by Ruth B. McDowell ©2000
is designed to provide the quilter with a variety of pieced flower blocks
that are very adaptable to a series of classes. Some blocks are very simple,
with only a few templates, some more complex. Some stand alone as complete
wall hangings. Techniques include straight seams, inset corner seams,
curved seams, one foundation pieced block, and puzzle seams.
Each student in your classes should be required
to buy a copy of Pieced Flowers.
Click here for ordering information
or to purchase the book.
I recommend that you thoroughly master these techniques before beginning
to teach them.
Piecing: Expanding the Basics
provides a series of exercises in Part 1 that explains these construction
The blocks also introduce various design ideas: graph paper blocks, unusual
block shapes, related blocks, connecting blocks, and unusual sets.
Enlarging the Blocks
Each block in the book has a recommended minimum
practical size. This will produce a block with pieces similar in size
to those found in traditional pieced blocks. The block
patterns in the book (not the piecing diagrams)
should be enlarged on a copier at the percentage indicated to produce
a block of the minimum size. You may certainly enlarge the block patterns
more than the minimum recommended size. In general, bigger is easier.
If your copier cannot make the enlargement in one pass, enlarge the block
as much as you can, then use the following formula to figure what additional
enlargement you need. Use this formula to calculate other enlargements
(Desired dimension of block) ÷ (Dimension of existing block) x
This calculation can be done on a small handheld calculator if the dimensions
are in decimals.
To convert sixteenths of inches to decimals, use this table:
in centimeters or with a ruler graduated in tenths of inches doesn't require
Example: 17"(desired size) ÷ 8.5"(existing size) = 2
x 100 = 200%
Each piecing diagram includes small arrows to indicate in which direction
the seams should be pressed. This makes a truly significant difference
in the final appearance of the block, as the seam allowances serve to
pad the design and enhance the sculptural quality of the final quilt.
This ability to sculpture the surface is lost in foundation piecing.
Cut two identical copies of at least one of the practice blocks from Piecing:
Part 1, and piece them, pressing the seam allowances in opposite directions,
to clearly demonstrate what a difference this makes to your students.
I use a steam iron, pressing each seam before adding the next piece.
I have designed these blocks to be pieced with templates. You may use
whichever template making method you prefer. I make traditional plastic
templates with seam allowances when making many identical blocks, as long
as the individual blocks have less than ten templates.
For a few blocks, or for blocks with many templates, I make templates
by tracing the block onto the shiny side of freezer paper with a ultra
fine line permanent marker, Sharpie or Identipen. (Be aware:
The ultra fine line permanent marker may transfer faintly to the back
of the fabric. This is only noticeable on very light fabrics. Since it
is the seam line, this usually doesn't matter, but write any other notations
on the dull side of the freezer paper.)
For multiple copies on freezer paper: Experiment with stacked layers of
freezer paper with the marked one on top. Staple or pin them together.
With the thread removed from the sewing machine, stitch along all seam
lines to perforate the unmarked layers.
I recommend marking a series of tics/dots/registration marks with a pencil
along each seam (essential on curved seams) on the dull side of the freezer
paper block before it is cut apart. The number of tics you should mark
will depend on the size and tightness of the curve. See Piecing, pages
14-17, for examples. Don't place tics too close together, 1 to 1 1/2"
is a good spacing. (With very closely marked tics, it is too easy to match
the wrong ones.)
On the dull side of the paper, with a highlighter, draw a line just inside
the outside edge of the block. Put the colored line on grain when ironing
on fabric. Use a different colored highlighter to outline each section.
Label each piece with a pencil on the dull side of the freezer paper as
indicated on the piecing diagram next to each block pattern. The dull
side will be the reverse of the piecing diagram. It may be easier to label
each piece section by section.
Iron the freezer paper pieces to the back of the selected fabric. I use
a cotton/steam setting on my iron. The freezer paper piece is the finished
size. When cutting the fabric pieces, add 1/4" seam allowances outside
the freezer paper pieces: For straight seams, use a clear ruler and rotary
cutter; for curved seams, carefully cut by eye with scissors.
Use a 1/4" foot if possible- one that allows you to see where the
needle enters the cloth.
For straight seams, you can leave the freezer paper on the back of each
piece, match and pin the pieces together carefully and sew along the edge
of the freezer paper. Remove the freezer paper when the block is finished,
or whenever it becomes awkward.
For inset corner piecing, mark dots at the corners of each piece and remove
the freezer paper before sewing. Clip the inner corner as shown in Piecing
on pages 20-29. Match the dots and pivot at the insets. Shorten your stitch
length to 1.5 (or 15 on an old machine), and set the machine to stop with
the needle down if possible.
For curved seam piecing, mark the tics (and the seam line) on the wrong
side of each fabric piece with a pencil of a color you can see. Clip the
concave edge (see
pages 14-17). Remove the freezer paper. Pin the two fabric pieces together
matching each pencilled tic mark and sew with the clipped piece on top,
spreading out the clips to ease the seam. You may want to shorten your
stitch length to 2.0 or 1.5 (or 15 on an old machine). It is easier to
piece curves with a 1/4" wide foot, rather than the wide foot found
on most zigzag machines.
Here is a brief outline of some of the classes you might organize. Within
each class, have everyone work on the same design, or give them a choice.
Have the students piece one block, or a few blocks, or continue until
a wall hanging or quilt is completed.
Straight seams, few templates
Teach plastic template construction and straight seam piecing.
12. Campanula, p.18
13. Daylily, p. 50
14. Iris, p. 69
Straight seams, many templates
Teach freezer paper templates with straight seam piecing.
13. Campanula, p. 15
14. Columbine, p. 27
15. Cosmos, p. 35
16. Hollyhock, p. 57
17. Morning Glory, p. 77
18. Sweet Pea, p. 98
19. Sweet Pea graph paper blocks, p. 103
Straight seams, many templates, more difficult construction
Teach more difficult straight seam piecing, with tiny or narrow pieces.
Also see Piecing, pages 46-47.
15. Columbine, p. 23
16. Daisy, p. 39
17. Iris, p. 66
Foundation piecing, puzzle pieces
Also see Piecing, pages 9, 34-35.
16. Morning Glory, p. 81
Inset corner seams
Teach inset corners.
17. Cosmos, p. 33
Teach curved seams.
18. Campanula, p. 13
19. Columbine, p. 21
20. Cosmos, p. 31
21. Daylily, p. 43
22. Iris, p. 63
23. Morning Glory, p. 73
Also see Piecing, pages 74-76.
19. Daisy, p. 40
The most complicated blocks in the book to sew:
20. Daylily, p. 45
21. Hollyhock, p. 54
22. Rose, p. 85