Sunday, October 21, 2012

Day 21: 9-Patches

Whenever I don't know what kind of quilt to make, a 9-patch is one of the first places my mind goes. It's a reliable block that's relatively quick and easy, and it's versatile. I still haven't met a 9-patch I don't like. Today's block is no exception.

giant 9patch

It's 12.5" (will finish at 12-ish"), and each of the string units is 4.5". I just cut out (5) 4.5" squares from some scrap paper and added some strings with horizontal seams. If you've got strings that are much smaller, you can probably get away with smaller 9-patches - maybe 3.5" or less. But I was no mood to deal with skinny strings, so I went big.

ALSO, I just realized that I've been so wrapped up in this string madness that I forgot to draw a winner for the September jelly roll party. chose Kate, who made a rockin' quilt with some of her Joy scraps!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Day 20: Snowballs!

{Sheepish grins}

Um, I kind of dropped off the face of the earth there for awhile. I got caught up in helping out with the DOQ guild show that's happening this weekend (anyone local should totally go), and everything else, except work and food, got put on hold. ALSO, I'm doing a free motion quilting demo on Sunday (tomorrow - eep!) at noon for the show. Again, anyone local should totally go.

So I'll sneak back into my 31 days series today. I'll probably go back and postdate some posts with blocks about other string blocks to catch up from last week, or maybe I'll just extend my 31 days into November. I definitely have 31 days' worth of blocks/posts planned, so it seems a shame to just skip so many because I got behind.

stringy snowball

Today's block is the snowball block. Over the past couple of years, I've really come to luv the basic snowball block. See here, here, and here for some of my favorites examples of other snowballs.

My problem, however, is that I can't quite get the proportions of the block size to winged corners quite right. For the first snowball quilt I made, I wish the winged corners cut in a little bit more. (I also wish I had made the diamonds larger and more prominent.)

one of my other favorite prints

For the next round of snowball blocks I made, the corners cut in a nice amount, but the bad quilt math meant that I've got all this weird winged sashing going on, so it takes away from the snowball effect of the quilt.


Then for today's block, I think I overcompensated and cut in a smidgen too much on the corners. But it's close enough for the government, so I'll take it. I'm thinking if I had a lot of other snowballs to piece next to it, the proportions might look a bit better, like the winged corners aren't cutting in quite so far.

stringy snowball

Is there a perfect ratio/formula out there I'm supposed to be using on the snowball blocks? Does anyone know? Is there a quilting calculator that tells me these kinds of things?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Day 10: Bustin' Some Serious Stash

Tonight's block comes to you courtesy of Little Miss Shabby. I modified her Stashbuster tutorial for string piecing. Instead of cutting out a million itty bitty 1.5" printed squares (bless anyone who has the patience for such madness), I made foundation pieces for string piecing instead.

Stringy stashbuster

The stashbuster block is one of my favorite blocks I've seen tutorialized on the Internet. It's not super-fancy, it doesn't require any special skills, templates, or supplies, and every variation of it I've seen so far looks pretty darn good.

I made one a few years back for a bee, when a bee mate gave us free reign with her fabric.

Scrapbuster Block

If you like this block, be sure to check out Stashbuster #2, a composite of #1. I haven't tried block #2 yet, but it's on the bucket list. ALSO on the bucket list is a quilt full of alternating Stashbuster #1 and 2 blocks. I'll get there someday.

If you decide to string-ify this block, be sure to dig to the bottom of your string barrel for the teeny tiny pieces and scraps that you can't bear to throw away. They're pretty perfect for filling up the 1.5" wide foundation paper.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Day 9: String-X

I truly mean it when I say that today's block is one of my all-time favorites - the String-X block.

Bonnie Hunter penned the "original" tutorial for this block.
Then the Nittany Block Party posted instructions on how to add the white stripes down the sides of the strings.

