Tuesday Technique: Crazy Curves

As I mentioned yesterday, I love using the curve templates from Elisa’s Back Porch.  When I discovered that the 8” Rainbow Template fit perfectly on a layer cake it became one of my go-to quilts.  It takes less than an hour to cut all the pieces and only a few hours more to piece the top.  If you have never used these templates, I really encourage you to try them.  Both the cutting and piecing go quickly and the quilts always turn out great!  I have all four sets of the “Crazy Curves” series:  7”, 3-1/2” , 8” and 4”.  The 7”and 3-1/2” sets work together and the 8” and 4” sets work together so you can combine large and small blocks in the same quilt like I did on this one (one of my favorites!) I used the 7” and 3-1/2” templates.

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For the current quilt, though, I’m only using the 8” set.  It contains an additional shape so you can create a center circle in each block.

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The templates come with a brown paper backing that you can peel off if you want.  I’ve left the paper on because it adds a little bit of friction and the template doesn’t slip as easily when you’re cutting.    For this project, I used Templates B, C, and D (Template A combines C & D to make a 2-piece block instead of a 3-piece block).  On this quilt, the center ring will make the blocks more interesting.

As you can see, the three template pieces fit nicely on a 10” square.  If I were cutting this from stash I would still cut 10” squares to make it easier to cut the units.  Typically I  stack 4 squares, align all the edges and cut them together.  It’s helpful to use a small cutting mat or a rotating mat so you can turn the pieces without lifting them.

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You’ll be cutting piece B first, so remove templates C and D from the fabric.  Align the right angle of template B with the edges of the fabric.  Cut the straight ends first, make sure all the edges are still aligned, then slowly and carefully cut the inner curve.  It works better if you use a 45mm or 28mm rotary cutter on the curve.  The smaller blade will hug the curve better.  Also make sure your blade is sharp!

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Set piece B aside and rotate your mat 180 degrees.  Align the right angles of template C on the edges of the square.

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Since the right angle edges are already square, you only have to cut the curve.  Again, slowly and carefully cut the curved edge along the template.

For the center ring, align the template making sure that both ends are on the fabric.  This piece is a little trickier because all four sides are curved.  I start by cutting the short ends, then the inner curve, rotate the mat, and finish with the outer curve.

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Continue cutting squares until you have the number needed for your quilt.  Keep in mind that it takes four squares to make a complete circle.  Using a layer cake, 36 squares will make nine complete circles.  This will yield a 48” square top before borders.  If you want to use all 42 squares, you can add a half circle and offset the circles like I did in this quilt.

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If you’re cutting squares from scraps or stash you can make your quilt any size you wish just keep in mind that if you want complete circles you’ll need sets of four blocks.

Once all your pieces are cut, it’s time to sew.  The piecing is easy but there are a few tips and tricks that will give you better results.

Start by selecting one D unit with a contrasting C unit.

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When you place these next to each other, the D unit looks much longer than the C unit.  Trust me.  If you sew accurately, they will fit perfectly!!

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Flip the D unit on top of the C unit, right sides together.  Pivot the C unit so the top edges are aligned at the top.  Place a pin about 1/4” from the top so they stay in alignment until you can sew the first 2 or 3 stitches.

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Start sewing at the top edge.  Make sure your needle is down and remove the pin.  Guide the top piece with your left hand and the bottom piece with your right hand.  Slowly continue stitching while pivoting the top fabric so the right edge aligns with the edge of the bottom fabric.  It is important to keep the raw edges even all the way down the seam.  Notice that the top edge will no longer be aligned as you sew the seam.  Be careful not to stretch the bottom piece—just hold the bottom piece in place and pivot the top piece to keep the right edges together. 

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Continue slowly sewing until you are a couple of inches from the bottom. 

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At this point it will be difficult to hold the top piece with your hand so a bent-tip tweezers will come in handy.

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The tweezers will help keep the edges together as you sew the bottom few stitches.  Make sure you maintain an accurate 1/4” seam allowance all the way to the end of the seam.  If your seam allowance is too wide or narrow at the top or bottom of the seam, the circles won’t match properly when you sew the blocks together.

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After units C and D are sewn together, select a contrasting B unit.  Again, it will appear that the B unit is too small, but it too will fit exactly!

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Once again, align the top edges and place a pin about 1/4” from the top of the seam. 

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Keep the edges together and slowly stitch this seam the same way you did for the first one.  Use the tweezers to keep the raw edges together as you reach the bottom of the seam.

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Press and admire your block!  Be careful when you press the block that you don’t distort it.  You want to make sure the edges stay straight and the block is square.

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See how easy these blocks are?  The keys to perfect blocks are maintaining an accurate 1/4” seam allowance along the entire seam, not stretching the piece on the bottom and keeping the edges together as you sew. 

I recommend cutting a few blocks from scrap fabrics to practice sewing the block before starting your real blocks.  It takes a little practice to get the hang of it, but once you do, you can crank out these blocks in no time! 

