Monday, June 6, 2016

Waiting for Colin

We are sitting in a marina in St. Marks, FL while Tropical Storm Colin creeps up on us. Meanwhile, I have a batch of dragonfly fabric squares that I'm sewing into Disappearing Four Patch blocks.

Start with a four patch:

Slice it into nine pieces:

Rotate every piece except the corners 180 degrees:

Sew them back together:

I bought these squares of dragonflies as a precut collection on eBay. The seller clearly had been gathering the fabrics for years. There were 72 squares in every color of the rainbow, each with at least one dragonfly showing. I'm thinking I'll probably assemble them in rainbow order to give the finished quilt some cohesion.

The Disappearing Four Patch block shows its structure best when there is some contrast between the two non-background squares. In this one, there is enough difference between the light blue and the medium blue to show how the squares sort of overlap in the center of the block:

However, in order to put the finished quilt in rainbow order, I need to have blocks where the two focal fabrics are close to each other on the color wheel. That way the finished block will have a clear place in the rainbow. Two green fabrics make a green block, but where would a purple/yellow block go?

I spent quite a bit of time going back and forth between wanting to punch up the contrast in each block and wanting to make sure the finished quilt wouldn't just muddle into color chaos. I'm not sure I made the right choice yet!

The tricky part of this block turns out to be how to iron the seams. There are lots of little junctions between the white background and the various colors of fabric. In order to keep those corners crisp, it's best to nest the seams at every stage of sewing. That includes the stage where each block is sewn to another block.

There are two layouts for joining the blocks together. Alternating the larger white and focal fabric squares looks like this:

Rotating two of those block so that all the focal corners (and then all the white corners) meet up looks like this:

I haven't decided which layout I want to use, and I want the seams to nest between blocks no matter what I choose. Hmm. Topologically, that doesn't really work out well! After a lot of head scratching, middle-of-the-night pondering, and failed sample blocks, I came up with a solution. Here's the back of a block:

It turns out that if all the outside seams are pressed so that they rotate in one direction, any block layout will have nested seams at all the intersections. Hooray! In the photo above, the seams on the side with the yellow pencil are all pressed upward. The ones on the side with the brown pencil all go left. Opposite the yellow pencil they go down, and opposite the brown pencil they go right. So the seams flow around the back of the block counter clockwise.

That sounds good, but as you can see it actually looks a bit ugly. I was able to open three of the intersections and "swirl" the seams into submission, but two places still just had to get squashed down strangely. Fortunately, the fronts of the blocks look okay and I've been pretty happy with my points.

It's all too easy to start sewing things in a slightly different order and end up with a block where the final seams flow clockwise instead. So I have to force myself to only assemble two blocks at a time, laying all the pieces out carefully in a particular order at each stage and not jumping ahead.

I'm about half way through making the blocks. Next time I should have some layout photos to share.

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