Saving time on my quilting

I'm making a baby quilt. I showed the beginning yesterday. The center of the quilt. But, now I need to move out into the faux pineapple border.

Now, the designer and author of the book said 10 hours to cut and piece the whole quilt and I've added an hour for the star in the center instead of a plain square. But, that's still only 11 hours total and I'm 10 hours in and am still about three hours away.

Sounds like a lot, right? But, then I thought about it and I've spent more time than that on plenty of the Linus quilts I've made. So, spending that much time on a friend's baby quilt is not a problem. But, I still want to be careful with my time because it's a busy time of year.

So, I get the center feathered star finished and get the first two borders on. I have to decide which fabric I'll use in the next border, but it will be one of the darker greens. And, then I have all those feathered triangles that make up the faux pineapple border. I need 144 half triangle squares. A HUNDRED AND FORTY FOUR. You're laughing if you're making Bonnie's Orca Bay quilt because you've made way more than 144 HTS units. But, I already made 62 to feather the star and so 144 more is plenty for one quilt. Luckily, they're all identical, so I can quick piece them. This is something I saw on Simply Quilts a long time ago, but have never had the chance to use. I've never needed so many matching HTS units. Mostly mine are scrappy and I cut them from strips with my Easy Angle ruler and then sew them. But, for matching, I can be faster by piecing and then cutting (or more accurately, cutting, then piecing, then cutting some more).

Lucy, this part is for you.

The pattern said I should set aside a half yard of fabric for making HTS units. To test this and to find out how many HTS I could get out of a square of fabric, I took two 9" squares of scrap fabric and layered them together and cut them into strips and sewed them back together and I was surprised at how many HTS's I got out of that. Like 32 1.5" squares out of a pair of 9" squares of scrap. That was wonderful. So, I knew that out of a pair of 18" squares, I should get about 4 times as many or about 128. And, that's turned out to be true. I got a hundred and thirty nine 1 5/8" squares, out of two 18" squares of fabric. And, they only took about an hour and a half to piece and cut.

So, I took my 18" squares and layered them right sides together and pressed them together. This helps them stay together during the cutting. Then, I cut them down the diagonal, giving me a true bias. That left me with two pairs of triangles. My squares needed to be 1 5/8", so I cut my strips a bit wider at 1 7/8" wide. Using that true bias line as my base, I cut one of the triangle pairs into 1 7/8" strips.

Then, I sewed the strips back together, alternating colors and matching one end of each so I'd get a true corner. I learned this from my test piece. If I didn't give myself one good corner, I wasted more fabric. See how the far corner stretches out to the upper right? Lots of that is waste and if I let both diagonal corners do that, it doubled the waste. This is the strip set I created. Note that I get two strip sets like this from one pair of 18" squares.

Then, I cut that strip set into strips, using my ruler to make sure I kept a true diagonal on the seam lines. If one diagonal gets off, that's a HTS that's waste (ask me how I know). So, I checked several before I made my cut.

Then, I cut the strips the other direction into squares. I used a square ruler for this that had a 45* line marked on it. Again, I needed to make sure I kept a good diagonal line in these squares.

Now, I can start joining those squares into new strips that will go on the short sides of some right triangles to create the feathered effect (look at the picture in the book. this is all to make the next to last border). You can see how I have them laid out to form a point. Here's something else I learned. One side is turned one way and the other side is turned the other. The two strips are NOT interchangeable. Ask my seam ripper how I know.

You can see how I'm stacking them into pairs, one pile of pairs pointing one way and the other pointing the other way. I'll keep them separate from here on out to make sure I don't end up with one pointing the wrong way.

Three more hours. Three more hours.

Actually, this has been so much fun that I don't mind spending three or more hours on it. I'm entranced by the fabric combination and how well the block is coming out. And, I'm also converting her template pattern to a rotary cutting pattern. That takes time. I have to measure all her pieces and I wasn't smart enough to measure once and write it down. I've measured some of those templates three and four times to remember the size...too much 1 5/8" or 1 1/2" or 1 1/4"...you know. And, they're all trianges, some of which are easy angle and some of which are companion angle (those are the names of the two rulers that I use to cut them. think of a flying geese block. the larger triangle is the companion and the two smaller triangles are the easy angle. it's all about how the ruler is marked). And, I've had a couple of "mis-cuts". Oh, well. Mis-cuts make scraps and scraps make beautiful quilts. Nothing goes to waste.

