Marigold is Finished, Part II

So we left off last time with the question of Marigold’s sashing. (See previous post to read Marigold’s story from the beginning.)  Or is it called a facing?  I think I’ll go with facing; it’s less confusing.

In a quilt-as-you-go project, the quilted blocks have to be joined together and the raw edges covered, which is accomplished by joining them with a facing both front and back.  Traditionally, the last step is sewing down one edge of all the back facing by hand.  You attach the front facing just as you would sashing when piecing a quilt top, and on one of those seam lines, put the back facing and the back of the quilt right-sides together, sew the facing down, and then fold it over.  So three edges of your two facings can be attached by machine; easy peezy.  But then, you have to either sew the last edge down by hand, or top-stitch it through the entire quilt sandwich.

That’s exactly what I did last year with The Garden of Light Green Meditations.


As you can see, it has a narrow green facing on the front (blending into the sashing around each block), and a corresponding black facing on the back.  You can see it in the corners in this picture.


I cut my black facing to be folded double, like a binding, and to finish just a little bit wider than the green facing.  I followed the steps for attaching the front and back facings, but instead of sewing down the last edge of my black facing by hand, I fastened it down with basting glue, turned the top of the quilt up, and stitched in the ditch along the edge of the green facing, catching the last edge of the black facing on the back.  This worked almost perfectly; there were a few spots where I didn’t catch the black facing and had to go back and hand-sew, but it was only about a half-hour of hand-sewing instead of the rest of my natural life.

But this approach wouldn’t work with Marigold.

It worked with The Garden of Light Green Meditations because the front and back facings were the same size.  With Marigold, I wanted a wide sashing on the front, but a narrow one on the back, to make the batting join more neatly.  So, as I so often do, I agonized for several days before coming to the conclusion that I’d been right in the first place: apply the back facing like a sashing, and sew down the front facing/sashing with topstitch.


Having sewn down the back facing (right side to the back of the block sandwich, sew, flip over, press, right side to the back of the next block sandwich, sew, flip over, press), I pressed over the seam allowance on one side of my gray facing/sashing strips.  img_3822

I then lined up the folded edge with the points of the diamonds, glued the folded edge down, and folded under the other edge to match the points of the other block.  Then, topstitch!


This of course gets more challenging as the assembled pieces grow in size.  (The pink post-its are there to mark which way is up.  They wouldn’t actually stick by themselves, so I added safety pins.)



But it never became too difficult.  I really recommend quilt-as-you-go for projects like this, with a few large blocks.  The Garden of Light Green Meditations had forty-one ten-inch blocks and sixteen setting triangles, and while quilting them individually was fantastic, joining them all with two facings took all eternity.

And once the front sashing was on, it was a simple matter of binding and adding a label.  And then waiting for a nice day to do a photo-shoot.


The finished quilt measures 63″x82″, and I’m very proud of it.  It’s listed for sale on my Etsy store, and I hope I’ll be sending it to a good home very soon.

In the meantime, onward!!


Marigold is Finished!


Wow.  What a long way I’ve come with this project in a year!

Marigold, which started out as a stack of unfinished vintage blocks, is now a completed quilt, and posted for sale in my Etsy store, The Velvet Pincushion.  It’s a twin-size quilt, 63″ by 82″, sashed and backed with modern quilting fabrics and filled with 100% cotton batting.

This is the first picture I ever posted of Marigold.


That was a year ago, when all I had was a stack of vintage blocks I’d bought at the Courthouse Quilters’ UFO auction.  (If you don’t know, UFO is a quilter’s acronym for Un Finished Object.  Not that we generally tend to accumulate those…)

There were/are twelve blocks altogether; the middle of each is a LeMoyne star made of scraps from, I’m guessing, somebody’s shirts, showcasing a sweet collection of vintage fabrics.  Each star is surrounded by flowers made of matching diamonds, a different color for each block.  There are brown ones, pink ones, blue ones, red ones, and one each of green, black, and purple.


