Thursday, 16 January 2014

My Scrappy Process

When I posted the photo of my scrappy patchwork quilt, someone asked me how I put together a scrappy quilt.  If I planned it out or went completely random.  And so I thought about that for the first time ever LOL.  I decided that my method would best be described as organized random. FYI: Amanda Jean also posted about this after I started writing this and she called her process "controlled random".

I don't have any photos from the construction of that top but I thought I would document and describe my process through a scrappy baby blanket I am making for my cousin's baby boy.

1.  I do math.  I know, yuck, right?!  I would much rather just start cutting but my experience tells me that math makes it come together quicker and more smoothly in the long run.  Since this is a baby blanket I am sizing it to 36" x 42" with 6" finished squares.

I am following a patten which uses 3 different types of blocks: a large block, a four patch and a 3 string.

36"/6" = 6 blocks across
42"/6" = 7 blocks down

6 x 7 = 42 total blocks

42 blocks/3 types of blocks = 14 blocks of each type SO

14 x 6 1/2" squares
14 x 4 = 56 x 3 1/2 " squares
14 x 3 = 42 x (2 1/2" x 6 1/2" strings)

2.  I almost always start my scrappy quilts with an inspiration fabric or color scheme in mind.  This quilt is being built around a stripe fabric, I believe from Riley blake.

Now I head to my scrap buckets to pull out all the fabrics that work with this color story and start cutting!

Ooops!  I forget that we have to do some more math first :)  There are 6 colors I am working with in this blanket: Yellow, Green, Light Blue, Dark Blue, Red and MultiColor.

14/6 = 2.33333 x 6 1/2" squares of each color
56/6 = 9.3333 x 3 1/2" squares of each color
42/6 = 7 strips of each color

These numbers are obviously guidelines.  I already know that my multicolor will probably be on the lower side of these and my blues will be on the higher side (I want this blanket to be heavy on the blue) but it gives me some guidelines and keeps from having a super unbalanced color layout.

As I cut, I keep my piles separated by colors with little pieces of paper on top showing the current number of blocks in that pile.  And at the end, I have a whole bunch of pretty little piles of squares and strings.

3.  Grab all those piles of  3.5" squares and set them up next to the sewing machine and start chain piecing.  I start by working through the multicolor pile, pairing them with one orange, one blue, one green, one yellow, etc.  When that pile is gone, I pair a green with each of the other colors, a red with each of the other colors, etc until they are all in pairs.  I don't put much thought into this but I will refrain from putting two circles or two stripes together.

Press these seams and start combining them into four patches. I try not to overthink this process as well.  I just open each pair until I find two that work well together.  My criteria are simply to keep two colors from touching and two extremely similar (or identical) patterns from touching.

4.  Grab your piles of strings and do the same, only stopping at 14 pairs and then adding on the third string to each block.

5.  Layout time!  I used to spend hours trying to get a random placement of the blocks. But now I utilize the organized random theory. I start in the top left corner with a 6.5" block.  Then a four square, a string placed vertically, 6.5" block, 4 square, string placed horizontally, etc.  For the second row I start with a four square and continue the order.  I take care to avoid clusters of the same fabric or color but that is it.  When its all laid out, I take a photo or walk away for a few hours.  If nothing jarring jump out at me after that time, I start piecing!


I piece my rows and join rows.  For this blanket I added his name in the lower center using raw edge applique.

A minky backing and topstitched edges make for a quick and easy baby gift.  These take me approximately 5 hours including cutting!  I hope this helps demystify random patchwork a little bit.  If you have any further questions, please let me know and I will do my best to answer them.


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  2. Phew! Your scrappy process is far more detailed than mine - probably why your quilt looks so good! Thanks for sharing!

  3. This is so pretty Leigh Anne. It's funny- I start with math too. I sketch, count and THEN cut. I only cut the exact number of pieces I need for any given quilt- including scrappy ones. I always know how many I need and divide by colors. That way, I don't have to be so exact when I'm sewing. I know that I have about the same number of each color group in my pile. Then, while I sew, I can just grab what I like at that moment. It's funny how processes are so different from person to person!

    Thanks so much for sharing at Needle and Thread Thursday!

    :) Kelly @ My Quilt Infatuation

  4. thanks for sharing this! I love me some controlled random too, and the math makes me happy. Not saying that I am good at it, but it makes me happy:)

  5. This is a perfect quilt. I love all the direction and movement in the fabrics. The colors are so happy and fresh too.

  6. thanks for documenting the process so others can benefit. You have such a fun scrap pile to raid :-)