Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Quarter inch therapy...trying to find that zen-like state

I like machine piecing again!  The new JANOME 6600 machine is still exciting, and I pieced all these cute little blocks using the "O" quarter inch foot.  Florida Farm Girl suggested trying the "O2" foot, which I am going to purchase and try, but so far I am getting a good quarter inch with the "O" foot (maybe because I am using "skinny" thread - Aurafil).
(Now, if I could just take pictures without MY big foot in the picture ...)
This is one of my ongoing scrap projects that I "feed" from time to time.  It is called "Positive-Negative Chains," and it is a pattern presented by Bonnie Hunter in her column in Quiltmaker magazine (about 6-8 months ago, I think).  Each little block will finish 4 1/2 inches square.
I was just throwing them down on the carpet to get an idea of how the quilt would work.  Eventually I will sew blocks of four units together to make 9 inch blocks, then determine the final lay-out.  These block units make GREAT leader/ender units! 

In case you like the look of this project, positive blocks are two 2 x 3.5 rectangles and two 2 x 2 squares from light fabric and three 2 x 2 squares of dark.  Negative blocks are two 2 x 3.5 rectangles and two 2 x 2 squares from dark fabric and three 2 x 2 squares of light fabric.

One of my ongoing scrap managing activities is cutting 1-1/4 (1.25) inch strips of varying lengths and putting them in a bin.  I LOVE making log cabin and courthouse steps quilts, and it is more fun to decide to make one and already have some strips cut than to start cutting when you decide you want one (does that make sense to anyone but me?!?).
As you can see, the strips are all different lengths...and colors.  I just stack them (so I don't have to press them!) and keep adding over time.  When the bin gets full, it is time to make blocks!  I take them and sort them into color families, then go crazy!
There are so many ways to make log cabin type blocks...if you ask 6 different quilters, you will get 6 different answers!  Some people just start sewing strips to their block centers, then trim/true up with a ruler and rotary cutter after each strip addition has been pressed. 

I like to trim all my strips to the right length, then pile up the number I need, in sewing order.  If my quarter inch seam is true (and it is!), everything sews up just like it measures on the graph paper. 

Remember I have OCD (Obsessive/Compulsive Disease) and I am definitely wacky.  I'm going to walk you through my strange process.

First, I come up with a list of all the strips I need to cut (with the correct sizes).  The circled number is the ORDER I attach the strips to my center 2 x 2 square, and the final number (after the strip size) is my TALLY of how many I've already cut of each size.  (I tally in pencil so I can keep erasing and changing the totals as I add a batch of strips to the project box.)  I do this because I RARELY have the time to cut an entire scrappy quilt in one sitting...it is an on-going project.  You can see from my "score card" that I still have more strips to cut for this particular quilt (a scrappy green and neutral log cabin bed quilt with red centers)!
Because my strips are all different lengths, I always cut the longest piece I can cut from each strip FIRST. Then with what is left, I, again, I cut the longest strip I can...sometimes I only get one measured strip out of a scrappy strip.  This sounds a little wacky, but I find this the most economical way to process strips for Log Cabin blocks.  (If my scrappy strips are kind of short, I sometimes have trouble getting enough of the longest strips - it really helps to cut them first!)

I'm not afraid to use strips that are pieced (leftover from a previous project) - I think it adds charm and makes me feel 'frugal' and like I am 'making do'.  HA!!  That's a laugh!  Most of you have seen my stash...("yeah right...Teresa looks like she has to 'make do,' doesn't she?").  Oh well...it's my little fantasy...

I lay out strips horizontally on my cutting mat, then start cutting.  I cut six or so at a time (I like using my 6 x 14 rotary ruler...the longest strip I am cutting for this particular project is 1.25 x 9.5).

Then I make piles of like-sized strips, laying them out in order.  I just keep whacking and feeding my little stacks.  Unless I am close to my cutting goal, I don't count how many of one particular size I have until I put them away in the project box.  Then I pencil in my temporary total (tally) on my "score card."  (See, I told you I have OCD...REALLY BAD OCD!!)
I store everything in a project box and look forward to the day when my score card is full (in this case, I need 120 of every size strip) and then I can start chain piecing my blocks.
There are so many sizes of strips that they won't fit on one layer, so I use the block dividers that come with the Art Bin project boxes to make a second layer of pieces.

Don't forget to put your score card in the project box and label the box...it is bad enough counting those little suckers the FIRST time...

