TYSS: Indiana Puzzle

Here it is, the penultimate block in the Test Your Skills Sampler: the Indiana Puzzle.

Indiana Puzzle

If you’re following the White & Bright layout, this block is orange, green, purple and yellow. The block finishes at 12″ (12 1/2″ unfinished).

The Indiana Puzzle block is made from sixteen Drunkard’s Path units. That’s a lot of curves, but I know you can do it! Since the block finishes at 12″, that means each Drunkard’s Path unit finishes at 3″, or 3 1/2″ unfinished. If you have an AccuQuilt you can use the 3 1/2″ finished die and trim it down. If you have plastic templates for blocks that finish at 3″ or larger, you can use them and trim down. If you don’t have either, I’ve created a couple of PDFs of the templates for you to use. One is for the exact size block and one is for a 3 1/2″ finished block that you can trim down to size after sewing. As always, when printing a PDF make sure it is printing actual size and not “fit to page” or some other scaled setting. Make sure it printed correctly by measuring the square side of the concave piece. Corner to corner on the INSIDE line it should measure 3″ or 3 1/2″, depending on which one you printed (it’s the finished size).

Click here to download the 3″ finished template
Click here to download the 3 1/2″ finished template

When using a template to cut out your fabric pieces, be careful not to cut the template. A few cuts, shaving off a little each time, and pretty soon they aren’t so accurate. You can try tracing them onto cardboard (an empty cereal box, for example) or template plastic to give it a little more substance. You could also trace the template onto the fabric then cut just the fabric. Though you verified the size by measuring the inside line, you need to cut the templates on the outside line.

Follow the instructions in the Skill Builder Series post about curved piecing. With sixteen units, you can experiment with the different methods to see what works best for you. It is important that you trim the units to 3 1/2″. In order to do that, the “points” of the seams should be on the 1 1/2″ mark. If I’d been thinking when I posted the Skill Builder I would have trimmed to that size instead of trimming to 3 3/4″. Ah, well – part of this project is about building skills, and being able to adapt instructions to fit your needs is a good skill to have.

After you’ve sewn all sixteen Drunkard’s Path units, lay them out to form the four circle units and sew them together. The circle units should measure 6 1/2″ unfinished. Sew the four circles together – the final block should measure 12 1/2″ unfinished. Don’t worry too much about this being exactly the right size. When we put the top together we’ll be adding background pieces that we can fudge a little where necessary.

Just one more block to go – the “dreaded” Feathered Star – and then it’s on to quilt top assembly. I missed my birthday deadline – let’s see if we can get this done by oh, say, Memorial Day? As always, let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.

PM/GC Quilts Skill Builder Series: Part 17 – Curved Piecing

I’ll be honest – when I first started quilting, curves gave me the willies. It’s silly, because while I wasn’t particularly good at it, I’ve sewn clothing. I’ve managed a sleeve or two that were decent enough to appear in public. I don’t know why the thought of a curve in quilting made me so nervous. After I’d been quilting about a year I decided it was time to put this silly fear to rest and I bought a Drunkard’s Path template set. I didn’t know any better so I bought the wrong one, of course – one was that was intended to be used for applique rather than piecing. I fiddled with it until I was able to cut a passable Drunkard’s Path block, sewed it, figuratively patted myself on the back, then moved on. Later I found an Olfa circle cutting and tried again. Still no love, mostly because cutting the darn things are really unpleasant if you don’t have proper templates or, even better, a die cutter. Eventually Jeanne picked up an AccuQuilt Go Cutter, I picked up a Drunkard’s Path die set, and voila! I have pieces cut to sew approximately 37 million Drunkard’s Path units. I’ve sewn five. Seeing a pattern? Oh, wait – if you follow my blog (and those who still do, thank you for either your loyalty or your laziness in not cleaning out your feed reader), you are well aware that this fairly typical in many aspects, not just quilting.

Still, curved piecing isn’t just about the Drunkard’s Path unit, which, if you aren’t familiar with it, looks something like this:

Drunkard's Path

It has many different names, depending on how you lay out the blocks. There’s the Drunkard’s Path, of course, so named because of the way the block seems to stagger across the quilt. There’s also a Peace Dove, Drunkard’s Pinwheel, Cleopatra’s Puzzle, Indiana Puzzle, I Wish You Well, and even a Turtle, among many others.

