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Good Questions Deserve Good Answers, Part 2

How should I press my Star Happy blocks? I have your Star Happy Quilts book, and I was wondering how you pressed your blocks, the large stars are kind of bulky, and I wondered how you pressed these. Thank you.

Judy Martin responds: I pressed all of the star blocks as follows: Press away from background triangles and toward star points. On the two units that are sewn to background squares, press star points toward squares. When attaching these units to center square, press away from star points and toward center on first two; on the last two, press away from the center square when you attach rows. With stars, a certain amount of bulk is unavoidable. If you sew big star to big star, the seam allowances will be bulky at the points. However, if you stagger blocks or alternate them with smaller ones, the points won't all come together in the same place. This is one of the beauties of the staggered star border I devised for the quilt and of the Star Happy sets.

Is it OK to sell quilts made from copyrighted patterns? The subject of copyright laws is really confusing. I have heard so much conflicting information. Obviously, one does not copy some one else's book to resell or hand out patterns in a class.

However, the rest is kind of murky to me. When I buy a book, I intend to make at least one quilt exactly as the pattern says. I'm assuming that's what the author intends, and that it's ok. But is it ok to then sell that quilt when someone sees it on your wall at work and begs you to sell it to her? This has happened a more than a few times to me. And is it ok to make them with the intention of selling them? Or to give them away for free?

Is it ok to change a pattern around and sell the quilt? I never seem to be happy with the exact way the quilt is made or looks in a book. I always do things a bit differently to suit me. I'm sure everyone does to some extent. But then is it ok to sell those quilts?

I sell quilts all the time. I generally draft my own patterns and settings but I don't know if the ideas that I come up with are truly my own or something I saw somewhere sometime.

Judy Martin responds: This is going to be a long answer, but a good one! I can't speak for other designers or authors regarding copyright, and I am not a lawyer and can't give expert legal advice. My understanding is that as a legal right, a copyright holder could prevent you from selling quilts made from her patterns. As a practical matter, why would she want to? As regards my patterns, you can make as many as you want (or can stand to make - it would get a little boring) if you're keeping them or giving them away. You can make several on your own to sell. I don't mind a bit. I'd like you to identify the source of the pattern, but that's all. However, if someone were to turn the making of my patterns into a cottage industry, I would have to say, "Let's talk about this." Certainly if someone were to get a factory in China (or the U.S. for that matter) to mass produce quilts using my pattern, I would compel them to stop.

The matter of changing a pattern around in order to make it yours depends on the extent of the change. Despite what some might tell you, there is no formula for such. If all you're doing is changing a blue quilt into a red one, that would be the equivalent of printing The Godfather in red ink and saying it's original. If you're turning 12-inch blocks into 4-inch miniatures, but keeping everything else the same, that would be like a large print edition of a book. Nothing is materially changed. If you're converting a pattern to paper piecing, that would be like changing the delivery method (audiobooks vs. regular printed) without changing the content. If you add a seam in order to avoid some tricky construction but don't alter the look, you haven't changed anything. I guess a good rule of thumb would be that if someone were to take a black and white photo of your block and the block that inspired it, would the two blocks seem different or would someone have to examine the pair closely to figure out what had been changed. If the latter is the case, then it's not really different.

If designing original patterns were truly easy, everyone would do it. But they don't, meaning those who can design original patterns should be able to profit from their special skills. When the designer's copyrights are violated, it reduces the incentive to come up with new designs. In my case, this is how I earn my living. If I can no longer support myself from designing and writing, I'll have to go get a "real" job, and I won't be able to produce new designs.

