Blocking Your Quilt

Do you block your quilts? If you don’t, you should.

Truth be told, I don’t block all my quilts. They don’t all need it. If a quilt is going on a bed, or will be well used and loved, I see no reason to do the work. However, if you plan to put a quilt into a show you should block it. If the quilt is obviously askew, go ahead and do the work. That wall hanging not quite right? Block it. You will thank when you don’t continually look at a quilt that won’t lay flat or has really wonky, wavy sides.

So, what is blocking? Basically, blocking is the process of squaring up your quilt after it’s been quilted so it’s flat and square.

Even though we square up blocks and borders and all our pieces as we sew, the process of quilting can stretch your top (think quilting it out) and you may need to block your quilt. Sometimes your quilt just isn’t square when it’s quilted. Who knows? But it happens to a lot of quilts for one reason or another. Don’t worry if yours isn’t quite right – it can get fixed. Even the professionals have to block quilts from time to time. And, it’s important to reiterate: if you are going to put a quilt into a show, block it. You will never get a blue ribbon if your quilt isn’t perfectly square.

Blocking is one of the most underrated steps in finishing a quilt. I don’t think a lot of quilters talk about it – certainly not high on my list of quilt-related conversations – but for some reason it’s come up twice in the last few weeks. Maybe that’s a sign? I’m taking it as a sign.

I made this Little Lone Star for my friend Sarah to display in her booth during Quilt Con 2017. It’s a quick and easy quilt but I didn’t have time to block it prior to getting it back to her before the show. I knew it wasn’t quite square – mostly square, but not completely – because of all the bias and y-seams, even with starch, thankyouverymuch.

Honestly, I wasn’t even going to mess with blocking the quilt but since it’s not quite square and it’s been a recent topic of conversation in quilt circles (see also: sign), this turns out to be the best little quilt to show you how I do it.

Like most other things quilting, there are multiple ways to achieve your desired results. Blocking is no different, and I’ll go through my process below.

Before doing anything, wet your quilt in the tub. Make sure you get the quilt good and saturated, then press out as much water as you can. I just use my hands and press down into the lob of quilt I’ve created.  Get as much water as possible out of the quilt before transporting it. I roll the quilt out of the tub onto a beach towel to take to the washing machine. This allows the towel to carry the weight of the quilt, meaning you are less likely to damage your quilt from the weight of the water. Gently dump your quilt in the washing machine and turn on the spin cycle.

Once you have a damp quilt, you are ready to start blocking. There are several different ways to block:

carpet over foundation trick
use a plastic drop cloth
use insulation foam/board

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For all methods you’ll need:

rulers
t-pins
tape measure

Here’s the skinny on each:

In my old house, I worked in semi-finished basement room with an inexpensive carpet over the concrete foundation. I may have blocked quilts on the rug from time to time. The carpet on foundation trick worked extremely well. I mean, really well. I had a really solid, stable surface, I didn’t have to worry about t-pins scratching the floor and my quilts came out unbelievably square. So if you have an unfinished basement, get an inexpensive piece of carpet (perhaps a remnant?) and use that on the floor if you have space. Works like a charm.

Recently, I used  a plastic drop cloth over carpet. I didn’t really care for the method. I should have cut down the drop cloth and taped or tacked down the edges. Not doing that resulted in  a plastic sheet that shifted as I worked.  I had to continually pull at the sheet and the quilt to get my quilt to square up. And it didn’t come out quite square on one side. I didn’t like feeling like my quilt wasn’t as taut as it could have or should have been because of the carpet and padding below, either. It could have been a rookie blocking-over-carpet and using a plastic drop cloth mistake, too, but I found greener pastures.

Method three is by far the one I like best. Insulation board. I am currently in the middle of blocking a 77’x72″ quilt and absolutely LOVED using the insulation board! You can buy it in 4’x8′ sheets. I had the home improvement store cut the board into 4′ square pieces so I could get it home. You can also buy 2′ square pieces of insulation board. The smaller pieces are more expensive but if you can’t fit large sheets of insulation board in your car then it’s the way to go.

Tape the insulation board together. I used painters tape because it’s easy to remove so I can store the 4’x4′ boards in the workroom. The example I have here uses a small quilt that fits onto a 4’x4′ board.

Open the quilt flat onto the board(s). You do not need to pull or stretch it, just open it.  I make a few initial measurements (see diagram below).  I block my quilts to the largest measurements. For example, if I measure 76″, 76 1/2″ and 77 1/4″ from top to bottom of a quilt, I make sure the quilt is 77 1/4″ long across left, center and right of the quilt.

blocking

Use t-pins to mark the longest measurements in those 6 spots, gently stretching the quilt where necessary.

