Thursday, October 2, 2014

Hive 2 - October Block Tutorial

What is your name?

Mandy Page. Find me on Instagram as @msbookleaf

Where do you live?

I live in Napa, California, home to beautiful vineyards, wineries, and the occasional earthquake that completely thrashes your sewing room. We’ve lived here for 22 years, and love it in spite of its fault. (Okay, bad joke.)

I’m currently self-employed, having worked in publishing, marketing and nonprofit fundraising in the past. But I have always wanted to have my own business. For years my dream was to open a bookstore, but I’ve since decided a fabric store would be so much better. I could satisfy my desire to buy All The Fabric and then sell it to fellow fabric fiends aficionados. My husband says, “write up a business plan!” I can't tell if he's kidding or not.

I am the bass player for a local rock and blues band called Moxie, which is great fun. I started taking bass lessons just 5 years ago at a music school that has a “Garage Band 101” workshop. (See, never too late to learn something new.) I also like cooking for friends, yoga and traveling.

Tell us about your family (Spouse, kids, grandkids, pets, etc.)

My husband, Howard, is an engineer who works on large construction sites (bridges, treatment plants, etc.) He's equal parts silly and serious, and supports all my creative endeavors. We celebrated our 25th anniversary last week, so I guess we must be doing something right!

We have two daughters we're very proud of. Savannah, 23, graduated from University of Arizona in May and lives in Tucson. Tessa, 20, is in her third year at UC Santa Barbara. She lives just a few blocks from the beach - don’t you feel sorry for her?

We have three cats, and were adopted two Christmases ago by a black bantam chicken, dubbed Arthur when we were still unsure whether she was a rooster or a hen. She lays eggs but also crows several mornings a week. Friends say Arthur has a gender identity crisis but I think she just marches to her own drummer.

Tell us about how you got interested in quilting.

Though I’ve sewn since I was 12, quilting to me was something that old grannies, or maybe artists, did. I admired the quilts in the window of the local quilt store, but never had much desire to make one.

In the summer of 2012, both our daughters were about to leave home for college. I remember how nice it was to have a blanket to take to the dorm study lounge or to watch TV under in my apartment. I thought I’d make them each a simple throw-size quilt for their new rooms. Then my husband was sent to a jobsite 8 hours away, so I decided to make one for him first.

I took a class at the local quilt store (since closed) and made Howard what he calls “the useful quilt.” As in, it’s not much to look at but it does the job. I learned a lot from that experience - both do’s and don’t’s - not just in terms of piecing and other techniques, but also how to choose and put together fabrics. My daughters’ and other subsequent quilts turned out much more pleasing to the eye.

Sav's Come What May quilt

One thing I didn’t expect is how emotionally fulfilling quilting is for me! I’m definitely not as happy on days when I can’t sit down to sew.

Tessa's Beachy Trip Around the World quilt

How do you organize your fabric stash? (Picture appreciated)

I have fat quarters sorted by color on an Ikea CD shelf. Larger cuts are in wire mesh drawers in the closet (yes, it’s purple, since this was my oldest’s room - someday I’ll repaint). Fabrics intended for specific projects are in the lower drawers, with “unassigned” fabric in the upper drawers. I have some fat quarter collections on top of our file cabinets, and some home dec fabrics stacked in one of the file drawers. Scraps are in an overflowing basket.

Pretend it's not messy, okay?

Who is/are your favorite fabric designers?

This is a toughie, since it’s ever-evolving! I like Lizzy House, Emma Jean Jansen, Violet Craft, Anna Maria Horner, Joel Dewberry, and Art Gallery Fabrics in general. I definitely find myself drawn to blenders, tone-on-tones, small prints now more than the splashy feature prints I first coveted.

What is one thing you have learned that you wish you knew when you first started quilting?

I wish I knew how much of a difference it makes to starch and press fabric prior to cutting and piecing. My seams are so much straighter and flatter now!

What is your favorite sewing/quilting tool and why should we all go out and buy it?

As you probably all know by now, (since I think I’ve sent most of you one along with your blocks), I love Frixion pens! They make the perfect fabric markers since the ink disappears from the cloth as soon as you iron it. They’re also great writing pens in general, and they really are erasable (on paper). I also love Clover Wonder Clips.

Who is your favorite fictional character and why? (Could be from a book, movie, TV show, etc.)

So many to choose from, but I'll go with Kinsey Milhone, from the Sue Grafton series (A is for ...). A junk-food loving private detective in a fictionalized version of Santa Barbara, she's tenacious and, to all appearances, tough.


(I inadvertently published this before I was finished, so if you already saw it and it looks different now, that's why. Hopefully it's clearer.)

The block I’ve chosen is Shattered Chevrons, from a tutorial by Play Crafts. It plays off the current trend for feather and arrow blocks, but is easier to do. I considered red and green since we’re all in the middle of our Christmas sewing, right? (cough) Instead, I’ve decided on red, white and blue. (Even our Brit, Jessamie, can wave her flag at this one!) My inspiration is this particular shattered chevron block (but please check out Play Crafts for more versions!).

