The Lily Pad: The Journal of White Lotus Quilting

Behemoth, month 2, continued: End of Day block

Posted in Atomic quilting,Block of the Month (BOM) by whitelotusquilting on December 23, 2010
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No matter which holiday you celebrate, December is an action-packed month.  The season has a way of getting ahead of me and this year it’s been no exception.  We started with an extreme ice and snow storm the week of Thanksgiving (the end of November) — which included 20 hours of power outages over the course of two days — and then have had wind storms, excess rain, and lots of visitors to our house.  So I feel like I started out behind on my holiday preparations and then got further behind.  Not that I really mind — it’s all been fun. Oh and there’s been LOTS of Christmas quilts to finish for clients.  I just finished the last quilt to be done for Christmas yesterday so I’m just getting some giftmaking and shopping done, and I’m finally posting some more blocks of the Behemoth for month #2.  This block was supposed to be for November but it’s stretched into December so don’t worry if you’re not caught up yet!  You’ll have plenty of time as we’re poking along here.

Here’s the ‘End of Day’ block:

End of Day Block

This is a gorgeous block and wonderfully shaded with lights and darks, which can give it a 3D feel if you look at it just right.  I built it with Thangles, which isn’t in the pattern directions, but you can successfully follow the pattern directions instead if you prefer.  With Thangles you’ll wind up with two full blocks, one that spins to the right, and one that spins to the left.  If you’re making the larger version of the Behemoth, you’ll need four extra big blocks anyway, so just start up a spare parts bucket and by the time we’re done with the 12 months of blocks, you’ll have a few good spare pieces to get you started on your extra blocks.

(remember that if you want to see the whole photostream for this block, click on any picture, which will take you to the flickr photo album for this block)

When I look at this block, I see a pinwheel made of stripped components.  That is, there are four very large half-square triangles, that same quilting atom again, spun around like a basic pinwheel.  Each triangle half, though, is made of a light and dark strip, making it a compound triangle.

Clear as mud?  Well, what it means is that you can create this block without cutting triangles or trapezoids first.  In fact, you can create it with a light and a dark strip (of the same size) and a handful of Thangles.  For this particular block I used 6″ finished  ‘big Thangles’ and started with 3.5″ strips.  But you can scale it to suit your needs.  To begin with, sew your light and dark strips together along the long edges.  Press toward the dark side. (Darth Vader would be so proud).  It will look something like this:

End of Day Block

I paired this beautiful hand dye by Judy Robertson (Just Imagination) with a batik from Fabric Depot in Portland Oregon.  Then I stacked the layers as you might for sewing a four-patchie, like this:

End of Day Block

Then I cut the sewn pairs to 6.5″ by 7.25″ rectangles and pinned on the Thangles paper, like this:

End of Day Block

Then I sewed on the guidelines.  When I cut them apart (each pair of rectangles makes 2 half-square triangle atoms), I realized that I had both right- and left-spinning units, and that to make one whole block I needed to make twice as many half-square triangles as I’d originally thought.  Here’s the four half-square triangle units, two right-spinning, and two left-spinning:

End of Day Block

For the second set of half-square triangles I changed up the fabrics a bit, so the final block is made up of two different sets of strips, with each pair retaining a light and dark so that the contrast would work properly for the overall block.  Here’s the two finished blocks:

End of Day Block

However you make your ‘End of Day’ block I hope you enjoy it.  It’s fun to play with values and see if you can get enough contrast to get the 3D effect that makes this block sing.

Take time to enjoy the season and your celebrations, and stay ‘sew’ happy!

More Atomic Quilting: the three-part triangle

In today’s exciting episode of atomic quilting, we’re going to consider a hybrid atom that is really very useful: the three-part triangle.  (In Thangles instructions this is often called a ‘tulip square.’)  And we’re going to look at this atom in the context of building a Behemoth block, from month #2.  Yes, I’ve finished mine (it was supposed to be for November), and no, I haven’t posted any pictures yet, at least not here.  But the whole photostream is on flickr so if you click on that link, or any of these pictures below you’ll get to the album full of Behemoth pictures from October and November.