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I like to block with the binding on the quilt but not sewn down. I do this for two reasons. First, the quilt can stretch when you sew on the binding. If the binding is sewn down then I can’t stretch it as easily, though I have done that too, like with this example. I use bias binding so I have the ability to stretch the quilt. Second, you can stick t-pins through the seam allowance and not have to worry about messing up the top of your quilt since you’ll sew down the binding and cover up any holes the pins make. If this isn’t an option because the binding is already sewn down, carefully place pins along the edge of the binding where it meets the quilt. You can use your fingers to manipulate the fabric back into place once the pins are removed.

Next, I place a large, square ruler in the corner of my quilt. Gently pull the quilt so the edge of the binding is lined up with the edge of the ruler. Place a t-pin every 3-5 inches.

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I like to have a long ruler that meets my square ruler to continue working along a side to get a straight edge. Line the rulers up along the binding (second photo). You can also pick a spot along one edge and measure a straight line across your quilt using rulers and tape measures (top photo). This works well if you have a lot of acrylic rulers or a small quilt.

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I work my way across the quilt, extending from each side of the square ruler. When I am halfway down an edge of the quilt I place my square ruler in the corner to make sure I get it straight (not straight here).

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I measure and remeasure as I pin to make sure all sides are the correct length or width. You might have to adjust and remeasure here or there.

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Once you have the quilt square, leave it to dry. I like to put a fan on the quilt to help it dry faster. If it’s a nice day, I’ll leave the quilt outside to dry. I put a white sheet on top to keep of animals and debris.

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When the quilt has dried, sew down the binding if you haven’t already, and enjoy your flat, square quilt!

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Little Lone Star {free pattern}

I made this sweet little Lone Star quilt for my friend Sarah to hang at the Intown Quilters booth during Quilt Con 2017. She gave out the pattern during the show and I thought I’d share it here, as well.

The quilt is really quick and easy to put together. Enjoy!

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Lone Star ~43-1/2” x 43-1/2”
Designed, Pieced and quilted by Patty Murphy,
based on my book Piecing Makeover

Fabrics*
16 fat eighths
1 yard background fabric (we used Essex Yarn-Dyed Linen in Flax)
1/2 yd binding

*You can buy fat eighth bundles here and Essex Yarn-Dyes Linen here

Cutting Instructions: 
          Fat eighths:
Cut three 2-1/2” x 21” strips from each fat eighth.

          Background fabric: 
First cut one 20” x 20”square.
Then cut four 12-1/2” x 12-1/2” squares.

Assembly Instructions
1. Sew 12 sets of 4 strips. Press open seams.
2. Cut strip sets on a 45° angle. You will get 3 full strips from each set, giving you a possible 36 strips to use for your Lone Star. You will have extra to use.
3. Arrange the strips on a design wall to make the Lone Star. Four strips go into each diamond section.
4. Sew each of the 8 diamond sections together, making sure you off-set the seams to create perfect points. (pg. 110, Diamonds)
5. Once you have 8 diamond sections, sew the top 4 together to make the top of your star then sew the bottom 4 together to make the bottom half of your star.
6. Sew the 2 sections together, making sure you match points in the center and furl your seams to reduce bulk. (pg. 27, Furling Busy Intersections)
7. Using a y-seam, sew each of the 12-1/2” x 12-1/2” background squares into each of the corners. (pg. 105, Hexagons)
8. Cut the 20” x 20” background square twice on the diagonal to get 4 triangles.
9. Using a y-seam, sew the triangles cut in Step 8 into the quilt along the top, bottom, and sides. (pg. 105, Hexagons)
10. Quilt, bind, and enjoy! See it on IG: #pmlonestar

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Pussycat Hat Block and Tutorial

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I’ve been processing the events of the last week, heck, the last few months, and witnessing in absolute horror what is happening here. I’m having a hard time digesting all of it – so much is being thrown at us – and the country I live in changed overnight into something I don’t quite recognize.

We all know the PussyCat hats from the march on Washington last week and what it symbolizes. Many women around the world knit or made a hat to wear. I don’t do yarn, and I didn’t make a hat to wear, but I have been thinking about putting a hat into a quilt. For me, it’s starts with a block and a quick tutorial.

I did get a little overzealous putting this together so I might be missing a photo here and there, but I’ll give you enough to get you going, and you can always ping me for help.

