Its been a busy few weeks with so many new fabrics arriving and kicking off not one but two block of the month programs. I've managed to sneak a little time at the machine though and I've made a start on the new Cotton and Steel Quicker by the Dozen quilt.
The designer Lynette Jensen is one of the most experienced quilt designers, pattern and BOM writers in the business. Put your hand up if you were sewing her Thimbleberries patterns in the late nineties and early noughties? I sure was! The Quicker by the Dozen booklet is really well laid out, with step by step instructions and handy tips and diagrams.
Despite I all this, I had a problem.
I dived straight in and, to be honest, didn't read the instructions properly before I started making those half square triangles (HSTs). I was half way through making them when I noticed that the instructions advised making them a different way.
At that point I decided to experiment a little: do some both ways and see which I liked best.
On the left you can see my normal method of making HST units. I cut the squares to the required size, mark a diagonal line and then sew a scant 1/4 inch seam either side. On the right I you can see where I started to follow the pattern. (I was rolling my eyes at myself at this stage for not following the instructions)
The pattern's method involved ironing the aqua and grey strips together. After pressing you then cut the strip set into squares and then cross cut the squares diagonally giving free triangles that were already paired up and ready to sew. There were a couple of things I liked about this method:
- the pressing stage sort of made the fabrics stick together
- you avoid marking that diagonal line
Those triangles are fairly small. It may have been in part due to air movement from the ceiling fan (its still pretty hot here in Qld), but I found by the time I got them to the machine the triangles wouldn't stick together all that well. Also, as I ran those points under the foot I found it hard to maintain the correct angle.
This is a very long winded way of saying that my accuracy, and ability to produce nice square units had gone right out the window. I binned the few I had made and went back to sewing either side of that line. The technique described in the pattern is worth giving a go, but I will probably save it for when I am making larger units - say 3.5 or 4".
I hate trimming and would definitely prefer to cut once and sew accurately, but I know that a lot of you out there prefer to square up and trim your blocks after stitching. I also know a lot of quilters who hate cutting units that require 3/8ths or 7/8ths of an inch measurements.
If you freak out at the thought of either of these things, just cut them bigger and trim after sewing. There is plenty of fabric supplied, so I think you should just go for it and make these babies using the method you're most comfortable with.
I wrote about this a few months back, but I think it is worth mentioning here again. A couple of years ago, after more than 20 years of quilt making, I started to press my seams open. The pattern \says to press them closed with the bulk of the seams to the dark side.but why not give open seams a go?
I'm not going to sugar coat it. Pressing seams open on small units like these little HSTs is a bugger of a job. I started by opening the seams up with the Clover finger presser first (that little white gadget). It is fantastic and makes it so much easier once I get to the ironing board. No more burnt fingers - yay.
Seams pressed open is totally worth the little bit of extra effort. Without fail your blocks will be flat and super smooth. Most importantly you wont get those ridges in your quilt top. I have plenty of quilty pals who shudder at the thought, as the closed seams are supposedly more secure and prevent wadding fibres from working their way through.
That may have been true even 20 years ago but the quality of waddings available these days is vastly superior. Also - how many antique quilts are there that have been made using English paper piecing? All of those seams are open!
Once again, if you've not tried it - why not give it a go?
Last of all, here's a sneak peak of what's in store for months 1-4 Don't forget to show off your progress. Cotton + Steel have kicked things off using the #blockonawall hashtag so get cracking people and start snapping. Don't forget to also use #nextstitchfabrics so I can find you .
I will be photographing my blocks on the wall of the shop. Its clad in corrugated iron and I think its such an iconic building material here in Australia.
If you are interested , we still have places available in the program. The first month is $65 to cover the cost of the pattern booklet, and then decreases to just $45 a month for the rest of the program.
Not in Australia? No problem! Just email us and we will work with you to find the most economical shipping option.