Quilts

Merry Medallion Quilt-Along: Round Three (HSTs) and Corners

Merry Medallion Quilt HSTs and Corners

This week we’ll work on round three, as well as the corner blocks of the two patchwork rounds – the sections highlighted below:

Merry Medallion Round 3

That looks like there’s a lot of sewing this week, but if you remember to chain piece it all, you’ll zip through it amazingly quickly!

What You’ll Need

Merry Medallion Quilt HSTs and Corners

– all of your 5″ squares (24 low volume, 24 red)
– all of your 4″ squares (8 low volume, 8 red)
– all of your raw HST triangles from last week (12 green/low volume)

Making The Pieces

We’re essentially just making a crap-ton of HSTs, which we already learned how to do for the center star, so no need for instructions there. You’ll match all of the 4″ squares into red/low volume pairs and all the 5″ squares into red/low volume pairs – then mark, sew, and cut them apart – just as before.

Merry Medallion Quilt HSTs and Corners

Then you’ll press all of the HSTs open, including the greens from last week, to the darker side, and trim the pressed squares to the following sizes:

– (16) 2.5″ green/low volume HSTs
– (16) 3.5″ red/low volume HSTs
– (48) 4.5″ red/low volume HSTs

Round 3 / HST Assembly

Now we’ll start putting all these bad boys together. Take the largest HSTs (4.5″, red/low volume), and arrange them into four long strips of 12 HSTs each – essentially just like we did with the flying geese. Make sure they’re all arranged in the same direction! Once sewn, your strips should each measure 4.5″ x 48.5″.

Make Corner Blocks

With the remaining HSTs, we’ll make corner blocks for the two patchwork rounds. Arrange your 2.5″ green/low volume HSTs into 4 diamonds as shown:

Merry Medallion Quilt HSTs and Corners

Then sew them together – top two together, then bottom two together. Press seams in opposite directions, then top pair to bottom pair. Press seam to one side (it doesn’t really matter which) and you should have 4 green/low volume diamond blocks, each measuring 4.5″ square.

Merry Medallion Quilt HSTs and Corners

Repeat with 3.5″ HSTs, to make 4 red/low volume diamonds, each measuring 6.5″ square.

Merry Medallion Quilt HSTs and Corners

Attach Corners

The corner blocks you just made can now be attached to your long strips. Choose two flying geese strips and two HST strips, and attach a corner block to both ends of each. It should be obvious because the sizes match, but you’ll add the red diamonds to the green strips, and the green diamonds to the red strips. You should now have:

Merry Medallion Quilt HSTs and Corners

– Two flying geese strips measuring 6.5″ wide and 30.5″ long
– Two flying geese + corners strips measuring 6.5″ wide and 42.5″ long

Merry Medallion Quilt HSTs and Corners

– Two HST strips measuring 4.5″ wide and 48.5″ long
– Two HST + corners strips measuring 4.5″ wide and 56″ long

Aren’t they so happy?? Next week we’ll put it all together!

What Quilts Mean: Why We Sew for Tragedy

What Quilts Mean Header

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More than two years ago, when my mother was first diagnosed, my family and I quickly made her this quilt and gave it to her for the Mother’s Day we celebrated only a few weeks later. We didn’t really know anything yet, but it seemed the obvious thing to do; I felt quite strongly that a quilt was the only possible gift we could give to someone who would need comfort, care, and rest in the coming months.

We got to work immediately. My father bought the required materials, my brother pressed seams and basted, and I sewed. We felt industrious. We felt like we were doing something that would help. We felt like we were contributing to Mom’s care.

Or, more likely, that was just me and the others kindly indulged me.

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To me, sewing a quilt was the only thing I could think to do, the only thing that made sense when nothing at all made sense. Thinking back on it now, I’m sure my family was shellshocked in a way we didn’t even realize at the time – we all knew the diagnosis was pretty bad, but we went ahead with daily crap. I channeled my worry into sewing and bottled up the rest. I imagined this quilt would be real comfort to her when it got as bad as I feared it would.

I’m sure she loved it and, yeah, she used it constantly, but the truth is – it didn’t do a damn thing for her. She still got sick, and then sicker, and then sicker, and neither the quilt nor I could do anything to help.

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After she was gone, the quilt was passed back to the rest of us and it’s now the living room quilt. The first chilly winter night that I needed the warmth, I pulled it over me and was engulfed in horror. I could barely stand the sight of it, present in so many horrible memories of her tucked under it – not in comfort, but in pain. It suddenly seemed to signify everything I couldn’t do for her. I’m coming around to it now, but I’m still not quite ready for it to be a regular quilt again.

