Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Today's the First Day of Spring :)

This is probably the most exciting time of year for gardening!  Spring arrived very early, which happens rarely.

The first spring flowers bloomed in mid-February.

Here's the first daffodil of the season

Bluebells spread like crazy!  The area around the porch is a sea of blue!

These bluebells with white throats don't spread as fast

A bunch of daffodils ready to bloom

A pink hyacinth

The first grape hyacinths which also spread like crazy!

Yellow and white violas that survived the tough winter temperatures

These violas were probably sheltered by the tulips
Forsythia in bloom

Up close

Pink Bleeding Hearts
Pretty in Pink

Daffodils are now blooming

More daffodils

Pink and Grape Hyacinths

A second Pink Hyacinth

Grape Hyacinths 

Monday, March 19, 2012

IMQG Block of the Month for March

Our March Block of the Month for VAANI is the Windmill or Pinwheel Block.

Windmill or Pinwheel Block

Finished Size of block:

12 inches


2 fat quarters, 1 light coloured fabric and the other a dark coloured fabric.
A spool of beige thread.

2 fat quarters, one light and the other dark 


12-1/2" square & 6 x 12" acrylic rulers
Rotary cutter
Self-healing mat
Sewing Machine

Recommended Tools

Note - to construct half-square triangles (HSTs), determine the size of the finished unit and add 7/8th inch.  I will be rounding the 7/8th inch to 1 inch and trimming off the excess after the unit is sewn.  For a 12" block, I will need four 6-1/2" finished HST units plus 1 inch = four 7-1/2" squares.

Wash and iron both fabrics.

Using a 12-1/2" square ruler:
   Cut two 7-1/2" squares from the light fabric
   Cut two 7-1/2" squares from the dark fabric

Each fat quarter yielded four 7-1/2" squares, so I will make 2 blocks


1.  Using a 6" x 12" ruler, draw a diagonal line on the wrong side of each light square.

Draw a diagonal line on the wrong side of each light square
2.   Pair a light square with a dark square, right sides together, with the drawn line facing up for a total of two pairs for each block.

Pair a light square with a dark square placing right sides together
3.   Pin each pair together.

Pin each pair on corners away from the drawn line

4.   Stitch ¼" away from the drawn line through each pair, chain piecing as you sew.  Chain piecing means to feed the next unit under the foot without releasing the previous unit.  Notice the little scrap of fabric preceding the unit that was just sewn.  This is called a "leader" scrap that was sewn before the first unit to prevent the pointed tip of the unit from catching in the little hole in the bed of the sewing machine. 

Sew 1/4" on each side of the drawn line, chain piecing as you sew

5.   Remove this chain of sewn units from the sewing machine, turn it around and again stitch ¼" away from the drawn line along the other side.

Turn chain around and sew on other side of drawn line

6.   Remove the pins and clip threads to separate the sewn units. 

Clip threads that hold two units together
7.   Cut each of the units in half diagonally along the drawn line.

Cut diagonally along the drawn line

8.   Flip each square open with the darker fabric on top and press the seam towards the darker fabric. 

Press seams towards the darker fabric

9.   Centering the diagonal seam along the diagonal line on the ruler, trim each square to 6½".  Please note, the more prominent solid diagonal line in the picture is actually on the mat, showing through the ruler.

Trim each unit to 6-1/2" square
10.   Trim any remaining 'dog ears'.

Trim away any remaining 'dog ears'

11.   Referring to the block illustration, lay out the pinwheel pattern.

Lay units out following illustration

12.   Stitch the top two units together, pressing the seam to one side.  Stitch the bottom two units together, pressing the seam to the opposite side.

Join top two units and bottom two units, pressing seams in opposite directions
13.   Place the top unit on top of the bottom unit, nest the seams together and pin in place. One pin should be placed at the intersection of the vertical and diagonal rows of stitching and another pin placed right next to it.  

