Look What You Made Me Do

No blog post from me yesterday.  Would you like to know why?  It was because several of you encouraged me to soldier on with my Forest Giant pattern, templates be damned.

Several of you pointed out that really, this is just a braid block.  True enough.  But I want you to look closely at the picture because the devil is definitely in the details.  Do you see the little triangle of sky at the end of each of the limbs?  I could not for the life of me figure out how to add that part of it.  The only way I'm going to continue with this is if someone can tell me how to do that part.  I'll show you what I did in a minute.  

According to the information I received from Dana (thanks, Dana!) this is technically a herringbone.  Here's a link to an excellent tutorial about how to make the herringbone block from Rachel at Stitched in Color.  It would have been instructive except I'm still left with the problem of the triangle at the end of each "limb".  I ended up doing mine in "braid" fashion, with the strips overlapping as in a log cabin block.  I spent the entire afternoon on this.

There is something you need to understand about me before we continue with this.  I was a terrible student of geometry.  I took my one and only geometry class from a teacher I detested (yes, you, Mr. Murphy) during the 14th Century.  And I had this very mature attitude about learning when I was a teenager back in the 14th Century, to-wit:  If I detested my teacher, I refused to learn.  We were all very mature as teenagers, weren't we?  And so just to get under Mr. Murphy's skin, I paid no attention during class and did no homework.  (I guess I showed him.  If I'd known I was going to learn to quilt, I might have had to rethink my strategy.)  Nevertheless, I managed to pass geometry, but not because I knew anything more about it upon finishing the class than I did upon starting.

So now here's a diagram of how this quilt block is made.

And if I were to use the templates, each limb would be cut from a template, and each end triangle would be cut from a square, cut in half once on the diagonal.  Got it?  And the first step is to make the bottom triangle, which is also made from a square cut in half.  (Enter geometry deficiency.)  My plan was to make this triangle solid, rather than sewn together in two pieces, and so I needed to cut my square twice as large, but I could not remember (or figure out) the mathematical formula required to make the square the right size.  So, I did what any other stoooopid person would do:  I made a template from paper, using the pattern measurements, and then figured out the size fabric square by measuring the sides.

And once I had that done, I cut the appropriate size square and then cut it in half once.  I had my first piece, and I was feeling pret-ty spunky right about now.  It would be the last time I would feel spunky, because everything went downhill from there.  And I want you to know that I haven't recovered yet.  And now, I'm exposing my mathematical deficiencies for all the world to see.  Published.  Online.  On the interwebs, so that it will be searchable far into the future, long after I'm dead.  And generations of people will be reading this and saying, man, that woman was dumb.  (Are you happy now, Mr. Murphy?)

So fueled by my spunky feeling, I started making the "braid".  I needed to cut the first "limb" so that the outside corner would be long enough to cut the bottom straight once I had both sides done.  (I hope I'm telling this tale so that it is comprehensible.)  So remember the diagram?

The bottom of the tree is straight.

So here's how I did that.  I cut my strip plenty long.

Then, I sewed it to the left side of the triangle.

Then I pressed it back.

Then I trimmed it straight.

And I did the other side the same way, except my "limbs" overlap at the top.  

But remember the diagram?

Their block is made "herringbone" fashion so that there is a seam in the middle.  My problem is the little triangle of blue sky at the end of each limb, and I still cannot figure out how to make that work.  Please, if anyone knows of a good tutorial for this that does not require the use of templates, let me know.  But I'll continue on with what I ended up doing...which did not work at all...and I said good-bye to spunk.  (Cue the  torch music.)

♪♫♫♪ I'll say goodbye to spunk
No one ever cared if I should live or die
Time and time again the chance for spunk
has passed me by
And all I know of spunk
is how to live without it
I just can't seem to find it.

So I've made my mind up I must live
my life alone
And though it's not the easy way
I guess I've always known
I'd say goodbye to spunk. ♫♪♫

My apologies to Karen Carpenter.  (Please tell me you remember The Carpenters.)  And, by the way, get your mind out of the gutter, please.

So, anyway, I figure I can put a half square triangle at the end of each strip, so I cut a little square with sides the same width as the width of my limbs.

And then I sewed it to the end of the strip.  Except, I used the wrong fabric.  And I sewed it to the wrong end of the strip.  And I angled it in the wrong direction.  But never mind all of that.  

I fixed it, and I ended up with something that looked like this.

Hm.  This is where the spunky feeling started to fade away, and I started singing.  Be glad you weren't there when the singing started up.

