Thursday, June 14, 2007

Block Piecing Tutorial

*edit, June 27, 2007*
Thank you to the Mid Valley Quilt Guild of Salem, Oregon for your friendly reception at my lecture yesterday! It was great to meet you all!
Some links for you as a follow-up..
--A thorough explanation of how a crazy quilt is constructed, once the blocks are pieced, is here.
It is my article in CQMagOnline entitled, "CQ Engineering".
--The stained glass technique I talked about is explained here, also in CQMagOnline. Included is a discussion of my lettering technique with the bonded gold lame.
--finally, the best portal to all crazy quilt information on the web can be found at this post from Sharon Boggon's blog, inaminuteago.

Again, thank you, ladies!...


As an addition to the printed tips for piecing that I will be including in my Jump Start Packs, I decided that an online tutorial with lots of pictures could be helpful to people who want to jump into basic crazy piecing but could use some visual aids. I will include this blogpost address in my Packs, so buyers will have access to this basic instruction if they are not experienced quilters.
Just think of this as my online version of standing over your shoulder and telling you what to do! (Remember that this is only one of many ways to foundation piece. Others might teach you different ways to go.)

Step 1. Trace the block lines onto your foundation muslin, which is 10" square for an 8" block.

Step 2. Interface your fancy fabrics. Why? Because if you are not used to working with ravely silk or wiggly velvet, it will drive you crazy and you may quit in frustration and despair before you even get started! So just lay out your pieces upside down, place the interfacing over them--remembering to double check to make sure the glue side is against the fabric, not against your hot iron--and fuse.
That is a piece of tracing paper you see between my iron and the fusible interfacing. This just prevents any meltage of the interfacing that might occur while fusing. Wonder Under release paper works great too.
After you've fused, turn over the fabrics and if there are any bubbles caused by the interfacing, just iron them out.

Step 3. Cut apart your squares. Notice I am not caring at all about trimming the interfacing exactly even with the fabric.

Step 4. I have traced the first patch, and added a seam allowance all the way around it.

Step 5. My first patch is cut out and laid directly onto the block, fancy side showing. I have stitched around its perimeter to hold it in place. I started with my darkest fabric for the center-most piece of the block; it is a traditional way to go and design-wise is always a good choice.

Step 6. Piece #2 is pinned in place, right sides together with Piece #1. I will be eyeballing my seam, rather than turning over the foundation fabric and sewing exactly on the drawn seam line. I hate sewing that way, so I don't do it. Plus, we don't have to be exact-exact in crazy piecing, unlike the paper-piecing used in sane quilting.
This is one reason we love crazy piecing, of course!

Step 7. Seam is sewn, patch is flipped and ironed flat. Do please iron after every patch is sewn and flipped. Flat, flat, flat.

Step 8. O.K., listen to me, I am talking to you here! See how much bigger my seam allowance is drawn in on this piece, along what will be the perimeter of the block? We want to give ourselves lots of extra seam allowance around the edges of the block because....if this block finished is going to be 8", not only do we want the usual 1/4" seam allowance for finishing the block edges, but these blocks will shrink with the gorgeous hand-stitching you are going to work onto them... so you really need that extra seam allowance.
I have learned this bitterly the hard way so please just do it.

Step 9. Merrily we are rolling along here. Pieces 3 and 4 have gone on in order with their extra perimeter seam allowances.
But what about that pretty trim that was included in the Jump Start Pack?

Step 10. I have machine basted it right along its edge where the next seam for Piece 5 is going to go. I will not bother sewing down the other edge, as that will be covered by decorative hand-stitching which will also hold it in place. You could machine sew it down now if you wanted to, though. You can piece in lace this way too.
Piecing the trim in now is just a bit easier than appliqueing it on later...but of course you could do it that way too. In crazy quilting there are never any strict rules.

Step 11. I have sewn and flipped Piece 5 over the edge of the trim (and over pieces 1 and 4, which are beneath the trim). Also, Piece 6 is sewn, flipped, and ironed into place.
I should say here that if these fabrics had not been interfaced, this would not be fun. It would be nightmarish. Instead, it IS fun.
Also, my perimeter edge looks quite irregular at this point. There are some of you out there whom this would really bother. But don't let it.

Step 12. Pieces 7A and 7B need to be seamed together and then the seam pressed flat before they are added to the block as one unit.

Step 13. Here is the #7 "chunk" pinned in place and ready to sew. I want you to see that it doesn't matter if the edges don't line up perfectly before you sew the seam. I will trim off that little orange tag of fabric sticking out there before I flip and iron this chunk into place.