Drunkard' Path

Drunkard’ Path

Peace Dove

Peace Dove

Drunkard's Pinwheel

Drunkard’s Pinwheel

Cleopatra's Puzzle

Cleopatra’s Puzzle

Indiana Puzzle

Indiana Puzzle

I Wish You Well

I Wish You Well

Turtle

Turtle

There are other blocks that use curves, some that also use a quarter circle, such as the New York Beauty, from the most basic block to the more complex.

New York Beauty

New York Beauty

New York Sunburst

New York Sunburst

Of course there are blocks that include gentler curves like the Orange Peel, Robbing Peter to Pay Paul, and the Double Wedding Ring and its variations:

Orange Peel

Orange Peel

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

Plain Double Wedding Ring

Plain Double Wedding Ring

Double Wedding Ring

Double Wedding Ring

Pickle Dish

Pickle Dish

The Improved Nine Patch, one of my favorite blocks from the 30′s:

Improved Nine Patch

Improved Nine Patch

And the wonderfully complex Mariner’s Compass blocks, including variations like Chips and Whetstones:

Mariner's Compass

Mariner’s Compass

Chips and Whetstones

Chips and Whetstones

Curves are becoming popular again in contemporary quilting, thanks to things like Amy Butler’s Single Girl quilt and the Quick Curve Ruler from Sew Kind of Wonderful. Be sure to check out this blog, if you don’t already follow it. There are tons of incredible patterns, including some free tutorials, that use the Quick Curve Ruler. Here’s a recent quilt, Spring Fling (available as a free tutorial), that uses the ruler:

Spring Fling by Sew Kind of Wonderful – click to see the free tutorial

You can also see freeform curved piecing used in improvisational piecing like the incredible Ripple Effect II from Marianne at The Quilting Edge.

Ripple Effect II by The Quilting Edge

The point is, curves are everywhere in quilting today, and even if you have no intention of making a Double Wedding Ring or a Drunkard’s Path, you may want to apply the technique in your own unique way. So how do you do it? Everyone knows when you are sewing curves you need to put the concave side on top and pin the heck out of it, right? Only I’m not a big fan of absolute rules when it comes to quilting, so I tried several different methods and decided that, for me, the method I use depends on the degree of curve I’m sewing.

Improvisational Curves

If you’d like to try curves, improvisational piecing is a great place to start. The curves can be as easy as you’d like and they don’t have to line up with anything so you can sew and then trim to your heart’s content. The only trick is to cut both pieces of fabric along the same curve. In order to do this you need to layer them both right sides up (NOT together).

Free Curve A

Using a rotary cutter, slowly cut a gentle, flowing curve, making sure that you’re cutting through both layers of fabric.

Free Curve B

Flip the pieces right sides together and place one end under the needle. Hold the top piece of fabric and gently ease the edges together as you slowly sew.

Free Curve C

While you could certainly pin this, I think the long, gentle curves are excellent for the no-pin method. You can clip the curves when you’re done if you’d like, but if the curve is gentle enough it isn’t necessary.

Free Curve D

Shallow Curves

A while back I posted a short video of how I sewed the shallow curve of the melon portion of a Double Wedding Ring. I laugh at myself every time I watch it – to quote my original post:

By the way, I don’t lisp. Not that there’s anything wrong with having a lisp, but something went funky with the sound on this and my S’s sound thtrange. Here’s the video:

So the funny part is, I managed this all by myself. Think about it – how do you hold a camera to record a video, and use both hands for the demonstration? Answer: You find the last remaining wire coat hanger in the house and bend it into an odd shape that both fits over your head so it hangs around your neck AND holds the camera in exactly the right position. Well, I’m nothing if not resourceful.

Tight Curves

Since I have so many Drunkard’s Path units already cut out, I’ll show several methods using that block. You’ll notice in a couple of these photos that the two pieces do not appear to line up properly – I don’t know why that is. They seem to come out okay, and they were cut with the AccuQuilt 3 1/2″ finished die, so I’m not going to worry about it.

