Monday, September 1, 2014

Hive 12 - September block tutorial

What's your name?
I'm Genevieve Graves.  Lots of people call me Jenny.  I'm the chief data scientist at a small, early-phase start-up based in San Francisco.  That's a pretty recent transition for me—I used to be an astrophysicist—and I'm loving it!  Things change very quickly in start-up world, so each week is different from the last.  It makes for a hectic work life, but it's the opposite of boring, and I'm really enjoying the process of getting to help build a new company.

Where do you live?
I live in Santa Cruz, California.  Some people know it because of the beach boardwalk.

Some people know it as a surfing mecca.

It the perfect combination of things: small(ish) beach town but near the larger San Francisco Bay Area, sunny and warm most of the time but never too hot, beautiful rugged NorCal beaches and dramatic redwood forests, the open sweep of the Monterey bay backed up by massive mountains... I love it here.  I moved here for grad school and am so, so thrilled to be back.  We just moved back in to our house in April after almost 5 years away doing the itinerant academic thing.  (This photo is from before this year's massive drought, before we let the lawn die completely.  To be replaced this fall by something less thirsty!)

Tell us about your family.
I've been married for 10 years to my husband Alex.  He's British.  He writes computer software, teaches improv theater, and writes science fiction.  He's writing full-time at the moment, working on his first 3-book deal with a British publisher.  He also does network science and digital physics experiments in his spare time.  We are nerds, in case you couldn't tell.  :-)

We have a son, Thorfinn, who just turned 2.  He's a crazy bundle of energy and talks up a storm.  He likes to sing songs and play air guitar.  He's a very sunny little boy, but very demanding and relentlessly energetic.  He loves to be outside, which is one reason we're so happy to be back in Santa Cruz.

Tell us how you got interested in quilting.
When I was 10, my mom and I made a quilt top together as a craft project for my school unit on American pioneers.  I sewed a bit on and off after that, but it wasn't until two years ago, while very pregnant, that I really got the quilting bug.  I decide to make a bed-size quilt for myself.  I was literally rotary-cutting strips while I was in early-stage labor with Thorfinn.  I finished it during my maternity leave and it is on my bed at this very moment.

While I was working on it, my best friend announced her engagement, so of course I had to make her a quilt as a wedding gift.  That was it.  I've been hooked ever since.

How do you organize your fabric stash?
I don't have a ton of space for sewing and I'm trying to keep the size of my stash down, both to fit my space and to stop spending so much money on fabric.  I don't have a lot of time to quilt, so I don't get through it very fast.  I mostly buy fat quarters, and sometimes half-yards.  It's rare that I buy larger cuts. Once a quilt top is finished, I buy border, backing, and binding fabric for it, rather than keeping those kinds of larger cuts around.

Most of my stash lives in this Ikea bookcase.  At the top, my blenders.  Many of these are from a year-long subscription to the Pink Castle Fabrics Stash Stack Club (which I highly, highly recommend!).  Below those are two fabric stacks I hope to make into quilts someday.

My scraps are in bins (bagged by size), next to several bundles that are also destined to become quilts some day, and then a small selection of precuts.

 Down lower, I keep multi-colored fabrics, solids, larger cuts, and a few more bundles destined to be quilts (I think I have more pre-assigned bundles to make quilts than I may every get around to making!).

Who is/are your favorite fabric designers?
I don't really have one.  My fabric includes lots of stuff from well-known designers, but really I just buy what appeals to me.  In general, I like bright clean colors and prefer things that include white-whites instead of creams or off-whites.  Florals, geometrics, novelty (but not holiday!!), I like and use them all.

What is one thing you have learned that you wish you knew when you first started quilting?
A scant ¼" seam.  I have a couple of medallion quilts that I have abandoned because they were coming out the wrong size.  With normal quilt blocks, as long as everything is the same, it all fits together and it doesn't matter if you seam allowance is systematically off.  But with medallions, that's a disaster.

What is your favorite sewing/quilting tool and why should we all go out and buy it?
Simple things.  I love my rotary cutter.  I love my little stork thread scissors.  I love really sharp pins.  I try to keep my supplies to a minimum (again, limited space and time!), but having good quality basic supplies can take you a long way.

Who is your favorite fictional character and why?
Sherlock Holmes.  Not as portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch or Jonny Lee Miller or Robert Downey Jr. but the good, old-fashioned original Conan Doyle character.  I got the complete Sherlock Holmes for my 10th birthday and have read that book more times than I can count.  Those pages are full of incredible wisdom and favorite quotes ("What one man can invent another can discover", or ""My mind is like a racing engine, tearing itself to pieces because it is not connected up with the work for which it was built", or "I am by no means a nervous man. At the same time, it is stupidity rather than courage to refuse to recognize danger when it is close upon you" or "I cannot agree with those who rank modesty among the virtues. To the logician all things should be seen exactly as they are, and to underestimate one's self is as much a departure from truth as to exaggerate one's own powers.").  Holmes is a wonderful character because he is wise as well as smart, quirky, and funny in his own weird way.  There are very few people, real or imagined, alive or dead, whom I respect as much.

I struggled to pick the right block for my month, and finally I gave up.  I decided I'd rather have each of you make something *you* like that uses *your* personal creativity and quilting skills, and put them together into a wonderful crazy quilt, along the lines of this or this.  The result will be essentially an orphan block quilt.