I decided to pursue this as a quilt-as-you-go project, so that I could quilt precise straight lines on these beautifully geometrical blocks. To do that, I needed to make twelve individual quilt sandwiches, layering each block with a square of batting and backing fabric, which meant I needed to choose my backing fabric before I could begin.


I felt so lucky to find this fabric.  I thought it would work really well to showcase the quilting on the back, and contrast with the light gray sashing on the front.

Of course, no sooner had I layered all the blocks then I noticed that some of them had some very marked shadowing around the seam allowances.


What project worth doing doesn’t have a few bumps in the road?

So, after a few hours (days) of un-layering all the blocks, carefully trimming the seam allowances so as not to accidentally cut the quilt top, and re-layering the blocks and pinning, the quilting began!


I quilted the diamonds on each block in a coordinating color.  On the front the effect is quite subtle, letting the fabrics speak for themselves…


…but all those threads show through on the back and mix in with the printed pattern for this fantastic textured effect.  (Yay!)


It was in the middle of quilting the blocks that I took my several-month hiatus.  It wasn’t intended to be several months, but we went to Europe for several weeks last summer, and then I went back to work teaching at a local community college, and I sort of picked at things again during August, but then I had some medical difficulties in the fall and, well, anyway.  I took it up again in January, and re-opened my Etsy store long before I’d actually finished the quilt, just to get it open again.

Once all the blocks were quilted, I got my husband to help me settle on exactly the right arrangement for my many-colored blocks.  The glory and struggle of having him help me arrange colors is that he absolutely will not stop trying combinations until it’s perfect.  I used to think this was unspeakably aggravating, but I now know that the results are worth it, so I keep my aggravation to myself and just say “Thank you, darling.”

Between the two of us, we arrived at this:


We even rotated each block to make sure that any matching fabrics in the inner stars weren’t too obviously in the same position as each other.  That’s how dedicated we are.  🙂

Once the arrangement was finalized, I stacked my blocks in rows, labeled each row with a pinned-down post-it, and began what’s probably the most difficult part of quilt-as-you-go: assembling a quilt out of pre-quilted sandwiches.

It’s done with sashing: every join has to be covered both on the front and back of the quilt.  I’ve done this before, last year with The Garden of Light Green Meditations, but for that quilt I was using a half-inch sashing on both front and back.  For this one, I was using a half-inch sashing on the back and three inches on the front.  How to make this happen?

Find out next time on The Velvet Pincushion!

Christmas Quilt Piecing, Part II

…And I’m back!  There’s quite a bit of catching up to do…

I finished Christmas Quilt 2017 during a retreat with my quilt guild last November.  If you’re just tuning in, every year I make a quilt to be raffled off at a Christmas Store that my parents help to run; it helps fund a community for adults with special needs.  This year’s (or by this point, last year’s) quilt is a Trip Around the World, done in Christmas colors.

This design is made up in quadrants, and each quadrant is made up of strips of squares, which are cut from strip sets that I sewed in color order.  (Sounds confusing, but actually very simple to do.)  The quadrants are made up of the same strips, just rotated to create the design, so the strips for the four quadrants can be made up in matching sets.  This is more efficient, and I could be sure I was doing them all the same.  The strips for the left side had one additional square for the center column.

I then laid out each quarter of the quilt top, sewed the strips for each one together in pairs, and assembled each quarter of the quilt one at a time.  By the time I got to the quilting retreat, I’d finished three quarters of the quilt top.

The strips are oriented one way on the left side of the quilt, the other way on the right.  As long as you get that right, you can assemble the top and bottom halves the same way.

I used cotton batting as usual (I got a truckload of Warm & Natural last year), and backed the quilt with the dark gold leafy fabric that appears in the quilt top.  It’s customary (as I learned after some considerable web research) to quilt a Trip Around the World in diagonal lines that intersect at the seams, but I wanted to do something a little different.  I decided to quilt it in concentric diamonds, to follow the pattern of the piecing, and chose coordinating threads to switch between: red, gold, and white.

