quilts, treadle sewing machines, crochet, watercolor, dogs, & other fun stuff

4th UFO Underway! Disappearing Four-Patch

As mentioned in the last entry, the fourth UFO project of the year is underway.   I have no idea how long this one has been stashed away, but I’m sure it’s been several years.  

This project started with a layer cake Mom gave me.  The colors and prints are in the “shabby chic” style, I guess you could say.  Pinks, aqua, sea green, grey, baby blue, and white, with a couple of rose florals and other sweet, feminine prints.  

…I just spent a couple of minutes searching and found it:  Connecting Threads “Cottage Chic” from 2015.  

I think I searched for patterns using layer cakes and found one on Jen Eskridge’s old blog.  I’d link to it now, but though I can find photos doing a photo search, the page they link to is no longer available.  Essentially, it’s an “exploded” (oversized, enlarged) disappearing four-patch.  Each disappearing 4-patch uses four 10-inch x 10-inch squares.  (In my case, I used two pieces from the layer cake, then two pieces of white muslin that I cut from yardage.)

Sew these together into a four-patch and press open.  Next, cut 2 inches from the seams— on both sides of each seam and in both directions (horizontal and vertical).  This will create a large square in each corner, a small center four-patch unit, and four rectangles (rail units?) in between the corner squares.  Flip each rectangle to alternate between light and dark throughout the block.  Assemble the newly-cut pieces into the completed block.  

Well, I got as far as making the jumbo 4-patches— the first step.  Then I guess I looked at the result and put the project away in disgust.  😖  Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but I definitely didn’t want to deal with it then and there!  

I was still pretty new to piecing, and somehow I’d messed up.  I’m not sure exactly what happened… Maybe I cut the background squares the wrong size.  When I pulled it all back out again, this month, I checked my seam allowances, and while one or two were off, most of them looked okay, so I don’t know where the problem came in, but somehow, these 4-patches were not at all uniform in size, and there were places where the pieces didn’t match up at all. Just very shoddy work!  

I didn’t want to put too much work into this project.  I really just want to get it put together somehow and done— off my list of UFOs!  So I’m taking the easy way out. I’m just completing the blocks as they are, cutting and re-assembling the parts.  When they’re all done, I’ll measure them to find the smallest block and set that as my new size, trimming the others to match.  

This certainly won’t be my best work— there are a few accidental pleats where I’m trying to force the fabric to match up without taking forever with pinning— but at this point, I’m just getting it done.  When it’s all finished, it’ll be fine.  I won’t be inviting scrutiny.  I’ll just turn a blind eye, use 100% cotton batting, and hope it crinkles up like there’s no tomorrow.  

Here’s the progress so far.  I’m making 20 blocks total, so this is half of them “done” (except for the trimming):

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I’m listening to a creepy audiobook while I piece this:  Last Days, by Adam Nevill.  A lot of times I listen to talk radio, but when the news starts getting me down, it’s better to shut out the world (what a relief!) and listen to something else.  

Music is best for when I’m using the quilting machine, but for piecing I find it usually gets boring (unless I’m singing along in an empty house— too self-conscious if someone can hear me).  Generally, I prefer podcasts (true crime, quilt-related, or occasionally comedy) and audiobooks, if I’m not doing something requiring absolute concentration.  It’s easier to listen “just enough” with radio or podcasts.  With the denser pacing of books, I feel like I’ve missed something, if my mind begins to wander.  

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Earlier this month, I visited Lori Kennedy’s blog.  If you’re not familiar with her, she teaches quilters how to machine quilt their quilts, and I enjoy her quirky, illustration-style quilting motifs.  Her older blog entries have a wealth of information, and she’s also published a few books focusing on machine quilting.  She has a longarm quilting machine, now, but I believe her books are more from the perspective of quilting on a domestic sewing machine, so anyone interested in quilting can use them.  

Anyway, this particular blog entry I read was titled “The $7 Better Quilting Challenge”.  Basically, the challenge is this: Buy a ream of printer paper (which costs $7 or less) and commit to doodling X number of pages each and every day for 100 days, or until the paper runs out.  There are 500 sheets in a ream, so if you doodle 5 (the original challenge), you’ll fill every page in 100 days.  If you only have time for 4, 3, or 2 pages per day, do that!  If you miss a day, pick it back up the following day.  The key is just to make time for doodling every day.  Don’t judge your doodles.  Don’t think too much.  Just doodle it. 😉 Initial and date them, then set them aside.  Save them to look at again at a later date.  (I assume there will be more blog posts on the topic later on…) To begin with, you don’t even have to worry about not lifting your pen/marker off the paper, if it helps. (That’s usually important with quilting motifs, because you don’t want to have to stop and start the line of quilting too often.)  

I decided to give it a try.  One of the things I’ve read again and again is how important doodling or practicing is to quilting.  I’ve had a doodle notebook for years, but I haven’t always been consistent with it.  Months would often go by between doodle sessions.  I thought this might help get me into the habit for a longer period of time.  

Also, one of the main ideas behind this challenge is that it should free you up from feeling that you’re wasting paper by doodling on it.  The $7 (or less) that it costs to buy the paper is an investment in helping you become a better quilter.  Consider it the fee for a self-led class.  That’s what the paper is for, and you’re not “wasting” anything!  I have my ream of doodle paper set aside from the regular printer paper.  It’s in a totally different room, in fact, to send a mental message to myself.  “This paper is spoken for: It’s for doodling!”  

I used to be a prolific doodler, in school.  If I wasn’t taking notes during class, I was probably doodling.  As an adult, I’ve fallen a little out of practice, and the types of things I once doodled for fun weren’t really great for quilting motifs… But I guess the idea is that all doodling helps strengthen your mind-hand coordination and encourages creativity.  I struggle to not judge my doodles, and while I’m no longer doing 5 pages a day, I do try to get at least a couple of pages filled each day.  

I do think I’m improving from some of my earlier doodles.  I’ve come up with some new (to me) ideas and am learning a bit more about what I think will make a good quilting design.  While I admire the illustration/line-drawing style quilting, what I really “need” for my quilts is textures, so I mostly focus on that, at the moment.  But I still give myself permission to doodle pictorial things, just for fun.  I’m also trying to take note of interesting patterns I see during the day and thinking of how I can tweak them to make continuous line doodles.  

There’s still a lot of paper left in that ream!  


I’m Michael (a female Michael, to remove any doubt).  I live on the Alabama Gulf Coast with my husband, Donald, and our crazy American Eskimo Dogs. 

I love to fill my spare time with various crafts and other hobbies, and this blog is where I share photos, record my progress, and ramble endlessly.

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