Thursday, April 17, 2014

Spring Sampler Quilt Along

Hi Spring Sampler Sewists!  I've noticed that we have several participants that are "No-Reply-Bloggers." If you're planning on sewing along, please drop me a line with your email address and blog address to CorasQuilts{at}gmail{dot}com, so that I can make sure you're in our mailing group for the project.

Please also include your flickr alias, if you'll be posting via flickr. :)

Happy sewing!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Spring Sampler - Square in Square Block Tutorial

Sponsored by Connecting Threads

Welcome back!  Last week we chatted about fabric requirements and how to choose your fabric palette for our Spring Sampler Quilts.  More information on the project is available here.

Spring Sampler - Wall-hanging

Spring Sampler - Lap-Size
This week, while everyone is pulling their fabric choices together - don't forget to share your pictures in our linky party - we're posting tutorials for a few of the blocks we'll be using in our tutorial.  We've already shared how to put together Flying Geese Blocks, and today we're talking about the Square-in-Square block.

For those interested in just putting the block together, I'm going over the construction part first!  If you're interested in the mechanics of the block and the math behind it ... read on! :)

Assembling the Block

To make a Square-in-Square block, you'll need one center square, and four outer triangles.

1.  Finger-press the a crease to mark the center along the left and right edges of the square.  Finger-press a crease to mark the center on the longest side of two of the triangles.

2.  With fabric right-sides-together, pin a triangle to the left side of the center square, making sure to match up the crease marks.  Repeat to pin a second triangle to the right side.

3.  Stitch along the edge of both sides, using a scant 1/4" stitch.  Press seams towards the triangles.

4.  Finger-press a crease to mark the middle of the top and bottom edges of the center block, and the long edges of the two remaining triangles.

5.  Pin right sides together, matching the crease marks, and stitch. 

6.  Press seams towards the triangle.

7.  Because cutting measurements are always rounded up (see below), the block will most likely be a little larger than required.  Trim and square the block down to the needed size, making sure to maintain those 1/4" seams at the edge of the block.

8.  Tah-Dah!  You're finished!

The Mechanics ...

I design most of my quilts in Electric Quilt 6 (EQ), but one of the issues I have with the software is that for the Square-In-Square block, they always use a square cut diagonally in quarters for the outer triangles.

The problem with using this method is that it creates a triangle with two bias sides.

And once these triangles are attached to the center square, the entire block now has bias edges.

Bias edges stretch and distort very, very easily ... and that becomes a problem if you have to rip seams out, if you're not super careful while pressing, or even if you handle the block too much.  Since these blocks are at the center of our sampler blocks and we'll be handling them plenty, we don't want to have to worry about bias edges.

To fix this problem, the four outer triangles need to be cut from two squares cut diagonally in half.

This flip-flops the bias and grain edges ...

... and makes for a square-in-square block with grain edges.  Hooray!

The Math ...

Ok - the math for Square-in-Square blocks is slightly more complicated than the Flying Geese blocks, but here's how it works.  The block is made from one center square, plus four triangles (from two squares, cut in half diagonally).

Measure one side of your center square.  Let's say that it's 3.5".  

  1. Divide this number by 1.4142.
  2. Add 3/8" (.375) for a seam allowance.  
  3. Round the final number up to the nearest 1/8".  
  4. Cut two squares using this measurement, and then cut each square in half, diagonally, to get your four outer triangles.

Let's walk through this using the actual numbers:

3.5 / 1.4142 = 2.4749

2.4749 + .375 = 2.8499

2.8499 rounded up to the nearest eighth - 2.875 or 2 7/8"

Cut 2 - 2 7/8" squares and then cut each in half diagonally.

Now, I'm not a huge fan of math ... but I am a huge fan of Excel ... so I built a little spreadsheet to do all the calculating and rounding for you.  You can access it here.  Just enter the measurement of the center square and it'll tell you what size to cut your smaller squares.  Easy Peasy!

So, fairly easy {spreadsheet} math and very easy block!  Believe it or not, this will be the end of our tutorials.  Practice this square and the Flying Geese blocks, and you'll be ready to start your first block next week.  Hooray!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Spring Sampler - Flying Geese Tutorial

Sponsored by Connecting Threads!

Welcome to the first tutorial in our Spring Sampler quilt along!

All nine of the blocks in our sample pattern use the Flying Geese block - a block that's probably in the top five most common quilt blocks used.  There are probably about half a dozen ways to put these babies together, but in my experience, the following is the fastest way to make FOUR Flying Geese Blocks at once, with no waste and with no specialty rulers.

We're posting the tutorial ahead of the block patterns, just in case this is your first time using this method or you feel you could use a little bit of practice before putting your sampler block together.

Keys to putting together a successful set of Flying Geese Blocks are:
  • Careful Cutting
  • Sewing with a scant 1/4" stitch
  • Pressing {not ironing!!!} your block!
Here we go!  To make a set of four identical flying geese, you'll need:
  • 1 Large Block = Finished Width + 1 ¼
  • 4 Small Blocks = Finished Height + 

1.  Pin two Small Squares right-sides-together in opposite corners of the Large Squares, as pictured.  They should be slightly overlapping in the center.