It’s the ‘card trick’ block that’s so interesting, and I made it last, but I’m going to show it to you first.

card trick block assembly

In the Behemoth directions, Julie shows this as a three color block, and I made it with five colors.  Take your pick of how you’d like yours to look.  I made the block with Thangles but of course you can use your favorite way to make half-square triangles and related pieces.  With the Thangles I made make all the pieces from one strip size; depending on the method you may need to cut up to three different sizes of squares or triangles.

If you break this block down into quilting atoms, it contains three different atoms, each successively more complex, although they each finish out to the same size.  There are four half-square triangles (HST) on the corners (one each of each colored ‘card’ and common background); one quarter-square triangle (QST) in the center (with four different colors of the ‘cards’); and four three-part triangles (if you can think of an appropriate abbreviation let me know), each one containing two colors of ‘cards’ and the common background color.

Three-part triangles are like a half-square triangle, except that one half is divided again, usually into a light and a dark.  They are made similarly to quarter-square triangles in that a finished half-square triangle is sewn again, this time to a solid square (instead of another half-square triangle, for the quarter-square).  Again I used Thangles for this step, so I wound up with one three-part of the appropriate size, and one smaller hatchling, for each color ‘card.’

With five colors, it can be a bit confusing, so here are pictures of the block in progress so you can see how I built the block:

card trick block assembly

First, I made the half-square triangles of the four colors plus the background.  I cut the Thangles paper into individual pairs, so when I sewed these, I wound up with two HST of each (I only show one here, in each corner).  I used all of them though, more on this in a moment.  Then I made the quarter-square triangle in the middle, by making two pairs of half-square triangles in light/dark combinations.  I then sewed one pair together for the center QST.  (The alternate pair will be spare.)  You wind up with one QST in the correct size, and one hatchling of smaller size, which is also spare.  These hatchlings, by the way, are the result of using only one strip size to begin with, rather than cutting each piece to different sizes.  I don’t mind them, and usually find other uses for them, but if they bother you, use a different method for your QST.

Here’s the quarter-square triangle and its hatchling:

card trick block assembly

Now comes the interesting bit.  I laid them out a little strangely, but it’s so that I can get the colors right for the three-part triangles.  I took the leftover half-square triangles from the block corners, that look like this:

card trick block assembly

And I put them next to their similar colors, in a sort of flying geese layout.  (Don’t worry, it will look wrong at this point.)  Then I cut solid squares of each of the colors for the cards, like this:

card trick block assembly

Then to make each three-part triangle, I laid the square over the spare half-square triangle, in the orientation I wanted to see it finish (to be sure I sewed the line correctly).  Here’s what I mean:

card trick block assembly

Once I knew where the color square needed to be placed, I stacked it on top of the half-square triangle and used Thangles paper to sew the diagonal seam.  I sewed the second seam for the bonus ‘hatchling.’  Here’s what it looks like with the Thangles paper:

card trick block assembly

Here’s finished three-part triangles in a different color set, one of the correct size, and one hatchling:

card trick block assembly

And here is the block with two three-part triangles completed (it’s their hatchlings below the block):

card trick block assembly

Cool, eh?  Once you finish all the three-part triangles, the block looks like the picture at the top of the post.  It gives the illusion of the color ‘cards’ overlapping each other, which I think is wonderful.  Sure, the block is fussy, and it takes a fair amount of diligence to get the colors right, but when you do, it’s an entertaining illusion.  And by breaking it down into component atoms, it makes the block construction simpler to understand, and scale up or down, as you choose.

The card trick block is part of the Behemoth BOM block #2 (in the lower left corner):

finished block #2

So if you haven’t started on your Behemoth yet, don’t worry!  Make the blocks in your own way and time.  You’re going to gain a month as  we’ll use December to catch up.  (I don’t know about any of you, but the snow/ice storm and ensuing power outage shredded my schedule last week!) I won’t post any of the third block until January.  We will still have the open sewing studio date in December, though, so feel welcome to come and sew on whatever blocks you’re working on.  And get your free teeny weeny holiday gift!

