Monday, April 30, 2018

May is Tailwind Month!

I'm going to host a sew-along on my Instagram account this month. That sounds like a big deal, but honestly, I overgram there all the time, so what's really going to happen is that I'm going to make a bunch of Tailwind blocks, figure out how I want to set them, and sew them up with some kind of directions for every one who wants to follow along.

Usually I have a bit more of a plan when I am starting something new, but since I designed this block four years ago, I haven't really designed a different setting than my original "Island Flight" quilt design. There are a lot of options for a 8" finished block, particularly since this one can easily be set on point. After all, airplanes have all sorts of attitude. I think I'll end up making Tailwinds from both my hoarded stash of Janet Clare's Flight fabric for Moda Fabrics, and also from my stash.

AOPA design.

I got this amazing t-shirt when we were at Sun 'N Fun last month, and it's inspired me to make a "girly" aviation quilt. I routinely hear, "Oh, good, an airplane block is perfect for my grandson/son/nephew," but I like to remember there is a rich history of women in aviation. In fact, it was the professionalism of the recent Southwest Airlines accident that prompted me to finally get the Tailwind block on paper and online after four years.

If you want to sew-along, I'll post here once a week or so, but Instagram is usually every day (and more than once, to be honest), so follow me there for the latest. You'll find all the instructions and the template in my previous post HERE and it's really up to you just how big you go with the finished quilt. Personally, I want to make a boy version baby quilt and a girl version baby quilt, and then I may make a lap quilt for my kids (so, times two). I bought five yards of the Kona Cobblestone background pictured above, and will probably use Kona Silver or Kona Snow for my "girl" version. You can get two airplane blocks from ONE 2.5" width of fabric strip by adding your background of choice.

Pull out some fabric today, and let's start sewing tomorrow!

And by the way, in case you don't know, we are a retired USAF family. My hubby builds experimental aircraft for fun (he's finished three), and is also an airframe and powerplant certified mechanic. He's currently rebuilding a 1968 Citabria 7KCAB. For fun, we participate in our local Experimental Aircraft Association chapter, and we just recently finished the Wright Flight Program this year, where we flew 183 fifth grade students (and a parent) for a "first flight" reward for achieving their goals in that program. We try to attend both Sun 'N Fun and Oshkosh AirVenture every year. So, spending May making planes is just another month in aviation for me. GRIN.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Tailwinds: An Original Design

In late fall of 2013, our dear friend Steve Merritt asked me to design a quilt that we could auction for Bahamas Methodist Habitat, a charity organization that my husband and I support. I was inspired to make an airplane block after not finding anything out there in "quilt land" that suited me. I hate to applique, and really prefer simple patchwork. Plus, I like to be able to use precuts or small scraps, and an 8.5" block seemed the size that would be conducive to baby quilts as well as the queen-sized quilt I wanted to make. I took my sewing machine with me to my in-laws for Christmas vacation, and around the holiday activities, began to piece and sew what I labeled my "Skittle Squadron" of rainbow colored airplanes. My hubby is an actual airplane builder (having built three experimental airplanes in our garages in three states), and quickly identified my design as a "Tailwind." I said, "What makes it a Tailwind?" and he said, "Just look at it." Okay, honey, Tailwind it is.

This pattern is 100% rotary cut and machine pieced, but did require an odd angle for the fuselage, so I drafted a template. Templates aren’t really that hard to use, but sometimes it’s easier to mark the finished corner with a little pencil dot for pinning. There is no reason for you to “start or stop” at those marked corners in this pattern. The seams are ordinary scant-quarter inch seams. As always, I recommend you make one “test” block, and then start chain-piecing your squadron. You can easily cut a plane or two from a jelly roll strip or a layer cake square.

You will find these written instructions and the templates in the Google Drive located here: Click HERE to get the instructions  and here to get the templates Please understand that I am a complete novice at sharing something as complicated as a hand-drawn template on the Interwebs (LOL) so I hope this works. Please feel free to use the scale included on the drawing to draft your own cleaner copy of the template. It's really very easy! Ask questions if you think of any.


