Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Thrice as Nice to Slice & Splice

This week I made progress on my quilt made up of thirty blocks of wonky wrapped presents. I cut out the fabric and sewed up ten of the blocks. In my previous post, I was finalizing my fabric selections within the three colorways. I kept the solid aqua that looked like a grey and paired it with the green village print since I noticed there were some gray houses and accents in the print. I substituted out the lizard-y green and the cobweb-y aqua. My nicknames reveal how fond I was of each of them.

I traced my cutting template on to three sheets of freezer paper, one for each colorway, and place each on a stack of ten fabrics. I sliced in the prescribed sequence of just fourteen cuts per stack. I then swapped and traded the pattern pieces per the directions. Here are my three stacks of pattern pieces, each tidily gathered on my cutting mat or in a serving tray; ten red presents with green bows on an aqua background, ten aqua presents with red bows on a green background, and ten green presents with aqua bows on a red background. I decided to chain piece each stack together one at a time, starting with the stack of red presents.

The bottom two thirds of the block is the present section. Pieces A, B, C make up the wrapping paper and ribbon part and the surrounding pieces D, E, F, G, H, when spliced together, form the wonky background. I am one of those quilters who gets great satisfaction from points meeting accurately, so loosey-goosey is a challenge for me. I really needed to relax with this as much as I could since the edges of the pieces do not align at all. For example, that bottom piece F overhangs off to the right about 1.5". There is a reason for that. The present section, with the side borders, totals four quasi-vertical seams. With a ¼" seam allowance, this removes approximately 2" of the width. The bottom border has only one vertical seam totaling about ½", hence the overhang that is biased to the right. I will trim that excess off piece-F later. The center red wrapping paper and green ribbon section was also taller than the side borders, since the aqua borders lost some height in their seam allowances. The instruction told me to even off the upper edge of the bottom present section before proceeding to attach it to the top bow section.

I kept track of my pattern pieces as I went along, taping them back together as I finished a section to keep their orientation relative to each other fresh in my mind. Note that my Scotch tape dispenser is labeled for my sewing room as a deterrent to it being borrowed and left someplace else. It does help.

Next up was the left bow section, pieces I, J, K, L. When I pieced I, J, K together I tried to keep their edge opposite their sharp point pretty even with each other. When I added the large corner L section, I had to decide which way to bias it since it was longer by about a ½" due to the accumulated seam allowances on either side of the green bow piece-J.

I thought long and hard about this since I would be trimming either off the top of piece-L if I biased it downward or off the side of piece-L if I biased it upward, asking myself if there were an advantage of one direction over the other. Just like the Grinch, "I puzzled and puzzled 'till my puzzler was sore". I concluded it made no difference or, if so, the difference was too slight to worry about. I decided to slide it downward and line up the side of piece-L with the straight side of piece-I since that would be easier than with the pointed tip of piece-K.

After aligning piece-I with piece-K, I flipped it over and fed the more blunt end under the pressure foot first, chain-piecing ten left top bow sections. I knew the component parts were going to be different lengths, but it sure was hard to resist the temptation to stretch that bias. I could easily have done so and "made" those pieces fit! I did delay trimming off the extra fabric just yet. I still was not sure if it made a difference which way I slid piece-L when I attached it, so I hedged my bet.

Here is a completed left bow loop section. I pressed the seam allowance away from the bow loop so that I did not have to fight the bulk of two seams that would have been folded over on themselves. I would have preferred that the green bow loop be the raised portion for when I stitch in the ditch around it later, but bulk management made more sense in this case.

I then moved on to the right bow section, pieces M, N, O, lining up piece-M and piece-N on their less slanted side.

I used the pencil marks on the masking tape I have on my sewing machine table top to judge the ¼" seam allowance. The stitching line would fall at the notch when I start the seam but, at the finish, the piece-N will overhang so the ¼" point is hidden beneath.

I pressed the seam allowance toward the bow color and away from the background each time. When I stitch around the ribbon and bows in the quilting stage, I wanted them to be slightly raised from the background and present. I did trim off those overhanging sections on the right before adding on the background, the upper right corner of the entire block.

I added the background piece...

... and trimmed ever so little off the extended corner.

When joining left and right bow sections it does matter which end is aligned if the base of the right bow loop is to touch the top of the package. Here is an example of bow loops whose tips are not aligned with each other. Aligning the top and bottom of the left and bow sections may be intuitive, but it was not my preferred way to go.

And here is a sample of aligned bow loops. There really is quite a bit to trim off both the top and bottom of the joined bow loop sections. Yes, the block becomes shorter because I need to trim both top and bottom, but it is worth it to me.

If I had not added piece-L (the upper left corner) shifted upward as I had, I would not have had to remove fabric from its top. But piece-L would have needed to be trimmed from the left then, so it is six-of-one and half-a-dozen of the other. I aligned nine bow sections like the sample on the right, with the tips of the two bow loops kissing each other. I will take out and re-do the sample on the left the same way.

I checked on the Sandy Gervais pattern photo, and the right bow loop does not touch the top of the package, but I prefer to slide it down so it does. I am guessing the pattern tester aligned the block edges rather than bow loop tips. A free floating bow may be a bit more whimsical, but I opted otherwise.

Here are my ten completed red gift blocks. My first impression is that the aqua background is a bit too mottled for my taste. That may just be my leaning because I am stretching my comfort zone. I tweaked and twiddled and managed the gift paper and ribbon color combos, but made a conscious decision to let the chips fall where they may for the background. Should I have kept the background all one color? I easily could have, by not reordering the pieces in the stacks. It would be a shame, however,  if I wimped out and chose fabrics so similar that the wonkiness did not shine through. Sigh. This is the point in every quilt where my self-doubt creeps in.

I am withholding final judgment until I've completed the blocks from the other colorways. I noted that when I'd performed the "squint your eyes test", the ten aquas had displayed the greatest variation of tone amongst themselves. The fabrics for the red background and the green background were more subtle. Also, when the blocks have been trimmed and joined, there will be more definition of each block, and my perception may change. Piecing is my favorite part of quilting. For now, I am thoroughly enjoying the novelty and challenges of this wonky method. I am joining the WIP linky party at this week's Freshly Pieced and will take a look at what others are enjoying.


  1. I didn't know you kept a scotch tape dispenser in the sewing room - it will come in handy for me! (along with the ruler labelled "Kitchen Only" you keep in the kitchen drawer). Thanks! Frank

    1. Ha, ha. Now can you please also check the garage for my reducing glass that you borrowed when you were installing the hickory hardwood floor?

  2. Man... those paper templates would be such a lifesaver for me! Yet another super-cute set of pieced gifts, and again I am sticking with the idea that similar-colored presents should stick together!

    1. I am getting more and more convinced that similar backgrounds and gifts should be gathered together. YOu are right. My assembly post will discuss that.