Monday, May 9, 2016

Started Piecing Checkers Quilt

Hi all -

I know, I know! The last thing I need to do is start piecing a new quilt! Or is it? I've been thinking a lot lately about my lack of motivation for quilting. I believe what's happening is that I'm putting a lot of pressure on myself thinking that I should be quilting better than I am. Then I get frustrated and depressed when I make baubles. And I get overwhelmed thinking about all of the detailed quilting that I want to do, knowing how long all of that takes. So I'm trying to change my thought processes. Not an easy thing to do, but awareness helps. I also know that doing some simple piecing always helps me get back into the groove. So, on to a new project.

Recently Connecting Threads sent me a coupon for 15% or 20% (I don't remember which) off of my purchase, so I glanced through the clearance quilt kits and I happened upon this one that I liked:

The pattern is called Checkers by Kristin Gassaway. I love the clean modern look of the green and purple fabrics on a white background! The piecing for this quilt is very simple, so I thought I'd share some of the little things I do to make piecing easier for me.

My first method has to do with cutting. I saw a left-handed quilter on a show some time ago who was able to rotary cut her fabric with both hands. This allowed her to square up the edges and then cut the pieces without moving the fabric. I thought that was pretty cool so I taught myself to do that to. So, I lay out my fabric and square up the end with the rotary cutter in my left hand:

(My right hand is on the ruler as I cut, but I had to use it for the camera in the picture.) Then I move the rotary cutter to my right hand and measure and cut my pieces:

(Again, imaging my left hand on the ruler!) For me, there are two keys to left-handed cutting. First, I have to go slower. Second, I have to concentrate on keeping even, medium pressure on the cutter and keeping the cutter straight. If I do these things, I've found that left-handed cutting to straighten the edges works really well for me, even when cutting WOF.

As I cut my pieces, record everything about each piece on a post-it note. I start by writing the name of the piece, the size and the number of units. Writing down the size helps me make sure to cut the correct size. Then I make tick marks as I cut the pieces to make sure I have an accurate count. I put the pieces and the post-it note in a plastic bag to keep everything neat and together:

I get really bored with cutting really fast, so, if I know I have enough fabric, I'll just cut what I need as I go along. Above, I've done a rough cut of the fabric for the borders to make sure I don't accidentally cut into the length I need, then I've cut out all of the pieces I needed for the first block. I was able to get all of those blocks pieced:

I then went back and cut out the pieces for the second block. To get everything I needed, I had to cut the borders, then cut the pieces I needed. Here are the second blocks:

For most of my piecing, I've started pressing my seams open to keep the top flatter for quilting. However, log cabin blocks work well with seams pressed to the side, so the first block has been pressed that way. Nothing special there. On the 9-patch, I also press the seams to the side, being careful so that I can swirl all of the seams:

I love how that works! Here are a few of the blocks laid out together:

I think this is going to be a pretty cool quilt!

I've also done a little bit of knitting. I've been wanting to try knitting something called a "nupp" (pronounced noop). A nupp is like a little ball of yarn in the middle of your knitting. So, I looked through my books an decided to try the Islandwood Cowl pattern by Molly Kent in Lace One-Skein Wonders. Here's how mine turned out:

See those things that look like balls next to the holes? I'm not sure if these are actual nupps. The pattern calls them "baubles" and they are made slightly differently than the way I've seen others make nupps, but they turned out pretty nice. I think the other way I've seen to do these is probably a bit more difficult, but will probably make the nupps more neat and even looking. I will definitely try them the other way sometime. Here's the patterning on the sides of the cowl:

And my beautiful model showing how it looks when worn:

I've put this into my bag of knitted stuff that will go to the homeless next fall unless I decide to gift it to someone before then.

Finally, I've done some more work on my Hoffman Challenge quilt. If you want to see what I've been doing, go ahead and scroll down a couple of pages. If you don't want to look, I hope you're having a wonderful spring!


I did some work on my Hoffman Challenge quilt and I got the top pieced. Here is a picture of the pieced top:

Yes, it is completely pieced and not appliqued. I used Dale Fleming's 6-minute circle technique from her book Pieced Curves So Simple. To try to keep things placed properly, I started with the little circles. I ironed the freezer paper pattern for the main piece on the fabric:

Then I prepared the hole (I'll be flipping between the black and white fabrics in the pictures to get the proper images for each step):

I added the circle fabric:

Then I removed the freezer paper pattern and sewed around the seam. Here's a peak at where I did the sewing:

Voila, the circle is pieced:

And the other circle:

Then I put the freezer paper patterns back in place for the next step. I didn't trim around the seam because I thought the extra fabric might add some stability in later steps, but I think it probably would have been easier to do the trimming at this point:

Now to piece the sides together. I wasn't sure of the best way to handle this curve, which is a pretty difficult one since it turns back on itself pretty sharply. The book didn't have a curve quite like this one. My first thought was that I should do the curve in two pieces, with the seams going in opposite directions on the two sides. I've seen people do things like that before with the seam allowance clipped right up to the stitching in the middle so that it can go in the two directions. But I was afraid that if I did that then I might end up with a little hole or some fraying at that center spot and I didn't want to chance that. So, instead, I decided to just keep the seam allowance on the same line all the way through the seam. So, I pressed the seam toward the black side so there wouldn't be any shadowing of the dark fabric under the light:

Then I had to line this piece up on the white piece. Not an easy task! I don't know if you can see it in the pictures, but I drew registration lines on the freezer paper patterns. I had to somehow line those up, but needed to glue things from the right side since there was a lot of extra fabric on the white side across the area towards the narrow tail so I could keep things in place and stable. What I came up with was to push pins through the pieces from the back at the registration marks so I could line them up:

Then I held things together and pinned from the front so I could remove the registration pins:

This held things loosely in place, then I did my best to line things up by feeling where the freezer paper patterns where and gluing the seam in place. Once it was glued, I removed the freezer paper patterns and clipped into the white fabric so that I would be able to get inside there to sew:

This was not easy, but it turned out well:

Now I had to work on the outside edge. I chose a background fabric and ironed on the freezer paper pattern:

Then I prepared the opening:

I laid the background over the other pieces and lined things up the best I could. I laid the yin-yang freezer paper pieces on top to help me get things as centered as possible. Then repeated the process for this last part of the piecing. Here's how it turned out:

It probably would have been easier to do this with applique, but I really like the clean line you get with piecing. Probably nobody else will notice, but I'll know.

Now I "just" have to decide on the quilting and get this finished up!



  1. I hear you about your piecing project. I like your thoughts behind the lack of motivation. I've been struggling there as well! What a cool knitting pattern and your challenge project is terrific!

  2. What a fabulous model you have to show off that exquisite bit of knitting! I really love your Hoffman Challenge so far. I'm working on mine too. It's a whimsical path through a forest with butterflies flying around and little animals here and there. I really understand about motivation. It's just an artistic funk, which all of us get in from time to time. A simple project that helps you get back in the groove seems a great solution. Cheers.

    1. Thanks! I look forward to seeing your Hoffman Challenge quilt after the reveal. I'm sure it'll be gorgeous!