Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Bee blocks and 1/4" seams
After a much needed month-off (and a reprieve to turn in my December blocks late), I finished my February bee blocks for the do.good stitches love circle this past weekend. Ara Jane picked the fun Retro Flowers pattern (which Christina kindly donated for us to use for this quilt). Ara Jane asked for bright blocks in warm colors, hopefully these fit the bill! I wasn't too intimidated by the curves in this block after sewing two drunkard's path quilts, but actually matching the seams correctly was somehow tricker than I expected (and I didn't get it perfect, as you can see on my first block below). I still enjoyed the block and am happy with how they turned out, though!
One thing that I have definitely been working on with my quilting over the past year has been getting a more reliable 1/4" seam, which if you make precisely quilted blocks you will know is the key to getting things to match up well and turn out the right size. I definitely still have room for improvement but I thought that I would share a few tips including one issue that came up specifically with this block.
Earlier this year I bought this quarter inch foot (above) for my brother sewing machine. It was really cheap and definitely helped make it easier to line up the quarter inch seam with the side, but I found that it wasn't as precise as I had hoped... and it drives me kind of crazy that you have to use the center needle setting or your needle will hit the foot, and the default for my machine is a different position, so if I leave this foot on my machine, I will inevitable forget to change the stitch setting when I turn the machine on and mess up my needle. One thing that I have found that I really like to use this foot for is sewing curves. I think mostly because it helps me keep close to a 1/4" seam, but doesn't have too large a foot area and create puckers or anything.
I know that lots of folks have a 1/4" foot with a metal guard on the side to make it more exact where the fabric is supposed to line up, and maybe someday I will get one of those. In the meantime, I have been using a trick which I picked up at the sewing summit. My machine has a ton of stitches, most of which I never use, and I never understood why there were special stitches for piecing and quilting. In one of the classes at the sewing summit they set up the machines using one of the piecing settings and let us know that that positioned the needle 1/4" in from the edge of the regular foot. Wow! I have been using this setting ever since and have found it to be more reliable for getting a 1/4" seam than my special 1/4" foot. This is setting #37 on my machine, and at least if you have a brother or a babylock you probably have a similar setting. This may be old news to folks but I thought I would share in case anyone else has been in the dark on this one! (and I still haven't figured out what the special "quilting" stitches are and how they are different from regular stitches - if you know, please do share).
Actually the hardest seams for me to sew in this block were the final ones where you join the four quarters of the block together, because the pieces you are sewing are each 1/2" wide to the next seam, which at least for me meant that when I sewed a 1/4" seam with the regular needle position, my foot was getting pushed out of place (towards the fabric edge, making a smaller seam allowance), by the thicker fabric from the previously sewn seam. Maybe if I had a nicer machine this wouldn't have happened, and I could have used a walking foot but that seemed like a pain. In the end I sewed these seams with my needle all the way to the left position (position 00 on my machine) which meant only less than 1/4" of my foot was on the fabric to the left of the needle and I just did my best to keep a 1/4" seam, which wasn't perfect. Has anyone else had this problem when sewing patchwork where the finished width is 1/4" or less, and if so, I'd love to hear if you came up with a better solution!