Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Selvedge String Block Tutorial

Greetings from Tennessee! As you may have guessed, I am still  on the road. One week as officially turned into two and I've traveled from New Jersey to Tennessee. I'm working like mad, hence the lack of postings around here, but it sure is pretty in these parts! 

But today I've got a new tutorial for you. Now, I am sure there is a great tutorial out there on how to make a string block using selvedges, but I haven't found one. I've found several on making a standard string block and a few on working with selvedges, but none that merge the two together. I'm asking members of the Sew Fun Bee to make me string blocks using selvedges for my month, and working with selvedges is a little different so I thought I'd write up a quick tutorial explaining how I do it.

Selvedge String Block Tutorial


Rotary Cutter
Cutting Mat
Selvedges (in a variety of lengths from 13" and shorter)
Sewing Machine (duh!)
Coordinating Thread


Step 1: 
First, you need to create your template. I'm asking for 12.5" (unfinished) blocks so I need to first create a 12.5" square template. I'm using plain white printer paper for my foundation. You can also use thinner stock paper, but you want it heavy enough to told it's shape. Since standard letter sized paper is only 8.5" x 11" you will need four pieces to create your template. Tape the four pieces together to create one large piece. Then, using your cutting mat, ruler and rotary cutter, measure out a 12.5" square and trim. Since standard printer paper has sharp, straight edges I use that to my advantage and shore it up against two perpendicular lines on my cutting mat and measure out 12.5" from each straight edge so I'm essentially only making two cuts.


Step 2:
Using your ruler measure a straight line diagonally across your template from corner to corner. If your cutting mat has lines on the angle, you can use these to your advantage to measure out your line. If you don't, it's not a problem. You can easily eyeball from corner to corner. Take your pen and draw a line straight through the center of your template.



Step 3:
Choose your first selvedge. But wait, I'm going to stop here for a moment and talk about working with selvedges for a second, if you don't mind. How much of the selvedge you retain when cutting off from you main fabric is entirely up to you. It comes down to just how much of the mother fabric (I just made that up. I don't know what else to call it.) you would like to peek through in your project. Some people don't want any of it at all and cut close to where the selvedge meets the main fabric. I, personally, am looking at this as a little memory book. It's a reminder of all the fabrics I've worked with over the years, and I like a little of the original fabric to show through, so I cut my selvedge edges a little fat. I also keep them a little long. 


Choose your first selvedge. You'll need to start with a longer one, at least 13", than can traverse your template with a little overhand at each end. Lay the first selvedge over the center line and pin in place. Choose your next selvedge. This should be another long one. Lay it directly on top of the first selvedge (right side of the first selvedge to the wrong side of the second), leaving some of the "mother fabric" exposed BUT (and this is the tricky part) covering enough of that mother fabric so it will stay securely under the top selvedge when sewn. Please keep in mind, selvedges don't always lay as flat as regular fabric because they tend to be a little bulkier, so keep your stitches slow and steady to help smooth out any bubbles along the way.


Using the thread color of your choice (be aware that your thread will show!) stitch a straight line as close to the selvedge edge as you can possibly get. Remember to make sure there is enough of the first selvedge underneath so it stays securely in place and the raw edge doesn't slip out from underneath. This is the trickiest part. Especially if you're working with narrower selvedges. Stitch from one end of the template to the other, just like you would an ordinary string block except the seam is exposed and there is no pressing or ironing.



Step 4: 
Repeat this process until you get to the corner of your block. Your selvedge lengths will get shorter and shorter as you progress down the template to the corner. Once you reach the corner, make sure you have a selvage with enough "mother fabric" width to cover the entire corner.


Step 5:
It's time to do the other side of your block. This works a little differently than the first side. Select a long selvedge and this time you're going to slip it under the first (center) selvedge. You still want to make sure there is enough of the bottom selvedge under the top one so you don't have any holes in your block. Edge stitch in the same manner as before, staying as close to the selvedge edge as possible.


Step 6:
Repeat this process of slipping the selvedges under all the way to the next corner. Once you reach the corner, as before, make sure your last selvedge is wide enough to cover the entire corner.

Step 7:
Press your block. After you stand back and admire all of your hard work, of course. This is the only time you'll actually be using your iron during this whole process. And you don't even have to iron if you don't want to. I just like to for good measure.


Step 8:
Flip your block over so the paper foundation side is facing up. Using your rotary cutter and ruler, trim your block. Line up your ruler with the edge of your paper template and trim one side. Repeat to trim the remaining three sides.


Step 9:
Carefully remove the paper template from the back of your block. Then flip your block over and smile. You've just completed a Selvedge String Block!


