Recently in Groovy Stack n Whack Category

My Gift to My Daughter

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On Friday I picked up a special gift for my daughter -- the Groovy Stack n' Whack quilt was complete. It's quilted and has a soft plush purple backing out of a fabric called Minky. It's a bit heavy, so it will most likely be a winter quilt for a summer baby. Minky is machine washable, so it makes a nice backing for a baby quilt -- and it actually comes in some "adult" colors, too. I'm thinking it would be a nice backing for a quilt for John and I as well.

I've talked about this quilt a lot in the past and I don't have many more details to add... so most of this post will just be images.

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Quilt in the Afternoon Sun
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Quilt with Dad's Rocker -- the Minky Matches the Nursery Walls
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Close Up of Binding and Quilt Stitch Pattern

My Zosia Butterfly has butterflies quilted into her quilt. Butterflies are something of a theme in her room, so when I picked the quilting design, I looked for one with a butterfly motif. The quilt has a very simple binding made up of one of the background fabrics. This seemed like the best way to go since it didn't introduce any new fabric and it seemed like simple would be best for a baby quilt.

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Big Quilt, Small Baby

Clearly it will take her a while to grow into her quilt!

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Smiles All Around

Looks like the recipient likes it. What could be better than a baby smile? (And none of you are allowed to tell me that they don't smile this early or that it's just gas... she makes this happy face at us all the time... don't burst a new mom's bubble!).

Love you, baby girl. I'm looking forward to adding a few more quilts to your collection in the future.

Stars on Top

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The Groovy Star Top All in One Piece

In a surprising burst of effort, I turned all my star blocks into an actual quilt top on Saturday. Amazing what a cloudy, grey, cool weather day can do for my crafty motivation. Which is to say that when it's cooler outside, it's much more pleasant to be in my third floor office/craft space.

I'm very happy that I went with the pieced, multi-color border. It was more work in the end to do it this way, but I think it's the perfect border for the multi-colored stars. I give credit for the little corner pieces to Colette -- I just wish I could remember what she called them, since they have an actual quilting name for borders done with those little corner pieces.

Amazing how a picture can make things look more perfect than they are. I assure you there are plenty of small alignment mistakes when you get up close to it. But this turned out much better than Serenity did from that perspective. Every time I sit down at my machine, I learn a little more about making seams come together better, and this project taught me a good deal about careful block construction -- and why sewing triangles on the bias can be a little tricky. Next time I tackle a similar project, I'm sure the construction will improve again. I think that's one of the fun parts about learning a new craft -- in the beginning, you see so much progress in your technique and skill with every project.

This quilt is going to be off to the machine quilter sometime in the next week or so -- just as soon as I can get it to Quiltology for the hand off. I'm going to have it backed with a lovely plush, washable fabric, in a soft lilac color, that I think will be very baby friendly and give it a little extra thickness. Hopefully it will be back in my hands before the Z baby decides to put in an appearance. I think it would be awfully nice to bring her home from the hospital and greet her with her very own quilt.

A Field of Stars

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An Array of Stars

Here's the moment I've been waiting for with my star blocks: seeing them all together and putting them into the final order I want them to be in for the Z Baby's second quilt. While I was laying them out yesterday morning, I grew extremely happy with my decision to put each star on a background of the same fabric. They all just popped out so well. Not to mention the fact that I think the choice of background fabrics turned out even better than I could have anticipated. They work well with the fabric in the stars and they play nice together in the quilt as a whole.

When I was laying out the blocks, geek girl that I am, I had to follow some rules. I didn't want any two blocks with the same background fabric on either the vertical or horizontal axis touching each other. In order to make this easier, I started with EQ5 to work out the generalities. Can you see the symmetry in the blocks (don't look at the stars themselves, but the background fabrics. The pink and purple background fabric blocks mirror each other, as do the aqua and green print fabrics. This morning, in my office, I worked out the details. I ended up swapping the locations of the aqua and green print fabrics so that I could make sure that the stars were distributed the way I wanted them to be -- I didn't want whole rows or columns that contained too much of one type of star pattern, though it wasn't possible to avoid completely, given how much of that light blue/dark blue striping was in the pattern that I started with.

One of the little pleasures I got from laying the blocks out was discovering how well the seams in my blocks line up and how, overall, I did a pretty good job of getting these blocks to within almost the same size of each other (the very first block, the pink one in the top left corner being something of an exception) . I feel very confident that when I sew these blocks together, that everything is going to line up nicely if I sew carefully. This is a distinct improvement over Serenity, my first quilt top. I was also amazed to find that when these blocks are all together as a whole, all my concerns about some of the wonky centers went away. It's almost impossible to demonstrate in a blog-sized photo, but even when you're up close, you don't notice those wonky centers very much. All the other activity going on in the quilt makes some of the problem minutia go away.

