Karen writes about life as a Quiltmaker in Austin, Texas; surviving in an empty nest, marriage, cooking, gardening and (did I say?) Quilting...

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The BEST Geese EVER!

I'm always trying out new techniques to improve my quilting. And, while I'm not normally bowled over by the "fastest" or "most convenient" new way to cut, sew or mark... a technique obtained from one of my message boards (Stashbuster on Yahoogroups) really got me excited as it is such an improvement over the traditional techniques for a classic patchwork block.
This weekend I checked out a new technique for making the classic "Flying Geese" patch that purported to result in "No Waste", and allowed one to adjust it to "any size". Flying geese, when done well, can make a lovely addition to any quilt... put in lines, in the resemblence to their namesake flying birds, they provide wonderful movement for the eye to enjoy.

Check out Caryl Bryer Fallerts innovative use of Flying Geese in her contemporary quilts:
As anyone who's ever made flying geese knows, waste and adjusting the patch to the proper size are the most difficult aspects of making these little buggers. At first glance, this appears to be one of the simplest patches to construct - just three triangles - right? But, those triangles involve BIAS edges - yep... those wonky, stretchy cuts that involve cutting fabric on the diagonal or BIAS.

The integrity of the weave, provided by the comforting, sturdy WARP threads that run the length or GRAIN, and the less firm, but still much less stretchy WEFT which runs back and forth across the the fabric is immediately compromised when you must make a cut across the diagonal of the fabric... Making any further work with the fabric problematic. That resulting "stretch" is what makes sewing any patches formed by triangles a challenge. Paper pieceing is one way to make these patches en mass while keeping those bias ... or hand piecing for liesurely (time consuming) perfection.

Cutting each triangle, and sewing it separately each other triangle, especially with the sewing machine, usually will result in some amount of stretchin of one or the other of the diagonal edges - and a patch that is ever so slightly off it's exact result when complete. Fine if you are only putting together a 4 patch potholder, but not good at all if you need several hundred patches for a quilt. Every 32nd or less off is multiplied as the quilt is pieced... resulting in wavy edges, crooked lines, or worse!
So, since all the inside lines of the Flying Geese patch are on the bias, they are a potential source of problems with this patch construction.
There are several "quick" methods for making this patch, but most require a final "truing" or "trim" of the patch to make it just so, or they involve a great deal of waste... below is a link to a method created by Pattie R. Anderson (of Patchpieces.com) that involves the cutting of one big square, and 4 small squares - the resulting construct ends up with no wasted fabric, no trimming, and TWO finished geese! It's also easily made in any size desired.

I got so excited playing with Patti's technique that I made my own excel spreadsheet showing the appropriate size large and small squares for any patch size I could envision. I finished up 16 geese in less than 30 minutes, and put them around a central medallion for a baby quilt that will go into the charity batch to the quilt next week!! Here's a picture of the medallion:

Isn't that cool? And aren't those fine geese? No chopped off points, all so even!
So, next time you need to make geese, visit Patti's website and download the FREE (the best part) .pdf pattern for NO WASTE geese. It's at the bottom of this page link:
While you are there, shop Patti's great site for other wonderful quilt patterns! Well, I'm off to make more GEESE - THANKS Patti! (email me and I'll send you my Excel spreadsheet in a pdf form with all the calculations already done for you to use Patties method to make geese in any size you wish)!
- Karen

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Celebrating National Quilting Day

I'm so happy to report that I did my part to forward "National Quilting Day". In keeping with my current desire to start limiting my fabric purchases (the closet is full!), I decided to add go to the Austin City-Wide Garage Sale and see if I could find some suitable additions to my store inventory (click on "Shameless Commerce Division..." link to the left if YOU didn't get your change to celebrate yet.

I came a cross a delightful 1930's-40's era quilt in a lovely pastel orange... not a color you see in quilts very often. A nice generous 94 x 70, it should make up to a nice queen size with a good border.

I'd never seen the block pattern, which is actually very simple.

Draw a square block, then segment it by drawing eight lines across the center creating equal sized wedges around the block.

But... do not start your lines by drawing corner to corner! The starting points for the crossing lines is actually on a 5 x 5 grid! (See a block close up below).
Isn't it nice how the block is totally lost in the new pattern formed when the blocks are put together (see above).

I now have in the Karen Quilts Texas library the TWO great reference books for quilt block research: Maggie Malone's 5,500 Quilt Block Designs, and Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns. The only similar design is "The Thrifty Wife, a Kansas City Star PAttern from 5/10/1939"... but, it's not EXACTLY the same. The KC Star pattern has it's design lines crossing in the corners... on a 4 x 4 patch grid... The Maggie Malone book has another very, very similar, which is also drawn on a 4 x 4 patch...with smaller print wedges and larger background wedges - these are equal "background" and print. Those two patterns names are calle "Endless Chain from Laura Wheeler and Crazy Star from Grandma Dexter. Here's a close up of a square:

It is so expertly hand pieced... I don't know that I've EVER seen such even stitching. But even so, it does have a problem. The quilter ran into difficulting trying to piece those pesky centers.
She pieced the block in two halfs and then sewed the two halfs together... rather than leaving the centers free to be swirled into a relatively flat center. As a result the centers are a big lump... possibly the reason the top was abandoned. Those lumpy centers will never be right... some are better than others. But you can see in this detail that the center has been mashed down forming those little circular puckers all round the center. This sort of block is best pieced in quarters, and then the quarters put together, sewing just to exactly the quarter inch end of each center, and leaving the center loose. The resulting fabric can be swirled in a little pinwheel, and will almost seem to lay flat... and the points will match fairly closely.
At any rate, it's a lovely addition to my 30's collection, and it gives me a challenge to go on my "to be quilted" list! I think I'll sacrifice something else to store inventory, as this is just too unusual to sell.
I did also do my part to benefit the fabric biz too... buying 15 yards of 3 different backing fabrics from the nearby Hancock... using my special 40% off coupon... woo hoo - and another special 10% off everything too...my justification... backing fabric my dears!
Happy Quilting Day to you all!