From Airplane Fabric Cut:

A (empennage):        1.75”x 4” rectangle
B (fuselage):              template B from 2.5” strip
C (wings):                  2.5”x 8.5” rectangle
D (cowling):               two 1.75” squares

From Background Fabric Cut:         

a (empennage):        two 1.75”x 2.75” rectangles
b (fuselage):             template b
br (fuselage):            template b reversed
c (cowling):              two 1.75”x 4.5” rectangles


1.     Cut all pieces as instructed. The B and b templates are very simple angles for rotary cutting and piecing. You might find it beneficial to make these templates out of template plastic or heavy cardstock if you are making a squadron of airplane blocks. Marking your corners makes things easier to line up and pin on your template pieces.

From top to bottom, units A, B, C and D (times 2).
2.     Piece B to b and br (b reversed). Press toward B. Trim unit to 4”x 8.5.”

Leave a little tiny triangle at the top and bottom to allow for the angle of the turn. Alternatively, mark your quarter inch seam and pin. I'm usually too lazy to pin.
3.     Piece a + A + a. Press toward A.

Piece your empennage A (tail) between two pieces of background a.
4.     Piece sew-and-flip triangle corners on D with c to form cowling.  Trim away the extra triangle.  Press one unit toward D and one toward c. Piece these two units together. Pieced unit should measure 1.75” x 8.5.”

5.     Sew four sections together. Block measures 8.5” x 8.5.”

Since I'm sure someone will wonder, the auction and/or raffle for this quilt never came to fruition. I even had raffle tickets printed (with a date over a year away), but as many volunteer organizations go, we just never started selling tickets or advertising the quilt. So, "Island Flight" is still in my private collection. My good friend Steve lost his life earlier this year in a small plane accident, so it is now too precious to me to sell or donate, and will remain in my private collection for the rest of my life.

Here's my original sketch on graph paper after I decided how to set my "Skittle Squadron" into the quilt Island Flight. I set everything on point with 8.5" squares to float the planes, and pieced a border of pinwheels and squares for the outside edge.

I have a fat eighth bundle of Janet Clare's "Flight" fabric that she designed for Moda Fabrics set aside to make another quilt using my Tailwinds block, and thought I'd offer a sew-along for those of you who want to make a cute little baby quilt! I'm going to pair it with a nice background solid, and toss in a few of Lisa Bongean's Liberty Gatherings as well. Maybe raid my stash for some patriotic reds...or even a gold or two. Keep in mind that you really don't need a large piece of scrap to make one plane. If you can get the wing (2.5" x 8.5") then you just need tiny pieces for the rest. 

Let me know if you plan to "sew-along" with me and make your own Tailwinds quilt! My original quilt was named Island Flight (2014) for our wonderful Bahamas Methodist Habitat organization and a fabulous ministry they provide on the islands. I'm still figuring out my April-June schedule, so you have time to do a fabric pull and make some choices for your own version.


Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Webbing a Quilt Top

 I taught a workshop at my local quilting guild on Saturday, January 20, using my "Leftovers" pattern. It was less about this-not-very-complicated-pattern, and more about the quick piecing techniques and quick cutting techniques I routinely employ to finish numerous quilts in a very short time.

One of the techniques I demonstrated was "webbing a quilt top." It's like chain piecing on steroids. I love to web a top, and I use it to put blocks together, sections of quilts together, and entire quilt tops whenever possible. It means I can lay everything out on the floor, decide how I like it, pick it ALL up at one time, then sew, sew, sew until the top is pieced.

Webbed rows ready to piece
Leftovers (typical size), without borders
This quilt was a bit unusual, since it was a teaching sample. I pieced half of the quilt during class as a demo (actually I showed up at class with 10 blocks finished, and just pieced half of the blocks, and the top, in the rest of class to "lead the way," so to speak). I wasn't using a charm pack, but instead had fractured a layer cake for this quilt, and had 3 yards of that great Hearty Good Wishes II background fabric on hand, so I could go bigger.

When I came home, I pieced another "half" of the quilt (which is actually the typical number of blocks generated with a charm pack). So, I can demo webbing on half of this quilt, but if I had the whole quilt to make at one time, I'd have webbed the whole thing at once.

Half already pieced on Saturday, half of the blocks made Monday awaiting chaining/webbing

This is the half I'll web.
Ideally, you web an even number of columns. It doesn't matter how many blocks are in each column, but if your quilt lays out as a 4x5 (like this one does), I treat them like two stacks of five.

Begin by laying the right-hand block on top of the left-hand block, flipping it so that you'll sew the right seam. Think of it as laying block 2 on top of block 1, if that helps.

