Friday, March 2, 2012

Making a Group Quilt, Part 4 - Assembling Block Kits & Distributing Them

I probably mentioned before that very few of the people who work on this quilt are quilters other than for this. Part of the original plan when this fell to us was to involve as many people as possible. We wanted more of the church to feel ownership for the quilts, especially since the person who buys a quilt is frequently one of the people who worked on it. Or her mother, in the case of one quilt where we had a couple of young piecers work on it. Also, of course, the more people who work on the quilt, the more quickly it gets finished. (You probably already had that part figured out.

To that end, we recruit anyone with a sewing machine or anyone who is willing to do a little hand piecing. We put together block kits (we use a lot of Zip-Loc bags for this part), complete with instructions that cover every eventuality that I can think of and color pictures of each step made with the fabric we are using. The instructions emphasize the necessity of an accurate 1/4 inch seam, which directions to press the seams, and finished size. In years with more than block, this means several sets of directions, of course. All of this (except the directions so we don't waste church paper making more sets of directions than necessary) goes into a numbered Zip-Loc bag.

Once the kits are assembled, I print up sign out sheets which include the kit number and columns for the name of piecer, her email address, the date the block was taken, and the date it was returned. I use numbered bags the first year, and I'm pretty sure I didn't get them all back. But we learn from our mistakes! And, yes, because I am cheap (or to help the environment) we reuse the bags from year to year.

Then the kits go to church to be distributed. The first four years I stood up in each service (well, at least each English speaking service) and described what was going on. (I like microphones even less than I like cutting!) Last year's top was already done so I got to skip this step. Over the years I have assembled a pretty comprehensive list of email addresses, so this year I just emailed everyone and before I knew it the kits were gone! 2/3 of them are already back!

The other thing we did this year was use block assembly as the craft for one of our church's MOPS meetings. You may remember that last year the MOPS group made the "Brown Bear" quilt because they wanted to contribute to last year's quilt but that had been already done by someone else who donated it. This year I held back some blocks, and we put them together at their meeting this week. Young future quilters!

Below is a copy of this year's instructions. I saved them for the end because they are only an example and they can be pretty long and boring!

Thank you for agreeing to help assemble this year’s quilt for the Lottie Moon Auction. Here are the directions for putting together a block. But first, a couple of notes to get you started.
1.     These fabrics are batiks. This means that the color has saturated the fabric due to the way they were produced. This makes it hard to tell the right side from the wrong side. I look for sharper edges and slightly brighter colors, but if you think it is too close to call on the center square, everyone else will too, so don’t worry about it.
2.     The ¼ inch seam is imperative, whether you are hand piecing or machine piecing. If you have to draw a line on the back of the fabric to get an exact ¼ inch, please do so. No one will be seeing the back of the quilt top.
3.     One of the fabrics has shades of yellow, green and purplish pink. Your pieces may not look like the picture.
4.     Be careful with the directions the squares are turned when you are assembling the block rows. I had to unsew a little the first time I put this block together. Be more careful than I was.
5.     Also, if you are machine sewing, you don’t have to backstitch the ends. If you are hand sewing, you do need to put in knots.
Okay, on to the real directions. This block is technically a nine-patch block. It is made of 9 squares of fabric sewn together. In this case, 8 of the 9 squares are made up of triangles. These are the ones you have to make sure are turned correctly when sewing them together.
Here is an example of the 9 squares, in no particular order:

Now it is time to really get down to business. You will be sewing together three rows of three squares each, and then joining them to complete the block.

When sewn together, the first row looks something like this:

The first row seams should be pressed away from the center square. Please try to keep the diagonal seams from the triangles flat under the vertical seams you sewed. You may need to use a pencil tip or something to keep it in place while you press so that you don’t burn your fingers.
Row 2 looks like this when you have assembled it:

For the second row, press your seams toward the center square
The third row will look like this:

In the third row, please press your seams away from the center square, being careful to keep the diagonal seams as flat as possible again.
Now that you have the three rows sewn, you can sew them together in exactly the order they are pictured above. Because some of the seams are pressed toward the center and some away from the center, you should be able to butt the seams up against each other pretty tightly.  When you have sewn the rows together, press those seams both in the same direction, either toward the top or toward the bottom of the block. (If you are making more than one block, alternate some of the blocks so that some are pressed toward the top and some toward the bottom.)
Your final block should measure 9 ½ inches square and should look pretty much like this: