Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Trip Around The World

    A Small Quilt

Trip Around The World
This project was born as a solution to a challenge for June by a quilt group on Facebook called Desi Quilters.  The challenge was to create a quilt of any dimension, constructed only from squares. My interpretation is a variation of the bargello pattern, and this variation is also known as Trip Around The World or Sunshine & Shadows.  In this case the quilt is composed of squares whereas most bargello quilts are composed of varying widths of rectangles.

In 1991 I made my very first queen size quilt of this design.  I took a class because I'd never quilted before.  It took me a week just to cut and piece the top.  Back then, the instructions that were provided were complicated, the method was daunting and the entire process left me overwhelmed, with no idea how I would ever be able to replicate the process to make a second quilt from the same pattern.

Trip Around The World - The Original Queen Size Quilt
For 20+ years, I've looked at pictures of this quilt (the original was gifted to my son), and wondered if there was a simpler way to make it.  Some patterns I came across piece smaller quilts by sewing individual squares together.  What I needed was a process that would allow me to breeze through the construction of a small quilt and also make it possible to make a queen size quilt without driving myself crazy!

Upon examining the pattern closely, I discovered that the quilt could be divided into four identical units joined by one long vertical strip and one long horizontal strip.  The light bulb went off in my head and I came up with an idea which I decided to try on a small quilt.

The Mock-Up

First I colored a mock-up on graph paper, which is how I decided the dimensions of the quilt.  There would be 11 rows across and 11 columns down, and each finished square would measure 1.5", which would make a finished quilt 16.5" square.  Much more manageable than a queen size quilt!
A mock-up

Take a look at the four identical segments I talked about before.  The 'X's down the vertical and horizontal centers of the quilt divide it into four segments and the top half of the quilt is a mirror image of the bottom half.  Similarly, the left half of the quilt is a mirror image of the right half.

Fabric Selection & Preparation
I picked out 5 fat quarters that were light, medium and dark greens and reds.
Five Fat Quarters in Greens and Reds
They were washed,
Fat Quarters were washed
ironed to remove all wrinkles,
and cut into 2" strips.
Cut into 2" strips
Making the Strip Set and Tube 
The strips were then sewn into a strip set going from lightest, light, medium, to dark and medium.
The strip set
The raggedy ends of the strip set were cut off and starting from the bottom of this strip set, each strip of fabric was assigned a number from 1 to 5.  Turning the strip set over, with the wrong side up, I joined the first (Fabric 1) and last (Fabric 5) strips to form a tube and pinned them in place.
Fold strip set in half and pin to form a tube
The two end strips were sewn together to form a tube and the strip set was cut into 2" segments. One strip set yielded 10 two-inch segments, so a total of 2-1/2 strip sets were used to make this small quilt.  The top section needed 11 segments and the bottom section needed 11 segments, the horizontal center strip of the quilt needed 2 segments and an extra 2-1/2" square was required for the dead center of the quilt.  Therefore, 11+11+2=24 two inch segments + 1 two-inch square of fabric 5 were needed in total.
Strip set cut into 2" segments
To keep the 2" segments from scattering, they were placed in a paper-mache bucket that cost $1.00 at JoAnn Fabric and Crafts.
Cut units stored in paper-mache bucket
Assembling Top Half of the Quilt
Now comes the fun and interesting part which makes this whole process truly magical.  Using a seam ripper and taking 1 2" segment in your hand, remove the seam in the sequence specified below and lay each out on your work surface.
Take the seam apart with a seam ripper
Place your mock-up in front of you and working with 1 two-inch segment at a time, rip apart the seams between:

