Friday, January 22, 2010

Assembling the Masterpiece

This post will be a bit different from the others, it's not going to be as explicit as the others have been. The reason for this is because, well, by now you know how to assemble a bunch of squares into one big block, right? Instead, this post will just give you pointers to get it put together as easy as possible.

The Grid

I am going to list here the amount of blocks it takes going across and down to make up the size of the quilt you are working on. The first number will be the amount of blocks across, the second will be the amount of blocks going down.

crib size-3x4
large throw-4x5

Do you remember in the beginning when I said you will probably have extra squares? After you lay out your blocks you may decide that it's just not big enough (or that it's too big!). Use your extra squares and create more blocks and add to it, or take some blocks away. Remember, it's YOUR quilt. Also, you don't have to follow the layout above, if you want to change it up by all means go for it. You can add borders, sashing, whatever strikes your fancy. Just remember that if it's intended for a bed that you will need to measure that bed and make sure whatever you change will allow it to still fit.

Now, grab all of your blocks and find a nice big floor area to lay them out on.

Play around with your layout until it looks good to you. Flip the blocks, twist them, turn them, move them around, whatever it takes to make you happy. One thing that I find helps is to take a picture and view it on the computer screen. I have found many layout issues by viewing on the computer as opposed to trying to stand over it. Also, if you have a picture of your final layout, you have it to refer back to if you accidentally mix your blocks up during the sewing process. I might be speaking from experience.

Once you have the layout that you like completed, stack them and pin them. Be sure to keep track of which way the blocks are turned and which rows are which.

Creating Rows

You are going to assemble the top the same way you assembled your blocks.

Start with the first row. Lay them out side by side.


Remember how I told you not to iron your blocks after you mixed them up and sewed them back together? Now is when you will iron them. Iron the seam on your first block up (or down, whichever you prefer) and then iron the seam on the second block in the opposite direction.

Flip the second block onto the first and pin, matching the center seam and any others that may come together.

If your seams don't match up exactly, don't panic. It's definitely not the end of the world. This quilt top is going to be scrappy and jumbled, in the end it won't be noticeable.

You will also notice that some of your existing seams may be going in the same direction. It's okay. There is nothing you can do to make one go the other way because it's already been sewn down. You will just pin them together and sew it that way. Just make sure when you get to the seam that you go very slowly through it. Moving too fast can cause a jam, a broken thread or a broken needle.

Some of your blocks may end up turned to where the center seam will be vertical instead of horizontal. If that happens just match the blocks up as best as possible with each other. Also, in the case of a vertical seam, don't iron it for now. More on that later.

Always remember to keep an eye on all existing seams as well so they don't twist under your presser foot as you sew.

After you get the first two blocks sewn together, grab your third one and iron the seam on it in the opposite direction of the seam on the second block. Then lay the third block onto the second and pin it. Sew it together. Repeat this step for the rest of the blocks in your row.


Following the steps above, sew all of your rows together

Assembling the Top

Now that you have all your rows sewn, it's time to put them together!

First thing you'll need to do is iron the vertical seams. Take your first row and iron them to the left (or right, it doesn't matter which). If you have any blocks that ended up with a vertical seam during the layout process, then iron them in the same direction as the others. Then iron the second row in the opposite direction, so on and so forth, until all of your rows are ironed.

Then grab your first two rows and lay them out.

Notice on the backside of my rows that the seams are pressed in the opposite directions.

Flip the bottom row onto the top (or the top onto the bottom, whichever is easier for you) and pin them together. Pin the seams between the blocks together first, they're the most important because you want your rows to all be as close to the same length as possible.

Carefully sew the rows together. Take your time while you sew, there are a lot of seams to keep an eye on.

Repeat these steps until all of your rows are sewn together.

Sorry about that image quality, my helper was not a very willing one.

By the way, I'm not perfect either. Not only are my seams waaaaay off, but I sewed together two of the same blocks and turned it BACK into a 5" block.

How's that for charm?

Materials needed for creating the quilt "sandwich"

This doesn't exactly pertain to this week's step, but it will be part of next week's so I figured I'll let you know what you need beforehand and give you a chance to get it together.

Remember in the first post when I said we would discuss batting and backing later? The reason I didn't want to give you the requirements yet is because we didn't know how big your finished quilt top would be. I mean, we had the measurements in the beginning, but maybe you'll get creative and add some borders or something. If I had told you you needed X amount of yardage, then you made your quilt top bigger, you might not have had enough!

