We recently bade a final farewell to a close friend who fought the good fight. His battle with pancreatic cancer took him far too young. The weeks leading up to the end, the visitation and funeral all consumed great reserves of my energy. The week after, I would have expected to be ready to get back into my sewing room. Not so. I was tired, both physically and emotionally. My mind was distracted and I felt unable to generate the effort needed to work on any of my key projects.
Despite my fatigue, I know that for me, quilting is both therapeutic and restorative. I decided to start on a mindless sewing project – something that did not require a lot of decisions nor exact measuring. Inspired by Cheryl in Iowa’s version of crumb blocks, I pulled out my box of pre-cut strips, a stash of little squares and some random scraps to begin a set of strip-pieced crumb blocks. The attraction of this method is no seam matching and very little measuring. Just what I needed – very little thinking! Hardly any chance of boo-boos due to distraction! I had absolutely no energy for ripping seams.
To begin, I cut 14″ foundation squares of a light-weight fabric. This is easy to do with my large square ruler.
Then I sewed my pre-cut width-of-fabric strips together in random lengths that could cover the block diagonally. After pressing them flat, using my ruler, I rotary cut the strips into random widths – mostly 2.5″, but sometimes 2″ or 1.5″.
I laid the strips out in order of graduated lengths on one of the many cafeteria trays I use for my quilting projects.
Assembling the blocks was fairly simple. I selected a strip that fit the area I wanted to cover, and sewed it to the foundation block. One could choose to sew them horizontally, but I prefer to lay them out diagonally, as it gives more energy to the layout of the blocks. Horizontal reads static, diagonal reads dynamic!
As you can see, the strip has varying widths of fabrics and no pattern in the arrangement of color. It is completely random. The next strip was added to the edge of the first strip, sewn, folded over and pressed flat. Often I take two or three smaller strips and join them in a different order so I have more variety in my strips.
I continued on in this manner until the whole foundation block was covered. The blocks go together very quickly since there is no need to match, measure or worry about color placement. The only thing to watch for is that the strip is long enough to cover the block from side to side.
Once covered, I turned it over and them sewed around all four sides to anchor the strip edges. This is probably not necessary, but I like to have the strips attached on the sides. My thought is that it will make attaching the sashing smoother and that seam will be less likely to cause a small pucker.
Then, using my square ruler, I trimmed the block to 14″ square. I find the foundation shrinks up a bit during the sewing and flipping, so it is important to square to the ruler, not to the edge of the foundation. You can see in the next photo a bit of the block that is trimmed beyond the foundation.
Flip it over and the block is done!
The blocks are simple to put together and require very little thinking – the perfect mindless sewing project! It looks much more complex than the amount of work actually involved.
Now I have 20 blocks complete and an empty box that used to hold pre-cut strips. That feels good!
To make the blocks pop and to act as a foil to their brightness, I plan to sash the blocks with solid black – probably about 4″ wide. Next, I will add a scrappy inner border to define the center section and then finish with a solid black outer border. The binding will likely be a red print that reads solid.
The value of this exercise for me was to allow myself time to grieve without pressuring myself to perform normally. Sometimes we need mindless work. This project gave my hands something to do while giving my head the time to process the things already on my mind. This project (and a few other easy UFOs) gave me the time needed to regain my normal pace of life. None of these projects is finished yet, but that is okay. They will get finished in due time.