Technically, I made four of these blocks, but I wanted to have a set of them put together in a nice roundish shape.

string-x block

This is another great block for making your favorite fabrics last a wee bit longer, especially if you follow the Nittany variation with the skinny (white) stripes down the sides - your strings only need to be 3.5" long to stretch across the paper.

I used this pattern on my Habitat challenge quilt last year, which still sits unfinished in my sewing room closet.

Habitat string-x blocks

If you do decide to use the Nittany variation, though, mind your skinny stripes as you square up the blocks. You'll want to make sure that you square up the blocks evenly, so that those skinny stripes match up when you piece together the blocks. It's slightly easier to fudge without the skinny stripes, simply because there aren't as many seams to match up.

There are some pretty amazing (finished!) variations of this quilt out in blogland. For your consideration:

Any favorites among the group? Any good-looking examples I missed? 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Day 8: String Cells

Today's block is brought to you by some faulty quilt math. Somewhere between drawing it out on graph paper and cutting and sewing the pieces, things didn't square up quite as planned. But I can't say that I'm unhappy with it. I still like the block, even if it isn't quite the right size.

string cells

I'm calling it string cells because it kind of reminds me of a jail cell, with the bars going down the middle. It's possible that I've watched too many Law & Order reruns. 

My friend, Julie, pinned this quilt on pinterest earlier, and I thought it would be neat to try and replicate a string version of it. I think I'd need to make my background stripes a little chunkier next time to really pull it off. Another option is to offset the background strips in the block, so that it looks more like this. Similar to yesterday, it's one of those blocks where it's much more dramatic in a quilt full of these blocks, rather than one block by itself. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Day 7: Indian Hatchet - aka the cheese can't always stand alone

Sometimes, as I browse through the modern quilt blocks group on flickr, I'll feel kinda bleh towards some of the blocks. Does that make me a bad quilter? I don't care. I've said it. It's out there.

Some blocks just aren't all that dramatic when you make them by themselves. Maybe you're on the receiving end of a packet with a "boring" block, and you wonder what the hay your swap mate was thinking when they picked out the block for that month. Then a few months/years later, you see the finished project and realize that all those simple blocks were put together in one quilt, they turned out to be fairly stupendous together after all.

Indian Hatchet string block

This? Is one of those blocks. It doesn't look like much by itself, but a whole quilt full of string blocks or selvage blocks like this would be a-mazing!! Who's going to be the first one to crank out a whole quilt full of these puppies?

My inspiration for this block came directly from here and indirectly from here

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Day 6: Fat Cats

If yesterday's block was a Skinny Minnie, then today's block, the inverse of yesterday's, is a Fat Cat block. Instead of using the strings to make the skinny inner strip, the strings make up the fatty borders, and the solid takes (off-set) center stage on this one.

Fat Cat string block

My measurements for this block are slightly different from the Skinny Minnie block, but the basic construction idea is the same.

I started out making a basic 8.5" string block, with the strip seams running horizontally. Then I cut the block in 2 pieces, 2.5" from the left of the block and inserted a 1.5" background strip. At that point, I pressed and squared up the block to 8.5"

Sorry there are no instructive photos this time around. It's an easy block, promise!!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Day 5: Skinny Minnies

Sometimes, you see a quilt on Pinterest, and it's pretty much love at first sight. So it was with me and this quilt, but I'm saving the pattern "for something special that comes along."

skinny strings

Unlike some of the other string blocks I've made thus far (cough cough, spiderweb), this block came together in a snap and used up some of the smaller scraps that aren't quite big enough for most string blocks. That middle strip of strings is only 2.5" (2" finished)! It's definitely not the quilt pattern for putting a huge dent in your stash of strings. Save it for those last few pieces of Flea Market Fancy or Far Far Away that you just can't bear to send to the scrap drawer. It's a great pattern for savoring the last few bits of your favorite prints.

Here are the basic sizes for all the block pieces to make an 8" block (8.5" unfinished). I went ahead and added in the seam allowances on the cutting instructions, so don't add any extra, unless you want a bigger block.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Day 4: Things Get Wild

A few years ago, everyone and their sister was making a "Wild Thing" quilt. You know the one I'm talking about, right? The chunky-looking pinwheels with the contrasting background?