Fabric 1 and Fabric 5.  Place on work surface with Fabric 1 in extreme left hand corner
Fabric 2 and Fabric 1.  Place adjacent to previous segment with Fabric 2 on top.
Fabric 3 and Fabric 2.  Place adjacent to previous segment with Fabric 3 on top.
Fabric 4 and Fabric 3.  Place adjacent to previous segment with Fabric 4 on top.
Fabric 5 and Fabric 4.  Place adjacent to previous segment with Fabric 5 on top.
Fabric 1 and Fabric 5.  Place adjacent to previous segment with Fabric 1 on top.
Fabric 5 and Fabric 4.  Place adjacent to previous segment with Fabric 5 on top.
Fabric 4 and Fabric 3.  Place adjacent to previous segment with Fabric 4 on top.
Fabric 3 and Fabric 2.  Place adjacent to previous segment with Fabric 3 on top.
Fabric 2 and Fabric 1.  Place adjacent to previous segment with Fabric 2 on top.
Fabric 1 and Fabric 5.  Place adjacent to previous segment with Fabric 1 on top. 
The top section after all 11 segments are arranged
To sew the top together, pick up the columns in pairs and pin with the head of the pin placed towards the side on which the seam will be sewn.  This will ensure that the correct seams are sewn together.
Pin pairs together in prior to sewing
Take each pair to the iron and press the seams of one set in the opposing direction to the other set.  Nestle the seams together, sew and press the seam to one side.  Do this will all 5 pairs, then add the 11th set to the 10th.  
Sew in pairs and attach last unit
Sew the pairs together from left to right and the top part of this quilt is assembled!

Assembling Bottom Half of the Quilt
Follow the same steps as outlined in Assembling Top Half of the Quilt.  Turn it 360 degrees and place below top half on the work surface. 

Finishing Quilt Top
To assemble the horizontal center of the quilt top, rip the seams from two remaining two-inch segments that were cut from the tube of strip sets.  Remove the seam between Fabric 1 and Fabric 5 from both segments.  Place on work surface with Fabric 1 on the two outside edges and place the 2" square that was cut from Fabric 5 in the center, between the two segments.  Sew the left segment to the center square and the other side of the center square to the right segment to form one long strip composed of 11 squares.  

Press the seams on this long strip in opposing directions to the top half of the quilt.  Sew top half to center strip. 

Sew bottom half to top half and press flat.
Quilt Top
Making the Quilt Sandwich
The unfinished size of the quilt top was 17" square.  The batting and backing fabric were cut to the same size.    The batting was placed on the work surface, the quilt top was placed on it, facing up, and the backing fabric was placed on this, face down.  The sandwich was pinned to hold it together and a 1/8" seam sew all around, leaving an opening on one side.  The entire quilt was then turned inside out, the corners poked out and a 1/4" seam sewn all around, enclosing the open section at the same time.

Quilting The Quilt
Take a look at my mock-up.
The quilt top was quilted with lines running through each diagonal line of squares, beginning each color with an X and ending with an X.  It worked like a charm and I was able to go from one diagonal line to the next effortlessly, working my way all around the quilt.  I love how it turned out, and even though the thread was in a constrasting color to the burgundy fabric, it showcased the quilting.

This quilt top was quilted free-hand, without marking the quilt top or using masking tape.  Simply slowing down the speed, working on one square at a time, focusing on the opposite corner of each square instead of watching the needle, all aided in making the quilting a success!

Quilted Top
The back looks really nice too!
The Back
And, I think, the back complements the top very well!
Back and Front


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

An Asian Inspired Wall Quilt - Part 5

The Binding and Finishing Phase

This, in my opinion, is the most enjoyable part of making a quilt.  The piecing is complete, the quilting is done and we're almost at the finish line.
Pieced and Quilted
Determine Width and Length of Binding
It's now time to decide how to finish the quilt.  I like French double-fold binding which gives a professional finish to a quilt.  For this wall hanging a half-inch binding will look good, so I cut the strips three times that width multiplied by two, to accommodate the double fold.

Width of binding strip = 1/2" x 3 = 1-1/2" x 2 = 3".

To determine the length of binding needed, multiply the width and length of the quilt by 2, add the two numbers together and add a fudge factor of at lease 10 inches.  In this case, the wall hanging is square and each side measures 14-1/4".

