Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Lego Tutorial

Here at last, the Lego Tutorial. I love playing with bitty pieces, fitting them together like a puzzle and that is reflected in my write-up. This is just one way of many that you could go about doing a quilt like this.

First off, here is the amazing antique quilt that provided the inspiration, courtesy of Lucy of Quilting with the Past:


Go check out her post with all the details and close-up photos. I have studied this quilt over and over again, I truly love it. The strip widths in this are small (only 5/8" finished), as are the blocks (6.5" finished). It's very color-coordinated with lots of cream, brown, navy, red and pink with a few hints of gold and lavender.

I wanted to use every fabric that came my way, no matter the color, and most of my fabrics are far far busier, so  I increased the strip and block size.

Let's get started. Cut strips and scraps 1.5" wide. Cut randomly to lengths measuring between 1.5" (aka a square) and 10.5". My quilt is super scrappy and I quickly discovered I did not need many pieces of any one fabric.

I strongly recommend that you include solids, near solids, and blenders, especially if you are going to be using lots of busy/novelty fabric. Include lots of different sizes and kinds of patterns. Include dull fabrics AND bright ones. The more of a mix you have, the better.

I didn't use more than one strip (42") of a fabric. For an eye-catching fabric, cut three or more pieces. Ugly fabric or something you just can't stand? Cut short pieces.


Not that you necessarily need it, but I give you permission to fussy-cut the heck out of your fabric. I bought this fabric because it was Elvis and never use it cuz it is ugly. Instead of cutting a 1.5" strip off, I  cut a wider chunk and then selectively cut it up to get pieces I liked (the name and face). Okay, more waste that way, but it's getting used! If there are boring or strange bits of the right width, they get thrown in too.


The little snowman face is a lot cuter than just his hat would have been

To avoid a murky quilt, include light lights - I used white-on-whites and several fabrics with a lot of white background.


and dark darks. I used black but a good navy, for example, would be excellent.


Start joining the pieces up. I divide my fabric into light, medium and dark piles and pick randomly. (I might pick it, but that doesn't mean I have to use it). I chain a whole big bunch at one time and then iron after every join. And yes I said iron. Forget delicate pressing, I'm ironing the heck out of this, with STEAM.


Rows that are long enough get cut to size. Theoretically that should be 10.5" since I'm making 10.5" unfinished blocks, but it's less stress to cut them a tad bit longer (I add an 1/8" but a quarter or half inch would work too).


And yay, leftover bits longer than or equal to a square get thrown back in to the piles o' legos.

I don't know how ya'all piece, but I can't sew a straight row. Some come out even curvier than others:


Occasionally I use my rotary cutter and slice off bits that are sticking out (I'm especially eager to do it when it's a fabric I hate) otherwise I leave them as is - no seam ripping.

Oh, and I'm sure these things would lay flatter etc if I pressed the seams open. But I don't. It takes too long and I burn my fingers. Plus that would probably make it less wonky, which is not a goal.

I make a few rows that are only two pieces. The longer the piece, the more attention it will draw to itself.


Here are a few rows made with three legos. I initially had a much bigger piece of the bright blue with red dots and discovered that it was waaaay too dominating. Might not have been bad if I had lots of that fabric to use all over the quilt, but I've only got a bit of it.


 Even more rows that are four.





And five:
And a few with six:



I really enjoy the process of making the rows. I can play with adding a dull fabric next to a neon to see if that will tone it down (it usually does). Do I like this color combination? It's easy to divide a fabric if it isn't working.

Notice that each row is a bit different. I think of it as morse code: dots and dashes. Some rows are dot dash dot dash and others are dot dot daaaaash dot, etc.

I do occasionally throw in a single fabric but geeze it draws so much more attention, even when it's a quiet nondescript fabric. How easily can you spot the one here?


So where were we? Rows. I keep them together and definitely do NOT sort them by how many pieces are in each. I grab the first two off the pile and audition.


I find two rows that look good together and then another two. I'm not working on bigger blocks, just concentrating on two rows at a time. There are always a few rows that don't play well together and get set aside for the moment.


I pin before I sew the rows together. Probably completely unnecessary, but I do it anyway. I make sets of 4 and a few with 3.


