Off Centered Improv

Off Centered Improv

Next month I’m lucky enough to be leading a sewing workshop at the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild. I grew up in Cincinnati and my family all still lives there, so this will be a really fun opportunity for me to hang out with all the talented modern quilters in my hometown.

Off Centered Improv Top

The guild was really great and left the decision as to what we would be working on up to me. I love improvisational quilting so I thought that would be a fun technique for everyone to explore. This is our class sample ~ improvisational log cabins.

Off Centered Improv Center

These blocks are a bit similar to the pillow I made Jennifer last October. You can see the work in progress below.

Improv Piecing

I broke down the log cabins by warm and cool colors, incorporating a bit of grey and just a small amount of prints.

Off Centered Improv Pre-Quilting

The border is a black and white Alexander Henry crosshatch.

Off Centered Improv Bottom

I quilted this mini quilt with randomly spaced organic lines. They are all around 1/4″ apart, but I didn’t mark or measure. I used my walking foot and slowly moved the fabric back and forth ever so slightly as I quilted.

Off Centered Improv Workspace

This new quilt has a home above my new computer workstation in my sewing space! For more information about the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild, you can contact them through their blog or email them at cincinnatimodernquiltguild (at)

Festival of HST ~ Candy Pinwheel

I’m happy to have you visit my blog today as part of the Festival of Half Square Triangles! Today I’m going to share a tutorial for a new quilt block and then talk about some ideas for what you can do with it.

I almost titled this post “When a Square isn’t a Square”. Because those are the words that were constantly in my mind as I was creating this quilt block and the quilt that will follow it on Friday. When I’m designing quilts, I think I tend to fall into the mindset that I have to make blocks that are square. But when I sit down and really think about quilts that catch my eye, a lot of the time they are quilts don’t use basic squares – whether it be stars or hexies or any number of things.

So today’s block is a rectangular hexagon. This block can be used on it’s own – I actually think it would make an adorable pillow. I could see a bunch of them in different colors all over my daughter’s bed. Or it can be combined with many more blocks to make a quilt. I will share tips for making it into a quilt at the end of the block tutorial.

Let’s get started on the single block tutorial!

Candy Pinwheel Quilt Block Tutorial

All seam allowances are 1/4″

Step 1. Cut your fabric.

Color/Print 1 Cut 3 5″ x 5″
Color/Print 2 Cut 3 5″ x 5″

Step 2. Cut all 6 squares along the diagonal, resulting in 12 half square triangles (HST).

Step 3. Pair 8 of your HSTs together as shown. Sew together along the diagonal creating 4 squares.

Step 4. Trim your squares to 4.5″ x 4.5″.

Step 5. Sew your 4 squares together to form a pinwheel.

Step 6. Take your 4 remaining HST. Lay out as shown below.

Step 7. Sew together along the short edge, forming a larger triangle as shown below.

Step 8. Place these larger triangles on each side of your pinwheel square. Line up the middle seams and sew together.

Step 9. Using a quilting ruler, trim the sides of the resulting block if necessary, so they line up with the edges of the pinwheel section of the block.

Congratulations! You’ve made a Candy Pinwheel quilt block!

As I mentioned earlier, I think a block like this would make an adorable pillow. But what if you want a quilt? There are a few options. First, let’s talk color and layout. These blocks are staggered to “fit” together.

I followed a few color rules when designing this quilt mockup. Almost all my blocks were made using all warm (pink, red, orange, yellow) or all cool (blue, turquoise, green, purple) colors. I think this gives a bit of order to a quilt that is actually scrappy.

As for quilt top assembly, there are a couple options. First, you could make individual blocks (rectangular hexagons) and sew them together using the Y-Seam method. I’m sure most people just fainted. :)

But there is another easier option. If you plan your quilt ahead, you can actually sew your quilt together in rows. Simply lay out your entire quilt top on the floor or design wall, and rather than making one block at a time, you make one row at a time.

You will need some space to make your quilt this way, but I found it to be very easy. I hope that gives you some ideas for making an eye catching half square triangle quilt. I will post my finished Candy Pinwheel quilt on Friday. Here’s a sneak peek!

Antique Tile and Nancy Cabot

As I wrap up work on more UFOs (hopefully to share with you soon!), I am letting myself cut into new projects with much less guilt. This week I added a few more fabrics to one of the stacks I posted last month.

And added in those adorable typewriters from Melody Miller’s Ruby Star Shining line.

This block is actually a traditional design called Antique Tile by Nancy Cabot. Some of you probably know that I have a weird obsession interest in Nancy Cabot. I don’t know why, but it seems that so many times when I see a traditional block I think would look great in a modern quilt, it’s by Nancy Cabot. It’s also cool that she was from Chicago and wrote a column for the Chicago Tribune…fun to think of someone like her so close to where I live. Anyway, I like her so much that I made a Flickr group called Nancy Cabot Made Modern full of blocks attributed to her.

I even bought an index with hundreds of Nancy Cabot blocks. It is great! Similar to The Encyclopedia Of Pieced Quilt Patterns, as it shows drawings of the blocks but you need to figure out how to make them.

I really love this Antique Tile block, and it was quite simple to figure out the dimensions. I’ve posted the sizes to cut below for you to create a 12.5″ unfinished block. If you make any of these blocks, be sure to post them to the Fresh Lemons Flickr group as well as the Nancy Cabot Made Modern group!

Solstice Star Series : Star of Mystery

Welcome to week 4 of the Solstice Stars Series! Today we will be making the Star of Mystery. Isn’t that a great name? This star is from Barbara Brackman’s book The Encyclopedia Of Pieced Quilt Patterns,page 349 and the original source of the design is Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine (10/74).