The last thing that remains is the border. Initially I was going to use some more "Feelin' Groovy" fabric (the fabric the stars are made of ) to border it, but after talking with Julie and Colette we all decided that that would be too busy and would probably detract from the blocks. Another option was to introduce a completely new fabric to go around the edge, but that didn't really feel right to any of us, either. Then Colette suggested that I consider a simple pieced border, where I use the background fabrics in the border, changing the color with the edge of each block and always using a different fabric than the block itself (sorry if that isn't clear, it will become more obvious when I put it together). I purchased a bit more of each background fabric to do the job with and I hope to get the top seamed up this weekend. Just like the finishing work on a sweater, I find it a lot easier to crank through the finishing work on a quilt top when I feel like I'm getting close to the endgame.

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The Twelfth Star and the Last Square

Well, this is all she wrote for the Groovy stack n' whack star blocks. Right here is the very last block. I think it turned out well from both a technical and visual perspective. The center looks reasonably well pieced and the colors that border the star are very complementary to the star itself, while still providing adequate contrast. A nice way to finish up the blocks.

And really not a moment too soon. I was getting to the point where I was getting a little bored with sewing up these blocks and looking forward to seeing them all together and figuring out what border I wanted to put on them. Originally, I was thinking about using the original Groovy fabric I used to cut the stars out from as the border. But now I am beginning to wonder if that will make the quilt feel too busy. Clearly a little time with the blocks and the Groovy fabric and a few pictures are in order.

I've been meaning to mention this for a while, and I imagine most of you are already aware of Clauida's efforts to raise money for the MS Society through a seriously long bike ride. She's done an incredible job so far -- she's well over her $30,000 milestone, which goes a lot towards showing the power of a friendly community and the Internet. She's also got some great prizes for people contributing to her fund raising -- though I know none of us needs prizes as an incentive to do good things. If you haven't had a chance to participate and have the funds to consider putting towards a good cause, I'd like to encourage you to think about it and pledge towards her ride.

MS is definitely a tough disease to live with -- and believe it or not, you can do a lot with $30,000 . It covers the significant portion of a salary for a young researcher for an entire year (I made $27,000 when I was a post-doc). Or an awful lot of research supplies. Or it could buy a piece of equipment to help a research group work on finding a cure or a better understanding of the disease. Or to help with therapy for someone suffering from the disease. According to the MS Society, over 400,000 people in the US, the majority of them women, suffer from this disease. So your donation really does help to give a lot of people more hope for the future.

Square Eleven: The Home Stretch

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The Eleventh Square: More Light at the End of the Tunnel

More squares today. For the first time in a long time I managed to get in a work from home day where I was pretty much able to be focused on the geeky side of my work life. So fun to get completely absorbed in interacting with code (although, I know, clearly that beauty is the eye of only particular beholders).

It seems that the more of these squares I put together, the better the centers seem to come together. Must be something to that whole practicing thing after all. I had a hard time deciding whether to have more of the greenery in the center or to put the reds and flowery bits there. In the end, I liked how the ring of flowers created the illusion of the star being the center of a flower.

Only one more star left until the finish line! Well, at least until I have to start putting the squares into a larger whole.

Square Ten and a Post Script

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The Tenth Star

I am coming into the home stretch with my stack n' whack stars. This is the 10th out of 12 blocks. It's my hope to get them all finished up this week so that I can get the quilt assembled before the Z Baby arrives. The quilt is destined for her nursery, and, in the interests of time, if I can get the top finished, I'm going to have it machine quilted by someone else. Just a few too many other things on my plate between now and her arrival. I'm happy with this completed block and think it embodies the "groovy" qualities of the fabric I started with.

As a follow up to yesterday's post, I just wanted to say that my trip to the OB's office Monday morning had a much better outcome for me than Thursday's trip. The fasting blood sugar levels were absolutely fine, the doctor expressed no concern over the fact that at this point the Z baby seems to prefer a head-up position and I don't have any signs of pre-term labor that would suggest that my bit of dilation is anything to be concerned about. In fact, exercise is fine as long as I don't over do it and it doesn't irritate my sciatica too much. I'm still not supposed to get too far from home, but that's a do-able restriction, since I wasn't planning on any real travel after June anyways.

