Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Trying new things

I'm not sure if other quilters feel this way, but I tend to stick to things that I know and feel comfortable making. Although I love to try new techniques, I often need extra energy and courage to start.

Block 2 - Amethyst
For example, most of the blocks that I've made to date for my Grandmother'sChoice quilt are pieced. For you non-quilters, a pieced block generally means that we cut the various pieces of fabric we need and then sew them together. The pieces are generally rectangles, squares or triangles in different sizes. We sew them together to make a specific pattern or block. If the pieces are other shapes, then we can trace the shape and make a template (although there are now fancy rulers to replace many templates).

Quilters will often have strong opinions about using templates. Until recently, as soon as I saw a template in a pattern, I skipped it! I was sure that cutting rectangles, squares or triangles was just much easier. Now I'm not so sure.
Block 33 - Contrary Husband

In my Grandmother's Choice quilt I consciously stayed away from anything with a template. However, there were a few blocks that I wanted to make that required templates, such as block 48 representing Canadian suffrage. So, I gave the template blocks a try. After all, they're only 8 inch blocks - if they don't turn out, I don't have to use them in the final quilt!

In my lastblog about Grandmother's Choice blocks, quite a few of the blocks were made using techniques other than straight piecing. Here are the blocks that I made using templates:
  • block 2 - Amethyst 
  • block 33 - Contrary Husband 
  • block 34 - Coffee Cup 
  • block 48 - Fair Play

Block 34 - Coffee Cup
Block 48 - Fair Play
They mostly turned out well. My favourites are the Amethyst and the Contrary Husband blocks. The Coffee Cup didn't turn out as well as I had hoped but it had nothing to do with the template but rather my choice of fabric. (I really have to listen to my instinct when I do these!)

The Fair Play block, representing Canadian suffrage, went well even if it had two challenges - templates and curves. I know I shouldn't be intimidated by curves since I've been sewing sleeves on clothing most of my life - but it's a little more intimidating on a block (mistakes show up more!)
Block 7 Alice's Flag

Another technique is the appliqué block. To date I've only done a few of these: 
  • block 7 - Alice's Flag 
  • block 21 - Parasol 
  • block 36 - Sunbonnet Sue

These blocks are more or less fine. Appliqué is just not my forte, but I will keep trying to get better! The good thing about appliqued blocks is that they will be quilted over, so that will help hide any little problems and keep them attached.
Block 36 - Sunbonnet Sue
Block 21 - Parasol

Since I LOVE paper piecing, I decided to see if I could convert a template block into a paper pieced block. First of all, I read a couple of articles by Carol Doak, the queen of paper piecing. The first article is Piecingon Paper - Converting Traditional Designs to Paper-Foundation Patterns. The second article is Piecing onPaper - Designing Your Own Blocks. Between these two articles and experience paper piecing, it was simple enough to do.
These are the two blocks that I converted to paper piecing
  • block 11 - Little Red Schoolhouse 
  • block 17 - Mother's Delight

Block 17 - Mother's Delight
For the Little Red Schoolhouse block, converting it to paper piecing was mostly a matter of figuring out where to separate the sections. The only adjustments I had to make were to cut up the side section of the sky into two parts.
Block 11 - Little Red Schoolhouse

I also had to add a border around the block since it was more like 7 inches. That was an error in photocopying the pattern.
Block 17 pattern and sample piece
Block 11 Paper Piecing Pattern
The Mother's Delight block looked easy enough but turned out to be very tricky to sew together. As you can see, I made a sample piece using scraps before trying the real thing. The tricky part was connecting the top part (A&B) to the bottom part (1,2,3,4). It involved what can either be called an inset or "Y" seam.

Those can be difficult to sew, but when I googled Y seam to make sure that this is what it's called; I found a great tutorial by JennyBeyer. I may go back and redo this block - it'll depend on how ambitious I feel when I get back to this project.

What I learned: 
  • Templates are not always difficult to use. I'll try to be a little more open to doing projects with them from now on. 
  • Appliques are still difficult! I guess I need more practice. 
  • I was really happy to convert those two blocks to foundation paper piecing. I think that for pieced blocks with many small pieces, paper piecing is a good option when possible. It was a good experience - now I know that I can do it. 
  • Next time, I might want to check out the internet tutorial BEFORE I finish the block.

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