Sara is the first block of the Farmer’s Wife 1930’s Sampler Quilt that I have procrastinated and procrastinated about making until I was literally making her the night before it was due. I don’t know why but that crazy 9/16th measurement really put me off. I’ve become so reliant on the Marti Michell templates that I just didn’t think I’d be able to piece accurately without them. In the end after a number of false starts I decided the easiest way to conquer her with accuracy was to foundation paper piece her. (Oh how I loathe paper piecing…)
As much as I don’t like foundation paper piecing this version came together really quickly and easily once I’d put my mind to it. Which is handy given I was living on borrowed time when it came to having her ready to go for today’s tutorial. Whoops! I really like the simpleness of this block. I don’t know what it is about checkerboard squares, but they make me happy.
Tutorial: Block #90 “Sara”
- See tutorial for seam pressing details.
- I used a Schmetz 70/10 needle.
- I used 50wt Aurifil #2600 (Dove) thread for piecing.
- I used Flatter by Soak in Yuzu 248ml as my starch.
- I used Clover Wonder Clips to help keep my pieces in place.
- I used Translucent Vellum to print my pattern on.
- Fabrics shown in the tutorial are from the Gnome Angel Farmer’s Wife 1930’s Bundle from Fat Quarter Shop.
Measurements for the pieces needed to construct this block will not be provided in this tutorial. It is a pre-requiste of making this block that you have a copy of the book, The Farmer’s Wife 1930s Sampler Quilt: Inspiring Letters from Farm Women of the Great Depression and 99 Quilt Blocks That Honor Them by Laurie Aaron Hird – available from: Amazon | Pink Door Fabrics | Fat Quarter Shop | The Quilting Company | Interweave (Affiliate Links). Measurements, where applicable, can be found in this book and it’s associated media.
On Point Blocks
Please note I am not doing my blocks on-point. If you are fussy cutting your blocks please be mindful of your fabric placement so that the motif will sit correctly if you decide to put your blocks on-point.
You can find the From Marti Michell Patchwork Template Conversion Charts by clicking here.
Helpful Links & Videos
- Block #46 Jewel Foundation Paper Piecing Tutorial.
- Block #2 Aimee Freezer Paper Foundation Paper Piecing Tutorial.
- Rachel (of Wooden Spoon Quilts) no ripping foundation paper piecing tutorial.
- Melissa (of Miss Midge) paper piecing for Block #13 Belle tutorial.
- Cat (of Cat + Vee) paper piecing for Block #1 Addie tutorial.
- Andrea of Ellis & Higgs paper piecing for Block #2 Aimee.
This method of block construction is called “Foundation Paper Piecing” however it can also be referred to as “Paper Piecing” which can get confusing as there is also a technique called “English Paper Piecing” (EPP) and it’s often referred to as “Paper Piecing”. I have tried to always refer to the technique as “Foundation Paper Piecing” in the tutorial, however I may slip up and refer to it as “paper piecing”. If paper piecing is mentioned in this post it only ever refers to foundation paper piecing.
How to Make the Block
- Tolerance Levels: you need to decide what is an acceptable tolerance level for “mistakes”. For example if your blocks are consistently 6¼” instead of 6.5″ are you ok with this. Or if your seams matching are less than an eight of an inch “off” are you ok with this. There’s no hard or fast rule and it’s different for everyone, so remember it’s your quilt so make your decision for you.
- Press your seams at each step. Click here for a great article on how to press your seams for patchwork.
- You can iron and starch your fabric prior to cutting. I also starch when pressing bulky seams.
- When pinning, pin away from you so that you don’t move your pieces when pinning.
- Where possible I chain piece all the pieces I can in one step. If you’re unsure of what chain piecing is, click here for a tutorial on how to do it. However, for the purpose of the tutorials I will step you through all the seams individually.
If you are planning to hand piece this block, or even machine piece it based on the templates, you can find everything you need on the disc that came with the book. Block directions are located on page 249.
Printing Instructions: All of the foundation paper piecing patterns that were provided with the book are mirror images of the completed blocks pictured in the book. This is only an issue for blocks that are not symmetrical, and I will cover ways to deal with that when we make those blocks, however this block does not require you to do anything but print the pattern at 100%. Foundation Paper Piecing patterns can be found in the folder titled “Paper Piecing” in the associated media that comes with the book.