Probably the biggest surprise for me with this visit was having the OB I saw today (amazing for the fact that her own baby is due in two weeks and she barely looks like she's started her second trimester) tell me that Dr. Serious had reservations about my condition due, in part, to what she felt was worsened sciatica (I assume because it suggests increased downward pressure on the nerves that might indicate the baby getting into position or my uterus getting active). She never mentioned this to me -- if she had, I would have happily told her that the sciatica was no different than it had been for the past couple of months that I've been dealing with it. I guess this falls into the "hazards of a large practice" place where my previous mentions of it to other doctors didn't get entered into my (what is becoming a very large) file, thus it appeared to be a warning signal and really wasn't It would have been nice to have this explained to me by Dr. Serious. Certainly it would have made for a better experience. Probably for both of us.

Square Nine -- And A Search Request

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The Ninth Block

After all the reorganizing I managed to get my office desktop cleaned off and to find some time to work on another stack and whack quilt block. This one is relatively sedate. The center is, well, rather off-center, but the rest of it doesn't look so bad, amazingly enough. I am not sure to blame this on my sewing or my cutting of the original diamond shaped pieces. But I've decided not to sweat it too much.

I am finding, as I do a few more of these "sedate" squares that are mostly greenery, that I like them more than I thought I would. Hopefully these less busy squares will provide calmer places for the eye to rest when the quilt is completed and in use.

Before I sign off, I wanted to make a little broadcast request. One of the folks responding to my de-stashing was Mercedes Tompkins. She was interested in the Jaeger Chamonix that I had for sale, but someone else got to it before she did. She asked if I might know anyone else who had some of this yarn and I told her that I would be happy to ask about it on the blog. She's looking for a few more balls of this yarn in colorway 900. If you have any of this yarn and would be willing to sell or trade, would you please email Mercedes? Her email address is: m.tompkins@comcast.net -- I know she'd be very appreciative.

The Eighth Star Block

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The Eighth Groovy LeMoyne Star

I finished up this star just before I headed to Toronto, but actual knitting content got in the way of me posting it before now. I'm rather happy with how this star turned out. The center looks good and the kaleidoscope effect works well. This is the eighth star in my Groovy Stack n' Whack project. I am now officially 2/3rds of the way through the star creation process.

Unfortunately, this project (and all my other quilting projects) have been in a holding pattern for a while as John and I re-organize our office space. This re-organization process has definitely been one of those "gets worse before it gets better" sort of things with boxes and books and craft supplies everywhere as we figure out what goes together with what and what should just go. The purging process is certainly therapeutic in a lot of ways, but it also cuts into time that I would normally spend crafting. It's also hard to do too much sewing when your machine is surrounded by things that you need to put away or get rid of. This weekend we made a lot of progress, so I'm hoping that a few more quilt blocks for this project will start to materialize.

I've actually been feeling a bit guilty about my quilting projects -- Serenity remains to be quilted, and there is still a good deal more sewing of strips remaining in my Blooming 9 Patch. I have a good excuse for Serenity -- I need to pin everything out on the floor, and I'm finding it hard to be on my hands and knees much since one of my hips gives me a lot of trouble when I try that. But I have no such excuse for the 9-patch project. Ah well, there is a time for everything, I suppose, and life is too short to spend a lot of it feeling guilty about craft projects that don't progress as fast as one would like.

The Seventh Star Block

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The Seventh Star Block

In some ways, these quilt blocks are like candy. Everytime you finish one, you want to start another to see how it is going to turn out. The challenge now is making sure that the background and the star turn out to be complementary together -- and that I'm orienting the stars so that I don't end up with too many that have the same feel. I'd like each block to have it's own unique quality.

I'm back in Chicago now. Funny to think that I have probably taken my last out of town trip -- certainly my last airplane trip -- for a while. I did really enjoy Toronto and I do want to go back, but it's also nice to be home. It was really nice to sit on the couch tonight, prop up my swollen feet, and watch some things off the DVR while John got to feel the baby move. I feel like we're all supposed to be together right now. And it makes me happy that John wants to feel her move and share that part of the pregnancy experience with me.

And should you want to see a few more pictures of me in Toronto, Stephanie got some fun pictures of me and my bump with her sock -- I feel quite honored to have been able to pose with the sock, and I know that it must certainly be a good karma thing for Ms. Z.

To those of you in the states, I wish you a peaceful Memorial Day weekend with good weather and time to enjoy the things that make you happy. Is there anything nicer than a three day weekend in late spring? To everyone else I wish the same, but that you can get equally good mileage out of two days instead of three.