Start by downloading the pattern. The layout is a pdf with the finished size of the block. The template diagram will show you where the paper pieces go, and template 1 and 2 have the paper piecing patterns. And yes, I’m sorry in advance for not linking the files together – I haven’t figured it out yet, and I’m too eager to get this up to deal today. Horrible, I know.

Layout cat-hat
template Diagramtemplate-diagram
Template 1 cat-hat-ppieces
Template 2 cat-ppieces-squares

templates-web

Once you’ve downloaded and printed the patterns, cut them out. Ideally, you will print the pieces on foundation paper. It’s easier to work with but you can use regular printer paper, too. You can buy 8 1/2″ x 11″ foundation paper at a variety of places online or at local craft supply stores.

Because not everyone has foundation paper floating around or the desire to go get it, I used regular printer paper. I have a few tricks to make it easier, and I’ve included that information here.

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If you are using printer paper, lightly score EACH SOLID LINE ON EACH TEMPLATE before sewing. I use a postcard so I can keep the straight line and a stiletto to score.

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I started with the ears. Cut a piece of fabric that will cover the pink ear. I recommend measuring the length and width of EACH section before you cut then add a generous 1/2″ to all sides so you cut the right size square for the pieces, so a 2″ square is plenty for your ear. If paper piecing makes you nervous, add an inch. You can test by covering each section with your fabric before sewing pieces together and coming up short. Been there. Done that. Not fun.

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Once you’ve determined that your fabric is large enough to cover the appropriate section of your template, take an acid free glue stick, and place a small amount of glue on the BACK of the pattern where your pink piece of fabric will go. You do not need a lot of glue, just enough to hold the fabric to the paper.

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Flip the template over and use a postcard, or other thin, stable board with a straight edge (cereal box parts work well) along the solid line between the pink and white side portion of the ear.

postcard-to-fold-web

Fold the paper over the cardboard to reveal the excess fabric underneath.

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Using an Add-A-Quarter tool, cut off your 1/4″ seam allowance.

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Place a piece of white fabric, right sides together, on the pink fabric, aligning edges. I didn’t do this, but you should use a straight pin to hold the pieces together. Silk pins without a head and flat head pins work well.

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Flip the piece over and sew your first seam. Be sure to sew INTO the seam allowance. I also like to sew 2 or 3 stitches beyond where the seam line should end to make sure that the pieces won’t come apart. If you are using printer paper, adjust your stitch length to 1.5-2. The smaller stitch length will help the paper tear more easily. If you are using foundation paper, I recommend a size 70 needle. I used a size 80 needle with the printer paper and 50wt. Aurifil thread.

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Press without steam. Steam will make your paper curl.

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Flip the template over, fold and trim along the remaining seam line.

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add-a-quarter-2-web

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Sew a piece of white fabric to the top of the template.

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Press and trim.

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Repeat the process with remaining template pieces and sew together. When you sew the rows with the angled sides, please triple check that your fabric will cover the white sections before piecing. You might need to add extra fabric to cover the white sections on the edges.

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If you are using foundation paper, I recommend keeping the paper on the pieces until the block is finished. If you are using printer paper, it gets pretty stiff, so I recommend taking off at least the bottom parts.

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You will need to sew a strip of white to each side of the hat main and accent strip section. My block finishes at 8 1/2″ square but you can make your piece larger or smaller depending on how much open area you want behind your hat block. You will also need to sew a strip of white fabric to the bottom of your hat. Again, depending on how you plan to set it into a block is your decision.

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On Why I Stopped Quilting My Quilts

Like all good stories, this one starts the same way…

Once upon a time, I used to quilt all my quilts. I had, or made, the time to quilt all of them on my domestic. I enjoyed it, too, and for all intents and purposes, I did just fine. Actually, I still do just fine if I take my time. More to the point, if I have the time.

Just around the time my oldest was born, I realized that I didn’t have the time to quilt any longer. Piecing was easy to squeeze in, because a few minutes here and there eventually get results, but if I wanted quilts to actually get finished, I needed to send it out. We all know that it’s hard to quilt in ten minute bursts because by the time I’m warmed up and situated with the quilt at my machine, my ten minutes ends.

Introduce Regina. Regina is ah-mazing! Seriously, y’all! Ah-mazing! I was immediately drawn to her bubbly, creative spirit and if my friends were happy to send their quilts to her, then I should be too. On that note, I think it’s important to point out that some of these friends are quite particular about who can touch a quilt he/she has made so I felt confident that I was making the right decision.

