Inspiring Quilters, Stitch by Stitch
We've all made frustrating attempts at creating a squared-up, smooth-enough-to- quilt top made from non-conforming quilt blocks, whether our very early U.F.O. or a group effort.
Mine was from a church group who wanted the top assembled for a quilting bee.
Shown left is a sample of what I got... 35 squares, all different sizes (3/4" range)
Other problems were raised centers in stars, uneven edges, and points that ended at edge instead of in by 1/4". So I set out at first to take some apart & fix them.
This was when I discovered that 1/2 of them were hand sewn, the rest stitched by the tiniest of machine stitching, and, the seam allowances were trimmed to 1/8"!.... I nearly gave up!Clearly, taking some appart was not an option to persue.
O.K. what's the most important criteria? Size! The rest I could take care of with design/set.
The non-pointy stars ends could be disguised by printed fabric in the sashing.
The fact that the ends didn't align with the next block + size would best be dealt with using an on point setting. This would also take care of the "bulgy" ones, as I could slice the worst in half as the triangle side pieces.
As to size, the best I could do was trim off unevenness,& increase some of the seam allwances on the larger ones. When done I was left with a lesser amount of discrepancy. (shown is before trimming uneven parts).
A rust print in my stash was perfect for sashes & borders. Next with some planning on graph paper, I decided that sashes cut 3" ( 2 1/2 fin.) would do nicely.
Now, the real size issue. In order for the top to be straight and square, the sashings and borders are the key.These pieces must be uniform. Averaging my blocks sizes, my cross sashes had to be 13". I had the luxury of blocks with bias triangles along the edges, so I chose to mostly stretching the smaller ones & easing the larger ones to fit. If there had been only "on grain" fabric in the blocks, I would chose the smallest size block as my sash cut size & ease the larger blocks to that.
Above, see how much I had to stretch the block. Above is prep for easing, basting st
The sewing was done with the block on top and just inside the intended 1/4" s.a.
sashing next to feeddogs. pulled up slightly, then sewn with
sashing on top, and block on bottom.
In both cases, the block was adjusted to the sashing. The sashing was not stretched or eased. A good steam with the steam iron soon takes care of the slight poufiness on the sashing where the stretched piece pulls it in, and likewise with the eased block.
To the rt. is the biggest block being sliced for the corner triangles.
Above left is where I've marked off the repeat measurement for the long sashes. In this case, after seam allwance, my blocks were 12 1/2 and the cross sash 2 1/2 , so repeat was 12.5 +2.5 = 15". Then I had to sew the next row of blocks to the long sash, easing & stretching as before to make them conform to the pinned off sizes. NO, you cannot just take a long piece of sashing & just sew the rows together...remember that we're making these blocks conform to a "grid" of sashing that must be uniform!
Tip; When setting on point, always start building out from the center strip with the most blocks ,to the outer ones with less. That way you won't forget about the extra length required to angle off the sashing at the ends.
After trimming the excess sashing, it's time to put on the final borders. With all those 1/2 block triangles, and the bias of the trimmed sashes, we'll again need to control the size.
I decided on 6" wide (cut ) borders to get my assembled top to generous queen size.
Measure the top while flat,(but without it stretched tight) through the center left to right. That's the cut size for the top & bottom borders (butting the borders, not mitering them).I add an extra inch to leave at each end as "goof allowance"in case I see that I need it after stitching & pressing.
Next, pin off the the border pieces halves, quarters, eights & do same for top/ bottom edges of quilt top.(Don't include the "goof allowance in this) Then sew on top & bottom borders, remembering that the pieced top goes next to the feeddogs to keep avoid distortion/stretching. Press the seams toward the borders .Next measure vertically through center of pieced top & borders just sewn on. Repeat the previous instruction for the side borders. Sew these borders as the others,with pieced goods on the bottom.
So, here's the finished top. It has square corners, left & right borders are the same size, Top & bottom borders match, and it lies quite flat. Is it perfect? Well, no. If you look really closely, we still have some star points that are not "pointy", and some of the blocks have the straight of grain running in different directions. But these are not going to detract from the future quilting and use as a quilt to be raffled by the women in the church group.
I used 32 of the available 35 blocks given. The 3 left over were the most impossible to fix, but they'll make nice toss cushions.
For anyone attempting to put together fewer useable blocks, or who can't see going to all the work of an "on point" design, an alternative would be to use plain squares between the pieced ones. Put it together like a checkerboard, and use the plain new blocks plus a border,(it doesn't have to be very wide) as a grid to make the others conform to,using some of the methods I've described above. Just remember, stretched goods on top, eased goods on bottom under the sewing machine.