Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Upsides and Downfalls of Pre-Cuts

Isn't this just the cutest thing?
It's not my work, but that of Norma at 
Petit Design Co. 
The scrap rat in me loves the color punch it gives.

I'd been inspired by a 
by 'Sew Katie Did', 
and tons of Pinterest links. 

I just had to make a quilt in this style!

That would require lots of HSTs,
and I was looking for the fastest,
most effective way of doing it.
I would use 5" Charm Packs to make it easy.

I thought a simple warm-up exercise
using brights and darks would be fun,
and again, using the Charms I
had stashed would eliminate me
having to cut all the fabric.

I matched up 4 charm packs with 
a bright to a dark, drew my 
diagonal line, and sewed seams 
1/4" to each side of it.
I cut on the drawn line, gently opened 
and pressed from the back first as 
to not stretch the block, and then 
realized by the end how much the 
blocks were off. 

Was my sewing really that bad?

I had to make a decision on whether 
I should stop the project and trim 
every single block. 
All 672 sides! 
Although not a perfectionist at heart, 
this project depended on 
matching the points. 
Let's say that it took me the best part 
of a Sunday to go through 168 blocks.

The block had to be lined up to the 
45 degree diagonal to make sure 
each triangle was square.

The process has been seriously 
'less than fun', and consumed 
many more hours than I'd 
anticipated. I believe that using 
Charm Packs are the cause, 
but before I step too far out of line, 
let's investigate this logically.

Here are 6 pieces leftover from a project. 
I tried to line up at least 2 sides of each Charm so that you could see 
the actual dimensions. 
Charms are meant to be measured 
from the inside of the pinked edge, 
I'm told, but there are some 
bowed sides, elongated corners, 
and some just not 'square'. 
They're definitely a tiny 
bit longer than wide.

Am I being picky?


 Because sewing
together 2 squares with even
minor irregularities magnifies
the wonkiness of a HST.
This is Geometry 101.

Could pinked corners also make it 
tougher to draw an 
accurate diagonal?

I do think so when
you have no accurate corners
to line up from.

A good friend told me how she was using 
a large grid cutter to crank out 5" squares
in nothing flat. I ordered one, but
had never had the chance to put it to work.

Double fold your fabric lengthwise, 
and line it up.
Make your vertical cuts.
The grid has spacing every 2.5".

Leave the fabric as it is, turn your 
cutting mat and grid, and finish
out the 5" squares.

This in under 4 minutes.

And very, very square.

I tested a batch, matching up the 
navy with a pale blue.
Seriously, I wanted to know if it was me.

Chain sewing is the way to go with HST 
(half square triangles).
I penciled my diagonal and stitched 
1/4" to either side.

I trimmed off the dog ears at the 
corners, but otherwise they're untouched.
They measure 4 5/8" square
which is most HST tutorials will 
tell you you get from this method.

I could adjust my seam allowances 
just a tad larger to get a truer 
4 1/2" square, but they're 
pretty close.

Shannon at Modern Tradition Quilts 
is having a wonderful Charm Square Sampler quilt along right now.
If learning how to make HST's, or
turning out a quilt in her brand new 
pattern excites you, join her.
I'm hoping to join in next week
as I catch up.

Tomorrow we'll talk about
all the things I find them
incredibly useful for.
YES, after all my harping,
I will still use them!
But I will be informed that
some limitations exist.

Come on, Doxie Girls.
Shake a stick,
and let's go sew.

Linking up today with~

Show and Tell Tuesday
Sew Cute Tuesday at Blossom Heart Quilts
Tuesday Archives at 
Val's Quilting Studio
Quilt Story 

Thank you all for being such 
gracious hostesses!


Marly said...

That is a brilliant ruler, but probably pretty expensive. I wonder how much yardage you'd have to cut up into 5" squares to break even on the cost of the ruler, compared to the extra cost of charm packs. I'm not going to work that out, but the ruler wins hands down for me, because it does more than squares. Can't throw way the trusty 6" wide ruler though; there's more to life than multiples of 2½"!

kathyinozarks said...

this is an excellent post cause just ran into the same problem with charms-and I was only making 4 patches out of them-I need a backing and decided these charms all sewn together would be perfect and get them used up-not cut on the grain, not square. so I just kinda "faked" it at the sewing machine to make it all go together ok.
I inherited my Mom's sewing room she was an amazing quilter-never bought any pre cuts, did her cutting the "old way" but she did have this ruler and told me she loved it-perhaps she was doing the same thing-making her own precuts

Julie said...

Marly, I paid $41.48 a month ago through Amazon, but now the price is up to $54.36! There are other smaller rulers with 1/2" increments for around $17.50 which would work just as well for this, and as you would imagine, additional ones with markings and slots for specific blocks. If we use the one at $17.50, the savings would be met rather quickly. As far as there being more needs than multiples of 2 1/2"--I agree! This was to help me power through some stacks of fabric to make into charity quilts, and they appreciate the larger blocks as well as the smaller. So, a time saver for me, again.

