Stitching Times serves up stories, examples and tutorials about needlework related crafts, especially quilting and crochet. Almost all of the projects shown have been designed by Kay Stephenson

Friday, August 29, 2014

Making Half Square Triangles

I've been a busy bee lately finishing up projects and writing new patterns, so today I thought I would give you a little snippet of one. I made the quilt at right for the Michael Miller challenge to the Modern Quilt Guild. I call it tilt. I'm not quite ready to release the pattern yet, so here is a tutorial from the pattern on making half square triangles

When quilters talk about half square triangles, we are really talking about a square block that is made up of two right triangles. There are several ways to make them, and today's tutorial is about my favorite.
Obviously you could cut two right triangles and just stitch them together. But that is always a little tricky. You have to line them up just right to end up with a truly square block. 

The easiest way for me to make perfectly square units quickly starts with two squares that are larger than the finished half square triangles. In today's example, I cut two 4 inch by 4 inch squares to end up with two 3 ½ inch half square triangles which when sewn into a quilt top will finish at 3 inches square.
Other tutorials will tell you to calculate the size of the square you need to cut by taking the size of your finished square and adding 7/8 of an inch. However, I like to add a full inch as it gives me a bit of fudge room to square up the block after sewing and pressing.

Layer the two squares with right sides together, and with your ruler and a washout marking pen (or any fabric marker you prefer) make a diagonal line on the back of one piece of fabric. Generally choose the fabric where the line is going to show best. Here I have drawn the line on the white fabric.

At the sewing machine sew a scant quarter inch seam on one side of the line, removing pins as you sew.

Flip the piece around and sew another seam on the opposite side of the line. Trim your threads and return to the cutting board.

Use your ruler and rotary cutter and divide the piece along the line you drew (and between the two seams). Now take the two pieces to the ironing board and press each open, pressing seam allowances toward the darker fabric.

If you are anything like me these two half square triangles might be a bit wonky. This generally happens because the steam used in pressing has stretched the fabric just a bit. Never fear! That is why we cut the original squares at 4 inches instead of 3 ⅞ inches. Go back to the cutting board and using a 4 ½ inch ruler (or whatever ruler you have), trim up your square to be exactly 3 ½ inches. The advantage of this specialized ruler is that you can line up the diagonal on the ruler with the diagonal on your square to make sure you take extra fabric from the sides equally.
Voila! Two half square triangles in the time it would have taken you to make one. This is the method I always use if I want to make lots of half square triangles but they need to be from different fabrics.

If you need a big bunch of half square triangles that are all the same, the easiest way is to take two much larger squares, sew around the outside edges and then cut twice diagonally, but that is a story for a different day.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Fabric Friday - American Made Brand



I couldn't be more excited. This week I received my first shipment of American Made Brand fabrics. Have you heard about them? 

American grown cotton, spun into yarn here in the United States, woven into greige goods at one of our oldest weaving mills, and then on to an American dyeworks. I notice their latest marketing materials read "farm to fabric" and "not just made here, grown here", but I really love an earlier tagline.. "from dirt to shirt".


This may not sound so impressive until you realize how dramatic the decline in our textile industry. This may well be the only all cotton product (farm to fabric) produced in the United States. Oh we still grow lots of cotton. The South was built on cotton. But now over 70% of the cotton grown here is shipped overseas to textile mills with cheap labor, and (in some cases) questionable work practices.

Making the fabric here must make it really expensive, right? Not the case. Hawthorne Threads is selling it for $7.25/yard. Some high volume online stores have it for even less!


American Made Brand has a challenge on right now for quilts that will be displayed at International Quilt Market at the end of October. Unfortunately I just saw the notice and submissions (i.e. photos of finished quilts) are due by August 15th. Ah well. I didn't really need another deadline. 

What am I going to make with my treasure trove? Well a few more fabrics showed up that tell more of the story, and it might have to do with a couple of adorable youngsters that need more "grown up" sleeping bags.



And what girl doesn't need a pink camouflage flannel lined sleeping bag. I'm also going to have to incorporate a figure skate into this somehow. Hard to believe, but I searched high and low and couldn't find any figure skating themed fabric that would work with pink - hardly found any period.



I'm planning to use Kam Snaps instead of a monster zipper. That way they can open the bag out flat and use it as a beach or picnic blanket for years to come.


I thought this Amy Butler print might work too, but you know what? I'm just not an Amy Butler kind of girl. 


For the grown up young man, I'm thinking Star Wars. After all, even my 40 something husband still thinks Star Wars is cool. Might have to applique an X-Wing Starfighter on the carry bag!

And the best news? Thankfully these gifts won't be due until Christmas!

Monday, July 21, 2014

More Quick Satisfaction

Well over a year ago, I wrote here and here about ideas for using up some of the stash of selvage edges I've been collecting. 

Way back in February 2013 I got them all color sorted


I decided to make a long narrow wall hanging to replace this painting, which I kinda hate. It's boring and mundane and I was pressured into buying it at one of those art by the yard house parties. 

Voila!

Now that it's hanging in that little piece of wall space between two doors I kind of wish I had added more neutral border at the top and bottom, and then added a dark narrow border to frame the whole piece. Ah well, next time. This went together so quickly - probably a total of five or six hours over two days - so I may well make another one soon. I am loving these quick projects.

To make one of your own, select the selvage strips you want to use overlapping the finished edge on top of the raw edge of the piece below. Sew the strips together, sewing a scant 1/4 inch from the finished edge. Cut a couple of pieces of background fabric that are the height of your selvage collection and the desired width to go on both sides of the wall hanging. Now lay these strips on each side of the selvage collection overlapping by about two inches. Use your rotary cutter to cut a wavy line through both, and discard the scraps. Now pin, pin, pin those curved edges and sew the sides on. Clip the curves and press the seams towards the center. That's it. 


Quilt and bind to suit, including either a hanging sleeve, or corner pockets for a hanging rod. I've been using this method with corner pockets and a simple piece of dowel from the hardware store lately. Easy Peasy. I hope you decide to make one and if you do, please leave a comment here with a link to where we can all see it.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Love Quick Finishes - Here is "Prairie Bloom"


This is so unlike me. I started this project last weekend and here it is finished. I'm not that inclined to dawdle when I do apparel sewing or make bags. Those are often start to finish in a day or two, but quilts? Never,

It does help that this one is a small wall hanging or table topper - it finished at about 25 x 23 inches - but consider: 

I didn't know what I was making when I started building the equilateral triangles (look here for the technique); The background material was still sitting at Fat Quarter Shop and had to be mailed; used a different quilting design than I had ever tried before; and, the binding was done by hand.

You can really see the quilting in the picture of the back. 

I may have to do more small projects just to get that burst of happiness that comes from accomplishing something more often!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Delightful Distractions

I'm so easily distracted. One day last week my guild-mate, Allegory, posted about the technique she uses to make scrappy string triangles. The idea of piecing on muslin instead of paper seemed brilliant to me. So did I file that away for some future project? Heck no, I hightailed it straight down to the studio, pushed everything I was supposed to working on to one side, and started making my own scrappy gems.

Pretty, pretty

Even with a couple of days off to work on some outdoorsy growing stuff projects, I've now completed two dozen of these six inch equilateral triangles, and purchased some lovely mushroom colored sashing fabric. Yep. That's me. So easily distracted.

Until next time...