Method 1

First I tried the method that most people advocate – concave side on top, pin like crazy. Align the center point on both piece, right sides together, make sure it’s straight, then pin the center point.

DP1A

DP1B

Align both outer edges and pin each side.

DP1C

DP1D

Finally, find the center between the pins and pin, then again, and again and again…

DP1E

Sew the standard 1/4″ seam, removing the pins as you get to them. Go slowly and tuck the top layer out of the way to avoid sewing a crease into the seam. You may need to stop occasionally and lift the pressure foot to adjust the fabric. This is where a needle down option on your machine is helpful.

DP1F

Carefully clip the seam allowance along the curve. Don’t cut the thread! Clipping the seam allowance will help it lie flat when you press it.

DP1G

I am usually a press-to-one-side girl, but curves are one time I prefer to press the seam open. If you look closely you can see how clipping the seams helps it stay flat. On the red side, the clips spread open a bit and on the yellow they overlap at the edges.

DP1H

Well, it isn’t the most perfect of Drunkard’s Path blocks, but it isn’t a bad starting point. You may notice the top edge is a little crooked. (Also, you generally aren’t on grain when using a die cutter, resulting in a lot of thread ends that stick out. Of course it doesn’t help that these piece have been lying around for six or eight months.) The crookedness stems from taking too much seam allowance on that side. Maintaining a quarter inch seam is one of the more challenging aspects of curved piecing.

DP1I

 

Method 2

In the second method, I still put the concave side on top but this time I didn’t use any pins. Line up the one edge, right sides together. It will look strange because the curves swing away from each other when they’re right sides together.

DP2A

Sew slowly…

DP2B

…gently easing the two piece into place. Hold the top fabric and lift it so you can see the edge of the bottom fabric. Carefully pull the top fabric to the left so the edges line up as they go under the pressure foot.

DP2C

When you get to the very end use a pair of tweezers (these bent ones are wonderful) to grip both layers and guide them under the foot.

DP2D

This block went faster because there was no pinning, but you can see there’s a little flat spot where I didn’t ease them together quite right. While the start and end line up, it’s still a little crooked like the first one was. With practice, I think this could work well, but if I want a smooth curve the pinning seems to work better.

DP2E

Method 3

This time around I did not pin, but I put the convex piece on top and the concave piece on the bottom. Proceed exactly as in method 2, sewing slowly and easing the two fabrics together. As in the video above, I found this easier because I could see both edges, where in method 2 I had to keep lifting the top fabric to see the edge of the bottom fabric.

DP3A

DP3B

Unfortunately, this one wasn’t quite as neat as the other, and it didn’t line up quite right. The curve was a little smoother, however.

DP3C

Method 4

Finally, I pinned with the convex side on top and the concave on the bottom. As in method 1, line up the fabrics right sides together and pin at the center.

DP4A

Pin both outside edges, then at the halfway point on each side. I didn’t pin any more than this – for this small piece, I felt like all that extra pinning didn’t help me that much.

DP4B

With the convex side on top, the pinned unit curved up. Rather than force it flat, I just let it curl as I fed it through the machine. As always, sew slowly and remove the pins as you go.

Note: Some people are comfortable sewing over the pins. I used to be one of those people, but I’ve bent too many good pins and I’m always nervous that I’ll damage or even break a needle. Since I’m sewing slowly and stopping frequently to adjust the fabric anyway, I might just as well remove the pins before sewing over them. 

DP4C

The finished block, as with all of the others, is not quite perfectly aligned. It was a little awkward to sew and though I didn’t, I was worried I’d sew in a crease because I couldn’t see the excess fabric on the bottom. This was probably my least favorite method.

DP4D

So here are my four blocks.

