X Sew-Along: Week 6, Catch-up / Improv Challenge

If you’re still working on your quilting or binding, keep plugging away! Or if you want to play… this week is also our improv challenge. We’ve got some lovely offcuts to work with and some leftover fabric, so what don’t we make something to complement the quilt like a pillow? Or just experiment for no good reason other than to do it? Let’s have a look at what we can achieve this week with our improv challenge:

Improv Quilted pillow
Photo by Emma Poliquin.

#1 / Have fun

This is the most important element of the improv challenge. I love that I can just sit down and sew without measuring anything. Just do it. Put to pieces of fabric together and sew! Trim and then add more.

Improv pillow with Everyone's Got an X modern quilt pattern.
Photo by Emma Poliquin.

#2 / Lay it out

Lay out your piece and see what you’ve got. You’ll see some angles that will come together well. You’ll see where you might want to contrast light and dark, or put two similar tones together. You can try and line up your strip sets or you can say, “I’ve already done this precisely for the quilt, so this time I don’t care this time!”

Lay out improv quilt

#3 / Trim as you go

As you put your pieces together trim any funny bits off so you can add your next straight seams. You might have some groups of shapes that go well together. In this case put a few ‘slabs’ together and then join those slabs to make a bigger piece.

Improv (ignore the scissors in this photo!): Three slabs joined together - rectangle with yellow stripes at top, rectangle at the bottom with peach stripes, three longs strips at the right.

Improv with slabs above (ignore the scissors in photo for now). There are three slabs joined together:

  • Rectangle with yellow stripes at top
  • Rectangle at the bottom with peach stripes
  • Three longs strips at the right.

#4 / Experiment

With a lap size, you can easily get one 20″ x 20″ improve piece and with a baby quilt, you can get a 16″ x 16″ piece. Probably more! With this size of work — because it’s small and not too time consuming, feel free to try something new! If you mess up, the investment of time and fabric is low. Don’t even take out the seam you don’t like, just CUT IT OUT and use the fabric again. Take the opportunity to try a new quilting technique, some hand work or embroidery or pieces some improv curves together (see next point).

Modern handmade pillow with hand stitching
Hand stitching with sashiko thread (black) and perle cotton (off-white).

#5 / Try improv curves

I did an improv curve on this one pink and charcoal pillow. I overlapped two pieces of fabric and cut a random curve in the overlapped area with my rotary cutter. Then sewed them together without too much pinning or care. Again, If it doesn’t work out, take your scissors and cut the seam out and use the fabric again. If you want to try these out, start with them and then move on to other more straightforward seams. That way, if it doesn’t work, you haven’t spent a whole bunch of time on the improv only to “mess it up” with a curve that just isn’t quite right.

Improv curves.

Ready… set… play!

Handmade pillow with hand stitching. Improv quilting
Photo by Emma Poliquin.

X Sew-Along: Week 4, Trimming & Quilting

You’ve got a quilt top now it’s time for the next step: Trimming it and quilting it. Here are some tips on trimming accurately, quilting designs and thread selection.

Trimming

Finding the centre line. Fold your quilt top in half and press. This crease line will be your guide in figuring out where to trim. You will measure upward from the vertex of the X, where all four fabrics meet. This line falls parallel to the crease line. Make sure you are using the right measurement for your baby or lap size quilt. Mark it.

Measure up from the vertex (lower left corner of photo above) and parallel to your crease line.

Draw a perpendicular line at the measured marking. A way to double-check that your line is straight is to see if it is also perpendicular to both side border seams. If you’ve done it right, it should be!

Is your drawn line also perpendicular to your side border seam?

Once you’ve drawn your line, measure from the vertex to the line again, just to be sure. Then you can cut. (Keep your scraps for improv week!) Repeat with the other side of the quilt top.

We’re back to bias edges!

Now that you’ve cut it, handle the quilt top as little as possible. You’ve just cut some bias edges. 

Baste using your preferred method.

Quilting Plan

In February at QuiltCon, I took a class from the queen of minimalist quilts, Season Evans on how to quilt minimalist quilts. She gave us some tracing paper to get some quilting designs overlaid on our quilt designs (print-outs that we brought to class). You can do this on an iPad or smart phone over a photo of your quilt top, using the “Mark-up” tool. There are two main options for you to choose from: an all-over design or a complementary design.