DWM: Modernism Circles

There hasn’t been much sewing at my house lately but over the weekend I managed to get a couple of new quilts cut out.  I had a layer cake from Barbara Brackman’s Moderism collection.

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All the prints in this collection are pretty dark so I needed to find a project that didn’t require a lot of contrast.  I really like Elisa Wilson’s templates for Crazy Curves and knew that the 8” Rainbow Block Template fits perfectly on a 10” square.  This is a fast quilt to cut and piece and even the quilting goes quickly because an overall edge-to-edge design works really well.  Since I’ve made this a couple of times before I thought there was a post showing how to easily cut these blocks from a layer cake but I didn’t find it.  I’ll work up a quick demo after work today and post it tomorrow.  It is such a fun quilt to make.

I have a few of the blocks pieced and think I’m really going to like this one.  There are only two seams in each block so it will only take a couple more hours to finish them and the fun of setting the blocks together will begin!

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Be sure to get your daily dose of inspiration by checking out the design wall links at Patchwork Times.

St. George, Utah and Design Wall Monday

This post is out of order, but I wanted to end the vacation posts on a quilty note!

Very often when we take trips to places where the weather is better (everywhere!) I get ideas of moving.  Many times near the end of trips, I’ll drag Jim to open houses trying to convince him we need another place somewhere warm!  On this trip, though, I was mostly thinking what great places they are to visit, but they were very isolated so I wouldn’t want to live there.  That is until we got to St. George.  It is a lovely little city and we had a short, but nice visit.  It was fun to walk around the historic district and we had a delicious dinner I’m still thinking about at a Thai restaurant called Benja.

We stayed at a great B & B called the Seven Wives Inn (Utah’s first bed and breakfast).  You have to love a place when you walk in your room and there is a Blooming Nine Patch on the bed.

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I still have a little of this Carol Endres border fabric in blue!  They even used it for the dust ruffle.

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You didn’t think I could go a whole week without checking out a quilt shop, did you?  Of course not!  How fortuitous there was Quilted Works was just a few blocks from the B & B so we walked over to check it out.  It is a beautiful, bright shop  They had a fabulous selection of fabric and lots of inspiring samples.  I couldn’t believe how much fabric they had that I haven’t seen in our area.  I did my part to support the local economy, especially since they were having an anniversary sale!

Quilt Shop

Quilt Shop

As we left town we stopped at one more shop called Scrap Apple Quilts.  This was another large, beautiful shop and they also had lots of stuff I haven’t seen here, so I stuffed a little more fabric in my suitcase!  What I really liked about both of these shops was that they carried traditional fabric as well as the bright, fun modern prints.  Their samples also used contemporary fabrics in traditional quilts.

Quilt Shop

Quilt Shop

By the time we left St. George, I was looking through the real estate listings!

There was no time to waste when we got home.  My quilting group is meeting on Thursday and I haven’t even started our project for the month.  We’re working on Perpetual Motion from the Scrap-Basket Beauties book.  I found a box of 30’s reproduction strips and thought they would work fine for this quilt.  The pattern calls for 36 blocks and uses seven connector corners for each block, even for the half-square triangles!  I’m making 48 blocks and knew I didn’t want to make 336 connector corners so I pulled out my Omni 96L ruler and cut the trapezoids to size.  It was a little tricky because the angles go in opposite directions but once I got a system worked out it was really easy to cut.

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After the cutting was complete, it was easy to chain piece the units.  I got quite a bit finished but wanted to see how the fabrics were going to work so I made a few blocks.

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30’s fabrics aren’t my favorites but I think they will work fine in this project.  I may run into a problem with the border—there isn’t any 30’s yardage in my stash so I may have to piece a border. I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it!

I’m linking up with Design Wall Monday at Patchwork Times.  Be sure to click the links to check out what other quilters are working on this week!

Getting Back to Reality

All good things come to an end and our vacation is over.  We had a really great time and saw some amazing sites.  I know this won’t be our last trip to the area.  There is so much to see here and we barely scratched the surface.

Our last day was spent in Las Vegas.  The opulence of these humongous manmade hotels pales in comparison to the natural beauty we experienced the past week, but there is probably no better place on earth to people watch! It was fun to take a stroll down the strip.

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If you’ve ever wondered why you can’t get your hands on an old featherweight, it’s because the All Saints store at the Cosmopolitan has HUNDREDS of them in their windows.  This was such a cool window display.  They really aren’t all featherweights but a variety of those great old mechanical machines.  This picture just shows a small part of the display.  The windows are huge!

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I’ll be back at the gym at 5:00 AM in the morning.  It’s not nearly as fun walking on the treadmill  watching the news as it was hiking in the mountains.  My trainer should be happy though–I logged between 5 and 7 miles almost every day we were gone!

