Thursday, May 31, 2012

Saving Time so you can sew more!

Zigzag 9-patch
made in an afternoon workshop
     I have been sewing strips to make checked blocks and want to share a technique I learned at a workshop I took years ago at the Quilter's Gathering. I took a 9-patch class from Marianne Fons (of Fons and Porter). I really didn't need to learn how to make a 9-patch, I just wanted to take her class. This workshop turned out to be the one class I ever took that I got the most out of!  After learning this technique I put together my 9 patches with a couple hours to spare (I sew kind of fast) so I went downstairs to the vender mall, bought fabric for the border and zig-zags and came back and did the whole top. (She said I was the only person to actually do that in her class).
Not only did I learn this technique but went away with a great handout of different settings which I have used and shared with every class I taught. So thank you, Marianne!
Line the strip set up with
cutting board lines
Place 2nd strip down from 1st strip
about 1/2" down

Lay out all strips until you have
no more room

Line up ruler w/ vertical lines, then
cut the bruised edges off

Cut through all layers (the same
measurement as width of strips)

The great time saving technique is especially great for 9-patches. You start by sewing the strips in groups of 3--2 sets of  dark/light/dark and 1 set of light/dark/light. (It is important when sewing strip sets together that you sew top to bottom, then bottom to top, then top to bottom, etc. or else your strip set will stretch and curve and you don't want that.) Press the seams toward the darks. Let's go with 2" strips for the sake of this exercise. After the strips are pressed, line up one piece on your cutting mat using the  lines on the mat as a straight line. Take the next strip set and stagger it about 1/2" down from the first, making sure that you are far enough down that the seams aren't on top of each other. Keep laying down as many strips as you can fit on the board, keeping the strips straight using the lines on the mat. You will then cut 2" pieces all along the whole thing. This works so well for several reasons--You can cut a lot of strips in 1 cut, and because the strips are all stuck together and lined up with the lines on the mat they do not slip and you get nice straight cuts, and you are never cutting through more than 4-6 layers of fabric at a time. Try it and you will wonder why you spent so much time  sub cutting before!
Continue cutting to the end of  pieces

You will now have a pile of units which can be quickly sewn together to make 4-patches, 9-patches, 16-patches--whatever you are working on. (Right now I am doing black/white 16-patches).
(I apologize for the confusing pictures. I am working with black and white and actually thought it would make a good demo, but you can't tell where one piece starts and the next begins! I placed them on the board alternating black and white so in the final layout there are 6 strip sets. Hope you can figure this out)

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