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In the Quilting World

Awash With Color Mystery Sampler -- Block 2

It's going to be a great year! I'm working on several projects that will utilize my scrap and stashed fabrics and the Awash With Color Mystery Sampler is just one of them.

Let me introduce myself: I'm Carolyn Vagts, editor of Quilter's World magazine and writer of this update. That's my day job, and at night, I'm an addicted quilter. I tend to eat, breathe and sometimes sleep with my quilting. I have a beautiful studio with my work space right in it. How convenient, since I work at and with quilting. As editor, I am very hands-on with every issue. I'm also very hands-on with this update. I love to share my thoughts, inspiration and my experiences with other quilters in hopes to inspire them on to another project.

With each update I select a book or pattern to accompany it. It's usually something that I feel goes along with the content of my update, and sometimes, I feel it's just a great project or pattern I want to draw attention to. While working on the Mystery Sampler for the next few months, I will continue to suggest patterns and sometimes books I feel will be of value to anyone wanting to improve their quilting skills. This time I'm sharing Hayloft Stars, a downloadable quilt pattern that would be great for anyone wanting to improve their half-square triangles. And guess what? The block we will be making in this update has half-square triangle units too! So if you enjoy this part of the Mystery Sampler you may want to practice some more with a great pattern like Hayloft Stars.

Hayloft Stars
The Hayloft Stars quilt pattern can be purchased at AnniesCraftStore.com.

For block No. 2 in this Mystery Sampler series, Old Maid's Puzzle, you will need your chosen background fabric (mine is black) and two other fabrics.

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The background fabric and the two other fabrics I'll be using to get started.

I hope you have finished block No. 1 from the last update and are ready to venture on to another. Last time we did Log Cabin blocks, which are basically all straight piecing, and we learned how important it is to square up with each added round. This time we will be working with a block that has half-square triangles and is traditionally known as Old Maid's Puzzle. Half-square triangles (aka HSTs) aren't hard to make if you are careful while working with them. We will be making a total of four blocks this time.

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Diagram of Block No. 2 of Awash With Color: Old Maid's Puzzle.

Cutting List for Block No. 2 -- Old Maid's Puzzle

(Makes four blocks)

From the background (black) fabric cut:
  • 20 (3 7/8-inch) A squares, then cut once on the diagonal to make 40 HSTs
  • 16 (3 1/2-inch) B squares

From blue fabric cut:

  • 12 (3 7/8-inch) C squares, then cut once on the diagonal to make 24 HSTs

From purple fabric cut:

  • 4 (6 7/8-inch) D squares, then cut once on the diagonal to make 8 HSTs
Note: You can easily substitute in your color choices. The only one I would suggest you should keep the same all the way through the Mystery Sampler is the background fabric. All the rest can and should be pulled from your stash if possible.

Since this is a skill-building exercise as well as a mystery sampler, we really want to take our time with the cutting. A good block starts with fabric selection and then precise cutting. Taking your time to cut each piece with care and double-checking the measurements twice before cutting will help ensure an accurate fit. I'm going to give you a few hints about HSTs that will make the end result even better.

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Cutting out all the pieces for Block No. 2 very carefully.

Once all the required pieces for the block are cut, we'll sort them by the order in which they will need to assembled. Since this block is all about HSTs plus a few squares, we can work on those HSTs and knock them out of the park first. There are two sizes of HSTs in this block, but if you look at the block carefully, you'll see that we first have to make the smaller units before we can make the larger one. When working with HSTs it's important not to pull or tug the fabric through the machine as you sew since the fabric is cut on the bias and will stretch and become distorted. One trick is to treat the fabric with a spray starch before sewing, to help it keep its shape.

To begin sewing, match one A HST and one C HST with right sides together and carefully stitch a 1/4-inch seam along the diagonal as shown in Photo 2. Make 24 A-C units. Once you have them all stitched, we need to press them and that's where most quilters, including me, get a bit lazy. Pressing does not mean ironing. When pressing quilt pieces, you should always first press the seam you just stitched. This means place the hot iron directly on the seam to set it. Do not wiggle or move the iron back and forth. Press the seam allowances toward the darker fabric (the black background in my case). Again, do not wiggle or move the iron back and forth. Simply press and remove the iron.

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Matching up my HSTs (Photo 1), stitching them carefully and pressing them the right way (Photo 2).

The next thing to ensure a perfect block is to square up the unit you just pressed and remove the "dog ears" -- those little bits of fabric that stick out at the ends of the seam allowances. This is when quilt rulers come in handy. The A-C units should meausre 3 1/2 inches square so trim each one to that meaurement if needed, making sure to keep the diagonal seam from corner to corner. You can use the 45-degree line on your ruler to make sure you don't stray away from keeping the seam at a 45-degree angle (Photos 3 and 4).

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Squaring up the units and trimming off the dog ears (Photos 3 and 4).

After all your A-C units are pressed and trimmed, the next step it to assemble the two quarter sections that make up this block. We'll start with the simpler of the two. Stitch one B square to the C side of 16 of the A-C units as shown in Photo 5 (set aside the other eight A-C units). Press each unit open. To make an A-B-C quarter section as shown in Photo 6, with right sides together, flip one unit over another so that the HSTs are on opposite sides and nest the seams, pinning to secure. Stitch the two units together; press. Make a total of eight A-B-C quarter sections.

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Assembling the A-B-C quarter section, one of the two different sections that make up this block (Photos 5 and 6).

The next quarter section is also an HST unit but a bit different. We have to piece an HST before we can assemble the larger HST unit. Using the remaining A-C units you set aside, stitch one A HST to one C side of each unit as shown in Photo 7. Again, press when you have them all stitched, being careful how you press. Stitch one more A HST to the remaining C side of each unit as shown in Photo 8. Press open and trim any dog ears (Photo 9).

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Making the pieced HST unit that makes up half of the A-C-D quarter section for the Old Maid's Puzzle block (Photos 7, 8 and 9).

Once you have your pieced HST units ready, stitch them to the D HSTs as shown in Photo 11. Press each one carefully. Make a total of eight A-C-D quarter sections.

If you have one, use a 6 1/2-inch ruler to square up all the quarter sections as shown in Photo 12. You can use larger ruler to do this if you have one, you just need to double-check yourself that you don't trim off too much.

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Adding the D HST (Photo 10) to the pieced HST unit to complete the A-C-D quarter section (Photo 11). Squaring up the quarter sections (Photo 12) before the final assembly.

After all the quarter sections are squared to 6 1/2 inches, it's time to assemble the block. Each block requires two of each of the quarter sections we assembled. Since we are making a total of four blocks, we will need to make eight half units as shown at the top of Photo 13 (the bottom half is the same as the top only turned upside down). Referring again to Photo 13, stitch one each A-B-C and A-C-D quarter sections together; press. Make eight half units. Stitch two half units together to make one block as shown in Photo 14. Make four blocks. Each block should measure 12 1/2 inches square.

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Stitching the quarter sections together to make the half units (Photo 13) and then sewing the half units together to make a block (Photo 14).

And just like that, we have finished block No. 2 in our Awash With Color Mystery Sampler! I hope you are having fun and playing along. By the comments I've been receiving, I think it's a hit. I hope you are enjoying the time to reflect on your quilting skills and taking the time to brush them up again. And If you're a new quilter, I hope this is a learning experience for you. Quilting can be so rewarding, but I think, sometimes, we tend to forget that it is a hobby and should be enjoyed and savored.

Please let me know how you feel about participating or if you have any suggestions for how to present the instructions. I'd love to hear from you at Editor@QuiltersWorld.com.

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