Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Making Quilt Club Blocks

Every month I make the five blocks we use in Grandma's Quilt Club. I choose simple, 16 grid blocks, because I want to make sure that the over 600 participants in our club can complete these blocks regardless of skill level.

Recently, club members have asked me to tell them about the tools I use when I am constructing the blocks. Here's a run-down of what I use in order to make these blocks.

The sewing machine I use is a Husqvarna Viking Sapphire that I got from Whitlocks Vacuum and Sewing Center in Salem, Oregon. My grandmother would call it a "new fangled" machine. I like it because it has a built-in 1/4" stitch and is easy to use. (Easy is good when it comes to making quilt blocks--why make yourself crazy when sewing is supposed to be relaxing??) I thread the machine with Swiss-Mettler Art. 104 thread in a neutral color.

I like to use a the small Olfa 28mm Rotary Cutter and a 1" x 12" omnigrid ruler to make the first cuts from the fabric that is provided in the quilt kits. (If I was cutting from the bolt, I would use a larger Omnigrip Ruler.)

Most of the quilt club block patterns call for making a half square triangle. In order to do that, I start with two 4" squares of fabric that have been placed right sides together. I then draw a line down the middle (for cutting) with lines on either side 1/4" away from the cutting line (for sewing lines). This can be done very easily with the Quick Quarter II marking tool. I like to use this little tool because it helps with accuracy.

Once I have all the squares cut and marked, I start sewing my half square triangles together. I square them up (from 4") using the little rotary cutter and the 6-1/2" square Omnigrip Ruler to 3-1/2". When I have all 16 units sewn, squared and pressed, I lay the squares out to look like the picture on the pattern, then sew them together. My favorite pins are the red and white pins by Clover. They glide through the fabric like butter and are very nice to use. If you don't have a box of these pins, I recommend you purchase a box or two. I love them! You will too.

For clipping threads and cutting in general, I use a pair of Mundial Titanium Scissors--5-1/2" hobby/craft size. I like these scissors because they are smaller than the knife edge. I don't know why, but I seem to use smaller tools when constructing quilt blocks than I do when putting the quilt blocks together into a quilt top.

Of course, there are times when things don't go exactly as planned making these blocks. That's when I get out the Clover White Handled seam ripper and start "frog stitching"--you know, ripp-it, ripp-it! If you're still using the seam ripper that you got for your high school sewing class, it's time for a new one! My personal rule on seam ripping is that it's part of the process and can happen from time to time; however, if you've ripped out the same seam three times already, you clearly need to relax a bit and start over. (Ever have one of those days when you feel like you should be locked out of your sewing room because everything you touch is going to go badly? I've had a few of those myself.)

Once my block is sewn up and looking beautiful, I press it with my iron (I buy inexpensive ones that I don't mind replacing from time to time), and then I square it up with another Omnigrip ruler--the 12-1/2" square.

And that's all there is to it! Sewing simple quilt blocks is fun. I like being able to put different fabric combinations together to see what the blocks will look like. Sewing easy blocks is also great practice for perfecting those 1/4" seams. Sewing also helps ease any tension you might be feeling from all the other "stuff" going on in your life. Just cut, sew, press and square. A little of your favorite music in the background and you have the makings for your own special retreat.

My family knows they can find me in the sewing room, sewing up quilt blocks after a busy day at the shop. I've already sewn up the blocks I need for next month's club sessions. Guess it's time to start working on the other block projects I'm dreaming up! What will you be sewing this week?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I always seem to have trouble lining up my seams and points. I pin and press so I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong. I don't square up my smaller pieces before making the block, so I'll try that. I've also had people say to use a scant quarter, but that doesn't always help. Any suggestions?