I’ve made a lot of quilts / mini-quilts as gifts, but this one is obviously the most fraught with emotion. I knew I wanted to share it for this series, but I wasn’t sure what to say about it. It hurts me to look at it now, but I needed to make it then. My mind kept coming back to this quilt, pictured in the book American Quilts: The Democratic Art by Robert Shaw (pg 53).

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This quilt is referred to as the “Nancy A. Butler Quilt”, made by Nancy Ward Butler in Jamestown, New York, 1842. It is the single most striking and haunting quilt I have seen so far (in my admittedly limited quilty travels). It hardly needs explanation – Nancy Ward Butler was mourning:

Women also continued to make quilts commemorating special occasions, but some began to use their quilts in more personally revealing ways, adding written messages or other forms of personal expression to their work. One of the most poignant examples has large blue capital letters framed by sawtooth piecework that read simply: NANCY·A·BUTLER·DIED·FEB·3·1842·AGED 20 MO. There are no spaces between the letters and numbers, which are equal in size and spill from one line to the next without heeding the grammatically correct breaking points, a compositional approach that only emphasizes the unflinching directness of the message.
(Shaw, pg. 53)

This quilt makes my heart ache. I see in every hand-stitched letter Nancy Ward Butler’s pain driving her forward. Of course I know nothing about Nancy Ward Butler or her family, but I imagine any grieving quilter would feel an automatic connection with this piece – the grief so loud you can almost hear it – and an instant empathy for Ms. Butler’s need to take thread to fabric. Her quilt commemorates her granddaughter’s short life as well as her own loss, so huge that she simply could not contain it.

Do we sew during tragedy for ourselves or the event? I reckon both, because we simply don’t know what else to do.

Merry Medallion Quilt Week 2: Center Star

Merry Medallion Week 2: Center Star

Alrighty, ready to sew?! This week, we’ll make the center star of the Merry Medallion quilt. That’s the section highlighted below:

Merry Medallion Week 1: Center Star

What You’ll Need

– all of your 7″ squares (five red, three green, eight low volume)
– all of your 6.5″ squares (four low volume)
– general sewing stuff

Making The Pieces

Merry Medallion Week 2: Center Star

First, we’ll make half square triangles from our 7″ squares. (I’m basically repeating this from my Huge Honking Churn Dash Tutorial, pardon the re-run.) On the wrong side of one low volume square, mark a diagonal line from one corner to the other.

Merry Medallion Week 2: Center Star

Pair the marked low volume square with an unmarked colored square (green or red), place right sides together, and sew 1/4″ away from the line, on both sides of the line:

Merry Medallion Week 2: Center Star

(If you have a 1/4″ foot, that’s handy for this step. I use the left side of my foot on this machine, which is exactly 1/4″ away from the needle. You can also mark lines 1/4″ away from the center line if that’s easier.)

Cut down the drawn line with a rotary cutter or sharp fabric scissors, and you’ll end up with two new squares, each made of one light and one dark triangle. Yay!

Press seams towards the darker side.

Merry Medallion Week 2: Center Star

Now, you might notice that your new square is a little wonky. Don’t worry, that’s totally part of the magic. We made those squares a teensy bit bigger than they had to be, so that we can trim them nice and perfect before the next step.

Merry Medallion Week 2: Center Star

Line up the 45-degree diagonal on your ruler, or your cutting mat, with the diagonal seam, and trim each of these blocks to 6.5″. You’ll only end up shaving a wee bit from each side, but you’ll end up with a nice, neat square.

Chain Piecing

To make the rest of our HSTs, we’re going to chain piece them. This concept is key to making the Merry Medallion doable in a month without difficulty. Chain piecing means that instead of starting and stopping for each individual HST, we’ll feed them right into the machine one after the other.

This technique saves a shocking amount of time (and thread) – chain piece a handful of HSTs and then consider how long the same would take if you’d stopped, removed the fabric, clipped the thread and then started a new one fresh each time. I’m sure you’ll immediately see why this is such a great concept for speedy piecing. (You all know I am not normally one for quik-n-ezee projects, and I’d never choose chain piecing over hand-stitching for most projects. But there is a time and place for breezing through a stack of squares!)

Merry Medallion Week 2: Center Star

So, when you get to the end of one diagonal HST line, don’t lift the presser foot or anything, just feed your next HST pair in right after it (like in the photo above). You’ll probably have a few stitches between the two pieces of fabric, and they’ll connect to each other like bunting. Try it out with a few scraps before your HSTs, if you’re unsure.

Merry Medallion Week 2: Center Star

When you’re done, just carefully clip them apart. You will end up with ten red/low volume squares and six green/low volume squares. Trim all squares as described above.

