Monday, March 30, 2015

Harlequin Johnnie - Making of the Harlequins with Templates

After finishing Clue 3 on Grand Illusion and prepping bunches of Half Square Triangles for  the HST quilt, I am back to working at paper-piecing the "Harlequin" blocks of the Harlequin-Johnny quilt.  I am in the middle of completing the 100 units that make the "Harlequin" an actual harlequin in my mind, that is, the small purple and batik triangles.

I was concerned I would get the colors of the harlequin triangles mixed up, so I labeled the papers with a big "B" on the batik side before Larry took them to Kinkos.  This pattern will not work if all the batiks are not on the same side.  It was a big help, so far I have not had to unpick any of the pieces I have completed so far. 

Paper-piecing was the only way to go on the harlequin blocks, because the angles of the triangles and trapezoids are very strange.  The Johnny blocks were definitely easier to make.

I love paper-piecing as long as the fabric is easily large enough to cover the pattern when it is flipped back.  If the fabric is too small it becomes too hard to do, which takes all the fun out of the process.  On the other hand, I do not like to waste fabric, especially since I have just designed the setting triangles for this quilt, and I am going to need all the leftover fabric I can lay my hands on!

To find a happy medium I used slightly over-sized templates to cut out the fabric.  Determining the proper sizes of the templates is a two step process. 

The first piece "set" in the paper-piecing process is laid right over its pattern on the paper.  This template does not need to be much larger than the actual pattern.  I usually make its template 1/4" longer and wider than the pattern, as if it has 3/8" seam allowances instead of 1/4" all around.  This allows for a little bit of slippage and is not very wasteful at all.  

Triangles are trickier to paper-piece so I cut them more slack... literally.  I made the template for triangular pieces as if they have 1/2" seam allowances instead of 1/4".  This is usually large enough to easily cover the pattern even if my placement is a little wonky.

Instead of tediously marking the fabric, I cut strips from selvage to selvage the same width as the template from the snub nose to the opposite side, then used the template to place the ruler to rotary cut the fabric.  If you flip the template top to bottom after each cut the angles nest nicely, and there is no waste between the cuts.  This technique worked REALLY well.  I could rotary cut 4-5 strips at once.  I will definitely do it again, it was much less work than marking the fabric!  

The only thing I had to be very careful of when cutting the purple grunge fabric was keeping the orientation correct, otherwise the wrong side of the fabric would end up face up.  To do this I put "Grunge up" on the template itself, and made sure to cut the strips with both the template and the fabric right side up.

The batik, being fully reversible did not have this orientation issue.  Neither did the blue grunge trapezoid since it could be flipped on its axis and used in either direction.  I am about half done with these units, which will complete the paper-piecing on these blocks. The center of the block is just a single square of the batik.  Putting the harlequin blocks together with their four inset seams per block should be really fun.  **sarcasm**