To answer your question on that point, if the new pattern isn't really different from my pattern, you can still make several and sell them. I want you to use my books and patterns. And if it is different, you can make thousands of them! I hope this helps. Just because quilts are visual and text is not, doesn't mean the same rules don't govern them as creative property. They do. You're not alone in having questions

How do I make the first cut to straighten the edge before cutting my strips? Ihad read an article by you regarding cutting short strips along the lengthwise grain of the fabric. I also ordered Judy Martin's Ultimate Rotary Cutting Reference. I now have enough info to know that I really like the technique, but I am having trouble with my first cut on the fabric to straighten it before I start cutting my strips. I have pre-washed my fabric. Following your suggestion, I have also turned my cutting mat to the back. Here is my problem: With my selvage parallel to the bottom edge of the cutting mat, I am looking at an edge that shows the effects of being washed (i.e., it is not straight any longer). I have been putting the bottom of my ruler along the bottom of the cutting mat and laying it along the fabric to make the "straightening" cut on the fabric. I am just eyeballing the fabric as I try to lay it parallel to the bottom of the cutting mat. Suggestions? . . . . Hints? . . . . Cutting along the length-wise grain has really been helpful to me in the accuracy of my strips. However, I am stumped on the "correct" way to get the fabric straight as I begin cutting. Thanks.
---Zona T.

Judy Martin responds: I'm glad you are sold on the lengthwise strip method. You are right, the selvages often pull up miserably when you prewash. Don't worry about the placement of the fabric on the cutting mat. It is much easier to simply align the ruler and fabric. You don't have to align all three. I lay the line of the ruler along the selvage of the fabric and cut along the edge of the ruler. I cut off just 1/4" to 1" of the fabric, using the 1/4" line (or 1", as the case may be), depending on the depth of the selvage. If the selvage has shrunk and the fabric is bowed, you may be able to cut only a few inches of the selvage off before you have to shift the ruler to realign it with the selvage. If this is the case, after making this trim, I press the fabric to flatten it and shave off a little more to make sure the line is straight and parallel to the grain line.

Are there paper-pieced patterns available for the blocks in The Block Book? I realize not all can be done with foundation paper-piecing - but many, many can. They seem to be easier to do than the templates. It would be nice to have this already done so one doesn't have to take the time to chart out a copy from the template to the paper pieced pattern. I love this book and would love to have paper pieced patterns wherever applicable. Better yet, I would buy a CD with them so that I could just print them out - and especially if the size were changeable. Actually, it'd be nice to be able to print the templates out on the computer from a CD as well. I thought I would check - in case! Thanks

Judy Martin responds: The short answer is, "No." The longer answer is more interesting. I find regular piecing easier than paper piecing. Here's why: I don't have to cut a rough patch then trim it (one at a time) later. I also don't have to use such small stitches, and I don't have to remove the paper. Besides that, the grain and print alignment are easier to get right with regular piecing.

However, I realize some people really do like paper piecing. If you want to do paper piecing, you can photocopy the small block drawing, reducing or enlarging it to whatever size you desire. If that comes out too dark, you can carefully trace just the patch outlines and photocopy that drawing. The block drawings are exact and to scale.

Note: As of May, 2005 I do have a CD for many of the blocks in The Block Book. Judy Martin's Stars & Sets has 200 out-of-print star blocks, many from The Block Book.

Which is the lengthwise grain and which is the crosswise grain?
Hi Judy...I love your books, and I have to get this cleared up (for my peace of mind). I am what you'd call a "self taught quilter," and by no means an expert. I have always cut strips with the selvages to my left on the mat. The lengthwise grain IS parallel to the selvages, right? So if I bought 4 yards of fabric, the crosswise grain would run down the whole length of 4 yards and could go on forever if I had that much material, and that is all lying on the table to my right. OK, so I have fabric that is 44" wide, it is folded once on my right, selvages are on my left on the mat. I will now line up, get a straight edge. My first cut removes the selvages. Then I cut strips in the width required by the pattern and 18" long. (Am I doing it right for short strips?) There, I hope this makes sense. See, I just bought a quilt book, and she gives instructions to cut strips "from selvage to selvage" which would be just the opposite, and it really threw me off, I didn't know if I was doing it right or not. Any help here would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Judy Martin responds: You are right, lengthwise grain IS parallel to the selvage. But that makes the LENGTHWISE grain the one that could go on and on for the full length of the fabric. Your description is correct for short strips. However, short strips are not the way everybody rotary cuts. Many authors have you cut from selvage to selvage, which results in crosswise strips. Crosswise strips are stretchier than lengthwise strips. You can cut whichever way you prefer. Some people just go along with the method described in whatever pattern they are making. Others always cut short strips. Still others always cut lengthwise strips. I, personally, always cut lengthwise short strips. By using the firmer grain of lengthwise strips, I believe it is easier to keep my sewing accurate.

