Thursday, October 25, 2012

Whacked Trees: Row by Row

Slowly but surely I've been nibbling away at the Whacked Christmas Trees.  After all 30 blocks were constructed I laid them out on the design wall.  I took a step back and all I could see was one HOT MESS!  

You all know I'm not a fan of scrappy quilts yet when I did the wacky pumpkin quilt it turned out beautifully.  In fact it's one of my favorites!  I keep telling myself this one's going to be great too and I do love each and every fabric in it but boy I'm not in love with it yet.

The blocks by themselves are really cute.  Even side by side on these blue trays I use for organizing they seem to be fine together.  Hopefully, once I get the final border on I'll like it more.

In an attempt to give myself some order in the scrap heap on the wall I decided to add in some sashing.  I found this great fabric that I had used as a backing for Betty's quilt and as one of the blocks for Kim's quilt.  (The only one of The Girls quilts that's not been delivered yet!)

This fabric is a favorite of mine, from Joann's, because it's so versatile.  I mean really, what other fabric goes with cookies, camping, cats, birds, beer, and now Christmas trees!

Here's a peek at some of the Whacked Christmas tree blocks with their sashing.  I used a 1" sashing to go along with the skinny tree trunks.  It's kinda "growing" on me!

By the way, several of you have asked me about my story for Mary's quilt.  All I can say is I cried when I delivered it and I keep getting choked up when I try to write the story!   Here's Alice helping me put the binding on Mary's quilt.

Hang in there, I'll get it written soon I promise.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Whacked Trees; the White Blocks

Work continues on the Whacked Christmas trees.  I've been calling them "Whacked" because the cutting method is similar to Stack and Whack but with a twist.  They also are wacky looking!

The blocks with the green backgrounds and the ones with the red backgrounds are all done.  The white backgrounds are next and I really love the prints and colors!  This has been a fun and interesting quilt to make.

For each block it was easy to do the tree trunks, there weren't that many pieces and I could see how they needed to be aligned to account for the 1/4" seams. The top of the trunk section in the picture below was trimmed to give a straight edge but it wasn't straight when I first pieced it.

Piecing the tree body was where the challenges started and continued! There's lots of angles which makes for lots of funky alignments. Before you can add on the next pieces you need to straighten up the edge your going to sew it on to. Can you see the uneven edge between the red tree top and the polka dot piece in the picture below? Once that was trimmed I sewed on the last triangle to finish the block.

By the time I got to the white blocks I had finally figured out that moving that top red tree piece over so that the center of the red triangle lined up with the point of the tree piece below it the tree looked "right". It's supposed to look like it's about to topple off.  As I made the adjustment to each of the white blocks I congratulated myself on how clever I was being!

Now to square them up. I measured the first one on the pile. It was just a liiiittle smaller than the green ones! Oh no not again! You guessed it, they were ALL just a little bit too small.  By shifting the pieces over I had moved the out edges making the width smaller.  I didn't catch on that it was happening when I did the green ones. When I made the additional adjustment to the white ones were all off even more then the green ones.

So I trimmed all the white ones to the smaller size, then I trimmed all the red ones (again), then I trimmed all the green ones (again)!  Finally, the blocks are all the same size. PHEW!

What would Dolly say?   Don't break your arm patting yourself on the back, you're going to need it to fix your mistakes!

Off to the sewing room to sew all 30 of those Whacky Christmas Trees together.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Whacked Tree Pieces

The Christmas Tree quilt is coming along nicely! 

Once all the cutting and swapping was done I started the piecing.  One of the hard parts about these types of blocks is that the cutting does not take into consideration the seam allowances so you have to watch out for alignments. The finished blocks look pretty rough when they are done but they get trimmed to square them up.

I started with the blocks that had the red background pieces. I was pretty proud of myself when I got all 10 of them all done and trimmed to size. It took two or three evenings but I was happy with my progress.  I put the blocks up on my design wall to keep them safe from Guppy and Alice.

The following night I went back to the sewing room to start the green blocks. As I admired my work from the night before I noticed that the piece of the tree at the very top looked a bit "off". 

Maybe it was the colors, not enough contrast I thought. Or maybe it's the angle. That sharp point doesn't show up very well. OK, I'll adjust that top piece when I do the green ones.  Move it over to the left a little and that should take care of it. 

Here's what the red ones looked like.

Here's what the green ones look like.  Still a not well defined but I didn't want to take them all out so on to trimming.  I checked the finished size of the red blocks and wrote the measurements down so I could remember them. 

I grabbed the first finished green block to square it up. It was just a liiiittle smaller than the red ones, about 1/4" in the width. I checked several more and they were all the same, off by just a bit. Since I need the blocks to all be the same size I trimmed all the green ones to the smaller size and then trimmed all the red ones to the smaller size too.  

Ahh, 20 blocks completed.  On to the white blocks. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Stacked Christmas Trees

Here's a project I've been wanting to do for a very long time.  The pattern is "Tree's Up! Lights On!" from Pieces from my HeartI bought it in 2010 just after I finished my pumpkin quilt, which is done in the same stack and swap style.  

This is one of our favorite quilts for fall.  It's big and soft and warm!
I'm hoping the "Trees" will become our next favorite so I can give the pumpkins a rest!
This quilt takes 30 fat quarters so it's great for fat quarter bundles if you don't want to pick the individual fabrics.  I had lots of Christmas fat quarters that I had bought specifically for this quilt.  I also needed to pick though my stash for some additional pieces that I cut into fat quarters.  

I love that I'm working on a Christmas project and it's only October!

The last time I did this technique I was in a class with about 8 other ladies so it was hard to really understand what I was doing.  This time I made sure to read the directions a couple of times before I started.  I know most of you would just wing it but I LIKE reading the directions!  For those of you that don't like to read the directions here's how it goes.

Start by tracing the pattern onto the paper side of a piece of freezer paper.

Be sure to include all the letters and numbers - you're going to need them!  You have to cut in the exact order listed of the piece won't go together to make the trees.

Make 3 piles of 10 fat quarters each; greens, reds, and whites.  Press one of the freezer paper patterns onto each pile.  Now cut being certain to follow the numbers!

Keep the paper in place even after the pieces are cut.  Like most quilts keeping all the pieces organized is half the battle (or fun depending on how you look at it)!  Here are all the piles cut up.  The next few steps involves swapping out the colors.

Each stack starts as single color.
Swap the trees so that each background has a different color tree.
Now swap the trunks of the tress so that each tree has a different colored trunk.
That wasn't so bad now was it?  The next step is a bit more tricky but it's the one that gives you that scrappy look.  
Working with the background pieces only, start in one corner of the block
and take the top piece and move it to the bottom.
Move to the next piece on the same block and take the top
2 pieces and move them to the bottom.
Continue working your way around the tree and the trunk swapping out one additional top fabric and moving them to the bottom.  I have to say the directions were VERY clear, much better than what I'm writing here but I thought I'd give it a try so you can get a feel for the process.
Here's a close up of the red pile.  You can see that each of the background pieces is a different fabric.  The tree pieces are all the same but you could mix them up in the same way if you wanted.  I haven't decided if I want to do that or not.
This is the easiest technique I've found for doing "scrappy" blocks.
I think it has to do with the fact that once everything is cut up you can't move it to a different location only a different level.  And the limited number of pieces allows me to stay focused on the look of a single block with the object of having no two background pieces of the same fabric.
The weather's supposed to be getting chilly this weekend so I'm looking forward to spending time sewing. 
Hope you have a great weekend doing something fun!