They don’t need to be patriotic fabrics or scream 4th of July. Florals, geometrics, stripes, dots, texts, tone-on-tone, solids, are all welcome to play. I just ask that they be bright, true colors for a fresh, summery look, rather than the antique-y dark red/burgundy, beige/tan variation, I’d like pure red, navy, royal and white/off-white. (However, I probably won’t mind too much if a bit of lighter blue or pink sneaks in there).

Here’s my fabric pull to give you an idea of what I have in mind (for some reason my reds look more orangey here, but they are true red):

And these are some blocks and quilts I grabbed from the internet (in some cases I couldn’t locate the original source, apologies to the creators!) for color inspiration:

Sources listed at the end of this post

I’m doing a different size block than Play Craft’s tutorial, so here we go. (But please feel free to refer to the original tutorial if my directions aren’t clear.)

You’ll need:

  • Multiple 15"-18” strips of fabric, ranging in width from 1.5” to 2.75”
  • 8 top/bottom strips, measuring 18" long by 4” (or more) wide.
  • The usual sewing tools, including a cutting mat or ruler with a 45-degree angle line. 
Check your scrap basket! You can use odd jelly roll pieces or extra binding strips, whatever you've got. I cut a strip off the 18" side of several fat quarters and half-yards for most of mine. I don't mind if you repeat fabrics, so feel free to use wider and narrower strips of the same fabric in different places. I would also like for each pieced strip to have a bit of white, even if all you have is a solid.

Because I've found that strips of fabric and bias edges (both of which we'll be dealing with) tend to stretch out of shape, I prefer to starch and press the fabric before I cut it, but I'll leave that up to you.

And here we go:

Lay out 5-7 strips stacked on top of one another, like so, with the 4” strips at the top and bottom and the narrower strips in between.

Your (unsewn) square should measure at least 15” wide x 18” tall. Alternate colors and widths in a pattern that's pleasing to you. Just make sure the wider 4" strips are at the top and bottom.

Next, take the strips and move them so that they are staggered along a 45-degree diagonal from the bottom left to the upper right. Use the lines on your mat and ruler to help you. (I aligned the top left corner of each strip with the 45-degree mark on my cutting mat.)

Sew the strips together as laid out. Use pins or a marking tool (Frixion pen!) to keep the strips from shifting.

Press all seams open.

Cut the uneven edges off the block on the LEFT side at a 45-degree angle. Then, following that same angle, cut two 2.5" strips from the block.

I found it helpful to rotate the cutting mat, rather than the fabric, to cut this part. That's why this photo is upside down, so as not to confuse you!

When you're finished, they should have two pieced 2.5" wide strips that look like this (above), with an "uphill" angle. 

Repeat with another set of strips, 4-inchers at the top and bottom, and narrower strips in the middle. Sew together fabric strips, press seams open, slice off the uneven left edge at a 45-degree angle, then cut two 2.5" strips.

And now you have two sets of two pieced strips, all going uphill. But wait, there's more!

Now you’ll do two more , but this time the 45-degree angle will be in the opposite direction (upper left to lower right ). Wide strips top and bottom, with the upper right corners of the fabric strips aligned on the "downhill" 45-degree line on your cutting mat. 

On my mat, this line intersects the 45-degree line I used previously. All mats are different, though, so make sure these strips are going the opposite direction.

Sew together strips, press open seams, slice off the uneven RIGHT edge at a 45-degree angle, then cut two 2.5" strips.

Now you have two more sets of two pieced strips, but these are downhill.

And here are all eight pieced strips, four uphill and four downhill.

It's like magic

When you flip one of the strips (so the top is now at the bottom), the uphill/downhill orientation remains the same, but it looks completely different. The two pairs of strips above are actually the same strip, just with one of them flipped.

Now, lay out the strips in alternating uphill/downhill orientation, like this. You can flip some of the strips the opposite way for variety. In this photo, I've flipped one of each of the four sets upside down, so no two strips are alike.

There's no need to line up the points (hurray). To make this chevron block look "shattered", it's actually better if the points don't meet at the seams (easier to sew as well), so go ahead and slide the strips up or down until they look good to you.

Once you've got them lined up the way you like them, sew the strips together in pairs, making four "peaks." Then sew the peaks together, making the full chevron design.

Be careful not to stretch the fabric as you stitch the strips together. It's really easy to pull these bias edges out of shape.

And that’s it! Your finished block should measure 16" to 16.5" across, and be at least 15" tall at the shortest point. 

All done! I haven't yet decided how (or whether) I will sash these blocks, so please leave your blocks un-trimmed, just as pictured!

If you don't have enough fabrics to do four different pieces, Play Crafts has suggestions for making two sets of four, rather than four sets of two, pieced strips. Just remember to adjust the measurements so that you end up with eight pieced strips total.

Please feel free to comment below or email me if you have questions.

Thank you all so much! I can't wait to see what you all do.


Quilt Collage Sources:
1.  Unknown
2.  Gigi's Thimble
3.  Twinkle and Twine 
4.  Ali's Flickr stream
5.  All People Quilt (page not found)
6.  Crafty Blossom 
7.  Quilty Therapy 
8.  Quilted Joy 
9.  This Is Emily Kate 

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