All-over designs: These straight lines are perfect if just want to get it quilted and done!

Pieced, quilted and bound by Anja Clyke. Photo by Emma Poliquin.

These scallops are an all-over design but harder to execute on a domestic machine.

Complementary designs can:

  • Highlight the X
  • Downplays the negative space OR highlight it
  • Complements the X
  • Add a completely different element to the design

This sketch adds new design elements – Xs – to the quilt in the negative space. The horizontals help to emphasize the typographic nature of the design. Remember when you were learning to print, you had a top line and baseline to guide the size of your letter? That’s what I’m getting at. It will also emphasize the serifed binding.

I think mine will look something like this, but it needs some more thought still.

Thread Selection

What do you have on hand? I am in love with Aurifil 50 wt 2215 which I used to piece the quilt together (bottom spool). It look great across all the colours of the quilt top.

The rust colour (Aurifil 2155) brings in a different colour from the backing fabric. The Gutterman up top will disappear nicely into the background fabric. I think I might bring in some hand quilting as well. I haven’t decided yet!

I’d love to see your sketches, quilt plan, thread choices and your process! Post them on Instagram with #everyonesgotanX or in our Facebook group. Here’s some more inspiration:

Dot-to-dot quilting using a free-motion ruler foot.
Hand-quilting details mixed in. Photo by Emma Poliquin.
Echoing the X shape with straight lines. Photo by Emma Poliquin.

X Sew-along: Week 2

Here we are at Week 2 — Cutting for Everyone’s Got An X! I hope you had fun picking your fabrics. I was so delighted to see what colours you will be working with! In this post, you will find tips on cutting your X quilt fabric.

You will notice that I have been very generous with the fabric requirements. Many of the cuts we are making are unconventional dimensions, so I wanted to leave plenty of room for errors in cutting. If all your cutting goes well, you will have a good amount leftover! So set these aside and keep them for Week 6 when we do a fun improv challenge.

Tip #1: Swatch Chart.

Use the fabric swatch chart on page 2. Since I purchased my fabric a few weeks back, I had forgotten which goes where. Having this chart will be handy as you cut.

Tip #2: Starch.

Apply spray starch or flattening spray and press your fabric before cutting. This will help keep your strips nice and straight. We will eventually working with bias edges when we trim our quilt top and this added stiffness will help with minimizing distortion.

If you don’t have starch and don’t want to buy any, don’t worry! I made my first two versions of Everyone’s Got an X without. Just handle your fabric as little as possible once it’s cut. Protecting it too much from movement will help, as well as keep any edges from fraying. I have put my cut pieces in a tray.

Tip #3: Use your ruler to measure.

Where possible, use your ruler markings rather than your measurements on your mat to cut. It will give you a more accurate cut. In addition, you will not be consistently cutting on the same spot on your mat for repeated measurements, which will eventually damage your mat.

In the image above, I’ve actually flipped my mat over so that I don’t get distracting grid lines. I am only using my ruler to measure. I needed 3 strips of 1″ x width of fabric so I cut a 3″ strip, then at the 2″ mark, then a last 1″ strip. This allows me to pick up my ruler as little as possible, as well as minimizes me handling the strips.

Tip #4: Be organized.

While we don’t have a lot of pieces for this quilt, you can save yourself trouble later on and label as you go! A simple piece of masking tape can go a long way. In the same vein, label your binding strips and set them aside somewhere safe. Check off each step as you go.

Tip #5: Butt your rulers together.

Yes, butt (my children are laughing in the background). You will have to make one or two cuts across a diagonal that will be longer than your longest ruler. Butt two rulers together to extend your straight edge.

Above: Two rulers are taped together to the left. The ruler on the right are helping me keep their edges perfectly aligned
aking my diagonal cut for Triangles “Y”.

Tip #6: Using prints.

If you are using a print for your background fabric (Fabric A), you will need to pay special attention to how you cut Triangles Y. Stack fabric right sides together, then cut the diagonal to get your triangles in the right orientation.

Mock up for the photo (dimensions do not follow pattern). Two rectangles stacked right sides together and cut on the diagonal.
The desired result: Four Triangles Y in this orientation.

There we have it! Once you’ve cut everything, be sure to handle everything as little as possible to prevent distortion and fraying. I got a pretty tray for this purpose, in an on-brand colour! Be sure to post your progress with the hashtag #EveryonesGotAnX!