The Quiltmaker Scrap Squad is a select group of six QM readers who take one pattern from each issue and make scrappy versions of it to inspire others. You can see slideshows of past Scrap Squad projects.
Today’s featured quilt is by Beth Helfter from Pepperell, Massachusetts. Beth blogs at Quilting Hottie Haven.
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I was likely the only quilter in the world who had not yet made a chevron quilt. Quiltmaker was clearly onto me and must have chosen this Scrap Squad assignment with the intent of bringing me kicking and screaming into 2014. Should I tell them I have yet to make a Dresden Plate or Mariner’s Compass, either, or will the rest of my Scrap Squad crew vote me off the island?
Mountain Morning seemed simple enough, though, so I dove into making the design more about me. I could immediately see that it was going to have lots of scrappy options, but I have to admit those rectangles were getting in my head a little as I played with my ideas in EQ7.
After several tries at relocating them in the design, I decided to just take them out, and immediately the possibility of a THIRD size of chevron strip (light blues and yellows) presented itself. Since Jocelyn Ueng originally designed it to play with two sizes of chevrons, I figured she might be okay with my taking the liberty of adding a third. Here’s hoping she’s not horrified.
I liked it okay, but it was a just little “meh.” I tend more toward disorder in my quilt designs (probably why I hadn’t yet made a chevron), s0 I decided to flip every other chevron shape over in the one-color strips. Because why not. Then I darkened the gray to black and I kind of ended up loving it. I was ready to hunt for fabric!
A friend of mine saw my EQ diagram and said, “Wow. That looks like Charlie Brown.” It really did, although with more happiness, so once again my Scrap Squad quilt had a name before I even sewed a thing. “Charlie Brown’s Happy Dance” was born.
For me, a scrappy quilt really means as many fabrics as you can throw in, and this quilt lent itself to dumping the contents of my scrap bins on the floor and wading knee deep in fabric to find as many chunks-0-scraps that were 4″ or 6″ squarish. Side note: It can be hard to ask your kids to clean their rooms with a straight face when you yourself are unable to find the floor of your studio.
After gathering what I could, I discovered that I was a bit low on reds; I had two. Apparently I hate red. And, weirdly enough, I was also low on purples and yellows, two of my favorites. Thankfully, I am a member of a fantastic guild (Squanicook Colonial) whose members could not have been more delighted to throw some of their red, yellow, and purple scraps my way. Many thanks to them and I hope they can find some of their scraps in the finished product.
I wanted a cool black print for the background, and whenever I am looking for a funkier tone on tone, Art Gallery Fabrics is my go-to. I found this black print (“Licorice” from their Oval Elements collection) on their website and Art Gallery Fabrics graciously donated the background fabric for my Scrap Squad quilt. Between AGF and my Squanicookies, we proved it takes a village to not only raise a child, but also to make a quilt. Many thanks to all of them!
So it looked like making half square triangles was going to be my life for a little while.
I decided to make the yellow/orange and blue strips first because the fabrics were taking up the most room on my cutting table and the longer they sat there, the more likely I was to lose some in the miasma of creativity known as my studio.
I interrupt this post to bring you a couple of thoughts on pressing. I’m not a purist in any area of quilting, and pressing is no exception. I thoroughly enjoy pressing to the dark most of the time, but I’m perfectly willing to shake things up now and then with an openly pressed seam.
For this project, I pressed the upper and lower segments of the chevron open so the seams would nest properly, but then I pressed the resulting seam open. This gave me the flexibility to move my blocks around in the chevron strip while I was still in the sewing/designing process and not have to worry about my seams being pressed in the wrong direction when I went to sew the strip together. Because nothing ruins a good day of piecing more than two seams pressed in the same direction, am I right?
Adding the larger HSTs made from scraps and the background to the blue/dark blue and yellow/orange strips was an eye-opener. Suddenly I realized this quilt was going to be enormous. And due to the long, skinny rows, it was hard to get decent construction photos, so I hope you can use your imagination.
Making the larger HSTs for the green, purple, and red chevrons was very quick; probably the most time-consuming part was the trimming.
I always want to skip that part, but this mess proves it is necessary unless you are an amazing piecer. Clearly I am not.
I’ll admit to you now – when I fell in love with the Oval Elements background, I didn’t consider the fact that the design was oval shaped. If only there had been some sort of clue in the name of the fabric.
So when I opened up the package and was done wrapping myself in ecstatic oblivion, it occurred to me that once cut, this fabric would have a direction since the ovals were not in fact round. (Believe it or not, I scored incredibly high on my geometry Regents exam in 9th grade, but apparently one forgets these basic tenets of shapes over the course of 30 years.) There may have been some panicked moments until I realized I didn’t care. I loved the fabric and was just going to HST it to death, put it back together, and what would be would be.
In the end, I don’t really notice it. If you do, I don’t really need to know, but feel free to mock my lack of attention to detail at your leisure.
With the rows together, I celebrated by taking the quilt outside for a bit of fresh air while I contemplated what to do about some borders.
Am I the only one who takes photos of exceptionally amazing points in their quilts? As an imperfectionist, it is always amazing to me that I can match points at all, so these deserve a little shout out.
How precise is this point? Let’s just say Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah are jealous.
Six fabric corners? Are you kidding me? It’s party time!
After the champagne punch was put away and the streamers taken down from my impromptu Point Party, it was time to get cracking on the borders. I’m a huge fan of foundation piecing scraps onto strips of ugly fabric, and decided on that style of border for the top and bottom of this design.
That way I could use up some of my smaller, narrower scraps that weren’t big enough for my HSTs.
All I did was angle the strips a bit and sew and flip them all down the length of the strip. One strip was yellow/orange/red, the other was green/blue/purple. So easy and quick.
Once all of the fabrics were on a border, this is approximately what it looked like after I threw it on the floor and moved on to the other one. If nothing else my admission that I throw things on the floor on purpose will make you feel either totally normal or totally superior in regard to your own quilting practices.
My favorite part of this border construction is the trimming. There is an immense feeling of satisfaction when I place the ruler on the edge of the foundation strip and trim off all the wonky ends to make a straight-edged strip. I’m getting kind of giddy just thinking about it.
I really don’t love this photo, but wanted to show you the basic look of the border once the scrappy strip was inserted between two 5″ strips of background fabric.
For quilting, I decided to go with a modern, random straight line design. I divided the quilt into sections of four 5″ rows and quilted some diagonal lines from the top of the section to the bottom, then reversed the direction of the lines for the next section. It’s a little hard to describe, but these photos will show you what I mean. I used a rainbow variegated thread from YLI.
In another small miracle, I had enough of the backing fabric left over to use for binding, and with time crunching in on me I threw caution to the wind and in the faces of the purists and decided to machine stitch the entire binding. But first I had to join the ends, and to do that I used two of my favorite tools, The Binding Tool and my Clover chalk wheelie marker thing.
In more True Confessions From the Studio, I had forgotten I owned the chalk marker and was so excited to find how nicely it worked on my dark binding that I ended up cutting the binding strip incorrectly and had to redo the ends, thus having to use the chalk marker a second time for the same purpose. The second time around wasn’t nearly as exciting as the first as I was too busy grumbling.
Those final stitches are always terribly exciting.
And voila! Another opportunity to grab my lovely assistants and tromp around the backyard until we get a good photo. This time I wasn’t knee deep in snow, although we won’t discuss the temperature.
So there you have it. The gory details on how Mountain Morning turned into Charlie Brown’s Happy Dance. I say we all break out into our best imitation of the Peanuts characters’ dances in celebration. I’ll be Frieda!