Thursday, December 12, 2013

Celtic Solstice Mystery Quilt, Part 2

Last Friday, Bonnie Hunter released clue #2 for her mystery quilt Celtic Solstice. This week we're making chevron units!

To make each chevron unit, she says we'll need:
  • 2 green 2" x 3-1/2" rectangles
  • 2 yellow 2" x 2" squares, and
  • 2 white (background) 2" x 2" squares.

Except I've changed my colors from what Bonnie's using, so instead I have:
  • 2 turquoise rectangles
  • 2 coral squares, and
  • 2 black (background) squares.

I found a nice trick to the cutting for this step. I cut my turquoise strips at 3-1/2", and then I layered two turquoise strips, two coral strips, and two black strips.

I subcut my stacked strips at 2" intervals.

Voilà! Now each cut stack of strips has exactly the right number of each fabric patch that I need to make one chevron unit.

Next I had to draw a line on the back of Every. Single. Square. That's 400 squares for the smaller-sized version of Celtic Solstice. For the king-size version, people had to cut more than twice that number! Eeep!!

I used the Quick Quarter tool to draw a line diagonally across the back of each square. The QQ is long enough that I can easily line up my squares using the lines on my cutting mat, and then draw across two squares at a time. My favorite marking tool is either the Sewline mechanical ceramic lead pencil with either the red or white chalk, or a No. 2 pencil with a very sharp tip. It just depends on the color of my fabric and what will show up best.

Next I have to make sure that I've got my sewing lines oriented correctly. When these rectangular units are sewn together, we need one seam on these corner pieces to angle down, and the other one needs to go up. See how I have them laid out next to each other here? Since I also drew the additional sewing line for my waste corner, I'm making sure that my fabric square is oriented with that extra line over the area that will be cut off later.

Here are two tips for sewing these patches:
1) Start sewing at the middle of the rectangle and sew from there to the corner, otherwise the sewing machine is apt to eat the corner of your fabric.
2) Do not sew right on top of the center line that was drawn. Instead sew just on the side of the line towards the outside corner. Since this is the same side as the extra line that I drew, I've got a good visual indicator of which side of the line to sew on. If you're not keeping the waste corners, you could just draw an 'X' on the side that will get cut.
3) Also, if the square patch is trying to wiggle around too much when you're sewing down your line, you can either pin the square patch to the rectangular patch &/or decrease the pressure of your presser foot a bit.

Gently finger press the seam open to make sure that the newly sewn patch completely covers the corner of your rectangle. If you have good coverage, then cut off the waste corner leaving approximately a 1/4" seam allowance. [Since I'm saving my waste corners, I like to sew the extra seam before cutting them off. It saves time later, and makes it more likely that I'll use them. The one difference when I sew the waste triangle seam is that I'll sew on the side of the drawn line that's towards the line I've already sewn, instead of on the side towards the corner. If you're not keeping your waste triangles, or if you don't bother with sewing them before cutting them off, then skip this part in the brackets.] Don't do more than a gentle finger press on these units yet. We'll hit them with an iron after we've sewn on the next patch. You'll see why in a bit...

Now we add the next patch. Be sure to orient the patch so that the drawn line goes in the same direction as the seam already sewn on the patch. Again, I've got the side of the patch with my additional sewing line oriented towards the waste corner.

Sew just off the line as you did before, finger press to check coverage, and then trim the corner. [Or, for me, sew the extra seam, and then cut  ;-)  ]

And now to press...

A Pointed Note About Pressing: We need to press the seams on each of these half-units in different directions, and it does make a difference which unit half gets pressed up, and which one gets pressed down!

In the above, left image, I've laid out the halves of my chevron unit how they'll get sewn together. For Celtic Solstice, this means that the background fabric (white for Bonnie, black for me) is inside the V, and fabric 1 (Bonnie's yellow, my coral) will be on the corners outside the V.

In the right hand photo, I've flipped each patch over to its back side. (The half that's on the left in the left-hand photo is still on the left in the right-hand photo. It's just been flipped front-to-back. Ditto for the piece on the right side in each photo!) Notice that the seams on each half have been pressed in opposite directions. The seams on the left side piece have been pressed downwards, and the seams on the right side piece have been pressed upwards.This will let the seams of the two halves nest when they are sewn together, resulting in seam lines that meet in a nice pointy point at the center of the unit. Pointy points make quilters happy! It will also help to spread out/reduce bulk at the center seam. Reduced bulk: also good!

