month’s efforts.

The weekend just gone is no exception when it comes to quilty busyness.  It started with Quilt Club on Friday, which I used as valuable piecing time to crack on with more Marsala Spice blocks.  That project is finally taking shape and I now have a much better feel for where it’s going.

We’re also still house-hunting, so after Quilt Club I threw everything plus dog back in the car and scooted up the road to Aberystwyth (Mum had already gone up on the bus), where we planned to stay at my sister’s house for a weekend of re-visiting some possible properties with my uncle and aunt, who’d come down from north Wales to meet us there and offer fresh eyes and second (third, fourth…) opinions.  My aunt and uncle are recently back from an anniversary trip to Oregon, and before they went I’d rolled my eyes, batted my eyelashes and begged them to maybe pop into a quilting shop while they were there to buy me some fabric.  For the sake of simplicity, I asked them to pick me up some pre-cut strips.  Their choice, I told them.  And I would be happy to reimburse them.fabric_0104_2And didn’t they do well?  :D  They bought me two as a very early birthday present, and I’m paying them back for the other two.  I think they made some superb choices.

Batiks!  In case it wasn’t clear already, I LOVE batiks!  And the colours are fab – those purpley jewel tones and the juicy rainbow-y effect are just delicious.

fabric_0104_5This is a much more floral affair, but I still rather like it – it’s got a very comfortable, graceful feel to it.  Would make a lovely throw for the living room.

fabric_0104_6And I’m thrilled with this!  I’ve been ogling these strip sets on t’interwebs but hadn’t quite stirred myself to buy any, so I was truly delighted to find this lurking in the bottom of the bag.  :)

They also picked me up a nice little postcard pattern (the how-to is on the back), which I think is for the purple/jewel-tone batiks, though it would work with other colours too:fabric_0104_1And that’s the shop’s card there, too.  One thing that did surprise me was the fact that the prices of the strips were, mostly, pretty comparable to what we pay here (~$45/£30), which is why in the end I only asked for a couple of extras.  However, locally we’re pretty starved for fabric shops and those we do have don’t usually have much of a range of jelly rolls/strip sets, so just having some surprise extras to play with is really nice.

The Friendly Pfaff

On Sunday evening, I and all my sewing stuff travelled up from Aberystwyth to Brimingham on the train.  I’d booked myself onto a “Making Friends with your Pfaff” day through The Cotton Patch for Monday, and to be there on time I needed to stay over the night before.  Thankfully, the carry case I bought for the Pfaff just about fitted it, so my machine had some decent protection from the abuses of public transport and I had some wheels to haul it around on.  And I’d found a Premier Inn right up the road from where the course was being held, so it all worked really well.

The course was very interesting, with a cosy group of six students including me, all of whom were really friendly and welcoming.  It was run by Joy of Pastures New Quilting, and she did a really good job of introducing the machines (most of us had QE 4.2s) and walking us through what we could do with them and how to use the feet and accessories properly.Pfaff_day_0104_2These are the first samples we did, using fine chiffon and chunky denim to show off how the Pfaff handles such things and takes them in its stride, especially with the IDT system engaged.  (Although in fairness mine did a pretty nice job on the chiffon even without IDT because I’d loaded it with a size 70 needle and some fine piecing thread.)  We followed this up with an introduction to using the automatic buttonhole foot (OMG, awesome!) and trying out some machine applique and some of the nifty effects with the decorative stitches and sequences:


Finally, we tried quilting, first in a straight line with the IDT (no worries there) and then (le gasp!) with the sensormatic foot that comes as standard with the Pfaff QE 4.2 (and other models, I believe).  I’ve had my reservations about this foot since I’ve had some serious arguments with it.  However, with the settings Joy suggested (a pivot height of -2, a tension of 4.6, and a medium speed), it WORKED!  (Though my improved choice of needle and thread probably helped, too.)

I found myself doing a version of my “cloud” stippling, mostly because I’ve just done loads of it on the Japan Fan Club door curtain and it’s still in my muscle memory, then I tried a bit of a meander and some leaves, plus some pebbling (I’m not great at pebbles yet).  And it all worked great, and the back looks tidy too.  Maybe I can learn to love (or perhaps even just like) the sensormatic foot after all.  :)  It would be fair to say that I’d discovered or looked up a fair bit of what we covered in the class because I’ve been using my machine a fair bit since I got it in December, but there were certainly plenty of things that I hadn’t found out about or needed to use yet and it was great to try things out and have someone to ask when things didn’t work out quite right.

After the course was over, I couldn’t resist nipping a couple of doors down the road to Cotton Patch’s shop.  In any case, I had a shopping list from my Quilt Club friends, so I couldn’t disappoint them!  ;)  The actual shop is smaller than I expected (I think they do more online), but very orderly and well laid out.  I picked up stacks of wadding and some bobbin boxes for the Quilt Club, and some more crib-sized wadding and basting pins for me.  Under the circumstances, I think I was VERY restrained!  :D  (In fairness I didn’t have that much time to browse, which was probably just as well.)  One of the other ladies on the course very kindly offered me a lift to the station, which I was hugely grateful for given that I was laden down with all my sewing stuff AND all my purchases.  All in all it was a tiring but fun trip, and I would certainly consider going back for another course there, especially if there’s something FMQ-related.

Looking Ahead

So that was my weekend (and month) just gone.  I can’t believe it’s April already.  As well as working on Marsala Spice and perhaps finally starting the quilting on my sister’s quilt, I have at least one baby quilt I’d like to get done this month, plus FrostByte needs some love.  Oh, and we’re STILL looking for somewhere we’d like to live.  April’s looking pretty busy already!  :o

Linking up with the Fresh Sewing Day over at Lily’s Quilts.  :)