Thursday, February 25, 2021

Squaring up Quilt Blocks with Embellishments

 Squaring up quilt blocks is not something I typically need to do.  But with applique blocks it's the best way to ensure your blocks will finish at the correct size.  Even the best of quilters can have some shrinking of background fabric during the applique process.  So as a general rule applique background fabric is cut 1-3 inches larger than the finished size of the block then trimmed to the correct size after the applique is stitched in place.  Most the time the trimming down is fairly simple process. Just press the block and square up to the correct size.  This cute little dresden with yo-yo's will take a little extra effort.

I have the correct size square up ruler but it's not going to work.

The problem is the yo-yo's.  They will not allow the ruler to make contact with the cutting mat.  In the image below the ruler is sitting on top of the dresden block and I can slide a pair of scissors between the ruler and the block.

Did it stop me from trying to square up a block?  No.  And as you probably already guessed the ruler slid, causing me to cut the block a little wonky and too small.  Thankfully the error is not huge and I can still use the block.  It's nothing that a little pinning and "easing in" can't hide.

The June Taylor 12.5" Get Squared Ruler would work great for squaring up this block.  The fussy cutting 6.5" window would have nested perfectly around the yo-yo's.  Sadly I only own the 9.5" version.  I could order it and wait for it to arrive.  Or make the drive into town and hope that Joann's really has it in stock.  The website says its in stock but I've been fooled by that nonsense one to many times.

Plan B:  Use a smaller cutting mat, cut one side at a time and rotate the mat after each cut.  I have a rotating mat that is the same size as this blue Westcott mat but I want to use this blue mat because it's a prettier color and I rarely use it.  I can rotate it without shifting the block.   By the way, I love this little $6 mat I purchased at WalMart.   This normally sets beside me at the sewing machine.  It's used for trimming and squaring up quilt block units.  She's holding up much better than my rotating mat that cost $30.  So if you see one at WalMart it's a great bargain mat.

This is one time I wish my applique had caused some shrinking to the background fabric.  I can't trim the block if I can't see the lines on the mat.

I can faintly see the numbers through the fabric.  Maybe they would be easier to see with a ruler on top of the block.  HAHA!  No you silly girl.  I wish I had a medium sized cutting mat. A medium mat could also be rotated to make the cutting easier. Unfortunately all I have is this small mat and the 24 x 36 mat.  

Plan C: I made a 12.5" square on my large cutting mat with painters tape. Marked a centering line on each side of the square.

Next I folded and creased a center mark on all four sides of the block.  On this block I've used a water soluble marker to make it easier for you to see.

To square up the block I can use the lines on the ruler and the lines on the mat extending out past the tape. The tape is a little outside the cutting line I need to use to make the cut.

This was a little bit harder than a rotating mat but it works.  Where there's a will there's a way.   

Let's see if measures up okay.

Looks pretty good!  Yah!  It's smooth sailing from here.  All I need to do is trim up the rest of these and then I can sew together the quilt top.  Woohoo!  Another UFO soon to be completed.  Now to start thinking about the quilting design.   The yo-yo's are going to add a little extra challenge to that part of the process too.  Oh well, that's part of the fun, don't you think?

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  1. Oh my gosh, Lea Anne -- I have the perfect gizmo for this and I wish I could have loaned it to you! When Karen Kay Buckley taught applique workshops for our guild a year or two ago, she demonstrated her Perfect Adjustable Square for trimming applique blocks square and to size. It's a modular system with an open window in the center for your dimensional applique, and the pieces for the sides snap together so the square ruler can be customized to the exact size you need by just adding more side sections or taking them away. It's a little pricey but worth every penny -- I have been there, done that with the applique lifting my ruler away from the fabric edge, then the fabric edge moves as my rotary cutter is slicing, then my once-happy home is filled with profanity and tears... Here's Karen's video demonstrating how it works: I love your Dresdens with the sweet yo yo accents, by the way!

  2. Wow, what a great way to handle squaring up those blocks. Certainly not something I've dealt with but I know what to do when it happens.

  3. I wonder - if you have any of that waffly grippy no slip shelf liner, would cutting strips of that and laying them around the block work to support the edges of your ruler and keep it from shifting and slipping? Maybe a couple of layers might be needed, or use a small ruler with a layer of shelf liner?

    Thanks for the information on using ammonia for removing yellowing. A long time ago I gave my MIL a recipe for a stain remover - IIRC it was Dawn and a powder bleach (Biz perhaps??). She said it worked on FIL's collars and cuffs to remove ground-in grime from farming, but maybe that's too harsh for older quilt fabrics.

  4. This is genius! Thanks so very much. Adorable block.


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