Still, I soldiered on because I am not a quitter.  Except when I am.  And I got this far and, shoot, my geometry deficiency came back to haunt me because now I needed to figure out how large to cut those sky triangles for the top of the block.  Remember the diagram?


So, I'm wondering to myself, what is the formula for figuring the perimeter of a square when one knows the measurement of the diagonal.  And I racked my brain to recall it, and words like "hypotenuse" and "Pythagorean Theorem" came into my head, and the fire alarm went off because of the smoke pouring from my brain.  Finally, I called Mike, and he figured it out for me.  Ahhhhhh.  Husbands.  Occasionally, they are good for something other than opening jars and reaching things on high shelves.  And kissing.  They are generally good for kissing.

So, anyway, here's where I ended up when all was said and done.

Yeah.  Remember the diagram?

It just isn't right.  I'm not going to get those nice sharp points at the ends of the limbs.  And I won't even mention that it is narrower at the top than it is at the bottom.

Briefly, I considered simply bagging the triangles of blue sky at the ends of the limbs.  It would look like this:

It loses something, doesn't it?  Mike says it doesn't even look like a tree any more.  I'm not sure I'm ready to go that far, but still.  It does lose a lot of its magic.

So, thank you for reading this far.  I hate the idea of wasting any more fabric on this, and I really don't want to try making it with the templates.  It's really better suited to paper piecing, I think, but maybe one of you knows how to put the sky at the ends of the limbs.  None of the tutorials I have seen address that part of the block.  Any suggestions?  I'm not completely ready to give up, but close.  I can still trim this block and use it some other way...a wall hanging or a doll quilt or something...

Yesterday wasn't a total sewing loss, although I did spend way more time on that block than I intended.  For one thing, I learned some things doing it...how to figure the sides of a square when I know the diagonal, for example!  And I made my first "braid".  That part turned out okay.  And I like how these fabrics look together.  It was a good test for that.  Maybe I can find a different quilt to use these fabrics in.

Also yesterday, I finished up the third of the four wonky houses.  One more to go.

 Doll Quilters

And....last, but not least, I received my June doll quilt from my partner, Janet.  (Thanks, Janet!)  Isn't this cute?

I love these fabrics, and I love the little house blocks.  It's one of my favorite quilt designs...the little house blocks.  And I'm really growing fond of this style of fabric.  What would you call these?  Civil war prints?  Reproduction prints?  I'm a little hazy on that sort of thing.  When I first started quilting, I loved the bright whimsical fabrics, but my tastes are evolving, and I'm liking these primitive fabrics more than ever now.

Also, Janet included a hand crocheted dish cloth.  She suggested I could use it as a hot pad or a sort of doily if I didn't want to use it as a dish cloth.

And look at this cute label.  Very cleverly done!  

It's precious, and I love it.  Thank you, Janet.

So that's about it from me.  Sorry for this overly long post, which should not be thought of as a tutorial.  Unless you need a tutorial about how not do to something.  It's pretty good for that.  Consider it a warning.

I'm hoping for a better sewing day today, but I have miles to go on my computer this morning.  You would think retirement would require less typing, but there you go.  First, I have to learn to be less chatty and annoying.  And maybe I'll brush up on my geometry skills while I'm at it.

18 comments from clever and witty friends:

Vicki W said...

I've got no advice on your block but I admire your tenacity!

Lisa Marie said...

I'm thinking that tree block could be paper pieced. Keep the middle seam, and piece each side separately. Piece number one would be the large background triangle on top, then green, then little blue triangle, then green, etc. until you get to the bottom of the tree. The trunk and background section would be pieced separately and joined to the tree once the two halves had been joined. It would probably be a matching headache, but I think it could be done.

Kat said...

Don't be discouraged! You can do this! I agree with the above poster that this block would be well suited to paper piecing. However, to continue doing it as a herringbone as you have started, here's how I would do it. You already have your greens for the "limbs" cut into strips, cut your sky colored piece into a strip of the same width. Sew the sky and limb colored strips together on a 45 degree angle, as you did when attaching your sky colored square, or when making binding.

Ok, now to attach. It looks like you need to measure about 2" from the lower, outside point of the previous limb toward the center. (Measuring along the diagonal, the top of the limb)and pin your sky+limb strip so that the seam between the colors falls there. The sew the branch+sky on and trim off both ends even. Reattach your sky and green pieces into one long strip and repeat.

I hope you can make sense of that. From your pictures it looks like you were doing alright :)

Katy said...

OK, I'm really not an expert, and I'm only sewing my first ever paper-pieced cushion now, but my brain tends to work well analysing shapes. So if you get anyone who knows what they're doing give you a different suggestion, go with them!

