Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Weekly Progress: Kaleidoscope On Track With More Fabric en Route

Anders' graduation quilt is starting to take shape on my design wall!  My goal for the past week was to get 23 of the necessary 63 block centers cut and pieced, and I pushed myself to get 8 block centers finished yesterday to stay on track with that goal.

11 inch Kaleidoscope Block Centers on my Design Wall

It's exciting to see the illusion of curved lines begin to emerge now that I have more blocks on the design wall.  However, it was SAD to take down my sampler blocks (again!) and put that project in Time Out.

One Last Look at the Retro Building Blocks Sampler Before Exile

I'm really hoping to come back to the Retro 'Eighties Building Blocks sampler as soon as the kaleidoscope project is finished.  I decided to store the blocks laid flat on my older son's bed, since he's away at college.  Two reasons: First, storing the blocks flat on Lars's bed means no creases from folding the larger blocks to fit in a storage bin or drawer.  Second, this will force me to return my attention to the sampler blocks immediately after finishing the kaleidoscope quilt top, since Lars will be coming home from school by then to SLEEP in this bed.  Buh-bye, sampler blocks!

I had grown so accustomed to seeing those bold, solid sampler blocks on my design wall that it looks really empty to me now.  Taking them down gave me space to shift the 11" kaleidoscope blocks to the left, where I have enough height to fit a full 9-block column and develop the 7 x 9 layout I'll need for this XL Twin quilt (sized to fit most college dormitory beds).  

See How My Angled Ceiling Cuts Off the Top Right Corner of My Design Wall?

Those larger pieces of hand marbled fabrics that I ordered from Marjorie Lee Bevis shipped yesterday, from Oregon, if I'm not mistaken.  There will be a lot more variety in the finished quilt than what it looks like right now.  I'm aiming to cut out three blocks from each fabric, if I have enough of it, so the fabrics you see duplicated above will be spread farther apart from one another in the final layout.  

23 Down, 40 to Go...

I'm digging the "moodiness" of how this quilt is taking shape, and I also like the variety of contrast levels that will make some of those darker blocks appear to recede as the lighter blocks seem to come forward.  I'm only cutting up a couple fabrics at a time, then seeing how their addition affects the mix of blocks on the wall before selecting the next fabrics.  Right now I'm feeling like aI want to add some more greens and blues next, but truer blue and green shades rather than yellow-green or turquoise blues.  Part of me wants to hold off and see what those hand marbled fabrics from Marjorie look like, but then the OTHER part of me has her eye on the calendar and feels like more blocks must be cut out and sewn RIGHT NOW.  

Tuesday's To-Do List: 10 More Kaleidoscope Centers

I have three weeks left in March and 30 block centers remaining to be cut and pieced, so that means I can stay on schedule with just 10 more block centers each week.  Having cut, marked, and pinned the blocks the day before, I was able to get 8 blocks sewn during my weekly bee meeting with my quilty peeps (we've been meeting via Zoom for the past year, and I dial in from my phone with my little AirPod thingys for audio only so as not to impact our bandwidth for my husband and son who are working and remote-learning from home).  It is amazing how much sewing I can get done while we're gabbing away about every topic under the sun.  It's like that TV show, "The View," except that we're all running sewing machines while we're talking.  Pandemic silver lining, for sure!)

Bonus Content: Rebecca's Sneaky Tricks for Piecing Kaleidoscope Blocks

I'm employing a hybrid machine/hand piecing strategy for these blocks.  If I really, REALLY needed my center points to be perfect matches, I'd be marking the actual seam lines on my triangles and piecing the blocks completely by hand, ensuring that my stitches were landing exactly on the drawn line, front and back, and that the final stitch at the point of each triangle lined up exactly with the final stitch at the point of every other triangle.  Conversely, if I was REALLY running out of time, I'd just sew the triangles by machine and take them straight to the ironing board for pressing, and let the points fall where they may.  

Here's the personal compromise I came up with to get the speed of machine piecing with the accuracy of hand piecing (these are affiliate links, BTW): I ran a sheet of pastel green card stock through my AccuQuilt GO! cutter with my 5" x 6" isosceles triangle die to create a template, the exact same way I'm running my fabric through to cut out my triangles.  Then, on the pointy top point of my tagboard triangle, I used a regular acrylic ruler to mark where the adjacent quarter inch seam lines should be intersecting right at that point in the middle of the block where all of the triangle tips come together.