The Sixth Star and a Bump Shot

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The 6th LeMoyne Star

This star marks the half way point through the blocks that I am putting together. It has a real "jungle flower" feeling to me. And I like the sort of flower within a flower pattern you get (if you think of the star design as something of a flower motif). I do wish that bottom left piece had fit in just a little bit better so it looked like there was just one little flower in the center. However, it is as several people have said: very slight variations in the diamonds* can have an impact on how the center looks.

It has been suggested in my comments that perhaps I should show off a "bump shot" so that you can all see how Ms. Z and I are progressing. Since I am now closing in on 29 weeks and I suspect that I will soon be ending the "cute" part of my gestational period (signified by the fact that several of the cute little tops that I bought are getting a little more belly baring than I like, I thought it might be a good time to take a picture. Hotel bathroom mirrors aren't entirely ideal, but they do work okay. That said, I am not feeling quite bold enough to make it a feature picture on my blog for a day. However if you would like to see how the Z and I are doing just click here. I'm getting to be a very round biologist! And my little passenger almost never sits still for very long. I think Z is preparing for a career as a professional soccer player!


* I know that a few people have asked how the pieces for the stars are made. The idea behind stack and whack is that you find the repeat in your fabric and then you stack as many pieces of fabric on top of each other (matching the repeat) as you need to to create the geometric shape that you want to feature. Then after you "stack", you get out your rotary cutter and "whack" -- i.e. create pieces of the size and shape that you need to make to get the central block feature.

The Fifth Star Block

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The slow crafting process continues Chez Biologist -- only one more quilt block to show for myself.

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The Fifth Groovy Quilt Block

Once again, I like everything about this star except the very center. I can't quite figure out where the wonkiness comes from -- probably my seams are not quite the 1/4 inch that they are supposed to be. As the pieces get built up, there's a little more tendency for them to slide around a bit, at least in my hands. What I do like about this block is how the brown tree trunk pattern ends up forming a ring around the bees, and how the leaves fan out towards the points. I chose the pink background fabric to provide a big contrast against the green and to pick up the flash of pink in the wings of the little bees.

Sewing this block gave me the chance to think about knitting. Very specifically, I can't take my sewing machine to Toronto next week, and one sock cuff isn't likely to be enough knitting to keep me busy Sunday through Thursday. At the same time, this also isn't the time to start a large knitting project, because I don't want to haul that much knitting gear or yarn along with me in my suitcase.

So I got to thinking about one skein projects, and as I was moving my knitting books around, I came across Zoe Mellor's 50 Baby Booties to Knit. Mmm.. baby booties. Seems appropriate right at the moment. Lots of good things in this book, but since I don't have a whole lot of experience with booties myself, but I have hear that babies are extremely good at removing booties, I thought I'd ask you experienced bootie and child having folks (I know you're not necessarily the same people) to recommend some of your favorite patterns. And some of your favorite yarns for babies. I've been thinking that this might be a good way to use up some of my sock yarn remnants... but is your average wool/nylon sock blend too harsh for baby skin? I'd love to hear your suggestions, opinions and ideas!

The Fourth Star Block

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The Fourth LeMoyne Star Quilt Block

Here you have a block surrounded by the last of my four background fabrics. I chose the background to complemen the pink and purple tones in the flowers in the diamond shaped pieces. And I think, in the end, the two sets of fabric complement each other quite well.

From a construction perspective, this block started off well. In fact, up until the point I seamed the two large rectangles together to form the final square, I thought this block would be almost perfect. But, as you can see, there are issues with the center of the block, where one of the diamond points looks rather sharply out of line. Everything else lined up well, however, so I couldn't see a way to fix it that wouldn't have left me with an equally obvious/visible problem in a different part of the block. So I've left it the way it is. I think perhaps that when it is quilted and in active duty, it will be less noticeable than it is now.

Now I'm going to wrap up my LeMoyne Star Quilt Block process. This is where the sewing starts to get easy, but you do need to pay attention to how you are pinning things together. After the last post, the idea was to repeat the process documented in the first two entries to create a mirror image set of triangles.

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Step 11: After Both Sets of Triangles Have Been Pieced

This is what you should be looking at after the second set of triangles has been pieced. Most everything from here on out should be fairly straightforward. The most critical parts of the next steps involves making sure that you are pinning pieces so that the right lines line up correctly.

