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Monday, August 20, 2018

Lesson learned (made fabric, and much more)

It has been a while since my last post... and it's because I haven't been sewing much these days!!

Work, life and other creative outlets (like journaling, planning, coloring, etc) took over and I haven't feel like sewing. But I have been slowly going back to enjoying some sewing time, so I want to share a big accomplishment: I used up all my dark blue scraps!!

Back track...

I am running a QAL on my other website ( called Starry Bright Sky QAL. As a free side event, every month I have been trying textured blocks from Teresa @ SewnUp.
I modify her blocks to finish at 6'' and I set them into 4 patches with "made fabric" blocks...

This is where my dark blue scraps come into play.
I started with the idea that I wanted to use up this packed bag of random crumbs

Note... this bag is tightly packed and I took this picture after I used up some fabric already :) It was full and overflowing...

It may look that there is not much fabric... but what I ended up creating over the past several months is 40 (FORTY) 6.5'' x 6.5'' improv blocks!!

Few lessons I learned along the way:
  • you must must must use a shorter stitch length, but not too short, otherwise your machine may try to eat the small corners or weird pieces :) I typically use 1.6 or 1.4...
  • you must must must press each seam open... unless you have a "heavily pieced" section on one side and a single strip on the other... only in that case, you can let the seam be pressed toward the single fabric side. If you carefully press each seam open as you go, the finished piece will not be bulky, it will be as light and flat as any regularly pieced block in your quilt, and you won't have issues of broken needles, hitting bulky folds, etc.
  • you must must must have a Clover Finger Presser (which is a little plastic tool that helps open and press your tiny seams)... technically you must have this only if you want to keep your sanity :) if you want to use your fingers you can, but you may lose your sanity after 1 block :)
  • it would be best if you split your crumbs by size (more or less). This is not really necessary, and you can choose a more organic approach of sewing whatever you randomly pick from the bag... however doing that, I ended up with blocks that are composed of 5 pieces (because at the beginning I wanted to be fast) and then blocks that contains more than 100 pieces (I counted them...). The crumbs will be smaller and smaller, so if you do some pre-planing and you consciously try to avoid the short cut of assembling the big chunks just to be fast, the final blocks will be more uniform, and you can avoid spending an entire morning assembling a 100 pieces block because you want to use up all the pieces in the bag :)
  • have a consistent target size, and a consistent plan in terms of fabric use (color, designer, ...). Having the simple goal of using only scraps from the dark blue bag helped me cutting down on decision time, and be fast in simply sewing up the crumbs. Plus I had a 6.5'' x 6.5'' ruler so it was easy to understand when I had enough material to trim down a completed square.
  • have fun!! and take your time!! yes, some of these blocks take time to stitch up, but it is very meditative and freeing to ignore patterns and just go with the flow!! I also had the goal of only assembling 4 blocks a week... so it took a while to finish up the bag, but this was just a background project, so I wasn't really trying to complete a quilt in a specific time frame! Also you could use these as "leaders-enders", so no matter how you choose to approach this, just don't put yourself into too much pressure: one piece at the time and eventually your scrap bag will be empty!
  • this is the perfect project if you are in a sewing slow mood!! No pressure of completing a project, just mindless sewing that uses up what you already have around... cleans up the space, creates beautiful unexpected results and without spending any money!
Example blocks... with more than 100 pieces (left) or with just 5 pieces (right)

So my plan is to do the same with all my scrap bags and then decide how to assemble the blocks. 
No need to decide right now, just having fun creating these improv blocks!!

How about you? Have you ever created these kind of blocks before? If yes, do you have any additional tips to share? Please write them in the comments below!!

Until next time... hopefully not too far in the future...
Happy sewing!!!