Marking the Center Seam Intersection Point on Every Triangle Before Piecing

I used a tiny 1/16" hole punch to poke out a hole just big enough for a marking utensil, and I'm marking that point with a dot on all of my triangles before I pin them together for piecing.  On the back of the navy blue tonal print fabric, I'm marking with a dot of Crayola Fine Line Washable Marker in green.  On my batiks and hand dyes, I'm marking that point with a twist of my Bohin mechanical ceramic chalk pencil instead.

Speedy Machine Sewing, Stopping at the Marked Point

With my Bernina 97D quarter inch patchwork foot and the seam guide screwed down so that it butts up against the edge of my presser foot, I can sew these seams by machine accurately at a pretty fast clip.  I'm guiding the fabric edge against the seam guide with one or two fingertips only, letting my feed dogs and integrated dual feed do the work (which reduces my odds of accidentally stretching the bias edges as I sew).  I'm using only two extra fine Clover patchwork pins, one at each end, and I start at the outside of the block with each seam, and I sew right up to (but not THROUGH) the marked dot, take a few backstitches, then grab the next pair of pinned triangles.  Every time I join two sets of triangles, I start sewing at the outside of the block and stop just shy of my marked center dot, ending with a couple of back stitches.  

Machine Piecing Completed, Ready for Hand Stitched Centers

But, just as with hand piecing, I'm not pressing any of my seams until after the entire block is complete.  The block centers pictured above have been machine pieced, but not pressed yet.  When I have a stack of blocks at this stage, I thread a hand sewing needle with a doubled strand of 50/3 Mettler cotton thread, and then I connect the center points from the back of each block with a hand stitch that goes from one triangle point to the one next to it, through one seam allowance at a time, all the way around the block to close up that block center nice and tight.  It's more time consuming than totally machine piecing the blocks, but it doesn't take nearly as long as it would take to sew the entire length of every seam by hand.  And the results are nearly as accurate as hand sewing.

Last Step: Spiral-Press Seam Allowances, Open Center Seam Allowances and Flatten

Final step is to spiral-press the seam allowances counter-clockwise around each block, open up the seam allowances at the center back, and press that nice and flat like a tiny flower, using the tip of my iron.

...And that's why it's taking me so long.  ;-). 
I'm linking up today's post with the following linky parties:


To-Do Tuesday at ChrisKnits


Midweek Makers at Quilt Fabrication

Wednesday Wait Loss at The Inquiring Quilter


Needle and Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation  

Free Motion Mavericks with Muv and Andree

Sew and Tell Thursday (on BerninaLand Groups.io)


TerryKnott.blogspot.com said...

Your blocks look fabulous! Good for you to make so much progress so quickly!

Chris said...


Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

it is all looking so good and you are taking such care for points to match - it will be perfect when you are done with it

Marie said...

All of the effort that you are putting into making your points is paying off - it's a beauty!

Vicki in MN said...

OMG this is going to be a fabulous quilt! Very clever construction method;)

Jennifer Fulton Inquiring Quilter said...

Great compromise you've come up with that mixes speed and accuracy! These blocks are turning out great and I'm loving the mix of fabrics. The new additions will take these up to the next level. Thanks for sharing your construction method on Wednesday Wait Loss.

LIttle Penguin Quilts said...

I'm enjoying seeing your progress with these blocks and reading about your techniques! It may slow you down, but this will definitely be a quilt to be proud of when you're done.

KathySue said...

I love your current project. But I have a question totally off topic. Can you tell me about the rack/iron stand you have off the end of your ironing board? I am looking for something to hold my iron, but not be sitting on my ironing/pressing surface.

Brenda @ Songbird Designs said...

Your blocks are coming right along, Rebecca, and they look awesome!! Looking forward to seeing your finish on this one.

piecefulwendy said...

It's coming along! Great idea marking those pieces before you sew. Twirling that little seam intersection must be a bit time consuming, but helpful in the end. It's going to look great!

chrisknits said...

I'm not going that far with my blocks! LOL. But kudos to you for making such gorgeous blocks!

Dawn said...

Lovely!! I'm a big fan of kaleidoscope quilts and yours is fabulous.

Lynette said...

Anders' quilt is so FANTASTIC!!! These fabrics have the best interplay going on, and I'm only seeing it from the camera's eye. I bet it's even better in real life.

Muv said...

Hello Rebecca,
Gosh that looks like fiddly work with those seams at the centre, but well worth the effort - the blocks look fantastic on the design wall!
Thank you for linking up with Free Motion Mavericks!
love, Muv

Kathleen said...

I love the way the Kaleidoscope is looking and your hybrid method is perfect! I also appreciate the reminder about pressing at the end so you can get the spinning center. Thanks for linking up to #TTot22 with this great tutorial.