Bright Sisters: Making the first block


I’m excited! All the little units are cut and pieced, and I’m ready to assemble the first block of this beautiful quilt! Just as a reminder, this is where I’m headed:

Photo of a colorful quilt top
Boundless Solids Color Block Quilt designed by Carl Hentsch. This one was made and quilted by Angela Walters. The photo is Craftsy’s.

And this is where I am now:

Stacks of pieced units
Finished units ready to go!

Okay, so I have a ways to go. Time to dive in! Here’s what I did…

Laying Out the Block
Pieced units laid out for a quilt block
Laying out the first block

First, I laid out the block so that I get everything in the right order. This involved a lot of double-checking against the photo pattern and my layout notes. The fabric names in the Craftsy pattern refer to Boundless Solids colors, but I chose to use Kona Cottons instead. So I mapped my fabric colors onto the Boundless colors in the pattern so as not to get lost. I definitely double-checked, and often triple-checked to make sure the block was correct. The block pattern has six units across and six down, and I had to orient the HSTs and the Drunkard’s Path blocks correctly and get all the colors in the right spots. This is actually the block for the bottom right corner of the quilt (and the photo to the left is sideways), although as I learned later, it could go in any corner if I rotated it correctly.

Stitching Pairs of Units
Units in the sewing machine
Chain-stitching pairs together

When I was satisfied, I picked up the units in pairs — three sets of pairs per row. I chain-stitched the pairs to keep the rows together and in the right order. I was very careful to use a 1/4″ seam allowance throughout so that everything would line up properly.

After sewing them, I set them aside to press, still chained together.

Units sewn together in pairs
Chained pairs to press




Pressing the Seams
Pairs of units sewn together
Rows of pairs, before flipping alternate rows
Pairs of units sewn together
Rows of pairs with alternate rows flipped so the seam will press in the correct direction

I wanted to press the seams between the pairs of units (1) all in the same direction in one row and (2) in opposite directions from row to row, so that everything would nest nicely. To make this a little easier, I lined up all the pairs in the row order for the block, and then flipped every other row over. That way, I could simply move the whole row to my pressing mat, set the seams, then open each pair by lifting the top unit up, and my seams would automagically be pressed in the correct direction. It worked like a charm and saved me tons of time.

After I’d pressed all three pairs for one row, I clipped the threads to separate the pairs and then placed them in the order they would appear in the block. For this first block especially, I spent a lot of time making sure I’d sewn the units together right side up and in the right order. It got easier as I did more blocks, but in the beginning, there was a lot of checking.

Block units being pressed
Pressing the seams to the side for one row
Pressed block units
One row’s worth of pairs, seams pressed to one side, still chained together
Pairs of units
The first row’s pairs laid out in order
Sewing Pairs into Rows
Pairs of units laid out for a block
The first block’s pairs laid out in rows
Units sewn into rows for a block
The rows are done and ready to sew together with seams pressed in opposite directions

Next I joined the pairs together to make the six rows of the block. Eventually I developed a system where I could stack up all the pairs at once and just power through them, but for the first block I went slowly. Eventually all the rows were done and ready to press. By flipping every other row like I did with the pairs, it was easy to keep track of which way to press the seams so that they would nest nicely. As I went, I measured each row to make sure it was exactly the right size. In a few cases I picked out and re-sewed seams that were too narrow or too wide.

Joining the Rows to Make the Block
Matching rows of units to sew them
Matching the rows in pairs
Rows of units clipped together
Rows ready to sew

I put the rows into pairs, matched up the seams, and used handy little sewing clips to keep them aligned. Another careful 1/4″ seam — I got a lot of practice with that doing this quilt — and the six rows became three rows.

Pressing the Seams Open
Units sewn together with seams pressed open
Pressing the seams open between rows

I’m not a big fan of pressing seams open, but it was clear that if I didn’t this quilt would quickly become very bulky. The seams between units are all pressed to one side, but the seams between rows and between blocks are all pressed open. Once the row seams were pressed, I measured again to make sure everything was still the right size, matched up the last two seams, clipped them, and finished the block.

One Down, Four to Go

The other three blocks in the first row came together like the first one, and then there were just four more rows of blocks to do! In this photo you can see the stacks of units sorted by type and color, the notebook that I used to keep track of which units belonged to which block and what order they belonged in, the four finished blocks for the first row, and the units laid out to make the first two blocks for the second row.

Stacks of blocks, units, and cut pieces of fabric
Working on the second row

I took over my dining room table to lay out each row. While the row was in progress, I labeled each finished block (you can see the little paper clipped to the top of the block) so that I’d know which side was the top and where in the quilt the block belonged.

Rows of pieced blocks for a quilt
First row done, second row in progress
First Two Rows Done

Looking good — two rows down, three to go! These are actually the top and bottom rows of the quilt, so they won’t get attached as they are laid out here. But they certainly look pretty. Crib quilt, anyone?

Two rows of blocks for a quilt
First two rows done!

The previous post in this series was Sometimes You’re Sewing, Sometimes You’re Picking Out Stitches. Next up: the finished quilt top and sketches for the quilting design!



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