Today it's my turn as guest blogger in the Farmer's Wife 1930's Sampler Quilt-along, and I will be showing you how to make the Caroline block (block #20).
The blocks we have made so far in this quilt-along have been fairly simple. Caroline consists of two hour-glass blocks and two pin-wheel blocks, laid out in a 2 x 2 formation. It has a lot more pieces (and points!) than the previous blocks, and getting those aligned precisely could be a challenge for some. At the end of the tutorial I am sharing a few tips and tricks that I use to get precise points.
I was intending to make this block using the traditional rotary cutting method, until my From Marti Michell (FMM) templates arrived a few weeks ago and I used them to make Aunt and Betty... aaaand I am a convert. If you don't have the templates and are rotary cutting your pieces you can still follow this tutorial, using the rotary cutting instructions on your book's CD. If you are using the FMM templates you need Set A for this block, specifically the two triangle templates A4 and A6. You can also download the From Marti Michell conversion chart for this block here (which also explains how to use the templates to make this block - as I do in this tutorial).
It is definitely tempting to throw in a fourth colour into this block. However looking at the finished block I am really glad I stuck with the original design, as I would have lost that large stretchy floral pinwheel in the centre of the block. Whatever style or colour of fabrics you are going for, my one recommendation is to use a bold fabric for the pinwheels, so they stand out and not get lost in the busy-ness of the block - I used a bold orange. To accentuate the effect my other two fabrics are quite low-volume so there is lots of contrast to make those pinwheels really 'pop' (and because I am going for quite a low volume quilt overall). You can also use two or even three bold colours for this block - just make sure they aren't too close to each other on the colour wheel so each piece stands out.
The fabrics I am using are as follows: the orange floral is from Elea Lutz's Milk, Sugar & Flower line, the cream floral came from a scrap bundle from a shop in Taiwan so I am not sure what it's called (if you do please let me know cause I would like some more!), and the dots are Riley Blake Le Creme Swiss Dots, my main choice of low volume coordinate for this quilt. Orange is such an underused colour in patchwork in general and I really need to incorporate it into my work more - I was pleasantly surprised by how much I love the colours of this block!
Before cutting, I always starch my fabric using spray starch - I spray it onto the fabric generously but without soaking, then press it with a dry iron until the starch sets. I make sure the iron is not too hot or it scorches the starch, leaving brown marks. The starch lends stiffness to the fabric which makes cutting easier and more precise, and the finished block looks a lot sharper than it would have been without starch. You can also use products such as Best Press and Flatter to get similar results.
When working with small pieces such as the ones we have in this block, a rotary cutting mat helps HEAPS. I absolutely love my pink personalised one from Sue Daley Designs. It's super helpful with normal rotary cutting, and almost an absolute must-have if you are using the From Marti Michell templates as you have two extra cuts to make on each corner, and that little template slides off so easily if you are trying to rotate the piece by hand. I filmed the cutting process to show you how much easier it is with a rotary mat.
There are a lot of pieces to cut in this block. To make the process quicker, pair up your fabrics, put them right sides together and cut them into large pieces or strips. Then cut your triangles out using the templates, cutting through both fabrics. DO NOT SEPARATE THE TRIANGLES - they are now ready to sew together.
PIECING THE BLOCK
Step 1. Take your triangle pairs to the sewing machine. The four large triangles need to be sewn along one short leg (Caution: Pay attention to which leg, or your fabrics will end up in the wrong place in the finished block!). The small triangles all need to be sewn along their long edge, creating a half square triangle (HST). Whilst sewing do not stop to snip off your thread between each set - simply feed the next triangle pair into the sewing machine and keep going until you have sewn all the pieces. This is called chain-piecing and you will end up with a long chain of sewn triangles, looking like this.
Now just snip off the thread between each piece to separate them.
Step 2. First we make the hourglass blocks. Press the seam on the large triangles towards the darker fabric (doesn't matter which direction, as long as all triangles are pressed the same way - I pressed mine towards the cream floral). Pressing the seam towards one side (as opposed to pressing it open) will give a more precise intersection when we sew these triangles together in the next step.
Step 3 - Put two large triangles together, right sides facing, and the seams we pressed in step 2 nicely butted against each other without any overlap or gap between them. Pin. Sew along the long side of the triangle, and press the centre seam open. This is what your block should look like (front and back view). Make two.
Step 4 - Next we make the pinwheel blocks. Take four HSTs (two of each of the colour pairs) and press the seams towards the darker fabric (I pressed towards the orange). Lay them out in the correct formation, as shown below.
Step 5 - Sew the two HSTs in the first row together, press the seam towards the dark fabric. Repeat for row 2.
Step 6 - Put the two rows together right sides facing, butt the seams, pin. Sew together. Press the centre seam open. This is what your pinwheel block should like. Make two.
Step 7- Lay out your two hourglass blocks and two pinwheel blocks in the correct formation. First sew each row together, then press the seam in either direction (I pressed towards the hourglass).
MY TIPS ON PRECISION
- Starch your fabric before you cut (I use spray starch and a dry iron (ie no steam) on medium-high heat).
- Make sure your rotary blade is sharp so it doesn't chew and stretch your fabric as you cut.
- I highly recommend investing in a few basic sets of FMM templates - those engineered corners makes it so much easier to line up the pieces and make sure everything fits together perfectly.
- Pin blocks together before sewing. The pieces we are working with are very small so it's easy to be tempted to skip this step - don't.
- Press seams that will intersect in opposite directions so you can 'butt the seams' when you are sewing the two pieces together. I pin the butting seams together using a single pin placed at a slight angle - push the pin down through one seam, and back up again through the other seam.
- Check sizes of pieced blocks before continuing on to the next step.
- If you do a lot of patchwork, invest in a 1/4 inch foot, which makes it so much easier to get that precise quarter inch seam.
THIS WEEK IN THE QUILT-ALONG
This week we are making blocks #14 Betty and #20 Caroline. The other bloggers sharing tutorials this week are:
06/10/2015: Angie @ GnomeAngel.com (#14 Betty)
07/10/2015: Alyce @ Blossom Heart Quilts (#14 Betty)
08/10/2015: Angie @ GnomeAngel.com (#20 Caroline)
09/10/2015: Jess @ Elven Garden Quilts (#20 Caroline)
MY FARMER'S WIFE QUILT PROGRESS
Here are the other blocks I have made so far - I am loving the feminine-vintage-peasanty vibe! It is SO much fun to mix and match fabrics from all sorts of different lines, and scraps even - the fabric auditioning process for each block takes me over an hour! If you would like to follow my progress you can do so on my Instagram feed where I share my block photos as soon as I make them, or here on the blog where I will be posting updates every month or so.
** The Farmer’s Wife 1930s Sampler Quilt: Inspiring Letters from Farm Women of the Great Depression and 99 Quilt Blocks That Honor Them by Laurie Aaron Hird for Fons & Porter/F+W; RRP $28.99 – Click here to purchase. **