How do I go about cutting short strips from a piece of fabric that is 1 or 2 (or more) yards long?
I keep reading your classroom about cutting short strips, and I think I am missing something. I usually buy fabric in multiple yard increments. I'm not all that crazy about cutting the yardage I have bought, since I feel it might lead to more waste (and I'm on a budget). Any suggestions? Thanks!
--- Erin F.

Judy Martin responds: I never buy multiple yard increments anymore, so it easy for me to forget to talk about other ways of doing short strips. If you are trying to conserve a long piece for borders or some such, you can cut off one or more fat quarters or pieces 18" long by 10" wide. I sometimes customize the length of the short strip to fit the patches with a minimum of waste. For example, if I am cutting 6-1/2" squares, 18" would yield 2 squares and 5" of waste. In that case, I would cut a piece of fabric 20" long instead of 18".

If you like, you can fold the long yardage in half crosswise (with the two raw edges together and the selvage folded over itself), then fold it crosswise again about 18" from the raw edges. Cut strips as needed. You are only contending with one fold, and this leaves the fabric mostly intact.

Usually, I simply cut off a half yard. I make all of my borders scrappy, and I even prefer linings with one or more panels of a different print.

How can I rotary cut sashing and borders without distorting the fabric? Usually they have to be quite long and the fabric needs to be folded in order to get a long strip. When rotary cutting the folded area, sometimes the fabric becomes distorted. Any ideas? Thanks for your really great books and web site.
--- Linda M.

Judy Martin responds: When I cut long strips for sashing or borders (or linings), I fold the fabric in half crosswise with the two raw ends together and the selvages aligned with their other halves. I trim the selvage and cut the strips by starting at the raw edge. When I get to the end of the ruler, I slide the ruler down, aligning the ruling and the cutting line already established. When I get to within about 8 inches of the fold, I unfold the fabric and align the edge of the ruler with the cuts on either side of it. If you are careful, you can cut several strips before unfolding the fabric and completing their cuts at the fold. I hope this helps.

How can I press yards of fabric?Could you tell me how you press fabric, especially if you have yards of fabric? I tend to stretch it no matter how hard I try not to. Thanks for all your tips.
---Mary N.

Judy Martin responds: This question comes up now and then. I made myself a giant ironing board from a sheet of 3/4" plywood cut down to 30" x 72". I covered this with three layers of 100% cotton batting and a cotton cover. I cut the cover 38" x 80". I centered the ironing table top over the fabric and marked the corners. I stitched the corners like a fitted sheet, then made a narrow casing for elastic all around the edges. If you prefer, you can use a staple gun to attach the cover to the board. For legs at both ends, I made two cheap do-it-yourself bookcases, each 36" high. I just balance the board over the two. This large surface makes it much easier to iron long yardages or finished quilt tops.

When ironing fabric, I use a steam iron to get out the tough wrinkles. Steam can distort fabric, though. You might want to finish off with a dry iron after the wrinkles are gone. When I am sewing, I always use a dry iron. I have never noticed the fabric stretching when I ironed yardage. I do notice that, in a stack of four fabrics, the top fabric and bottom fabric may have a fullness differential that switches when I iron from the other side, though. I suppose that could be construed as stretching. If this is a problem, I just use fewer layers.

One thing I have noticed in the last year or two is that fabric selvages sometimes shrink alarmingly in prewashing. I can't iron the fabric flat until I cut off the selvage. Perhaps what you perceive as stretched fabric is actually this shrunken selvage problem. I just press the edge and a few inches in from it, then lay the 3/8" line (or whatever measurement is necessary) over the edge and trim off. I hope this helps.

