The Making of Surplus Strips Part 1 – the Blocks

I sure have enjoyed documenting more of my real-time progress as I create quilts to help promote my patterns, books and fabric. It’s so much more enjoyable to write about my process as I go, rather than trying to recapture the excitement months later!

Surplus Strips Quilt Pattern by Christa Watson

Click here to pre-order my Surplus Strips Quilt Pattern.

I’m currently making two versions of Surplus Strips – both in warm and cool colorways of my newest fabric line, Fandangle, which will be shown at Spring Quilt Market in Portland, Oregon, May 18-20. The pattern cover art above is shown using my digitally created images from EQ8 as a placeholder until the quilts are finished and photographed.

Once that’s done, I’ll send it off to the printer and release a PDF pattern, too. For now, you are welcome to preorder the print version which will ship on or before June 1, 2018.

Fandangle Fabrics Cool Colorway

Fandangle Fabric in the Cool Colorway

Although my timeline is tight, I’m still going through the regular process I use to create a well-made quilt. I like to prewash and starch all of my fabrics for two reasons: (1) it gets rid of the excess dye so there’s no chance of bleeding or ruining the quilt and (2) the starch makes the fabric stiffer so there’s less stretch while piecing.

My number 1 starching tip is to spray starch on one side of the fabric, then flip it over and iron the other side. Then repeat – starch the side you just ironed, flip it over again and press from the other side. The prevents the iron from burning the starch so you don’t get flakes! Starching and pressing both sides makes the fabric more crisp so it’s easier to work with. Also – I just use cheap starch from the grocery store and I’ve never had a problem with it.

Fandangle Fabrics Warm Colorway

Fandangle Fabric in the Warm Colorway

My Surplus Strips pattern is written for either precut 2 1/2″ strips or yardage. You can go super scrappy with a single jellyroll + background, or do a color blocked quilt like I’m doing. For yardage, It takes about 1/3 yard of 9 different fabrics plus 4 3/4 yards background + binding.

Surplus Strips Quilt Warm Colorway of Fandangle

I like stacking my pieces so they look pretty!

I paired up the darker gray confetti crosshatch print with the warm colorway of Fandangle, and the lighter gray with the cool colorway. If you are interested in using the same fabrics as me, you can preorder 1/2 yard bundles of Fandangle + 5 yards of either gray and you’ll be set, with a little leftover fabric.

Seams Pressed Open

Pressing seams open ensures flat blocks, and a flat quilt top.

I started cutting out the fabrics for both quilts while I was away on my last teaching trip. When I returned home, I finished cutting all of the pieces for the warm colorway and made all of the blocks in about two days. I used a shorter stitch length for piecing (1.8 instead of the default 2.0) and pressed all of my seams open (with a dry iron, no steam). This will allow the blocks to lie flat for domestic machine quilting.

Surplus Strips Quilt Block Warm Colorway of Fandangle

Surplus Strips Blocks in the Warm Colorway of Fandangle

After piecing the blocks in the warm colorway, I jumped into making the blocks in the cool colorway. I like making two quilts at a time, so I can assembly line the process as much as possible.

Surplus Strips Fandangle Fabric Cool

Units are cut and stacked and ready to sew!

Here are a couple more piecing tips that make the blocks go together smoothly and stay square: when sewing, I pieced with the gray units on top to ensure that I switched sewing directions each time I joined the units. When you join two seams in opposite directions, it helps prevent block distortion. It’s not a huge deal on smaller units, but if you are sewing long strips together, it can be more noticeable.

Lining up block seams

Step 1 for proper alignment – match up the fabric seams.

Also, in order to get the top and bottom of each plus block to line up correctly, I placed the top unit right sides together on top of the partially sewn block to see exactly where things needed to line up to keep the seams in alignment. The pressed open seams really help me see this part.

Aligning units for quilt blocks

Step 2 for proper alignment – fold back to make sure lines are straight.

Then, I folded it back up partially to make sure it’s in the proper position before sewing. I didn’t actually need to use any pins because the blocks were small enough and I used my fingers to keep the edges lined up at all times.

Surplus Strips Blocks Fandangle Fabric cool colorway

Click here to preorder bundles of Fandangle fabric by colorway + background fabric.
Click here to preorder the Surplus Strips quilt Pattern.

The blocks went together even faster this time around and I love the color distribution! Now it’s time to sew the blocks together and finish up the quilt top. I’ll make both tops and then have a little basting party to make that chore a little less painful, lol!! I’ll be using my spray basting method that you can read about here (wall basting) or here (table basting).

Stay tuned for the next update!

4 thoughts on “The Making of Surplus Strips Part 1 – the Blocks

  1. Suzanne G says:

    Hi Christa, the cool colors are VERY lovely and soothing.
    At the bottom of this tutorial you mentioned wall basting. I’ve seen you do this and I’m going to try it but I have a question. How do you prevent the basting overspray from gunking up your wall? I don’t have any available wall space in my workroom so I’ll be using our hallway and I’d rather not make a mess on it if possible. Thanks in advance for any advice!

    • Christa says:

      Be sure and check out my tutorials for spray basting. The links are included in the post. Basically I spray outside and then bring everything inside to assemble so I don’t have to worry about any of the basting spray getting in the house 🙂 I hope that makes sense!

      Christa Watson Instagram @christaquilts website/blog: ChristaQuilts.com Click here to join my facebook group: Quilt with Christa

      On Mon, Apr 30, 2018 at 8:50 AM, Christa Quilts wrote:

      >

  2. Hedy says:

    Thanks for the ironing tip with starch. I will start doing it that way. I never liked ironing my seams open as I burned myself but I’ll try it again.

  3. Rose says:

    Hi Christa, I really like Fandangle prints – especially in cool colors. And the Surplus quilts are really fun looking. What made you decide to have the pluses off center? Just wondering – I do like it that way and it’s different from all the other plus quilts out there. Ha! Maybe I just answered my own question?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s