HST’s & QST’s: It’s Not You, It’s the Math

Have you ever wondered why points are so difficult to match up when you’re making a block with half-square or quarter-square triangles? It’s not so bad if the entire block is HST’s or QST’s by themselves (except that the block will most likely not finish to exactly the expected size), but pair either one with squares or rectangles and expect the corners and points to match up and everything to be sized right in the end, and you’re likely to be disappointed, no matter how carefully you’ve sewn or how accurate your 1/4″ seam allowance is.

Half Square Triangles

Well, I’ve got a news flash for you: it’s not you or your sewing skills, it’s the math. And I don’t mean that you or the pattern designer have miscalculated the cutting sizes either. What I mean is that mathematically, when you calculate the size of square to cut for a certain finished size of half-square or quarter-square triangle, you won’t get a size that’s rotary cutter friendly. It’s some algebraic formula like Asquared+Bsquared=Csquaredyaddayadda, and I did actually do the math a couple of years back though I don’t remember the formula at the moment.

This whole issue can be proven with graph paper as well. Try this: draw HST#1 with 2″ straight sides on graph paper, and then add 1/4″ seam allowances all the way around. Then draw HST#2 at the universally accepted cut size, with 2 7/8″ straight sides (the formula to determine the cut size for a HST is finished size + 7/8″). Measure the straight sides on the HST#1, which should be 2 7/8″, but they’re not. Sure, it’s not THAT far off, but when a block contains 8 or 16 HST’s, or when those HST’s are supposed to fit together with a 2 1/2″ square patch, this can cause issues down the road.

The bias edge across the middle of the HST adds its own measure of instability and inaccuracy, and it all equals wonkyness that’s not likely to be the right size in the end. What to do? I’ve gotten to the point where I cut large and trim down after the HST’s or QST’s are sewn, so that I know I’m getting the right size and everything is really square. I use the formula, then add 1/2″ or 3/4″ to the squares when I cut them. I dislike doing this for two reasons: one, it’s an extra step, and in multiples no less, since how many quilts need just one or two HST’s or QST’s, and two, it’s a fabric waster which is really not okay. There is a silver lining though (see, I can find one in this morass!): when you trim the HST’s or QST’s down to size, you’re trimming away the “dog ears” at the same time, so that’s a bonus.

Some patterns these days may just tell you to do that from the beginning, cut large and trim to the right size after piecing, but I’m basing all this on my personal experience with patterns and books, which is probably old since I don’t generally buy patterns or make quilts out of books anymore, preferring to tumble over the cliff of my own creativity into the scrappy mess of UFO’s and failed fabric experiments at the bottom. When I was buying books and patterns a few years ago, patterns were written based on cutting the “exact” size you need, and expecting the HST’s and QST’s to be the right size in the end and they never were, and the edges were curvy and wonky in the bargain.

So what’s your solution to the HST and QST finished size/cutting size quandary? Do you have these issues with patterns these days? Do you cut bigger and trim, or just deal with the fallout on the fly when piecing blocks?

Edit: Crazy Accuracy Freak Girl wrote this while I was having breakfast. ;) I try to keep her penned up and away from the blog, but sometimes she sneaks out and adds her two cents…or two dollars, as the case may be. Thanks for putting up with her.—Nadine

Moda Fabrics + Electric Quilt = Quilt Design Coolness

I was shopping for charm packs today for a small quilt I’d like to make and since Moda markets all of these cool charm packs, jelly rolls, layer cakes and other whatnots, I took a trip to the Moda site to see what’s out there now, and what’s coming up. I discovered something totally cool, and I don’t know whether it’s new, or it’s been around a while and I’ve just missed it.

If you visit the Designers page on the Moda site, you’ll see a list of all (or most?) of their current fabric designers. Click on a name, like 3 Sisters, and another window will pop up and show you a bit about the designer, and their current lines for Moda. See those dots down below the fabric line logo pictures? You can click on those and see the fabrics.

Click on the light colored solid dot for an Adobe PDF file of swatches of all the fabrics in the line, or try the darker colored solid dot to download a .zip file of .jpeg graphic files of all the fabrics plus pictures of the FQ packs, jelly rolls, charm packs, layer cakes and sometimes a quilt image that go with the line. You can also click on the outlined dot to visit the Moda section at a site called Fabric Matcher. Fabric Matcher seems to be a site where you can “shop” for Moda fabrics and find patterns, and put them together and save them as a project, but I didn’t spend a bunch of time on that, since it doesn’t seem that you can actually buy patterns or fabric there, so I’m not sure what the point really is, and that’s not really the cool part anyway.

