Here’s how it works: When I have the blocks decided on and the full model drawn up, I am ready to create templates. I have to draw out each block full size on graph paper, if I haven’t already done so. I draw in any additional lines needed to make sure I can put the blocks together easily…for instance, if I have an odd shaped piece and would need to “piece in” a corner, sometimes I opt to split the piece up so I don’t have to sew around a corner, which is annoying. I do it on graph paper so I can make sure everything is reasonably square.
Then, I label each piece. I label them with an abbreviation of the block and the color needed (e.g. HT might be horse tail, and WB might be weed background). I label them also with a part of the block—a sub-block, if you will—and a number of the piece within the sub-block; usually the pieces should be assembled in number order. Thus 1A HB is the first piece needed of sub-block A for the horse’s background.
Confused? Here’s a picture to demonstrate:
Here we have two blocks with templates already cut up--a bird and a flower. The flower block has sub-blocks A and B. Actually, the bird does, too. You can also see gaps--when there are repeated pieces or pieces of the same size used in a block, I label them with any relevant parts numbers and letters. The triangles in the flower each have three codes because, for the larger, it forms part of the flower and two triangles of background, and for the smaller, two parts of the flower and one of the background.
Then, and this is the fun bit, I cut the block up. I try to make sure I have a reasonably clear surface to do this, and that there isn’t any breeze in the house. That could be dangerous. Then, I put the pieces where they’d belong in the block on the tabletop, so I know what I’m grabbing.
I use manila folders for my templates. Why? I don’t know. You need something reasonably sturdy, and I need something reasonably cheap and accessible, and easy to cut. I had some folders lying around the first time, and I’ve never looked back.
Also important: Good TV. This is one of the more tedious and mindless portions of my quilting process, and I have to have something on that will amuse me, but that I don’t necessarily need to look at every minute. Firefly and Pushing Daisies episodes are good choices.
Other tools: Ruler, mechanical pencil, drink, snacks, scissors.
I first measure and draw a dotted line a quarter of an inch away from one edge of the opened, flattened folder. A lot of people draw their templates regular size and then simply cut ¼ inch around the pieces. I don’t like to do this because a: my ¼ inch eye isn’t very consistent, and b: it doesn’t work with my cutting process. I then place one edge of each little graph paper piece on the dotted line, and draw a dotted line around the rest of the piece. I measure ¼ inch out from these dotted lines for all the other edges, and draw in the solid lines, using my trusty ruler. I now have a manila folder template for one piece, with a ¼ inch seam allowance drawn in. I measure off that piece and off other folder edges, always ¼ inch, and keep drawing in pieces until I have a whole block completed.
As I go, when I finish a part of a block, I tape it back together. Gradually the whole block will get taped together again. When I cut out the template pieces, I put them with the taped-together block and put them in a plastic sandwich or snack bag. I have a complete set of templates, with a guide for how to put the pieces together when they’ve been cut out of fabric. The above picture includes two sets of templates taken out of the bag and set up for cutting.
Best Part: I like the mindlessness of this work sometimes. It is a good feeling to do something that has a distinct start time and stop time—a to-do list item you can actually check off.
Worst Part: Pencil smears all over my hands. Also, this takes forever.
Stage Four: Cutting