NotQuilt Design: Time to Fill in the Squares

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This post is part of a series about sewing NotQuilts. If you’re unfamiliar with this method, The NotQuilt series begins here.

The next step in the NotQuilt design was to construct the Roman stripes. From the beginning, I wanted their orientation to alternate with each block, marching across the fashion face like a basket weave. But should I start in square #1 with them vertical or horizontal? That would determine the orientation of every other set of stripes in the remaining 24 empty squares.

Dragon Princess grid

That brown smudge in the middle is a stuffed mouse.

Since the Dragon Princess motif was so strongly vertical, I decided to begin with a horizontal layout in square #1. It’s a subtle look, but the horizontal emphasis would act as a counterbalance.

Another decision was made to use the pink butterflies in the center of each block. Plenty of the fabric was left over, after tearing the binding strips, and using it on the fashion face would help tie the NotQuilt together.

Each of the 25 empty squares would be filled in with five narrow rectangles. The empty squares ranged in size from about 9 to 10 inches in length and width. This meant that when I sew down the fill-in rectangles, I’ll have to make them long enough to cover the raw edges of the Dragon Princess strips and the seams.

The size of the empty squares lends itself very well to five rectangles across. An odd number of a design elements always looks better than an even number.

Using the pink butterflies as the center of each open square, arranged horizontally and vertically, will ensure that I place the other rectangles correctly. They will provide a strong, uniform design motif across the fashion face no matter how random the rest of the fabric scraps I use are.

Measure Twice, Tear Once

I wanted to use my pink butterfly fabric economically, so I measured again. If I cut the strips a smidgen over 10½ inches long, they should cover the open space between the Dragon Princess grid with some extra cloth for the turned-over hems.

The NotQuilt design said 25 strips were needed, and since the pink butterflies’ design motif was not strongly horizontal or vertical, I did not have to obsess over how I tore my strips. This was good because I had some fabric left over, but not an enormous amount.

I wanted to be accurate and not tear off too much cloth. If each pink butterfly patch was 2 ½ inches wide, and my other rectangles were about 2 ½ inches wide, five strips across with ¼ folded over hems, would add up to about 10 inches.

As always, I will tear my strips as I go, so I can make the final strips a bit wider or narrower as I needed to, to cover up the blue blanket.

So I know I need 25 butterfly strips, each 2 ½ inches wide and each 10 ½ inches long or a hair longer. Any excess can be folded under. I had a long strip of pink butterflies and I could have just torn off 25 strips and then shortened them. This would have given me 25 little squares left over and I don’t need 25 little squares of butterflies. A long strip would be more useful.

To avoid having 25 little squares left over, each about 2 ½ by 3 inches, I did some math. I multiplied 2 ½ by 25 and got 62 ½ inches. If you have ever cut fabric or wood, you will know that I need to cut off a longer strip of fabric because of measurement creep and the way that the material you are cutting vanishes in the cut.

notquilt design

Additional notes were added to the page so I could learn from my mistakes

I tore off a strip an inch or so longer, tore it again to the 10 ½ length, and tore my 25 strips. Of course, Dragon Princess thwarted me again, even though I was not using Dragon Princess cloth! Due to measurement creep, I got 22 strips, not 25, out of my premeasured piece of cloth.

I had to tear three more pieces from what remained; using the narrow strip I had torn in the beginning to make the strips the correct length. Good thing I didn’t tear off 25 strips and then shorten them. All those little squares would have been useless to me.

When you tear fabric, as opposed to measuring and cutting precisely with a rotary cutter, you may lose cloth to the cutting process. Tearing fabric gives you a straight edge, but leaves loose threads. Sometimes, you get enough looseness in the raw edge that the finished, usable strip isn’t what you thought you measured for. It is a bit narrower and yet you tore off strips that were a bit wider. This isn’t normally a problem for me, but I also don’t normally measure out a strip of cloth and then subdivide it into 25 more torn strips.

However, we persevere and I tore off a few more strips of pink butterflies, happy that I had planned ahead and had a long strip of cloth to use.

It was time to pin and sew. As with other NotQuilts, I do this work at the ironing board. I laid out Dragon Princess and, starting in square #1, pinned a horizontal strip of pink butterflies, with the narrow ends folded under to conceal their raw edge.

Stabbing Pains

I pinned and sewed the first two rows of butterfly strips, alternating horizontal and vertical. I was going to pin all 25 strips, but my back hurt and so I stopped to sew down the first ten strips. I’m glad I did as Dragon Princess is huge, one of my biggest NotQuilts, I was being stabbed repeatedly by the many, many pins.

I wrestle my NotQuilts through my standard Babylock sewing machine. I can see that if I replace the Babylock, I’ll get a machine with a longer arm and more space between the machine housing and the needle. A few inches more space would make all the difference in the world.

Row three of the pink butterflies got pinned and sewn down. Row four is pinned and waiting to be sewn. The picture below shows the progression of pink butterfly strips, horizontal and vertical, filling the empty squares. Only the last row is untouched.

notquilt design roman squares

Once this is done, I will fill in the rest of the squares with plenty of random pink and purple cloth. This is the perfect opportunity to empty the scrap bin.

notquilt designIf you look at this picture you can see that I could do something different here. I could choose to not fill in the empty spaces with more rectangles. I could sew down squares or triangles, even random scrappy pieces. But I will stick with the NotQuilt design and force Dragon Princess to become what I had envisioned.