Drunkard's Path All

Clockwise from the top left, they are lightly pinned and convex on top; no pins and convex on top, no pins and concave on top, and heavily pinned and concave on top. None are perfect, but all are reasonably good. With practice, I’d definitely improve. HOWEVER…

As you well know, I prefer cutting larger and sewing then trimming to size. Could I do that here? The answer is yes, but you have to be very careful and pay close attention. The problem is you need to be able to align the seams and trimming become a bit of a challenge. Pivot it too much either way and the seams don’t align. Also, if you’re using a die cutting machine you can’t adjust the size you cut so you have to adjust the finished size if you want to trim. Make sure the finished size won’t throw off the rest of your project if you’re going to do that. Here’s how to trim:

The block is supposed to finish at 3 1/2″, meaning the sewn unit should be 4″. I’m going to trim them all to 3 3/4″ so the blocks will finish at 3 1/4″. First, determine the measurement you want your “points” to be at – the seam line. This will be the same on both sides. I chose 1 1/4″ from the outside.

Place a ruler on your block, lining up the 1 1/4″ mark with the seam on both sides (blue arrows). Make sure all four sides fit within the lines you’ll use to trim – in this case, the outer edges and the 3 3/4″ marks on the ruler (blue line). Hold the ruler firmly in place and trim the two sides.

DP Trim A

Turn the piece around and put the 3 3/4″ mark on the corner you just trimmed (orange arrow). Check that the seams still line up correctly on both sides (blue arrows) and trim the other two sides.

DP Trim B

Here are the four blocks after trimming. Better, hmm?

DP Trimmed

So if you’d like to give the Drunkard’s Path a try and don’t have a plastic template or special tool, here’s a template you can print: Drunkard’s Path Template

I think this is where I’m going to stop – though there is a lot more to talk about in curved piecing, this post is long enough! Are there any questions you’d like addressed if we do another curved piecing post? Do you have any tips or tricks you’d like to share about curved piecing?

Catching up

It’s been a busy, difficult few weeks. My uncle, who was diagnosed with throat in August (see this post about the week from hell), passed away. He declined rapidly in the last few weeks, and I’m both sad that he’s gone and glad that he didn’t suffer for long. Over a ten-day period Mom and her sister, Mickey, made a couple of matching hug quilts for my uncle and his wife. I don’t have a picture of Mike’s (we were in a hurry to get it to him), but this is the one we made for his wife. Mike’s quilt has a light gray background and is in shades of blue, green and brown. His daughter has claimed it, which makes us happy.

Judy's Hug Quilt

It’s based on this quilt from Needle in a Quiltstack, though I didn’t follow a pattern, just made it up in EQ7 and started cutting.

Before that, I committed to an art project that nearly did me in. I play with other artistic things – I enjoy drawing, and have slapped paint decoratively on furniture several times. I’m just good enough not to embarrass myself. You can see some of it in this dresser:

After 2

Makeover Step 1 Nearly Done

(See the Botanicals BOM Rosebud block on the table?)

A local botanical garden (Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville, WI) is celebrating their 25th anniversary, and they are doing an art fundraiser. Their volunteer made Adirondack chairs, which the Gardens sold to local artists, school classes, dilettantes like me – basically anyone who wanted to participate. We painted the chairs then returned them to the Gardens. They had them clear coated by a local auto shop and the chairs are on display throughout the Gardens until September, at which time they’ll be auctioned off. Here’s my chair:

Painted Chair 1

And since it isn’t quilting if a cat isn’t involved:

Painted Chair 2

If you look closely at the girl’s arm, the edge of the quilt, and the arm of the chair you can see a row of ants marching. They continue under the arm and down the leg. I do face painting at the Gardens when they have children’s events, and the ants are my favorite thing to do for very small, fidgety children because they’re super fast. They’ve sort of become my trademark, so of course I had to include them here.

Finally, Mom has been working away at the Fractalish quilt for my cousin’s wedding. I can’t lie – I really haven’t done much on this, though it will be up to me to quilt it. The thing is so large, the only place we had room to lay it out was the garage. The yard was just too wet. We put a tarp down on the garage floor, but even that wasn’t quite big enough. This photo is before all of the sections were sewn together – it’s a top now, measuring something like 108″ or 110″. Really, really big.

Fractalish on garage floor

Botanicals BOM Block 3 – Rosebud

Here’s the Botanicals block of the month that I owe you from April 1. Shame on me, though it’s been a busy (and difficult) month. I’ll report more later. In the meantime, here’s the Rosebud block.

