Those who have hung around me for a while know that I rarely make a block/pattern like the pattern says to make it. Don’t ask me why because I’m not sure I have an answer. It just seems to me that when I look at a quilt block for example I sometimes see it put together differently than the directions say to put it together. Such was the case with the first block in Moda’s Sampler Block Shuffle. What the directions said to do and what I did to come up with my block are two different things. How so? Well, I’ll show you. WARNING: This turned into somewhat of a tutorial so be prepared to be reading for a while. Here’s a bit of music by one of Victoria’s favorite fellers to enjoy while reading since it seems to go quite well with me doing this block my way.
First, I want to make it perfectly clear that the directions given for the first block, designed by Sandy Gervais, are correct as written, and my sharing here of how I went about making this block is in no way a criticism of the block’s design or designer. I guess you could say I’m just following through on what my mom taught me long ago. She always said that there was more than one way to skin a cat (not that we’d ever actually do that in reality of course), which is probably why my brain saw a totally different way of putting this block together.
If you’ve not already found the patterns they are under the “Free Patterns” tab at the top of the page. The first three patterns are only going to be available for a short time and then they will be replaced by new block patterns. Meaning…go find the patterns, save them, and don’t procrastinate about doing it!
Again, if you’ve known me for a while you know that I hate drawing on fabric. I have no definite answer for why that is, but I just do. For me it’s akin to someone raking their nails across a chalkboard (~shudder!). I will go to great lengths to keep from having to draw on my fabric. That being said, my first change to this design was to use Thangles and make half-square triangles (HST) instead of marking squares to sew on either end of a rectangle. That meant that the strips that I used to make the HST units could also be used to cut solid squares from the background fabric, a white tone-on-tone dot, as well as the dark fabric, which was the red fabric in my block.
Some folks who have never used Thangles think that they’re difficult to use because they don’t know which size to work with. Actually, it’s very simple because the finished size of your HST unit is in dark black print on the front of the package and the width of the strip you need to cut is given right underneath it. In this case, I knew the finished block was to be 6” square. Since there are four sections across the block each section had to finish at 1-1/2” square doing it my way. So, I pulled out my 1.5 Thangles and set to work. Another clue in this case as to what size Thangles to use was the size given for the solid squares for the background and Print 2, i.e. 2” squares.
Once I figured out how many of each HST I needed, I took my Thangles paper, measured it and found that I would need a 2”x6” strip set to make four HST that were red and yellow. I would need a second 2″x6″ strip set to make four HST that were yellow and white. I also needed to allow for the solid squares so I cut a 2”x15” strip from the background fabric, a 2”x15” strip from the red fabric, and a 2”x13” strip of yellow fabric. From those three strips I ended up with all the components for the square.
I’ve used Thangles for a while now because to me it’s like paper-piecing and I can sew on a line, more or less. Here are a few things that I have learned work best for me. I always use a 50 wt. silk finish thread when piecing. I put the fabric strips right sides together with the lightest colored fabric on top. I pin the Thangles paper in the open triangular spaces to the strip set so that it doesn’t shift while sewing. Instead of sewing right on the broken line I sew just to one side towards the solid line. That means I’m sewing into my seam allowance just a thread or two in the fabric and allowing for the thickness of my sewing thread. When I fold the HST open, it won’t be too small because I’ve allowed for the thickness of the thread I’m sewing with and for the threads caught up in the seam line. I sew down one broken line, lift my presser foot and pull the unit out a little so that I can flip it and sew down the other broken line without cutting the thread. Hopefully, you can see the thread loops at the sides of the photo to the left. This saves both thread and time. Depending on what size Thangles I’m using I may or may not do the same when moving from one HST section to the next. In this case I repeated this practice so that I didn’t have to cut my thread until I had essentially chain pieced all the sections for one unit and moved on to the next unit.
Now it’s time to cut the HSTs apart. Obviously you’re going to cut on the vertical solid line. What’s not always so obvious, meaning you might need your reading spectacles here, is a very thin white line that is between the other thin solid black lines going across the paper from side to side. You want to cut across that thin white line to separate the sections. The more accurately you do this the more accurate your HST units will turn out.
One of the other pluses in my mind when using Thangles is that there’s already one dog ear cut off for you. Yes, that’s another thing I don’t like doing because I’m always afraid I’ll cut it crooked or cut into my seam allowance and compromise accuracy. I’ve found that if you fold back the paper on the seam line, you have a nice guide for cutting of the second dog ear neatly and without cutting into your seam allowance. I place my blade up against the edge of the paper and push down firmly in order cut off the little triangle that’s sticking out to one side. Voila! No more dog ears.
Before I tear the paper off I press the triangles, fabric side up. Thangles are printed with a special kind of ink so there’s no need to worry about the ink being transferred to your fabric when heated. The darker fabric will be facing up which means you’ll be pressing to the darker fabric as we most often do. I then take my HST unit to the cutting mat and make sure it’s the size it needs to be, in this case 2” square. I prefer to use a 4-1/2” square ruler for this step. That way I can see all around the edges easily.
Now comes the even funner (yes, that’s a word in my vocabulary) part, laying out all the components of the square. I use a block keeper which has a fuzzy texture to do this as it will keep each piece in place until I’m ready to sew it. If I have to leave for some reason, I can fold the attached clear sheet of plastic over it to protect my layout from intruders in my sewing space be they two legged critters or four legged critters. It has also saved me from sewing the wrong side of the seam or a HST in the wrong direction more than once.
The pattern directions have you sewing two squares and a rectangle together to form a unit and doing this four times. Then you sew the four units together as you would a four-patch. I, on the other hand, sewed my components in a row and I did this for four rows. I guess you could equate that to a sixteen-patch. To make sure the points for HSTs turned out all right, I pinned them either side of the seam line. Since the seams are pressed to the dark side they line up without any trouble at all.
When sewing the two rows together I wanted to make sure the seams in the first row were pressed in one direction and the seams in the second row were pressed in the opposite direction. To help keep things lined up I pinned on either side of the seam within the 1/4” seam allowance space. If you can do this so that the fold on top is going away from you when you’re sewing then the seams should line up and look great once sewn. I learned this trick by watching Alex Anderson on The Quilt Show. If you’ve not already signed up for this extravaganza of learning you need to do that right after you finish reading this post.
Another trick I used I also learned on The Quilt Show from a lesson with Jo Morton. Instead of pressing whole seams to the dark, she sometimes snips a seam so that those who want to face towards the right can and those that want to face toward the left can. It makes for a flatter seam and reduces bulk. You just have to be careful and not snip through the seam. It’s an interesting idea and does make things nice and flat as a result. Once I had all four rows sewn together I pressed the joining seams open.
My preferred block size is 6″. I like how my block turned out and am pretty sure this is the first time I’ve ever done a block in red and yellow. I just picked up two strips that I had close at hand, you know, those strips I tear off the ends of new bolts to straighten them up. Now I have to decide if I want the rest of my blocks to follow this bright color path or not. What do you think?
GIVEAWAY! If you’d like to make a block just like this one, leave me a comment by Sunday, November 8. I’ll give one person, drawn at random, a sweet sixteen (approx. 9”x11”) of each of the fabrics I used. That way we can match or you can reverse the colors if you like and make your block look totally different. I’d love to see your blocks and Moda would too. You can post them at #modasamplershuffle. I’m guessing that’s an Instagram site. I don’t have one set up for the shop yet but am working on it. I’ll let you know once I’ve got it up and running.
So, start pulling out some scraps and lets have some fun!