Nearly Insane – Or Totally Mad(s)

I finished drafting all 98 blocks of Salinda Rupp’s 1860s sampler quilt (popularly known as the Nearly Insane), a few days ago. 

Today I cut out the fabric for 3 blocks. 


Templates and fabric for 3 blocks are ready!
Isn’t that pretty? I am so excited! I have made a diary, where I am making note of the fabric requirement. I plan to cut out fabric and sew 5 blocks at a time.

Meanwhile, I am having second thoughts about making all the blocks of this quilt. There are more than a couple which are very similar; so, first I am making only my favourite blocks. Then, I  may seriously consider adding instead a few Midget and Dear Jane blocks. Those will have to be re-drafted at 6″. I will probably add a few blocks of my own too! Crazy, isn’t it?

Let us see how it goes…any suggestions?

Of Stippling and Feathers


Paper pieced Table runner 15″x45″. The pattern was from Better Homes and Gardens “Quilt Lovers’ Favorites – Vol 4”

This was a runner I completed exactly 4 years ago (to the date!), my first attempt at paper piecing. I used flannel as batting and a polycotton as backing. The binding was 1″ wide, in 4 pieces – one for each side of the runner.  Its edges were folded in and it was attached like a piping, one single stitch line to put it together. It wasn’t quilted either, but I was very proud of it!


When I first discovered the joys of paper piecing…

Over time, the pieced top shrank, the flannel shrank even more and the backing remained unmoved.

About two years ago, I took apart the 3 layers and there they lay, till yesterday when I decided to practice some ‘serious’ ( by my standards) free motion quilting on it. Now, the flannel batting and the backing have both moved and are about 1/2″ short!


The batting and backing both fall short!

Tuesday and Wednesday are my days for working on my Nearly Insane block patterns. On Thursday and Friday I work on other new projects. So I will get back to this on Saturday. Meanwhile, please admire my micro stippling and of course, my feathers. I used the ‘bump’ method to make them.

I think it was prettier without the quilting … but then, a quilter has to learn to quilt!

I changed to my expensive thread midway through this and after that everything moved like a dream! I hadn’t quite believed it when I  read it, but using good quality thread does make a massive difference to how your quilting looks! Not that that makes me happy. It only means my hobby becomes even more expensive. Perhaps I should start selling my patterns now…Unless people are willing to send Aurifil thread to me in exchange for my patterns?

Nearly Insane – Before the Beginning

Yesterday, I drafted the first 20 blocks from the quilt on Quilt Assistant free quilt software. I have Liz Lois’s book to help me – I will be needing the computerised templates, unless I am willing to sit with tracing paper and pencil! Like I mentioned, I shall try to foundation paper piece some of it, though I have no idea how I will get the paper out from under 1/2″ HSTs ( diagonal half of a 1/2″ square for the uninitiated).  

Why does this quilt fascinate so many people? Here is picture of one of the blocks from the original quilt, taken from  ‘The Ultimate Quilting Book‘. 


I zoomed in on the picture of the quilt in my book to get this right. Liz Lois has simplified this block some what, but I wanted to see the original.
 What a striking combination of fabrics and colours! I also find those missing points from her triangles utterly charming! Salinda Rupp worked without rotary cutters and our rulers and came up with this magnificent sampler quilt. She nudged some of those blocks into size, I believe, trying to fit the block into the designated 6″.

I was planning to follow her colour scheme and even collected the fabric for it, but somewhere I changed my mind…

Magnificent Obsession: Going Insane – Nearly!

I first saw this a picture of this quilt about seven years ago, and fell in love instantly.


My first encounter with The Quilt…
It was in this book…

…where i first saw it in 2008…

 …and I went back to it again and again. I later discovered that it had been named ‘Nearly Insane’ by Liz Lois, who first drafted the blocks and got together with five friends, each making her own version of the quilt. It took them 3 and 1/2 years to complete their quilt. Liz has a website for the quilt and has also published a book which contains the designs of each of the 98 different blocks that make it up. ( There are no templates, only the drafts of the blocks.)
In some ways, I have spent the last seven years honing and polishing my piecing and quilting skills, preparing for the day when I would finally be able to attempt this. Meanwhile, I bought every book which I heard or read had pics of this quilt. I lapped up everything I read online about it.  I discovered that there have been several people who have made this – there are gorgeous ones in blue and white, red and white, in lavender in yellow…

I decided to make mine in blue, yellow and green with white to offset the busy nature of the blocks. Liz Lois has not given any fabric estimate in her book, so I ordered a layer cake of Summer Breeze iii by Moda Fabrics with matching solid fat quarters.  I am not very happy, because several of the prints are pretty large, so I shall probably end up doing the blocks mainly in solids, with a dash of prints here and there.  I did have a jelly roll of buttercup yellow and a couple of fat quarters of periwinkle blue which should look good here…Or perhaps, I will order a fat quarter of each of the tinier prints – there are about 4-5 of those in the Summer Breeze collection. 

