Sunday, June 29, 2014

Rings N' Things Block

Woot! I get to play host to the WERQ Bee this month! I've been struggling to come up with a plan for the block I would like, but here goes. A curved seam quilt has been a dream of mine for quite some time. The inspiration and templates for this block came from the book Link to the '30's: Making the Quilts We Didn't Inherit by Kay Connors and Karen Earlywine which I mentioned before on my quilty bucket list.  
A finished, albeit wrinkly Rings 'n Things block.

In an attempt to modernize this block, called Rings 'n Things, I am requesting the block be made in values of grey, and various citrus colors. I like the thought of pink grapefruit in the mix, but also like brighter oranges and yellows. 
citrus crush
Color inspiration from Design Seeds.
Now to assemble the materials. You'll need:
  • a copy of the templates (The pattern can be found on the publisher's website, Martingale).
  • a quarter cut of grey fabric for each block (I found I only used about half of this.)
  • a quarter cut of citrus color fabric for each block (again, I used slightly less.) 
  • a means to transfer the template (I used freezer paper.)
  • all the other sewing goodies, scissors, sewing machine, pins, iron, etc.

Getting the supplies ready to make the template.
There are probably countless other (and easier) ways to cut out these pattern pieces, so of course you can use what you know, or follow along with me for a way I thought worked really well. I created templates on freezer paper. These templates took a little time and planning, but made it easy to cut the curves and minimized stretching the fabric. This block calls for 4 of each of the template pieces A,B, and C. Each of the pattern/template pieces has an arrow to indicate the fabric grain line, so I started my templates by drawing guidelines on the non shiny side of my freezer paper using my rotary cut ruler and a pencil. (The shiny side of the paper is the one that sticks to the fabric when you iron it down.) These lines were parallel to each other and mimicked the grain line of the fabric. 
In this horrible, upside down picture, you can see the very light horizontal and vertical guidelines that mimic the grain of the fabric.
Next, place the printed template under the freezer paper lining up the directional arrows with the guidelines. Trace with pencil. I only traced the outside cutting line, the directional arrows, and dashed 1/4" seam line. Move the template and trace again. I liked how I could plan out where pieces would go.    
Notice on the arc pieces how the directional arrows are all lined up. 
Each template blob fits nicely on a 1/4 yard cut, except the arcs of piece 'B.' I moved one of those arcs to it's own place on the fabric making sure the directional arrow followed a grain line of the fabric.
I cut these templates out in big blobs with all of the same pieces together. I planned each of the blobs so they would fit onto a quarter yard cut of fabric. Next, iron the entire template blob to the fabric, I ironed mine to the wrong side of the fabric, but I suppose it doesn't matter. Also when I ironed the freezer paper on, I used the cotton setting and placed the iron directly onto the paper. The shiny side of the freezer paper is facing the fabric. Then I turned the whole thing over and ironed the back of the fabric too! 

*Disclaimer time* I'm not really sure if I'm using the best techniques, or the "right way." I'm just sharing my personal experience with this quilt block along with some thoughts and ideas, and maybe ruining good scissors in the process. Please use your best judgement, and the vast knowledge of the Google if you think any of my directions are sounding like a crazy person! Also you can leave a comment or question and I and/or other readers will respond. *End Disclaimer*

So I ironed all of those big template blobs to my fabric and went to town cutting them all out. It wasn't until I was all done and realized I was using the "scissors I vowed to only use to cut fabric" to cut through not only fabric but also FREEZER PAPER! I'm not sure if this is a bad thing, or a good thing, if I ruined my scissors, but perhaps something to take in to consideration when choosing your weapon cutting tool. I really liked having all of the extra paper on the template because I felt that it added stability when I was cutting. 

I did try another method (shown in the picture above to the right), I cut all of the freezer paper template pieces and ironed them to the fabric separately. This also worked well, but there was not as much stability as the paper template blob, and I noticed that I was leaving a teeny bit of fabric hanging out from the edges of the template. Does this really change the block? I'm not sure, but I figure that if I were to make an entire quilt this way, I would be consistent in my cutting and only choose one method so that all of the pieces are the same size. By the way, don't those pieces look pretty all cut out!? In addition to the curved pieces from the template, there is a square that is 5 1/2" x 5 1/2" that goes right in the center of this arrangement.
The pieces cut and laid out.

Getting down to business!
Lets sew these bits together!
These are the first three pieces to put together.
Start with the square and two of the template 'A' pieces. Sew these pieces to opposite sides of the square, aligning the edges and placing fabrics right sides together. Press so that the seams are towards the 'A' pieces.

Here the left and right sides are sewed and pressed, and now it's time to add the top and the bottom.
Sew the last two 'A' pieces to the top and the bottom in the same manner as the the others.

Now it's taking shape. I love how the square floats in the middle.
It's time to add some arcs!
Now to sew one arc piece 'B' into each of the curves. After I made my blocks and took all the pictures for this post I decided to look at videos about curved piecing and found a great tutorial at Fons and Porter on YouTube. This tutorial is so great, it may just make the rest of my post unnecessary. I will continue on though, if you would like to follow along. I used the methods described in Link to the '30's for curved piecing and will show you what I did, but I think the video makes it so much easier!

First find the center of each curve. Fold the arc piece in half and finger press to find the center. The pieced curve already has a center as indicated by the point of the square. Lay these two pieces right sides together. Here the video says, "We always want to sew with a smile, so the smile curve is placed on top." I thought was clever and helpful. 

Here I'm aligning the point of the square with the finger pressed center of the arc. Next pin these together. The video suggests using a 'small bite' with the pin for this center pinning. Mine was perhaps a little too big and as I discovered while sewing is that this big bite does not allow the fabric to move as much as necessary for the curve to be successful.

Next, I pinned the far ends of the arc 'B' with the curves of the pieced center. Here it is OK to take a bigger 'bite' with the pin because the ends should stay where they are. The book I am following suggests using more pins, which I did, and I think was helpful, but as the video points out 'small bites' with the pins allow the fabric to move more, which I will ensure I do on my next attempt. Sew the pieces with a 1/4" seam allowance. Work slowly to ensure the edges of the fabric stay aligned and that the curved pieces do not fold or pucker into themselves. Do you see that big crease in the grey fabric of the photo below? The crease that is just above the point of the snippy scissors? Yeah that is a crease that was made because I wasn't careful and the fabric got bunched up and I sewed a seam right through the bunched up fabric mess! It happens! Thankfully a little seam ripper action helped me out and I was back in business. 

The book also suggests making small clips to the seam allowance of the curve. I did, but as good ol' Fons and Porter point out, the curved seam will lay a certain way all on it's own. So you can just press the seams in this natural direction without clipping. Follow the curved piecing techniques to add the remaining 'B' arcs.
Look, the square is still floating, and the corners do not touch the arcs! I love it!
The same curved piecing techniques are used to place the smaller corner pieces.

According to the book the finished block should be 12 1/2" square, so that it is 12" square in the quilt. My test blocks have all been about this size. So if you are a WERQr, I'd like if you would not trim the blocks, that way there is more room to play when I construct the quilt top.

Well I hope this thoroughly describes how to construct the July WERQ Bee block. If you have any questions please feel free to comment below. If you are a WERQr Bee, please use the FB forum for questions and we can help each other. That's what we're there for. :)

Linking up with Caroline at SewCanShe and Show Off Saturday! I think I will be trying her duct tape basting trick!