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Step 12: Pinning Triangles to Form Squares

The pinning process here involves two steps -- securing the pieces together and making sure that the edge to be sewn is aligned correctly. For this seam, the most important thing to remember is that you want the place where the two different fabrics meet to line up as perfectly on both sides as it can. Believe it or not, this junction is actually more important than the center, because your eye tends to be drawn to places where it sees transition, and it will tend to make assumptions about what should be going on with the center of the square that wash out mistakes you make there.

To help you get things secured, the first thing to do is to pin the seams that make the "V" where the different colored fabrics are joined. Secure the one that is the farthest away from the seam you're going to sew, first. To do this, you really want the pin to go down through the center of the seam on the top piece and out through the center of the seam on the bottom piece, thus, aligning the seams. After that, you'll do the same thing for the seam closest to the edge you are going to seam together.

Finally, you're going to pin the edge you want to seam. Start with the place where the two fabrics join and make sure that it lines up on both the top and bottom triangle. Trust me -- even if other things aren't perfect, this is the thing you want to have line up correctly. After that, smooth things out from the middle and line up the points on either side as best you can and pin.

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Step 13: The Finished Squares

Once you've done the pinning and sewed the four sets of triangles together and pressed them (press the seams out just like you did for the first part of the process) you should have something that looks like the picture above when you lay the pieces out on your table. Now you have 4 blocks. The rest of the seams should be pretty obvious.

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Step 14: Pinning Squares to Form Rectangles

The pinning technique is similar to what you did for piecing the triangles into squares. Use those internal seams to help secure the two squares together. Then carefully line up the places where the fabric joins occur on the edge you are going to sew together. Do your best to make the center point seams line up on the top and bottom as well before worrying about pinning the corner where the background fabrics join.

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Step 15: The Finished Rectangles

After pressing out the pieces (seams out) you now have two large rectangles -- you're one more seam away from a finished block.

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Step 16: Pinning Rectangles to Form the Final Square

Yep, more precision pinning is required for this process. I didn't worry as much about securing the inner seams at this point, but you should feel free to pin down anything that makes you happy. For this piecing, I did start in the center and made sure the center lines came together correctly on the top and bottom pieces. Then I moved out from the center on either side and made sure the seams where the background and main fabrics joined were aligned before securing the outer corners.

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The Third Finished Block

One more seam from my trusty sewing machine and another pressing event with my iron, and you have a finished block.

See, not so hard. And a very pleasing result!

Well, I survived my high dose of glucose and the four needle sticks that the long form glucose tolerance test required. No results until late afternoon sometime today (Friday), but I'm optimistic. A lot more so than I was when I got on the bus to go to my doctor's office Thursday morning. I'm not sure why. Perhaps it was the nice woman who gave up her seat on the bus for me (completely unprompted on a very full bus) or the fact that it was such a nice morning when I had the test and I got to go walking between bleeds. Even if it doesn't help my glucose readings, the walking definitely made me feel better. How can you not be happy when the morning sun is shining over Lake Michigan and you can feel the breezes off the Lake? And I even managed to turn the heel on the second of my Sprung socks.

Anyway... to pick up where I left off yesterday, once you put those pieces back in place, it's time to add the next piece to the diamond, small triangle set that you have.

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Step 7: Add a Big Triangle to the Diamond and Small Triangle

To do this, you simply place the larger triangle, right sides togther, aligned with the other edge of the diamond.

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Step 8: Pinning the Big Triangle

Once again, your pins are your friends! You want to line up the square corner of the triangle with the square corner of the diamond/small triangle combination and the edge of the diamond. You do this for all 4 diamond-small triangle pieces that you pieced in the first part.

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Step 9: Ironing Open the Seams

As you did with the previous pieces you're going to iron open all the seams on the back sides of the pieces that you just sewed together. Now you have two triangles and a diamond fit together as a larger triangular piece that is the first half of the 4 square blocks that make up the larger LeMoyne Star block.

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Step 10: Admire Your Work and Get Ready for the Next Set

Once all the pieces are ironed, take them back to your table and lay them out where they should go. You're done with these pieces for a little while, but it's always nice to admire your handiwork.

The next thing you're going to do is repeat all these steps for the second batch of diamonds and triangles. It's the exact same process, only the final pieces are going to be mirror images of the first set of final pieces. When you're done with that, you'll be coming down the home stretch!

Thank you to everyone who left comments yesterday to help me with my concern about my glucose tolerance test. If you have time to think good thoughts at my pancreas tomorrow morning it will be much appreciated. And it will be the first time my pancreas has ever received so much attention in my life!

