Beth Helfter from Pepperell, Massachusetts
By Beth Kerr Helfter
So my year of delving into my scrap bins of quilting fabrics on a regular basis is officially over. Cue the sad music.
Hahahahahaha, that’s a good one. Never will my scrap diving cease to be a huge part of every quilt I make, as I just can’t bear to leave any fabric out of the fun. But sadly, my year as a Scrap Squad member has come to an end. I’ve had such fun, and this scrap quilt project was the perfect culmination to the year!
I got to pick which quilt design I wanted to scrap up, which totally appealed to the control freak side of me.
Quiltmaker Jan/Feb ’15 is on newsstands now or at quiltandsewshop.com.
I loved the quilt on the cover called Spinning Stars, but as one of the rare quilters who doesn’t get all shaky and gleeful over a two-color quilt, it seemed the perfect one to scrap to death and see what might happen.
I did a little recoloring in Electric Quilt, then just couldn’t take the waiting any more and threw a bunch of fabric scraps around the studio until magically they transformed themselves into a whole mess of 2 1/2″ squares. I think it was the elves. It was Christmas time and all.
See? They are even in a wreath shape. Further elf evidence, if you ask me.
As so many different scraps can be overwhelming and cause my control freak side to burn out quickly, I decided to use the old “Brown Bag” method when piecing the quilt blocks. Into the bag went all my squares, and out they flew again when I failed to close the top as I shook them up. So picking them up again from all over the room was a fun diversion.
I was planning a 16-block quilt, so I sewed the squares into 48 three-square-long strips, three for each block. I also sewed 16 two-square strips.
Eventually some of the pieced strips also magically appeared.
White triangles, cut from a whole bunch of different tone-on-tone white scraps in my bins, were added to the ends of the strips as needed. I think I only messed up the front and back sides of the whites once or twice, AND I LEFT THEM THAT WAY.
I’m bold. I’m crazy. I’m not one with my seam ripper. And trust me, you’d spend all day looking for the ones that are backward on the finished quilt, and if you decided to spend your day that way I would be sad for you, so in other words, it made no difference and we all need to relax, right?
Ooops. And….moving on.
Eventually I was ready to sew the strips together into the first half of the blocks.
Tried leaving the strips out for the night to see what would happen, but the elves seemed to have gone on strike. Bummer.
Loved the way the scraps were just so happy as they came together.
Happy, happy, happy.
With the stripey/white sides of the blocks done, it was time to move on to the stars. I saved them for the second part of the construction process because I figured they would be quicker.
I also decided that to save even more time (I have mentioned this was during the holiday season, right, when time is not exactly just sitting around free for the taking?), I’d use the leftover 2 1/2″ squares I had already cut along with some black squares and just trim them down to make the HST parts of the star. Very well worth it, even though I ended up with the most beautiful pile of trimmings and I kept saying, “I can’t throw this away! There is a quilt in this pile!”
It was thrown away yesterday, after 6 weeks of hanging out on the cutting table. Sometimes we just have to get real.
That pile was thrown away yesterday, after six weeks of hanging out on the cutting table. Sometimes we just have to get real.
Had some more fun playing with my stars and my design wall!
So cute if I do say.
Okay, so now it’s time to look carefully at my stars there? Notice anything about them, other than that they are the cutest stars in the history of quiltmaking?
Yes, I am sure a few of you got it. For the rest of you – these were not made using the brown bag technique as each star is very much a planned scrappy sort of thing. Each star has eight points. Each of those eight points is a different color: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, teal, or pink. One point in each of those colors for every single star.
Because I believe that a scrappy quilt needs some constants to really make it work, like a single background fabric to tie it together or keeping the same value of fabrics throughout, making sure each star incorporated all eight fabric colors really helps this quilt sing, IMO.
But I didn’t stop there! Oh no! Not only are all eight fabrics in all the stars, but I paired them up consistently, so that every star has a red/green side, a blue/orange side, a yellow/purple side, and a pink/teal side. They are all different, but yet that ties them together. See how I did that? Feel free to praise my brilliance.
Next it was time to sew the two halves of the blocks together. This was a very intense moment of excitement, as you can imagine.
I get tingly just looking at it!
I seriously love that this issue of Quiltmaker featured all sorts of designs that had multiple settings shown, and blocks that could be played with by anyone making them, to create even more designs. So this one I really enjoyed throwing around in EQ for a while to come up with a setting that I loved and wouldn’t require me to make 64 blocks. Because it was Christmas, remember?
Got them all sewn together, but I’m going to make you wait for the big reveal.
What is black, white, and scrappy all over? A Dalmatian puppy. And my quilt.
I’ve said many times this year that my strength in machine quilting lies not in my technique, but in my enthusiasm. Nevertheless, I like my pebbles I quilted on this quilt. Maybe you will too.
I quilted some pebbles.
Thank goodness pebbles are found in nature, and are not perfect.
Thank goodness pebbles are found in nature, and therefore are not perfect.
A little more pebble and free motion enthusiasm
While I was quilting the finished piece, now and then the backing would be showing on top of the quilt, and I actually kind of fell in love with how it looked against it. While I normally don’t use the same binding and backing, this time I decided to do so.
The only complaint I have heard so far is from my daughter, who is all verklempt* that I used this fabric, as its original purpose was “backdrop of cast bio board” for her most recent play. Apparently I was to save it forever and make her a dress out of it for when she gets her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Oops.
*overcome with emotion
I believe this is a much better use.
I believe this is a much better use.
It’s just yum. Those elves done good.
And so I give you “Stars in My Crayon Box.” It’s quite different from the original, but absolutely nothing was changed about the block itself. Isn’t it amazing how cool this block is?
My final post of my Scrap Squad year would really not be complete without a photo of my daughters hanging my finished quilt off the side of the deck, now would it?
Not a ton of snow, but MAN it was cold out there. You may have heard them complaining, actually.
We’ve come full circle, from snow up to my nether-regions last February to mud, then grass that was too long, then shorts and tank tops on my models, then the sad day they were in school and I had to use a tree, then back to snow and coats.
So it must be time for me to say goodbye. I have enjoyed every minute of my year on Scrap Squad, have met some amazing people, and have developed a new lecture based on my experiences and some new designs inspired by my projects. I’m really excited to start sharing it with audiences this spring!
It will help me keep spreading the word about scrappy wonderment as well as the joys of Scrap Squad, and I am profoundly grateful to be in a position to do so. Thank you, Quiltmaker and all of my Scrap Squad sisters for a fabulous year!
I hope you’ll join me over on my own blog, Quilting Hottie Haven to see what I’m up to next year. After all, now I’ve got all this free time to fill!
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Get Quiltmaker’s Jan/Feb ’15 issue in print or digital.
Get the Spinning Stars pattern and related products.