Step 14. This is not at all critical but a helpful little tip. That yellow brocade I used for Piece 7B is pretty heavy fabric, so when I flip the block over after sewing on my chunk, I get this ridge along the seam in the lightweight foundation fabric. It is easier to get a "flat flip" and an undistorted block if you iron this heavier weight fabric seam from the back first. I always use a clean terry towel for my ironing surface so I don't totally squash any velvet that I might be using in my block. This way I can press down hard on my iron.

Step 15. Well then, here we are! I have sewn a stitching line exactly 8" square to show the finished block size...also so that I will know how far out my hand-stitching needs to extend along the seams. If I am going to add beads I will know to not bead right up to the 8" edge. Have you ever broken a sewing machine needle sewing over a bead? It is a jarring experience!
Finally, I have zigzagged around the perimeter of my patches, because even though they are interfaced, with all the handling this block will have, those edges would still at least think about fraying. I even zigzagged the end of the trim, because I KNOW that stuff unravels.

This block is ready to embellish!
CQMagOnline had the original diagram for this block as part of its ongoing BOM, or Block of the Month, series. (I forget which issue, sorry.) Click on over to look for more block patterns in the archives, if you like. Or draw your own...

One last note to those of you who have or will purchase the Jump Start Fabric all means substitute or add some of your own fabrics into the mix if you feel so moved. I think sane quilting cottons look terrific mixed with fancy fabrics like these.

And save your scraps!

Hope this was helpful... ;-)


Debra Dixon said...

Very excellent tutorial! These instructions should get any stitcher to the finish line with her block.

As might be expected, not how I do my blocks; but as you say, there are no strict rules in CQ! (I don't draw outlines or precut patches. I design as I sew directly on the foundation.)

Possibilities, Etc. said...

Amazing instructions! I do believe even I could do that! Good job!!

Grangry said...

Thank you for this super tutorial Allie. One of these days I really will have to have a go!

English Rose said...

v you Allie. I have only dabbled at CQ, and never thought to draw the outline first, so will give it a try and see if that is easy. I also like the tip about fusing the hellish fabrics. yup, I've had my fair share of nightmares with them in various projects. thanks again for sharing this.

JoWynn Johns said...

Wonderful tutorial. So thorough. I have been drawing my blocks on paper, numbering each patch, then cutting them out to use as patterns. I like the idea of simply drawing on the foundation. Thanks.

Rian said...

Wonderful tutorial. I just love visual tutorials! Now I see what I've been doing wrong. I did mine like Debra described.

Jo in NZ said...

Thanks Allie. Great tutorial, and came just at the right time as I was trying to instruct someone via email ( English second language) how to piece a block, and I hadn't found anything else on line that I thought was REALLY simple to follow. So between the two of us we have inspired one new CQer, and that has to be a good thing. Soon we can take over the

Granny Fran said...

Wow, thank you for that wonderful tutorial. I've not had the nerve to do anything with the lovely fabrics that Debra sent me, because I couldn't figure out how to work with that slippery, raveling lovely stuff. Now even I can do it!

Micki said...

Excellent tutorial Allison. One of these days I will get started.

Threadspider said...

Lovely work Allie. It's bookmarked in my favourites.

Kay said...

Excellent! As a former teacher, I'm in awe of you. Couple of questions: do you, yourself, draw those lines for your blocks or is that just for class (maybe you said this; if so, sorry). And any tips about how to tell in advance what is the most effective place to stitch in a trim? I have trouble with this when I make a crazy style postcard. But of course, if you planned the whole thing in advance, you'd know, wouldn't you...

Sandra said...

Excellent job!! Hope your jumpstart venture goes very well for you. You deserve it!

Clothmatters said...

Wonderful tutorial!

Martha Tsihlas said...

My bee is making a crazy quilt to donate to be auctioned. I missed the 2 first meetings so I'm using your tutorial (you are so good explaining and the photos help a lot) for doing my square with the fabrics I got from my bee. Your squares are beautiful, I'm going to use some of your ideas and my square is going to knock their socks off!! I really hope it looks as pretty as yours.

nancysews said...

Allie you are great. I followed your instuctions and my blocks are spectacular. Flat as a board and crisp. Lovely to behold. I bought a bolt of fusible knit interfacing. Love it. Thanks.

nancysews said...

Allie what an awesome tutorial. I followed your instructions to the tee and my blocks are turning out spectacular. Flat, crisp and lovely to look at. Embellishing without the use of a hoop is easy to accomplish. Making the block has always been the hardest part for me to do. Now it's easily doable. Originally bought 2 yds of the fusible knit interfacing. Now I just received my bolt. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Anonymous said...

I visited your site as a new quilter wanting to investigate making a crazy quilt for my daughter. After viewing your step by step visual demonstation I am quite confident that I CAN do this! I have done 2 quilts, and am not that enthused with the cookie cutter patterns. Thanks sooo much! Also the interfacing tip is awesome! Brenda Moore