I think Camille was probably the one who resurrected this quilt block from Ye Olden Days when she released her Wild Thing pattern.

I made a couple of these blocks for my very first bee month EVER


And then I made a billion miniature blocks and sewed them into a quilt top that still sits under the guest room bed, but what do you do?


Then last winter, I saw Jodi's scrappy chunky pinwheel pattern, and I went bananas - B-A-N-A-N-A-S! The scrappiness and whimsical pattern just gets me in all the right places.

So here's my stringy holiday interpretation of it:

stringy wild thing

I think I cut my units at a sharper angle than most of the other quilts online, but I like it that way. It does, however, mean that the block squares up to only 8" (unfinished), instead of 8.5."

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Day 3: Walkin' on the Spiderweb

Today's block is one of my absolute favorites. (You'll probably hear me say that about a lot of these blocks.) The spiderweb block!

walkin' in the spiderweb

I noticed that it was a perennial favorite for bees - quilt bloggers always seem to make at least one each year for their bee mates. Then I made one and figured out why they're so popular with bees/swaps - it takes flippin' forever to make one block! I don't know if I'd have the stamina to make a quilt full of these blocks by myself, either!

I first made a spiderweb block for Jeannette way back in ye olde days of early 2011 when I was in Bee Splendid with some lovely ladies.

Spiderweb block #1

I made another one in early 2011 for Angie from the ladies in my first bee EVER, Sew Bee It.


After that, I started making the units for a spiderweb quilt from a scrapbag of some Civil War-ish looking fabrics. Not my usual bag of tricks, but I'm thinking it would make a good Quilts of Valor quilt (eventually), since the strips are mainly maroon, navy, and cream. Notice that I haven't even started piecing the units into blocks yet. By the time I actually finish this quilt, we might have achieved world peace and moved to Mars, thereby obviating the need for me to send this to Quilts of Valor.


But enough about me and my unfinished projects! Let's see what the trusty Internwebz has to say about the spiderweb block.

Tutorials abound!

  • Quiltville/Bonnie Hunter: I generally follow this tutorial. Once you have a template for the middle piece, it uses up the background fabric efficiently and doesn't require all the flipping of the background fabric.
  • Jacquie Gering: The layout of this block is slightly different than most of your standard spiderweb blocks, but I dig it. Pretty similar to the quiltville tutorial, in that again, it doesn't require the flipping. For anyone in NC who likes what they see on Jacquie's blog, Jacquie's going to be in the Triangle area for a book signing and improvisational workshop at Thimble Pleasures in Chapel Hill NEXT WEEK! 
  • Sew Mama Sew 
  • Heather @ A la Mode

Spiderweb blocks at work!

  • Charlotte's Web Quilt from Heather - this is one of my favorites, mainly because she made a good-sized quilt out of a relatively small number of good-looking spiderweb blocks - a perfect choice if you lose steam after a dozen or so blocks and/or don't want to make any more blocks to supplement the ones your bee mates made.
  • Selvage Spiderweb Quilt (scroll to the bottom of this post for the pics) -  I never get tired of seeing selvage spiderwebs. I don't care if they used modern or traditional selvages or crazy or plain background fabric. They all look awesome to me. I especially LUV the quilting on this one.
  • Jacquie at work again - Selvages + a-mazing quilting. Seriously, I can't get enough of this quilt. I think it's the background fabric that exactly matches the paint color of the Drapers' foyer in Mad Men that has me hooked.
  • Mini-Spiderweb quilt -  Because you don't always have to go big or go home.
  • Inverted Spiderweb - they string-pieced the inner triangle instead of the outer flaps of the triangle units. Did that make sense to anyone but me?
  • Using different background colors in each block
  • The Full Monty/Scrap Hoover - Feast your eyes! String-piecing everywhere!! This quilt makes me never want to throw away any piece of fabric ever again.

