My dear friend Amy Butler has a new book out and I'm so excited to be able to share it with you, as today's stop on her blog tour. Amy Butler's Piece Keeping features twenty stylish projects that celebrate patchwork, and was photographed by her husband David. See all those goodies up there? They could be yours! Details to enter the giveaway are at the bottom of this post.
I love that Amy has created a book based on quilting and patchwork. For the past couple of years, Amy and I have been getting together for crafty weekends, where we hang out and create all sort of things, from jewelry to painting and drawing, and we've done our fair share of patchwork as well. We often gravitate towards improvisation during our times together, so I wanted to focus on a project in her book that explores that design technique. Here's Amy at our friend Kim's house during one of our weekends.
Kim even got in on the sewing that weekend, and we all set up our machines together and swapped fabric and ideas. It was great! We're due for another weekend soon, and while I can't speak for the others, I always leave refreshed, and it's so rewarding to be able to create without a deadline or purpose, since most of our work is often done with some end point in mind.
These gorgeous pillows are Amy's Improv Pillows from Piece Keeping, and I chose to recreate them to share with you. They are essentially large scale improvisationally pieced log cabin blocks, which is one of my favorite types of quilt block. I love this design because there is no wrong way to do them, and they are a great way to use up scrap fabric that you might have in your sewing room. I also love the fact they are great exercises in intuitive design, where you get to decide what piece comes next and how the layout is arranged, rather than following a precise pattern. This process leads to completely unique finished works, where no two look alike, just another reason why I love them so!
Instead of using prints, I chose to use a variety of solid Robert Kaufman Kona Cottons for the front of the pillow. They are, from top to bottom, Kona Oyster, Ash, Shadow, Charcoal, and Black. I used Robert Kaufman Essex Yarn Dyed in Black for the back of the pillow.
As Amy suggests to use a variety of different widths for the strips, I cut some with scissors and some freehanded with a rotary cutter, so that I would have a nice selection of strips to begin with. Most of my strips are between 2" and 3" wide.
Here's what my block looked like when it was about 15 inches square. I decided that I wanted to keep adding strips to my block, so that the pillow front was one large log cabin block, instead of adding borders around the square as Amy did in her project.
And here's the finished block for the pillow front. You can see that I alternated between light and dark fabrics and even added more fabric to strips that weren't quite long enough in some cases.
Here's my finished improv pillow. You can see that Zeke the dog approves, and it looks like he has also claimed it as his own.
The generous folks at Chronicle have allowed me to share Amy's instructions for her Improv Pillows from Piece Keeping, if you'd like to make your own. Here they are!
Finished size: 22" (55.9 cm) square
Quilted for extra softness and comfort, these modern patch pillows will keep your style fresh.
Two different design ideas give you just the right launchpad for your unique and intuitive creations!
Improvising on the Log Cabin technique, the center blocks of these pillows are made up of various brightly colored prints I had in my studio offset in a frame of white borders. I created the centers following the traditional Log Cabin blueprint of building strips around a center block, but I modified it by playing with the different widths of the strips as well as the direction I sewed them in. It’s very easy and fun to do, and I have provided some guidelines for how to create your own. This is a freeform project, so you cannot go wrong. Have fun with the colors and experiment.
All seams are 1/4" (0.6 cm) unless otherwise stated. The seam allowance is included in all pattern pieces and measurements. Press seam allowances to one side except where noted.
Improv Log Cabin
From 44" (112 cm) wide light- to mid-weight fabric
2 to 21/2 yards (1.83 to 2.27 m) total of different, brightly colored fabric scraps for the Pillow Centers (may include scrap fabrics, leftover prints, fat quarters, or 1/8 yard [0.11 m] cuts of fabrics)
1 3/8 yards (1.26 m) of solid white for the Borders
1 1/2 yards (1.37 m) of solid for the Backing
1 1/2 yards (1.37 m) of muslin for the backing of patchwork panels
45" x 60" (114.3 x 152.4 cm) Poly-fil Extra-Loft quilt batting (Fairfield)
Two 22" (55.9 cm) pillow forms (Fairfield)
1 spool of coordinating all-purpose thread (Coats)
1 spool of transparent thread (Coats)
ADDITIONAL TOOLS NEEDED
1 package of large safety pins
Walking foot (for your sewing machine)
Turning tool (Prym-Dritz)
1 standard hand-sewing needle
1. Cut Out the Fabrics
Use your rotary cutter, mat, and ruler for the following:
For Pillow One:
Cut 1 Top Border strip: 7" (17.8 cm) x width of fabric (wof)
Cut 1 Bottom Border strip: 5" (12.7 cm) x wof
Cut 1 Right Side Border strip: 6" (15.2 cm) x wof
Cut 1 Left Side Border strip: 51/2" (14 cm) x wof
For Pillow Two:
Cut 1 Top Border strip: 4" (10.2 cm) x width of fabric (wof)
Cut 1 Bottom Border strip: 5" (12.7 cm) x wof
Cut 1 Right Side Border strip: 4" (10.2 cm) x wof
Cut 1 Left Side Border strip: 8" (20.3 cm) x wof
Cut 2 pieces – 23" (58.4 cm) square
Cut 2 pieces – 25" (63.5 cm) square
Cut 2 pieces – 25" (63.5 cm) square
2. Design and Make the Pillow Center
To make the Pillow Centers:
You can lay out your pieces ahead of time and play with your composition, or you can just add pieces as you go, choosing whichever fabric seems to work next. Strips can be pieced from multiple fabrics. (See Figure 1.)
