Monday, January 3, 2011

A Kaleidoscope "splash" of lessons...

CUT: 10" BLOCKS of white on white, 7.5 BLADES of black & white designs, and 3.5 QUARTER CIRCLE with a splash of color. 
The Block Swap is about to begin with a deadline in February...and I've already started my part of the project. As a newbie at this quilting thing, I am learning so much by participating in a "community" set up by Missouri Star Quilt Shop website. Not only do I watch and follow all their tutorials, but the friendships online have helped me become better and better with this quilting thing.
ironing basket of blades
This Block Swap is no exception. I've learned vocabulary, just by conversations on the forum and by observing photos posted. I decided to put some up for others who might be a visual learner like me.
clip your corners causes seam to lie flat
Cutting the fabric takes precision, so I looked carefully at the members' cutting board photos. Pressing the fabric may be vital for precise cutting and no wrinkles, but also it helps the fabric stick together and not slip in cutting with a rotary blade. When I started out, I didn't know that the block, blade and 1/4 circle sizes were actual cutting directions, including 1/4" seams. Following these measurements and directions makes it possible to even have a block swap. The forum hostess stayed with me on each step, correcting my perceptions when needed and repeating the measurements often in threads of conversation. Even putting photos up for viewing really helped me, too!
I've always hated fat, clumpy corners which I think shows the seamstress was a little sloppy. Clipping also helps the seam lie flat, and to press the point squarely, it helps to give a crease down the center of the folded blade before turning. This gives you a line to center the point and keeps the measurement the same of each side of the blade and they all  match side by side! Nicely pressed seams make the fabric be the size it should be when completed also.
Then I learned to notice the blades cut at 7.5 inches will be 7.25 inches when sewn. I was confused on this point, but Sewbee and Patticakes corrected my first attempt and by answering questions in the forum, helped me see my mistakes.  I learned that it is important that everyone in the group do them all the exactly same way! Is that redundant? "exactly & same"? O well, emphasis is important, I guess.
quarter of a circle @ 3.5"
Then, when they say quarter circle cut, you are cutting a quarter of a complete circle. So, a 3.5" really means that had you cut a whole circle, it would be 7 inches! I found that if I basted a 1/4 seam around the arc of the circle, it is so easy to press it under along an accurate stitched line. This made a smooth arc lying flat with a constant curve.
Then there is the block - the back of the design you are making.  A 10" block of white on white makes it so pretty! We send raw edged block to the swap to be finished later by those who receive them! See,
measure the diagonal - blade centered
I'm learning because everyone keeps asking GOOD questions on the forum! I keep reading entries on the community thread and all the questions made me constantly check my work. Finally, one of the members took a photo of her sample block taken on a cutting board and I saw her actual measurements. I began to measure all my cuts according to her photo, and was so appreciative of that photo! I began taking my own photos for future references. I think it is fun to take photos for journaling later and keeping a record of my projects!
Here are some of the other photos I took. I noticed that the middle blade point should run along the diagonal of the entire block, and be centered. I could check it on every block, squarely placing the fan. This re-assured me I completed my blocks!
It was easy to sew the blades together and press them on the block, knowing how to center it and the quarter circle fit so well over it, also dividing exactly in half.
So, whew...finally, I can proudly say that my 5 blades fit my block and blocks are ready to send off when the block swap closes membership. Thank you so much to those who patiently worked with us via the forum and helped this newbie immensely!
1st finished block

So, finally, here is my "splash of color" block. When I found this fabric piece of bursts of color, as in fireworks, I just fell in love with the "popping of many colors. Most of the ladies chose a solid color, but the word "splash" of color made this vivid in my imagination.  I hope it works ok with everyone's block. Actually, I hope my blocks are enjoyed as much as my pleasure in putting them together. I have to admit that I am relieved that my pile is ready to label and pack up to send to the hostess. I know that my blocks are ready to join others in making a story of its own as it gives comfort and warmth.

If you've read this, and been encouraged to stretch out of your comfort box to do something new, I would love to know what you did and how did it turn out. Even as I eagerly await the blocks from this swap, I know that I will hold fond memories of all the lessons learned in the "Black & White with a 'Splash of Color' Block Swap". Thank you to those who suggested this project and for allowing me to be a part of your group. I really enjoyed making such a beautiful project and look forward to receiving ones from others for a project of my own.
Happy sewing and quilting...and oh, yes, don't forget the pressing and cutting!