Oh, and my block finished up at 12.5" - it will be roughly 12" once it's pieced into a quilt. Someday.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Day 2: The Half-Square Triangle String

Today's block is a much-loved re-run for me.

stringy HST

I made approximately 849 of these blocks for my jelly roll/strippy quilt in July. Okay, I only made 56 of them, but by the end it felt like 849.


The best thing about this block? If you can make a string block AND make a half-square triangle block, you can make this one easily.

When it comes to making HST blocks, I use method 2 as described here. If you want to make a block just like mine, just slap an 8.5" background piece on top of your 8.5" basic string block, and make sure that your seams for your 2 HSTs are running PERPENDICULAR to your string seams when you mark and sew your center lines.

strings to hsts

On the other hand, the blocks where the string seams and HST seams run parallel are pretty awesome too. Exhibit A.

Another best thing about this block? Any basic HST block layout can be applied for this block too. For example, I luv how this quilter used some HST strings to make a trusty sawtooth star block. How cool would a string version of this quilt be? The design possibilities are endless!

Monday, October 1, 2012

31 Days of String Blocks: The Basics


Welcome to 31 Days of String Blocks! I'm hoping to use this month to highlight a lot of different quilt blocks that will showcase the scrappy strings in your stash. I'm starting out with a bucket full of Christmas-y strings. This particular fabric is Joy by Kate Spain.

I'm hoping to end the month with a cute stack of 31+ string blocks and maybe a less full bucket of strings. I hope you'll find something useful out of all the stringy mess this month!

I'm starting out the month with the basic string block. The skills used for this block are applicable to pretty much every other block I'll show you this month.

joyous strings

I could give you a step by step breakdown of how to make a string block, but that's already been done by a LOT of other bloggers, so I'm not going to reinvent the wheel.

Like any good librarian, however, I will provide you a list of links (a bibliography, if you will) of string block tutorials that are already out there and that I find useful.

Important tips I'm trying to follow this month:

1) This nugget of wisdom is in pretty much every string tutorial, but it bears repeating: If you're using paper foundations, shorten your stitch length when making your strings - go down to 2.0 or even 1.5. It lessens the likelihood that you'll rip out your stitches when you rip the paper foundation off the back. It also means your needle will dull more quickly, so don't be surprised if you need to change it more often in the middle of a big string project.

2) This particular project won't be my normal "assembly line" operation. I'm making a whole block at a time and then the finished blocks will sit in a box until I think of something to do with them. So if there are stringy seams around the edges of my blocks after I trim up the edges and square them up, those stringy edges are pretty vulnerable to fraying. I'm stitching 1/8"-1/4" or so all the way around the perimeter of the "high-risk" blocks to stabilize the stringy seams and avoid future frustration. Exhibit A:


If you're planning to go straight from trimming your blocks to sewing them all together, or if you're going to add sashing to them right after you trim them, this isn't as much of an issue.

3) Before you start sewing, decide if you want your block to be "straight" or "wonky." If you want it to be straight, make sure that each string is the same width from top to bottom. The uneven edges will cause the stringy seams to not run exactly parallel to one another. Right now, I'm kind of digging the un-parallel seams and the wonkiness, but that's where my life is right now.

4) The skinnier your strings are, the longer it will take you to make your block. Skinny strings = lots of seams = more time sewing and pressing and less time staring at a finished block. Duh, right? But it took me a couple of string projects to make this connection.

Enough with the jabbering! Here's my block numero uno for this month!

string block: basics

Once I sash it and/or set it, it will finish at 8" (8.5" unfinished).

I'll start a new tab up top for the posts from this month that I'll try to keep current, so it's easy to find the blocks you like. Update: The page has been added!

Need some inspiration? Here are a few of my favorite string quilts using this basic string block:

"31 Days" is an annual event sponsored by The Nester. All around the web, there are all kinds of bloggers writing on a specific topic every day in the month of October. Check out the link party, if you're looking for some nuggets of wisdom this month - there are lots of awesome topics!