Creative articles about quilting

Golden stitches with BERNINA770QE: project ‘Golden Steps’

The 125th anniversary of BERNINA, gave me the inspiration to use gold more often. In my line of work, this means gold colored fabrics, threads and embellishments. Funny how your view at things changes, if you focus on a certain color.

‘Golden stitches’: that’s the title of the Blog, ‘Golden Steps’ is the name of this project. Gold is all that matters here, because I will not just use a gold colored fabric for the centre of my blocks, but also on the black and white strips, which will be sewn onto a sandwich like a ‘Courthouse Steps’ – a variation of a Log Cabin.

What is a ‘Courthouse Steps’? A different type of Log Cabin paper piecing pattern – a patchwork pattern, by which the centre is a stone/hearth = the square in the middle, around that strips of fabric are sewn, just like a Log Cabin (type of house, made by early settlers in the US and still made today).

In short: with a regular Log Cabin, strips/beams of the Cabin are sewn spirally around the centre/hearth. Each next strip is the sum of the last strips together, therefore each next strip is cut longer.

The variation ‘Courthouse Steps’ is a bit different: the strips are not sewn spirally, but opposite to each other, two by two. You are figurally making the steps of an actual court house. Very popular quilt block, around 1800, and back today!

Most of these blocks were made with contrasting fabrics: light and dark alternating each other. Even if you will make the same blocks in high quantities, you can change the placement, and thus making different quilts. Just try: make multiple blocks and mix them – you will have a lot of possibities to change the layout.

What do you need for such a project? The list below gives you an indication (I have used this for my project) – the measurents depend on the quantity of blocks you are making. I have made a small sampler, but you can make a large one, perhaps even a bed spread:

Pattern of the block, use it for as many blocks as you like
Black/white fabrics, 10 each (my project = 4 dark, 4 medium and 2 light), or grey,white fabrics
Goldcolored fabric/Lamé
Vlieseline L11
Batting (100% bamboo)
Off-white backing (sandwich backing)
Pencil/pen and ruler
Goldcolored machine thread
DecoBob/Wonderfil bobbin thread (gold/yellow)
Topstitch needle 90/14
Bohin Glue pen
Backing fabric for the project when finished
And of course your sewing machine (I will use my B770QE) with decorative stitches

You can download the pattern HERE: print it at 100%/actual size, to work with the measurements required: 15x21cm without seam allowance (rectangle, solid lines), and 17x23cm seam allowance included (dotted lines). Check the measurements before drawing the lines of the pattern onto Vlieseline L11.

Place your pattern on a white surface, or light box. Place a piece of Vlieseline L11 – slightly bigger – on top of that, and draw all lines with pencil/pen and ruler, but NOT the numbers: they are just indicating the working order. Make sure the outer lines are drawn as dotted lines, for they indicate the total width and hight of your block with seam allowances.

Place the Vlieseline L11 with all lines drawn onto a sandwich of off-white backing and 100% bamboo batting. This sandwich is the base of your Courthouse Steps block.

The square in the centre has a finished size of 3 x 3 cm
: this is the size that’s visible, after the block is ready. To cut a piece of Lamé/gold colored fabric, be sure to add 1 cm seam allowance at all sides, so the fabric square should be 5 x 5 cm.  It can be cut at 4 x 4cm, if you are certain that you can sew this at the right spot, with smaller seam allowances. I like to work with wider seam allowances, so I don’t have to be so careful not to shift the fabric.  I have drawn small stripes onto the Vlieseline L11, after placing the square of Lamé, so I know where the sewing lines of the next strips will be.

Place the piece of gold colored Lamé, and glue it in place: just tip some Bohin Glue on the seam allowances. I do not pin Lamé, because it will leave permanent holes/marks in the fabric.

Cut all strips out of the 10 prins black/white, at a width of 5 cm, total width of the fabric. That will give you extra seam allowance and makes sewing easier. DON’T CUT THIS BACK, untill the fabrics are sewn onto the sandwich, and the decorative stitches are made. Be sure to cut the strips for the four outer numbers (8, 9, 10, 11) even wider, to be sure they will cover the sandwich and extend beyond the dotted lines of the seam allowances of the block.

The picture above shows a ‘original’ setup for a Courhouse Steps.

It doesn’t matter if you will use the black strips first, or the white – you can alternate that. It is up to you in which order you will sew the strips, from light to dark, or from dark to light. Just check these examples to see the difference. 

Because I have used 4 dark fabrics, 4 medium and 2 white, I have placed them like the picture above. I will have a golden centre, the four nrs. of fabric surrounding that centre are dark, next four medium and the last two strips white (bottom- and top). I will make a couple of blocks with this layout.

For the next blocks, I will change the order of color/hues, but the white fabrics are still at the bottom and top.

You can even change the layout entirely, making it look like the picture above: start with light fabrics in the centre and medium and dark fabrics, working your way out.

Or just the way around, light in the centre, dark next and medium for the last strips….

Using just 2 light fabrics makes a different effect… so many variations.

And if you want to make some sort of Log Cabin layout… just change the placement of the colors again…

The strips are sewn onto the sandwich (just like with my Crazy projects). Cut a piece of strip, wide enough for the nr. 2. Place this upside down onto the Lamé/square in the centre, and sew it down with a straight stitch. To be sure to sew it on the right spot, draw a sewing line on the back of the strip (be sure to draw a thin line, or else it will be visible on the front of the fabrics, if your fabric is very light).

Use gold metallic thread on top, and DecoBob in your bobbin in a matching/yellow color. Sewing the fabrics can be done with the metallic threads: because you are working on a sandwich, there is no problem to do this. You don’t have to change threads everytime you have to sew a strip, and make decorative stitches.

I have made the first decorative stitches: looks glamorous already…

After sewing it in place, fold the fabric no. 3 to the right side and make 1 or 2 rows of decorative stitches, again with Golden threads (you can change hues for more effect).

Work per strip, sew them, make decorative stitches, before you move on to the next strip. The picture above shows the strip, ready for no. 4.

More and more decorative stitches are added…

If you find it comfortable, draw a sewing line on the back of a strip, 0.5 cm distance from the side: now you can sew the strip more accurate.

This is very important with the strips that will cover the sides of your block: the fabric has to extend beyond the dotted lines of the seam allowances, so you can cut the block after it is finished, to the required size (17x23cm, seam allowances included).

Make as many blocks as you wish. The required yardage depends on the number of blocks you are making, but also as to how you are placing dark, medium and light fabrics. If you are consistent with working in a certain order with dark, medium and light, for instance light always with the last strips, you will need more light fabrics than dark.

If you have finished your blocks, and sewn them together, choose a nice backing and finish your quilt. For directions: see how to finish your quilt blocks, like you did with the Crazy Colors Mystery Quilt 2017.

So now you have your own ‘Golden Steps’, with wonderful golden stitches. Have fun!

See you next time!

Happy Quilting
Sylvia Kaptein
Sylvia’s Art Quilts Studio

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