Did I ever! Ten years later and it’s still some of the best money I’ve ever spent and quilts actually get finished, unlike the Meadow Quilt I made in February and started quilting in March. I’m STILL quilting that darn thing! See? Legit reason right there, and I’m only a few years late with that wedding present. sigh….

About a year ago, I started working on a pink and grey, machine pieced hexagon and LeMoyne Star quilt. I gave it to Regina in March and just got it back. She’s busy because she’s a total rock star, but it’s worth the wait to see the magic she made. My jaw drops every time I look at my quilt.

Unfortunately for you, I can’t show the front of the quilt because I have plans for it but I can show some of the back. Here’s a sneak peak. Enjoy.

 

Piecing Makeover Blog Book Tour + Giveaway

What a week it’s been! Wow! Thanks for all the love, y’all! The week was such a success and I couldn’t have done it without C&T Publishing, AnneMarie, Jodie, Teri at GenQ, Sandi, Mary, and Kristin. Really big thanks to each of you!

My biggest tip to share is to ask for help. I mean – How easy is that!? Seriously, though. When I first started to quilt I always asked my mom but not everyone has a mom that sews, or is near. However,  if you are fortunate enough, your local quilt shop has staff on hand to help you work through your problems. Yes, it means another trip out, and you might come home with more fabric but getting inspired while getting help is fun! And I promise they LOVE to help figure out your quilting problems! If the shop can’t help, they will find someone that can. Honest.

If you don’t have a quilt shop near you, go online to see if you can find the answer to your problem, or send a message to a quilter via a blog or read a book – perhaps, mine?  A little time to noodle on the issue might work for you, too. Don’t be afraid to explore possibilities. And if you are worried about messing up your favorite piece of fabric, experiment with some muslin, or old scraps until you’ve solved your problem.

Most importantly, remember it’s okay to make mistakes. It’s how we learn. I have quilts riddled with errors and almost every quilt I make throws me for a loop at some point or another – I really should plan more! But I’ve learned a lot. Some of my (ahem) older friends have been a valuable source of knowledge, too.

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C&T is giving away one copy at each stop along the way and today is your last chance to win a copy of Piecing Makeover  for yourself (printed copy in the U.S. and e-book outside the States). Leave a comment on the blog and we will announce the winners tomorrow.

Here’s the list again so you can check to see if you have won on another page. Winners will be chosen at random using random.org number generator.

9/13  AnneMarie Chany http://www.genxquilters.com/
9/15 Teri Lucas/Gen Q Magazine  http://generationqmagazine.com/
9/16 Sandi Hazlewood http://www.craftyplanner.com/
9/18 Kristin Esser https://kristinesser.com/
Happy piecing, everyone!

*edited on 9/20 – Congratulations to Sally for winning a copy of Piecing Makeover!

Piecing Makeover Blog Book Tour

Hey everyone! My blog book tour starts today. I have a rock star list of participants, beginning with C&T today!

Every day, visit the blog of a participating author, designer, or sewist for your chance to win a copy of my book, Piecing Makeover!

Here’s the official line up:

9/13  AnneMarie Chany http://www.genxquilters.com/
9/15 Teri Lucas/Gen Q Magazine  http://generationqmagazine.com/
9/16 Sandi Hazlewood http://www.craftyplanner.com/
9/18 Kristin Esser https://kristinesser.com/
Make sure to leave a comment on each blog for your chance to win. At the end of the tour, winners will be announced. C&T will mail a copy of the book to you. Winners outside the U.S. will receive an e-copy.
Happy Piecing!

Evolution of a Quilt

It started out rather simply. I had a plan, sketched it out, dug through my stash then bought more fabric. Execute. Right? Well, it went that way until it was time to make said quilt.

It was a cool diamond and hexie quilt with an interwoven lattice. I decided to make the diamonds large, so I could piece the top faster. Unfortunately, I made them too large, and by the time I finished I had 20 diamonds that were 20″ from point to point on the long side, meaning my quilt would have covered the living room floor. No bueno.

So began the task of moving around my pieces and figuring out how in the world I could turn what I’d made into a really fantastic quilt. I was frustrated and thought I’d spent a lot of time and money on a quilt that wasn’t going to happen. And, among other things, I knew I didn’t need more random quilt blocks on my studio floor. After several failed iterations on my design wall, I put the diamonds next to each other.

I paused.

I looked at it.

I liked it.

I waited.

I looked more.

I still liked it.

And so began the evolution of this quilt. img_8580

I’m tackling the borders today because, as one might guess, I changed my mind on them and this quilt will go into another evolution.