Sunday, November 8, 2015

Around The World

Around the World Quilt:
It's a big help in having your intersections meet where they are supposed to if you have a true 1/4" seam.  You can check your ¼” seam by sewing three 2-1/2” strips that are about 6” long together.  Press all seams to one side.  Measure the CENTER strip… it should measure exactly 2” wide.  If it does not, adjust your needle and try again.  Bonnie Hunter has an excellent blog on how she makes a true ¼” seam.
Jelly rolls are perfect for this pattern, or you can cut your own 2-1/2” strips, cut the width of fabric.  I use my June Tailor Shape Cutter ruler to cut multiple strips at a time, without having to re-position the fabric. 
Lay the strips out in a way that is pleasing to you.  It works well to place colors so that they blend from light to dark and vice versa.  It is best to have some colorful fabrics in the strip sets to add a “zip” factor!  Remember that the colors will be repeated in all the “rounds” of the design, so the fabrics at both ends of the strip sets will be next to each other in the finished quilt. This green/blue quilt used four strip sets of 13 fabrics each, shown at right.  Borders can be added to make it as large as you wish… or you can make more strip sets and make it larger.        
I have my strips laid out on the ironing board, which is set at a right angle to my sewing table, so it’s really easy to just pick up the next strip when sewing them together. 
Join the strips together, alternating the end where you begin stitching, to avoid the strip set from being skewed.  In other words, where you end the stitching of two pieces, you will begin at that end to stitch the next strip on.  When you have stitched that seam, where you end will be where you begin stitching the next strip.  Be careful not to stretch the fabrics as you join the strips, just letting them feed naturally through the machine.  

When you have joined all the strips, you will have completed a “strip set”.  If you are a pedal-to-the-metal person (as I am), you can stitch the strip sets pretty quickly. Press all seams going in the same direction on the backside, but press each strip set in opposite directions, so one strip set is pressed toward the end color and the other strip set is pressed away from that end color.  This will facilitate joining the rows.   Place the strip set on your cutting mat, lining it up straight with the markings on your mat, as shown on the left.  Cut each end of the strip set off at the place where the end of the strip is the shortest.  Join the two long edges, right sides together.  This is one of the most difficult parts of sewing this pattern.  You may find it easier to pin the long edge at intervals, to make sure it stays even. 
Some machines feed differently on the top and bottom fabrics, so pinning helps to keep them straight.  If one fabric seems to be a little longer than the other, place that fabric on the bottom, and gently stretch as you sew this seam.
You now have a tube that is trimmed on each end, as shown on the right.  Cut this tube into 2-1/2” strips.  I was able to get 16 segments from my tube. Lay the strips from each strip set together, so you have two separate piles of strips, each pressed in a different direction.
Decide which direction you want your strips to go, and open ONE seam where you want the quilt pattern to start.  It helps if you have a design wall (I use a cheap flannel-backed vinyl tablecloth hung in front of my fireplace for my design wall).  Alternately, you can lay the strips out on a table or the floor.  You will need to add one 2-1/2” square to the top of your first strip, and remove the bottom 2-1/2” square from this strip ONLY.  I usually add a darker or lighter square in this place that will become the center of the quilt, so that the contrast is more obvious and sets the tone for the rest of the strips.  You might have a piece big enough and in a color you want from trimming the strip ends, or you can use the last square in your strip as your center, removing it from the bottom and re-sewing it to the top of the
strip… it’s your choice.
Continue adding strips to each side of this first strip, staggering the colors for each strip you add, so that the pattern emerges.  With each strip, you will open only one seam of the tube.  I find it easiest to just fold the tube where I need to rip the seam and lay it against the other strips to make sure I am at the right square.  Take strips from alternating piles so that the seams are pressed in opposite directions, which helps
the seams “nest” against each other while sewing them.  Tip: I sew with the raw pressed seam FACING the needle whenever possible, as it helps to nest the seams and match them.  I don’t worry if my seams don’t match perfectly, as when the top is quilted, it is not so obvious.  The “pouf” of the batting makes up for the error!  It isn’t necessary to press each seam as you sew the strips together, but you can if you wish.  I wait until the section is sewn and then press the whole thing… pressing the seams in one direction on the back, and then pressing from the front side.  My steam iron is my best friend, when I’m piecing a quilt… but don’t tell my sewing machine.  The photo at the right shows the first half of the quilt finished.

Tip:  Quilting should be FUN!  Remember that there are no quilt police in your home, and unless the errors are glaringly obvious, close is usually good enough, and your seam ripper can take a vacation.
Work out from the center strip, adding strips to just one side at a time, if you wish, sewing the strips into quarters, then sew the quarters into halves, and finally sew the two halves together.
The photo at the left shows the bottom half of the quilt beginning to come together.  Notice how the pattern is reversed from the top half.
Tip:  Remember, you do not add a square to the center strip on the last half of the quilt.  You build out from the center square that is on the first half, reversing the order of the strips. 
Once you get the hang of it, Around the World quilts are very simple to make and I think each one is exciting to see as it evolves into the pattern.  And for the record, I did not use one pin when sewing the strips together.  I do, however, pin the two halves before sewing them together.  My seams do not all meet perfectly, but the quilter’s credo is:  If they are riding by at 30 miles an hour, no one will notice!  

You can plan the size of your quilt easily… the squares result in 2” after they are sewn, so the size depends on how many strips you sew together into sets.  For these baby quilts, I used two each of 9 different fabrics. I will border them with a coordinating color strip, with binding to either match or blend.  I cut the strips for the pink and blue baby quilt at night, and my vision is not always very accurate! My night vision is even less accurate... I cut one of the strips the wrong size, which means I had two strips that were odd... so I could not use them in the quilt.  The quilt was off-balance, and I had a choice of either making another strip set or removing one of the strips from the top of the quilt.  I chose to do that, so the quilt is a bit smaller.
The yellow and orange quilt on the right is another baby quilt that was made for the man who takes care of my lawn, when their last baby arrived.

Whenever I make an Around the World quilt, I am reminded of all the online friends around the world that I've made through my love of quilting.  The ease of internet communication certainly has created the illusion of a much smaller world.  

The two quilts shown below are both large snuggler quilts, almost twin sized.  The one on the left belongs to my middle son, and the purple one is not yet quilted.

The last quilt photo, shown below,  is one that uses the Around the World square as a medallion center, and was a gift to a friend.

I hope this tutorial and the photos inspire you to enjoy sewing an Around the World quilt of your own... they literally can be done very quickly, using strip piecing with rotary cutting tools.

I will post another tutorial soon with variations of this pattern.

The fall leaves are dropping fast, and soon the trees will be bare.  There is a chill in the air these days, and the daylight hours are shorter.  But we, who spend much of our lives at our sewing machines, just use this as an opportunity to make more quilts.  I think of my quilts as a way to remind my family and friends how much I love them, and that reminder will be there long after I am gone... wrapping them in warm hugs.
Happy quilting!

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