Stitch and Learn

Stitch and Learn  2023 – 24

Stitch and Learn presentations are scheduled at 11:00 AM for all in-person Quilt Till You Wilt meetings.

The topics for these are as follows:

October 14 – Casserole Tote Demo – Chris P

November 25 – Binding Demo – Joining binding ends and machine variation – Joan L

February 17 – Post Card Edges Demo – Erin J and Joan L 

April 27 – Dresden Plate Demo – Suzanne C

Stitch and Learn  2022 – 23

Sue Lowell coordinated a Stitch and Learn Program  (based on Skill Building)  for a “planned monthly program”.  Members submitted a photo of their completed block to Ellen to be entered for a draw at the end of the year.   

Monthly Skill Builder Program  in 12 inch Blocks

The education program committee presented a series of monthly skill building lessons, designed to teach or refresh your repertoire.  Each month members were challenged to complete a 12-1/2″ unfinished block. At the conclusion of the year, participating members had multiple blocks completed to use in a wall hanging,  a series of placemats, a tote bag or whatever tickled their fancy.

Lesson 1: Precision – your 1⁄4 inch seam as a foundation skill

An often debated topic in quilt making. Does it matter? Well it depends.

For a quilt composed of many pieces and blocks – it is important for it to fit together.
Imagine a quilt row made up of 9 – 4 inch squares. If your seaming accuracy is off by 1/16th of an inch sometimes and accurate other times, one row of 9 blocks could grow by 1⁄2 inch compared to another. Multiply this into an elaborate block and you get the picture.

For this month you are challenged to make a 12 inch (finished) block with multiple seams in each row. The design can be as straight forward as 36 – 2 1⁄2” squares pieced together, 6 rows with 6 blocks in each. You can also choose your own block – for this exercise best to stay with squares and rectangles only. The sewn block will measure 12 1⁄2 inch square, and when sewn into a quilt will measure 12 inches. Magic.

As you go – carefully check your accuracy, adjust your needle position or mark your seam allowance line on your throat plate. Choose a method that works for you AND your tools – not necessary to add more tools. Remember that each combination of fabric and thread will yield different results – key is to check your accuracy for each project. The goal is to achieve an accurate measurement on the right side of the block between the two seams.

There are MANY resources available online to help you with this task – if you search on the internet enter “quilt 1⁄4 inch seaming” , look in the video tab and you will have several methods to try.

Here is one I particularly liked: Quilting 101: Perfecting your 1⁄4 inch seam by Cindy Bee on youTube.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ls6NrEgqBx8

Lesson 2:  Curved Piecing

Curved Piecing has been around FOREVER.  Many traditional blocks, such as Drunkards Path, Orange Peel, Double Wedding ring etc. are featured in antique quilts.  More recent quilts now include inset circles or even improvisational curves.  The concept is the same –concave and  convex curves sewn together to end up with a flat block. For traditional blocks templates are used to cut out the block components, while improvisational curves are free form.

For this month you are challenged to make a 12 ½  inch unfinished block incorporating curved piecing.   The design can use templates or not – it’s up to you.    The block will measure 12 ½ inch square, and when sewn into a quilt will measure 12 inches. Magic.

When using templates careful cutting and sewing should require little or no trimming to achieve your final size (my pro-tip: I always oversize and then trim – less stressful!).  Improvisational blocks are generally oversized and then trimmed to your desired size.   Some techniques use pins to hold in place, others glue basting and still more with no pins at all.  Find a method that works for you.  There are many curved templates available or make your own using template plastic if this is the route you want to go.

There are MANY resources available online to help you with this task – if you use any search engine and enter “quilt curved piecing” , look in the video tab and you will have several methods to try. 

Here are resources I particularly liked:

– Thequiltingedge.com   Marianne Haak’s website. Great tutorials on inset circles and improvisational curves

–  Search “easy curved piecing for the planet” – a nice video on Drunkards Path block showing templates and sewing.

Lesson 3:  More than One Way to Fly – Flying Geese

Flying Geese blocks are a staple design element used in so many block and quilt designs.  How many ways have you tried to make them? Do you have a favourite?  Geese Blocks surround a square to make a star, float in a chain across a sky or incorporate into a complex block.  Versatile.  