The cool part is that if you download the .zip file with the fabric pictures in it, you can import the fabrics into Electric Quilt and design quilts! The pictures seem to be actual scans of the fabrics, and are in scale with one another, so designing a quilt with the actual fabrics you want to use is really easy and looks great when done. See?

Quilt Design with Electric Quilt and Portobello Market fabrics from Moda

This is the Portobello Market line from 3 Sisters for Moda. I love these fabrics, so I stopped in at The Fat Quarter Shop and scooped up a charm pack and some other yardage to go with it, and I can make my quilt when it all arrives! Now if only all the other fabric manufacturers would catch on to this. What a great way to market and advertise the fabric lines especially in our current economy where every trip by car counts. If I hadn’t found this today, would I have bought $50 worth of fabric online? Probably not. I checked out RJR Fabrics and Michael Miller Fabrics, and if they have anything like Moda does, it wasn’t easy to find.

Do you know of any other fabric manufacturers that share such great images of their fabrics like this? If so, share so we can all go download the latest fabrics to play with!

P.S. I found another cool page on the Moda site, the What’s New page. If you go there, you get the same fabric line logo pics with the dots, only they’re arranged by release month instead of by designer. It’s a great way to see what’s on the horizon from Moda!

Looking forward to new projects & better shopping

Today we took off for Heidelberg to go to the Arts & Crafts Center, where they have all the quilting fabrics and supplies, to pick up a quilt book that my good friend Liz recommended. She said that making a One Block Wonder was great fun, and it sounded intriguing, so I thought I’d take a break from Creativity Projects that are filling in the break from The Misery Quilt and give it a whirl. I also found some really wonderful fabric to experiment with, and here’s the loot from the day:

The day's loot

The fabric goes pretty well with my bed linens, the upholstery on the antique French chairs, and the tapestry that is in my bedroom, and since the new house will have a straight wall behind the bed (as opposed to the slanted ceiling that we have above the bed now), I figure that a new quilt to go above the bed would not be amiss. It will be a great first project for my new studio, since I’ll have lots of space for cutting and a real design wall to use.

While we were in the store, GuitarGirl found a pattern by Fourth & Sixth Designs she liked and asked if I would make the Kinetic Energy quilt for her. I told her I would help her make it, and that it was pretty easy. I’ve seen this pattern in catalogs, and I liked it too, so it won’t be a chore to help her with it! Maybe I’ll make a quilter out of her yet.

The last time she quilted, she was at a point where she was going to have to take out a seam and sew it again since the fabrics weren’t lined up right when she sewed it the first time, hence the gaping hole in the seamline. She didn’t want to take it out, and I told her she had to, so she left and never came back to the machine. (Have I mentioned that teaching kids anything isn’t my strongest point?)

She’s a bit older now, so maybe this quilting thing will go better, but she’s already going on about having to do “all that stuff you do by hand with the flipping and the clips” (she means hand sewing the binding down on the back)! We’ll see how it goes, though I can already tell she’ll probably get bored pretty quickly since the quilt needs 27 strip sets of at least 9 strips each or something, so that’s a lot of straight (boring) sewing. Continue reading

The cat and “his” quilt

Okay, we quilters know that any quilt is the cat’s quilt if and whenever he wants it and can get to it to decorate it with his fur, but sometimes they do have their own quilts as well. Shadow has his up on top of the shelf unit that serves as my computer desk. It’s nice and warm up there, and he can see the world, or make plans to pounce on Patches when he comes in the room:

Shadow's quilt

This particular quilt really is a cat quilt, since the pattern is pieced kitties and flowers. I made this years ago, way back in the beginning of the whole quilting addiction. It wasn’t always meant to be the cats’ quilt, but somehow along the way it became one. Our old kitty CB used it daily until she passed away, and then it sat in a bag for a bit until GuitarGirl would let me wash it. She was quite attached to CB, and was adamant that I not wash the quilt after CB went to kitty heaven. Now Shadow uses it almost daily.

