I am loving the blocks I'm seeing in the QAL FB group! And not one complaint about those tiny squares we dealt with in the last lesson! Yay! Either you conquered them with some of the tips or maybe you just knew I didn't want to hear any whining. Either way, I'm happy.
No matter how many blocks you have whipped up since our last lesson, they won't do a whole lot of good just sitting around your studio, dining room table, guest room, living room, or wherever it is that you do your sewing. It's my experience that quilters tend to average about 15 UFOs at any given time and we don't need this project turning into number 16 for you. So let's get them sewn together!
The big two decisions you need to make are layout and spacer blocks (or no - because depending on your layout, maybe you don't need spacer bars!) We'll start with layout, because as many of you have pointed out already, the possibilities abound and I might as well get you all a-twitter with ideas right off the bat.
The two obvious layouts most of you are probably working with are the one shown on the cover
|It's a little like bouncing balls.|
But that isn't to say you NEED them. In good news, I'm also a fan of blocks that form interesting (or at least some form of) secondary patterns when blocks are placed next to each other. I didn't love how my scrappy blocks looked side by side, but if your blocks are a little more planned with a more consistent background fabric, you just might love the look of them side by side in a grid:
|Kind of looks like tiles to me.|
|It's like an explosion of Halloween|
If you are doing the larger blocks, this all works the same way, and you probably got a taste for how the lines get a little wavy when you saw the layout for your quilt on page 7 of the Vinnie Loves Maude pattern. I'd love to see someone add lots more larger sized blocks and make a twin or larger! But yeah, I don't have time so why should you either right now? I'll just keep hoping!
Then of course there is the photo you've seen a million times, but I'll show it again anyway:
|Deb Hartman's award winning version.|
Don't you love talking quilt possibilities? It's almost as much fun as talking baby names.
But wait! There's more!
What if you DO want to add spacers? And why shouldn't you? Not only do they add some interest to a setting, but if you have extra fabric, why not use it up? PLUS, as you will see, there is at least one way that the spacer bars can act as a self border!
There are two ways to look at the spacer bars - as solid bars, and as pieced bars. The pieced bars were what I chose for the cover quilt, because when I started designing this block and pattern, in my mind the background would blend well with the blocks. At first, I thought that this could likely be accomplished simply by using a single low volume fabric for all the spacer bars, and that in doing so it would totally blend right in with all the low volumes in the background of the blocks. I was oh so wrong.
Every time I looked at my quilt on the design wall with the one-fabric spacer bars, it was like my eyes forgot how to keep moving. Dead stop at every bar. It literally killed the momentum of the quilt.
Luckily, this was easily fixed, if not quickly fixed. All it took was another dive into my low volume scrap bins, some cutting and piecing, and the background really started to enhance rather than forestall the full design. Just seeing how much more movement these spacers gave to the overall look kept me going, even as I had to piece 13 large spacer bars and 4 narrower ones.
Page 4 of the pattern shows the basic pieced spacer bars in Diagrams 8a and 8b. In both cases, you can see I put the wider of the scraps in the middle of the pieced bars, but there is no reason you'd have to stick with that. As long as your spacer finishes at the right length, go crazy! Add more or less units! As I say in the cutting directions on page 2, you can even piece the individual units within the spacer bars if you think you can handle the excitement. Hopefully you can see in the above photo how I did that - look for the horizontal seams within those spacer bars and you've found them!
If you aren't in the mood for so much piecing, though, there really is nothing wrong with just using a single fabric for all of the spacer bars. I did it with a small version of the scrappy blocks, and while it is a different look, who is to say it isn't just as valid? There are no rules in my quilting world - there really shouldn't be too many in yours either!
Spacer bars or not, the piecing of the top is really pretty straight forward. Combine your blocks into rows and your rows into blocks. If you aren't doing totally scrappy and you care a lot about where some of your fabrics end up in the rows, make sure to use a pin on the end of a row or the side of a block to remind you which end is up (or down, or right, or left....the key is to remember what you used that pin to tell yourself, which isn't always easy to do in my own studio, I'll be honest.)
|Now, what did that pin mean again?|
To be honest, I thought she was slightly crazy. Seams are supposed to nest! They can't nest if they are all flatty and open on each other!
But then I gave it a try. And darned if it doesn't work.
For one thing, it's way easier to pin seams properly when you can actually see both seams and feel where they are flattened. Observe:
|Obviously you wouldn't pull back the seam allowance with the pin. But see how the seams come together?|
And then there is always the bit of slippage that can happen when butted seams come apart as they are being sewn. I honestly believe that is eliminated when the seams are nice and flat and don't contain ridges that can get pushed in the wrong direction, even slightly, by the presser foot.
While I don't care a ton about exacting points, I do have to say, pressing open has made a huge difference in my accuracy. It's something I recommend to just about every student to just try and see if you note a difference in your own accuracy. If not, go back to pressing to the side. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?
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