DSCF3946

This is a pretty simple block, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind. As with all of my tutorials and patterns, I like to sew the components (like the half square triangles) larger than needed then trim them to size. The parts of the block that have 7/8″ measurements must be cut accurately, however, because they are not trimmed later.

As with all of the block in this BOM, it finishes at 12″ (12 1/2″ unfinished). You will need:

Fabric 1 (blue): Cut (4) 3 1/4” squares.
Fabric 2 (pink): Cut (2) 4 7/8” squares. Cut diagonally once.
Background (white):
Cut (2) 6 7/8” squares. Cut diagonally once.
Cut (4) 3 1/4” squares.
Cut (2) 2 7/8” squares. Cut diagonally once.

DSCF3903

Place each 3 1/4” background square right sides together with a fabric 1 square. Draw a diagonal line on the back of the lighter squares, and diagonal lines 1/4” to either side of the center line. (I only drew the two outer lines.)

DSCF3905

Sew on the two outer lines, then cut on the center lines.

DSCF3908

DSCF3909

Press to the background. Trim the resulting (8) half square triangle units (HSTs) to 2 1/2”.

DSCF3911

Sew the HST units together in pairs, then sew the 2 7/8” HSTs to each pair.

DSCF3914

DSCF3916

You will have four sets like this. Press to the light.

DSCF3918

Sew each unit to one fabric 2 triangle to create four units.

DSCF3920

DSCF3921

When you place the fabric in your machine, the two ends should form a notch. The center of that notch should be at your 1/4″ seam.

DSCF3924

Use the intersection of the threads to guide your seam. It should a hair outside the point created by the threads.

DSCF3925

Press to the large triangle.

DSCF3928

Trim the point from the middle, then place a large background triangle right sides together with each unit – they should be the same size and shape.

DSCF3929

Line up the short edges, then sew along the long diagonal edge. As before, use the thread intersection to guide your seam to avoid cutting off points.

DSCF3930

DSCF3933

Press to the background. You will have four units.

DSCF3936

Lay out the four units as you would a four-patch block, rotating each unit to form the pinwheel shape.

DSCF3937

Sew the top two sections together, then the bottom two sections. Press toward the background.

DSCF3941

Sew the top and bottom sections together. Turn the block over so you’re looking at the back and gently separate the center intersection, finger pressing to the background on each side. This will cause the sections to go in opposite
directions, revealing a tiny pinwheel at the center, and allowing the seams to lie more flat.

DSCF3942

Press with the iron to finish.

DSCF3946

Any questions? Click here to download a “short version” of these block instructions in PDF form. (The pressing instructions for the HST units are wrong in the PDF – you should press to the background.)

Please visit the Botanicals BOM Intro post for optional settings with fabric requirements and links to all blocks that have been posted so far.

Design It! Red & White Quilt Challenge

SewCalGal is hosting a quilt design challenge as part of a Year of Red & White Quilt Challenges. You can read more information about this design challenge and the Year of Red & White Quilt Challenges at SewCalGal’s blog. I encourage you to check out the “Year of” post for a video of the “Infinite Variety: Three Centuries of Red and White Quilts” show displayed in New York City in March of 2011, sponsored by the American Folk Art Museum. Red and white quilts have been a popular theme in quilting for a very long time, and it’s wonderful to see so many of them (615!) in one place.

If you’re interested in designing a quilt for this challenge, you still have a little time. You do NOT have to use EQ to design your quilt – you can use other software or draw it by hand. This is a design only challenge, so a week is plenty of time to create something wonderful! The next challenge is a “make it” challenge, so if red and white quilts appeal to you, you can create your own. Check out the many ways you can participate in these challenges, either by entering or by viewing the entries.

Here is my entry in the Design It! Red & White Quilt Challenge:

Sherlock

When I thought about a red & white quilt, I knew it had to be graphic and it had to work in just two colors. Though we can use different shades of red and white or red & white prints, I knew the design would show better in a linky thumbnail if it were created in solids. I went through my EQ folders looking for something original that I hadn’t shared yet, and came across Sherlock. Yes, I’m talking about Benedict Cumberbatch (which, seriously, is the most awesome name!) and Martin Freeman. Any fans out there? (Silly question, I know.)