Notes on the block: 
Remember, you can easily make these blocks any size you want. The size of your foundation template dictates the six of your (unfinished) block. So if you want an 8.5" block, create a 8.5" square paper template.

Part of the fun of working with selvedges is exploring how you can use them creatively. Like texture like I do? Then don't be afraid to work with slightly frayed selvedges like you find on Kona Solids or Japanese linens. Like to play with words? Fussy cut the selvedge edges with texts. Want to keep it simple? Try making a block using only the selvedge edges from the non-texted side. The list goes on.

Play with thread! Since your seams will be exposed play with using different thread colors as you work.


Have other creative ideas? Let's hear 'em!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sew Fun June Blocks

Ever thought working in Television was lovely and glamourous? Well, think again my friends. Saturday afternoon I got a phone call informing me that I was booked on a flight to New York on Monday morning. Um, how about a "Hello. How you doing?" first. I wasn't armed with much other information than I was needed on location in New Jersey for an indefinite amount of time. Yeah, and I'm already behind on bee blocks and have a To Do List a mile long. Ugh. So I prioritized and started hustling, even waking up at 5:30 am yesterday morning to finish up a couple "Must Dos" before I left the house at 9:30 am to catch my flight. I didn't even have time to get to the post office, so my lovely and amazing husband is doing that for me.


I caught up on several Bee Blocks. I'm still behind, but I'm getting closer. Hopefully I'll only be out here on the road for a week, so I'll be able to catch up on the rest as soon as I get home. But my first priority was to finish up Amber's Bottled Rainbows block for the Sew Fun Bee. This one was the furthest past due.


She's making a king sized quilt, so these blocks were ginormous - not your standard Bottled Rainbows. She sent us out the frames already made, but couldn't find the batting she cut when she sent the packages out so it wasn't the standard QAYG method. Since the scraps are machine appliquéd onto the background, using some sort of stabilizer really makes difference, otherwise the fabric could pucker or bubble. I opted to use a lightweight fusible interfacing on the back of the white center to provide some stability for my appliqué. This worked like a dream. If you want to make these blocks but don't want to quilt-as-you-go, I would highly recommend using a lightweight interfacing as backing.


I've made this type of block before, and I used spray baste last time to keep the pieces in place after I settled on a layout. This time I tried something a little different. I cut double sided Steam-a-Seam into pieces the same size as my scraps to fuse them onto the fabric. It's a little more time consuming, but not really that much more, and it's cleaner - less gummy. Don't get me wrong, I love spray baste, but for a project with pieces this small, sometimes it can be a little annoying since it's an aerosol spray and covers larger spaces better than little tiny ones. So one more down and safely on it's way back home. I hope Amber loves it! P.S. It was also a little breezy when I was taking pictures of the blocks I caught up on this weekend. I just love seeing blocks and quilt tops blowing in the wind. It makes me happy.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Rainbow Starburst Blocks

IMG_2608 IMG_2601

I've been getting caught up on bee blocks. I'll finally admit that I completely over committed myself in Bees this year. I wasn't planning to take on any new ones, but I ended up joining two because I was asked specially to join and I really wanted to sew with the amazing women in each bee. So I find myself so far behind it's embarrassing. But I found myself with some hours to spare so I focused on trying to get caught up. I'm not there yet, but I'm getting close.



I started with blocks for the Bee a Lone Star(burst) Bee since I'm furthest behind there and those blocks take such a long time to make. Two ladies in the bee asked for rainbow blocks so I decided to make those sets together. Then I ran out of the paper templates I printed, and our new printer at home isn't connect yet so it stymied any further progress. Christine asked for some scrappy rainbow blocks way back in July and Karen wanted the same for her September blocks, so I skipped ahead a little.



As soon as I get the printer hooked up (I am telling my husband this needs to happen tonight, please) I'm going to finish up the blocks for July and August. Both of those ladies wanted low volume stars. You would think I would be overflowing with low volume fabrics because they're really so me. But my stash is exceptionally bright. So I had to make a little trip to Sew Modern to pick up some fabrics.


I absolutely cannot wait to cut into this stack of yumminess!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

PLP5 Received!


I had quite a surprise in my mailbox! My package from my secret partner arrived from the Pretty Little Pouch Swap. I was so not expecting it so early, but I couldn't be more thrilled with the package that Whitney sent me. I have had such a streak of excellent luck in swaps lately, and this one was no exception. She absolutely achieved perfection for me.