Three? I know, I know. Using 1.5" strips to make a block that finishes at 10" I should only need 10 rows. Don't ask me, but my first block was too small, so I decided not to stress and just sew on that extra 11th row. That gives me more room to slice here and there making some rows thinner. But usually my blocks come out a bit big. I just cut them down to size. ***Use a steam iron or mist with a spray bottle first and iron (or press) the block flat before trimming ***


I love using a big square ruler although it would be better if it was the exact size of my unfinished block.  This is a Creative Grids ruler and it is awesome.

Only once did my block come up too small even with the 11 rows. I trimmed a wee bit and threw in a shim of solid fabric. It's narrow and pretty unnoticeable (it's the 7th row down). I love how wonky the legos are in that area. This is a section from the border.


One of the wonderful things about this project is that I've learned that some fabrics work sooo wonderfully with just about anything. That gray with the orange polka dots? fabulous. And some styles are atrocious such as busy prints that mimic patchwork - the cherries mixed with black and white dots and houndstooth for instance (2nd row from the bottom). *shudder* Really busy stripes are horrible too.

The bright yellow with red flowers 70's print is an eye-catcher. I think the other fabrics with red, yellow and orange help to balance it out.


The blocks in the middle of the quilt are set with one block's rows going up and down and the next block's rows side to side (think Rail Fence). The top and bottom borders rows all run up and down. The side borders go side to side.


My quilt isn't finished yet, but this is how a quilt would look set 7 x 7. I still can't decide if I'm going to go for it and make it king-sized or go for a more manageable (and washable!) smaller size.

I said there are other ways to go about it. Chawne makes a big long strip instead of separate rows. She explains her method here.

And hey, I just found the wonderful Scrapbuster Random Railfence Tutorial Riel wrote up months ago. She's uses 2.5" wide pieces and makes one big strip too. I love how she used these blocks to make this wonderful scrappy quilt with a unifying sashing.

Lily says, have fun and get to work!


Any questions? Just ask.

62 comments:

be*mused jan said...

Love this, Tonya! Can't wait to empty all of my fabric out of boxes and get back to work. This project looks like so much fun...it's just fabulous!

Marge said...

Tonya, what a great tutorial! I've been cutting my 1.5" strips to get ready to start my version. Now I think that I've got to cut a lot more before I start sewing in order to have a good mix. Thanks so much for the instructions!

Kelli said...

I love the quilt, and thanks for the tutorial. I went and checked out the antique original inspiration quilt.. you are right. AMAZING!!! Beyond words. Thanks for sharing all of this with us. :)

Kelli said...

(and love the pic of Lily..priceless.)

Nifty Quilts said...

Great tute! I just LUV this quilt!!

Lisa Shafer said...

Incredible.
This just really, really makes me want to make one!
But I'm so busy with teaching and writing that I don't know WHEN I could ever try! ugh!
Your work is amazing here, how you take fairly icky fabric and make it beautiful.

Lori R said...

Super! Thanks a lot....but now I'm really in trouble because I also saw a great string quilt in a new book...maybe I can make them both at the same time, using up lots of scraps!

daveandlo said...

Wow! I have a whole bin of scraps. I should get busy. Love the fussy cut pieces! I have a quilt that's started that is 1.5" x 2.5" pairs sewn together on the long side and then turned at 90 degrees (rail fence) I've had a lot of fun fussy cutting some of them, too. I can only work on it for so long, I applaud the progress you've made with this. It's going to by heavy! Lois

Teresa said...

Awesome quilt, awesome tute, and SUPER awesome picture of Lily! (how did you get the watermark on your photo??)

In stitches,
Teresa :o)

kathi said...

I'm out of town for a couple more weeks and I'm so tempted to go buy somoe fabric just so I can cut it up and get started. But I have to be patient because I have bins and bins of scraps at home just waiting to be cut into legos!

upstateLisa said...

awesome!

Sujata said...

Gorgeous! Wonderful tips.
Love this quilt!

cauchy09 said...

so nice to get to read about your process! i'm 25 blocks in and trying to decide whether to go forward and make more. anyway...great to see the creepy kitties! :o)

Pinkadot Quilts said...

Great quilt and thanks for sharing your process.

True Blue Nana said...

This looks similar to those lasagna quilts that some folks do. I love the way random fabrics work together. Great tutorial.

