How to make a Liberty code quilt with Libs Elliott
Elizabeth, or as she is better known, Libs Elliott, is a sewing technologist who fuses her sewing skills with code from a computer program to create original quilt designs. Her quilts are not only to be laid over a bed, but can also make alluring wall hangings with never two pieces of her work looking the same. When Libs is not generating geometric designs or sewing projects and blogging, she often catches an infectious travel bug and enjoys exhibiting her work and spending time with her family in Toronto.
We caught up with Libs to find out more about her design process, motivation and fondness for antiques.
You enjoy using traditional techniques and mixing them with modern technology, have you always been fascinated by this, how did it begin?
I grew up in a Georgian-style house full of 19th century European antiques because my father is an antiques dealer. So I always had an appreciation for the beauty of old-world, handcrafted things and I’m fascinated by how these objects hold meaning and last through generations. But there’s another part of me that also loves today’s modern design and aesthetic, geometry and clean lines.
I studied textiles in the ’90s then worked in the advertising industry where I had the opportunity to work with many creative and technically skilled people. It was during that time, 13 years ago, that I met Joshua Davis. His work as a designer and technologist has influenced so many people and I feel very fortunate to call him a friend. When we collaborated on the first quilt in 2012, I instantly knew it was a path I wanted to continue exploring. Using technology to design these quilts has satisfied my love for both traditional and modern.
You have been designing quilts since 2009, how has your design process developed over the years?
Initially, I was designing with coloured pencils and graph paper but it felt very restrictive to me. It would take hours or days to draft one satisfying design. Then I started using ‘processing’ – which is an open source programming language – to randomly generate designs. These designs are saved out as PDFs, which means I can easily use Adobe Illustrator to move shapes around and manipulate the designs further until I have a quilt composition I’m happy with. I can still spend hours designing, but in the end, I’ll have numerous potential quilt designs rather than just one. I love that with ‘processing’, I never know exactly what I’m going to get until it renders on the computer screen. There’s excitement in the unknown! As high-tech as all of that sounds, I do still do my quilt math on note pads and mark-up my layouts with pencil on paper.
A lot of your work uses ultramodern geometrics which look amazing hung up on walls. What do you do with all of your creations and where do you show them off?
I kept the very first ‘processing’ quilt and it now hangs in our sitting room. I am working towards doing some exhibits in various galleries and museums. Everything else I make is for sell on my website. So far, about half the buyers choose to hang them whilst the other half use them as blankets and throws. I like not knowing what will happen to the quilts. Hopefully, they all fulfill their destiny as modern heirlooms; to have beautiful journeys that hold personal stories and are passed down through generations.
Do you prefer the designing part of making a quilt or sewing it?
Both give me satisfaction in very different ways. I enjoy designing because it’s an opportunity to try out so many variables and see how far you can push things. Then figuring out how to build each quilt – the planning and math involved – is a great workout for my brain. But then, I also enjoy the methodical process of ironing, cutting, piecing blocks and quilting until a whole quilt is complete.
What future projects do you have planned, do you think you will move away from geometrics?
Right now, I’m focusing my efforts on making commissioned quilts and gaining exposure in the design industry by speaking about what I do. I would love to do a large-scale installation at some point and perhaps try utilizing non-traditional materials. I have plenty of ideas yet to be explored. I don’t think I’ll move away from geometrics anytime soon because they can be manipulated in so many ways and they’re the most aesthetically pleasing to me.
Libs shows us how to make a quilt her way with her step-by-step sewing tutorial.
This quilt is made up of 100 blocks. Each finished block will be 8” squared (or 8.5” unfinished).
This pattern makes a 80” x 80” square quilt. If you would like to make the quilt larger, simply add a border.
Just the standard quilting supplies are required: Ruler, marking tool of choice (vanishing marker, pencil, chalk), rotary cutter, fabric scissors, cutting mat, straight pins, quilting pins, thread and batting.
After you’ve selected your fabrics, clip a small piece of each and label them with their names. Keep this colour key handy or displayed where you are working as it will be a huge help when you are cutting and piecing.
It is also helpful to label your blocks with a scrap of paper as you make them or as you complete each block type. It’s handy to orient the block as per the layout and put your labels in the same corner each time. (e.g. Pin label to top left corner.)
This quilt uses 7 of the Liberty Lifestyle prints from both the Bloomsbury and Stile collections. You will require the following amounts:
Dance A – 1 Metre
Wells B – 2.25 Metres
Mackintosh C – 1 1/4 Metres
Newbury B – 1/2 Metre
Lowke B – 1 Metre
Herbert C – 1/2 Metre
Cranston A – 1/2 Metre
Solid Cotton of your Choice – 2 Metre
(NOTE: I used Robert Kaufman Cotton Linen Chambray in Indigo Washed)
Backing Fabric: 6 Metres
Binding Fabric: ½ Metre
Wadding: 2.5 Metres
1. Cut 8 7/8” Squares (total of 89 squares). These will be used for Blocks 1, 2 and 3.
Dark solid – 19
Wells B – 21
Dance A – 12
Mackintosh C – 16
Newbury B – 5
Lowke B – 8
Herbert C – 5
Cranston A – 3
2. Cut 4 7/8” Squares (total of 24 squares). These will be used for Blocks 4 & 5.
Dark solid – 5
Wells B – 12
Dance A – 2
Mackintosh C – 2
Newbury B -1
Lowke B – 1
Herbert C – 1
3. Cut 4 ½” Squares (total of 24 squares). These will be used for Block 2 & 3.
Dark solid – 14
Wells B – 3
Mackintosh C – 2
Lowke B – 3
Cranston A – C
4. Cut 8 ½” Squares (total of 5 squares). These are the ‘whole square’ blocks that we’ll call ‘Block 6’ type.
Dark solid – 1 – G3
Mackintosh C – C2, D8, H1
Lowke B – I3
NOTE: All piecing is done with a ¼” seam allowance.
