Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Piecing Accurately by Cutting Larger

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.

Twirled Seams
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.

Sort First

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.


Unknown said...

You ARE a great teacher. And your camera shots so clear. I am impressed. At last count yesterday evening I have 34 4-patch blocks ready for a final press. Twirling the centers went better after our last phone conversation! I am so heavily into making Christmas items that I will be far behind with Bonnie's plans. lol But I will eventually get there!

AlidaP said...

Thanks for sharing all those wonderful lessons! I will start my mystery soon so these tips come in very handy!

Christine Slaughter said...

I have seen Bonnnie's Mystery QALs, but haven't joined as I wasn't ready to commit to a quilt like that. But I may rethink that if you're getting tips like these. You've explained it so clearly and concisely, thank you for that! I will definitely be trying these out!

Laundered Cotton said...

I'm doing low volume too! Thanks for the clear pics and tute. I sewed my strip sets yesterday, and even called my husband in to see that they perfectly measured 3-1/2 inches, each one, all the way down. Squeeee! It was a first for true consistency for me.

Jasmine said...

Very interesting. I can see this helping ad I teach others to sew. Maybe I should try one of her mystery quilts sometime.

verpa said...

I´m goig to join the mystery too, but with another colours. To be honest, I haven´t done the swirl seams yet. High time to start something new, your looks great!

Tish Stemple said...

Very, Very interesting techniques. I will have to give it a go. I feel like there are so many little things to remember to set every time I turn my machine on to piece, to even get close to the seam allowance I need. Funny I do the setting things in groups of 10's to keep track of what I've cut and pieced. There is a member in my guild doing this mystery quilt. I'll have to remember to ask her what she thinks of the instructions.

Anonymous said...

"Low-Volume" is just a fancy name for Bonnie's "neutrals". Your selection is spot on and will add a great deal of interest to the quilt. You will not be disappointed joining the mystery quilt fun.

Anonymous said...

After years of quilting,then trimming after sewing because I didn't measure exactly at the beginning, I took a class from Bonnie and now I haven't trimmed a block in two years! Things work if you take the time at the beginning to measure accurately, check your seam allowance before doing a bazillion blocks wrong, and trying one or two to start! Changed my life! JIll in Calgary/Phoenix

Kate said...

I love Bonnie's books and mysteries. There's always something new to learn. Looking forward to seeing your blocks come together.

KaHolly said...

Kind of makes sense! I'll try it next time! Thanks for such a clear explanation! I've never done a Bonnie Hunter BOM, and I see that I've really misses out!

TheEclecticAbuela said...

Your seams are beautiful!

Sharon - IN said...

What great tips. I have not done that twirl thing, but should give it a try sometime. Hope you keep sharing as you work on the mystery quilt!

Angie in SoCal said...

Yep, learned something new, too.

Sarah said...

You're right about the lightbulb moment - great tips!

Anja @ Anja Quilts said...

Thanks for the tips. I've never done twirled seams before. Have to check that out.

Miaismine said...

Thank you for sharing! I wasn't sure about this QAL, but I'm becomingmore and more convinced to do it! You are a great teacher! Thank you!

Barb Neiwert said...

Light bulb moment for many of us! It's the same idea behind turning your binding at the corners - if you come down just a smidge from being perfectly aligned, it folds itself so nicely because the fabric nests together so well. I love to learn these new things every week. Thanks for taking time to share.

Gosia @ Quilts My Way said...

Great tips. I learned something new. Thank you for sharing !!
My best,