Friday, June 15, 2018

The Jelly Roll End Is in Sight

Read the Tutorial: Still Pretty Simple Jelly Roll Quilt

I used to be a girl with lots of jelly rolls. I think it’s how they display—all neatly wound together, with a peek of each fabric along the edge—that made them so irresistible. The thing is, jelly rolls aren’t as versatile as other precuts, so they tend to accumulate in my stash. A few years ago, I decided enough was enough. I was going to use up all the jelly rolls I had on hand and stop buying them in favor of other precuts. (See the fruit of that effort here, here, here, and here.)

I am pleased to announce that I have two more quilts—one finished and one in process—and then I’ll be down to zero jelly rolls. The end is in sight! To celebrate, I wanted to share how I used one of these last jelly rolls, in a log cabin quilt pattern I’ve named my Still Pretty Simple Jelly Roll Quilt.

This was my first time sewing rectangular log cabin blocks. The rectangular version goes together as easily as the square one, but unlike square log cabins, rectangular log cabins have an orientation. For this pattern, if you add logs clockwise around the center log, you get the block on the left. If you add logs counter-clockwise around the center log, you get the block on the right ...

I made 16 rectangular blocks—8 of the left block and 8 of the right—to create my quilt. By rotating the blocks, I could have created these other designs, too ...

My finished quilt features Franklin by Denyse Schmidt; the mockups use one of her more recent lines, Washington Depot.

The Still Pretty Simple Jelly Roll Quilt is a fun—and super easy!—way to sew through a jelly roll. For instructions on how to sew your own, see the accompanying tutorial.

For more posts on jelly roll quilts, see:

Read the Tutorial: Still Pretty Simple Jelly Roll Quilt

Linking up to Main Crush Monday, Needle and Thread Thursday, and Let’s Bee Social ...
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Tutorial: Still Pretty Simple Jelly Roll Quilt

 Read the Introduction: The Jelly Roll End Is in Sight

This is one of the four quilt designs you can make with this tutorial.

Fabric Requirements

32 jelly roll strips of printed fabric (I used Denyse Schmidt’s Franklin line)
1½ yards* of solid fabric or 21 solid jelly roll strips for the background (I used Kona Snow)
½ yard of fabric for the binding
3½ yards of fabric for the backing
63" x 70" piece of batting (this provides approximately 3" to 4" of overhang on each side)

*This measurement does not allow any room for error. If you prefer, buy 1¾ yards to allow for a mistake or two in cutting.

Finished size is approximately 56" x 64".

All seams are a scant ¼".

WOF = width of fabric. These instructions presume a 42" WOF.

Please read all of the instructions before beginning your project.


Please note: The lettered labels that follow correspond to the labels used in Sewing the Log Cabins.

Divide the 32 printed jelly roll strips into two piles, distributing the colors evenly between the two. (For example, my fabric came in two different colorways: orange/magenta and green/blue. I placed half of my orange/magenta strips in each pile and half of my green/blue strips in each pile.)

Cut one pile of 16 strips like this:

Cut the second pile of 16 strips like this:

If using yardage for the background, cut the 1½ yards of fabric into (21) 2½" strips. Using the 21 strips of background fabrics, cut:

  • 8 strips into (16) 14½" pieces (K) and (8) 10½" pieces (G/J), following the picture below:
  • 6 strips into (24) 10½" pieces (G/J)
  • 6 strips into (32) 6½" pieces (C/F)
  • 1 strip into (16) 2½" pieces (B)

Sewing the Log Cabins
Unlike square log cabin blocks, rectangular log cabins have an orientation. For this pattern, if you add logs clockwise around the center log, you get the block on the left. If you add logs counter-clockwise around the center log, you get the block on the right ...

For any of the four designs below, you will need 8 of each orientation.

To assemble a block that orients to the left, start by sewing an A piece to a B piece. Press the seam open.

Add the C piece to the block, working clockwise.

And the D piece.

Following the picture below, sew on the remaining logs.

To sew a right-oriented block, sew the same pieces counter-clockwise around piece A.

The unfinished block size is 14½" x 16½". Once you have completed 16 blocks and decided which design you want to make, sew the blocks into rows and then sew the rows together.

Finishing the Quilt

To make the backing, cut your 3½ yards of backing fabric into two rectangles: 63" x WOF. Sew them together along the long side. Trim down to 63" x 70". Quilt, bind, and enjoy your quilt!


It’s important that you use an accurate scant ¼" seam for this block to achieve the unfinished block size of 14½" x 16½".

I love chain-piecing, but to avoid making silly mistakes, I sewed just two blocks of the same orientation at a time. I’d lay the pieces for each block out on my sewing table, and then sew both A’s to the corresponding B’s and so on.