I am drafting the blocks –  which I plan to paper foundation piece to the extent that I can – on Quilt Assistant free software.  The easiest blocks have just 10 pieces and the most intricate one has, hold your breath, 229 pieces! Yes, that is right, 229 pieces in a 6″ block! I will be sharing my progress as I go along. Would you like to join me? I really am not sure if I am allowed, for copyright reasons, to share the paper piecing templates I will be coming up with…I know EQ drafts are available for free download, but I do not have EQ and am in no mood to invest in it right now.  By the way, I am not sure if I like all the blocks in the quilt and I do plan to add a few of my own! 

Here is a list of important online resources you may like to refer to, if you do embark on your own journey

1. – Liz Lois’s website for her book of the drafted blocks.

2. –  ” This blog is for fans of the ‘Nearly Insane’ quilt created in the 1870’s by Salinda Rupp…”, says the blurb.

3. – This is probably the most useful resource available to a nearly insane quilter. She has given, with pictures, a description of how she English paper pieced each block. 

4. – A yahoo group, which is not very active these days.

5. Pinterest – You can look at lots of pictures of the quilt for inspiration!

6. Flick’r  group to share pics of your blocks –

Before I go off to draft the blocks for my quilt, here is a dekko at the fabric I will be using for it! Pretty, isn’t it?

My fabric choice for the Nearly Insane quilt

Final Countdown- Midway Break

Eight of the blocks are done today. I now take a break, till I get the lighter blue fabric for the centre blocks.

Eight blocks done!
Eight blocks done!

I modified Sobana’s porthole method to join today’s block circle to the centre. This is what I did.

I marked the seam line 1/4″ inside the circle edge.

Mark the seam line on right side of circle.

I pieced the background on the freezer paper template.

Prepare the background on the freezer paper template of 18.5
Prepare the background on the freezer paper template of 18.5″ square from which a circle of 7.5″ radius has been cut out.

I now made tiny snips on the inside circular edge till about 1/8″ of the paper. I will use  Sobana’s pics to show you what was done next!

Snip the inner circular edge to within 1/8″ of the paper edge.

Press the snipped edge over the paper.

Fold the seam allowance back on the paper. Sobana suggests glueing it lightly on to the paper to hold it in place. I skipped this – I did not use glue.

I applied glue on this folded -back seam allowance. Now, I did the opposite of what Sobana did! Here is a reminder of what she did. In her own words

” Centre your finished circle on the freezer paper again on the wrong side, making sure it is evenly placed.  Apply glue again along the edge of the folded back fabric snips and press your circle in place with your iron. … Remember to keep your finished circle right side down.”

She placed both pieces right side down and glued the seam allowances together!
She placed both pieces right side down and glued the seam allowances together!

I placed both pieces right side up, the circle below the background. I ironed the two together, but the glue from the glue stick had dried by now, so this did not work!

Now I applied glue on the circle edge –  I used washable liquid school glue instead of the glue stick. I pressed the background on top of it, using the seam-line marked with pencil on the right side of the circle as a guide.  This eliminated the guesswork out of correct placement of the circle! I removed the freezer paper now and stitched the two pieces together using the crease line on the background as a guide, like for the other blocks.

Here is my Winding Ways Wheel block

Perfectly matched points at the edge of circle!
Perfectly matched points at the edge of circle!

I am wondering if I should finish the chopsticks while I wait for the fabric. I am more inclined to start on a brand new project instead! Insane? Yes, Nearly Insane! I have the fabric chosen and ready for the 6″ blocks, which contain 70 to 229 pieces! Care to join me?

Final Countdown- The Spiked Dresden Completed


The prettiest completed so far?
I wrote a whole big blogpost explaining how I attached the Pixellated circle to the centre of thIs, the Spiked Dresden block…and then,  I hit the ‘trash’ button instead of the ‘save’! The post is untraceable now. Right now, I am …like …grrrrrr!

I will get back to that when I am in a better mood. Meanwhile, I do think this block is the prettiest of the seven completed so far. What do you think?

Final Countdown – That is Half a Dozen Done.

Two more blocks of the Round the Year quilt done today, using the porthole method described  by Sobana Sundar in a previous blogpost. 

The first was Card Trick, Block Three, which got done quickly. 


The Card Trick block was not tricky at all! joined to the background using the ‘porthole ‘ method.
 I used the points on the triangles on the edge as a guide to glue the background to the circle. 
The other block that I did was Wedding Ring, which gave me a lot of trouble as I did not glue the background correctly. The resultant seam ranged from 1/8″ to 3/4″. I had to rip it and re-do it. 