Nest the seams and pin in place

14.   Stitch the top row to the bottom row, making sure the needle penetrates the fabrics just above the pin that was placed at the intersection of the two rows of stitching.  Do not remove this pin completely.  As you approach it, remove it gently until the bottom of the pin is released and leave it in place until the needle passes it.  

...and hooray! the Pinwheel Block is done!

15.   Press the block flat.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Craftsy Blocks of the Month for March

The theme for Craftsy's March BOM is Foundation Piecing and the two blocks are string blocks.  It was quite an experience for me to give no thought whatsoever to the organization of the fabrics.  I just dug through all my scraps (it was amazing how much I had accumulated) and randomly sewed them on.  It was very liberating.

Take a look at my two blocks on the Craftsy website.

Craftsy March Block of the Month - String Block

To arrive at a 12-1/2" block, the process began with four 6-1/2" squares of muslin.  Following Amy Gibson's instructions, each square was marked on adjacent sides of one corner at 1" and the same was done on the opposite corner.  Leaving the area between these four marks empty, varying widths of fabric, between 1 and 2 inches , were sewn until the entire foundation square was covered.  Using the foundation square as a template the strips of fabric hanging off the ends were trimmed away.  The four units were sewn together, pressing all seams open.

This is a great way of using up scraps that have accumulated over the years.  I discovered that most of my scraps were left-over pieces of binding.  Afraid of running out of binding, I always add 8-10 inches to the recommended length, so there were plenty of strips available.

Craftsy March Block of the Month - Broken Spider Web

For this block, one large 13-1/2" square of muslin was segmented diagonally into four triangles and marked as instructed.  As in block 1, strips of fabric, between 1 and 2" wide, were sewn away from the marked lines until the entire foundation was covered.  Then, using the foundation piece as a template, the units were trimmed until the triangle shape was restored once more.

If I had to do this block over, the one modification I would make would be to edge the center with dark fabrics to make the star stand out.

The instructions were that once the first strip was sewn on to the foundation, it was to be folded out of the way and the strips sewn to each other.  After the sewing was completed for each triangle and trimmed, the foundation fabric was to be cut away from the first strip.  I ignored this piece of advice and sewed all the strips to the foundation.

Somehow, even after both these blocks were done, hardly a dent was made in this stash.  I probably have enough left to make an entire string quilt!

Cheers, everyone!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

IMQG March Challenge - Bonus Project

Star Windows Mug Rugs

For the IMQG March Challenge, I was able to make three thread catchers from two fat quarters and was left with an 8" by 22" strip of the two fabrics.

Cathedral Windows is a favourite pattern of mine.  A member of Craftsy recently sent me a pattern for Star Windows which uses a similar technique.  I decided to experiment with this pattern, so I made templates for the window and pane.

A clearer picture of the two templates
Pane template on left, window template on right

The templates were traced onto the wrong side of the solid fabric (three times), the two fabrics were placed RSF (right sides facing) and sewn by machine.

After the first one was sewn, I discovered that the patterned fabric was facing the wrong way.  Thank heavens I noticed it before all three were done!  It had to be taken apart, re-layered and sewn again.

Oops...fabrics are facing the wrong way 
The windows were sewn all the way around for a reason.  After deciding where the opening should be, I marked the area with two pins and back-stitched at the pins and sewed across the opening.  This was so that the flaps for the opening could be pressed apart to make it easier to sew after turning it right side out.

The solid fabric was pressed away from the seam
Same for the patterned fabric

The opening was taken apart after pressing, turned right side out and pressed.  Using the hexagon or pane template, the petals were turned down and sewn in place creating three Star Windows.

I plan to make a king size quilt (108" by 108") of this pattern one of these days, using black fabric for the background or windows and Kona bright solids for the interior panes.  This is how the Star Windows would be assembled.

Two side by side
The third inset between the first two
From point to point each of these units measures 5 inches.  These are the first mug rugs I've made.