Quiltmaker‘s Scrap Squad is a select group of eight QM readers. They take one pattern from each regular issue and make scrappy versions to inspire you.
The featured Scrap Squad quilt in Quiltmaker’s May/June issue is Mandarin Express, below.
It was designed by Robin Waggoner from Spokane Valley, Washington. Robin and Sandy Odeen pieced it, and Robin quilted it. The batiks are from Hoffman California Fabrics.
* * * * *
In my Thrifty Quilters Facebook group, we often post photos that have interesting color combinations. They inspire us to play with our fabric scraps and explore color choices outside our comfort zones. One photo I posted a while back was this collection of handmade huckleberry chocolate candies from The Montana Chocolate Company.
I love the combination of browns, purples and touches of green, and I thought it would be a good color choice for Robin’s Mandarin Express pattern. (Huckleberries and chocolate are not a bad flavor combination, either!)
Choosing the colors was easy; picking the fabrics, not so much. Remember when I told you that I only allow myself one purchased fabric for a scrap quilt? I must confess that I broke my rule for this quilt. After digging through all of my Thrifty Quilter bins and begging a couple of friends for their scraps, I didn’t have nearly enough browns, purples and greens, so I went on a fat quarter-buying bender. (I also led one of my fellow Scrap Squad members into temptation.)
In the end, I had enough fabric for two quilts, which is why I instituted the one-fabric rule in the first place. I cannot be trusted around fat quarters, especially if they’re on sale!
When I looked at the photo of Mandarin Express, I saw two competing grids—one vertical/horizontal and the other diagonal. I decided to eliminate the first grid and keep the diagonal grid.
I went to my QuiltPro program, made a line drawing of Robin’s pattern, and started playing with colors. I tried two layouts…one with the Snowball block in the corners and the other with a star block in the corners. First I colored in the sketches, just alternating the two blocks (center top and center bottom). They were okay, but nothing special. Then I began designing—for me that means playing with the colors until I have something I like.
In the top right sketch, I decided that any cream/brown half-square triangle or cream/purple Four Patch that touched the outside edge would become a solid brown square. At this point I didn’t have titles, so this is Huckleberries I. In the bottom right sketch, I eliminated some of the cream to make an argyle or “barn raising” pattern. This is Huckleberries II.
I honestly could not decide between the two designs, and since I now had plenty of fabric, I made both! For the record, my two quilts together are still smaller than Nicole’s quilt.
The next step is the math. I broke the quilt down into the individual blocks.
You can see I still have the stars and the snowballs, only the placement of the colors has changed. I counted the number of each block I would need, then broke the blocks down and calculated how many of each unit I needed. The chart shows the number of pieces I would cut to make each quilt.
If you’re like me and really dislike paper piecing, you’ll be happy to know there are three very good tools on the market for making the “triangle in a square” units. I used the Triangle-in-a-Square tool from Quilt In A Day for this one, but the EZ Tri Recs and Studio 180 Design’s V-Blocks tools will work just as well. You can also use Jodi Barrows’ Square-in-a-Square or Deb Tucker’s Square2 tools to make the diamond square units, and for half-square triangles, I love my Tucker Trimmer. I’m not affiliated with any of these companies, but 23 years of teaching quiltmaking has made me a gadget geek. (I do design around and teach several of Deb’s tools.)
It took me a couple of weeks to make all the units I needed, and another week to construct the blocks (the photo is one quilt’s worth). It took a weekend to sew the blocks into rows and two more evenings to sew the rows into tops. Then off they went to my friend Tiffany Barcus at Unique Quilting. I tell you, a longarmer who will “work you in” when you’re against a deadline is an absolute treasure, especially when she happens to be an artist with that machine.
And finally….drumroll, please….here are the finished quilts!
I have enough fabric to make at least one more quilt, and I’m really tempted to do one that’s truer to Robin’s original Mandarin Express. Stay tuned!
* * * * *
Aren’t these quilts wonderful?! Just goes to show that color inspiration can be found in the most unexpected places. Beautiful job, Anne—and double the inspiration! Wow.