Monday, September 28, 2015

Block 1 - Flying X

Flying X Block

Now we're ready for Block 1.  We've learned how to make Half-Square Triangles.  We know we should think about how to press seams and we'll start to see how that works as we make this block.  Refer to the pattern for cutting requirements and make the necessary number of half-square triangles using your favorite method. On this block, all of the diagonal seams in the HST units can be pressed in the same direction - If I have the option, I always prefer to press towards the darker fabric.

Now, you can start to assemble the 16 units into a block.  There are a two options on how to do that.  Both work well, so choose which ever method makes the most sense to you.  The first approach is to sew units into 4 rows, then sew the rows together.  This is the method Diane, the pattern designer, uses and there's already a tutorial for this block using the row method.

I've chosen to use a second approach.  I prefer to assemble into 4 identical 4-patch units - each being one quarter of the entire block.  This will work for 7 of the 12 blocks in this pattern.  When we get to Block 4, you'll find out why some blocks are a little different.

Now you will make four 4-patch sub-units that look like the top left quarter of the complete block.  First, sew 2 patches together as shown in Step 1 and repeat 4 times.  Next, sew 2 patches as shown in Step 2.  Press seams in direction indicated by red arrows.

On to Step 3.  This is where your strategic seam pressing will help.  Flip the unit created in Step 1 down, placing right sides together on top of the unit created in Step 2, aligning all the outer cut edges.  You should now see that the seams created in Step 1 & 2 are pressed in opposite directions.  The diagonal HST seams are also pressed in opposing directions.  If you pinch the layers together where the seams intersect and wiggle a bit, you should be able to feel that they are "locked" in place.  Pin close to the seams, then stitch the next seam to join these together into a 4-patch.  Press seam as shown.  Repeat 3 more times.

Make one quarter of the block - 4 times

Step 4 - Now you've got 4 identical units and you can finish the block just like you are making another 4-patch.  You'll assemble these 4 units into two more identical sub-units that will both look like the top half of the final block.  Place two of the quarter units side by side, then rotate the one on the right - just one turn clockwise, then flip one on the right and place it right side down on top of left one.  Again, make sure your opposing seams lock together on this step.  Stitch the center seam and press to one side.  Repeat to create a second unit just like the first one and press seam in the same direction as previous unit.

Now for the last seam, rotate one of the units from Step 4 by 180 degrees. Just one seam left!  Make sure the intersecting seams lock together and stitch the final seam.  Now you can simply press the final seam open, or you can spin the seams.

Want to make a quilt using Block 1?

Ready for Block 2?

by Amy Aderman

Friday, September 25, 2015

Pressing Quilt Seams for Perfect Points

Block of the Month Sneak Peak
Which size are you going to make?
You can even make a version using all five sizes.
Look at those perfect points!

Have you admired quilts with perfect points and corners wished yours could be so nice?  One trick to be more precise is press your seams to help you out.

Since I started quilting, I've been pressing all my quilt seams open for two reasons. The first is just habit - I'd been sewing for many years before I started quilting and learned to press seams open for dressmaking, tailoring and home decorating.  The second reason is that I do my own quilting on a home sewing machine and humps formed by thick layers of seam allowance can interfere with smooth quilting.  Pressing seams open keeps them flat and easier to quilt over.  But matching seams and getting perfect points when seams are pressed open can be more difficult and usually involves a lot more fussy pinning or glue basting.

I'm participating in our Year of Half-Square Triangles BOM to learn new techniques and improve my piecing skills.  So I'm going to try to master the art of press seams to one side.  I asked Diane, our BOM pattern designer, for a lesson and think I'm getting the hang of it.  You want to press all seams so that when you sew the next intersection, the seems go in opposite directions allowing them to lock in place.  Some patterns will give seam pressing directions, but if your pattern doesn't you want to plan how to press.  Diane showed me how she draws arrows on the pattern to indicate seam direction.  

Our next post on Block #1 will have more about pressing seams on this project.

by Amy Aderman

Monday, September 21, 2015

What is a Half-Square Triangle and How Do You Make One?

This is the first thing we need to know before we can get started on our Year of Half-Square Triangles Block of the Month.   The HST is simply two equal sized triangles that are sewn together to make a perfect square.  Its one of the most common blocks used in pieced quilts.  It can be used alone as a basic block or combined with other units to make more complicated blocks like those in our BOM.  HSTs are frequently used in both traditional and modern quilts.