Here are the requirements:
- Make a block that finishes at 16"x16" (so it will be 16.5" square when you send it to me, including seam allowances).  This can be composed of multiple sub-blocks, or not.
- Use traditional, or traditional-inspired patterns and designs.  That means no wonky or avant-garde designs.
- Use bright, clear colors.  These can be anywhere on the color wheel (primary, secondary, tertiary) but not greyed-out or muddy colors (i.e., *no* dusty rose, slate blue, mustard yellow, olive green, burnt umber etc.)
- Use predominantly prints (no all-solid blocks, but it's okay to include some solids)
- When using white (background fabrics, accents in fabrics), tend to use white-whites, rather than off-whites or creams.  Low-volume and white-on-white prints are fine, as long as the base white color is a white-white.
- Feel free to use existing orphan blocks in your cupboard, as long as (a) they meet the requirements listed above, and (b) they are actually nice (don't send me something you are not proud of!)

Here are several blocks I am planning to incorporate, to give you an idea of what I'm thinking of:

The idea is to let you make something as simple or as complex as you want.  If it's a busy month (September often is!), then make your life easy—sash up a couple of orphan blocks into a 16" square and send them!  If you're feeling inspired, make something you know you love but don't want to make more than one of.

But for those of you who think, "ack, I don't want to make decisions, just tell me what to make", here is a tutorial.  It makes this block:

It's a simple, square-in-a-square 12" block sashed with flying geese and diamonds.  

Here are the fabrics I pulled for this block.  Several of these are vintage fabrics from my mother's stash, some of which were given to her from someone else's vintage stash more than 40 years ago, like the little pink airplanes and the blue hearts.


For the square-in-square block:
central fabric: 
  - one 6.5" square
wide inner border: 
  - two 2.5" x 6.5" strips
  - two 2.5" x 10.5" strips 
narrow outer border:
   - two 1.5"x10.5" strips
   - two 1.5"x12.5" strips

For the flying geese:
goose color:
   - two 5 ¼" squares
background color:
   - two 5 ¾" squares, sub-cut into 2 7/8" squares
   - draw a line from corner to corner on the background squares

For the diamonds:
diamond color:
   - three 4.5" squares
background color:
   - twelve 2.5" squares
   - draw a line from corner to corner on the background squares

Square-in-square block:

Exactly the way you think it should go.  Add the 2.5"x6.5" strips to the sides of the center square.  Press seams (I press to the side, but do whatever you like best).

Then add the 2.5"x10.5" strips to the top and bottom.  Press.  Repeat with the next border, adding the 1.5"x10.5" strips to the sides, pressing, and then adding the 1.5"x12.5" strips to the top and bottom.

Flying Geese:

I used the same method that Laura recommended for our July blocks, the "no waste" method of making four geese at once. 

Place two background squares on each goose square, in opposite corners, with your drawn lines connecting through the center.  The small squares should overlap in the center.  Pin in place.

 Sew a scant ¼" seam *on each side* of the drawn line.

Then cut along the drawn line.

Press open to get this funny heart-ish-shaped piece.

 On each "heart" piece, place another background square in the empty corner.  Pin in place.  Then sew on each side of the line.

Cut along the drawn line.

Press open, and voila!  Geese!  I find this method extremely accurate for making geese, as long as I keep my seam allowance bang on.  Assemble the geese into a strip.  They don't all have to point the same way (mix it up if you want!).

As with the geese, pin two background squares to opposing corners of the larger diamond squares.  *Unlike the geese*, the drawn lines should run crossways to *not* overlap or connect up.

Sew *along* the drawn line (again, unlike the geese).

Trim off the outer points with a ¼" seam allowance.

Press open, then add the other background squares at the remaining corners.  Sew *along* the line, trim the excess, and press open.

Diamond squares!  Assemble these into a row.

Putting it all together:

You should now have a 12.5" square-in-square block, a strip of flying geese, and a strip of diamonds.

Add the strip of diamonds to the bottom of the square-in-square block.  Press. Then add the flying geese up the side of the block.  And there you have it!


Of course, feel free to substitute here, since the choice of block is entirely up to you.  Use any traditional-feel 12" block instead of the square-in-square.  Replace the diamonds with more geese, or vice versa, or simply use strips of fabric to sash the 12" block up to 16".  

But most importantly, make something fun!  That's the whole point, isn't it? 

Thank you so much, ladies.  I can't wait to see what you come up with!


helenjean@midgetgemquilts said...

hi, I am not part of the bee but have been following it from afar, like to see if I could keep pace before signing up to something! As the mother of 2 astrophysicists and someone who loves Sherlock Holmes I enjoyed your blog post!
And yes, I think I will try and sign up next time if there is space for me!

genevievegraves said...

Thanks! You should sbsolutely join. It's nice to have a small project due every month. It lets you feel like you're getting stuff done without having to commit to doing a lot of the same thing. Who are your astrophysicist kids? It's a small world. I might know them!

Willa said...

Great choice block! I was injured in a bike accident 10 days ago. I hope to be sewing by the end of the month. Thanks again!

genevievegraves said...

Oh no! I hope you are healing well. Don't worry about a quilting deadline, just take care of yourself!