Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Lego Tutorial

Here at last, the Lego Tutorial. I love playing with bitty pieces, fitting them together like a puzzle and that is reflected in my write-up. This is just one way of many that you could go about doing a quilt like this.

First off, here is the amazing antique quilt that provided the inspiration, courtesy of Lucy of Quilting with the Past:

Go check out her post with all the details and close-up photos. I have studied this quilt over and over again, I truly love it. The strip widths in this are small (only 5/8" finished), as are the blocks (6.5" finished). It's very color-coordinated with lots of cream, brown, navy, red and pink with a few hints of gold and lavender.

I wanted to use every fabric that came my way, no matter the color, and most of my fabrics are far far busier, so  I increased the strip and block size.

Let's get started. Cut strips and scraps 1.5" wide. Cut randomly to lengths measuring between 1.5" (aka a square) and 10.5". My quilt is super scrappy and I quickly discovered I did not need many pieces of any one fabric.

I strongly recommend that you include solids, near solids, and blenders, especially if you are going to be using lots of busy/novelty fabric. Include lots of different sizes and kinds of patterns. Include dull fabrics AND bright ones. The more of a mix you have, the better.

I didn't use more than one strip (42") of a fabric. For an eye-catching fabric, cut three or more pieces. Ugly fabric or something you just can't stand? Cut short pieces.

Not that you necessarily need it, but I give you permission to fussy-cut the heck out of your fabric. I bought this fabric because it was Elvis and never use it cuz it is ugly. Instead of cutting a 1.5" strip off, I  cut a wider chunk and then selectively cut it up to get pieces I liked (the name and face). Okay, more waste that way, but it's getting used! If there are boring or strange bits of the right width, they get thrown in too.

The little snowman face is a lot cuter than just his hat would have been

To avoid a murky quilt, include light lights - I used white-on-whites and several fabrics with a lot of white background.

and dark darks. I used black but a good navy, for example, would be excellent.

Start joining the pieces up. I divide my fabric into light, medium and dark piles and pick randomly. (I might pick it, but that doesn't mean I have to use it). I chain a whole big bunch at one time and then iron after every join. And yes I said iron. Forget delicate pressing, I'm ironing the heck out of this, with STEAM.

Rows that are long enough get cut to size. Theoretically that should be 10.5" since I'm making 10.5" unfinished blocks, but it's less stress to cut them a tad bit longer (I add an 1/8" but a quarter or half inch would work too).

And yay, leftover bits longer than or equal to a square get thrown back in to the piles o' legos.

I don't know how ya'all piece, but I can't sew a straight row. Some come out even curvier than others:

Occasionally I use my rotary cutter and slice off bits that are sticking out (I'm especially eager to do it when it's a fabric I hate) otherwise I leave them as is - no seam ripping.

Oh, and I'm sure these things would lay flatter etc if I pressed the seams open. But I don't. It takes too long and I burn my fingers. Plus that would probably make it less wonky, which is not a goal.

I make a few rows that are only two pieces. The longer the piece, the more attention it will draw to itself.

Here are a few rows made with three legos. I initially had a much bigger piece of the bright blue with red dots and discovered that it was waaaay too dominating. Might not have been bad if I had lots of that fabric to use all over the quilt, but I've only got a bit of it.

 Even more rows that are four.

And five:
And a few with six:

I really enjoy the process of making the rows. I can play with adding a dull fabric next to a neon to see if that will tone it down (it usually does). Do I like this color combination? It's easy to divide a fabric if it isn't working.

Notice that each row is a bit different. I think of it as morse code: dots and dashes. Some rows are dot dash dot dash and others are dot dot daaaaash dot, etc.

I do occasionally throw in a single fabric but geeze it draws so much more attention, even when it's a quiet nondescript fabric. How easily can you spot the one here?

So where were we? Rows. I keep them together and definitely do NOT sort them by how many pieces are in each. I grab the first two off the pile and audition.

I find two rows that look good together and then another two. I'm not working on bigger blocks, just concentrating on two rows at a time. There are always a few rows that don't play well together and get set aside for the moment.

I pin before I sew the rows together. Probably completely unnecessary, but I do it anyway. I make sets of 4 and a few with 3.

Three? I know, I know. Using 1.5" strips to make a block that finishes at 10" I should only need 10 rows. Don't ask me, but my first block was too small, so I decided not to stress and just sew on that extra 11th row. That gives me more room to slice here and there making some rows thinner. But usually my blocks come out a bit big. I just cut them down to size. ***Use a steam iron or mist with a spray bottle first and iron (or press) the block flat before trimming ***

I love using a big square ruler although it would be better if it was the exact size of my unfinished block.  This is a Creative Grids ruler and it is awesome.

Only once did my block come up too small even with the 11 rows. I trimmed a wee bit and threw in a shim of solid fabric. It's narrow and pretty unnoticeable (it's the 7th row down). I love how wonky the legos are in that area. This is a section from the border.

