Thursday, November 4, 2010

Postage Stamp Tutorial

I was inspired to make a postage stamp quilt by a tutorial I saw on Seems to be you and me's blog.  I lost it again for the longest time and then made it from my own remembered version which ended up a bit different.  Don't you hate it when that happens?  Anyway, I made some changes to the original tutorial, some because that's how I remembered it, and some because I wanted to do it my way.  Several people have kindly commented that they are now starting postage stamp quilts of their own (isn't that fun?)  So I thought I'd elaborate on the process so that other people can read my tutorial, forget where they read it, and make an entirely different quilt of their own. 
Step 1 
Go to your tub/drawer/box/bag of 1.5 inch strips.  I'm a huge fan of the Bonnie Hunter scrap users system and routinely trim down my extras into usable sizes which I store in nifty plastic drawers.  When a drawer won't close anymore, I come up with a way to use that size.  I guess you could also get some fabric and cut lots and lots of 1.5 inch strips (or even squares!), but boy does that seem like a lot of work. 
Step 2
Start pulling out strips and matching them up by size.  Don't think about color or style.  Just pair long strips with long and short with short until you get bored or tired.
Now go to the machine and sew them together.  Don't bother to get up and iron anything at this point.  Just take the paired strips and match them up again into groups of 4.  The original tutorial I read had you sewing sets of 4 together to get an 8 strip set.  This seemed too big to me, so instead I decided to go with sets of 6.  When the sets of 4 come out of the machine, just find another pair and add it onto one side or the other.  When I get to 6 strips sewn together, I toss it on the floor so I know it's ready for the ironing board.  I don't look at the fabrics or colors except to make sure that the same fabric doesn't end up in a set twice. 
Step 3
Now you are ready to iron for the first time. Gather all the little sets of 6 strips up and go to the ironing board. Press all the seams in the same direction.  Try, if at all possible, to keep the seams straight. Then, just to keep it all nice and neat, I like to turn it over and press it from the front as well.
Step 4
When you have a set of strips ironed, take them over to your cutting mat. You can stack them if you are feeling confident, though I tend to cut them one at a time. I match the lines on the ruler with the seam lines to try to keep it all square.  Go ahead and cut the strip sets into 1.5 inch sub cuts. As you cut them, stack each set of strips separately because it will make the pairing up easier in the next step.
Step 5
Start pairing up the sub cut strips, making sure that the same fabrics don't end up near each other.  The easiest way to do this is to make a little assembly line. I number them in my mind and then start matching set 1 with 2 then 3, then 4.  When 1 has been matched with all the others, I move it to the end of the line and start working on 2.  My goal is to get as many different combination going as possible so that it isn't excessively obvious that the blocks are sewn in strips instead of individually.  This is great TV work, mindless and repetitive.  When you match them up, alternate the seam allowances so that one points up and one points down.  These nestled seams are so much easier to match up as you feed the pairs through the machine, giving you nice neat corners. I am not a pin lover, so I just stack them neatly and match the seams manually as I feed them through the machine. 
Step 6
As the pairs get sewn together, match up pairs to make sets of 4 and then add another pair to make a set of 6.  It's the same process you followed with the strips, but now you are working with squares.  Again, I don't iron the pairs.  The rule is that you can't sew over an unpressed seam, but all of these seams run parallel.  Even the quilt police would agree that ironing isn't needed. Keep peeking as you add the pairs on, making sure that you aren't repeating the same fabric in the same block. 
Step 7
As the blocks reach 6 by 6, I toss them on the floor so I know they are done.  Whenever you get bored or tired, gather them all up and make another trip to the ironing board.  Press all the seams in the same direction and then turn them over to make sure everything is nice and flat. Now peek to see if you have duplicate fabrics.  Drats, the blue with white pineapples showed up twice in this block!  Ooops, so did the light blue with flowers.  That's the way it is though, I don't like reverse sewing unless it is REALLY necessary. 
Whenever you run out of strips or patience, you are done.  Throw your blocks up on the wall and decide how you want them put together.  The original tutorial I read had them sewn straight together to make a quilt of just 1.5 inch squares, I think this is a more authentic postage stamp.  I didn't want to mess with that many seams and so decided to add a 1.5 inch sashing strip and cornerstones.  The sashing strips were cut at 6.5 inches and the cornerstones were square. At this point it's all about design decisions.  It's your quilt, how do you want it to look?
I sewed the sashing strips and cornerstones to the right and bottom of each square and then decided to use a darker sashing strip along the outside.  The best part of all?  My 1.5 inch strip drawer closes again.


Quilter Kathy said...

Love it! I am inspired to try it and I will immediately forget where I got the idea! Just kidding! I want to start the new Bonnie mystery so I gotta get my butt in gear on a couple of other things.

LuAnn said...

Just love it. I will sew up the squares I have cut and then begin strip piecing. I thought I had studied your photo, and it looked to me like it was one square at a time. Neat, neat quilt.

Amanda said...

That's one of the things I have in mind when I run out of other projects, so your tutorial will come in handy - as long as I can remember where I saw it!

blauraute said...

Hi Angela,
thank you very much for this great tutorial. I love your quilt.
Have a nice weekend and many greetings

jillquilts said...

You forgot to mention that while it is mindless TV sewing, it always helps to have a Big Gulp! hee hee hee (pic in step 6!)

RETRO-fabulous said...

What a great tutorial, Angela! I don't know why I thought postage stamp quilts were tiny individual blocks. Your way is much easier!!

I am not a pin lover, either. LOL And yes, I see something on a site and completely forget how I got there to go back or give proper credit and it's usually a link from a link as well so it doesn't show up in your history. It happens. Someone will recognize it eventually and drop you a line.

Susan said...

Thank you so much for that information. Like you I saw it but did not bookmark as I should and then could not remember just where it was............

Candace said...

I love your tutorial and the end result is a stunner. I may try it when I finish up a few more projects. A good way to use up bits it looks like.

Andee said...

Great directions...I sort of want to do a small one now! LOL