EXPANDING THE BASICS
by Ruth B. McDowell ©2000
Instructor's Lesson Plan
Notes to Instructors and Shop Owners
Piecing: Expanding the Basics is designed to assist your experienced quilt students discover new, exciting, and challenging skills to acquire. Part One, Technical Skills, can be formatted as a series of exercises to be used by an individual or with a group or with a teacher to master advanced techniques. It also suggests a different way of approaching the process of patchwork, which will be extremely helpful in developing designs. The material in this book is planned for the students who have mastered basic patchwork skills and quilt-in-a-day projects, and are searching for new territory to explore.
Kits could be prepared by the instructor, or students could bring supplies for each exercise. Each student should be required to purchase their own copy of Piecing: Expanding the Basics. Click here for ordering information or to purchase the book.
As a teacher, lead the students through the exercises in curved seam piecing, inset corners and piecing puzzles. Then introduce the concept of y seams and Y seams. Use traditional blocks that they are already familiar with as examples. Make class samples using simple color schemes of Four-Patch, Broken Dishes, and Pinwheel blocks to illustrate how moving diagonals away from corners simplifies sewing and adds movement.
Plan a short series of exercises in linear elements for your students, first with narrow templates. Demonstrate how the direction in which seams are pressed makes a visual impact. Refresh their skills at sew-and-flip methods to make very narrow linear elements. Make class samples of the other possibilities on page 50. Have the students experiment with each technique, perhaps following the small tree format, and ending with the "invisible trees."
Moving back to the Four-Patch, Broken Dishes, and Pinwheel class samples, introduce the concept of slipped intersections as a design tool. They'll be delighted to experiment with slipped intersections for their different visual effect after having spent time mastering precisely pieced four-patches. Experiment with a range of mismatches, 1/16", 1/8, 3/16, 1/4, 1/2. Using a very simple color scheme, prepare class samples of both simple landscapes and discuss the visual differences between them.
Encourage the students to explore what they've learned by applying some of these techniques to traditional quilt blocks, or by making both types of simple landscapes of their own, or by inventing simple blocks of their own. Hang everyone's efforts and talk about what you see happening in each one. Avoid competition and judgments. Focus on what you can learn from each example.
A second series of classes can be prepared from the materials in Part Two by introducing the simple leaf. Make class samples of many of its varieties. Demonstrate the process of making progressively simpler leaf blocks working from an outline, and working from a skeleton.
A leaf is a convenient way to explore this process without intimidating students who have not had much experience drawing or designing. As a class exercise, collect different leaves, trace their outlines and veins, and enlarge them on a copy machine to at least 8". Have each student select one enlarged tracing and develop a series of progressively simpler piecing schemes. Post each series, and talk about their differences. As a final project, have each student make up one design in fabric.
Other Advanced Classes:
From these beginnings, Piecing: Expanding the Basics will lead you on to many other advanced classes. Try a class in tessellations, from a geometric point of view or from the process described in the Radish quilt (pages 77-83). Plan a series of classes in radial patterns like the St. Johnswort variations (pages 92-111), or in Log Cabin patterns like the Three Grizzly Bears (pages 112-117). Or jump off into Landscapes (pages 118-144).
CHECKLIST FOR PIECING FROM A FULL SIZE DRAWING
Make the master drawing at the size of the quilt
Make a copy on the shiny side of freezer paper using a Ultrafine Sharpie® or Identipen® permanent marker. For very light colored fabrics, a bit of the marker line may transfer to the wrong side of the fabric. If this bothers you, use a hard pencil instead of the marker. If necessary, tape sheets of freezer paper together, butting the edges, on the dull side with masking tape.
Draw a colored line on the dull side just inside the outside edge of the quilt pattern. Put this colored line on grain when ironing paper pieces on fabric.
Add tick marks on the dull side of the freezer paper to help in matching the seams during piecing, making tics at intersections and about 1 inch apart along the seams.
Number the sections, then the pieces, on the dull side as well to keep track of the individual templates with pencil.
Pin drawing to wall. I usually pin the freezer paper to the wall on top of the original master drawing.
Audition fabrics by folding to the approximate size and pinning to the drawing.
Cut the fabric pieces:
3. Iron freezer paper or pin vellum to wrong side of fabric. I use a cotton/steam setting on my iron.
For straight seams,
4. Cut with 1/4 inch seam allowance with a clear ruler and rotary cutter.
5. Mark ticks with a pencil you can see in seam allowances.
For curves or insets,
6. Trace around paper on back of fabric (seam line) with a pencil you can see.
7. Mark ticks in seam allowance.
8. Cut with 1/4 inch seam allowance by eye as carefully as you can.
9. Clip concave edges as necessary.
Pin up cut fabric pieces, with freezer paper on the back, in place on original drawing to check fabric choices.
Piece: When some or all of the pieces have been cut, begin the sewing process.
For straight seams,
9. With freezer paper on the back, pin and match ticks, sew along edge of paper
10. With vellum, trace around edge of paper (seam line), remove paper, match and pin ticks, sew along pencilled seam line
For curves or insets,
10. Remove paper after marking tics and seamlines, and clipping concave curves. Then, matching ticks, pin fabric pieces together.
11. Sew along pencilled seam lines.
You may want to have a copy of your original drawing next to your machine as a diagram to follow for sewing order.
Press seam allowances to sculpture surface.