This block gave me a lot of problems!
I was not very happy with the end result. For the next block, I will do something different. I will mark the seam line on the front of the circle, and glue the background accurately from the top, using the seam line as a guide. I will take pics to clarify what I mean. 

Meanwhile, I had promised to show you how I stitched the background with no fabric wastage. 

In the normal course, one would stitch together two rectangles 9.5″x 18.5″ in the two blues ( along the longer edge, and end up with an 18.5″ circle. On this one would mark a 7.5″ circle and cut about 3/4″ inside that. 

What I did was this…


I added a circular strip on the inside edge of the freezer paper template to increase the seam allowance to about 1/2 ” .
I ironed the templates on the background fabric and cut out a further 1/4″ inside. I also took an extra 1/8″ on the outer long edges. I will trim the blocks to accurate size once they are done. Remember, NOT to take and extra allowance on the small straight edge! That has to be exactly 1/4″.

This method saves fabric!

You need 10.5″ x 12.5″ fabric for 2 quarters as above. Which means that for one block you need either 10.5″ x 25″ or 21″x 12.5″, depending on how you place the templates. 

Piece the full backgound directly on the freezer paper.
I then cut out the freezer paper template described by Sobana in her post – an 18.5″ square with a 7.5″ radius circle cut out of the centre. I pieced my background using two light blues and two darks directly on this template.

You will need to probably refer to Sobana’s post on setting circles onto background squares to understand exactly what I did differently here…

If you have any questions, please feel free to seek clarifications! 

Final Countdown – A Dozen More…

The first four completed blocks. In all of these, the background is pieced to circle wedges/ quadrants.

A quick photo post to share the four Round the Year blocks completed.
Clockwise, beginning from top right, these are

Block Four – Sapphire Fire

Block Two – Evening at the Pond

Block Five – Venus at Dusk

Block Thirteen – Feathered Star

You want to make your own blocks? You can find the links to the free patterns from the Round the Year page.( Link above) 

Final Countdown! And Then There Were Two…


I used glue on the final seam, near the centre , to get a perfect finish!

 Today, I joined the Sapphire Fire circle (Block Four of the Round the Year BOM quilt) to its background. When I had pieced this block, I was not very happy with the pale blue I used and even thought I would replace it, but now quite like it. I think it adds a glitter to the Sapphire! 
I joined the block in eighths, which was not such a good idea, I believe. There were too many points to match on the bias. It would be better to first join the adjoining one-eighth wedges of the circle to make quadrants and then join them to 1/4 squircles ( my term for square minus circle). 

When joining the dark background half to the lighter half, I pinned the circle edges together and began at the edge of the square, moving toward the centre and stopping just short of it. Similarly from the other end. I then put a thin line washable school glue On the seam allowance, tugged the halves to match the centre point, pressed and then sewed the seam at the centre. Result? Perfect centre! I also pressed all eight seams in one direction to make the centre lie flat. 

For the Venus block ( Block Five), I have joined the eighth wedges to make quarter circles. I have finished pinning Venus as well as Evening at the Pond ( Block Two) to their background pieces.  I will share my learning on the best way to attach the circles to the background after completing these blocks, hopefully, tomorrow! 

Final Countdown! Round the Year Quilt

I still do not have enough background fabric for all my Round the Year quilt block circles, but I  have started working on them in any case. The first block that I finished is Block Thirteen, the “Feathered Star”.

One done, fifteen to go!

Those of you who are making the block may have noticed that I have reversed the background of the square, so that light part of the circle is highlighted against the dark background and vice versa.  The first pic below shows the way it was planned and the second shows how it was finally joined.

Decided to go with Option 2 as it would show up better in the final layout of the quilt!

This is the only block circle that was made in sixths of a circle, so the background squircle ( being equal to square minus circle) was cut in 6 pieces. Each was joined to a wedge. The wedges ( including respective background) were joined in threes to make one half of the square and then the other.

I pressed the seams in a whorl, clockwise, to reduce the bulk in the centre!

The seams are pressed all in one direction to reduce the bulk at the centre.

You must be wondering which layout I am finally using for the quilt?  Here it is! Layout Option 3, which finishes at 100″x 100″.

The background will use three shades of blue, the deepest at the edges of the quilt and the lightest in the centre. (Shouldn’t it be the other way at dusk? Light at the edges and dark in the centre? Artistic licence – the blocks show up much better against a light background!) I have enough of the deep blue; it is the lighter blues that I ran out of,  as I used them up to make my “Seasons in the Sun” quilt. I will calculate exactly how much fabric to order after using up what I have at hand.

Please admire the almost perfect centre of my feathered star, while I go off to cut fabric for the Venus and Sapphire blocks! They are the only ones joined to the backgrounds in eighths, if I remember correctly!

Centre of attention!