Birch Bark at the “Speed of Sam”

If you follow a lot of the quilting industry people, you’ll see one of two things this week… either frantic posts about the last minute finishes we all seem to be pulling off for next week’s Spring Quilt Market in Pittsburgh – or utter silence, because of said frantic finishing! As the saying goes, if it wasn’t for the last minute, nothing would get done! And stitching binding on the plane to Market is almost a given.

I’ve sewn last minute stuff for three Markets now. I’m honored to be on call for Hoffman Fabrics… I design patterns that work well with their batiks, and so they often reach out for a booth quilt made of their newest lines. They got their new fabric in last week (no joke) and mine arrived Monday night.

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They asked for Birch Bark – one of my quick strip quilt patterns – so yesterday, I decided to photo and time myself through the top construction. I was posting on Instagram (@huntersds) and FB, but if you missed it, here are some of those shots and more, along with some of the thought process in my head. It has been a couple of years since I made one, so I estimated 5 hours for the top construction.

Hoffman sent me this new Bali Pop, which I believe will be called Sparrow. It’s all beautiful warm browns with some deep cranberry thrown in. They also sent me a couple of different ORANGE selections for the accent – they know me well! I chose the spotty one, and might use the solid for the binding (we’ll see when I get there).

Some of the new patterns in the batiks (known as “tjaps” and pronounced “chops”) are trending towards more modern and geometric patterning – and they are lovely! This group has those as well as the more organic, nature-driven patterns we’ve come to expect.

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The first step is always to take off the selvedges. Even though batiks are printed to the edge, that quarter inch of selvedge is made of thicker stuff (the warp threads are doubled at the edges). It can break your needles and distort your seams, so best be off with them!

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Next – chop up the strips and cut the accent pieces:

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To the machine! It needed a little TLC before I started. Out with the lint, in with a new needle. New needles can matter greatly with batiks as their weave is tighter. I use a Jeans/Denim 80/12 for all my piecing, and that sharp jeans tip is great for batiks.

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I chain-pieced the accents onto the strip sections…

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… and then chain-pieced those end to end to make a really, really long strip. Birch Bark is based on the Jelly Roll Race in terms of construction, so there are about 1600 inches of strip to wrangle.

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To the iron! I iron all the seams in the same direction for ease and speed.

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The strip gets turned into strata. I don’t press this until it’s all done.

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Now it can be pressed:

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The strata is cut into chunks, and the chunks go up on the design wall:

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There were a few areas where colors or accent bars came together in a way that I didn’t like.

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So I took out a seam in those blocks, and just moved one section to the other side of the piece I took it from. Even though the construction on this is partly about giving in to the randomness of how it comes together, you still get to manicure the parts that don’t make you happy!

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And seven seams later – top is DONE:

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It took 3 1/2 hours (4 from start to finish with a half hour break for lunch). Yes, I sew quite fast – my friend Melissa Z coined the phrase “Sewing at the Speed of Sam” after sitting next to me at a retreat! But I also have fast machines – both a Janome 6500 and 8900, which have delightfully fast top speeds. Still, you could still make this top in a day sewing sanely with plenty of breaks.

So today, I will be basting and quilting it. I will photograph/Instagram.FB my way through for that too, and will post it tomorrow. If you have any questions about why I do what I do the way I do it, ask on FB and I’ll try to answer those questions either as I work, or in tomorrow’s post.

BTW – Did you join my mailing list yet? Do it here. I’m dreaming up groovy exclusive stuff for you!

 

 

 

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8 thoughts on “Birch Bark at the “Speed of Sam”

  1. I’m probably the slowest sewist (hey that rhymes!) on earth, so your speed is impressive! And the finished product is gorgeous–I love it!

    Like

  2. Howdy I am so delighted I found your web site, I really found you by accident, while I was
    searching on Askjeeve for something else, Anyhow I am here now and would just like to say thanks for a
    incredible post and a all round interesting blog (I also love the theme/design), I
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    so when I have time I will be back to read much more, Please do
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    Like

  3. Pingback: Ideas for cutting up a Jelly Roll quilt into... a new design? - Page 2

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