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.
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.