Again, here are the measurements for each quilt size:

crib/throw-approx. 40"x52"
larger throw-approx. 52"x65"
twin/single-approx. 65"x92"
full/double-approx 78"x92"
queen size-approx. 92"x104"

Based on those measurements, this is the amount of yardage you will need for each size:

crib/throw-1 3/4 yards
larger throw-2 yards
twin/single-2 3/4 yards
full/double-2 3/4 yards
queen size-3 yards

Now, the only problem with these fabric requirements are that, with the exception of the crib size, it's still not enough fabric. Why is that you say? Well, the average cut of fabric from the bolt is about 44" wide. Our quilts are wider than that. So, you have to get a long enough cut to cover the length, but you're still going to be too short on the side. You will have to piece together a backing big enough to cover the whole thing. But that's where it gets fun!

Figure out how short you will be on the width and take it from there. You can either use your scraps and create more blocks to help make up the difference, get a coordinating color and sew the two pieces of fabric together, or both! This is where your creative side will come out. Here's an example of a quilt that I did. It was 66" wide so I had to come up with at least 22" (more really because you want it to be a few inches wider than the top on each side for quilting purposes, in case it shifts). Here is the front:

And here is how I pieced together the back

That cream colored strawberry print was my main fabric, at 44" wide. I bought 2 yards of that AND 2 yards of the red fabric and then used leftover pieces from the front. I used all of the strawberry fabric and 10" wide cuts of the red, plus the leftover blocks to get it wide enough to cover the whole thing.

If you have any questions about how to figure out how to get enough fabric for your back, just ask!

There is one other option if you don't want to piece the backing. You can purchase fabric that is meant for quilting and is 108" wide. Unfortunately it doesn't come in very many colors, mostly just solids and not even very many to choose from. You can get them at JoAnn, Hancock Fabrics I think and some other online stores. I haven't really searched for them but will be more than happy to help you in your search if needed.


To figure out how much batting you'll need, you'll need to know the dimensions of your finished quilt top. All batting packages have the dimensions of the piece of batting that is inside the package. Just find one big enough. Remember that it will need to be at least a couple of inches larger than your quilt top, on all sides. You don't want it to shift while you're quilting it and it not be big enough on one side.

As far as the type of batting that you will use, that's up to you and your preference. I like to use 100% cotton because it will shrink after it's quilted and washed and it puckers, giving the quilt a nice antique look to it. Polyester batting is cheaper, but doesn't shrink very much. You can also buy organic batting, bamboo, etc. There are many types out there. Again, if you have questions, please ask them.

That's it for now

You'll have one week for this step then we'll move on to the quilting part. If you're falling behind, don't feel discouraged. The instructions will always be up as will the discussion group. That, and I promise you aren't the only one! I would probably be behind if I wasn't running this thing and have to have mine done to take the pics!

Any questions, you know where to find us!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Cutting and Sewing, Part Deux

Have you got yourself a nice pretty stack of blocks?

Yes? Ok, now you're going to cut them up.

Whoa, wait, what? Cut them? All that hard work sewing them together and now we're going to cut them?

Why yes, yes we are. Muahahahaha!!!

Oops, sorry. That sort of, um, slipped out.

Moving right along, take your block and line it up within the markings of your mat.

Your block should be 14". Don't freak out if it's off a bit, that happens. The goal of this step is to find the middle of the block. If your block is 14", then you'll make your cut at 7". If your block is off a bit, just find the center. Make your cut there.

Without moving your block, measure the center of the block horizontally as well and make a cut there.

I do apologize for that terrible glare on my ruler, but you get the gist.

Your block should look like this after you make your cuts

Now take two of your newly formed squares and rotate them. You'll want to use two squares that are opposite diagonal corners from each other.  I rotated the top right and the bottom left. (You don't have to only rotate two squares, feel free to rotate more. The "standard" for this pattern is to rotate two, but it's your quilt, do what you want with it.)

Flip the squares on the right onto the squares on the left and pin them.

Sew them together. Be sure to keep any eye on the existing seams while you're sewing to make sure they don't twist under your presser foot.

Iron the newly sewn seams making sure to iron one row to the left and the other to the right.

Pin your rows together making sure to match that center seam.

Sew the rows together and you have a disappearing 9 patch block!

♫ Oh, oh, oh ♫
♫ It's magic, you know ♫
♫ Never believe it's not so.... ♫

Ahem, sorry again. Getting myself under control now...

Few things to keep in mind on this step. You may notice I didn't mention ironing the final seam of the block. I ironed it so I could show you a flat, pretty block for the picture. But, you may want to wait on ironing that final seam. Reason being is that if you iron them all now and in the same direction, when you lay the blocks out for your quilt top you'll have seams going in the same direction and will have to re-iron later. So leave that step out for now.

Also, this is your quilt. Do whatever you want with it to make it yours. You can follow my directions exactly or you can deviate and make yours different. I'll mention some things you can do later but I wanted to mention this part on this step in particular. You don't have to cut all your blocks and make them into disappearing 9 patches. Feel free to leave some of them alone and mix it up. Again, totally up to you.

