Monday, June 27, 2011

McCall's Design Star 2011 - Challenge #1

How exciting to be part of this contest! The basic elements of the challenge were that you must use 'Arrowheads' and 'Shoo-fly' blocks. Here are the sample images given. They can be found in McCall's online block directory and include cutting and assembly instructions.


Basically--use these and only these blocks, but you can sub-divide, change proportions, alter perspectives and/or combine patches. Must be at least 24" x 24", can add applique of your choice, do not quilt it. Well, that is a lot of liberties provided! No mention of sashings or borders so I put them into EQ and tried to see what I saw of them. I quickly saw that the shoo-fly block is a 9-patch also called a 3-grid....and the arrowheads block is an 8-grid. So changing the shoo-fly to an 8-grid seemed to make the 1st logical step to take. This would allow the joins of the blocks to come together rather than be off. Sometimes you intentionally might want them to NOT connect, but let's try it. So, now my shoo-fly looks like this:

The diagonal squares creating a chain in the arrowheads block started to look like architectural beams to me....and if you change up how the colorings of the blocks are done, you can interact the two blocks in such a way to create a very different concept.

I wanted to use some Jinny Beyer border prints, and EQ had this Faberge border print in its palette, so I started playing with that one. I thought my mom might actually have that particular print, but alas she did not. I did find some online and ordered it quickly just in case I wanted to use it. Contrary to another contestant's predicament, mine arrived promptly! Thank you Thread Bear Fabrics, LLC

If I use the golden ratio to change the size of the blocks, I can then start to create curvature as an optical illusion.

My husband suggested that I continue to try different ideas just to get my mind off of this train of thought, so I did, but still kept coming back to this concept. I didn't want the outside blocks to get too small, but the center block I didn't want too big either, so I worked on finding a happy balance. This was quilt #65.

Then an FAQ was issued and got me scared that I might not have enough 'integrity' in my blocks with the color selection of fabrics, etc. We were also told that a single strip for sashings or borders could also be used. I also realized that my arrowhead blocks weren't exactly the same as that the original block was detailed. Whoops...well, that modified my design a bit. I also went looking through my stash to see what I actually had that could work. Did I have enough? That altered a few things.

I needed some LIGHT fabrics for the arrowheads in order to get a 'light' reading to maintain the architectural 'beam' idea and still maintain the integrity of the block. I found a pale purple batik at Stash in Walla Walla and a couple of the teal batiks that I thought would work really well in the shoo-fly blocks. Here I am at version #221. So, color scheme of teals, red-orange, and purple. The 'beams' go left to right in an upward direction with reddish tones and left to right in a downward direction in a brownish tone. Six different values in each hue.

With a pre-planned trip to Arizona to see my parents for over a week, I headed out with lots of fabrics--but pretty close to what I wanted.

My plans originally had been to work on Jinny Beyer's 2010 BOM - Jinny's Garden with my mother. I blogged about my mom's result last week. I worked for a couple of days on mine, got the blocks finished and some framed before saying, I've got to get started on my McCall's Challenge #1.

My strategy was to do all the fussy cutting of border prints for the centers of my blocks first. Using templates to align the fussy cut pieces properly (as learned from Jinny Beyer), I carefully used two different borders to cut out the applicable centers. The arrowhead center 4-square uses the Faberge borders. The shoo-fly is sub-divided in the center block on the diagonal and is using another Jinny Beyer border, Mardi Gras.
 This was the big center square set.

I think I'm missing the photos for the outside ring skewed arrowheads centers. I did two different versions and alternated them.
To the left is the center square for the 4" finished corner blocks. So in this form, each square that you see is only 0.75" x 0.75". When finished each piece is 0.5" x 0.5".

This is supposed to help your patchwork stay square. So, I've segmented the seams when pressing ever so carefully with all the bias going on due to the fussy cutting.

All of the shoo-fly blocks are skewed in this quilt, so the centers are not easy to create this effect, but I went for it anyway.

These are the smallest shoo-fly blocks in the most outer ring and I decided that a single piece was sufficient. The sizing of the design worked very well for this purpose.

Here was the layout of all the centers of each block.

Since there is only one center block, I wanted to piece it completely and get a feel for the construction process of the arrowheads block. I thought I might like to make the diagonal chains as light as possible to give the quilt even more dimension. So, I did have two other very light brown/redish bits of fabric not designated for use, so put those in. If I had taken the time to carefully shade my EQ design, I probably would now do it differently, but at the time, I was working a bit on-the-fly and under a tight deadline at this point in time.

Then the square arrowheads on the diagonals.

I did all but the very outer blocks and then decided to move on with some shoo-fly blocks since they had fewer pieces and should help me feel like I was making better progress. Getting the 1st level beyond the center put together was very exciting. I moved on and got all shoo-fly blocks cut out and realized I was just a 1/8 yd short to finish a couple of blocks, so bagged everything and packed it to fly home. I could get more of that fabric at my LQS.

Just some fun shots of all my chain piecing!