I have a habit of noticing shapes and designs on television shows that prompt me to grab a paper and pencil or even fire up my laptop and open EQ. As I was watching Sherlock, I noticed the wallpaper behind their sofa. I paused (isn’t the ability to pause a show wonderful?!) and sketched out the design. I honestly don’t remember if the original design had the stars in it or not. Here are the first two designs in my Sherlock file:

Sherlock 1 Sherlock 2

The first is kind of dumpy looking, while the stars in the second open up the illusion of circles. I like the second, but I knew I wanted just two colors, so I changed it to red and white and adjusted the size of the squares so the points lined up. Here’s the result:

Sherlock 3

I liked it, but I felt it was maybe too simple – not “designed” enough. It is, after all, just a repeated block with pieced sashing. One of the easiest ways to edit a design is to eliminate parts of some of the blocks. I whited out the red rectangles around the outside edges and then, on a whim, whited out the center red rectangles as well. When I put the two images side by side, I definitely preferred the edited one. In the first red and white quilt I noticed tumbler shapes, while the second seemed a little more delicate, almost like a snowflake. The points were more visible without completely losing the circle illusion. Here they are again side by side:

Sherlock 3 Sherlock

This quilt is actually quite easy to construct. The most challenging aspect is the extended triangles, but once you learn the technique it isn’t difficult. As part of the Design It challenge, Island Batiks will choose one design and provide fabric to make it, and maybe even share the free pattern on their website or more! Wouldn’t this look awesome in batiks?!

SherlockBatiks

Anyway, to be eligible for that prize I need to provide the following information: The quilt finishes at 62″ square. It requires 3 1/2 yards of white fabric and 1 3/4 yards of red, plus 1/2 yard for the binding and 4 yards for the backing.

Don’t forget to pop over to SewCalGal and check out the other design entries… and enter one of your own!

TYSS: LeMoyne Star

The LeMoyne Star block requires eight Y seams, so before you get into it you should review the Y Seam Skill Builder post. Unlike most of the TYSS posts, I duplicated a lot of the Skill Builder instructions in this post.

LeMoyne Star

If you’re following the White & Bright layout, this block is pink and yellow. The block finishes at 12″ (12 1/2″ unfinished).

The first small hurdle in the LeMoyne Star is cutting the diamond shapes. It isn’t difficult once you know how, but it does require the use of TWO rulers, one of which has a 45 degree line. Begin by cutting a 4″ wide strip that is at least 18 inches long from both the pink and yellow fabrics. Place the 45 degree line on your ruler along the bottom edge of the strip and cut to create your first 45 degree angle.

LeMoyne 1

Measure 4 1/4″ from the bottom point with the ruler with the 45 degree line (you don’t use the 45 degree line here, you just need to measure with it so that ruler is available for the next step). Place the second ruler next to it, holding that 4 1/4″ point. Line up the 45 degree line along the bottom edge of the strip with the point of the ruler at the 4 1/4″ point marked by the other ruler. Cut your first diamond. Repeat until you have four diamond of both fabrics.

LeMoyne 2

From your background fabric, cut (1) 6 1/4″ square and (4) 4″ squares. This photo shows the larger square cut diagonally, but before cutting…

LeMoyne 3

…draw a diagonal line 1/4″ from center both sides of center, in both directions.

LeMoyne 4

LeMoyne 5

Lay out the pieces, making sure the star points and angles line up perfectly. If the angle of the diamonds are off even slightly, your star may be a bit domed in the middle. Ask me how I know. Honestly, I just went with it instead of ripping it all apart and correcting it. My next attempt will be better.

LeMoyne 6

As mentioned in the Skill Builder post, you may prefer to mark a 1/4″ sewing line along each edge that require a Y seam. That’s what the drawn line are on the background piece above. In my diamonds, I only marked a short 1/4″ line at the tips of the diamonds where the background fabric will be sewn.

LeMoyne 8

LeMoyne 12

Sew the diamonds together in pairs, but only sew as far as the drawn line at the end that will be sewn to a background.

LeMoyne 11

Press to one side, always pressing to the same fabric (either yellow or pink).