Somewhere I have a little piece of graph paper where I drew the block, shaded it for dark/neutral, and numbered the strips in the order I will attach them to the red centers.  I will chuck that in the box as well.  I try to put EVERYTHING in the project box.  I know from experience that I have to include and label EVERYTHING...now that I am 50, I am forgetting stuff...next week, some time, I will discover this box and remember nothing about it until I check out the pattern and the score card.  It's sad...

It helps to listen to a movie, book or some music while doing this...it helps me attain a "Zen-like" state of being.  When I am working in a fairly uncluttered environment and do things in an organized way, I really love the process of managing scraps and cutting the pieces I need for quilt projects.  It's like therapy.  If I was a cat, I would be purring (and my cat would be staring at me...totally FREAKED OUT!).  This is what I was watching/listening to while I worked on this (the ump-teenth time I've watch it, but I LOVE it!!!).  Om...(that is the sound I make when I've achieved a "Zen-like" state...since I can't purr).
Life is good in the quilt cave...doing self therapy (I know life is stressful when I feel the need to do all this fussy cutting and sorting.  The economy is tanking?  It's OK...I have little pieces of fabric to cut up...Om...

In stitches,
Teresa  :o)


  1. Super, super, super! Oh, know the need for the note card. I love the art bins and need to start 'collecting' some of those - a great x-mas wish list item for the quilter.

  2. Your organization is a real inspiration. I really, really need some help in that department...thanx for sharing.

  3. I like your system! Nice and neat and organized!

  4. Ooh -- I love the cut the longest strip first. I just started a log cabin, doing it a a leader ender and as I was cutting my first round I was thinking i wanted more variety. Well, it's cut so after I get it sewn together, I'll start large and work my way down. Thanks for the great idea!

  5. What an awesome post...I love your OCDness...LOL! That's the perfect, organized system. And I am so with you on having to leave myself notes and directions...by the time I would get there next time...YIKES! I have to recreate the whole thing. Thank you so much for sharing with us.

  6. I've got quilt cave envy this morning!! Not because you are awesome! LOL (Well, maybe a little bit 'cause you're awesome! :-D) -- but because you are doing something productive and phenomenal. I'm a little overwhelmed right now, having pulled fabrics for a couple (or three) projects, and needing desparately to bring order to my world! Prepping for a leader/ender project or cutting up some scraps might be just the ticket!! As always, missy, you inspire me!!
    Mary Lou

  7. I too love your little quirks :0) I wish I was as organized as you....my mojo has slipped away again, maybe I need to just sit and cut up scraps.


  8. Had to laugh at your "making do" comments.

    Thank you for sharing your organizing methods. I need to make better habits, I have pieces cut and stored that I can't remember what quilt pattern I was cutting them for. LOL

  9. OMG your organization is awesome. How do you find time afterward to sew? You are amazing

  10. Oh, gee! Now I feel like I should be going downstairs and organizing. Guilt guilt guilt!

  11. If I was a cat, I'd be purring! I love that! But that IS the way I feel, too, when I get it all organized, and it's put away pretty, and I know where to find it, and it has all the info so I know I'm not going to have to start all over again with it! Yay! Purr away!

    One question, though.....who are those people on the Persuasion cover? I've not seen this version.....how could this be!?! I thought I had seen them all.....and at least 20 times each! Sheesh! Will be perusing Netflix as soon as I post this! lol

  12. ok this just surprises me you keep such great records on your strips and future quilt kits! LOVE THAT!
    don't you love those bins! I have been collecting them! will do a post on them soon ;)
    always enjoy your posts! your such an inspiration to me

  13. I love your process for your log cabins! I don't think it's OCD at all, as it's simple a great method to keep an ongoing process organized and save time later on. :D

    By the way, are you familiar with Flavin Glover's log-cabin artfulness? She came to our humble guild a few months ago to do our meeting program and brought the most fabulous trunk show with her. I was mesmerized!! As usual, the quilts were so much more enchanting in real life than they are in the photos in the book I bought later. You'd probably get a kick out of exploring her site: http://www.flavinglover.com/

  14. Love the positive/negative quilt and your organization is superb! Thanks for sharing!!

  15. Oh my, and I thought I had OCD. I just love your little strips all lined up so neatly.

  16. WOW Teresa--I want to make a log cabin quilt again; I've made 2 or 3 and you are right, they never come out even!! (trim trim trim up!!) I think I will begin (ohmy) the cutting right away!! (ROTFLOL)
    I have to see what I have the MOST of--(I think Pink & Green--hah--who'd a thunk it??) Thank you for posting this math (I am definitely math/geometry-challenged big time)sooo, this is a huge help for me...


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