One of the wonderful things about this project is that I've learned that some fabrics work sooo wonderfully with just about anything. That gray with the orange polka dots? fabulous. And some styles are atrocious such as busy prints that mimic patchwork - the cherries mixed with black and white dots and houndstooth for instance (2nd row from the bottom). *shudder* Really busy stripes are horrible too.

The bright yellow with red flowers 70's print is an eye-catcher. I think the other fabrics with red, yellow and orange help to balance it out.

The blocks in the middle of the quilt are set with one block's rows going up and down and the next block's rows side to side (think Rail Fence). The top and bottom borders rows all run up and down. The side borders go side to side.

My quilt isn't finished yet, but this is how a quilt would look set 7 x 7. I still can't decide if I'm going to go for it and make it king-sized or go for a more manageable (and washable!) smaller size.

I said there are other ways to go about it. Chawne makes a big long strip instead of separate rows. She explains her method here.

And hey, I just found the wonderful Scrapbuster Random Railfence Tutorial Riel wrote up months ago. She's uses 2.5" wide pieces and makes one big strip too. I love how she used these blocks to make this wonderful scrappy quilt with a unifying sashing.

Lily says, have fun and get to work!

Any questions? Just ask.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Two Steps Behind

I feel like I'm getting farther and farther behind. None of this two steps forward, one step behind. I'm one step forward and two behind these days. I've made some progress on the insane Lego quilt, finishing 49 blocks:

Still completely in love with it. Believe me when I say there are some truly ugly fabrics in here - I've been muttering and grousing about them and then when it's all put together I wonder what I was fussing about.

Julie's making progress on her lego quilt with flying geese and now Pokeytown Kim has joined us as well. Anyone else?

I've received more uglies/olds/boring/just-get-it-out-of-here fabrics in the mail. Since I just mentioned Kim, here's her contribution:

Next up, Beth S's fabrics, shown with a hint of Habibi.  ugh, shamrocks and teddy bears. I had fun fussy cutting the soccer players to get lots of feet!

Jill I. wrote she was excited to find the faces fabric (rather Andy Warhol-esque) and bought four yards of it - her friends that she was crazy. I understand though - I think it's awesome. Trying to convince myself to cut some of it off, cuz I'm tempted to keep it for a different ugly project in which I would leave it whole.

Sewkalico Karol-Ann sent these all the way from the UK. Yeah, kinda bland, but I love the little sheep!

Hey-Boo Lynn's group included the incredibly florescent fish and fabulous purple cabbage.

PrettyMade Nina sent these fabrics and the sweet heart all the way from Finland. I happen to love love the big bold flowers and the ?bee toys? I'm guessing those are kiwi birds in the corner and can that possibly be a kiwi-human hybrid playing football???

And for my fellow geeky quilters out there, Nina is one of us. She loves Doctor Who as well - woohoo! (Can't wait for it to start back up - not long now!)

Bumblebeans Victoria was mean to me. Aaagh. That hideous dark plaid with the roses will be awesome in a bugly quilt someday - I'm saving most of it for that.

Robert sent me two of his handmade Christmas stockings in addition to loads and loads of scraps. Love the tiny skeletons on blue. Are those turtles wearing roller skates???

Completely Cauchy Chawne is cutting up strips to make an insane quilt of her own (woohoo!) and kindly sent me some legos. There are some gorgeous fabrics in here! (Does that count as cheating?) Love the kitties and woohoo a sock monkey.

Thank you all so much!!! That's all I've received as of today. Hope I haven't forgotten anyone. Gotta run. I leave you with a pic of Pokey and a magazine that just happened to arrive yesterday:


Since I just got my subscriber's copy in the mail, I figure it will be two weeks before the magazine hits store. Ya'all take care.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Coming Soon

Woohoo! Rumspringa is on the cover of The Quilt Life magazine this month!

yay! That's what Rumspringa was doing up in Knoxville at the AQS show - it was hanging in the magazine's booth. I haven't seen it, but they even wrote a pattern for the quilt. As a bonus, there's a photo of little Pokey too. And wait, there's more, just look in the table of contents:
Creature feature by Irene Berry
Frightfully funny, macabre in a playful way—Tonya Ricucci’s Halloween quilts
It was made to be. They were doing an issue on words and it happened to be in the October issue (even if it does come out in August). 

I'm waiting by the mailbox. Not just for my copy of the magazine and for more incoming ugly bits of fabric, but also for Gwen Marston's new book, 37 Sketches. A quilt in the book:
Gwen's description:
It will be available for purchase the end of August, or early September. 37 Sketches is both an artfully designed and beautifully made book. It shows my new work built on the idea of exploring the elements of design by constructing small studies, which I quickly began to think of as sketches. I began to see these sketches in much the same way as a painter does in using sketches to explore technique and to work out color and composition ideas. These pieces are abstract compositions, worked primarily in solids. Constructing these 37 sketches provided me with a valuable and expedient way to explore new technique, color, and composition. I explain my process for making these small studies using my liberated, improvisational methods, of which many of you are very familiar, and discuss how the experience of making this series of sketches was like taking a crash course in design.
Whee. You can buy 37 Sketches directly from Gwen. She also has a new entry in her ongoing series about hand quilting. I had no idea there was a difference between quilting on and off grain.

