Wednesday, August 13, 2008

First Block Failure

I had to buy a light box to trace the patterns for my Baltimore Album quilt. It's not a "professional" model (those were really pricey!) but for my purposes it's perfect. As I wrote in the last post, I wanted to start with an easy block. I'm working from books by one of America's best applique artists, Elly Sienkiewicz. Elly's favorite method, and the one she considers easiest, is called cutwork applique. (Or, in the case of the block below, reverse cutwork.) The first step is to trace half of a block pattern on freezer paper, then fold the paper and cut along the traced lines, sort of like making paper snowflakes, like we all did as kids. (Come to think of it, I wasn't very good at that, either!) The freezer paper cutout is then ironed shiny side down onto a fabric square, which is then pin-basted on top of another fabric. You cut the top fabric away on the traced lines, fold each edge under as you go, and sew this folded edge to the bottom fabric. Easy??? Elly, if you ever read this: I love your quilts, but you lied to me! Good grief, I found cutwork applique to be the most frustrating thing I've done since I started quilting. After the first few leaves I almost threw the block away and started over, but then I thought perhaps I should finish it as an practice exercise. I made it a little more than halfway around before I decided that I didn't even want to practice this technique, because I wouldn't make a quilt this way if you held a gun to my head.

The block actually looks kind of pretty in this picture. Trust me, it's not! It's full of frayed edges, visible stiches, and curves that don't properly curve. And it took way too long for something this poorly done. As my son used to say after I made him taste a new food, "I can't like it!" So, yesterday I cut pieces for a new "first" block, which I'll attach to the background fabric in the "normal" way. I'll have to rethink about half of the other 24 blocks I chose; if I can convert the patterns to attach in the old way I'll still use them. Otherwise, I'll either choose other patterns or make doubles of 12 blocks, using different colors.