Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Hive 1 - April Block Tutorial


What is your name?: My name is Natalie (also known as Threaded Mess on various forms of social media) 

Where do you live?: I live in Centreville, VA, USA which is about 30 miles west of Washington D.C.
Tell us about your family: I am a B2B Marketing major turned IT Business Analyst in Asset Logistics, married to a Computer Program Developer/System Architect who loves to play computer/video games, plays beer recreation league hockey, and occasionally gets his base guitar out for a jam session. Together we have two beautiful twin boys named Mason and Ronan who are 20 months and another baby due at the end of September (not sure what we're having yet). 
Corolla Beach July 2013

Tell us about how you got interested in quilting: I think I was given my first sewing machine when I was in 5th grade. I remember making a skirt with my mom that I was relentlessly made fun of for wearing. I apparently didn't pick a "cool" fabric from the Walmart selection I was allowed to pick from. Around the same time, my step grandmother tried to teach me how to make a quilt using squares of fabric. Without her tutelage (we usually visited to share meals together, not quilt), my interest waned and was ultimately forgotten. I continued to enjoy using quilts and appreciating them from afar. Flash forward 18 years, many craft interests that didn't stick, and enter my husband's mother, Ann. I was enamored with many of her creations, and honored with my first gifted quilt made just for me. She inspired me to create my first quilt a few months later for my sister Leslie. That was December 2008 and I've been making quilts ever since. 
My sister is obsessed with Hot Pink

How do you organize your fabric stash: My fabric room is always too messy for pictures (but I am showing some anyways). I am one of those people who can almost always tell you exactly where some scrap of fabric is until I put it away. 

For yardage, I have deep bins where I have rolled my fabric onto comic book boards and the fabrics sit in the bin so that the thin edge faces up. I keep larger scraps and fat quarters in open containers on my shelf. I also have some 'collections' grouped together in the shelf over my cutting table: Amy Butler, Anna Maria Horner, Heather Ross, and Lizzy House

Scraps are stored in old cheeze ball buckets (cleaned of course) on a shelf above my desk.

At any given time, I might have ziplocks with fabrics set aside for a certain project or just stacks laying around. It's not a perfect system but it works for me. 

My design wall is a piece of insulation board wrapped in a vinyl tablecloth backed with flannel. It sits on a curtain rod from ikea that I mounted upside down to cup the board so it can lean against the wall. That way it's technically movable.

Who is/are your favorite fabric designer(s)? I seem to gravitate to Lizzy House a lot. She plays a big part of my stash. More than looking for a particular designer though, I tend to look for fabrics that are timeless and geometric. Tone on tones, tone on whites, and solids are 90% of my stash. I do have a few grown-up prints, mostly from Amy Butler, Anna Maria Horner, and Joel Dewberry, but for the most part I stash fabrics that are geometric, vibrant, and that can blend into many collections.

What is one thing you have learned that you wish you knew when you first started quilting? You would think this one would be obvious, but I had no idea my first machine didn't have a quarter inch sewing foot. It was more like 3/8ths of an inch. None of my blocks were coming out the right size which was aggravating. I figured that out midway through the first quilt I made without help from my MIL, but had to commit lest I waste the blocks I already made. I ended up using the trimmed scraps to make covered buttons so it worked out. I also learned that I don't need to buy the whole collection. I can pick and choose fabrics and find other fabrics that go to get a unique, personalized look.

What is your favorite sewing/quilting tool and why should we all go out and buy it? I love my rotating cutting mat. It's perfect for trimming blocks because I can turn the mat without moving the block. I also really enjoy my slider mat for free motion quilting. Leaving my feed dogs up gives me better tension control than trying to manually adjust it. The slider covers the feed dogs and lets me glide without any tugging.

Who is your favorite fictional character and why? (Could be from a book, movie, TV show, etc.)  This is an impossible question for me to answer. Suffice to say that I'm a book nerd. I read every night and listen to audio books in the car so my average is between 1-2 book finishes a week. I am drawn towards the paranormal/supernatural/fantasy fiction and mostly from the young adult section. I am also a re-reader and tend to go back for my favorites like someone would pick up a favorite ice cream as a treat. TV and movies are fun for me too. The closest I can get to an answer is that I've read the Harry Potter books 7 times and if any of the movies are on TV, I'm watching them.