How can I avoid lumpy stars? I love to make stars! In fact they are my favorite thing. I love when they come out perfectly with every point exactly where it's supposed to be. However, sometimes when pressing the seams one way I get lumps, particularly when there are two or more seams coming together. How do you eliminate those lumps?
--- Sue K.

Judy Martin responds: In stars having eight points coming together at the center, I press all seams the same direction so that the seam allowances of the two halves will oppose. Then I press the final seam open to minimize lumpiness.

In the standard eight-pointed star with a square in the middle, I press the seam allowances toward background triangles and away from star points on the flying geese units. When I sew the first two flying geese units to the center square, I press toward the square to minimize bulk. When I add background triangles to the remaining two flying geese units, I press toward the background square and away from the star points. This minimizes bulk at the star points. When I attach the last two units to the star center, seams naturally oppose. I press these last two seams away from the center square of the star. This goes against the bulk, but it yields a flatter star. If you were to press all four sides toward the center square, the center would billow out. You need to press the last two seams away from the center to release the fullness.

I realize that my pressing scheme might involve pressing toward the light fabric in some cases. I think that this is the lesser of evils. If your seam allowances are even and your points are trimmed, there should be no show-through.

Is it better to press seams open or not?
--- Gabriella P.

Judy Martin responds: I press one seam open in some instances where pressing to one side would prove too bulky. For example, I press the final seam open where 8 points come together in the middle of a block. Usually, though, I press to one side.

I can't quilt every day! Now I'm not happy because I'm not able to quilt a little bit every day, so I'm very, very nervy and I'm also discouraged because I have about 1500 Fat Quarters that are waiting for me in my sewing room!! What can I do?? As you are so expert, can you give me some good advice???
--- Gabriella P. from Italy

Judy Martin responds: I love to hear from quilters around the world. Thanks for not writing to me in Italian! You've asked 2 questions. To the first one about time, turn off your computer and start quilting! It's so easy to get caught up in drowning yourself in information that you don't have time left to do the thing you're getting information about. Log off now and go sew something. Come back later when you need a little inspiration or information. I'll still be right here. As for the second question, all of the quilts in The Creative Pattern Book are presented with both yardage and fat quarters requirements. With 1500 fat quarters and my book, you can have a lot of fun. Getting back to the first point, turn off that computer and start cutting some fabric NOW! Ciao.

What pin sizes do you recommend? Love your new book, The Creative Pattern Book. What an inspiration! I do have a question regarding the section on pins. The smallest pin that we carry in our shop is a .35mm at a length of 1 1/4". You mention a .05mm. Is this right?
 ---Terri Illes, Budding Star Quilts, Lebanon, NJ
Judy Martin responds: Yikes! .05mm is most assuredly NOT right. This is a typographical (or typo-gaffe-ical) error. It should be .5mm. If you can get .35mm, all the better. We're preparing to go into our second printing. We'll correct it there. Sorry about that. And thank you, Terri, for calling that to our attention.

How can I use whole fabric collections? My problem is I love to buy collections of fabric (Judi Rothermel's Civil War, Folk Art Wedding II, etc.) They are so pretty all bundled up. Either patterns are so hard to find for these collections or I have no imagination. I am making Autumn Fantasy (from The Creative Pattern Book) out of Hannah's Garden. It looks like it is going to work. I need some help trying to pick a pattern for the other collections. Can you suggest something?
---Veta F.

Judy Martin responds: Since when is buying lots of fabric (in this case, entire collections) a problem? This is what we fabriholics live for! The only "problem" I see is feeling like you have to use it all together.

My personal preference is to use fabrics from all over the map. I don't want things overmatched, and collections often are. What gives scrap quilts so much of their flavor is the nuance of so many different fabrics. If a scrap quilt is overmatched, it might as well be made from just 5 fabrics. I like to create areas of visual interest and impact. One of the ways I do that is to add a single patch of a more vibrant color in one area and another single patch of a different vibrant color somewhere else. It helps keep the quilt from seeming flat, or dead.

