Easy improv lesson 2

After making sure that each starter block had a complete frame of the blue-ish fabrics, it’s time to start adding the peach-ish family of colors. However, I still had a few of these strips left and I think this round is the best time to use them up. I added them to blocks randomly until I used them all, but not all the blocks got a second strip like this.

Scrap strips 6

And then I started adding the peach strips. Some of them were long enough to ‘chain piece’ and I pieced together some leftover chunks just to add more variety.

Scrap strips 7

At the end of this round, each block had a blue-ish frame and a peachy frame around each starter piece. They are quite large for the most part and delighfully odd shaped!

Scrap strips 8

It’s time to head for the design wall again and play with placement.

New improv piecers always want to try and fit the blocks together as in traditional piecing. And frankly, it’s a good first choice for experienced improv quilters, too.

Scrap strips 9

It would be very easy to seam together anything that happened to be the same size and/or add little peachy slices to each block to square them up and then sew them together. Making them all square and the same size is pretty easy also.

Another option is to spread these out and fill in lots more space between the blocks.

Scrap strips 10

I could spread them out even further if I wanted a bed size quilt, but I’m thinking couch throw size on this one. Okay–fabric and color options come into play now. Do I want to fill in all that area with peach—or with blue? What I have available in scraps is quite variable, since they are hand dyes. Or do I want to go with a single solid color that could set each block off a bit more? Maybe white? Or something dark and dramatic?

This is the point where you need to ask yourself what you see as the ultimate use for whatever you are making and act accordingly. I am still undecided if this will be a bed quilt or a couch throw. I think it will be a class sample with a solid color background. Easier to show how to make it, and small enough to transport to and from classes. That means couch throw size.

Whew! Decision time is never easy for me, so it feels good to have those decisions made. Now all I have to do is find the time to finish sewing it up and get it quilted. I’ll show it again when it’s totally finished!


Easy improv lesson

I decided that I had been away from my sewing machine for waaaaaay too long and needed some machine therapy! I’ll show you what I’ve done and perhaps you can play with some of your scraps the same way.

You might remember this pile of scraps from a while back. A large pieced block, a few dyed and painted blocks and two colorways of hand dyes that coordinated with it all.

Scrap strips 1

Took the big pieced chunk and I cut it into strips and then 4 print pieces that I stacked and cut into uneven quarters. Those were my basic building blocks. And because most of my scraps were strips, that was what determined how I would construct my quilt.

Each block quarter had a pieced strip sewn to one edge. Press and trim–the method on this is to always have a straight edge to sew on.

Scrap strips 2

The next step was to sew a strip from one colorway onto one side of the block. Didn’t matter which side and didn’t matter what the width of the strip was. Press and trim again. And a little tip: have your ironing board and cutting surface away from your sewing machine. That way you have to get up and move around a little while you’re working. Helps to keep you from getting too stiff!

Scrap strips 3

Guess what the next step was! Yep–sew a strip from the other colorway onto one side of the block. Again, didn’t matter which side or how wide the strip. Then I chose the blue/green/turquoise colorway and added strips until each block had a complete frame in that color.

At that point, it was time to put the blocks up on the design wall and take a look at what I had.

Scrap strips 4

Oh, yeah–liking it a lot. I ran out of time to complete the next step, which will be to add a complete frame of the other colorway around each block. I’ll show you that and talk about connecting up these odd shapes next time!

Scrap strips 5

It felt really good to spend some time with that sewing machine again!


What to do, what to do…

Seriously, now, WHAT am I to do with fabrics like this? That I only have a fat quarter of? That are absolutely unique?

dyed fabric alt dyed fabric correct

I like them whole. I think they would look cool cut up into not-too-small pieces. They look similar in color in the photos, but are not really compatible. They don’t really match any of my commercial fabrics, either. And I have lots of dyed fat quarters for which I need to ask the same questions!

