11 March 2010

Strip piecing a la Ami Simms

Completed blocks, ready to join
(Another quilt-in-progress peaking out from behind)

My color palette source - a vintage hand-crocheted rug, in my vintage bathroom.

On February 21 I took a class taught by Ami Simms, as part of my quilt guild's program series. A former elementary school teacher, Ms. Simms is clear, organized and upbeat. She sells notions, tools and patterns in her classes too, but I can't criticize her for taking advantage of every merchandising opportunity.

Directions called for at least 25 different fabrics.

We had a set of workshop guidelines - items and tools to bring - and optional instructions if we wished to begin cutting strips before class. I had all my strips cut in advance, and I'm glad I did. We were to cut several strips from each fabric, in widths of 1", 1.5" and 2", with each strip running from selvage to selvage of our fabric.

Fabrics, with piles of strips sorted by width.

Sets of six strips, hanging out on the stair railing. The two on the right are already stitched.

Next, six strips are sewn together:

Two strips of the 2" width

Two strips of the 1 1.5" width

Two of the 1" width

In class I didn't worry too much about color distribution, but at home I was able to lay out my six strip combinations and deploy the yellow, green, red and blue colors throughout. I wanted to avoid having strip sets too heavy on one color or running out of red, for example, well before finishing.

A strip set, ready to sew.

To avoid inadvertently shuffling my careful strip layouts during construction I scribbled down the color order on scrap paper.

Ironing the strips, makes pinning optional.

Close-up of scant 1/4" seam.

Strips combined, ready to press.

Finished strip set. There's a 1" strip on the edge. This is ok.
Do not put 1" strip on both outer edges.

For ease in handling, sew the 1" strips onto other strips first. Also, to prevent problems when strip sets are sliced, place no more than one 1" strip on the edge of a set. Iron after every seam, although you can batch iron several partial strips. It doesn't matter how seam allowance is pressed, unless you want to avoid show-through with light fabrics.

Completed strip sets, like trophies, pinned to the design wall. Sample finished blocks too.

As fabric widths very from manufacturer to manufacturer, the strips will be differing lengths and the strip sets will have uneven ends. Short strips can be pieced to "grow" them, but the unevenness doesn't matter that much, since ends are cut off anyway.

6.5" wide strip set set pinned to 6.5" wide yellow strip.
A little yellow is peaking out due to minor variations in the width of pieced strip set - ignore it.

How did I end up with the yellow solid? Serendipity. Ms. Simms mentioned that black and off-white fabric would be available for purchase at the class, so I didn't bring fabric for the block construction. However, I really disliked the mottled black and mottled beige fabrics she had on offer. The only solid I had in any quantity was yellow, so I used that to complete the work in class. The yellow - Kaufman Kona cotton in Curry - worked very well, though, and later I realized it was in the color palette all along when I looked at the old rug that was my inspiration.

Pieced strip set and solid strip pinned and ready to stitch.

If the stitcher is accurate, the strip sets should be 6.5" wide. Measure several sets at several places - if 6.25" seems to be the outcome, cut the solid strips that width. My strips came out fairly consistently at 6.5", so I cut a dozen strips in yellow 6.5" wide.

Aligning the angle ruler at the 45 degree mark.

Here's where all these quilting gadgets come into their own. The see-through ruler marked with various angles allows the quilter to make cuts quickly without marking or measuring. Just align carefully and cut with rotary cutter.

Next cut.

One can get about five triangles from a strip set.
The bit at the left is waste.

The magic of geometry - triangles unfolded to reveal square blocks.

Piles of completed blocks.

Like all these slice-and-dice techniques, there is a fair amount of waste, although an enterprising quilter could use the scraps for a border or chicken pincushion or something. The other issue is that the blocks have stretchy bias edges, so have to be handled carefully in the next steps.

Blocks pieced together, close-up.

After adding pieced borders, I think I will follow Ms. Simms' suggestion of quilting with navy blue thread. I'll add an image of the finished quilt in the future.