Angled seams can be easily made by laying two strips right side up on a cutting mat, overlapping the long edges that will be sewn by about 3" (7.6 cm). Using a ruler, rotary cutter, and mat, make an angled cut across the overlapped area. Then pin and sew them right sides together, matching the angled edges. Discard the trimmed pieces, or use them in a different part of the pillow.
a. Start by cutting a square or rectangle from your first fabric to be your center piece.
b. Find a fabric similar in size and sew it to the center piece. Square up* your two pieces and press.
c. Continue sewing additional strips and blocks to these center pieces, squaring and pressing your block as you go. Keep your rotary cutter, mat, and ruler close by to trim or square up any ends or overhanging edges.
d. Continue to build onto your Pillow Centers until they reach these sizes when they are squared up: Pillow One – 14" (35.6 cm) high x 141/2" (36.8 cm) wide; Pillow Two – 17" (43.2 cm) high x 14" (35.6 cm) wide.
3. Add the Border Fabrics
a. Cut off the selvages* from all of the border strips.
b. For either pillow, sew the Left and Right Borders to the Pillow Center. Use your rotary cutter, mat, and ruler to trim off the excess and square the pillow to the center piece.
c. Sew the Top and Bottom Borders to the Pillow Front. Trim off the excess to make a 25" (63.5 cm) square.
4. Machine Quilt the Pillow Fronts
a. For either pillow, lay one piece of muslin on a flat surface and smooth out any wrinkles.
b. Place one piece of batting onto the muslin.
c. Lay the Pillow Front right side up on the top of the batting, creating a sandwich of the muslin, batting, and Pillow Front, and smooth out the wrinkles.
d. Use safety pins to pin the layers together every 4" (10.2 cm) to secure the layers in place.
e. Attach the walking foot to your machine and thread your needle with transparent thread. Carefully stitch-in-the-ditch* along the seams of the Pillow Front, starting in the center and working out to the sides.
f. Square up the Pillow Front to a 23" (58.4 cm) square by trimming off the excess batting, muslin, and borders.
5. Complete the Pillow
a. For either pillow, with the right sides together pin the Pillow Back to the Pillow Front, matching all edges and corners.
b. Sew the Pillow Back to the Front, using a 1/2" (1.3 cm) seam allowance, pivoting* around each corner and leaving an 18" (45.7 cm) opening on one side. Trim the corners*, being careful not to cut the stitching.
c. Turn the cover right side out, gently pushing out the corners with a turning tool*, then press the edges flat.
d. Insert the pillow form through the opening in the cover.
e. Fold each side of the opening under 1/2" (1.3 cm) and pin the folded edges together. Using a hand-sewing needle and thread, slipstitch* along the pinned edges to close the opening in the pillow.
And now for the giveaway! Amy and Chronicle are giving away a copy of Piece Keeping, a fat quarter bundle of her latest fabrics for FreeSpirit Fabrics, and a selection of her ribbons from Renaissance Ribbons. To enter, please leave a comment below telling me what you'd like to make with the fabric and ribbons. Be sure that your email address is included as well so I can contact you if you are the winner. I'll choose one random winner on July 22 at noon ET. The giveaway is only open to residents of the US.
Be sure to visit all of the other stops along the blog tour to see more projects from Piece Keeping and enter their giveaways, too! Here's the complete schedule:
· July 11 - Chronicle Books
· July 12 - The Root Connection
· July 13 - Suzy Quilts
· July 14 - Rock Paper Scissors
· July 15 - 100 Billion Stars
· July 16 - Carrie Bloomston
· July 17 - Late Night Quilter
· July 18 - Crimson Tate
· July 19 - A Gathering of Stitches
· July 20 - Heather Jones Studio
· July 21 - Make It In Design