I always have a good laugh when patterns say, you should now have a 13.5 inch square and mine is 11inches or an obvious rectangle.  Sometimes though it can be a little disconcerting and override the accomplishment you should feel as someone following along who doesn’t have the established skills to get things 100% all the time.

So I thought I would share this method I used for making a table runner for my mum, without a set pattern, and therefore nothing to measure up to.

– Aside:  Setting goals are a great way to give you something to aim for and to make you feel like you can tick things off.  But if you are not the best at setting realistic and achievable goals for yourself (and how do we know if we are or not?)  then it’s not useful, because all you will be doing is kicking yourself for being a contender for the next “nailed it” meme

Free yourself from Pattern Failing

Turn your fat quarters and yardage into something more familiar when working with ideas from patterns. I fell in love with Moda Fabrics and Moda Bake Shop, very soon after starting my first quilting lesson about 7 years ago now.  So I have become accustomed to thinking about patterns in notions of how many Jelly Rolls, Layer Cakes, Charm Packs etc patterns take.  (These measurement terms were all coined by Moda Fabrics and are explained very well on their Moda Bake Shop Blog).  But I also recently discovered this helpful guide on what you can turn your yardage and fat quarters into to turn them into the equivalent pre-cut measures I am now so used to thinking about.

  1. Choose your Colour Scheme and know the approximate size for your item.  I was given a charm pack  (Gobble Gobble by Sandy Gervais for Moda Fabrics) and 2 coordinating fat quarters.  I knew the vague size the table runner needed to be.
  2. Look for blocks you like.  You can even look in patterns (*gasp*) but just look at the pattern for a single block you intend to use. I like stars and saw this block both in a book and online in the Moda Bake Shop Recipe Autumn Table Topper designed by Trish Poolson of Notes of Sincerity.
    Autumn Table Topper from Moda Bake Shop

    Autumn Table Topper from Moda Bake Shop

    Trish uses mini charms (basically a charm cut into quarters) and uses a pieced centre for her block.  I decided as I wanted mine to finish quickly and easily (I hadn’t sewn much for a year and needed to ease myself back into things), so I thought I would use a single 5inch charm square for the centre.

  3. Take Stock of what you have to work with so you can make adjustments if you don’t have enough fabric etc.  I laid out my charm squares and my fat quarters that I had cut into 12 charm squares each. According to the Block Design.
    Table Runner Layout

    Table Runner Layout

    I also sent this to mum so she could pre-approve the layout.  I thought I was reasonably safe, since she had provided the fabric, but I just had to make sure. I like much brighter colours and tend to like more modern quilt designs while mum tends to favour slightly more neutral colours and more traditional designs.  If you are unsure of which blocks to use where or how to make your design pop (I have had a couple of disasters but one I remember is the black and white schnibble quilt I pieced expecting this beatiful dramatic monochromatic quilt, but it had very little contrast and just looked like a jumbled mess when stiched together!).  Obvious contrasts I used above are light and dark coloured fabrics and less obvious contrasts are achieved by varying the size of the prints.  The colours were already co-ordinated as it’s from a charm pack.  The other things to pay attention to are symmetry and repetition.  Symmetry is good, but too much of it is bad and usually when repeating elements odd numbers are more appealing than even.  (google “design basics” or “design primer” to get overviews of how to use basic design rules to get something you like).

  4. Square up your Blocks as you go.  In this example I only have 3 blocks, so there is not a lot of room for large variations, but the idea here is that you square up your blocks (ie trim the edges so that all the blocks are the same size) according to the smallest block you have.  So once you have all your blocks pieced, find the one that is the smallest, square up that one and trim all the others to match.
    Autumn Table Runner Block Layout with Centre Pieced

    Autumn Table Runner Block Layout with Centre Pieced

    In this example I layered my 3 blocks I was going to use for the table runner on top of each other.  I removed the charms I did not like at all and then stacked them up according to the design I had chosen.  I knew that I only had those 12 charms to use around the outside of all 3 blocks, so I would have to cut them in half giving me 24 5inch by 2.5inch rectangles to stich around the edges.  If I bordered each block all the way around I would be short charms or need to use the ones I didn’t like, so I decided the blocks would be joined to each other and I would border all of them rather than adding sashing to each block.

    Autumn Table Runner Blocks and Border

    Autumn Table Runner Blocks and Border

    I didn’t figure this out right away but was laying the runner out as I progressed to work things out.  I added one more charm square cut into quarters to fill in the corners of the borders at the top and bottom.

  5.  Quilt as Desired.  I know this would usually paralyse me.  What am I going to do about the quilting and fear would normally stop me in my tracks and  then the pieced item would not be touched and no actual quilting would happen.  So my first desire was then to use a Quilt as You Go Method to minimise my fear of quilting a large pieced project. I used a method where you do not add backing, but quilt the block with just wadding and the top block and then add the backing after you have joined all the quilted as you go blocks together.  I sketched the block onto my notebook and chose to do a spiral in the centre of the star that would move into a shadow quilted or echo quilted star (sewing lines equidistant from the ditch along each side of the star seam lines) and then to just do a simple free motion design over the rest of the block and some serpentine stitching along the border.
    Autumn Table Runner Quilted

    Autumn Table Runner Quilted

    I joined the blocks together and found that I had serendipitously a piece of Art Gallery fabric which had perfect colours to go with this that was just a smidge narrower than the table runner for backing.  Piecing and Quilting took me around a day and as it was family dinner night (we all go to mum’s house for dinner each week).  I took it along with me (no backing applied yet) to show it to mum and to test it on the table for size.

I wasn’t totally happy with my quilting, but considering I had not done any for such a long time and even then I would only consider myself an eager novice, I thought it turned out great.  I haven’t completed this yet, but the idea for the backing is to baste and quilt it using just a simple stitch in the ditch finish that won’t interfer with the quilting I have done on the front of the piece.  I will add the finished item to this post when it is completed.  I mentioned how my niece needed a Hippo Softie and I made her Flip Flo the Hippo a few weeks ago?  Well while I was doing this quilting, my niece (2.5yrs old) advised me that Flip Flo had designed me a picture on the design wall.

Flip Flo's Design on the Design Wall

Flip Flo’s Design on the Design Wall 😉

Well done Flip Flo, pretty good designing for a hippopotamous softie!
Good Night, wherever you are!