Length of binding = (14-1/4" x 2) + (14-1/4" x 2) or 14-1/4" x 4 = 59" + 10" = 69".

Considering the width of fabric from selvage to selvage is about 40", I need two 3" strips for the binding.

Attach Two Strips of Binding
Once the strips are cut, lay one strip right side up, horizontally, on the ironing board.  Lay the second strip right side facing down, perpendicular to the first strip and fold down the top end at a 45 degree angle.  Press to form a crease.
Lay two strips on ironing board
Open the fold and pin the two strips on either side of the crease.
Pin the two strips together
Sew along the crease, trim 1/4" away from the seam, press the seam open and trim off any protruding triangles of fabric even with the edges of the strips.
Attaching two strips of binding
Repeat this process to attach the required number strips, always placing the last attached strip face up and the new strip face down and perpendicular to the last attached strip.

Once all the strips are sewn together, I find it useful to place a quarter inch strip of double-sided adhesive tape at the end of the last strip.  The end is folded down at a 45 degree angle and the adhesive strip placed a little more than a quarter inch away from the fold.  A glue stick can be used for this purpose, but if glue is used it will have to be applied later.  This trick comes in handy when the finishing touches are applied to the binding.
Fold end at 45 degree angle and place adhesive strip
Fold the binding down the length of the strip and press.
Fold binding and press
Attach Binding to Quilt
The end with the adhesive strip is the beginning of the binding.  Leaving a length of about 6 to 8 inches, align the raw edges of the binding with the edge of the quilt and begin sewing about two-thirds of the way down one side of the quilt.  Since the binding finishes at 1/2", stop sewing 1/2" from each corner of the quilt.  With the needle in the down position, lift the presser foot and turn the quilt so the corner is at the top.  Lower the presser foot and back-stitch off the edge of the quilt.  
Begin sewing 2/3 of the way down one side
Remove the quilt from the presser foot without cutting any threads.  Fold the binding up at a 45 degree angle, aligning it with the corner of the quilt.
Fold binding up 45 degrees and align with corner
Fold it down again, even with the top edge of the quilt and align raw edges with the side of the quilt.
Fold binding down again
Begin sewing at the top edge of the quilt and all the way around, treating each corner as demonstrated above.
Sew binding to quilt all the way around
Leave a long tail so that the two ends can be sewn together.  This takes some manipulation.  I'll try to be as clear as possible.

Open up the beginning of the binding and remove the protective paper from the adhesive strip.  If using a glue stick, now is the time to apply it.  Make sure to leave a 1/4" clearance beyond the 45 degree fold.
Expose adhesive on strip
Nestle the end of the binding over the adhesive strip and within the fold of the start of the binding. Cut it even with or even a little longer than the raw edge of the 45 degree fold.
Cut excess from end of binding
Fold the beginning strip over the ending strip and press to adhere the two strips together.  Now open both strips and maneuver the two until the crease is on the top.  Pin on either side of the crease and sew along the crease.
Sew beginning and ending strips together
Trim 1/4" from the seam and press the seam open.
Trim and press seam open
Fold the binding in half with a snap and Voila! we have a perfectly lump-free binding.  Sew the remaining binding and we're almost done!
Sew rest of binding
Trim away excess batting and backing fabric, leaving 1/4" around the edge of the quilt.
Trim 1/4" from edge of quilt
We're now ready for the finishing touches!
All  ready for the finishing touches
Finishing the Quilt
I found these cute little hair clips at the dollar store.  They were perfect for holding the binding in place while folding the binding to the back of the quilt.
Fold binding to back of quilt
Make sure the binding on the back covers the line of stitching from the previous step.  Fold the binding past the corner and then fold down the corner for a perfect miter.
Cover the stitching from the previous step
Pin the corner, if necessary, to hold it in place.
Pin corner
Turn the quilt over to the front and quilt in-the-ditch to finish the quilt.
Quilt in-the-ditch
And here's the finished quilt!
The finished quilt
This brings us to the end of my journey as I've taken this little 15" square quilt from start to finish.  I'm so glad it didn't end up in my UFO (unfinished object) bin!  