LeMoyne 7

Place a background triangle right sides together with one of the pairs. The point should line up with the diamond, and the intersection of the drawn lines should fall at the seam between the diamonds.

LeMoyne 10

Sew on the drawn line, stopping at the point where the lines intersect. You may want to take a backstitch here.

LeMoyne 15

This photo doesn’t show it very well, but there is a seam along the top of the background triangle. In order to create the Y seam, you need to sew the other edge of the triangle (with the drawn line) to the yellow diamond. This takes a little effort.

LeMoyne 16

First, lift the  background triangle up out of the way and fold the two diamonds right ides together.

LeMoyne 17a

Pull the blue point down and to the right so it lines up with the yellow point. Pinch the blue/green seam and pull it to the left as the blue point comes down.

LeMoyne 17b

You can see that the green fabric is folded between the layers.

LeMoyne 17c

Sew from point (seam intersection) to point (seam intersection). Drop the needle through the dot or seam intersection, then put the presser foot down. It is important here that you are only going through two layers of fabric, NOT the fabric that is folded out of the way. If you can manually roll the needle down, you can feel more resistance if there is extra fabric. This is one time when an automatic needle up/down button works against you. Sew to the next intersection. I did not mark the outside seam, so just stop 1/4″ from the end.

LeMoyne 18

Y seams can be bulky, so one way to reduce that bulk is to spiral press, “splitting” the seams where they intersect. As long as you did not sew to the edge of the fabric, this is easy. Just press each seam from the intersecting point to the edge. Each one should go in the same direction, as if you pressed in a circle. Once the main seams are pressed, you can press the center, which has a tiny bit of the right sides of each fabric exposed.

LeMoyne 19

Repeat with the other three sets of diamonds, then sew two sets together and repeat with the other two sets.

LeMoyne 21

Measure 1/4″ from both edges on a 4″ background square and mark the point with a dot. Place the square right sides together with the star, lining up the top edge with the star fabric edge and the dot with the seam intersection of the diamonds.

LeMoyne 23

Sew from the outside edge to the dot, taking a backstitch at the dot.

LeMoyne 24

Once again, you’ll have to lift the background fabric out of the way and fold the two sides together so you can line up the other edge.

LeMoyne 25

LeMoyne 26

Again, sew from the dot to the edge of the fabric.

LeMoyne 27

Press in a spiral, as you did with the triangle.

LeMoyne 28

Sew the two halves together, crossing just at the tip of the seams where the diamonds come together.

LeMoyne 29

Sew the last two corner squares in the same way you did the last two corners.

LeMoyne 30

Press and square up to 12 1/2″.

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There’s your LeMoyne Star… and only two more blocks to go!

PM/GC Quilts Skill Builder Series: Part 16 – Y Seams

For some reason, I’ve always been a little afraid of Y seams, but they really aren’t all that awful. A Y seam is exactly what the letter looks like – a place where three seam lines intersect. Believe it or not, Y seams are actually quite easy if you hand piece. They really aren’t much different than a regular seam. To machine piecers it seems more difficult because we are accustomed to just pushing the fabric through the machine, trusting that our quarter inch foot or guide will line up the seams correctly. Everything is flat when it goes through the machine on “regular” seams, but with Y seams you need to fold fabric to get the excess out of the way before sewing.

Some quilter have had success breaking blocks with Y seams into smaller components, piecing half square triangles so the same fabrics are next to one another. This gives the same appearance as a Y seam, but with an easier construction technique. The well-loved Swoon quilt pattern by Camille Roskelly (pattern available from her shop, Thimble Blossoms) is very similar to an old block called Star of Bethlehem, circa 1931 from Prize Winning Designs (Quilter’s Album of Patchwork Patterns, page 289):

There are some slight changes in color placement and she removed the corner triangles, but the biggest difference is that some of the shapes have been changed slightly so they can be cut in half and pieced as half square triangles and flying geese. To illustrate the slight difference in shapes, here are the two blocks side by side. On the left is the Star of Bethlehem block recolored to match the Swoon layout. On the right is the Swoon block. Both blocks are shown without seam lines.

