Monday, July 2, 2012

Beginner Tutorial: 4-Patch

It's been quite a few weeks since I've posted- lots to catch up on!  In the coming week, I'll do my best to catch up on giveaways, workshops I've attended, projects I'm making, new stuff in my shop, the coming lavender harvest and lots more!

Let's start with something I promised a customer.  She's a new quilter and I promised her a tutorial on how to make a basic 4 patch- to make her first block.  If you're an experienced quilter, bear with me here.  This is for a newbie.

This is what we're making.  It's called a 4-patch.  No need to think too hard about how it was named, huh!  We also make 9-patches, and 16-patches.  The process is basically the same- just more squares.

 These squares aren't sewn together yet- they're just placed right next to each other.  There is no rule about the size of the squares... they just need to all be the same size.  Quilters often refer to the size of a finished block.  When you sew the pieces together, the seams take up some of the fabric.  We use standard 1/4 inch seams when we quilt.  Always assume a 1/4 inch seam unless you are told otherwise.  For this block, I cut 5 inch squares.  When they are all sewn together, the block will be 9 1/2 inches square.  When the 9 1/2 inch block is sewn into a quilt, it will be 9 inches square.

We use a rotary cutter (round rolling blade) and various sizes of rulers that you can see through.  And we do this on a cutting mat.  These supplies are sold at quilt shops and craft stores.  Keep your rotary blade sharp and WATCH THOSE FINGERS!  Rotary cutters are SHARP!  Here I have the 4 squares piled up, and being careful not to move the fabric, I position the ruler around so I can cut a pile of 4 exact 5-inch squares.  You can do them one at a time if you're using a rotary cutter for the first time.

First, lay out the 4 blocks the way you like them (top photo).  Now take the top 2 squares and sew them together and then take the bottom 2 squares and sew them together, taking care to sew an exact 1/4 inch seam.  Now press them.  Don't skip this step!  An iron is just as important as your sewing machine.  No kidding-- press them!  Quilting is different from garment sewing in several ways.  When you sew clothing, you generally use a larger seam and you press the seams open.  But, in quilting, we use 1/4 inch seams and generally (unless you are instructed otherwise) you press the seams to one side.  One reason for that is that the batting won't come up through the seam that way.  Other reasons have to do with piecing and construction.  The old rule of thumb is to press to the darker side.  That's not always the case, but it's often done.  In the case of a 4-patch- we press one seam in one direction and the other seam in the opposite direction.

 Here's my 1/4 inch seam.  Sheesh!  It doesn't look so great at this magnification!  The seam in this photo is just a few threads too small.  In reality, it will be fine.  But keep checking yourself and adjusting your sewing so that you get as close as possible to 1/4 inch.  It really does make a difference in the long run!

Now we have to sew the 2 (2-piece) sections together.  In the above photo, the seams in the bottom squares (green and brown) are pressed to the left.  The seams in the top squares (yellow and pink) are pressed to the right.  I've placed the pink and yellow section on top of the green and brown section so that the seams are together.

Press the seams together and use your fingertips to feel how the seams are lining up.  Kiss them right up close together.... really, really close!  Then take a pin and secure the 2 pieces right at the seam.  If you're just beginning, you probably want to put another pin all the way to the left and right of the piece.  Don't go nuts with pins- but use a few to make sure the piece won't move around.  When you're sewing, go slowly, and stop when you get to a pin and take it out.  Don't sew over the pins.  That's a good way to break your sewing machine needle and have it shoot up in your face.  Not good.  Don't sew over pins.

Sorry for the blurry photo!  After sewing the long seam to attach the first 2 sections, you can just press that new seam to one side or the other.  But it will be a little lumpy.  A better way to press it it to take out one or 2 stitches at the seams and fann the seams in a pinwheel shape- so that you can press the seams in 4 different directions.  It this makes your head spin- just press the seam to one side.  But give it a try with some scraps.  It's pretty cool when it's pressed like this. And it lies nice and flat.

You're aiming for matching up the 4 blocks with no shifting of colors.  This isn't perfect- it's about 1 or 2 threads off.  But it's pretty darned close.  :>

Now you will hear people say they are "squaring up" a block.  When you're finished with a block, the seams rarely match up perfectly all around the edge and the finished block is not always the perfect measurements.  In the above photo, I have post-it notes at the 9 1/2 inch lines.  If I'm squaring up a pile of blocks, this little tip makes life a lot easier.  Now- instead of working with the original 5-inch squares, we're working with a pieced block that is 9 1/2 inches square.  (Remember- when this goes into a quilt, it will lose 1/4 inches all around and end up being a 9 inch block in the quilt).

Here's why we square up a block.  See where the pink and brown squares meet?  The edge is not a perfect line.  When I square it up- or cut along the edge- it cleans it up and sets me up for success when I sew it to other blocks.

And THAT is how you make your first 4-patch block!  Important points to remember.... an iron is a very important sewing tool.  Don't skimp on ironing.  Press fabric before you cut into it, and press every seam you sew.  Don't IRON... just PRESS.  Be gentle and don't distort the fabric.  The idea is to FLATTEN it... not mangle it.  And the other thing to remember is to sew an accurate 1/4 inch seam.  The rest will come as you learn and practice.


Debbie said...

Very well done, Sue. Missed you!

Queen Of The Armchair aka Dzintra Stitcheries said...

A very good tutorial...thanks Sue!

Elizabeth said...

Very nice beginner tutorial. I remember the first time I fanned an intersection and was so proud that it laid flat!

SpartanBabe said...

Yay! You're back! Hope all is well with you and the DH!