Flip column 2 onto column 1, and column 4 onto column 3.

Pick them up in one stack of 10-seams-to-sew. I pick them up from top left down the first column, then top right down the second column.

Chain piece your block pairs through.

Ten seams sewn.

If you have table space, you can pull them straight out. You'll clip ONE joining thread between the fifth and sixth pair (so that you again have two columns of five block pairs.

Open up the Column 1-2 pair, and flip over on top of it the Column 3-4 pairs, again so you can sew the five seams that connect your rows together.

I usually do this without even getting out of my chair, but I was trying to show you a clear picture.

Because everything is chained together, your pairs of blocks will feed up toward the needle from your lap. Just chain-piece them through.


When you open it out flat, you can see that each seam in the rows are connected by the tiny chain of stitches. Nothing can flip. No row can end up upside down. You can take a break without worrying about forgetting where you are.

See the tiny webbing?

Now you are ready to just flip a row over on the row next to it, and stitch from side to side.

Two seams sewn, and two to go on this half of the quilt!

Finished! It is at this point that I iron. Yes, you heard that right...I am just finger-pressing the seams until I have the whole top together. I'm a heretic like that.

Here's the quilt before its outside border...

And I went with seagulls for the outside border. I'm a longtime Jonathan Livingston Seagull fan.
I hope this pictorial tutorial helps you understand webbing. It is so powerful! I can web a charity quilt in an hour, usually, and it gets them done and in the frame that much faster. As I told my guild today at our Day meeting, the problem isn't how fast I's no matter how fast I sew, I cannot seem to sew faster than I shop!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

From Fabric to Finish: On Ringo Lake Mystery

I'm going to link up to the Final Link Up for the Quiltville Mystery, and decided a blog post was fitting.

This year I participated in the Bonnie Hunter annual Quiltville Mystery quilt, "On Ringo Lake." I have made a few Bonnie Hunter quilts in the past, including Allietare and Celtic Solstice. As soon as Bonnie announced the colors for this year's quilt, it was irresistible for me. I adore coral and teal and chocolate brown. So, since this year was our year to stay put instead of traveling to see family over the holidays, I decided I was all in. I got to hit a couple of quilt shops on our trip to Texas as we traveled, and added a few new pieces to my stash. Then I did a real stash pull to add to it after I got home in November.

I bought several new fabrics (mostly corals and teals) but pulled all the possibilities that I had in my stash to use alongside them. Those browns and beiges have been aging a while.
 The first clue always comes out on Black Friday, and it's a great diversion for those of us who don't shop. Then clues follow each Friday, and we have the opportunity to link up photos of what we've finished thus far to Bonnie's blog each week. I didn't link every week, and mostly use Instagram for my daily quilting photos. I am not the most consistent blogger (LOL), so Instagram is a lot easier for me to journal my progress.

Week by week, the pieces began to pile up!

Clue 1: a stack of tiny nine-patches

Clue 2: Gaggles of Coral Geese

Clue 3: So many diamonds!

Clue 4: Piecing Teal/Brown triangles
Clue 5: Brown Geese join the flock

The pieces were already adding up.

Clue 6: Coral triangles added to Clue 4

Clue 7: Joining the Coral and Brown Geese
 Finally, Bonnie revealed the block design, so we could begin assembling units into blocks. I had fun leisurely piecing blocks while we were snowbound with a nice beautiful snow after the first of the year.
Clue 8: Blocks! I have made double units, but decided to piece just enough blocks for my lap-sized quilt first. 
 I decided to make a 60x72" version for Maggie first, and then use the rest of my units at our annual Ft. Caswell quilting retreat next weekend. When I started this mystery, I had planned from the beginning that it would be the perfect project to take with me to retreat.

Clue 9: The reveal! 
 I got the quilt assembled late on Sunday evening, and then I had a chance to quilt it first thing on Monday. I decided to do a hand-guided meander because SO MANY SEAMS. Plus, every once in a while, I love to hand guide a stipple. Seems like old times.

Quilted and bound!

I couldn't resist a photo On Millsap Pond. (I cannot in good conscience call it "Millsap Lake.")

I had a fantastic time from the beginning to end of this project. And it's not even finished yet! I'm going to piece and quilt a queen-sized version for me. If you ever have a holiday season where you want to add a little sewing, I highly recommend the Quiltville mystery.