Saturday, February 15, 2014

A friendlier Friendship Star

I meant to start 2014 with an easy block, but most days I get another message outlining problems people are having with this block.  & the problems are really mostly one problem:  after making the 1/2-square triangle in the manner I outlined, the component they end up with -the 1/2-square triangle that is four of the patches in the nine patch is just a skosh too small.  Sometimes more than a skosh.

The cause of this is almost always the same thing:  an ever-so-deeper than 1/4" seam allowance.  & it is not just this block, this is the most frequent problem block swappers face in any swapped block (say THAT ten times fast!).  It has been more of a problem this time around because only four of the nine patches are pieced; the other are cut to the correct size (3.5" squares) making the mismatch clear almost right away.

There are only two solutions & one of them is practice practice practice.  In general, people who are struggling with seam allowance are not crazy about this suggestion.  Too deep a seam allowance means things don't fit, too shallow they all apart down the road...also they don't fit.  Yes, there are presser feet & sewing machines with that seam allowance marked or guided or whatever but that costs $$ & maybe it isn't worth it to you (it wasn't to me; I eventually bought a 1/4" foot but only because it was grouped with other feet & marked clearance at a quilt shop's going out of business sale; I should have bought it sooner-I love that silly foot). 

As for whether or not the seam being marked on the machine itself, that has more to do with what the manufacturer thought you were going to sew than anything else.  I have hear of people marking the 1/4" themselves either with masking tape or a thickish stack of post-it notes, but I am making a different suggestion:  cut the squares that will become your 1/2-square triangles a bit large.

First, you would need to abandon the make eight at a time method I went over in the original Friendship Star post & go back to the pair of squares makes a pair of 1/2-square triangles method.  You can see the hows of it in many places on the interwebs, including instructional videos etc., but I am sending you instead to a past Facebook Quilt Block Swap group block:  the Massachusetts Star.  Those directions have photos for making the 1/2-square triangle beginning with two 4.5" squares. 

You will also begin with two 4.5" squares, one background (which is limited to white, etc. as per the original Friendship Star post) & one whatever other fabric you have chosen either dark or light red, white &/or blue (again, please refer to the original Friendship Star post). 

After you have made the center line, stitched a slightly too deep 1/4" seam (that is why we are here, after all), pressed the two blocks open THEN take your ruler & cut the 1/2-square triangle to 3.5" square.  I know this is a bit wasteful, but not as wasteful as chucking the whole thing because it is too small.

Now comes the next challenge:  assembling the nine patch without losing more than 1/4" in each seam.  I know this does not feel like a lot, but consider that every block has two seam in each direction.  This means that you are taking up 2x whatever extra you are using in each block.  You would be surprised how much that adds up. 

So this is my suggestion:  after you have pressed etc. the 1/2-square triangle, flip it over & measure the seam allowance.  Make a note of the overage.  Find something to compare it to:  is it maybe the width of a sharpie heavy duty marker line?  Is it the width of the French tip on your manicure?  Find SOMETHING that is equal to the overage. 

& this is where we have no choice but to practice, practice, practice.  Sew some straight strips together moving the fabric way from the place you have been starting in by the width of whatever that familiar thing is (the sharpie marker line or the toothpick or the bobby pin or whatever.  Do this a couple of times.  You should start moving towards a more-better 1/4" seam allowance. 

I might be crazy, but I have always found it easier to add & subtract real things (width of a nickel, head of a glass topped pin) than to try & memorize the numbers, apply them & then manipulate them.  But maybe that's just me.

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