Regardless of the technique we use or how carefully we work with fabric patches, there are bound to be slight irregularities in seam allowance or minor distortion in the fabrics. To correct these problems, it is a good idea to start with slightly oversize patches and square up the subunit to the correct measurement. I usually start with 1/8th to 1/4th inch oversize patches. Once constructed, there is a little to trim off when squaring to the correct measurement for the subunit.
Flying geese units often have more issues with construction than other units, especially if made with the traditional method using triangles. Newer techniques help minimize the problems, but it is still a good idea to square up the subunits. (See “The Best Flying Geese Technique I Know!)
There are several rulers on the market designed to easily square up flying geese units. All will help preserve the ¼” seam allowance and keep the points from being trimmed off. Some, however, only work with one or two sizes of flying geese. Studio 180 Design, however, has, what I think, is the best flying geese ruler on the market. It is called Wing Clipper. With it you can square up flying geese units from 1”x1 ½” to 5 ½” x 10 ½” in half inch increments. There is also Wing Clipper II for squaring in ¼” and ¾” measurements.
Flying Geese units trimmed with Studio 180 Design’s Wing Clipper ruler.
I have used Wing Clipper for a number of projects and really appreciate how easy it is to use and how beautiful the flying geese units looks when squared up correctly with this ruler. Click to see a video demonstrating the Wing Clipper. If you can’t find this ruler at your quilt store, you can order it on line from Studio 180 Design. The ruler comes with excellent directions for both left hand and right hand cutting and a chart with cutting instructions for all of the sizes you can trim using the ruler.
I love making blocks that use flying geese now that I learned this construction technique. I no longer am sewing bias edge triangles together. The technique is easy to do and with each construction you are making four flying geese units which are enough for a block.
Below is a short video from Fons and Porter showing this construction technique. From 5 pieces of fabric you will have 4 flying geese units. I recommend cutting the patches a little over size so that the final flying geese unit can be squared up to size.
Once you try this technique, don’t hesitate to tackle any block that has flying geese units.
Flying geese subunits are the mainstay of many star blocks. The challenge with the flying geese subunit is maintaining the points and the distortion because of bias stitching. All of this results in subunits that are not quite rectangular. If you try to square them up, another challenge is the math and trimming (squaring the subunit) to keep the ¼” accurate so that the points are nice and sharp. As a result, many quilters simply avoid making anything with these flying geese.
The good news is that there are several methods and techniques that, when used separately, or combined, result in perfect flying geese. Not only are these methods and techniques easy, but fun. In the next several posts I will cover techniques and methods for piecing perfect flying geese.
One Seam Flying Geese
Nothing could be easier than stitching only one seam. Sounds impossible, but it is true. Following are two videos that illustrate this technique, one with Ricky Tims and the other with Jenny Doan. After you see this technique, you will want to run to your stash and start making these easy flying geese by the hundreds.
Flying geese are often subunits in star blocks and by themselves make a very attractive quilt. In the video below Jenny Doan demonstrates the easiest technique I have ever seen to have the look of flying geese, but without all of the effort. Once you see this technique you will want to be on the lookout for just the right fabrics, or better yet, this might make a good stash buster. Have fun!
As a professional Longarm quilter I have the privilege of seeing many lovely quilts. There is, however, a problem that can occur when borders are not correctly added to a quilt top. Many times a strip of fabric is laid on the quilt top, sewn from one end to the other and then cut off. Unfortunately, this results in wavy borders and dog eared corners. No amount of awesome quilting can change the look of an out of square quilt.
Regardless of the precision taken during the piecing process, because of the nature of fabric, the cut edges and sometimes bias edges, a quilt top will not be perfectly square. As a result, by adding borders correctly, you can square up the quilt top so that when quilted it will look much better, lay flatter, or if a wall quilt, hang straight on the wall.
The correct method for adding borders starts with measuring the quilt top in three places, just in from the top and bottom and across the middle. Two strips are cut the same length for the opposite borders using the middle measurement easing in the fullness, if any. The same steps are repeated for the other two sides. Although this method takes a few minutes longer, you will be more satisfied with how your quilt looks when completed. The video below walks you through the steps to correctly add borders to any quilt top.
If there was any fullness that was “eased” in by distributing the fullness and pinning as illustrated in the video, always place the eased or fuller side down (next to the feed dogs) when stitching. The feed dogs will evenly pull the fullness through. If you try to stitch with the fullness on the top, the presser foot will push the fullness along and make little pleats. Always stitch with the fullest side down.
If you have never added borders using this method, I encourage you to try it. You will be love the results.
