Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Rethinking block construction

I just made a comment on Paula's blog about block construction and thought I'd expand on it here. While sewing the May block for Block Central's BOM "Somewhere in Time" I realized that there was an easier way to construct the block than the instructions specified. I have to admit that I almost never read pattern instructions unless it's a really complicated piece, and also almost never buy a pattern (I draft them myself from the picture - what a great side effect of my engineering background!)

Anyway, since I'm making this BOM in two sizes and two colors, by the time the first block is finished I have studied the design and sometimes make improvements on the construction of the second. Here is the first block I made, by their instructions (please ignore the creases, the blocks were folded up in storage):

Concentrate on the middle inside the green sashing. Note that it's built around the center blue square. The rust triangles are added, then the beige triangles, and then strips are added to the four sides consisting of half square triangles, squares and flying geese. I looked at it and decided that it's really a fancy nine patch block. So I broke up the design differently and made the second blocks this way:

Now it's just an augmented nine patch, consisting of one solid square, four double flying geese squares, and four half square triangles with an additional square inset in the corner. The same look, but it was much faster to put together and you stitch fewer bias edges.

I'm curious if others do the same thing: rethink the construction to simplify your sewing. Comments? Let me know, please.

While we're talking about pattern instructions, let me air a pet peeve. I just ran into this particular one on my Christmas BOM. I hate, hate, hate it when they tell you to cut certain size pieces to sew together, and then instruct you to square up the resulting patch to a specified size! In this case, the directions said to cut out two squares, sew through the diagonal twice and cut apart to make two HSTs, and then to trim them to a 3 1/2" square. What a waste of time. Why not just tell just us to cut the pieces the correct size to begin with? We can sew an accurate 1/4" seam. Stuff like this is why I don't read instructions and I make my own patterns.


Joan said...

I can definitely see why the second one is easier. I'm not big on patterns either, but have a terrible tendency to break things down into 4-squares when there are simpler ways to do things -- example, your double flying geese would come to me as 2 HST's and 2 squares. I over-complicate things when I do this! As always, I adore your colors. I wish you lived closer so I could watch you "in action" choose your colors.

The Calico Cat said...

I'm with you (Although I don't go through the process - I generally pass on complicated blocks - I like to play with color & texture not complicated piecing.) which is why I do not do mysteries.