Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Testing Blocks for Quiltmaker Magazine

A while back Quiltmaker Magazine started something called the Scrap Squad. They make the quilts in the magazine in a scrappy fashion so there can be alternate variations of the quilts. I applied to be on the Scrap Squad, but I was not one of the women chosen. I'm sure they had much better candidates than me, since I've only been a serious quilter since 2007 and I haven't ever taken a class. I never really expected to be chosen, it was just something I did on a whim, so I was fine with the fact I didn't get chosen and I started planning my next quilt.

A few weeks after the Scrap Squad application, I was contacted by Quiltmaker to be tester for Volume 3 of Quiltmaker's 1oo Blocks. I'm not much of a fan of sampler quilts, which I knew was what I was likely to make with the Quiltmaker blocks I ended up with, but after thinking about it, and realizing I give almost all of my quilts away anyway, I decided to go for it. I am so glad I did! I learned some quilting skills I had been putting off trying, and I really had a fun time working on the blocks. Since we have twin babies living here, as well as doing laundry for 8 and cooking for 6, not to mention babysitting a toddler, having a commitment of two blocks every two weeks was probably a much better fit for me than the Scrap Squad would have been right now.

This was the first block I tested for Quiltmaker. I was rather boring and made it in the colors the pattern called for. I like the block very much, and I'd like to make a whole quilt out of this block (I think the secondary patterns with this would be fun), but not in these colors.

That was when I really started thinking about colors. If I was going to be making a bunch of blocks, I should pick a color scheme so I could use the blocks in a sampler quilt to donate when I'm done. Pink and blue was definitely not something I could continue doing. I thought about patriotic colors, since I donate several quilts to the Veteran's Hospital, but I have really been wanting to make a black background quilt with brights. I figured I could make that work with any block, since I could do anything from a two color block to a scrappy block if I just used black for the background, and any number of brights. Good, now I have a plan.

Block number 2 came, and it looks great in black and brights.

Block number 3 made me glad I didn't stick with a patriotic theme. It would have been hard to do this block with so few color choices.

Then came block number four. I suppose I could have done it with a black background, but I didn't want to. I have had two fat quarters of rubber duck fabric for a few months, and no plans for it. I realized with the blocks basic measurements, I could make four blocks out of my two fat quarters. If I made five rubber duck applique blocks instead of one, I could get a baby quilt out of this!
Here is my rubber duckie quilt top. still waiting to be quilted. Isn't it cute? All of my rubber duck fabric is gone now, but what a great baby quilt I ended up with!

I then got assigned another block that would work well with my color scheme.

Then....it happened. I got a block I didn't know how to make. This purse block is paper pieced, and I had never done that before. My first attempt was a failure, I didn't cut the fabric large enough, because I didn't know how to account for the odd angles when cutting the fabric and lining it up. I found a youtube video on paper piecing, that showed me how to paper piece in a way that I understood. I did fine on my second attempt, and I was pretty proud of myself for learning a new skill.

I got another applique block next. I think this block is stunning with a black background. DD#2 fell in love with this block, and wants a whole quilt with it. It reminds her of Beauty and the Beast which is her favorite Disney movie. I did the satin stitching on the flowers with variegated thread, something I frequently do with applique. I think the variations in color really make the flowers pop.

My last block was really a challenge. It was another paper pieced block, and this 12" block had 72 pieces! On the purse block, the only other time I had ever paper pieced, there were only six pieces in the one section that was paper pieced. What a difference! It took me two days to make this block, but I did get it done. Well, it was finished, but I did realize I had made a mistake in the color placement.

Overall, I had a great time working with Quiltmaker. There were a couple bugs to be worked out, but that's what block testing is all about. Magazines have multiple women make each block to catch any mistakes in the measurements, templates, or directions. It really gave me new appreciation of how much work goes into putting out a quilting publication of any kind. We may only see one version of any given quilt in a publication, or possibly a second or third color variation, but realistically, there are probably several more out there, to try to make sure the directions you get are as accurate as possible. When you do find a mistake in a publication, realize it was not for lack of trying.

I still haven't put my test blocks into a quilt. I need a few more to make a good sized quilt. Thankfully, I have a copy of Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks Volume 3, so I can choose a few more, and finish my black and brights quilt. Now my biggest problem will be which blocks to choose, there are some great ones!


Kristie said...

Lucky you! You did an amazing job!

Stephanie Newman said...

These blocks look great Melodie, and isn't it fun to learn new techniques, even when they stretch you?

Katie M. said...

I personally love to paper piece, but it can also be very time consuming! I think all your blocks turned out very nice and the black background? Great choice!