Star of Bethlehem block recolored Swoon block

If you look closely, the blue house shapes in the four corners of the Swoon block are narrower than the ones at the top/bottom/left/right. Also, the pink diamonds aren’t exactly diamonds, and the center star is a slightly different shape, with the points coming in farther and the white triangles between the points being slightly different sizes. The difference is very subtle, and both blocks are beautiful. This is a great way to make a complex block more accessible. But, you know, this post is about Y seams…

Y seams are used in a lot of 8-pointed star blocks like the Star of Bethlehem, LeMoyne Star, Carpenter’s Wheel, Lone Star and Feathered Stars.

LeMoyne Star

Carpenter’s Wheel

Lone Star

Feathered Star

They’re also used in the optical illusion called Tumbling Blocks:

Tumbling Blocks

And of course, the hexagon and it’s many variations, including those created with diamonds and triangles:

Hexagon

Pieced Diamonds Hexagon

Quilts that have an overall pattern that can’t be broken down into squares or rectangles all use Y seams. One of my favorites is a design called Jack’s Chain or Rosalia Flower Garden, made of nine patches, triangles and hexagons. This is a challenge to draw in EQ7, and I wasn’t having much luck. Fortunately, Marjorie at Quilt Design NW is smarter than I am, and shared an EQ7 file for the pattern. Here is my colored variation:

Jack’s Chain

I even found this design requiring Y seams on a tissue box! Wouldn’t it make a great quilt?

Tissue Box quilt

Construction

The example I’m using is my LeMoyne Star block from the Test Your Skills Sampler. The TYSS post will follow this one within a few hours, and will contain the complete cutting and piecing instructions for a 12″ finished LeMoyne Star. This post will focus only on the Y seam.

There are two tricks to Y seams. The first trick is knowing exactly where the seam line is. Oh, obviously it’s 1/4″ from the edge of the fabric, but with the long points of a diamond, there’s a little extra fabric. Most instructions for Y seams have you put a dot at each corner indicating where you should start and stop sewing.

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You may find it even easier if you draw the complete sewing line on the back of the fabric. This way you can see exactly where the lines intersect. This is especially true when working with non-90 degree angles (anything other than squares or rectangles).

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Second, you don’t sew from edge to edge – instead, you sew from seam to seam. In other words, you start sewing where your seam line intersects with the adjacent seam line, and stop when you meet the next seam. If you marked your starting and ending points with a dot, place your fabric under the presser foot and drop the needle through that dot, then sew to the ending dot.

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If you marked complete seam lines, drop you needle where they intersect and sew to the next intersection.

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One part of sewing Y seams that confounds people is how to get the fabric you’ve already sewn out of the way. Be patient. Slow down and just ease the fabric to where it needs to be. Try not to sew over any seam allowances, since that will make it easier to press the seams later.

The first two thirds of the Y seam are easy. It’s that last one that requires fabric to be folded out of the way. In the example below, I’ve already sewn the yellow and green fabrics together, and the blue to the green at the left. Now I need to get that second blue edge right sides together with the yellow edge.

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First, I flipped the blue fabric up and folded the green and yellow fabrics so they were right sides together.

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Next I pulled the blue point down and to the right so it lined up with the yellow point. I pinched the blue/green seam and pulled it to the left as the blue point came down.

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You can see in this last photo that the green fabric is folded between the layers.
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All that’s left is to sew the last seam from point (seam intersection) to point (seam intersection). Drop the needle through the dot or seam intersection, then put the presser foot down. It is important here that you are only going through two layers of fabric, NOT the fabric that is folded out of the way. If you can manually roll the needle down, you can feel more resistance if there is extra fabric. This is one time when an automatic needle up/down button works against you. Sew to the next intersection.

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Y seams can be bulky, so one way to reduce that bulk is to spiral press, “splitting” the seams where they intersect. As long as you did not sew to the edge of the fabric, this is easy. Just press each seam from the intersecting point to the edge. Each one should go in the same direction, as if you pressed in a circle. Once the main seams are pressed, you can press the center, which has a tiny bit of the right sides of each fabric exposed.

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Well, that’s how you do a Y seam! Any questions? Any tips that you’d like to share if you’ve had some experience with Y seams?