Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Hive 12 - January Block Tutorial

Happy New Year Stash Bee! I'm excited to be kicking things off for Hive 12 this year.

What is your name? Hi! I'm Heather. I blog at and Instagram @quiltsintheq

Where do you live? I live just outside Washington, DC, where I've been for 7 and a half years, but I still consider Maine, where I grew up and where all my family is, as "home" most of the time.

Tell us about your family. I live with my husband, no pets, no kids. Most of my family is in Maine, including my adorable little nieces, so I try to get up there a few times a year to visit.

Tell us about how you became interested in quilting. I always sewed growing up, but once I went away to school I didn't have the time or space for it. Even though I still had an interest in sewing and creating, I didn't have much reason to (side note, it's so funny to me now to think that I needed a "reason" to quilt!). One of my coworkers mentioned that she made quilts to give away to charity and that sparked a real interest in me to learn more about quilting and to spend more time doing it. My job is sometimes crazy stressful, so I love having a creative outlet. Now, almost three years later, I've donated dozens of quilts to charity and have only a couple that are in my home.

How do you organize your fabric stash? I primarily organize in color order. I keep anything less than a yard folded in these shoe box sized boxes from IKEA:

Yards or more are kept on mini bolts made from cardboard used for comic book backs.

I keep scraps in plastic gallon bags in a larger box.

Who is/are your favorite fabric designer(s)? I love pretty much anything Joel Dewberry puts out - I prefer geometric designs to more organic ones - and Denyse Schmidt is also a favorite.

What is one thing that you wish you knew when you first started quilting? I wish I'd known about rotary cutters and cutting mats! My first quilt I made by tracing templates and cutting them out with scissors! When my aunt who quilts heard this, she immediately went out and bought me the rotary cutter, mat, and several rulers. What a huge change!

January Block Tutorial:

Let's start with an easy one for our first month, shall we?

Last year I was in the Sugar Block sew along at Stitchery Dickory Dock and chose to make the blocks out of a color palette of yellows, oranges, and reds on a bright white background.

The block I am asking you to make will be an alternate block with the Sugar Blocks to fill out a quilt. I've chosen a small pieced block (6 inches finished) with a large border to add negative space around the sampler blocks to calm it down a bit. The finished block will be 15"x15" and should be made in solid reds, yellows, and/or oranges, preferably in more vivid shades to match the blocks above. I hope you don't find this too boring! When I was thinking about blocks for this bee, I had a number of ideas, but ultimately settled on one that would help me finish a WIP.

The center of the block is a fairly simple traditional block, which I've seen referred to as Kite or Mill and Stars. This is a pretty straightforward block to paper piece, and I'll be sending all of my Hive 12 mates the paper piecing template. If you've never paper pieced before, I think this is a great one to start with. I'll show step-by-step below how I paper piece, by I'm certainly not an expert. There are many tutorials online that will show you how to paper piece. I learned from this one by Faith at Fresh Lemons Quilts, and Jennifer at Ellison Lane has a good one, here.

For the paper pieced portion of the block, you will need to choose two colors from the red/orange/yellow color scheme, and a bright white (I used Kona White - no cream/off-white, please). You'll need two pieces cut 3" x 4.5" of each color and eight pieces cut 3" x 4.5" for the white background, as below. Paper pieced blocks end up being trimmed, so precise cutting is not necessary here, and paper piecing is really conducive to using scraps, but you probably want pieces at least that big to be certain you can cover the area of the template.

You'll also need two pieces 5" x 6.5" and two 5" x 15.5" of the background white fabric to complete the block, but you can set those aside for now.

Roughly cut out around each of the four sections of the paper piecing template and choose one to start with. The center diamond is the first section, so take one of your color pieces and attach it to the BACK (i.e., not printed side) of the template. I use a glue stick, but others use pins. It just needs to be temporarily held in place until it's stitched to the template. Be certain the fabric covers all of section 1, including the seam allowance on the outside. Holding it up to a light source, like a lamp or window, can help with this.

Next, fold back the template on the solid line between sections 1 and 2. Line up a ruler with the quarter inch line aligned with the folded paper, and trim so there is a quarter inch of fabric beyond the folded edge of the paper. This will ensure your quarter inch seam allowance.

Next, line up a piece of white background fabric with the trimmed edge of section 1. At this point, I just hold it in place as the friction between the two pieces of fabric is enough to make it stay, but if you are uncertain you may want to add a pin.

Now, fold the paper template back to flat and bring to your machine. Set your stitch length to be very short (I usually go just above the number 1 on my machine). This is extremely important, because if the stitch length is too long, you'll have a difficult time getting the paper to separate. Now sew along the solid line between sections 1 and 2. 

Flip the unit over so the fabric is facing up and either press with an iron, or finger press the white background to the other side of the template to cover the triangle shape of section 2. Use the same fold back paper, trim, line up, and stitch process between sections 1 and 3 and you've completed the first unit!

Once all four units are pieced, they'll look something like this:

You need to trim the seam allowances, which are printed in a dashed line on the template. Just line up a ruler and trim with your rotary cutter.

Now arrange the four units so same colors are opposite one another and sew together to create one unit. You may wish to take the papers off before this step, but I tend to leave them on for the added stability.

Finally, take the background pieces you cut above - sew on the 5" x 6.5" on opposite sides of the paper pieced block, then the 5" x 15.5" to finish it off! Don't worry about trimming exactly to 15" square - I can trim as necessary to get everything to fit.

 Thanks, everyone! Let me know if you have any questions.


Willa said...

Thanks so much for a thorough posting and a great thorough tutorial.

Anna said...

Funny seeing you on here. I'm in Hive 8. :)

Love your blocks.