Quiltmaker’s Scrap Squad is a select group of readers who take one predetermined pattern from each issue and make scrappy versions to inspire other readers. We feature a new Scrap Squad quilt almost every week.
QM created the Scrap Squad because we know our readers want to use fabric they already own to make lively one-of-a-kind creations from our patterns.
Today’s featured quilt is by Louisa Robertson from Merritt, British Columbia, Canada. You’ll want to check out her blog, Louisa Quilts. Hear her story in her own words below.
I know that block! The block in Kimberly Jolly’s Summer Love is one I’ve had on my “Someday List” for years. I first saw it in Ruth McKendry’s book Quilts and Other Bed Coverings in the Canadian Tradition, 1979, where it was called “Old Brown Goose” or “Old Grey Goose.” It’s a traditional block that was used a lot in early Canadian quilts.
First thought—make this old-fashioned block in old-fashioned fabrics, shirtings and plaids with muslin. But this pile didn’t look very inspiring for sewing on dreary winter days!
I put away the plaids and decided instead to give the block a Canadian flavour by using red and white. Adding black to this gave me red/white/black, an easy palette to work with which should appeal to the men in my family.
I have a “mature stash” which was the source of most of the fabrics I needed.
The black-and-white fabrics came from a collection that had been gathered over many years. I couldn’t use all of them – some were not clearly light OR dark, but I did manage to put a few of those middle ones in the centres of red blocks.
Whites – mostly white-on-white, but a piece from a thrift shop shirt was white enough to fit in with the others.
I liked the way the quilt designer coloured the centre of the block using pairs of triangles to make parallelograms, and I decided to do this with my blocks. When coloured this way, the block has strong vertical and horizontal symmetry. I decided I preferred it set straight rather than on point.
My plan called for alternate red blocks and black blocks. This required a layout in odd numbers: five blocks by seven blocks gives a nice proportion. I reduced the block size to 10″ so I’d have room to play with pieced borders.
Many of my fabrics were scrappy small pieces, not large enough for cutting the squares and rectangles needed for the quick methods of making the units. I cut individual triangles instead. This meant handling bias edges. Using spray starch before cutting helped minimize stretching.
Since the block size is 10″, units need to finish 2.5″ x 5″. Both types of triangles—the “goose” unit and the smaller “wings”—can be cut from a 3″ strip using appropriate triangle rulers.
I used an Omnigrid 96 ruler for the half-square triangles and Omnigrid 98 for the quarter square triangle. (Editor’s note: You can also use the Easy Angle ruler, the Companion Angle ruler, or the Fons & Porter Half & Quarter ruler.)
In order to use a few special scraps I resorted to “poverty piecing” – these triangles were made of three strips sewn together.
After all the pieces were cut I made block “kits” to ensure a good distribution of fabrics. I tried to avoid duplicating any fabrics in a block.
Each kit consisted of 24 triangles. There is a set of background pieces, all matching; two geese and eight wings. For the main part of the block, which is scrappy, there are four geese and four matching pairs of wings. I aimed for eight different fabrics here. And for the centre of the block there are two matching geese. These are red in the black blocks and black on white in the red blocks.
Using only one fabric for the background of each block simplified construction of the outer four geese. I used these pieces for “leaders and enders” between sections as I constructed the centre portion.
The centre portion of each block needed more concentration as it contains 12 pieces and six different fabrics. Only by laying out the block before I started to sew, and by putting each piece back into the layout as I completed it, could I be sure the pieces would form the parallelograms correctly.
I proceeded to piece blocks happily, really liking each block as it joined the others on the wall. But as the blocks accumulated I realized I didn’t like them alternating like that. For a few days I was paralyzed with indecision. Perhaps there was a better layout and I just couldn’t find it.
I sent off an email to my computer guru sons: 18 red blocks, 17 black, arranged in a five by seven array, must be symmetrical vertically and horizontally. How many layouts are possible? I expected an answer of maybe ten or twenty or perhaps even thirty possibilities.
Back came answers with formulas and charts (all that nCr stuff from the Probability and Statistics section of math class). They told me that there were 290 arrangements of my blocks! Wow! In that case I would certainly not settle for a plain old checkerboard! There wasn’t time to work my way through all 289 of the other combinations so I chose one that seemed to work and sewed the blocks together.
I needed yet more triangles to make the pieced borders. I cut these as quarter-square triangles (straight grain on the long edge) to keep the designs (mostly) running vertically on the quilt. I assembled the strips diagonally which meant I was again handling a lot of bias, but the starched fabrics held everything nice and straight, and the borders came out just right.
Just in case the blocks were not exactly the right size, I did not cut the white strips until AFTER I made the pieced parts of the borders. I measured the borders and the quilt centre and found that everything fit beautifully. If the sizes had not been correct, an adjustment could have been made in the width of the white strip.
Finally the top was all together. I found a gray flannel backing for it and used Hobbs Heirloom 80/20 batting. A panto pattern called “Blowing Wind” added a bit of movement to the design. The quilting thread is a variegated black/grey/white from Aurifil. A simple black binding finishes the edge.
And here is my finished quilt. Canada Goose is 66″ x 85″—just about right for one of my tall sons.