About here in the process I had the opportunity to go meet Judy Danz who has been quilting many of Sarah Vedeler's designed Go! Be Dazzled quilts being made by her friends in anticipation of helping Sarah with the upcoming Bernina University. How fun was that! Judy lives in Fountain Hills (near Scottsdale), AZ. Took us less than an hour to drive over there. Judy was so gracious to spend an hour or so with me and my mom. I even got to share an idea or two on a quilt she is about to long-arm machine quilt for a client. Good times! btw...she also was the EQ7 Accuquilt Design Challenge Winner which I just connected the dots on when looking at her blog while writing this! HA!! She is also on Facebook and has a photo gallery of those Go! Be Dazzled quilts--all the various renditions that she has gotten to quilt. I had met Sarah at Spring 2011 Market to chat with ladies who have been in the information technology industry in their past careers and are now big in the quilting industry. Somehow I relate ! :-)
These chains would make great flags for a party across the ceiling!

The long skewed shoo-fly blocks at the centers of the outside level proved very complicated and I decided that the other smaller ones needed a different technique. So, I started printing templates from EQ as well as foundation pieces for the arrowhead and flying geese patchwork elements. Once I got this sorted out, I was able to move along much more efficiently.
But, that was all I could get done, I needed to board my plane and go home. I got my sewing machine on the plane with me no problem (carry-on luggage). I told TSA it was coming through and they all enjoyed checking it out in the x-ray, but no hassels at all. I had one needle in it in a down position, no spares and really no spare parts but some bobbins. This was flying Allegiant out of the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway airport.

Now at home and able to get a bit more of the insufficient fabric, I worked on more shoo-fly blocks and got the level 3 blocks finished.

Then level 4 (outer most) shoo-fly blocks. So exciting, it is really starting to look 'round'
Now the skewed arrowhead blocks for level 3, then level 4.

The 4 square corners I did at the very end. the borders...what to do now? btw...this is Wednesday night before the Thurs. night deadline. My iron got knocked off the ironing board that sits next to me (too close really since I have burned my arm no less than 5 times this year already). Every time it hits the floor even if only for a second or two, carpet fibers get melted onto the surface of the iron. I can usually get it clean enough with a dryer sheet, but this time, it wasn't happening. I tried to iron and I quickly discovered I was leaving marks. OH NO! This was not a good sign. I finished up attaching the level 4 edges without ironing and decided that tomorrow, the very last day of the challenge, I had to find a way to clean the iron, or I would be buying a new one. I discovered through good ol' Google, that Mr. Clean Magic Eraser seems to do magic on this type of issue. I'll have to go out early tomorrow and pick one up.

I really wanted to use the red-orange border print in the border, but the teal shoo-fly blocks were soooooo strong, I wasn't sure how I could balance it. I decided that a dark purple inbetween the two border prints would help make the border 'stronger/darker' and create a better balance. I had a purple in the stash that could work, but had a bit too much of some yellow bits in it to make me really happy.

My "Best Press" solution and my newly cleaned iron worked wonderfully! Just in case I didn't find something or ran out of time, I took this photo before the sun peaked over the house onto my fence. This was my back-up plan if I couldn't get the borders on in the afternoon.   But...before I went looking, I had a dentist appointment which basically took all morning (temporary crown on a suspicious looking cracked tooth). When finished, I went in search and was able to find a better purple on the last day of the challenge at another LQS - Walla Walla Sew & Vac and quickly went home to finish putting the borders together. When checking for the mirrored miters, I discovered that the quilt size was EXACTLY all that I could handle with the fabric that I had. I nicked one of the borders while cutting it and one is technically probably 1/4" too short, but we'll MAKE IT WORK! :-)

Duncan (my DH) arrived home from work and immediately went to work at creating a better hanging solution to get a good photo. I love how he can support me with these types of things! We now have significant hooks hanging from our eve on the side of the garage that gets great afternoon sun. He also created a rod (black electrical piping) with drapery hooks that I can just clip onto the edge of the quilt, put the rod on the big hooks in the eve, and wah la! With a tension rod that also has smaller drapery hooks, I can clip this smaller rod onto the bottom of the quilt and that gives a nice tension to help it hang well. One of our neighbors happened upon us hanging the quilt and helped to hold the bottom rod because the wind was pretty intense and was blowing everything around.

With the sun as intense as it was, I got this quick shot from behind the quilt creating a stained glass effect. And...yes, still some of my paper piecing --no time to remove it to make the deadline.

Quick, get the photo off the camera and get it submitted! Oh, what should I name it? Went looking through a Thesaurus for synonyms to cathedral or dome and found Rondure --french for graceful sphere seemed to need a qualifier word. Looked and looked, but just couldn't identify one that felt like it fit the project. When I calculated the # of pieces at 1892...that seemed to be a good qualifier because it sounds like a particular year and this looks like an 'old dome' there you go.

Will you vote? Click this link to vote daily from all internet devices through July 17. When the page comes up, there will be a 'vote' button underneath the quilt that you need to click on. You can also go through all 20 quilts and check them out too. Thanks for your support and for stopping by and reading through my Challenge #1 journey. It has been a fun ride so far.


  1. Just amazing! Very cool to see the process of its creation.

  2. Wow! I'm blown away -- your work is wonderful! :)

  3. I am stunned into silence. You are so impressive!

  4. How generous of you to share your process--fascinating. What a spectacular quilt!!

  5. That is SO cool!! I love your quilt.

  6. This is an AMAZING quilt. Thank you for sharing its creation with us!

  7. I gladly gave you my vote. Your quilt just move out toward me. Great effect.