Saturday, January 06, 2007

The star block pictured is one I sketched from an antique quilt I saw at Paducah. The quilt had only 9 blocks, and they were about 18" square, a little too large for my taste. So I drafted up the block in AutoCad Lite, and then resized it several times to see what I liked best. 14" seems about right, but the measurements for the triangles then became totally obscure.

There are three different sized triangles in each star point, and there is just no easy way to rotary cut them and get accurate measurements. The rulers just don't have that degree of accuracy. So I decided I'd better hand piece this, because I can make the templates easily no matter what size they are.

Here's what I do...

Print out the block. I've marked the different templates I need to make. EQ and other quilting programs will do this for you if the block is in the software library. If I can't cut out all the templates I need from the one print I make two or three.

I use a glue stick to stick the printout to my template material, and the little Olfa touch knife and steel ruler to cut the templates out. The touchknife is super-sharp, fits into the hand nicely so it's easy for anyone to use, even if you have hand problems, and is really easy to control.

As an aside, I will attempt just about anything with a needle and thread, but I'm hopeless with glue or paper or craft knives. Last weekend I was helping DH put rubber channel around the edges of the fairing on his bike, and narrowly avoided superglue-ing myself to the fairing as well. I did glue two fingers together briefly, which kept me busy all night trying to get rid of the residue. (Get some solvent next time!) I guess that would be the equivalent of putting butter on cat's paws to keep them occupied; my kids always loved picking bits of craft glue off themselves.

Stick the print to the chosen template material. My favourite is icecream lid plastic. If it was see-through it would be perfect. It's soft enough to cut easily, durable enough to trace around, cheap and it keeps the family happy too. They were in heaven when I discovered an 8 litre container with a lid large enough for even an outsize template.

I always place the steel ruler outside the shape I'm cutting, so that I can see the outline of the whole shape and I don't get confused about what line I'm meant to be cutting. The first cut is just a whisper-cut, to make sure I'm in the right place; with almost no pressure it's easier not to shift anything by mistake. The next couple of cuts go deeper, following the first cut, until with almost no effort the cutter goes all the way through. This is a much better way to cut than one deep stroke, which is usually wrong right from the start.

I work my way around the shape until the template piece is free of the rest of the plastic. Then I label it straight away, including on the back with a R for reverse. If the grainline is important I will mark that on the piece as well.

I never cut out adjacent shapes on my print; I always go to a new area that has the whole shape isolated.

I store my templates in zippered plastic bags that go into a ring binder, and put a printout of the block in with them so I know exactly what they are. I may never use them again, but they are there for someone else to borrow, or I may use an element of the block in some other project. It never hurts to be a little organised about these things.

Once I have the templates made I trace around them on the chosen fabric, leaving 1/2" in between the shapes. I judge this by eye, it doesn't have to be accurate, just so long as there is an adequate amount for a seam allowance. If I'm cutting dozens of one shape I often cut a strip wide enough to accommodate the shape and work with that rather than manhandle fabric yardage for extended periods. It also helps to keep the edges of my fabric neat, which is something I fret about; I hate my stash to look nibbled.....

And then I sew the pieces together with a backstitch, because I prefer it to running stitch. It may be slower, but I get a more even tension on the seam, and I think it's stronger in the long run; never had a seam come apart on me yet, after 34 years of quilting.


Gayla 5:48 PM  

I found your blog tonight and I'm so glad that I did. Really great how you explain, take pics, and pay such close attention to explaing thing: Thank you! I am just learning to quilt and totally hooked (lol). My sweet MIL has been quilting for over 40 years and is teaching me as much as she can before she goes home to MO.
Thanks again for such a great blog. I will be back for sure :)

Shelina 5:50 PM  

This is a great lesson. I haven't tried paper piecing, but it seems like this block would lend itself to paperpiecing as well.

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