Monday, December 30, 2013

Disappearing Nine Patch with Focus Fabric Tutorial

For those who haven't heard of disappearing nine patch pattern before, it is a nifty and simple way to make some very interesting blocks. There are probably hundreds of tutorials on this block, but I didn't find one that mentioned how to use directional focus fabric! So I wrote my own.

This tutorial will help you keep those directional fabrics going the right way.

The Disappearing Nine Patch pattern allows you to take your basic nine patch (first photo below) and turn it into a much more interesting block by cutting along the center of the block both horizontally and vertically  and swapping two of the corner blocks (second photo). 

Wonderful! Except two of my focus fabric squares are now sideways. I ripped them out and put them in right side up. Now here is a little how to on doing it right the first time.

I have two focus fabrics I want to use and they are both directional fabric.

And a lovely selection of fat quarters from Connecting Threads.

I cut them into 5.5 inch squares, leaving out three or four of the light colored FQs. The very dark ones I kept in a separate pile to use as center squares.

Arrange the squares into nine patch. Keep the focus fabric squares upright! Focus fabrics must go in the corners or they will get chopped in half.

Stitch together nine patch block.

Cut block in half vertically and horizontally.

Trim blocks to 7.5" square.

And now swap two opposing corners.

Voila. Stitch together or make a lot more and mix and match your blocks to get a more random look. Using 5.5" squares and trimming to 7.5" for the subunits will give you a 14" finished block.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

One Plan to Rule Them All

Yes, I've been watching Lord of the Rings. Epic movies that can happily play in the background while I craft away.

Ever have more ideas than time? That is the case around here. I took advantage of some online Black Friday sales a month or so ago and I just spent a decent amount of time deciding what to do with them.

My evil plan involves sewing only from my stash, backing fabric/thread/and specialty garb fabric excluded.

I'll be taking advantage of Barb's NewFO 2014 and also the Lovely Year of Finishes Linky to justify my creativity.

My projects for 2014, in no particular order, are

1. Two original quilt patterns that I would love to finish and get published.

2. Disappearing nine patch train quilt

3. Aiming for Accuracy Quilt

4. Black, white and red quilt

5. Halloween twister

6. Stormy Path

7. Scrappy paper pieced stars

8. Confessor's Dress

9. Akron Flag

10. Baline Flag

11. Akron surcoat

12. Blue One Block Wonder

13. Miniature quilt block (My version of a Dear Jane) Challenge Quilt. For this one I picked a bunch of blocks I liked, downsized them to 4 inches, and will be using either my moonlit blooms fabric line or my batiks.

14. Marine Corp Quilt

 15. Scrappy Patriotic Stars

16. Ranger garb for both Jack and I. He is starting to wear out his ranger coat and I still don't have a lot of garb that I like to wear.

17. Kaleidoscope Quilt

18. Mod Mosaic

19. Fishes & Cats

20. Random Quilt

It really surprises me how many I've started/planned in the last year or so.

There are more to add to the list but considering that I only managed to complete 6 quilts in 2013 and most of those were very small, comparatively speaking, I think I've got enough on my plate for now. I should have enough unstarted projects that I hopefully won't go looking for new ideas. Today will be a garb day, since my cohorts are dropping by for Dagorhir Project Day.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Finish!

I did it I did it I did it! It took me from 10 am Christmas Eve Day to 1:30 am Christmas Day but I finished the quilt for my niece's Christmas present.

I added a couple pockets, one on each side, for her stuffed animals. It still needs a label, but I'll put that on next time she comes over for a visit.

And look! Jack gave me a Serger for Christmas! Woooooooooo!!!!!!!!! And a stocking full of sewing stuff. Best. Stocking. Ever.

I'm off to play with my new serging machine, hope everyone had a great Christmas!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Stocking

Yes, I know I'm supposed to be scrambling to get those last couple of Christmas presents sewn together but I find myself needing a quick break. I'm also plagued by the inevitable failure because I just don't have enough time.

But I did finish this one!

Jack needed a Christmas stocking and every year for the last four years I always remember too late to make him one. This year, I succeeded in remembering early. I think this is because I actually put the Christmas tree up BEFORE Christmas. Technique - fusible applique. The stocking was made using a free downloadable pattern from McCall's and I designed the applique in EQ7. It is, for those of you who are not history buffs, the Jerusalem Cross, which has been adopted by House Baline as our Dagorhir symbol.

Linking up to Freemotion by the River's Linky Tuesday

Friday, December 20, 2013

New Year's Resolutions - Living Debt Free

Okay, for those of you with debt, number one, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. I don't know many people today who aren't fighting to pay off some sort of loan. With costs going up and pay raises tanking, it is getting relatively more expensive every year just to maintain the status quo. Let us not even get started on the lousy job market. I know someone with a college degree who was recently incredibly happy to get a job paying barely more than minimum wage.  Now they only have to work two jobs instead of three.