Improv Log Cabin Blocks: These blocks will start with a square between 1.5" square and 3.5" square, with strips of varying widths of 1" to 3" (anywhere in between), going from very light blue to darker blue, with the last 4 sides finishing in gray. Blocks can be any size between 12.5" and 13.5". Per Stash Bee rules, I am only asking for one, but if you get carried away and want to make more that's fine by me! If you need me to send you any fabric strips please let me know as soon as possible so I can get them in the mail to you.

Color Palate: 

White, (true) Light blue through (true) dark blue (gradient color scale), and light to medium gray

**DO NOT USE: prints with colorful accents. White, blue, and grey accents are all fine. Please try not to use blues that read on the green side or purple side.**

Color Explanation: I really love this quilt that I made in my charity bee earlier this year and decided to make one of my own. The color starts out with a white or very pale blue center. The blue gets gradually more saturated and darker as the block is built improv log cabin style outwards, and finally finishes with 4 sides of gray. I plan on sashing in white or blue and trimming them down to the same size to get a wonky look where all the blocks will 'float' on a background.

Anatomy of a Traditional Log Cabin block:
The numbers above show the starting block (1) and how to add to it. The difference you will see in an improv block is that all of the strips are not the same width, the color placement for my blocks will obviously be more ombre going from light in the center to dark on the outside, and you can have fun with the strips. You can bisect the strips with another fabric or use two different strips to make one longer one, etc.

Be careful as you build so that you aren't too small with your gradient blue core. If you are, it's ok to add some more gray on the outside if you'd already started on that color. That being said, I don't want the blocks to be too gray looking so plan on building with the blues and using the gray to finish the block off to the right size.

Here you can see a nice gradient of colors and the grays that I used

In the last two examples I bisected my blue strips with gray and I don't think it quite worked. I'm not tossing these but I would prefer if you bisect with a more similar color to your strip rather than another color (gray with gray, light blue with light blue, etc).

I’m going for a scrappy improv look here, so feel free to select whatever scraps that you have around that go with my color scheme. The more different fabrics the better. Mix it up and have fun! Maybe you’ll even be able to use a scrap or two. Maybe you’ll be able to cut from a fat quarter rather than needing to use yardage. I’d be happy to answer any specific questions about fabrics you want to audition. 

For more inspiration, check out this gallery!

Other basic guidelines: 
  • I would prefer if you pressed toward the darker fabric rather than pressing your seams open.
  • A 1/4" seam allowance is what I use. Since these are improv blocks, I'm not looking to match up points so if you are a little scant or a little over that's fine as long as the finished block is between 12.5" and 13.5" square(ish). If it's not perfect that's ok, as long as it's in the ballpark of that size. I will be adding sashing and squaring them up all to the same size once received.
  • Starting squares can be anywhere from 1.5" to 3.5" square or any rectangle in between
  • Strip widths can be anywhere from 1" wide to 3" wide and anywhere in between by any length you would like to cut. I scavenge through my scraps for small bits that would work and then add from my stash for the rest. 
  • Build your blocks just like a traditional log cabin. Because your strips are varying widths, you may find your block becoming more rectangular than square. To fix this you may have to add to the shorter side(s) which is fine but be mindful of color placement when you do.
  • I say Improv and not wonky on purpose! A tiny bit wonkiness is fine, but for the most part your shapes should be squares and rectangles, not irregular.  
  • Press as you add - this will help your blocks lay flat! Otherwise, they tend to puff up in the middle because of stretching on the bias.

Others have already written great tutorials so I am not going to write one out. Here's a link to one that I think is done well to show how to piece the block (courtesy of Ellison Lane), but ask that you use my specific guidelines for size of squares, strips, color, etc.

Happy Quilting!



AmandaK@whatthebobbin said...

Excited to give this block a go soon. Love the colors you chose.

Anonymous said...

Hi Natalie,

I had a busy month and never got to tell you how much fun I had making your blocks!

I can see why you wanted one for yourself in true blues and greys ~ I've added that combo to my quilt want list too

Can't wait to see your final work of art!