Friday, 12 September 2014

100 Modern Quilt Blocks--Month 9 and my methods

The only critters in Month 9's blocks were these peacocks, and sssh, don't tell anyone, but I kind of like these peacocks.
Fun shapes in this block...

 This 'thistle' fabric is great.  Maybe I'm just calling it a thistle because of  the color, but I like it.  A little Seussical again.

I thought some of you might be interested in how I prepare and sew my 10 sampler blocks at takes about 3 hours, more or less, to do a set of 10, once I got it figured out.    Most of this might seem to be very obvious to you, but some of it wasn't obvious to me at first, and, I've found while teaching classes that sometimes what seems so basic and obvious to someone is an 'aha' moment for someone else that improves their quilting experience. 

The first few sets I'd cut and sew one block, and then cut and sew the next block, and I wasn't happy because a) it wasn't efficient and b) my blocks were all 'hairy' with long thread ends I'd have to go and trim...similar to this at every seam.  (this one is only here now because it was the last block in this set of 10, and so I had one 'hairy' seam to trim in 10 blocks, which I find acceptable)

Once I stopped to think about it, I realized that because I usually chain piece, it eliminates those long thread ends, and saves the step of trimming threads, and of sewing on and off  a thread tag (or thread pig--because the curly threads look like pig tails)

So, I started cutting 5 or 10 blocks at once (more efficient), and then I put the scraps back into the numbered bag (for future reference if things got mixed up) and the pieces required for the block just stacked on top.

And, because when piecing sampler blocks there aren't multiples of the same unit for chain piecing, I decided to layout two blocks at once

Then I sew as many pieces into units as I can at one time for each block.  It depends on the block construction, sometimes this may only be one seam at a time...for the blocks above, I was able to sew a couple of units in one step

The first two pieces are from the block on the left, the 2nd two pieces are from the block on the right.  I snip off the pieces from the first block and press them...

 I leave them chained for taking to the ironing board and for pressing...and to increase efficiency here I've got my ironing board lowered and set right next to my chair, so I can just swivel and press, without having to get up.  If I'm chain piecing a larger quilt, I usually leave my ironing board across the room (or even in the other room), as it's good to get up every 10 minutes or so.
 Above is what the pieces left on the table looked like when the first few pieces were in the machine.
 Then I leapfrog the blocks again, sewing more pieces from the left block, leaving them on the machine and snipping the pieces from the right block for pressing and sewing of the next seams.  Repeat as necessary.

 The thread catcher (tag or pig tail) is sitting lonely on the ironing board.  For this set of 10 blocks, I only needed it twice.
 And when one block is finished, layout and start the next block.
 Here are the first two blocks finished...and the seams are all neat and tidy with no long thread ends

This next bit is more about pressing...I leave my units chained together to take them to the ironing board...none are lost this way, it's very quick and easy to get them all laid in a row on the ironing board, just by manipulating the ends...
 I hit the seams with a shot of steam to set the seams (some quilters only use dry heat, I like steam).  It was explained to me that the steam expands the fibers and when they cool, the piecing thread can sink in a little.  I know I get flatter seams if I use steam.
 When they're chained, I can steam several pieces at once, and then I go back, and gently press the unit open by flipping over the top side.  Doing several at once, often the first unit has cooled enough I don't feel like I'm burning my fingers when I'm opening it up.
 When the units are going to be sewn together again (these half-square triangles below are part of a 9 patch), leaving them chained and flipping alternate sides up for pressing means I know my seams with nest when I'm sewing the units into rows.  I use this method as well when sewing blocks into rows when assembling the quilt top.
 and leaving the units chained makes it easy to pickup and transport back to the layout surface (which for a whole quilt top is usually the other room in my space)  Again, nothing can be lost to the floor,
and if the units were sewn in the correct order to begin with, will be in the correct order to complete the block (or quilt top) allowing them to be easily repositioned in the layout
 And now that all the units are back in the right spot, I snip them apart...

That seems to be all of the many pictures I took of making these blocks.  If you have read to the end, I hope I provided a good tip for you that will make your quilting experience happier.  Or, at the very least that you enjoyed looking at the lovely fabrics :)

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