My finished quilt!

Read Introduction: The Jelly Roll End Is in Sight

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Monday, June 11, 2018

You, Too, Can Sew Improv!

Bloom Chicka Boom, my first improv quilt.

There was a time in the not-too-distant past when I thought improv was a magical kind of quilt making. It was beyond my skill set and best left to the masters—Victoria Findlay Wolfe, Sherri Lynn Wood, and other sewists known professionally by three names. At that point in my sewing career, creating without a concrete plan seemed hard and inefficient. How did I know whether I was going to like my finished product? The idea of wasting my time and fabric on a project that I might not love was unappealing.

But I have grown, friends. I’ve learned that improv doesn’t mean sewing without a plan. It doesn’t mean you start piecing fabric, willy-nilly, and end up with a fabulous finished quilt. You might not be following a pattern per se, but you do sew within a framework, the rules by which you select fabrics, cut them up, and sew them back together. I can say all of this with confidence because I just completed my first quilt with lots of improv sewing. : )

The difference for me was the instructions set out in Stash Statement, a new book by Kelly Young, of My Quilt Infatuation. Kelly approached me a few months ago about participating in a blog hop for her book, and I agreed to it with some hesitation. I am happy to report, however, that Stash Statement has helped me conquer my fear of improv, and it has the potential do the same for you, too!

Still skeptical? Let me address your likely concerns ...

It Seems Hard

Creating your first improv quilt can seem daunting, but having a framework makes the task manageable. And that is exactly what Stash Statement provides. Following Kelly’s advice, you learn how to sew improv panels, blocks, or strips and incorporate them into patterns. In other words, Stash Statement marries what’s scary and new (improv) with what you already know and love (bold, modern patterns).

Bulldogs, curlicues, flowers, ducks ... this background has it all!

Sometimes the improv panels you make will appear in the foreground of the quilt top. In the quilt I made, Kelly’s Bloom Chicka Boom pattern, the improv is in the background. For me, this was extra fun because I got to use up a chunk of fabric in cool shades of gray, blue, and periwinkle, not my typical palette. (See my first post about this project here.)

The variety in the background prints creates great texture.

I Don’t Have a Big Scrap Bin

When I first received Kelly’s book, I had just given away the majority of my scraps. Lucky for me, Kelly addresses using yardage in improv piecing. You’d never know that almost all of my low-volume fabric choices came from yardage in my stash. There’s such a great spectrum of fabrics, including many novelties that were aging in my fabric drawers for years. It felt good to get those beauties out of my stash and into a project.

I spy Lizzy House’s constellation prints from her Whisper Palette.

It Seems Time Consuming

Some of the patterns in Stash Statement are more time intensive than others. Bloom Chicka Boom, with all that improv in the background, is probably one of the more time-consuming ones. I started well in advance of today’s deadline, sewing my improv panels here and there when I wanted something fun and relaxing to sew. If you’re looking for a faster project, choose a different design, maybe one that features the improv in the foreground. Check out Beach Retreat, for instance. I think that would go together a lot faster. (In fact, I think I’ll be making a rainbow-y version in the future!)

Something to keep in mind is that you don’t have to be super legalistic about this process. After all, it is supposed to be a fun opportunity to use what you have on hand. Bloom Chicka Boom calls for sewing improv panels and then cutting them down into smaller sizes for use in the blocks. When I found a stack of low-volume 2.5" squares in my stash, I could have sewn them into panels and then cut them back into 2.5" squares, but I used them as is and they look great in the quilt.

The Bloom Chicka Boom block also calls for 1.5" by 4.5" strips. Since I was cutting from yardage anyway, I simply cut 1.5" strips of varying lengths, sewed the short ends together, and then cut them into the needed 4.5" lengths. You would never know by looking at my finished quilt that I took a shortcut.

I love these chummy little mice!

There Are So Many Seams

Your finished improv quilt top may have some spots where the seams are bulky. I didn’t want to quilt not-so-straight lines through any bulky areas, so I chose to free-motion quilt my project. Granted, I didn’t know how to free-motion quilt at the time I made this decision, but I thought it would be more forgiving. In the end I figured out how to FMQ, and it worked well for me with this project.

The one issue I did not foresee is how the bulk would affect my binding. I machine-finish my bindings, and I wish I had given myself more wiggle room than I usually do to compensate for that extra bulk at spots along the edge of the quilt.

If you have sewn something improvisationally, how did it go? If you’re new to improv, are there other concerns that are preventing you from making the leap?

The back features prints in the same palette as my improv background.

Now that I’ve covered improv, I need to tell you all about my adventures with FMQ! Stay tuned for a future post on that subject.

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