Thursday, June 6, 2013

Four-Lily Block Tutorial - Part 2

A very cool thing happened yesterday!  Mary Ellen of Quilt Mouse saw Sandi's post about the Four-Lily block tutorial on Piecemeal Quilts and emailed both of us, saying her mother-in-law had made a couple of quilts with this block back in the same time period as my grandmother did, and Mary Ellen had been searching for a pattern for it for several years!  It turns out her mother-in-law and my grandmother lived within 100 miles of each other.  Mary Ellen posted the story today in "A Blast from the Past", where you can read more details and see her mother-in-law's "Tulips in a Circle" quilts.  What fun to make a connection like that!

Today in Part 2, we'll sew together what I refer to as the four Corner Units of this block, made from joining pieces Pieces A, D, and E.  I'll show you some techniques for sewing the curves, which I hope you will find helpful.

Let me say here that if you are comfortable using a different technique for sewing curves and it has worked for you, go for it!  Some people don't like to mark or pin and have found ways to sew curves like these without it.  Fantastic.  I have tried some of those methods and they didn't work as well for me.  Maybe it has to do with the fact that the machine I use to piece is almost the same age as me (so pardon its "patina" in the photos), and I know its limitations and quirks. (As for my un-manicured nails in these photos, I have no excuse; that's just how I roll.)

So I'm going to stick with what I know, much of it from having sewn clothing through the years, and describe how I went about it.  Here we go!

First, we're going to sew Piece D onto Piece E.  Once that's done, we'll sew Piece A onto that.  To make aligning the curved edges easier, we'll mark them like this.

Fold the pieces in half and finger-press at the folded edge.  You don't have to crease the entire piece in half, just finger-press a tiny crease right at the edge that you're going to join to its counterpart.
Now fold it in half again and do the same, finger-pressing a crease at the folded edge.
When you open up your pieces, you'll see those little creases, which will be your registration marks for matching one piece to another.
Now unless you match up those creases immediately, they tend to relax and fade.  So I take my handy-dandy Frixion pen and just make a little hash mark at the creases in the seam allowance.  It makes it so much easier to see and only takes a couple seconds.  Totally worth it in keeping frustration levels low.
Place the arc-shaped Piece D right sides together on top of the paddle-shaped Piece E, matching up the middle registration marks at the center.  It will look like a U-shape on top.

To remember to align all the curved pieces on top this way, I kept in mind the phrase, "Thinking of U."  Corny, maybe, but it helped.  You gotta do what you gotta do, folks.
Now match up the right and left sides of the pieces and pin.  Then match up the remaining two registration marks and pin there.  It may look weird, but this is totally going to work.
The key to sewing this curved edge is to take your time and keep the edges aligned.  As you come to a pin, remove it, check that your edges are aligned and smooth as they go under the presser foot and that you're not sewing a wrinkle.  Maintaining a scant 1/4-inch seam allowance helps ensure you don't get wrinkles.  (If only it were that easy for our skin!)
Here's another trick I used.  Since I don't have fingernails (which might help hold those edges together as they go under the presser foot), I use the flat edge of a seam ripper to hold them down and stay smooth.  I don't use it all the time, but just from time to time, as needed.  You're sewing fairly slowly (right?) so you aren't going to run over anything and break a needle.

Now having said all that, it may seem fiddly, but it's not really that complicated.  I'm pretty sure that after the first seam or two, you'll have the hang of it. 

Finger-press the seam allowance toward paddle-shaped Piece E.  If you want to press this with an iron, use a DRY iron (steam tends to make waviness on the curves).  Also, if you used a Frixion pen to make the registration marks, avoid ironing over the ones on the edge you haven't sewed yet, because they will disappear with heat.
Next, we're going to attach Piece A, the background fabric corner.  Same deal:  Put Piece A, right sides together, onto the D+E piece you just sewed, so the U-shaped part is on top.
Pin at center, then sides, then match and pin at the other registration marks.
Sew Piece A to D+E, keeping the edges aligned, removing pins as you go, and using a scant 1/4-inch seam allowance.

Press the seam allowances downward, toward Pieces D/E.  Make 3 more Corner Units in the same way, for a total of 4.

Finally, sew together two Corner Units with Piece F in the center.
This is what I'm calling the Center Unit of the block.  You only need one Center Unit.  We'll use the other two Corner Units in Part 3.
Okay so far?  Again, leave any questions in the comments and I'll answer them there.  Or just say hi!

Next up, in Part 3, we will make the Lily Units.  Yeah, there's a Y-seam (or 4), but it'll be painless, I promise!


  1. What a neat connection. I'll have to check out Mary Ellen's post. Blogs are so cool. We meet and get to know people we otherwise might never run into.

    I can't imagine doing curves without pins. Your directions and illustrations were really great, and as I read along, I nodded to myself, and said, "uh huh, uh huh. Yep. That's how I'd do it."

    Also, that Spintastic is so cool! I love the fabrics you've picked. And I'm loving following along.

    xo -E

  2. You do a fantastic job of explaining how to stitch on a curve. I agree, Pins are our Friends! I'm looking forward to actually making this block, and maybe even an entire quilt!

    I can just picture your Grandmother & my Mother-in-Law working on this block and now 40+ years later their relations are doing it too!

  3. Loving this so much and I must say - the fabrics you are using here are so great together! :)

  4. Great job of explaining the process. I absolutely love your fabrics:)

  5. Thank you for this tutorial. I have never really known how to put the curved pieces together and it was nice to see how you did that.

  6. So hoping you put permanent links to these tutorials on your blog. I can't spare the time to start this quilt now - but one day I want to. :)


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