Quilter Kathy said...

What a great blogpost! I loved reading it and at the same time am so relieved that I am not tempted in the least to start one of these amazing quilts!

Very Lazy Daisy said...

I must MUST make one of these...!!

joe tulips said...

I haven't been able to work on mine in several days....I have a huge stack of strips ready for blocks. I am hoping to get to it today! I'll sew today and paint outside on Friday instead. Thanks for your thinking process in words!
There was also a good question...how do you watermark pictures?

Saska said...

Oh Tonya! Wonderful tuitoral, but the Kitty picture at the end made me giggle!

Barb said...

love it - looks like it would be great fun to make!
great photos and step outs - you are a total pro!

Sharon said...

I know I won't be making one of these any time soon, but I sure love how yours has turned out. Fabulous!

Cornelia said...

Really fun! Must. Make.

I'm going on a quilting retreat in a month and need an "idiot sewing" project to work on later in the day when the drinking starts!

Are you still collecting 1.5" strips or are you stripped out?

Cheers,
Cornelia

Anonymous said...

I really like this quilt and can't wait to try it and use up my scraps. Thanks for taking the time to put the pattern together for all of us to use.
Diane in Alaska

Riel Nason said...

All your tiny bits look SO cool all put together. I say go king size ... hee, hee, I know it is easy to say when I'm not actually involved in the sewing part. Thanks so much for linking my tutorial!!!

Clare said...

That's sorta how I did my
Fool quilts. I took strips of vary lengths, piled them on top of one other and then cut 2" all the way along. Some I had to chuck cos when I got the end of the strip there was hardly anything left.

Then split into piles and matched as I went along. Only trouble is that with Blueberry Fool I started trying to think! Disaster!

I love this way of building blocks (woohoo "Lego"!) and get such a kick out of it.

And woot for not cutting straight. With you on that one all the way!

Kristin L said...

No questions -- just loving the quilt top!

Diane said...

HI LILY!
Great picture, and fabulous tutorial, it makes me want to drop everything and start one. I love how some of the random novelty fabrics just leap out at you even if you don't focus on them. It's like one of those mental tests "the first 3 words you see will describe you"...

Quilts And Pieces said...

This is just amazing!

quilteuseforever said...

Great quilt ! You give very good advice about color contrasts, this is important to achieve an interesting look.
I love your happy style !
Katell, France

Lynn said...

Love the quilt - may have to start sewing tiny strips together to make those blocks.

Anonymous said...

Awesome quilt! Can't wait to start one

beebee said...

I have been wanting to make a lego quilt but I was not sure how wide I should cut the strips.
I will start one very soon and post progress on my blog!
love to visit your blog,
hugs
beebee

Jan said...

Thanks for sharing the specifics of making a great Lego. I probably wouldn't include lights if you hadn't pointed out how necessary they are. Definitely on my short list to make!

Serena said...

this is great, though i can't imagine hand quilting something king sized, wild and large without some Dramamine without some rest stops along the way.

i love it. looks a little like the fuzz on the television screen.....or you could always use it as a Rorschach test on unsuspecting guests....

shirley said...

thanks for the many pics and explanations. i love this quilt. it sort of looks like my crumb quilt. i save ALL fabric scraps and am currently piecing them all together every which way to make 5 inch blocks. so far i have 302.....goal is 500. i think it will be a fabulous scrappy quilt.

Lucy said...

WOW! This is a beautiful quilt even if some of the fabric is 'ugly'. I loved that Elvis one!!
I'm new to quilting and blogging but I save every tiny bit of my fabric and when I have enough I'd love to make one of these quilts. It will be VERY scrappy!
Thanks for the great tutorial and all the tips. You made me giggle several times :)
Lucy xx

Quiltdivajulie said...

I've sorted what is already cut to 1-1/2 into three boxes of lights, mediums, and darks. Now I can start stitching! And when I get tired of stitching, I can trim more of my clean cuts and strings to 1-1/2 so I can stitch some more! WOO HOO!!

Thanks for the tutorial and photos (and I LIKE pressing with steam ...)

Purple Pam said...