Years ago I never thought about the angle at which quilts would be viewed. I simply laid the pieces on the floor or on the bed, rearranged the blocks to what looked OK, and sewed them together. Today, however, I realize that how quilts are viewed during construction compared with after they are made may be totally different. The perspective is totally different when looking at a quilt on an angle on the floor or bed versus straight on when on the wall. As a result, I have found that using a design wall is essential to audition and make choices on the patch colors in a block, block placement, fabric colors, border and binding choices. In fact, seeing the quilt take shape on a design has even changed some of the choices previously made because they simply didn’t contribute to the quilt as I once thought they would.
What is a design wall?
A design wall is simply a vertical space that is large enough to audition anything from block
patches to a quilt. It can be any size that meets the quilter’s needs. Some design walls are inexpensive or an easy DIY project, others are more costly. My small design “wall” is a 18″x24″ foam core board with a flannel pillowcase over it. I use it to audition block patches and to layer block patches for sewing. It is close to my sewing machine, keeps the patches organized, making it easy to pick up the patches when stitching them together. My other design wall is larger and attached to a wall in my studio.
Design Wall Options
Flannel backed table cloth. Very inexpensive and easy to tack up on any wall surface. Flannel backed table cloths can be purchased in a range of sizes. The largest size, however, would not be big enough for a large quilt.
Flannel covered insulating board. This is a relatively easy DIY project made from 2’x8’ or 4’x8’ insulation board available from a home improvement store. It is light weight, yet strong enough to lean or fasten on a wall. Use this link for instructions to make this project. http://christaquilts.com/2013/11/11/a-new-design-wall/ Instructions for other similar projects are also available online.
Portable design walls. Offered in different sizes, this design wall is made of a light weight frame with flannel stretched across it. This type of design wall would be ideal if it needed to be used at a class, moved from one room to another, or had no permanent location. http://www.cherylannsdesignwall.com/
Mounted retractable roller design wall. When delivering a Longarm system a couple of years ago, I discovered this unique product at our customer’s studio. Mounted on a wall or over a closet, this design wall pulls down, like a shade, offering space to audition a quilt. The beauty of his product is that it takes up very little space and can easily be rolled up out of view or allowing access to whatever is behind the design wall. It can even be rolled up with the patches or blocks still on it as illustrated in the photo. This would make an ideal design wall in a small sewing area where a larger fixed design wall would not be possible. http://www.design-a-way.com/
Regardless of how much quilting you do, the design wall is an important “tool” that allows you to visualize the finished quilt helping you make good design choices. Besides having a design wall, make sure you also have good lighting.
Recently one of the legends of the quilting world passed away. Yvonne Porcella, who never even won a ribbon for any of her quilts, influenced the quilting world for decades. Learning to sew from her Mother when she was growing up, Yvonne was influenced by the art and quilting motifs found in textiles purchased in the 60’s from Afghanistan and other nearby countries. Although trained as a nurse and crafting as a weaver years ago, she began quilting to be able to do something near her children and even sewed standing up with her machine on the kitchen counter top to keep the pins away from the children. Her eclectic art quilts are only made with a couple of blocks and almost always her signature black and white, often checked fabric.
The link below from a 2010 The Quilt Show episode is now available for all to see and
Quilt purchased by the Smithsonian.
met Yvonne Porcella. I was first introduced to Yvonne on Alex Anderson’s quilt show years ago. Yvonne reminded me of a hippy with her unique, colorful clothing that she made. Her quilts also had that unique signature, not uncommon for today’s art quilts, but certainly very different from the traditional quilts of the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s. Yvonne’s quilts made such an impression in the quilting world that the Smithsonian even purchased one of them in the mid 1990’s as well as having one chosen for inclusion in the 100 Best Quilts of the 20th Century.
Biscuits Tris unique Porcella style.
I hope that you will set aside about an hour to watch this video, meet this amazing woman and see how different things in life influenced Yvonne to become the quilt maker she was. More importantly, watching the video should make you think about what has influenced you to become the quilt maker you have become or are becoming. Most of all, I would hope that we each would be encouraged to step out of the box and express our individuality through our quilting.
The video is broken into chapters (listed to the right on the page) with short advertising interludes, so, if you do not have time to watch all of it, book mark it and go back later.
