Nancy Rink Blog

Quilt maker, pattern designer, fabric dyer, and lover of all things quilting.

Designer Duo QAL Block Five

Block 5

Can you believe we are already to Block Five in our quilt along?

One more set of blocks to go after this one and then you will be working on the thirteen alternating blocks. If you have been sewing your "Let's Work Ahead" four-patches, you will be so, so, SO glad you did.  If you haven't been sewing those four-patches, you might want to squeeze a few in now and next week so that you can zoom along when it's time for Block Seven.

This week let me respond to a couple of questions I've received.

First, block size. There is some confusion when it comes to "Finished Block Size" vs. the size the block is once it's assembled. When the block is sewn and measured from raw edge to raw edge, it should measure the Finished Block Size + 1/2". That added half inch are the two quarter inch seam allowances around the outside of the block. I realize it seems like the block is finished, but the finished block size measurement refers to the size the block is once the quilt is finished and all the seam allowances are taken up. So for our Designer Duo: Kaleidoscope quilt, the finished block size is 12"/unfinished is 12-1/2". Now, what if your blocks don't measure up?  My personal rule of thumb is if they are all within a quarter inch of each other (unfinished 12-3/8", 12-1/4", 12-1/2") I don't panic. I can ease in a quarter of an inch. To do this, pin two blocks right sides together, matching up seam intersections, with the smaller block on top. Then flip them over to see where the fullness is. Distribute the fullness and add a few pins to control it. When you run the blocks through the sewing machine, do so with the smaller block on top. The feed dogs will help with easing in the fullness. Sew at a relatively slow speed so you can remove the pins as you go.

Second, units not coming out the correct size. This relates to question two, because if the units are not the correct size, then the block won't be the correct size either. I find the source of this problem usually relates to one of several things: cutting, marking, pinning, and/or thread.

So first off--cutting. Prior to cutting I starch and press my fabric. My preference is Best Press but old fashioned starch will do, just don't mind the flakes. Use a ruler on which you can clearly see the markings. Now--and don't freak out--turn the cutting mat over to the plain side. Do not use the lines on the mat to cut patches. Those lines are okay for "hunk" cutting, but not patch cutting where greater precision is needed. For my example, I am showing how to cut 2-1/2" squares. The first photo shows how the 2-1/2" ruler mark should be up on your fabric. The edge of the fabric should align with the outside of the ruler mark. The sedond photo shows what NOT to do.

IMG 0814Do this.

IMG 0815

Not this.


Now that a 2 1/2" strip is cut, it's time to crosscut the squares. Bridge the ruler so that it spans the strip. Select an arbitrary horizontal line and align with the top or bottom edge of the fabric strip. Spanning the ruler over the strip gives you so much more control when cutting. Aligning the top edge of the ruler with the top edge of the fabric equals less control and less accuracy.

IMG 0826

Do this

IMG 0827

Not this


When marking, if using a pencil make sure it is sharp so you can mark accurately. Using fine sharp pins, secure both layers. Pins should be out of the path the presser foot will take. The photo below shows flying geese construction.

IMG 0819


Presser foot. Don't use a quarter inch foot if you don't need it. Use a foot that allows you to see where you are sewing.



Thread. Use good quality fine thread. It will improve your accuracy. My personal favorite is Aurifil 50 wt.

IMG 0696

Block Five, that's a wrap. Please share your progress photos on the Designer Duo Facebook Group page.  And be sure to drop in there to see all the different fabric combinations being used.






















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