And in the meantime, enjoy the holiday season, and happy sewing!

Atoms, continued: the Quirky Quarter-square Triangle

So (sew!) to finish up your first block of the Behemoth, you need to make up some giant quarter-square triangles.  Like its less complicated cousin, the half-square triangle, the name refers both to the single triangle as well as the assemblage of the four, usually alternating in lights and darks.  I used the larger of the ones shown below for the block.

Composing quarter square triangles

A quarter-square triangle takes up a quarter of a square, and is the shape that happens when you drawn two diagonal lines within a square, both lines corner to corner.  (And the half-square triangle is what happens with only a single diagonal line in the square, corner to corner).

And like its plucky hard-working cousin — which appears in so many quilt patterns —  the quarter-square triangle (QST) is a versatile quilting atom that can be constructed in LOTS of different ways.  I chose a non-conventional way because it’s easier with what I have on hand.  In any case, the QST is a little further down the food chain of piecing because you need to make at least two half-square triangles (HST) first.  Or halves of HST’s first if that’s your method.

If you consider that a QST has to be seamed twice before it’s inserted into the block then you can understand why you have to start with larger pieces than simple squares.  That is, if you want all your results to be the same size.  I was happy to create QST’s of different sizes, because I may use those in other Behemoth blocks.    In this case I wanted my final QST’s to be 6.5″ square (so they would wind up in the finished quilt at 6″ square).  So I cut my initial pieces of  fabric to 6.5″ by 7.25″ rectangles of  two different sets of lights and darks.  This is the size that the Big Thangles paper needs — and each rectangle pair will produce two identical HST’s that wind up at 6.5″ square.  But if I simply sewed the HST’s together on the diagonal to produce the QST’s, they would both be too small for the size that fits my block.  So I used the Thangles paper again, sewed on one diagonal, and then on the smaller one, and would up with QST’s that are 6.5″ and roughly 5.5″ (which I can use in a later block).

If you click on any of the pictures below, that sends you to the flickr album that has the tutorial for making these QST’s this way.

Composing quarter square trianglesComposing quarter square trianglesComposing quarter square trianglesComposing quarter square triangles

So with all the components finished, I could finally assemble block#1 of the Behemoth on my design wall.  I’m pretty happy with how it turned out and can’t wait to add some more fabrics.

The finished first block

I hope you’re enjoying this project as much as I am!  There are some things I might do differently if I made the blocks again — but that’s part of the fun, getting to learn something about piecing, and yourself, in the process.

Happy Samhain all!  (Today’s Halloween so I hope you will excuse the pun.  It’s the Irish word for this time of year, and it’s pronounced something like ‘sow-wain’ and it sounds a lot like sewing to me!)

The Mighty Half-Square Triangle

Next to the superhero square, the half-square triangle is probably the most important sub-atomic unit in quilting.  The half-square triangle appears in all sorts of patterns in lots of combinations, so it’s worth getting to be friends with.  In the Behemoth block, it appears in the Friendship Star, which is the second to last part of block #1.  So I feel compelled to try to explain it a bit even though it is a huge hairy topic in quilting, which invokes emotionally charged responses like in discussions of politics or religion.  And a little like religion, everyone is pretty much sure their way of making these little units is the best way.
Making the friendship star

Here are the beauties I sewed for the Friendship Star.  So let’s start with these as an example of the half-square triangle unit.   A half-square triangle is the triangle that happens when a square is divided along its diagonal.  That means that if you cut a triangle like this out of fabric, the long diagonal edge is on the bias.  And bias means STRETCH.  Fabric has the most give (distortion) along the bias.  So if you cut the triangles and sew them back together to make a two-triangle square (don’t worry, here’s where some of the confusion lies — this compound unit is ALSO called a half-square triangle, or HST), the piece will distort as you sew.  If you’ve starched the heck out of it, it might distort only a little.  But if your feed dogs are a little aggressive and the fabric has a lot of give, you’ll wind up with a diamond or trapezoid instead of a square.  WAH.  In the past I’ve trimmed many of these oddly shaped little units down to their more accurate size, but that means you have to start with bigger triangles than the match tells you, to accommodate the accumulation of sewing mistakes.

