Tuesday, February 28, 2012

"Render Unto Caeser" roman stripes for April

I am not in the mood to re-type (& if you read with any regularity, you are sick of reading) the long version.  The short version is I am still digging out from the inability to bring over from the camera, sort & then upload my photos for a couple months now.  As a result, I am going to stagger the publishing of these, but all three will be up in plenty of time to give extra time for the more difficult blocks.

As for other changes, I am actually starting to think posting the first three in late February & the next three in late August might be a good permanent change to make, as it works better with holiday schedules, etc.  Let me stress that the block deadline is the same (always the last SATURDAY of an even numbered month) & generally I expect to get you three blocks at a time, ideally giving more time for anything more complex.

So without further ado, the block due on the April deadline (April 28, 2012) is kinda-sorta about that other exciting deadline that happens in the US anyhow in April.  I am calling it Render Unto Caesar in honor of it being tax time & all & the block itself being a version of the roman stripe.

You will need (at least) four fabrics.  The first is a solid, light-in-color 10.5" x 10.5" square.  I say light in color because we will be placing the other fabrics over it & it might (will) show through.  This does not mean you need to limit yourself to white or even off-white but you do need to limit yourself to an actual SOLID, not reads-as-solid (those little white on white patterns can be seen through a thin top fabric). In some parts of the world I know solid fabric in 100% quilters cotton can be hard to find, so for this reason & this one time ONLY a polyester blend would be acceptable.  It should still be the same weight, same texture, same overall "feel" as quilters cotton (no spandex, no double knit, no voile, no metallic, no denim, do I need to continue?).  Or you can just go with garden-variety 100% cotton white muslin,  but keep in mind that 1/2 of the visible finished block will be this fabric so please do not use any old sheet.  Also please be sure the background fabric, whatever you use, washes clear; this would be a lousy time for a color to run.

As for the other strips, go to the scrap bag.  You will need at least three more fabrics & very likely more.  We will be working with strips of not less than 1.5" wide & not more than 3.5" wide.  They also do not have to be a consistent width (i.e. a strip can be 1.5" wide at one end & get gradually wide until it is is 3.5" wide at the other, in fact one or two variable strips is actually ideal).  The first strip MUST be the darkest strip & in a perfect world would be either solid or read-as-solid.  It does not have to be black, it can be navy blue or a deep purple or anything we would all agree is dark.  

The others really are scraps (although they should follow our regular fabric guidelines, 100% cotton, clean, etc.).  Patterns are fine, wild colors are not a problem, even pieced strips are OKay.  Like the dark strip, they must be anywhere within the 1.5" to 3.5" guideline.  The best thing to do (I have found) is to pull out many potential strips, iron them flat & keep them handy.  Double check the edges are straight (they do not have to be perfectly parallel but they do need to be straight).  Do not discard strips that seem too short, they might come in handy for the corners.

1. Take your solid 10.5" by 10.5" square (also freshly ironed, trust me, it helps) & on the back make a STRAIGHT line from one corner to the other.  If you would like you can do this LIGHTLY, in PENCIL but be careful as this is the stitching line; unless you have a very steady hand some of this might show through which is why I would suggest instead you do what I do:  fold the block in half corner-to-corner & iron in the line along which you will stitch.  The means paying more attention as you first stitch in that ditch (it is easier to stitch the peak actually) but you don't have to worry about any marks showing through & as soon as you press it (step 4), the line is gone forever.

2. Take your freshly ironed dark strip (for the first block lay the strip from one corner to the other to get an idea of the MINIMUM length the strip should be) & place it beneath this center line.  You will be stitching straight up the center line, so you will move the strip to one side or another so that AT LEAST 1/4" is on one side of the line & the rest is on the other.  It makes no difference whether the bulk of the strip is to the left or the right of the line so long as AT LEAST 1/4" is on the other side.  Anyone who knows me or has taken a workshop with me knows I can be cavalier about pins:  if you want them, use them but unless I mostly I do without; this first strip I will use as many pins as I can lay my hands on.

3.  Stitch straight down that line, folded or penciled or whatever..  Remove the block from the machine & measure the seam allowance at the top & bottom to MAKE SURE there is at least 1/4" all the way down.  Take a breathe because that whole working from the back & still aiming for a straight seam is about the hardest part of this particular block.  Some people (I admit I am not one of them) find this whole back-to- front business much too confusing & never do anything in the foundation piecing arena again.  In my picture you can see I used a walking foot for this; this is not necessary nor did I even register I had done it, I was just finishing a binding right before I started these blocks & by the time I realized the walking foot was in the pictures, I had already moved all the blocks to the next step.

4.  Turn the block over & press the dark strip back on itself.  Make sure the seam is pressed completely back.  Do not worry about the over long bits hanging off the sides of the block for now. Pay particular attention to make sure the first seam is not folded anywhere & that there is indeed a good 1/4" seam allowance.

5.  The rest is easier to do than it is to read: take your next strip & with the larger fabric block FACE UP, lay this strip along the UNSTITCHED edge of the strip you just stitched.  Sew right down that side, again keeping the at least 1/4" seam allowance.  Press it back.  Repeat.

As you progress, you will observe that you will use shorter pieces the closer you get to the corner.  Until you get the hang of things, please avoid using not-strip-shaped scraps, even for the corner;  it is very easy to underestimate what you need & not always easy to spot the problem before you make it worse.  My potted plants are full of foundation squares made useless by one too-small piece somewhere in the middle (I use these failures to cover over the drainage hole at the bottom of the pot, they keep the soil in nicely while letting the water through - so handy!).

6.  Let me repeat, when you get to the corner please use a larger-than-you-might-think piece, stitch & press as above.  Then flip the whole block over so the wrong side is up & you can see the square you started with.  USING A RULER cut around the edge of the square 1/4" to 1/2" from the square.  In other words, leave an edge around the original square.  When you get your swap blocks back you will very likely trim this away but for now it is the best way to confirm that each strip does indeed cover the whole area it should (you would be amazed how often a strip you thought was just fine comes up short & you do not notice until right now) as well as giving you some wiggle room just in case something happens to the exposed bias edge.

& your block is done.  When you have a pile of blocks you might notice that while you started with squares of absolutely the same size, they are not longer quite-so-much the same.  This is not unusual; foundation piecing often gathers the foundation fabric in unusual ways.  When you get your swap blocks back, you will likely want to press them again, find the smallest block & cut everything down to that one. 

This is an very forgiving introduction to foundation piecing block & unlike most foundation pieced blocks, it can be adapted for chain piecing.  Even so, it is unlikely your blocks will all be the same; some of them might not even be alike.  It will all depend on what comes out of your scrap bag.

Make one set of six blocks, five to send (we always swap in sets of FIVE) & one to keep.  You have the option of sending a 6th block with your five swap blocks; you will get five back & the 6th will go to whichever member of the group asked for them to make a quilt to donate to in her community.  Please let me know by March 15th if you want to be the 6th block person this go round (& you might want to take a look at the guidelines in the Facebook group about the 6th block as there are some restrictions).

My plan is to put the June & August 2012 blocks up in a couple of weeks, still giving extra time (because blocks get more complex through the months) but hopefully eliminating any confusion about which block is due when.

No comments:

Post a Comment