III. CUTTING and PIECING
AFTER the pattern and material are decided, the problem of cutting out
our quilt iks next. This is conceded to be the least interesting and
most tedious part of quilt making; however, it is certainly not a step
that can be hurried as blocks must be cut exact. There is no
alternative to this. The very week I am writing this there came a
gingham diamond clear from Montanna to me in Missouri, from a woman
asking, "What's wrong with this pattern I got from a friend-it won't
make a blazing star"! And indeed it would not; the angle was too acute.
Eight of them would sew together like a saucer, and no two sides of the
diamonds were alike in length, the shortest varying from the longest by
In the patterns here given the angles and curves have been determined.
Lengths are fairly accurate, although seam allowances may vary, and it
does make a difference where a certain piece is due to fit. Two
triangles, equal sides together should be cut equal, but a triangle
against a square of equal length will finish a seam narrow at each end
unless extra allowance is made on the triangle.
We suggest that you lay tissue paper over the cutting pattern in the
book, allow seams if you want the block to finish the size given, then
make up one test block. You may have to change the relation of pattern
sides in some cases before transferring your proven patterns onto the
cardboards which will be traced around for marking out all parts. It is
a matter of preference again whether your master cardboards be the
cutting or sewing size. Some like to cut on the pencil line and gauge
their seams back from this. Others prefer to cut a seam out from lines
which are penciled onto the wrong side of the cloth, then sew back on
these lines assuring exact finished sizes. Blotting paper makes
excellent patterns for marking around on any cloth that slips easily,
as it clings. Keep all angles sharp; Many an old-time pattern has
gradually changed in character and name by being marked around until
the points wore down into curves, or shallow curves into deeper ones.
True bias and edges cut with the weave are imperative for right
triangle sides, and on equi-angular triangles one side must be with the
weave. Squares and oblongs must be with the weave of course. In all of
our ready cut quilts this is accurately followed. The center threads in
the rays of the "Rising Sun" run directly from center base to apex.
After one sample block is correctly made it is often advantageous to
cut or tear the quilt borders from yardage before cutting new materials
into block units. You know about the area of cloth one given block
takes and can easily estimate enough of each color for the number of
blocks required. Hence, border strips may be torn to require less
piecing before cutting the blocks.
About one yard is required for binding a plain quilt, this cuts on the
true bias into strips about 1 1/2 inches wide. Corners are left from
this which also may be cut into block units. Allow 1 1/2 yards for
binding scalloped edged quilts.
Cloth should be smooth to cut, so iron any wrinkled material before
laying on the patterns. Hold the cardboard firmly in place, mark around
evenly with pencil on light goods, or with French chalk on dark colors.
Draw a thread to straighten cloth when necessary, and cut very
carefully. Inaccuracies in cutting are as fatal in their way in this
operation as in the so-called "major operations"! And "lastly" cut
economically; a thrifty cutter has mighty few scraps after her patterns
have been laid on to the best advantage.
THE APPLIQUE PROCESS
IN CUTTING applique parts, the only special admonition is to clip in
well to the folding back line on any concave curve-to keep stem widths
even and mark accurately, of course. Bias tape is often substituted for
cut stems. The sewing part of the applique work is most important. Some
like an exact unit of cardboard to press edges back over with a hot
iron. A creased edge that bastes back as you go is fairly simple to do.
For circles or other convex edges it is best to run a fine gathering
thread very near the edge and full it back to an even fold. This is
perfect for creasing back circles like the center in the ready cut
All applique quilts baste first, building up the design, tucking leaf
ends under stems, covering stem ends with buds or flowers, and of
course these ends which are tucked under do not have to be turned back
as the raw edge is covered. The charm of perfect applique is to keep it
free from puckers.
When a block or section of the design is basted into place, whip around
the edge with tiny blind stitches using thread that matches the
material if possible. Fancy stitching such as blanket-stitch, chain or
buttonhole is seldom advised. If you want tour quilt to have the effect
of the old-time "laid on" variety, choose the inconspicuous way of fine
workmanship and no embroidery. Applique for other purposes, on aprons,
decorative linens and such is usually more effective when buttonholed
around, and of course it is a matter of taste in the quilt problem.
There is no one way to combine colors, to piece or to quilt, and your
idea may be as right as another.
Piecing a quilt top is not such a formidable task. Really a knowledge
of plain sewing, accuracy and neatness are all that is required to add
to that desire to make it yourself. What little helpful methods and
tricks we have learned we pass on to you. The special instructions
given with each pattern tell you how to build that particular block,
unless it is an obviously simple plan.
The two pieces to be sewn together must be accurately placed and firmly
held. Triangle or diamond points extend out exactly the width of a
seam, as you will find by sewing them. Seams absolutely must be even.
If you like a quarter inch seam, and start that way, keep all of them
so. Three-sixteenths is the perfect width for ordinary materials in my
opinion, and this width is easily gauged by a sewing machine foot. Some
makers of exquisite quilts use 1-8 inch strong for their seams, and
when the material is very close weave this width will hold. The less
material to bunch up underneath at quilting time, the smoother the
finished quilt will be. A knot or backstitch may be used to start each
little piecing seam, and each must be well fastened at the end, as that
seam end will be part of another seam later.
Two bias edges together will stretch unless your sewing tread fulls
them a trifle taut. It is better to sew a weave thread against a bias
edge when possible as in joining diamonds for the eight pointed star
designs. Even a thirty-secondth of an inch if added to several diamonds
on one side of the Lone Star diamonds, and the same number less several
times on an adjacent point, will throw the plan awry. Seams must be
even. Quilt piecing is a most precise craft where a few tiny
inaccuracies add quickly into a total of ugly stretch or puckers.
Pieced sections should be pressed; the seam turned to one side is
easier and we think better than trying to open all seams flat.
Protruding angles may be trimmed as you piece, which will also add to
the smoothness of your top.
Your decision as to a seam width and whether or not you allow seams
extra to the unit patterns here given will change the estimated sizes a
bit. But there is no one size a finished quilt must be. If your block
finishes 13 inches, where we say about 12, That will simply mean that
36-inch material will not cut the alternate blocks to so good an
advantage, but otherwise your size is just as right as ours.