The Scandibee March Queen Bee, Ruth, asked for two 12.5”x12.5” blocks of 16 patches each. Her request were three Christmassy bright red patches among thirteen low-volume ones. Talk about picking the right colour scheme for a project that has its root in traditionally red and white Scandinavia! :)
I asked about these greyscale fabrics before cutting, as some of them read a but more black than what she might have liked. The tightest pattern reads black and hence I chose to include it only once. My low-volume stash really is challenging still, though, but I’m sure it would be a good investment to find new fabrics in this category. They simply are lovely.
Sewing machine challenges
Some of you might remember my early-day problems with the quarter-inch presser foot, or rather its quarter-inch guide. The latter was a wobbly piece of metal (junk really), which caused my seams to be larger than a quarter inch, so I unceremoniously ripped it off in anger one day. Afterwards I made some attempts at figuring out the exact placement of the elusive quarter inch, but have kept winging it since. But now Ruth made it clear (and I totally agree with her, of course!) that this was a block where a neat grid is to be expected, so I just had to figure this out.
Before sewing, I drew lines, lots and lots of lines, on a paper. First, I tested the placement of the needle and saw that the fifth position supposedly is in the middle of the presser foot – yet isn’t. I should turn the wheel down a bit to the whereabouts of 4 perhaps, but the blasted thing doesn’t move until around 3-3.5, at which point the needle is visibly off-centre in a not-so-good way. The conclusion is that I can’t trust the needle wheel the same way as the stitch-length wheel that moves in clear increments (decimal millimetres) at least in theory. I hate stuff that is supposed to work, but doesn’t… Ugh.
Next step was to figure out exactly where in relation to the quarter-inch presser foot that the quarter-inch line would move. While one line was moving through the middle of the presser foot and the other was underneath a red line on the foot (at least that marking is to be trusted, thank goodness!), the needle was off-centre by a hair. Only that hair wasn’t like the scant “hair” one should sew below a quarter inch. Sigh.
Now I have an idea of where the fabric should move to create a scant quarter-inch seam. But of course it isn’t this easy… I seriously hope you didn’t expect that…. *eyeroll* What I mean is that when I keep the scant quarter-inch seam allowance from the quarter-inch marking on the presser foot, fabric moves in unpredictable ways, because the feed dogs refuse to cooperate.
What I have to figure out still is exactly where to place the needle (with the help of aforementioned inexact needle wheel), whilst moving the fabric underneath the quarter-inch marking. That’s the only way to have enough fabric to produce an even movement and hence an even seam allowance, but right now I don’t have it in me to test more stuff to ensure a super-precise result. Deep sigh. If you’re a Bernina seller and feel like having someone test one of your new Bernina models, I’m your woman…
But back to the blocks before I get too worked up about my sewing machine. Cutting 3.5-inch squares was easy enough and quite quick. Sewing was annoying due to the machine, rather than the pattern itself, but pressing taught me new things, which I love!
Ruth asked for nested seams (which I detest quite frankly), but they do have their place in patchwork and so I went all out trying to produce as neat a result as possible. In this 16-patch block you must consider how to press rows later, and in my first block I didn’t see this before pinning like crazy two rows together.
It is preferable to press the row closest to the feed dogs in such a way that the run smoothly over the seam allowances. When you nest the seams, this means that the seam allowances on top, touching the presser foot, will approach said foot in a way that can cause the fabric to pucker up. But since you see what is going on, you can adjust the fabrics to sit flat in the stitches. Heureka.
To create as neat points as possible, I pinned along the whole length of the rows. Usually I remove pins before sewing, but this time I left them in place quite a few times, including when running over seams pressed towards the feed dogs. Obviously you can’t avoid having at least some of them run in the unfavourable direction, and then it helps to reduce puckering to have a pin assist the machine.
Normally I use steam when pressing, but this time, due to trying to create a perfect 12.5-inch block without distorting the fabrics, the iron was dry. This is visible in the photos above, but I did press with steam before sending Ruth her blocks, as the “sloppy” finish bothered me too much.
While these nested seams are no favourite of mine, I’m determined to master them. Creating perfect points is hard work, and sometimes I don’t feel like using a pattern again, but these square patches are incredibly versatile and so it seams (haha, pun intended) like a good idea to keep practicing. Pressing seams open is my preference for many reasons, but nested seams truly can be the only alternative in some cases.
My impatience can get the better of me sometimes, but I’m grateful that Ruth chose this block both because it is a basic set of skills as well as a reason for me to tackle stuff on my to-do list (have been meaning to sort the quarter-inch seam thingy a long time already).
Check out the other contributions in our bee pool! I can’t wait to see what Ruth will create from the blocks.
How do you feel about basic patterns like this one? Find them too boring? Or safe and nice? I keep thinking of scraps in this context and see the whole rainbow in front of me again. Oooh, and disappearing something-patches like Kristy’s Modernized D9P, a disappearing nine-patch block! Perfect points aren’t entirely silly, you know.