My solution would be to buy fabrics you like, whole collections if that is what you like, but plan on using the fabrics individually. Use one or two fabrics from a collection as a starting point. Then mix and match according to your whim and inspiration.

How can I figure out how much fabric to buy? Since I'm a beginner (very) and see a few blocks I'd like to try in The Block Book, would you please tell me how to calculate the amount of fabric to purchase. To me that request sounds impossible to answer, for many reasons. So, will you recommend a book or resource for me to calculate the amount of fabric I would need? It is your book I like the best, but my inexperience is getting the best of me.

Judy Martin responds: This is an easy question to answer. Judy Martin's Ultimate Rotary Cutting Reference lists 54 shapes in countless sizes. I've done all the figuring for you. Let me give you a specific example.

Say you're making the Aztec Star on page 35 of The Block Book. You're going to make 12 of them in a 3 x 4 set. The block has a 45-degree diamond with a 2-inch finished side. For each block you'll need 4 of these patches in a light fabric, 4 in a medium, and 16 in a dark. Times 12 blocks gives you 48 light, 48 medium, and 192 dark. How much yardage is required?

Go to page 50 of Judy Martin's Ultimate Rotary Cutting Reference, and you'll find a chart for 45-degree diamonds. The 5th item down on the chart is 2 inches. You follow that across to the number per yard column, and you'll see that you can get 200 of these diamonds from a yard of fabric using 18-inch strips and 216 from a yard using 44-inch strips. To get the 48 light and medium diamonds will require approximately 1/4 yard of fabric each (the 48 you need divided by the 200 a yard will give you).  192 dark patches will require close to a yard of fabric. It might improve your comfort level a little if you buy just a wee bit more than the calculation calls for. That way you can make a mistake and still have enough fabric.

Judy Martin's Ultimate Rotary Cutting Reference will work for calculating yardage for almost any pattern, not just mine. I don't make a quilt any more without having that book open and at my side.

What to do about unquilted quilt tops. What do you do about your unquilted quilt tops? Do you feel guilty -about not quilting them before you start others? I see a pattern, a new color combination and I itch to just do it, do it, do it and then… I look at my stack of 9 unquilted tops (not to mention unjoined blocks), and I get depressed!
--- Susan P.

Judy Martin responds: I used to feel guilty, too. For me one of the joys of quilting is solving the "puzzle." I pain over getting the right colors, the right fabrics, putting them in the right set in order to make the best possible quilt. Once I know I've "solved" the puzzle, I start to lose interest because already new ideas for new quilt tops are popping into my head. The challenge isn't finishing the quilt, it's getting it right in my mind. Once that's done, I want a new challenge. I have a cupboard full of unquilted tops. (I have many finished quilts, too, thanks to my friend, Jean Nolte.) Here's my secret: I have decided I collect quilt tops. If people can collect beer cans, stamps, Beanie Babies, why can't I collect quilt tops? They take less room to store than finished quilts. I can pull them out whenever I feel like it, and I have a sewn record of many of my favorite fabrics and patterns. I can look at one of my old tops and remember where I acquired every fabric in it. A flood of good memories washes over me. This is bad? No way!! Life's too short to feel guilty about concentrating on the part of your hobby you enjoy most.

How can I tell the lengthwise grain on fat quarters? When using fat quarters, how do you determine which is the lengthwise grain. Will it always be the 18-inch side? If I get fabric from some other source--maybe even scraps from someone else--how do I tell then? Is there some visual hint from the weave of the fabric?
--- Marlene H.

Judy Martin responds: Good question, Marlene. On fat quarters, the lengthwise grain is always the 18" side. The selvage always runs along the lengthwise grain. To determine lengthwise grain on scraps, you can sometimes tell by the print. However, it is more reliable to tell by stretching the fabric gently in both directions. The lengthwise grain is the less stretchy grain. You can often tell by the center crease. Even if the selvages have been removed, the center crease is often still there. The crease is parallel to the lengthwise grain. Another clue would be the length of the fabric. If it is longer than 45", the lengthwise grain runs the long way.

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