So here’s one place where I substantially differ from Bonnie Hunter, the genuis behind I don’t cut triangles first, unless it just can’t be helped.  I always sew first, then cut later.  If you sew the diagonal seam while the weave of the fabric is intact, it stabilizes the bias and prevents a lot of the distortion that happens when you sew on bias edges.  The other thing is that although you can mark your own sewing lines, and cut the odd size strips that HST’s call for, I have come to prefer sewing on pre-marked lines on Thangles paper, on normal pre-cut (by me or fabric companies) strip sizes.  It helps me make the most of my limited piecing time.

Making the friendship star

This is where I started for my Friendship Star adventure — by layering two identical size strips over each other, light over dark, and pinning on Thangles paper of the appropriate size.  Then I sewed on the dotted lines, cut on the solids, and after pressing produced the half-square triangles seen above.  Actually in the view of the HSTs above (first picture in post) I haven’t yet removed the paper.  If you leave the paper in when you press, that also stabilizes the bias and prevents distortions from the ironing.

The Friendship Star is a nine-patch block, with five plain squares and four half-square triangles.  The plain squares are divided into four dark squares and one light square (in the center) in this case but you could reverse the color balance and make the star look dark in a light background.  Here it is as a light star in a light background:

Making the friendship star

For a survey of half-square triangle construction methods, try this link: half-square triangle goodies.  Yum!  Lots of great stuff here.  There’s even triangle paper you can print out on your printer if you like that sort of thing!

After the Friendship Star, the only thing left in our Behemoth block #1 is two giant quarter-square triangles, which I’ll tackle in the next post.  And of course I’ll post a photo of the finished block #1.

Say sew happy, all!

Come to the Dark Side (we have cookies)

Posted in Block of the Month (BOM),Quilting tips and techniques by whitelotusquilting on October 14, 2010
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Something I haven’t mentioned in the discussion of basic quilt parts is which way you press the seams and why.  Generally, pattern instructions say something like ‘press toward the dark fabric.’  Perhaps obviously that means the DARKER of the two fabrics joined at the seam.  If you have yellow and white, for instance, yellow is still the darker of the two but isn’t really very dark on its own.

There are a few reasons for this, method to the madness as it were.  The first being that the darker color will shadow up underneath the lighter fabric, so whenever possible, press the seam away from the lights (or toward the darks) to avoid the shadow.  Maybe Luke and the rest of the Jedi would disagree with moving fabric toward the Dark Side but it just makes good quiltmaking sense.

According to the garment makers I know, the reason for pressing a seam to the one side or the other is to protect its thread, especially in circumstances of exceptional wear.  That’s a good strategy for quilts, too, especially the ones that will get sat upon and washed quite a lot (though admittedly they still don’t have the kind of stress on them that the sitting seam of a pair of trousers is under).  But what about the times when the directions say to press a seam open?  That’s to reduce the bulk, to more evenly distribute the pile-ups of layers of seam fabrics on the underside of the quilt top.  I don’t usually resort to pressing a seam open unless there’s a LOT of bulk — like when 8 seams come together in a pinwheel or a hexagon.  There are side-press strategies for pinwheels, too, so it just depends on how heavy the fabrics are and how they are laying.  In general I press a bulkier, compound piece toward a simpler less bulky piece, especially when composing blocks or fitting blocks together, and that trumps the color ‘rule.’  (We don’t use a lot of quilting rules around here and even if we did they’d be ignored so maybe just think of it as a guideline)

I’m going to use block #4, the lighter version, of the current Thangles block of the month, as an example. (and yes, I know, it’s not October’s block, I’m just working ahead here for a sample :))

