Chiagu Blog

Learning to Quilt

Posted on February 20, 2012 | 0 Comments

My main reason for signing up for a formal quilting class was to be able to learn the basics more quickly. Learning from tutorials and videos online is an awesome choice, but there's no comparing that to having an expert on hand to ask random questions in real time as they come up!

The first class session was yesterday, and I feel like what I learned during those five hours is already worth the cost of the class. These are basic, almost-silly things that I would never even have thought to ask!

Things like:

  • When sewing small pieces of fabric together, there's no need to pin them first. What a huge time-saver! It literally never occurred to me that this would be not only an option but the standard way to do it. I've literally pinned every seam I've ever sewn until yesterday morning.
  • The foot on the sewing machine is 1/4 inches wide, so if you line up the edge of the fabric to the edge of the foot, you've got a 1/4 inch seam. What the what?? This shocked me like you wouldn't believe. How have I been sewing for 20+ years without knowing this??? Note to my Grandma: This would have been handy to mention.
  • For piecing quilt tops, the color of thread doesn't matter because it's not going to show up. Most quilts are sewn with either beige or pale gray thread. While I hadn't actually ever thought about this before, I was surprised by the answer!
  • When cutting full-width fabric into strips, it's faster and neater to keep the fabric folded in half and cut through both layers at once. I cut two yards of my background fabric into strips in under 10 minutes this way. Again, there's no way I would have come up with that method on my own, especially not on my first project.

This class is all about quilting non-perfect versions of traditional quilt blocks, so I thought that would be perfect for me because it would be less stressful that making my first quilt in a more traditional pattern. The class works off the book Block Party - The Modern Quilting Bee, which shows you how to make "wonky" versions of many traditional blocks.

In the first class our teacher, Andrea, had us work up four different blocks from the book to figure out which we wanted to use for our full quilt. Here are the blocks I made:

First up is a wonky nine patch, made with two contrasting-yet-coordinating fabrics to make inverse versions of the pattern. This block is really fun to cut but not very fun to assemble, because there's no creativity in picking which piece goes with which. I had a hard time sewing the more angled seam (the vertical one on the left in the picture) and had to mark the seam line on the first one . . . but on the second block I did a much better job. Seeing the difference between the two was very confidence-boosting! I'll be turning these blocks into potholders shortly, using some sushi fabric for the backs. Stay tuned on that one ;o)

Next up was this wonky log cabin, which was pretty fun to do. On the first blocks I used only my own fabric (two fat quarters), but for this one I raided the scraps pile that Andrea provided to find more options. I am pretty happy with the way it came out, but to me it still reads very "traditional" even though it has no right angles. Not really my taste. This one will also become a potholder I think.

For the next one, I needed a bunch of solid fabric and the only color I had was a dark forest green, so my palette changed drastically:

This is a "wonky stripes" block and was the one we actually had a finished quilt to reference. I'm surprised by how much I actually LIKE this block considering it's not at all my usual color palette. A few of the other students commented on this one, too, so I think somehow I ended up hitting the "sweet spot" of combining fabrics on this one. No idea how that happened, believe me! Again, will become a potholder.

Last but not least is a "wonky grecian square":

I definitely did NOT do as good a job on this one, mainly because the polka-dot fabric is way too wide. By this point I think I was a bit tired of making practice blocks and wanted to go out into the store to gather fabrics for my real project, so I think I rushed through this one . . .  I may come back to this design in the future, because I love all the different ways you can put these blocks together to completely different effects.

So anyway, onto the main event: my quilt!

Like I mentioned in the last post, I was inspired to quilt mainly because I so love Minty's gray-and-pink quilt. When it came time to pick out fabrics, the first thing I asked Andrea was whether she had any fabric that had dachshunds on it, because I'd seen so many with cats that I thought there must be some. It turned out there was literally ONE print with dachshunds on it, and it looks like this:


If I had custom-designed this print to go with my gray-and-pink quilt idea, I don't think I could have come up with a more perfect print. By the way, the print is "Best in Show" by Timeless Treasures. I knew I had to have it, and I started building the palette around it.

I am planning a queen-size quilt (I'm not one to start small!) done in the stacking coins block (which of course is none of the above practice blocks). Here's what the book's quilt looks like:

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="426" caption="Image by Alissa, book author"][/caption]

Minty's was a sort of blown-up version of stacking coins, but mine will be a more scrappy version with smaller panels of each fabric. Here's a sketch of what I have planned:

As you can see, there will be 4 columns of stacks, each with 4 blocks on it. So each block will be 20" x 25", to yield a finished quilt about 80" x 100". I may have bitten off too much for a first quilt, but only time will tell . . .

Oh and here's all the fabrics on my ironing board, ready for their debut:

This picture's a bit too yellow due to the light in my "kitchen" . . . imagine all of that being a cooler tone.

The solid charcoal is the background color, and I've bought 1/4 to 1/2 yards of 7 fabrics for the coins. I then also raided the scraps pile and grabbed extra pink and beige pieces to make the quilt scrappier. I got a ton of the doggie print and will use that both on the front in coins as well as the center of the back, putting leftovers of the other fabrics on either side to make it wide enough. I'll break down all the fabrics in a later post.

Right now I have to run to an appointment, so I'll leave you with the bit of the first block that I got finished last night:

I think I like it!

What do you think?


Posted in quilting, Sewing

And now for something completely different

Posted on February 10, 2012 | 0 Comments


What you see above is a dog crate cover I sewed up today in an effort to brush up on my sewing machine skills. Why? Because I signed up to take a quilting class at City Quilter (that link is to Yelp, cuz their site is so awful I don't want to subject you to it) and I want to make sure I will be able to handle the homework.

