Saturday Scrap Strategy #12

23 06 2018

If your scrap collection is anything like mine, you have an eighth of a yard of this, and a 6″ strip of that, trimmings of quilt backings, leftovers from projects completed years ago, as well as an assortment of fat quarters. What to do with all of it? Today’s Scrap Strategy suggests incorporating coordinating scraps into a “Steppin’ Up” baby quilt. You will find a printer friendly document of this project on the Patterns page of this blog. Simply click the Patterns tab under the blog header; once on the Patterns page, scroll down until you see “Steppin’ Up” along with the pictured blue and yellow quilt.

Here is my fabric pull for a lamb-themed “Steppin’ Up.” Several months ago, I made a lamb quilt and purchased more fabric than needed. The leftover fabric is too cute to leave languishing in my studio, so I selected pinks, greens, and several neutrals that coordinated. Notice that the four fabrics at the top of the photo coordinate well, but I did not use them, feeling the intense colors shouted louder than my focus fabric. Perhaps the black print could serve as binding.

“Steppin’ Up” is a quick quilt, easily strip-pieced. In fact, only 19 seams are required for the quilt top! The instructions call for 10 strips cut 3 1/2″ x width of fabric (WOF). However, I cut strips for this quilt 4″ wide, and I cut 2 strips of the lamb theme print. On my work table, I alternated the colors of the strips, basically “pink, green, neutral.” I sewed them together and pressed every other seam to the right and pressed alternate seams to the left. This pressing tip helps greatly when sewing the quilt rows together. You can see from the photo that I used several fat quarter strips. I simply abutted them in the strip-piecing process.

The next step is making a tube by sewing the first strip to the last strip.

If you are sewing along, lay the tube flat, still wrong side out, on a large cutting mat. Trim off the selvage ends and then cross-cut at 4″ intervals. In case you use several fat quarter strips as I did, you’ll be able to cut 5 tube strips, trim away a little waste where fat quarters abut, and then cut 5 more tube strips.

Next, arrange the tube strips on your work table in successive order so that a different fabric print is at the upper edge as in the photo below. You will rip out the top seam and open up the tube into a strip of 10 squares.

Since the lamb print is my theme print, the entire reason for making this quilt, I thought I would arrange the strips with the lamb print stepping up from the lower right corner to the upper left corner of the quilt. However, the lamb print is not the strongest fabric in the collection; the darker green is. I am much happier with the dark green in the stepping up position.


After arranging the rows to my satisfaction, I sewed them together. The seams nested nicely due to the pressing technique mentioned earlier. The quilting motif is freehand, Es and 3s in pink variegated thread. I auditioned the black print for binding, but couldn’t bring myself to use it for such a sweet, pastel quilt. I found just enough gray swirl print in my scrap stash that fit the bill much better.

All finished, just in time to give to my friend who is expecting!  Oops, just found out she’s having a little boy. Guess I’ll be making another “Steppin’ Up” quilt very soon . . . in boy related colors and fabrics.


Saturday Scrap Strategy #5

5 05 2018

I’ve been working this week on two “Postage Stamp” wall quilts. They will be graduation gifts for Carol and Peggy, two of my husband’s students at Carolina College of Biblical Studies. I am so proud of these ladies who returned to college in their middle-age years and have earned their bachelor’s degrees in Biblical Studies!

The different squares represent all the bits of knowledge they have studied and all of the friends they have made in the process. It is my prayer that they use their wisdom and talents in ministries unique to them.

Would you like to make a “Postage Stamp” quilt, too? Here are the specifics: Use any size squares, the smaller and the scrappier, the better. My box of 1 3/4″ squares was overflowing, so I chose that size. I arranged 80 squares in an 8 x 10 grid on a portable, flannel-covered cardboard square. Chain piecing the squares in horizontal rows sped the construction process. I pressed the seams of all the odd rows to the left, and I pressed the seams of all the even rows to the right. Since the squares were small, I did not pin the rows together, rather I simply nested the seams as I sewed from one to the next. After assembling the patchwork, I pressed the horizontal row seams in one direction. The first border of ecru fabric was cut 2″ wide, and the second border of blue fabric (school color) was cut 2 1/2″ wide.

Tip:  I prefer to quilt small projects on my home machine rather than the longarm, and I generally use long, straight quilting pins to hold my quilt sandwich together. I remove the pins as I quilt. However, for this quilt I used a quilt basting spray to prevent shifting of the three layers as I quilted. Following the directions, I first sprayed the “wrong side” of the batting and used my hands to press it in place on the wrong side of the backing. Then I sprayed the right side of the batting and placed the quilt top over it, smoothing and pressing with my hands. Using the spray eliminated the many stops and starts I make when removing quilting pins. I am very pleased with the non-shifting and pucker-free results and will definitely use basting spray again for small projects.