Nested seams directions

In this case the half-square triangle units area on the corners of this top row of the 3 x 3 block (it’s a nine-patch in disguise for those of you following the atomic quilting thread), so I decided to press them toward the middle plain square.  (But this is toward the lighter fabrics in this case, Obiwan would be very proud) For the middle row, which is all plain squares, I pressed from the center square toward the outer ones, and then reversed it again for the bottom row.  So when you put the rows together to sew, the seams that are going to meet are pressed in opposite directions.  That way, the troughs and cliffs of the side-pressed seams nest into each other, and you can feel it by pressing down on the seam joins with your fingers and thumb.
Nested seams directions

Here you can hopefully see the two seams that are pressed in opposite directions, that will meet when the two rows are sewn together.  You can pin these intersections once you have them seated over each other correctly (nested) if you like but I prefer the non-pinned freedom of adjusting top and/or bottom row if the pieces don’t fit exactly.  You can slightly tug top or bottom to get them to fit better and make some very lovely points where your squares or other components come together.

Nested seams directions

This is the best method I’ve found to match pieced sections, but of course — your yardage (meterage for Canadian readers) may vary :).  If you’re matching very long rows with each other, pins might be useful.  Or you could baste each intersection together with large stitches on your machine and once you’re happy with how the pieces fit together, sew the seam with your normal stitch length.

Nested seams directions

The finished light and dark versions of block #4, after pressing.  Rock n roll!  Onto the next blocks :).

Introducing the ‘Behemoth’ Quilt-Along BOM

Posted in Block of the Month (BOM),news,White Lotus Quilting studio by whitelotusquilting on September 30, 2010
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We had so much fun with the 2009 Block of the Month (BOM) by Thangles that we’ve decided to do it again this year!  Times two!

Starting in October 2010 we’ll have the 2010 BOM by Thangles as well as a quilt pattern for more experienced sewers called ‘Beige Behemoth’ by Julie Owens of Big Horn Quilts.  Okay, I have to admit I haven’t finished either sample yet but it’s sure been a busy summer (you can tell by how infrequently I’ve been updating this blog — very busy means no updates!).

The Thangles BOM’s patterns are released month by month and cost $1.00 (plus sales tax) for the pattern AND fabric.  This year I’m using beautiful batik sprays for the fabrics.  You need to be local to the Puget Sound area to pick these up each month here at the studio; their exclusive BOM is not offered via mail or online.  This is a great pattern for beginners and a fabulous way to get your feet wet with Thangles if you haven’t tried them before.  I use them all the time for my middle-school students and in almost all of my projects.

The ‘Beige Behemoth’ BOM will work a bit differently — we’re going to do it as a quilt-along.  Here’s a picture of Julie’s awesome pattern, surrounded by fabrics that might make it into my quilt (obviously mine is more or less in aquas, not beiges!):

Beige Behemoth BOM pattern

Here’s a link to the pattern at her Big Horn Quilts on-line shop: Beige Behemoth.  Julie is a former engineer — like me — and I just think her pattern is pure genius.  All 12 months of the BOM are included in the one pattern so at $14.00 it’s a total deal.  The twin-sized quilt as shown is 70″ by 90″ but you can easily enlarge it to queen size 96″ by 96″ if you want a bigger quilt.  She suggests starting with 10 fat quarters — in the same color family if you’re doing a monochromatic version — with an assortment of light, mediums, and darks.  The twin size as shown takes about 30 fat quarters in total; the larger queen-size will take about 40 fat quarters.

I asked Julie for permission to blog about my adventures making up her pattern and she graciously agreed, provided I did not include any sizing details.  I’ve started a photostream on flickr that documents the steps I’m going through for each block, which you can get to by clicking on the picture above.  Remember that I won’t include any of the sizes in the descriptions, so if you would like to sew this quilt and join us in the quilt-along, you need to buy the pattern for the specific details, and reward the designer for her hard work.  Also because I’m a Thangles and other gadgets geek I’m not always completing the blocks according to her directions, but I wind up with the same results.  If you have any questions about what I’ve done just e-mail me.

