Here we are at another month, and that means I’ve worked on another swap block for the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild! I really do like this hive structure for the swap (read more about it here) because I’m getting to try blocks and techniques I truly would not have tried on my own. This month that block is Grandmother’s Flower Garden and the technique is English paper piecing.
Tara was the Queen Bee for June and she provided everything we needed to make her block: instructions, the paper-piecing templates, and even the fabric! I just needed to add thread and stir.
The thing is I had never done English paper piecing before. I knew in theory what to do—fold the fabric around the template shape and then hand stitch the fabric hexagons together. So I did what I always do when I have to try something new: I put it off . . . and complained to Greg about how much work it was going to be. Then Greg said, “Well, what can you do to make the process easier?” And since I hadn’t started it yet, I didn’t really have an answer. So I had to stop complaining—at least to Greg.
I finally cut the jelly roll strips I received into 2.5-inch squares and thread-basted the fabric to the templates. To do this, I folded the fabric over one side, took two small stitches to hold the fold, then made running stitches to get to the next side. There I folded the fabric, took two small stitches, made my way over to the next side, and kept going. The basting took longer than I thought, and I was really having a tough time seeing why people liked this technique.
With all my pieces basted, I started to arrange the block, but the large dotted fabric I received was throwing me for a loop. Some pieces were primarily gray and others primarily light green, so they didn’t look very cohesive when I placed them randomly.
So I made the bold decision to arrange them like a pansy face. I preferred them that way—I hope Tara does, too.
Once I started piecing the hexagons together, I did understand the appeal of the technique. The methodical hand sewing was quite fun, and it went quickly, too.
Tara asked that we leave all the templates in the fabric so that she can remove them when she’s ready.
I feel a little bad that Tara is receiving this piece with all my beginner’s mistakes. My corners don’t all meet, and it’s not exactly flat either (as you can see by the giant shadow on the left). But I am glad I gave this technique a try, and I may buy my own set of templates to have around for when I need something to work on by hand.