On being a blockhead

Although I am presently back in the realm of preparing and making garments, I spent much of the very long, very cold winter experimenting with quilt blocks. I have started paper piecing, which I find enjoyable, despite the repetitive and, at times, tedious, nature of the work. I have also joined a block-of-the-month club, not because I particularly like the quilt or the fabrics involved, but because I like the blocks.

Where it began: Puddle Jumping (Thimble blossoms by Camille Roskelley)

Where it began: Puddle Jumping (Thimble blossoms by Camille Roskelley)

I started with Puddle Jumping, a lovely quilt block shown above, although not in this iteration. These fabrics are fat quarters, bought for I know not what purpose! They are ugly, but I wanted to test the block before committing to making the quilt. I have almost completed the quilt top, using a lovely collection of fat quarters with a water theme.

Puddle Jumping quilt top (except for the borders). I used Cascade by Jessica Levitt.

Puddle Jumping quilt top (except for the borders). I used Cascade by Jessica Levitt.

I really think it a lovely block, with nice fabric! I love the fabrics that I used here, although it took a long time to cut the pieces. Because of the water theme (including dew, drops, falls), almost every fabric had direction and had to be fussy cut to maintain the sense of verticality. It also required careful planning for the stitching. I believe that it turned out well and I will eventually get the borders on and finish the quilt.

This next block I like even more!

Fireworks (Thimble blossoms by Camile Roskelley)

Fireworks (Thimble blossoms by Camile Roskelley)

Again, ugly fabrics to test. I considered Cascade for this one, but there were too many pieces to cut and the directional nature of the fabric made it impossible to get them all from just a fat quarter. I have no plans for this as a quilt, but I enjoy looking at it (looking beyond the hideous fabric, of course!).

On to the block-of-the-month. It is called Color Therapy, and, like the blocks above, uses regular piecing techniques. All of the blocks use the same components, but in different iterations. Each block also has a theme, related to the colours employed.

Color Therapy BOM quilt by Karen Gray design

Color Therapy BOM quilt by Karen Gray designs.

I do not like quilts that are all solids, but I wanted to work on piecing and with colour. I will probably not make the actual quilt, but I am enjoying the process. Every three months, I am sent the materials for three blocks.

Color Therapy. These are the March and May blocks.

Color Therapy. These are the March and May blocks.

Where is April? April’s instructions had an error and there was a cutting disaster! I ordered replacement fabrics, but have not yet remade the block. I like that the piecing is the same in all blocks, but the manipulation of colour and patchwork creates interest. The central square is framed differently according to the placement of the nine-patch, which makes for a unique ensemble of blocks. My June-July-August blocks should arrive soon.

My first paper pieced block: Bird of paradise.

My first paper pieced block: Bird of paradise.

I started a paper piecing class on Craftsy and have completed the first two blocks. The technique allows scrap busting, but is time consuming. I struggle with precision in regular piecing, particularly on points and corners. This is what I most appreciate about paper piecing: sharp points are achievable, and it is not so difficult. The trick is to ensure that the scrap used covers the area on the paper.

Sunflower Fun block. The white areas are where I misjudged the amount of fabric!

Sunflower Fun block. The white areas are where I misjudged the amount of fabric!

I am again using ugly scraps and fat quarters to get rid of them/practice new techniques. I like neither of these blocks as they are, but I am glad to have enough of a stash of fabric to be able to part with some for practice. I also struggle with really scrappy blocks and quilts; they are not my preference when making quilts. I prefer co-ordination of theme and colour, but I am learning to be more flexible in my practice blocks, if not in my actual quilts!

This class was in aid of a quilt that I really wanted to make, which is paper pieced. I had no idea what I was doing and decided to seek out instruction. There were no in-person classes locally, so I went online. I have pieced test blocks for Carolyn Friedlander’s Shirts quilt, and already have the necessary (and co-ordinated!) materials to make three such quilts!

Shirts by Carolyn Friedlander first test blocks.

Shirts by Carolyn Friedlander first test blocks.

I think these blocks are adorable! The details are fantastic, down to ensuring the wrong side of the fabric shows behind the collar. (Although, I clearly forgot to do it on the shirt at right…) These were charm squares I bought some time ago. The blocks are not hideous, but I think that they are too busy and scrappy. There is just too much going on.

More Shirts test blocks. These are fabrics that I plan to use.

More Shirts test blocks. These are fabrics that I plan to use.

I like these blocks, but I find that the details get lost. I decided to try using the same fabric on the background, collar, cuff and button facing. It doesn’t completely work, hence these are also test blocks. Still, I am happier with these than with my initial test blocks. I have work yet to do on finding the balance here!

And, finally, a pipe dream.

Arcadia Avenue by Sassafras Lane. This would be a very ambitious paper piecing project!

Arcadia Avenue by Sassafras Lane. This would be a very ambitious paper piecing project!

Excited as I was about starting paper piecing, I came across this BOM pattern. I did not join it, as, again, I did not like the fabrics on offer. Happily, I could buy the pattern without having to participate. I am unsure of the quilt, but I do like many of the blocks. I may end up with several hexagonal cushions! These blocks are beyond my confidence level at this point and I have no immediate plans to begin. However, aspirational projects are important, too!

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