So. Once you've got your seams pressed in the right directions, lay them back out like you see them in the left-hand photo above. [Remember, for Celtic Solstice, that means the background fabric is inside the V, and fabric #1 is outside the V on the corners.] Flip the right side piece over onto the left-side piece, and nest the seams down the right side of the patches. Don't they nest oh-so nicely?

Now it's time to start feeding pieces through the sewing machine. The key here is to put the pieces under the presser foot so that the piece with the seams that are pointing away from you is on top, and the piece with the seams pointing towards you is on the bottom. This way, the feed dogs and the presser foot will work to keep your nested seams together. If you run the pieces through with the top seams towards you and the bottom seam away from you, then the pressure of the feed dogs and presser foot can actually cause the seams to nudge apart, with the result that your seams may not come together in a nice pointy point! Sounds weird, but it's true!

Some tips here:
1) I make sure that the seams between my background fabric (inside the V) and my chevron are nested, and then I keep my finger pressed tightly on those nested seams as I run them under the presser foot. Once I've gone a few stitches past that seam, I stop, make sure that the bottom seams are nested, and then keep my finger pressed on those seams as they pass under the presser foot. (Obviously, I've got my fingers pressing just to the left of where my presser foot will be, and not right on my sewing line!)
2) I also keep my seam ripper pressed on top of my top-side seam to make sure it doesn't try to flip as it starts to pass under my presser foot. You could use a stiletto or a skewer for this too.

Almost done! Press the center seam open on this unit. That will also help to spread out some of the extra bulk in these seams.

And now to check our work and square things up:
1) The unit should measure 3-1/2" x 3-1/2". (Outer, solid red line)
2) There should be 1/4" between the top of the chevron and the edge of the unit. This your seam allowance. (Top red circle)
3) The seam between your chevron and the background fabric should go right to the corners of the unit, passing through a point 1/4" up from the bottom and 1/4" in from the sides of the unit. That's more seam allowance. (Bottom red circles)
4) The center seam of the unit should fall directly under the 1-3/4" mark on the ruler. (Dashed blue line)
5) The diagonal chevron seam should fall directly under the 45º marking on the ruler. (Dashed gray line)

And that's it! I hope that you find this tutorial on the chevron unit helpful. To find more beautiful chevrons, you can check out the Celtic Solstice, part 2 Link-Up on Bonnie Hunter's Quiltville blog.

Happy sewing!


  1. Whew! I haven't got to this step yet, but I can see now why there are so many comments! I'm going to try to print this so I have it by my side when I'm ready to do mine. Thanks so much for your detailed instruction!

  2. Excellent lesson and photos. Thanks so much for sharing. Do you think a walking foot would help at this stage ??? Roxanna

    1. My machine sewed through these units just fine with just the 1/4" foot that I normally use for piecing. If you're having problems, I think I'd try lowering the tension on my presser foot and slowing down as you approach the seam intersections first. But you can always try the walking foot too. Every machine and quilter works a little bit differently, so you need to find the method that works the best for you and your machine. Good luck!

  3. Your tutorial is great. Thanks for taking the time to make it easier! Your photos are great and your narrative very precise and easy to follow. This will surely make it easier for those of us starting the mystery after Christmas.

  4. I do like your little square up ruler. Is that a CReative Grid????

    1. Yes, I have a variety of rulers. The 2-1/2" x 6" and 6-1/2" x 6-1/2" Creative Grids rulers can be seen in this post. I really like their non-slippery backs!

  5. Great tutorial! Fun to see how each person approaches the same task. I didn't draw the lines. I folded each square diagonally and pressed it. I used the press crease as my stitching guide.

    1. That's a good way to do it too! I never know how much time is going to pass in between making the line and finally getting to sew on it, and I feel like the crease might disappear before I can finish. What a time saver though -- good idea!

  6. Loved your ideas for cutting and then for nesting the seams to sew - hope I remember this tip tomorrow if I try to finish my chevrons. Also the tip about the second line instead of cutting first - great idea.

  7. Yay! I'm glad I'm not the only person trying to save those little triangles! Love your color choices!

  8. Thanks for the tips! Now, I hope I remember them or can find this again when I'm ready to sew my chevrons.

  9. Enjoyed reading through your tutorial even though I've finished my #2 already. Your colors are very tropical. Can't wait to see how your quilt looks when finished. Love seeing all the out-of-the-box colors. Wish I would have had time to do that this time. Maybe next year. lol

  10. Bonnie's mysteries are so much fun. I love seeing all the different color ways!