I quilted it with some decorative machine stitches that were on my Pfaff 955 that I had back then. I had no clue what I was doing, and I couldn’t figure out how else to quilt it. The binding is a bit on the sad side (had no idea how to do that either at the time), and now it’s coming undone in the bargain. I’d take a picture of the actual quilt (once he gets done with his snooze), but it’s likely so covered with cat hair that it wouldn’t actually be worth it! I dug the pattern out of the closet and scanned the font of it:

Kittens in the Garden quilt

Even back then, I couldn’t just make the pattern like it’s shown; I had to make things complicated and do a black background, and then some of the flowers were too dark, and I think that added to the whole “how do I quilt this” quandary. The pattern even had suggested quilting designs in it, but that was also before I knew how to free motion machine quilt, there were too many curves in the quilting patterns, and I wasn’t doing it by hand for sure!

Being the packrat that I am, I’m keeping the pattern around. It’s not available anymore as far as I can tell, and you never know when you might need something like this for whatever reason. (I use that reasoning for a LOT of things which is why my house is too small. Note that I don’t have too much stuff, it’s the house that’s too small!) I don’t think I’d ever make it again, but maybe one of my kids will someday. It doesn’t take up much space in the overall scheme of things. :)

Monday’s Melange #2

Monday's Melange

I’m back in my Bookmarks folder today to bring you another Melange on this happy Monday. I think I’ll spend some more time in the quilting section:

Embroidery Font Shop—This is a great source for pre-digitized fonts for all your embroidery projects. I have a few fonts available in my Bernina software, but when I need more, I know where to go. Great pictures, a fast loading site and delivery by download makes purchasing easy!

Electric Quilt Software–I’ve talked about this before, but it bears repeating (especially since I keep forgetting about it myself!). If you have Electric Quilt Software already, it’s worth a monthly trip back to the site to grab the free fabrics of the month. These are palettes of fabrics that you can import into Electric Quilt to use on your quilts when you’re designing. And something new I just found: EQ6 Show, an add-on slideshow viewer for your projects! There’s also an EQ5 version of the viewer. Much more awaits at the site, including free Block of the Month Clubs, and it doesn’t seem like you even need EQ for those! Continue reading

Monday’s Melange

I was digging around in my browser bookmarks the other day, and thinking how badly they need to be organized. I have hundreds (maybe thousands??) of bookmarks, some of which probably date back to the beginning of my serious Internet usage more than 10 years ago. I’ve been carting these bookmarks around from computer to computer, and from browser to browser for all these years. After all, if whatever it is was important enough to bookmark once, it must be important to save it, right? Well, maybe. Yes, I’m just as much of a packrat on the computer as I am in the rest of my cluttered life. Inside my Firefox Bookmarks folder, I even have folder of Internet Explorer Bookmarks from the time of my great sickness back when I thought IE was the only browser in existence. (Psst! Get Firefox!)

I’ve decided to plow through a few of these sites weekly with the intent to cull and organize, so that hopefully when I open my bookmarks folder, it doesn’t look like this—Eeeewww:

The evil bookmarks folder, before

And guess what? I’m going to share a few with you every week as Monday’s Melange! This week, I’ll start with some (related to) quilting links, since that is my “thing,” but obviously not all of my bookmarks pertain to quilting, since I do have a life outside my studio (an unfortunate fact, sometimes!). As I’m sure that my readers have that kind of “life outside the quilting” thing going on too, I figure that there might be something of interest in the “non-quilting” bookmarks, even for quilters.

Without further ado, here is the Melange on this happy Monday:

Monday's Melange

San Francisco Stitch Company—Okay, this is not a bookmark from years ago, this is a very recent addition, like from just yesterday. Their machine embroidery designs are really beautiful and got my creativity totally spinning off the map, and the design packs are downloadable and reasonably priced, too. I found this machine embroidery design company via Irene at Sunimp. She’s made a beautiful quilt (top?) with some embroidered medallions from San Francisco Stitch Company. Love her blog, too!

Treadleart—Heh, I’m already seeing that this bookmark exercise will probably cost some $$ as I rediscover things I’d forgotten about! Treadleart is a fine example. They carry Shisha mirrors (the page includes a great explanation of the different types of mirrors), made popular in the quilting world by Ted Storm, as far as I know. Treadleart also has Tidy Totes which you can buy already made up in various fabrics, or they have the kits including the pattern and kit refills to make your own. I’ve always wanted one of these, but I’ve never run across the pattern anywhere, and maybe now I’ll just buy one ready-made. Lots of other cool stuff awaits at Treadleart, but my only complaint would be a lack of a shopping cart system for online shopping. I could put on my Web developer hat and fix that for them… Continue reading