In the mean time, I've been documenting the process of putting one of the LeMoyne Star quilt blocks together. Let me state very clearly, a quilting expert I am not. What I am good at is listening to good instruction and taking advantage of what I have learned from other more experienced people. A lot of what I'm going to post today is based on the good advice I got from others. Also, rather than create one very picture heavy post, I'm going to divide the process up into some natural chunks.

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Step 1: Lay Out the Block

The very first step is simply to lay out your block, getting the diamond shaped pieces in the orientation that you want them to be in, and selecting the background fabric that you want to surround the star. In this case, I chose the light aqua Kaffe Fassett print because I thought it was a nice background for the pink and blue elements in the start.

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Step 2: Set Up the First Pieces to Sew Together

The order of sewing that I learned in my class makes a lot of sense when it comes to making sure that you piece the right things together. One thing that may not be apparent initially is that certain pairs of pieces have one orientation, while other pairs have the opposite. This is true of the diamond shapes and the small triangles, which ar ethe first pieces you want to put together. You can start with any diamond shape, and then flip the bordering small triangle onto it so that the right sides of the fabric are facing. You line up the long side and point of the triangle with the point and side of the diamond. And you do this for every diamond/triangle pair where the triangle has the same starting orientation -- in other words, you are going to do this with every other diamond/triangle pair.

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Step 3: Pin The Triangle and Diamond Together

This picture should make it clearer which edges should align with which other edges. The important thing here: don't be afraid to use your pins! This will help you keep the points from squirming away from each other when they go through the machine. Really, if I learned anything from this quilting workshop, it was just that: pins are your friends. Pin early, pin often. Use as many pins as you need to to feel comfortable that your fabric is going to stay where you want it to.

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Step 4: Start Your Sewing Machine

This isn't so much a step in the process as it is a handy tip that I learned from Carolyn. To avoid those nastly little thread globs that can show up at the beginning of a seam because the top or bottom thread gets caught where it shouldn't, use a scrap piece of fabric to start your chain piecing seam. This picture also shows another very helpful tool when it comes to making nice seams -- my Bernina #57 foot -- this foot has a 1/4" guide on the right edge that makes it very easy to keep track of where you need to be seaming. I love this foot!

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Step 5: Press Seams Open

For the other two tops I have put together, you just press the seams to one side or the other. when you open up your pieces. For these blocks, you actually want to open up the seam and press it down. The why of this will become clearer later when the pieces start getting larger. For this process it is very handy to have a nice, heavy iron. And I think a dry iron works best because there's no way for the pieces to distort with the addition of water.

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Step 6: Put the Pieces Back in the Layout

The last step of this part is easy: just put the pieces back into the layout where they go. This allows you to admire your work and do a visual check on whether things are lining up well. Word to the wise: don't be afraid to rip if you aren't happy with what you see. It's a lot easier to rip at this point than it is when you've built the blocks up a bit more. And it takes a lot less time to rip and re-sew a seam than it does to rip and re-sew knitted stuff, so don't be afraid of the process.

For me, there's almost nothing more fun than finding software that can support a craft addiction. I like software that can help me visualize the final product before I actually cast on a stitch or cut a single piece of fabric. With quilting, I'm finding that there is a lot of color to think about, and that having the chance to examine a layout before you start cutting and piecing can really make a difference when it comes to getting something you really like.

A couple of weeks ago I got my hands on a copy of Electric Quilt 5*. What a fun piece of software. It's relatively easy to use (I went through the first set of tutorial exercises and it covered most of the basics you need to get started) and it comes "programmed" with a number of standard quilt blocks and a small collection of fabric so that you can "paint" the blocks with any fabrics you like and put blocks together in any order to see how they look. You can plan borders, applique work and quilting patterns as well. And if you don't like the fabrics it comes with, you can use a scanner to scan your own fabrics and put them in and see how they work. The geek girl in me digs it quite a lot, especially since the learning curve is relatively shallow when it comes to doing the simple things that most people will want to do.

While it was a little too much work to try to model each individual square in my quilt, I was able to put something together to see how the background prints might work in combination with the Feeling Groovy fabric.

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Feeling Groovy Stack n' Whack Quilt

Right now I have the border of the quilt in the Feeling Groovy fabric. That could change if I find something I like better between now and when it's time to put the border on. But I think this image provides a reasonable estimation of what my final project will feel like when I've got the top all sewn up.