That's it for now. You have one week for this step because it moves along fairly quickly. Don't forget to check out the chain piecing tutorial. And as always, join us in the discussion group if you have any questions.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Chain piecing, you can do it too!

So I had a conversation with some friends about backstitching and who does it. One friend asked "What about when you're chain piecing, do you do it then?" That question turned into "What is chain piecing?". After explaining what it was my other friend was delighted to find out an easier way to piece her blocks. So I thought to myself "There must be others who don't know what chain piecing is, I'll do a tutorial!". So here goes.

Chain piecing is a way to piece your blocks, strips, whatever you're working on more efficiently AND it saves thread.

Stitch your first set of blocks together. When you get to the end, backstitch, or not. I personally always backstitch because I'm paranoid something will come undone if I don't.

 When you're done with that block feed it through the machine, but don't pull it out. Raise your needle and your presser foot.

Put the next set of blocks in the machine and lower the presser foot.

Stitch this set of blocks, making sure to backstitch at the beginning and the end.  Repeat this step for however many sets of blocks you need to sew together.

When you're done pull your blocks out of the machine and you'll have a chain of blocks held together like this

And a closer look

Just snip the threads and voila! I like to sew assembly line style and find this helps make things go much faster and definitely saves on not only the amount of thread I use, but also the amount of thread I have to snip off of the ends of my seams!

Oh, and one more thing. Don't do like I do and be in such a hurry that you forget to change your stitch back from a zig zag to a straight stitch. I put my 1/4" quilting foot back on the machine and forgot to change the stitch. This is what happens:

Do you see the tip of my needle just dangling there?

Try to keep some extras on hand for just in case.

Down to my last one! Can you tell I've done this a time or two?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Sewing the Blocks

Got all your fabric cut? Let's start sewing then! 

First thing you need to do is lay your squares out in a pattern that is pleasing to you. 


Take the square in the top left corner and flip it over onto the top of the middle square so that the right sides are facing each other. 

Pin the blocks

Then sew them together using a 1/4 inch seam (all seams during this quilt along will be 1/4 inch, the standard for quilting)


Now take the square on the top right and flip it over onto the middle square with right sides facing each other.


Pin the blocks together and sew.

Repeat with the other two rows

Time to iron! I iron all my seams to the side because it makes for a stronger seam. And from what I understand is standard practice for quilt making.

Lay the row on the ironing board face down. 


Iron the back by pressing the seams to the side. 


You'll need to iron the rows in opposite directions to reduce bulk. Iron the first row to the right, the middle to the left, then the bottom to the right. 

Now that you have the three rows sewn together and ironed, it's time to sew the rows to each other. Lay your rows back out, then flip the top one over onto the middle one, right sides facing each other.


Pin the rows together, being sure to match the seams.


The way I like to be sure the seams match is by putting the fabrics together, then folding down one to make sure the seams line up.

 Don't pin the fabric like the picture shows! I had to pin it so I could take a picture. Just fold it down to make sure it matches, then flip it back up and pin them together.

Sew the two rows together. When you're sewing the rows be careful to watch how your seams are laying. Since you ironed them to the side it can twist on the underside while you are running it through your machine. The easiest thing to do is make sure you are sewing in the direction of your seams on the bottom and then you can just keep an eye on the ones on the top and adjust them if necessary.

Edited this post to add this:
Our friend Karen so graciously gave me a picture of her wonky seam so you can see what can happen. Notice how the seam opened up as she was running it through the machine. This actually isn't that bad. If you're not careful though it can flip the other way and then it will be facing to the right on one end and the left on the other.


Now flip the bottom row onto the middle row and pin them together, matching seams. Then sew the two rows together.

After sewing the rows together, it's time to iron again. You can either iron these new seams to the right, the left or iron them toward the outsides of the block as pictured, whatever floats your boat. It doesn't really matter.

Voila! A finished block


Now repeat the steps with all of the rest of your squares until they're all made into blocks. Keep in mind that you probably have extra squares. Look back to the first post if needed to see how many blocks you need altogether. You may want to keep those extra squares as individual squares so you can use them in other parts of the quilt. 

You need to keep something in mind when you're sewing your blocks together. If you are using charm packs it will most likely be impossible to have all of your blocks exactly the same because you won't have enough duplicate fabrics, that's ok! 

Also, if you're using 9 different fabrics then you need to decide if you want all of your blocks identical, or if you'd rather move the squares around so that your blocks are different. If you decide to make all of your blocks identical then remember that the middle square of your block will end up as a 2.5" block throughout the entire quilt top and your corner blocks will all be 5" blocks and it can create a pattern. If you do decide to make them all the same and create a pattern then make sure the block you put in the middle doesn't have a large print that will be lost when the block is cut.

That's all she wrote....well, for now.

Get to sewing! Have questions? Join us in the discussion group.