(I love that picture.)  It was a bit of work to keep turning the whole quilt under the machine again and again, but eventually I finished the last big diamond and could do shorter lines to finish the pattern repeats in the corners.

I bound the quilt with the green plaid fabric.  All of this happened in a day and a half at the quilting retreat.  At this point, I was practically completely out of time before I needed to mail the quilt so it could be there before the Christmas Store opened, so as much as I wanted to make a label and sew it on, at this point I had to just sew down the hanging sleeve and sign the back with a Micron pen.

And here’s the quilt hanging up in the Christmas Store!

I’m always proud to get one of these finished, and I’m particularly proud of this one.  I feel it’s a step forward in design for me, one of the best things I’ve ever made.  As I said, I had to send it off almost immediately after I finished it, so we didn’t get to spend much time together, and I’ve kind of missed it after mailing it off to Texas.  Have you ever felt that way, missed a project after you’ve given it away?  I’m certainly not sorry that the Christmas Store got the benefit of the raffle tickets, but I wish I’d finished the quilt sooner so that I could have it around the house for a while. (shrug)

It’s good to be back on the blog, and I’m sorry I was gone so long.  Let this mark a new season of craft blogging for me!  And you can follow me on Instagram (velvetpincushion).

Next time, the continuing stories of Marigold and Verna!

Christmas Quilt Piecing, Part 1

The piecing process for a “Trip Around the World” quilt is simple in terms of technique, but complex in terms of steps.  The only techniques required are straight cuts and seam-matching, which can be mastered by any careful beginner.  The steps for assembly, on the other hand…

As I wrote in my post earlier this week, you start by cutting strips.  The strips should be 1/2″ wider than the finished squares are supposed to be; in this case, the finished squares will be 2″, so the strips are 2.5″.


I then divided the design into sets of three or four adjacent fabrics.  You could, of course, sew all the strips together in one giant set, but when you sew long strips together, it’s easy for the strip set to curve and warp, and of course, it would be hard to make a straight cut across 23″ worth of sewn-together strips and all those seams.  So, smaller sets; less likely to curve, easier to cut.

I’ve now sewn together all the strip sets for the Christmas Quilt.



The white-and-red set at the right is for the alternating squares in the center.


Next, I started cutting segments from the strip sets.  You cut across them, perpendicular to the strips, to make sequences of squares.  The segments should also be 1/2″ wider than the finished squares are supposed to be, the same as the strips, to ensure that they’ll actually be squares.  They don’t look square when you cut them, because the seam allowances on two sides have been sewn already, so it’s important at this point to double-check your measurements.


(These aren’t all the segments.  I only cut up about half of each strip-set, enough to get started with.  A few years ago I hurt my wrist with a marathon rotary-cutting session, so now I heed my husband’s advice (“Stop hurting yourself!!”) and limit my cutting to reasonable quantities at any given time.)

I then went through my design and sub-divided it into rows.  I lined up the rows for each quadrant, so that I could see in detail where the rows repeated and didn’t.


You can see that almost all the rows do repeat, except for the one in the center.

It’s the assembly of the rows that’s the complicated part.  You take the segments that you cut in the previous step, and sew them end-to-end in the right order to make the row.  Because the pattern for each row is different, most of the time the pattern won’t line up perfectly with your strip sets, so you’ll also have to add on or seam-rip off a square or two, on one or both ends.

Here’s my first row!


I decided to start in the center since it’s the row that doesn’t repeat, and since it’s only in the middle that the alternating red and white squares are part of the pattern.  For the fun of it, and to make sure I was grasping the principle, I also made the row immediately above the center, and sewed the two together.


It’s wonderful to see the pattern begin to take shape, and I love how all the different patterns and textures are working together.

More rows coming soon!

Meditations on a Quilting Motif

I’ve been having a very difficult week.  I won’t get into why.  Personal things, plus some boundary issues with a very persistent student, and so on and so forth.  I hit a bit of a boiling point on Tuesday, a couple hours before I had to leave for campus for a round of student conferences, and in a fit of needing to do something, I started quilting Verna.