Monday, June 11, 2012

An Asian Inspired Wall Quilt - Part 4

The Final Assembly Phase

Adding the Borders

I tweaked the first border to change the straight piping to a rick-rack and like it much better.
1st rick-rack border
Having got that all squared away, it was time to put on the 2nd set of borders.  To square up the quilt, I always measure through the center of the quilt, first horizontally, and then vertically.  I also tend to apply the horizontal borders first and then the vertical ones, to give the quilt a long, slim look.  Doing it the other way makes it look shorter, somehow.
To determine the length (or width) of the borders,
measure through the center of the quilt
The border strips were cut at 1-1/2" for a finished width of 1"
Second border
and attached.  Prior to sewing them on, each border was folded in half and at the half mark, pinned to the center point of each side and along the sides of the quilt.
Quilt with second borders attached

Assembling the Layers of the Quilt

Time now to layer the quilt with the backing fabric and batting.  The black backing fabric was cut 3 inches bigger than the quilt top, and the creases were ironed out.
Backing fabric is ironed to remove creases
It was then folded in half twice and pressed to aid in the placement of the batting and quilt top.
Backing fabric folded in half twice and pressed
The same was done with the batting.
The batting is cut to the same size as the backing fabric.
The batting is cut to size
Now it's time to assemble the three layers.  The backing is taped to the table using painter's tape, and the batting, that is also folded in half twice, is placed on the right top segment of the backing.
Folded batting placed on taped backing fabric
The first fold of the batting is opened to the left.
Batting is unfolded
Then opened all the way and smoothed out over the backing fabric.
Batting is smoothed over the backing
The quilt top is aligned in the center of the batting and backing.
Quilt top is centered on batting and backing

Pinning the Layers Together

The necessary tools and equipment are laid out - brass safety pins, a little bouncy ball because I don't have a marble and a curious tool, called a Quick Klip, to help in closing the safety pins.
Tools for pinning
Here are some other tools that can be used in place of the Quick Klip - a popsicle stick, teaspoon or seam ripper.  These save your fingers from being pricked while closing the pins.
Other tools for pinning
The bouncy ball is slid under the quilt sandwich and placed in the center.  This raises the quilt off the table top and will save the surface of the table from pin pricks.
Bouncy ball raises quilt off the table top
The safety pins are left open when first inserted and then, using any one of the tools above, are closed one at a time.  The tool acts as an extra finger to avoid handling the sharp end of the safety pin with bare fingers.
Safety pin is closed using tool
Here is the fully pinned quilt.
Quilt is all pinned

Quilting the Quilt

Once the quilt is pinned, it is easily transported to the sewing machine.  In order to stabilize the quilt, it is quilted-in-the-ditch within the seams of the second borders.
Quilted-in-the-ditch within seams of borders.
I decided to quilt a cross-hatch through all three layers of the quilt.  Beginning at the diagonal, 1" painter's tape is adhered from corner to corner.  Another length of tape is applied right next to it.  This acts as the 'spacer' so that another length can be placed adjacent to it.
Painter's tape used to mark lines for cross-hatching
The 'spacer' is then moved adjacent to the most recently applied length of tape, and so on, until the entire quilt top is gridded.  The two pieces of tape in the top right corner are there because there is a tiny corner section that needs to be quilted.  Once that is done, the smallest piece of tape will be removed and the quilt top will be quilted on either side of each length of tape.  The cross-hatching will, therefore, be one inch apart.
Gridded quilt top
Here is the quilted wall hanging.

In Part 5 - The Binding and Finishing Phase, the strips for french-fold binding will be made and the wall hanging will be bound and finished.