PLEASE NOTE: The free design download for this blog post has expired, BUT the designs are now for sale (including all four block patterns) – click HERE to find them!
Got scraps? Ha! Ask a silly question! This project is pretty cool because it let’s you use up some of those scraps I just know you are hording. You know the ones, a little too big to throw away and really too small to do anything else with. Or, if you’d rather of course, you can use fat quarters or skinny quarters or whatever yardage strikes your fancy.
I was inspired by a blog post by one of my favorite bloggers, Heather Valentine, who posted something on her blog “The Sewing Loft” from another blog “Crazy Mom Quilts” about scrappy quilting. I just loved the idea of using up my scrap fabric and I really liked how all those pretty scraps looked stitched together in a basic simple shape. My problem? I’m just a dreadfully lazy quilter and allergic to anything that resembles paper piecing.
I seem to be directionally challenged – as in, even if I draw a straight line I can’t always sew it and if a paper piecing pattern has more than two parts I manage to get lost. (Yeah, I’m terrible with driving directions too.) Besides, I have these really smart embroidery machines that I already know can make quilts in the hoop. Heh! So I knew I could talk my Ellisimo into making this piecing stuff easier for me. Usually I make blocks with batting and backing all in one and then just strip sash them together with a dust cover backing – this time I wanted to make a real old fashioned PAPER PIECED (without actually having to think too hard) quilt top that I could quilt with my Baby Lock Sashiko machine.
All I can say is WOW. This was FUN! I am now totally hooked on paper piecing in the hoop! (Which is pretty awesome as I am also totally hooked on buying fabric and stashing it away and my stash is rounding out the corners of my studio.)
So – want to scrappy quilt with me?
You will need:
- fabric (I used nine different prints, approximately ¼ yard of each, to make a quilt that is 31” x 36” – play mat sized – using the 6×6” block design. )
- tear-away stabilizer (Use the cheapest and thinnest you have that tears easily and cleanly. You can also use pattern tracing paper.)
- sewing thread (for the top and bobbin of your embroidery machine in a color that coordinates with your fabrics)
- Scrappy Quilt block designs
Choose your design size. Load the design file to your machine. Choose the hoop you will need according to the block size.
For my quilt top I chose to use the biggest hoop that came with my embroidery machine and the 6×6 block design. My big hoop allowed me to stitch two scrappy blocks on one piece of stabilizer by adjusting it in the hoop slightly after I stitched the first one. This means I started out with a piece of stabilizer that had about 2” extra sticking out at the bottom. These instructions show the steps I took using this large hoop. Even if you do not have a big hoop and are using a smaller (5×7 or 4×4) hoop, you can save stabilizer (or paper) by cutting strips that are just wide enough to fit across the hoop and long enough to move up in the hoop to accommodate more blocks. Start at the top of the stabilizer and keep moving it up in the hoop with each progressing block. Leave just enough space between the blocks so that you can easily cut them apart. Don’t cut the finished blocks apart until they are entirely exposed above the top of the hoop.
Next I moved the design up in the hoop as far as I could. I used my on-board design placement tool’s center UP arrow to do so. To be sure you don’t move the design further than your actual stitching field, attach the hoop to the machine before you do this. Most machines will automatically stop when you have reached the limit.
The quilt block design has three different “patches” or blocks of fabric within one big block. For the fastest quilt top experience, go ahead and chop up your fabric scraps into sizes that will fit those patch areas. To find out what sizes you will need, print or stitch out the first stitch sequence of the design. Measure the widest and tallest part of each patch area and add one inch to each measurement. For instance, if the widest part is 5″, make that 6″. If the tallest part is 3″, make that 4″. (The photo below showing the fabric block measurements is what you would need for the 6″x6″ design.)
Cut an assortment of fabrics into blocks using your measurements and place them on your work table in stacks labeled TOP, CENTER and BOTTOM according to their placement.
Thread your machine with regular sewing thread in the top and bobbin. (If you need to swap out bobbins – some embroidery machines have bobbin cases that accommodate regular sewing thread better than embroidery bobbin weight thread – do so before you begin.)
Sew the first stitch sequence which is the block pattern. This shows you the “patch” areas of the whole block – TOP, CENTER and BOTTOM. (I’ve stitched this using black thread so you can easily see it. It really doesn’t matter what color you use, but to keep from having to change your thread color, just use the color you plan to use to stitch the block.)
Choose a center block piece of fabric. Place it right side up over the center block area aligning the top long edge with the first line under the block top’s edge.
Place a top block piece of fabric wrong side up over the center block fabric. Align one long edge of this new block piece with the center block’s top edge as shown below.
Sew the first seam (stitch sequence #2).
Flip the top patch fabric up and out of the way. Sew the center fabric piece trimming line (stitch sequence #3).
Trim away the excess fabric below the stitching line. You may be able to do this without removing the hoop all the way out of the machine. If you can’t, remove the hoop and place it on a hard flat surface to do so. (That hard flat surface is not your lap, ahem!)
Place a bottom block piece of fabric wrong side up over the center block fabric. Align one long edge of this new block piece with the center block’s bottom edge as shown below.
Sew the second seam (stitch sequence #4).
Now you are ready to sew the last stitch sequence. This is the block outline which is the line you will use to trim away the excess fabric to make a perfectly square quilt block. Smooth the block patch pieces up/down and away from the machine’s foot as it stitches around the block.
Watch out for the places where two fabric pieces meet. Don’t let the machine’s foot catch in them.
If you are planning to stitch another block on the same piece of stabilizer (and you’ve allowed for this) trim away the excess block fabric at the bottom of the block.
Then move the stabilizer up in the hoop just enough to have room to sew another block.
Attach the hoop to the machine. Use your machine’s on-board design perimeter tool to locate the top center position of the design. (#1 and #2 in the photo below.) Close out that screen so you can use the down arrow to move the design down in the hoop as far as necessary. (#3 and #4 below.)
Note – Your machine’s screen may not look like these photos. Check your machine’s manual to see if you have a design placement/perimeter tool and how to use it. Most machines at least have a design perimeter tool that will cause the foot to trace around the stitching area of the design. Make sure the next block’s stitching area is placed slightly lower than the block you have already stitched. (If you are not trying to sew more than one block on a piece of stabilizer/paper at a time skip this part, re-hoop another piece of stabilizer/paper and repeat the above directions to continue making blocks. Be sure to read the rest of the directions for trimming instructions etc. If you are planning on sewing more blocks on the same strip of stabilizer/paper carry on.)
The top of the next block should be approximately ½” below the bottom of the previously stitched block.
Sew the block outline for the second block. Choose your fabric pieces.
Follow the same steps to create another block.
Remove the stabilizer/paper from the hoop. (Or keep on going if you have chosen to use a longer piece of stabilizer and remove it when you can’t stitch any more blocks.)
Cut along the block outline. As in, cut ON the block stitching outline. You will be actually cutting the stitches away. If you have trouble cutting straight, by all means please feel free to use your rotary cutter and a ruler. I did after the 5th block!
Tear away the stabilizer/paper on the back of the block. You’ll notice that one of the block pattern stitching lines tears away with the paper and one remains. Trim away the one that remains.
Trim all seam allowances to ¼” (or don’t – whatever floats your boat) and press all seams open.
Make more blocks! Then read Scrappy Quilt Part 2 and we’ll put the blocks together, finish and bind the quilt. Yay! More fun to come!