Perhaps my reasoning for going up through central Virginia ---and heading west on 64 over to I-81 DID have a bit to do with my desire to be in Blue Ridge Mountain Country as much as it did to spend some time wandering around Danville on a search for Dan River plaid quilts –
One of the classes I taught up in Carlisle, PA this week was “Blue Ridge Beauty” after all, and this quilt WAS inspired by my first road trip up through the Blue Ridge somewhere around 2004? 2005?
I can’t remember when I started this quilt with a simple box of 2” squares, using the blues and neutrals as leaders & enders and letting the 4 patches stack up by my machine, pinning them into groups of 10 as the pile grew ----at that point I didn’t even have a block in mind, but after that first drive through Virginia, I knew those 4 patches would have a purpose, and I wanted that purpose to forever capture what I had found and felt that first time I fell in love with the Blue Ridge.
SO --- my “commemorative” trip was the perfect lead in to teaching a wonderful group of ladies just what they could do with this one simple block too! ((Still could have done without the speeding ticket though! OUCH!))
Blue Ridge Beauty is such a simple quilt, really, except it isn’t! So many factors come into play, even with an easy block, and it is my hope with EVERY workshop that I can leave especially the beginners and even the novices with something that they can apply to their quilting skills that make them that much happier with their results.
**Note** This post was going to be a simple slide show, but it took on a direction of its own, and since time is limited for me this morning, I’ll post the slide show a bit later in an effort to not overload this post, and get my day going --- so come back later for the slide show!
The one thing that was a light bulb moment for many this trip? CUTTING! Precise patchwork is much more than the accuracy of your 1/4” seam allowance!
Cutting. I’m serious. You might think that we all know how to cut, but I tell ya…with all the different cutting tools out there, I saw such variations – and it really is the FIRST crucial step in getting good results.
#1 IMPORTANT THING!! If you have invested in taking a class with ANYONE –be it at a shop, or just a little guild workshop, or a class at a quilt show, or even going to retreat--- wherever it be ---have a NEW BLADE in your cutter. AND have a spare blade just in case. And know how to put it in the cutter. If you are right handed and have a certain olfa cutter, the kind with the squeeze handle..((Shown above)) that blade should be up against the ruler side…not behind the plastic thing away from the ruler – those cutters were designed to be lefty OR righty, but not universal --- you have to put the blade on the correct side of the cutter depending if you are right handed or left handed….this one is set up for RIGHT HANDED cutting. If you are a lefty, the blade will go on the other side of the plastic center thing, so that your blade will be right up against the ruler as you cut.
RULERS! If you are doing short cutting, have a ruler that works with what you are cutting and fits the space you are given to cut in. If you have small amount of table space in class…don’t bring a 6” X 24” ruler to sub-cut cut little 4-patch strip sets.
My favorite ruler is a Creative Grids 6.5” X 12.5” ruler and I find it sufficient for most cutting, even when cutting full width of fabric strips, I just fold the fabric and cut through 4 layers. A 6.5” square is going to work fine for cutting those twosies from the strip sets, or for squaring up half square triangles….if the block size is 6.5”, you don’t need the 12.5” X 12.5” huge square up ruler. Trust me. :c)
You are going to want rulers with the easiest to read numbers and lines….and those lines need to be thinner rather than fatter ----I saw rulers with such FAT lines that they are hard to get an accurate cut. There was such a variation in cutting between those who used different rulers when we put those strips side by side! So choose your rulers wisely. The worst ruler I’ve come across had such thick lines….they were supposed to be raised ridges on the back side of the ruler to help hold the fabric steady, but the ridged lines were SO THICK that it made cutting inconsistent. And it was 24” long! I’d save this ruler for doing things like squaring up the quilt edges before putting binding on ---it would be great for that, but for precision cutting, not quite.
The omnigrid rulers with the green bubbles --- HARD HARD HARD to see where the correct line-up is when cutting because the measurement lines are lost inside those green bubbles, at least in my opinion. If you can’t see the edge of your fabric, how can you know where to place that line?
Those June Taylor shape-cut rulers work for some, but if you aren’t careful…the slats can wiggle and slide as you cut, giving you some strips that are thinner because the slats wiggled, and that means the strip next to the skinnier one is going to be too wide…so be careful with those. I prefer not to use them, I want more control over my strips.
The cutting process:
There is one thing I see people doing time and time and time again ---when you cut, you slide the marking line on the ruler right up against the outside edge of the fabric, but the whole line is OFF the fabric. You can short yourself a few threads when doing this, and it might not seem like much, but over the number of seams within a block ----you can end up an easy 1/4” too small on your block, no matter how “perfect” your 1/4” seam is.
In other words, if your strips are too narrow to begin with, it’s not going to be what you want it to be. Add into the equation that we have all those places where we have pressed the seams one direction or another, and we have the thickness of the seam to add into the mix. To compensate for that…this is what I do:
I hope you can see in this picture how I cut this 2” strip. I’ve got the 2” line, the WHOLE LINE ---- ON THE FABRIC..with the left side edge of the line at the outside edge of the fabric..but the whole line is ON the fabric. This helps me make sure that I have not shorted myself on the strip width..and it may give me a couple extra threads that help me with the thickness of the seams when pressing.
And to show you what happens if you cut with line on the ruler NEXT to the fabric, instead of including it ON the fabric, I took this picture:
Can you see the difference? The line is right next to the fabric…but look at the excess that is at the right edge of the ruler. If I’d have trimmed here, I would have shorted myself THAT MUCH. And over time within my blocks…that shortage adds up to quite a bit.
And as I’m thinking about how to word this and explain why I do what I do ---I realize that basically instead of “scanting down” my 1/4” seam allowance, I’m “scanting up” my strip widths to compensate for the thicknesses of pressed-to-the-side seams and bulky intersections, and I get the best results with my patchwork if I follow this simple rule I made for myself.
LINE ON! Not LINE OFF!
So that’s your basic cutting lesson today. Find the tools that work for you, Easy to read numbers, thin lines for accuracy, and in a size that is right for the job, but isn’t overkill for the space you have to work.