Yesterday on QUILTsocial I outlined 6 steps I follow when I’m getting ready to go on retreat or for a sewing day with my friends.
All my Full Bloom fabric from Northcott is cut, so today I’m sewing together my quilt blocks and I’m going to help you to overcome your fear of piecing with random fabrics. Let’s go!
When I design my quilts I often use a large assortment of fabrics and sew my blocks together with randomly selected fabrics. I never realized that this type of sewing caused distress to other quilters until I taught my It’s Been a Slice pattern at my local quilt shop:
This pattern uses a layer cake along with fabrics for the sashing, cornerstones and borders. I told my students to just randomly sew triangles together until they had no triangles left. I thought this was a simple thing to do, but I was surprised by how many people felt that they had to lay everything out first before sewing. That definitely isn’t WRONG, but it was so different from how I approached the piecing of the quilt that I was really surprised.
So today I’ll go through the steps I usually follow when piecing “randomly”. By that, I mean that I’m intentionally NOT making all of the blocks the same and NOT planning any of the placement ahead of time.
Before adding our ‘random’ borders, we first need to add the 1″ black borders to each of the flower squares. The 5½” strips are sewn to the sides of the flower squares and then the 6½” strips are sewn to the top and bottom.
Making the strip sets
To make the blocks, the first thing to do is make strip sets. We need to make a total of 5 different strip sets that have 3 strips of fabric and 5 different strip sets that have 5 strips of fabric.
The first step is to throw all of the colorful 2½” strips cut from the Full Bloom fabric into a big pile!
Start pulling strips from the pile and sew them together. Don’t sew two together that are the same fabric or two that are very similar in tone (for example the two yellow fabrics). Sew five strips together and repeat to make a total of five sets. As you can see – none of my strip sets are alike.
The outside seams of these strip sets are pressed towards the center of the set. The remainder of the seams can be pressed either direction.
Repeat this process to make five sets of strip sets that have 3 strips each.
All of the strip sets are then sub-cut into sections that are 2½” wide.
The sections of the strip sets are thrown into a pile so that they can be randomly selected to sew onto the sides of each of the blocks. Make one pile from the strip sets that had 3 strips (the “3” pile) and one pile from the strip sets that had 5 strips (the “5” pile).
Pull two sections from the “3” pile and sew one section to the top of one of the flower squares. Sew the other to the bottom of the flower square. Press the seams towards the pieced borders.
Now randomly pull a strip set from the “5” pile and preview it on the right side of the block. As you can see, the first strip selected for the side has the same red fabric at one end as the top strip. Even though I’m sewing “randomly” I wouldn’t sew this together as shown.
Instead, I would flip the strip end and preview it that way. As you can see it’ll now work perfectly for the first side of the block. Sew and press towards the pieced strip. Since we pressed the outer strip on our “5” sets towards the middle, the seams should nest up perfectly!
Next randomly select another “5” strip and preview it against the left side of the block. Even though the squares that are beside each other on the bottom left of the block are not the same fabric, they’re too close in value. So I flipped it end for end and sewed it to the block.
This type of thing happens a lot when making scrap quilts with lots of different fabrics. Even though two fabrics may not be the exact same print/color, they may be too close in value to give contrast. So squint your eyes when you look at them beside each other to see if there’s enough contrast. If not, swap one out for another fabric.
Here’s the first finished block made with Full Bloom fabric.
Now we just have to repeat that process using the remainder of the flower squares to make a total of 20 quilt blocks. Once you see how the blocks all look when sewn together, you’ll see that the quilt is SO busy, you can’t tell that you didn’t spend HOURS arranging all of those 2½” squares!!
Tomorrow we’ll sew the blocks together with the sashing strips and I’ll show you two of my favorite ways to add a pop of color to your quilts.