2.  With a fabric pencil, draw a line from corner to corner of the Small Squares.

3.  Sew a SCANT 1/4" seam on both sides of the drawn line.  This means that your stitches should be just a hair under 1/4" away from the drawn line.  It's a good idea to do a test block and to measure.  You'd be surprised how much your machine might be off!

4.  Cut the unit in half along the diagonal line.

5.  Press along the block, as-is, to set the seam.  Then, press the fabric towards the smaller squares.
Note: It's really important to PRESS your block- lift your iron up and then put it down in a new spot.  Ironing your block - moving the iron around without lifting it up - can stretch and distort your block!

6.  Pin another Small Square to each of the blocks and draw a line from corner-to-corner.

7.  Sew a scan 1/4" seam on both sides of the drawn line.

8.  Cut the unit in half along the diagonal line.

9.  Press the block to, as-is, to set the seam, and then press the fabric towards the smaller square.

10.  Trim the dog ears.

11.  Tah-Dah!  Four identical Flying Geese Blocks!

If you'd like to get a head start on constructing Flying Geese blocks for the first few blocks in your Spring Sampler, you'll need 1 - 5 1/2" Large Square plus 4 - 3" Small Squares for each set of four flying geese.  Happy Sewing!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Spring Sampler - Choosing Fabric!

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Several people have contacted me, expressing frustration in picking fabric for their Spring Sampler, so I thought today would be a good time to chat about how I chose my prints.  I'd love to hear how you picked your fabric if you've already chosen it ... or if you're stuck, if this chat was any help at all and where you could use more help!

While some people were born with this beautiful, innate ability to pull together random prints into a beautiful, balanced, scrappy work of art, for a lot of us - myself included - "scrappy" projects mean stepping out of our comfort zone.

I am a lover of symmetry ... order ... balance ... planning ... so designing this scrappy-ish sampler meant a lot of hours with my digital design software - but, my time wasn't spent on precise fabric placement.  It was spent getting the tones of my blocks to a balanced state.  I'm hoping that if I share my fabric selection process, I can help with any scrappy-anxiety some of you might be feeling.  I'd hate for you to pass on our quilt along, just because of fabric woes!

First off, with this and any scrappy project, really, DON'T TRY TO PICK A PRINT TO MATCH EACH OF MY CHOICES!  You'll go nuts!  With each tutorial, I'll tell you the exact prints I'm using in each of my blocks just in case you're looking to make an exact replica.  But, the vast majority of you are using different fabric lines, so rather than trying to find a print-for-print match, I'll also tell you the type of print to use.  The best way organization tip I can offer is to separate your fabric into groups based on the list below, and then chose prints from that group.

Secondly, there is no shame in pulling most (or even all) of your fabric from the same line.  Don't put too much pressure on yourself.  Likewise, don't feel like you have to include every print from your favorite line.  If one isn't speaking to you, kick it to the curb! :)

Lastly, I'm a visual person, so I've tried to include some diagrams to help explain the method to my {carefully planned} madness.  Sometimes seeing things in black and white can make a world of difference!  
Here are the steps I'd recommend taking to choose your fabric.  Each step will result in its own group of fabric.

1.  Pick a Vibrant Inspiration Print or Two.  No more than this right now - you're just setting the tone for your project.  Try to come back and add another print or two after each step below to help you slowly build your "pool" - you'll need at least 12 different prints by the time you're done.

2.  Choose a light, solid background.  You want it to be a showcase for your vibrant prints.  White is my personal favorite.

Just a little note: If your prints are based on ivories, creams, or other not-quite-white colors, don't be afraid to use white as a background.  You'd be surprised at how well it can showcase even the palest colors!
3.  Pick a Dark Print.  This should be the darkest color in your quilt and compliment your growing "pool" of prints (#1). Think of it as an steady anchor, providing a little bit of contrast to your background, but not detracting from your prints.  Don't pick anything too showy.  Small scale, tone-on-tone prints work best for this choice.  Add anything on the flashier side to your Group 1 pool.

4.  Choose a few Medium Dark Blenders.  Next to your choice for Group 3, these should be the darkest prints in your palette.  They should be lighter and slightly more interesting print-wise than Groups 2 and 3, but darker and more subdued than the prints in Group 1.  You really only need 2-4 prints in this group.

5.  Choose 1 or 2 Very Light Neutrals.  These should be the lightest prints in your palette, aside from your Group 2 choice.  Again, tone-one-tone, small-scale, or even solids will work best in this group.  These will essentially be background blocks with the slightest bit more texture and interest than your actual background solid.

Every single block uses the Background Solid (#2) and your Dark Print (#3) print.  Then, for each block, choose from your pool of Vibrant Prints (#1), Mediums (#4) and Neutrals (#5).

With each block, look at the blocks you've made before, and try to pull  a few different choices!  Think of it as a choose your own adventure kind of experiment. :)

So, now that I've shared my process for selecting my prints, I'll show you my groups.  I'm using Connecting Thread's Hampton Hues line plus their Quilter's Candy Solids in White.

Group #1 - Vibrant prints:

Group #2 - White Solid:  

Group #3 - Dark Print:

Group #4 - Medium Prints:

Group #5 - Neutrals:

I hope that helps to give a bit of a frame of reference in choosing your fabrics and I'd love to hear about your adventures in choosing prints too!  Share photos here, or on our fabric requirements page!