I've been thinking about doing some quilting for a few months now, and then recently I read an article about improving yourself by learning new things/pursuing new interests and that just seemed to seal the deal. And then my first visit to City Quilter pushed me right over the edge! I went back yesterday to register for the class, and ended up spending almost an hour looking at and touching fabrics, supplies, patterns, you name it. And then I came home and spent hours reading quilting blogs. I am definitely, definitely smitten.

My plan for the class is to make a quilt similar to Minty's gray-and-pink quilt and to NOT buy materials for more than one other quilt during the month-long class. I feel like the first part of that statement is doable, but the second part . . . well, we'll see.

So now you know the background of why I started sewing this crate cover today. I took quick photos documenting the process and wanted to write it up here, in case it helps anyone else out. Enjoy!

Arnold has had this crate since he was 10 weeks old, and he sleeps in it every night (and sometimes plays in it during the day). It used to have a fancier bed in it, but Arnold ate it. So that orange liner you see? That's a towel! It's the only thing he likes sleeping on but does not seem to like to rip to shreds.

When I want Arnold to go to bed for the night, I tell him "kennel!" and he hops right in to his house. I cover him up and he falls asleep immediately. It's almost like magic, especially if you know him and know just how annoying rambunctious he can be.

Over the years, I've covered his crate with everything from blankets to towels to bed sheets. Most recently it's been covered with a random piece of fabric I bought and then never sewed up, but which I now want to (maybe) incorporate into the quilt. So, off to the laundry it went today, along with the spotted fabric you see above, which I purchased about a year ago with the intent of sewing it into a crate cover. When I got back from the laundromat, I ironed the spotted fabric and got right to work.

The biggest sewing/quilting challenge I have to deal with is a complete lack of floor/counter space. What you see above is the yardage spread out over the couch and onto the bed behind, which is the biggest flat surface in my tiny apartment (you can also see Arnold's butt in the lower left hand corner!).

I bought this fabric about a year ago from Purl, and I'm still totally in love with it. It's Japanese fabric from a line called Echino/Kokka, and I love how it has spots all over it and then turquoise leopards every so often. Very graphic yet a bit tribal at the same time, while having a modern color palette. Awesome.

The first step was to measure the sides of the crate to figure out the dimensions. I started with the largest areas, the two long sides and the top, and seamed those together along their long edges. Again as practice for quilting, I experimented with pressing seams, doing most of them flat:

You can see in this picture that my edges didn't meet up at all, and that's because I gave myself very generous seam allowances to make the project easier for me. By cutting (well, tearing) all the pieces with lots of extra fabric, I was able to be picky about matching the pattern, which you can see I did pretty well here. When I pinned the pieces together, I put the pin through the edge of the dots so that the two pieces of fabric would line up really well. I'm pretty proud of how the pattern matched up!

Oh and that extra seam allowance? After sewing I then cut off the extra fabric, leaving about 1/4" of selvage. Once pressed down, the seam looks nice and neat!

After cutting and sewing those three large pieces, I went back to the fabric and immediately saw that I didn't have a piece big enough to cover the back. So I took two smaller pieces and seamed them together, making a back panel with a center seam in it. Can you spot the seam in this photo?

Then came the harder job of sewing the corners nicely, which I'm happy to say I did very well on one side:

But not nearly as well on the other side (hence no photographic evidence). Pressing those corners was even harder than sewing them, and I am pretty sure there must be a better way to do this than what I invented as I went along . . . something else to learn in the future.

By the time those four sides of the crate were covered, I was losing steam and realizing just how little fabric I had left. At the same time, I also realized that because of my super-generous seam allowances, my cover was several inches longer than it needed to be, enough so that the extra fabric could cover the front gate, maybe . . . so I tried making an envelope corner to see if it would work, and it did!

I was pretty psyched when I figured this out! Then I went to actually sew that weird seam into the corner, and cursed a bit . . . but finally got it done. The two sides don't match (see?) but it's good enough.

The very last thing I needed to do was make a "door", so that Arnold would be completely covered up when inside the crate. And again, I didn't have much fabric left, so I again sewed two leftover pieces together to make a big-enough piece. Then I sewed one side of that to the front "frame" and voila! A door!

You can definitely see this seam, but by this point I didn't have any choices as I was pretty much out of fabric!

I thought that I would be done when I hit this step, until I realized that the "door" had no way of staying closed. I considered tacking it to the gate door but didn't see an easy way to do that while still leaving the "lock" mechanism accessible for using . . . so I improvised:

Dove into my single button stash and found a nice simple one of a good size, and sewed that sucker right onto the top panel. Then I took a bit of scrap material and sewed a little tie by folding a narrow, long piece in half and seaming it shut. Hand-sewed the loop onto the top edge of the door and called it done!

Arnold watched the whole thing go down curiously, but seems pleased with the result. Hopefully he'll sleep even better in his crate now that it has a custom-made cover!

I'm really happy I finally took on and conquered this project, and I definitely learned a few things. I'm psyched to use some of my fabric stash, and to finally have a proper cover for the crate . . . but I discovered that sitting at the sewing machine seriously bothers my neck, even more so than knitting does. Not good. Maybe the quilting teacher will be able to help me with my form during class . . .

Oh and by the way, if you follow me on Pinterest, yes, this is why I pinned like a dozen quilts last night!


Posted in Sewing

Cover your milkcrates tutorial

Posted on September 19, 2008 | 0 Comments

Somehow the sewing projects I want to do keep piling up . . . just saw this "Undercover Crate" tutorial and it jumped to the head of the line (even though hemming my living room curtains should be top of the list, but that's not nearly as fun)! What a great idea, who doesn't have random ugly milkcrates lying around that could use an upgrade?!?

Found via Craft Magazine

Posted in knitting, sewing, tutorials

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