Now that you have all our squares cut out, you’re going to start making Half Square Triangles (called HSTs) and building our blocks. There are 6 basic block layouts in this pattern.
MAKING HALF-SQUARE TRIANGLES FOR BLOCKS 1, 2 AND 3:
For Blocks 1, 2 and 3 you are going to use all your 8 7/8” squares up by using a quick method for making two HSTs (half-square triangles) at once. This table tells you which colors to pair together and how many of those pairs to make. You may find it helpful to pair all your squares before moving to the first step, just so they are all sorted and ready for marking and pinning. If you do this, be sure to put square pairs right sides together.
Using your marking tool of choice, on the wrong side of your 8 7/8” square, draw a diagonal line from corner to corner. (This will be your cutting line.) You only need to do this on one side of your two squares. Then mark another line that is ¼” away on each side of the center line, like this:
Pin your squares right sides together and sew along the two lines you marked on either side of the centre line.
Cut along the centre line. Open your pieces up and press seams open. Trim points off seams. You will now have two HSTs.
Continue with this process until you completed everything from the table.
You have now made all your Block 1s and completed the first step in making your Block 2s and Block 3s.
Label the block numbers according to the table.
After you have labeled your blocks, set all the Block 1s aside as those blocks are now complete and you’re ready for the next step to complete Blocks 2 and 3.
*NOTE: You will have a few extra blocks left when using this HST-making method. Hooray! Set them aside and use them for another project or for the backing of this one.
COMPLETING BLOCKS 2 & 3:
You are going to use the 4 ½” squares you cut earlier to make the small, corner triangle on the Block 2s.
Using the HSTs that you made, pull the HSTs that are listed below in the ‘HST Combo / Block#’ column.
Draw a diagonal line on the wrong side of all your 4 ½” squares
This table shows you which HST combo goes with which 4 ½” square, and which colour the 4 ½” square should be sewn to for BLOCK 2:
Pin the 4 ½” square, onto the larger block, right-sides together, making sure they are lined up evenly and that the diagonal line is parallel to the center seam.
Sew along the marked line shown above.
Trim the excess fabric at ¼” from the line you just sewed.
Fold triangle down and press seams open and you should now have a block that looks like block 2. (See block layouts)
Repeat until you have your fifteen Block 2s completed.Ensure they are labeled accordingly and set your Block 2s aside.
Follow the same steps to complete your four Block 3s. However, you will be sewing 2 4 ½ squares on opposite sides of each large HST. This table shows you which HST combo goes with which 4 ½” square, and which colour the 4 ½” square should be sewn to for Block 3.
When finished your block will look like this:
COMPLETING BLOCK 4:
Using some of your 4 7/8” squares and large triangles from your 8 7/8” squares, you will make blocks that look like block 4 (See block layouts)
Cut the following 4 7/8” Squares diagonally so that you have small triangles to work with:
Cut the following 8 7/8” Squares diagonally so that you have large triangles to work with:
Next, you will build the following blocks as per the photo steps below:
Lay out your pieces as per the combinations in the above table e.g.:
Sew the first small triangle to the centre small triangle and press seams open.
Next, sew the second triangle to the centre triangle and press seams to the side.
Sew the last small triangle to the centre triangle and press seams to the side.
Lastly, sew your pieced triangle half to the large triangle half and press seams open to have a finished block like this:
COMPLETING BLOCK 5:
There are only 3 of this block. Whew! We’re almost done block-building. You will require the following pieces for this block that you can make from your remaining pieces:
Lay your pieces out as per below:
Piece triangles together to make each square of the block. Iron the seams open.
Now piece your squares together in pairs and press seams open again.
Piece your halves together and press seams open. Complete all Block 5s and label them accordingly.
QUILT TOP ASSEMBLY
When assembling your blocks, consider the numbers run across from left to right and the letters run vertically from top to bottom. So that A1 is the top left block, A2 is to the right of A1, etc.
For block orientation, refer to the quilt photo in this tutorial and diagrams.
Assemble your blocks into rows. I find it easiest to piece them together in pairs (pressing seams open as you go). E.g.:
First: A1 to A2, A3 to A4, A5 to A6, A7 to A8, A9 to A10
Then: A1/2 to A3/4, A5/6 to A7/8, A 5/6/7/8 to A9/10
Then: A1-4 to A5-10
Row A is complete!
Assemble all your rows, from A to J, as per the layout below. Then begin sewing rows together in pairs (pressing seams open as you go). E.g.:
Row A to B, Row C to D, E to F, G to H and I to J.
Then work in pairs again: A/B to C/D. E/F to G/H to I/J.
Finally, sew the two halves together and now whole top has been assembled!
Follow Libs @LibsElliott on Twitter.
Credit: Long arm quilter, Tella Visconti