For this month you are challenged to make a 12 ½  inch unfinished block incorporating flying geese.  The size and technique is up to you – perhaps try more than one for your block.  The block will measure 12 ½ inch square, and when sewn into a quilt will measure 12 inches. Magic.

The resources available for this technique are endless.  From rulers and templates, paper piece patterns, die cut machines to “sew and flip” – there will be a technique that works for you.  As a bonus some of the techniques can yield spin off half square triangles – scrap quilter candy.  There are also no-waste techniques, economical on fabric but perhaps a bit fussier and may involve cutting bias pieces.

Quiltville.com:  an excellent tutorial.  From the main page select Tips & Techniques, then scroll down the list to Flying Geese.

Pinterest:  If you search on Flying Geese Tutorial you will find some diagrams and charts for sizing of units

Generations-quilt-patterns.com :  From the main page search for “beginner blocks”.  Then scroll down the page and you will find flying geese – with six(!!) methods listed.   (this web page has a lot of ads)

To download the PDF with pictures click on the link:  Skill Builder Month 3 Geese

Lesson 4:  Taming of the Scraps* – String and Crumb Blocks

This lesson is an annual event into my studio space – organizing. I find UFO’s, lost patterns and top of the list is an activity I call taming of the scraps. Too precious to discard, these bits seem to multiply like little rabbits in the stash pile and overflow my bins. String blocks and crumb blocks are a good way to use ‘em up – and have something pretty to show at the end of the exercise. (*so sorry Shakespeare)

For this month you are challenged to make a 12 ½ inch unfinished block using scraps into string or crumb blocks.  The size and technique is up to you – perhaps try more than one for your block. The block will measure 12 ½ inch square, and when sewn into a quilt will measure 12 inches. Magic.

The concept is straightforward – sew your scraps together to make “new fabric”, then trim the fabric to use in a block – and in a project.  Many of the references and resources will start you off with a foundation – paper, muslin, other scrap fabric etc.  Turns out this is a good idea, but as my first attempts prove not necessary – I just started sewing scraps together!   I also found that almost all tutorials for string blocks have you construct a block with strings on the diagonal.  Why????  The choice is entirely up to you.  And don’t limit yourself to blocks …think fabric.  Your new fabric can be cut into any size and then used as a piece in any block.

A few useful tips….

– Shorten your stitch length – you will trim your fabric later and need it to stay together
– Strips do not need to have parallel sides, though you may want to straighten the edge (unless you are trying to curve)
– Vary sizes and angles for interest
– Minimum strip width of about ¾”, and crumb piece around an inch
– Press as you go, helps to keep the fabric flat 
– When trimming be mindful of the edges and leave more than ¼ inch with no seams on the margins to make your life easier

As with other Skill Builders you can start by searching on the internet – use string quilt tutorial or crumb quilt tutorial in the search box and you will find a wealth of ideas.  Here are a few examples.

Lesson 5:  Y or Y-not

Inset seams, or more commonly known as Y seams are one of the most dreaded sewing techniques in quilting.  If done correctly the result will be a flat, smooth join that looks complicated – and lovely. With some practise and careful sewing, you can achieve the desired result.  BUT – did you know there is also a way to modify the block and construction to do away with that nasty bit altogether?  Read on.

For this month you are challenged to make a 12 ½ inch unfinished block using inset seams, or replacing them to “look” like an inset seam without the fuss.  The technique is up to you – perhaps try both ways to help you decide for a future project. 

Y seams are often found when joining diamonds and hexagons – think ‘grandmothers garden’, lone star or tumbling blocks.  The shapes nest into each other and do not form square or rectangular blocks.  The sewing technique is reasonably straightforward, and does require some pinning /marking and specific directions to achieve a flat crisp seam. Practice will make perfect and starting with larger pieces will make it easier than trying 1 inch hexies.

An alternative approach involves making two half inset pieces which also include a seam allowance. Layout in strips using full and half pieces taking care to ensure correct placement so that the half-inset diamond/hexie etc. is matched with adjacent strips to complete the shape. This will become clearer when you are actually doing it.  A design wall is helpful here.  For the pieces to be seamed – some fabrics will look better than others, large prints and plaids generally not advised, while small scale prints and blenders make for an almost invisible join.  This technique will be familiar to the assembly of One Block Wonder quilts.