Whitney created this gorgeous and large (woot!) pouch for me incorporating my favorite colors, fabrics and styles. Seriously she threw a little of all of my favorites in there. Starting with the gorgeous teal linen. I am a sucker for linen. And the color palate she chose with the gorgeous aquas and greens... it's so me. And you know how I swoon for hand stitching!



But the greatest surprise was the other side of the pouch where she smartly designed an awesome appliqué jeep to incorporate my love of travel into the back. Eek! I am in love. I don't even think she knows that my husband and I have a deep, dark dream of one day buying a Land Rover and driving from Cape Town to Cairo. I mean, this couldn't be more perfect for me!



Inside the big bag were some awesome goodies, like thread, buttons, notecards (which I always need), fabric scraps and a magnetic box, plus another little handmade pouch to match the big one.



The little handmade pouch is just as special as the big one and it's the perfect size to hold thread, needles, scissors or other little tools.


She filled that one too, with some Burt's Bees Lip Balm always comes in handy and some gum. And to think she was nervous about this one. Seriously, it's beyond amazing and perfect. So, thank you, Whitney. I love everything. From the bottom of my heart!

Monday, September 10, 2012

PLP5 Progress

One thing I forgot to mention about my little trip South of the Border... I came home with a nasty case of Swimmer's Ear. We landed on Thursday evening and I thought I could wait to see my doctor the next morning, but after the plane ride I felt like a trip to the Urgent Care that evening would be better. So I've been on ear drops and pain killers since Thursday night. The pain is better, but the swelling hasn't decreased so I still can't hear out of my right ear and my left ear was getting sore yesterday, so I put some of the drops in that ear last night, and this morning can barely hear out of either ear, so I'm trying to get in to see my doctor. Ugh.


That, combined with entertaining my brother and husband for their birthday celebrations this weekend didn't give me much time for sewing. But I did get started on the pouch I'm making for my secret partner in the Pretty Little Pouch Swap. I was inspired to join this swap after receiving my awesome bags from Kay. After doing a little research (aka stalking my partner) I saw this new fabric come in at Hawthorne Threads and I thought it would be right up her alley so I snatched some up and I decided to pair it with something from my own stash for the lining.


The mermaids really inspired me so the little time I had to sew this weekend, I worked on cutting out her pouch and embellishing the mermaid fabric. I found some clip art of a sailing ship and I printed it out. I traced the ship onto the mermaid fabric using embroidery tracing paper then I cut the pieces out of the paper.


Using double sided fusible web I fused one side to the fabric scraps I wanted to use for each piece and then I used the paper templates to cut out the pieces from the fused fabric then fused them onto the mermaid fabric following the outline I traced. The last step was to machine appliqué the pieces down, using a light brown thread I thought would provide a nice contrast.


On the other side of the fabric I started embroidering some sea creatures and kelp. I'm thinking about adding a little more kelp and maybe one more starfish, but I'm not sure yet. What do you think?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Quilt Marathon: Month Four


Did you think I missed my four month check in? Well, I didn't. I might not be posting this update on exactly the right date, but I swear I took the pictures then. September 4th marked the end of the fourth month working on my City Weekend Marathon Quilt. But, I think you can tell from the lack of blog postings lately that I haven't had much time to sew this summer, and that means very little progress on this project. I'm not letting that get me discouraged, though. There is a reason I'm calling it my "marathon" quilt. Slow and steady, right? There's also a reason I didn't get this post up on time this month, and it's a pretty good excuse. I was in Mexico. Don't be a hater!


I've always had that fantasy of walking into an airport, looking at the list of departing flights, picking one spontaneously and just taking off to somewhere unexpected. This trip was probably the closest I'll ever get to that. Last week, we determined that we would need to go dark for a week, meaning we would be taking an unplanned, unpaid vacation. The funny thing is, I had tried to build a vacation week in between the job I am currently working and the next one but, as is usual, this job is going longer than expected so it looked like that wasn't going to happen. In fact, as of Monday I'll be working two jobs at the same time, probably through the end of he month. Ugh! So, as soon as I discovered that I was going to have this week off I jumped online to see where we could go. My husband has been itching to get out of town so I started researching and found insanely cheap, last minute tickets to Puerto Vallarta and two days later we were in Sayulita, Mexico.


We spent six glorious moving from the pool to the beach and back, so needless to say, I didn't get much sewing done. But I did get engrossed in a fabulous book and drank some great tequila. I did try to work on my quilt but had some trouble because the wind kept tangling my thread, so I went back to my book instead. It's been a long time since I've had some quality time to read so it was a welcome respite.


That's a long way of saying, all I really accomplished this month was to complete one more block. But hey, it's another block, right?