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Vultures and Quilt Squares

January 26, 2010

It’s one of those weird times in the studio right now. Probably due to hormones. I decided to push through the blahs and do two things though. First, tackle something creative. Second, share what the view from my studio is like today.

As I drove up to my house today I noticed the sunny skies overhead full with my favorite birds – and that’s a bit creepy to see. Why, you ask? With a twinkle in my eye I tell people regularly that my favorite bird is the turkey vulture. Yes, the very ones that you see pecking at the roadkill as you drive by and exclaim “eewwwe!!” I love these gruesome creatures because they are like a clean up crew coming around and keeping things orderly when something dies in a most inconvenient place. That’s all I know about them. That, and the fact that they are pretty dang large birds.

Usually I am not a fan of birds other than from a distance. I love to see them flying over, adorning the trees, and hear them singing through the windows. Since I live in Florida there are lots of birds to see, and I still marvel at the variety in size, colors, and temperaments of the beautiful birds visiting the small lake outside my studio window.  In truth, my real favorite is probably the flamingo, but that’s so typical. I realized early on that I appreciate with immensity the turkey vultures because they save me from unexpectedly running into roadkill – or what ever demise occurred to these poor creatures, and it seems there is so much of it!

Unfortunately, where there are turkey vultures, there is something dead. Usually no big deal until you see close to a hundred of these birds looming over your house – in reality, the lake behind it. I don’t want to alarm you with some macabre ideas about vultures circling my house. It’s not that dramatic. It appears there has been a fish kill in our small lake and there are so many dead fish that the turkey vultures are having a gourmet seafood buffet. See? Isn’t it great to have these guys around? Can you imagine what it would be like in a few days to have a lake floating with dead, bloated fish? Oh, that’s just not right. Let’s get back indoors and see about some other scraps.

My latest endeavors are all about creating lots and lots of finished and useful items without even going to the fabric stores. I’m having so much fun with this creativity challenge! Okay, it’s not a difficult challenge since the majority of my studio is devoted to hoarding wonderful fabrics, notions, patterns, and tools. In addition to giving my studio a facelift with a new valance, seat cushions and slip covers; I’ve tackled the scrap pile, which was beginning to encroach on my sanity, to construct quilt squares, puppets, and a reorganized stash of fabric pieces for future crafting and small projects such as pin cushions and appliques.

I literally went through an overflowing scraps basket and sorted it according to size further illustrating my overabundance of free time right now. If it was large enough to fold but not to make into a child’s top, it went folded into a bin for crafting. Smaller scraps and strips cut from these pieces I threw back into the basket for paper piecing quilt squares. It’s one of my favorite baskets, and now I can see it again!

I had already made a small number of these quilt squares and I am determined to be consistent about finishing squares regularly to both deplete the pile of scraps and accomplish finishing a quilt. I find these squares a rewarding result from something I once threw away. I estimate I already have enough of these small scraps to make at least a queen sized quilt. This is not a new idea of course, but something I recommend to everyone. The squares take only about 10-15 minutes to construct and you can toss them into a stack for later. They represent a little bit of everything you’ve worked on almost like a “scrap” book! I turn to these when I just want to sew a little but haven’t quite decided what to do next…it’s like a warm up exercise.

To make a paper pieced quilt square from scraps you make a square from a sheet of paper from your recycling bin by folding the top left corner diagonally across the sheet to the opposite side and down until you’ve aligned the right side and former top side, forming a triangle. You should have a triangle formed with a few inches of paper left at the bottom. Crease the fold and trim the bottom piece off. When unfolded you have a square with a crease running diagonally across it from the top right to the bottom left. That was a lot of explanation for something you probably did since kindergarten. This is the base for your quilt square on which you will sew your fabric strips as follows.

I like to trim my scraps as I use them to have a straight edge for this project, but this is not necessary. Lay your first strip right side up and diagonally across the square with one edge roughly along the crease. Stitch a 1/4″ straight seam along this edge. You should have a strip face up and sewn to the paper along one side of the fabric. Next, lay a second strip right side down and on this first one with edges even – or at least be sure the fabrics overlap sufficiently enough to sew a 1/4″ seam. Sew a straight seam through both fabrics. Trim to about 1/4″ any excess fabric due to irregular edges.  Press the seam, then turn the second fabric over and press along the seam. You now have two fabrics face up with a seam between them along with a seam on a raw edge of the first fabric. Good!

Continue the second step in all directions until you have covered the papers to the corners.  Once the paper is completely covered, turn it over and trim the fabrics to the shape of your square paper. You may baste around the edges if you’d like. Once we have enough squares to make a quilt, we can talk about the next steps. This is so therapeutic I may end up with a mountain of them in no time to relieve my current anxieties, but that’s for another day!

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