After securing the quilt sandwich with basting spray, I used my walking foot to quilt a cross-hatch design through the patchwork. I plan to machine stitch a Bible verse in the ecru border in cursive script. Colossians 3:16 would be perfect, “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

Inviting comments on two questions today . . . Do you have a graduating friend or relative who would love to receive a “Postage Stamp” quilt? Or, have you used a basting spray to secure layers of a quilt?

Saturday Scrap Strategy #4

28 04 2018

During the Second Quarter (April – June) I’ve challenged myself and blog readers to cut and store scraps in an organized and usable way. I find it easier to cut into my odds and ends if I have a scrappy quilt project in mind. Then, as I cut, I can set aside the squares or strips that would work well in a particular project. Those fabrics that are too small or two few to be used in the project I’ll cut and store in boxes with others of like size or shape.

One of the scrap quilt designs I’ve recently admired on Pinterest is a simple “Irish Chain” made of scrappy “Nine Patches.” This pattern, of course, can be made with any size square (the smaller, the cuter). Since I have an abundance of 2 1/2″ squares, I planned to use that size, making 6″ finished “Nine Patches.” While looking on my fabric shelves for the container of partially constructed scrappy patchwork house pieces, I opened a mystery bin containing … you guessed it … “Nine Patches.” (More about the scrappy houses later.)


I remember making these blocks a couple of summers ago when most of my fabric was in storage. I just cut and sewed the scraps I had taken to our temporary living quarters. The bin contained 28 blocks, more than I need for a lap quilt. Most of the blocks were blue or green; a few were red. Since I plan to donate the quilt to the local Veteran’s Hospital, I set aside those that are too juvenile or feminine. I made a few more blue blocks to obtain the 25 “Nine Patches” needed. I alternated them with 24 print 6 1/2″ squares arranged in a 7 x 7 grid.

With blue thread, I quilted a “Baptist Fan” all over design. Taking a cue from the red accent squares, I bound the quilt with a red print. My friend Carol K. will approve; she says every quilt should include a little red. I am pleased with this very scrappy quilt. It is simple yet comforting and homey. Besides, it is almost a free quilt: The “Nine Patches” were made from scraps, the alternate squares came from the trimmings of a quilt backing, the navy blue paisley backing was leftover from another quilt backing, and the red print binding was from stash!

Here’s another idea for a smaller “Nine Patch” quilt. On March 17, 2014 I posted a tutorial for a table topper “Irish Chain” made with 2″ squares. Click here to link to the blog post.

What colors or size squares would you use to make “Irish Chain?”

Valentine Table Topper

5 02 2018

If you follow several quilting blogs as I do, you’ve seen many, many beautiful heart-themed wall quilts, table runners, bed quilts, and pillows for February decorating. My simple table topper can’t compete with the others for intricacy or fancy design, but it was fun to make.

On November 26 I saw an “On Point Baby Quilt” on Moda’s Bake Shop website by Karin Vail  that I wanted to try. Click here to read the full tutorial. While Karin used purchased 5″ charm square packages, I determined to cut squares from my stash of red, pink, white, and purple fabrics. After selecting a stack of colorful prints, I happened to think of my overflowing box of 3 1/2″ scrap squares. Would I have enough “pre-cut” squares in the right colors to make the project? Not quite, but it was a great start and sped me on my way.

First I sewed two blocks of 25 squares each. Generally, I press seams to one side or the other, nesting seam allowances where they meet. For this project, however, I pressed all seams open.

After pressing, I cut both blocks in half diagonally. Tip:  Before cutting, I should have first marked the diagonal lines with chalk and then sewn 1/8″ away from both sides of the drawn lines. These diagonals become the outer edges of the table topper. And we all know that cutting diagonally yields bias (stretchy) edges. Stay-stitching prior to cutting would have prevented stretching.

Now here’s the “Ah-ha” fun part:  Use all four triangles to make a square by turning the 90 degree corners of each triangle into the center. In other words, all the diagonals form the outside of the table topper while the right angles of the triangles are in the center. Sew the triangles together; press seams open.

I layered my on-point patchwork with batting and backing. With purple thread I stitched straight lines 3/8″ away from all seam lines by aligning the edge of my presser foot with all the seams. A multi-colored floral print serves as backing and binding. (If you’d like to see a close-up of the quilting, click the first photo in this blog post to zoom in.)

My table topper, though not elaborate, was the happy result of trying a new technique. As Karin says in her tutorial, you can use this method for any size squares and any square grid configuration as well. Let me know if you try this technique; I’d like to see your quilt, be it large or small.


“Garlic Knots” Finished

8 01 2018

Since finishing my “Dresden Plates” quilt, I have poured sewing time into finishing my “Garlic Knots” quilt. You can read about the beginning of this project and a strip piecing hack here. The patchwork block was popularized by Bonnie Hunter in an “Addicted to Scraps” column for Quiltmaker (Jan./Feb. 2014 issue). I saw this arrangement of blocks on Pinterest which motivated me to make the quilt.

