Sorry I haven't posted in a few days. It's those last couple of weeks of school and you Moms know how that goes. Everything is crammed into a short period of time, and with band concerts, open houses, and baseball playoffs....it's just a little crazy around here!
My son had his hard cast put on on Wednesday and was happily surprised to discover that they'd moved his fingers just enough that he was able to hold his trumpet and play in the Spring band concert. He stood out with his bright green cast, but they were glad to have him as he's the loudest and most on-key trumpet player they have in the 6th grade band. It was huge for him as he's been feeling down about not being able to play in the baseball playoffs, although he does help out in the dugout and does what he can for the team.
Getting back to quilting. I've been in a bit of a quandry as to what topics to discuss. Lately I've been in major menopausal cranky mode, (there is a reason this blog is called "The Cranky Quilter"!), so every idea I come up with I'm able to discount for one reason or another. Today I decided to go online and reconnect with other quilters in the various forums. Sometimes I need a jolt of inspiration and I got one!
On About.com someone was wondering how to use the preprinted squares she had. I'm assuming they were the kind of panel where the squares are sooooo cute, but have no seam allowance to speak of. This is a a real pain in the you know what!
I decided to do a quick tutorial on how I handle the issue of using those squares and keeping them "square." In this case since it's cherry season out here I decided to make a quilt square out of the cherry block. Now, I could very easily have just cut a larger seam allowance by cutting into the other motifs on this fabric. However, I wanted to show how to get maximum usage out of all the squares, particularly in a preprinted panel.
I cut out the motif as if it were part of a panel. My next step is to attach it to a piece of thin cotton fabric. I usually do this with lightweight fusible web, although you can baste it if you want to. The fabric piece should be at least 1" wider than you want the finished piece to be. So, if you want a 6" square your fabric piece should be at least 7" square. There's no need to cut this piece perfectly. This technique is very similar to foundation paper piecing but I don't recommend trying to do this on paper. The main thing is that the center square needs to be stable, if there's any shifting it won't work.
Now you need to "square" your piece so you can apply sashing. In this case I decided to do a 1/4 inch seam. So I put the 1/4 line on the inside of the checkerboard border and marked the outside seam with a pencil. You need to do this on all four sides, making sure that you are square all the way around. You may have to fudge it a little but make sure that any fudging you do is going to be on the inside of the cherry image not on the checkerboard area. You won't notice a slight deviation in the interior but you will notice little rectangles of white around the edges.
This is what your finished marked piece should look like. Notice that the outside markings don't always look parallel to the checkerboard border, that's because the checkerboard border wasn't square! Now you can add the sashing. In this case I decided I wanted 1" sashing around the outside so I cut strips 1.5" wide and the width of the finished piece.
I doesn't matter which side you start on, just make sure you're consistent with all of your pieces. I trim the first piece so it hangs over a little at the top and bottom of my marked square. A good rule is that if you have to overlap, do it on the edge that will be outside, not on the edge that will be hidden by a seam. You're always better off to have your excess where you might need it later!
The first piece has been stitched on. First I press then I take out my ruler and extend the line I already drew. This way I can be sure that I continue to be square. If you'd like you can trim off the excess fabric using your rotary cutter. For a finished piece I would probably take that step but I'm not worrying about it here.
Continue adding your sashing strips, pressing, and extending your markings. Double check that you are square after each seam and press. If you have a problem you want to solve it before you stitch any more.
Here's the piece before trimming. See how the center is squared and not showing any white checkerboard pieces around the edges. When you have a motif that goes almost to the edge or overlaps the borders as this one does you're going to have some of the pattern cut off. You can only minimize this problem so much, however, I like how it looks.
If I'm making multiple square I wait until I'm completely finished before trimming them. The fabric on the bottom stablizes them and keeps them from fraying or getting out of shape. When I trim I measure from the inside of each sashing piece, making sure that in this case I have 1 1/4" all the way around. I also double check again for square. If you have a minor deviation you can probably resolve it with a little pressing. I've found that if I take the time to do each step correctly I rarely ever have a problem.
If you are going to be doing a bunch of these I recommend doing them assembly line style. You can apply your fusible web to the entire piece and cut them out. Then apply them all to the background fabric, do the marking, and sew the strips, press, then sew and press until you're finished. I've made little quilts like this in an afternoon. They're a simple project and once you get the hang of it you'll be more prone to pick up those panels and have some fun.
I'm really liking how this turned out, maybe I'll make a little quilt myself!