22 January 2013

Scrap Quilting by Hand: Part 1, Choosing a Pattern

Dear Lissy,
I adore scrap quilting.  I quilted every day when you were small children, eventually opting for hand piecing and quilting because it was easy to pick up and put down at a moment's notice and didn't make a mess.  Machine piecing and quilting is wildly popular, and there are literally millions of tutorials, books, and videos available.  Right now, I think you'd vastly prefer the speed.  But someday, when your home is full of littles, and you have only bits and bobs of time to create something beautiful, pull this letter back out and enjoy!

The sophisticated Windows on the World
scrap quilt made by Jinny Beyer to
commemorate those lost in the 9/11 bombings.

I define scrap quilting as using "scraps" of many different fabrics  rather than buying yardage of 3-5 fabrics.  This gives a quilt sparkle and interest even if you use a simple pattern.

Hand piecing offers many advantages over machine piecing:  accuracy, portability, and economy are just a few.  It is for people who prefer process over product, though -- fair warning!

The first task is to pick a block.  Beginners usually enjoy small scale projects with just squares and triangles  Print or photocopy a scale sized pattern in b&w.  
Kansas Star Quilt Block

Now here's the tricky bit.  Value (how dark or light a piece of fabric is) is more important than color in a scrap quilt.  A table runner may have four blocks in four different colors.  The important thing is that you keep the same parts light, medium, and dark throughout the quilt.  Take a minute to shade your line drawing with black, gray, and white before you start choosing fabric.  As you get more advanced, you'll have more shades.  Here are a few ideas of how quilters have chosen to shade the Kansas Star Block. . .

This block has a strong star and will
form two distinct secondary all over
patterns when placed in a quilt.
This block has a checkerboard feel

Shaded differently, the same block
forms a pinwheel.  Most quilters
wouldn't recognize this as the famous
Kansas City Star block.
This block, another checkerboard, is the opposite values of the
one above. 

I'll write you about fabric choices soon.  It's easy to have a country-messy looking scrap quilt or a more sophisticated look depending on how you use fabric and color.


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