Anyway, back to the quilt block. I bought the kit on the Saturday when I was helping with the check in and judging. The theme is the underground railroad and the entries are limited to the 15 blocks listed and pictured in the kit. All piecing (no applique)...yay!! In case you're not familiar with the story, these blocks were touted as a code for helping slaves to escape along the underground railroad. It's complete bunk but people love the story so the tradition has continued. (Read here for a thorough debunking.)
Over the weekend I studied the blocks because I was determined to not have a last minute entry next year. Plus I was interested in the blocks. My personal choice was quickly narrowed down to two of them, the Carpenter's Wheel and the North Star. I started googling how to do the Carpenter's Wheel because there were several possibilities that came to mind.
A Google Image search shows lots and lots of blocks that look like this:
I showed her the picture above and explained that that was the most common way the block was done according to my web search. No, she said, it has to be exactly like the kit. We talked for a few more minutes but I basically got the same response to anything I said: It has to be exactly like the kit. "Even if the kit is wrong," I thought.
Anyway, I quickly dropped it and debated whether to do the block I liked better the "wrong" way or my second choice. Then I did a search for the underground railroad quilt and got this result. It shows the Carpenter's Wheel just like it was in the kit. That made me feel better that the fair didn't have it wrong, but I think it's funny that not only is the story behind the quilt complete bunk, but they can't even get the blocks right.
Then I took a big breath, decided I wasn't going to create problems that don't need to exist and started my own Carpenter's Wheel block in the design prescribed by the kit. It's the most complicated piecing of all the choices and I plan to do it the "purist" way.
The picture above shows the block done in all half-square triangles. All the seams are straight and you can assemble it in a grid. But all the sections that are made of one fabric are chopped up into little triangles. So if you have a print, there will be no continuity. I decided that was not for me. I will make a pattern with as big of pieces as possible, even if it meant tonnes of inset seams. Bring it on!!
As always, first step was to make a plan:
Then I pulled out the quilt scrap box and started pulling out some options.
I got the pieces cut and sorted:
That was Tuesday evening.
Next was the plan of assembly, what parts had to be attached to other parts, and then how it would go together:
Lay two together,
Then pivot the piece and sew the length of the seam:
Normally I would anchor the end of the seam by going back and forth, but machines are a little unpredictable at when they start changing direction after you push the button. Often they take one more stitch than you expect and that will be death to your inset seams. This pivoting method may seem like more work, but it doesn't take much and it's very reliable.
I continued around the star, adding pieces and here you can see it finished with the side pieces being dry fit:
Next step was to fit in the side pieces in the same manner. Line up one edge, sew it from intersection to intersection, then sew the next edge. I soon had all the side pieces done and was looking at adding the corner pieces:
|Apparently I didn't photograph the corner pieces being |
assembled but I did them as two squares plus a rectangle.
One less seam than doing a 4-patch.
Not ready to quit, however, I started doing the outside "border" strips. First thing was to assemble the flying geese units. My favourite method so far is to use squares to add triangles to the base rectangle. So you start with a rectangle the size of your finished piece. You add a square that matches the length of the shorter side. Lay the square on the rectangle so three sides line up and sew along the diagonal, point to point.
Once the seam is sewn, cut off the excess (the part toward the corner of the rectangle, not the middle).
Then you flip the triangle-that-was-a-square and press it with your wooden "iron." You can also use your fingernail, but the wooden tool works great, it's pretty and cheap. So why not.
Cut off the excess:
Then I lined up the flying geese units with some solid squares and rectangles in the appropriate order and got the border strips done:
The whole evening while I was sewing I was also pondering my error in the star measurements. By the next morning, I thought I had it figured out. First step in any case was to remove the side pieces from the star, and so my seam ripper got another work out:
Then I worked on my new pattern. I thought my problem was the bottom edge (as seen in the following picture) of the star piece. It was supposed to finish at 1.5" and so I cut it at 2". With 1/4" seam allowances that should work.
Well, I decided to do this a more empirical way instead of a theoretical way. I drew the finished piece I wanted on the paper above. Then I went around and added the 1/4" seam allowances. Then I measured the length of the bottom edge. Sure enough, it was closer to 2.25" than 2". I was ready to start again. Except that I had to go to work.
That was Thursday morning.
When I first cut the star pieces, I was able to measure the 2" on the bottom edge on my cutting mat's grid. But it doesn't have 1/4" markings. What to do?
I laid my ruler on the mat so that its markings matched up with the mat's. Then I laid the strip I was cutting against the edge of the ruler so that the point was at 1/4" mark.
Then I marked the seam allowances again
|I switched two of the purple pieces in the final layout|
as I wanted the two with the most purple to be opposite
each other. I know it's only a practice piece, but
you still have to care!
I continued around and got the center portion done:
I took my time and got all the seams going in the right order.
I even managed a nice little pinwheel in the center of the star where the eight seams meet:
That was Friday evening.
What a lot of work for one block!! I took measurements and it is 12.5" on one side (the correct measurement to finish at 12"), but the other side is only 12.25". That might get me disqualified. I also noticed the star is a little puffy and I had to ease it into the seams that were too short before. So now when I cut into the kit fabric, I will know to back off the size a little bit on those pieces. (This is why we practice!)
I also may make the border pieces a little too wide so that I can trim them back down if necessary. Cheating a little, I know, but that's what will get the job done.
Although I'm raring to get this done and put it in the can for next summer, a few other things around the house are calling for my attention. Will I be able to wait?? Tune in next time to find out! :)