I had about 3 yards of the shirting background fabric and so decided that my total of blocks would be determined by the amount of background fabric on hand. Fortunately, the fabric stretched for making 100 blocks and an inner border. As usual, I auditioned fabric for the outer border and settled on this wavy stripe. It forms a dark frame around the multi-colored patchwork blocks, achieving a calming finish, yet the unusual orange and white stripes add zing.

Construction Tip:  Before adding the inner border, I turned the quilt to the wrong side and stay-stitched 1/8″ from the edge all around the quilt. By turning the quilt over, I could see all the pressed seams. The stay-stitching ensured that the pressed seams would not flip out of place when I attached the first border.

Surprises:  I usually think of Civil War fabrics/quilts as a bit faded with muted colors. Intellectually I know that quilters of that generation selected bright colors that have merely faded over time. But practically, I expected this quilt to look faded even though I selected CW reproduction fabrics. Silly me! However, I do like the bright, bold appearance of the quilt, so it’s a keeper. Another surprise was the way the wavy stripes misbehaved in the mitered corners of the outer border. I expected the stripes to mesh in an orderly fashion as they would in a mitered border of straight stripes. Instead the corners of the outer border are a riot of zigs and zags!

I was tempted to quilt an all-over feathers design with an old gold polyester thread as I did on my recently finished Dresden Plate quilt. However, the gold thread would contrast too much in the dark navy stripe-y border. I want the viewer to appreciate the unusual border fabric without being distracted by gold thread. The solution was quilting rounded, back and forth lines about an inch apart with navy thread in the border and meandering with the gold thread in the quilt’s interior. The binding is solid black, an understated finish for a vibrant quilt.

Aidan’s Quilt

2 09 2017

A Step-by-Step Photo Journal

In July four-year-old Aidan and his family visited for a long weekend. It happened to be the weekend his cousins Kaleb and Krystine had finished their summer quilt projects and were ready for a photo shoot. “Could I make a quilt, too?” he asked. Absolutely! There is no better question to bless a quilting grandma’s heart!

We looked in my bin of juvenile prints and he selected a rocketship print and an seaside print (thinking he might make two quilts, one for himself and one for his little brother). Grandma Aby decided to focus on one project at a time.

We selected colorful tonals that coordinated with the rocketship print. The patchwork design is a variation of my “Steppin’ Up” quilt found on the Patterns page of this blog. Instead of cutting ten 4″ x 40″ strips, I cut eight 5″ x 40″ strips. Then we arranged the strips in color order.

Next, we sewed the strips together on the long sides, joining the first and the eighth strip to make a tube. Note whose toes are operating the sewing machine’s foot control.


I cross-cut the tube in 5″ increments and un-sewed one seam of each unit to make a “Steppin’ Up” design. We placed the rows on the design wall so Aidan could see what his quilt would look like.

I pinned and sewed the upper four rows together and then the lower four rows together. “Yes!” we are making progress!

After sewing the upper rows to the lower rows, Aidan joined his cousins for the photo shoot. If you missed it, you can see Krystine’s and Kaleb’s quilts on this blog post.

In order to make the quilt a little larger for this would-be astronaut, I added a narrow black border, a scrappy border made from 2 1/2″ wide strips, another narrow black border, and a 5″ wide red outer border. Aidan was enthusiastic about the “Blast Off” pantograph from Lorien Quilting which pictures a rocketships, stars, and Saturns. He selected a variegated thread of primary colors. Black binding completes the project modeled here by one happy boy!

Ninja Turtle Quilt

10 07 2017

In late winter, a house fire tragedy occurred near Gatesville, TX, claiming all the earthly belongings of the family. The young son, a Ninja Turtles fan, attends the same country school as my granddaughter. Together we cooked up the idea of a Ninja Turtles quilt to comfort him. Once I found the licensed turtle print in JoAnns, we selected solid red, orange, blue, and purple to match the headbands of the sensational reptiles.

The patchwork design is simple — Four Patches from 5″ squares alternating with plain 9 1/2″ squares of the Ninja Turtle print. Krystine began sewing the quilt in February, but then schoolwork and sports crowded out her sewing time. She brought the unfinished project in her backpack to my house this summer for us to complete together. I pinned and pressed while she sewed the blocks and rows together. Then I loaded the quilt top on the longarm and installed the “River Run” pantograph for her to stitch. We selected green thread which blends nicely with the majority of the fabrics. Leftover turtle backing fabric became binding which we top-stitched with a machine zigzag stitch.

I am proud of Krystine for carrying on the family tradition of gifting quilts to folks in dire straits. I related to her my husband’s grandmother’s practice of making quilts and saving them in her cedar chest for the purpose of giving them to families who had lost all in house fires. We know Scott is going to love his quilt and we hope his parents will realize that folks in the community care about them in their great loss.