Been following your progress on your Lego quilt. Fell in love with it. Started pulling 1.5 strips from my bin. Sewed up 4 blocks. Found problems with squaring up the blocks due to so many seams. Glad to read your tuto where you mentioned pressing the heck out of them before cutting a square. I am hooked! It's like not being able to eat just one chip! Must finish other projects before I can play with Legos. Thanks (I think) for sharing your process and getting me hooked on Legos! Where can I get some Elvis fabric?

Lynda said...

This is a great tutorial, and similar to how I make Mile a Minute. I select random scraps, but with a little bit of control in there! Waiting to see the finished quilt!

AnnieO said...

Your joy in this creativity is infectious, Tonya! I smiled through the whole tutorial :) and then had a big ending smile with your adorable kitty.

YankeeQuilter said...

I now have 16 blocks finished...not as wild as yours but out there for me!

MulticoloredPieces said...

Good tutorial. You break it down nicely so that it's actually a very manageable quilt. And the results are so stupendous.
best, nadia

Quilting Yai Yai said...

This is fabulous! I'm going to start playing with fabric legos today! Getting right on it, Miss Lily!!
Deborah

Nancy said...

Too much fun. I am forwarding your blog to my friend Deb who loves scrap quilting. This one might keep her busy for more than a week!

Brigitte said...

THANK YOU Tonya for your enthusiastic scrapwork and this fantastic tutorial. Even love the blogs you pointed me to. So many temptations and a good way to reduce stash
greetings Brigitte

Magpie Sue said...

I appreciate you making the point about sewing just a couple of rows together at a time rather than being focused on creating a whole block. This looks like fun and may be the very thing I've been looking for to reduce my collection of strips!

Anonymous said...

Love it. Started one last week and have 25 blocks made. I put them on a foundation square of fabric. It will have to be machine quilted. It is fun. Was thinking that a block ( larger) would make a great artsy pillow.

patty a. said...

Lets just start out by saying how behind I am keeping up with reading some of my favorite blogs. I just got to yours today and I love the legos project. I would have sent you some fabric - do you still need some? This quilt is going to be fab! I am jealous of some of those great novelty prints. I am working on two I Spy quilts and came up short. I have a couple of my readers sending me 4" x 5" pieces which throws their name in the giveaway for some of my hand dyed fabric. Let me know if you need anymore fabric. I could send you some of my dutch wax African scraps to throw into the mix!

Quilting Under The Influence said...

Love it! I am buried under my fabric stash so this quilt is a must try for me!!!

Cheers! Linda at QUTI.org

Anonymous said...

Hello Tonya,
I found you through Bonnie Hunter. Legos is the first of your designs that I am doing over here in Bonn/Germany. It really is addictive. The evening I started it I could not stop until 2am, yawning in the office the next day. It is so beautiful! Thank you for inspiring us around the globe! Sigrid

Mamen said...

Saludos desde EspaƱa y felicidades por este trabajo tan colorido.
Me ha encantado.
Mamen

Kwiltz by Stephanie said...

YEAH! What a great explanation of your process and your patience to play with where to put blocks. It's got me collecting uglies!!! THANKS! :)

Angie said...

O.My.Goodness!! I LOVE it!! And what a FANTASTIC tutorial you've put together and shared with us. You are absolutely THE BEST, girl!! :D I don't normally care for strippy quilts but this one is definitely calling my name. :D

Teresa said...

Hey Tonya,

I'm just checking in on you...haven't seen you in blogland. Perhaps you are off on an adventure with Dr. Who and the tardis?? 'Hope all's well...

In stitches,
Teresa :o)

Anonymous said...

Very interesting concept. Thanks for sharing!

Lucy said...

Wonderful what you did with this quilt! The antique quilt in person is amazing! I remember myself drooling over the pieces...

Dotty said...

Oh my word, what an amazing quilt. I am truly amazed at all the detail.
<3 Dotty

Tracey @ozcountryquiltingmum said...

Knocked me out, love the look...and as this is a very Lego-y house it would be very popular, Tracey

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tutorial. Can't wait to get started.

Anita said...

Absolutely wonderful quilt! Love it, love it, love it. Great use of scraps. Can't wait to make one. Thanks for the tutorial.

Charo said...

I love it!

Thanks for this great tutorial.

Charo said...

I love it!

Thanks for this great tutorial.