It looks to me like you need to work in 2 halves, starting from the "sky" triangles at the top. I'm not sure if you'd need to paper piece to join the little triangles to each branch once they were sewn on, but if you don't want to do that, you could sew them at a 45 degree angle before you add the branch to the one above, so that you're just sewing strips on. You might also be able to sew a paler strip on at the 45 degree angle before you cut your branch fabric into strips and then cut it all together. I think that might be the fastest way of doing it, but is likely to also be more wasteful of fabric unless you work out everything in advance. But once you've sewn all the way down to half of the bottom larger triangle, you can square off then and sew two halves together down the vertical line, before you add the base with a trunk in the middle.

I hope this makes sense, and that someone can come along and tell you a way that works for you. It would be a shame to give up on something you were looking forward to.

Debbie said...

Think you have good advise above...paper piecing for these trees. I love the braid idea, but you lose the sky. Heck, just cut triangles and glue them on!!!

Jacque said...

You stuck with it longer than I would have.....

Lia*s Handmades said...

I'm with the others, this would be a lot easier paper pieced, as 2 parts.

Kirsty said...

Keep going! Once you crack this, and you know you will, you're going to be churning those trees out like a lumberjack. I love your posts. They make me smile, and laugh, and cheer. Mr Murphy was clearly a poo-poo head. I don't get geometry either so I am seriously impressed with your progress. And I love the fabrics you've chosen. You can do this.

Kirsty said...

Hang on, I've just relooked at your prototype and the pattern. I think you've cracked it already! The problem is that base triangle and the first strip layer above it. They are too small for the rest of the prototype. It's an optical illusion that they are the same. They're not. If you enlarge those two (or create a strip row of 'extra' plain green, leafy batik, plain green, on the bottom before the white) you'll be sweet!

Dana Gaffney said...

I'm not sure because now I'm confused and I'm busy hating Mr. Murphy, but if you compare the triangles on your tree and the diagram, they seem to be going in different directions, but you've definitely got the right idea. Grab scraps and try again, don't use your lovely greens. Tell Mike IT IS A TREE, don't be a Mr. Murphy.

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

Couldn't you just do half square triangles for the sky/green corners? Stop your strips at that intersection and then attach the HSTs? Maybe not, just a guess.

Kate said...

I'd probably be trying to draft it in EQ and then paper piece it. I'm with you, template sewing is not my strong suite. But you gave it a really good try.

SoozeM said...

Hmm OK cut your sky fabric into squares then into triangles as per the instructions. Take a green strip and cut it at a 45 degree angle with the shortest bit at the bottom. Then sew the SHORT edge of the sky triangle to the green strip, so that the long edge of the sky triangle continues the long edge of the green strip. (When you sew it on as a square you are sewing the long end to the strip, not the short end).

Sew it onto the tree, trim at the top, and repeat for the opposite side.

Try turning the picture of how it is supposed to look on a 45 degree angle and see how the strip with the triangle attached looks.

Hope this helps!


mtnquiltr said...

I'm with you on the geometry thing. Wish I'd paid more attention! I'm afraid I dont even understand the probably extremely efficient comments above! My method is to make a diagram and start writing measurements on it. Not sure if that will help in this case!

Melissa said...

Couldn't you piece the branch and the sky in strips like you were putting together fabric strips for binding? You'd use a little more fabric for the sky, but cutting it as a rectangle strip and then lobbing off one end at an angle to attach to the branch would give you some wiggle room to make sure your finished sky piece is still a triangle when you square everything up. Does that make sense? I'm usually better at the doing than the telling. I printed out an enlarged copy of your block pattern and cut it apart and it looks like everything would work if you did it in strips. As a bonus, if you cut the strips long enough that you can cut them in half when you cut the angle, the second piece can be used for the other side of the tree/sky if you rotate the point around.

Diane Wild said...

I can see how to do it but I can't explain it. I, too, hated geometry and thought it would never be useful in my lifetime. Ha! Here's the kicker: I copied the answers to the problems from the guy next to me and still flunked it. Go figure. Step back and look at the tree pattern. You'll figure it out.

Brown Family said...

I am at a loss as to how to do it ! Love the doll quilt!

quiltzyx said...

OK, let's see. You sewed your sky triangles with the long (hypotenuse) side onto your green strip. If you look at your diagram, the long side should be against the 'branch' below it, with the short sides against the outside edge & the end of your strip.
Does that make sense to you?
Also, your bottom branch is too short - in the diagram, all the green branches go all the way to the outer edge of the block.
I do like your overlaps more than the diagram, but it might be easier to do it in 2 halves? I do like how SoozeM said to do it.
Good luck!