Antelope Canyon

The photographs I saw online from Antelope Canyon were what spurred us to to make this trip out west so we were especially excited to visit this amazing site.  There are two parts to the canyon, upper and lower.  After reading the TripAdvisor reviews we decided on the lower canyon.  All of Antelope Canyon is on a Navajo reservation and unless you are a professional photographer (certain camera, tripod, etc.) you have to have a Navajo guide take you through.  You are allowed one hour in the canyon and need every minute of that hour to take it all in.  We arrived just after the opening rush and were lucky to have only six people in our tour.  Parts of the canyon are quite narrow so a smaller group is advantageous in avoiding people in your photos!  This is what you see as you approach the canyon—it really doesn’t look like much at all.

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But once you walk down, oh my goodness.  Words cannot convey the wonder of this special place.  All of these photos are right off my camera, unretouched and I just have a little Nikon Coolpix point-and-shoot.  It is AMAZING!

Our tour guide, Shay, said one of more common questions she’s asked is, “How long did it take the Navajos to carve the canyon.”  People just can’t believe this is all from wind and water, but no human could create anything this beautiful.  These are natural sandstone formations and there are some openings at the top where the light filters in making even more beautiful.  It must have been a good time of day because the way the colors and shadows played off each other was magnificent.

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So have you started planning your trip to see this for yourself?

Page, Arizona

We left Kanab and drove west to Page, Arizona.  There are a few very interesting sightseeing destinations in Page.  First is Lake Powell, a reservoir on the Colorado River, which is part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.  It is a huge area that straddles the Arizona/Utah border and offers 1,560 miles of shoreline.  It is a man-made lake that was formed in the early 1970’s when Glen Canyon Dam was built.  This lake is very different from those we see in Wisconsin.  It is WAY down in the bottom of a canyon and is very narrow with hundreds of little inlets.  Unfortunately, this is still the “winter” season and there were not many boat tours operating so we didn’t take a ride on the river.  From the photographs you really can’t tell how high we were above the water. 

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Our second stop was Horseshoe Bend.  This is what locals consider the very beginning of the Grand Canyon.  We walked to the overlook and what a view.  The Colorado River is 1000 feet below!  Of course I was terrified and took my photographs from a safe distance of about 8 feet from the edge.  Jim was more adventurous and went right to the edge so he could photograph the actual bend so the better picture is his!!

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In the picture below you can just barely make out a boat in the lower left corner! 

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It was another amazing day of beautiful scenery.  Tomorrow there will be more after we visit Antelope Canyon!

Hiking Bryce Canyon National Park

Coming from Wisconsin, we’re used to road construction. This trip has brought a whole new meaning to the “road closed” sign. There is ONE road that goes in and out of Kanab, Highway 89 and it is undergoing major construction. It is completely closed from 8:30-11:30 AM Monday through Friday. The other 21 hours of the day, it is one-way alternating traffic. That means you have to stop and wait for a pilot car to escort you through.  It is only about a 3-mile stretch of road, but it can add anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes to your trip. There is no detour, you can only wait it out. This is the road we had to take to Bryce Canyon so it took much longer to get there than we anticipated.  The delay wasn’t all bad, though, the temperatures were warmer later in the day.

Highway 89 is an unusual drive in another way–if you want to know where cars go when they die, it’s along Highway 89 from Kanab to Panguitch.  It seemed like every place we saw had between 6 and 20 old cars! The natural scenery is beautiful and more than makes up for it.  Panguitch is just north of the exit to Bryce Canyon and it has an interesting quilty story.  The winter of 1864-65 was very cold and difficult and the settlers had no food.  The only provisions were 40 miles away and in order to traverse the difficult Bear Valley Road in snow was to lay a quilt down, walk to the end of it, move it, then walk to the end again.  You can read more about it here. Now there is an annual Quilt Walk Festival to commemorate this event.

Everyone has probably seen pictures of Bryce Canyon but there is no photograph that truly captures the magnificence.  When you drive through the park, you can’t see the  canyon from the road so you really don’t know what to expect when you walk to the overlook.  All I can say is that it truly was a breathtaking moment for me.  The beauty of the hoodoos is indescribable.  We hiked a few miles in and around the canyon.  Weather patterns change rapidly in the mountains.  The day we were there started out sunny, then turned cloudy but we didn’t get any rain.  As we were driving out, it was snowing! 

Here are a few pictures to entice you to come to Utah and see this natural wonder for yourself.

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We ran into this guy at the bottom of the canyon.  Isn’t he cute?

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We drove through Red Canyon on the way back to Kanab.  It was just too pretty not to stop and take a few pictures.

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There has just been beautiful scenery everywhere we’ve been on this trip.  Now we’re heading toward Page and Lake Powell.

Hiking Zion National Park

We spent about a day and a half at Zion National Park and hiked several of the trails.  It is so beautiful and pictures don’t do it justice.  This area must be a geologist’s dream!  The layers of rock are so interesting and it is mind boggling to think about how this was formed over millions of years.  Here are a few pictures I took during our hikes.

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Emerald Pool

Tomorrow?  Hiking at Bryce Canyon National Park.

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