Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Hive 9 June Tutorial - Improv Houses

Last year I asked for a paper pieced string block and this year I have been racking my brain about what to go for...since we are in the middle of a transatlantic move from France to coastal North Carolina, I went with improv houses!

Some of you may be familiar with improvisational quilting, some may not. There is no single definition to what improv means and essentially, it may very well mean something different to each of us. 
To me, improvisational quilting has a lot to do with a departure from traditional notions and expectations, while it does not mean shoddy or poor workmanship. But it also a means finding my voice while focusing on the process, rather than following a pattern to the tee. The wonderful Sherri Lynn Wood started a great conversation about what improv is on this blog post.

To stay within the framework of this bee, I am not asking you to give up your rulers or rotary cutters, although if you want to cut freehand or with scissors, please by all means do so! I truly do hope that you will find the process fun and liberating. Keep in mind that anything goes and that it should be *fun*

Here goes my took me 35mins to finish 4 blocks, including taking the photos :)

Size: You can start with 4 layer cake blocks (10 x 10) or you can use smaller squares/rectangles (i.e. 8x8, 10 x 8, 7x7). If you feel like using charm squares, go ahead. Just keep in mind that a 1/4" SA will be used and it makes some of the pieces very small. 
There is no size requirement and I will be happy with any size of blocks you are sending :) just use 4 different pieces of fabric.

Colors: anything goes! Monochromatic, solids, black and white, neutrals, tonals, bright, batiks, hand-dyed, as long as they are 4 different ones.

Pressing: I finger pressed as I went along. There is no need to get up and iron after every seam, but if you are an iron addict, please feed your addiction. Also, if you press to the outside (background, etc.) it goes together well. No need to press open ;)

Piecing: 1/4" SA please and chain piece as much as you can!!!

Cutting: You can use a ruler or not. Rotary cutter or scissors, whichever you like better! I recommend pulling each stack of pieces away from the other stack so you don't end up cutting into another piece by accident.

Trimming: There is no need to trim the final blocks. But, if you feel like you cannot possibly send untrimmed blocks, then by all means, trim them to the largest size possible. It does *not*  have to be a square but can also be a rectangle.

Here are the steps:

1) Pick 4 same sized pieces (I used layer cake pieces, but you can cut them any size) of different fabrics

2) Stack them on top of each other - the order does not matter! 

3) Make your first cut for the roof - slanted, straight, freehand or with a ruler - anything goes. Don't think, just cut and let go!

4) Cut the left side of the roof - again, if you pull the background piece you just cut off a bit away you don't risk cutting into it when you cut the right side of the roof.

5) Cut the right side of the roof - angle does not matter, it can be steep or flat, etc.

6) Now cut the two background sides, left and right of the main body of the house. Again, the cut can be straight, angled, etc. 

7) It's time to cut the door! To do this, cut the piece above the door first, then cut the two sides. But you can also cut the sides of the door first and then cut the piece above the door!

8) Take the top piece of door fabric and move it to the bottom of the stack.

9) Take the top two pieces of roof fabric, and move them to the bottom.

10) Lastly, take the top 3 door frame fabric pieces and move them to the bottom of the stacks. You should now have a roof, a background, a door and a doorframe that are all different colors. 

11) Move the pieces next to your sewing machine so you have them within reach.

12) We begin reconstructing the house: First, sew the right side of the background to the roof. Chain piece and finger press! Then sew the left side to the roof. Again, chain piece and finger press.

13) Now, we'll tackle the door frame. Start by sewing the side pieces to the door, then add the top. Chain piecing and finger pressing make this go fast.

14) You will have some overhang on one or both sides of the door/side pieces. Grab your scissors and just cut it off. No need to measure, or use a ruler. Eyeballing is fine and adds charm!

15) The main body of the house is complete and it's time to add the background. Again, first right and then left piece, or the other way around. It does not matter. 

16) Lastly, the roof needs to be added to the lower part. If anything juts out like my right side background piece does, just use your scissors to equalize it. 

And voila :

Here are some that I made with solid Kona:

And here is the back of one - I finger pressed my seams to the outside pieces.

I hope that you have enjoyed the tutorial and the process and, most importantly, that you have had *fun*! I always find letting go of rigid rules so liberating :)



Amanda Johnston said...

Wonderful tutorial, thank you! I love the improv houses and houses seem to be big at the moment. Do you always finger press your seams when doing improv? That would help keep up the momentum of creating if a person didn't have to stop and iron.

Unknown said...

These look so fun! I may need to hive crash and try them out!

Lisa J. said...

I might have to crash this one as well.

SewLiab said...

Amanda - yes, I mostly finger press when doing improv - unless I am piecing long strips or something. But like you point out, it keeps the creative momentum going and I can always press it more later on. But for me finger pressong works well :)

Pam Chamberlin said...

Thanks for this great tutorial. I made some of these houses for our guild's block of the month raffle.