I suppose you could also discover modern the traditional way. Or discover modern the modern way. Or...well, you get it. But what am i talking about anyway? In this case, it's a beginner quilter (me) exploring the inherent possibilities of the half square triangle. This will make sense by the time you finish reading, i promise.
If you read my blog (thank you), you know how i feel about sewing triangles. I mean there's a bias edge on these things! That alone sends chills down my spine. But fears can be overcome by facing them head-on and that's just what i did when the fabulous people at AccuQuilt asked if i would like to try out their GO!baby fabric cutter. Sorry if that sounded a little infomercial-ish, but this wonder machine is going to have a permanent spot on my cutting table, literally —because it's so cute and compact (and yes, it slices and dices...fabric).
This thing will cut fabric into many shapes depending on which die you use, so i was asked to pick three that i would like to try out. Hmm...i decided to pick ones that would stretch my sewing abilities and confront aforementioned fears. First one into the basket: 4" half square triangle. Gulp. But what could be more intimidating than sewing a hexagon?? Into the basket it went. Panic. And what about a tumbler block?? Done. Time to checkout. When everything arrived, it was obvious that i had been possessed by a daredevil sewist.
But Lou was ready. And if he was, i was. We could take this on together.
For fabric, i decided to use a majority of the prints from the Terrain Designer Select bundle i picked out for the Fat Quarter Shop. Thought it might be fun to play around with — Ooo, and it was! Have you seen it?
The deep iris blues, periwinkles and teals are some of my favorite colors. I don't know why it took me so long to include them in a fabric collection!
So here's the lo-down on using the GO!baby. Pay close attention, it's quick.
First, you cut 5 1/2" strips the width of the fabric. I kept it folded in half and then placed it on the foam die like so:
Then you put the cutting mat on top of the fabric......and position the cutting mat/fabric sandwich on the flat surface so the front edge is between the rollers — you may have to turn the handle until the rollers grip the cutting mat. Then simply (and really easily) turn the handle to move the whole thing through:
Did i mention you don't need to plug this in? No cord, no motor, and you don't even need muscles. The first time i did it, i really didn't think there was any way it could have done its cutting thing. But after lifting off the cutting mat...voila! Eight half square triangles. Or are they triangles ready to become half-squares? Either way, they were cut to perfection and ready to sew:
I found that on some passes, you might need to snip single threads that did not get cut through completely — mostly in the 90 degree corners. A small thing to contend with when you think of how long it would take to cut everything out by hand. Otherwise, i love that the bias edge is squared off which makes sewing that 1/4" seam allowance really easy. Not to mention there are no dog ears to snip off when it's pressed open. And ok, it was also really fun and yes, i got carried away. In no time, my work table was covered with piles of triangles. I need to write that again so it sinks in. TRIANGLES!
Now what to make. I guess it's a better idea to know what you're going to make ahead of time, but i did not. Instead, i really wanted to play around with these triangles and see what was possible. It's one thing to design a quilt with the help of a computer, but quite another to handle the fabric and watch things unfold by moving the shapes and colors around. I had never really done this (sad, i know), and especially not with triangles.
So first i started off with keeping the colors and prints together, turn turn turn..and poof! A zig zag. This seems to be quite the trend right now...in quilting, apparel, home décor, you name it. The zig zag is having its time in the spotlight (what's old is new and will be old again). Now if Lou would've moved, i could have kept going...
Next one, i still kept the prints/colors together, but turned the triangles and alternated lights and darks in diagonal rows. I put all the darks on top and lights on the bottom and came up with this:
Then after mixing everything up and turning the triangles to my heart's content, something familiar started to come into view. I moved things around a little more and AHA! This traditional quilt block came together with the same excitement as finding two puzzle pieces that fit perfectly and with the surprise/disbelief in knowing they were right under my nose the whole time. It made me think, "So that's how this block is made". I'd seen it so many times, but never known how to actually make it. Franny liked it so much she curled up and took a nap:
Does anyone know what this block is called?
I know i'm not inventing anything new here, but as a beginner quilter, i enjoy discovering the traditional aspects of this craft. It helps me look with modern eyes (through modern technologies) into the past wherein the foundation lies. I like to think that we are all laying bricks (or blocks) of our own atop this historic art form with the awareness that there is much to be learned, celebrated, discovered, reinterpreted...and sewn! So let's get on to that part...
Enter Franny and Lou.
With little to no help from them (as you can see), i sewed five blocks together using that block design.
Some were better than others. I really need to make a design wall (of some sort) because once i stepped back from these...eh hem...completed blocks, i realized that the block "works" better if you position the dark print on the bottom part of the pinwheel. It adds a beveled dimensional appearance to the design. I'm sure someone waaaaay back in the 1800's had already figured this out, but when you learn it the hard way, it sticks. Lou didn't agree. He liked it just the way it was (anywhere it was).
I combined that block with this one because i wanted to contrast the busy-ness with something simpler. The measurements shown are the cutting dimensions for each piece:
AccuQuilt also makes a strip die that would be perfect for a block like this.
I used Moda bella bleached white (9900 97) in the block above as well as for the 2 1/2"sashing. The border is 3 1/2" wide (measurements noted include seam allowances). The lap-sized quilt finishes around 58" x 58" (if my math is correct. That's a big IF). When it's all sewn together it looks like this:
Past meets present, traditional meets modern, i meet half square triangles...and you know what? They're not so scary after all. But now i'm having tumbling hexagonal nightmares. Fortunately, there are techie sewing pioneers of our time who have made some extremely helpful YouTube tutorial videos. I have watched this one over and over and am working up the courage to try it out.
It also occurred to me that the 4" finished half square triangle die would be perfect for the Stepping Stones quilt i designed as a project sheet for Terrain! You can download it free from Fat Quarter Shop, or purchase it if you prefer the printed version. This quilt was on display in the Moda booth last Quilt Market. It was pieced by Sherri and quilted by Judi. Two amazing people who i am very lucky to know.
Thank you AccuQuilt for making such an amazing cutting machine! Oh hey, if you want to sign up for their e-mailing list (and get 22 free patterns) there's a button to click on the right sidebar just for you!