Other than that, I don't have to much to show tonight... to be honest, I've been feeling a little down and grumpy and fogged in by a carbohydrate haze. Last week I failed my one hour glucose tolerance test (by one friggin' point!) so right now I'm in the midst of a carb-loading diet in preparation for the three hour blood drawing extravaganza that I have to get up way too early for on Thursday.

I'm not sure why I'm dealing so badly with this... probably I just don't really like the feeling of having "failed" the first test (especially by what I consider a negligible margin) and having someone else tell me what I have to do (I've never been so good at taking orders from other people) combined with the fact that all this carbohydrate is making me feel like a bloated hippopotamus.

Yes, yes, I know all the reasons why it's important to do this...and even though I repeat them over and over, I'm still feeling grumpy about it. I know, too, that I am not alone in this. Plenty of women have to deal with it and most people who take the 3 hour test don't end up being diagnosed with gestational diabetes. No doubt the winds will change and my mindset will improve (making quilt blocks is very therapeutic at the moment) but for the next couple of days it's probably going to be somewhat rough going. Overall the pregnancy ride hasn't really been a bad one, but it sure would be nice to have a few weeks of being pregnant where I wasn't getting stuck with a needle...

* Yep, I know Electric Quilt 6 is out, but I got a great deal on Electric Quilt 5 and it's upgradable to Electric Quilt 6 when I feel motivated to go in that direction.

A Second Star

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Given all the office renovation and moving of things required for that, not much crafting was done. However, I did get started on the second block of my stack n' whack quilt. I also convinced my scanner to let me get an image of the fabrics that I am using as background fabrics for the quilt.

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Background Fabrics for the Groovy Stack N' Whack

The top left and bottom two prints are Kaffe Fasset prints, the top left is a Fun Quilts print. All of these fabrics were selected to co-ordinate with some of the colors in the Feeling Groovy fabric that was the main fabric for the LeMoyne Stars. Although I started out thinking that each block would have a corner in each color, after putting a couple of stars on a background of just one color, I became convinced that the solid backgrounds helped pop out the stars better. So, since I am making 12 blocks, I will have 3 blocks with each print as the background print. Here's my first block with the greenish colored fabric.

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A Second Block

I really like the contrast betweent he bright orange flowers and the gren background fabric. The yellowy tones are just perfect together. And I'm also generally pleased with the piecing. The important lines and junctions are where they are supposed to be.

The only thing I am not so happy about is that the block should be 12.5" x 12.5" and it is closer to 12 x 12. Somewhere along the way I lost 1/2 an inch. I don't think I lost it to the seams, but I also didn't notice any strange issues with the sizes of the pieces, either. So I'm going to have to do a little measuring compared to the first block and my existing pieces to see where that 1/2 inch went.

Since serveral folks commented on how impressed they were with my piecing, I thought that I would try to show off some of the tricks that I learned in my class that helped to make my piecing look nicer. So for my next block, I'll try to take good pictures to help show off the process for anyone who might be interested.

The First LeMoyne Star Block

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Groovy Star on a Kaffe Fassett Background

Once I had all of my star pieces stacked and whacked it was time to cut out the background pieces. All of this cutting was simple. It simply involved cutting two sizes of squares and then cutting the squares into triangles. I have four fabrics for the background colors for the stars. Three are Kaffe Fassett prints and one is from FunQuilts via FreeSpirit. I'd show you these prints, but I'm fighting scanner problems tonight, and it's late, so they'll have to wait until a later post.

At any rate, I just finished getting all my cutting done before I headed off to the second of my two stack n' whack workshop classes. In this class, we focused on piecing the blocks and optimizing the process so that we could employ chain piecing instead of working on one piece at a time. It was in class that I also decided to change how I was going to put my stars on their backgrounds.

If you look at the star (above) you'll notice that it can be divided into 4 quadrants. I was going to use a separte background color in each of the 4 quadrants. However, after laying out some of my squares that way, and then trying out the stars on "solid" backgrounds (like the one above) I decided that I liked the solid backgrounds better. So now I will have 12 stars, with 3 stars on each background color.

For this first star (which is the third star, right side pictured on the post two days ago), I opted for the Kaffe Fasset "Roman Glass" print in pink to work with the pinks in the floral pattern in the diamonds. I'm pleased with how it came together. My sewing is far from perfect, but I did get some great pinning tips from our workshop teacher, Jan, that helped make this block a lot better than it would have been if I had muddled through on my own (I'll try to document the process in the future). The over all result makes me happy, as most of the lines that need to match up, do match up and the center is no where near as wonky as it could be. Not only that, but the block is 12.5" x 12.5" -- exactly the size it is supposed to be at this point (not something I accomplished with my 9 patch blocks). A pretty good first attempt, I think, and I have high hopes that it will only get better as I work on more blocks.