Oh, and my other time saver has been the heavy starch I put back into the fabric after I washed it. It's made the fabric a dream to work with. I have no raveling on the wrong side of the quilt top. Straight lines stay straight. And, everything presses together so nice and flat after piecing. I got out of the habit of doing that because I was so focused on how many quilts I could make. This year, I hope to spend more time making fewer but more fabulous quilts and this tip is going to be used a lot. Time to buy stock in the Faultless company.


Bratling, I can't send you an email. But, you asked where I got the big thimble. It came from bonedrymusic.com. The website will tell how to measure your finger with a metric ruler at the knuckle. Because I was afraid the size 19 would be too big, I also bought a size 18. If that will fit you, let me know and you're welcome to it.

Everybody have a great Tuesday. First day back at work in 2012. wahoo.

I'd rather be quilting.



Bratling said...

Thanks, Lane! I'll go over and check it out. And wow. That's amazing! I have a pineapple quilt that my grandmother and her sisters made in the 30s, and I've always been in awe of how anyone could manage that. Most of mine thus far are strip quilts... except the first two which were Card Trick, and a carpenter's star....

qltmom9 said...

Thanks, it is amazing how you figure out how to do these things!
I just love that GREEN!

I hope your first day of the year back was good.


Judy said...

One thing I have learned about designers....when they say, "You can do this in x amount of hours...." it's because they have already done it a zillion times and they have the process down pat. I used to work with quilt designers and they could figure things out and piece circles around everyone. They had been doing it for over 25 years. Everything was "easy" to them.
Usually the technique or process is easy - but most people have to think the steps through the first time they do it and that it what slows all of us down the first time through. So don't be hard on yourself. You're doing a great job! :)

Megan said...

Lane - I don't understand why you seem so concerned about how much time you're spending on this quilt. Does it matter? You're enjoying the process, you're building your skills, you're spending leisure time on quiltmaking. Wouldn't you rather invest time making one fabulous quilt than two 'ordinary' ones that don't bring you joy and satisfaction?

Sydney, Australia

quiltfool said...

Building time saving skills, using things I've heard about but never used before, making a great quilt. But, there's still the challenge that the designer set for me of 10 hours. Can I make it? It's a challenge in itself. You guys get that right? Maybe it's a guy thing. Can't back down to a challenge. Lane

lw said...

Judy over at Patchwork Times likes to set time challenges for herself-- not that she takes them very seriously, it's just for fun.

You're right about sewing larger blocks and cutting them down to be very precise being easier than trying to sew perfect blocks. Eleanor Burns does this on her TV shows and I laugh every time I see her throw the left over scraps over her shoulder.

Lucy @ Charm About You said...

That is so clever!! It makes really good sense, just wish I had a better grip on my math skills!!

Elizabeth said...

Such pretty fabrics! That is a really thoughtful baby gift. I did a feathered star in the center of my first quilt. It was a lot of fun! Yours is awesome.

As for finishing a project in the time it says on the pattern -- I never do. I'm always so fiddly with the details. Everything has to be just so. Same with cooking. I always go over the prep time.

Also, I always pre-wash and starch before I start cutting. My friend gave me a recipe for homemade starch and it is amazing. The fabric presses up just like new:

Magic Starch
2 cups distilled water
2 oz vodka
10-15 drops pure essential oil of lavender
⅛-¼ cup liquid StaFlow starch

Mix it all together, put in fine misting spray bottle.

xo -E

Maureen said...

Lane, I really enjoy your blog! So many details, great pictures, candid comments. I'm a slow quilter even though I've made lots and lots of quilts ... a bit like Slow Food, a tendency I am cultivating as I get older
. Enjoy all those beautiful quilts you are going to make this year. Maureen in Portland