Monday, February 1, 2016

How to Sew Improv X and O Blocks

Blocks 4 and 6 of my modern sampler quilt are improv X and O blocks.  I learned the technique for sewing improv curves at the last BAMQG retreat.  The quilt I made with those squares is currently sitting in my UFO pile.

The nice thing about sewing improv curves is that its very forgiving.  Even so, I suggest trying a test block first to get the hang of cutting the curves.

My finished blocks are 8.5"x8.5" and my instructions will make 2 blocks.

Start by cutting a total of eight 6" squares of at least 3 different fabrics.  Stack them right sides up in groups of two.  By that I mean put the right side of one square together with the wrong side of the other square.  Each stack of two should contain two different fabrics.

If you want to make a finished block that's a different size you can easily adjust the size of your starting block.  Simply divide the size of your finished block (minus seam allowance) in half and add 2 inches.  So for a 12" finished block, your starting blocks would be 8".

Now for the fun/scary part!  From each stack cut a quarter circle (see photo) starting about 2" from the corners.

Don't make your curves too sharp (or square) or it will be difficult to sew.  See an example at the end of this post.

The final blocks look best if there in variation in the way you cut each curve.

Next is the trick bit - pinning and sewing the curves.  For each stack of two, pair up the inner piece of one color with the outer piece of the other color.  With right sides together pin at the mid point.  Then pin the remaining bits of the edges together.

As you can see from the photo, I put the "inner" piece on the bottom and the "outer" piece on the top. I found that sewing that way results in a much smoother curve.  See a not so sucessful example at the end of this post.

As you sew, you may find that the pins are "off."  That is that the edges no longer match up well.  Don't worry, just remove your pins and keep sewing, lining up your edges as you go.  This will keep your seam flat.  Since you will trim off a fair amount of fabric at the end it's OK if the pieces move around a bit.

Press your square flat turning the seam allowance toward the outer piece (it will naturally want to go that way).  Using a little steam can help massage your curves flat.

Now pair up your squares again.  Mix them up a bit - don't pair the same two squares up with each other.  Again stack them right sides up.  The curves should line up too.  Cut another curve inside the previous curve.  See the photo for an example.

Pin and sew the same way as before.  Press.  Trim each block to 4.5" square and sew four squares together to make an 8.5" finished square.  I created Xs and O with my blocks, but you can arrange your 4.5" square in whatever pattern you like.

I made a few mistakes along the way with these blocks.  I found that cutting the curves too sharply (squarish) made them harder to sew.  In the photo below, the curve on the left is flatter and easier to sew than the curve on the right.

I mentioned that it's easier to sew the curve when the "inner" piece is on the bottom and the "outer" curve is on the top.  This allows you to see what's going on with the outer fabric and move things around to keep the seam flat.  Otherwise I found that the outer fabric will tend to pucker as you see in the photo below.

I used green fabrics in the blocks for my sampler quilt.  This time I made the inner curves a little rounder and the outer curves a little flatter than I did in the tutorial blocks.

I hope you try this technique!  It's a fun and easy way to sew curves.

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Late Night Quilter