July 08, 2024

Merry Mini QAL - Week 2 - Alternating Squares

It's week 2 of the Merry Mini QAL! How did your embroidery or colouring of your text block go? I thoroughly enjoyed working on the embroidery for my third text block. Some of it was done sitting in the backyard, and Saturday morning I lowered it after finishing a thread and found this guy on my lap.
white satin moth caterpillar | DevotedQuilter.com
Apparently he's a white satin moth caterpillar. He's also very lucky I didn't flick him off before I registered that he was just a caterpillar and not something yucky like a spider. After taking his picture, Paul coaxed him onto a leaf so he could be gently deposited back on the ground.

After finishing my embroidery, I dissolved the Sulky Sticky Fabri-Solvy I used to transfer the template onto my fabric. I shared a sped-up video of the process here, if you'd like to see. It was pretty impressive, though my fingers stayed sticky for quite a while, even after washing. I rinsed the embroidered fabric a couple times in bowls of clean water, then left it to dry. It was still a bit sticky feeling after it dried, though, so I soaked it in warm water for about 20 minutes, then left it to dry again. As I'm typing this (on Sunday evening), it's still drying, and I have my fingers crossed all the stickiness is gone.

Week 2 - The alternating squares borders

If you haven't already joined the QAL, there's still plenty of time to join in for some Christmas in July fun! You can pick up your pattern here. From now until the end of July, the Merry Mini pattern is 20% off with the code MERRYMINIQAL, which should already by applied if you click on the link. Once you have your pattern, enter your email address here to have the weekly emails sent to your inbox so you don't miss any of the QAL blog posts.

As a reminder, here's the weekly schedule. Click on the link to go to last week's post.

July 8 - Make the alternating squares borders
July 15 - Make the tree borders
July 22 - Quilting
July 29 - Binding

This week's sewing will involve some small scraps of red, green, and white. Do you have your scraps organized so it's easy to find what you need? If not, you might like the tips in my PDF guide Escape Scrap Overwhelm.

I love sewing with small pieces! I also love chain piecing, which makes the whole process go faster. That's maybe not much of a concern for a small project like Merry Mini, but if you're sewing dozens of squares together, then chain piecing is a real time saver. 

If I'm sewing a row of squares, I usually don't sew squares 1 and 2, stop, add square three, stop, add square 4, etc. Instead, I chain piece the squares into pairs first - 1 and 2, 3 and 4, 5 and 6, etc. Here are my pairs for one of my Merry Mini quilts.
pairs of scrappy squares | DevotedQuilter.com
Then I sew the pairs to each other - 1/2 and 3/4, etc. Chain piecing into pairs first doesn't save a huge amount of time, but it does cut down on the starting and stopping required to put a row of squares together and I'll take that as a win.

Here are my alternating squares rows sewn together. Once your alternating squares rows are finished, you can go ahead and stitch them to your text block. I'm going to sew the rest of my rows before adding them to the mini quilts, so I can make sure I'm happy with the balance of fabrics for each one.
Merry Mini QAL - week 2 - DevotedQuilter.com

Leaders and enders/spider/scrap square

I love using leaders and enders when I'm chain piecing because it lets me work on a scrap quilt kind of in the background as I work on my main project, though it does require a little prep work to have pieces ready. I first learned about leaders and enders from Bonnie Hunter, the queen of scrap quilting. I'm not super consistent with it, since I don't always keep up with having pieces ready to go, but my current leaders/enders project is flying geese to make a throw size quilt with my Flying Together block, and they're accumulating nicely.

The idea is to start chain piecing by sewing together a unit from your leaders and enders project (which is the leader), then sew your main project pieces. Here you can see my flying geese unit has been sewn and I'm ready to start the first of my pairs of squares.
sewing with leaders and enders | DevotedQuilter.com
When you get to the end of the pieces you're chain stitching, end the chain with another piece from your leaders and enders project (the ender), which you leave under the needle. You can see my last red square at the back in this picture, followed by the flying geese ender (I'm also sewing bonus HSTs with these stitch-and-flip flying geese, so I guess I'm really working on two scrap quilts with these leaders and enders). Cut the chain between the ender and the piece before it.
sewing with leaders and enders | DevotedQuilter.com
When you're ready to start your next chain, the ender from the previous chain is already under the needle, ready to be the leader for this chain. Stitch your units together as usual, then end with another ender unit.

This method is especially helpful when the units you're piecing for your main project involve starting at the point of a triangle, which can sometimes get pushed down into the throat plate of the machine (aka eaten by the machine). When there's a leader, that triangle point doesn't get eaten because the threads are being pull along by the leader. Even when I'm just working with squares, like for the Merry Mini, I still like using leaders/enders.

If you don't want to fuss with having units prepped for a leaders/enders project, you can achieve the same effect by starting and ending with small squares of fabric. This small square can be reused many times, which has earned it the nickname 'spider' for all the threads hanging off it after many uses.

If you share your Merry Mini QAL progress on social media, be sure to use the hashtag #MerryMiniQAL and tag me (devotedquilter on IG and devotedquilterdesigns on FB) so I can see. I'd love to cheer you on!

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