I've only made HST's using the 2-at-Once Method and I didn't like the process.  I can't imagine having to make hundreds of HST units just two at a time!  So I consulted my friend Google, who found thousands of tutorials and videos on the topic.  It turns out there is an endless number of methods to make HSTs.  And for every method, there are special rulers, templates and gadgets available.  And although every method claims to be the best, I think that really depends on how many you need to make and your personal preference.  So here's an overview of several methods and tools you may want to try.

The most common method is the 2-at-Once Method sometimes called the Sandwhich Method.  The yardage and cutting instructions for our 2015 BOM pattern are calculated using this method.  Cut two squares 1" larger than finished block size, mark a diagonal line from corner to corner, stitch 1/4" away on both sides of the marked line, cut apart on the line, open fabric, press, then trim down to a perfect square 1/2" larger than finished size.  When I used this method, I didn't like the need to cut a second time in order to square up the block after it's been sewn, so I'd only use this method if I needed a small number of HSTs.  But if I were using this method much, I'd try June Tailor's ruler for marking and cutting or Nancy's Notion Perfect Triangle Gauge for marking and the BlockLoc ruler for cutting.

If you want to make HSTs in larger batches, here are some alternate methods.  Remember that yardage requirements for our BOM are based on the 2-at-Once method, so you probably want to have a little extra fabric if using another method.

4 at Once Method - Starching is recommended because this method produces bias edges which can get stretched out of shape more easily that edges on the straight of grain.

8-at-Once Method - Almost the same as 2-at-Once Method, but faster!  To adapt for different block sizes, use this formula to determine how big to cut initial squares:  Cut size = Finished block size x 2 + 2".

Grid Method - This can make a larger number of HSTs at once.  Try pre-printed grid paper to save time on measuring and marking.

Tube Method - What I like about this method is that if you press carefully without stretching, there is no need to cut again after blocks are pressed open.  But you'll want to starch and press carefully because you'll get stretchy bias edges with this technique.

I've decided to try my own method.  It's a variation of the tube method but marked on the diagonal like the 2-at-once method bias tubes resulting in finished HSTs that have edges on straight grain. 

I've to make my BOM using the tiny 4" block size, so I need tiny 1.5" HSTs and was able to get 8 from one charm square.

Step 1 - Mark a diagonal line from corner to corner.  Mark 2 lines parallel to the first 1.75" on either side.   Now  stitch 1/4" on both sides of all marked lines.

Step 2 - Cut tubes apart on marked lines between the two stitching lines.

Step 3 - Since I'm making 1.5" HSTs, I've used painters tape to mark a diagonal line on my ruler at 1.5".  I've aligned the tape line with the stitching line, then cut the two sides the triangle.

Step 4 - Flip the ruler around and repeat Step 3 to cut a 2nd triangle from the opposite side of the tube.

Continue cutting triangles from the tubes.  Open and press carefully so that finished square does not become distorted.

Coming Soon:  Pressing Seams for Perfect Points 

by Amy Aderman

Friday, September 18, 2015

2015 Block of the Month

A Year of Half-Square Triangles!

Non-Traditional Layout

This year, Quilters Guild Acadienne is offering a Block of the Month quilt-a-long.  The pattern is called "A Year of Half-Square Triangles" and has been designed by our own Program Chairman, Diane Redfearn.  Her pattern includes options for several variations so it will work for any quilting style - traditional, scrappy, modern... the possibilities are endless. There's a traditional grid and sashing layout that you can make choosing one of 5 block sizes from large 12" blocks down to tiny 4" blocks.  Or there's a non-traditional setting that uses all blocks in all 5 sizes and finishes at 72" x 80".  With so many pattern choices and quilters with different styles, I can't wait to see the variety of quilts we will have at the end of the year.

Each month, participants receive the pattern for one traditional block built using Half-Square Triangles.  Diane says by the end of the year, we're going to either love or hate Half-Square Triangles!

I'm a Modern Quilter and haven't done much traditional piecing.  I've only made Half-Square Triangles or HST's once - for just one block and I'm already in the HST Hater's Club!  But my QBL (that's Quilter's Bucket List) includes several quilts that require numerous HST's.  So I'm counting on this project as a great learning experience that will turn me into an HST lover.

The pattern is available to QGA members for $5.  Don't worry if you join the project later in the year - you'll get the pattern for all previous months.

Is your rotary cutter ready for some Half-Square Triangles?

Coming Next:  What is a Half-Square Triangle and How Do You Make One?

by Amy Aderman