Posted in My Small World QAL

My Small World sky

Your goal is to actually complete your My Small World quilt from the pattern by Jen Kingwell. You made your blueprint and maybe some key fabric choices. What’s next? SKY!


Not the whole sky, mind you. Just a nice sizable panel of sky that will sit at the far right, at the top of section 1. Why start here? Because the sky is easy, it’s just squares, and for me (and you, if you’re like me) I need to immediately see some progress. I love reading books on kindle because it quantifies my reading automatically, and seeing that I’ve completed 10% of the book helps motivate me to get 100% of the way done. 

If you’re doing the prescribed low volume neutral sky, well then this part is even easier. 

At the beginning of the booklet, Kingwell notes that before you start you’ll want to cut 527 1.5″ squares from neutral fabrics for the sky and incorporated into some of the blocks. And, of course, if you opt to use some larger squares (like 2.5″) you’ll need fewer. 

In my guild, we did a swap where each of 27 people brought a yard of fabric cut into 5″ charm squares. So we only had to purchase one yard, but we got 54 different charms to add variety to our quilt. I am not using these for my sky, like I said, but my skyline will be neutral instead, so I still needed these.

You definitely want charm squares, rather than mini charms since you will only get a single 1.5″ square from a mini charm, but you’ll be able to cut 9 from a charm square. 

If you can’t organize a swap, fear not, as so many fabric designers have anticipated your needs and released low volume, super neutral collections recently, available in various precut bundles. 

  1. Anna Maria Horner- Skipping Stones
  2. Lizzy House- Whisper Palette
  3. Jen Kingwell- Behind the Scenes
  4. Zen Chic- Modern Background paper/ink
  5. Alison Glass- Abacus
  6. Marsha McCloskey- Essential Lights

Or check out Etsy. Online fabric sellers have put together some great low volume bundles. 

So the next item to handily check off the My Small World QAL is one or two of those panels of sky. The panel 1 sky block is 8 squares high by 12 wide, and the panel 2 block which will fall just left of that is 6 squares high by 8 wide (if you’re using only 1.5″ blocks, obvi). 

I just laid my squares out, incorporating some of those 2.5″ squares as well, snapped a photo on my phone so I could keep the placement right (because my colors needed to be arranged just so) and stitched away while listening to the Dear Sugar podcast. Piece of cake and it feels so good to make progress. 

Posted in My Small World QAL, Quilts

My Small World pre-game

So I’ll begin by saying that it’s not you: the pattern booklet for My Small World is confusing and hard to follow. But to be fair to Jen Kingwell (who is a creative genius for sure), the best things about this quilt are its intricacy and personalization, which are the very things that make it hard to translate into a clear, easy to follow pattern.

So rather than following the book’s list of blocks (which our guild’s schedule loosely followed), I thought of this as being broken down into discrete tasks (many of which could be split further into sub tasks). For me and my particular frustration and impatience thresholds (both very low) this worked much better than, say, making 23 pinwheels, then making 16 flying geese, three of which will be used for arrows and 6 of which will be paired as diamonds and then 4 churn dashes and then hourglasses and on and on and you get the idea. I needed to see progress regularly. This thing needed to take shape from the beginning or I was going to lose focus. And I needed to have the larger project in my mind. Which makes Task #1 so invaluable to successful completion.

Task 1: make a blueprint.

One complaint about the pattern is that only finished block measurements are given, all templates are sans seam allowance, and multiple sizes of similar blocks are used. Use graph paper to map out the entire quilt, using the Assembly pages 28-31 in the booklet, and a one square = one inch ratio. I buy these Five Star Spiral Notebook, Graph Ruled, 1 Subject, 8.5 x 11 Inches, 100 Sheets, Assorted Colors (06190) three or four at a time. They are hard to find in stores. I don’t know why, but I have preferred the gridded paper since jr. high school. They make me feel more organized, even when i’m just freestyle doodling. And they make a ton of sense for quilt planning, of course. (They make great bullet journals, too, if that’s your deal.)

 I would make a printable copy for others to use, but I already colored mine, and besides it is easy and kind of fun and worth making your own so that you can see which bits you might want to customize as you go.

For instance, I have this amazing fabric that I wanted to cut large fussy cuts from and the 4×4″ spaces meant for orange peel blocks would be the perfect spots for them. This works well for me in a couple ways because I am also not so good at appliqué. “But wait,” you might be thinking, “this quilt is a great way to practice so many skills, and you should use it as an opportunity to improve your Appliqué!”

And I say to you: hush. My goal here is to actually finish the project within a year. I know myself. See above re my frustration threshold. There is still some appliqué with the little rounded door blocks and that’s quite enough practice for me.

So I’ve already mapped out which blocks I’m replacing with fussy cuts or special prints. I can see exactly which flying geese are being used in arrow blocks and which panel each pinwheel will be used in, which makes color planning more feasible. And I’m needing to do a lot of color planning because I’m doing a sunset sky and a low volume and neutral toned skyline. This would be very difficult without a blueprint to work from.

A subtask of this first important task is fabric choice. Once you’ve drawn a blueprint, you can color it in like an adult coloring book and make your fabric choices so you can keep all the bits of this long-term project together. I chose to work from mostly scraps, plus Carolyn friedlander’s Doe collection for the skyline and Moda’s Enchanted by Alisse Courter for the sunset sky.

I found it very helpful to:

1) have these specified collections to choose from in order to limit my options to some extent (I get overwhelmed by indecision and with so many tiny pieces, there are a lot of decisions to make here), and

2) use precuts. I had a charm pack of Doe and with so many 1.5″ and 2.5″ pieces required, a 5″ square of each print was convenient and plenty.

Task one done? Hooray! Congrats on your blueprint. Let’s do this thing.

And I’ll just toot my own horn and mention that my blueprint is drawn in my quilting notebook which I totally copied from fabricmutt’s tutorial (here) with strips of Anna Maria Horner’s Folk Song.

Posted in My Small World QAL

How to actually complete the My Small World quilt along

Full disclosure, I haven’t completed the My Small World QAL. Yet. SDMQG chose this quilt (pattern now available as printed booklet from Jen Kingwell) as their yearlong quilt along project for 2016. I only joined the guild in June 2015, and so wasn’t able to join their QAL from last year and I was so psyched to join everything guild had to offer this year, I’m doing this, I’m doing the Bee, I’m doing every swap they can come up with. 

So Sue B. took charge of leading our group in this QAL, even giving us a schedule for what blocks we should complete each month, and making templates for us all to use. I was worried because I missed January’s meeting and so already was a month late on the schedule, which can really mess with my mind on a thing like this. January was the month I was supposed to be completing like 25 pinwheels and a bunch of tiny churn dashes, etc. I figured I’d never catch up and so I didn’t try. 

Fast forward to April and I had an idea in mind for how I very generally wanted my MSW to turn out. So I made some fabric choices for the pinwheels and figured I’d at least get those done. I got about half completed. It took me a solid day. I figured there was no way I’d keep going, but I still had 8 months to think about it. 

At the beginning of June, I attended a weekend long quilt retreat with the Guild and say across from the one member who had already finished (completely by hand) her My Small World. I had brought along my materials and pattern, and although I still didn’t get any further, I renewed my commitment. If Suzanne could complete hers in 6 months, I could too. The second half of the year. 

I am much farther along toward my goal after the last 3 days and it is seeming very possible. So I’ll tell you how I did it over a series of posts because I’m excited for more people to create their own versions of this intricate and personal project. Stay tuned.