Due to the multitude of printers, desktops and programs on the market I’m unable to provide specific support for your particular setup, however the principles are the same for every program and printer. You need to ensure you’re printing at 100% scale. My printer automatically defaults to 94% when printing the templates and patterns. This is how I change the scale when I print on my Mac and with my Canon printer. The arrow points to where I amend the scale settings by clicking the checkbox for scale and then changing the amount to 100%. If you are unsure how to scale your printing I strongly recommend asking Google (simply type “how do I print to scale for <insert your printer name and desktop (whether mac or windows)>”) or getting a computer savvy friend in to help. Once you’ve worked it out you’ll be unstoppable when it comes to foundation paper piecing!
1. Print out the foundation paper piecing pattern for Block 90 Sara at a scale of 100%. Using paper scissors roughly cut out the foundation paper piecing pieces leaving approximately 1/8th of an inch of spare paper around the dotted line.
Tip: If you’re using Vellum grab each page off the printer as it prints and then lay them out to dry. You’ll want to make sure the ink doesn’t smudge and you really don’t want to get any of that ink on your hands and then on your fabrics.
Please note: For copyright reasons the numbers have been removed from the template pieces in these diagrams. Your pieces will have the piecing order numbers printed on them.
Now for the fun part, adding fabric! To help you out I’ve worked out the sizes you’ll need to cut each fabric piece to cover the pattern sections. Please note, given the nature of paper piecing section shapes and the limits on what shapes can be cut with a ruler these shapes produce fabric wastage. You may be better served using fabric scraps that fit, however for those of you new to the process sacrificing some fabric until you get the hang of it is not a big deal. Cut the following fabric pieces:
Fabric 1 (Red)
Pattern Pieces: A1, A3, A5, A7, B1, B3, B5, B7, C1, C3, D2, E2, F1, F3 = 2″ x 2″
Fabric 2 (Blue)
Pattern Pieces: A6, A2, B2, B6, C2, D1, E1, F2 = 2″ x 2″
Fabric 3 (Pink)
Pattern Pieces: A8, A4, B4 B8, D3, E3 = 2″ x 2″
Pattern Pieces: C4, D4, E4, F4 = 3″ x 3″
Tip: If you’re like me and get easily confused looking at the pattern pieces you may find value in using colouring pencils to mark the corresponding fabric colour on both the pattern pieces and the block diagram found at the top of the foundation paper pattern. Again, make sure that whatever you use to add colour to your templates doesn’t bleed on to your hands or fabric.
Please note: Given the nature of foundation paper piecing I will be showing you the technique using one section of the pattern and then you will apply that technique to making the remaining sections before we join them together to make the block.
2. Each pattern piece has a letter (for the pattern section) and a number (for the order you add fabric). Pick a section to begin with. (At this point it doesn’t matter which section you start with as we will make all the individual sections before we move on to joining them together to complete the block.)
You will need to start with the fabric that corresponds to section 1 of your template. With foundation paper piecing you work in numerical order to stitch each section. You only stitch the stitch lines, not the seam allowance. When making the sections of the blocks you do not stitch around the block stitch line (this happens when you join sections) you only stitch the lines to join each fabric to the previous fabric. Diagram 1 shows with a red line (the arrow is pointing to it) where you will need to stitch to join the fabrics for these pieces.
This is where you have to have your wits about you and it’s the step that I always have to pause and think about whenever I do foundation paper piecing. The template is applied to the wrong side of the fabric.
Tip: If you’re using copy paper and you want to make double sure that your fabric is giving you enough room for your seam allowance hold your fabric and template up to a light source so you can see where the edges of the fabric are in relation to the stitch lines. (See #46 Jewel Tutorial for diagram of this technique.)3. Carefully move your fabric and template to the sewing machine. For all sections of this block you will start from the the seam allowance end of the stitch line (I like to start one stitch length into the seam allowance). You will set your stitch length to 1.5 to make the stitches as short as possible so they perforate the paper and aid in it’s removal later on. Use reverse stitch or tie-off function on your machine to secure the seam end. Stitch on the seam line (dark line between the two sections) until you are about one stitch length into the seam allowance. Use reverse stitch or tie-off function on your machine to secure the seam end. Diagram 1 shows a red line (with an arrow pointing at it) for where you will have stitched. Flip the fabric over and press the seam, press the seam from the right side of the fabric.
Caution: If you’re using Vellum and you’re pressing your seams with an iron please be mindful that the Vellum will retain heat and my be uncomfortable to the touch. Please use caution.
