Strips to squares

It’s taken days and days, but we’ve gone from this:

to this:

Initially I pieced the strips into lengths of strips, but the fact that they were all different lengths and not a consistent number of colours or values meant that this method wasn’t working. So there was a change of plan and the strips turned into irregularly pieced blocks:

All of these were made from tiny strips, offcuts from other adventures – some about 3/8″ wide – that might otherwise, by some people, have been filed under ‘b’ for ‘bin’.

These are about 5″ or so. There is still a little work to do to make them all a similar size, but the pile of scrap strips has disappeared.

There were even some leftover-leftover strips – that is, leftovers from piecing these blocks – which I’m starting to piece into narrow lengths:

Can you see yet what I did?

I’m about to confess.

Brace yourselves.

I’ll whisper it, so as not to scare the horses.

I used the machine.

Before all the ladies faint and there is a stampede to unsubscribe, let me explain.

It was easier. I’m as surprised as anyone. I did start off piecing by hand, but the benefit of piecing these by machine was that all the measuring and trimming could be done after stitching. I don’t like to cut through hand-pieced seams because obviously they’re not as robust as machine-pieced ones. It was no quicker, and I didn’t particularly enjoy it, but there it is. It was a Useful Exercise and one that I don’t intend to repeat – but I might just surprise myself again.

I do feel as if I should be sitting on the naughty step though.

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25 Responses to Strips to squares

  1. Amanda says:

    One has to experience the naughty step now and then. It gives life a little zuzzzz! Lol

  2. Anneliese says:

    I am glad, you did it like that – so my method is confirmed, a little. But I adore handstitching.

  3. Els says:

    Ha Karen : NO NEED to be ashamed !!!!! That’s what machines are for : sewing things together !
    I know I “learned” a lot of hand stitching when I started with Jude, but I’m in no way ashamed to tell that I did a lot of things in quilting on the machine !
    But your hand stitched blocks with all the different squares of the previous post are beautiful ! (and that wouldn’t be easy on a machine … πŸ˜‰ !!!)

    • Karen Turner says:

      well, you’re right, of course – it’s what the machine is for, and it does make this kind of improvisational piecing so much easier. I much prefer the paper piecing by hand though : -)

  4. deanna7trees says:

    i prefer handstitching but sometimes the machine use is in order. no need to feel bad about it. look at how much you have accomplished.

  5. Loralei says:

    As a machine quilter who is just discovering the beauty of hand stitching, I say “Hooray for you – living life on the wild side is good sometimes!”

  6. Rachel says:

    I’ve the greatest admiration for anyone who uses a sewing machine at all, so you’re not on the naughty step as far as I’m concerned!

  7. serenapotter says:

    HAHAHA
    I too admire you. I kill brain cells every time I attempt to sit down to use the thing. I hold my breath. I fear for my life. I blame the fact that my sister actually sewed through my mother’s hand with hers once.

    Really though, for this sort of thing, I can never manage improv type piecing by hand…not without loads of tacking and restitching and I’ll admit that for strings I’ve often considered machine piecing for added strength and then hand quilting it.

    This really did make me laugh. I quite like the blocks. They’re sort of a mock log cabin style and I love that. They’re beautiful by sea or by land πŸ˜‰

    • serenapotter says:

      in that long strip you have some fabric my sister bought in hawaii. as well as the print that’s dead center in my red trip around the world…and the twill! ah!

      • Karen Turner says:

        I’m so glad you can recognise some of your treasures. They will be very happy here with me πŸ™‚
        I’m intrigued by the red print that has little children on it. That feels quite old (?)

        • serenapotter says:

          a reproduction of a quite old….i bought it in 2008 i think. a fat quarter at a local quilt shop called somewhere sewing that’s not out of business.

          • Karen Turner says:

            Ah, I did wonder if it was a reproduction. It looks vaguely 1930s-ish, and I know there were lots of 1930s repro prints around a couple of years ago.

    • Karen Turner says:

      Ha!
      The machine scares me a bit too, but we got along all right this week. Having slept on it, I feel quite liberated this morning and OK about it. As you say, string piecing would take a LOT of time by hand, and I’ve always wanted to try it – so never say never πŸ™‚
      I might use it again. I ask myself what’s the point of having a machine if you never use it?
      I think I’m going to stitch the blocks together into long strips of one colour and alternate them with plain strips – kind of modern-old northern-British strippy style.
      It will be harder to hand quilt because there are so many seams, lots of double thickness.

      • serenapotter says:

        i’m all about tying sometimes. not everything deserves hand quilting, though that’s not saying a quilt is better or worse than another, just that some quilts are hand quilting quilts, some are utility quilting quilts, some are tying quilts…..as i don’t machine quilt….i think the tiniest hand stitches really are reserved for either pieces to practice on or true heirloom style designs. i won’t aim for the 18 spi on a thrown together scrap piece. for me the time i put into it just doesn’t make sense.

  8. connie rose says:

    Just as I was wondering whether you were really doing all this stitching BY HAND, there’s your machine! I won’t tell anyone!

  9. I’m with you on the machine thing. The way I look at it, by the time i’ve got it out, found the cotton I need, set it up and threaded it, I could have done the damn job by hand! But sometimes it’s just that bit more convenient…

  10. deedeemallon says:

    As a machine quilter lately come to hand stitching (thank you, Karen, Serena, Jude and others for showing me the way – and come to think of it, thank last year’s super cold winter when my cellar studio was frigid; and thank 14 months at a job where I was too exhausted to do much but watch TV in the evenings and work by hand), I have to say that I find the horror, shame – jokey as it is – about machine sewing really weird. I LOVE your work, Karen, and I have finally tried paper piecing and can tell it will be a new and regular feature of my future, but really. I mean, REALLY (do you hear Seth Meyers and Amy Pohler here?!!!). Sewing machines are for sewing. They make stitches. Big stitches, little stitches, zig zag stitches, basting stitches, top stitching, embroidery stitches…. You can be precise, make heirloom-quality work, keep long-time traditions alive, work slowly, if you want, and, and, and…. I have two vintage Bernina’s and adore them. It is super easy to switch from regular foot to embroidery foot, and the feed dog drop is on the exterior of the machine, which makes the transition from piecing to quilting two flicks of the wrist. I generally keep one machine threaded with dark thread and one with light, so I can switch readily without rethreading. I have dozens of bobbins for each machine, because nothing will make you want to quit for the day like running out of bobbin thread (again). I ONLY use straight and zig zag stitch (and here is where I draw the line – who wants to do pattern-embroidery set by computer for a design you could purchase in the Christmas Tree Shop?!!?!!), but it is endlessly versatile. Although I have slowed down in recent years, if you like to work quickly, there is a lot to be said for machine piecing, with hot iron and rotary cutter nearby. Recently watching a CD on the Gee’s Bend quilters, it was clear to me that they made their strip choices and designed, right at the machine (no design wall, table for viewing etc.). It’s all about the artist, her vision and dedication to craft, and really, really not about whether she hand or machine sews! I know you know this… but I had to chime in!!

    • Karen Turner says:

      Yes, I know – but I’m glad you said it. The staged shock-horror wasn’t so much about using the machine as about ME using the machine, when I’m out there on record, in various places, as saying I never use it. Initially it felt as if I’d sold out, somehow.
      Now I’ve got over it and thought about it all rationally and sensibly, I see that it makes perfect sense to use the machine whenever the machine will make life easier. That’s what it’s there for. And there’s no point in my having a machine if I don’t use it.
      So yes, I understand.
      Thank you, Dee – plain talking was exactly what I needed to hear πŸ™‚

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