Sometimes Quilt Blocks Need a Bit of TLCTake a look in our Quilting Forum and you'll always find a selection of quilt block swaps in progress.
Part of the fun of swaps is sharing our work with new and old friends, and while we all do our very best to make sure blocks are accurate, there are often variations among blocks from different quilters. Maybe the quarter inch seam was slightly different. Or maybe the patches were cut using different brands of rotary rulers -- or by positioning the fabric in a slightly different spot under the ruler.
If you expect perfection in every quilt block you receive, it's probably best that you don't swap, or that you only swap quilt blocks with a limited number of quilters who you know will send you perfectly stitched blocks. But if you're looking for friends and memories, block swaps are a wonderful activity to get involved in.
Use My Easy Method to Square Up Quilt BlocksIf you receive -- or make -- a block that isn't quite large enough, try pressing it first to see if it grows a bit, since blocks are usually too small, not too large.
If that won't quite do it, or if the patches on the outer edges of the block are a bit skewed or uneven, use this freezer paper method to prep the block for sewing. Gridded freezer paper makes the job easier, but you can work with plain freezer paper if that's what you have on hand.
- Cut a piece of freezer paper the exact size your unfinished quilt blocks should be.
- Draw two straight lines on the freezer paper's unshiny side--one along the vertical center and one along the horizontal center.
- Draw two diagonal lines, each from one corner to the opposite corner.
- Draw any other lines you feel will help you position the block on the freezer paper, including the outer 1/4" if you're not using gridded paper.
- Place a block on the ironing board, right side down Position the freezer paper on top of the block, shiny (unmarked) side down.
- Align the quilt block with the freezer paper image, matching up strategic parts of the block with the drawing. Use short applique pins to stab through areas to keep the two from shifting apart; regular straight pins are fine, but you won't be able to press as easily without removing them.
- When the block and the drawn image are aligned as well as possible, press the paper onto the block. Remove the pins.
- Inspect the edges of the block. They probably won't all reach the edges of the freezer paper, but they should be well enough into the outer quarter-inch area to catch the seam as it it sewn.
- Repeat for all blocks that need to be squared up.
- To sew blocks together, align freezer paper edges and check to make sure the patches are matched under the paper. Secure with pins if you like. Sew a seam 1/4" inward from the edge of the paper.
- Assemble into rows then join rows. Do not remove papers until all adjoining blocks are sewn together. Leave the papers around the outer perimeter of the quilt until borders are added.
This method helps prevent skewed quilts by keeping the blocks in-square while you work on them. Your 1/4" seams will be where they should be based on the pattern--and that's sometimes a whole lot different than where they would be sewn if you match-up the edges of inaccurate blocks.