I belong to a very large quilt club in Rochester, NY, Genesee Valley Quilt Club, that has about 335 members and meets monthly September through June at a very large building. Before the short meeting (about 10 minutes long), there ample time to search the large library borrow books, participate in the block of the month and fat quarter activities, enjoy time chatting with quilting friends new and old, turn in quilts you have made to be given away as “comfort quilts,” sign up for a workshop, check out the free table, or see what a member might have at the “sale” table that month. After the short business meeting is over we enjoy “show and tell” seeing the many comfort quilts turned in (often 40-50) and member show and tell, which is an inspiration to all of us. We take a lunch and take turns providing snacks. After lunch we have a program, usually a presentation by a well-known quilter, often with a slide show and quilt samples.
Each year I try to take at least a couple of workshops to learn new techniques or perfect techniques I already use. Because the club likes to bring in nationally known teachers and lecturers, I had the opportunity to take a class last fall (2015) from Joe Cunningham. Anyone who has been in the quilting world very long knows the names of some of the well-known quilting teachers. Because there are significantly fewer men quilting teachers than women teachers, you are more likely to know their names.
As a vendor (Nolting Longarm) at Quilt Canada in 2014 held at Brock University in St Catharines, Canada, I noticed one day a very tall, slender man strolling down one of the halls where classes were taking place. Later I noticed that same man eating in the dining area. Could it be, yes, it was, Joe Cunningham. Joe was teaching classes at Quilt Canada.
Over the years I have read articles about Joe and his quilts in various quilting magazines. His style is not traditional, not really art, although sometimes, it is simply his style. So, when I had the opportunity to take a class from Joe in Rochester, NY, I immediately signed up. Like most workshops you are provided with a list of supplies that include fabric suggestions, sewing machine, cutting tools, and sewing supplies. Armed with everything I needed or thought I might need, I went to class which was held in a very large meeting room at a church. There was more than enough room for the fifteen or sixteen quilters. Each of us had two large size tables to work on! This was the second workshop that Joe taught, having taught another project the day before.
The workshop with Joe was a joy. It was very laid back, the technique had a few instructions, very few, and the interpretation was left up to the quilter. Joe roamed around the room looking at progress as we made our 6 ½” blocks. Although laid back, there was structure and he did have the clock in mind suggesting that by 2 pm our blocks should be made. If you don’t have 36, use 28 or if you have more, fine. At 2 pm we would start working on arrangement. Thankfully we each had a lot of space to arrange our blocks. Joe would come by and spend several minutes looking at the arrangement, move a few blocks to another spot, maybe back again, but urged us to be open and look at other design options and that it would speak to us when it was done. What was so interesting was that everyone’s project looked quite different because of the many different kinds of fabric used. Some fabrics were solids, others read as solids, others were prints with a dominant color, how value (relative strength of color compared to other colors) affected the design, every project looked very different. I remember one project in particular made of fuchsia, lime green, gray and black solids. What a modern quilt that was going to be, very striking.
Wow, the arrangement took the rest of the class time. Even then I was not sure I was
Joe serenading us as we work.
Joe showing us his quilts.
One of Joe’s quilts using his bias tape technique.
happy with my arrangement and spent at least another hour or more on the design wall at home before deciding that was enough and started stitching the blocks together. Joe did spend a little time talking about finishing, adding borders, or not, and, of course quilting. He had a number of samples to look at which provided lots of inspiration.
As Joe started packing up his quilts for their journey back to California, I learned something about storing quilts. I noticed that he did not fold them nice and even by quarters, then fold again into a nice square. Instead, he flopped one corner over, then another corner over and each corner, rather haphazard, like a child might “fold” something. So I asked. Quite simply, folding haphazardly in different ways each time reduces the fold marks that you often see in quilts that are neatly folded and stored. So, I guess sometimes it is best not to be so neat.
My project is now finished, assembled, quilted, and bound.
My finished quilt with closeup of binding finish technique.
Piped binding technique.
The workshop with Joe was one of the most fun filled workshops I have ever taken. Low stress, using a free, no thought cutting technique, an encouragement to think out of the box, and he even serenaded us with his guitar and songs. Thank you, Joe Cunningham for a very enjoyable workshop experience.
Below take a tour with Joe Cunningham in his studio in San Francisco. And, if you have a chance, sign up to take one of his workshops.
Like a frame is designed to complement a photo or painting, a quilt is not complete with out its frame, the binding. Binding nicely applied is even, has sharp mitered corners, and the quilt fills the binding.
In The Quilt Show video below, Julie Cefalu demonstrates a technique to make sharp mitered corners and another technique for a nice finish. Add these techniques to her previous video and you are all set to perfectly bind your next quilt.
Although the video is made demonstrating the techniques on a domestic machine, the same techniques can be used when stitching the binding to the quilt using a longarm.