Saturday, December 28, 2013

The color & the shape for April 2014

We have not had a kid-specific block for almost a year (no, not even the Small World ladies were strictly for kids).  Yes, yes the Rainbow Connection swappers mostly seemed to be making kids quilts & maybe even last June's Regatta blocks or this month's Festivus blocks are going mostly to kids but in neither of those swaps were juvenile prints specifically asked for.   

For our April 2014 we will be making a raw-edge applique "stack", the first applique-only swap we have ever had.  & in another first, if you want to use flannel for one or more of your shapes, please do.  If you want to use an old sheet as your starting point (the 10.5" base) or even for any of your stacks, feel free.  Yes, whatever you use should still be cotton, but a mix of kinds of cotton is welcome, as long as none of them are stretchy or too dense (i.e. canvas). 

To begin, you will need a white or colored SOLID 10.5" square.  A 100% cotton bleached muslin is perfectly acceptable.  You can also use an old sheet so long as it is SOLID; by solid I mean a single color throughout (I feel a little ridiculous defining solid, but believe it or not here was once a problem).  If you have never done machine applique before you might want to avoid the old sheet the first time; sheets are often more slippery than muslin & can get away from you.

This first 10.5" square is the base of your stack; you will need at least two more fabrics & they can be any non-stretch cotton.  Old flannel shirt, fine; big, bold primary print, fine.  Because this is a kids specific block, primary colors, bright colors, juvenile or graphic patterns are all welcome.  .  There should also be a clear distinction from one layer to the next (please do not stack a pale print with a white background on top of a pale print with a white background). 

The first level of your stack can be a circle, square, rectangle or hexagon.  You can use triangles for other levels but if you begin with a triangle you will run out of room to work very quickly.  For the example I began with a 6.5" square & set it on point.  The first fabric in both of these examples is 100% cotton flannel. 

In both of my examples, the first square is not all-white, but it could have been,  The raw edges will fluff up after the washing & there will be a clear delineation from one shape/layer to the next.  As an experiment I made a stack of three different white fabrics & while it does not photograph well, in person the edges are distinct. 

I pinned the zig-zag patterned flannel square using at least one pin on each edge along an imaginary line 1/4" from the edge.  I stitched inside that line.  The stitches are almost 1/2" from the edge.  Your stitches should be a minimum of  3/8" (note:  NOT 1/4" as is usual but at least 3/8") from the edge. 

I decided to play with the decorative stitches on my machine & you can, too.  If you do elect to use the zig-zag stitch as your decorative stitch PLEASE run a line a of straight stitching on the inside of your decorative stitch (or over it, as I did in this example).  Just a plan zig-zag stitch is a little bit unstable & things tend to stretch & shift.  You can also use a contrasting thread if you wish, but plain old neutral thread, straight stitch is just fine, too. 

After you have stitched your first layer, flip the block over.  From the back, you need to make a tiny snip through JUST the bottom fabric (that is, the 10.5" base block) underneath the shape you just added.  Using that snip, cut an X across the back, stopping 3/8" or slightly more from the stitching line.  Remove each of the flaps always being careful NOT to cut the top fabric (the picture shows the X & two of the flaps gone), to remove bulk.  Another fabric is going to get sacked on top of this one but no one wants to quilt through more than 2 layers of fabric.  That being said, the wider-than-usual seam allowance on both sides of the stitched line is needed to keep the whole block stable.

Flip the block back, right side up & add another layer.  I added a 3" or 3.5" square, centering it on the first layer.  Again I pinned it on all four sides, stitched a bit more than 3/8" from the outer edge.

In this case all the stitching lines of the second layer (the solid-ish green layer) are inside the previous stitching lines, but yours does not have to be that way.  The top layer can "hang-off" the edge of the first layer, it can be a different shape, it can be a different color (although I would suggest working light to dark; a dark fabric, particularly one that is patterned, will show through a lighter top layer).

That is it, the whole block done.  I have since gone on & added another shape to the block on the right, but I wanted you to see how very different the same size block can look, depending on how it lines up with the 10.5" base.

This block needs a minimum of three different pieces of fabric, but they can all be from the same original fabric.  The base (10.5" x 10.5"), the first layer (in both my examples, I used a 6.5" square), & the top layer which can be the same shape or a different shape, it can be the same size or smaller.  You can go ahead & add another layer, but you don't have to.  I would also suggest you get a few of these under your belt before you try it.  Please limit yourself to non-stretch 100% cotton fabric (as always), but it is OKay to use quilting cotton, flannel, even old sheets.  Any 100% cotton that you can quilt though is welcome, even encouraged.  That being said, please do NOT use t-shirt material or canvas even if they are 100% cotton & if there is any question that a scrap might not be all cotton, please don't use it.  Only 100% cotton will fray the right way; polyester is too durable.

As always we swap in sets of FIVE, send five blocks get five back.  This is a big block; nine blocks could make a baby blanket.  This block would also work nicely for a fabric baby book.

We also have the option of including a 6th block.  6th blocks go to the member of our group who asks for them first & commits to making a quilt for a person or persons in their community.  Please don't ask for the blocks to make a quilt for your own use or a fund raiser, etc. (although you are of course free to do whatever you want with your own swapped blocks); the idea of the 6th block was for someone who would not otherwise get a quilt get the quilt.

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