Please note: You may want to skip pressing your seams and either use a seam roller or just hold your fabrics in place as you do the next step. I always press my seams with the iron, but it’s personal preference. If you’re using Vellum and pressing with the iron you’ll notice that the Vellum will curl. Simply press both sides to counteract the curling.
4. Because I was using Translucent Vellum and instead of cutting the fabric in pieces I just used a 2″ strip I trimmed by sliding my ruler under the vellum, measuring the 1/4″ seam allowance, pulling the vellum back and then trimming. If you prefer you can fold back the template along the seam line (the dark line between the fabric sections) and trim the fabric to leave a 1/4″ seam. (See #46 Jewel Tutorial for diagram of this technique.)
Tip: This is where I wish I was using freezer paper (as per the tutorial for Block 2 Aimee) because I could just iron the template to the fabric to save it from moving. With this method I use a pin to secure the paper to the fabric. Alternatively you can put a little dab of glue from my Sewline Glue Pen to hold the fabric to the template. This is one of my pet peeves about foundation paper piecing – the fabric slips and slides around on the paper.
4. This is why we fold back and trim – line up the next sections fabric, right sides together with the first sections fabric, against the trimmed seam line. Carefully move your fabric and template to the sewing machine. Stitch on the seam line (dark line between the two sections) until you are about one stitch length into the seam allowance. Use reverse stitch or tie-off function on your machine to secure the seam end. Diagram 3 shows a red line (with an arrow pointing at it) for where you will have stitched.
Important: You want to ensure that when the new piece of fabric is flipped over to show the right side of the fabric that it covers all stitch lines and seam allowances of it’s section. (This is why using the fabric measurements I provided will help to ensure you get the right amount of coverage.)
Tip: If you have appliqué pins you can pop a couple of these pins into the seam allowance to hold the fabrics together while you flip the fabric over and confirm you have adequate coverage.
5. Repeat the process of adding fabrics to each piece until you have completed the section. Untrimmed it will look like Diagram 4.
6. Trim the section using the black dotted line of the pattern as your trim line. Alternatively you can put your 1/4″ mark on your ruler against the section line and trim the seam allowance this way.
Tip: Some people run a stitch line around the outside line of the section. I don’t do this (because I’m lazy) as these will form the seam lines when joining the section together so I find the step redundant. If you feel more comfortable having the pieces stitched down then do it. Be careful when joining your sections however as these stitch lines may be visible if you do not stitch exactly over them (another reason I don’t do it, I’m not that accurate!).
Making the Sections
Continue to follow the above steps to make all sections of the block required. If you are feeling confident you can batch process (which is a similar way of saying ‘chain piece‘ however as you have to remove each piece from the machine before you can start the next one it’s not technically chain piecing) each addition of fabric to a section.
7. Once you’ve made and trimmed your section lay them out in the block formation. Diagram 5 shows the layout from the back.
Joining the Sections
Joining the sections is the same as any other patchwork – right sides together, 1/4″ seam and you stitch all the way from one edge of the section to the other. In this method of foundation paper piecing you will stitch on the dark black seam line.
Tip: Given the nature of the pieces (all squares) in this block I just matched the seam lines of the squares and held the pieces in place with Clover Wonder Clips. You can use the Clover Wonder Clips to hold the sections together while you stitch (you just need to remove them as you pass the pieces through the machine).Tip: When joining sections I normally press my seams open, however with this block I pressed to one side. Before pressing I tear off the paper that is the seam allowance. This is purely personal preference and you can press open if that’s your chosen method. You will press all seams as you join the the sections.
8. Join section C to D, and E to F as per diagram 6.
9. Join section C + D to B and E + F to A as per diagram 7.10. Join the 2 halves of your block to complete the block as per diagram 8. And that there is Sara done and dusted.
Tip: I removed all papers from my block. You can either leave them in or take them out now. Either way, before you quilt the quilt top you’ll need to have removed the papers.
The Farmer’s Wife 1930s Sampler Quilt: Inspiring Letters from Farm Women of the Great Depression and 99 Quilt Blocks That Honor Them by Laurie Aaron Hird – available from: Amazon | Pink Door Fabrics | Fat Quarter Shop | The Quilting Company | Interweave (Affiliate Links).
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase those items through my links I will earn a very small commission. You will not pay more when buying a product through my link, in fact in some cases I can offer you a better price via an affiliate link. I will not recommend something that I do not use myself. These commissions help me keep being able to provide you with great content for free. Thank you, in advance for your support!
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