You will find numerous instructions online – use search terms of Y seam, or no Y seam.  These are some You-Tube videos I found:

  1. Y- Seams Made Easy with Kaye Wood’s techniqueThis is a neat trick for ‘traditional’ y seams
  2. Tumbling Blocks Sunrise Quilt – Free Pattern by Leah Day | LeahDay.com – a no Y seam Tumbling Block Quilt using diamond and triangle pieces (it’s a bit long – the best part is from minute 14-17 where the technique is shown)

To download the document click the link.  Y Seams

Lesson 6:  Partial Seams

Have you ever looked at a block and wondered how on earth it was pieced?  There is a center that seems to float and you can’t figure out where to stop and start?  It may be constructed using a partial seam.  This technique can be starting from a triangle, square, pentagon, hexagon … you catch the drift here, any shape will do.  As the name suggest you start by sewing the first seam only part way across, then continue around the center with the other seams. When you get to the end you finish off your initial seam and there you have it! 

For this month you are challenged to make a 12 ½  inch unfinished block incorporating partial seaming.   The design can use templates or not – it’s up to you.    The block will measure 12 ½ inch square, and when sewn into a quilt will measure 12 inches. Magic.

The simplest form of the block will use a square at the center and then you add sides going around the square, similar to a log cabin.  The difference here will be that all of the “logs” are the same size. You can add more rounds to make the block larger.  Using a 4 ½” center block and two rounds of 2 ½” strips will end up at a 12 ½” block.   Or try a hexagon or pentagon in the center, do one round of strips using partial seams, then add background pieces to make up your square to the 12 ½” size.  (PRO TIP: on your first seam- stop about ½ inch from the end. Many instructions say “half-way”, but you may find going further makes the final step easier.  Find the technique that works for you. 

There are MANY resources available online to help you with this task – if you use any search engine and enter “quilt partial seams” , look in the video tab and you will have several methods to try. 

Here are resources I particularly liked on the video tab:
– How to sew a partial seam with Donna Ward ( loved the Aussie accent..)
-Hexagon with partial seams Quilt block – a fun video to watch

Lesson 7:  Math is not a 4-letter word

Math is a necessity of life and that includes quilting!  It can take a bit of thinking – but approach it methodically and you will be rewarded.  We are not talking about calculus, matrices or long division here – break the block down into units, adjust the size of each unit then put it all back together.

First, we can look at two different block styles – applique/paper pieced or patchwork. Then calculate the enlargement or reduction as needed.

Applique/Paper Pieced – you will need to figure out the ratio (converted to percentage) between original and desired size. You can then use your printer/scanner to enlarge or reduce your design.  If you don’t have the ability to do this at home – any print shop (or a friend) can help out. YOU MUST START WITH THE FINISHED DIMENSIONS, add on seam allowance after.  For example, a 9” block must be enlarged by 133% to finish at 12”, or a 16“block is reduced by 75% to finish at 12”.

 Here is the formula:  Desired Finished Size (in inches) ÷ original finished size x 100.  Add the seam allowance to your new copy and you are set.  Remember your printer may only accommodate 8 1/2” wide paper – some taping may be required for the new pattern.

Patchwork construction – First step is to determine the reduction or enlargement ratio as explained above. You will then need to revise cutting directions for each piece as follows:  subtract the seam allowances, reduce or enlarge the finished piece size using the percentage calculated, add seam allowances back on to generate new cutting directions. May sound confusing – there is an excellent set of instruction on the Quilting Daily Website.  Type “how to change the size of almost any patchwork …” in their search box and you will find the link.

A note of caution — the phrase “almost any” is a clue — As often found in life it is not always simple or advisable to change some things.   For example if your 10” block has 5x 2” units – revising to a 12 “ block would result in 5 x 2 2/5 “ units, adding seam allowances back in requires a cut size of 2 9/10”  – not a line on any ruler I have ever seen! Don’t bother with this one – we could go on to find common denominators – but that it more confusing than it’s worth.  Find a different block. 

Patterns and Instructions previously located here have been moved to the Members Only Section- Patterns and How-To’s.