Sunday, November 24, 2013

Tuscan Nines

The International Quilt Festival in Houston is always a great time to see and do and learn quilty things. Living in Houston, I try to take full advantage. I take off work, and take a bunch of classes. I usually focus on getting a taste of new skills and techniques that may or may not make their way into my regular toolbox, but I also like a class or two that is relatively low stress and just for fun.

This year, I took a really fun class with Lynda Faires called "Crazy Nines". You basically start with largish squares (10" is a nice manageable size) of 9 different but compatible fabrics and you end up with 9 blocks of about the same size as the original. Each square is a wonky 9 patch, with 1/2" sashing strips and contains each of the nine fabrics.

Block mocked up in EQ7 and colored using JPEGS of fabrics

Back of the real thing. Note that the sashing adds back the seam allowances, so things fit together and end up about the same size as the original.
For final assembly, the blocks are trimmed to square-up. Mine went from 10" squares of fabric to 9.5" finished squared up blocks. These are sashed together to assemble the whole top.
Top mocked up in EQ7.
I like mocking things up in EQ7, just to get a feel for how it might look and to try to get fabrics and contrast about right. I didn't bother to make each block unique, the way it will be in the real thing. The JPEGS from the online fabric store include the store's logo, which I did not bother to photoshop out. I do usually add an extra very narrow outer border, so I can see what the binding might look like. The real thing always looks better.
Finished top before layering and quilting.
The class was 3 hours (including some explanation time), and by the end, I had all the blocks made. Now that I know how its done, I could probably do it a little faster. I cut all the sashing strips ahead of time, and it took about 5 hours to sew everything together. The top is definitely something you could put together in 1 long day, if you really worked at it. Finished quilt will be about 40" by 40".

There are lots of possible options for fabrics. One of the other students in the class used a gorgeous collection of Marcia Derse fabrics. I don't normally make a whole quilt from fabrics from a single line or designer, but for this project, going with a collection seemed like a quick and low stress way to get a nice selection. Layer-cakes are perfect for this type of quilt. I bought one layer-cake of Denyse Schmidt's "Florence" and separated it into orange and turquoise colorways. I've made the orange version and I have enough "layers" left to make a second turquoise version.

Left-over turquoise/green "layers" of the cake will be enough to make a second quilt.
I bought yardage for the sashing strips, outer border, back and binding. The fabric is very busy, so quilting will be very simple -- in the ditch and maybe a freeform feather (a la Philippa Naylor) in the border. I don't have an intended recipient for this quilt yet, but I want it to be soft and usable.

Thanks for reading (comments welcome) and Best Wishes for the Holidays,

Addendum -- finished quilting and binding. I used BottomLine in the bobbin. First, I tried Invisifil, which is very thin and nearly invisible but softer than monopoly, but kept getting snags and breaks -- especially with free motion. When my frustration meter max'ed out at "EXTREME -- ready to throw something heavy!", I switched to a neutral shade of BottomLine to blend into the top and finished with no further problems. The binding is a cute orange pin-stripe, just like in the mock up. I used my new favorite technique -- glue basting the folded edge to the back (just past the stitching line) and then stitching in the ditch on the front which catches about 1/6-1/8 inch of the fold on the back. This is not as beautiful as hand finishing, but looks quite nice if you take you time on the glue basting and is very fast.