And yes, I'm definitely getting more uglies etc in the mail. Some more ugly than others. I'll post pics soon as well as a quick tutorial on how I'm putting Legos together.

Speaking of my busy mailbox, I want to give a quick shout-out to Cherrywood Fabrics. I recently used a gift certificate and didn't spend the whole amount. I suggested they could use up the $6 by sending me bitty bits cause I liked small pieces. They sweetly threw a scrap bag into the box:

whee! I love their fabrics but I'm so sad they're no longer making Raspberry or Turquoise (good thing I bought 6 yards of the latter when I found that out). I do like the recent addition of Lime and the Mustard that I just got is gorgeous.

Yes, I know there is more to blog about - there always is - but I need to make soup (Sweet Potato and Kale - I'm experimenting) and sew and take photos and do laundry and love on kitties...

Older version of Legos on the design wall and no, Pokey doesn't actually drink Guinness. (I've been breaking my husband's cardinal rule of nothing but beer in the beer glasses.) It's easier for Pokey to get her head in this glass to drink her my ice water. Ciao ya'all.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Yet More Ugly

Ugh, I've gotten so swamped (having too much fun) that I am waaaay behind on posting photos of the uglies/bored with/too busy fabrics that have been arriving in the mail. I honestly have stopped opening up the packages cuz I don't want to get things mixed up and not know who sent what. 

Diane S sent these, which she says aren't all ugly, just some she's tired of. I think she knew I'd love the stuff with words so she made sure to include  those. And whee, the fruit - kiwi!

Helen B sent these. Some of these ARE ugly, including the one in the lower right - it made me cry when I saw it. Not because it's ugly but because my mom used to have that fabric. I kept little of her fabric after she died back in 1993. I wasn't interested in using those particular colors and tacky ugly prints from regular old fabric stores (instead of the more expensive quilt shop fabric I favored). Foolish me.

Ramona B's. I like the paisley print, but yeesh that Southwest intensively colored IS hard to use.

Erin Vesuviusmama. Oh yah, uglies here! I really do dislike a certain type of floral - they always read as horrible to me.

Mary G's. This set of strips made me so happy, thinking of my friend Linda whom I quilted with in the early and mid-90's. She had that flying pigs fabric and a couple of the other ones too. Hmm, Mary was smart and offloaded some of her millenium fabric. sigh.

Cathy K sent a huge bunch of fabric that I wasn't even able to display completely. Definitely a hideous fabric with teddy bears in tennis clothes and eek, teddies in clown costumes. And Cathy intentionally sent me sunflowers too.

Someone had asked if I was getting duplicates and I hadn't then. But then this batch showed up with two of the same milleniums (which had foreign languages all over it - woohoo!) and flags. Still with all this fabric that's pretty amazing.

Pokey came to sleep right in the middle of Cathy's strips. I love (in a serious love way) this pink fabric with children's storybook characters - I am NOT cutting it up.

Yes, I've been laying out the strips on the white lid of a bin. There are some fabulous colors in here - look at that intense 70's green.

Mad-Eye Lily getting in on the action too. I've been cutting up some of my own fabric too, to put in my quilt and to share with whoever else wants to make a Legos quilt.

I'm showing quilts at the Martin County Quilt Guild tonight. Bibi and Pokey slept here on a big pile of quilts for a good part of yesterday. Those are hideous black and white pillowcases protecting the real stuff - except for the one at the bottom which is a back.

I'm a bit nervous about doing this presentation, but at least I'm prepared. I just got the binding finished on LAWS and now I have to go pack my suitcase. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

So Much Socializing

I've been doing way too much socializing and not enough blogging, obviously. Last Thursday, sewing day at my house. That's my friend Kathy sewing at her Featherweight, and of course Pokey helping me out.

Bibi jumped up on my lap to get some attention so it was a perfect photo op.  Love Pokey's ears laid back...

Lily at least turned around, Pokey's only got one eye open, I'm making a face and have a firm grip on Bibi's head - yay, family portrait.

My friend Susan is in town from Cairo. I loved living there, but I'm glad we're not there now. We've been driving around looking at real estate for her and eating some fabulous food. Susan brought me some of the scarab beads I love so much. I want to use these in a mosaic someday.

In fact, I'm going to lunch with her in 5 minutes so I have to run. A last look at Legos.

Thanks for the uglies that have appeared in the mail. ya'all are wonderful. yes, I'll let you know more details about how I'm making this. Meanwhile, Julie is making her own version with Flying Geese and it is awesome. She also blogged about it at the UnRuly Blog, so check that out too.  Later, dudes.