March 14, 2010

First attempt at a quilt block: dancing dragonfly

I signed up for the Cheryl Lavon Donation Swap on swap-bot. The idea is for participants to contribute quilt blocks to a quilt which will be donated to the American Cancer Association, in memory of Cheryl. I have never made a quilt block before, but that didn't stop me. Swap-bot is a wonderful excuse to try new things.

I headed to my local library, and found Sue Beever's Dancing Dragonfly Quilts on the shelf (all of the "standard" how-to books had been checked out). I was rather struck by the dragonfly motif and decided I'd give it a go.

Luckily the book has lovely piecing instructions for a beginner like me (although a "beginner like me should" probably have tried something like a traditional 9-piece block for her first go). I'm tempted to buy this book sometime in the future, there are so many lovely photos in it!

Next I headed to Lincraft to pick out some fabrics. I had only a very vague notion of things like quilt colour wheels and appropriate motif sizes. So I ended up grabbing the first four FQ of fabric in earthy tones that tickled my fancy (two green, two brown; three dark, one light) just as I was being shooed out of the shop as it was closing time.

After browsing through the book, I decided I'd try block variation #3, and that I'd give traditional piecing a shot.

Next, I played around with colours in Inkscape and I settled on this layout. I like how it kind of looks like a coconut tree! In retrospect it would have been a good idea to play with colours before buying the fabric. But I wasn't that organised.

Inkscape would be a great program for designing quilt blocks, I may do so one day. (I'm getting a bit ahead of myself here!)

Now, being an impatient newbie, I was sure to run into a few stumbling blocks along the way. First of all I was confused about the size of the block. The book had dimensions for making a 12" block, but the swap requirements said a 12½" block was needed. It took me a bit to realise that they were one and the same - depending on whether you include the ¼" seam allowance around the sides of the block in the size!

The next headache was wrapping my head around the cutting sizes for a traditionally pieced block. The author said that "seam allowances vary with the piece's shape", which confused me as I thought the seam allowance was always ¼". I eventually worked out she was talking about adding an allowance to the length of each the side of the block, not about the distance between the block's finished size and the edge you cut along.

Once I worked these measurement issues out, I decided I want to start cutting RIGHT away, even though I hadn't ironed the material (the ruler squashes it flat!), and couldn't find my rotary cutter (but I have scissors and a disappearing ink pen!). Did I mention being an impatient newbie?

I used my A4 cutting board & 14"x4½" quilting ruler to measure out the pieces and used the angles in the ruler to double-check I had cut out the pieces correctly.

However, I was so busy concentrating on this that I managed to make a different kind of mistake: I cut out three triangles instead of two triangles and two trapezoids... it's obvious that I'm thinking like someone who does layered images, not flat ones! Appliqué, much? I salvaged what I could of the fabric by cutting one of the trapezoids out of the useless triangle.

Finally, I had all my pieces cut out. I gave in and ironed them.

And then I started looking at them, and trying to figure out how they would fit together properly....

Before realising that I needed to take into account the seam allowance... which changes the measurements quite a lot for angled cuts (which I don't usually have anything to do with... I tend to deal with rectangles or curves....)

My machine doesn't seem to do a ¼" seam very easily, so I just marked the seam with my disappearing pen...

... and followed the stitch line with the groove on my sewing foot.

All finished!

Here's a shot of the back! I did as instructed and ironed each seam open before adding the next bit of fabric.

Only one problem... it turned out to be wonky & the wrong size. The seam at the bottom was the worst offender, changing by ¼" from side to side. The right-hand side seam was simply ¼" too short.

I have since trimmed it down to a near-perfect 6" square. I'll think of something to do with it...

Not to be discouraged, I'll be trying again soon, using a different method. Probably the paper-piecing one outlined in the book. And I'll be ironing all my fabrics well before-hand.

At least this was only a quarter of the finished block, so I don't feel like I've lost too much time on this one!

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