Low Volume Four Patches for 'En Provence'
A Bonnie Hunter Mystery Quilt Along
This wasn't the post I intended for today, but I've learned a technique that rocked my Quilt World. I've got to share it because it was so easy I'm almost ashamed to tell you--but we're all friends here. Right?
The Nasty Scant Quarter Inch Problem
Many of us sew everyday. Even if we don't say aloud that we think we're fairly decent at it, we have years of experience behind a machine. But even with that, we have some recurring problems that plague us, and we wish we could fix. Mine is seam allowances. My scant quarter inch made a friend of mine suck in her breath one day. "So small?", she asked. Well, if you cut accurately, and then measure, measure, measure to make sure that block is exact, well then, yes, it is. Even knowing that, I don't like it. They are small seams.
Want to jump into the Mystery Quilt,
and learn some great techniques?
So along comes Bonnie Hunter with her Mystery Quilt Along 'En Provence', and I've committed to doing it. Not because I need another project, but because she has so many good ideas about basic quilt techniques. It's like a free class. And right off the bat in the first installment, she hit me a home run. It was all about cutting, and
she WASN'T cutting on the line! I was so shocked I called a friend to please explain this to me. We questioned it together. What did she mean by, "Put the ruler line ON the fabric--not on the edge. She even had a little extra there. I was stunned. Didn't she know about cutting accurately?
So I did it her way just to try, and sewed the seam. I checked. I measured several times, and for one of the first times I had a nice size seam allowance that wouldn't cause cardiac arrest, and it was accurate. I felt like I was cheating the quilt police, but was I ever happy! Let me show you. A picture is worth a thousand words.
The Mystery Quilt is asking for neutral fabrics to produce four patches. I have very few neutrals in my stash--surprising, huh, so I chose to use low volumes in place of them. Because my color palette isn't going to be quite the same either, I chose many that had pale blue.
My strips above are cut with a little extra width--pictures below, and pressed with the seam laying toward the darker value. Use a dry iron, and press up and down instead of back and forth. Flip and do the topside of the strips also. Match one sewn strip to another right sides together, and cut the pieces together with nested seams.
For a finished 3" block, we are cutting at 2".
This was one of the first ones I cut, but that little extra to the left of the line grew a few threads by the end. You can imagine my surprise at success after years of being told to line up with the edge of the fabric.
Her next technique to polish up.
Ready to sew.
All seam on top are headed UP!
Did I say that we were all going to have plenty of practice perfecting this technique because we needed 221 four patches for the quilt? Yes, I had done twirled seams before, but truthfully I haven't ever mass produced four patches. I was going to have some time to perfect it.
Clockwise and Counterclockwise Swirls
Can you see it? I did exactly was she said not to do, but caught it. The block on the left was fed under the presser foot with the seam allowance headed up as it was supposed to. The right block slipped in there with the seam allowance headed toward me. Neither is right or wrong, but for convenience all seam allowances should be in one direction.
Another lesson learned for me.
You can't tell me everything!
The defiant child in me shouts back saying, "You're not my boss!" That's okay. When it was suggested not to cut whole widths of fabric for strips, I knew that was something that I had managed fairly well. I didn't use smaller strips, but knew I would have to watch for wonkiness as I cut the sets.
You can see above that as I was cutting strip sets, I had to keep my sets square. If there was a smidgen of difference in the width, I square it up. That's a basic rule when cutting, and applies to this process.
Chain Piecing All the Way
Chain piecing makes it easy to sew through lots of blocks quickly without stopping, but is most famous because it conserves thread. It also encourages us to work in batches. Cut, sew, press, and continue in large groups of blocks.
Another thing that I found while ironing open the little blocks was I was grouping into 10's as I finished to keep tabs on how many I was making. I would press the seam, flip the block pressing again, and lay it on the pile. Then I would frequently stop and count how many were in that pile before moving it off to the side with the rest. Lightbulb moment! Instead of recounting so many times, group those block ONCE, and iron in sets of 10's. You've eliminated the need the stop and count, or lose your place, and do it all again. Watching t.v. while pressing sure interferes with keeping track for me, but this is foolproof.
I'm almost done with the blocks for the week. New installments come out each Friday on Bonnie Hunter's blog Quiltville's Quips and Snips so you have loads of time if you want to jump in. What I'm sharing may seem elementary to you, and it is, but it's something I think many of us--even those with experience struggle with day to day.
Come on, Doxie girls.
Let's go sew.