I am not a gadget girl, and am very skeptical about things that sound too good to be true, but darn it, this was just pretty amazing. I would really like to try another of the slotted rulers, perhaps a curved version to test it, too. The accuracy was far superior to what I guessed it would be, but a curve might be a little harder to maintain.

We always have next week, the next quilt, etc. It's great to be able to have this honest conversation.

Thank you,


France Nadeau ❅ inspiration imagination creation said...

Interesting post! I personally never by buy pre-cut fabric. I prefer to do it myself, the "old way", as Kathy's mother above. :-) Thank you for posting all these pictures explaining your testing. I reinforced my opinion that a good ruler is best.

Linda Swanekamp said...

The ruler is worth it's weight i gold. I have a Juner Tailor, and even better is the Creative Grids Stripology ruler. I have powered through lots of donated scraps to make 5", 2 1/2", 3 1/2" and 1 1/2" strips and squares. All accurate. Because you do not have to move the fabric when cutting all the edges, everything stays true. The worst HSTs I ever made have come from charm packs, lovely as they are.

Stephanie said...

I really appreciated this post and yesterday's (where you did all that math for us!) ... I had a similar experience with a layer cake recently (more an issue of the size of the pieces not being what I expected) and wasn't sure if it was me. May need to look into getting one of those grids as well!

Julie said...

My biggest problem has happened while mentoring new sewists/quilters. They love picking up a discount pre-cut to practice stitching, and it's wonderful because in no time they have something to show for their effort. There's nothing like seeing your first little squares all sewn up, or whipping up a jelly roll! But they were all running into the same thing when things were pretty wonky. We looked hard at the seam allowances, and in places it was definitely wavy. Other times, the seam allowances were great, and the fabric was off. They had no idea being a beginner, and figured they were doing a lousy job. From then on, I seriously hesitated at suggesting any beginners start with a pre-cut.

Another beginner at our sewing group started her quilt with fabric she cut herself with straight edge ruler, and it's coming together without nearly as many hiccups. She's confident, inspired, and has already tackled others. Go Whitney!

I had never used a grooved ruler before, Kathy, and I will be taking this one into the sewing group to share next time.
I love the accuracy.


Jayne said...

I have heard that charm squares and layer cakes are often off. I rarely use them, but it is always good to be aware of it! This is a fabulous post...right down to the ruler with grooves! I may have to get one, even the small one can be a time saver!

Dee said...

This is a great post for "how to" and "why you should". Thanks for all the information and honesty about the process. HST's can be time consuming, but the projects you shared, exp. the values quilt, make them well worth the effort!

Skootchover said...

Another great post. The first time I used a charm cut, I was confused by the pinked sides. I didn't know they weren't supposed to count as part of the measurement. It threw my whole project off and put me off using pre-cuts.

Unknown said...

Great post today, Julie. I know I looked at your ruler the other day, but did not check it out in detail. You know how the cutting part intimidates me so that ruler might be a good fit for me.

Cathy said...

Precuts drive me nuts for just that reason!! I have become quite the expert at trimming HST's down to size though. Great post.

Afton Warrick said...

Oh my! If you're going to have to square things up, ignorance might be bliss; knowing you have 672 sides ahead of you is a bit intimidating. While spendy, I totally recommend a 6 1/2" Bloc-Loc HST ruler and a 12" rotating mat to take on such a challenge. It's good to acknowledge the -ish measurements of precuts. I used a jellyroll for a quilt pattern, and each strip being 1/8" shy of 2 1/2" made a big difference when it came to finished block size. I thought buying a precut was going to free me of human-error, but I found that machine error was worse.

Sarah Craig said...

Oh, Afton Warrick beat me to the punch! The Bloc-Loc ruler (you can find it here! http://www.blocloc.com) is totally worth every penny it costs. I loved my 6.5" ruler so much I sprang for a 12.5" for bigger blocks. I teach all my students to square up their HSTs every time for accurate piecing, and this makes it SO much easier and faster!!

kathyinozarks said...

thanks for the information on the blo loc rulers

MartiDIY said...

I have never bought a charm pack, mainly because of the pinked edges and because I like to pre-wash. Thanks for the tips here; I don't think I'll ever be tempted to buy any now. I once bought a June Tailor square with the cutout lines in it. Wasn't the one you have, it was one that made 2-1/2 inch strips. It wasn't accurate at all though. The slot for the cutter was too wide I think. Maybe they've improved those rulers since then.

btw, I'm visiting from the GYBP.

Tiff said...

I work at Joann Fabrics and we have those rulers for 40 per cent off this President's weekend sale. Also other times we have quilting notions sales.

Julie said...

Stephanie, You're welcome. I was also a little shocked when I did the math. I try to keep my costs down as much as possible. The grids seem to have come a long way from what I'm told. I love it, but think I would buy the smaller one that has 1/2" increments.


Julie said...


Yes! I am in and out of JoAnn's fairly often, and I think you've cut fabric for me! My sewing group meets in your crafting room 3 times a month. I'll find you next time I'm in, and put a name to the face.

Until then--