The Behemoth has large blocks made up of several smaller component blocks.  Each month I’ll post a photo with a link to the flickr photostream with that month’s blocks.  If you’d like me to include pics of your blocks, too, just send them to me in e-mail and I’ll post those too.  It will be fun to see how all the different colors develop!

During the course of the Behemoth I’ll be using 2″, 3″, 4″ and 6″ finished Thangles.  I’ll also be using the Lazy Girls Flying Goose X4 ruler, the Lazy Angle ruler, the Square in Square ruler, and a few rulers I’ve had custom cut for me.  I’ll also be using standard rulers 6″ by 24″ , 6.5″ by 24″, 6.5″ by 13″, and 2.5″, 3.5″, 4.5″, 5.5″ and 6.5″ squares.

If you’re local to the Puget Sound area, I have several copies of the pattern on hand, just e-mail me.  If you want the 4 sizes of Thangles to go with the pattern, I’ll toss in one pack for free.  If you want any of the rulers I’ve used and can’t find them at your local store let me know and I’ll see what I can bring in for you.

Remember that I’m the ‘gadget’ librarian for the Kitsap Quilters Guild, which most months meets on the fourth Tuesday of the month in Poulsbo.  We have most of these rulers in the library if you’re a member and would like to check them out.

I’ve updated the gadget library page on the blog here, so now it reflects the guild’s holdings.  Also I’ll be adding pages for basic quilt units construction, so be sure to check for new pages, especially if you’re unsure about how to sew a particular component.  There will also be a page here for each BOM.  If you’re local to the Puget Sound area and want to come and sew here in the studio, check the BOM page for open studio sewing dates.

Happy sewing all!

Thangles are here! And Buck-a-block is too!

Posted in Block of the Month (BOM),news by whitelotusquilting on November 17, 2009
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Okay, fabric wranglers, we’ve finally got all of the Thangles triangle paper sizes in for your piecing convenience.  There’s a new pegboard wall in my studio with Thangles and patterns as well as fabrics from Sew Batik and Kona Bay.
Sewing with Thangles

Never sewn with Thangles before?  No worries.  They are simple, easy and fun.  The paper makes it easy to sew half-square triangles accurately so that your quilt blocks are nice and square when you’re done.  Well, that is, if you get that little thing called a quarter-inch seam under control :).  (think of the quarter-inch seam like a medical or spiritual practice, something you do all the time and constantly improve but may never achieve complete mastery, rather than something you’ll conquer in an evening, and it will save your sanity!)

You can find a video at the Thangles home page that shows you how to sew with them, and how to press and trim them afterwards.  Plus there are some great pre-packaged patterns that I’m also carrying, that contain the triangle paper and the pattern, that are featured on the site.

Thangles also produces a block of the month program that their shops can host, so I picked that up as well.  It’s called the ‘buck-a-block’ because the customers get the fabric and pattern for each of the 12 blocks for a dollar each (plus sales tax).  Not much of a money maker for me, but a great opportunity for my clients to play with the Thangles paper and see how they like sewing with it.  And if you have fun with the paper, then you might sew patchwork more, and there might be more finished quilt tops in the universe!  All good things for a longarm quilter.

You can see the 2009 Buck-a-block quilt here.  Be sure to click on the alternate colorway so you can see how different the quilt can look based on the fabric you choose.  Here at my studio my middle-school sewers and a handful of my quilting clients are already making blocks of the month, and each person has chosen a different fabric.  Here are the first two blocks in the black/white/color scheme I chose:

Thangles BOM quilt 2009

Thangles BOM quilt 2009

One more picture, of the finished quilt top:

Thangles BOM quilt 2009

If you want to see more, here’s a link my Thangles photo album on flickr, including some pics of sewing with Thangles.  I wouldn’t want to sew triangles without them!

Interested in Thangles patterns or the Buck-a-block quilt?  There’s still time to jump in.  Just e-mail me and I’ll send you the details.

Happy sewing, all!