Block resizing tips for less-than-precise quilters

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We’re getting ready to finish our first block of the month program for the first of our Green County Barn Quilts.  It’s pretty exciting to see just how much everyone has learned and how much more confident they are.   But something came up the other day when we were hosting a UFO day specifically aimed at giving participants a chance to catch up and have any questions answered about what we’ve done so far.  The question raised was “What do I do if my blocks aren’t measuring what the pattern says they should?”

Well, there are a few things to consider before we can answer that. First, let’s examine why the blocks aren’t coming out to the size that the pattern says they should be. There are a number of things that can happen during the piecing process that can affect the size of the block: were you incredibly precise in your cutting? Is your quarter-inch seam flawless throughout the entire block? Is any part of your block on the bias? We also need to keep in mind that the more seams your block has, the more opportunity for errors there are.

We like to first figure out what it is we might need to pay a little more attention to next time (cutting, quarter-inch seam, etc) before moving ahead with resizing our current project. Doing things in this order helps us assess the situation, figure out what the problem is, decide what we’re going to do differently next time, then fix the problem for the current situation.

So we’ve figure out what the problem is and how we’ll fix it for next time, let’s look at the options that we have for fixing our current blocks.

We could start taking all the seams apart and resew them.  Not my first choice. We could start over from scratch and remake the block.  Not high on my list either. Personally I prefer to make what I have work by subtly reshaping through blocking.

Blocking to size (or “blocking”) is the preferred method of resizing blocks by many quilters. How to block:

1) Take a piece of muslin, which is a very inexpensive material, and use a spray starch or sizing to make it very firm.

2) Draw directly on the muslin the outline of the size you want your block to be, including seam allowance (ie draw a 12-1/2″ square on the muslin if you are making a 12″ finished block).

3) Pin the piece of muslin to your ironing board.

4) Take your block and lay it on top of the muslin, pinning the edges so they line up with the lines you’ve drawn on the muslin. If you are working with a block that has a lot of points, such as a star block, or has lots of seams be sure to pin the points or seams to the muslin to be sure they block to the correct size. Your block should now be loose and will probably have a pucker in the middle.

5) Apply a light amount of sizing to your block to help keep the piecing from shifting.

6) Using the steam from your iron, steam the block until it shrinks down to the size you want it to be. DO NOT “iron” and push part of the block around.  Just press one area at a time using an up and down motion. The edges of your block and the main components (points of star, etc) should be pinned, so they shouldn’t shift during this process.

Congratulations! You’ve blocked your block! Hopefully you find these tips for blocking to be helpful; if you ever have any questions, get in touch with us!

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