This block will be our second paper pieced block of the series. For those of you that were too intimidated to try our first paper pieced star, the Whirling Star, I hope you will join us this time. I have taken nearly 40 photos to document the steps and make you comfortable with paper piecing.

Once again, if you are completely new to paper piecing, I recommend reading through this tutorial and even making the sample block. It will give you a basic understanding of the process. I also recommend reading through the entire tutorial for today’s block before starting. And finally, take your time. We will be paper piecing 6 small blocks and then piecing those together.

Star of Mystery Quilt Block Tutorial

Please note, all seams are 1/4″; Final block size 12.5″ unfinished
Reduce your stitch length so that the paper template will perforate easily. I used 1.4 stitch length.

Paper Piecing Templates
Print 2 of Template A below and print 4 of Template B below. Be sure to print them at 100% and check the scale icon with a ruler before starting.

Template A Template B

Prepare the templates. Cut out the templates around the seam allowance line. Here is a visual of what we are going to make with our templates:

We will be filling in the missing notches with half square triangles (HSTs).

For those that are wondering why I didn’t work those HSTs into the templates, I like to make the templates of a size that will print on a home printer without having to visit a copy shop for enlargement. (I figure no one will make the star if it requires that much effort! :)) Adding those HSTs made the templates slightly too big to be printed at home, so we will add those at the end.

Step 1. Cut your fabric. When cutting fabric for paper piecing, you will be cutting rectangles that will be larger than needed.

I recommend cutting 1 of each piece below, making a block, and ensuring it is enough fabric for your sewing style. Then you can make adjustments later for the rest of your blocks. These are the fabric sizes I used for my paper piecing.

Pattern Piece Fabric
1A Cut 2 4” x 4.25″ White/Background
2A Cut 2 4” x 5.5” Color/Print
3A Cut 2 4” x 4.25” White/Background
4A Cut 2 4” x 5.5” Color/Print
1B Cut 4 3” x 6” Color/Print
2B Cut 4 3” x 6.5” White/Background
3B, 5B Cut 4 3.5” x 3.5”,
cut diagonal
4B Cut 4 3” x 6.5” White/Background
Notches Cut 2 3.5” x 3.5”,
cut diagonal

Step 2: Let’s start with Template A. Take your fabric cut for Piece 1A and place it right side out on the back of your template, making sure to cover the entire template space 1A. Pin into place.

Step 3: Take your fabric cut for Piece 2A. Place it right side together to Piece 1A which you pinned into place in Step 2. Hold your template up to the light and make sure at least 1/4″ of the fabric overlaps into template space 2A. This will probably feel backwards and wrong the first few times you do it. Pin into place.

Step 4: Sew along the seam line on the template between pieces 1A and 2A. Be sure to also sew into the grey seam allowance. Remove your pins.

After sewing:

Step 5: Flip your block over. This is what your seam will look like.

Trim your seam allowance to 1/4″.

Your block should now look like this:

Press your fabric open.

Step 6: Flip your block over to the printed side and trim around the seam allowance.

Your block should now look like this:

Step 7: Take your fabric cut for Piece 3A. Place it right side together to Piece 1A and 2A which you have sewn into place. Hold your template up to the light and make sure at least 1/4″ of the fabric overlaps into template space 3A. Pin into place.

Step 8: Sew along the seam line on the template.

Step 9: Trim the seam allowance.

Step 10: Press open and trim around the template.

Step 11: Repeat these steps for piece 4A.

Congratulations! You’ve made your first paper pieced block!

Step 12: Repeat for your second Template A. You should now have the below 2 pieces.

Step 13: Let’s move on to Template B. I will do a quick walk through to get you started. Take your fabric cut for Piece 1B and place it right side out on the back of your template, making sure to cover the entire template space 1B. Pin into place.

Step 14: Take your fabric cut for Piece 2B. Place it right side together to Piece 1B which you pinned into place in Step 12. Hold your template up to the light and make sure at least 1/4″ of the fabric overlaps into template space 2B. Again, this will probably feel backwards and wrong the first few times you do it. Pin into place.

Step 15: Sew along the seam line on the template between pieces 1B and 2B. Be sure to sew a bit into the seam allowance. Remove your pins.

Step 16: Press your fabric open. Trim around your template.

Step 17: Continue paper piecing piece 3B, 4B and 5B. Your block should look like this:

Step 18: Repeat and create the other 3 Template B’s.

Step 19: You now have all 6 templates pieced you need to create the star! Here’s the layout:

Remove the paper from the back. This should perforate easily as long as you remembered to shorten your stitch length before sewing.

Step 20: Sew your 2 Template A’s together. Align the middle seam to ensure the center points align when you sew the block together.

Resulting block:

Step 21: Now we will sew 2 of your Template B’s to opposite sides of the block. Line up your seams again.

Resulting block:

Step 22: Take your remaining Template B blocks and sew the remaining HSTs to the sides as shown:

Step 23: At this point, I decided to trim my HSTs to be even with my Template B blocks. I kind of wish I had waited to trim everything even at the end when I was squaring up the block. I will leave it up to you as to when you trim these, but at some point you should trim them.

Step 24: Now we will sew the last 2 Template B’s to the corners to finish the block.

Line up your seams again and sew.

After sewing all the corners to the center block, you’re done! You should have a beautiful Star of Mystery!

Be sure to post any questions as well as a photo of your finished block in the Flickr group!