Center Star Layout / Assembly

Now lay out your low volume squares and your HSTs as shown below:

Merry Medallion Week 2: Center Star

You will have extra HSTs (one extra red square and three extra green squares), so you have a little flexibility with your arrangement. Play with the layout until you’re happy!

To assemble the center star, now that you have all the pieces ready, you will simply sew the 16 blocks into four rows, then sew the four rows together to make the star. You can chain piece these rows too, by the way, just take care to keep everything in order!

Press your block seams in alternate directions (top row to the left, second row to the right, and so on) and then the longer row seams all in one direction (it doesn’t really matter which way).

Your finished center star block should measure 24.5″.

Merry Medallion Week 2: Center Star

We’re on our way now! Next Friday: round 2 – see you there!

A Collection of Swap Minis

As a much-needed distraction this past fall / winter, I joined a couple of Instagram-based mini-quilt swaps but I never showed you what I made! Here’s a little parade of long-finished FOs, just for funsies – but please pardon the poor photography – most of these photos were quickly snapped in the last moments before packages were sealed!

This one was made for Amie from Sew Much Havoc. Amie said she loved half square triangles, so I tried to find a slightly unexpected way to play with them.

Swap Minis

I love these floating HSTs, they way they gently dance around the background. I think they will definitely have to be explored more.

Swap Minis

This mini-quilt was made for Juliet from The Tartan Kiwi – Juliet designs ridonkulous foundation piecing patterns, so designing something she would like was a little intimidating! She said she especially likes blenders, which made me happy, because so do I – definitely my favorite fabrics. Snooping around her various sites and accounts, I thought she’d like a teal / aqua (the colors she mentioned as her favorites) version of the star-hexies I made for Sew Mama Sew.

Swap Minis

Swap Minis

This one was especially relaxing to make, some lovely low-stress sewing while away on a quiet holiday.

Swap Minis

In fact, I loved it so much, I was inspired to finally turn the block I made for the Sew Mama Sew tutorial into a mini-quilt for myself!

Swap Minis

Of course I didn’t have quite enough of that binding fabric and had to piece in a scrap –

Swap Minis

– but let’s pretend I meant to do it, all modern-stylee.

I’m still stitching away at my hand-pieced mini for my current swap – progress update soon!

What Quilts Mean (& Orange Peels FO)

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Wow, guys. This quilt has been a long time coming. It’s been through a lot. I started planning this project last August, and started really sewing sometime in September, so it’s been over eight months in the making. And not just any old eight months.

Orange Peels Quilt

While I was finally quilting, sitting at the sewing machine for hours on end, the quilt passing under my hands, I thought a lot about what it means to me. What making it meant to me while I worked through the first eight months of grieving for my mother.

Orange Peels Quilt

In a very literal way, this quilt helped me work through the first steps of this seemingly never-ending process. The hand-stitching of appliquéd orange peels is a beautifully mindless process, allowing me to shut down my brain while keeping busy at the same time. And sharing the steps and my progress with you all gave me the vehicle to interact online again, before I was really ready to talk about casual stuff. Every bit of this project helped me inch forward in some little way.

Orange Peels Quilt

This quilt has been a distraction, a comfort, and a friend. As I guided it through the machine, I thought about the actual tears that have soaked into its fabrics over the last eight months, and I wondered if it’s like the Sword of Gryffindor: what it absorbs only makes it stronger. Will it hold on to all of those feelings for me?

Orange Peels Quilt

One thing I know for sure: this quilt is not just a blanket. And the moment I thought that to myself, I knew it was true of all quilts. We don’t make quilts because they keep us warm. For most of us, we don’t need to do that at all. We could go buy a blanket for a fraction of the cost at our local department store. I’m forever saying that I love how quilts are allowed to be, symbolically, a little corny. We join fabrics that symbolize special people or times in our lives. We sew together to symbolize a sense of community or bond between the makers. We quilt to celebrate special occasions or meaningful events.

It’s clear that making quilts means something to us, and (hopefully) to the people who use them. To me, my orange peels quilt was something like an amour – to both protect me from and insulate me in my grief. And for the rest of my life, it will remind me of a comfort that I can’t quite put into words. There is a sort of comfort in sadness, when you feel broken-hearted – and this quilt will contain that for me, forever.

Orange Peels Quilt

I’ve invited a handful of fellow quilters to share their thoughts on the meaning of quilts. I’ve asked them to prepare a post, in any form or style they want, with the title, “What Quilts Mean” and I will share their responses over the coming weeks, or maybe months, or until I run out of contributions. I was overjoyed that they wanted to join me in this little project, though I know so many have thought about this topic from a million different perspectives – I can’t wait to hear some from our online community. I really hope you all enjoy the series!

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