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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

From Design Wall to Machine - Staying Organized

You spend so much time arranging your pieced blocks on your design wall, and then you have to REMOVE the blocks to sew them.  How do you keep them organized during this process?   I'm sure everyone does it a little differently but I wanted to share how it's worked for ME for many many years and many many quilts.  If you would like to try my method, it not only keeps your blocks organized, but also decides how your seams will be pressed from the very beginning.  Your seams will then butt together beautifully and your top will lay flat for quilting!   

  It's simple.
Start off by counting how many rows your quilt will have.   In the following example there are 4 columns and 5 ROWS.   Cut 5 small pieces of paper and write down the numbers 1,2,3,4,5.  Now, for a simple charm/block quilt such as this one, I would go ahead and draw arrows, underneath each number, notating the direction to press the blocks.
In ROW #1 the block seams will be pressed to the RIGHT.   In ROW #2 the block seams will be pressed to the LEFT.  and so on.
Imagine that these are your blocks pinned to your design wall.  
With a small T-pin or metal dress pin, attach each small numbered piece of paper to the first block in each row.   NOTE*  Make sure the pin is METAL because these will be ironed.  Also, make sure to make the paper small enough that you can center it in the middle of the left side of each of the first blocks in each row.  You don't want to pin the number too high or low, because these will be left attached as you sew the rows together.  So make sure you leave around 1/2" above and below the paper so it does not get sewn into the seam allowance.   


Another popular style of quilt is the sashed and cornerstoned quilt.  For this we do things a bit differently. 
You will still first start by counting the rows.  For the example below we have 5 columns and 7 ROWS.  If the large purple area is a pieced block (such as in a crown royal quilt) you will want to press the seams OUT, or TOWARDS the sashing.   So instead of noting the direction that the seams will be pressed, you will just do the same direction for each alternating row.  
An easy way to remember which direction to press the seams in this example, is to simply remember to ALWAYS press your seams TOWARD the SASHING.  (the pink area.)

The quilt I am working on now, is the 2nd type of quilt.  A quilt with blocks, sashing, and cornerstones.  
This is the completed top.  

As you can see, the first ROW of this quilt is the block/sashing/block row.   What I do, is I remove the blocks IN ORDER, from LEFT to RIGHT.  Starting with the very first block on TOP, and then carefully stacking them so that the LAST block (the block on the RIGHT) is the last block in the stack, on the very bottom.  Then, I move to a seat and table, and I start pinning the blocks together.   Starting with block #1, I pin that to the first piece of sashing, and then I pin the sashing piece to the block #2 in the row, and so on.

Here are several rows pinned together.
 Here they are from the back.  These smaller sashing pieces can be a bit tricky with this method, so you have to be careful.

Next I removed all of the sashing/cornerstone/sashing rows.   Here you can see them all stacked up before I pinned them together.  

After I have pinned them all together, I take it to the machine.  It doesn't matter where you start, just start sewing in a long chain, until every seam is sewn.  For a quilt this big, I can usually sew 2-3 seams in one row, before moving to the next.  
Place the seam right underneath the needle, then remove the pin, and sew.  

Next you can start sewing the block/sashing/block rows.  Same way.  Bring the seam right up to the needle, remove the pin, sew, and go on to the next.

Once all the rows are completely sewn, you can PRESS the seams (REMEMBER ALWAYS TOWARD SASHING) and then PIN your rows together and sew.  There is never another need to go back to your design wall.  Everything is labeled so you know which row is 1,2 3, etc.,   I will typically start sewing row 1 and 2 together, 3 and 4, 5 and 6, and so on.

This has worked for me for as long as I can remember. . I hope you can use this method too.

I'm almost finished with this quilt and will post photos shortly!

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