First Blocks, Inc

Yesterday, I decided to quit pussyfooting around this quilting thing and Just Doo Eet.

I’d been debating potholders and placemats and maybe just some fricking napkins to get started and I realized, “Ok, what’s the worst-case scenario if I fail? I’m out some fabric. BFD.” Well, technically, I’m out some fabric and some self-esteem on not getting it right the first time, but alright.

I went to the fabric store and picked out a few yards of a few materials. Our living room has a deep red accent wall and creamy coffee other walls, so I picked out a few reddish prints and a few tannish prints. I grabbed a 1/4″ piecing foot for the Singer, three different kinds of marking devices and some fat quarters.

As much as I wanted to just go home and get started, I was a good girl; I prewashed everything (separating my colors,) and set the dryer for wrinkle-protect (which didn’t work, really.) After they were washed, I pressed ironed everything (not especially well for the giant sheets, but I did alright.) To mitigate the ETERNAL BOREDOM of ironing, I moved the board and supplies into the living room and flipped on HBO. “Girlfight” was on. Awesome.

Pile oFabric

Pile o'Fabric

After awhile, it struck me as kind of funny I was doing prepwork for something stereotypically girly like quilting whilst watching something pretty anti-stereotypically-girly like a movie where a chick beats the hell out of guys in the boxing ring. I liked it. Reconciliation, schmeckonsiliation.

After doing all the stinking ironing, I was left with large pieces of fabric I had to turn into smaller pieces of fabric. The process of cutting is still somewhat of a mystery to me. I mean… how to take a bunch of non-straight edges and make them straight? I ended up ripping the huge pieces into slightly more manageable bits, as I’d read somewhere tearing from selvege to selvege should be a straight line. I’m not convinced it worked, even though I get the principle.

OMG More Fabric

OMG More Fabric

Rather than fret about “holy crap, is this perfectly straight,” I figured there were going to be so many imperfections throughout this process, a millimeter one way or the other wouldn’t make a whole lot of difference.  I’d initially thought I would make a fancier log cabin pattern, but it looked like I needed about 6 different fabrics, and I only had 5, so I’m starting with only three colors – the center square, a dark half and a light half.

The pattern called for a 1.5″ wide series of strips, going from 2.5″ all the way up to 12.5″ in one-inch increments. I dutifully cut a small stack of 2.5″ – 8.5″ strips before my back was really screaming and I was just about Fed Up With This Tedious Measuring and Cutting Shit. I hastily cut a few strips of longer lengths and hauled everything into the dining room, which has become a temporary de facto sewing space.



I read over the template about 6 times to make sure I was starting out correctly. Attaching the first strip to the square was pretty easy. Then, rotate the piece 90 degrees counter clockwise and attach the second. Ok, easy!

…wait. After I attached the second piece, I realized I couldn’t open it properly. OH. After attaching each piece, one needs to open and press the seam to one side. The directions neglected to mention this vital aspect. Seam ripper, go! I meticulously attached 4 strips of each color, with varying degrees of straightness, before realizing I didn’t want to create the full-sized, enormous block. It would’ve measured about a foot on each side, which seems Too Big.

The sewing is the easiest part, other than trying to keep tiny bits of fabric going in a straight line without going to the trouble of pinning everything together. I reckon that’ll come with practice. The blocks go together quite quickly, when it comes right down to it.

I got three done – the first was pretty good, I made a huge mistake on the second, and a minor mistake on the third. Can you tell from the photos what I did (1 is on the far left, then two, then three on the right?) Also, my feet and Sumi decided they wanted to be in the shot, too. It’s hard to find the error on block three from far out – block two’s mistake is totally obvious. I can either rip it out, patch something onto it, or just Leave It Be as a testament to being a noob.

First Three Blocks

First Three Blocks

So, yeah – block one turned out pretty stinking well, if I do say so myself. The pattern must be fairly forgiving of minor inconsistencies. I suppose when I try to fit all of these slightly-different-sized blocks together, though, there may be a lot of swearing and frustration.

Block 2, in the center, has a slight problem in the lower left-hand corner. Not sure how I missed that, but I surely did. On block 3, I went clockwise instead of counter-clockwise for No Apparent Reason, which isn’t a complete catastrophe. Block 2 is quite a bit smaller than its brothers, more noticeably than block 1. I suspect some trimming of the larger blocks will transpire.

On the whole, though, not off to a terrible start. Yay!

It is hard on the back, though, given the sub-par setup of working on the dining room table. Still, no need to invest in a sewing table until I’m sure I’m going to like it. For awhile.

I realized, as I was piecing things together, the insane time spent cutting all the strips could be more than halved by simply cutting to width and not to length, then trimming the length as I go. However, this might lead to more inconsistency in block sizes if I’m not careful. Too, there is a process of “strip quilting,” wherein one may attach a strip to mulitple blocks at once. Promising!

I still wonder about hand-sewing, though, as I’d have more direct control and it might be easier on the back, too. Slower, certainly, but I want this to be a slower, more meditative activity. The machine might let me get too far ahead of myself.

Fun discovery, though. 🙂

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