I’d wanted to start in the middle, but I’d also wanted the bit in the middle to be particularly intricate, and, naturally, I let that stop me from beginning the quilting for the last several weeks.  Driven on the spur of a moment to find a solution, I measured the square, drew one of the same size on a piece of paper, and drew my design on the paper.  I then pinned the paper to the quilt (matching it up as best I could with the square underneath it), and quilted the design through the paper.

This is a perfectly good method for quilting intricate designs, with only one disadvantage; you have to remove all the little bits of paper after you’re done.

So, after a lovely half hour with a pair of tweezers…


That evening after the student conferences, I free-handed the rest of the white triangles.


I’m very happy with the results, and am looking forward to quilting the rest of it.  For the black triangles in the center, I’ll be doing a meandering line in red.

It’s this experience that has led me to understand a benefit of crafting that I’d never really thought about before.  Crafting is fun, of course.  There’s creativity, with its opportunities for mind-broadening and self-expression; there’s the soothing repetition of knitting in front of the TV; there are the manifold tactile pleasures of handling beautiful materials, and watching something new grow under your hands.  But there’s also this: sometimes, when everything is crazy, when your life defies control and reason and the best intentions, and you can’t do anything to make it saner… sometimes you just need to feel like you know what you’re doing.

Even if it only involves a quilt sandwich and some thread.

The Christmas Quilt Begins

Fall is in the air.


Yesterday I enjoyed some chamomile tea with the strainer I brought back from Royal Delft, in the Netherlands.


My angel is coming along slowly, but beautifully.  You can begin to see the final shape of the robes.


On Saturday I spent a lovely afternoon at a Sewcial with members of my quilt guild (the Central Jersey Modern Quilt Guild).  They set up in the hall of a local church with a lot of room, enough space for each of us to have our own eight-foot table.


I always take more stuff to these things than I could possibly finish.  I took the blocks for Marigold, as well as all the sashing and batting and things I’d need to assemble the quilt; I took Verna, basted and ready to quilt; and I took all the fabrics for the Christmas quilt.  The Sewcial was meant to run from 1:30 to 9 at night, and I didn’t know how long I meant to stay, but it’s been a tense couple of weeks, and I was really looking forward to some quality time with the sewing machine.

I quilted a couple of blocks for Marigold, using some of the threads from my Aurifil thread sets, which my parents gave me last Christmas.  🙂


I love the colors of these threads, and using them always makes me think of my parents.

After finishing two of the blocks (which take about forty minutes each), I decided to change gears.  I settled on a final design for the Christmas quilt in my computer-assisted drawing program, took one quadrant, and broke it down into strip sets.



I then lined up the squares and measured the resulting rectangles.  Multiply the length by 1.25 to take into account the seam allowances; multiply that by four for the other quadrants, and then divide by 44″ to see how many strips I need to cut.

It came out to 4.5.  (I think I got it right…)  So I layered the fabrics in sets, folded them in half, and cut five 2.5″ strips from each set.


Tonight I started sewing!  I finished sewing the first strip-set together, the red and gold ones.



Once I’ve got all the strip sets together, I’ll cut them into segments cross-wise, and sew those end-to-end to make each row.

Tomorrow, the sewing will continue.  For tonight, peace be with you.


Changing Focus for a While

I’ve decided to put off re-opening the Etsy shop for a while.  Due to circumstances that I’d rather not get into, I’m in a place at the moment where I don’t want to take on any new obligations.  At least not any have-to-do-it-now, have-to-remember-to-do-it-later obligations.  Every year in November, my parents and other volunteers run a Christmas store in Texas, to raise money for a community for adults with special needs, and for the last two years I’ve made a quilt to be raffled off for the store.

This was the quilt for 2014, a star sampler based on my California quilt guild’s block of the month that year.


The quilt in 2015 was based on Moda’s Modern Building Blocks.


It’s time to start making this year’s quilt, so while I’m working through my circumstances and taking some medications that make me feel tired all the time, I’ve decided to focus on that.