My coworker recently told me that she read a study about what recent graduates are hoping to achieve. Her generation wanted to achieve home ownership and a family. My generation? They just want to get out of debt.

I've been obsessing over this for a few years, but until recently I didn't give myself any tools to deal with it. It is hard to know what to do unless you have a complete picture. So for the last six months or so, I've been tracking our total debt by month I highly highly recommend doing this if you have debt, for two reasons.  (1) it lets you know that you are making progress and (2) motivation to pay things off faster, because you can see the results. You also cannot ignore it in the hopes it will go away. Trust me, it won't go away unless you make it go away.

Here is my graph. The leftmost point in the original loan amount, and the points then on are total at approximately the first of each month. I removed the actual amounts to protect our privacy, but let me give you some inkling - we have law school loans, my undergrad loans, a house, some credit card debt, and some medical payments. At our current rate, it will take us about 20 more years to pay this nonsense off.

Here's the good news - if I can pay an extra $20 on each of those accounts every month, I estimate I can knock two years off that total.

Well, the new year is coming up and what better time to make resolutions? Our number one expense outside of monthly bills is food. And there are always impulse buys. Like that fabric I just HAVE to have. You crafty people will empathize with me.

My goals starting next month are:

(1) Cut food spending by 20%. This should be easy to do if I pack us lunches for work every day.

(2) No crafty purchases, except to finish a current project (thread, backing fabric, etc). I have enough UFO's to keep me going for years. When I run out of fabric, we'll discuss altering this scheme.

The end game here is to become debt free in five years (ambitious, yes?), quit my job, go back to school for my PhD, and raise a couple of genius monsters. I'll be using this blog to hold myself accountable, so expect periodic and boring updates.

So I guess what I'm saying is: Don't be discouraged, keep plugging away at it, and track your progress! If my lovely readers are interested, I will turn this into a Living Debt Free Support Group linky party every month.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Problem with a Layer Cake

First off I've been kind of unmotivated this weekend, so I haven't gotten a lot of sewing done. And last night I was feeling a little bit like my brain was turning to mush - I mean, chain piecing isn't exactly mentally challenging - so I took some time to read in my electronics text book. I have a work bench set up in the basement, but its lonely down there by myself.

Here is what I have worked on this weekend.

I sorted a lot of my UFO's into shoeboxes, and properly labelled them so I can find them.

Some are started, some are just patterns and fabric. They aren't all there, I know I have at least one more to box up and three active WIP that are not getting boxes yet.

Worked a little bit on those brown pinwheels.

And I played aroudn with my Halloween layer cake.

Let me say that layer cakes and other precuts are nice. You get a wide sampling of a particular fabric line, you don't have to worry about trying to order each cut individually, and they are cut accurately. Here is the downside - what you get is what you get. If you just so happen to want a little extra orange, you are out of luck unless you can find the fabric for sale somewhere, which is unlikely if you bought the precut on clearance.

This is my precut layer cake (these fabrics are a lot of fun and the picture doesn't show them very well)

Here is the design I wanted to set up for the twister quilt

Great, right? Emphasizes the Halloween colors, it is nice and orderly and will make an amazing twister quilt. I scooted off to my sewing room, sorted my cuts into color stacks, counted and I was short about 8 orange squares. Ugh. Worth noting that I don't like orange, so I have very little (i.e. NONE) in my stash.

Back to the drawing board. I figured out exactly how much of each color I had. We (me, myself, and I) went through several iterations, arguing with each other all along the way.

Eh, its okay.

This is the one I finally settled on. I sorted my squares, bagged them up, stuck them in a shoe box with a printout of the quilt and my lil twister ruler, and called it a night.

But I still don't like it! Its not symmetrical, which can be okay in some cases, like asymmetrical hemlines on skirts. I have a couple of those and love them. This quilt design, however, just looks incomplete. A little like I got lazy and didn't want to finish the last couple of blocks. Remember that I am limited to the colors and quantities I have on hand.

It was still bothering me this morning. I fiddled with it some more. Took out the sashing, flipped the blocks around. And WOW. Now we're talking. Check this out.

It is too small, because once you use the twister ruler you lose about a third of your surface area, leaving this quilt at 40" x 40" or itty bitty baby sized. I want a lap size at least. Put the sashing back in and it kind of adds a fractured look which should play well with the twister pattern

End result: Sashing will probably stay in, borders are flexible. I am also very grateful for EQ7, otherwise I probably would have spent hours more trying to design this, and/or making a quilt I hated and wouldn't finish. Now I've got my own little infinity pattern quilt to work on.