So I procrastinated a bit more and played with the lighting and exposure on my camera. I am NOT a knowledgeable photographer and my new camera does lots more than I know how to control, but I’m learning a tiny bit at a time. Here are three shots of the fabric as I played…

Too dark

Too dark



Correct color

Correct color

Maybe I’ll eventually be able to take photos that I’m happy with…while I’m trying to figure out the best way to use up some dyed fabric!

And this is all to avoid any really hard thinking about these dyed fabrics. My brain is just too dead to make creative decisions today!

I’ve GOT to use this stuff up!

Here’s the washed out, unpressed pile of dyed fabrics from the other day. Most were overdyes of past mistakes and quite a few came out very much improved.

Dye day results 2015

But my dilemna continues with what to DO with them after I make them! It’s so much fun to do the dyeing, but it’s not so easy to find a good way to use them…at least for me. Are they too “precious” to use? I don’t think so. I think I just have a hard time combining them both with commercial fabrics and even with each other.

What I believe I will try is a more traditional quilt pattern that I like, probably add a little improv twist, and make a full size quilt with hand dyes. That doesn’t sound too terribly hard, does it? I just know myself enough to realize that it will be hard to select and start sewing…because I’ll get distracted by some pretty piece of fabric and go off on a tangent with another project and forget what I was doing in the first place! But my intentions are good this time and I’m going to try very hard to GET A BED QUILT FINISHED!

Uh-oh—-here’s a distraction before I even finish this blog! I think the embroidery floss that I dyed might have some good potential. It’s still wet in the photo, but the colors look very promising. Might have to try them out…..no-no-no! Use up some hand dyes first!

Dye threadsDidn’t realize how little variation I would get, even though I used different dye colors. Lesson learned: don’t use large trays for floss unless you need tons of the same color!

dyed floss

I don’t think I’ll ever use this much “Caribbean color” if I live to be 200!

dyed floss 1

Too much stuff–it’s getting overwhelming…must get cutting and sewing. You know, even if I only make some quilt tops and don’t get them quilted right away, at least the fabric will be used up. Yep…must get cutting and sewing!

There WILL be something to show in the next blog, because I won’t emerge from the studio until I succeed!

First encounter…

No, not with an alien. I’ve had my first encounter with non-colorfast beads. Must be I’ve just been lucky and all the beads I’ve purchased (or been given) have all been very colorfast. I know “they” always tell you to check for that, and when I have, the beads have been fine. So I got out of the habit of checking.

Non-colorfast beads 2

This luscious color is what I needed. It was perfect.

Non-colorfast beads 3

As I started adding the beads, my fingertips started getting a bit pinkish. The beads started getting a silver look to them–and it wasn’t just the reflection of the light!

Non-colorfast beads 1

I was about 1/3 of the way through the section and had to assess whether or not the variations would matter, or even if it would be all right if all the color came off and the beads looked silver.

Well, being the purist and the perfectionist that I am (NOT!), and lazy on top of it, I decided not to remove them and search for something else. I finished the section and the variations look nice. It will still work, even if all the color comes off. It is another reminder though, that we should always still be checking for colorfastness in our beads!

Do you dye?

Whenever I post results of a dye day here, I wonder how many people do their own dyeing. Do you feel like you know everything I’m going to say because you’ve been there and done that? Are you a meticulous dyer who records every gram of dye powder and every ounce of water? Or do you dip and dump, scrunch and twist and love the wildest pieces that come out of the dye pot?

To me, there is no reason to be a detailed record keeper unless you intend to be in the business of dyeing and need to have repeatable, consistent results. For the amateur like myself, basic “how to mix it and how to make it stay in the fabric” are the essential instructions and the rest is all fun and playtime.

Educating yourself on processes, materials and safety measures is never, ever a waste of time. The more you know, the more you can push the limits. Sometimes a little more carefulness and knowledge would prevent some do-overs and some “Can I save this?”  questions, but where’s the excitement in that?

I have learned that this is not my preferred rinse out procedure…

AJ rinseing

but when you have a helper, you work in the best way to utilize that help!!

For the first time, I tried dyeing some embroidery floss. I love variegated floss and wanted to try it for myself. Unfortunately, my helper and I did not have time to rinse that out today. I’ll show you those results next time.