I bought the fabrics for this quilt in January, when Pennington Quilt Works was having their annual post-holiday clearance.  They had some really beautiful Christmas fabrics last year, and I got half a yard of each (having learned from last year’s experience that quarter-yards often just aren’t enough).  The darkest gold fabric will be the backing, and the dark green plaid will be the binding.


I had been thinking about a lone-star design (and of course I grappled with the temptation to undertake something REALLY complicated), but then I thought, “Let’s get back to basics.”  So for this project, I’ll be doing a very traditional, very beautiful design called “A Trip Around the World.”


It’s also called “Sunlight and Shadows,” when the values of the fabrics are arranged to create patterns of light and dark.  Of course the colors here are only representative of the fabrics, but the overall effect should be pretty similar, plus a little shimmer from the gold metallics on some of the prints.  🙂

I’m going to tweak the design a little in the next few days.  In particular I’m not sure about the center right now; repeating the center colors for two rings is traditional for “Sunlight and Shadows,” but I might begin blending the colors right from the center, for a more continuous overall look.

I’ll definitely have to settle the design details before I start cutting.  This design is cut and assembled in carefully-arranged strip sets.  It’s straightforward in assembly, but you have to do all the prep correctly, and keep your rows organized.


This picture is sideways, but it gives you the idea.  The fabrics are cut into strips, from edge to edge across the fabric, and the strips are sewn together into sets of four or five.  Then you cut across the strip sets, dividing them into segments that, once you’ve finished sewing, will become small rows of squares.  Then you sew the segments end to end to create one row for one quadrant of the quilt.  Any squares that aren’t needed for the row, are removed with the seam ripper, and set aside for a different row where you might need them.  Once you’ve made your rows, you sew those together to make one quarter of the quilt, and then sew the quadrants together to finish the top.

Like I said, it doesn’t require a lot of technique to put this together, just careful design and organization.  It should be an interesting challenge!

And I may be able to quilt it on a longarm because… I took longarm quilting lessons yesterday!!


Olde City Quilts, in Burlington, will rent time on one of their long-arm machines for $20 an hour, as long as you take their three-hour class first.  (I read about this online two years ago, but at the time it seemed too expensive and I forgot about it. I was reminded by a vendor at the Courthouse Quilters’ show last weekend (more about that later).)  I learned how to set up a quilt sandwich on the rails (which I already knew a little bit how to do from using my Flynn Quilting Frame at home, which operates on similar principles), how to set the stitch length, how to use the attached laser stylus to follow a paper pattern without marking it on the quilt, how to start and stop and clean out the bobbin.  I had so much fun!!!


This is two rows of the sample pattern the instructor had me do.  The pattern is designed so that the rows nest into each other, making it look like an allover pattern, but you can kind of see the repeat in the picture.

The long-arm machine has two sets of controls, one on the front (facing the quilt sandwich, like in this picture) and one in the back, where there’s a flat space to lay out patterns.  You set up the pattern to correspond to your quilt sandwich (with some strips of painters tape laid down to mark where your edges are), and turn on the attached laser pointer.  As you move the machine, the little red dot moves around too, so you can follow the line on the paper without ever marking up the quilt!  My stars came out a little wonky, but on the whole I’m very satisfied.  (It also turns out it’s easier for me to work from left to right; I think it’s because that’s how I would make the design if I were drawing.)

After that we got to free-motion for a while, and I went nuts doodling (I’ll post a picture of the whole thing soon), and had a great time!  The machine has a built-in stitch regulator, so I didn’t have to think nearly as much about controlling my speed, and there was so much ROOM to work with.  It was a lot of fun to see what the other students did too.  And now I have this whole new resource I can draw on to finish my quilts!

The rental fee includes the thread, service for the machine, tech support; for an extra ten dollars, they’ll even load the quilt on the frame before I get there, as long as I drop it off a couple days in advance.  I think I’ll want to do a sample quilt or two to practice before diving in with an important project, but I’m REALLY excited to drive that long-arm again soon!