Initially I was a little worried about my background prints, but I think this one does a nice job of providing a foundation without overwhelming the star. I think it's also compatible with being a baby quilt -- it was suggested a few times in class that my baby should love this given all the bright colors and contrast.

Seeing Stars

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Today, I present a collection of my favorite stars from my stack n' whack project. Each pair of images represents both possible orientations for the diamond-shaped pieces that I cut out, as a demonstration of how much variation you can get from that simple rotation. I also tried to include as many different colors from the fabric as I could, to demonstrate how the fabric that I started with could yield many different color palettes.

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Star 1
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Star 2
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Star 3
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Star 4
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Star 5

Any favorites? I took pictures of all the possible star combinations so that I could "audition" the orientations on my computer. I find, quite often, that the camera helps me see things that I didn't with the naked eye alone. This is particularly true when I shrink and enlarge images to simulate distance.

The next step is to cut out my background pieces. I have some fun Kaffe Fasset prints for the background that I will show off tomorrow.

Stacking, Whacking and Poking

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A Pile of Groovy Fabric: Feeling Groovy, Robert Kaufman Fabrics

Believe it or not, this picture took me about 4 hours to create. It is 8 pieces of fabric cut to represent the same repeat and then meticulously stacked and pinned so that the repeats lay exactly over the top of one another. And yes, it's a set up for another quilt style that I am experimenting with as a result of another class I am taking at Quiltology. Clearly I have fabric projects on the brain these days.

What this picture represents, is the set up for a set of quilt blocks out of this book:

Yep. I'm taking a workshop on "stack n' whack" quilts where the stacking and whacking results in quilt blocks with kaleidoscopic effects. In this case, the base block that I will be working with is the LeMoyne Star. By creating a series of diamond shapes using the exact same location in a fabric print repeat, it's possible to create these blocks and get some incredible results.

The fabric I picked for the project is called "Feeling Groovy" and it's a Robert Kaufman fabric that I purchased from Quiltology. I selected it for three reasons:

  • It has a diverse, dense print with a lot of color and a lot of variation
  • I am going to do a crib sized version of the quilt, and I wanted something bright and happy that would be crib compatible
  • I just fell in love with it when I thought about how it might look in my baby's room

That first element is actually the most important. In order to get good results from the stack n' whack process, it's important to pick a print that has a lot of variation and doesn't have a lot of "white space" so that your resulting blocks will have a lot of variation and interest as well. The second and third aspects of the decision are really just a matter of personal taste, and the fact that I don't really have the time right now to tackle another large bed-sized quilt. Not to mention that washable cotton items seem like more practical things to make for my August arrival than do wooly things at the moment.

The first part of the class involved identifying a fabric we wanted to work with, some contrasting fabrics to complete the blocks with, and learning how to cut out the fabric repeats so it would be easy to set up the stack we were going to whack from. It also involved learning how to do all the pinning so that the fabric stack would be exactly lined up and would stay in place when the whacking process began.

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Flower Head Pins: An Essential Tool for the Stack n' Whacker

The pinning process* resulted in me gaining some greater understanding about why one would want to spend money on flathead pins to go along with some good sharp jabs in the fingers Flathead pins like the flower pins in the picture above, lay flat against he fabric and don't get in the way when you put a ruler over the top of them to set up your cutting. Since ruler control is pretty important when you are going to rotary cut through 8 layers of potentially expensive fabric, the extra cost of these specialty pins is worth it.

Homework for the next class was for us to get our stacks pinned together and whacked and to start working on cutting out our background fabrics as well, so that we could work on laying out our final designs in the next class and start getting a few blocks put together. The whacking process took a few tries for me to get comfortable with, but once I understood my tools and some basic dimensions better, I was able to create the 12 sets of diamond shaped pieces that I need to create my stars.

Up next: playing with the stars... creating kaleidoscope images in fabric.

* This process is interesting, but doesn't lend itself too well to blogging about it. The simplest way to describe it is that you run a set of pins through defined areas in the fabric to get the fabric pieces to align and then you use other pins to get things locked down and remove the first pins. And you do this at grid intervals all across and down the fabric. There's a lot of shaking and smoothing involved in the process to get things to lay right. It's all relatively easy, but pretty time consuming, especially when you are starting with a print that has a large repeat interval, as this one does.

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